Lavinia moves quickly and beckons me to follow. Without faltering I do as she so commands. She leads me toward Kreishen Forest, the same forest that I had heard stories about when I was a boy. The Elders in Nicosta often told tales about hunting in this region. Once a year only the strongest and bravest men would take part in this great hunt. Before the first frost of the year, a team of men were chosen to track and bring back meat to be smoked for the long winter. The forest is rich in vegetation and wildlife. Kreishen Forest provides cover and will shelter us from the Morshmen. However, there are other evils present in the dark of the night, when the thick trees prevent the light of the moon from filtering through. It is then that the Spectra arise and await all those who enter their domain. Lavinia encourages me to follow her; “I will protect you my King,” she promises. “Trust me; I will keep you safe.” This is the first time she refers to me as a King. How could she know my secret for I had shared nothing thus far?
During the day man can not perceive the Spectra against the trees, so while their spirits rest, men are free to enter the forest and hunt for food. But be warned; you must leave the forest before nightfall, for it is in the darkness that the Spectra awake and consume their victim’s souls before turning them into stone! By day the forest welcomes all; both good and evil can take advantage of the abundance of wildlife and vegetation. However in complete darkness, when man abandons the forest and the light no longer penetrates the lush trees that blanket the woodlands, a spirit so repulsive appears. These spirits are so wicked, that earthly beings can not be in their presence.
The Spectra are hideous ghost that bewitch the forest and all beings that remain after nightfall. They swarm and tear at their victims before consuming their souls and turning them into stone for all eternity. The stone figures are then used as sentinels standing guard against any willing to challenge them. The Morshmen are simple minded beast, so frightened by the Spectra that they fear all places of complete darkness. In spite of their apprehension they will never disappoint their King and by the light even the Morshmen access the forest. They will hunt us down; then should we escape the Morshmen; nightfall will pose an even greater danger. For it is in the darkness that the Spectra awake and will find us hiding among the vegetation. Why then would Lavinia lead us into the forest? “Lavinia” I plead, “What good comes from this plan?” “Robert” Lavinia affirms, “do you think that I would allow any being to harm you? Have you not felt safe with me? I promise, that I will always protect you, even unto my death. This has always been my fate.” Even though I am uncertain; I have no choice, for the Morshmen are at hand. Thus letting go of my fear, I agree to follow her into Krieshen Forest. By placing my faith in Lavinia we establish a bond, one that will never be broken. It is at this moment that I accept Lavinia as my Keeper. “Robert” Lavinia howls, “Run as fast as you can! Follow me and stay as close to me as possible until we reach the clearing. The Spectra can never leave the forest; they were condemned to remain imprisoned within its confines. Here they wait, secured by the darkness and trapped by the light. Past the trees is a gap that is illuminated by the moon; ensuring that they never enter the clearing. All light terrifies the Spectra, for in the light their spirits turn to dust!”
As we enter the forest we hasten our pace. We hear the Morshmen close behind grunting and spitting as they follow our scent. We run until our throats strain with each gasp of air. As I run, I hear the Spectra summon me. I force myself to ignore their calls and forge ahead. Lavinia is fully aware of the evils that lurk in the forest; therefore she continues to remind me to keep running and never to look back. We run for hours; keeping a steady pace. Then suddenly and without warning darkness begins to overshadow the forest. Fortunately the clearing is within sight; as I look toward the open field; I see the moonlight glistening off the lake. I hear the grizzly sounds of the forest creeping up behind me. I am frightened beyond all reason, so terrified that I can not breathe. I am in a cold sweat as I push myself to run faster then I had ever run before. Finally, as we reach the clearing I turn and look back, but just for a moment. There at the edge of the forest, I see the Spectra lifting and slashing the Morshmen who were not lucky enough to escape the darkness.
Lavinia stops short of the waters edge; she turns to look for me and then urgently cries out, “Robert, you mustn’t stop now, run into the water and swim!” A few Morshmen had escaped the forest and are within reach of their prize. I pick up my pace and dive into lake; the Morshmen hiss and throw stones, stopping just short of the waters edge. “We are not out of danger,” cautions Lavinia, “not until we reach Printanier. Then and only then will we be safe from the evils of the outside world. Now swim, and do not stop until you reach the island!”
As we swim, Lavinia begins to tell me about the lake and the island, we are about to encounter. Lake Ravissant is protected by swans, beautiful white majestic creatures. When left undisturbed these swans are delightful, however if threatened these graceful creatures turn grey, triple in size and their webbed feet turn into razor sharp talons. They will attack any being that is not pure of heart. Again Lavinia confirms, “Do not fear Robert, for your heart is pure; you my King are of no threat to the swans.” Lavinia continues to explain that once we pass the swans, we will be in the thicket that surrounds the island. Here tiny fireflies light the passage onto Printanier Island.
Printanier Island is home to the Elfite. The Elfite are small cherub like humans; they are no bigger then an infant, approximately 18 inches tall. These winged beings live peacefully on the island, they are vegetarians and the island itself is rich in vegetation. Here the Elfite are safe; flying high atop the tree tops to rest. No one has ever challenged these angelic creatures on the island. They live here protected by the forest; and it is the swans that ensure that no man or beast ever step foot onto Printanier. “Lavinia,” I query, “how then am I allowed on the island?” Lavinia responds; “that is because you are no ordinary man. You are a Guardian and a King; your arrival has been long anticipated.” Lavinia continues to explain that the Elfite possess mystical powers; once they reach maturity they have the ability to morph into Fitan. Fitan are giant winged warriors that grow between 7 1⁄2 and 8 feet tall, their wing span stretches approximately 10 to12 feet across. When Fitan are challenged they become fearless, and will not waiver until they crush their enemies. Once they have defeated their adversaries; it is then and only then that they return to their benevolent way of life.
The day has proven to be difficult and still we must endure; it is not until we reach the island that this nightmare will end. As we continue to swim, my limbs become weak. Each stroke is an effort; I am exhausted and unable to stay afloat. Lavinia seeing me struggle, summon the swans to escort me safely onto Printanier. With tenderness and care the swans respond to her plea. Two great white swans each place their long graceful necks under my arms and carefully guide me to the island. When we finally reach the thicket, I can not go any further. The tiny Elfite are captivating as they flutter by to greet me. They welcome me with compassion and understanding. Aldous, one of the Elders comforts me; he is concerned about my health. Thus he closes his eyes and utters the words; “A tora be`, eston be`, laiora be`,” which means, “be with me, strengthen me, empower me.” He then raises his arms and a radiance consumes him as he is transformed into a Fitan. The massive warrior then gently lifts me in his arms, and carries me to the Hollows to rest.