Fantasy Teens & Young Adult Coming of Age

Nellwynn Thatcher was drawing water from the well when the sky went dark. She screamed and dropped  the bucket.  With a clanging splash it landed back into the well. Using its sides, she slowly slid to the ground. What was happening? Was the world ending? She didn’t dare lift her head to look at the sky afraid of what she might see or not see. Nellwynn began rocking back and forth, humming a lullaby her mother would sing to her when Nellwynn was a little girl. What about her mother? Was she okay? She was out tending to the garden, while Nellwynn fetched water from the well. They shared the well with a neighbor, so it was quite a distance from their little house. There was no way that she would make it back, in the dark, without getting lost. Nellwynn said a little prayer to the gods that her mother was okay. 

Nellwynn loved the little house she shared with her mother. It was situated in a small valley with lush fields and plenty of space to explore. When she wasn’t helping her mother with chores, Nellwynn spent her time wandering the valley. She loved being outside. There was something about it that set her mind at ease. Her mother encouraged Nellwynn to explore as long as she was back before the sun went down. Her mother had an irrational fear about her being out after dark. No matter how many times Nellwynn asked, her mother refused to tell her why.

She huddled as close to the well as she could, gripping the stones as if her life depended on it. The coolness of the stones allowed her to focus and keep calm. Bit by bit her rocking and humming stopped and she was able to breathe normally once more. Nellwynn was tempted to turn her head toward the sky, but she swore she could hear a voice in her mind telling her no. She decided to listen to the voice and kept her head down. Eventually, the sun would come back. It couldn’t be gone forever, could it? What kind of world would it be without the sun? Nellwynn shuddered at the thought of never seeing the sun shine upon her. To wake up and not be greeted by the sun’s beams shining through the window filled her with dread. 

She couldn’t keep thinking like that or she would start rocking and humming once more. Keeping her wits about her was what was important now. Her mother wouldn’t want her to fall to pieces at a time like this. Putting her mother front and center in her mind would help her through this crisis. Closing her eyes, she imagined her mother standing before her smiling and laughing. This image made Nellwynn smile as well.

Nellwynn awoke with a start, closing her eyes was a mistake, she had fallen asleep! What good was she in a crisis if she couldn’t stay awake?! While berating herself, Nellwynn didn’t notice that it was no longer dark. Whatever had caused the sky to go dark was gone and in its place the sun was shining once more. Quickly, she gathered more water and began her trek home. Usually, she would stop and pick flowers for the kitchen table, but today she wanted to get home and check on her mother.

She arrived home in record time. “Mother!” she called out, the desperation in her voice evident. Where was she? Did something happen to her when the world went dark? No matter where she looked, her mother wasn't there; then she remembered the cellar. Nellwynn hurried to the cellar doors and pulled them open. Down the stairs she went, they creaked in protest. She found her mother at the end of the cellar going through their food supply.

Nellwynn threw herself into her mother's arms causing them to stumble against the cellar wall. 

“Nellwynn what is the matter with you!?” her mother exclaimed.

Nellwynn said nothing, but buried her face deeper into her mother's shoulder. She just needed a moment before sharing anything about her terrifying ordeal.

Finally, she took a deep breath and pulled away from her mother. Looking her in the eyes, she told her mother in a halting voice what happened. Her mother didn’t say a word the entire time that Nellwynn spoke, she just stood there letting Nellwynn speak.

As Nellwynn finished her tale, her mother shifted her stance and cleared her throat. 

“I know exactly what happened in the sky today,” her mother said in a hushed tone. “I thought I had more time before it happened, but it seems the gods are pushing up the timeline.

“Timeline…what timeline? Mother, what are you talking about?” Nellwynn was growing frightened again. It wasn’t like her Mother to act like this. Nellwynn took an apprehensive step away from her. 

“Let’s go into the house and discuss this, Nellwynn. A cellar is not a proper place to reveal these truths to you.” Her mother swept past her and up the cellar stairs.

It took several moments before Nellwynn was able to follow her. Whatever her Mother had to say, Nellwynn wasn’t sure she was ready to hear it, but it seemed she had no choice. She followed her Mother slowly into the house. While the older woman set about making some tea for the two of them, Nellwynn sat down at the kitchen table. She traced the grooves and scars on the kitchen table.  As a small child, she would sit here for hours listening to her mother tell her stories about how their world was created. Nellwynn’s favorite story involved Arolobog, god of the Mountains and how he helped construct them. 

“I have tea,” Nellwynn’s mother said as she set two steaming cups on the table. Nellwynn pulled hers toward her and breathed in the rich scent of honey and lavender. It was a special tea that her mother made when there was important or bad news to share. While Nellwyn enjoyed the tea, she didn't always enjoy the conversation that followed.

“Do you remember the stories I used to tell you about our gods and goddesses? Her mother asked, sitting down across from her eyes conveying a seriousness that Nellwynn had never seen before.

“Yes, I do, Nellwynn answered. “ I remember them each time I step outside.  It’s such a wonderful feeling to know how this world was created.”

“Well, I have one last story to tell you, Nellwynn. It has to do with what happened today.”

“One last story?” Nellwynn said, confused. “What’s going on? Are you sick?” Nellwynn began  panicking at the thought of her mother leaving her.

“It’s nothing like that,” her mother said, placing a comforting hand over Nellwynn’s own. “This story will explain not only what happened today, but why you haven’t been allowed out after dark all these years.”

Nellwynn’s mother cleared her throat and began…

“Once long ago, the sun god Aelibor and the moon goddess Seledhia devised a competition amongst themselves to see who was the fastest. 

           Aelibor declared that he was the fastest of the two. “Snails could cross the world and back before you rose in the sky,” Aelibor said to Seledhia in a sneering tone. 

            “A starfish could swim to the depths of the sea and make it back before you even thought of rising and shining.” Seledhia answered, rolling her eyes at Aelibor’s absurd thought.

Aelibor glared at her, his eyes narrowing into tiny slits, and said “Enough talking, let’s get this competition started.”

  “Before we start, what is the prize?” Seledhia asked in a sickly sweet tone she knew would drive Aelibor crazy. He thought for a moment before answering. 

  “Whoever wins has to share their time in the sky with the other.” 

  “Will your father, Magnahbor, agree to the terms?” Seledhia asked. “He does not like us to waste time on trivial pursuits such as this.”

“Let me handle my Father,” Aelibor answered with an air of confidence, “I am his first born and his favorite, Father rarely says no to me.”

“Spoken like the spoiled child all the other gods and goddesses know you to be.” Seledhia said, with a hint of cattiness.

“Jealousy doesn't suit you well at all, Seledhia. Perhaps you have to resort to cheap words and phrases to make yourself feel better.”

“You want to race, then let’s begin then shall we?” Seledhia was eager for Aelibor to be humbled and cowed.

“On the count of three,” Aelibor said, “one, two,” and then he was gone.

Seledhia took off after him, but he had disappeared beyond her sight. She was going to lose this race and be forced to share the sky with the god she disliked the most. Seledhia knew that Aelibor would never let her live this down, never. Nevertheless, she kept running, her reputation was at stake.

Aelibor prepared his victory speech as he ran. He could’ve walked backwards and still beat Seledhia with ease. He couldn’t wait to see the look on her face when he crossed the finish line first. Aelibor couldn’t understand why Seledhia disliked him. He was handsome, charming, and well-spoken. His father was the god in charge for goodness sake! As his thoughts of Seledhia raced around in his mind, his feet slowed, eventually coming to a complete stop. Why did someone who disliked him so much keep invading his thoughts?

Seledhia had been running for what felt like ages and perhaps it had been. For gods and goddesses, time was fickle. What felt like five minutes could actually be five years. Ahead of her she could see Aelibor standing beneath a tree. He was muttering and gesturing to himself. Seledhia stopped to watch him with an amused expression on her face. He might be haughty and full of himself, but he did care about his responsibilities. Which was more than she could say for many of the other gods. Then, with a determined smirk she dashed between him and the tree leaving him in the dust.

Aelibor whirled around wondering what had happened. “It couldn’t have been Seledhia,” he thought, he was miles and miles ahead of her. Still, he wasn’t going to take any chances so off he sprinted after the now blurry figure. As he drew closer, he could see that it was her, but rather than anger, longing filled his heart. He was losing the race, but it didn’t matter; he just wanted to run with her.

Nellwynn’s mother stopped and smiled at her briefly, then continued with the story. 

“The two of them ran and ran. What had started in anger and animosity turned into something more. As they ran together, they experienced the joy and exhilaration of being side by side. The contest lay forgotten as their strides matched and the shared experience bound them. Seledhia reached out and grasped Aelibor’s hand. They knew they couldn’t run together forever, their own realms needed them too much. Yet, there would be moments they could share and those moments would be glorious. Glorious enough to blot out the sun.” 

Her mother finished the story and reached over to grasp Nellwynn’s hand. For a few moments neither of them spoke. It was Nellwynn who finally broke the silence. “So what happened outside today was because of a race between a god and a goddess?” 

“Yes,” her mother replied, grasping her cup of tea in her free hand. “And there’s something else you should know. Since that first competition, two people in a generation are chosen to recreate that first race. One person is chosen by Aelibor and the other by Seledhia. When you were born, Seledhia came to our house and informed me that when you were older you would have the honor of running the race. She only told me that she would come to take you when the time was right. Everyday since that first meeting, I’ve lived in fear of this day. It’s why you haven’t been allowed to stay out after dark. I was afraid that she would take you without letting me say goodbye. So, I had to keep you out of sight of the moon.”

Nellwynn was stunned. How could she be so important? There was nothing special about her. Yet, her mother was telling her that she was chosen by a goddess.She was waiting for her mother to laugh and explain that it was all a joke, but instead she just sat there with a desolate  expression on her face. 

“We need to prepare. Seledhia will be here soon.” Her mother stood up and began packing a bag for Nellwynn. 

“Why do I have to go now?” Nellwynn exclaimed. “The darkness has already happened, It can’t happen again so soon can it?”

“No, it can’t,” said her mother, “But you will need time to train for the race. We don’t have much time now. Go and gather your things.” 

By the time they had finished packing a bag and eating a simple supper, it was nighttime. Any moment now, the goddess Seledhia would come and take Nellwynn away.

A knock came at the door. Nellwynn looked to her mother and they shared the same apprehension.  Nellwynn went to the door and opened it. In front of her stood the most beautiful woman that the young girl had ever seen. Her alabaster skin shone like the moonlight. The silver strands of her hair reflected the starlight, or would have, if any stars had been in the sky. A cold power radiated from her, but her smile was warm. 

“Come Nellwynn, we have much to discuss,” the woman said, as she held out her hand. Nellwynn turned one last time to look at her mother. She whispered “I love you and goodbye.” Her mother smiled a sad smile, and a teardrop ran down her cheek. Nellwynn turned and let the goddess lead her away.

April 12, 2024 23:16

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Leala Steadman
18:47 Apr 29, 2024

I need more!


Bethany Walters
19:38 Apr 29, 2024

It's one of my stories that I am thinking about continuing.


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