Alexander had always been a very cowardly boy. But now he stood over the deep dark cave below, thinking of all the times he wished he could be brave, and now he had been. But, before we get to that part of the story, let's start from the beginning.
In a land where nothing ever seemed sad or droopy and the sun shined bright every day, there lived a young boy. This young boy was a prince, whose name was Alexander. Alexander loved to play in his castle gardens. Every day, he would wake up, eat breakfast, and go outside. But there was one corner of the garden that Alexander never dared to play in. This is because this part of the garden had never seen sunlight. No matter how bright or high the sun was, a permanent shadow sat over the garden's edge.
One day, Alexander was on his way outside, but as he walked through the door, he saw something small scamper through the grass and disappear into the dark corner. Alexander thought to himself for a moment and pondered what it could have been that he saw.
Eventually, he let it go and went about his day. Later that night he was lying in bed, again thinking of the thing he had seen in the garden. Just as he was about to close his eyes, he saw something move outside through his window. He jumped up and curiously peeked out the window, trying to stay hidden. Then he saw it. A tiny gnome about the size of his head scurried through the garden and ran into the corner. Alexander grabbed his candle and ran through the halls and out the door that leads to the garden.
He crouched behind a tall oak tree and again, waited to see the gnome. Alexander waited and waited until his eyes drooped and his hand could no longer hold up his candle. Alexander stood and made his way back to his room.
But Alexander would not give up, every night for the next three days he returned and crouched behind the oak tree. On the fourth night, Alexander began to lose hope. Again, he crouched behind the tree and waited, and waited, waited, until finally the gnome poked its head from out of the dark corner and ran towards the castle's door, Alexander waited a few seconds just to make sure the gnome was gone and ran towards the corner of the garden.
The edge of the garden surprised Alexander. Although it looked small from the outside, Alexander stared at what seemed to be an entire forest. Alexander took a deep breath and stepped deeper into the forest. Trees and plants and things Alexander didn't even know existed filled the space around him, and Alexander couldn't help but be awestruck. But soon after, he heard a noise. At first, the noise was small, like an animal stepping on twigs, but the noise grew louder and louder until all he could hear was the sound of twigs snapping and leaves crunching, he tried to run but tripped over a tree trunk. The forest grew wider and wider around him until he could no longer see the castle garden. Alexander shut his eyes and ran, trying to get as far away from the noise as possible. He ran for what seemed like hours until finally, he ran into a large wall. Or at least what looked like a wall.
Alexander walked around the wall and soon discovered that the wall was a doorway. He peered through and squinted, noticing a long set of stairs going deep underground. That's when he realized that in his excitement of seeing the gnome again, he had left his candle in the garden, and it was getting very very late.
Alexander knew there was no way he would get back to the castle before sunrise, so he began looking for a place to sleep. Alexander searched and searched but it seemed like the forest had been made for an insomniac. The trees were too thin to climb, and the leaves were too brittle to sleep on. Finally, Alexander rested inside of the doorway, hoping the stone walls would offer protection against the cold fall air.
Alexander woke with the rising sun, feeling the warmth hit his skin. Compared to the night before, the weather seemed perfect. A light breeze blew leaves around and bird-like melodies drifted through the air. The forest seemed even more beautiful now that the sun was out. But still, Alexander was desperate to get out. His whole life he had been pampered, but now he sat with a scraped knee and a rumbling stomach.
Alexander walked most of the day away, and as the sunset, he returned to the stone doorway. He thought to himself for a moment and decided that even though he normally wouldn't have, he walked down the set of stone stairs.
Now that we're all caught up, let's get back to the present. Alexander stood over the cave, deciding what he was going to do. He couldn't go back up into the forest, and he hadn't seen any other pathways on the way down, so the cave seemed like his only option. Alexander took a few steps back, prepared himself, and jumped into the cave. But as soon as he jumped, he knew he regretted it. The cave seemed to go on for miles, and Alexander felt like he would never stop falling, and even if he did, he wasn't sure it would turn out well.
But then, Alexander landed on a soft pillowy cushion. Confused, he looked around and wondered what had broken his fall. Alexander was laying on a bed that resembled a bird's nest, which was full of huge white feathers. He crawled out and looked around at the cave, excited and scared to explore.
The cave was huge. It had tall ceilings and so many paths you could get lost if you didn't pay attention to where you were going. There were stacks of wood piled up near the wall, and a separate pile of feathers close to the ones in the bird's nest. There was also a dim candle-like light, but no matter where Alexander looked, he couldn't find the source. After wondering for a few minutes, he began to look for a way out.
Alexander searched every nook and cranny of the cave, but no way out appeared to him. He made his way back to the bird's nest and sat down. He thought to himself about how hungry and scared he was, and if he would ever make it back home. Alexander began to feel a wave of sleepiness wash over him. He settled into the bed-nest.
He rolled over and tried to get as comfortable as possible, and the bed was surprisingly warm. For the first time in a day, Alexander fell asleep comfortably and warm. But soon after, he awoke to the sound of footsteps not far off, he quickly began searching for the source and saw a shadow moving closer to him.
The shadow grew bigger and bigger as it rounded the corner of one of the many passages in the cave. Alexander felt goosebumps pop up around his arm, and the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He shut his eyes and prayed whatever was coming towards him wasn't a monster like the ones he read about in the castle's library. But as soon as Alexander saw the creature, he began to laugh. A tiny gnome, smaller than the one he had seen in the garden stood a few feet away from him and blinked its big, bug-like eyes.
How could he have been scared of something so cute and tiny! The gnome motioned for Alexander to follow him and began walking back from where he came. Alexander jumped up and began to follow him, hoping the gnome was leading him back home. The gnome walked down pathways and pathways, seeming to know exactly where they were going, but it seemed like they would never reach their destination. Finally, the gnome led him into a room around twice the size of the room with the bird's nest. Holes not much bigger than the gnome itself lined the walls, and the candlelight seemed twice as bright here. Thousands of tiny gnomes sat in the room, at tables, on the floor, in the holes. Alexander looked around but couldn't spot the gnome that he first saw five days ago.
The tiny gnome led him deeper into the room, and down another hallway. The hallway opened up into a small office-like room. Three other gnomes sat down at a badly built wooden table, waiting for Alexander to arrive. The gnome that led him there patted an open seat and sat down himself. The seat was half Alexander's size, but he sat down anyway. The gnomes explained to Alexander that they had been leaving the forest in search of food inside of the castle. Normally, the forest provided all the food they could want and more, but recently the forest's food supplies began to dwindle. So, they needed Alexander's help to find out why.
Alexander agreed to help them, but only on the condition that afterward, they would help him get back home. The next day, Alexander and the gnomes set out to fix their food problem. They walked through parts of the garden that Alexander had never seen before, although it seemed as if he walked through the whole forest when he was looking for a way out.
As they walked through the forest, they heard a noise nearby. The gnomes, -who evidently were very easily scared creatures- ran in all different directions, causing a flurry of leaves to fly through the air. But Alexander stayed put. He had let his cowardness lead him for too long. He waited patiently for the noise again, darted towards it the second he determined where it was coming from.
What Alexander saw shocked him, a huge monster with big horns and sharp claws lay against a rock, snoring loudly. This had to be the reason the gnomes couldn't find food, imagine feeding this thing! Alexander ran to find the gnomes and tell them what he found. When he and the gnomes got back to the cave, they discussed what they could do to get rid of this monster. A few hours later, Alexander had an idea. They would set a trap to carry the monster and take it to a part of the forest far away from the gnomes.
The next day, Alexander sent a few gnomes to watch over the monster and see what it did during its day and if it moved spots. They discovered that the monster slept during the day, hunted for food at night, and always slept in the same spot.
So, the next night while the monster hunter, they set their trap. First, they dug a deep, wide hole, and filled it halfway with leaves. Then they placed a net on top of the hole and covered it with mud, leaves, and twigs. Alexander took a step back, marveling at how well they hid the trap. You could hardly see it! Now they just had to wait.
The next day they came back to the trap and noticed that something had been caught. The gnomes jumped around and shouted, “Hooray, Hooray!”. But Alexander had a bad feeling. He checked the trap, and indeed he had caught the monster. But he also noticed something that he hadn't seen before. The monster was pregnant.
Alexander knew he had to save the monster, but the gnomes would never let him. He came back later that night and saw the monster clawing on the rope, trying to get out. Alexander felt guilt wash over him. He grabbed the branch he sharpened at the cave and cut a hole into the rope. The monster crawled out, and Alexander guided him away.
Alexander spent the whole night caring for the monster, and his actions rewarded him. It turns out that the monster knew how to get back into the kingdom's garden and agreed to help Alexander the next day.
As Alexander fell asleep, he thought to himself. Once he was out of the forest, he was going to take a break from all this bravery stuff.