The Reluctant Wizard

This is long and I’m sorry but it was just fun.  It combines the Sunday Scribbling prompt Soul Mate and the Carry On Tuesday Prompts #3 and #4

I had also used the prompt “intersect” but couldn’t find the link to the site – here it is.  One Single Impression.

Simon finally gave up on sleeping.  He rose and stoked up the fire.  The night air was warm but he felt a chill in his bones anyway.  He put water on to boil and made himself tea.  The fire threw shadows on the old wood walls and made his white hair glow like it was on fire too.  He sighed as he drank his tea.  His bones told him that he was too old to be about this kind of business but the dreams didn’t care about old bones.  They came every night now.  It had been so long since he slept through the night he wasn’t even sure he was asleep when they came.  He knew he was at an intersection.  He could stay on his life path and be comfortable, healing the people who lived in the valley; or follow the dreams.  He knew if he chose to stay that there would be terrible consequences for more than just him.

When he had drunk most of the tea he swirled the dregs and stared into the leaves hoping for answers.  As usual, none came.

Morning would fall over the valley soon and if he got an early start he might make the mountains before nightfall.  He packed some hard bread and cheese and filled a skin with water.  He gathered some herbs and wrapped them with the food in an extra cloak and got out a piece of parchment and some ink and a pen.  He wrote a note saying he had gone on a journey and would return when he could.  Whoever found the note was welcome to shelter and any vegetables that might be left in the garden.  He knew it might be awhile before he returned to his valley and his hut.  It made him sad to think about but when the dreams called, they didn’t take any notice of creature comforts.  Simon hoped that in his absence the warm little hut would hold the spirit of hospitality and kindness would still be dwelling here waiting for him.

He threw some of the ground herbs and dried flowers on the fire. Sweetpea for friendship, rosemary for blessing, and anise for protection and purification.  He said a prayer as the herbs burned and then doused the fire with water from the stream that flowed nearby.

Simon tied his white hair with a leather thong and hooked the clasp on his cloak.  He grabbed his bundle and his carved walnut staff.  He slid his knife into his boot not because he wanted to but because the dream told him to.  He didn’t relish the thought of hurting another living creature but he could if he had to.

He took one last longing look around and opened the door. The darkness wrapped it self around him like another cloak but he didn’t need light to start on this part of the trip.  The path from his door was so well worn, his feet knew the way even if his eyes hadn’t been able to see shadows that hinted at approaching dawn.  He heard a mourning dove cry and an owl in the old walnut that shaded his hut, complained.  The smell of spring was all around and he wondered if he would ever see his home again.  Maybe it was better leaving in the darkness.  His heart might turn him around otherwise.

Simon headed east and crossed fields and a brook.  As the night slowly gave way to early purple morning he continued walking.  No one saw him leave, there were no close neighbors and it could be days before anyone knew he had gone.  He had taught Avery all he could about his herbs and healing.  Avery was a good lad and would help his friends if need be.  He would miss them all.

The purple gave way to grey mist and that slowly lightened to blue.  He could see the mountains in the distance now and though the path was gone, he knew the way as clearly as though the land itself was drawing him further and further from home.  The grass became sparser and the path now led upward as he entered the foothills.  Simon saw a rabbit out for his breakfast and then watched as a hawk swooped down and grabbed him.  He shivered, wondering if this was an omen.

He felt his muscles protest as the climb grew steeper.  The sun was climbing as well and he knew that before long the heat would be unpleasant.  Still he climbed.  He could turn and look over the whole valley now.  He spared one look and then squared his shoulders and turned away, climbing over rocks and around trees.

He knew from the dream visions that he was getting close to his destination.  As he clutched a tree branch to help himself over the next outcropping he spied the opening in the cliff above.  It was dark against the sun drenched rock and he felt a chill even though his cloak seemed to be holding in the heat now.

He finally climbed over the last rise and stood at the entrance to a small cave.  Simon sat down under the shade of a tree nearby and opened his bundle.  He took out a water skin and his bread and cheese.  He poured a few drops of water out for the local gods and ate his meager feast.  He left a few crumbs for the squirrel that was watching from up in the tree and tied his pack up again.  He rested for a few moments and then sighing, he rose and entered the cave.  There was a torch just inside and next to it in a little hollow in the rock was a piece of flint and some steel.  He took it out and struck sparks to light the torch and when it caught, he replaced the flint and took the torch and carefully moved deeper into the cave.  Near the back wall was a pile of skins and a fire ring.  There was a snake coiled on the skins and he chased it away with his staff.  He moved the top skins back and underneath was a book.  The book was thick and black and covered with dust.  He wasn’t surprised.  Everything he had seen in the dream had come to pass.

He carefully picked up the book and replaced the skins.  He sat down on the pile of skins and using the torch, he lit the tinder in the fire ring.  It was cooler in the cave and the fire would keep the snakes away. He sat the book on his lap and slowly opened the front cover.  It was made of wood and the boards were bowed and creaking.  It had an old smell to it, like something ancient and unknowable.

The pages were cracked and yellowed.  He took his pouch of herbs from his pack and as he turned the pages the flames leapt up and a face began to appear.  To the flames he added Bay for protection and Lambs Ears to guard against harm, Borage for courage, Sage for wisdom, Camphor to help see and remember, and Lavender for love.  As he added the herbs the flames changes colors and slowly the face became clearer.  It was a face he knew nearly as well as he knew his own, though it had been years since he’s seen her.  She was his soul mate and he had grieved her death his entire solitary life.  As he looked upon the face in the flames a single tear made it’s way down the creases in his sun baked, furrowed cheeks to rest in his snowy beard.

How could this be?  How could she have lived all this time and he not know it?  Yet here she was calling from the dreams.  He turned the page in the book and spoke the words on the page in the language of the old ones.  Her face became clearer still and she looked back at him with such love that was brighter even than the fire.  He turned the page again and traced the runes with his gnarled fingers.  As he did, she became more solid, less ethereal.  He looked down at his own hands and could almost see the page through them.  It was more difficult to hold the book now but he strained to turn the page again. Once again he spoke the words on the page and as he completed them the book dropped back to the skins and the fire winked out.

Hours had passed without notice and the sun had set once again. A dove mourned and a snake hurried out of the cave, no longer interested in curling up on the still warm skins.  Then night sounds returned and a light rain began to fall, erasing the tracks to the cave.  As quickly as it began, the rain ceased and the clouds evaporated as the moon reflected not one, but two faces, forever smiling down on the dark as stars sang to the reluctant wizard and his lady.

7 thoughts on “The Reluctant Wizard

  1. Missy

    This was a fun read. I love how easily it flowed from one prompt to the next. Anything dealing with a moon, smiling and love interest me.

  2. Paige Lewis

    Definitely is a great use of the prompts. Very clever, I felt sad for this poor guy, too. How did you know about all the herbs? They add great detail to the character. Research? Or just something you’ve picked up some how?

  3. Dee

    Quin – Thank you!

    Keith – It was fun – hope to be a little more timely in the future 🙂

    Missy – Thanks – it was fun to write and me too!

    Jeeves – Thanks for stopping by!

    Paige – did a little research. I was curious 🙂

  4. paschal

    This is a beauty. Any plans to go back and expand it? It feels so realized in its world, and yet begging for more (I know I am). I love this sentence: “His bones told him that he was too old to be about this kind of business but the dreams didn’t care about old bones.”

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