Life Series Book 1 Chapter 1: Broken Peace
“Arbor Eliffe! You get back here young lady!” I ran at top speed as Mrs. Greenwood yelled after me brandishing her woven basket over her head.
I laughed like a maniac as I happily got away with the pockets of my jacket stuffed with cookies. However I hadn’t quite reached the woods when a hand reached out and pulled me back by the collar of my coat.
I turned and smiled sheepishly at my father. He didn’t say anything as Mrs. Greenwood caught up to us. “Burian she’s done it again” the woman huffed her breath making little clouds in the cold air with each exhale. “Stole the whole tray the little troublemaker” she prodded me in the stomach with her basket which made me squirm from where my small frame was still being held up by my father gripping my collar.
“I’m sorry Lavender, I'll have Camella bake you a fresh batch if you would like” my father offered.
I looked up at the adults talking over my head. “Hey I still have ‘em here in my pocket” I explained. Reaching in I pulled out a handful of crushed cookies.
My father sighed and Mrs. Greenwood let off a noise that sounded an awful lot like a growl. “I’ll be waiting for your wife’s delivery,” the woman declared turning on her stubby legs and hobbling back to her little cottage. I stuck my tongue out at her back.
“Arbor” my father spoke scoldingly.
“What?!” I exclaimed “she’s a mean old woman!”
My dad let off a breath “that’s not-” he was cut off by a tearing noise and in the next moment my butt was in the snow. I looked up to see the torn collar of my coat in my father’s hand. “Let’s go home,” he declared defeatedly. “We’ll talk there”
I followed my father through our small village. Cradled in a little glen it was a peaceful, wintery world all to our own. It was mostly filled with Dryads like my family and Mrs. Greenwood but we had the occasional animal friend who came to say. The Beavers who lived in the nearby dam came over every once and awhile to buy some things and a family of deer had a hollow down the road.
It was a calm place most of the time. However there were times when we would hear the bells of the queen’s carriage or the pounding feet of the security police pack and would have to go inside. Those times me and mother would wait in the back room until father came and got us. To tell us things were safe.
When me and father got home the first thing he did was take my coat and dump the pockets into the trash bin. Which I felt was a great waste. Then we headed into the kitchen where my mother was cooking. “Darling is that you?” she called over her shoulder.
“It’s both of us” my father replied “someone got in trouble with Lavender Greenwood again”
“Hey she’s the one that hordes all those goodies she bakes” I argued “and I’m not the only one who steals them”
“Yes you’re just the one who gets caught the most” my mother chuckled turning around. She came over to the pair of us “i’ll make Lavender a new batch of cookies” she looked down at me squinting her eyes “oh look you’ve got dirt on your face” she murmured raising her apron to wipe my cheeks.
“Mom” I whined. “It’s just a little dirt from Mrs. Greenwood’s garden.” she continued to scrub at my face “why are you making her cookies anyway? She’s the mean one who’s always glaring”
My mother sighed, apparently giving up on getting my face clean. “How about I double the recipe then and we can keep the extra batch?”
“I quite like that plan” I smiled as she stood.
“Oh so you’re rewarding our little thief here now are you?” my father inquired of my mother with a smirk.
“Well Mrs. Greenwood is quite the grouchy old woman” mother pointed out. I gave my father a proud smirk having said something very similar earlier.
“What am I to do with you two?” the man of the house sighed.
“Love us” I cheered.
“I quite like that answer” mother laughed lightly. Then she noticed my father holding my coat. “Oh what happened to your coat?” she inquired coming over.
“Dad ripped it” I pointed up at the man quickly.
“Nice” he grumbled down at me.
I shrugged “it’s the truth”
“Alright well we’ll get this fixed up then” the woman declared taking up the torn fabric. She sat it off to the side and returned to making dinner.
“Come here kid” my father picked me up and sat me on the table. “We have to talk about all this stealing you’ve been doing. Mrs. Greenwood’s cookies, yarn from Mr. Orchard.”
“It’s not stealing” I objected “it’s borrowing”
“Do you return it?” my father inquired. I didn’t answer because I knew he was right “exactly now you can’t do that alright. Your five years old Arbor you have to understand. People work hard to make or earn the things you just take.”
“But I work hard to take them,” I explained. “I had to wait for an hour outside Mrs. Greenwood’s window for her to place the cookies out and then even longer for them to cool off.”
I heard my mother chuckle and my father sighed “listen Arbor things have value beyond just the work you put into them. Things like the value of promises and hope and love” my father sighed and sat down. “Here I’ll tell you a story. There once was a great king of Narnia. A king by the name of Aslan back in a time when our people would dance and bloom. Green grassy hills and fields filled with colorful flowers, petals drifting on the wind. Great celebrations with singing and dancing with the fauns and centaurs and all the other creatures of the wood.”
“That sounds incredible,” I explained. “You would dance outside in the snow?”
“There was no snow then” the man objected “Before this eternal winter there was once the four seasons. There was spring where things would grow and bloom and we’d have rainy days to splash in puddles. Summer where it would get so hot in the day we would all relax in the shade and play music, we’d have bonfires and tell stories. Autumn when all the trees would turn beautiful colors and we would harvest the fields preparing great feasts and parties. Then when winter would come it would be a short time where we’d go sledding, build snowmen, snuggle inside with warm drinks, and give gifts to one another”
“Wow” I exclaimed in awe imagining such a world “what happened?”
My father’s joyous smile faltered “it was stolen away from us by the White Witch.” my father explained he glanced over at my mother who had been watching us as she cooked. Her face heavy, and rigid in concern and sadness. “She came and she stole and she destroyed, Arbor. She took our joy and our happiness she took all the magic from our beautiful world and filled it with winter and sadness and fear”
“That’s awful” I murmured looking out the window at the white snow falling outside.
“She stole Arbor and she destroyed this entire land do you understand now why you must never steal what belongs to another?” he asked.
I nodded quickly “but there has to be some way to end this winter? I want to see spring, summer, autumn”
My father smiled warmly. Then looked around as if he expected us to be overheard before scooting closer. “There is a prophecy left to us by Aslan.” he cleared his throat dramatically before continuing “it goes: When Adam’s flesh and Adam’s bone sits in Car Paraval in throne the evil time will be over and done.”
“Wow” I breathed, keeping my voice low in a mirror of his “what does it mean?”
“It means that one day two sons of Adam and two daughters of Eve. In other words two human boys and two human girls will come into this land and vanquish the White Witch restoring all we once had to Narnia”
I let off an excited giggle “they’ll bring spring back?” I questioned loudly.
“Shh shh” my father hushed lightly “yes they will.” he sighed and reached a hand out to touch my cheek “oh and my dear Arbor I hope you get to see it”
There was a moment of silence in the house before mother sighed “alright you two enough story time” she decreed. “Burian I need you to go pick me some more apples for the crumble”
“I can do it mom” I exclaimed jumping from the table. “I want to go see Malic”
“Oh alright but your coat is torn” my mother observed.
“Here she can borrow mine, it's not that far to Malic’s orchard,” my father offered. He picked his jacket from the back of his chair and wrapped it around me. It smelled like him, warm and comforting. Like pine needles and old wood. The jacket was far too large for me made of brown leather, however it didn’t drag on the ground and I could move in it. “There that should suffice for your small journey”
“Here” Mother handed me a basket. “Alright now it’s getting late so off to Malic’s and then straight back here for dinner”
“Yes ma’am” I nodded in agreement as I shuffled to the door. “I love you!”
“Love you too darling” father replied.
“Love you” my mother also voiced kissing my forehead and then ushering me out the door.
I ran down the snowy lane. Weaving past ice patches and giving an extra big smile to the glowering Mrs. Greenwood as I passed by her Cottage. Entering the woods I navigated among the trees with practiced ease. I reached my destination with a happy squeal.
“Malic!” I greeted the aged apple tree. He rustled his branches in greeting. I reached up and placed a hand to his trunk leaning in. I felt the life rushing below and within his bark. I felt a weight hit my arm and looked to see an apple had fallen into my basket. “Oh thank you mother sent me to collect some for a crumble she’s making.” I explained.
Malic reached down with his branched and I climbed up among them. I loved going high up into the air and looking out at the woods. Sitting in his branches I began to pick offered apples and tell him the grand story my father had told to me. Malic allowed me to jabber at him for a long time before I finally realized the sun was setting behind me and it was getting dark.
“Oh I have to go, my mother said to be back quickly” I told the tree. “I’ll be back tomorrow though” I promised. Malic let me down from his branches and I began to run back toward the village waving goodbye to my friend.
I weaved among the growing shadows of the trees, my feet crunching in the snow. I was nearly out of the woods when I was brought to a stop as a scream split the air. Fear suddenly shot through my veins as my breathing picked up. I started forward again slowly as firelight came into view. I entered the glen and dropped my basket with a gasp at the sight. People were running around madly two of the houses of the village burned and another began to catch.
Statues that looked a lot like people I knew stood along the street in frozen images of terror. Shielding themselves from whatever was about to attack them. Standing there in the middle of it, just as frozen as the statues around her, crystal white with a gleaming scepter in her hand admiring the chaos with a look that could only be described as a chilling evil. The White Witch.
I stood there staring as screaming was all around me just looking at her. Then someone grabbed my arm. I turned to see the panicked eyes of Mrs. Greenwood. “Arbor, come this way quickly!” she whispered urgently and dragged me off toward her house. We came inside and she pulled me over to a place on the floor. Lifting a hatch she rushed me down into the little crawl space below. “Stay here” she whispered hurriedly looking over her shoulder.
“Where’s my mom and dad?” I asked desperately.
“Shhh” she hushed me quickly. “Just stay quiet and stay hidden. Arbor please stay here until everything is quiet please promise me”
“I promise” I agreed, too terrified to do much else. She closed the hatch and I heard what sounded like her slapping the carpet back over it. The small space suddenly became very dark. I curled up into myself and listened.
There were screams and crashing and yelling and the roar of fire and things falling more screaming. I covered my ears and rolled on my side burying my head into my father’s jacket. Praying for peace.
It was a long time before there was finally peace. I remained hidden in the darkness long after there was silence listening in fear. However, eventually I rose from my place on the floor and pushed on the hatch with my shaking hands. Slowly it creaked open. Climbing out I looked around. The house above was trashed, the table overturned and the door crashed in. Gentle morning light was pouring in from every crack in the walls and through the shattered glass in the window.
Slowly I walked forward. Every step sounded far too loud in the chilling quiet. I exited the house and looked around in despair. Half the village was burned to the ground. The street was empty. I walked on down the road heading for home. Praying that it was safe hoping my parents were there waiting for me. Hoping they would be there to tell me everything was alright. The more I thought of them the faster I went until I was running around the corner to my house.
I stopped dead in my tracks. It was gone. The entire home was ruble. Burnt to a chard crisp. I felt tears threatening my eyes as I looked around and didn’t see anyone. “Mom? Dad?” I called into the silence. There was no response “Mom?! Dad?!” I called louder. Still nothing I called again and my voice broke as my knees buckled. They were gone.
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