Flavia woke up to the ear-splitting sound of a petrified scream coming from her mother’s room. She slipped out of bed, tiptoed across the corridor and peeped through the keyhole of her mother’s bedroom door. Two Nazi soldiers were tying her mother’s hands behind her back. Flavia bit her tongue to stop herself from screaming and took a step backwards. She froze with horror as a floorboard creaked. The soldier cautiously opened the bedroom door, pointing a gun ahead of himself. He saw Flavia slumped against the wall with a look of utter terror on her face and sighed with relief. “It’s just a child!” he called to his companion, lowering his gun. He grabbed her arm. She tried to break herself free, but his grip was like iron. Flavia realised that they were taking her, her mother, and many other Jewish women and children from their homes to a refugee camp.
By the time the prisoners had reached the camp, the sun had set and the moon was shining over the summit of the hills. Flavia started pushing through the crowd, trying to find her mother. What if she had been taken to another refugee camp? The last time she had seen her was when the Nazi soldiers were tying her hands behind her back. How would Flavia ever find her? She lay in a dry space on the ground. Her feet were blistered and her legs ached more than any pain she had ever experienced before. Tears welled up in her eyes, but what grieved her heart more was never being with her mother again. Her father fighting in the war was bad enough, but she was so close to her mother. Her mother always understood everything.
The next morning, Flavia’s backside hurt from sleeping on the ground and her bones were stiff. Suddenly, she heard a playful bark. Scuto’s bark! “Scuto!” she cried, “Scuto! Where are you, my Scuto?!” A golden Löwchen puppy came running up to Flavia, panting. “My Scuto you found me!” she sobbed into his soft, silky fur. He wriggled away from her arms and led her towards the bushes. Out of the blue, soil came flying out in her face. She squealed. “Scuto! Oh, Scuto! What have you done?” She quickly brushed the soil on her face with her arm and tried to lift Scuto out of the shallow pit he had dug. Just as Flavia was about to smuggle Scuto back to the refugee camp, she spotted a wooden box in the pit. She carefully lifted the box from the pit and placed it on a cushion of moss growing nearby. She then opened the box and peered curiously inside. She was surprised to find a picture of a fighter jet and a note written in code that she could not understand. She then remembered the bombing in Germany before she had been brought to the refugee camp and wondered whether this could be linked to the war. The code triggered the memory of an old woman she had once met in an ancient temple in Germany. This note and picture could be a vital clue relating to the war and her intuition told her that she must find out what it meant.
The following morning, Flavia packed some soup and water in tin cans and brought the wooden box Scuto had found. She had decided the night before that she would at least try to navigate to Frauenkirche, the home of the Wise Woman.
It was night. Flavia and Scuto had walked for a long time, and both of them were tired, especially Flavia, as her feet were bare. They were walking on the planes of Uada. Even though Flavia did not have a map with her, she had studied astronomy with her father and could easily navigate her way to Frauenkirche by using the constellations. Since Flavia knew they were walking on the planes of Uada, she also knew that they were close to River Uada. She would have to cross the river and climb a steep mountain until she would be at the entrance of Frauenkirche. Her eyelids were heavy and she heard Scuto whine softly beside her. They found shelter in a dry, cool cave with a carpet of dead moss. Flavia was pleased with her progress.
Warm Sunlight flooded the cave, and Flavia stretched and yawned. It was morning. She crept out of the cave so as to not wake Scuto and rinsed her face in a stream flowing beside the cave. She returned to the cave and started a little fire in a ring of rocks with a discarded tinder box she found lying around. Then, she hung a tin of soup on one stick that rested over the fire on two forked sticks on either side of the ring. After the soup had warmed, Flavia drank half of the contents and put the rest on the ground for Scuto.
Flavia could hear the sound of gushing water somewhere nearby and knew it must be the current that flows with the River Uada. She stripped some firm bark off a tree and wove them together with reeds like her father had taught her to, to make a raft. After balancing herself and Scuto upon it, she used a big branch as an oar to row themselves across the River. Her arms started to ache, so she took a rest, and laid the pole against the raft. Suddenly, a slim, dark figure moving under the water near the raft caught her eye and Scuto started to bark excitedly. What was it? Flavia calmed Scuto down and started to row again. This time she kept her eyes peeled and ears open for anything suspicious. As the raft moved forward, she could faintly see the entrance to something big and dark, like a black hole. Terrified that it had something to do with the figure she had seen earlier, she tried to steer the raft the other way. The current flowing behind her was too strong, and the raft spun towards the entrance of the black hole. Panic-stricken, Flavia covered her face with her arms and screamed as loudly as she could. Even Scuto nearly fell off the raft with fright.
There was no longer the roaring sound of a waterfall or a current flowing behind the raft. They had only passed through a cave! It was not a black hole! This was a great relief to Flavia, but the branch was gone. It must have fallen and sunk when Flavia had let it go to shield herself. They would have to swim to the riverbank.
Flavia’s father had taught her astronomy, how to light a fire with a tinderbox, how to build a raft with bark and reeds, swimming and much more, but she did not know how to climb. The mountainside that loomed over her was steep and dangerous, but she had no other choice. She used the extra reeds she had taken with her in case of emergency as a rope. After making secure harnesses for both herself, Scuto and the box, she tied a loop on the other end of the reed and tied it to a sharp piece of iron from the tinderbox she had found earlier and taken with her. As she climbed higher and higher, she used the iron to pierce the rock with a small hammer she was carrying in her pocket.
At long last, when she had reached the top, her knees gave away beneath her. She flopped onto the ground. You could not blame an 11-year-old girl for being fatigued after climbing forty-one feet. (She had also had to carry Scuto and the wooden box with her). She got up reluctantly and started walking slowly but surely towards Frauenkirche. She could hardly believe she had finally reached her destination. The big, oak doors opened magically in a welcoming way. Flavia entered, making sure that the wooden box and Scuto were still with her. “Who and what you seek, and why, I already know,” said a deep, warm voice behind her. Flavia turned around and gasped. “You are the Wise Woman?” She asked. “Mmmm,” replied the woman. Her skin was brown and wrinkled, her hair was grey and wispy, but her eyes inky black eyes were bright with understanding and full of intelligence. A little humour sparkled in them, but they never looked at you. They looked through you. “Let me see the note,” she said gently. “Yes,” said Flavia in a small voice. The Wise Woman took the note and handed Flavia a steaming cup. It was warm and it felt comforting against her numb hands. “Thank you,” she whispered. She did not feel as she usually did when she was in a church. Churches were usually cold and still. As though, ‘there, time passes not. For the sacred vibrations are dormant.’
The old woman did not answer her. She was busy stirring a mysterious liquid in what looked suspiciously like an evil witch’s cauldron. Flavia did not believe that the Wise Woman was wicked, so she silently scolded herself for thinking such things and took a sip of the warm liquid. It tasted like warm butter and honey! At that moment, a low, hissing sound came from the cauldron as the Wise Woman dropped the coded note into it. A snake arose from it and swayed from side to side. Flavia was shocked. How could a live snake have arisen from a boiling hot liquid? After gazing into the snake’s eyes for a few minutes, the woman nodded wisely and turned to Flavia. “There is a certain jewel. It lies in a shallow pit under the waters in a certain cave in River Uada. It is guarded by a beast, dangerous but harmless. You shall dive for the jewel, the beast will not hurt you. You say the sacred prayer your mother has taught you and re-taught you many times while holding the jewel. Then only will this horrible and gruesome war end.”
Then, as though by magic, Flavia was standing outside of Frauenkirche. No wooden box with her. No coded note, no pictures of fighter jets, and no wise women. Only herself and Scuto. She hurried back to her raft and instantly rowed back the way she had come. When she reached the cave, she gazed at the shallow waters, wondering whether there really could be a jewel so powerful lying in the depths of River Uada. She quickly tied her long, hazel-brown hair into a tight bun with reeds and jumped into the water. She did not know how to swim, but she could try diving. She had seen her father dive countless times before. He made diving look easy, but to Flavia, it was worse than she had imagined. Her chest started to tighten, and her ears were ringing. She immediately surfaced, gasping for breath and hanging onto the raft for dear life. She held her breath and dived again. This time she saw something blood red shining in a small pit. Now that Flavia knew where the jewel was, she dived for the last time, grasping the jewel tightly in her hand. She then climbed onto the raft with some difficulty, as her clothes were soaked and heavy. Holding the jewel in her right hand, she recited the sacred prayer that she had heard her mother singing since she was a baby. “Lieber Herr, lieber Herr, lass diese Zeit des Todes enden. Ich sage durch die Pracht und Kraft dieses Juwels.” (English translation: Dear Lord, dear Lord, let this age of death end. I speak by the splendour and power of this jewel.) The jewel glowed, emitting blood-red light onto the walls of the cave. All of a sudden, something dark, lurking under the water, overturned the raft! Flavia screamed and nearly suffocated as her mouth filled with water. It was a 200-mile long beast. Its scaly skin was emerald green and its eyes were a pale yellow, with deep blue slits in the middle. It had launched the spiky club at the end of its tail onto the raft. Flavia remembered what the Wise Woman had told her. “It is guarded by a beast, dangerous but harmless. You shall dive for the jewel, the beast will not hurt you.” Her head began to spin and her vision became blurry. Then suddenly, everything went black.
Flavia woke up in a soft, warm bed. She could feel Scuto’s soft body against her arm. When she opened her eyes, she cried with joy, for sitting at the end of her bed, were her mother and father. She closed her eyes and smiled. The prayer had worked and her father was back from the war that had ended. She and her family would be together again. Thousands of other families all over the world were also reunited, but how and when they never knew.