It was raining still, of course it was, the rain wouldn’t go away just because she went inside and tried not to think about it. Standing on her apartment’s little balcony Eilyvondriel was looking out over the rain wet city. She was fortunate to live in a place with a few more floors than the surrounding buildings. Instead of looking out at a grey concrete wall she had a view of a sea of rooftops, dotted with chimneys, TV antennas and the occasional rooftop garden.

Not that anyone was able to sit in their garden at the moment, unless of course, they’d had it walled in and roofed. That’s what Eilyvondriel would have done had she lived on top of a house. The climate here wasn’t nearly warm enough for the types of plants she wanted to grow.

She tried though. She’d had glass windows fitted on her balcony to keep out the cold winds and had added an infrared heater to keep the space warm at all times. She could have done it with magic; added a force shield and a heat source. She was good enough to pull it off but it wasn’t really needed when the glass and the heater could do the same job. It had cost some money but it was far less effort. Just because she was able set up a magical microclimate on her balcony didn’t mean she couldn’t use available modern conveniences.

Eilyvondriel loved her balcony. It was one of her favorite places up here in the north. In fairness, she loved her entire apartment, it was the only place that reminded her of her home in the south, and the balcony did so the most. It was here she grew her plants and it was here their scent was strongest.

Her daughter and granddaughters sent her seeds every year. Most of them never sprouted, but a few had taken root and grown to become the large healthy plants that now decorated her balcony. They were her pride and joy and she loved them dearly.

As a token of respect she’d offered seeds to Duvanelle Mistlinger, the city’s master tree shaper, but the woman had politely and respectfully declined the gift. The reason she gave was that the southern plants were too alien to her compared to the northern flora she’d spent millennia handling and getting to know. She’d promised to ask her apprentices and journeymen whether any of them were interested in studying the southern plants, but no one had gotten back to Eilyvondriel about it.

The Royal Botanical Institute of Viller had been much more enthusiastic and gladly accepted her donations of both seeds and soil samples. In return she was often invited to seminars and meetings held by the institute. A couple of times they’d even asked her if she wanted to hold a lecture on the plant life of her homeland, but she’d respectfully declined, citing language difficulties. This was true; she still didn’t handle the language very well, probably never would, but it was her dislike of speaking in public that was the real reason she’d turned down the requests.

She stood there, like so many times before, silently enjoying the warmth of her balcony. Surrounded by her alien flowers she looked through the wet glass at the world outside. A world that lately had been nothing but grey, cold and wet.

Usually, day as well as night, one could spot movement across the rooftops. Mostly just birds but sometimes cats or even people could be seen moving around on some errand of their own. These last couple of days the rooftops had been still and empty. The only movement was that of the water ceaselessly falling from the sky; the only sound that of the raindrops on the glass.

It was getting late and somewhere beyond the grey sheets of rain and clouds the sun was slowly setting. The long summer evenings were one of the few things she really liked about the north. She’d only been here a few years and still had a lot to see and discover about this part of the world, not that she had any great desire to, but already in her first few weeks she’d decided she liked the long evenings of the summer.

In contrast she’d absolutely hated the short days of winter; several times she’d been very close to packing up her things and heading back south. If not for Rudolf and Eileen she probably would have. They were the only real friends she had here. Truth to be told she hadn’t put much effort into making any. She was here to work and to be away from home for a while and once things had settled down she’d go south again and never come back. Hopefully it wouldn’t be that long - no more than a decade or two more. Elves had long memories but weren’t known for holding grudges, except for the most outrageous of offenses. If you got yourself out of favor, you could leave for a while, go see some new part of the world and then come back later if you wanted to.

Eilyvondriel definitely wanted to go back, not just yet though. She wanted to be sure things had blown over before she went home again. It seemed she still had a lot to learn as a chocolatier as well. She’d thought she’d gotten the hang of it, but the performance Rudolf had put on today had shown here just how much she had left to learn.

Floating things in the air and melting them looked spectacular to the uninitiated, but it was in the bowl the truly advanced magic had occurred. Just making white and brown chocolate at the same time in the same mix without diluting their colors was more than she could handle and it had been one of the simpler things Rudolf had done. Most of the things that went on in that bowl were so far beyond her she didn’t even know what they were or what purpose they had.

She was going to find out though. She and Rudolf had spoken about it after he’d woken up and he’d explained some of what he’d done. She’d understood the theory, but was far from able to do it in practice yet. More training was needed still.

As the world outside grew darker a warm glow began spreading across the balcony. It was Molly, her pet jellyfish coming out from the inner rooms of the apartment to spend some time with the flowers in the warmth of the balcony. The little creature was glowing yellow, which meant it was happy and content, as was usually the case in the evenings. It slowly bobbed its way through the door and eventually ended up in its favorite spot just underneath the heater fitted to the ceiling.

Eilyvondriel had had a protective grid installed around the heater to keep Molly from burning. The little creature was usually pretty good with not bumping into things but almost right away after it had arrived in the apartment it had bumped into the heater. The burn marks on the bell were still there and would probably never heal completely. They were barely visible to the eye but when stroking the bell with her fingers Eilyvondriel could feel them as rough spots on the otherwise smooth surface.

Molly, a flying luminous cnidarian, was a gift from her son, Avinyar. She hadn’t seen him for nearly a century and hadn’t had a word from him for well over a decade. Then one day, in the middle of her first miserable winter here, he’d turned up unannounced on her doorstep, carrying a big box and asking if he could come in for a cup of tea. She’d made tea and they had chatted for a while. He’d opened the box, breaking the magical stasis field that had kept Molly contained and let the little creature out. Back then it hadn’t been larger than her fist and its tendrils no longer than her forearm.

Avinyar had instructed her in how to care for the creature, which was simple enough. All she had to do was make sure the apartment was kept warm and that there was always at least one spot that was dark or shaded. There was no feeding needed; Molly would survive on dust, buhs and the occasional insect. The only thing he’d told her she really needed to do was trim its tendrils when they got too long. Then he’d finished his tea, snagged the two last cookies from the tray on the table and left. That was three years ago and she didn’t expect to hear from him again in at least as long.

Initially she’d been reluctant to cut the tendrils. It seemed cruel and unnatural but once Molly started leaving acid burns on the furniture and then got stuck to her favorite slippers she changed her mind. Eilyvondriel decided that trimming the little creature may not be such a bad thing after all. The option would be to get rid of her pet and she didn’t consider that an alternative.

The little jellyfish, now almost as big as her entire head, was a symbol of her homeland, even more so than her flowers. The flying luminous cnidarians were native only to the savannahs where she had been born, grown up and spent most of her life. They were common both in the wild and as domestic animals – especially in the times before electricity became common when many households used the creatures for indoors lighting. These days they mainly served as tourist attractions with large groups of the creatures providing spectacular and romantic night time light shows.

Eilyvondriel sighed; it was nearly time to trim Molly’s tendrils again. She dreaded the task. The creature clearly didn’t like it and it always turned an angry red whenever its tendrils were cut. Then it would sulk for days, giving off a sad blue glow and dripping slime on the floor until the cuts healed. Nowadays she used to lock Molly in the bathroom, as that was the place that was easiest to clean. This was yet another thing she was a little uncomfortable with, but after the first time, when Molly had covered her couch in slime, she’d decided on the more convenient option.

Overall though, despite the trimming and the discomfort it brought both Molly and herself, Eilyvondriel was happy with her pet and she though and hoped the little creature had a comfortable life. She gently touched Molly’s bell, taking care not to push the jellyfish out of position. She blew off some dust that had landed on the creature and then looked out the window again. Outside it was almost fully dark. It was getting late and the day was at an end.

Sighing again, Eilyvondriel left the balcony and went back into the apartment. It was not yet bedtime, but it was too late to really do anything. She went out into the kitchen, made herself a sandwich and poured a glass of milk. Glass in hand, chewing on the sandwich she went out into the living room, sat down on the couch, grabbed the remote and turned on the TV. Too early to sleep, but too late to do anything.


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