Once, in a neighboring galaxy, not so long ago, in the space between two sister stars, there spun a station.
It was a station like any other. Many different peoples passed through on their way to other realms, whether for pleasure, profit, or other deeper purposes. Many lived and worked upon the station. Some never ventured beyond the unseen boundaries of the station’s space.
But there came a time when the station took upon itself the burden and the honor of hosting a most profound and prestigious feast. A feast that would celebrate a long-sought but fragile new peace between the peoples of a nearby world.
Among the many workers who would provide delights to the guests was an unrenowned cook who won a contest to prepare a dish for the feast.
He was a stellar elf, whose family had lived upon the station but for one generation. And his name was Fiorenzo.
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Clara felt the magic trickle up from the bare skin of her palm. With a cold crackle, the almonds transformed. Seven perfect diamonds. Even in the dim light of fog and cloud, they glittered. Clara sighed as her vigor was drained by the spell.
She looked ahead to the bridge. She had not expected fog. A shape emerged from it.
She held out the handful of diamonds. Enough to pay the toll for the next thousand travelers.
“It is not enough,” the bridge troll said.
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Lucinda held her breath, as she raised the glass rod above the vial and tapped the rod to release the single drop of liquid that clung to its end.
The drop fell in the vial, joining the muddy liquid within. The liquid turned ruddy, then clear. And it stayed clear.
Lucinda dared to exhale just as the liquid began to swirl and turn ruddy, then muddy. She ducked under the table just before the vial shattered, spraying red flames and charred bits of glass in every direction.
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“We know where it is. We’ve known for a while. We just can’t get to it. It would require some fairly fancy flying.” The secretary crossed his arms and gazed at the faces of the officials surrounding him.
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We were inseparable once, my sister and I. We shared everything. My mother said we were so close, that we even shared a heart. And we saw how true that was after we broke the bear’s curse.
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