Today we are featuring Inklings Book Contest 2018 finalist, Katherine LaWer! Katherine finished 6th grade this past school year. The story she submitted is called “A Legacy to Protect.” Katherine told us, “One element that I am particularly proud of is the growth of my main character and how she changes and grows as a person during my story.” Enjoy!
Many years ago, in the realm of Lunaria, where magic rules freely and with wild temper, lived the Guardians, who protect our dimension and many others from the forces of evil. In that realm, on the Island of Eldor, lived the elves, and a carefree elven child of seven years. Even if she didn’t know it yet, she was destined to become one of the greatest leaders of all time and space. Her name was Emeraldiss. She spent her carefree childhood days exploring the seaside with her mother and looking after the people of her village. What she did not know was that her life was about to change forever!
One of the greatest of dragons in all the realm, Albouke, had come from the north to ravage the small towns near the coast where Emeraldiss lived. It was a day in early spring and Emeraldiss and her mother sat together on the warm sand of the beach watching the ocean and collecting shells. Emeraldiss strayed from her mother, following a trail of shells that led her farther and farther away up the beach. Suddenly, the great flap of the dragon’s enormous wings caught Emeraldiss’s mother’s quick ears. She ran to her daughter and without another word grabbed her hand to pull her off the beach to safety. But the dragon was quick and landed with a loud thump beside them.
“Oh what tiny creatures… you will make such delightful snacks!” The dragon smirked, its sharp white teeth glinting in the sun’s rays.
Emeraldiss’s mother, Mera, sneered, “You would not dare, dragon.”
“Oh, this one fights. Shall I have to hunt it?” the dragon said mockingly. Mera grabbed the amulet at her neck. At a single touch, the beautiful amulet changed into a crafted spear.
“Foolery!” the dragon hissed and blasted a breath of fire. Mera swung the spear and faced the dragon.
Then she turned to take one last look at her beautiful daughter before she shouted, “Run!’’ and the dragon lunged.
Emeraldiss screamed, her arms flew up to her head as if to cover it from the attack, and she ran, her legs stumbling up the hill of the beach as she heard the dragon roar. She made it to the top of the cliff, tears running down her face. The young elf dove into the misty trees that stood a few feet away. She lay in the undergrowth, sobbing into the wet forest floor beneath her. She heard many things as she hid: the sounds of people screaming, the roar of the dragon and its heavy footsteps. She lay there until all the noises quieted and every sound was sucked out of the earth. Finally, the young elven girl summed up all her courage and got up to look around.
Where the village had been, nothing stood. Everything had been burned to the ground; ash and soot were all that remained. Emeraldiss then felt the first of a great rage that would consume her, and later lead her to destroy the dragons of the north and the mighty dragon Albouke himself.
Emeraldiss rushed through the woods back to the cottage where she and her mother had lived. Miraculously, it was still standing. Emeraldiss swung open the door and began to look for her things. It was quite obvious to her that she had to leave. Emeraldiss went to pick up her old green cloak, and tucked into the leaf clasp she found a scroll that had not been there before. She hesitantly read the silvery writing:
Dear Emeraldiss MoonSwan,
You are kind, brave and honorable. We wish that you join us at the Lunarian Academy. It is only for those with a kind heart and open mind. If you wish to join us, simply recite, “I aspire to protect” under the light of the moon. If your heart is pure and your actions are with integrity, someone will come.
The Guardians of the Realms
The letter filled Emeradiss with a sliver of hope. She took a leather satchel and gathered her things for the journey. As she lifted her cloak for the second time, she saw underneath an amulet with the design of her family crest inlaid upon it. It was identical to her mother’s. The crest was of a silver swan on a lake in the moonlight dotted with tiny emerald stars. She reached out in wonder and slipped the amulet around her neck before leaving the small cottage that had been the only home she had ever known.
Outside, Emeraldiss looked to the moon and repeated the phrase, “I aspire to protect!” She meant it with all her heart, but would anyone, anyone at all, come and rescue her from a world of faded memories and burnt land? The only thing her large green eyes could see were the starry constellations. Emeraldiss was about to turn away, her hope dwindling, when suddenly, a shooting star blazed across the sky, and in its wake, Emeraldiss could see two white dots coming towards her. As they came closer, Emeraldiss saw two white-winged horses so silky and bright they could have been made of stardust. They were pulling a beautiful carriage engraved with silver and gold, and as the carriage alighted on the ground, Emeraldiss noticed the beautiful swirling emblem painted on the side– three swirls each going in different directions. She smiled, for everyone in the realm knew what the Rune of Peace looked like. The Rune of Peace was the insignia of the Guardians who trained at the Lunarian Academy. She would soon train in Lunaria and join the Guardians.
Many years passed and Emeraldiss grew in strength, and not just in the ways of the physical body. She sharpened her mind to the art of magic. She excelled faster than any other students in her grade. Her only fault was a sometimes brash sense of confidence and arrogance.
When she was in her final year at the Academy, the Elven King, Patreil, died without an apparent heir, but his dying words were that the Kingdom was to be passed on to his only successor and heir. The King’s advisors were puzzled and confused, for the King had never had any children and had no close relatives who were still alive. How could he have an heir? Mysteriously, the King had said one last thing: “Whoever wears the swan amulet shall next rule my kingdom.” The King’s advisors set around the world to find the missing amulet, and more importantly, the person to whom it belonged.
Emeraldiss ducked as the sword swiped through the air right where her head had just been. Stupid pirates! Emeraldiss thought. Most pirates were not the concern of the Guardians, but those who she was now fighting were stealing weapons and smuggling them out of the Realm to sell on the black markets, causing chaos throughout the dimensions. Usually, the Guardians tried to find a peaceful solution, but this time the pirates had attacked the moment they had stepped foot on their ship. Emeraldiss was back on her feet in seconds, her long hair whipping in the wind. She smiled. The thrill of battle always excited her.
The pirate swung again, and her reflexes kicked in as she back-flipped out of his reach. The air whooshed around her as her body turned in the air. The sword – that was too close, Emeraldiss thought. She felt it nick her neck as her feet hit the deck.
My amulet! It was the only thing she had left of her mother.
The pirate looked at her with disdain and said, “Looking for this, love?” He held the amulet in front of her face tauntingly.
Emeraldiss snarled, her eyes smoldered with rage.
“How dare you!” Her voice was calm but had a cold, hard edge.
The pirate simply laughed and said smugly, “Oh I dare, sweetheart!”
“Emberif,” Emeraldiss said under her breath, her hand over her sword. The elven-made sword became engulfed in brilliant, fiery flames, just like those that smoldered in her heart. Emeraldiss plunged the sword into the pirate’s chest, and she screamed. Emeraldiss watched in horror as the amulet soared through the air, past the Guardians fighting beside her, past the other pirates, and finally over the edge of the ship into the dark, churning sea.
“Emeraldiss!” Nita barked as she rushed to the edge of the ship. “Emeraldiss, don’t! I am your captain! You have to listen to my…” Emeraldiss didn’t hear the rest of Nita’s words as the frigid water met her pale skin.
Her hands above her head, Emeraldiss plunged into the cold, turning ocean. Emeraldiss swam down farther and farther until the light began to disappear. Finally, her nimble fingers closed around the amulet. Emeraldiss turned her head to the surface. It was so far, and the darkness was closing in all around her. Emeraldiss reached upward, her eyes closing as if to wave goodbye to the world she knew, and she fell into the dark depths of the sea, her sword clutched limply in one pale hand and her long, honey-colored hair billowing behind her as she floated downward.
Meanwhile, not far away, Nephel wiped his brow and narrowed his eyes into the glinting sun. He imagined what his family would say if they saw him, Nephel, the Elven Duke of the North, pulling up a fishing net?! Despite what his family might say, there he was, feeling the frayed rope beneath his palms and singing a chant with the other sailors who had rescued him. “One, two, three – pull!” The men pulled with all their might, and with one last tug, the net was on the deck. Nephel was just about to get a much-needed drink of water when he heard the other sailors gasp.
“What is it?” Nephel asked.
“One of your brethren!” a sailor breathlessly responded. Another elf in these parts? thought Nephel. Impossible! He gazed in wonder at the net, and there she was, tangled amongst the fish and kelp. Pale-skinned, with a brilliant sword still clutched in one hand and a glowing amulet closed in the other. Nephel crouched down to take a better look.
How? Nephel thought. Then he put his hand at her neck, checking for a pulse. There was no heartbeat! Nephel reacted quickly, pumping his hands on her chest and then he leaned down. Her eyelids flew open, and her stormy green eyes met his.
“Ouch!” he said as he felt the sting of her sharp slap against his face. The sailors laughed behind him as she stalked off to the rail of the ship.
“Where are we and how long till we reach land?” she demanded from the nearest sailor.
“Uh, in the middle of the Southern Sea, about 2 to 3 weeks from the nearest port,” he stammered, clearly afraid of this wild newcomer.
“Hmph. Well, with my help we’ll get there in one,” she said smugly.
“Uh-huh missy, and how are you going to do that? And what exactly are you doing on this ship anyway?” a particularly brave sailor asked.
“I will use my training and my gifts, and as we go I will also tell you my tale,” she said, sensing a challenge.
“Onumonaa derifel Caskel!” Emeraldiss said, her hand pointed at the sail, her brow crinkled in concentration. The wind roared and filled the sail. The ship quickened and began race along the waves.
“I’ll be darned,” muttered another sailor. The sailors were all human tradesmen who had only heard tales of magic, they had never actually seen it!
“You think that’s all I can do?” Emeraldiss flashed her signature cheeky smile. She raised her hand again and this time called for the water.
“Aquariusel dãreaex fortatutde execl et navisela!”
The sailors stared at her with astonishment and then gathered to hear Emeraldiss’s tale.
“West of the moon and east of the sun there is a faraway island, and on that island is a silvery tree bigger than any structure in the realms. It reaches nearly to the stars,” she began. She took a deep breath and continued, “Upon my mother’s death when I was a young child, I was rescued and taken to the island to live. The tree sustains the island and provides protection to all who live and train there. We swear to always work for good and protect all in the realms from the forces of evil. We are called the, the…” she gasped, “the Guardians.” Emeraldiss managed to just whisper the word “Guardians” before collapsing from exhaustion and fatigue.
Over the few next days, Nephel cared for Emeraldiss and helped her regain her strength. Emeraldiss explained that magic drained her energy and she needed food and rest. Emeraldiss and Nephel spent most of their time talking of their childhoods on Eldor and sharing the welcome company of another elf. Emeraldiss told Nephel of her mother, the dragons, and her time with the Guardians at the Academy. When the spells she cast sapped Emeraldiss’ energy, Nephel brought her food, read her stories and told her jokes. For the first time since her mother’s death, she found herself growing close to another person. Nephel had taken a keen interest in Emeraldiss ever since he had seen the amulet. It looked exactly how the King had described the amulet of his heir, the amulet of Veritasela. He was also not immune to Emeraldiss’ beauty and charm.
As they neared the Port of Eldor, Nephel told Emeraldiss of the late King’s mystery heir and the legend of the amulet. Emeraldiss found the idea that she was the heir preposterous. She reminded him that she had grown up in a poor village far from the capital of Eldor, Elesemaria, before becoming a Guardian. However, he insisted that she might be the heir and talked her into making the journey Elesemaria. On their way, they stopped in the renowned Elvin city of Mirrorel Lumiana– The City of Stars and Lights, as it was known in English. Nephel and Emeraldiss stayed in Mirrorel Lumiana for several days, enjoying the color and the splendor of the city. It felt good to be back in her homeland after all these years and she felt herself relaxing in Nephel’s company. But the intrigue of the amulet and the mystery of the missing heir urged them on to Elesemaria.
They found their way to the King’s sanctuary and sought an audience with the former King’s advisors. The advisors, wary of the visitors, nonetheless consented to see them. This is how Emeraldiss found herself standing in the sanctuary, the amulet clutched in her hand.
“The amulet of Veritasela belongs to me. Am I the heir?”
“Of course you are not heir to the Elven Throne! You are young and foolish and most likely stole the jewel from its rightful owner!’’ the advisor named Tasel spat in her face.
“Tasel is right! You, a silly child? You may have the amulet, but you will not become Queen. I have sacrificed too much to watch the most powerful empire in the realms fall into the hands of youngling who knows nothing of our nation!” said another advisor.
Emeraldiss rose to her full height. She did not appreciate being called a silly child.
“Kind sir,” she said mockingly, “I understand more than all three of your stuffy old heads combined, and I will become Queen. I don’t know how or why, but the amulet is mine. It belonged to my mother and passed to me upon her death.”
“Not if we stop you! Guards!” Tasel roared.
Five guards appeared in the room. Tasel barked, “Take this intruder and throw her in the dungeon. She is has stolen the amulet of Veritasela! I am the rightful heir and the amulet belongs to me! Now take her away!”
Emeraldiss was dragged down many flights of stairs and flung into the dungeons. She sat there for many days in the dark wishing that she had never come to Eldor and had drowned in the cold dark ocean.
The guards taunted her and bragged about Tasel’s upcoming coronation. He was stealing her crown! Emeraldiss was livid as she paced in the darkness of her cell. She had to escape and stop the coronation! She concentrated, using her magic she called to him. The effort cost her greatly, but after what felt like many days, the cell door creaked open.
“We still have time, come on,” said a familiar voice. And there stood Nephel, grinning from ear to ear.
“I have never been happier to see your smug face,” Emeraldiss muttered.
“A thank you would have been appreciated,” Nephel replied.
Nephel and a very tired and cranky Emeraldiss snuck into the throne room with the gathering crowd.
“We’re too late!” Emeraldiss cried.
“Have faith,” Nephel responded.
As they watched, the King’s herald cried, “I pronounce you, Tasel Blackwinter, the King of Eldor and all the lands of the Northern Seas from east to west,” and lifted the crown to place it on Tasel’s head. But something went wrong. No matter how hard the herald tried, the crown met some invisible barrier and would not be placed on Tasel’s head. The crowd was in an uproar.
“Go, Emeraldiss, claim your throne,” whispered Nephel. Courage filled her heart! She smiled, turned and leapt up to the dais, her hair flying.
Emeraldiss addressed the crowd: “Noble citizens, you must know the reason the crown refuses to adorn Tasel’s head… it is because he is not the heir to the Elven throne. I am!”
Emeraldiss took the crown and placed it on her head. A bright light filled the room as the crown began to glow. Emeraldiss took her amulet off Tasel’s neck.
“I am the rightful heir!” she said again.
Emeraldiss was crowned Queen of Eldor as she should have been and the Kingdom flourished in peace and prosperity during her reign. Emeraldiss learned that she was the old King’s granddaughter and her mother, who had been the princess, had been exiled for marrying a commoner, and the King had purged his daughter from the memory of the Kingdom.
Emeraldiss could no longer be a Guardian, but she aligned her nation with them and shared much of what she had learned at the Lunarian Academy with her people. The spells, magic, and mysteries of the other realms were spread through the Kingdom of Eldor. Nephel remained the Queen’s most trusted advisor and companion, bringing her humor, joy, and eventually, three brave and wondrous children who grew to have their own wild adventures.
Wondering how to support the youth writer in your life? We can help! Check out our cheat-sheet below which will help you have creative, writerly conversations with your Young Inkling—even if you’re not a writer yourself.