The Torch of Wisdom

“Not him, bring the stranger!” said the old hunchbacked elder.

The two warriors immediately released the villager and ran back to the houses on fire. The moon-less night had the town of Arriabata as the sole source of light in the valley. The flaming ceilings of the ancestral homes released hell upon the village.

“Thank you, Aelder Lynn.” The villager in the floor kneeled at the mid-sized priest. “Praise be!”

“Hush now,” the elder reproached. “Get off now! Run away. You still have a lot to lose if the pillagers get to you.”

“They are coin men,” said the villager “Jean and Ana said the Velvet Princeps paid the gold,” he looked back at the mayhem behind them. “I only hope they gave them all the gold in the world for something like this.”

The pillaging on Arriabata seemed bizarre, a perennial settlement torched to ashes in a blink of greed. The flames had overtaken everything, and they now brazed over the few lasting men in the town center. The villager’s screams marked when each of them was losing their lives.

“Why don’t you run, Aelder?” added the villager.

“Did the Gods make you deaf or idiotic?” said Elder Lynn.

The scorched survivor almost tried to kneel again. He hesitated and muttered, “Run.”, he looked up “Yes, your sanctity.” And then he ran. Diligent like an imperial soldier he soon got lost in the darkness of the valley. As he disappeared, the two warriors helping Elder Lynn came back with the stranger.

The men dragged the body of the foreigner in an unorthodox manner, this alerted Lynn to take cover and prepare to flee. The elder’s last hope resided on this traveler, he needed to make sure the warriors brought the right one. The two men were sprinting without a word. As soon as he recognized the strange bracelet artifacts, the elder’s feet ran down the river road.

“Come! Fast now.” said Elder Lynn. “We’ll run to the canal, then take a boat towards Riverraid.”

The two Arriabatan warriors didn’t respond for a reason. Soon enough, Lynn managed to see a few coin men running behind them. They were getting closer but apparently, they were already hard to find in the pitch-dark night. “If we move swift and silent enough, the darkness will protect us. Oh, Light, don’t betray us!” thought the elder as he did his best footwork guesses down the road. The path down the river was steep, and rocky. At least, the Mediterranean climate of Arriabata proved bountiful of forests in the valley hills, which would now work as safety barrier when they inevitable trip down. “Oh heck, my foot! That was a big one.” he limped after kicking the boulder.

“They bring torches, Aelder. They will find us!” said one of the warriors now behind him. Elder Lynn was immediately distracted by the motionless body of the stranger.

“Is he alive?” asked the Elder.

The warrior on the elder’s left responded “That is what Marrik thinks, but I…”

“He is alive.” said Marrik from the elder’s right. “Elder Lynn, we…”

“…should keep running.” finished the old man, pushing them forward. He kneeled and checked the stranger’s belt. He took a tiny metallic cylinder, it looked like a large but fine nail, straight as the sea horizon and without a single dent. The elder picked it up with both hands and twisted. A neon luminescence shined between the four men.

“Take it, Peter. You’ll move faster if you see a damn thing.”

The coin men had lost track of the warriors and the Elder as they run into the darkness. But experience and greed gave them the edge, the soul-less men were quickly coming close to find them. Peter and Marrik ignored this and stared at the elder with the neon glowing bar. “That is magik, Elder Lynn. Us common men cannot use such powers.”

“Trust me, this is not magik. This is technology, like the artifacts from Whin’derell.” whispered Elder Lynn.

They stared to him again, this time looking over Lynn’s shoulders; the pillagers were getting closer.

“Gods’ sake! It is not bound to the name of things, or nothing from the realms beyond. It comes from the stars above.” he spoke. Losing his patience, he simply pushed the led lantern onto Peter’s face. “There. You touched it. You are either doomed or an ignorant, but there is no reason you wouldn’t take it now.”

Astonished, the warrior took the lantern, and then they all ran down the road. Their confident and quick pace led to some noises that the veteran coin men heard. Two savages ran behind them. The light of the artifact unveiled their presence, and the coin men could see the three runaways dragging the body. Elder Lynn pushed the warriors and they obeyed. As he turned to their predators, Elder Lynn’s wits now focused on how to get rid of them. “If they are human, they are bound to the Name of Reason, they will dialogue and comply if my might is with me” he thought. Lynn decided to go confront the coin men. Although he wasn’t proficient on all the Names, he had mastered the naming of Reason. He always said he only was a novice, but there wasn’t any other living scholar that could teach him anything on these Names. Undeniably, he had mastered the bending of human will through logic. This was highly effective against men, particularly those without willpower.

Before he encountered them, he thought that a bit of warming up would be fair. Elder Lynn’s daily meditations were mostly training, keeping up in shape for whenever a tragedy like this would inevitably come.

As soon as the elder closed his eyes, he was one with the Language of the Gods.

“I command you to take the stranger to the river,” said the Elder opening his marbled crying eyes, “Prepare a boat with a week’s provision. Take any weapons you find. Praise the Gods and your souls, now go!” as he finished his command he stopped running.

Peter looked back and the glowing marble white eyes of the Elder shook his knees. Marrik was speeding up and then Peter, feeling a divine hand over his will, looked forward and ran faster too.

“We will see you on the boat, Elder of Wisdom.” said Marrik.

The old man stood there vanishing into the darkness as the warrior took the light with them. Elder Lynn transitioned completely into the now. He stretched his arms high, then bowed, and finally deeply inhaled until calmness filled him. Once again, he opened his eyes and the glowing light flashed. A few yards behind, the coin men saw the unreal presence of the elder and understood something was wrong; but their fate had been already decided.

Der Erlkönig (c. 1887) — Julius von Klever / Yuliy Yulevich Klever

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