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The Wanderer, Part 22

This story is part of a series, this is the twenty-second part.

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

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 21

Tas woke up with a jolt. Chills coursed through his body; the alpine air was fresh and crisp and their fire had died down to embers. Yao was snoring loudly and his wispy white beard floated with the wind and his loud snores. Tas’ eyes were hazy and his mind was blurred with fatigue from the day before, but the chill seemed to take only moments to wake him.

They were out of water, but during the past days Yao had taught Tas to build sturdy fires in the cold, to melt snow, and even a bit of rudimentary hunting, though he hadn’t shown Tas any of his expert trapping yet. The old man had caught three hares in a single snare two days ago, but he insisted that Tas wasn’t near ready yet and that he would simply hurt himself if he tried. Tas couldn’t argue; he had never seen snow before the days they had trekked up into the thin mountain air and he was still adjusting. He had never hunted. It was cold, harsh, and darker here, though the sun seemed to shine brighter during the day.

There was a dusty layer of snow on the ground so Tas took to cleaning out their temporary fire pit in the ground then went to collect more dead branches from the bottom of trees. He took his time to build the fire in a square with plenty of space in the middle for dried pine cones, pine needles, small sticks and some other kindling he could find. Using the flint that Yao had given him, he sparked the fire after only 10 minutes of trying; Yao could do it in just a couple, but it had taken Tas nearly an hour the night before.

The fire began to build and Tas took the small copper pot Yao had brought and began to fill his water skin first. When he was done, he woke Yao, knowing that it was time; the sun was rising in the sky and they needed to keep up their pace. Who knew how long they had until Grethatch or Melkar would find them.

Tas woke Yao by prodding him with a stick in the arm; the old man shuttered awake and for a moment his eyes were wild in defense and he looked ready to spring upon an assailant. Tas had learned to stay away from the old man when he woke him from snoring. He laughed as the old man gained his bearings, then moved closer to the fire, a grin of pure satisfaction crossing his lips.

“Good work boy! Maybe your cause isn’t lost after all,” he winked, and took the pot from Tas, filling his own skin, then drinking from it. He had another small vessel full of small leaves that he added to the water, then invited Tas to share in it.

“You think Grethatch will find us?” Tas said wearily. It was undeniable that his body was tired from the long days of trekking to higher and higher altitudes. His breath grew shorter faster and he found his muscles beginning to fail him at times.

“Yes.” Yao said sternly. “He has methods of doing so that I don’t understand, but they are powerful. You saw Melkar’s attack on the monastery; it was planned to perfection. Except for his overestimation of his own strength. It is probably his greatest weakness.” Another wide, this time sinister grin returned to Yao’s bearded and wrinkled face. “The only exception might be his underestimation of me. And by extension, you.”

Tas sat and thought for a moment while drinking the warm tea, feeling his entire body elevate with the hot liquid coursing into his body. It was ecstatic.

“We have two more days until we reach the village where I was born Tas. So now, you need to learn my story. Why I am who I am.”

“I know you were born a hunter Yao, then banished, but I don’t understand why. What happened?” Tas had been waiting for this since he had met the old man. Had it been months, years? He realized he had no idea.

“I wasn’t banished boy, I was exiled. The difference was my choice to leave. There was a corruption in my village that would have strangled me if I had stayed. I did what I had to.”

“What do you mean?” Tas was confused. This was not what he had understood from the little conversation they had shared on the subject earlier.

“My people are bloodthirsty Tas. The same rage and thirst runs through my veins, but I have tempered it, mostly with Fei’s help.”

“He disappeared!” Tas exclaimed. “Do you think Grethatch or Melkar capture or killed him?”

Yao laughed wholeheartedly in response, giving Tas instant relief.

“Fei may look harmless, but he’s as slimy as a snake and quiet as a mouse when he needs to be.” Yao’s expression grew more serious, “Never under-estimate the power of a monk, they dedicate their lives to learning themselves and by extension, their world. You saw Paj’s power. Fei’s is even more potent, which is why he commands the respect of the entire monastery.”

“It’s hard to think of him as so powerful; he’s so kind.”

“Fei is rare indeed; power nearly always corrupts those who grasp it. Honestly, he is one of my few friends in this world, Tas.”

“All of mine have been left behind.” Tas said, lowering his eyes and thinking back to his village. Tears suddenly welled in his eyes as his thought of his mother and father; where were they now?

“We leave behind everything in the course of our lives Tas. But looking back is important.” Yao said with a weak smile. “The past will always be behind you and that’s where it belongs.”

Tas didn’t really understand what Yao meant, but it comforted him all the same. He thought again to where they were going, taking Yao’s advice.

“So we are going to the village where you were born? Do you think we will be safe there?”

“I do not know.” Yao said seriously, his expression grew darker. He refilled the copper pot with snow and placed it near the fire, that was beginning to turn to embers. But it was still hot.

“My people are warriors, Tas. They do not know sympathy; they deal in death, honor, and strength. We will have one chance to find safe haven amongst them. I can only hope that chance will be on our side.”

“Chance? What does chance have to do with strength and honor?” Tas said curiously.

Yao laughed again, his normal hearty chuckle that Tas had grown terribly fond of. “Everything Tas. And do not be deceived by the tenets of honor; men are deceptive and sometimes evil beings. We are easily corrupted Tas. My biggest fear is that Melkar, or perhaps his allies hold have over my people.”

“You think he might have already been and corrupted your people? What drives that demon anyways? What does he even want with us?”

“He wants me dead. That is sure. As for my people, they are not easily corrupted; but I have thought the same of friends that have fallen to the shadows. So truthfully, I do not know.”

“And Melkar?”

“Melkar is a being of hate and greed. He likely wants your apprenticeship to wound me. That is why I believe he let you live while only corrupting you.” Yao grinned again, darkly. “A big mistake on his part.”

Tas thought back to the nightmare where he had been corrupted by the wyrm. Yao had to be right; Tas should have died that night.

Yao began to pack up their blankets and packs and they put out the fire. Tas felt rested and a bit worried, but happier to know where they were going and why. He couldn’t help but think that Yao was so different from his expectations. Gritting his teeth, Tas hauled his pack, took a long swig of cold mountain water, then followed his master up the slope into the chilled air of the alpine.


The Wanderer, Part 22 Read More »


The Wanderer, Part 21

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

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

and the most recent story here: The Wanderer, Part 20

Tas woke with a shake, not sure where he was. He panicked immediately, remember the night before. He twisted to his left and hit his head on something hard. ugh, what was that? Clutching his forehead, he slowly opened his eyes, trying hard not to think about much his head hurt. He could see a dark, starry sky on the ceiling slowly come into focus. He sighed with relief. The stars were meticulously placed and he had often sat beneath them late at night, learning their patterns and locations ceaselessly. He was in Paj’s study.

It was a second before he remembered everything. The monks panicking under the shadowy sky, Melkar and Grethatch’s attack on the monastery and then his dark dreams. Where had he gone the night before? How had Grethatch found him? He was so confused. The memories came rushing back to him as he rustled his body awake; it was still sleeping.

Paj awoke as Tas stood, though the old man tried to return to sleep. Tas grabbed his arm to wake him again and the old man’s eyes flickered open, panicking in the same way as Tas had; but one glance at Tas and the old man was awake.

“Tas! You’re alive. Thank heavens.” Paj rustled himself awake, taking a few moment to stretch. “Let’s wake the old man, shall we,” Paj said sarcastically and in a slightly disgruntled tone. Tas could hear Paj’s bones crackling as the old man got up to his feet. Yao was on the couch to their left; still asleep. There was a small, charred scar on his forehead, though it was barely noticeable. Paj moved towards Yao to wake him, moving with the slow grace that was always with the old man.

Instead of grabbing Yao’s arm like Tas had for Paj, Paj threw a cup of water on Yao’s face. Yao sputtered to life, his guard came up immediately as he jumped to his feet. Paj watched the Yao as he swung at the air, and laughing heartily at Yao’s reflexes. Yao cursed strongly, but his anger faded immediately. Tas took note never to wake Yao up forcefully.

Once Yao’s eyes fell on Tas, his jaw hardened. “Time to leave.”

Tas sighed in exasperation; he need answers. “Can’t we talk about what is happening? I want to know what in the hell is going on, I’m terrified to fall asleep again!”

“You should be.” Yao said heatedly, checking his pockets and obviously getting ready to depart. Paj shrugged as Tas looked to him for help. “GO GET YOUR THINGS BOY! MOVE! NOW!” Tas didn’t even have time to think to respond; he hurried down the stairs to get his things from his room. He couldn’t believe he fell asleep the night before; this whole ordeal was his fault.

He rushed down the stairs, noting the emptiness of the monastery. Where had all the monks gone? Tas hurried to grab his pack; thanking himself for having already gathered food. He knew Yao would be ready to leave the second he walked upstairs to the main entrance.

He hurried back up the stairs; there was no time for farewells or goodbyes, even though one of the cooks he often talked to tried to talk to him. He was the only person in sight, but Tas knew he had to leave. He didn’t know if Grethatch might appear from the shadows, or if Melkar was coming after them as he rushed up the stairs. His mind was racing. He found Yao in the entrance and together they left the monastery, moving at double pace; he hadn’t even said goodbye to Paj. Tas looked back with apprehension; he would miss his time in the solitude of the monks.

Yao noticed and for the first time; comforted Tas. “We will see them again, boy.”Don’t you worry. With us gone, those monks will be safe. Paj is stronger than you think. The old man has survived worse. But he is powerful in ways that I am not.” Yao sighed. “I will miss him” Even as he glanced back for a moment, Yao kept up his blistering pace, heading for the forests to the south. Tas had no idea where they were heading so he asked quickly, saving his breath for his legs.

“Its better that you don’t know right now. We will be safe tonight though,” Yao said with certainty. Tas didn’t know how the old man could know such a thing, but at this point he trusted Yao with his life. He had saved it enough to earn that trust.

“I just want to know what’s happening to us, Yao. I don’t think I will be able to sleep tonight.”

Yao raised his eyebrows without stopping. He gave a soft chuckle. “Have you forgotten what its like to travel with me boy?” Yao was right, but Tas’ body felt oddly strong, was Yao slowing down? Or was Tas becoming stronger? “You will sleep well tonight, my boy. I will make sure of that.” Sure enough, Yao picked up the pace. He must have noticed Tas’ lack of fatigue.

They walked through the forest for the rest of the day, steadily climbing up-hill. The trees grew sparser and larger as they ascended and Tas could tell that they were heading north-east now; towards the mountains if he had to guess, but he had never been. Paj’s maps were his only source of guessing as they continued a rigorous climb and Tas was steadily growing exhausted. Yao was right; he wouldn’t have trouble sleeping tonight.

The air was crisp and chilly by the time they stopped for the night. Yao began to build a fire; Tas had never seen the old man so happy, but Tas was cold and the sweat on his clothes was a source of complete discomfort as he tried to warm himself by the fire.

“Tas, tonight, I want you to clear your mind completely before you sleep. Meditate yourself into nothing before you rest; it will keep you safe as you dream.” Yao pulled out a long pipe from his jacket pocket and began filling it with a green plant, something that Tas had never seen before. As he lit the pipe, Tas could smell a sweat, but strange smell emanating from it, unlike anything he had ever seen. “This will help you to have dreamless sleeps as we travel. In three days, we will reach our destination and there you will learn what is happening. But until we arrive, we are not safe from the demons that pursue us. Here smoke this, then you can meditate yourself to sleep.”

Tas didn’t even want to think about arguing; he was exhausted and knew that tomorrow would probably be even more arduous. The mountains were still countless miles away and Tas guessed that they were headed somewhere in the high ranges of snow caps you could see from afar.

As he inhaled the pipe, he found his mind growing blank, entering instantly into his meditation. His mind buzzed for a few moments, then cleared itself completely. He felt his muscles and stomach relax, easing him into the darkness once again. He leaned against the old man next to the fire and Yao covered him with their only blanket as Tas fell back into the darkness of his mind.

The Wanderer, Part 21 Read More »


The Wanderer, Part 19

This story is a part of a series. This is the 19th part of the Wanderer

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

or the previous story here: The Wanderer, Part 18

Tas woke with a start. His body ached, he was so sore from the day before. His back hurt and his legs felt like jelly, but he got himself up from the bed and yawned. Cracking his shoulders and neck, he stood and remembered. The shadow; he could feel it in his stomach. He had only one option, like Yao said; to fight it.

He gritted his teeth and began to walk, taking his time to warm up his legs and let a bit of the stiffness subside. Yao would undoubtedly have him training harder today; Tas was not looking forward to it.

Tas joined the morning ceremony, but something was wrong. Fei was missing and Tas couldn’t seem to find any trace of Yao. Since Fei normally invoked the morning ceremony, the monks were a bit unsettled, talking to one another and looking for Fei. A few seemed to be walking around the grounds, most were a bit alarmed.

Tas immediately knew something wasn’t right. He didn’t see Paj either. As soon as he entered the courtyard, the sky began to darken, dark clouds moved with swift currents to replace the bright blue sky. Shadows darkened and loomed and Tas could feel the shadow inside of himself growing in power, though it wasn’t unpleasureable.  In fact, he felt stronger than ever. His pain and fatigue subsided and his strength returned. The monks around him began to moan with displeasure and then became restless, their calm forgotten; but Tas paid no mind to them. Tas was deep within himself, beginning to feel a deep, low buzz growing inside of himself, something that he had never felt before. He knew instinctively that it had to do with the shadow wyrm. It was like his heart became a drum and his body was pulsating with sensations; he could feel power coursing through him.

His eyes became more focused and his heart continued to beat powerfully in his chest. His gaze turned to the balcony and he saw the dark, hooded figures from his nightmares standing above the monks, looming over the crowd. The dark sky lowered to surround them, and the shadows pulled to and fro around them, growing larger and moving closer, then fading away and growing smaller to make another round. Tas’ eyes focused on the eyes of Melkar; a dark bright red light illuminated from them, sometimes being blocked by the shadows emanating from his skin. It was as if his pores breathed the darkness and it pulsated around him.

A sliver of the shadow passed near Tas, but it didn’t simply pass; it seemed to attach itself to him, until he began to feel the power radiating in his blood, like a growing rage in his heart. It beat harder and faster now, his breathing became ragged and angry. He felt so strong.

Tas looked to his right and saw Yao watching him intently, curiously. The old man no doubt had been watching the whole time from the shadows; his favorite hiding place. Yao stepped out from the darkness to glint his spear at Melkar. Instantly, the shadows retracted back into Melkar, the sky brightened again except for a dark cloud that blocked the sun from Melkar. Grethatch was by his side, but silent, observing.

A hideous raspy voice echoed from the darkly cloaked imposter, deeper and darker than Tas could have imagined. He felt it in his soul, his bones shook with its power. “Yao, you are here. I thought you might be.” What must have been a laugh echoed in the hallways. “You have aged since we last met.” Melkar’s tone was almost playful, though it was also terrifying and gave Tas chills.

Yao just laughed. His smile was bigger than Tas had even seen it. “You laugh makes me happy, Melkar! It reminds me of how long it has been, indeed it does!” Yao was cackling now, he was almost on the floor because he was clutching his side so tightly. Tas didn’t know what to think; part of him was terrified, the other half was triumphant. Obviously Yao and Melkar had met before and Yao had won! That was promising.

Melkar’s cackle faded completely with Yao’s laughter. He waited for a moment for the old man to finish (which he took his time doing), then spoke in the same hideous tone, causing Tas to tremble again, “You think me to be the same since last we met? I have been in the nether, Yao, you think I have learned nothing from it.”

Yao’s smile faded slightly, “probably not. But I guess we’ll see. You certainly smell much worse than before. I can smell your stench from over here,” Yao wiped his nose with emphasis much to the annoyance of Melkar, who stood watching the old man with a look of pure loathing.

Melkar jumped from the balcony, abandoning Grethatch and falling with the heavy thud of thickly armored boots. He slowly removed his hood, revealing foot long horns and eyes that were so red they seemed to burn out of their sockets, like a fire. His face was disgusting and rotting, gnats crawled from his cheeks and flies buzzed around his head. Tas was disgusted and entranced.

Yao laughed again, louder this time, “You are definitely uglier than the last time we met. What have you been eating anyways? Goose turds? I hear those are popular in the northern cities.”

Melkar launched into a charge at these last words, a deep rumbling cry of rage pierced through the entire courtyard, aimed directly at Yao. Shadows gathered behind him, pushing him forward towards Yao, fueling him, his eyes burned as he launched himself forward; Tas knew this was dark magic and could feel his own strength grow from Melkar’s power. He knew what was fueling him now, his vision became even sharper, he could see Melkar so clearly, the burning eyes, the rotting flesh of his face, the black horns rose above his head, raised against the sky.

Yao moved in the blink of an eye, almost faster than Tas could see. He threw a small knife from his boot directly at Melkar first, causing him to move right into his spear that was coming down from above. Melkar stepped to the side at the last moment, then ducked another huge swing from Yao and rolled backwards, pushed again by his shadow. He moved so quickly.

But Yao was already above him, swinging down hard and clanging against the stone, barely missing his mark. Melkar kicked Yao from his dodged position, then slid back up to attack Yao head on, in close range.

The old man dropped his spear immediately and swiftly ducked Melkar’s punch; Tas thought him to be even faster than the shadow fueled demon. Yao turned and began his own assault, his fists flew and connected hard, then he brought his feet to bear on Melkar’s knees and wounded him yet again. Melkar began to hobble, but in his yell of rage connected his fist with Yao’s face. The old man stumbled backwards and almost fell, but Tas arrived just in time to catch him and keep him from falling. Melkar retreated, hobbled and obviously intimidated by Yao’s strength. But Tas noticed that the demon slowly began to walk better; like he was healing in mid-battle.

Tas found his own strength waning. He felt weak, so weak that he almost couldn’t move anymore. His run to help Yao had drained him.

Melkar continued to retreat, but Yao was not well. There was something dark on his forehead, and it seemed to pulsate with shadow, the same way that Melkar’s shadow did.

“Where is Paj!?” Yao yelled to the grounds, clutching his head. The monks had begun to re-emerge from underground, no doubt having fled to hide from Melkar. Paj rustled himself from the crowd and began to chant immediately upon seeing Yao, undoubtedly working to stunt the growth of the shadow on his head. Tas walked as fast as he could towards Yao, but it was little more than a slow limp. He could see the shadow fighting Paj’s voice at first, but with time the waves of shadow soothed themselves and faded from Yao completely after about 10 minutes.  Tas still felt very weak, but was doing his best to help Yao. He was fighting his pain, but Tas could tell he was weak as well.

Paj and Tas carried the old man slowly from the stairs of the balcony down to the ground level entrance, leading him down into the lower levels of the monastery. Paj was still chanting something, but Tas’ head was pounding too heavily to notice. What had happened when Melkar had called his shadow powers? Tas had felt euphoric, full of live, and so much power. Was that the power that Melkar wielded? Tas didn’t understand. They brought Yao down to a room on the lower level for him to simply recover; Tas resolved to return to feed him at morning and night while he rested. But Tas knew better than to expect Yao to rest for long.

After taking Yao down, Tas followed Paj up the stairs to his tower. He knew that Paj wanted to talk to him, but Paj knew that Tas really wanted to talk to Yao. And Tas also knew that conversation would have to wait for tomorrow.

“You realize what has happened here, don’t you?” Paj sighed with obvious frustration. “You can’t stay here. He will return, stronger. Grethatch didn’t even participate. He might have wanted to master to fall. You and Yao have to leave tonight; this place is not safe for you. I’m sorry my friend.” Paj hung his head as he apologized, but Tas didn’t understand.

Tas was shocked. He was so used to living here now that leaving seemed absurd. Where could they be safe? And his training…

“But my training…”

“Yao will continue it with you. He is the most skilled in warfare, though not in the same mysticisms as myself. You will have to make due with the knowledge you have; it will serve you well. Your hard work will be useful, we will just have to hope that it is enough.” Paj smiled feebly and Tas knew there wasn’t a hint of sarcasm or arrogance in his voice. But Tas could see the worry in his teacher’s eyes.

“Okay.” Tas said slowly. Where would they go? Yao would know. He need to talk to the old man; maybe he would wake him for a few moments before getting ready to leave. But Paj insisted that he wait until it was time to leave.

“You need to let him rest now; in an hour we will wake him and you’ll have plenty of time to talk then.

Tas turned to walk down to his room to prepare his belongings, though he had only clothes and a few star charts that he had copied from Paj’s own charts. Paj was readying some concoction that Tas didn’t understand as he walked from the room; he would fill his small pack with some food from the kitchen. It had been so long since he had wandered the deserts with the old man; he wondered where they would go now.

He prepared everything, gathering food from the kitchen and saying goodbye to his fews friends in the kitchen and by his room. He took some final moments meditate and found the shadows inside of him flickering; he liked to watch them as they moved through him even though they were weak. He remembered Shu’s lessons and sighed; he would miss his presence while he meditated in the deep forest. Tas laid down for a moment to rest, continuing his meditation and thinking of all the things he would miss about this magical place. Tas fell asleep easily that night, letting the shadows wash over him, eventually taking him deeper into his dreams than he had ever been; his need to leave forgotten in the dark of his mind.

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The Wanderer, Part 17

This story can be read alone, or as the 17th section of the wanderer story.

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

or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 16

Tas woke up on a table in the middle of Fei’s chamber, his stomach was in agony and he could barely move except to go deeper into the fetal position. He realized suddenly that Yao was chanting above him, locked in concentration. The pain was slowly leaving his body and Yao was holding something, Tas had to put his head back down to cope with the massive waves a pain from his gut. He felt like he was dry heaving, but without any result except the contraction in his abdomen.

Yao began to chant a bit more loudly now, and Tas managed to look up and see the black wyrm wriggling in his hand, nearly dried up of its dark liquid and covered in a mucky slime that seemed to partially disappear into vapor before hitting the ground. The Tas was slowly feeling the pain leave, he could breathe again and the tears stopped streaming from his eyes. Yao’s voice was steady in the background, he had never been so grateful for the old man in his life. Fei began to help Tas to drink some water as the waves of pain faded more and more. After a minute of recovering, Tas could see that Yao was still locked in concentration, eye fixed on the wyrm in his hand.

Yao continued for the next 5 minutes, then stopped once the wyrm was motionless for a few minutes. He threw the carcass into the fireplace for Fei to burn later in the afternoon.

Once Tas could breath normally, he asked, “Melkar said it was from the north and so was he. What does that mean?”

“It means they have both died,” Yao said, careless, as usual. “And come back with the power of the shadows.”

Fei looked at Yao disapprovingly, as if he had ruined a surprise or something of the sort. After a quick gruff, he spoke, “The North is a place without as much light, Tas. Darker things thrive there and people who have spent extended periods of time there come back different than when they left.” Fei turned to Paj, “My theory, or hypothesis excuse me, is that Melkar’s remains were taken into the north by Grethatch, sometime after Melkar’s first death.” Fei looked at Yao now, who was picking dirt from under his fingernails.

After a moment, Yao realized they were waiting for him and gave a shrug, “what do you want me to say? I killed that bastard, tore his head from his shoulders with a morning star.” He looked at Tas now, “it was quite the swing,” winked, and returned to picking his fingernails. Fei looked deeply disturbed for a moment, then resumed his normal smile.

Paj spoke now, “Tas, you have been entangled in something older than your self, as we all are when we are born into this world. Your dream, rather, nightmare last night was no accident. Melkar knows you now and so does Grethatch for that matter,” He looked alternately at Fei and Yao now.

Yao spoke now, “there is no use terrifying the boy.”

“Wait,” Tas copied the way Yao spoke on occasion, heightening his voice then softening it to get the others to listen. “What is happening to me?”

Yao laughed now, “Your mind was under attack by a shadow wyrm, or something along those lines, no one can know what Melkar has been creating in the shadow. Without my extraction, you would have entered into a permanent nightmare. And in the process, become Melkar’s slave.” He looked more seriously at Tas now, “You must be careful for the next few days. It may take up to a week for your body to process and get rid of the shadow.”

Fei nodded, “meditation will help.” He looked at the others, “But we must be careful now. There is no telling how much control Melkar might have over the boy.”

Yao locked eyes with Fei, “I disagree. The boy is resilient and powerful. We should continue his training.”

Fei’s eyes now darkened, in a way that Tas hadn’t seen before, “You would fling his life around like a plaything, teaching him that which can kill him, harm him, put him in the way of death?”

“Do you suddenly believe in accidents Fei? This is the boy’s destiny. He has chosen to walk the path towards god, he said so himself! Who are we not only to stand in his way of his path, where-ever he is being led.”

Fei sighed, “your way is so detached. Do you have no compassion for him?”

“I do, that is why I wish to arm him with all of the skills necessary to defend himself.” Yao was resolute, Tas could feel it, not only from looking at his eyes.

Paj remained silent as Fei scanned the room for support. Tas finally got up the courage to speak, “Do you think he will come back?”

“Do wolves give up their hunt? How about when they smell blood? He smells a soul to reap, he will be back sure as the sun rises.”

“Then I have no choice.” Tas said, knowing his mind was made. “We should train starting tomorrow.”

Paj sighed, shook his head, then spoke, “I am sad to say it. But we should certainly. Your life will not be an easy one Tas. This is only the beginning of the terrible darkness that a black reaper can bring.” He looked at Fei and Yao to make sure they understood. “His warlock friend is also a nuisance, but I will teach you how to shield your mind against both of them. You will sleep soundly within the week.” He said it jauntily, but Tas wasn’t so excited for a week of sleepless nights.

Fei spoke now, “I will put the best resources the temple can provide. You will be ready to defend yourself when the time is right, Tas.”

Yao just sat, but Tas would wait. Finally, he spoke, harshly and barely audible, “Wake up before the sun. Meet me in the central grounds, that’s when we start your physical training.”

Tas was surprised with himself, but he was excited to train with Yao again, more than anything else.

“After morning ceremony, meet me on the balcony,” Fei said with a smile.

Paj took Tas by the hand and led him away, “For now, you can rest. We will talk some more when you wake up. Be careful; do not forget about what was inside of you this morning…”

Tas nodded, nearly asleep again and let himself be led back to his room, when he fell onto the mattress and let himself fade into the dark of sleep.

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The Wanderer, Part 13

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 13 Read More »

village wanderer part 8

The Wanderer, Part 8

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
The Wanderer, Part 7

Tas rolled over; his pain returned in full force. His head was throbbing and his mind was lost. He opened his eyes sometimes, but would shut them immediately because of the throbbing pain shooting from the side of his head. In the depths of his agony, he could see the smile of the man with the razor teeth grinning in between bursts of pain from his spine and head. His body was useless.

For two-days, he simply sat and recovered in a small hut, the village women brought him food and water and they arranged for a few new cloths for him to wear. Occasionally, they would bring him a coconut and it seemed to make everything feel a bit better.

He didn’t leave the small space that was allotted to him; he didn’t think he could even if he wanted to. The pain in his head was overwhelming.

Tas was happy to eat and drink his fill after a few days of nearly starving in the jungle. The women brought him bowls of rice and noodles and vegetables and some fruit to match. But their tea was absolutely intoxicating, Tas must have had 6 full cups throughout the day. He also had a bowl of soup each night for dinner, which was a delightful mix of squash and lentils. He slept on a soft fur that one of the women had given to him and as he recovered, he couldn’t help but feel very lucky to be where he was.

On the third day he woke with his spine still in pain, but his head felt better. It was still a bit hard to breath because his ribs were bruised, but he could stand without too much pain. There was still a dull throbbing, but he soon found himself stretching his spine. It was painful at first, but as he warmed his body slightly, the tension faded. He was still very sore, but he was ready to be out and about.

He walked out of his little hut and immediately was surrounded by people. The villagers acted like they had never seen an outsider before and their eyes were on him everywhere he walked. He was pulled this way and that by a small crowd of children, until one of the women shoo’ed them away. Her body was tattooed, but her face was relatively free from ornamentation.

She took him by the arm to an older man; on his head was a crown of feathers and carved wood and his face was painted to look very important, red bolts of lightning on his cheeks and vertical lines of white on his forehead. His eyes didn’t leave Tas as the boy approached. He seemed to look at him like the old wandering man did, piercing through his skin to something deeper. Only this man had spear surrounding his chair, long knives and arrows laced the background menacingly.

The old man looked at Tas for a moment, then called him closer. The woman pushed Tas so that the older man could examine him. He spent several long minutes examining Tas’ skin, then his head, then his ribs and spine. He looked at Tas in the eyes and seemed to have decided something. He called out in a loud voice to the entire villages and they roared and applauded as one in response. Tas wasn’t sure what was happening, but the entire village seemed to come alive at the old man’s words. The men began to organize to leave, grabbing weapons and painting each other with face paint. The women began to prepare food, Tas began to hear them chatter and heard sizzling in the background and could smell their fires being lit. In 20 seconds, the entire village had roared to life.

The woman took Tas back to his tent, where he remembered his throbbing head again. The pain had come back, though not as strong as the day before. He spent the rest of the day resting and listening to the village prepare, but had no idea what for.

When the shadows of the afternoon became longer, Tas was yelled at to come outside by the woman who was tending to him. He couldn’t quite figure out what they were saying at first, but once he had left his hut, three women grabbed him and pulled him towards a fire that was roaring in the center of the village. The men had returned with various game, a few chickens, but most notably a boar that was being skinned by the vicious man who had struck Tas. He felt his blood boil as he watched the man tearing through the boar’s flesh with his knife.

The women led him to a seat beside the old man, then began to feed him. All kinds of drinks and different vegetables were placed before him and he couldn’t help but devour them. He had never eaten so well as the past few days, but this was different. He felt like a king with servants that were continually arranging his food for him to eat, bringing new dishes until he couldn’t eat anymore. Once he was done, he realized that the entire village was waiting for him to finish.

Something was very wrong here, Tas thought to himself. The words from the villainous man days before rung in his ears ‘no friends here’. He couldn’t help but feel that this was not in his honor, but for something else entirely, but he had no idea what.

After everyone had finished eating, the sun began to set. The men began to pull out pipes and pass them between each other, before passing them to the women and even some of the older children. Tas had smelled tobacco before, but this was different, a skunkier smell. He felt a bit disoriented after a while and could tell that the smoke was strong. The villager’s eyes turned a dark red as they digested and smoked. Finally, Tas was offered a pipe, but after one pull found himself coughing uncontrollably. He felt a strange peace begin to settle over him and he almost felt as he had with the old man in the last days in the desert. He thought back grimly at the old man’s final prank.

The men began to scuffle about and soon a big wooden bowl that was cured for fire was brought into the center of the fire. The old man rose from his chair to the silence of the village and began to put ingredients into the bowl, some that Tas could see, some that he couldn’t. He could make out various roots and leaves and other plants of various sizes and shapes. He added some dark green and black liquid into the mix and set it over the fire.

A few minutes later, when the sun was just setting down on the horizon, Tas was led to the bowl. He was given a ladle and told to drink and he did. It was a nasty taste, but they gave him a bit of fruit afterwards. The old man drank longly from the bowl, as if relishing the taste, which Tas found unbelievable. It tasted like a mix of cow dung and overcooked vegetables.

Once the old man was done, the other men in the tribe took smaller portions of the strange liquid then the remains were passed to the women and finally, a few of the eldest children.

Tas returned to his seat and after a time, began to feel very weird. He started to see lights that couldn’t be there and the whole world seemed to come more alive. He couldn’t stop staring at the stars and the setting sun and felt his entire being start to melt away. The entire world melted away and all he could feel was the nothingness inside of himself, a void that grew larger and larger until it was overwhelming and he felt a burst of light come forth from his chest and illuminate the entire village. He saw his mother and sisters dancing at their own village fire and felt an intense longing, time seemed to pass so slowly. He opened his eyes to look at the stars again and found himself floating amongst them, a light inside of him was burning bright. He felt as if the stars were his brothers, though he had forgotten them. His vision became more and more in control and suddenly, he re-realized where he was. The old man was right beside him and he seemed to be inoculated, looking up at the sky with closed eyes.

Suddenly, seemingly in response to Tas’ gaze, the old man looked over at Tas and yelled loudly, so the entire village erupted. He took Tas by the arm and then slapped him to the floor. Pain flared in Tas, though it seemed to be distant in a way. He could still see the old man in perfect detail, his skin seemed to hang like a bag around his body and it swirled and magnified as he stared. He was brought to his feet again, and was bound to a tall pole. Tas finally knew that this was a tribe of the sort that were in children’s stories in his village. He knew immediately that these men planned to eat him. As if in response to his thoughts, the grim man who had injured him before came to the fire, licking his lips. Tas began to struggle, but it was too late.

They brought him to the fire and he knew it was over. He thought back to the old man and wondered how he could have gotten so lost. He walked slowly with the men surrounding him until they dropped him with a yell, close to the fire. Tas fell on his face, but could hear the cries of the villagers, screaming. Hell itself seemed to break loose from the lips of the women..

Tas tried to roll over, but couldn’t and found a rock to untie his hands from the pole. As he finally was able to look up, he saw a flash of darkness moving against the fire, seeming to dance with its flames. He finally broke the bindings of his hands and used them to raise his head to see what was happening.

A group of villagers were backed up against one of the larger huts, one shorter looking man with a large spear threatened them. Tas would have found this comical in any other situation, but the villagers seemed terrified. He smelt burning flesh and turned to the fire to see the body of a headless man singing in the flames. He looked on the floor to see more bodies, at least a dozen men, most of the them dead. The rest would be within minutes because of their wounds. Gashes, cuts, and blood decorated their bodies, giving signs of the battle that was continuing now.

The fire just barely illuminated the short attacker, who seemed to fly through the villagers while tearing through their flesh. The cries of the villagers grew less and less until only a dark silence remained. The fire was growing softer and Tas was still having visions of his family, of the old man, and of the stars and the life around him. But this was interrupted by his thoughts of the attacker that he watched flow like a swan with his movement. Who was this godly man who could kill a dozen ferocious villagers at once?

As if on cue, the attacker approached Tas and to Tas’ surprise, gently untied his feet from the pole and sat him up to look at him. When Tas could finally see the man’s face, he gasped.

It was the old man from the desert. He seemed to know that Tas was out of his mind and left him for the time being, but Tas sputtered and tried to speak to no avail. He was amongst the stars now, feeling the eternal energies of the cosmos flowing through him as a stream through a valley. He wondered if the old man was a hallucination and if perhaps he was dead. What a curious thing, life. Tas thought to himself.

He came back down for a moment to see the old man again, whose gaze hadn’t left Tas’ face. He helped Tas to his feet and brought him to a nice place to sleep. Tas cried the whole way, not knowing if he was alive or dead, but knew that this man, who had saved his life and viciously slaughtered 20 men in the process was a part of god. He felt it as strongly as he had ever felt anything in his life. As the visions began to fade, so Tas faded into sleep, the world forgotten and blackness overtook him.

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