Stonefruits

Amara swims through the sky, a strong breeze caressing her skin and dishevelling her long blue curls. Below her, the strong intertwining branches of the niphredylle trees do not share her movement, choosing, instead, to stay still and whisper about her under her very nose. She enjoys the trees when they provide her shade on agonisingly sunny days, and she does not fault them for gossiping. There is, after all, little else to do when a nymph keeps hovering above like an insistent fly.

Squinting to protect her eyes from any dust, Amara searches through the lacunae for the cluster of golden-yellow bushes. Elowan, to whom she is apprenticed, said that he needs their stonefruits, key ingredients in the saccharine cakes for which he is renown.

“Golden-yellow,” Elowan said. “It is important.”

This is the first time he has trusted another with the responsibility of the fruits’ retrieval. But she has been floating for hours and the sun shall soon set, leaving her to return empty-handed by starlight.

Amara does not relent, however. Having spent most of her adolescence working for Elowan, she is due to soon earn more responsibility at his hearth, a chance she is unwilling to squander over some measly fruit. He is stern but kind, and when she returns with his precious ingredients, she feels certain he will reward her. So she swims on, searching, searching, searching.

The last strings of sunlight disappear, but she does not stop searching. The sky fades from orange to pink to ink, but she does not stop searching. Her arms tire from propelling her body through the air, but she does not stop searching. The trees fall asleep, but she does not stop —

And suddenly, she sees them in an area she is sure she has searched before. The difference, now, is that the bushes are luminescent, impossible to miss. Amara hurries towards the ground, snaking through the branches gently, so as to not wake the trees, and finds herself facing a silhouette against the golden-yellow glow.

“Elowan?” Amara whispers upon recognition. “What are you doing here?”

“I had to be certain of your endurance.”

“You know of their glow,” Amara realises. “That is why you instructed me to leave during the day.”

“Indeed, and you have passed my test.”

“Test?”

“Amara, my child,” Elowan says with a smile. “How would you like to run the bakery with me?”

Amara squeals in delight but immediately silences herself when the niphredylle loosens some leaves overhead, its sleep disturbed. “I would be honoured!” she whispers, embracing her teacher.

In the glow of the bushes, they pick their ingredients, the trees snoring gently all around. Together, master and apprentice swim home, Elowan promising to teach Amara how to use the stonefruits in the morning.

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