The Wanderer, Part 31

The Wanderer, Part 31

The Wanderer, Part 31

This story is part of a series, this is the thirty-first part.

You can read the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 30

Tas almost never dreamt anymore. Occasionally he would have a dream in the early morning, but they were nothing supernatural. His arm occasionally, but the wyrm remained dormant and he hadn’t experienced any fading into shadow or dreamwalking. He was beginning to grow much tougher in the winter cold, always pushing against the wind and the falling snow. He was strong now, and Tas knew that Ice made him much stronger. The wolf was like his eyes in the snow, they worked in unison now.

Yao was finally tiring from the hard work on moving through the snow each day. Tas could tell that he was busy planning their next move. Though he had no idea what it was.

On the way out of the door, Tas wacked Yao in the head with the end of his stick, causing a big yelp from the old man and a reflexive grab of Tas’ collar. Yao pulled him in tight and laughed, though Tas could see that the old man was weary. “You’re tired, Yao. I’ve never seen you so physically deflated.”

“Yes, I am tired. The time has almost come for us to leave these mountains and to move on. You have gotten strong in the past months and your hunting is now better than mine.” Yao glared at Ice. “The wolf makes you inhumanely good at finding prey.”

Now Yao turned to Tas more seriously, as though he’d been waiting to ask something that was now finally coming up. “Have you dreamt lately? Has the wyrm wriggled free in your dreams?”

“No, Yao, nothing. I haven’t dreamt in months!” It was weird, now that Yao mentioned it, he couldn’t remember the last dream he had. “And the wyrm has been completely meaningless for me. I’m not sure if it is even still a part of me.”

“Oh, it most certainly is Tas. I am worried, the absence of action is the same as drastic action in cases of shadow magic. You may be sitting on a time bomb… with a demonic nightmare just waiting around for one night when you slip too deeply into your sleep. It’s just like Melkar to wait as long as he needs to in order to surprise me.”

“Then we will just have to be ready for him.” Tas said eagerly, scratching Ice behind his ear while he said it.

“Yes, Tas, we will. You have gotten stronger, but it may be time to return to the monastery. Fei could help you to learn how to use the dreamwalking now, instead of simply avoiding it.” Yao’s eyes sparkled with possibility. But Tas was enjoying his time in the snow and he loved the thrill of the hunt. He would have to pack lots of jerky with him to go; he didn’t think he could return to the old ways of only small amounts of rice each day. His body had grown quite a bit and he was no longer a child. He was now a young man, as Yaina liked to remind him.

They set out into the day with the scolding morning winds, ripping through Tas’ furs as if they were napkins. Yao’s face immediately sank to the snow and they trudged off together, separate from the main pack of hunters, but moving in the same direction. Ice led, as always; Tas bridged the wolf and Yao and made sure that everyone was in the proper position in case of a stampede or of a herd moving though the area. Tas trudged slowly using his spear Ice began to take off in search for a scent while Tas and Yao looked for tracks. Ice always found something first these days.

This was the coldest day Tas had experienced. They all had to keep moving to stay warm; even Ice was grimacing against the wind. Yao lagged a little, but he looked the least affected by the conditions.

After a few more minutes, Ice picked up a trail and they moved through the icy desert until they stumbled onto a small cave. Ice stopped at the mouth of the small rock formation and sniffed before they arrived. He looked excited, but also very wary. As Tas approached the rocks, he could see that the opening was large enough for a bigger animal.

As Yao arrived last, unusual for the old man, but Tas knew that the cold was taking its toll on the old man. They would have to leave this place soon, as Yao had said.

Yao scoffed as he reached the mouth of the cave, and began to peer down expressionlessly. Tas couldn’t seem to make out what the old man was thinking, even though he knew Yao better than he knew himself at this point. Or at least close.

“There is something dark down there.” Yao said slowly.

“What do you mean?” Tas said slowly. His mind instantly rushed to Grethatch, Melkar and the nether-magic that they had encountered at the monastery. “Is it from the nether?”

“Yes.” Yao said instantly. “I can taste the shadow in the air.” It smelt like rot and dampness to Tas, but he didn’t know better. The only nether beings he had encountered were once human; except for the wyrm, which hadn’t so much as moved since his last nightmare.

As Tas thought about the wyrm, it began to squirm in his arm. He was terrified; it was obviously responding to whatever was down below.

Suddenly a sound echoed through the cave; a raspy and chilling breath that made Tas’ heart shudder. His eyes began to go dark, though they were still open and a loud ringing sound took over his hearing. He looked at Yao, who seemed to be yelling, but was making no sound. Another breath and now Tas was shaking uncontrollably. He could feel Yao’s hand on his face, but Tas had to focus completely on breathing, because he was grasping for air. Then Tas felt Ice lay next to him and with a sigh that broke through the shaking, passed out.

 

 

 

The Wanderer, Part 13

wanderer_first-dream

This story can be read alone, or as the 13th story of the wanderer series.

Please see the first story here: The Wanderer, Part 1

or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 12

The sky was very dark and hazy, at first Tas was just walking along a lonely road, but he could recognize it. He continued to stare at the ground, mesmerized, he felt like he had been here a thousand times. He could see the tracks and the signs along the way and he knew them all, but he couldn’t remember where. The journey seemed to last forever, but he finally arrived at the entrance gate to his parents village.

Tas was so excited, but was careful to keep his breathing steady and pushed his thoughts back and exhaled, dropping back in.

Now he was with his mother in the kitchen, waiting for his father to finish cooking a fresh chicken. Come to think of it, he was famished, so he was happy to eat a bit of chicken with his parents in their small house. An eternity felt like a breath and Tas soon found himself at the hearth, sitting against his father’s chair, alone again in the dark night, the only light was flickering from the dying fire. He looked up at the stars as the ceiling dissolved; he felt himself falling and startled awake.

Tas woke up with a grin, his dream was a clear vision of his family and he could see all that they had been doing for the day. He sat for a moment, enjoying his own success. The night before, he had aligned himself with Jupiter, and because of the full moon, he was able to use the full extent of Jupiter’s power to see his family. Paj taught him this trick, though it could only be done on the full moon and only when Jupiter was high in the sky. Tas felt very satisfied as he woke to dress for the day, not to mention his peace of mind at being able to see his mother and father happily moving homes because of the success of the harvest in the past few months.

Paj and Tas made incredible progress in their nightly sessions, sometimes talking and reading and practicing certain meditations far into the morning. Tas had completely memorized the movement of the planets and their visible satellites in the sky with the telescope. They had bowls and cups of metal to make sounds to induce meditation and Tas had deepened his ability to perceive the his world. The moon’s cycles were becoming more and more familiar to Tas, but the moon’s powers were ever elusive and Paj was slow to teach him anything truly significant. Last week was the first exception, Paj told Tas that the full moon granted a sight while sleeping. Combined with Jupiter’s ability to travel outside of the body, it made for a powerful combination for dreamwalking, as he called it. Tas spent the night facing the direction of Jupiter in the Northwest and Paj hesitantly used the alloy synced with Jupiter’s frequencies. And he had succeeded.

Tas tested it by passively meditating into sleep, as Paj had instructed, then found himself awake in the dream. He continued to smile as he washed, groomed, and dressed himself, preparing for his morning meditations. He joined the sea of monks again, as he did every morning and after the morning’s invocation, went down to the forest to meet Shu and continue. Each day was a little different, the powerful meditations seemed to come in waves. Some days were torturous, but made him feel so great afterwards, some where easy, but made the rest of the day difficult. He had grown frustrated in the first weeks, but now he had stopped caring. Tas just tried not to think about it and it seemed to be working out so far.

He was keen to continue exploring his mind in the energy of the circle of monks. He had come to realize that there was something special about the trees, or perhaps the ground that allowed them to meditate for so long. He asked Shu a few days ago and he only responded that there was indeed something special about it, but he didn’t know what.

Shu had begun to meditate with Tas, teaching him techniques to still his breathing and slow his heart. Tas could feel so much, Shu said constantly, “you must become more sensitive. Only when you become more sensitive, more detached and able to feel your senses will you be free of their grasp. Then you will be free to feel as the true you wishes.”

Tas knew there was more than this from Yao, but he was sure that Shu was also correct in his teaching. Tas was starting to feel a nothingness, a sensation of pure bliss in his meditation, but he could only caught small glimpses of it. It was similar to how he felt with Yao, but less potent. He often remembered the night where he was starving and forced to wait and felt a sea of immeasurable pleasure and himself floating inside of its immensely overwhelming nothingness.

He spent a couple of hours in pure silence, scanning his thoughts and letting go of the night before; after he went to lunch and enjoyed his time alone. He asked for two extra servings, much to the dismay of the cook, but he needed the food. His stomach was rumbling for the past few days and he had already ignored it for too long. The meditations and lessons were exhausting.

After he finished his third bowl of rice soup, he took a few breaths and began to walk upstairs to the tower.

As he walked through the heavy, wooden door, Tas could tell that things were arranged differently than usual. Immediately he asked himself what the old man could be up to, until his shoulder was grabbed forcefully and he was turned to face Paj; the old man’s eyes were lined with fatigue.

“Last night, you prepared to travel with Jupiter, didn’t you?” Paj asked impatiently, his eyes never leaving Tas’. He already knew.

“Yes, I went to see my family.” Tas turned his eyes down to the floor.

“it was…” he sighed, returning to his mother’s laugh and his father’s confident grin.

“powerful and..” he looked up again to see Paj’s eyes reflecting his own.

“reassuring.” he said the last work slowly, letting it sink in so he could hear it himself. His family was healthy and happy.

Paj smiled suddenly, Tas could tell that he was not happy when he walked into the room. “Good, I am glad that your family is safe. Have you experienced any side effects?”

“I don’t think so…” Tas said slowly, trying to think back.

“Good. You would know.” Paj changed his manner and his brow darkened, a contrast to his white beard. “But there is something of a larger scale that is happening. The stars reflect a chaos surfacing in the West. Something is returning that is very, very old, and more powerful than you want to know.” Paj’s eyes glared and he slowed as he said them, obviously thinking back to another time. Tas was patient, but he already had so many questions.

“What is it?” Tas asked, hesitant to ask a question at all.

“Well, straight to the point aren’t we? Let’s find out.” Paj said, his gaze icy and cold, resigned, hardened. Tas felt his body begin to tremble in anticipation, he learnt of great sages who shared dreams in the manuals, but hadn’t even seen mention of techniques. Was he about to do this with Paj? He was sure that the ancient techniques were far advanced to his own elementary knowledge; at least for now.

Paj began to scuffled around, grabbing particular bowls and preparing tea for Tas with ginger, hibiscus, eucalyptus, and rosemary. “We will align with the moon again tonight, there is still small remaining power for sight. The tea will augment that power and…” he paused for long enough to look at Tas very seriously, one eyebrow rose as he finished, “will greatly enhance our sensitivity.”

Tas knew what this meant. The dream would be powerful; more powerful than anything he had ever experienced. But he was ready, his mind was empty and he was not scared.

“We will align our minds with Saturn’s rings, using the silver and iron alloyed bowls. Jupiter will also be in the sky, so we can share with Saturn’s energies and travel with Jupiter’s. and…” now he paused for a moment.

“we will smoke this.” He held up a small paper full of tobacco, some greenweed, and some other black substance that Tas didn’t know. But Tas was ready; he knew that this would be another step towards his ultimate goal and he wasn’t worried; Paj wouldn’t lead him astray.

He drank the tea, slowly, meditating as he did, saying nothing and letting Paj use the signing bowls. They both began to smoke the small rolled joint. Paj instructed Tas to inhale, but after the first one, he couldn’t stop coughing. Each time afterwords, he still coughed, but a bit less. Paj continued to play the bowls and Tas could feel himself fading into sleep; he could do nothing to stop it. Paj continued to play the bowls and create the vibrations, but was now sitting in his chair and Tas could tell that he was dozing off as well. Tas could feel himself leaving his body in the depths of the vibrations, the huge sea of vast nothingness was returning. Tas sat back on his mat in the room, faced towards Saturn and fell deeply into a sleeping meditation, where he couldn’t tell if he was awake, or asleep, until he finally succumbed to the dark of his mind.

 

 

The Wanderer, Part 7

work from http://www.aboriginalworkshops.com/

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5
The Wanderer, Part 6

Tas rolled awake in the midst of a hard rainfall, his canopy was beginning to flood because he hadn’t angled the roof properly. He had been alone for longer than he could remember, though he knew it had only been a few days. He had eaten well the night before; he found a mango tree and caught a wild chicken in the jungle. The old man would have disapproved, but he didn’t care. The chicken had filled him up more than any meal ever had. He salted some of the cooked meat from the night before and began to eat.

After his breakfast, his mind turned immediately to his surroundings and seeing that the rain was worsening, set out into the jungle.

His shoes were soaked in minutes so he replaced them with large fan leaves that served as a sort of boat for his feet as he waded. Tas soon learned to stay up slightly in the trees to see any available fruit. It also turned out to be a bit faster than walking on the mud. He spent an hour wading towards the south, he wished to see deeper into the depths of the wild. He could go home tomorrow.

Tas hadn’t seen a tiger since the day Vesu died. He still felt the fear in his body, a shaking that woke him in the night sometimes. He continued on his path for a bit longer, wading through mud until he fell over a tree root and was covered in filthy mud from the forest floor.

He groaned with displeasure as the mud slipped from his skin, his face was completely covered. He used one last clean spot from his shirt to clean around his eyes after using his fingers to remove most of the muck. Then he grabbed his water and washed his face. It was getting low, his original supply for a week had dwindled down to just a few days. He would have to find a waterhole, or some coconuts soon, which he had scarcely found in this thick jungle.

As Tas finished wiping his eyes, he became aware of a man standing directly in front of him. This man had hole in his ears and they were filled with wooden carvings, his face was tattooed with dark symbols of colored birds and some creatures that Tas had never seen, but seemed ferocious enough. He seemed to loom over him as he approached menacingly. The man seemed to move with pure muscle and in a short step took out his bow to aim it at Tas. He laced it with a long arrow and pulled it back, ready to split Tas’ head open.

But Tas stared back at this man, hard determination seemed to sizzle on his skin, a fire began to burn in his belly. Had he come this far to let this man end him here?

He rose and walked over to the man with his head bowed and moved the arrow away from its original target. The man whistled and four others moved from the shadows. The rain was still pouring, splashing all around and sometimes bouncing right up to splash Tas right in the eyes.

The men moved towards him and he kept still. He simply looked up for a second, put his hand on his heart, and said, “friend” with the same hard determination that he had met the gaze of the first man. These others were even taller, stronger, and more tattooed and ornamented in strange ways. One had holes in his cheeks, another had the skin of his hands missing and tattoos over the visible veins in his legs. He looked up to see the warrior’s face, a scar laid over one eye that was still functional. The scar continued down to his lip, forming a mean and permanent grimace.

They grabbed Tas by the shoulders and bound him, taking him through the jungle, further in the east. He struggled to free himself at one point, but the grim-looking man hit him in the back of the head, just soft enough not to knock him out. He remembered the sage in the desert and thought back to their last moments together. The old man did not seem so crazy now, compared to this madness. Tas knew of the eastern tribes, men who ate men, sometimes women and children. Some smoked all variety of herbs and plants, others spent days in silence, similar to his own master. He wondered where these men were taking him.

When they stopped at some coconut trees to refill their water supplies and take a short break, Tas waited patiently for the permanently frowning man to leave him. He couldn’t help but stare at the scar and wonder what it was from. After a bit, the man went into the jungle, probably to relieve himself. Tas immediately got up to talk to the first man who seemed to be in charge. Tas saw the dark tattoos around his eyes as he walked closer, until the man saw Tas approach and gave a quick whistle. Immediately, Tas was thrown to the ground and restrained. He looked up at the man and was immediately forced back down to the floor and bound. As he rose from the much he could just make out the tatoos of the grim man, felt his harsh laugh pierce through him as he swiped with his spear in a motion Tas couldn’t see, but all he felt was pain.

Tas fell to his knees, the air was knocked out of him so he could barely breathe. He looked up one last time at the man with the ornamented ears. The man smiled for the first time, a wicked smile of razor sharp teeth, red and bloody stained teeth, and two gold noserings. It was truly terrifying and Tas couldn’t help but show his fear. The man moved closer to Tas’ ear and whispered, “no friends here.” And then he bit off a chunk of Tas’ ear. He howled with laughter as Tas howled his pain; Tas was shaking and began to struggle ferociously against his captors. A moment later, the grim man approached Tas and smiled with rotten teeth that were as sharp as knives and now fresh with blood. He took the end of his spear again, this time swinging wickedly and knocked Tas to the floor and down into the depths of the dark.

The Wanderer, Part 6

Jungle_Wanderer Part6

Please read the first parts of the story here:
The Wanderer, Part 1
The Wanderer, Part 2
The Wanderer, Part 3
The Wanderer, Part 4
The Wanderer, Part 5

Tas woke up in his small bed, laying flat on his stomach. His back ached from the day before, he had slightly tweaked it when throwing a box aside. He was full from the night before, having eaten two dinners to make up for the long work week. Today was sunday, his day off.

The sun was high in the sky before he got out of bed and he took his time to wash and dress. Not that it was much of an event to begin with considering he wore one cloth during the day.

He set out into a hot day, broken by mists and gusts of wind from the ocean. He went to the center of town, by the fountain and wells and bath houses to meet Annu and a couple of other coworkers from the port. They would spent the day outside of the city, pulled by a cart that Annu had arranged earlier in the week.

He arrived to see them already departing. Tas realized suddenly that they would not stop for him and ran to catch up, sprinting on the cobbled roads. He jumped from a risen rock onto the side of the wooden supports and found footing. He climbed up and swung his leg over the side, tumbling onto Dill, who then shoved and rolled him into the center of the cart.

Tas rose immediately, sensing no injury and shook the dust off his body then rearranged his hard and sat. They all laughed together as he did this, first Annu howled, then the rest followed.

“We thought you had forgotten us!” Annu exclaimed in between waves of ravenous shaking laughter. Tas couldn’t help but keep a grin for the next fifteen minutes while they reveled in the morning’s events. They left the city walls and forgot the city behind them as the moved south, into the jungle.

It grew warmer and warmer as they went deeper and deeper into the semi-dark, canopy of trees. The cart became rather rickety after a bit and so Tas left the cart to walk. A few minutes later, the cart-wheel snapped and they were forced to continue on foot, taking their food and supplies with them.

Annu seemed to be extremely frustrated by the breaking of the cart, but he kept to himself and helped to portion out the goods so they could take what they needed. “They journey home will take 3 extra days,” he said as Tas collected his portion. After they had distributed evenly amongst the six of them, they ate.

Annu pulled out a surprise of beer and some other rather harsh liquid. It was after mid-day and Tas had often seen the older men drinking at night. They called it boozing. Normally, he didn’t waste his money, but today he would drink with Annu. They clinked glasses and then took huge gulps, exhausted from the long haul from the city.

“You see my friend?” Annu asked, impassioned. “This is where you can truly find god.” He hugged and tree and then soon found himself covered in ants. Tas and the other howled with laughter as Annu’s cries of passion became cries of torture. He found his way to a large puddle by the base of a tree and then ants left him with countless red spots and bites. Tas truly felt bad, but let a last chuckle escape his lips before helping his friend.

“Careful,” Patel said sharply, looking straight at Tas. Don’t let yourself be overcome by the jungle. He looked off seriously as he finished, “I’ve lost a few friends out here… and I have a bad feeling about this.” He looked behind and all around, then moved his gaze up, into the trees.

Annu, finally recovering, said swiftly, “you think we are being tracked?”

“Yah,” Patel said. “My gut tells me yes.” But right now, there’s nothing we can do. He pointed towards the thick of the jungle, “we have to head towards the temple. There will be a clearing, and the ruins we seek there. Though, we will have to travel into the night. Which is not advised.” He looked harshly into the thick of the trees, his machete readied.

For the next three hours, they cut and hacked their way through the thick jungle brush, stopping every hour for a minute for water. Tas felt as though he had sweat every inch of his energy onto the forest floor, but kept finding more and more energy. He thought back to his days in the desert and found that this was not so hard in comparison. It made him smile to think of the old man and his teachings.

Every day, the lessons seemed to make more sense, but he could not say why. Everything else seemed to be more shallow and difficult at the same time without him. Though he was still angry about his last antic. Tas’ head still hadn’t fully recovered, though he felt that eventually it would.

They came to a clearing at last, but before entering the ruined temples, Patel stopped them. Ahead, through the last of the brush, Tas could see two white tigers, huge, roaming outside of one of the ruined structures. And when the second tiger moved away from the entrance, they could see three cubs, all very small. The mother seemed to have a roaming range, but Patel turned them around.

They were lucky to have seen the tigers before going any further. The entire crew started to move further north, towards the road, until suddenly Nilesh cried from behind to run. Out of the corner of his eye, before he could start sprinting, Tas saw a flash of white leaping towards them, far away but moving so fast. He turned and ran, as fast as he could. He saw Patel in front slashing through the jungle, and trudged through the thick mud and endless brush after him. Eventually, Annu caught up to them, and so did Nilesh, though Nilesh wouldn’t speak. Having called the alarm he had been last.

That meant Corle and Vesu were lost, or injured. But the other didn’t want to return and search for them, for fear of the tigers hunting them. Annu looked very sad for the rest of the day as this had been his idea. Tas tried to cheer him up, explaining that no one could have foreseen tigers in the future, but Annu would not hear it.

They spent the night further north towards the main road, paranoid and with little sleep. Tas could see Annu in torment and began to realize that Corle and Vesu had been his friends.

Tas supposed that he felt sad, but he also felt very lucky. He had survived a beast that would no doubt kill him at a moments notice. So strong, so powerful, pouncing towards them faster than he could look. He dreamed of its prowess and felt drawn to them in a way that he couldn’t explain.

In the morning they set out to leave, but Tas did not want to. He felt that he liked the wildness of the jungle, the loud noises and the endless brush. Annu looked at him like he was crazy. How would he eat? Tas replied that he did not know, but that he was sure he could find a way. Annu scoffed at him and left without a backwards glance.

Tas couldn’t help but feel a bit sad at his friend. He would not stay forever. He was tasked with returning to the old man, but he felt as though he should stay for a small time, to learn the wild ways of this place. He could hear the voice in his head, let go. And that night, he slept like a child after his meditation that was both louder and more peaceful than any he had ever experienced. But his stomach grumbled as he moved to sleep and he knew that in the morning he would find his food in the wild  and so he grinned, unseen in the dark and noisy night.