The forest seemed darker than usual this night, and there was a feeling of something or someone out there that Wilym had not felt before. He had walked those woods most every night, and the days as well since he was a child. Those woods were like his home, he knew every inch of them for many miles in every direction, and he knew every soul that lived in all of the clearings, groves, crevices and caves; human and animal alike. But this night something was different. Something else was out there; somewhere. He could feel it deep inside; a fear coming up from deep in his gut.
What is it, he wondered. What is it?
He wanted to turn back but for the past few nights he had heard music coming from deep in the forest to the east, getting a little closer each night. Music like no music he had ever heard.
He left earlier than usual on his nightly wanderings because he wanted to get farther into the forest, closer to the music, so that he could possibly find where it was coming from. He was quite a bit farther than he usually was this time of night because of his early start, and felt sure he would be able to reach the music.
The foreboding he had been feeling came fully to the surface when he felt something swish across the back of his neck and hair. He turned with a start, but nothing was there. Then out of the corner of his eye he saw a shadow disappear quickly into the trees.
Perhaps, he thought, these far woods were no place this deep in the night for a boy in his fifteenth year.
He stood there, frozen in place, looking back towards home and was just about to take his first step in that direction when he heard the music floating through the night. It was near. He was close.
Suddenly the forest had the calm peaceful feeling he was used to feeling when he walked at night. The foreboding left him, though he still felt a little uneasy about the shadow he had seen just seconds ago. He looked around for a moment and then, forgetting he was about to head for home, turned towards the music and started to follow its sound.
The moon was rising full above the forest now and its glow sent light into the undergrowth beneath the trees. The streams of light and the music seemed to still him deep inside. He walked on, getting closer to the source of the music with each step.
Sound traveling through the forest can be deceptive; it can sound much closer than it really is. He walked on for what seemed like hours when finally he saw the light of a campfire up ahead. The music was very clear now, it sounded like the wind singing.
As he stepped into a clearing and the glow of the fire light, he discovered the source of the music. An old man sat by the fire, smiling back with his eyes, as his lips and fingers danced upon something Wilym had never seen before.
Wilym showed his palms, as was customary when approaching someone. The old man nodded, and Wilym sat down near the fire watching the musician play his odd instrument.
After a moment the old man breathed one last strong breath into the instrument and took it from his lips.
He smiled and said, “I am Torian, and who, my young traveler, might you be?”
Without taking his eyes off of the instrument, Wilym answered, “I am Wilym, and not really a traveler… well, not yet anyway.”
Then suddenly, almost as if coming from somewhere else, he added, “but I will be a traveler. I will travel the whole world someday.”
“The world is a big place,” the old man said in half laughter, then added “but, you will, you will travel the world, won’t you young Wilym?”
Wilym’s eyes were fixed on the musical instrument again, and Torian noticed this and handed it across to him to get a closer look. Wilym took it gently, as if he were picking up a baby animal and turned it slowly in his hands, watching it sparkle in the firelight.
“What is this?” Wilym asked with awe.
“It is a flute my young friend,” he answered. “Play it if you like.”
Wilym placed it to his mouth, as he had seen the old man do, and blew gently into the opening at the end. A sweet, although shaky, deep note floated out of it and seemed to penetrate the forest night.
“Ah, you have played before,” Torian said with a smile.
“No,” Wilym answered, as he handed the flute back to the old one. “I have never seen such a thing as that, and I have never seen anything made from whatever that is, like a stick, but hard like rock, and shiny,… what is it?”
“It’s silver,” the old man answered, “a metal from the earth.”
“You mean like rock?” Wilym questioned.
“Yes, like rock, but different,” answered Torian.
Wilym finally looked away from the shiny flute and looked into Torian’s eyes again. He noticed Torian looked nothing like anyone he had ever seen before. His hair was grey, and long, his skin was darker than anyone Wilym had seen, and his eyes were green, like his own. Wilym had never met anyone else with green eyes, except his mother of course. All of the people in his village had brown eyes.
“You are different from the people I know,” Wilym said with a question in his tone. ”You look different, you must be from very far away.”
“Yes, very far away,” the old musician replied with a sad look in his eyes. “I have traveled my whole life it seems, and now I am finding my way back to my homeland. My journeys are almost over.”
They sat there for a moment looking at the fire, then Torian added, “but yours, your journeys young Wilym, are just beginning.”
Wilym looked at him for a moment then asked, “how do you know I will travel Torian?”
“It is in your heart, in your blood,” Torian answered, “and it shows in your eyes.”
Wilym liked the sound of that. He fancied himself a traveler on great adventures and he knew deep inside that he would not stay in his village much longer.
Torian was looking at Wilym when he looked up from the fire, and smiling, Torian said, “I know who you are young Wilym, your grandmother is Snommis isn’t she?”
Wilym, taken a little by surprise that this stranger knew his grandmother, was about to ask how, when Torian continued, “I passed through your village many, many years ago, when Snommis was still a very young woman, and I was only a few years older than you are now.”
“Did you know my grandfather?” Wilym questioned, “None of my family or the other villagers want to talk about him, they always just tell me he was just some…”
Wilym paused right in the middle of his sentence, and was looking at Torian.
Torian, noticing the look on his face smiled, and said “Maybe, maybe young Wilym. My travels took me far away; far to the east in search of something, and I have not been back through here since then.”
“You are my grandfather aren’t you?” Wilym asked quietly.
“As I look at you, into your eyes… I have to believe I am,” Torian answered softly. “And the fact that you heard my music and followed it to me, makes me think I am. The world works in mysterious ways.”
“Why did you not stay here?” Wilym asked curiously.
“The same reason you won’t,” he replied, “it is in your blood to seek something, even though you don’t know what it is, just like I didn’t know what it was when I set out to find it so long ago. I remember though, it was hard to leave your village after meeting Snommis; she was a beautiful young woman, and we spent some wonder filled days walking in these forests.”
“What is ‘it’?” Wilym asked with fascination in his tone.
“What is what?” Torian questioned.
“What is it that I seek,” Wilym replied. “What is it that is in my blood?”
“Oh… Oh, I can’t tell you that Wilym,” Torian answered, “you will have to find that out for yourself.”
Noticing the look of disappointment on Wilym’s face, he continued, “you can only know what it is when it is time for you to know what it is. No one can tell you. You must follow the path yourself, and when it is time for you to know, the path will tell you.”
Wilym looked at the old man like he didn’t understand, but at the same time he felt what the old man said was true.
“Can you at least tell me which way this path you speak of leads?” he asked.
“No,” Torian replied, “no one knows where your path leads except you my young friend.”
“I don’t know it though,” Wilym spoke, “I don’t have a clue.”
“But,” Torian said with a smile, “you will come to know as you walk your path, it will show you if you watch and listen to it.”
Wilym looked into the fire and thought about what the old man said. After awhile he thought he should head for home but knew he could not make it all the way that night, he was too tired, and he didn’t want to leave his new-found grandfather.
Then he remembered the shadow in the forest and felt a quiver of fear. He knew he would not want to sleep alone on the hike back to his village.
Torian noticed the look on Wilym’s face had changed and said, “you felt something in the forest tonight, didn’t you?”
“Yes,” answered Wilym. “I felt it, and I saw it… how did you know?”
Torian, with a very concerned look on his face asked, “You saw it?”
“Yes, or at least its shadow.” Wilym replied.
“I too felt it earlier,” Torian said with much concern in his voice. “You didn’t see its shadow Wilym, you saw it. “It is only shadow, it has no being.”
“You know what it was?” Wilym asked with a questioning tone.
“Yes young Wilym,” Torian answered, “I believe it was one of the Solfon.”
“Solfon?” Wilym replied with a hint of fear in his voice. “I have never heard of such a thing.”
“It was seeking you, and where there is one, there will be more,” Torian said with a very serious tone. “You must stay here tonight, and I will travel with you in the morning as far as your village.”
“What are the Solfon?” asked Wilym.
“They are shadows of what once were people.” Torian replied. “The Solfon take the soul from the person, then the soul becomes just a black shadow, like them, it becomes a Solfon too.”
Wilym stared into the fire, then looking up at Torian he smiled, and said, “You are just telling me stories, ghost stories, aren’t you?”
The look on Torian’s face quickly took the smile from Wilym’s, and he looked back at the fire saying, “you aren’t just telling me ghost stories are you?”
“No,” Torian replied, “I wish I was, but the Solfon are very real.”
“Why have I never heard of them before?” Wilym asked. “Why have I never seen them before?”
“Because you were just a child, but now you are coming of age, and I am afraid that it is you that that they are seeking,” Torian answered. “I am afraid that as you have come towards your manhood they have begun to feel your presence, much as I have felt your presence as of late, and they have come here seeking you.”
“Why would they seek me?” asked Wilym.
“You are not simply called by the road because you think traveling would be a great way to live,” Torian replied. “You are called by the road because you have something you must do, and apparently the Solfon know this.”
“Know what?” Wilym asked with a mix of fear and frustration, “If I don’t know what I am to do, how would they know?”
“But you will know grandson.” Torian replied, “The knowledge is written deep within you and you will come to know it. The Solfon too are coming to know what lies deep within you, and they will do everything they can to keep you from finding it, and to destroy your soul and make you one of them.”
Wilym felt very uneasy now and Torian noticed this. “I will tell you what I know about them,” Torian said after a few moments, “which is not very much, but it will hopefully help you guard against them.” Torian continued, “Most souls can be easily taken by the Solfon. But with some people; people like me, people like you, the Solfon find it much harder to steal their souls. People like us, they will take from a bit at a time. That is all they can do, until finally there will be nothing left but the black shadow of the Solfon.”
“But,” Torian added quickly when he saw the look on Wilym’s face, “the reason they can’t take you all at once is that you are stronger than they are and you have the ability to defeat them. That makes them fear you most of all, and that is why they are here.”
“But how?” Wilym asked, “how could I defeat such a thing?”
“That is what you must learn,” answered Torian, then he continued, “always trust your heart above all things. If you can do this, they cannot take you. But young Wilym, be warned, there will be those along the road you will travel that will try to trick you; friends, family, strangers. In their own ignorance they would lead you straight into the Solfon’s clutches. There will also be those who will try to lead you there for their own gain. Be careful as you journey through your life, and perhaps you will be the one who can find the place beyond their realms.”
“Also,” Torian continued, “you will have my flute, and it is a powerful weapon against them. They are driven mad by the sound of the flute, and will fly away screaming.”
Wilym looked at the flute, then back at Torian, “What about you, what will you do for a flute?”
“I am old, and I know other ways of dealing with them.” Torian answered. “Besides, I have come to the end of my road; you have come to the start of yours.”
Handing Wilym the silver flute, Torian leaned against a fallen log and said, “we should try and get some sleep now, I have a long journey home waiting for me in the morning, and so do you grandson.”
“My home is not that far,” Wilym replied.
“We shall see,” replied Torian with a grin, “we shall see.”
Wilym lay down near the fire, staring at the flute in his hands. He noticed something in the firelight he hadn’t seen before, some kind of a symbol. It was a circle, divided in half by a curved line. He looked to Torian to ask him what the symbol was but Torian had already fallen asleep.