Entering Grunewald five heroes did walk, following a road, all cobbled from rock. A wondrous map, from an old man’s hand, guided their steps in this mystical land. But before them appeared an unexpected sight, a tree and a fork, which way was right? Then out from the forest, a figure did appear. A soldier bedraggled, blood in a smear.
Though tempers did flare, their row did not last. The lord of the forest, Albion, came past.
“Thou have been released, young one, from that torturous hell. Live your life with these comrades, and live it well.”
Upon which the hero named Kham did stand, he kneeled and presented the toad in his hand. Milton’s skin was red, his pores leaking smoke. His voice was hoarse, no more than a croak.
“Your toad’s condition we quickly may fix. But first thou must pass my trials six.”
With a rustle of leaves and a breath of air, the forest disappeared, and only darkness was there. The hero called Gilbert, her branches spread wide, watched as into the clearing, four Treants did stride.
“You sideth with humans!” they bellowed at her, “While they cut down our comrades, both thistle and fir!”
“These are my allies!” Gilbert didst cry, “Though they are human, attack them and die!”
The Treant strode forward, and lifted an arm, but through sword and spell only he came to harm. Out from the darkness, Albion did appear. An apple he gave Gilbert, and spake for all to hear:
“Thou have passed my first trial, and I am impressed. Keep ahold of that apple, and thou shall be blessed.”
Albion gestured, his eyes hard and gray, “Choose one to die, or both I shall slay.”
For a time and a half Nyrik did consider, his pure blue eyes flicking hither and thither. Eventually he nodded in his decision, stood before the two and took up position.
“By my own honor, neither shall die. If you must kill them then first fight I.”
Albion grinned and gave Nyrik some bark, turned a sword in his hands, iron gleaming and stark.
The next to be tried was Riwen, and with Albion’s word, she appeared on a battlefield, blood all on her sword. Cowering before her were children three, terror on their faces for all to see.
“Kill them quickly,” a dark figure said, “They deserve not to live, they should be dead!”
Riwen strode forward with a shake of her head. “Why must they die?” she cautiously pled.
“They are inferior,” the boy in black jeered, “Slay them now, and shed not a tear.”
Riwen stood fast, and lightning did sear. “They will not die,” her voice lacking all fear.
But Albion was sated, “Thou has done well. Come back to me now, from that wartorn hell.”
Upon Riwen’s shoulder her reward did appear. The shape of a tree, etched proud and clear.
The newcomer Elowyn, whose trial was next, saw soldiers before her, and rightfully was vexed. Blood and gristle filled her vision, her squad splayed out, their bodies stained crimson.
“You were their leader,” a voice said in her ear, “Why should they die whilst you remain here?”
The horror was not over, and her father was there, the word “Betrayer” in blood over his sightless glare.
“Can you condone all the things that you’ve done? You have caused so much pain, and helped no-one.”
“My actions were just!” Elowyn replied, “Thou cannot judge me, I still have my pride!”
Behind her loomed the spectre of Death, with rusty scythe and rattling breath. Through her soul pure fear did fly, she must have courage, or else she shall die. But even in the darkness she did not despair, her strength of heart banished Death from his lair.
For Elowyn’s trial was a beautiful cape, its form cast around her in a natural shape.
" Now Major Köhler! " Albion cried, “Your memories we shall see, from before you had died.”
With a grinding noise and a horrible scrape, from the ground five pillars did quake. Upon them were scrawled symbols five. Sun, moon and spark. Bell and beehive. ’Twas Gilbert who finally solved the riddle. “Five elements!” she said, as quick as a fiddle.
Five elements indeed, and with each stone that fell, a vision came to Kohler, her past it did tell. Her times with Benyamin, both happy and grim, then he over her grave, form sodden and thin. A deck was Kholer’s reward, though she was at a loss.
“Use it wisely,” said Albion, “Else I shall be cross.”
Kham’s trial was last, a test from his college. His family looked on, begrudging his knowledge. Though the questions were hard and without any quip, Kham’s wits pulled through, he was smart as a whip. As he turned in his test, through the darkness did shine, the glowing of the sun, over a clearing fine.
A branch Albion gave Kham, it took shape in his hands, becoming a staff of much power, no item of chance. And lo behind Albion, a tree did loom, it’s fruit hanging low, and its flowers in bloom. One of these fruits the lord gave to poor Milton, his skin cooled to normal, no longer its crimson. From the toad’s back two wings did sprout, his tail ’came long, but not so his snout. With a joyous squeal, flame shot forth, as Milton took off, fast as a horse. Kham was in joy, his friend had been rescued. Albion sent them back, with the treasures they accrued.