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The Elements
Niana, Age 13, Wesley Chapel, FL

It was late.  Maliana, the young princess, knew she must be careful not to be caught by one of the royal guards.  They would surely take her to her father, the King of Galoranth.  She knew this was the only way she could see the one she loved.  Deep in her mind, she had a notion that he truly loved her and that someday they would marry. That may have not been so wise an idea, for William was the greedy sort.  When Maliana was near, he acted so well-mannered, but when she was gone, he was as polite as a boar.

Maliana was on her way to see him, for he was never allowed out of his yard after he was found trying to break into the royal grounds.  She was desperate.  Despite her fear and worry, she valiantly climbed the castle wall and fell to the muddy ground below.  Anything for him, she thought to herself as she brushed off her soft woollen nightgown and started walking towards the town.

When she arrived, she crept to Will’s home above the blacksmith shop and knocked on the door hoping his parents wouldn’t answer.  When Will came to the entryway, he embraced Maliana like it had been years, when he had just seen her two nights ago.  Maliana asked if his mother or father was home, and as he replied with a shake of his head she followed him in. They spent the night sitting by the fire talking about the future.  When she realized how long she had spent in the fantasy of ruling the Kingdom with Will, she abruptly left him and hurried out of the small town.

She was stopped by Adam, a young man near the same age as Maliana.  When they were younger, they had played in the palace courtyards, and when they felt mischievous they would romp around the castle and scare the servants as they approached in the halls.  Little did Maliana know, Adam had always been fond of her.

Adam told Maliana, that night, that he was worried about her and that he wished for her to stop seeing Will.  She felt that he was simply being overly cautious and falsely agreed to his request.

So she ran out of the town that sat just on the outskirts of the Kingdom and into the Dividing forest.  About a mile in, she looked up at the glorious moon and seeing that it was full, she slowed to a brisk walk.  She did so because of the stories she’d been told as a child, stories of wolves and bears that grow vicious when the moon is full.  She stopped in mid-stride when she heard hooves clomping in from the north.  They appeared to be coming from the castle.  She saw a shadowy figure appear out of the darkness, and as it drew nearer she saw the outline of two men on a horse.  One was rather overweight, much like the King, and seemed to be held against his will.  The other was much more muscular.  As the riders came closer and closer, she realized it was her father, brutally beaten, gagged and tied on the back of the horse.  Maliana let out a shriek as the captor snatched her and held her on the horse, with her father pleading mumbled requests to spare his daughter and take only him.  The kidnapper just kept to his route.

As they passed the town that Maliana had just left, she saw Adam sitting on the steps of the church.  He appeared heartbroken.  He abruptly leapt to his feet and ran to the nearby stables.  He took the fastest horse there (it appeared to be a stallion) and galloped at outrageous speeds to catch his beloved Maliana and her kidnapper.  Rushing through the trees he dodged hanging branches and jumped the puddles from the recent rains.  As he was trailing behind, all he thought about was keeping Maliana and the King safe.  But William had his own plans.  As a matter of fact, Maliana’s kidnapping was (in some ways more than others) a part of his wicked scheme.

Adam continued running, never losing sight of the mustang upon which rode Maliana, the King and the kidnapper.  He saw them slow to a trot and began to walk, cautiously, behind.

“You are to be silent!” the kidnapper yelled at the two hostages.  “If anyone finds us then it’ll be you who will pay.  And the consequences will be substantial.”  Maliana had the idea that there was a very good reason for this incident.  There must be more to this plot, she thought.  Maliana and her father sat on the cold hard ground watching the kidnapper build a fire.

“Are we ever going to know your name?” asked the King respectfully.

“It’s Michael,” he spat at the king’s feet.  “ I was told to take you to a…”  The horse grunted interrupting the man.  “Oh, that’s right.  I’m not supposed to tell ye.  Thanks, Cadence.”  Michael thanked his horse and began making a bed out of leaves and mosses.

Adam, hiding in the bushes having left his horse about 50 feet behind so as not to be detected, was hoping to uncover the plan.

“You should get some sleep.  We’ll be waking early.  There is a long journey ahead and this mustang isn’t strong enough to carry all of us.”  Adam shifted in the bushes as he knew it would be a while before he would be able to follow.

He awoke to find that the camp Michael had made was completely vacant.  All that was left were the three depressions where they had slept.  Adam saw no other indication that anyone had been there.  He went back to where he had left his horse and saw that there was a golden scroll of parchment placed on the ground by the horse’s hoof.  The scroll seemed to be glowing.  Adam unrolled it to hear a song.  The song was also written on the scroll.  It read:
               
               Your dear Maliana and much-loved King,
               Are in deep misery of which I shall sing.
               Pay heed to said song and thy shall find,
               That use of ones heart defeats use of ones mind.
               Four precious gifts shall be bestowed,
               To assist thy champion on the winding road.
               The elements will  fight for and against your aim,
               For evil has acquired such power with such shame.
               Your journey begins here and now,
               This first gift of earth will show you how.
               
Adam was awed by what he had just heard, for he knew not that he had to endure such an expedition.  Just then the golden scroll vanished into thin air, and before he could think, there was an earthquake leaving a small fissure in the ground.  Bewildered by the oddly timed phenomenon, he couldn’t understand why the crevice was leading him north when he had come so far south chasing Michael and his captives.  He trusted the element and began walking his horse, careful not to get a hoof stuck in the split ground. On the long ride, all he thought about was the poem.

“The elements will fight for and against your aim, for evil has acquired such power with such shame,” he thought aloud.  “William must be the one controlling the elements!  He wants the King gone so that he can rule Galoranth.  That must be why there is no trace of Michael anywhere!”

He was not surprised by his conclusions because he had seen Will going into the chilling abode of the crooked woman, Lagoritha.  Lagoritha was rumored to be a witch because whenever she was ridiculed, some strange incident would occur.  Will must have asked her for assistance taking over the throne because when he ever would leave her home, the king would suffer some type of small ailment.

Adam had overcome the simple obstacle of earth.  He was still uneasy about the next three elements he had to defeat.

Adam had traveled for miles and was expecting to come to the creek just north of the Kingdom.  When he did, he was greatly shocked to see that it had grown  from a small creek to a huge river.  He fell back at the sight of a monstrous sea serpent that had only been gossiped about, called Gyraloth.

“Water! Where is my second gift?”  he called to the river.  He then heard a humming sound coming from his saddle pack.  It was humming the melody of the song he heard from the golden scroll.  He opened his bag and pulled out three boxes,  one silver with engraved with blue-green waves, one bronze decorated with leaves blowing in the breeze, and one copper with graceful flames.  The voice spoke to him again.

“Be wasteful not,”  it whispered from the distance.

Not thinking, Adam opened the copper box and flames circled him.  He then opened the silver box, realizing his mistake, and was engulfed by a feeling of suffocation.  His horse appeared the same way.  He then realized that he was wrapped in a cloak of glistening sapphires that protected him from any physical harm.  “We can do it,”  he reassured his horse as he mounted him and swam through the broad waterway.  The Serpent struck and attacked them but failed each time.  They stood there at the opposite bank of the river which had now transformed back into a mellow creek and the serpent was not but a log floating by carelessly.

Adam and his stallion passed through a thin opening in a small patch of woods.  Just beyond was a mountain and at the top was a massive cave.  He began his long and determined climb to his goal when lightning struck a nearby tree and caused the whole wood patch behind him to burst into flames.

“Fire,” he said to himself.  Adam was expecting to receive a weapon of fire to help him through, but when he asked for his next gift, he simply received a bronze leaf on his shoulder.

“Wind,”  he whispered to himself as he exhaled a great force of air that temporarily blew a passage just wide enough for him to pass.  “I’m sorry, but I must leave you now.”  He spoke to his horse with much sensitivity and the strong stallion backed away and allowed him to pass.  Adam looked back and saw what appeared to be a tear in his horses eye as the gap in the flames closed.  He was startled by another strike of lightning and rushed to climb the mountain.

When he reached the top, he tiptoed into the cave and saw his king, Maliana, and Michael tied up by the hands.  William stood, staring into the fire as if it were a crystal ball, and Lagoritha crouched in a corner as if fire was her greatest fear.

All of a sudden, William ran towards Adam, nearly causing him to fall down to the rocky ground below. William stopped and merely laughed.

“WIND!  You are at my power!” William called into the sky as the wind speed increased to a raging pace.

“ADAM!” called Maliana when she saw him fall over the peak.  “William! I believed you when You said you loved me!  How could I make such a horrible mistake?” she screamed as she ran to the edge and looked down to see Adam holding on for only the sake of Maliana.  William was amazed that Maliana escaped from the ropes she was tied up with.  She fell into William's arms and he embraced her one last time, she pushed him over and he took her with him.  Maliana bravely leapt off and grasped a root next to Adam.  She looked down and saw William fall into the crushing fiery oblivion below.

Maliana and Adam were pulled up by Lagoritha who was told by the king that if she didn’t, she would be forever exiled to the Forest of the Unknown.  The King reigned a long and happy life and soon after, Maliana and Adam were married.  They lived on and the people of Galoranth forever passed the story of their monarchs down through the generations for years to come.

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