The next morning they set out west again with Mikisum now part of the group.
Wilym walked behind everyone, still feeling foolish from the night before. He just couldn’t let go of the idea that a small female had so easily slammed him into the tree and stuck a knife to his throat.
Everyone else was walking ahead, laughing as if everything was just grand. But not Wilym. There was nothing to laugh about as far as he was concerned. He just felt like a fool.
Torian noticed Wilym hanging behind, and slowed to let him catch up. They walked along for quite awhile before Torian finally spoke.
“You feel foolish because Mikisum overpowered you so easily.” Torian said, trying to hold back his grin.
Wilym just looked at him with the look of someone who had been made a fool of, and didn’t really want to talk about it.
They continued to walk along, nothing said, until finally Torian laughed and said, “You are only a fool because you assume that a female of her stature would be weak and helpless. You know nothing about her, yet you make assumptions. If you knew her, you would not feel like a fool, but lucky that she didn’t do much worse to you.”
This didn’t seem to change Wilym’s mood much, and he continued to walk on without a word.
Up ahead the two women were talking and laughing as they walked along, and finally Wilym could take no more, and said, “Fine, why don’t you tell me about her, so I don’t have to feel like and idiot that had his ass kicked by a little girl.”
Torian grinned, knowing that that was what had been bothering Wilym. “There is a great lesson to be learned here young Wilym,” Torian finally spoke. “To judge people without knowing them can be very misleading, and as you have seen, hurtful to your own pride.”
Wilym glared at Torian, then Torian continued. “Mikisum is one of the Senile River People. They are guardians of the Senile River, though to the unknowing person, they are simple fisher folk. And that, my young friend, is what you are, an unknowing person. The Senile River People are a mystical lot indeed. They have a great understanding of the world around them, like no others, they are all great warriors, but they are also very spiritual people. Because of their understanding of nature, or as they call it, Tao, they can control their environments, their selves, and others. They are a very peaceful people, but as you saw, they can deal with basically any foe, quickly and efficiently.”
“And this is supposed to make me feel better?” Wilym asked with some sarcasm in his voice.
“You can not understand them, until you have spent some time with them,” Torian answered back with a slight tone of anger. “You feel foolish because you see her as less than you, and that is confusing to your self worth. It is your pride that was hurt, and you were lucky, as I said before, that she only hurt your pride, she could have done much worse, but she has control of her inner self, and feels no pride, because she has knowing. Pride is only there in those who do not know themselves. To you, the only things you know came from your small village and what little walking in the woods you have done. Hers is an ancient culture, older than time, and the children are taught throughout their youth by the elders. Then they take their place as the guardians, and continue to learn from the elders until the day that they become the elders and teach the children and so on.”
“They have been doing this for unknowable generations,” Torian continued, “and the knowledge and wisdom itself continues to evolve as do they. You have learned an important lesson for your travels grandson; the world is filled with all kinds of people, and the people you have lived with thus far are only one people, there are many more.”
They walked along in silence or awhile, Wilym thinking of all the things Torian had said. Finally he asked, “Why do they guard a river?”
“That is another story for another day Wilym.” Torian answered, “Why don’t you play your flute and entertain us as we walk along?”
Hesitantly Wilym pulled out the flute, and as he started to put it to his lips, he paused and said, “I suppose she can play the flute better than me too.”
“You have no idea grandson,” Torian replied, “but that is your pride again, let’s put the pride aside for the time being, and be who you are, and not let what others are keep you from being yourself.”
Wilym hesitantly put the flute to his lips and started to play some of the notes he had been learning the last few days. Mikisum turned and smiled at his efforts, and they all walked on.
Wilym played his notes, trying to listen and emulate the sounds he was hearing; the birds in the trees, the stream along the edge of the path, hitting the occasional sour note, but not letting it falter his playing. He started to notice his mother up ahead, talking and laughing with Mikisum, her long dark hair blowing in the wind, she seemed happy, happier than he had ever seen her.
Obviously she was not thinking of the impending separation that lay ahead somewhere along the path, but just being in the moment, or as Torian had said, being here now. It was nice to see her smiling and happy. She, like Wilym, had never really been happy living in the village they had always called home.
She was just enjoying the sun shining down on her, the talking with Mikisum, the birds, the day itself. It was a wonderful day, and Wilym too felt the mountain air, and the sounds, the smells, his soul felt refreshed, as must hers have. Suddenly he noticed everyone was looking at him, and in that moment, his self consciousness took over and he falter on the flute.
He looked at everyone and asked, “What are you all looking at?”
Torian smiled and said, “You were there.”
“Where?” asked Wilym.
“In the music, in the moment,” Torian replied, “what you were playing was what you were feeling, it was beautiful.”
Wilym felt embarrassed, and slipped the flute back into his bag. But he smiled at Torian and asked, “Was it really good, what i was play, was it good?”
“Yes indeed my young friend,” answered Torian, “it was wonderful, play more.”
But Wilym was too embarrassed, and had lost whatever it was that had happened, and just shyly said, “Not now, maybe later.”
But it felt very warmed by it all, though he didn’t understand what had happened.
They stopped midday for a rest and to eat a bit. While Alisa was preparing some cheese and bread she had brought from home, Torian to the opportunity to gather some mushroom from the shade of the cliffs. Wilym sat next to the stream, watching the water flow over the rocks, and the small fish darting around beneath the crystal clear surface.
Mikisum came over and sat beside of him quietly for a short time, then said, “I am sorry I embarrassed you last night, I had no idea who you were at the time.”
“You didn’t embarrass me,” Wilym quickly replied, “just caught me off guard.”
Mikisum smiled and said, “Yes, I thought I might have.”
Alisa called them all over to eat, and they sat in the shade of an ancient tree, looking out over the valley that lay ahead now that they had crossed the pass and were now heading down the other side of the mountain.
The village seemed so far away, like a distant memory that Wilym wasn’t even sure had ever been. There was a feeling in him he had never felt before, and he was sure his mother felt it too as their eyes met and they smiled at each other. His mother was so beautiful, he thought to himself that he had never noticed how beautiful she was before.
He looked around, Torian, ancient, yet strong, like the tree they sat beneath, laughing at something Alisa had said. His grandfather, it felt so good to be sitting next to him on this fine mountain day.
Then Mikisum, beautiful, magical eyes, he had just noticed, because his pride had kept him from looking her in the eye. She was small, but her muscles, though thin, where very noticeable. On her side she carried a short sword, and a dagger attached to her boot. Her long black hair and dark eyes would easily fool anyone into thinking she was just a pretty girl, but he knew better. And he thought to himself, he probably didn’t know the half of it.
He had never really seen anybody like her, her slim strong body was very attractive, not like the girls he had grown up around, even her beauty was mystical. He understood then what Torian had tried to tell him, the world is filled with many different wonders, and in his eyes, she was indeed a wonder. Her eyes met his and he realized he had been staring at her, and quickly looked away. She smiled as he stood up and pretended he was just looking around.
The mountains rolled off into the west, and far down in the valley there was an eagle soaring far above the trees, yet far below where he stood. He wondered how many of those mountains ahead they were going to have to cross.
When he came back from his thought, Alisa was at the stream splashing her face and hair, and her feet dangled in the waster. Torian had dozed off leaning against the tree, and Mikisum was gathering up their supplies and putting it all back in their bags.
Wilym had never felt such joy in is life. But, he knew soon, it was not going to be this way, once their paths separated. But, he thought to himself, be here now.
Soon they were walking along the path again, full from the midday meal, and walking much easier now that it was mostly downhill.
The forest started to thicken later in the day as they reached the lower elevation, which was very nice to be in mostly shade for the day had warmed up quite a bit in the high mountain sunshine.
Wilym wanted to ask Torian how much longer before they part paths, but he just really didn’t want to know the answer to that question.
Up ahead, Alisa and Mikisum were gathering berries as they walked along, and occasionally Torian would stop and gather mushrooms he found growing in the shade. Wilym felt like he should be paying attention, and maybe taking part in all of this, for it would not be long that he would be having to take care of himself. He had never really had to think about that before, and it scared him a little.
His feelings towards Mikisum were changing, he found himself staring at her as her and Alisa walked ahead. Not staring like you would at a woman, but in a newly developing fascination. The was she moved, it was cat like, comfortable, but at the same time, ready for anything that might appear along the path, alert, always looking around, seeing everything.
He loved the way she had befriended his mother, and how Alisa seemed younger, happier, as they laughed and giggled at what ever they were talking about. His mother had a friend, she had never, not in his memory, had a friend.
Of course he couldn’t deny that he felt an attraction to her as well, she was beautiful like no one he had ever seen. Watching her movements, he could understand how she had so easily over powered him. She had a gracefulness, calm but quick. And there was something mystical about her, especially her eyes. Wilym had looked into her eyes a couple of times, but had always looked away quickly, uncomfortable, but not because of her, more because he felt like she could see right into him, she could tell what he was thinking and feeling.
He looked away for a moment, and when he looked back she was gone. He stopped, looking in every direction, and she just wasn’t there. Torian noticed his concern, and told him she was fine, and not to worry about her.
They walked on awhile, and Wilym kept scanning the woods around them, looking for her still. All of the sudden she was walking along beside of him and held up a rabbit and said, “Something besides fish tonight.”
It startled him, and he jumped away out of impulse, and she laughed and said “you are kind of a nervous fellow Wilym.”
Wilym grinned sheepishly and said, “not at all, but the way you just appeared beside of me… it would scare anybody.”
Mikisum smiled, then replied, “Great winds are powerless to disturb the waters of a deep well.”
Wilym started to ask her what she meant by that, but Torian called out to him and told him to start looking for firewood to gather along the way and they would stop soon for the evening.
Mikisum smiled at him again as he looked at her with a confused looked, then he set off the path to see if he could find wood for the fire.
What had she meant by that, he wandered as he gathered wood, trying not to lose sight of the others. It was beautiful though.