Protector of the Zuries – 4/4
“What? I’ve never heard of anyone who lived more than a hundred and ten years!”
“You’re still very young, my Prince.” The Phoenix shook her feathers gently. “There are many things in this world you have not yet heard of. When you see the Sage, he will instruct you in many things.”
“Are we going to see the Sage?” Ayron was excited.
“I’m afraid I cannot take you further than the entrance of the White Forest. You must walk through it to get to the Bearinton Mountains.”
“You mean I have to go by myself? But I’ve never lived on my own before. How could I find my way in such a grand forest?”
“Take courage, my Prince. The God of your mother’s people will help you. Follow the path of the Crystal Creek and it will lead you to the other side of the forest.”
“What if I get hungry or thirsty?”
“You may eat of the Snow Mushrooms and drink from the Crystal Creek.”
“The Snow Mushrooms are real too?”
“Of course! They are shaped like snowflakes and dangle from the tree branches. You’ll know when you see them.”
“What about the wild beasts in the forest? What shall I do if I encounter them?”
“No wild beasts in the forest can harm you as long as you stay on the path of the Crystal Creek.” The Phoenix reassured Ayron. “Whatever happens, do not turn aside from it! There is, however, one danger I must warn you of.”
“What is it?”
“There’s nothing more dangerous than the thoughts which come from your mind. Danger is only danger when you perceive it as danger. Therefore, pray to God constantly for peace in your mind, and meditate often on His promises. That’s the only way to pass through the White Forest safely.”
“I will pray to God, but my heart is afraid.” Ayron’s voice trailed off as they descended towards the White Forest.
“Once you get to know the White Forest, you will understand its kindness. The old trees and Mother Earth will be delighted to meet you.” The Phoenix made a soft landing and gently placed Ayron on the ground next to the entrance of the White Forest.
Ayron lifted up his head and saw the magnificent creature face to face for the first time. He marvelled at her size and her beauty. Her face resembled that of a peacock, decorated with glowing red and orange feathers. A golden feathery crown trailed on top of her head like a flame. Her eyes were flames of fire and her body glowed with the radiance of the sun.
“This is the entrance of the White Forest. The Crystal Creek is just yonder behind the sequoia trees.” The Phoenix pointed her beak towards a narrow path between two giant sequoia trees that guarded the forest like soldiers. She cast a reddish glow on the whiteness around her. “My Prince, once you pass through the White Forest, go directly to the Sage. He is expecting you. Do you understand?”
Ayron nodded hesitantly, trying to hold back the tears that welled up to his eyes. “Please don’t go.” He threw his arms around the Phoenix’s chest and buried his face in her soft glowing feathers.
“You must be strong and learn to trust God with all your heart. He will deliver you from all dangers.” The Phoenix nudged Ayron’s head gently with her beak. “I must take leave now. The Sage is calling me.”
“Wait, there’s one more thing.” Ayron wiped his tears and took a few steps back so that he could see the Phoenix’s face. “Thank you, for saving my life today.” He put his right fist to his heart and bowed gently towards her. It is the gesture of gratitude among the Royals of Orr.
The Phoenix bowed her head in return. “It is my duty to protect the Prince of the Zuries. If you lose your path inside the forest, look to the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars for guidance. But most important of all, listen to the voice of God.” She lifted her wings and took flight in the direction of the Bearinton Mountains.
“Will I see you again?” Ayron shouted behind the Phoenix.
“In the time of war, I will fight for your people by your side.” The Phoenix’s thundering voice drew further and further away. “Farewell, my Prince.” And she did not look back.
“Farewell.” Ayron watched longingly as the Phoenix disappeared behind the towering trees. He picked up a feather that had fallen from her and caressed his cheeks with it. It’s still warm, just like the Phoenix. He kissed it and tucked it between the pages of the sacred book his father had given him. Though his white robe blended in seamlessly with the endless whiteness around him, he felt out of place. She is right. I must be brave and walk through the forest by myself! Mother and father are waiting for me. I cannot let them down! God, please help me. Please help me! He collapsed on his knees and wept for a long time, until he had no strength left.