THE TRAVELER, PART ONE OF THE BOOK OF IDEN by Brendan Lyons
Genre: YA Fantasy Adventure
A hollow-eyed old man sat hunched beneath a ragged blanket by the fire.
Tresses of tangled grey hair hung like long wisps of smoke from his head. Across from him stood a chestnut brown courser with a jet-black mane. The creature turned and considered him with dark eyes wreathed in flame. Its gaze entranced him and enveloped his mind. It drew him in until everything else fell away and he was taken to another time and place. Leaving the hut behind, he soared over vast open lands and men toiling upon them. He saw joy and pain, families driven from their lands and an entire people forced to flee their homes. Villages burned while man, woman, and child alike bled beneath the harsh yoke of war. Had this animal witnessed all this suffering? Such strange things to see in the eyes of a beast, he thought. He remained transfixed until the voice of the old man shook him from his trance.
“You must excuse my companion. His concerns, while heartfelt, are unfounded.” The grizzled old man ignored a whicker of protest from the horse and rose to his feet, extending his arms with a kind smile.
“Welcome to my home, traveler. You have come a long way.” The man’s voice was harsh, but it carried with it a certain comfort. It slipped through his ashy whiskers like a hot wind through a snow laden forest. “I have been watching your approach since you came over the horizon.” The old man eyed the crimson clasp on the traveler’s cloak.
“Good, it is really you. I was concerned by your appearance. You are younger than I expected.”
The traveler opened his mouth to speak, but hesitated. He had traveled far, pushing himself onward through the darkness in search of some respite. Now that he had found it, he was still as lost as ever. This stranger seemed to know him, which he found at once both comforting and disturbing. Somewhere in his heart, a thousand questions burned like live embers, but his mind lay blank. Standing in the narrow doorway with his mouth hanging open, he searched for the right words to express a feeling he did not understand.
“Do not fret, traveler,” said the old man. “The wasteland lies at your back. You need not fear it. Speak, you have walked a great distance to come here. Certainly there is something you seek.”
“I have come in search of something, that is true,” he said, unfamiliar with the sound of his own voice. “For all the hardship I have suffered along the way, I fear I know not what.” The old man nodded with a solemn smile.
“I know, traveler, and I know what it is you seek.” The traveler’s pulse quickened and blood rushed to his face.
“Will you tell me, sir?” The words tumbled out of his mouth. With a heavy sigh, the man lowered his head and spoke.
“I will tell you what I know, young man, but first I must ask you something. I need you to tell me what you know about how you arrived in this land. What do you remember about your journey to this place?” The traveler slouched back, deflated. This was the last question he wanted to answer.
“There is little to say,” he replied. “This land is strange to me and the path I walked to come here even stranger. I cannot tell you what I do not know myself.” He paused, expecting some expression of disapproval, but instead, the man seemed encouraged by these words. Struggling to one knee, he began rummaging around in the straw behind him.
“Good, good. It is just how I hoped then. There is little time to waste.” The traveler shook his head in confusion. He tapped the man cautiously on the shoulder and cleared his throat.
“You said you knew what I was searching for?”
“Of course!” the old man shouted with a broad smile. Then, as if catching himself for a moment, he continued. “Well, that is to say, I know where you can find it. North of here there is a vast forest, and in there you will find the Monastery of Sherushae. There are strange forces at work in that place and powers you could not imagine.”
The traveler’s heart sank as a word circulated in his mind. He could only just grasp at its meaning, but the thought of it made him feel uneasy. He could not help but chuckle at himself for even considering the idea of magic. At the same time, he had been searching for something he did not understand from the earliest shadows of his memory. Perhaps this was not so unbelievable.
“I do not think I believe in such things as magic,” he insisted, though still unsure. The old man paused for a moment with a quizzical look.
“Magic?” he scoffed. “Who said anything about magic? Such a ludicrous idea,” he said and returned to his shuffling. The traveler, however, was not satisfied and responded with growing impatience.
“You speak in mysteries, sir. If it is not magic, then what is it? What powers do you speak of?” he said, his voice beginning to shake.
“Not magic,” the old man said flatly. “Magic is a fool’s errand, boy, and I expect you to remember that. I apologize if you are unsatisfied with the guidance you are receiving, but as you haven’t any other direction, perhaps it would be best if you heed my words and head north.” The traveler was somewhat indignant, but the logic in the old man’s words was irrefutable. Perhaps he is right, he thought. I have no better options.
“Good,” the man said without waiting for him to speak, “I have not prepared in vain. I have packed you some food and brought this horse to accompany you. Your journey will not be a short one, but I assure you it will be well worth it.
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