Three teenagers must save Christmas from an ancient spell.
| In the city of Vale within the kingdom of Riven, it was three days until Christmas. The time of snow had come. Children were running about tossing snowballs and rolling on the ground. But the snow was a joy for adults as well. Youths and grownups alike loved the cold, white beauty of it all. Here in this jovial province three young teenagers will encounter a situation that will save or doom something of great importance.
“Help me with building the head,” said a tall pudgy boy as he patted and rubbed a ball of snow on top of a large white mound.
A girl with red hair under a bonnet wearing a simple grey cloak covered in snow glanced at her friend “Hold on Jasper, I need to get the coals and carrot.”
She was stopped by her friend Jasper. “Don’t worry. I’ll get them,” he said as she grabbed her shoulder.
Thena’s sea blue eyes flickered and she pushed Jasper away. “It’s okay. My mom can spare it,” she said as she took off.
Jasper hung his head and shook it slowly. He looked up and sighed.
Luke came beside Jasper. “You should have tried harder.”
Jasper contorted his face and slugged Luke in the arm. He frowned and rubbed where his friend had hit him.
“It’s your fault! You should have been the one stopping her! You’re rich!” said Jasper as he shook a white knuckled fist at Luke then punched a snowy tree trunk causing little brown birds to scatter.
“I’ve asked my dad so many times for money, but he barely gives me enough to do anything fun. He may be a chamberlain but he spends a lot of it on parties and gifts for my mother. I’d love it if he would let me have enough to explore another city in Riven.”
“Maybe your father knows you’ll just blow it all. Your little wish to go off on some crazy trip proves my point,” Jasper said as he folded his arms and veered his eyes squarely into Luke’s.
Luke left off his tangent and was silent. “I guess you’re right. I am a little wild at times. I just get so bored of just doing normal kid’s stuff.” He leaned his elbow against a tree trunk and put his hand to his chin.
When Thena arrived at her small stone home, her mother was heating stew in a pot that hung over a cozy fire on a hearth. Inside was a tight kitchenette, a quaint little living room area and two doors that led to two small rooms with beds and a nightstand beside each. Thena took off her mittens and bonnet then hung them on wooden hanger. Her hands were warmed as Thena rubbed them together. She took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly. Next, the girl put her cloak on a wooden chair and then sat on it in front of the fire. It crackled as yellow and red sparks fluttered rapidly, as they bounced here and there in a frenzied dance.
Thena’s mom came as her boots clicked on the cold ground. She hugged Thena from behind who looked up and turned her head around to face her mother and both smiled.
“There is not a kinder young lady in the whole kingdom. You’re so special Thena. Your father and I knew it from the day you were born.”
Thena cupped her mother’s hands that hung over her chest.
“I’m glad we live in Vale. Moving from Thair was hard but it feels good to be away from all that sadness and fighting. I miss my other friends though.”
“Someday when we save enough, we will visit.” She kissed Thena on the head and patted her shoulder then went to the stew pot and stirred it with a wooden spoon. The sumptuous scent of roast mutton mixed with carrots, tomatoes and beans filled Thena’s nostrils. She breathed in the salty, sweet aroma that made her lick her lips.
“Dinner will be ready in three hours.”
“Oh, mother, may I have a carrot and two coals?”
“Making snowman with Jasper and Luke are you? Alright, but this time only. These things cost money.”
“Thanks mother!” she said with a bounce as she clasped her hands together.
Thena’s mom presented the items to her daughter who threw on her snow attire and skipped out the door with a smile. The snow fell gently like cheerful, white fairy dust. When she arrived, Luke put the coal eyes in and Japer positioned the carrot nose.
They all stepped back to admire their work.
“So what do we do now?” said Luke.
“How about a snowball fight?” Thena suggested.
“Eh, I’m sick of playing in the snow. Let’s do something different.”
“Hmm…really?-what is it that you want to do?” Jasper said looking at Luke with the side of his eye, tapping his fingers on a large boulder next to him.”
Luke glanced at Jasper then at Thena. He stepped back and put up his palms as he shook his head quickly. “What?!”
“You’re too obvious Luke. I know you want to go to the caves.”
Luke jerked his head back and widened his eyes. He opened his mouth but only short gasps came out of his throat.
Thena got in Luke’s face after seeing his reaction. “You are thinking of going! Are you crazy?! Everyone knows that there is something wrong with that place!”
“All who have decided take the path that leads there do not come back,” said Jasper with a raised voice and folded arms.
“Come on; don’t tell me you two aren’t a little curios?”
“That doesn’t matter. There may be wild animals…”
Luke spread his arms as if to comfort jasper and walked towards him. “Don’t worry. I don’t think there are any killer wolves in the cave.”
“Luke, be sensitive! You’d feel the same way if it happened to you!”
Jasper silently felt the scar on the side of his neck.
Thena put her hand on his back. “What happened when you were ten is gone”
“I remember the wolf, it was five years ago but I clearly see everything…my mom screaming…the clenching jaws... all the blood. I’m so scared of dying,”
“Wolves only come out at night,” said Luke. “If we leave now, everything will work out.” Luke was poised with his fists on his hips and a beaming smile.
Jasper and Thena shook their heads. “Not a chance Luke,” said Jasper.
Luke turned to Thena who simply tilted her head and pursed her lips.
The week went on as usual but with one difference; Luke kept bothering his two friends about the caves. When two weeks had passed Thena and Jasper met at mid-day at their snowman and Luke was not there.
“Jasper I can’t take it. He won’t let it rest. He goes on every time of day!”
“I know. But I fear he’ll give up and go on his own if we don’t go with him. There has to be something.” Jasper sat against a tree and pulled his legs up and put his elbow on his knee and a fist to his chin. He picked up a black pebble and rolled it around in his fingers. Jasper threw it at another tree then stood and wiped the snow off his back. Maybe we should just tell his parents.” He said with a snap of his fingers and a coy look at Thena. Then his expression fell. “No wait, it would take weeks to get a meeting with a chamberlain and he would never see two regular teenagers anyway.”
“Maybe if we stayed for about fifteen minutes and only go a little ways inside of it?”
“He would not go for that,” Jasper said as walked to the snowman they had made. “Eck! What do we do!” he said as he punched a hole in the snowman’s head.
Thena lifted her eyebrows in sadness. “Hey, you just wasted those!” she said as she picked up the coals and carrot.”
“Where is Luke anyway?”
Thena squinted her eyes in the direction of the city square searching for Luke. She swung her head in the opposite way down a busy block filled with people enjoying the snow. “I don’t see him.”
Jasper looked at the end of a letter sticking out the base of the snowman. He pulled it out. “Oh no!”
“What?!” Thena gasped.
“It’s from Luke. He’s gone on his own! He must have just left. There is not much snowfall on the showing half of the letter. If we run we should be able to stop him.”
They shot forth, heading for the city borders where the path to the caves was. Jasper and Thena bumped into people and stumbled over mounds of snow through the city blocks. Soon houses were fewer and far between with crowds thinning out. At last they came to a place only full of trees and bushes covered in snow. Further on was a narrow path lined with low wood fencing that was rotting. Rusted coiled meatal wiring with barbs jutted out decrepitly.
“I think I see him,” said Thena.
Jasper looked about a dozen yards away and made out a figure in thick snow attire. “Luke!”
The figure stopped and turned around then waved at them. “Hey guys!”
Jasper and Thena’s faces were pale with fright as they sprinted at the foolhardy young boy.
Thena turned red. “How could you do something like this!? You don’t care what may happen to you or how we would panic over you doing something like this!”
Luke reeled back in reaction to Thena. “Oh, well…”
“Like I said, no one ever returns,” Thena said with an exasperated tone.
“That is a good reason to investigate,” Luke countered with an upbeat, chipper voice.
Luke jerked his gaze over Jasper’s shoulder and pointed beyond the left fence border. “I see a white horse!”
Jasper and Thena turned to view the creature next to an ashy gray oak tree twenty yards away.
Luke breathed deeper with excitement and made a broad smile. His face lit up as he grabbed both his friends’ shoulders. “What are you waiting for? Come on!” He burst forth running like a playful child flailing his arms and hopped over the low fence.
“Wait Luke!” yelled Jasper, who started to run but was grabbed by the sleeve from Thena.
“We have to stay on the path!” she exclaimed.
“What do we do?!” Jasper exclaimed grabbing his scalp. He was sweating and began to breathe heavier. The teenager was in a panic looking sporadically around in every direction. “The horse could take him anywhere. And if we chase him, we could get lost.”
“Oh. I knew this was a bad idea! We never should have gone!”
“Well, we’re in this mess already. Come on, we’ve got to get him.”
The two dashed after the white animal in the direction of Luke. The hasty teenager was getting farther from sight. Suddenly he stopped. When Jasper and Thena caught up to him, they were in awe at what they saw.
”A unicorn!” exclaimed Thena.
They were entranced in a wide stare, motionless. All of the unicorn’s features were flawless from its white muscular back to its golden blond mane. Then there was the life form’s silver horn. Sunlight coming through the canopy of trees made it literally glisten and sparkle.
Luke licked his lips then pursed them as he began to move closer to it. Slowly he ebbed his way toward the mythical wonder. He stepped gingerly as leaves crunched underfoot. The animal took a few steps away towards the middle of two arching trees.
“Don’t scare it away Luke,” Thena said in a loud whisper. She looked with wide eyes at the fascinating creature. She peered behind her and suddenly her glowing face turned to a cold stare. “Guys we have to go back!”
Jasper flinched his head and took a sudden step towards Thena, but turned abruptly back to his original stance and continued observing. “I know Thena, but we’re looking right at a real unicorn. We should leave but…” Jasper sighed and hung his head. “We may never see anything le this ever again. It’s not like can stay here all day and follow it when it decides to leave.”
Luke did not react to Thena’s words. He neared closer and with every step, the unicorn took three paces closer to a tree arch. It went faster and he grew impatient. The beast trotted off at a steady speed as the curios boy pursued.
The intrigued youth ignored his friend’s words and followed the unicorn into the trees. Then Thena looked around and did not know what direction they came from. “Jasper, where did we come from?”
Panic filled his face as he looked behind him. “I…I don’t know!”
“We could get even more lost if we don’t catch him now!”
With only patches of sunlight to guide them, they followed Luke deeper into shadowy foliage. In the distance the two saw Luke following after the skipping beast. They ran to catch Luke but he was now well into the forest. Suddenly the two broke out of the vegetation and found themselves in the full bright of day next to a waterfall cascading down a cliff. In front of them was Luke standing beside the unicorn and all around them there was not a patch of snow. A waterfall filled a shimmering lake with dolphins frolicking and fish splashing about. At the shore of the lake was a cave mouth.
“Where are we?” asked Thena.
“Why isn’t the unicorn still running away?” asked Jasper as he walked to the animal. He slowly lifted his hand to stroke it. The animal’s hide was smooth and warm
“Maybe it stopped here on purpose,” said Thena. “like it wanted us to come here.”
“Look at that cave! Could that be the one?” Luke asked his two friends.
“But we went off the path,” said Jasper. He scratched his head and walked in a circle with a frown. Jasper looked at the unicorn, then down below where the cave was, and finally at the clear, sunny sky. “Hmm.”
“I don’t ever want to leave!” Thena declared as she lifted up her arms and spun in circles.
Luke and Jasper looked at Thena.
“That’s’ weird, I’d think you’d be more scared about not getting back.”
“Oh, I know, but it’s like a dream come true. It’s every girls wish. There may be fairies or nymphs here. We have to explore.” It looked like Thena was a child again with her glistening eyes, and peaceful, enraptured air.
“That’s the spirit! It’s decided then,” Luke proclaimed as he patted Jasper on the shoulder.
Luke stopped talking as he looked for a way to the cave. “I see a grass trail over there by the cliff wall leading down.”
The three descended the grass decline where they met the cave by a lake.
“Gold, I see gold a little further in the cave!” lauded Jasper. “We could be rich!”
“Yeah! This is more than I had hoped!” exclaimed Luke.
“You only have your bare hands to dig with.”
Both of the boys stopped. “She’s right,” said Jasper.
Luke hung his head and his arms then sulked. “I’d give anything for a pick.”
“Even if we did, how would we bring it back?” Jasper spoke throwing his arms up and tossing his head back. He sat down with his knees up and his head buried in them.
“Right, and don’t forget, we are still lost. We should think about getting home,” Thena said shaking her finger and veering her eyes.
Luke looked down in defeat. “You are right.” The careless boy grasped his scalp. “What have I done?”
“You are finally making sense Luke. But how do we get back?”
“I can help you.”
All three spun around and beheld a fair woman at the cave mouth with silver hair that stopped at her shoulders. She had eyes that were deep and grey displaying a gentle, childlike twinkle. The wondrous being wore a plain white glistening gown covering her feet.
“Who are you?” asked Thena in a drifting tone with her jaw open. The being stepped closer and all three backed away.
“I am Ithia, an enchanting spirit of this place. I sent my unicorn to bring you here.”
Luke gave a cocky glance at his friends. “Well, well. It looks like it was meant to be eh?”
Thena was motionless with a beaming smile. She opened her mouth to speak but only short gasps came out. Then she laughed then hopped right in front of Ithia. “I can’t believe you’re real!”
“I will explain the situation. For over five-thousand years I have been the emissary of snow and Christmas in this secret part of the land. A millennia ago, there was an evil angel who despised the season where the Christ Child’s birth was observed. He came and cursed my realm. This malicious one made it to never be winter.” Then she looked down and a tear came from her eye. “What is worst of all, man and spirit forgot about Christmas and its meaning in my realm. For a time people lived in this place. However, my power sustained them and when I was cursed, they eventually perished. During the time when the enchanted humans still thrived, they were bound from entering the cave. What is direr is that the curse is spreading to the natural human realms. The angel vowed that there would be a day when the last snowflake would fall.”
“Why would God let Christmas to be forgotten like that?” asked Luke.
“One could likewise question why God would allow pain and evil to occur.”
“Where is the angel?” asked Thena with upturned eyebrows as she blinked a few times and stepped forward putting her hands over her heart.
“Inside the cave. I have summoned you to retrieve a talisman inside that will restore things to normal. Only you three can do it because his evil power keeps me from entering the cave.”
“How do we overpower an angel?” inquired Jasper with a frown and a tilted head. He folded his arms before looking at Luke then Thena then back at Ithia.
Ithia smiled then closed her eyes for a few moments. She lifted both hands and a ball of golden light coalesced in spiraling bands. Suddenly three streams of light came forth from the sphere and struck the three human’s chests and they covered their eyes. When the light abated, they found themselves in shining bronze armor each holding a sword and a shield.
“This enchanted war apparel will aid you in your quest.” Ithia spoke sternly but with a soft gentleness.
“Why did you choose us?” asked Luke, squinting his left eye before he used his arm to block Thena from moving closer. He studied Ithia’s innocent expression and his face diffused into a lightened countenance and he slowly lowered his arm.
“My messenger can only go so far in the human realm and she saw you young humans who are innocent enough to enter.”
“We were on a path that is supposed to bring us to a forbidden cave. Is this the one?” asked Thena.
“She wouldn’t know,” said Luke.
“She is a spirit, there could be a lot she knows,” replied Thena who raised her tone but without an increase in volume.
“Those that go in the cave don’t come back. Have any others found this cave?”
“The path to your realm and mine were linked by a forest trail, but I sent my dryad servant to close it off to keep travelers from finding the cave. Those who came before were tricked by their greed and died, from a terrible beast within.” Ithia cupped their cheeks one after the other.” Now go.”
The three inspected the inwards of the cave. Thena walked with her shoulder touching Jasper’s who took the young girl’s hand and squeezed it then gave her a placid smile.
They came to a large cavern with a high ceiling and stalactites. They approached a lake edge at the base of a cliff and stopped. On another cliff side was a large bronze door. Luke kneeled down staring at the water. “Well, now what? Are we supposed to grow wings to reach the door?” The boy froze as he saw a slight stirring in the water. “I think something is moving down there.”
Jasper stooped down at the edge. “Are those bubbles?”
Thena approached her friends and peered at the moving water. “I don’t like this.” She said.
“Neither do I,” said Jasper.
The lake became more turbulent and they all backed away. Suddenly a coarse roar echoed in the cave. A green scaly serpent-like ahead craned itself above them.
The monster opened its mouth and spewed out a ball of fire but the attack was absorbed by their shields. Next the enraged creature lunged at them with gaping jaws to devour all three warriors whole. Thena slashed at it cutting off a large tooth at its gums. It reeled back and cried in pain. Next the sea monster submerged itself into the water. There was silence.
“Is it gone?” Jasper said scanning the still water.
“I don’t know,” said Thena.
Suddenly a huge burst of water cascaded over them as the beast gripped the lake edge with a pair of scythe-like claws. They backed off as the monster hoisted itself onto the stone ground.
“We can’t run. It may be trying to push us out!” yelled Thena.
Luke instantly charged at the beast’s belly with the tip of his sword held out. The creature turned to its side, and then used its bony tail to strike his shield. The attack sent Luke buckling backwards. Now the goal was to find a strategy to assault the towering foe. The monster curled its head back, ready to strike another time.
“I have an idea,” said Luke. “Follow me.”
He led Jasper and Thena in front of a large, protruding crystal formation and waited for the beast to near the three. The ground shook with its approach causing dust and pebbles to jump up from the ground. Luke veered his eyes with sweat rolling down his temples.
“When I give the word, dodge to the right.”
At last the beast made its move and lunged at the humans.
It attacked as the three of them leapt to the right, evading the monster that instead engulfed the sharp crystal, snagging its open mouth. The creature’s body writhed and congealed, trying to get loose of the hard formation stuck to the ground. With the beast immobilized, Luke approached its eye and thrust his sword into the beast’s narrow pupil. The danger past immediately as the whole body went still and lifeless.
The relief of the three was inexpressible as they collapsed on the ground looking at the conquered foe. The companions watched as a glass bridge aglow with white light stretched to the other side.
“We did it!” exclaimed Thena.
All of them stood and proceeded over the transparent walk way to the door.
“There is no keyhole or handles. I guess we just push,” said Thena.
With their combined strength, they slowly pressed the door open. Immediately they saw what had to be him. He stood seven feet tall in a grey cloak possessing a pair of shining wings.
The being spoke with an unsettling, gentle voice. “Did you expect horns and bat’s wings young one? I congratulate you three with killing my sea dragon. I see you had Ithia’s help. Nevertheless your quest ends here.” With those words, he waved hand and stalagmites jutted up from the ground and circled them creating a stone prison.
“Agree to turn back and I will release you.”
Luke hacked at a stalagmite but the blade did not even scrape it.
“We’re trapped! What do we do now!?” cried Thena.
“Ithia gave us the armor and swords. There’s got to be reason,” said Jasper.
Luke frowned and his eyes became still and clear. His body and expression was calm. “I feel something.”
Luke and Thena were trembling with pale faces and shuddering eyes. “What do you mean?” said Thena breathing heavily.
“It’s like she is with us right now.” Luke took the hands of Japer and Thena and placed them on his slow rhythmic heart.
“I can feel it. It’s like some presence is inside you…and I am starting to feel it coming into me too,” said Thena.
“It’s like I’m being made stronger,” replied Jasper. “Maybe we should try focusing on it.”
They closed their eyes, focusing on every benevolent, powerful emotion. Slowly they felt an unspeakable inner strength rise within. It welled up like a mighty fist breaking through stone. They opened their eyes and were in touch with a righteous furry. Once again the three warriors were filled with a powerful, brave composure. A whirlwind of great force spun around them. In a few moments the stony protrusions shattered.
“Impossible!” said the angel. “I will destroy you with my own hand!”
With an outstretched spear that appeared in his hand, the being took flight in their direction. Just as he came close enough, Thena slashed at his chest. He cried out and circled back around to where he was. The angel held its chest and panted. “Curse you!”
The brave humans took the offensive and charged at him. With a simultaneous thrust, their shining blades pierced his torso. He cried out as his body erupted with bright light rays from within him. Soon he was engulfed in a burst of illumination. Then, there was silence.
They all came together in a single embrace with tears of joy.
“We won!” exclaimed Luke.
“Winter and Christmas is saved!” Thena said in the same manner.
“Where is the talisman?” questioned Jasper.
“Over there,” Thena said pointing at a metallic chest against a back wall.
The three friends walked curiously to the object. When they had reached it, Luke opened it revealing a small emerald-green orb on a white pillow.
“How mystifying,” Thena said.
“Let’s get out of here,” jasper said as he picked up the orb.
“Ithia will be ecstatic,” said Luke.
The three friends quickly retraced their steps with beaming smiles. As they walked, Ithia’s form came into view and the three saviors ran for her. When all had come together, Ithia bowed to the teenagers who felt great pride from her obeisance. Suddenly their enchanted war items disappeared.
“Thank you, all three of you.”
Jasper gave Ithia the talisman.
“Now to end this curse.” With those words, Ithia held it up then threw it down and it broke into pieces. When the fragments of the orb had dispersed on the ground, a pillar of light speckled with snowflakes rose into the air then vanished.
The group of four felt a cold chill as a several snowflakes were carried in the wind. And he who prophesied that one day the last snowflake would fall was vanquished.
“Can we stay here?” asked jasper.
“You three must return to your parents. When you are older perhaps you may return to stay.”
“How do we get back home?” asked Thena.
“You will find a sparkling trail of gold leading back to the forest. It will lead you onto the path to your home.”
The teenagers were glad to have saved the day but were sad they had to leave. The light speckles guided them back to the dirt path. When Jasper, Thena and Luke arrived, their greatest adventure would forever remain a secret. But maybe someday, they would return to that magical place.