As promised, here is the prologue for Bran and Bryn’s Alphabet Adventure. The kids really seemed to enjoy it, especially since I created Peg People of Bran and Bryn (Bran wears a red felt cloak, and Bryn wears a light purple felt cloak). No art for this part of the story yet, but maybe I will do some at a later point. We will hopefully get to the vowels this week, so then I’ll be able to post those parts! Hope you all enjoy!
Once upon a time, there lived a Wise Woman who was very old, and wiser than even the Gnomes below the mountains. She had made her home on an island that was hidden behind a wall of fog – it could only be reached sometimes, and even then only by very few people. The Wise Woman’s house – a simple one room hut with a hearth and two cots – sat on top of the highest hill on the island; it overlooked the silvery waves and the golden beaches and the dark green forests.
The Wise Woman knew the time would come when she would leave her hut and her island to travel to the Blue Isles where the other Wise People now lived, for she was the last Wise Person from her time. New Wise People would be needed to make sure that Wisdom did not die.
One day, the Wise Woman was tending her garden – she stood up and wiped her forehead, looking out over the crashing waves. As she leaned against her walkingstick, the Wise Woman saw a dark cloud on the horizon. That cloud had always been there, but her Wisdom had been able to keep it at bay – now, it was growing larger and she felt her heart sink, for she understood what was happening. She hobbled into the house and took a seat in front of the fire.
“Arela, my daughter, come to me!” The Wise Woman called out. Arela was a beautiful child, so beautiful that the waves calmed to see her and the blooming flowers turned their petals to sigh at the sight of her. Arela ran into the hut and stood before her mother.
“Mother, what is it? What has you so worried?” Arela asked.
“I am old, daughter, and without Wisdom, there will be no Wise People once I travel to the Blue Isles. We have not had visitors to this island in many years, and I am afraid that everything I have feared will come to pass. Wisdom is fading, the Light of the curiosity of mankind is growing dim, and there is a dark cloud looming on the horizon. Something is stirring deep within the Earth, my child, and if it grows large enough, it will make this world cold and quiet.”
Arela remembered the old tales, of a time before even her mother’s-mother’s-mother, a time of silence and colorlessness, a time of ignorance. “Mother,” she said, “You are very wise, the wisest living person on Earth – you can tell me how to help, what to do. I will do anything.”
“We must find the purest children, a boy and a girl. They must be young enough to still have Wonder, and they must be Curious.” The Wise Woman said, looking deep into her daughter’s eyes. “Only they will be able to accept this challenge. They must be honest, kind, and generous – but above all, they must be brave.” She pulled her daughter close so as to whisper in her ear:
“Their task is to bring back what has been and is being lost. They must listen to the stories, to the elderly; they must ask questions and heed the answers; only then will they find their way here and herald the return of the Wise People. When you find them, listen to their hearts. They must have so many questions. You must help them to start their journey. Give them this.” The Wise Woman took a heavy book from the table beside her chair and handed it to Arela. It had intricate and complex gold designs on the front, and strange letters on the spine. “They must fill this book with every letter of the Alphabet – there will be twenty-six letters in all. Each letter they place in this book will bring them closer to this island and the end of their quest.”
“I will do as you say, mother.” Arela placed the magic book in her bag and kissed her mother goodbye.
“Be quick, daughter, and be careful. Ignorance has seeped into this world, it is around every corner.” The Wise Woman said. Arela nodded and left the hut. She ran down the path looked out over the waves. When she reached the cliff, she jumped. Instead of falling, Arela changed into a large Owl and took flight over the ocean.
Arela flew over blue waves and green forests and golden deserts; she heard many whispers from the animals and the people; she met many children in many lands. But none met the criteria her mother had laid before her.
As she passed over a frozen landscape, she stopped to rest in a tall tree. Below, a house stood in the center of a clearing, the forest wrapping around it except for a wide path leading away from the structure. Two children, a boy and a girl, were playing in the snow as their parents gathered firewood. Arela hopped down to a lower branch and listened to the children’s hearts.
They were gathering twigs to make a dolly for a sick girl down in the village; they were kind, and though they bickered often and sometimes refused to share their toys with each other, they were generous children at heart. They had a desire and a need to learn, they asked many questions – too many, according to their parents. This made Arela the Owl laugh, which came out like a broken hoot.
The children look up into the tree and saw the Owl. The girl, who wore a light purple cloak, smiled and waved at the Owl. The boy, who wore a crimson cloak, lifted his arm and beckoned Arela off the branch. She took flight and did a lap around the house, then spiralled down on to the boys arm. The children giggled. She could feel the wonder in their hearts and the questions in their minds. Their parents tried to answer their questions, but even parents do not have all the answers.
“You are a pretty Owl.” The mother said, calling over the yard. Arela hooted in response and stretched her wings. “Come along children, we should finish that dolly for Merida before the sun sets. We need to bless it and wrap it with herbs tonight.”
“Coming mother!” The children replied. The boy nuzzled Arela and the girl gave her a pet on the head. “We will leave a treat for you after supper, if you are still here.” Arela took flight and perched in the tall tree.
She waited until the sun had set and the moon was rising. The family sat down to their supper, said a blessing and began eating. Arela flew down to the ground and became a girl again. She checked her bag and made sure the magic book was still safe. When she was satisfied that it was, Arela walked to the door of the house and knocked.
The mother answered the door. “My name is Arela, and I was sent by my mother, the last Wise Woman.” She explained.
“Come in out of the cold. Would you like a bowl of soup?” The mother asked. Arela shook her head.
“I am waiting for a treat, and I don’t want to spoil my appetite.” She said loud enough for the children to hear. She caught their eyes and winked at them, smiling. “I am here to find brave, wonder-filled children to take on quest for my mother.”
“Conn, fetch this girl some tea and honey, come sit with us by the fire.” The mother called. The father, Conn, obliged and brought the girl a steaming cup of honeyed jasmine tea. “My name is Mor, this is my husband Conn – our children are Bran and Bryn. How can we help you with this task of yours, dear girl?”
“I have listened to your children’s hearts, I have heard their questions, and I have sensed their wonder. They are kind, generous, and truly curious. I have come to lead them on a quest for Wisdom.”
Mor looked at her husband, then looked over her shoulder at her children. They were very young, Bran barely old enough to keep an eye on his sister outside. How could she let them go on such a quest?
“You must understand that we are wary of your request. They are so young, and this task sounds dangerous.” Conn said, holding his wife’s hand. “Can you guarantee their safety?”
“I can promise you that, as long as their hearts are true and their curiosity never waivers, they will be safe.” Arela stated. Conn and Mor took another look at each other, then at their children. “Here,” Arela handed them a small polished piece of stone, “this stone will let you see your children whenever you wish. You will not be able to talk to them, but you will be able to see their progress and their safety.”
While Arela was speaking with their parents, Bran and Bryn had stopped eating and were listening. They looked at each other and smiled.
“A quest?” Bryn whispered.
“For wisdom?” Bran giggled. Both children did not realize that the others had moved to the table and were watching them. Mor smiled at her children, and Conn ruffled Bran’s hair.
“Children, finish your supper. I will pack some bread and soup for your travels. You need an extra change of clothes, socks, and shoes. This is a privilege, to be given a quest by a Wise Person. It has been many, many years since our village had this honor.” Mor said. The children nodded, finished their supper, and took off to their rooms to gather their items.
“We will leave at first light, a fresh day.” Arela said. She adjusted her bag with the book and turned to the door. “I will be here to collect the children when the Sun’s first rays hit the snow.” She opened the door and walked out into the night. Mor and Conn looked at each other, both knowing they had made the right choice but still fearing for their children.
Bran and Bryn were too excited to sleep when their parents told them it was bedtime. They snuggled into their blankets and listened as Mor told them the tale of Briar Rose and the Spinning Wheel. They were fast asleep as Mor stood from her chair and closed the door behind her. She sat down in front of the fire and watched her husband whittle in silence.
Just as she had promised, Arela returned with the first light of the Sun the next morning. The children finished their oatmeal and went to their room to gather their bags. When they returned to the front room of the house, they hugged and kissed their parents. They were too excited to cry, so Mor and Conn cried for them. Arela gave both adults a kiss on the forehead and whispered a blessing.
“Come children, your journey is long and this is only the beginning.” Arela led them outside and down the path. They turned right, into the forest, and continued walking. When she was sure they were out of hearing range of Mor, Conn, and the village, she kneeled in front of Bran and Bryn. “Here is the magical book that you must fill.” She handed Bran the book, and gave Bryn a quill with ink. “You must find the special symbols, the knowledge that has been lost. Only you will know what the symbols are, but there will be twenty-six in total. You must record each symbol in this book, and once it is finished, you will know the way to my mothers island. It is a long way, and you must listen to the stories of the people you meet – listen to your elders, and listen to the world around you.”
Just then, a small buzzing distracted Bryn and she turned away from Arela and her brother. A small, winged creature hovered over a patch of late-blooming heathbells, touching the petals and checking for signs of frost.
“A pixie.” Bryn whispered, bending her knees to rest on the ground. The creature turned around at the sound of her voice and scoffed at her.
“Psht, I am a Flower Faerie, not a pixie.” The creature chimed. Bryn leaned closer and nodded.
“I am sorry, fair Flower Faerie.” She apologized. “Why are these flowers blooming so late? I thought the first frost would have put them to sleep for the Winter.”
“That is what I am trying to find out, child. At this time, I do not have the answer. Perhaps it is because the weather is not yet freezing every day, and the warmth from the Sun convinced one last bloom to bring color to the forest.”
“Perhaps…” Bryn shrugged. “May I have a bloom to remind me of home when I am far away?”
“Certainly. Thank you for asking, child. Most children just pick them and the whole plant dies. They do not know the process, and that you must care for the stem once the bloom has been plucked.” The Faerie turned and picked a small bloom that had bent the stem over with its wait. She touched the bloom lovingly, and when the bloom told her it was time, the Faerie moved her arm up and swung down against the stem, making a clean cut. She handed the bloom to Bryn and looked at her crossly. “Never pick just the bloom from the stem, and never just pull. Always cut, at an angle, in order to save the plant from dying. Now, away with you child. I must tend this plant and sing it songs, so it does not mourn the loss of its bloom.”
“Thank you, fair Faerie, and thank you fair Heathbell.” Bryn bowed to the Faerie and the plant. She put the bloom in a pouch she carried on her belt, and turned back to Bran and Arela. Her brother and guide had been watching the exchange, and Bran smiled at his younger sister.
“The Heathbells are blooming late this year – did the Faerie have any answers?” Bran asked. Bryn shook her head.
“Only theories, but that is a start.”
Arela smiled and knew she had made the right choice. She handed the children a small stack of rolled papers and gave Bran her satchel. “Take this bag and these maps. Keep a tight hold on that book, for once you begin to fill it, there are those people who would try and take it from you. The maps are of all the lands, near and far, that you may visit for the symbols. I must return to my mother, but here,” Arela handed an Owl shaped flute to the children, “this will call me should you ever need guidance. Should anyone ask your purpose in traveling alone, explain that you are on a quest from the Wise Woman. Do not show them the book, do not tell them of the symbols. On each map, and in each village, I have marked a safe place for you to stay. They are families that are dedicated to Wisdom, though none have children that have fit the criteria for this journey. They will shelter you.”
Arela tapped her chin, trying to remember if there was anything else she needed to tell the children. Snapping her fingers, she remember something important. “I cannot tell you where the symbols will be, or how you will learn them, but I can tell you the first five symbols will be the vowels of your language.” Bran and Bryn glanced at each other, not knowing what vowels were. “If you do not know them already, that is fine – you will learn them soon enough! These symbols give you a lot of help once you have collected all of them. Now, do you understand?” The children nodded.
“We understand. Thank you Arela.” The children said together. They hugged her and waved her off as she turned into an Owl and took flight. She circled three times three times three, the magical number of protection, and left the children on the path. Bran took the top map and unrolled it. There were many villages beyond the forest, to the east of their home, and many paths to take them there. They agreed on a town, and began walking in the direction the map told them.
Arela returned to the hut on the hill, and sat down beside her mother in front of the fire. “I am proud of you daughter, you did well. Now, we can only sit and watch the world for any changes. Tell me, who are the children that have accepted this task?”
“Bran and Bryn, brother and sister, from a village in the NorthWest forest. They are incredibly kind children, and very curious.”
“Good, good. Let us watch, then.”