Wendell sat and stared at his plate. The king looked over.
“No appetite, eh? Good, good...”
He didn’t feel like answering. At last, the king stood and clapped mightily.
“I would like to welcome a guest tonight. The master storyteller Garim!”
A hooded figure at the far end of the table got up slowly and put back his hood. He made his way to a chair beside the massive fireplace. Now he threw his arms out and spoke commandingly.
“I am the simplest of all things, and so even a child can find me. Many know my name but never find me. Others, find me without knowing what they found!”
“I can be found anywhere by anyone! No one can see me, no matter where they look.”
“I always succeed in what I do.”
“I am not fire, but no flood ever puts me out. I am not water, but no wall stands against me.”
Wendell did not know the answer. But as the storyteller spoke he felt his heart burning at the sound of the words, as if he had known the answer all his life and just remembered it. But the riddlesome words were cold and unyielding in his mind. Like an old padlock that refused to budge, no matter how he fiddled with it.
“Whoever can solve this riddle can know much! And whoever cannot solve it knows nothing whatsoever.”
“No one can solve this riddle unless they need to with all of their heart. For those who are simple, I am clear, but for those who are clever - I am cleverer still! To those who are listening, I listen, and those who laugh at me, I laugh at! Ha!”
With that, his cloak fell back around him, and he collapsed into the chair, saying nothing. The king’s face was lost in wandering thought.
The words of the riddle were marching grimly in Wendell’s mind, never letting down their masks of meaning, and for some reason he wanted to know the answer more than anything, it seemed so obvious for some reason, even though it was so absurd!
But he couldn’t figure it out. It was a distraction from other things, but not a comforting distraction because the more he thought about it the more impossible it was to have an answer.
His thoughts were frustrating.
“Air is everywhere, but it was not clever or... how did it go?”
Back in his room as he tossed to sleep, Wendell’s mind was full of floods and fires and invisible nothings that had no name, that swirled and roared about a red-haired girl wandering through a maze.