My dreams for Bran and Bryn have always started with the Alphabet… I have struggled with how to present the letters, what order, stories…. but here I am, offering this first chapter of The Symbols of Wisdom…
Once upon a time there lived a brother and sister, named Bran and Bryn, who lived in a cottage surrounded by a large forest. Down the hill from their home sat a quiet and cosy village, and beyond that was a great ocean. The elders of the village told stories of a Wise Woman that lived on an island across the sea, who protected a lantern that kept light in the world. They said it was her wisdom, which was gained from her many travels, that kept the lantern alight. They also said that one day, there would be a storm that covered the earth and would threaten the lantern. Bran and Bryn spent hours listening to the stories told by the elders, including their Nana.
So it was that one day, after listening to Nana tell a story, the siblings set out to the forest for their own adventure. They chose to take a different path than usual – instead of heading straight into the forest, the children took a side path that would lead them along the fence of Old Man Afal’s orchard. As they rounded a corner in the trail, they noticed that a tree had found it’s way off of the orchard and across the path. There, on a top branch, sat a beautiful owl. There were no leaves, or blossoms, or apples on the branches (which saddened the children, as they had hoped to find at least one to snack on as they walked), only the owl – she watched as the children walked by the tree, placing their hands on the trunk in respect.
Before they reached the final bend in the path that would take them into the forest, there was the soft sound of wings and air behind them. Bran turned first and saw that the owl had taken flight, but could not see it – when Bryn turned, and both children were facing the tree, a young woman wrapped in a red cloak (the deep colour of fresh apples) appeared from behind the trunk. She held out her arms in peace and greeting to the children. The children began walking toward her, slowly until they stood a few feet away. She leaned down and smiled at the children, her eyes as wide as an owls and feathers in her hair.
“My name is Arela and I come from far away, across the ocean. My mother sent me to find something that she has lost. Have you seen anything strange in the forest recently?”
After a moment, Bran said, “There were those strange lights in the tree tops the other night. Nana said they must be a Star Sounds because it sang a beautiful song that put us to sleep. They were going over the forest to the Faraway Hills.”
“Ah! That sounds exactly like what I am looking for!” The woman smiled and clapped her hands. “I must find these Stars and put them back in the Lantern. Would you two like to help me?”
“Of course!” The children said in unison.
Arela led the children away from the bare apple tree and into the forest. Beyond the edge of the trees, the path split into three directions and she stopped, unsure of how to proceed. “Which way should we go?”
Bran took a moment and held up his hands over the paths. “To the right!” He said as he ran down the path. Arela and Bryn followed soon after until they all reached a meadow, and in the centre of all the smaller trees stood a large Yew. There, at the base of the tree, was a tiny flickering light.
“Is that a Star Sound?” Bryn asked, pointing at the small light. Arela strained herself forward, trying to hear something from the meadow.
“No, it is not a Star Sound, but it is the first piece of the puzzle of what my mother lost. Shall we greet it?” Arela stepped into the meadow and up to the Yew tree – she placed her hand on the trunk in reverence, her eyes closed, her ears against the tree. “Yes, you have a special tale to tell us. Please, speak.”
The flickering light grew and soon appeared as a small person, no larger than Arela’s forearm, and she had shimmering yellow wings and a yellow dress.
I am eternity
I am rebirth
I am protection
Learn from me the resilience of time,
For as I have lived thousands of years,
I know that there is more than this meadow
And this land.
The Faerie touched her hands to Arela’s face and shrunk back into herself, leaving only the flickering light. The yellow light flared once more before winking out of existence, leaving Arela and the children alone in the meadow.
“I don’t understand…” Bran whispered, holding Bryn back from running to the tree. His little sister looked at him in confusion. “What was the tale? What did that little light have to do with what your mother has lost?”
“She held within her a special Symbol of wisdom and power. Here, look in this book,” Arela removed a book from her cloak and opened it to the first page. There, drawn with care and attention to detail, was the letter Y. In her hand was a small branch shaped just like the letter in the book. “There are twenty-six Symbols, including the Star Sounds whose light powers this lantern. My mother made a mistake one evening – she trusted a traveller who robbed her of the symbols. In order to right that wrong, she sent me to collect each Symbol. The thief’s trail led me here, to this forest.” She handed Bran the branch letter,”Place this in your satchel for safekeeping.”
“Why would someone steal the Symbols?” Bryn asked as he put away the branch. Arela shrugged her shoulders and looked skyward.
“My mother has many theories, most of them bleak and dire. There has been a storm looming on the horizon for some time, and she believes that above all else, the Symbols were stolen to appease the storm and hopefully stop it from progressing. Unfortunately, it has not.”
“We have not seen anything like what you describe,” Bran said, crossing his arms. “How do we know you are not the thief?”
“The thief let the Star Sounds loose, he scattered the other Symbols across this land in an attempt to hinder my mother from righting the wrong. Were I the thief, I would have no reason to harness these Symbols again.” Arela’s explanation eased the children’s hesitation, and in silence they followed Arela from the meadow and continued down the path.