Brave – ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.
Strength – the quality or state of being physically strong.
Intellect – the faculty of reasoning and understanding objectively, especially with regard to abstract or academic matters
“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.” -Christopher Robin, Winnie the PoohGoodReads
Though the four had lived in a world full of change, they did not feel it, nor did they think much about it. Their lives had been, up to this point, rather monotonous.
Not like the days when their ancestors lived in the four corners. Those days were full of change even the catalysts felt. For a catalyst to actually feel change, it must be on a global scale.
What the four didn’t know, couldn’t know, was that the seeds of change, they, were about to embark on a journey for the ages. One that would have even concerned their ancestors.
Unlike the East, the West was hot. Very hot, and dry, not wet and humid like the East. No, the West was a dry, arid, desert landscape, with rolling sand dunes, and distant mountains, which surrounded the Valley of the Sun.
It was in this Valley that Lorel, and the People of the Sun lived; and, where the Castle of Sand was located. Like Sheldon, Lorel was the Mage of the East, and as such, fulfilled their obligation to the People of the Sun.
Unlike Sheldon, Lorel preferred to live alone. No Quara running after, nor house servants picking up after them. Just Lorel. Well, Lorel, and Hok, Lorel’s falcon, who, like Lorel, had lived in the Castle of Sand for generations. In fact, Hok’s ancestors had served Lorel’s ancestors for as long as anyone could remember.
Lorel was in their study at the top of the Castle, when Hok flew in and perched themselves just over Lorel’s shoulder.
“What’s the matter, Hok?”
It was just then that Lorel sensed it, them. Lorel quickly made their way to the window overlooking the vast dunes to the East. Sure enough, five riders were making their way to the Castle.
Surrounding the Castle were hamlets, many of them. The hamlets were where the People of the Sun lived. Lived, and thrived. Even though the People of the Sun didn’t take care of Lorel and the Castle proper, they took care of all of the surrounding landscape and hamlets.
And, though no one took care of Lorel and the Castle, there was one in particular, one tribesperson that looked in on Lorel regularly. Talom was their name, and their dedication to Lorel was complete.
Talom was a senior advisor among the People of the Sun, and was known for their great intellectual prowess. Even Lorel considered Talom one of the smartest people they had ever met.
As the riders approached the hamlets, Talom readied themselves for conversation.
The first rider was young. Younger than Talom expected. The rider gave off waves of arrogance, not surprising Talom in the least. The other four riders stayed back, while the youngster dismounted, and approached Talom on foot.
The hamlet’s inhabitants spilled out into the narrow streets that connected the small homes constructed of sand, sticks, and brush. Children and teenagers raced up to stand behind Talom, while their parents yelled at them to stay back.
The young man approached, and said “Who are you, old man? We’re seeking Lorel, Mage of the East. We’re not interested in talking to the likes of you. Simply point the way, and we’ll pass in peace.”
Talom snickered inwardly. The arrogance of such a boy to suppose he could simply ride up to the Castle of Sand, and speak with Lorel. Funny. Absurd. Talom gathered himself, breathing slowly, patiently, and just as the boy was about to speak…
“Who am I? Why, who are you, young master? We are the People of the Sun. This is our hamlet, which lies in the shade of the Castle of Sand.”
The young horse rider paused, grinned, then stepped back, looked over his shoulder, and said, “Seems like we have an issue here. This old one will not let us pass. What should we do boys?”
While the young horse rider was speaking to his fellow riders, Talom could sense something. Yes, it was Lorel communicating with them through the fire pit just to Talom’s right. Fire was the Mage’s Art, and they could do just about anything with it, including using it to communicate.
“Talom, what’s going on? Why is this boy here with four other men, and those infernal horses? What do they want?”
Talom still breathing slowly and patiently, answered back, “Master, I don’t like these horse riders, there’s something wrong with them. Not sure what it is, but something is amiss.”
Just then the boy advanced toward Talom at an amazing speed, drawing a throwing knife as he did so, and as he was about to throw, a curtain of fire erupted between the rider and Talom. The horse rider almost ran right into it, yet stopped just in time.
The boy stumbled back, tripped, and tumbled to the desert floor. Now scrambling back towards his horse and the other rides. And, doing so quickly.
As the boy was retreating, Lorel came walking down the narrow hamlet streets towards the wall of fire. As Lorel passed the gathered children, they brushed their heads and shook hands of parents and caretakers, young and old alike.
Lorel then made their way toward Talom, standing right beside them. In that same instance, Lorel withdrew the wall of fire. Hok was sitting just over Lorel’s left shoulder, on the top of one of the hamlets, taking in their Master’s poise under pressure.
“What do you want? You don’t belong here, and are not sanctioned to be away from the Center. The Center is where you live, and where you are to stay. The far reaches of the West is no place for you. Now go.”
The boy stood up, brushed himself off, and called to one of the other men to bring him the pack.
Pack, what pack, Talom thought. Talom didn’t like this at all.
One of the older men brought the pack over, handed it to the boy, then made his way back to his horse.
The boy said, “We were tasked with delivering this to you. It was not an easy journey. Several died. We are what remains of the dispatch. This is for you.”
Lorel took the pack, opened it, and upon seeing the contents, stumbled backwards, almost falling over.
What in the world was the East Mage’s Book of Change doing with these men, and that infernal boy? What was it doing in the West, about as far away as you could get from the distant East? And, oh no, what about Sheldon?
“Oh, Talom, we have an issue.”