As Alisa was setting the table, she smiled at Torian and said, “It is very nice to have you sitting at my table father.”
Torian looked into her eyes and said, “I am sorry, I never knew I had a daughter or I would have been here all along.”
“I know father, I know you would have.” She replied with a smile and laid her hand on his. “You are here now, that is all that matters.”
Through dinner and long afterwards into the night, Torian told stories of his travels. Alisa and Wilym laughed at the funny things they had never imagined out in the world, and sat starry eyed as Torian told of wonders he had seen along the way.
Wilym was tired and nodded off in front of the fire while Alisa remained spellbound by all of the wondrous and beautiful things Torian spoke of.
When he noticed Wilym had fallen asleep, he said Alisa, “I am so sorry, I am surely tiring you with my stories.”
Alisa quickly disagreed, saying, “No, not at all, I could listen to your stories forever. I have waited so long to hear the voice of my father.”
“Perhaps I can tell you more tomorrow daughter,” Torian said patting Alisa’s hand, “you look very tired, and I am sure your day starts early.”
She smiled and sighed, “Yes, with just the two of us the days start early and end late.”
Alisa prepared Wilym’s bed for Torian and said he was to sleep in it because moving Wilym to bed would be more trouble than it would be worth.
Torian touched her face softly and kissed her forehead saying, “Goodnight daughter.”
Alisa smiled and a tear sparkled in the corner of her eye as she turned to go to bed.
Torian slept lightly, as he had learned to do in his travels. Though his eyes were closed and he looked as though he was in the deepest sleep, he could hear even the slightest change in the wind, the birds talking quietly in the night, embers burning on the fire. Nothing escaped his senses that had developed sharply out of necessity over the years.
And all of these things woke him quietly, signaling something was there, slinking quietly through the dark of the village. He immediately knew it was Solfon.
Quietly he opened the door and crept into the trees along the village road. They were there, he couldn’t tell how many, but he could feel their presence. Suddenly one of the village dogs started to bark then screeched in fear causing other dogs to take up the call. Lights started to flicker in some of the windows as doors opened here and there to see what was causing the commotion.
The attack began!
Solfon screamed into houses as the residents ran into the streets slashing at the shadows that chased them. Sparks flew from embers in fire hearths as the Solfon flew through the houses in search of something, something that only Torian and Wilym knew of.
One of the village houses burst into flames as the sparks scattered through the thatch of the roof. The flicker of the fire caused more shadows, confusing the villagers even further as they tried to fight off even their own shadows now.
Behind Torian the door flew open to Alisa and Wilym’s house as Alisa ran out to see what was going on. Torian quickly shoved her back in the doorway just as Wilym approached, flute grasp tightly in his hand where it had been since Torian gave it to him.
Torian yelled to him, “Play the flute Wilym! Play the flute!”
People were writhing in the streets beneath the shadows, screaming horrible screams like Wilym had never heard, and he froze, in total, complete fear as several of the shadows turned their attention to the light coming from the door at the far end of town.
Wilym stood there, Torian knew even if Wilym could bring the flute to his lips, he could not ward off a host this size, not yet.
Quickly Torian turned to the approaching Solfon and quietly started to chant, as though whispering to the wind, “Profusum Lucis… Profusum Lucis… Profusum Lucis…”
He chanted the words over and over, louder and louder, and a glow started to appear around Torian, spreading, widening, until it engulfed the house and all inside it, then the street, and the village started to glow. The Solfon became very disoriented, then as though on fire within the glow, they writhed and screamed and fled into the darkness as quickly as they came.
The villagers, still in total chaos, ran through the streets as if the Solfon were still after them. Torian turned quickly to the house and shoved Wilym and Alisa away from the door and quietly closed it.
“They cannot see us there, they will, in their fear, have to have someone to blame.” Torian whispered to the two as the door closed and they both stood there holding each other close. “You are the outcasts here, they will blame you.”
“What do we do?” Wilym finally asked, voice trembling in fear. “Why us, why will they blame us?”
“We are alright for now.” Torian answered. “The dark has returned and they will hide in their houses. But they will not sleep this night, and in their stirrings, they will imagine all sorts of things, until finally their thoughts will settle on the house at the end of town.”
“We must leave then!” Shouted Wilym in a loud whisper.
“We are alright for now.” Torian repeated. “They will not dare venture from their houses tonight, and it will probably be well into the day tomorrow before any of them muster up the courage to step beyond their barred doors.”
“But, you are right,” Torian continued, “we must leave, and we must leave before they gather the courage to step outside.”
Alisa, with fear straining her voice finally spoke, “But… but what about those creatures, what are they? We cannot leave here, they are out there somewhere.”
“Right now it is not the Solfon that you have to worry about daughter.” Torian said in a comforting voice to Alisa which seemed to release some of the tension in her face. “Right now it is your neighbors you need to worry about. Fear like that will drive whole villages to madness, I have seen it many times in my travels.”
“But where do we go?” Alisa asked. “This is our home.”
“You will come with me daughter.” Torian answered. “I will take you to our new home.”
Alisa smiled nervously, though still afraid. The thought of a home with her father, in a place where she was not treated so coldly, even in this strange night, brought a warmth to her that could be seen in her eyes as she went to her father and allowed him to pull her into his strong arms. She felt a comfort she had never felt before.
Wilym felt a warmth come over him as well. Now he knew what his grandfather meant when he said, “We will work this out.”
In the predawn light the three snuck quietly out the door and quickly into the woods behind the house. They felt sure that no one had seen them leaving. Taking only what they needed and a handful of special heirlooms, they were off.
Following the creek that flowed down from the mountain to the west, they moved fairly quickly, stopping only shortly after sunrise to have some bread and cheese for breakfast.
Along about midmorning, they had made it a few miles from the house, slowly climbing towards the pass. Below, back in the village they began to hear voices. They could not make out what was being yelled, but they knew what was going on. Soon there was smoke rising above the trees back over the village, and they all knew it was Alisa and Wilym’s home being torched by the scared and angry villagers. And they knew too that the villagers probably thought they were inside the house when the fire was set.
Not a word had been spoken about the night before as they walked upstream towards the highlands. Very few words had been spoken at all.
Around midday, Torian knew they were far enough along, and he also knew that it would be a long time before any of the villagers would have the courage to venture into the shadowy realms of the forest.
He also knew that Alisa, as unaccustomed to trekking through the woods as she was, was growing weary and upon coming to a nice little forest clearing along the stream said, “I am growing tired, perhaps we could stop and rest for a bit, and maybe have a bite to eat.”
Of course he wasn’t in the least bit tired, or hungry for that matter. Walking long distances had been a part of his life for so long he would have only grown tired from sitting too long in one place.
As they sat next to the stream, Alisa passed around some bread and dried meat she had brought along. For awhile they sat there quietly, enjoying the sunshine and the singing of the birds in the forest around them.
Finally Alisa could not hold her tongue any longer. “What in all of Nature’s world were those creatures?”
“They are not of Nature’s world daughter.” Torian answered, looking into the passing stream. “They are called the Solfon, and they are from a dark world that exists along side of this one. It is called Cathodos.”
Wilym was listening, though he didn’t let on. He knew that any minute his grandfather was going to blurt out that they had come there seeking him, and his mother was not ready to hear that.
“Why were they attacking the village?” Alisa asked.
Here it comes Wilym thought to himself.
His grandfather looked at him, then to Alisa and said, “Who knows why they come where they come, and who knows why the even exist.”
His grandfather looked at him again and continued, “But I can tell you this, they are growing in numbers. Their realms spread from the wastelands of Cathodos to near the borders of Zoson. I have crossed their paths a few times in my journeys. And I have seen villages and forests turned to wastelands as they consume all life in them.”
“”So,” questioned Alisa, “can we never go back to our village? Will there even be a village to go back to?”
Torian looked at the ground for a moment, then softly, with a pain in his voice answered, “No my dear daughter, your time there is done. One way or the other, you can never go back there again.”
Torian continued, “They may not return to the village, but either way, you can never go back. Your home is destroyed, and the people there who felt uneasy in your presence before will now hate you and blame you for what has happened.”
“But why?” Alisa asked. “We had nothing to do with these creatures.”
“Whether you did or didn’t daughter,” Torian replied, “to the villagers you did. To them you conjured this evil.”
Alisa listened with a frightened look in her eyes.
“It has nothing to do with you dear,” he continued. “It is simply their ignorance and fear. They have to have someone to blame things on. In their minds, you and your mother and your son have always been to blame for hardships that they have experienced. That is why they have shunned you and your family, because you are different. They have to have someone to blame, and they will never place the blame for their problems where it belongs; on themselves. It is much easier to blame others, especially when someone is different in any way from them.”
Wilym felt a relief. Both that Torian had not told his mother what he had told him about the Solfon, and for a new understanding of why the villagers had never accepted him, his mother or Snommis. Too, there was an excitement forming inside of him, he was on a journey, and he knew he was never going back to that village again.