As Ella keeps a promise to her mother to clean the cellar, she discovers a crumbling brick behind an old trunk. Even though it’s raining outside, sunlight pours through the opening. Intrigued, she chips away at the brick to find the source of the light.
To her astonishment, she finds another land beyond her cellar wall, gripped in the freshness of spring. But soon she realizes this lovely place is threatened by evil. Can Ella save this beautiful kingdom from disaster?
This book is written in the tradition of C. S. Lewis’sand George MacDonald’s fairy tales.
Targeted Age Group: 8-12 year olds
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My children loved the C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald fairy tales, so I decided to write something similar for them. They loved this first attempt, so I decided to continue the series. The second book, The Protectors, is now available too.
7 – IN THE CASTLE
“Ho there, you come with me,” yelled the gatekeeper, motioning with his arm. Ella took a big gulp, grabbed Ward’s mane, and moved ahead by his side.
As they walked through the courtyard, Ella marveled at all the varieties of trees and flowers. There were many animals as well ‐ happy, chattering, and fearless in the presence of humans. They stopped their noisy play to watch solemnly as Ella and Ward passed. Ella wished they would go back to their chatter. It was much more comforting.
When they were almost to the entrance, a stableman came to lead Ward away. “You’ll be much more comfortable over there,” he said with a smile on his face as he pointed to the barns. Ella felt a great dread at seeing Ward being led away.
The gatekeeper knocked at the gigantic doors, the sound echoing loudly. Two powerful looking men opened the door. “This is the one I was telling you about,” reported the gatekeeper, turning to leave.
“This way,” commanded one of the men roughly. Bewildered, Ella followed, her resolve unwavering in spite of her nervousness. He led her out of the immense hall to a narrow, winding staircase. As she followed him up, she couldn’t help but feel relieved that he wasn’t taking her to a dungeon.
After going up what seemed a hundred steps, the man opened a door leading into a spacious room. Ella was surprised to see it was a bedroom—quite lovely, in fact. Dormer windows with window seats, a canopy bed, and a tub filled with steaming hot water greeted her.
“Stay here until you are summoned,” her guide warned then closed the door, leaving her alone.
It was a great relief to be alone again. It gave her time to collect her thoughts and relax. She immediately took advantage of the hot bath, soaking her sore muscles from the day’s difficult climb.
Resting in the tub also alleviated her mind. Her anxiety left as she let her thoughts go to better things. She remembered the wisdom of the Great Book and the creatures that taught her what was important and what was not.
After dressing and finding some bread and cheese to nibble on, Ella’s confidence grew. Even if she must endure questioning later on, she would be refreshed and ready for it.
In the meantime, Ward was filling his empty belly with oats and getting a rub down, easing his tired limbs. He had no idea of the trauma that had been gripping Ella’s mind. From his perspective, everything had gone beautifully and this royal treatment was the frosting on the cake (or the oats on the hay, in his case).
He began to converse with the other livestock in the barn. “What business is the Princess about these days?” he asked a group of horses near him.
“She is busy preparing for her suitors. The first comes the day after tomorrow. His name is Malus ‐ supposed to be a tremendously good‐lookin’ chap,” answered a filly close to Ward.
“Yes,” added a stallion, “he has promised her many gifts at his coming. We are all curious to meet this fellow. After all, he could be our future king.”
“It really is an important decision for the Princess, isn’t it?” commented Ward as he realized the long reach her union would have on the kingdom. “Does she seem nervous?”
“A little,” answered the filly. “She took me out for a run this morning and I thought she pushed me extra hard. She is always so gentle and considerate, you know. I felt her mind must be occupied with weighty things.”
“Perhaps you would give her a ride tomorrow,” suggested another filly. “Unicorns rarely offer their favors but you seem exceptionally bold for a unicorn. I’m sure such a unique experience as riding on your back would give the Princess a wonderful diversion.”
“I would be honored, but I must say that I am not bold, just committed to a friend in Kosmeo’s service. For the Princess, however, I will overcome all my timidity and give her any pleasure that may help her. We are very loyal creatures, you know.”
The horses nodded without argument and went back to eating their oats.
The day passed without a summons for either Ella or Ward. They were fed and provided for, but neither left the spot they were first assigned.
After an invigorating night’s sleep, both awoke fresh and with a new perspective on their task. Ella was given a scrumptious gown to wear. It was the same color of green as the grass and was trimmed in buttons with dainty hand embroidery. She was told later that the butterfly girls were known throughout the kingdom for their handwork. Indeed, upon thinking about it, Ella realized the designs on her dress were very similar to the patterns on their fantastic wings.
Ella, as with most twelve‐year‐olds, had never worn anything truly elegant. Her clothes had been practical and sometimes what one would call pretty, but never elegant.
She remembered how badly she had wanted to be the good witch in The Wizard of Oz at school just so she could wear the ornate clothes. Their school costumes were laughable compared to this. As she stood before the mirror admiring her new attire and brushing her hair, her fear of the previous day completely vanished. Now she looked worthy to meet the Princess. In fact, she was certain that was why she had been given such fine clothes. The Princess should not have to listen to someone who looked as dowdy as Ella did in her old clothes.
Finally, Ella was summoned and led to a great room at the inside of the castle. As she neared the door, she heard a trumpet blast and her introduction:
“Princess Onyma, I present to you Ella, from another world.”
The announcement would have caused Ella to giggle if she had time to think about it, but all other thoughts flew from her mind when she entered the room and saw Princess Onyma.
The Princess was truly the loveliest creature Ella had ever set eyes upon. She was tall and regal ‐ her very carriage suggesting her position. Her long, thick hair tumbled in great waves all the way to her knees. Her eyes were large and bright with lots of light and twinkle in them, like a star shining in the dark night sky. Her dress was stunning white, so pure looking that one had trouble gazing at her for very long. The many jewels sewn about it added to its striking appearance.
Ella stood with her mouth open, unable to say a word. After a long silence, she began to feel awkward but still could think of nothing to speak. Suddenly the Princess broke into a lovely smile that almost melted Ella’s heart.
“So you are from another world,” she stated in a velvety voice, so calm that Ella regained her ability to speak.
“Yes, I am. I believe I have been brought here by Kosmeo. One of your loyal subjects, Sequor, the bear of the glade in the woods, has been my tutor since I arrived in Neo. He is certain that I have come to help Neo through a terrible trouble coming to the land.”
The smile now left the Princess’ lovely face and she wore a concerned frown. The change in her expression made Ella feel as if the sun had just set and that night was fast approaching. “Trouble, you say? What kind of trouble?”
“I don’t know. That is why I have come to you. Perhaps I can serve you here keeping my eyes open as to any danger which may be approaching.”
The Princess’ face brightened just a bit at Ella’s suggestion. “Sequor sent you, you say.”
‘Yes, Your Majesty.” Ella nodded and lowered her head, hesitant to look her in the eye.
“I know of him. He is truly a friend of Kosmeo.” The Princess now moved closer to Ella, pulling up her chin and looking her directly in the eyes. She stared at her thus for a few minutes then said, “I must give this matter some thought. For the time being you may remain in this castle and do as you please. I will let you know as soon as I have made my decision. As for now, I have been told that the unicorn that arrived with you has offered to give me a ride. I have never had the privilege of riding on the back of a unicorn. I intend to accept this offer immediately.” With these words, the Princess turned to leave the great room. Ella stopped her, feeling an urgency to add, “Please, Your Highness. I think you should know that there are some strangers in your land who are bothering your subjects. They are called Obs and have taken over the home of Torqueo. According to him, there are many more in your land.”
The Princess now looked shocked. “Nothing of this sort has ever happened in Neo.” She turned to address one of her aides. “Mitto! Gather all of my wise men together for counsel on this subject. We will meet in the Chamber Room directly after my ride with the unicorn.”
She now turned with a rustle of her fabulous skirts and flitted out of the room. Ella stood watching her, remaining even after she was gone, unwilling to break the spell that Onyma had placed on her. At last someone came to lead her away to her room at the top of the stairs.
As Ella settled down to tea and cookies, Onyma’s counselor, Mitto, was gathering all the wise men of the kingdom. Among their numbers was a new man in Neo by the name of Paschein. Although he was a man of much knowledge, no one knew the evil found in his heart, or understood the consequences of the counsel he would give.
About the Author:
JoHannah Reardon has been an writer/editor for over 20 years. She has written 11 books in numerous genres. She also has worked with and known many children!