Monday, May 15, 2017

Althea's Choice

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A while ago I entered this thousand-word short story in the Faith Radio Writing Contest.  It did not get enough votes make it to the finals, unfortunately, but I thought I'd post it here just for fun.  :)  If you already read it during the contest, thank you!  If not, now is your chance.  

By the way- this is one of the few pieces where I timed it to music!  At my reading speed, this story fits perfectly to Dreamcatcher, by Alexandre Desplat.  I don't know how well it will play out at other people's reading speeds, but it gets the feel of the story across any way, so for the full experience click play on the video before reading!  :D

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A Note:  The theme of the contest this year was Micah 6:8- "For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"

Image result for girl in snowy wood
(copyright unknown, taken from pintrest)


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“Please don't go, Renn!” she pleaded, clutching his sleeve in her fist. Her brother only looked down his nose at her, reproach in his eyes.
“We cannot waste this chance. King Lysander is young and inexperienced, and if we let him pass by now, he may never come within our grasp again! His people have oppressed the Faithful for generations. Would you let him have free reign over our land? Do what you wish, but I would have justice done.”
Althea fell silent. There'd been a kind of madness in Renn's eyes ever since Lysander had inherited the throne, and she knew there was nothing she could say to sway him. He and his men set out to ambush the new monarch that morning, and she waited alone in her cave, wondering if she would ever see them again. God in Heaven, please protect them...

At twilight, the first sounds of battle reached her. She sat bolt upright, her heart pounding. After a few moments she leaned back against the rough stone wall and closed her eyes, but rest eluded her. Justice... she mused. Renn's reasoning sounded clear, so why this check in her spirit?

In the early hours of the dawn, she stood stiffly, worry and curiosity finally compelling her to move. She draped a cloak over her shoulders and ventured into the forest.

Snow drifted down silently, stark against the dark pine branches as she made her way to the pass where Renn and the others had laid their trap for the king. All was quiet; neither bird nor animal stirred.
Cautiously she crept onward, knowing she must be close now- she could hear the sound of the river, a dull roar muffled by the snow.
A sudden movement startled her, and Althea's hand went instinctively to the dagger at her side. As her eyes focused on the movement, she saw that it was a young man stretched limply on the riverbank, half submerged in the water. He struggled for one moment to lift himself, then collapsed, shivering in the snow.
She ran forward, hoping against hope it was not Renn. He was all she had left.
Althea stopped short as she saw his face. It was not Renn, it was Lysander!
She knew his face from the coins, but if it weren't for the royal seal on his gauntlets she wouldn't have recognized him. He was so much younger than she'd expected. Perhaps her own age.
He was hurt, she could tell. The snow was red beneath him. Swallowing, Althea calculated. Here was a man who had the power to destroy her people- whose family had persecuted them for time-out-of-mind. He was unwed and had no heir. If he died, the kingdom could be free once more!
Every nerve told her to turn around and leave him where he was, but Althea stood rooted to the spot, unable to tear her eyes away.
“Oh Lord,” she whispered, “I don't know what to do...”
Like a flash, it came to her, the memory of her father's voice. “For what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love kindness, and walk humbly with your God?”
And what does that mean? Althea thought sharply. This man has already committed countless crimes against my people. Am I to hold him guiltless?
But then, against her will, a new thought stirred in her heart. That was exactly what Jesus had done, all those hundreds of years ago when he rose from the grave. Humankind had done nothing to deserve His mercy or grace, yet because of his sacrifice, she knew He held guiltless any who submitted themselves to His Name.
Perhaps Lysander didn't deserve to be saved, but... If God Himself showed mercy to a people who had done nothing but wrong Him, who am I to deny this young man the same kindness? she realized with a start. Pride told her that she had every right to leave him to die. But she could feel her Lord moving in her heart, urging her toward him. Bowing her head, she closed her eyes, praying for strength. Thy will, not mine, be done.

Slipping her arms under Lysander's shoulders, she pulled him to his knees and settled him over her back. His eyelids fluttered and he groaned in pain. Gritting her teeth against his weight, Althea turned toward home.

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Lysander stirred, his body so weak he could barely move. His side burned with pain, and the skin pulled strangely. Stitches, he realized. Shaking his head, he tried to pull himself from the dense fog that held him down. Slowly he opened his eyes and looked around. Firelight flickered on stone walls all around him. His head was bandaged, as well as his arm and side.
Then his eyes came to rest on the young woman who knelt by the fire, tending a skillet. Even in the dim light he could tell that she was one of the Faithful, a people he'd been taught to fear all his life.
Looking up, she noticed him and came closer. His stomach flipped and he stiffened, wincing as he tried to move away.
“It's alright, Your Highness,” the woman said softly. She put out a gentle hand on his shoulder to calm him. “My name is Althea, and you're safe with me. I've bound your wounds, but you must rest until your strength returns.”
Lysander eyed her warily. “Why am I still alive?” he asked, his voice hoarse and strange in his ears. Althea smiled, sadness lurking behind her eyes.
“God has spared me despite my wrongs. How could I not do the same for you?”
Lysander blinked, confused. Althea offered no further explanation, but slid her hand under his head to help him drink. As unconsciousness threatened to swallow him again, he had time only for one last thought... If the Faithful are such a dangerous people, how could they offer such kindness?

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-Emmarayn Redding

(Neither the image nor the video used in this post are my property.  Image taken from Pintrest, unable to find name of artist.  Music copyright Alexandre Desplat.  No copyright infringement intended.)

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