One day, a lonely young man named Favian ventured into the forbidden territories, entering a dark, enchanted forest on the outskirts of the kingdom of Cartineig. As he traveled, the forest grew darker and darker. It was not long before Favian could go no further. With no light to guide him and no clear path of which to follow, he stood frightened and alone, certain he would never escape.
Suddenly, a blinding light flashed before him. When it subsided, there stood the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her skin was lightly illuminated and her hair was the color of pearls. She wore a long white dress and a diamond crown on her head.
“Good fellow,” she said with a voice as smooth as silk. “Don’t be afraid.”
Favian pulled off his hat and took a step forward. He nervously rolled the hat between his palms and looked absently at the ground below.
She took a step closer. She placed two gentle fingers beneath his chin to tilt up his face. Her radiant, sky-blue eyes looked deep into his as she asked, “Have you found what you seek?”
He was too afraid to answer.
She smiled, sweetly. “My name is Aryllenia, and I’m the protector of this forest. Tell me your quest. Perhaps I can assist.” She placed a hand on Favian’s shoulder.
Warmth filled his body with each touch. He was consumed by the beauty in her eyes. Quietly, he replied, “I am a simple man and have no money to purchase land. All I seek is land on which I can build a farm to call my own.” He looked down again, staring at the hat in his hands. “I thought I could find something suitable in this forest, but I got trapped in the darkness. Please forgive me if I disturbed you.”
Aryllenia explained that the forest was hers and that no one had ever succeeded in venturing this far past the forest’s dangers to encounter her. Grateful to meet him, she offered to help Favian build a farm to his liking.
While he described the farm of his dreams and a life they might start together, someone secretly watched them from the shadows.
Over the next several years, they cleared the center of the forest and turned it into a vibrant farmland. As they worked together to tend the land, their love for each other grew deeply. Every morning, Aryllenia would stand in the field and glow brighter than the sun. This glow would make all of their crops grow unnaturally fast. Within days, each plant was tall and mature. Every evening, Favian would harvest all that grew that day. They were without a care in the world and completely happy with the life they started together.
One day, Aryllenia became ill. After three days of sleeping in her bed, Aryllenia slowly opened her eyes and looked at Favian kneeling beside her. With shallow breath, she said, “Thank you for giving me a wonderful life. Take this before I leave this world.” In her hand was a clear glass ball, no bigger than an apple.
Favian took it and examined all sides. “What do you mean, my love?”
Aryllenia grew weak and her voice softer. “When I am gone, this forest and all of its protective power will disappear. I am leaving a token to help you.”
“No, my love, I do not want to accept this,” he pleaded, pushing the ball back in her hand. “Please, please, do not leave this with me.”
As he tried to wrap her fingers around the ball, her hand fell limp. Favian cradled her hand against his face and cried. The ball rolled and buried itself in the sheets. During the night, Aryllenia’s body faded away, and soon, Favian cried into an empty bed. He fell asleep soon after.
The next morning, Favian was woken by an unfamiliar noise. What he saw was beyond belief. He could not believe his eyes. There beneath the sheets in the bed where Aryllenia left this world, now lay a tiny baby, a girl.
He scooped her in his arms and walked by an open window. In the morning sunlight, he noticed an unusual mark on her left cheek. In a color slightly lighter than the rest of her skin, there was a group of three five-point stars. While barely noticeable, it glowed in direct sunlight. Through drying tears, he smiled at her innocent, beautiful face. “I will call you Arlena, after your mother.”
As he rocked the girl slowly back and forth, he thought of how they would survive without Aryllenia and her protective forest around them. Unknown to Favian, someone watched quietly through the window.
This same someone had secretly watched Favian every day.
TO BE CONTINUED
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