River Stories

Ari has always wanted to be the one to break free, the one who knows she will be Light and can travel upstream to see where her life takes her. But when the curse of Alvado Falada begins to unfold, Ari begins to discover that life isn't what it seems and sometimes you just need to be yourself.

This is the story of a girl who faces tragedy, love, heartbreak and beauty to get to where she wants to be. Follow Ari on her amazing journey up the river.

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1. Chapter 1

I stepped outside into a world which felt fresh and new, the earlier rain having washed away all of the shadows and clouds leaving a gorgeous blue sky and a soft yellow orb glowing gently in the autumn chill. Autumn had swallowed the remnants of the summer sun, leaving the leaves spitting the last of the fire. The air was crisp and the fiery red leaves crunched noisily under my boot clad feet, leaving me with a sense of childish happiness and sadness that this year was coming to a definite close already.

Picking my way through the shrubbery to the river bed, I mused at how quickly the year had gone so far. First there had been the biting winter that covered the ground in a white frost and left us all with red noses, and then there had been the poor spring that offered more flowers than crops. The summer had been pleasantly warm and surprising, giving the Valleyers time to hold our annual Festival of the Moon, where the moon was celebrated and thanked for the light in the dark. Parties had been held, pink lemonade drank by all and honey puddings savoured slowly in the dark by the glowing fires. Yes, this year had been great and fun and like all things, I hated letting go.

Then there had been the autumn. Autumn came with a crunch of glowing gold and red leaves and crisp blue skies and a chilly warning in the air: every day the Beckoning came closer, where two people, one boy, one girl, of sixteen were chosen for Light or for Dark. I shuddered just thinking about it, knowing full well that this year could be my turn.

I had put off thinking about it all year even though the date in my head never let me forget. The date was engraved deep into my brain, no matter how many times I had tried to erase it from my mind in the night, the fear taking over my brain and driving me on. But now, as the days flicked closer to the Beckoning date, it slipped into my mind more and more often, never letting me forget, not even when I was drinking honey tea by the glowing embers with Pa and Ro, a rare delight.

Shoving it out of my mind was getting harder. I sighed, almost defeated. I let the fear wash over me and I realised with a jolt how scared I really was.

If I was chosen for Dark, there was no going back. I would be evil. At first I had thought I could try and lock myself away as a recluse but Pa told me how difficult that is and how much self-will you have to have to do that. I was defeated to the fact that if I was chosen for Dark, my only hope would be that my Pa would have the heart to lock me away. The ugly truth was that my soul was too weak.

I had always turned to the river for the deep calm that it always filled me with but those last few weeks the river hadn’t fully been able to shake away the creeping fear and lull me into a calmer state. The crystal blue of the river always had calmed me, its rhythmic dancing never failing to fill me deep inside with a feeling of contentment and peace. Lately, my fears had been too big to be overcome by the gushing whirl.

Finally, I broke out onto the other side of the Valley’s thickest shrubbery area, the fastest way to get down to the river bed. I rubbed my arm where the spikes of one of the pricklier bushes had scratched against me. I sighed loudly, annoyed that I had managed to make my arms bleed on one of the most important meetings of the year, that of the Elders.

This year, my Pa had put in a request that all of the teenagers subjected to the Beckoning this year were allowed to attend since a lot of ancient magic sat in the Elders bones and was shared around the fire, some that may allow us to fight the Dark forces. It was a sweet thought but we all knew that fighting what we became was impossible, unless you wanted to die. That was what we told ourselves every year before the Beckoning, the fact that what we all wanted not to happen was the inevitable for some of us.

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