by Michæl W. Bard
©2008 Michæl W. Bard
-= Prologue =-
Olcynther followed the aged visitor out into the plains, out towards the base of the Gods Tower. The tower grew closer as the sun set, its light glimmering off the endless surface of polished metal, tinting it a blood red as it set lower and lower. Clouds drifted above, shading the green spring grass, and hiding and revealing the glistening silver arch that eternally spanned the sky.
He wasnt happy. He was, in fact, nervous. The Oldster, Stephan, named after the mythical Creator God, seemed spry for his age. The cloak of owl feathers that swept around his upper back and draped over his lower back smelled old, ancient, and yet it looked newalmost freshly made.
Things didnt add up.
Of course Olcynther knew of Stephan, knew of others; Wise Ones all, whod left the tribe. Rather than die and give themselves back to the soil, they instead wandered and served. Took upon themselves the solitary task of binding the tribes together. Wandered across the Sea of Grass, bringing to all the tribes news, stories, and tales of ages gone by.
We can stop here, Stephan said.
Olcynther dutifully stopped and helped the Oldster clear a small firepit. Using their hooves, both trampled a circle of grass around where the flames would be. It was simple work, and it gave his mind time to wander.
Why here? Oh sure, the Wise Ones would often take individuals away, to tell a specific story or give a specific lesson, but never this far from where the tribe was camped. And never, never this close to one of the Gods Towers. In fact, Olcynther himself had never been this close to one. In the land immediately surrounding it, he could see where the grass was shorter, thinner. There were outcroppings of rock and small forbidden mounds covered with scraggly, sickly grass. At the base of the tower, dim now in the fading redness, the grass was cropped short. Tales told of gleaming metal servants who came out to trim it, and others who polished the shining crystal windows of the metal structure towering before him. Towering up, so far up, it made Olcynther dizzy to try and follow it.
Then the pit was done, and he and Stephan worked their packs off of their lower backs, and dug out the dried dung needed to feed the fire. Olcynther watched as the Oldster piled dried grass kindling, small sticks, and dung in the pit. Flint and steel sparked, sparked, and then a thin wisp of smoke rose just as lights appeared all around the tower blinking lines that rose up into the heavens, bright yellow and green in some kind of mystical pattern.
Sit, Stephan said.
Olcynther brought his mind back and saw that the Oldster had already settled on the trampled grass on his lower belly, motioning at a place across the fire. The night was growing chill. The moon was visible now, specks of light glistening, cupped by its glowing crescent shape. Those lights had always been there. Always being consumed as the disc of the moon grew to full; always becoming visible as the disc of the moon shrank to a crescent, and then nothing.
Olcynther settled down, wiggling a bit to get comfortable, his tail resting on the grass behind him. The wind was chill, the grass rustled all around, and Olcynther pulled his cloak tight around his upper body. Comfortable, he looked at the Oldster, waiting. And waiting. Until he could wait no longer. Olcynther asked the question that had been nagging through the day as hed followed: Why?
Stephan returned his gaze, with an expression that gave nothing away. Why, what?
Why me? Why here? Why so far? Im getting old, but not too old to follow you. Soon Ill have to chose whether to leave, to wander, to find my death, or serve as one such as you. Is that why? Or is there another why?
Stephan smiled, the grin spreading along his graying muzzle. Why, you ask. Thats a very important question.
And why is that?
Because it opens up such a vista of answers. Ive heard of youheard others talk about you. Youre wiser than your years would suggest; you wonder about what was, and what will be. Most think youll join us Oldsters when your time comes, spend your remaining years traveling. So lets talk.
Then talk, old one.
I will. And I believe Ill start with a storymy story. It begins long ago