A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 3: Fleeting Memories
“No! I’m not going to kill him! Are you stupid or something? If this guy was your best warrior, you need all the help you can get. Besides, I don’t exactly want someone’s death on my hands. I’m not a killer. I should kick your ass for making us fight! What kind of show are you running?”
Wizard - “Leader, he is tired and knows not what he speaks. I shall take him to rest now.”
Leader - “Good. Make sure he doesn’t get “tired” ever again! Or else I shall let him sleep forever.”
“Come lad.” The wizard, who seems to be rather short of breath for some reason, motions for me. Finally, I get a good look at his “hut.” Before, I was either unconscious or being “escorted” by guards. What is with this guy? There are skulls, bones, jars, flasks, books, more books, powders of all sorts, and a few weapons. Wow, he even has a bed! Not only is his hut a sight, so is he. Long gray and white hair below is back. He’s dressed in what seems to be a cloak fit for a wizard. That’s nothing compared to the staff he wields. An impressive stick with many feathers, shells, what appears to be a claw, and to top it all off, a glass ball at the top that appears to be an amber color. What is it with this guy? Listen, I’m not one to judge. Everyone knows I’m a “creative” guy. I know I love a good role-playing game, and I adore Halloween. But isn’t this guy taking it a little too far.
Wizard - “You disbelieve what you see. Why?”
“Okay, this isn’t Austin Powers, so I know I still have my inner monologue. So my question now is, ‘What happened?’”
Wizard - “Well, I simply listened to your mind rather than your mouth. That’s all.”
Oh, “that’s all.” “You read my mind.”
Wizard - “No, I wouldn’t probe that deep, not with out your consent chosen one. I simply listened to what you wanted to say, but for some reason didn’t.”
“As cool as that is, please refrain from listening to what I don’t speak.”
Wizard - “I apologize chosen one.”
“T.J. or Thomas please. As far as I know, I’m not your chosen one.”
Wizard - “As far as I know, you are.”
“Yeah well, we’ll see.” Let’s see if he’s listening. Hey old dude, I expect you to have a cooler robe when I have this dream next time or I’ll kick your a....
Wizard - “I feel I should tell you I can hear you.”
“Ah ha! I knew it! I told you...”
Wizard - “Not because I purposely read your mind. It’s because you were thinking specifically about me. And not just that, but negative thoughts. It takes great concentration to block when someone is directing their thoughts at me. This brings us to our first lesson. It’s simply this: Be careful what you say to men of great status, and be careful what you think to men of power.”
“Okay, I can do that. No problem.”
Wizard - “Now, I have some questions. Such as where did you learn to fight like that? I have never seen a man here fight like that.”
“After about five years off and on of martial arts and one year of it almost every day, you pick up a few things. And that guy didn’t fight with his head or his heart, he fought with his vanity. He was so concerned with looking good in front of…”
Wizard - “Careful.”
“In front of the leader, he made big mistakes.”
Wizard - “Next, why did you not kill him?”
“I gave my reasons to the leader. They are the truth. That and I almost killed a man by accident once, I don’t plan on doing on purpose either.”
Wizard - “A fair answer. And why have you come here?”
“Huh? I guess because I felt like dreaming this up. I don’t have a lot of control over what I dream.”
Wizard - “This is not a dream. This is real. This is...”
“Listen, I was just attacked and almost killed in the real world. I don’t need to be brought here to be attacked by jungle men with things to prove. Okay?”
Before I can even react, he turns his back and then he turns around with a knife raised. A split second after, the knife is sticking in my leg.
“Son of a...!!! What the blazes did you do that for???!!!”
Wizard - “It hurts, it’s real, it’s no dream. The sooner you get that into your head, the better off you will be. We don’t need you getting killed because you think you are some invincible dream-master.”
I continue a steady stream of screams and cuss words as I yank the knife out of my now bloody leg. My first aid training tells me to leave it in. But that’s until the paramedics arrive. I have this funny feeling they won’t be getting here anytime soon.
Wizard - “Now, move your hand so as I may heal your leg.”
I swear it was like something out of a movie. He waved his hand over my leg and the wound began to close up, the blood to disappear, the pain to leave me.
“Holy crud, this is real. I suppose I’m on Palladium.”
“Oh no.” He chuckles. “No, this isn’t Palladium. This is the land of Stralanth.”
I was kind of joking with that last question. “I guess that is kind of good.”
Wizard - “Palladium has been gone for a while now. At least as you may remember it. When were you there chosen o... To-mass?”
“Well, I was there in spirit about a year ago.”
Wizard - “Spirit, you can...”
“Listen, Palladium is the name of a game. Oh, never mind.”
Wizard - “As you wish. I’m sure you will speak when the time is right, To-mass. I guess my next question would be...”
“Whoa! My turn.”
Wizard - “Of course. Ask what you will.”
“Where am, wait, Stralanth. Okay. What are you? And if you say a wizard...”
Wizard - “A wizard, of course. I specialize in the magic of the mind.”
“Ryan would kill me if he found out I was talking to a real wizard.”
Wizard - “Who is this Ryan you speak of?”
“Seeing as how things are going now, I’m sure he’ll be along soon.”
Wizard — “Will he help defeat the dark hunters by your side?”
“Yeah, that’s my next one. What are these dark hunters? Wait, I’ve played this game. It’s got to be a demon.”
Wizard - “They have many names. I prefer to call them vampires.”
Close enough. “And how many of them are there?”
Wizard - “We are unsure. But it seems there are around fourteen, but their numbers grow with each death of our people. You see, when they kill...”
“I know about them. Okay, next question. I’ve seen Star Trek and asked the question many have in the past. How are we speaking the same language? I don’t seem to have a language translator on me.”
Wizard - “I may be wrong, but if the portal you came through is like all others, a few spells were cast on you. You can speak and read languages at will, you are impervious to normal sickness of this world, and perhaps a few others. But keep in mind these are not permanent. They will wear off. Which means we must begin teaching you the language of this tribe. We can communicate by our minds, for pure thought is not bound by language. But that is only for us. I can of course translate for you, but it would be worth the effort for you to simply learn the language. Don’t be afraid, learning a new language is not as hard as you might think.”
“Don’t worry, I’ve been through it before. It will take me time, but now I know some tricks to learning them.”
Wizard - “Good. Then after you are settled in and comfortable with this place, we shall begin your training.”
“Training? What training?”
Wizard - “Why, you are of course to become...”
Perchance to dream… Images explode into my mind. A montage of faces and places, like a fast video recording without sounds. I can’t put names to the things I see.
Flash. I am a young lad, nearly thirteen. Deep within a vast castle, I see a beautiful woman with strawberry blonde hair and sky blue eyes and a huge muscular man with a cropped beard and kind face. They prompt me onward. Eager to please them, I face my ordeal. I walk a twisting line of blue flame. I finish it, feeling the exhaustion of the ages but filled with power undreamed of. In a peaceful glade I face a unicorn, a creature of infinite beauty and power. I feel insignificant under her gaze but from her gaze I become something more.
Flash. A lad of fourteen, there is a stableman in our boarding school. He drinks and is abusive. After abusing his family, he comes to the stables to abuse the horses. I am angered at his deeds and deal with him. I confront him and allow him to attack me. In self-defense, I best him, tie him up, and throw him on the back of my horse. I ride and search for a world of my desire, it gets easier as I grow older. I find a world where horses are the dominant and intelligent species. They see me as one of them, the deliverer of justice. I wait for him to sober up and I explain the situation to him. He will never see his home again and his very survival depends upon his wish to change and repent. I leave him there to his new home and well deserved fate. There is no alcohol and no one for him to abuse. I check on him later. He died after daring to attack a horse. His is the first death I am responsible for. The first of many deaths to come.
Flash. I thrill as I ride between the worlds atop a nimble silver-gray stallion. The land changes beneath the hooves of my mount and I am controlling the changes. The landscape becomes a blur. Variations of the same scene flash before me, alone and with others. I feel warmth as I face one who is riding alongside me on a chestnut bay mare, she is an incredible beauty with auburn hair and large brown eyes.
Flash. There is a deck of cards with pictures on them. Pictures of each of my family and of some places. They are cards of power, one that is part of me and ties me to the peaceful glade.
Flash. I serve in the military for both worlds I love. I see many battles and deal out more death, death to the enemies of justice and freedom.
Flash. In a world of technology, I drive a long green motorized antique vehicle. The auburn beauty is by my side. The feel of the vehicle is real and tangible. We are together for countless adventures. I want it to continue forever, and I feel the pain of separation when she left. There are other partners, each are beautiful by any standard and talented in their skills. Together, we avenge extraordinary crimes against the people and the state. We deal out more death, like cards in a deck.
Flash. I see a portly gentleman in a wheelchair. I feel an incredible fondness for him and I serve him well. I leave him behind to fulfill my destiny, twice. And I do it again. It feels like betrayal but it’s not.
Flash. I am in the castle again. I see a short man of great character on a throne. In his brown and orange colors, a vast procession of people approaches him. It’s my turn and I kneel before him, presenting my blade to him. He uses it to touch my shoulders in a timeless ceremony. Loyalties change as times change.
Flash. I see images of strange people and places. Some are fixed in form and some are ever-changing. I see places of stability and places of chaos. Next, I am in a ruby tinted chamber, in a foot-race with a stick figure on a three dimensional version of the line of blue flame. I win the race but I am trapped there in a place of the mind. I soon gain my freedom, but at what cost? I am in a different body with a taste for blood, the blood of my kin. I catch up with the entity that has stolen my body, only to lose it in a pit of infinite depth. But what is this? The unicorn comes from the pit, carrying my body. My mind returns to my body and I am free from the vampire-like existence. There is a reunion with the auburn beauty. I feel complete again. We have more adventures together, some of which involve the gentleman in the wheelchair. We return to the castle continue our adventures there.
Flash. I return to the place of technology and learned that members of my family are being hunted down. They experiment on some, to learn and duplicate our powers. Conspiracies spread across the land. It’s a mistake that they live to regret and they pay for it. It takes all our family to end this threat. For indeed the very real threat is that they will use what they discover to spread their war across the worlds to our home. I am pleased that the world itself is spared, for it’s only due to a relatively small group of people. They deserve their fate and the knowledge of our existence is removed. Justice and death are handed down again.
Flash. My traveling companions go their separate ways and the auburn beauty stays with me. I learn a new skill, I can move between places instantly. It’s dangerous at first, the movement is uncontrolled and unbidden. I get better from experience, a new freedom and a new power. We encounter duplicates of ourselves and they happily take our places in the world of technology. We can return to the castle that is the home of my family. Both worlds are occupied and protected now.
Flash. My auburn companion is called to duty, on to a mission of her own. I am forbidden to assist or contact her. I argue with the man on the throne, but to no avail. I have also served him well. The very real pain of separation returns, a weakness I can’t afford. I leave, furious, to be on my own and away from this place. Back to my old adventures in the place of technology, but not the same place. Things have changed and are changing. There is no excitement or happiness here, it was a mistake to leave home. I travel to get away, to see exotic places and new faces - to find old ones - to await a call from her. It has been nearly a year with no contact. She is a big girl who can take care of herself. I shouldn’t worry but I do. She is… special to me.
Flash. A boy in danger, I help a friend on a simple mission. The danger is averted and I find the boy in an ancient stone structure. A portal is opened, accidentally. The death of a shaman and the blue glow surrounds us, like the blue flames of the line I have walked several times in my life. It’s the walk of memories and power.
The voice of the auburn beauty rings in my mind. “All roads lead to…”
More pain, then all goes black.
I wake up, exhausted and drenched in sweat. I try to remember these images. They slowly fade. The harder I try, the harder it is to remember. Harder to remember… Now, only the face with the auburn hair and captivating brown eyes remains. Why can’t I remember her name? Where is she?
Duty, is my curse and my geas. I serve justice and avenge crimes against the people and the state. I must find the boy and regain my lost memory.
Unable to sleep, I get up and make preparations for the journey. I dress in the clothes I recovered from the highwaymen, fill my pockets with the silvered items, and put on my hat. I hope to jog some memories by surrounding myself in my possessions. I go to the stables, feed and water the horses, and adjust the saddles. I pack the horses carefully, and plan to take turns riding them. I don’t want to over tire either of them.
I take the horses outside and tether them to the front posts. I go into the inn and get a quick breakfast. The supplies waiting for me, sent from Sam. I have breakfast and hot tea, then I secure the supplies on the horses. It appears that they are both early risers, I don’t know if I am. I find Sam and Amos. They want to tell me something important.
Sam started. “Last night, we checked among the folk in Shady Vale and they sent word out to the others. The boy you are looking for did not show up in Shady Vale, maybe he headed east toward Talladale.”
Amos smiled. “He is right, if any stranger has been seen, the word would have gotten out quickly.”
I thank them for their help and bid them farewell.
Sam could read my expression. “Never mind about us, Jack. Thanks to you, we can now afford to hire several people to work for us. Besides, we no longer have to worry about those highwaymen.”
I smiled at that. “Thank you both, for everything. In my time of need, I found friends. I need to remember who I was. Whoever I was before, I know that I couldn’t let friends come to harm and I am duty bound to protect my charges.”
Amos spoke up. “Even without memories, your true self and your instincts will show you the way.”
Sam agrees. “Whoever you were, I’m sure that you are the same man.”
I remember an expression. “Wherever you go, there you are.”
Sam grinned. “I believe I just said that.” They both laugh.
We clasp hands. “If I am able, I will return. Farewell gentle brothers.”
Both wish me farewell. I mount the chestnut mare, the roan gelding is tethered to the saddle-horn of the mare. I turn the horses about and tip my hat to them. I nudge the horses to a canter and we head east. We bid a farewell to the crossroads of Shady Vale and the horses advance to a gallop. To Talladale and beyond, in search of a boy named T.J.
I remember the phrase from the auburn haired beauty. “All roads lead to…” Lead to where? I get the feeling that if I could finish that phrase, I could find my way home.