The pale light from the waning moon cast itself about me as a cloak. Yet still I dared not cease running, ever running from what was behind. My course was erratic as I sped my way through the lightly wooded vales of my youth, which never more would conjure up the feelings of innocence and security as they once did.
About me the conifers gradually began to give way to more deciduous trees. As a child I had spent many hours playing in these broad-leafed trees, climbing, pretending. As I ran, tears came to my eyes and flowed unheeded down my cheeks. I felt as if all my childhood had been stolen from me in one hateful night; that now I had had my eyes opened to what was in the rest of the world beyond these simple, wooded valleys.
As the trees changed, so did the undergrowth. Here and there briars had taken hold, and I was forced to swerve to avoid their wicked thorns, devilishly designed to rip and tear at the skin of a passerby. Behind me I heard no sound of pursuit, but I dared not stop lest my ears be deceiving me.
To my right I began to hear a faint babbling sound--the old Govner's Brook. I was dimly aware that this was a boundary marker: it meant I had reached the edge of the wilds and was almost at the safety of the village. This recognition caused me to slow to a walking pace for I was not yet ready to face the accusing stares of the villagers--of people I had grown up with.
Somewhere afar off a screechowl howled and I started. How could I return to those innocent ones? Might I not be creating more danger for them? That was something I could not allow to happen. Still in my mind's eye I could see the Journeyman, his eyes bulging out of their sockets. I could still vaguely hear his voice, barely above a hoarse whisper, telling me to save myself. But I have seen already too much. Not even the ministrations of a priest can exorcise from my mind what I have seen.
In desperation I began to walk over to the old stone pit where once men had quarried the granite to build the town of Amber Bay, and even the great city of Toran, so far to the Southeast. Once great and prosperous, our village was just too far off the major roads. Other towns began to serve Sommerlund with fine quality stone. People moved away, expertise was lost and we degenerated to nothing more than bumpkins, living off the land, caring nought for knowledge aside from crop planting.
I had always desired strongly to escape from this constricting environment. I dared the wrath of my father and read books, taught by my kindly aunt, who had a library hidden away under her cottage. When she died, I was allowed to move into her lodging, and I continued my reading in earnest, saddened by the loss of such a dear loved one. Of course, I kept well hidden my learning, and showed only a select few such books of inoffensive lore as I might dare.
It was one warm, summer's night that I stumbled upon the book, obviously hidden away from all but the most persistent prying eyes. It was bound in leather as black as night, and its cover was held by a large metal lock, intricately cast in brass, depicting strange demonaic faces, writhing and contorting as if singing in some unholy choir. Of the key to this strange tome there was no sign, frustrating my immediate efforts to peruse the ancient text.
For several hours I tried without success to open the clasp and peer into the lore, so well hidden for so long. At last I cast the book away from me, crying in exasperation that I might not ever see the delightful wonders of what was held inside. I slept that night down in the cellar, with my books--my friends.
As the summer began to turn to autumn, I cast all thoughts of the book from my mind and threw myself heartily into the reaping, threshing and re-sowing that eats up most of my time. How I yearned to be elsewhere; anywhere! As a child I had pestered my father that I might be taken to Toran to become a mage's apprentice, but each time he scolded me, and sometimes he would beat me for entertaining such selfish thoughts. "Your place is here," he would chide me.
Lone Wolf © TM Joe Dever 1984-1999.