By Alex M Saccardo
Gather round, all ye mortals!
Outside it grows cold (or hot, depending on your abode),
but this particular story is one for young and old.
It’s a story of will lost and trust found;
of mortal struggles on godly grounds;
of snow and joy (hot cocoa ahoy!);
and trust gained in a deceptive ploy.
So sidle up, and give me your ear,
and let’s all glean some holiday cheer!
Part 1: An Unexpected Gift
In a wood cabin, from a comfy chair,
Orfeo breathed in the cool summer air.
All of a sudden, a knock at the door.
Who could it be? Who was it for?
With caution and care, he moved t‘ward the sound.
And lo and behold, guess what he found?
A present, well wrapped, tied with a ribbon,
And a note that read: “To my champion.”
He thought to himself, “No one knows I’m here,
This must be from the goddess Ludia.”
He couldn’t shake the chilling perception,
That she was angry at his deception.
For he’d freed himself from her godly chains,
Was this a ploy to restrain him again?
Before he could move, the box came alive,
Eight legs sprung forth. Two tongues. Four eyes.
The box gave a “squeee!” (very cute, to be sure)
But from it emerged a chain, with a claw.
With nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide,
The chain grabbed Orfeo and pulled him inside.
Part 2: A Merry Greeting
Trapped inside the gift, snow swirled all around,
And Orfeo couldn’t tell up from down.
The present rattled, then suddenly stopped,
So he thrust the lid from the present box.
There he beheld a white barren land,
A storm so fierce he barely could stand.
What’s more, on his wrist, the claw and the chain.
Ludia had him. Her puppet. Again.
Unsure where to go or what else to do,
He braced, stepped out… and the box followed too.
A curious thing, this spidery gift.
So small, so creepy, and terribly swift.
The pair trudged a while, through ice and through snow,
‘Til Orfeo spied a welcoming glow.
Towards it they went, what else could they do?
“Ahoy there, travelers!” a voice cut through.
“Name’s Merry Kadmos” the jolly voice cried,
“And who have we here? Have you just arrived?
A man all in black? And a Candy Chain too?
Well by my stars! The prophecy’s true!”
With that, the fellow extended his hand,
“Welcome to the Winter Wanderlands!”
While outside the storm battered and raged,
The circle of light felt perfectly safe.
There Orfeo learned a great many things,
Of the frozen queen and the frost she brings:
“This billowing storm is tied to our queen,
For this realm was once warm, pleasant, and green.
Her heart has frozen, and so has this land,
Someone must thaw it, do you think you can?”
The guide also told him how to escape,
Of the Candy Chain, that sealed his fate.
“By solving the problems of those you meet,
This chain that binds you will slowly retreat.
A chain link will shatter with every good deed,
When all six are solved, then you’ll be freed.”
And so they relaxed, these new friends together,
Drank cocoa, shared tales, two birds of a feather.
And just as foretold, a chain link shattered.
New bonds had been forged, that was what mattered.
With a nod and wink, Kadmos did rise,
And stretched out his body, straight to the skies.
“Let’s go, old friend” he said to the light,
and to Orfeo’s surprise, the lamp stood upright.
Its lantern creaked as it waddled along,
And Kadmos followed, humming a song.
So joining his friends, no longer alone,
Orfeo set off on his quest to get home.
Part 3: Journey through the Wanderlands
Orfeo’s adventures to break the links,
Were as many and wondrous as you might think.
The heroes he met weren’t quite those we know,
Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.
Sleigh Master Valka
First there was Valka, Royal Sleigh Master,
Who crashed in the storm. What a disaster!
Covered in snow, likely to freeze,
She and her imp waged a war on the trees.
As they cut a way out, shortly they found,
A troubling occurrence, a rumbling sound.
A giant emerged to settle the score.
“Who dares chop my trees!?” the giant did roar.
Just when they thought they wouldn’t survive,
Orfeo and crew finally arrived.
How they escaped remains a mystery,
But Valka was saved and the rest is history.
Then there was Pallas, Shaper of Snow,
Who wandered the world, wagon in tow.
They met our group in a state of dismay,
For critters had stolen their potions away.
Pallas tried shaping snow ‘round the pests,
But the cats broke free of their winter nets.
So Orfeo taught the merchant a trick,
Drawing a circle with his candy whip.
Pallas caught on, weaving patterns in snow,
And the cats, entranced, began to slow.
Their eyes grew heavy, they dropped to the ground.
(Sleeping, mind you, all safe and sound.)
So that is how Pallas joined the team,
Journeying on to save the queen.
Next was Selena, Royal Reinkeeper,
Who was on the hunt to capture a creeper.
The queen’s favorite pet had been stolen away,
And the party joined to help save the day.
They tracked the culprit through mountains fair,
And in a cave they found the creature’s lair.
The demon laughed, hollered, and bleated.
“Foolish mortals, I can’t be defeated!”
But Orfeo knew from life on the streets,
There were many ways to make ends meet.
He tricked the demon like a crafty fox,
By luring him into the spider box.
So that was the end of the evil Reinnapper
And how Orfeo saved a baby reinbadger.
Frost Queen Neferu
At last they came to the Royal Palace,
A tower of ice, frozen with malice.
The storms in these parts were stronger than ever,
But the team broke through by working together.
Kadmos’ light set the team on their way,
Selena’s reinbadgers pulled Valka’s sleigh.
Pallas snow-shaped the frost storm aside,
And Orfeo directed the party with pride.
They approached the queen on her frozen throne,
Whose icy glare cut straight to the bone.
“Who dares approach my royal chair?”
“Tis I,” said Orfeo, “with gifts to bear.”
Then Orfeo raised the baby reinbadger,
And the frozen throne began to fracture.
The queen’s frozen heart, suspended above,
Cracked and thawed, warm with love.
With that, another candy link broke,
And from his slumber, Orfeo awoke.
Part 4: The Champion Returns
“Where am I this time?” Orfeo asked,
Afraid of the answer, given the past.
“With me, my champion,” Ludia declared,
The Goddess of Deception! Sitting right there!
“You’ve been hiding from me,” she said with a smile,
“Did you really think I’d punish your guile?
”Orfeo looked down; he now felt ashamed,
“But you’re a goddess… and I broke your chains.”
With that she laughed, a merry old sound,
And Orfeo felt a lesson inbound.
“This winter adventure was just a test,
A journey I knew you’d easily best.
Trusting your friends carried you through,
No different to how I rely on you.
Your very nature was part of the plan,
You’re my chosen mortal, my champion.”
With that she was gone, in barely a blink,
Our hero freed of the final chain link.
Armed with the power of all he had learned,
Orfeo smiled, it’s time he returned.