A Children's Bed Time Story
By Supraja Manchikanti
Dad: Once upon a time, long long ago and far far away there was a boy named Craig. Craig was in his late teens and lived in a small village known as ‘Chevy’.
One day, in the middle of the night, Craig silently wakes up right after his roommate fell asleep. He picks up his white bed cover, walks out and closes the door carefully and tiptoes along the hallway so as not to disturb his fellow workers. Silently he goes out the front door of the orphanage and closes it behind him.
Then he walks to the farm in front of the orphanage. This is where he works by cultivating kale, bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, beets, spinach and various other vegetables. They are used for sustenance of the orphanage and also to trade for various other daily necessities.
‘We should move to a place near the delta. The mountains make Lea gloomy’ mumbling like that Craig walks around the farm and picks up few balls of hay he made during the day, along with a rope.
Craig then walks up to the main door of the orphanage. Now he ties his white bedcover around the hay balls with the help of the rope, leaving most of the white cloth hanging freely. Standing on his toes he hangs his handiwork above the door. Craig then goes inside. Then he opens the door to see that his mechanism is working.
Now, Craig takes a step back and crosses his hands. An evil grin can be seen on his moon-lit young face. His black eyes sparkling with mischief. While ruffling his black hair he giggles to himself and quietly goes back to his room.
Craig fails to sleep because of excitement so he wakes up early. He then wakes up his roommate fussily. “Getup, getup Brax! How can you sleep so late into the day!?”
“Wha…what is it?” Brax speaks groggily while rubbing his sleepy eyes. “Why is the last person to wake up, in the town of Chevy, waking me up huh?” He turns lazily to the window “The sun is just up.”
Brax then sits up abruptly and looks at excited Craig suspiciously. “What are you up to?”
Craig just stares at Brax while keeping his hands crossed. Brax shakes off his goosebumps and asks while panicking, “WH... what did you do this time!”
Craig looks at Brax silently and wonders while fidgeting with his chin, “Hmm, I should’ve used blue instead.” And leaves the room calmly.
Brax immediately touches his face “Did you paint on my FACE?! AGAIN?!!”
Craig giggles to himself walking away from his room.
Left alone in the room, Brax shudders. ‘He is definitely up to something.’ Thinking like that Brax carefully gets up from his bed, inspecting his surroundings. Gingers carved as lizards, socks strewn together, he has suffered from it all! All the pranks that originate from Craig’s mischievous brain are pioneered on poor him!
Meanwhile Craig bangs loudly on another door. “Lea!! Wakeup! Let’s go to the seaside. Wakeup Lea!!”
Lea opens the door with a deadpan face, nevertheless Craig smiles brightly looking at her. The brown messed up hair and sleepy purple eyes of Lea are enough to bring a smile to Craig’s face.
“You are up early.” Lea says calmly.
“Huh. Yes! Let’s go now.”
Looking at the excited Craig, she bluntly says, “You are up to something.”
“Lea. I found an amazing place. It’s near the cross delta. We will have an amazing sea view if we build our house there.” Craig excitedly shares with Lea who is walking away from him. She abruptly stops and looks at him, “Our?”
“Yea….yeah. You, me, Brax and, and, others, you know. Haha.” Answers Craig with a hint of regret in his voice.
“Is that so? You guys can go.” Lea answers as bluntly as ever and walks away again.
Craig follows the stubborn girl silently. She walks through the hallways and walks towards the main door, where they ran into Brax.
“Lea. Craig is at it again. I don’t know what it is this time.” Brax complains about his roommate.
Lea turns back to look at Craig. Craig shrugs as if he has nothing to say.
“I am also not sure.” While Lea is saying so, Brax opens the front door. The light weighed ghost made of hay balls is flicked far away from the door due its momentum and nimbly falls like a pendulum, the morning air swaying the freely hanging bed cover.
Soul leaves Brax’s body and he falls on his back screaming silently, repeatedly pointing his hands at the innocent hay ghost. Craig breaks out into an uncontrollable laughter.
But Lea who is right behind Brax mumbles, “So childish.”
9 year old son: Hehe. Brax is childish indeed.
Dad: I think Lea is calling Craig’s pranks childish, my son. Brax is just scared.
7 year old daughter: Yes. Yes. Ghosts are scary.
Son: Ghosts don’t exist you silly.
Daughter: NO. They do. Daisy in my class said so.
Son: Why? Did she see them with her own eyes?
Daughter: No. No. But her aunt saw them.
Son: Then she is fooled and so are you, you silly.
Daughter: Don’t call me silly. Daddy look, he is calling me silly!
Dad: Alright. Alright now. It is time to sleep. So why don’t I kiss a goodnight to both of you.
Son and daughter: NOoo...
Son: You promised today dad. You have to tell us a story.
Daughter: You just started, daddy.
Dad sighs and struggles to continue the imaginative story to his energetic kids, who are refusing to sleep at their bed time.
Lea tries to remove Craig’s handmade ghost, but Brax stops her.
“What is it Brax? You don’t want others to be afraid like you did right?” Lea asks questioning Brax’s actions.
While fiddling with his hands, “um… why not?” Brax answers shrugging his shoulders.
“What about the kids, then?” Lea asks with concern.
Craig shrugs and says “It’s completely harmless Lea and they will have a fun story to tell others.”
“Well, you both are made for each other.” Lea says bluntly and walks away from them.
Craig who was nonchalant until now, gets disgusted at her words. He runs behind her to make her take back what she said. While they were going to the Alodia River, many screams of the victims of hay ghost were heard.
Craig and Brax grew up in the same orphanage they are working for. Lea came to live in their orphanage when she was 8, the same age as them. She is also working alongside them now.
Their orphanage is located besides the Alodia River like most of the houses in the small village of Chevy.
Chevy is a self-sufficient village with a backdrop of huge Mountains to the north. The Alodia River starts from the snowy mountain range, flows through the forest at its feet then reaches its destination of the vast endless sea in the south.
Chevy is a beautiful village stretching from the forest, along the banks of Alodia, until the cross delta
“Lea. So. That. Um….” While digging out the carrots in the farm, Lea looks at Craig. He always speaks smoothly, today he is having trouble picking his words. Lea stares at him blankly to continue speaking.
“Lea. I mean, on... on the day of harvest festival, shall we go out and watch the play together?” finally Craig says with a lot of courage.
“You mean the ‘Hero of Alodia’? We watch it every year right? Ahh… Lea always disappears on that day. You should watch it sometime Lea. It’s a bit funny.” While munching on some carrots Brax speaks carelessly. Craig glares at Brax. But Brax didn’t understand what he did wrong.
“You guys can go. I am not interested.” Lea says bluntly and continues digging.
“If… If you come watch the play with me, I’ll never prank anyone again!” Craig announces loudly.
A carrot fell out of Brax’s mouth, “LEA! You SHOULD come to the play. You should. You should.”
“Stop shouting now.” Lea tells Brax to shut up and asks Craig, “Do you mean it?”
“Y….Yes. I mean it, of course.” Craig promises anticipating to see the play with her.
“Do you swear?”
“You will never prank anyone ever again?”
“Then we are going right? It’s a deal. You are coming with me. We are watching the play together.”
Daughter: Did Lea come to the play daddy. What happened?
Son: I am more interested in the story of ‘Hero of Alodia’ dad. Tell us that story.
Dad smiled bitterly while cursing himself. Now I have to make up another story? Hero huh? Hm. Let’s see.
On the day of the festival Lea tells Craig to go ahead first, that she will join them. The play begins. And story of the Hero is enacted by an actor with the help of props.
The play ‘Hero of Alodia’ is about the story of an adventurer, a mage, who travelled to all corners of the world. Together with his comrades, he ventured through deserts, vast oceans, high lands, lands filled with nothing but lush grass. He travelled to the depths of the ocean. He flied high up to touch the blue of the sky.
“It’s funny, no matter how many times I watch it. I mean a land with nothing but sand? He touched the sky? It’s really funny right? Craig. Craig!” Brax tries to shake Craig who fixated his eyes on the entrance.
Meanwhile the play continued.
In all those adventures Iris was always alongside him. They saw the world together. One day Alodia took Iris to a gorgeous field filled with multiple colors of Dahlia flowers and proposed her. Iris said she will accept his proposal on one condition. He has to find a place more beautiful than all the places they had been to.
Alodia visited every corner of the world. He was puzzled by the task. ‘Most beautiful than all the places I’ve been to?’ Since he was proud of his own magical powers, he said to himself ‘I will create one. The best.’
He went to a biggest mountain range and split it two. He made half of it to disappear. The sea flowed in its place. Then he melted the top of the mountains and created a river.
Alodia made huge snowy mountains, forest and sea to align in one place. Iris fell in love with this place, as soon as she saw it.
He also gathered his comrades to tell them that he wants to settle in this place. “We have seen the whole world. Let us make this beautiful place our home now.”
This river which is named after that great mage, over the time, became a place of sustenance. It became the home of many people, and slowly village of Chevy came into existence.
The play ends successfully with that conclusion. The people of Chevy, whose tradition is to watch the play and enjoy the night market specially made for the day of festival got up with excitement. Festive mood fills the area instantly.
“What is everyone excited about? Sigh. They do this every year. This is all so boring. Craig. Let’s work at the brewery. It’s the only place I want to work at.” Brax who was rambling this and that belatedly notices that Craig is disappointed.
“Hey. If you don’t want to quit it is fine by me. Don’t be disappointed for that.”
Craig glares at Brax to make him stop his nonsense.
“Lea. She is not here.” He mumbles dejectedly.
“Well. She disappears every year. Good luck finding her.” Brax yawns uninterestedly.
‘I know where she is. Bringing her away from that place is what we need luck for.’ Craig says to himself.
Craig then gets up and shouts loudly, “Mr. Aaron is saying that this is the last year he will act as Alodia.” Saying that much he runs out of the theatre.
“Who? Me?” on the stage Aaron himself is perplexed.
The festive mood got shook instantaneously. Everyone started shouting, “What happened Mr. Aaron?!” “No one suits the character of Alodia better than you!” “Please don’t quit!” drowning Mr. Aaron’s concerned voice.
Craig sneaks behind the back of spear guard. Then he climbs the stairs of the clock tower. Every year, Lea comes and spends the whole night here. She doesn’t like the festival. Well it is more appropriate to say it brings back bitter memories for her.
‘What should I do to get her away from this place? Sigh. Everything I do to distract her from this place is proving to be useless.’ Mumbling like that Craig scales the spiral stairs of the tower.
‘She is always gloomy. This place makes her even gloomier. Sigh.’ Thinking so Craig reaches the top of the tower. There he sees her. Hugging her knees, she stares at the night sky. She stares at the top of the snowy mountains touching the night sky. She notices him but wordlessly turns back to look at the endless mountains.
This is even more the reason, Craig wants to move towards the sea side. He wants to see her happy. He wants to take away her glum. But he doesn’t know how. He slowly goes and sits beside her. Even with two chaotic hearts, silence filled the area.
Daughter: Why is Lea sad, daddy?
Son: Does Craig knows why she is sad?
Dad: Well yes. He knows. But the next day he does something that makes her even sadder.
The next day, while everyone is working in the farm. Craig gets up abruptly and goes inside the orphanage.
Lea and Brax looks at him leaving but they didn’t mind. ‘He is planning something again,’ is the only thought in their heads. He works the hardest in the farm. But is always scolded by the directors and matrons for his mischief. Even then he is all smiles and never fails to surprise them at unexpected times in unexpected ways. Today is no different.
Craig came out with a small bag hanging by his side and walks towards the exit. Lea looks at Brax, then he shouts, “Hey! Craig! Where are you going?”
“I am leaving.” Came the reply. Craig walks out without looking back.
Brax and Lea look at each other. Then they run to follow him.
“Hey! Wait.” They reach up to him but he continues walking. They match his pace and Brax speaks out, “Are you upset we didn’t come to see the place you mentioned? It is not like you will live there alone right? Why are leaving abruptly?”
Craig continues walking without any reply.
“You are going wrong way for someone who is going to the seaside.” Lea points out bluntly.
“I am not going the wrong way. I am leaving Chevy.” Craig gives a blunt answer and walks without failing his step.
Listening to his answer, Lea’s steps halt with shock.
“Are you crazy?! You what?!” shouting like that Brax pulls Craig’s shoulder. “If this is one of your pranks, it is not at all funny. So stop this okay?”
Craig calmly looks at Brax then he looks into Lea’s eyes. While looking at her shaking purple eyes, he once again announces unbothered, “I am not joking. I am leaving Chevy.”
“Are you even listening to yourself?!” Brax’s voice came out in high pitch due to absurdity of the situation.
No one ever left Chevy. How is that even possible? The sea in the south is vast and salty. Fisherman go as far as they can on their rafts. But how can anyone go beyond that. And leaving through the mountains of the north is even harder.
First the dense and tricky forest has to be crossed. Not to mention the predators in it. Very small perimeter around the village is secured. Walking along the banks of the river is even more dangerous because the animals depend on it, so they live close to it.
Even if forest is somehow traversed, that inhumane mountain range is even more dangerous. The height is unforgiving. The water, food, shelter and energy everything will keep on becoming scarce.
Daughter: Why is it dangerous daddy? We just have to use magic like Alodia and fly over the mountains.
Son: It’s because magic doesn’t exist, you silly.
Daughter: That’s not true. Magic is real. I saw a man pull out a beautiful pigeon out of his hat. Then he pulled out another one. Then another one. Then another one.
Son: Those are all tricks. You should be a grown up to understand all this.
Daughter: I am a grown up! Daddy, tell me, I am a big girl right?
Dad: Yes. Yes. You are my big brave girl. Now it is time for bed. Okay?
Daughter and son: NOoo...
Dad thought bitterly, ‘Their views match only on this huh?’
Lea’s thoughts become chaotic. She hates it. She hates when someone says they will leave Chevy.
That is because it is impossible. No one ever left. Successfully that is. Many ended up dead in the forest, in the sea. Some in the mountains. The people who even crossed the mountains never came back for years, decades. They are presumed to be dead.
Lea’s father is one of them.
He was a bright and a passionate man. He used to take Lea to the festival every year moreover he used to tell the story of Alodia every single day. She was the happiest with her father. But. He left. He left saying that he will find those dahlia flowers for her. He said that he will find the purple dahlia flowers as a gift for her.
‘I don’t want any purple dahlia. I just want my father back.’ There is not a single day or a single moment when she didn’t have this thought.
“Why?” even though her mind is in a mess, she asks calmly.
“Nothing big. Just because.” Craig answers irresponsibly while shrugging his shoulders.
Lea remains in silence.
“Well. If you have nothing to say.” Craig tries to walk away.
“Wait.” Lea stops him.
She pulls the bag hanging by his shoulder. Craig tries to resist but she slaps away his hands and snatches his bag. Then she rummages through it.
“Are you planning to just walk through the forest and just dance your way up the mountains?” Her voice is monotonous but criticism can be felt in every word.
‘Why is your response, to me leaving forever, so placid.’ Craig thought she will stop him from going. He expected her to get angry or maybe a bit sad. But with zero change in her expression she is telling him it is impossible to leave with just a pair of clothes.
Daughter: Did…Did Lea’s father bring the purple dahlia flowers daddy?
Son: He obviously didn’t. Are you even listening? But dad. Why is it purple? Why not red? I want them to be red.
Daughter: It’s because Lea’s eyes are purple, you silly. aRe yoU even Listening? Hehe…..
Looking at his giggling daughter imitating his son, ‘why are they becoming more and more energetic? Aren’t they supposed to sleep in the middle of the story?’ Dad sighed and continued his story.
‘I don’t want him to leave. I don’t want him to go on this hopeless quest and get himself killed. He is not the kind to listen with a few words. How to stop him? Um, will scaring him work? How though?’ Lea calmly debates with her mind.
“You should be well prepared. Pack well. Then go.” She advices Craig.
“I don’t mind. I am going just like this.”
“But I have a problem with this. You should be well prepared.”
“Lea. You should stop him. Not encourage him. What? Well prepared? You should STOP him. Craig. Don’t go!” Brax couldn’t control his outburst.
“I’ll go with you.” Lea announces flatly.
““What?!”” Both Craig and Brax are stupefied.
“Yes. Let’s go together. But not like this. We should be well prepared.” Lea tells them.
Craig remains speechless for a minute. But then he realizes Lea never tells what she wants. She just goes with the flow. This is the first time she said out loud what she wants.
‘Maybe. Maybe the reason why she can’t get herself away from those mountains is because she herself wants to attempt it once? I only wanted to see a change in her expression. But. If leaving Chevy is what she really wants…..then we should do it.’
Daughter: No. No. She doesn’t want to leave Chevy. Daddy we should tell Craig that.
Son: Shouldn’t Lea herself tell that. Dad. What is she thinking? She is not doing a good job scaring him. Nah huh.
Dad: I think she wants to scare him by showing him how much they have to prepare for this job. Through the process of preparing themselves, Craig might get scared and drop it. That’s what I think she is hoping for.
“Alright. You tell me what we should pack.” Craig accepts the mission of helping Lea to cross the mountains in his heart.
“What!? Craig!! You should stop her. No. Lea!! You should stop him. What!? What are you both doing HUH?!!” Brax loses his mind in between his two stupidly daring friends.
“How would I know?” Lea shrugs nonchalantly.
“But, you just said……”
“I just said that we should be well prepared. Not that I know how?”
“Um… we have to ask someone who is experienced.” Lea suggests pondering on the matter.
Brax is dumbfounded looking at his two friends. Craig is very temperamental. He acts on what he wants to do. His sudden tantrum of leaving Chevy can be written off as one of his impulsive decisions. Moreover he is very stubborn to make him change his decision too.
But Craig also cares for his friends a lot. So Brax was confident he could stop Craig from leaving until Lea intervened. Lea communicates with very less words. She hardly speaks out about things she wants. So it is hard for him to stop her too.
“Let us go to Mr. Aaron.” Brax suggests resigning himself to the realty of helping his stupid friends.
“Why him?” Craig frowns. He is the last person close to reality. He is living as fictional character since a couple of decades.
“Who is better than him? I mean when you think of outside world, who is the first person that comes to mind.” Brax answers confidently.
Craig hooks Brax’s neck with his arm and gives soft punches on his head, “Don’t tell me you are talking about Alodia. We are talking about reality. Not some non-existing magic.”
“Yes. Let us go to Mr. Aaron.” Lea shows her affirmation.
Craig shuts his mouth at Lea’s words and they make their way to Mr. Aaron’s house.
A while later the three of them are sitting in Aaron’s house with fresh juice in their hands. And with Aaron glaring at Craig.
Craig is nervous but tries to drink his juice nonchalantly. Lea who doesn’t know what Craig did on the night of festival, looks alternatingly at Craig and Aaron. Brax on the other hand tries his best not to die from laughter, in this awkward situation.
“Um… Mr. Aaron, I don’t know what Craig did, but you know how he is. Please look over it.” Lea tries to mediate the situation.
“Yes. Yes. Mr. Aaron, there has been a manufacturing defect while making him. So please look over it.” Brax adds to Lea’s words stifling his laughter.
Craig nonchalantly finishes his juice without a word.
“Sigh. Lea, you know, because of this brat, I spent my precious festival conforming every single person I meet, that I am not quitting. Does that make sense? I mean every year, everyone comes to me to praise my acting. But this year after 2 weeks of vigorous practice, all I hear is ‘no Mr. Aaron, no,’... well I came to understand how much everyone loves me, from this though. Which I already know, but still. This brat caught me off guard.”
Aaron is in mid-forties, but he looks as if he is in his late-twenties. With black hair and blue eyes, he is the most handsome person in the village of Chevy. So he plays the character of Hero in every single play there is.
Everyone likes him as an actor. But personally he is like this. Talkative, boasty and irritatingly confident in everything he does. And nobody lives in the dream world as much as he does.
Afraid that he will praise himself more, Brax tells Aaron the purpose of their visit. “Mr. Aaron. Tell us about the outside world. Like how to go there.” But he didn’t know that would be a mistake too.
“Outside world? You came to the right person! No one knows the outside world better than Alodia. And who knows Alodia the best in this whole village? That would be me! The outside world is filled with wonders we never saw. The story of Alodia that is performed in the theatre is nothing. There is more to it! I mean there are places where it rains all around the year. And there are places where flowers are in bloom all the time…………………….” Aaron rambles on and on about what he considered miracles of the outside world.
After ten minutes, Lea as always listens silently but Brax and Craig both reach a saturation point and they stop Aaron, “Ah… Mr. Aaron... We are more interested in knowing how to travel there, rather than the place itself.”
“What? You want to leave Chevy?” for the first time, Aaron comes to reality and asks a sensible question.
“Maybe.” Craig answers ambiguously.
“No one ever left Chevy.” To Aaron’s practical answer, the three kids in their late teens remain silent. A pessimistic silence envelops Aaron’s house.
“Does the director know? Did you guys inform him? Or are you planning to sneak behind his back?” Aaron is referring to the director of the orphanage where Craig and the others grew up and are working now.
“We are asking because we are curious. If we are really leaving, we will of course inform the director.” Lea assures Aaron.
The serious air around Aaron disappears immediately and he goes backs to his dreamy self.
“If it is just curiosity, I can tell you kids some stories. Well we can take Alodia himself as example. You can just fly over the mountains, and BAM, you might be in the colorful field of Dahlia flowers, where Alodia proposed to Iris.”
Craig’s eyebrows twitched at Aaron’s unrealistic answer and he glares at Brax and mouths ‘What else did you expect from this man? You are the one who dragged us here!’ Brax just pretends to look away and around the house to escape from Craig’s glare.
“Um… Mr. Aaron we were expecting some realistic, doable methods. Um… maybe you can share with us the stories of someone who attempted to cross the mountains or someone who tried to leave through the sea.” Lea questions Aaron.
“Ah… It is like that huh, then…hmm… Yes, there was a person who did cross the sea. He built a big boat and travelled the sea, then he reached another land.” Aaron presents the kids with a hopeful information.
Craig becomes excited listening to Aaron’s answer and questions with hope, “Mr. Aaron. How come no one ever heard this?! Tell me how to make that boat? I will do it!”
“How to build a boat huh? Just tons of wood and magic metal that person used, with zero margin of error in the shape, if you don’t want to drown in the middle of the sea.” Aaron informs as a matter of fact, laughing subtly.
At the words, ‘magic metal’, Craig’s excitement evaporates. He sits back down on the chair with his hands crossed, sighing.
“Are you talking about Marvin?” Lea asks to clarify the situation. Marvin the hero of the play ‘The Ultimate Quest.’ Another popular play depicting the life story of an alchemist, Marvin. Who plays the character of the protagonist?
Of course it is Aaron.
“Of course. You got it right Lea!” Aaron affirms with excitement. The three friends sigh at the same time.
“Um, there is also that professor, who spent his whole life in his laboratory, writing theories, on how to cross the mountain range. Then he went on and researched ‘Teleportation magic’. Isn’t that exciting?!” Aaron rambles on further.
“Let me guess how his story ended. He died bald and old in his laboratory.” Craig says sarcastically while hooking his fingers.
“Haha… that’s funny, Craig. But no. He succeeded and teleported himself into a whole new world. Where he lived happily.” Aaron replies confidently.
Daughter: Haha… then Craig got it wrong daddy. That professor went swoosh to another world.
Son: Why did Craig think that the professor would die old, dad?
Dad: Um… well maybe because planning something is important. But we have to go ahead and do it too right? Maybe Craig thought that the professor kept on writing until he died. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Son: Doe…does magic really exist in that world dad? Did that professor really teleport himself?
Daughter: You are the one who said magic doesn’t exist. Did you already forget? Hehe…
Son: That is why I asked if it exists in ‘their world’, you dummy.
Dad: Alright. Alright now. I’ll only continue the story if you guys settle down.
Fed up with Aaron’s answers, Brax sighs and looks towards his friends. He notices that Lea is calmly pondering on something. Then he notices Craig’s deathly glare pointed at him.
Brax sweats at Craig’s glare and tries to get something useful out of Aaron’s mouth.
“Mr. Aaron, what do you think we should look out for if we have to travel through the forest and climb the mountains?”
Son: Dad, Why do they want to climb the mountains? Why can’t they go on a voyage in the sea?
Dad: Um… that’s because the fisherman of Chevy travelled as far they can on their fishing boats. But they never found another land. And it seems to be impossible to build a bigger and sturdy boat.
“Ah… travel through the forest? That’s very simple isn’t it? You just have to fend yourself from bears like knight Richard did. You have to escape from the wolf pack that will come to hunt you, kill them with your arrows like archer Gerard did.”
Aaron starts naming many other fictional characters and their adventures. Craig thought he was wasting their time, so he wanted to barge out of Aaron’s house. But Lea signals him to wait for a bit.
“Then… then climbing the mountains you say? Well easiest way is to teleport, but if you want to climb for fun, then you just have to protect yourself from the cold by using fire magic. Then, you need food for that long trek right? You just need to have a magical pouch that preserves food to sustain yourself for… for… um… only god should know how many days it would take to cross those mountain ranges.”
Son: Mr. Aaron is like that kid in my class dad. He lives in his own world. Even when teacher asks some questions, he doesn’t know the answer. Haha…
Dad: Um... well… it is not something to laugh at… there should be something he is good at right?
Son: Something he is good at? Hmmm… ah! Our drawing teacher praised only him Dad.
Dad: Well there you go. Everyone has their own talent. And I think Mr. Aaron is answering them like that to make them see the difficulty of their mission. It is like saying some miracle has to happen to achieve the impossible.
The three of them bid goodbye to Aaron.
“Sigh. We got nothing which would help us pack. So why don’t we go just like this?” Craig suggests.
“NO!! You can’t go like this.” Brax objects.
“What do you mean it wasn’t helpful? We have to pack weapons, warm clothes and tools for trekking, information on plants and animals which will grow in snowy habitat.” Lea calmly summarizes.
“You got all that from Mr. Aaron’s rambling??” Craig and Brax express their surprise.
“That’s basic. It is much better than just a pair of clothes isn’t it?” Lea looks at Craig and asks once again. “Packing weapons and surviving a fight with bear are not same. Do you still want to do this?”
Craig notices shaking purple eyes. ‘Is she nervous and afraid?’
Craig doesn’t answer her question but tells what is on his mind from the beginning. “I still think we are yet to get advice from someone who is experienced. Let us go to the village chief.”
Lea looks away from him and glares at the towering mountains. After a minute, “Let us first go back to the orphanage. We still have to inform the director.”
The three agree on that matter and go back to the orphanage.
The orphanage director is in his sixties. He has been looking after the orphanage all his life. He is kind and considerate. He cares for the children as if they are his own grandchildren.
“No. Absolutely not. I am not allowing this. There is no way I am allowing this. You children are not going anywhere.” The director said ruffling his white hair and looking sharply at the kids with his grey eyes.
From the moment Craig’s mother died giving birth to him, from the morning Brax’s father didn’t return from the sea, from the day Lea’s father left her under his care, these three grew up in front of his eyes. He loves them too much to send them on a suicidal quest.
“We want to see a new world, director.” Craig says shrugging his shoulders.
“I…I am not going anywhere sir. But I don’t know what to do with these two.” Brax sighs.
Lea remains silent.
“New world? You brat. Maybe you got bored working here. Go and try another job. I can only allow that much.” Shaking his head, director suggests other options to the stubborn Craig.
“It is not about the work. I love working here.” Craig assures it is not about farming or fishing or brewing.
“Director, sir. Don’t tell me you were never interested in outside world. What the stories and plays we listen to were based on?” Craig tries to reason with his stubborn grandfather.
“I am not listening, you brat. Go and learn how to knit some clothes or how to build houses. Enough farming for you.” Director vehemently objects to their journey.
“You always say instead of pranking everyone all the time, I should find something I want to strive for. This is what I want to do.” Craig remains stubborn on his stance.
Director is surprised at Craig’s words. He knows that Craig is impulsive and instinctive. But this is the first time he is passionate about something. ‘Of all the things he could do, why this?’
Director sends Lea and Brax out of the room.
“Why this Craig? There is much in Chevy, to experience. Don’t be rash.” Says the director.
“But my heart is telling me to go out there.” Craig replies calmly.
Noticing that he is not satisfied with his answer, Craig sighs and says, “It’s just that… I want Lea to enjoy her life. Whenever there is time, she goes to the clock tower and just keeps on looking at the mountains. I tried to distract her in many ways. Nothing works.”
“So. You decided by yourself that she wants is to go out there?”
“Of course not. She herself said she wants to do this.” Craig replies confidently.
“Craig. This is not an easy journey. Just willpower is not enough. Or rather how long do you think you can maintain that strength in your will?” Director asks concernedly.
“I’ll try. I’ll keep on trying. I will walk through that snow, if that is the last thing I’ve to do.” Craig speaks determinedly.
“Your determination is admirable. If this is what you want, then go ahead. I will not be stubborn and stop you. But question yourself if you are doing the right thing. I know that child. This wouldn’t be something she wants.” Director gives his final advice to Craig.
Craig nods and walk out of the director’s office. ‘This wouldn’t be something she wants?’ Ruminating on director’s words Craig makes his way to the farm. Only Brax is present there.
“Where is Lea?”
“She went towards the river. She said she wanted to be alone.” Brax points towards the Alodia River.
While ruminating on director’s words Craig makes his way to the river. The Alodia River might be turbulent at the beginning of its fall from the mountains. But it flows relatively calmer by the time it reaches Chevy. It serenely travels all the way and finally meets the salty sea. But its freshness is relatively well preserved at the Cross Delta.
He notices Lea’s back, with the background of serene Alodia River. He walks beside her and looks at her.
“Shall we go now?” He asks nonchalantly.
“………………” Lea remains silent.
“I used to watch ‘The Hero of Alodia’ every year with my father. It might be just a story everyone hears once a year. But for me, I used to hear it every day.” Lea slowly speaks her mind. Craig listens attentively.
“I didn’t hate it. Rather I used to enjoy it more than any other stories my father used to narrate. My father once told me he named me after dahlia flowers. I was very happy knowing I am named after such beautiful flowers…such beautiful flowers? I never saw one, I thought. Daddy I want to see dahlia flower field daddy, I asked.” Lea reminisces with shaky voice.
“If you are thinking it was your fault that your father left. Then you are wrong.” Craig assures her.
Lea remains silent. But Craig notices her hands trembling.
“Come on. Let us go. I will show you those flowers.” Craig still assures her confidently.
“STOP IT!” Lea shouts with all her might. “What do you think you are doing?!”
Craig remains silent. He spoke those words knowing it will be hurtful for her. He said he is going to leave Chevy knowing it will hurt her. After her father never returned, Lea matured quickly. She is different from him who is only playful and goes with the flow.
But he also thinks she made a shell for herself. She only superficially responds to her surroundings. But quickly goes back into her shell. This is the first time ever she spoke this long. This is the first time ever she raised her voice.
“Tell me. Lea. What will make you happy?” Instead of answering her shouts, Craig asks her a question.
“If you are thinking the answer is dahlia flower, then you are wrong. Just don’t go.” Lea wipes away her tears while answering.
“Alright. I won’t go. Will you promise me that you will be happy? Shall we go to sea side?” Craig questions her.
“Yes. Let us do that.” Lea answers with a calm voice.
“Really? Is that promise same as the one you made, when I asked you to go watch the play with me?” Craig further questions her.
Craig grabs her hand and looks straight into her eyes. “Tell me Lea. I’ll do what you want. Shall we go and scale those mountains? Or shall we remain here? I’ll do what you want. But you have to promise me, you will be happy.”
“……………I………..I…..want my father to come back.” Lea’s voice breaks down completely and she barely says those words.
“He is not coming, Lea. It has been nearly a decade.” Craig calmly announces.
“I…….I……know.” Lea nods her head difficultly.
For a while they both sit silently gazing at the river.
“You are right, Craig. I am not happy. Do you know why I go to the clock tower? I thought I would be the first person to see my father returning if I go there.”
“……………” Craig vaguely knows that.
“I am not happy in this village. If my father is not coming back, I at least want to see what he went through. But. You are not going anywhere. I’ll go alone.” Lea announces determinedly.
“Okay. You go alone. I’ll come a step behind you.” Craig speaks ruffling his black hair.
“Don’t be stubborn. This is my problem. I’ll go solve it on my own.” Lea says getting up.
“You want me to experience the same feelings you felt, when your father left?” Craig says while he also gets up.
Lea looks into her friends calm black eyes. He is always there to cheer her up and lift her mood. Now he is saying he will have my back even on this impossible journey.
“I can’t change a stubborn mule now, can I?” Lea speaks bitterly. “Alright let us go to village chief now.”
Daughter: OHHH! Are they going together now daddy?
Son: Are they really going to do something no one ever succeeded at Dad. Are they really, really?
Dad: Well that seems to be the case now, isn’t it? If you really want something very badly, instead of sitting in one place, you might as well go ahead and try it right?
Village chief is in his sixties. He is very old but also a very strong person. He is also the head of all the guards of Chevy. He in his prime worked in the guard unit which works to secure the village perimeter along the forest.
“What did you just say?” the village chief asks raising his eyebrows.
“We want to leave Chevy. Please tell us what we require on our journey?” Craig explains carefully.
‘Sigh. There is yet another batch of foolish people. Who want to head into the death trap with their eyes wide open?’
“It doesn’t matter how much you prepare. You will die.” Village chief declares.
“We know that possibility. But there is nothing else I would rather want to do. Even if there is a tiny possibility to succeed, you have to go for it right?” Lea explains their situation.
“How old are you kids huh? Do you think you are doing something daring and great by thinking like that?? Tiny possibility? I’ve enough grey hair on my head to assure you that no one succeeded. Not in my entire life. Not one succeeded in those century old records. No one ever left Chevy. All of them died. Those whom we couldn’t find even the bodies, never returned.” Village chief discourages them with the reality he knows.
‘Mr. Aaron didn’t tell one realistic answer. And here is village chief dowsing cold water on us with reality.’ Craig thinks bitterly.
“We still want to go sir. Please guide us.” Lea declares determinedly.
Daughter: Mr. Village chief is a very bitter person daddy.
Dad: Well he has seen much in his life. I think that is his way of protecting the children.
“Sigh. Just pack some tools for trekking the mountains. As for the forest I will send five of my men to escort you out of it until you reach the foot of mountains.” Village chief says while sighing.
“Wow! Really!? Thank you very much sir!” Craig thanks sincerely.
“Don’t get too excited. I would rather them be alive and protect the sane people in the village. I don’t want them to die protecting those who are stupidly daring. They are trained enough to survive on their own in any part of the forest. But it is a different story to survive while protecting. So know that, if push comes to shove, they will protect themselves and flee from there.” Village chief explains ruthlessly.
“We are very thankful for the help sir.” Lea also thanks sincerely.
“Also don’t go run your mouths in the village about the protection I am giving you. I don’t to give false hopes to anyone. Village chief gives his final warning.
“Ah!!! I really can’t believe I am doing this!!” Brax shouts while pulling his hair with one hand and a short spear in another hand.
“No one asked you to come. You should’ve stayed in the village and shift to brewing job you always wanted.” Craig says holding a long spear in one hand and wooden shield in another while walking in pace with others.
“You all should’ve stayed in the village kids.” Mr. Duncan says while keeping his eyes straight ahead.
The three friends stand in a triangle with Brax and Craig leading the way and Lea following right behind them. All three of them making a reverse triangle. Lea also holds a spear and a wooden shield just like her friends.
Two guards are walking beside the three friends and two more are keeping a look out behind them. All five making a triangle with Mr. Duncan leading the way.
Daughter: Why are they moving in triangles daddy?
Son: To increase their fighting efficiency you dummy.
Dad: It’s not a good thing to fight with you sister, my son.
Dad: Well you too dear. Don’t make faces to your brother.
Dad: By moving in a formation, they can efficiently keep a look out on all directions. It will also be easy to protect the vulnerable people.
Brax definitely didn’t want to come. But he also didn’t want it to be the last time to see his friends. So he reluctantly packed his luggage to follow them.
The group of eight people carefully make their way through the forest.
Mr. Duncan skillfully clears the path for them. He knows the way predators of the forest mark their territory. So he avoids the areas.
“I am doing my best to avoid any encounters with the predators. But still anything might happen. So be very attentive. Whenever you believe I or my colleagues can’t handle the situation, I have only one advice to you guys.” After a brief pause, Duncan turns his head looks straight into Craig’s eyes, “Run.”
Craig takes a gulp and nods his head.
The party move silently except for Mr. Duncan’s occasional warnings. The guards skillfully spotted any dangerous snakes or venomous beings and killed them immediately.
It takes two full days to traverse the forest.
At night they made camp with fire and ate the animals they hunted during the day. And everyone didn’t sleep at the same time, rather they kept on taking turns to keep a watch out.
On the second morning, when the foot of the mountains is nearing and the forest is becoming relatively sparse, they encountered and big wolf pack.
“This is the most unlucky encounter.” Mr. Duncan says clicking his tongue. “Listen carefully kids. This is not the usual habitat of wolfs. They must be on some other journey and we unluckily encountered them. There is very less time before they notice us and it is almost impossible to escape now. So brace yourselves.”
Craig, Brax and Lea were already alert, now they take a very amateur stance to make use of the spear.
Before the alpha of wolf pack notices them, Mr. Duncan leaps into the air and ambushes them. He incapacitates two wolves in a matter of minutes. By that time the other wolves became startled and they instinctively take a step a back.
But when they realize their numbers are more than the humans, they counter attack trying to surround them. By this time, nearly 5 wolves were taken down by the spears of guards of Chevy. Since they are the ones who ambushed the wolves they have already surrounded them.
Craig glares sharply at the fierce battle in front of him. He notices the nimble movements of the 5 guards.
But suddenly he hears a high pitched scream behind him.
He urgently turns around to see Lea’s spear struck into the side of a wolf and the wolf’s claws piercing Lea’s shoulder. And he also notices another wolf leaping towards him.
The guards belatedly notices that two wolves has ambushed their party from behind. But their hands are full. It will take some time to help the kids.
Craig with all his might throws the spear towards the wolf attacking Lea. And he tries to protect himself with the help of shield. The wolf which leapt towards him, struck the shield with all its might. Due to the impact the shield broke into million pieces and Craig fell on his back.
As soon as his shield got destroyed and Craig fell down, Brax’s spear pierces the wolf’s head before it could harm Craig further.
With two spears piercing the wolf which attacked Lea, it also became incapacitated.
The three friends successfully finish the two wolves which ambushed them.
By this time, the guards finish up the wolf pack completely.
Daughter: Wahhhh…. That was scary daddy. I am glad everyone is alive. But bad wolfy. It hurt Lea’s arm.
Son: It is over already dad?! I want to see more of the action!!
Daughter: Lea is fine dear. And my son, it is good that they are out of danger isn’t it?
Son: Huh. Yes. But. Ah… alright. It is good that they are out of danger.
Seeing his pouting son, dad sweats. How to satisfy these both polar kids huh? Sigh. Too much action and my daughter won’t like it. If it is the opposite, my son won’t like it. Sigh.
Lea’s wound is taken care of immediately with the help of the medicine for wounds, they prepared beforehand.
“Well this is it kids. There will be very few animals from here. Now it is all left to your physical strength and will power.” Saying so the guards bid goodbye to the kids.
The three thank them sincerely.
They turn around to see jagged mountains. The rocky mountain, as they slowly look up, it kept on becoming white and whiter. Due to the snow.
They were brought to a relatively shorter mountain. Even this is seems so high. But this is just only the first mountain they have to cross.
The three friends walked through the thick layers of snow. The snow is covering until their knees. But they still kept on walking. They are shivering too much to keep a dialogue going. They covered themselves from top to bottom but the cold kept on biting into their skin.
When it is night, they tried to find a cave to rest. When it is day, they tried their best to print another step into the white snow.
The bread they carried with them quickly disappeared.
‘We just have to take another step. At least another step. Just another step. I want see that dahlia flower. I want see Lea’s happy face while she smells the fragrance of dahlia.’
‘Did my father go through this too? How much must he have suffered?’
‘Arghhhhh….. Why on earth am I here!! ?’
Daughter: I feel cold daddy.
Dad: It is alright dear. Here. Let me adjust your bedsheet a bit more.
Son: Then what happened dad.
Dad: Well. They travelled for many days like that. Each person is there for different reasons. So they did their best to achieve those reasons. They didn’t give up until the end to achieve what they want. Their mental strength is more important in such times.
Son: What happened then dad!!
Daughter: Yes. What happened then daddy!!!!
Dad: um… at one point when it was too difficult to even see what was right in front of them, Craig saw purple sparkle in the fog.
Daughter: A purple sparkle?! Did he find the dahlia flower daddy!!
Dad: um… and Lea saw her father smiling brightly with a bouquet of purple dahlia in his hands. And Brax saw the three of them making it out alive across the mountains.
Daughter: AHHHH!!! So they DID succeed in the end right daddy??
Son: Did they die dad?
Dad: umm…. That… well… sigh. No. They didn’t die. They fell asleep at some point and they were dreaming. As soon as they woke up they started their journey again. After countless nights the snow their path kept on decreasing. It was a bit easier to move around. Edible plants were also found slowly. After they travelled like that, they finally saw the rainbow colored dahlia flower field. From purple to crimson red, all shades of dahlia flowers were present.
Daughter: wow. So beautiful daddy. I like it very much. I am very happy daddy.
Son: Sigh. Now that they found that outside world really exists. Did they go back dad? They have to tell others about this right?
Dad: Well that is a story for another day. It is way past your bed time. So why don’t I tuck you both into bed yes?
By Supraja Manchikanti