Somehow Alisa was relieved by the understanding that Torian, her father, was deeply saddened by the turn of events too. He cared, for both of them. And somehow she felt slightly reassured by the things he said about Wilym having the power growing in him to overcome the Solfon. Though her heart still felt very heavy.
Towards evening of their third day out they came across a cave next to the stream. There was fish, mushrooms, and other things they could replenish their supplies with. And Torian said they should stay there a couple of days and rest up and get their strength back up for the next part of the journey.
Wilym started to ask if it was safe to stop, but Torian quickly reassured him that there was no one or no thing coming for them right now, and he quietly whispered that Alisa needed to rest and have time to think and come more to terms with everything that was happening in her life.
Wilym understood, he felt bad for what his mother was going through. He wondered if he had caused all of this by his constant daydreaming about travel and adventure. He sat on a rock staring at the stars and the distant horizons, pondering all of the things that had happened over the last few days. Perhaps, he thought, that he just knew on some level that this was all coming, and he had not caused it at all.
Behind him, his mother and Torian sat by the fire talking quietly. He strained to listen, but was soon caught up in his on wanderings again. He could not shake the fear of his impending separation from his mother. He had ventured into the forests many times, but always knowing home and a warm fire, food and his mother’s presence awaited him. A tear came to his eye and ran down his cheek as the thought of it all sunk in.
He was no traveler, who was he trying to fool. He would be lost and never find his way. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder and turned to look, it was Torian.
Torian smiled at him and said, “I know what you are thinking young Wilym, I know you are afraid, but you mustn’t be, you will fare well, you will find your way.”
Wilym forced a smile, and with a shaky voice replied, “I am just a child grandfather, I have no idea of the world beyond my village. This is by far the farthest I have ever been, and I don’t even know where I am now, much less once I am on my own on.”
“You don’t know where you are,” Torian answered, “simply because you have never been here. Do we ever know where we are? I know you are afraid, I know you will miss your mother, but rest assured she will be safe. And once we get to my village, she will find happiness there among the people, and will be far away from the darkness that is coming in the east.”
“And you grandson,” Torian said in a reassuring voice, “you will find your way, and you will find many wonderful things along your journey.”
“But where will I go?” Wilym asked, still feeling lost.
“I heard many years ago,” Torian replied, “the wonder does not lie in reaching a destination, it lies in the journey itself. There is a world full of wonder out there, and you will see things you have never imagined in you dreams. There will be friends and foes, treasures and hard times, but you will grow, and you will someday look back on it all and know that you have lived, really lived. And that grandson is something that most people will never be able to say.”
“Someday,” Torian continued,” you will find you way back to your mother, and you will have become a man, and you will have many wondrous stories to tell her. For now, enjoy the time we all have together, you will have time enough for your thoughts when you have moved on into your journey.”
Torian patted Wilym’s shoulder then turned back to the fire.
Wilym turned back to the sky, and the thought, my journey brought a warmth to him and momentarily drove the fear away.
After awhile he returned to the fire and sat down next to his mother, laying his hand on hers. She smiled and continued to listen to her father telling a story of his travels. Wilym listened, but did not hear, his mind was far away, and his eyes were growing very heavy as he stared into the fire.
He drifted into sleep, and the dream world took over.
He was walking with a childhood friend, and they had reached the bottom of a valley. He turned to the friend, but he was not there, and suddnely, from all sides of the valley, dark creatures poured into the valley and came for him.
He ran as fast as he could, and somehow managed to break throuygh their lines and get beyond them. He found himself in a very large building, a building mage of rusted metal that was falling apart. There were ancient machines all around him, and he ran between them, trying to find a place to hide from the dark creatures.
Wilym dove beneath one of the machines and the creatures flew low, scanning every where trying to find him.
He woke, and jumped startled, looking around, and nothing was there, only the fading embers of the fire, his mother sleeping peacefully near him, and Torian leaning against a rock looking at him as though he had been watching him sleep.
“You dream of them didn’t you grandson?” Torian asked.
Wilym told him quietly about the dream, then asked if it was something that was really going to be.
“Dreams,” answered Torian, “sometimes tell us what will be, and sometimes they are just bringing our fears to the surface of our minds. You will cross path with the Sofon on your journeys, there is no doubt of that. But you will be more powerful than they. There is a creature though, that you will cross paths with eventually, that you may or may not be more powerful than he. He is the master of the Solfon, he is the one who created them all, he is the one who stripped them of their soul and left nothing but the black dead hearted creatures you have now seen.”
Wilym face showed the fear he was feeling.
“It will be a long time before you cross paths with him.” Torian added quickly to reassure Wilym that there was nothing to fear at the moment. “But, he does know of you, he sent his Solfon to find you, he controls their minds. They do not think for themselves, they only carry out his will. He is called the Psychromancer, and he is the ruler of all of Cathode, and he will not rest until he rules all realms, and all that live have lost their souls and become his Solfon.”
Torian continued, “He lives at the heart of Cathode, the land of the dead. He rules is all from its center, and as it spreads, so does his power grow. But again grandson, it will be a long time before you come to know him.”
That did not really make Wilym feel any better. Now, then, what’s the difference, he had no desire to ever cross paths with such a creature as the Psychromancer.
“Fear not grandson,” Torian added, “you will not be the young man that is sitting at this fire tonight when you do finally come to know him.”
That still didn’t help, Wilym thought to himself.
Torian smiled and leaned back against to rock, closing his eyes and drifting off.
Wilym feared going back to sleep, he feared the Solfon would be there waiting for him. Eventually his mind quieted and he too drifted off.
As Torian had promised, the group spent the next couple of days resting up and replenishing their supplies. Torian spent a lot of time talking with Alisa, telling her stories and telling her of the village he was from that would soon be her home.
Wilym experimented with his flute, trying to make it flow smoothly from one note to the next, and trying to duplicate the sounds around him; the birds, the stream, the breeze. He hit many sour notes, and would self consciously turned to see if any one had noticed each time. Torian and Alisa continued to talk, and at least pretended they had not heard the mistake.
As night fell, they were all sitting around the fire and Torian announced that they would be heading on west in the morning. After eating Torian told them about the beginning of his own journeys when he was a young man.
I was not much older than Wilym when I first set out from my home. It was mid Autumn, and like the young fool I was, I hadn’t considered that Winter was close by. I had simply had enough of the day to day village life, and wanted to see the world.
I came through these same mountains, heading east, no idea where I was going, or what lay ahead of me. After weeks of travelling, and barely surviving, near starvation, cold, and yes, lost, I came across this very cave. At that point, this high up, Winter had set in completely. I settled in to the cave and decided that I would have to stay until the weather broke in the Spring.
Luckily there were fish here still, and inside, in the dark of the cave I found mushrooms. I was able to keep somewhat warm in the cave, and managed to not completely starve while here. One night I was lying by the fire, no bedding of any kind besides leaves I had gathered and dried, and I saw something stuck between a couple of rocks. It was that very flute you hold in your hands young Wilym.
I had never seen anything like it before, and had no idea what it even was. Much less why someone would leave it hidden in this cave. I had been here for about a month, and there had been no sign of anyone in the area, so I decided to keep it, unless someone showed up before I left in the Spring to claim it.
I had no idea how to play it, but common sense told me to blow into the whole. The most beautiful sound came floating from it, and suddenly I felt a warmth in me, even in the harsh Winter night. And, like you grandson, I set about trying to learn it and control the sounds as I moved from hole to hole with my fingers. And like you, I blew some notes that made my hair on the back of my neck stand up.
As Winter passed, the stream froze over and there were no more fish, and the mushroom supply dwindled. I knew I had to ration myself or I would never survive the Winter.
Time passed and the days grew longer, but Winter was still hard and I was near starved. I knew that I had to move on, head to lower elevations with the hope of finding food and warmer weather. So one morning I packed what few mushrooms I had left, and ventured on east, knowing that eventually I would go down the mountain. It wasn’t like our walk up, the snow was deep, the wind was terribly cold, and I just didn’t think I would survive. The first night away from the cave was deadly. I forced myself as far beneath a fallen tree as I could and drug in dirt and leaves to help stop the wind. It was a painful night.
The next morning I could barely muster the strength or will to get moving again. I was going down hill, but the snow blew just as hard, and the wind ripped like a knife at my skin. I was lost, I could barely see to go on, but I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and keeping in a downward direction.
I couldn’t tell you how long I had walked, or how many days had passed, but my strength finally gave out and the last thing I remember was the snow giving way beneath my feet and I was falling.
I have no idea how long I was out, how long I lay there. I sensed someone, and barely able to open my eyes, I saw a beautiful young woman kneeling over me, and the darkness came again. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in a cabin wrapped in blankets in front of a fireplace, and the young woman was sitting near me in a chair preparing a meal.
She looked over and noticed my eyes were opening and called out to her mother and father that I was waking. Suddenly they were all gathered around me, and were telling me that I was going to be alright. I could not take my eyes off of the young woman; her name was Snommis.
That is how I met you mother Alisa. She had gone back for her father after finding me in the ravine near the village and they carried me back to their cabin, your cabin, and they brought me back from near death.
“My mother saved you.” Alisa said with a smile. “So, you also knew my grandfather and grandmother?”
“Yes,” Torian replied, “they took me in and nurtured me back to health over the rest of the Winter. And by Spring I had become very close to them all, especially your mother.”
Suddenly there was a sound outside of the cave, in the trees by the stream. They all heard it and jerked their heads in that direction. Torian threw dirt onto the fire to put it out, and whispered in the dark for them to stay quiet and not move.
He quietly slipped out of the cave in the darkness and his shadow disappeared. Wilym told his mother to stay there, he had to go see if he could help. She clutched his arm and told him to be careful, and slowly let go of him and he too slipped out into the night. He could see nothing, but heard quiet footsteps in the grass coming closer. He stepped behind a tree and waited as the steps drew nearer.
As the shadow passed, he jumped from behind the tree and grabbed the stranger and try to throw him to the ground. Next thing he knew, he was slammed into the tree and a dagger was at his throat.
A hand reached from the darkness, it was Torian’s hand, and he pulled the knife from the hand that was holding it and said, “Mikisum, you must not kill my grandson.”
It was a young woman, and she turned to Torian and sheathed her dagger and gave him a heartfelt embrace, like two old friends who had been parted for a long, long time.
She turned back to Wilym and said she was sorry for handling him so roughly, and turned back and walked towards the cave with Torian. Wilym stood there at the tree, quite shaken up, totally humiliated that a girl had over powered him so easily, and a bit angered over her apology of “handling” him so roughly.
Soon the fire light came from the cave entrance again, and there was talking inside. Wilym felt uncomfortable about going back into the cave after being so easily over taken. Finally he decided to go back inside and face every one. when he stepped into the light, he was even more humiliated, for there, next to the fire stood a girl a good head shorter than him, thin, and extremely beautiful. How had she so easily taken control of him out there, and slammed him into the tree like that?
As he neared, Torian, with a grin on his face, knowing what Wilym must have been thinking, introduced her to him.
“Wilym, this is my friend Mikisum,” still trying to hide his grin, “Mikisum, this is my grandson, Wilym, and my daughter Alisa.”
Mikisum, grinned at Wilym with a slight nod, then turned to Alisa and smiled, bowing to her with much respect.
“I did not know you had a daughter old friend,” Mikisum said as she turned to Torian.
“Neither did I until very recently,” Torian replied.
Mikisum hugged him again, and told him she had missed him for long enough, and decided to track him down and see what he was doing and where he was going.
Torian told her about his plan to return home, and in is journey he sensed Wilym, not knowing who he was, and had ran across him in the forest near the last village.
Mikisum said she too had sensed his presence, and had passed near the village a couple of days back, but had skirted it, not feeling comfortable to actually go though it because she has sensed that the Solfon had been in the area, and the people seemed very disturbed by it all. She had also seen the freshly burned cabin, and knew the Solfon must have been to the village.
Torian told her the whole story while Alisa sadly listened, and Wilym sat sulking still over having a girl so easily defeat him.