Part 10

They followed Gaia through a forest wonderland. There was little attempt of conversation from any of them. Helen felt like she was walking in a dream. Creatures she thought where myths appeared around every corner. She couldn't help but gasp when a centaur family crossed their path. They saluted Gaia with a bow, and she courtesied in return. Further down the trail, a group of satyrs and fauns passed running playing their ocarinas and wood flutes. Just when she thought nothing of more grandeur could appear, they entered a clearing where there was a herd of unicorns grazing. She had seen these before, but never so many, nor so white.

"They amaze you, don't they," Gaia said. It was not a question.

"Yes, I never dreamed of seeing a centaur, less a whole family of them. Not to mention the fauns and unicorns."

"You almost for certain never would have. To see them, you must believe in them. That is why children seem to always tell you adults 'wild' stories. You would have no problem in that, but they would not have shown themselves unless I where with you, like today," Gaia told her.

"So you must be like a child to see all these wonders," Helen said.

"Yes," Gaia replied.

They came up to a small bridge that ran over a creek. Gaia stayed a few paces behind them and watched.

"Who dares cross my bridge?" a low grumbling voice asked.

"Ok...what is this?" Aysh Ra asked in a cynical tone.

"I'm the one asking the questions! Either pay the fee or get eaten," it replied.

"Come and get us then," Aysh Ra said in a deadly voice. Gaia couldn't control her laughter any more. She bursted out laughing and that made everyone in the group turn to face her.

"What's so funny up there?" the voice said. "Don't hurt it, Aysh Ra..." she said between laughs "...come out and show yourself 'oh, horrible troll.'" A confused sound came from under the bridge, then a gasp of recognition.

"Gaia!" it said and a little, funny looking dwarf emerged from under the bridge.

"That?" Aysh Ra said in disbelief.

"Yes," Gaia told her, "only him."

"A dwarf pretending to be a troll? Interesting," Vyndi said.

"Hey," the dwarf said, "a guy must earn a living, right?"

"What is your name?" Helen asked him. He seemed to think over his answer.

"It's Bill." he said finally. "Bill?" Marina said, "Odd name for a dwarf."

Bill seemed a bit annoyed. "Do you want to hear all of it, then? Fine. It's Billeppyusshintselaugustuslee of the Glavel Clan," he told her.

"I like Bill better," Vyndi said quickly.

"Yes, me too." Helen added.

"So what do you do 'Bill', when people do not pay your toll, eat them?" Aysh Ra asked him.

"Me? Oh, that's easy. I take this..." he left and returned holding up an ugly troll mask. "I put it on and I come out from below screaming. I usually scare the life out of the traveler, and since, one must always return someday, when they do, they bring cash."

"Interesting tactic," Aysh Ra said. Gaia turned around and stared at a tree.

"Saria, I thought I told you to return home," she said. Out from behind the tree, a little blue light appeared and came toward them.

"But Gaia...I can help, really...and besides, I want to prove to Azzic I'm not just a trouble maker," Saria told her humbly. She then turned into her human size. "Please, Gaia, let me come."

"Saria this is going to be dangerous, I can't let you risk it."

"Gaia, I promise, you'll need me...please give me a chance..." she was begging by now.

Gaia sighed. She knew the fairies intentions where good ones, but she might get hurt. On the other hand, it was better not to need help and have it than to need it and find yourself alone. "Alright, only if you promise to do everything I tell you too. If I say leave, then you leave ok?"

"Yes!!! I will, I promise Gaia, I won't let you down." Saria glowed in happiness.

Helen smiled. She was glad to have the little thing tag along, even if she could be a pain sometimes.

"I guess we should move on then," Aysh Ra said.

"Please do ladies," Bill said stepping aside, "no charge."

"Thank you," Gaia told him, "say hello to your brothers for me."

"I will madam. Good luck in your quest."

Gaia nodded and turned to join the others on the far side of the bridge. Quest and luck indeed.

Part 11