In a forgotten land, long ago, at the edge of a magical kingdom, there lived a girl named Ava with her old mother and father and three younger brothers. Ava loved listening to music and had the habit of sneaking out of her house, whenever she could, to sit by the window of the village’s inn, and listen to musicians play the lyre, drums, flutes, and harps. Sometimes there would also be a singer, although most of the time, the crowd’s chants would be heard most.
One day, while Ava was walking in her little garden, she saw a man in the distance walking towards her village. The man appeared to be injured, walking with a limb. Ava took a filled waterskin and hurried to the man. Seconds before she could reach him, he fell to the floor. Ava knelt down and poured water into the man’s mouth. He was hardly breathing, his clothes burnt and ripped, covered with ash and blood.
“Dra…” he whispered to Ava while coughing, “Must warn the queen, three…” he continued to whimper words that made no sense. Ava asked the man to calm down and drink more water. When he did, he tried to speak again. This time, Ava understood the words he was saying. “The three-headed dragon is coming from the south,” he said, “I must warn the Queen.”
Ava was terrified as she heard those words. She heard stories about the three-headed dragon, mostly from songs at the inn, but she never expected to be at the stage of one of his infernal performances. The man suddenly gave out a low groan and fell silent. Ava could no longer feel his heartbeat. He was dead.
Ava rushed back to her family’s cottage, took her small knife and headed back to the door. “Take my mother and brothers into the caves,” she told her father. “The three-headed dragon is coming!”
Ava rushed into the forest, where the Elven Queen lived. It was her errand now to warn the Queen. As she took her first steps into the woodland, she was startled by the beauty of it. Majestic trees stood tall, forming passages and halls. She started walking between the trees. North, she was going, as every song about the Queen mentioned her abode to be to the north of the forest. As she walked deeper into the woods, the darkness grew and her astonishment quickly turned into fear. She started singing the words of a song that came into her mind.
“Deep into the forest, I go and go and go,
where the waters meet the fodder and snow
into the land of magic, the woods green
I uncover passages no one else has seen…
Where the tall trees and ferny bushes grow,
Deep into the forest, I go and go and go.”
Then, she started humming the music of the song. Suddenly, to her surprise, she heard someone humming back at her. She looked at where the sound is coming from and saw a tall and beautiful fairy, with glowing wings and wide sparkling eyes.
The fairy said: “Hello, Ava. You must hurry. Follow the path ahead until you reach the river, and then walk north by the river bank and you will reach the Elven Queen’s castle.” Then, the fairy disappeared. How did she know my name? Ava wondered.
As she walked the path the fairy pointed at, she heard a sudden growl coming from behind the trees. She looked and behold! A giant wolf was moving towards her. Its growls went louder as it came closer, revealing a set of huge and sharp fangs, with red eyes fixed upon her. Ava turned around and started running away. She looked back to see that the wolf was gaining on her. When she looked back ahead, there was a woman standing there. Her skin was pale and her dress was green. The woman grabbed Ava by her hand and told her to stop. She then looked at the wolf, who also halted, and told him to calm down. The wolf appeared to nod and then pranced away into the thick forest trees. “Move forth, my girl,” the woman said, “no wolf in my domain will hunt you anymore.”
“Who are you?” asked Ava. “I am the one they call the Forest-lady. Now go forth with your task for the time moves fast. You must run.”
Ava started running alongside the river. As she ran and ran, her heartbeat was getting faster and her feet weary. A bright light was moving on the surface of the water beside her. It was taking different forms. A boat it was, and then a horse, then a woman, and then back into a boat. And when Ava felt she could no longer keep going, the white light arose from the river and moved onward with her. When she touched the light, she heard a sound saying: “Move forth, young girl, keep running. I am the River-woman and I give you my blessings.”
Suddenly, Ava did not feel weary anymore. She started running faster as a huge castle appeared in front of her. She walked into the castle gates to be greeted by guards who took her to the Queen upon hearing her story. As she stepped into the great hall where the Elven queen sat on her throne, she saw a beautiful young woman, for a time had no power on the elves on old. The Elven Queen presented Ava with water and bread. After hearing her story, she called upon her trusted lieutenant. A shield-maiden answered the queen’s call. “Call upon the armies,” the Elven Queen ordered, “for the three-headed dragon is coming.”
And right away, the shield-maiden rode next to her queen to meet the dragon. One the road, they were joined by a valkyrie, arriving from halls of gods to aid in the cause. The mage, the mighty enchantress of the forest, also joined the queen’s forces.
At the southern edge of the forest, they saw fire in the darkness of the night. The dragon has just attacked a village and its houses were ablaze. They rushed to meet the dragon, and the battle began. The three-headed dragon fought fiercely and mercilessly. His fire melted the armour of the queen’s and rendered their swords useless. It was then, when the battle appeared to be lost, that a horn was heard. From the east came an army of men dressed in black. The Dark Mistress of the Enchanted Forest they served. For long, she was the enemy of the Elven Queen. But on this day, their forces would be united to defeat a common enemy. Just as the dragon was turning to face the incoming danger, a second horn was heard, and from the west appeared an army made of ice and magic, led by the Frost Queen, the ruler of the mountain.
Then, in the dark of that red night, the mage produced a great light, a light that blinded one of the dragon’s heads. The mighty Archress from the elven ranks released an arrow that pierced the dragon’s second head, while the Frost Queen used her magic to freeze the third. While the dragon was trying to free itself from the ice and arrows and light, the Elven Queen and the Dark Mistress rode together alongside Ava, the shield-maiden, and the valkyrie. Together, they stabbed the battled the beast until finally, Ava was able to stab its heart with her knife. The three-headed dragon was no more.
The Fairy, Forest-lady, River-woman, Shield-maiden, Valkyrie, Mage, Dark Mistress, Frost Queen, Archeress, and Elven Queen all thanked Ava for journeying into the forest and warning them of the danger. The Elven Queen then said: “Ask, daughter, for any wish your heart desires and it shall be awarded to you.”
Ava thought and asked: “I would very much like to see what the best music will be like in the future.”
The Queen smiled. Then all ten women put their hands together and produced a beam of light that was directed at Ava. Ava closed her eyes and a smile appeared on her face. A few minutes later, she opened her eyes and thanked the ladies of the forest for fullfilling her biggest wish. Ava walked back to her family’s cottage. As she walked she was singing: “And she’s buying a stairway to heaven”.