Chapter Nine: “Two Paths”
The cliffs rose above Alene, frightening her. She swallowed before stepping off, onto the narrow path. The walls rose around her, casting a dark shadow over the path. She stepped over rocks and fallen trees, as the ground sloped upwards.
“This isn’t too bad, actually.”
“So you think, little one.” She jumped as a voice sounded behind her. A young man, with red hair and red eyes, stood there. Alene blushed slightly; he was quite handsome. “Hello there.”
The girl cocked her head, but used on hand to cover the blush on her cheeks. “Hello…”
“And what might your name be?” he took her hand and kissed it. “My name is Wiley.”
Wiley looked at her, a look of concern on his face. “Why is someone as young and innocent as you on this dangerous road?”
“It’s the way to Coelum.”
“The long way, child.” He sat down on a log, and patted the spot beside him. Alene sat down, staring into his eyes. “Go over this hill and then there are two paths. There’s the one you are on right now, and then there will be on to your right. The one to the right; that one goes downhill, and to a beautiful pond.”
The girl blinked. “But, I was told that this road was the only safe path…”
“Oh there are many paths to Coelum,” Wiley patted the girl’s head. “I have associates who can lead you on the other paths. You see, I know King Ansaldo too. I am here to help you. Now, come. I will walk with you, little one.”
Wiley stood up and held out a hand to Alene. “Follow me.” The girl slowly took his hand, standing to her feet. He led her over the hill, taking great care not to let the girl get hurt. He lifted her over rocks and logs, held up branches for her to pass under.
“You are being very kind to me, sir.” The girl giggled in a friendly manner as her guide held up another branch for her to walk beneath.
The young man gave her the gentlest of smiles. “I am much like the young man you traveled with before. I know the king and I will take you to him. All you have to do, is follow my instructions.”
The girl paused. “But, Jonas worked for the king as well, and he told me to do something different.”
“The king found out that servants of Dolum have blocked this path, further on. So, he sent me to take you on another road, a shorter road.”
“But why not have me take the shorter path in the first place?”
“King Ansaldo likes to have his servants test themselves and learn new things.” Wiley shook his head. “He’s a good king, but I do say, he has some strange ways. Testing his people the way he does. A poor child like you should not be walking these hard paths alone…” They reached the top of the hill, and there, to their right lay another path. “Here you are Alene. Another servant of the king’s will be waiting for you at the bottom, by the pond.”
The girl nodded. “Thank you, sir!” She turned and jogged down the path, smiling.
For a long distance, she walked down the path, grinning. A shorter route would certainly make things a lot easier for her. As she got to the bottom of the hill, a flat blue surface stretched before her.
“Ah, you must be the little one Wiley told me of.” Across the pond stood a beautiful woman, with red hair and brown eyes. “Welcome, Alene. I am Salem.”
[Next Chapter: Alene learns more about the woman, Salem. But is that a good thing?]