CHAPTER 1 – COCONUT CAKE
Kenai Alaska, November 2008
A majestically beautiful town, adorned by the nature itself with all its finery, located on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula near the outlet of the Kenai River to the Cook Inlet of the Pacific Ocean. There lived a pixie with her Granny.
No sooner does the fourth quarter of a year approaches, than everything gets immersed in ivory snow. During this phenomenon, life gets frozen for a period of time. Far and near, it’s just a fat white layer, appears like a vast natural fluffy slipover. Everything turns milky-white, the mountains, the lakes, the rivulets, it’s all white. Even the perpendicular trees turn into the chalky towers.
Many a day had passed, the old Granny didn’t bother herself to peep out of the window panes let alone opening the door.
It was a lively evening for Little Rachel, eight years of age, romping all-over in the duplex, dashing stairs up and down, enthusiastically busy in turning the entire house into a chaotic jumble.
The old granny was occupied by the daily chores in the kitchen, but on that day she was rather engrossed in preparing something special for her grand daughter. After-all it was a special day for her, it was her birthday.
“The Coconut Cake is ready”, the old granny yelled like a loony hag as she somehow managed to prepare the famous cake. Though she knows that she had botched it up but its easy to befool a child. She knows very well how to keep up the appearance, and cover-up any blunder behind the big brags with a convincing smile and unshakable confidence. She knows how to do it.
Following the cake cutting ceremony, the pair of grand-mother-daughter was relishing the cake, sitting on a chic square timber dinning table, polished in white, laid next to the lavish window of the lobby. The cake looked like mess but it was real scrumptious in taste. Rachel thoroughly enjoyed it.
In passing, something occurred to Rachel.
“You promised to tell me a story on my birthday evening Granny”, Rachel dispersed the silence abruptly and caused the Granny wheezed.
“Yeah I promised, I remember that”, the old woman had to nod unwillingly.
“Then start it, I am listening”, naive Rachel muffled with stuffed mouth as she polished off the last big morsel of coconut cake at once.
“Right now”, the old woman exclaimed, because she was running out of strength after spending a big hectic day in the kitchen.
Rachel nodded her face countless number of times to get the Granny round her wish.
Granny inhaled a deep sigh and stood up. She got close to the window to behold the magnificent scenery outside. She looked at everything with a deep gaze. Then her eyes fell on a snow-capped mountain in the distance.
“In the time of yore”, Granny open up.
CHAPTER 2 – THE DOE, THE MOUNTAIN, AND THE LAKE
Across the smooth surface of a crystal-clear lake, there laid a gigantic mountain, aloof, forsaken, and beset with eerie calm. The lackadaisical silence around it has adulterated the core of the mons deep down which was gruesome enough to diminish the exuberance in any form of life. This is why, the vitality itself had deserted that part of land countless of years ago. And, as a consequence, over a period of time, the melancholia all around slowly dissolved the innermost rigidness of the lone peak into a deadly fluid which gave this once living home of nature a ghoulish mark “The Burning Mountain”.
Thousands of years ago, that piece of land, surrounded by an unfathomable lake which was spreading all over around that lone peak at a prodigious rate, was a living cosmos itself until a young lissome Doe accidentally set her hoofs on that piece of land.
This feat is impossible to be achieved for any quadruped, even if the fate itself strikes as a fortuitous event, it cannot be achieved by any mean. But, it was a fateful night for the Doe.
On a pleasant sunny day, she was grazing behind her herd. Utmost joy it was, “skipping, gamboling, and romping around out of excitement, exploring a bit more, going a little deeper in every awry direction”. Despite trying to discern the very source of the explosion of elation within herself, she couldn’t figure out what it was, making her go gaga just about everything. It didn’t end there for her, she also failed in figuring out – “How effortlessly the intensity of blissfulness might benumb anyone’s senses if someone fails to handle it”. Such lapse may cause severe trouble with an abrupt dodge.
And, as expected, without any premonition, the joy turned into fear in no time as she fell behind her herd and lost in the limitless jungle. The shady bushes, the boscage, the masses of tall grass, and even the veins of exotic flowers, every element through which the breathes of gentle breeze were soughing and overwhelming her suddenly the same puffs turned the surroundings grim, and now, only the fear was blowing around to hunt her down.
She ran to catch up with her herd, but in vain. She was lost.
All the day long, she kept on wandering all direction in an attempt to rejoin her family but slowly the hope faded away, and the fear had almost sink her to the depth of horror.
Half of the day had passed. The Sun had reached its zenith in the firmament and started burning full force. With this phenomenon of mother nature; slowly the life within the Doe began to wilt. She squinted up at the torrid sun and pleaded at heart: –
I plead you to beat a little at ease,
shower some soothe else it may wash up all at sea,
The suffering, the pain, and the misery,
altogether, they would swallow me.
I plead you to beat a liitle at ease,
show me the path and relieve me,
from the suffering, the pain, and the misery.
I plead you to beat a little at ease.
The Doe begged and moved on heavily, she had no calculation in hand which way to go, just shuffling head down, and lachrymose.
Slowly the day passed at its dullest speed, the doe again looked at the sun; it was impatient to go below the horizon. All of the sudden, it struck to her – it’s wise to find a shelter before it’s too late. But, even before finding a shelter, she decided to go to the bank of the nearby lake to quench her thirst first. Because of the dismay she was beset with, she couldn’t get to eat anything that day following the incident; the energy within her had dwindled drastically. She set off to the lake, thoroughly exhausted.
In the overflow of sheer pain, she had lost her intuition of being cautious of any probable threat in the open wild, her mind had plummeted into a dormant state, and was unable to think beyond the grief.
With an inanimate gait, she managed to linger herself to the bank of the lake. It was a huge flat rock slightly askew towards the lake on which the Doe took a stand. She peered into the water – her reflection on the calm blue surface was gravely horrifying, it scared her even more. She had never happened to encounter the pain before.
She raised her face up to the sky. The firmament had begun to be covered with a scud of nimbus clouds. It was a beautiful blend of various hues of red and grey at dusk. She took a deep sigh to retrieve her composure, and braced herself – “I can do this, I will find my people” she asserted to herself.
Following, she bent at a graceful angle to drink water from the lake. As she landed her lips easily onto the still water, a series of gentle ripples emerged in circle on the glossy surface only to titillate the tarn. The gentle breeze added to the view with a refreshing breath, it soughed mellifluous around the Doe.
The Doe quenched her thirst with vitalizing water; every sip filled her with a deep sense of courage. After satiating her thirst, she lifted her face up, and saw across the lake, her eyes landed on a mountain which was also standing alone but tall. She was unable to take her eyes off the lone summit as the view was injecting a serum of a new life into her.
At that very moment, she felt that no harm was coming to touch her.
With this gusto, she turned around to continue her journey without any hunch of what was waiting for her.
She turned, but only to confront the wraith of a messenger of death. It was a bloodthirsty leopard, skulking, and was more than ready to maul her, to reap her apart. This sudden encounter with death petrified her, a chilling pang of fear run down her every nerve. She looked into his demonic eyes; the gory glare was enough to fill the environs with indissoluble dread.
The leopard was at assaulting mode, he was direly confident that it was an end for the Doe. The Doe looked around and tried to figure out if there was a way out but she stood no chance.
Without giving a thought that jumping into the lake is also a risk for life, she dived. “Drowning in the lake is easier than getting mauled by a leopard” She might have thought.
As she jumped, the torpid lake enraged with massive waves and began to beat heavily against the shore to keep the leopard off, and the rumble in the clouds shook the heavens simultaneously. It began to pour with no alarm. The big rolling waves of the lake grasp the Doe delicately and took her to the other side without harming her. This ruthless bearing of the lake, and the rumbling of the heaven was enough to scare the black death away, the Leopard didn’t dare to come near the lake.
As soon as the Doe reached the other side quickly, the chaos in the lake subsided magically.
The doe was quite exhausted but really exhilarated for being alive. She somehow managed to skip the imminent threat with the grace of lenient lake. Doe bow down to the gracious tarn, expressed her gratitude towards her and turned around. Again, the massive lone but tall mountain was gazing upon her. This time she found it tough to have the full view of the mountain in a single frame due to the negligible proximity.
Beholding the mountain, the Doe somehow managed to drag herself to a nearby tree and collapsed unconscious.
Before midnight, the rumble of the thunder & bolt settled slowly, and the firmament, behind the rainy clouds, came into view, teemed with celestial gloss. It was a full moon night due to which everything was shimmering like argent. Every tree, flower or even the topmost layer of fluffy fern was gleaming grand.
Post midnight, when everything had submerged in absolute calm, a dulcet male voice from nowhere wafted into the ears of the Doe. She came back to her consciousness. She stood up on all her four, looked around, flabbergasted at the resplendent display of nature. She was gawking like a dolt all around, agape.
The mesh of the veins of exotic flowers in bloom, poppling amongst the unbelievably bright winged insects, the iridescent land cover, the sparkling rivulets, and the mellifluous zephyr, everything in view was beyond belief and was nowhere near something mundane.
Struck with amazement, the Doe slowly stepped forward to relish the extravagant but feral incarnation of nature. As she came out of the shadow of the tree where she was laying unconscious, a larger than life flock of gleaming birds flew past her at dizzying speed. She frightened back and a shock of wonder hit her right after when she realized it was just a flock of weeny birds. At a certain height, they dispersed all-over in the sky and bespeckled the limitless void as of gold and crystal.
The overwhelming magical set-up took all her pain away, unnoticed. However, she was little afeared, but the longing to savour every bit of the floating moments begun to drip.
She exhaled all her worries at once and jumped in the air with joy. As she capered about, her sweet bleat awoke the entire piece of land. A massive kaleidoscope of myriads of butterflies and other weeny wings drifted alfresco. Even the flowing streams nearby rose high and warbled aloud.
“Make yourself at home” the same voice again fell into her ears as the zephyr whirled around her.
She looked around, restless, but again, to her surprise, she couldn’t see anyone. Far and near, there was no one.
“Who is there?”, the Doe asked under her breath. “Step forward”
“It’s my terrain”, the voice again blew with the gentle breeze. “I rule this part of land”
“Why I cannot see you”, the Doe expressed her woe meekly.
“I am the one you saw first when you came to quench your thirst to the lake”, the voice confounded her.
“The Mountain”, the Doe uttered, utterly bemused.
“Yes! I am the mountain, the ruler, the warden of this land, this is my world”, now the ambiguity is dispersed.
The doe raised her face up to the mountain and realized right away that it was this peak which liven the hope to live within me right at the moment when my eyes fell upon it from the other side.
“Is it you who encouraged me fight off the adverse and commanded the lake to safely brought me to your kingdom?”, Doe asked, wanted to know if the mountain gave her a second lease of life.
“It is not necessary – the eruption of hope for life within someone must have some reasons behind, but if the hope somehow gets alive even in the face dire difficulty, that’s really something one must appreciate”, the mountain added.
The hearty words of a big stone gave her a deep sense of ease. She looked around like a naïve with an absolute different shine in her eyes.
“Can I live here?” the Doe unfolded her heart with a saccharine tone.
“Now you are a part of this land, live as long as you want”, The moutain proclaimed at a high pitch. “We welcome you”
Hearing the welcome note, every winged creature dived in the open air to welcome her, the butterflies, the birds, and every species of insects were buoyed up in the sweet air.
She was the first quadruped that ever sets its hoofs on this part of land. Having received that huge reception from the residents including the lord, Doe forgot about everything and let herself blew with the flow. This was the end for her misery, now she had a family.
Many a month, dipped in peals of laughter and joy had passed. Everyday, there was a new adventure, the lissome Doe had been exploring every inch of the kingdom of the mountain, and coming across a new wonders. And, with time, It so happened, the lord fell for the Doe. She had become the Queen of the land in her eyes. The Mountain was ready to declare it publicly anytime.
But, the fate was written with the different hue of colour for them.
One day it happened without any warning, even the big mountain couldn’t see – what was coming?
On a sunny day, the Doe was standing up on a knoll and staring across the lake. Perhaps, a yearning to go beyond and look for her family had seized her again. She continued to stare vacantly with eyes wide open.
Then, an arrow, dipped in deadly poison, pierced the air and found its aim, the Doe fell down on the ground with a thud. The painful scream of the Queen caught everyone scared, they ran towards the Doe, but she had gone. The wind shrieked violently and grew outrageous. All of the sudden, the mind gusts turned into a squall and blew towards the poacher who killed the Queen from an ambuscade from the other side of the lake.
As the Doe fell dead, the hunter came out of his hiding place, hoisted his chest upwards, and smirked. The killer exposed himself in a pride, the squall blew towards him full-force and thrust him on the ground. The wind hollered in rage and lifted him up on the ground, beat him mercilessly over and again.
The hunter was terrified to death. He somehow managed to stand up and ran at break-neck speed. He couldn’t understand which demon, which penumbra he was dealing with. The wind gave him a chase and hurled him towards a deep chasm and threw him into the void for eternity. It was the end for the poacher.
The Doe left the entire kingdom heart-broken including the mountain. The mons moaned to the core and fell silent forever. That sudden wave of extreme shock bedewed every creature of the kingdom with tears and pain.
The wind took the inanimate body of the Doe up in the air, every little creature was watching her going up and up in the sky. Above the clouds, she gleamed like a morning sun and scattered on the ground into millions of petals.
CHAPTER 3 – AARON AND AMELIA
In the backdrop of a highland, in a beautiful village, situated somewhere in the east, dotted with a few small log houses, there lived a boy, Aaron, with his family. He was the youngest among four and growing into a fine handsome adolescent. He had celebrated his sixteenth birthday last month.
In the same village, there lived a beautiful lassie, Amelia, the beloved of Aaron, and the only daughter of the chief of the village.
They were inseparably connected to each other since their childhood. They spent many their childhood together while staring at the lofty sky and the lavish moon. They had no idea – how and when a friendly bond between them turned into an intense love affair.
And, one such day, Aaron came up with an infallible plan – how they can live happily ever after as the things were not working in favor of them at village. Amelia got convinced, without a hitch of course, and she eloped with him.
The plan was – they had to head north and cross the unconquerable chain of mountains.
Well, only love can make people commit every stupidity on earth, the kind of folly no one can ever think of. It’s not easy to go beyond a chain of mountain for novices without any outside help and and a big heart.
But what to do, they were in love, and they eloped.
After a long journey of six days which they covered by taking halts here and there, they reached a village, situated at the bank of a river. That river can easily lead them to the other of the range, if they managed to get a boat. They decided to spend a night in that village. They reached a house and knocked at the door.
It was a house beautifully constructed with rough stones and pine wood, owned by an old man and his better-half. The innocence of Aaron and Amelia compelled the old couple to accommodate them for a night.
That night, the twitter-patted Aaron & Amelia had their delicious supper after many days. Amelia helped the old woman in cooking. And, eventually, they turned the night into something memorable. Aaron also managed to acquire an old barge to travel on the river with the help of the old man.
At night, in passing, when the old man tried to figure out the reason of their journey, (however he had got the wind of – what was happening, why they were agog to go beyond the mountains, but still he wanted to listen from the boy) that old man mentioned about an aloof mountain which is standing alone in the middle of a lake. He elaborated the whole route to the boy – how they could get through. The old man looked at his wife and Amelia, they were asleep.
Then, he advised Aaron to listen carefully and said – “The River will take you to an enormous lake, an unfathomable source of still water. There is a forsaken piece of land right in the center, occupied by a lone mountain. It seems real intriguing at first sight, but whoever went there, never came back. Sometimes, even the lake behaves like a ghost. You don’t dare to go there. When you get near the lake, try to oar your barge slowly along the bank, right opposite the mountain. While oaring, if you feel something abnormal, get off your barge and run as fast as you both can deep in the woods.
The way the old man spelled the route out with grim expressions, Aaron got petrified.
“What is there?” Aaron asked under his breath, utterly terrified.
“Legend says that the lake is rife of the kind of deadly creatures nobody has ever seen. They can pull you in the deep water, not even a single drop of blood comes up. People just disappeared. They say that the lake and the mountain hate humans. They don’t like us. But, it doesn’t happen every time, a whole lot of lucky people have crossed that lake without experiencing anything sinister”, the old man added further.
“Have you ever crossed that lake?” asked Aaron, curious.
“I have, but believe me there is something”, the old man asserted and looked into Aaron eyes.
“Once the lake is crossed you will enter a sea arm of shallow water, and that is the only way out. This is how you can get to the other side”, the old man blew out the candle and advised him to go to sleep, as the boy had to set out on a long journey early in the morning.
Next morning, with the instructions from the old man, Aaron and Amelia embarked on the barge and started their journey. They bid adieu to the old man along with his wife, and expressed their gratitude for their hospitality. Before they leave, the old man whispered to Aaron, “People say – the lake never grows angry when you are with a woman”. The last utterance of that old man brought some strength to Aaron and they set off.
All the day long they were in the river, flowing with the current. Usually, the rivers in the mountains run at a threatening speed, but that river was flowing unrushed.
Before the sunset, slowly, the already leisurely flowing water came to a standstill. The tweeting, the chirping, and the wheezing of the wind dramatically faded away. Everything became unbelievably quiet. Aaron looked at Amelia, because of travel fatigue, she was in the lap of sound sleep, and then he looked around. At a dull pace, their barge entered an enormous source of still water. There they were, in the lake, the old man warned them of.
Aaron stop rowing water, he was dumbfounded at the vastness of the view. All at once, an uncanny thin layer of mist rose above the calm water to give some chills to Aaron. Then, his bare eyes witnessed the lone mountain, standing right in the middle of the lake, tall, magnificent, while staring at the grandiose of the mons, the spectral silence caused him stumbled on his feet.
Aaron got scared; he averted his eyes off the mountain, and started oaring the boat along the bank of the lake, as the old man instructed.
Amelia was still asleep, and then, a sweet puff of zephyr gave her face a gentle touch. She woke up in daze, and certain that somebody had touched her. She stood up, her eyes framed the entire feral view. She looked at the lone peak.
Aaron had not noticed that Amelia was awakened.
With every second, her gaze was getting intense with no reason; she was not even blinking her eyes, totally bewitched. Aaron looked at her; the surge of inexplicable emotions on her face bewildered him. Before he could speak something, the tears rolled down her cheek, and the heavens roared. The eerie tranquility around turned into a dreadful uproar, as the wind howled out-loud as though in pain. In no time, the lake turned turbulent.
Aaron grabbed Amelia’s hand and jumped off the boat at he shore as they were oaring along the bank.
Aaron had the instruction to run deep in the jungle but Amelia stopped him.
“I want to see it”, she begged with teary eyes. She had no idea why the uncontrollable flux of emotions washed her up, why the hell she was feeling extremely intense. Aaron couldn’t figure out – what was happening to Amelia.
Amelia again locked her eyes with the mountain, tears flowing in stream, she was sobbing mad.
Then a lightening from the rumbling sky hit the summit of the mountain, and with a resounding wham, the mountain exploded into bits. The lake rose with a painful scream, every drop of water hanged up in the air for a few seconds, and fell at once. Along with the lake, Amelia also fell on the ground, unconscious. Aaron somehow grabbed her in his arm, lifted her up and ran for life to the woods.
The volcanic explosion echoed across the entire range of mountain to frighten every living creature far and near. All the wraith, anger, and resentment which was scudding inside the mountains in the form of lava for long began to flow like a river of fire. The billows of smoke and ashes began to darken the empyrean. Every creature heard that explosion, including the old man in the village startled.
Hearing the bang, the old man stepped out of his house, and looked in the direction of explosion. He couldn’t believe his eyes.
He was looking up to the sky, which had turned as black as coal, and the lightening was flashing frantically with loud rumbles.
The old man mumbled in astonishment, “Amelia!”, “the queen has returned, the legend was true, only the queen could liberate the lord of stone”. The old man folded his hand towards the heavens.
The Burning Mountain.