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Library :: Exploring Fate

By Gadren

Gadren's party set up camp in the clearing on the evening of the first day in which they arrived in the uncharted territory. The day had been long and hard, but no one wanted to retire, and after supper they gathered outside, sitting there long into the night, staring silently out into the sable blackness, upon which was scattered a thousand tiny patches of glowing pearl, like stars upon the night's dark ocean.

"What do you think?" Markon asked finally.

"I think I could sit here forever," Vage answered him, and there was murmur of laughter at that.

"Maybe so," Gadren said, standing and stretching, "yet we should get some rest now."

"Five minutes," Vage pleaded, then, pointing, added, "Look, the moon is rising."

True enough, a single, small blue-white moon was just visible above the distant horizon; the smallest of the three that this new world apparently possessed.

Gadren turned, looking across the vast, pearled darkness at that thumbnail of glowing light, entranced by the sight, then nodded. "All right. Five minutes, then we must get some rest."

A cloaked figure, carrying a mithril-bound spell book pressed to his chest like a mother would with her infant, approached Gadren, looked up at him from under his hat, and told him, "I feel the arcane presence even more strongly than I did before, friend. It is of the type of magic that only the powerful mages of an age long gone knew how to create. It is probably some sort of potent magical artifact."

Gadren paused in quiet contemplation for a moment, then replied, "Interesting. Good work, Tenser. By the way, how much longer do you estimate the portal that brought us here will stay open?"

"Indefinitely. I don't know what I did, but when I created that portal I made a permanent tear through time and space. I don't know if we could even close that portal if we wanted to."

"Or had to. This could be a bad thing. There have been no signs of life as of yet, but there are obvious signs of civilization. We just better hope that whoever is here is peaceful."

Dawn found them standing at the foot of the plateau, in deep shadow, the great mass of rock beneath their feet.

A pleasant wood lay below them, on the far side of which was a small river. But Gadren did not mean to travel that way just yet. First he would send out scouts, to see what could be learned about the land and its inhabitants. For this task he chose Markon and Jeniran. He had them check the sun's position in the sky, then promise to be back within the half-hour.

They returned with just a few minutes to spare, perspiring heavily. The land, it seemed, was prosperous and there were signs of recent activity, but they had seen not a single person.

Cautious as ever, Gadren sent out Carrad and Zell to make another sweep of the land, but when they returned half an hour later, it was only to confirm what Markon and Jenniran had reported. The land was beautiful but empty.

Taking his wizard friend, Tenser, aside, Gadren debated the matter a moment, then addressed the rest of them once more.

"If Tenser's estimates are correct, the source of the magical energy is a two-hour walk from here. We'll make for that, sending scouts along the way. We have ample food and water, so our only problem is that we have no idea where the hell we are. So keep to the trees, don't bunch, and keep in a line behind me. Now let us be on our way. But remember that though the land looks peaceful, we do not know if it is inhabited nor do we know that if it is if those inhabitants are peaceful. So take care at all times."

And with that, Gadren turned, leading the way down off the rock and onto the plain below.

An hour's walking brought them to the middle of an orchard of low trees with dark rust-colored trunks whose verdant branches bore a strange crimson fruit. There they rested, seated on the rich green grass that lay like a carpet among the roots of the trees.

The day was hot, but it was cool enough beneath the branches. If Tenser was right, the energy source lay directly ahead, but as yet they had no sight of it. Gadren sat there now, his swords laying on the grass beside him as he prayed to his patron immortal, Garth.

Vage closed his eyes and rested on his elbows, his legs stretched out. For a time he drifted, thoughtless, his head filled with the hum of the local insects. Earlier he had caught and examined one of them - a large, bee-like insect, its "fur" bright red with a spiraling ebony stripe about the abdomen - and found that it lacked a stinger. So it was here. The beauty of it, combined with the warmth of the day, washed over him like the waves of a warm ocean on a summer's day.

Zell, who had wandered away for a moment, returned to the clearing, gazing about distractedly, with one of the dark, perfectly spherical fruits in his hand. Seeing Gadren he looked across and smiled.

"Zell!" Gadren bellowed. "What in the goddess' name are you doing?"

Zell blinked, then stared at the partially eaten fruit in his hand and, horrified, dropped it as if it were a burning coal. "I'm sorry, I." He swallowed. "I forgot, Gadren."

"Forgot!" Gadren leaned towards him. "As a ranger you should know better than to eat strange fruits. If you become ill, you'll have to look after yourself, do you understand?"

"But Gadren. "

Gadren turned his back. "All right," he said, "we'd best press on. Markon. scout ahead."

As Markon hurried away, they rose silently and, slipping on their packs, made their way slowly after Gadren, spread out like shadows beneath the trees.

They had not gone far when Markon had returned.

"There's a path," he said. "It runs straight."

"A path, more signs of civilization, but still no inhabitants." Gadren murmured to himself. "Does it run in the direction we are traveling?"

Markon shook his head. "It crosses our way, though"

After a moment of contemplation, Gadren addressed his party. "All right. Let's go and take a look."

It was a broad, well-tended path of loosely chipped pale stone, raised up just above the level of the ground to either side. On its far side was a great field of tall, exotic-looking plants with flame-tipped flowers, and beyond that a tree-capped ridge, its foliage dense and dark. As for the path itself, just as Markon had said, it ran straight to the left and to the right. Yet the energy source, if Tenser's calculations were correct, lay directly ahead.

"I wonder it curves." Zell pondered out loud.

"It doesn't look as though it would curve," Markon stated, answering a question that was never truly asked.

Gadren agreed with his experienced friend, Markon. "No. Yet, perhaps we should follow it for short while. Perhaps it runs into another path, farther along."

Vage made to climb up onto the path, but Gadren immediately called him back. "No, Vage. We must keep to the trees."

Chastened, Vage did as Gadren told him.

Turning to attain a parallel route with the path, they began to walk. At first there was an uncomfortable silence, but after a short time had passed, reassured by the peacefulness of the day, the beauty of the new land though which they moved, Gadren began to speak aloud.

"It makes one wonder," he said, stopping to turn and look about.

Tenser came alongside him. "Wonder what, Gadren?"

"What kind of people they are who tend this land."

"Isn't that what we have been wondering this whole time?"

Gadren nodded.

Tenser continued, "Well, if you want my sagely opinion, it certainly doesn't look like a war-like people."

"Why do you say that?"

"The fact that they tend to this land at all, especially at the rate they do. A lot of this vegetation seems to have been planted in places where its beauty can be admired. How many warlords do you know have waste their resources to do a thing like that?"

"I don't believe it is always so." Gadren said. "My wolven parents were killed by people that were considered peaceful by human standards."

"But that is different. Most humans fear wolves, what animals are there to fear here? Earlier, Vage showed me a bee with no stinger. It doesn't need one because there is nothing it would have to protect itself from here."

"Perhaps," Gadren said, with no real conviction in his voice. "But I feel that you are right."

They traveled on, lost in a foreign land, but lost even more in the beauty of the magnificent day. Each had their own thoughts about the wonders that surrounded them, each wondering about the people who inhabited this land.

Indeed, the party members were so taken by their surroundings that it was moment or two before anyone saw the tall, attractive elf that watched them from the path.

"Gadren!" Zell hissed. "Look!"

"I am not blind, Zell."

The young-looking elf, dressed in royal blue and crimson robes, stood with one hand grasping a long staff. Her hair was golden in coloring and cut in a strange yet distinguished-looking fashion, and her eyes were a deep emerald green. However, the strangest thing of all about her was that, though she looked directly at them, she seemed to look through them, she almost seemed not to have seen them at all.

"Are you here?"

Gadren stopped dead. The words spoken clearly yet in a heavy accent, had come from the stranger yet still the woman did not seem to look at them.

"Is he blind?" Vage wondered aloud, seeing the lack of movement in her eyes.

Gadren took another step towards her. "Where are we?"

The young woman did not seem to hear him. "Are you here?" she repeated.

Gadren turned, looking to the others, puzzled by the young woman's behavior, then turned back, and walked out into the light stopping no farther than eleven or twelve feet from where the young woman stood.

"We are from a different realm," Gadren tried telling the woman, speaking slowly and precisely, "the majority of us beckon from the city of Turien, except for me, and I can not say where I am from because I honestly don't know."

The young woman's eyes, which a moment earlier seemed sightless, focused on Gadren. The green orbs looked him up and down, and then the woman walked slowly up to Gadren, and stroked his cheek with her hand.

"You are Gadren?"

Gadren hesitated, startled by the stranger's knowledge of his name, then nodded. "How did you know."

"You're parents await you, my prince." A smile spread across her face. Gadren's eyes opened wide, and then the image went totally black and blank.

Three men were sitting at the table, one looking exhausted, the other two looking dumb-founded. The exhausted one was an older man dressed in robes of midnight blue inlaid with a pattern stars as white as the man's hair, his hands clenching his chest as he breathed with obvious difficulty.

One of the wide-eyed men suddenly seemed to regain his sight, as if he had been blind like the women in the last moments of the illusion, and shook his friend with gold-hair back into a similar consciousness. "Gadren, the mystic!"

The green-eyed young man with gold hair looked over at the older man who was now bent over in obvious agony, and rushed to his side. "Mystic, what's wrong?"

The white-haired man spoke as though someone had clasped their hand around his throat, "My time here is almost over here Gadren, I have used the last bit of my power to reveal to you your fate and future, now I may rest in peace."

"But mystic. what does it all mean?"

The dying man opened his lips as if to speak, but then it seemed at that very last moment that his life had slipped from his body, and he finally fell to the ground in a lifeless heap.

Gadren got up, walked over to the man, put a hand on the man's chest and looked back at his friend at the table. "He's dead, Tenser."

"Your parents, but I thought you were raised by wolves?"

"I was, but I obviously wasn't born to them."

"Do you believe that is your fate?"

"I have always believed that I could make my own fate, Tenser." Gadren sighed deeply, looked towards the dirt floor, and then his eyes raised back to Tenser's level. "But after what I just saw, I'm not so sure any more."

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