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The quest for hope, p.17
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       The Quest for Hope, p.17

           A. S. King
 
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  “Besides the inner spiritual battle, there was also a very present physical battle. After the Dark One’s malicious deception, more and more of the High King’s followers were being hunted down, day after day after day. If they were caught, they were given the brutal choice of either pledging their allegiance to the Dark One or else be sent to an endless prison. For days and weeks, hosts of Erela and a few brave Adamas would sneak back into the city for the purpose of smuggling out anyone else who still had the faith and courage to choose the High King over the Dark One. A month passed in this manner and then one day, the High King, his heart mourning over the lost city, informed them they would be making their final trek into Zion.

  “‘I have seen the hearts of this people,’ the High King said, sadness and regret ringing through his voice. ‘You will gather the last of the light on this night before the Dark One extinguishes what little remains.’

  “Everything was on schedule until the last moment. The Dark One caught wind of this final exodus and sent troops of Chashaks and Adamas in pursuit of the loyal ones who were hiding in the Qatan Forest just west of the city. At that time, only a tiny stream separated the Qatan Forest from Zion.

  “The Loyal Ones could do nothing but watch in fear as the city gates opened and the Dark One’s forces charged in full power against them.

  “At that moment, the High King sent a powerful earthquake and a strong wind. The ground shook in a way it had never before been shaken and with a strength that has never again been matched. The earthquake tore apart the earthen barriers separating the sea from the creek. The wind sent the sea waters roaring, crashing, and tumbling through the land where the little stream lay. The rushing water widened and deepened the creek, turning it into the vast, cavernous Maarab River it is today. Zion became an island, its evil, for the time being, restricted from spreading any further by the immense water pounding against it on all sides. With all light removed from Zion, the city sank sink ever further into darkness.

  “The band of Loyal Ones followed the Erela south, passing through many of the developing cities of Novus. Before long, they became known among the people as the Ronan. Most of the Ronan journeyed for many months until they arrived at the place where the High King had been leading them. Here they settled into days of peace—learning, teaching, and living out the ways of the High King. Others among those who began the southern journey chose to remain as a remnant in the cities and settlements they passed through. They were strengthened for the rest of their days by the Erela as they served as beacons of burning light among their peers.”

  By the time the Livid finished speaking, the Adamas were fighting heavy, sleepy eyes. Giron, Henry, and Marnie had already fallen asleep. The Livids smiled as they gently picked up the weary travelers and nestled them comfortably and securely into their branches. Then they continued on their southbound journey.

  For the next several days, the Adamas alternated between riding in the branches of their Livid friends and walking leisurely beside them. The children had great times climbing in and out among the branches, something which is notably more challenging to do when the tree is moving. Aliatta found herself immersed in trying to count how many different shades of green she could identify.

  “I’ve found fifteen!” she exulted to Levi one day.

  “Not bad for a beginner,” he teased.

  “A beginner! How many can you count?”

  “I’ve identified forty so far, but the Livids tell me there are at least seventy different shades of green in this forest alone.”

  The Livids never seemed to sleep. During the night, all of the Adamas would find themselves tucked securely into the branches. Then they would sleep while the Livids continued to walk. In this way, a journey which would have taken them at least a week was accomplished in a matter of days.

  And so it was that Aliatta awoke one morning to discover that the trees of the Salem Forest were thinning out, and the large mountain peaks to the east could no longer be seen towering above the tops of the trees.

  “We will arrive at the settlement before noon,” announced the Livid, who carried her.

  Aliatta nodded, but could feel her stomach twisting into knots.

  “Do not worry, Queen,” spoke the Livid again, sensing the tenseness in Aliatta’s body and spirit. “They will welcome you as we have welcomed you.”

  “But what about after?” Aliatta asked nervously. “What if I fail to measure up to all their expectations? To all your expectations?”

  “And what expectations might those be?” inquired the Livid.

  “I don’t know—to be great? To do something powerful?” It still made Aliatta uncomfortable to hear the Livids referring to her as Queen. What if she wasn’t able to do the great and powerful things they were surely expecting her to do?

  The Livid’s voice was incredibly practical when she answered. “The first expectation,” she said, “was for you to come, and you came. The next expectation is for you to learn. That is all. What is to be expected of you in the future, only the High King knows, and just as He—through your willingness to follow him—helped you meet the first expectation so He will help you with every other task He gives you.”

  Aliatta relaxed—a little. She was expected to learn. That was an expectation she could handle. She sat back in the Livid’s limbs and looked at the others in her company who were also riding along. Her eyes met Levi’s, and he gave her an encouraging smile.

  “The Livid is right,” he said. “The High King has been with you every step of the way. He also sent me and many others to help you along as well. With every new task, you will have exactly what you need to complete it. You will be expected to learn a great deal once we arrive, but your first task will simply be to meet the people. They will accept, love, and respect you, as we all do.”

  After they had traveled a little further, Levi requested they stop.

  “With great respect, Master Levi,” said the leading Livid, “we are about to arrive at the Valley of the Ronan.”

  “Exactly,” Levi said with a smile. “I am coming home, and I want to be able to walk the rest of the way.”

  They stopped, and the Adamas climbed down. While the others stretched their muscles, Aliatta took the opportunity to excuse herself from the rest of the group, taking her mother and Rosemary with her. A short while later, they reemerged. Grace and Rosemary came first. Behind them walked an elegant princess, richly dressed in a blue silk gown, her hair intricately braided atop her head.

  The Princess smiled, slightly embarrassed to be dressed in such finery in contrast to those around her. “It was Raz’s suggestion,” she said shyly.

  Levi nodded in approval. “It was a good one,” he stated simply. “You are a Princess, and you may as well look the part.”

  The Livids gestured for Aliatta to take the lead, which she did, ever so hesitantly. Another dozen steps brought them out of the forest. Princess Aliatta looked down a gently sloping hill to a clearing where a little community was actively at work. A small stone wall surrounded the settlement and the echoes of joyous voices mingled with the noise of work being done. A lone voice rang out loudly above all the rest, and a flurry of excited cries alerted the princess to the fact that their presence had been discovered.

  Princess Aliatta began a slow, regal descent down the hill, the company of Adamas and Livids following behind her.

  34

  Queen of Novus

  She had not yet made it halfway down when the eastern gate of the settlement opened, and a long procession of Adamas, Yylecks, Zobeks, Noroks, and Pronghorns filed solemnly out.

  The two groups met face to face not far beyond the settlement. For a few seconds, they stood without speaking. Then, following the lead of the man and woman who led them, the group from the community bowed themselves low in homage to Princess Aliatta.

  Aliatta stared in bewilderment at the bowed bodies before her and turned to seek council from her tutor. To her even greater astonishment, he and all the ot
hers behind her were also bowing.

  Not knowing what to do or how to proceed, Aliatta did the only thing which came to mind. She strode up to the man who seemed to be the leader of the Ronan, put her hands on his, and pulled him to his feet. “Please,” she said, “I don’t want you to think I’m unappreciative of the esteem you have just shown me. I am honored and do thank you for this show of respect, but I fear I do not deserve it. I am only a young girl and have done nothing worthy of such honor.”

  The old man was not much taller than the girl herself, and he now looked her full in the face. His voice was confident and understanding as he spoke. “Not in your eyes perhaps, Princess, but then, we don’t always see ourselves so very clearly. You have left the comforts of your castle and the familiarity of your home to pursue One whom you knew but little about. You received instruction and correction and walked according to the knowledge you had to the extent you knew how. You received people kindly, regardless of rank or situation. You recognized what you knew and shared that knowledge with others. But perhaps you are right in one respect, for you are still young and have much to learn. The honor we give is not only for how far you have come but for what you may become if you continue to journey in the same way you have begun. And so we welcome you, Princess Aliatta, chosen servant of the High King, a descendant of the Writer, the High King’s chosen Queen of Novus.”

  Back in Earlington, the idea of being Queen of Novus had revolted her. When the Livids called her Queen, she had been uncertain. But now, in this place, at this time, it was a role she could really see herself accepting—someday.

  The older man offered his arm to the young princess, and they turned to make their way into the settlement. As they approached the stone wall, Aliatta found herself breathing easier, feeling more freedom, more peace, than she had ever felt in her entire life. She may not, as Levi had suggested, stay here forever, but for now, she was home—right where she had always longed to be—right where she belonged.

  From somewhere unseen, the High King smiled, and his heart rejoiced as He watched this beloved creation of his enter into his rest. Her first journey was over. Her other journeys were about to begin.

  Epilogue

  To My Dear Friend – wherever you may find yourself,

  This scroll contains the writings of my grandmother, Raziela, as well as the first part of my own journey. I have now fulfilled my grandmother’s request in adding my own journey to hers. Whatever may happen to me in the future, it is my hope that through reading my story, you may grow in knowledge and understanding of the High King; that you may have eyes to see his workings in your own life.

  Five years have passed since my own journey with the High King began. My days here in the Valley of the Ronan have flown by faster than I could have believed possible, but alas, they are now nearing an end. We have received word that your own dear city of Brance is once again in jeopardy. We have learned that after his failure to defeat the city nearly four years ago, the Dark One pulled his troops back and since that time, has been consumed with the task of rebuilding his army. It is now rumored that King Lev himself will be leading the troops and is at this very moment en route to Brance. The elders tell me that my time has come. I will soon be departing with a large group from this settlement to assist in the defense of that great city. If all goes well with the battle, I will after that take my place as Queen of Novus. I have the greatest hope of meeting you again soon. All those in the Valley send you and your family their love. May the High King live forever, and his light never be extinguished.

  With Great Love,

  A Servant of the High King and your friend,

  Aliatta

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  A. S. King, The Quest for Hope

 


 

 
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