Read see the first story of this series here: The Wanderer, Part 1
or the latest story here: The Wanderer, Part 35
Tas slowly woke on his cot, finally not remembering anything from his dreams. He had become very tired of the incessant dreaming and wanted nothing more than to rest in the warm comfort of his companion Yaina in the darkness, but she wasn’t there. He rubbed his eyes that were coated with crusty sleepies and he was as sore as he had ever felt in his life. He assumed it was his last night of good sleep for a while. Today they would reach the monastery and begin planning with Fei, the monastery’s keeper for his last journey into the shadow-realm. And Tas was finally feeling his normal, old self.
The trek took the better part of the morning. Tas walked with Ice in the lead, occasionally feeding his companion the last little scraps of jerky as they went along. The whole group was walking rather slowly and Ice was very focused on scouting the trail ahead. He eventually found something in the forest, but Yao and Yaina were deep in discussion behind them and didn’t notice, though Tas had no idea what they were saying. He was trying to relax and enjoy his clear mind so he simply followed Ice.
They traversed off the beaten path into the jungle, where the bugs were loud and birds were singing high in the trees and calling to each other. Ice quickly led to the base of a large baobab tree and tried to his his claws to climb and jump up the tree, but could get more than a couple hops up. Tas got to the base of the tree and looked up to see two large apes sitting, looking down at Ice. The second they noticed Tas approaching, their attention shifted and Ice stopped his attempts to climb the tree. Tas sat next to his anxious wolf friend and was content to look up at the large, very intelligent looking animals. Then the primates descended down the giant tree, obviously interested.
Tas waited patiently, but Ice wasn’t quite as docile. He started to pant and pace anxiously, though the apes paid him no mind and jumped the last couple meters to crouch softly on the earth.
Then, to to the surprise of all, they spoke.
“we know of your journey, friend, Tas and wish to warn you of your supposed friends at the monastery. Your journey is perilous and you should trust no one. Especially the monks at the monastery. Friend will become indecipherable from foe as you continue deeper into the nether.”
“what should I do?” Tas said, shaking his head in disbelief at what they said. How could he continue if he didn’t trust Fei, or Yao, or Shu.
“Wait, observe, and watch all around you. Only your friend here is trustworthy.” They both looked at Ice with a certain interest that Tas couldn’t place.
A soft rustling came from the thick of the brush deeper in the jungle, and from the dark shadows a tiger appeared. This was the cat that Yao has sensed earlier. Ice was on edge by Tas’ side; he could feel his apprehension, though his white furred friend was silent.
The cat approached silently, and the apes appeared to also be apprehensive, though unreactive.
“I have been watching your journey for the past few days, boy. I have been interested in you and what you are doing. Tell me, why is it that you travel so far? Through my domain, nonetheless.”
Tas replied slowly, knowing the cat wouldn’t want to hear anything short of the truth. But how much truth should he share?
“We are returning to a place that was destroyed by the likes of a dragon. Do you know of what I speak.”
The tiger hissed, spitting wildly. “yessss I know of this enemy. I have lost several of my hunting grounds to the dark fire that this demon began.”
“Well,” Tas said growing sure that the tiger wouldn’t eat him after he told him more. “I am going to slay him.”
At this the apes panicked and Ice followed. The cat crouched and immediately sprung at Tas, claws outreached and teeth barred. But the one of the giant primates had grabbed a rock, and slammed it into the face of the tiger. The other brought his arms around the neck of the tiger and Ice simultaneously attacked the tiger’s throat, ripping through the flesh. The ape with the rock continued his assault until the tiger’s body convulsed. The whole ordeal took but a minute.
The apes looked at each other in confusion, but also a shared communication passed between them that Tas could see, but didn’t understand.
“The enemy will take all forms of being, my young friend. Travel lightly, and again, trust no one. Except your friend here.” They looked down warmly at Ice, who continued to drink in the blood of the tiger. After he was finished, the apes took the corpse up the tree and bid them farewell. Ice and Tas returned to their perilous path to continue to the old monastery.
After a short time of returning to the monastery’s path, Tas could see the small road winding up to the hillside to the stone walls at the base of the monastery’s overhanging garden. He was happy that they had almost arrived, but there was no sign of Yao or Yaina. They must have travelled before them.
Paj and Shu greeted them at the recently rebuilt entrance, undoubtedly having foreseen his arrival. They both looked rested and recovered, though apprehensive. The garden, however, looked very overgrown compared to the last time that Tas was there; the bushes had grown thick and the grass was peeping through the dirt on the paths. The rest of the monks where nowhere to be seen. They could only see Fei on the balcony, looking out at them as they rose to the courtyard. His large smile put them all at ease, though after their recent debacle, Tas was skeptical of all of his old friends.
The two monks, Tas and Ice walked up the spiral staircase together to meet Fei. Yaina and Yao had arrived previously and were a little uneasy. Tas explained what had happened with everyone. Fei continued his smile at first, but his smiled waned as he learned of the tiger’s attack and the apes warning. Yao brought light back to the conversation immediately. “well, you’re not dead yet! Maybe I should push you off the balcony and speed up the inevitable!” Tas felt a warmth and fondness grow through him for his master. He always missed this nonchalance when Yao wasn’t there. The feeling inside gleamed like the light from the sun.
Fei took the chance to continue lightening the atmosphere: “Welcome Tas and company, make your selves at home. Paj and Shu will prepare a couple of rooms for you.” He bowed deeply. “We will meet this afternoon before the sunset. In the meantime, Tas, why don’t you go with Shu in the lower levels of the garden? You will be undoubtedly very happy to talk and catch up on what has been happening in the last month while you were traveling. Fei winked and walked away, Yao in tow and Yaina slowly followed after with Paj. She looked back at Tas with a light smile as she left. Tas could tell that she was worried for him. He knew they would be planning for later that night.
Tas walked down the balcony and headed towards the gardens with Shu, his first monk teacher. It truly was becoming wild in the monastery, even some smaller trees had begun to grow and there were swarms of insects moving about; everything was dissheveled. Tas had to swat at them to keep them off of his face, but it was nearly useless.
Shu moved into the center of the lower terrace and together they began meditating and oom’ing without even talking. After several minutes of quiet, they opened their eyes and Shu’s smile split open wide, eyes squinting against the light. Tas smiled back
“Tas is that you?!? I’ve missed you my friend!” and he immediately arose to embrace Tas. Tas was a little startled, but settle easily into his friends weight. He certainly was sore from the stress of his long journey.
“I’ve been traveling a lot Shu.” Tas said slowly. “I am so tired and I’m not sure what to do other than go back into the nether and face what’s there for me.”
Shu replied slowly, “well, my young friend, there are only two ways that I know of to rejuvenate the body. The first, is sleeping. If you haven’t had any of that, mediating can restore your energies in a similar way. Let’s mediate for a time, and perhaps you will feel better!”
Tas was in position to refuse. He desperately wanted his energy back. He had woken up with so much and now there seemed to be none and the sun was still high in the sky. Shu and he sat for a short time, before Tas grew impatient. Shu wasn’t saying or doing anything but sitting there breathing deeply. Eventually Tas’ patience ran out and he sighed to get up.
Shu sat him back down, and smiled, “not yet my friend. We will sleep while you are awake! Breath deeply with me and lets restore your energies.”
“But I need to sleep to truly heal and regain my strength.”
“these limitations are made up by your mind my friend. Breath with me slowly and deeply and you will find the sleep that you need.”
So Tas tried to sit still and breath deeply and after a time, he felt himself falling into a deep trance. The light inside of him grew bright and he soon felt as light as a feather. Shu continued to breath next to him, but his breathing was making Tas tired, and soon he felt himself lay back and drift off, darkness once again surrounding him completely.