Once upon a time, there lived a girl in a village on a cliff next to the sea. Her name was Alaia and she lived in a little white cottage with her father at the very tip of the cliff-side.

Alaia's mother has passed away, and all that Alaia had left in the world of her were three small tokens. A beautiful round shell that held the same sound of the sea when Alaia held it to her ear, a clear stone that caught the light when held up to the sun, and a small wooden xirula that her mother once played. Alaia's father was a fisherman, and every morning when he would go out, Alaia would look for his boat sailing into the rising sun, and every night when he returned, she would be there at her window, waiting. He would kiss her hair, say "My lovely daughter. My joy and happiness" and put her to bed.

Then one day, Alaia fell very ill. For three days, she tossed and turned in her bed, feverish and ailing. Her father did not leave her side, even when the other fishermen came to him saying "You must come with us, otherwise you will not have enough to eat for the winter." He did not listen, for Alaia's mother, whom her father had loved deeply, had also perished of a sickness and he did not want to leave Alaia's side.

The wind on the sea, hearing the weeping of Alaia's father, flew into the window. Seeing the sick little girl, the wind took pity on her, and flew off to collect elderflower and chamomile to still her illness. Bringing sprigs of herbs back, the wind dropped them into Alaia's father's lap. Startled, he looked to see who was there, but he saw no one, only the window cloth blowing in the wind. He quickly turned the herbs into a brew, and Alaia drank it and became well.

Years past, and Alaia would always watch her father go out in his fisherman's boat, and be there when he returned. One day, however, there was a great storm. The day was as dark as night, waves crashed against the stone cliff, storm winds blew furiously and lighting struck the sea and sky alike.

Alaia sat at the window, but he father did not return that day. For three days, she kept watch, even when the other village women came to her side, saying "Poor girl. Lovely girl. It is sad, but your father has perished in the storm. Come, you must live with one of us, for you will not survive on your own." One woman even said, "Come, I have a son, he will marry you and you will be taken care of."

But Alaia refused. On the last day, she left her little cottage, and walked down the cliff to where the ocean lapped the shore. Stepping into the water with bare feet, she let tears fall down her face into the seawater. A cool voice spoke to her "Why are you crying, pretty one?"

Startled, she looked around her. No other was there. "Hello?" she asked.

The voice answered her, "You will not see me. I am the water under your feet. I have tasted your tears and ask you why are you crying?"

Alaia answered, "My father is a fisherman, and three days ago he was out in the storm that turned day into night, and has not returned. The other villagers believe him dead, but that cannot be."

"I am Itsaso, this sea", replied the voice, "I know your fishermen. They have sailed here for many generations. I too know that they were out in the storm, but your father was not among the perished ones."

"Where is he?" asked Alaia, overjoyed, "Why has he not come home?"

"I do not know", responded the sea, "He is not among those that yet cling to the wreckage of the boats, yet he is not among the lifeless forms. You will have to find out for yourself. Go east, and you will find Shula. She will help you further."

Alaia cried out, "How far east will I need to go?" but there was no longer a reply.

Filled with new hope, she turned and ran all the way back to her cottage on the cliff to take her cloak, and a bundle of food. Before leaving, Alaia paused and tucked her mother's tokens into her bundle as well.

She walked for days, stopping only to rest. She followed the stars in the sky so she would not lose her way. The coast turned to forest. When Alaia's food ran out, she scavenged the forest for nuts and berries, picking up sticks as well, to build fires. The forest turned to desert, and Alaia began to run out of food once more. With just enough wood to build a last fire for the night in the cold desert air, Alaia sat down bitterly. Eating her last dried berries, she began to cry once more. A tear fell from her face into the fire, where it sizzled briefly.

Alaia heard a voice say, "Why are you crying?" Amid tears, she turned but no one was there. The fire crackled cheerfully. "You won't see me. I am of the fire. Now, why are you crying?"

Alaia tearfully explained to the fire that she had lost her father, and must ask Shula where he could be, but she had no more food, only the tokens of her mother, and she did not know how much further east she must go.

"Well, that's that then" said the voice, "You must look no further! I am Shula."

Alaia's face rose. "Dear spirit, then I have found you! Please, please, do you know where my father is? The ocean spirit Itsaso does not, yet he was last seen by her. She has told me to find you."

"Dear child. I do not know," remarked the fire, "But Lauma might. You will have to walk north. Be still and listen for her, and you might find him there."

Alaia sighed. "I will look to the ends of the earth for my father. But I have nothing more to eat, and shall surely starve before I reach Lauma."

The fire blazed brightly, "I can help you. But I will expect payment. I see that you have a stone in your pocket, may I see it?"

Alaia felt nothing but her mother's clear stone. Drawing it out, she asked "This? It was my mother's. It has no other value than that."

The fire exclaimed cheerily, "Oh! There you are wrong, girl. This is a diamond. Forged in my fire. Men value this very much. But if you give it to me, and go to sleep, tomorrow you shall have enough food and water to last you your way.

Alaia pressed her mouth together. To lose a token of her mother's saddened her. But if she had a chance to find her father, she would take it always.

She let the diamond drop into the fire. "Here you are."She leaned into the fire, feeling heat on her face. "And thank you for your help!"

But hearing nothing but the pop of the wood, Alaia turned to sleep. The next morning, as promised, her bundle was filled with water, bread, meats and cheeses, far more than she had when she first left her little seaside cottage. Where the fire had blazed the night before, only charred remains were found, her mother's diamond gone as well.

She began her journey again.

Alaia crossed the desert, which turned into grasslands. Relieved to be away from the sun and sand, and eating little food, Alaia was able to make good progress, and able to save much of the food, but the way began to tire her, and her walking slowed. Days passed and the plains became a jungle. Alaia slowed to barely a halt. Her feet became muddy and her clothes caked with dirt. Her eyes drooped with weariness as she fought to keep out of the wet ground, but she did not have much success. But at last, the jungle cleared.

Days passed and as she traveled, Alaia met many other people. She was able to trade some bread for new clothes. Yet no one knew anyone by the name of Lauma, and Alaia began to despair.

Eventually, she entered a new forest, the trees thick green, the sky not visible through the tree tops. Exhausted, Alaia sat. She had enough food. The bundle never seemed to run out when she needed nourishment, but she was restless at night, could not sleep, and thus her pace had slowed considerably.

Tears trickled out of her closed, tired eyes as she leaned her body against a tree. Wet marks were left on the bark, and a voice rumbled from within it.

"There are tears here."

Alaia, barely able to keep her eyes open, saw only a blurry dark shape move toward her. She tried to scream, but she fell into darkness before she could make a sound.

When she awoke, Alaia gasped and sat up. She was still in the forest, but somewhere else, and lying on a bed of leaves.

"Oh, so you awaken," said a new voice. She saw a woman several paces from her, wearing nothing but tree bark where skin should be. "Here, drink this."

Alaia did so. Whatever it was, it was warm and hearty, and it filled her with strength. She found her voice again, "Who are you?"

The tree-woman tilted her head. "I am Lauma. You are lucky. The dark one was descending on you when one of my attendants found you."

"Lauma! I am to find you! My father is missing, and I have been looking for him." Alaia told Lauma her tale. "Please, do you know where he is?"

The tree-woman shook her head sadly. "I am sorry, young one. I do not. Forests are not everywhere, neither are oceans or flame. But the wind might know. Wind can go places we others cannot.

"Where will I find the wind?" asked Alaia.

"On top of the highest mountain, on the edge of this forest," replied the tree-woman, "But you must be careful. The dark one has been following you. He might be the one who has your father, and might be trying to stop you."

"The dark one?" asked Alaia, "Who is that? I have not encountered him before."

"The shadow of fear, pain, and sorrow," explained the tree-woman, "He is the destroyer of joy. He tries to smother any sign of joy or happiness in the world."

"Why is he following me?"

"I do not know," the tree-woman shrugged, "I can keep you safe within this forest. We can bring you to the edge of it, but when climbing the mountain, you will be on your own."

Alaia smiled gratefully. "Thank you."

"However, I require payment. May I see your xirula?"

Alaia, taking her mother's instrument out of her bundle, handed it to Lauma. "This is very old," remarked the tree-woman.

"It belonged to my mother," said Alaia.

"I will take this, then. But I want you play it first."

Alaia turned away, embarrassed. "I do not know how." When the tree-woman did not except that, Alaia reluctantly put the instrument to her lips. A sweet melody, like bird song, was played, souding out through the trees.

The tree-woman smiled. "You may yet surprise yourself," she said to Alaia's astonished face. "Now, rest some more, and when you awaken, you will find yourself at the forest edge. Look for the wind at the top of the mountain, and you may find your father."

Alaia obeyed, eyes falling closed very quickly.

Light hitting her face wakened her. As promised, she was right on the edge of the forest. Before her, the land was mountainous, the one she must climb however, not too far off.

Feeling strengthened and rested, and with her bundle of nourishment still full, Alaia gathered her strength and began her way once more.

The climb up the mountain was strenuous, and the girl was very slow in climbing. When the day grew dark, she covered herself in her cloak to keep warm and rest, and when the day first began to dawn again, she would start again once more, working her way up.

At last, she found herself at the tip of the mountain.

But it was empty. There was no one there.

Overwhelmed, Alaia stared. The wind lived here, at the top of the mountain. Then where was it? To her surprise, not a single gist of wind could she feel. The air here was as calm and quite as a pond.

Alaia fell to her knees and let out a cry. This journey, so long and difficult, that is should all end for nothing! Where could her dear father be, that even the ocean, flame and forest spirits have not sensed his presence?

Many tears fell, yet this time, there was no voice to hear.

Alaia stayed on the mountain three days. The bundle of food shrank and eventually disappeared. Alaia, having given up hope, dragged herself to the side of the mountain, when suddenly a small puff of wind lifted a hair off of her face. The puff turned into a current, which turned into a gust. This gust turned into three, and wind streams swirled around Alaia and in the middle of the mountain peak, swirling faster and faster until it began to take shape. A grand palace stood before her, with a human-like figure on its steps.

Astonished, the girl stared.

"Hello Alaia", said the wind.

"I am sorry that I have not been here sooner."

She found her voice, licking dry lips. "Please, please! I have been searching for my father. I was told by the tree-woman Lauma to seek for you here. I have come a very long way."

"I know who you are, Alaia," the wind said, "You do not remember, but we have met before. You were but a little girl, sick with fever."

Alaia drew a breath quickly, "My father told me that chamomile and elderflower dropped from the sky."

"I took pity on you that day. Such a small child. I take pity on you again today. I know where you father is. He is being held prisoner by Itzal, the dark one," the wind told her, "He is the destroyer of joy, which means that he wanted to destroy you. The bond you and your father share, that of loving father and loving daughter, is as bright as the spirit of your mother Goizargi, and there is nothing he hates more. I have summoned him here today. He shall come soon."

Alaia cried out, "What shall I do?"

The wind soothed her, "You are good-hearted. You are strong, to travel all this way, and you have persevered on such a difficult journey. Do not fear."

Gusts of wind flew into the sky, wherefrom a thunderclap was heard. Three figures could be seen in the distance, and they landed next to the wind. One was malleable and fluid, one bright and hot, the other a woman's figure etched of bark. They greeted the girl.

"Itsaso, Shula, Lauma!" cried Alaia, "I had not thought to see you again!"

The ocean spirit spoke, "We are of four elementals, Alaia. We intend to help you regain your father. He is a good man."

Suddenly, a dark figure could be seen on the horizon, coming ever closer. On his back, a limp figure tied in shadowy chains.

"Itzal!" cried the flame spirit, "Release the girl's father to her!"

The shadow's voice, husky and frightening, said simply "No."

Lauma the tree-woman spoke to him, "We shall take him by force if we must."

The shadow's face turned to Alaia, only hollow spaces where eyes should be. "You were supposed to die three times on this journey. You did not."

"Please," croaked Alaia, "He is all I have in the world."

The shadow regarded her, seconds lasting hours in her mind. There was a pressure in her mind, pushing her into the darkness against her will. Then suddenly, a burst of light surrounded her, and the earth beneath her feet moved. A large wave of water engulfed her in what seemed to her an eternity. Sputtering, landing on her knees, she saw the shadow was gone, the figure of her father lying on a spinning plate of air.

"He is not defeated forever", whispered the wind to her softly, "however, he is gone for now."

The body of her father, unconscious but breathing calmly, was laid gently next to her. She hugged him to her, crying.

"He will not wake yet", said the tree-woman, "You need to go home first."

"How?" asked Alaia, "It is so far."

The ocean spirit spoke to her, "Take your mother's shell, put it to your ear, and close your eyes."

She gazed at the spirits. A smooth breeze of air caressed her cheek. "We will come visit you" said one.

Alaia nodded, grasped her father tightly, closed her eyes, and put her mother's seashell to her ear.

When she opened them, she was in her little cottage, her father in his bed blinking slowly and smiling softly. "Hello my joy," he said hoarsely.

Overjoyed, Alaia embraced him.

On the window sill lay a sprig of chamomile and elderflower while outside, the waves danced on the shore and the ocean breezes danced in the sky.

The End


A/N: A short story piece that I did for my class "Writing for Young Children". I tried to write a fairytale, which is why I tried keeping it simplistic.

This is the first piece of creative writing I have done for several years, so apologies that I'm rusty. The assignment was for 400 words, but the story got away from me. :) I also stuck a lot of symbolism in the names and objects, so that was fun.