A girl, either human or elven, named Alene (name means alone in Celtic), is discovered as an infant and raised by an old man. When she is older, she goes off on her own, to find her true family. As she travels, she learns different things, all of which are allegories for Christian principles. And, she meets people, who help her learn different things about herself and life.
The wind whispered through the trees as old William, sat in a chair, stroking his white beard. His deep eyes looked through the trees, over the blue lake. He stood up and walked down the hill, towards the water. The old man lay down on the soft grass, listening to the water wash up against the shore. Suddenly, he heard a different sound. William sat up and saw a basket, floating among the reeds. He picked up the basket, and laid it down on the grass.
As he lifted the lid, he gasped softly. A small child lay among blankets; the little girl looked up at him, with shining green eyes. She whined softly and reached out to William. Picking her up, the old man smiled at her. “Where did you come from, little one?” The girl smiled and giggled as William held her with one arm and picked up her basket with the other hand. William looked over at the sleeping child, who lay in her basket. She seemed so peaceful after he’d fed her, and she’d fallen right to sleep.
“Well, little one, I do not know where you came from, but I cannot leave you alone to die. You may live with me, until the proper time. “
The infant began to whine so the old man stood up, limping over to the basket. The girl looked up at him and whimpered for his attention. He readily accepted, lifting her into his arms. She smiled up at him and he smiled back. “You need a name, little one… how about, Alene?” The baby gurgled joyfully. “I think you like it. Very well, then, your name is Alene.”
The young girl, sitting by the lake, turned at the old voice. William stood by the house, looking down at her. “Coming Grandfather!” She ran up the hill, her long brown hair blowing behind her.
“Alene, I told you not to go off on your own.” William’s angry gaze made the girl look away.
“I am sorry, Grandfather.” The two of them went into the house. “But why will you not let me go anywhere alone? I am nearly fourteen years old; I am able to take care of myself.”
The old man shook his head. “My dear girl, there are bad people in these parts, and they have been spreading lies and tricking people.”
“Spreading lies about whom?”
“The king. The good king.” William smiled. “Remember, I have told you stories of him all your life.” Alene smiled.
“King Ansaldo? I love your stories about him!” She turned her head in confusion. “But why would anyone want to say bad things about him?”
“There is one man, I do not know his true name, but many call him Dolum. He is the king’s enemy; he will do or say anything to make someone turn away or stay away from the king. I have heard that he has been seen near here.” William looked at little Alene and smiled.
“Now, do you understand?” The girl nodded.
“You do not want him to trick me.” She stopped for a moment. “But, does everyone know about the king and how good he is?”
“No, many people do not know, and many have already been fooled by Dolum and his men.” William told her. “That is why I told you about him. I wanted you to know what King Ansaldo is like, if you ever were to meet Dolum.”
Alene gave an understanding smile.
“Of course, Grandfather. I understand, completely. Thank you for telling me.”
“Of course, my dear.”
Alene walked beside William as they went to town. She loved their weekly walks into the bustling town of Perierat. Over the years, the town became a trade hub, where people came and went every day. As the town came into view, Alene ran towards the gates, out of excitement.
“Alene, wait!” William reached out for her, but the girl had already gone into town. He hobbled along, as fast as he could, only to find her awaiting him, just inside the gates.
“Alene, I told you not to run off.”
“Sorry, Grandfather.” The girl smiled shyly.
“Just do not run off again.” He patted her head and walked her further into town. All the traders stood along the road, calling out for someone to buy their wares. Alene looked at everything, but she knew they had no money to spend on things like those. She watched as William bought meat, fruits, and vegetables.
“All of you know that our land is plagued by thieves, killers, and other people, such as those!” She looked up and saw an old woman, she’d seen before, named Rue, standing in the middle of the crowd.
“Those people, which cause the strife and grief to the good people of this land. This is the fault of one person… King Ansaldo of Coelum!”
“Grandfather, listen! That woman is saying bad things about King Ansaldo.”
Rue stopped and looked at the girl and old man.
“Ah, so I see we have some supporters of that old fool.”
“Come along, Alene.” William took her hand and tried to pull her away, but the girl jerked away and stomped over to the old woman. “Alene no!” The girl glared up at her.
“King Ansaldo is kind and loves all people. He wants to help them. He did not let all those bad people out here.”
“Then where did they come from, small one?” The woman grinned. She laughed as the girl paused, unable to answer the question. The woman looked over at William, smirking.
“If you’re going to teach a child anything, even if it’s all a lie, you should teach her to know her lessons, so she does not make a fool of herself.”
William limped over and took Alene’s hand, pulling her away. The people began laughing at them, much to the annoyance of Alene. “Why did you not tell them what you told me, Grandfather? Now they are laughing at us.”
“Those people are already deceived, there is nothing we can do.” The old man shook his head.
The girl seemed surprised.
“But we can still help them. If they are being tricked, we should tell them, and warn them that the woman is lying to them.”
The old man stopped.
“My dear, I have tried many times, but they will not change.”
“But that does not mean you give up…” the girl sighed, refusing to look at the old man. Neither of them spoke, the entire walk back to their home.
Once they reached home, the young girl lay down in her bed and refused to get up. She waited until William was asleep. The moment he was, she slipped out of her bed and walked down to the lake. Sitting beside the waters, she let her mind calm. She’d been very angry with William for not standing up to that woman in town, and she still was. How he could tell her so much about the king and about how wonderful he was, yet, when given the chance to tell others, he refused. She lay down, with her feet in the water. Her eyes quickly closing as she went to sleep, dreaming peacefully.
The sound of voices woke Alene from sleep. She sat up, rubbing her eyes, sleepily. The moon still stood, high in the sky, but an orange light lit up the world from behind her. She turned around and gasped. Her home, the little house she’d live in, with William, was on fire. People stood around the house with torches; she could hear them laughing. They thought it was funny. Alene sat there, staring up, in shock. She wanted to move, to run up and find her grandfather, but her legs refused to move. She could only watch as the people walked away, sill laughing.
Once they were gone, the girl barely managed to get to her feet, climbing up the hill as fast as she could. By this time, the entire house was engulfed in flames.
She began to run towards the house, but a strong hand grabbed her arm.
“I am sorry, small one.”
Alene screamed; she turned around and saw a young man, with yellow hair and brown eyes. He looked kind and also sad.
“William is gone, small one.”
“I-I don’t believe you!”
The man knelt down, putting both hands on her shoulders.
“Do not be afraid. I am here to help you. My name is Miho. Tell me your name…”
“Alene, it is not safe for you here.” Miho stood up, taking the girl’s hand. “You must go to Coelum. Only there will you be safe.”
“Coelum? Isn’t that where King Ansaldo lives?”
The man nodded.
“I happen to be the king’s captain. I came out here with another man, to find those in need and to escort them to somewhere safe. Alene, I can take you to Perierat. There is a man there, named Moss. He is leading a group to Coelum. I will take you to him.”
“Is there nothing we can do for Grandfather?”
“No, Alene.” He shook his head. “We must leave now, or Moss will leave in the morning, without you.”
The girl had no other choice, so she let Miho pull her away from her burning home, and towards the town, where all the trouble today had begun. Alene began to cry. She still thought about William. Miho didn’t discourage her tears. He held her hand and let her weep.
“Ah, Miho,” a deep voice spoke from behind them. They looked and saw a man, dressed in dark robes, his face hidden by a hood. “Have you sunk down to escorting children now?”
“Alene, run…” The girl looked up at her guide.
“Alene, this man will kill you. I can stop him, but he will try everything to hurt you” He reached to his side and pulled out a sword.
“You know where Perierat is. Hurry, and run to it. Moss will be there. Tell him I sent you! Now go!”
The other man drew a sword as well. He and Miho charged at one another and began to duel. The swords clashed and sparks flew. Alene watched for a minute before she began running. In the dark, she did not know where to go. Before the fight, she’d known where she was and where to go, but now, she had no idea. The girl stumbled through the dark, hoping to find her way to town. Suddenly, she tripped, screaming as she fell. Her head hit the ground and everything went pitch black.
When Alene awoke, everything was different. The sun was shining, bright and clear overhead. She sat up, looking around; when she’d run last night, she’d fallen down a gully, and now lay beside a stream. She stood up, dusting the dirt from her dress. Her head hurt, but that wasn’t strange; she remembered hitting her head. She reached to the rocky edge of the gully and pulled herself up.
“I was that close…?” She now saw that the path to Perierat; if she had slowed down and taken the time to look around, she would’ve seen the path before. She laughed at her own foolishness. Alene jogged down the path towards town.
“Hello, Alene.” One of the merchants smiled at her.
“Where is William?”
Suddenly the girl remembered. Her grandfather… he was gone. Tears began falling from her eyes, slowly. But, she remembered Miho; there would be time to grieve later. She had to find Moss.
“He is gone… um, have you seen a man named Moss?”
The merchant seemed confused.
“Moss? Isn’t that the man who escorted a large group out of town today? I heard he was taking all of those people to their deaths.”
“He was going to take people to Coelum! They were going to be safe.” Alene took a deep breath.
“Which way did they go?”
The merchant pointed to the North and the little girl began running towards the northern town gate. For a moment she wondered why she wanted to go to Coelum so bad. The girl could only think of one reason: her grandfather. As she walked, she could only think about how her grandfather had taught her about the king and how she’d longed to see him. But something was different. Why did she want to see the king anyway? Was it because she really wanted to; or was it just because her grandfather wanted her to like him? All the memories of her grandfather rushed back to her, but this was not the time to grieve. She had to find a way to Coelum, where those who killed her grandfather would not find her.
Alene sat down on a stone and sighed. She leaned back and stared at the sky. Her eyes closed, as she thought about that question. Suddenly she felt something pulling on her on her dress. ‘What is going on?!’ She opened her eyes and found a sheep chewing on her dress.
“Oh, I’m sorry. They eat anything.” She looked up and saw a boy, about her own age, standing nearby. A sheep lay draped over his shoulders.
“My name is Dai.”
The girl smiled. “Hello, Dai.”
“Hello, what is your name? And what brings you here?”
“My name is Alene.” She looked down as a little lamb came up to her, bleating happily.
“I was on my way to Coelum…”
The boy’s face lit up with joy. “I am from Coelum!”
“But, if you are from there, why did you leave?” Dai picked up the lamb and patted its head.
“I have a job here, from King Ansaldo. These are his flocks of sheep. And I am their shepherd. I also shepherd the people who want to reach Coelum and that includes you, Alene.”
“What do you mean?” Alene looked up at the young man.
“I assume you missed Moss this morning, because that would have been the best time to go. So, I can lead you a ways.” The girl smiled,
“Thank you Dai, but why?”
“The king wants all those who look for him, to find their way to him.” Dai smiled.
“I need to take the sheep back towards Coelum. You may come with me.” Alene nodded. Maybe, as she traveled she would figure out why she wanted to see King Ansaldo.
Alene giggled as three little lambs nuzzled her face. Dai watched her, smiling.
“The lambs like you.”
“Yes, they do. They’re very sweet.” The young man reached into a bag and pulled out a harp. He began strumming the instrument; the sheep gathered around him. Alene sat and listened, as well.
“You are a wonderful musician, Dai.”
“I taught myself to play.” Dai smiled.
“Sometimes I play for the king.” The boy continued to strum on his harp; his eyes met those of the young girl.
“Alene, is something troubling you?” She looked up.
“Of course not…” The girl stood.
“I’m going to walk around for a time.” She began walking through the trees. Her whole life, she’d lived in that little house by the lake, but now, this land was completely different from her home. The trees grew taller and further apart; the grass stood lusher than she’d ever seen. The sheep sure loved it. She sat by a small creek, watching the fish swim past.
King Ansaldo, all the stories she’d heard, made him seem so kind. And if someone like Dai could serve him, then the king had to be kind. But still, the only reason she wished to see him was because of her grandfather’s stories. It seemed like a good enough reason, but she felt like there should be more? Suddenly, a growl shattered the silence around her. Behind her, and a little to her right, stood a golden lion. It stared at her with its deep eyes, sniffing the air. Alene stared back. Both of them looked to Alene’s left as a lamb began to bleat. The Lion growled and leapt at the small creature.
“Leave the lamb alone!” The animal turned on her and stalked forward. But, as it crouched, ready to spring on her, a rock hit the tawny creature on its side. Dai stood nearby, placing a stone into a sling. The lion whirled around and charged at the boy. Dai swung the sling and let the rock fly; it struck the creature between the eyes. The lion faltered in its steps before falling over. Putting his sling back on his belt, Dai smiled.
“Are you alright, Alene?”
“I am. Thank you, Dai.”
“There are many lions around here. Try not to wander too far next time.” He smiled.
“I might not have gotten here in time, if this little one hadn’t wandered off.” He lifted the lamb into his arms.
“Come, let us go back to the other sheep.” Alene nodded.
“Yes, let’s.” As they walked, the young girl looked over at her friend.
“Dai, why do you serve the king?”
“I found out how good he was when I was younger. I found joy in serving him. For, he is good and everything he orders is good for others. Why would I not want to serve someone like that? So, why are you going to Coelum, to see the king?”
“Well,” the girl shrugged. “Because my grandfather used to tell me stories about the king. And he sounded so kind, I wanted to meet him. Not to mention that…” Alene paused. With all that had happened, she’d nearly forgotten that her grandfather was dead.
“M-my grandfather is gone…” all the stuff she’d been trying to hide in her mind and heart came out in tears. Dai bridged the gap between them, laying a hand on her shoulder,
“I am sorry…” They stood there for a long time, until the girl finally stopped sobbing.
“It will be alright, Alene, I promise you.”
The two walked together for a many days, with Dai telling the girl more and more about King Ansaldo. Soon, the land began to change. From flat land, dotted with trees to rolling hills with bright green grass and colorful flowers. From atop a hill, Alene saw a small village, about the same size as Perierat.
“Dai, what is that place?”
“My home!” He smiled at her. “It is called Campus. My father and seven brothers live here.”
“You have seven brothers?”
“Yes, and I am the youngest.” The boy picked up a lamb and laid it over his shoulders. He laughed at her shocked expression.
“Come along, we can find a place to stay here. My wife and I will let you stay in our home until we leave for Coelum.” She followed him. “You’re married?”
“I know I seem rather young… but her name is Abbi.” His eyes held a small sadness in them.
“I do not deserve her. For I once betrayed her for another woman named Batsheva. But, I paid my punishment and she has forgiven me. But, no more on that. Let’s get to my home.” They walked along the streets until coming to the largest and most beautiful of homes. “Is this where you live?”
“Yes, I am the ruler of this town.”
“Really!?” A woman’s voice spoke from the doorway.
“Indeed, he is, child.” A young woman stood in the door before smiling down at Dai.
“Hello my dear. How have things been since the king sent me away?”
The woman, whom Alene believed to be, Abbi, giggled.
“As well as always. And who is this you’ve brought with you.”
“Abbi,” he gestured to his guest. “This is Alene, a traveler to Coelum. But, she never met with Moss, so I offered to bring her there. Since I was going to leave tomorrow and she is traveling with me, I offered her lodging. You do not mind, do you?” The woman shook her head,
“Of course not. Offering lodging to a young lady who is in need, is exactly the kind of thing I would do.” Her gaze turned to the young girl. “I welcome you, Alene. Come inside.”
“Thank you ma’am, for your kindness.” She followed Abbi inside as Dai took the sheep away to their pen.
“Your husband has been very kind to me. He has brought me here safely and he also saved me from a lion.”
“He is a very kind young man. And I am glad to have him as my husband. I have not seen him lately. We both serve King Ansaldo joyfully; he sends Dai to care for his flocks and to help people like you find their way to his kingdom. And I am glad to let you stay with us.” She turned away from Alene, before walking to the kitchen. Alene sat down upon a chair and leaned back, exhausted from the journey. Her head fell back and she fell asleep.
The sounds of shouting awoke the girl from her slumber. Abbi stood nearby, a hand on Alene’s shoulder.
“Abbi, what is happening?”
“The men of Dolum are attacking.” Her voice was quiet and nervous.
“Dai has gone to help fight them.”
The two women kept silent as the sounds of shouting and metal clashing against metal, filled the air. Suddenly Abbi gasped.
“The sheep! Dolum’s men will carry them off.” She ran for the door and threw it open.
“Abbi wait!” Alene got up and followed her outside. She could see houses on fire and people fighting. Her legs moved and she followed Dai’s wife to the sheep pen behind their house. The woman jumped over the gate, picking up her husband’s shepherd crook. Alene leapt over the wall as well.
“Abbi, what do we do?”
“We fight! These sheep are the king’s!” she brandished the crook, with the young girl hiding behind her. Alene watched as a man came lumbering towards them. Alene instantly recognized him as the same man she saw fight Miho, the night her grandfather died.
“Gryphon!” Abbi held the crook defensively as the man came over the wall.
“Ah, Dai’s pretty wife… and, oh, the young one that Miho was protecting.” Gryphon laughed. The man drew a sword and advanced upon the two women. Suddenly, a stone hit the man in the side. Dai stood with a sling in his hand.
“Step away from them, Gryphon!”
“What can you do, Dai? All you have is a sling and a stone.” The young man grinned.
“If you remember, Gryphon, I used this sling and stone to kill your master’s giant, Golyat.” He loaded a stone into the sling and began swinging it around.
“I have defeated your men, and I will kill you if I have to.” Gryphon looked at the man before leaping back over the wall and running away. Abbi lowered the shepherd crook and smiled at her husband.
“Thank you, Dai!”
“Yes, thank you…” He nodded and smiled.
“Of course… the village is mostly alright. The two of you should go get some sleep. I’ll take care of everything around here.”
“Of course, my dear…” Abbi placed her hands on Alene’s shoulder.
“Come along, dearie.” They went into the house and Dai’s wife allowed the young girl to go back to bed. While Alene lay in bed, she heard Dai come inside. He kept his voice quiet.
“Abbi, I do not think I will be able to take Alene any further. Our village was destroyed in places; I must remain here to help rebuild. I wish to help her, but…”
“I’m certain she’ll understand, my dear.”
“I hope so too,” His voice trailed off as he and his wife went to their room. Alene laid there, she wondered what she was going to do now that she would be alone.
Before the sun came up over the hills, Alene gathered what little possessions she had and stuffed them into a small sack she found. Throwing the sack over her shoulder, Alene began to walk down the road, out of Campus. She did not want to cause Abbi and Dai to worry. So, she decided to go off alone, without their knowledge. Going off alone frightened her, but she knew if she had to say goodbye to them, she would not want to leave at all.
Just as the sun came up, Campus was out of sight. The walk seemed peaceful, compared to the battle the night before. The flowers stood alongside the road, with trees hanging over, feeling like a tunnel of pale green surrounded Alene. For two days she walked peacefully, and as she walked the land changed. The grass became scares and the trees became smaller. The land turned to nothing but sand and rock. A single line of blue cut through it: a river in this barren land.
“Why are you all alone here, young lady?” Alene jumped. A man stood near her, dressed in a rough looking garb; he held a locust in his fingers.
“Wh-who are you?”
“My name is Jonas. And you are?”
“Alene…” He smiled warmly.
“Have you come from Campus?” she nodded. “I guess you know Dai then.” She nodded again.
“So, why have you come to this lonely place?”
“I-I’m trying to get to Ceolum…”
“Ah, a traveler.” His grin grew wider.
“You’re the first one I’ve seen in a while. King Ansaldo sent me here to guide travelers like you. There is only one way to the king… do you see that valley?” Alene followed his pointing finger.
“Yes… I see a bunch of cliffs, and a path through.”
“Not that path.” He pointed a little to the left.
“There is a smaller pathway. That one is safer.” Alene, even from here, could see that the small path was steeper and had more rocks.
“It doesn’t look safer.”
“The king made that path, for his travelers. The large path is dangerous; Dolum made it to trick people like you. It looks easier but it will lead you to your death.”
“D-do I have to go alone?” The girl frowned. Jonas smiled again.
“Young one, you must follow the path. Stay on it, and do not leave it. You will be alright. Other servants of King Ansaldo will be there, along the way, to help you.” That made the girl smile slightly.
“I will stay on the path! I would like to get to Coelum soon. How far is it?”
“It is not too far.” Jonas patted her head.
“Just follow the instructions, and you will reach there soon. Now go along, little one.” Alene smiled and began walking towards the canyon.
The cliffs rose above Alene, frightening her. She swallowed before stepping off, onto the narrow path. The walls rose around her, casting a dark shadow over the path. She stepped over rocks and fallen trees, as the ground sloped upwards.
“This isn’t too bad, actually.”
“So you think, little one.” She jumped as a voice sounded behind her. A young man, with red hair and red eyes, stood there. Alene blushed slightly; he was quite handsome.
“Hello there.” The girl cocked her head, but used one hand to cover the blush on her cheeks.
“And what might your name be?” he took her hand and kissed it.
“My name is Wiley.”
Wiley looked at her, a look of concern on his face.
“Why is someone as young and innocent as you on this dangerous road?”
“It’s the way to Coelum.”
“The long way, child.” He sat down on a log, and patted the spot beside him. Alene sat down, staring into his eyes.
“Go over this hill and then there are two paths. There’s the one you are on right now, and then there will be one to your right. The one to the right; that one goes downhill, and to a beautiful pond.” The girl blinked.
“But, I was told that this road was the only safe path…”
“Oh there are many paths to Coelum,” Wiley patted the girl’s head.
“I have associates who can lead you on the other paths. You see, I know King Ansaldo too. I am here to help you. Now, come. I will walk with you, little one.” Wiley stood up and held out a hand to Alene.
“Follow me.” The girl slowly took his hand, standing to her feet. He led her over the hill, taking great care not to let the girl get hurt. He lifted her over rocks and logs, held up branches for her to pass under.
“You are being very kind to me, sir.” The girl giggled in a friendly manner as her guide held up another branch for her to walk beneath. The young man gave her the gentlest of smiles.
“I am much like the young man you traveled with before. I know the king and I will take you to him. All you have to do, is follow my instructions.” The girl paused.
“But, Jonas worked for the king as well, and he told me to do something different.”
“The king found out that servants of Dolum have blocked this path further on. So, he sent me to take you on another road, a shorter road.”
“But why not have me take the shorter path in the first place?”
“King Ansaldo likes to have his servants test themselves and learn new things.” Wiley shook his head.
“He’s a good king, but I do say, he has some strange ways. Testing his people the way he does. A poor child like you should not be walking these hard paths alone…” They reached the top of the hill, and there, to their right lay another path.
“Here you are Alene. Another servant of the king’s will be waiting for you at the bottom, by the pond.” The girl nodded.
“Thank you, sir!” She turned and jogged down the path, smiling. For a long distance, she walked down the path, grinning. A shorter route would certainly make things a lot easier for her. As she got to the bottom of the hill, a flat blue surface stretched before her.
“Ah, you must be the little one Wiley told me of.” Across the pond stood a beautiful woman, with red hair and brown eyes.
“Welcome, Alene. I am Salem.”
“You know me?”
“Of course, Ansaldo sent me to assist Wiley, in bringing you to him.” The girl cocked her head.
“Don’t you mean King Ansaldo?”
“Why yes,” Salem smiled,
“Just a slip of the tongue.” Her smile suddenly changed into one that set Alene on edge.
“I am glad that I was sent to help you.”
“Why is that?” Salem walked over, taking a lock of Alene’s hair.
“You have the most beautiful hair. I’m so jealous.”
“Indeed, little one.” She smiled.
“You are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. No wonder you easily make friends with people such as Dai, and no wonder the king is so interested in you. If you weren’t so pretty, I don’t think anyone would like you.” Alene blinked.
“Are you saying that if I didn’t have pretty hair, that no one would like me?”
“Of course,” Salem smirked.
“Looks are everything, my dear, Alene.” She patted the girl’s head.
“Now, follow me.” She turned and started walking down another path. Alene fingered her hair, smiling, before following the woman. They walked for a long time before the girl caught up to the older woman.
“Tell me more about yourself. Where are you from and please, tell me more about the king!”
“All in good time, little one.” She giggled.
“So, which of the king’s servants have you met?”
“Dai, Jonas, and Miho! Oh, and Wiley.” Salem smiled.
“I know all of them, very well…” The two walked until the sun began to set. They came into a valley which made everything even darker.
“I do not like this place…”
“Do not worry, little one. We are almost there.”
“Wait,” Alene paused. Before them lay a maze of tall thorns. “D-do we have to go in there?” Salem turned around to the young girl; her gaze looked annoyed.
“You want to get to Coelum, don’t you?”
“Then hurry up and follow.” The woman continued down into the briars. Alene bit her lip before jogging down into the valley. She ducked around the thorns, but as they walked, the briars grew thicker and thicker. They came to a small drop off, as they walked. Salem leapt down and Alene moved to follow.
“Augh!” Alene’s feet hit the ground, but she cried out in pain. As she’d jumped down, her long hair became tangled in the briars. The thorns seemed to tangle up more as she struggled.
“Salem! Help me!” The woman rolled her eyes.
“Finally, I’ll be rid of you. I was going to lead you to Dolum, but I’m leaving you here, for the wolves to eat. Goodbye Alene…” Salem chuckled before turning on her heel and striding away.
“Salem! Don’t leave me! Please! Don’t leave me!! Help…!” Alene wept and tried to untangle her hair. However, nothing she did was able to free her, actually, her hair became more tangled, as she pulled.
“HELP ME!” The sun finally set behind the valley walls. She cried out for help until darkness completely covered everything around her. She felt so tired from struggling and weeping, but Alene let out one more cry for help.
“I-is someone there!?” The girl looked around for the owner of the voice. A light seemed to be drawing near, on her left. A man carrying a lantern, came to her.
“So, that was you. Poor child, let me help you down.” He set the lantern down and reached up for her hair.
“I can try and let you down from here.” He fiddled with her hair and tried letting her down.
“Little one, I am sorry. The only thing I can do is cut your hair to let you down.”
“What is it? It’s the only way to get you down.” Alene shook her head as best she could.
“B-but if my hair is cut, I won’t be pretty, and then no one will like me…”
“Who told you that?” The man seemed slightly annoyed that she’d said something like that about herself.
“Salem… b-before she left me here…” The man’s gaze turned angry for a moment before softening.
“She lied. I know Salem. Why were you with her?”
“S-she was taking me to Coelum.” He growled to himself.
“That woman… she’s a servant of Dolum.”
“Yes, now will you let me cut you down?” Alene pulled against the briars.
“Are you certain you can’t free me without cutting my hair?” He sighed.
“Weren’t you listening? I can’t untangle your hair… is it really that important to you, to look beautiful?”
“I just don’t’ want to be alone… and if people don’t like me…”
“Does that really matter…?” The man picked Alene up to prevent the briars from hurting her more. His face softened into a smile.
“Who really cares what you look like? King Ansaldo doesn’t care.”
“He doesn’t?” The man nodded.
“If he loves a man like me, despite what I look like, then he certainly loves a beautiful girl like you. It doesn’t matter if you have long or short hair. So, would you like to be freed, little one?” Alene nodded.
“Very well…” He set her down and pulled out a knife. Alene squeezed her eyes shut. The knife slashed and she dropped. Her head felt much lighter. She reached up and felt her hair, which now hung just above her shoulders.
“There you go, little one. My name is Pavel. King Ansaldo sent me to find you.”
“Really?” The girl stepped back, eyebrow raised. “Wiley and Salem told me the same thing.” Pavel knelt before the girl.
“Well, what did they tell you? Did they tell you to take a different road then what Jonas told you?” Alene nodded.
“Then you know what they said wasn’t true. He never goes back on his word. He told you to go one way and that’s the way he wanted you to go. When you listened to Wiley and Salem, what happened?”
“I got tricked and stuck in the briars. And, now my hair is cut, and…”
“But does that really matter?” He helped her stand up.
“Now, I’ll help you back. You’re very far off the path you were supposed to go on. It will be a very long climb back up the hill.” The girl gave a long sigh.
“Of course…” He picked up his lantern and took the girl’s hand once more. He led her through the briars, which didn’t seem as threating to the girl, now that a strong person stood in front of her. Also, though she didn’t like that Pavel cut her hair, now she didn’t have to worry about her hair catching on anything. She reached up, fingering the short brown locks.
“So, why did the king send you to me?”
“You came off the path. Jonas told you where to go, but you listened to Dolum’s men.” Pavel refused to look at her.
“It’s going to be a long walk back up the mountain. We better get going. There is no time to stop tonight. I’m sorry, but you should’ve listen to Jonas.” Alene flinched at his harsh tone.
“I’m sorry…” Pavel sighed,“I’m sorry, young one. I’m known to have a short temper, so I am sorry if I seem angry. But, I still have to get you back to the path. You can rest later.” He took her hand and they headed back the way Salem brought Alene, the first time.
The two walked further on, but the night drew on and on. The young girl’s eyes slowly began to close. She barely noticed when they began to climb up the mountain. The sun began to rise by the time Alene and Pavel made it to the top of the hill. The man set up a tent beside the path and laid Alene down. Hours later, Alene woke up. The moment she stepped outside the tent, she could tell that it was well after noon.
“You’re awake.” Pavel sat nearby, sharpening a sword. The girl rubbed her eyes.
“Sorry I slept so long…”
“You were up all night. You needed rest. Now we can just pack up the tent and I’ll take you to Coelum.” Alene gave a bright smile.
“Yeah!” Pavel stood up and the two of them took the tent down and they began their trek towards Coelum. The two came down the side of the mountain. Alene looked ahead and all she could see were rolling hills, pasty-leaved trees, green grass, and bright flowers.
“Is that the way to Coelum?”
“Indeed, Alene.” Pavel stepped out, walking ahead of the girl. She jogged to keep up. The path wound on, with another path rolling off to their right.
“Where does that go?”
“That leads to Dolum’s land. There are many paths to it, but there is only one path to Coelum. That is why Moss usually leads a group there. But, others like me are sent to help those like you, who miss the group.”
“I only wish she hadn’t met you, Pavel.” Salem stood near a clump of trees; she grinned as Pavel drew his sword.
“I hoped the child would starve or wolves would eat her. But you just had to come along, didn’t you. The king should just stay out of our business.” The man pushed the child behind him.
“She wishes to see the king, so it is his business.” Salem smirked as she pulled out twin swords.
“Alene, go hide, but don’t run.” The girl nodded and ran to hide behind a tree.
Salem charged at Pavel. They slashed at one another. Alene stared, watching the sparks fly from the blades as they clashed again. They continued to attack one another; Alene saw Pavel losing ground. Salem turned her eyes to the hiding girl.
“Be afraid, little one. When I’m through with him, I’ll finish what I started. And this time, I’ll make sure you die.” She grinned as little Alene squished behind the tree, out of sight.
“I’d start running if I were you…”
“Alene! Don’t!” The child took a deep breath. She jumped as Pavel grunted behind her. She looked over and saw him on the ground, injured.
“N-no…” Alene took one quick breath, looking back at Pavel, before running down the road.
“Alene!” The girl didn’t look back, she continued to run. She stumbled down the road, fearful for her life. Suddenly she tripped, sliding across the dirt.
“Ow…” she rubbed her elbows, feeling the warm blood on the tips of her fingers. She stood up and brushed her dress before running once more. She came around a bend, where the road lay under a tree. As she ran under the tree, suddenly Alene felt her legs leave the ground as a net pulled her from the ground.
“Help! Let me down” The girl grabbed the netting, trying to find a way out.
“I hoped you would be the one we grabbed.” The girl looked down to see the same man who fought Miho so long ago.
“Let me go!”
Gryphon smirked. He pulled a knife out and sliced the net down. Alene hit the ground, coughing as the dirt filled her lungs. She looked up as the man walked over and stood above her.
“You are coming with us, little one.”
He brought his boot down on her face and everything went black.
A voice awoke Alene from her slumber. A man loudly sang, his voice echoing off the walls. His song held an air of joy which cut through the inky blackness of the cell block.
“H-hello…? Is anyone there?”
The song suddenly stopped; she saw movement in the cell across the hall. A man moved closer to the cell bars.
“M-my name is Alene…” she slowly came to the bars.
“A child?” He cocked his head. “Why would a child be here? What is your name, little one?” The girl blinked.
“Alene. And yours?”
“Petre.” He gave a small smile.
“Alene, why were brought here?”
“Apparently, I have done wrong things, and so I deserve to be here.” He gave a snort of laughter.
“Is that what they told you? Well, for most people it is true. But to be put in this cell block, you must be something special.”
<p“I guess…” She sighed. “They said that I have been protected by the king so many times that, they think he must want to protect me for some reason. They called me a devout follower of him, but I am just trying to find my way to Coelum.”
Petre looked confused.
“That is very strange.”
“Why were you put here?” He leaned against the stone walls.
“Well, I was an old friend of the king’s son.”
<p.“His son?” <p.“That’s right. His name is Isa. I was a simple fisherman, but I became a follower of his.” He leaned up against the wall. “I spent my days following him, and telling people about the good ways of the king. Then I was captured by Dolum’s men.”
“I did not see you yesterday, when I was brought here.” He sighed.
“Dolum had me brought in for questioning. He wanted me to give up the locations of others who are telling the good news of King Ansaldo’s reign. I told them nothing. But I did not know they were bringing another person into this cell block.” Alene wrapped her arms around herself.
“I want to go home… but I don’t have a home to go back to.”
<p“I don’t really know.” The girl shook her head. “But some people burned my house down, with my grandfather inside.” He gave her a sad look.
“I am so sorry…Since you’re a follower of the king’s son, do you think he will come and save you?” He looked down. “I hope so… I really do…”
Weeks went by. After another round of interrogation, the guards returned Petre to his cell.
“Alene?” The child did not respond. “Alene?” He could see her look up, slightly before coughing. “Alene, you do not look well at all.”
Alene shook her head. “I-I’m alright… I promise…”
Alene, you need help.” She was about to answer once more, but the door to the cell block opened. Ubel stomped inside. He took one look down at Alene before opening Petre’s cell. “Carry that child. She is too sick to walk.”
“Where are we going?” Ubel didn’t answer. He just opened Petre’s cell and then opened Alene’s. With that, he stomped out, leaving the door to the cell block open. The man seemed confused, but he came over and picked Alene up.
“Petre, wh-what is going on?”
“I don’t know.” He smiled down at her, “But we are leaving. I will take you to Coelum.” Alene smiled.
“Finally…” The girl let out a sigh of relief and leaned against the man, in order to rest.Petre walked out of the cell, holding the girl close. As they walked, they could see every single one of the prisoners had been let out of their cells. All of them walked out of the prison. Some leapt and cheered in joy, some ran out of the prison, and others walked out timidly as if they could not believe that they were really free. Alene looked around and she could not believe how many people were in this prison.
“How long have these people been here? There are so many of them.”
“Many have been here for a long time, some for longer than you’ve been alive.” He hugged her close and continue to walk. They went out of the prison and up the sides of the rocky cliffs. Petre stopped, turning around to take one last look at the prison.
“What is it Petre?”
Alene saw a man being led into the prison. He was a plain looking man, but he had a gentle face. The girl looked up at Petre, who stared at the man in shock.
“Is that him? The king’s son?”
<p“Isa, what is he doing?” The man set the girl down on the ground and took off back down the hill. However, by the time he reached the bottom of the hill, Isa was inside the prison and the door shut behind him.
Alene watched Petre try and get inside the prison, to try and go after Isa. He tried the door many times, but to no avail. He continued to try and get in until some of the prison guards came to him. They shoved him away from the door. She could see Gryphon walk up to him. They spoke for some time before he shoved Petre away. The man came walking back up to Alene, his face forlorn.
“Petre, what happened? Why is the king’s son going into the prison? Is something wrong?” The man sat down on the grass beside her. “I cannot believe that this is happening…”
“What? What is it?” He took a deep breath before looking over at the girl.
“Isa gave himself over to Dolum.”
“According to Gryphon, he made a deal with Dolum. If Isa gave himself over, Dolum would free all of his prisoners.”
Alene gasped. How could this be? She looked down at the prison.
“We have to see him. We have to know why he did this!” Petre did nothing but hand the girl a note.
“He told us one day that he would be taken by those of evil. I told him that I would never let that happen. But he rebuked me and now I see that he was right.” She opened the note and read the words of Isa:
Petre, I know this is hard for you, but I told you what was to come. I told you that I would one day be taken by evil. I gave myself over to Dolum’s men in order to save you and everyone else in this world. This place was designed to hold every person in this world. It already held so many people. I made a deal, my life for theirs.
I know you have that girl with you. I need you to watch over her. I will return again, as I told you before. Trust me. After all that’s happened, I would hope you knew what I am able to do. Trust me and trust what I am able to do. Do not fear.
Your friend, Isa.
Alene cocked her head. “How did he know about me?”
“He has a way of knowing things.”
“What do we do now?” The girl looked down at the note once again.
He sat down on the ground. “I-I don’t know what to do. I guess we wait…” Alene picked a little flower and began tearing the petals off. She cringed as her stomach gave a low growl. “Petre, when are we gonna get some food?”
“I got some last night for you.” He unwrapped a damp cloth to reveal a bunch of berries. The girl shoved the berries into her mouth.
“Thank you!” It may not have been much food, but she was hungry enough not to care. Petre watched as she ate. He seemed happy to see her happy.
The mass of people leaving one place brought much attention to this place. People came around to look at the large, dreary building. This was the second day since they’d been released from Carcere. Now people came to see the building by the dozens.
“Excuse me…” A woman, scarred, pale, and thin stood behind them.
Alene smiled slightly. “Hello miss!” How may we help you?”
She looked between the two of them. “I wish to speak with him.” She pointed to the man.
“Yes?” Petre looked over at the woman.
She cocked her head. “I saw Isa walking through my old hometown, and I remember seeing you with him. You are one of his followers!”
“No! I do not know who you’re talking about!” Alene stared at him in shock; anger began welling up inside her. The woman cocked her head but shrugged, taking him at his word. She walked away.
“Why did you say that!?” Petre refused to answer; he sat down on the ground and stared at Carcere. The child was so angry at him. Why would he deny knowing Isa? Alene began pacing around until another person came walking towards them. Alene could only watch in annoyance and anger as this person and then a third person came. Both times the people asked if Petre was a follower of Isa. Both times, he denied any knowledge of Isa.After the third person walked away, she stormed over to Petre.
“How dare you!”
“How dare you deny Isa?! You said that he was your friend!” She shook with rage. “You are a horrible friend! You don’t deserve to be his follower!” The man said nothing, only stared at the ground and this only made Alene angrier. She stormed away. Petre watched Alene as she sat off to the side. Since the day before, she refused to speak with him. Alene looked up as the sun rose. This was the third day since Dolum’s men took Isa into the prison. She watched as the sun came over the hill.
Suddenly, the ground began shaking. The man and girl fell to the ground. The earth began to crack around them. They looked up and saw the prison trembling. Before their eyes, Carcere crumbled to the ground.
“Isa!” The man watched as the dust began to settle. Alene stood up, and took a few steps down the hill as the shaking completely stopped.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think that Isa is alright? Could anyone survive that?” The girl looked around at all the rubble. She could see some people crawling away from the rubble, and some, who were outside the building, came running to the rubble. She could see them pulling the rubble away to find people.
“I do not think anyone could have survived something like that, not even Isa.” Petre lowered his eyes at the thought of the loss of his friend and mentor. The girl could only think of the king’s son. She had never known him. Alene sat down and watched as they all continued to clear away the rubble. Suddenly a lone figure came walking out of the rubble nearby. Unlike all the others who were brought from the rubble, this person walked upright, without limping. He did not seem injured at all.
“Who is that?” The two looked down at the destroyed building, and at the lone figure who still walked towards them. The other people around stopped and stared at the person. Their eyes filled with shock and their mouths fell open. Petre cocked his head in confusion.
“How did anyone survive that, and come out in that good of a condition?” Alene shrugged. As the figure came up the hill, she could see that he was a man with green eyes and brown hair, with a beard. Petre gasped. “Isa…!”
Petre stared at Isa as he came closer. His eyes cast themselves downward. “I couldn’t do anything…”
“What?” Without another word, the man turned around and hurried away.
“Petre! Wait!” But the man ran out of earshot within moments. She stared after him. He soon ran over a hill and disappeared from sight. The girl merely stood there, at the top of the hill, staring after him. She jumped as someone placed a hand on her shoulder. She whirled around only to see Isa standing there. The man gave her a little smile.
“Hello there, Alene.”
“Isa… sir!” She backed up and looked at him. She bowed slightly, for he was the son of the king.
“I mean your Highness.” She moved and knelt down. He smiled and knelt down in front of her.
“Stand up…” He took her hands and helped her up. “Why are you here alone? Why are you not in Coelum?”
“I stayed here with Petre.” She responded, but she had a feeling that he already knew the answer.
“And where is Petre.”
“He ran away…” She looked down, wrapping her arms around herself. Isa placed his hands on her shoulders.
“Come along. There is a village nearby. We should go there. We will find Petre there, and then I will take you home.”
“Home?” She wrung her hands. “But my home is gone. My grandfather is gone too…”
The king’s son gave her a look of sorrow and pity; it was as if he felt sorrier about the loss of her grandfather than she did.
“I am sorry little one. But you may find joy in this circumstance.”
“How?” She looked at her feet. “I lost everyone I loved, and then I got locked up in that horrible prison. I am so far away from Coelum. And I have done bad things. Would you and the king even want me in your kingdom after all the times I disobeyed?” >Isa placed a hand on her head and smiled.
“Do not worry little one. Now come along.” He began walking away. Alene stared after him, wondering if she should actually follow him. The man stopped and turned around, smiling at her. He motioned for her to follow. The child bit her lip before going over to the man.
“Now, to home, Alene.” Still she did not understand what he meant by ‘home’, but the girl followed him none-the less.The little girl followed behind Isa. Neither of them had spoken since they left Carcere. As they walked, the land changed. The rocky, barren, blackness turned first to dark sand and sparse plant-life, then to coarse dirt, then to a thin layer of grass. Soon the land was covered in grass, dotted with flowers, and tall trees. After a long walk, they came upon a village. Isa smiled over at here.
“Alene, we will rest here for the night. And, there is someone here, I need to speak to.” The girl nodded. Still, she did not understand what all had happened and why. As they walked into the village, she could see many people, ragged and dirty. They must have escaped the prison as well. The villagers were handing out food and clothing to the escaped prisoners.
“These poor people…”
“They are all safe now.” Isa knelt down beside a woman and took her hand. Alene watched in shock as the scars the woman had on her arms vanished with a touch from the king’s son.
“Isa…” They both looked up and saw Petre standing nearby. He looked down, as if ashamed. Isa, however, gave a small smile.
“Isa, I am so sorry. I should not have run away from Carcere.” The man sat down on the edge of a well. The king’s son held no expression on his face.
“Come with me. You may come too, Alene.” The two followed Isa into an inn and sat down. Before either of them could say anything, plates of fish appeared before them.
“Wow!” Alene gasped in delight. “How did you do that?”
“Trade secret.” Isa gave a fun nice smile. The three began eating, but Petre was quiet and did not smile at all.
“Petre, do you care about me?”
“Then feed my sheep.” He said nothing more. Alene did not understand this conversation at all. She just continued to eat. A second time, Isa spoke.
“Petre, do you care about me?”
“Of course I do!”
“Then feed my sheep.” Now Alene felt absolutely confused. What could Isa have been talking about? The three ate in silence until Isa spoke a third time.
“Petre, do you care about me?” This time, the man slammed his fists on the table.
“Why do you continue to ask me that? You know everything, so you know that I care.”
“Then you will take care of my people here.” He smiled. Petre looked up in surprise as he spoke. “These people here, have just left a horrible prison, in which you too were imprisoned. I ask that you lead them.”
“I will, Isa.”
As the meal finished, Petre stood up. “I will go and do what you told me, Isa.” He looked over at Alene. “It was a pleasure to meet you, Alene.” With those words, he turned around and left. Alene watched him go and waved.
“Goodbye Petre; I hope to see you again soon.” She turned back and continued to eat her fish. A long silence reigned as Alene and Isa ate their food in peace. Isa spoke up.
“Alene, you seemed confused by our earlier conversation.” He smiled,
<p“I am.” She sighed. You spoke in riddles and images. I understand that you want him to help those here, but why did you ask him that way?”
“I asked him three times, just as he denied me three different times.”
“Oh, I understand now.” Isa chuckled. He smiled,
“I know you do.” He took another bite of fish. “Now, I know where you wish to go.”
“Well, since I have no other place to go, I want to go to Coelum. But, you already know this. And… well, I was wondering, since you are the king’s son of Coelum, could you tell me how to get there?” Isa nodded.
“I would be happy to, Alene.” His smile widened. “Actually, I will do more than that. I will take you there myself.”
The girl gasped. “D-do you mean it?”
“Of course I mean it.” What an honor, to be escorted by the king’s son himself. She clasped her hands and nodded.
“Oh, thank you. Um, sir, since you are the king’s son. Do you want me to call you by your name, or should I call you ‘your highness’?”
“Just Isa will do, Alene.” Now he stood up. “Again, we will begin our journey at first light.”
“How long is the journey going to take?” >Isa grabbed his plate.
“It will take forty days.”
“Do not worry,” the man chuckled. “That may sound like a long journey, but it will be fun. And as long as you stay beside me, none of Dolum’s men will come to harm you.”
“Thank you!” the girl smiled. Isa went over to the innkeeper and spoke with him before coming back over to the table.
“They have two rooms for us to stay in tonight.”
“Again, thank you sir.” Alene and Isa went to their separate rooms. The girl couldn’t help but wonder why all this was happening. She wasn’t complaining, but she was curious. Why would Isa give himself over to Dolum? And how did he get out and destroy the prison? These questions would have to wait until morning.
Isa and Alene walked side by side. They did not speak. The land around them lay dotted with beautiful flowers and soft green grass waved around them.
“This land is beautiful, is it not?” Alene nodded.
“It is very lovely.” Again, they walked in silence. Isa broke the silence again.
“I know you want to ask me something, little one. Go ahead and ask.”
“Oh…” The girl rubbed the back of her head. Was her curiosity that obvious? “Well, it is really nothing. I am just curious.”
“There is nothing wrong with curiosity. Ask what you want to.” Alene nodded.
“Well, I was wondering, why did you go into the prison and why did they let us out?”
“I was the reason you were all freed.” He smiled “I told Dolum that I would give myself up to him, if he would free everyone he held prisoner. That included you.”
“Why would you do that?” Isa stopped and sat down on a stone, underneath a fig tree.Alene nodded.
“There is one reason. I care about everyone. My father and I love everyone and we do not want anyone to be imprisoned by him. That is why I did it.”
“But why am I the one you decided to travel with?”
“Well,” the man sighed, “I can save everyone, but I will not force them to follow me. Many of those people do not care for me or my father, but I still care about them. I will not force them to follow me. You wanted to follow me, so that’s why I came to you.”
“Good.” He patted her head. “Now, we must keep going. It is 39 more days until we reach Coelum.”
Alene giggled. “Yeah!” For days, they walked and walked. Isa would help the little girl along. Everywhere they went, they met people who knew Isa. They wanted to hear his stories and the words that came from the king. Alene learned much from listening to him, and it made their trip fun. She learned more about Isa and King Ansaldo every day. One morning, Alene trailed behind Isa, yawning and rubbing her eyes.
“Isa… I’m tired.”
“I know we woke up early this morning, but we are almost there.” This perked the girl up.
“Really? How close?” Isa smiled and did not answer. Up a hill they went, and the young man stopped at the crest. “Look.”
“Whoa!” Alene gasped. In front of her stood a city of white stone with a wall of beautiful gems.
“Alene, welcome to Coelum!”