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The Alder King (Dreamer's Fantasy Challenge)

Novel By: Mistress of Word Play

In European folklore the Erlkönig or Alder King kidnaps children and carries them to their death. He is said to be part elf and preys on the unwary who wander too far into the woodlands near his home. In Goethe’s immortal ballad, Der Erlkönig, or the Alder King is presented as a malevolent spirit who abducts and murders a child.

The story I have created is fictional and based on the character from Goethe’s poem. Since little is known about the subject I am improvising and building a tale around this particular Gothic type horror creature. This story of the macabre takes place just prior to World War II in an area known as Swabia which is a region located in Germany.
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Submitted:Apr 6, 2010    Reads: 76    Comments: 20    Likes: 22   

Herr Weiss escorted Tianna to her room. Much to her surprise he had furnished her with a rather spacious room with a private bath.
"Oh how beautiful!" Tianna exclaimed as she entered her quarters, "This is so kind of you."
"I hope it will suit your every need," Alder replied bowing slightly at the waist, "I had Terrence bring your belongings up. Ah! I see your things are all here. Well I am off to conduct some business. If you need anything else please let Terrence know. I will see you at dinner."
"Thank you again," Tianna gushed as she walked around the room taking in the furnishings, "This is quite wonderful."
Tianna was unaware that Alder had taken his leave. She was totally absorbed in taking in her new surroundings. The room most definitely had been put together for a woman. The bed linens, curtains, floor coverings, and even the paintings in the room were delicate and flowery. Tianna was not prepared to be lavished with such a generous place to stay. During her employment period with the Schmidt family she resided in a small cramped room which could have been a coat closet.
After taking in the room's essence Tianna began to unpack her meager belongings. Not too long after opening her cases, she had several dresses, another pair of shoes, toiletries, her books, some photographs of her family, and undergarments strewn across the bed.
Deftly she carried her dresses to the closet and opened it. She was surprised to find the closet contained all manner of women's clothing. There were gowns, dresses, shoes and hats galore.
"How very strange," she said scratching her head, "I wonder who's clothing this is? I shall have to ask Terrence or Alder to whom they belong."
After hanging her dresses in the closet, she busied herself with tidying up her undergarments and toiletries. Just as Tianna had found the items in the closet as she opened each dresser drawer items of ladies apparel were found. Tianna came to the conclusion that this room had either been Alder's dead wife's room or perhaps he had a lady friend. Tianna's mind was going in a dozen different directions, but soon the long journey and the day's adventures took their toll.
It was not long after reclining on her bed that she fell asleep. Strange dreams came as she slept. Tianna dreamed of the dark forest which surrounded the mansion and the ravens she had seen. In the dream Tianna was running through the dense woodland and she could hear the hoof beats behind her. As Tianna looked back she spied the horse and rider. The horse was jet black and what appeared to be smoke floated from the animal's nostrils. Atop the stallion Tianna could just make out the rider. His face was hideous and a grayish color. There was little or no flesh beneath the man or creature's skin. For all purposes it seemed a demon or ghoul dredged from the pits of hell was chasing her.
"Madam!" the voice called from beyond her bedroom door, "Madam, is all well? I was instructed to fetch you for dinner."
Tianna woke with a start. She was covered in a thin film of sweat and was shivering. The nightmare seemed so real. As Tianna's hand came up to wipe the perspiration from her forehead she felt something prick her hand. A pine needle had pierced her palm. She quickly pulled it out and turned it slowly in her hand.
"How odd," she said, "Where did this come from?"
"Madam!" the voice was more insistent this time, "Is all well with you?"
Tianna dropped the pine needle in the floor and quickly climbed from the bed straightening her clothing and hair.
"I'm fine Terrence," Tianna called out, "I will be there in a moment. I just need to freshen up a bit."
She could hear Terrence as he walked away and down the hall. Still dazed and shaken from her nightmare Tianna went into the bathroom to wash her face and arms with cool water. Tianna felt less disoriented and more like herself after a brisk scrubbing of her hands and arms with a cold washcloth. She smoothed and straightened her auburn hair which she had pulled up and back into a bun. Satisfied she looked presentable Tianna made her way out of her room and down the stairs to where Her Weiss and Terrence were waiting for her.
As they made their way to the dining room Tianna heard the laughter of the children coming from what appeared to be a study. She could see Anna and Alfred playing on the floor next to the massive fireplace. Someone, perhaps Terrence had built a huge roaring fire and the logs crackled and popped. Anna was reciting a poem in a sing song manner. Tianna paused for a moment to listen.
"Wer reitet so spät durch Nacht und Wind? Es ist der Vater mit seinem Kind Er hat den Knaben wohl in dem Arm Er faßt ihn sicher, er hält ihn warm, Mein Sohn, was birgst du so bang dein Gesicht? Siehst, Vater, du den Erlkönig nicht? Den Erlenkönig mit Kron und Schweif? Mein Sohn, es ist ein Nebelstreif, " Anna sang to her brother.
Tianna could feel Alder's arm pulling her onward. He seemed to have a harried look on his face and Tianna wondered what had upset him.
"That poem Anna is reciting," Tianna ventured, "My German is not very good, can you tell me what it is?"
Alder stopped in his tracks and turned to face Tianna. His face had become as unpleasant as a storm cloud at a picnic. Tianna was not sure if he would answer the question or not. It appeared Alder did not like the poem.
"The sonnet Anna is reciting is Der Erlkönig," he answered shaking his head, "Have you heard it before?"
Tianna shook her head no and replied, "I have never heard it before. What is it about?"
"The literal translation is," Alder answered with contempt in his voice, "Who rides, so late, through night and wind? It is the father with his child. He has the boy well in his arm. He holds him safely, he keeps him warm. My son, why do you hide your face so anxiously? Father, do you not see the Alder king, the Alder king with crown and tail? My son, it's a wisp of fog."
"A different sort of thing isn't it?" Tianna asked not certain of what Alder's reaction would be.
"It's a wretched story of a child dying," Alder almost spat the words, "I have told the children to stop reciting it. I shall have to remind them once again."
"Is there more to the poem?" Tianna queried without thinking and regretted she had spoken the words as she asked her question.
"Yes," Alder replied wiping sweat from his furrowed forehead, "I think we should speak of other more pleasant things. Come Terrence has prepared a sumptuous dinner for us."
"Are the children not joining us for dinner?" Tianna questioned looking back at the study as the three of them walked toward the dining hall.
"Anna and Alfred ate earlier with Terrence," Alder replied smiling at Tianna as he propelled her to the dining table, "I am afraid it will be just us two."
Alder was the perfect gentlemen and pulled the chair out for Tianna to take her place at the table.
"Thank you," she said returning his smile, "I am not accustomed to such special treatment. It's so very kind of you to treat me in this manner."
"Believe me, my dear Tianna, the pleasure is all mine," Alder replied as he took his place next to her.
Tianna could imagine lavish parties taking place in this the grand dining hall. Terrence had set the table with fine porcelain dishes, exquisite crystal goblets, and the most beautiful silver cutlery she had ever seen. Fresh flowers adorned the center of the table and Tianna wanted to pinch herself to make sure it was not all a dream.
"Shall I serve dinner now?" Terrence asked.
"Yes, that would be nice," Alder answered motioning for Terrence to bring the food and drink.
Tianna wondered at how strange it was that Alder was treating her more like a house guest or old friend rather than a governess. She was not sure what Alder had in mind, but she most certainly was enjoying the trip so far.


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