Long ago in a dark, sultry forest where the wind picked up just the right speed, the squirrels hid in the coziest holes, and the ripples in clear pools reflected the exact perfection of nature, a young girl was born.
Her name was Eliana. She belonged to a family of quite a lot of significance, half so at least. Her father, Thomas, was a peasant boy and of no worth to anyone but his own kind. Her mother, Brianna, however, was the Princess in that region, a princess who had concealed her secrets from everyone. Everyone except Thomas.
Once Brianna had discovered her pregnancy, she fled to Thomas's home, but could not find him. She searched his work house, but he was not there. Then, she fled to their meeting place. A place in which they often met in case something serious was to be said and discussed, but still he was not there.
Brianna had been quite late in realizing that she was going to bear a child, that within a matter of weeks, a newborn existed in the world. Brianna didn't know what to do or where to go. She hid in the forest for a number of hours after the birth of her precious daughter, but knew that if she did not get some sort of nutrition soon, both she and the baby would die.
So, she rose from her lowered position, and carrying Eliana with such delicacy, traveled back on the path she had come. She was going to go home.
It was not an easy journey for this young girl in the youth of her life. Only seventeen years had passed since she had been born. Seventeen years of glory and no strife, yet now she was being caused the most trouble she could have ever imagined.
Brianna finally made it to the edge of the wood when a surprise greeted her.
"Hello miss, I have a message for you," the stranger said. Brianna did not know how to reply, but hoping it was some news from her beloved, Thomas, she inquired to what the message might be.
"Well then speak," she said.
"You must come with me," the stranger said.
"Might I not know your name?" she asked curiously.
"No. It will cause you too much grief. Please just come with me," the stranger said, holding out his hand for her to grasp. Brianna was hesitant, but took his hand and followed him down a strange path--a path that did not lead to her home, or back to the forest--a mysterious path that she did not like.
The stranger was an odd looking fellow. His gray, grizzled beard fell beneath his knees, and his draping black cape over his head made you wonder how he could breathe in such humidity as this. But his eyes were warm and of great comfort to Brianna. What was nice, also, about him was that he didn't ask questions, he held a gentle grip on her coarse hand, and he didn't go up too many hills.
Now, Brianna wasn't one to complain, but it had been a good 20 minutes since they had left, and she was worried about little Eliana's health. She sped up a bit, leaving go of his hand, and managed to stand directly in front of the stranger with determination and unwillingness to continue until she got her answers.
"Yes?" the stranger asked, confused at the abrupt halt.
"I'm not usually one to complain…"
"But?" he asked, smiling.
"But…I have a newborn, and she needs nutrients in her body. It's been too long already."
The stranger sighed.
"Look, you and I both know that if it were just me by your side, I wouldn't ask for anything, not in the least. But this is different," Brianna said, trying so hard to get through to the stranger. The stranger sighed once again. He had been planning to not reveal anything too soon, but this young woman was eager. Eager and impatient.
"Miss, you know I can only get you there as fast as I am able," he said in a slow, quiet tone. She nodded. "But I can tell you this; your baby will not die. Neither will you, if you listen to me, and trust me to take you where you need to go," he said. And with that, he slipped on past her and began his moderate walking pace, whistling as he went along for his own simple pleasure.
Brianna heaved a big sigh and readjusting the young girl in her arms, pulled up her sleeves and trudged along about a quarter and a half behind the man, muttering aloud.
"But that's just the thing. How do I know where I'm supposed to go?"
"You will. You'll know," the stranger said. Brianna just rolled her eyes and continued following this haggard man, keeping the hope alive within herself that maybe, just maybe, Thomas would find her and she could finally feel at home.
The sun began to set on that humid, July day. Brianna had been so fiercely worried and protective of her young child, but as of late she began to ease her tension with the old, gentle man who led her to a place that Brianna, somehow, felt in her heart was the right way to go. She had begun to listen to the old man's tunes and recognized them as one of her own.
"How do you know that?" she asked.
"My mother sung it to me when I was a young boy," he replied.
"So did mine," she said. The stranger stopped for a moment. He seemed to be reminiscing about one thing or another, but Brianna could not tell, for she had been behind him almost the entire day. She didn't say a word, but stopped as he did, and then continued to walk once he resumed his pace.
The young child, Eliana, had not cried all day. Maybe at first she had spurted out a few noises, and definitely she had been cooing during this journey, but not a single sad tear came down her face or the cries of anguish or pain because of the absence of nourishment during the day.
Brianna looked down at her child and came to grips with reality. She whispered softly to the young child as she held her close.
"So beautiful you are," she began. "You have caused me frustration, pain, and yes, I am scared, but I am glad you are here." And from behind the black cape in front of herself and the baby, the old man smiled.
"We're here," the old man said, turning around for only the 3rd time all day.
"Really?" Brianna asked, rubbing her eyes and attempting to walk correctly. It was near nightfall, and they had not stopped at all, no not even once. Their mouths were dry, and their lips were parched. Brianna's golden hair was oily, and her neck was full of sweat. The old man, although completely humble, had finally released his head from the dreadful black cape that had heated him to almost unbearable. The baby, however, lay quietly in her mother's arms. She was not over-heated. She was not dry or parched. Her hair was not messy. Her skin was not oily. She lay in absolute perfection and contentment, as if she had been sleeping among angels in the clouds of Heaven, and now it was time to wake up.
Eliana opened her eyes, and gazed widely into her mother's face. She reached up with her fragile infant arm and touched her mother's chin. She smiled. Brianna stopped walking, aware of the contact from her baby girl, and looked down into her face with such love and joy. Once she looked up again, the old man was gone. It took a moment for Brianna to realize that her guide for at least 18 hours had vanished. Panic overtook her, and she didn't know what to do. She looked back where she had come. He was not there. She looked forwards and sideways and in the distance, but no old man appeared. Right before Brianna had completely lost it; she looked down upon the dusty earth and saw the black cape. Slinking to the ground, she picked it up and held it close to her. Even Eliana reached out to touch the sweaty fabric. It was not nasty or disgusting, as one might assume. Well, to them it wasn't. For this stranger had become a dear friend of theirs, and knowing that he was gone, not only made them worried-sick, but frightened as well. For the first time all day, Eliana cried.
"No, no don't cry sweet child," Brianna plead with her baby. Then, as if some sort of strength had overtaken Eliana, she stopped crying and reached forth into the cape. There was a letter. Brianna did not notice it at first, but when the tears had run off of her face, and the light shone beautifully upon her daughter's features, she looked to the infant hand and grasped the letter gently from it. Then, she read aloud.
I send this to you at the most desperate hour. I know of your pregnancy, and I love you despite what this may do to us. It is a good thing, trust me, it is. I cannot tell you directly where I am at, but I can tell you this…someone will take you to me. Someone you do not expect. When we meet up again, we will embrace each other and have a great celebration. For this is not a curse, but a blessing…and only through love can we conquer sin's hateful plots.
Brianna could hardly believe it. This man, the man who she didn't seem to trust, the man who she thought she could not depend on and who knew nothing about her…was sent to take her to the one place she could only go. Why did he not say anything? Why did he lead me on mysteriously, and perhaps regretfully? Why?
Eliana cooed, and Brianna looked up. She could scarcely see it, but in the distance there was a light, and she followed it. Rising up and holding her daughter so close, she began to walk faster and faster, until she was running after this great light that seemed to appear out of nowhere. She did not look back. She did not look to the side or above her head. She just ran. She didn't know why she ran or where she was going, but something told her to run. She held her daughter closer, and clutched the letter in her hand. She had not known speed until now. Never had she had gone so fast. In her head, the old man's words repeated itself over and over and over…
You will, you'll know…
Suddenly, Brianna abruptly stopped. The light had vanished, and she was once again alone. She sat upon her knees rocking her baby, thinking deeply for at least a quarter of an hour. She closed her eyes and listened. The old man's voice became clearer in her head. It rang through her like a resounding drum. She couldn't hear anything else. It was so loud inside of her. Every conversation they had had. Every thing she knew about him from the minute she looked up to greet him early that morning. Everything. It all repeated itself. It all shouted out to her. Brianna heard her name over and over again. She shook her head. She screamed. It was like she was having a horrible nightmare, except that she wasn't asleep, but only daydreaming. Then, there was quiet. For twenty five minutes, Brianna opened her eyes and stared straight ahead of her. Then, she got up; brushed off her skirt from all the dirt it had consumed, and began to walk, as if mesmerized by something that lie ahead.
The next morning, Brianna was found asleep on a large boulder five miles from where she had started to walk without a light, without a guide. She awoke to another steamy day. The heat overcame her, and she felt the need to lie still upon the cool, smooth rock. She opened and closed her eyes slowly for about a minute and a half, trying to recognize her surroundings.
Eliana cooed, and for awhile it was just simple pleasure to her young mother, but when the cooing became screaming, and quite violently, I might add…Brianna knew it was time to get up. She rose from the rock, and picked up her young child who had been attempting to crawl, only to have rolled down the small hill, and end up in a mossy field.
"Oh Eliana," she said, brushing the hair out of her face. "We'll get home soon, I promise." Brianna really didn't know when she would get home, or feel at home, or see Thomas, or see her family who knew nothing about the situation whatsoever. But a new level of hope was growing inside her, and she could not be negative. She could not feel or see the dark side of things, because she had been there and this was a better place…for both of them.
They traveled along all day, sluggardly, and attempted to find the right way to go. The road was a thick, sharp forest to the left, and a green, lush meadow to the right…with a dirt path that lie in front of them. It was often confusing on which way this path would lead, because it did not always have just one lane. But whenever Brianna felt confused or alarmed at which way she might go, she just looked at her letter and glanced at her baby, and then she knew. There was something inside of her, telling her the way to go. It was like someone gentle and kind had whispered it in her ear. It was like she was not alone.
It was about mid-afternoon when Brianna began to lose consciousness. She took a cat nap on the hill to her right, but could not rest for long. She had to get to this "place" Thomas had referred to. Sweat occupied the majority of her forehead, and her eyes began to cloud up. She tried taking several more ten minute naps, but they were not enough. Finally, as she felt she were about to collapse, she squinted her eyes. In the distance, she saw a young man. She had never given up hope that she should find Thomas, but had merely forgotten about it because of the heat consummation she was getting. She pulled back her hair, and squinted again—this time it was harder.
"No, it can't be…" she said softly. The figure became clearer as it began to approach her. It was tall, male and looked to be about the age of 18. His straight brown hair covered his ears and most of his forehead, but his green eyes gazed directly at Brianna, and then she knew.
"Thomas…" she cried out, as she began her descent to the ground. Suddenly, the figure ran to her, and caught her just before her fall.
"Yes, it is me," he said. Brianna's consciousness had finally left her, and so her arms released the tiny child, but she did not fall. Thomas caught her. He carried both of them over to the side of the road, and waited.
Within moments, an old man with a gentle smile on his face came around in a horse carriage.
"Are you ready, sir?" the old man asked.
"Yes," Thomas replied, and helping Brianna, while carrying his baby girl, he climbed into the carriage. They were on their way home.
When Brianna woke up the next morning, she felt completely rested. She had been sleeping in her own bed, in her own room, in her own home. She didn't know exactly what had happened, but came to the realization of where she was when maids came in to give her some breakfast and drink.
A confused look came across her face, but she graciously took the food and drink and thanked the maids on their way out. As she was sipping a bit of water from her glass, a knock came to the door. Brianna looked up. It was Thomas. He walked in and embraced her. He kissed her forehead lightly and smiled. Brianna was speechless.
"I don't understand," she finally forced out, rising up from her sunken position.
"It's okay. You will. You'll know," he said, brushing her hair to the side of her face. A look of panic overtook Brianna.
"Where is Eliana? Where is our baby?" she asked frantically. Thomas pointed to the corner.
"In her crib? By the way, I love the name you picked out for her. It's what I would have chosen," he said, smiling gently. Peace overwhelmed Brianna as she slunk down into her bed again, and grinned. Eliana had been fed, and nourished, and she was sleeping soundly in the cradle Brianna had used as a child.
"I don't know about that," she said.
"Really? Will this convince you?" he asked, as Brianna's parents walked into the room.
"Mom! Dad!!! I…I…I can explain, you see…I…" she was cut off. Her parents ran forth and hugged her. They didn't ask questions. They didn't say why. They just hugged her. Obviously they weren't proud of what their daughter had done, but they loved her. They loved their granddaughter, and they weren't going to let disappointment ruin that.
"We love you," they said.
"Am I dreaming?" Brianna asked.
"No," Thomas said, "This one's for real." And as Brianna regained herself and embraced with the four most important people in her life and celebrated with them, she caught out of the glimpse of her eye, an old man and his gentle smile.