The Labor of Ella Petra
in the Untamed North
A1. Ella Petra was an explorer of great fame, and a faithful worshiper of The Just God as well. 2. Embracing a love for adventure and a curiosity about the ancient secrets of the world, she traveled about the realm on great expeditions for both treasure and knowledge. 3. It was not uncommon that some noble or government would employ Ella Petra to quest on their behalf, and it was for that reason that she found herself in the kingdom of Brookefield, called before his royal majesty who she knew to be a good man, and who wished to broker for her services.
B4. The king, an eccentric who often sought out and purchased ancient artifacts, had hired Ella Petra a number of times to seek for him several invaluable items. After all, she called The Just God her patron, and there were few honest folk in the business of treasure hunting. 5. This time his eyes sparkled as he talked about his latest quarry, an ancient statue of marble that was reputably used by past civilizations as an instrument for marking the passage of time and in their worship of the stars. 6. Such a discovery would no doubt carry a wealth of information about the past, and Ella Petra shared the king's desire to bring its secrets into the light for the world to understand. 7. The king promised her a suitable fee for the endeavor, and put in her command three units of soldiers. 8. For the last known location of the ancient statue was in the untamed north, a region shrouded in mystery and danger, and a place few could travel without fear for their lives.
C9. Making a journey to the untamed north was not a feat to be taken lightly, and Ella Petra was not a foolhardy woman. 10. It took a number of days to put together the supplies and chart the course that would be taken. Nonetheless, within a week's time, Ella Petra and the soldiers under her command left the kingdom of Brookefield along with two wagons and a half-dozen horses. 11. For three weeks they traveled through the known realm over the cart-roads well worn by years of trade and passage. 12. Then, as if a curtain was drawn over the sky, the temperature dropped and a dirty cloud-wrack blotted out the sun. 13. Ella Petra and her band had entered the untamed north.
D14. There was precious little information by which Ella Petra could set her course for the ancient statue, but her cause was worthy and The Just God smiled upon her for her bravery. 15. Guided by intuition and the scattered knowledge she had about these bleak lands, Ella Petra led the soldiers onward into the frosted terrain. After another week of travel, of bitter, forced marching during the short days and long anxious nights that offered little rest, the group did finally find their reward. 16. As they crested the top of an icy hill they could see it in the distance. In a small valley between two unspeakably large mountains sat the marble artifact. 17. In joyous celebration, the band of soldiers set out to rush forward, but a warning command from Ella Petra bade them to stop.
E18. For while the men and women in her command had focused their eyes upon their rare prize, the experienced gaze of Ella Petra had seen instead the odd and unexpected. 19. She noted quickly that the mountains on either side of the valley were speckled with the mouths of caverns, and from those caverns, she could see people beginning to emerge. Whether they had not noticed Ella Petra and her band or whether they were simply uninterested was not clear. 20. The adventurers stood in marked silence as these native people, clad in leather and furs, left their dens and surrounded the marble statue in the valley. 21. There they began a dance, or a ritual, or both, clearly honoring the artifact and whatever strange meaning it held for them. 22. Minutes later, when their worship was finished, they all sat in place and seemed to relax into idle conversation.
F23. Ella Petra took this as leave to reveal herself, and as she emerged over the top of the hill, the voices stopped and the many eyes of the native people were upon her. She told her soldiers to reveal themselves but to stay in place, and slowly, with her hands raised, she walked towards the statue, and the strange people whom she did not expect to find. 24. As she got closer, she could feel no small measure of apprehension from her observers, and when she was only a spear's throw away, Ella Petra called out her greetings to the people clad in leather and fur.
G25. A moment of silent tension stretched itself out between Ella Petra and the native people, and then, with hardly a moment's warning, they were upon her with greeting and smiles and questions. 26. Whoever these strange people were living in the untamed north; they were certainly a friendly lot. Ella Petra motioned for the soldiers in her command to come forward, and the two sets of people exchanged greetings and conversation for the few hours of daylight that still remained.
H27. From her discussion with members of the native people, Ella Petra learned that the oldest members of the tribe remembered journeying from the southern realm when they were very small, driven northward by some enemy who was ridding their lands of their people. 28. They remembered traveling for countless days, wandering the desolate landscape, scrounging out what existence they could, despairing all the while. Many died. 29. Then, when little hope remained for their exodus, they stumbled upon the valley and the marble statue there. As they looked upon its majestic form they could feel warmth flowing in their veins and hope returned to them. 30. Taking it as a sign from the gods that this was their new home, and the artifact a gift in their time of need, the people clad in leather and furs built their new lives into the warm embrace of the mountains and had remained there for three generations.
I31. As the moon rose and darkness descended, Ella Petra and her soldiers were invited into the caverns to and the hospitality of the native people, but the explorer declined the offer, saying that her people would be more comfortable in their tents and wagons which they hurried to ready before nightfall. 32. Soon afterwards, in the structure that served as the officer's tent, Ella Petra was joined by the captains of each of the units of soldiers in her care. 33. Though Ella Petra had solicited no advice from the lot of them, they were each eager to share their opinions with her.
J34. The captain of the first unit began, suggesting that though the statue was large, he was confident that they could load it silently on one of their wagons and escape unheard in the dead of the night. 35. The captain of the second unit spoke next stating that such stealth was a waste of effort and that fear of the soldier's weapons and armor would keep the native people away as they loaded and took the statue the next morning. 36. The captain of the third unit then had her say, suggesting that they not take such a risk and first use their might to detain the native people until they could get the statue safely placed on a wagon and be on their way.
K37. In hearing the opinions of each of the captains, Ella Petra was taken aback by the horror of their intentions. 38. She spared no effort chastising them for their callousness and the wickedness of their plans. 39. As a treasure hunter, Ella Petra had taken many things, forgotten by time, from the deep and secret places of the earth, but steeling from a people the source of their hope and strength was an action that The Just God would never abide from one of His followers. She dismissed the captains from her presence. 40. Yet, as Ella Petra prepared herself for her night's rest, she could not help but admit to herself that she did not know what to do next.
L41. In the respite of her slumber, the agency of The Just God found Ella Petra and she awoke understanding the correct path. 42. She could not take from these native people the artifact that now belonged to their culture, but while she had the time to study it she could carve a suitable copy and bring that back to the king with her story. 43. He would, of course, not be completely satisfied. She would, of course, not have earned the full measure of her pay. But she knew the king to be a good man who would not wish these people to be harmed in order to satiate his passions for ancient history.
M44. Ella Petra went to the native people to barter. She realized that to carve out their homes from the barren rock, the people clad in leather and furs must be skilled masons, and that they must have tools worthy of such great feats. 45. In exchange for many days worth of supplies, Ella Petra traded for hammers and picks and chisels, and she led her band of soldiers into the mountains to find a vein of marble. 46. There was unrest within the ranks. The soldiers clearly shared the inclinations of their captains, and saw the work they were now engaged in as unnecessary and foolish. 47. The search was not a quick one. The minutes stretched into hours and it wasn't until the darkness began to creep across the landscape that a suitable vein of the mineral had been found. 48. Marking well its location, Ella Petra led the soldiers in her command back to the valley for their night's rest.
N45. With faith in The Just God, Ella Petra found easy sleep, but awoke in the morning to discover a third of her camp missing. 46. The two remaining captains told her that the captain of the first unit had taken his soldiers and deserted during the night, making their way back to Brookefield to report on the foolishness of the explorer and her plan. 47. Ella Petra's heart sank, but she was not to be distracted from the Righteousness of her work. With the two remaining units of soldiers by her side, Ella Petra again entered the mountains and again found the marble they had searched so long to locate the day before.
O48. Armed with hammers and picks and chisels, the two remaining units of soldiers fell upon the mountainside to free the hunk of marble. 49. It was relentless work, labor of a kind that they had not been trained for, and it took a quick and heavy toll upon their strength and upon their morale. 50. As the day began to wane, however, they succeeded in their task and the great block of stone broke away from the face of the mountain. 51. Just in time to escape the dangerous mountain paths before the darkness overcame the valley, Ella Petra and the soldiers made it back to their camp and retired for a well earned rest.
P52. Again, with the knowledge that her cause was honest and true, Ella Petra slept deep and well, but again awoke to a lamentable sight. Another unit of her army had left in the night. 53. The remaining captain told her that the captain of the second unit, disgusted with the suitability of Ella Petra's command, had deserted in the night and fled with his soldiers back to Brookefield where they would no doubt speak of the explorer's unworthiness and betrayal. 54. Ella Petra felt the deep pains of grief, then, but was resolved to continue what she knew was the right and noble path.
Q55. Only a third of her original force remained, but Ella Petra knew it would have to be enough to retrieve the block of marble and allow her continue with her work. 56. With ropes and planks and labored step after labored step, Ella Petra and the soldiers pulled the great stone through the narrow paths and down the mountain. 57. It was slow, difficult work, and the danger of it angered many of the soldiers whom Ella Petra commanded. It took many hours, but by the setting of the sun the block of marble had descended the crags and cliffs and now sat in the valley beside the statue that it was destined to mimic. 58. Sore and exhausted, Ella Petra and the soldiers in her command went to their tents.
R59. Knowing that she had stood by her duty to The Just God, Ella Petra quickly fell to sleep that night, and awoke the next morning to find her heart rendered. 60. The third captain, in the dead of the night, had taken what was left of the soldier's in Ella Petra's command, and had left. No doubt to return to their homeland like the others and speak ill of the good intentions of the explorer. 61. Yet, even without a single ally amongst her save a horse left with the remaining wagon, Ella Petra did not lose faith in the worthiness of her plan. 62. The marble had been brought down to the valley, and even without a single bit of aid she could take chisel and hammer and craft a copy of the statue to bring with her back to the king of Brookfield, be it months or years in the making.
S63. She began her work then. Chisel and mallet in hand, ancient statue in her sight, Ella Petra brought the might of her conviction and faith to bear on the hunk of solid rock, and it began to give way to her determination. 64. And as each impact of the hammer to the chisel, and the chisel to the rock, rang out in echo throughout the valley of the native people, something unexpected began to happen. 65. As each peal of the chisel resonated throughout the caverns, something deep and powerful within their chimes began to call out to the people clad in leather and furs. 66. They recognized some kind of truth among each knell, for the countenance of The Just God was interred within them, and as the native people struggled to make sense of what they beheld, they began to understand that the labor of Ella Petra was for their sake. And that it had cost her a great deal to pursue it.
T67. From their homes in the sides of the mountains, the native people descended. 68. With their own hammers and chisels in hand they came upon the block of marble that Ella Petra had freed and in only a few short hours their combined efforts and skills produced a new statue of marble, indistinguishable from the old, betrayed only by its freshness. 69. Ella Petra was overjoyed, and thanked the native people deeply for their gift. 70. It was then that the eldest among them spoke to her in a sturdy voice.
U71. "This statue that we have carved is not a gift to you. 72. We know that your original aim was to take back with you the object of our worship and the source of our hope. We know that you have given up a great deal to protect us and to preserve our hope when others would steal it away. 73. We know these things because we heard them in each strike of your hammer. 74. Something ancient and mighty came to us then, as each blow hit the rock, and its grace settled upon our shoulders. 75. My people, through those chimes, have regained a strength that has been lacking in us for three generations, when the despair of these barren lands first took it. 76. Together, we have carved this new statue to help us remember you and the gift that you have given us. The statue that you came here in search of, it is yours to take."
V77. Ella Petra was overcome and could do little but weep and smile her deep gratitude. 78. Onto the remaining wagon, the native people helped load the ancient statue that was Ella Petra's original quarry, and the strongest of them climbed on board with her to make the journey and to tell their story to the king of Brookestone. 79. As the wagon rolled away, Ella Petra felt deep in her heart the love of The Just God, and she knew that she had served him well both in honoring her obligation to Justice, and in bringing an understanding of him to these people of the untamed north.