Chapter 22 - Once the Pendulum Swings
The entrance to the bungalow connected to a dark passage and led to a small room. The room, lit by two windows, was bare expect for a tiny ornate table in the center. An elderly male Nocteen with a long white beard sat behind the table. He was completely bald and silent; his lank legs crossed on a square cushion and his eyes shut. My presence did not startle him. In fact, I could not be sure he even heard me.
“Sit,” he said. He pointed his crippled claw-like fingers at a cushion across from him. I sat down. He placed his hands shoulder width apart on the table between us and took in a long, labored breath. The man’s wrinkled skin drooped, his body ancient like the distant mountains. Like the other Nocteens he wore a loincloth covering his mid-section, but his was made of violet fabric.
“Are you Shrealock?” He nodded and the ground rumbled beneath us. I had gotten used to the tremors. That one was strong enough to cause an avalanche. Shrealock’s eyes opened wide and I was shocked to see they were completely white. I could see no iris or pupil, just pure white.
“We must mend you soon.” said Shrealock. “I don’t want my home to crumble underneath my feet.”
“Can you see me?” I asked.
“No, not in the manner that you’re used to, though if I didn’t have this film over my eyes I’m sure I’d see very well. But I do see in another way, much like you, my dear. Foresight is a gift we both share.”
“Pardon my asking, Sir, but how old are you?”
“Do I look that bad?” Shrealock lightly chuckled. “Hmm…over three hundred years, I would guess. I stopped counting long ago. Our people can live two hundred years if lucky.”
“But, how…?” I stuttered until Shrealock interrupted me.
“Because, I haven’t forgotten how to breathe!” He laughed. “My mind is strong and my body has held together with Zureel’s thin, cool air. The others tend to my needs every other day and the thick blood of our ancestors keeps us warm. It’s difficult to see, but our skin is also insulated.” Shrealock could barely stretch his crippled wing to show me its unique features. “Oh, and my child, don’t worry about beginning every sentence with a question. Although Nocteens are simple-minded, I have long surpassed their view of this world. I have an insight into our entire world, one gained through tuning my mind. I’m sure you realize how important it is to tune your mind through meditation?”
“I’m beginning to figure that out.” I replied with little enthusiasm.
“That was how I knew you were coming,” he said. “Just as your Great Grandfather, Christopher, did. Oh yes, I almost forgot the gift! He brought me something to give to you. He knew you would find me, so he brought me a gift to help you keep your balance.”
“You knew him, Christopher Farmoore? He came here?” I could not believe Shrealock had met my great grandfather.
“Yes, my dear. I was much younger then, but I remember well. Now be a good girl and go get something. I must tell you where it is, so listen carefully.” He pointed with his fingers to his right.
“Open that door.” I walked over to the door, opening it and a creak echoed through the bare room. “See that rug by your feet? Lift it up and pull the handle on the floor.”
A small trap door revealed a dark entrance. “I need a light.”
“Hmm…, come back and take the lantern from the doorway where you came in. I never use it, but maybe you can.”
I grabbed the lantern and started the old wick ablaze with my magic. I was afraid to use my magic, but it was necessary.
“Where do I go?”
“Follow the wood panels leading to your left and keep moving until you see them part. Take the plank to your right until it ends at an old dresser. In the top middle drawer of the dresser you will find a box. Get it and bring it back to me.”
Crawling along the boards while holding a lantern proved difficult, but I inched my way forward. The lantern’s light showed mounds of artifacts beneath me: boxes, barrels, and crates of antiquities all spread out as far as my tiny light revealed.
I reached the dusty, dark wood dresser so similar to the craftsmanship of my own kingdom and I rummaged through the drawer. My finger hit a tiny box that slid across the bottom of the drawer. I snatched it up and clenched the lantern’s handle between my teeth then crawled back to Shrealock.
I closed the trap door and placed the rug back.
“Here.” I handed Shrealock the box. I extinguished the lantern, put it back on the wall, and returned to my cushion.
“No child,” he handed the box back to me. “It’s yours. Open it.”
Taking the box from Shrealock I opened it and looked inside. An interior of maroon velvet lined the box, though I did not see anything inside. “There’s nothing in it.”
“Look again,” he said. “It’s there.” I examined closely and saw a tiny seed that had slipped between the folds of velvety fabric.
“What’s this?” I picked it out and held it in my hand. “A seed? How can a seed help me keep my balance?”
“It’s a very special seed. By opening the box you’ve broken the magic seal that has preserved it for over a century. You must plant the seed before time destroys it. It will be viable until your return home.
“Your gift is the last remaining seed of a Scarlet Ribbon tree, a beautiful treasure that has long been extinct. Ages ago many trees filled our land. Through time, people, animals, and even insects became greedy, obliterating the tree for selfish reasons.”
“What do you mean? How can animals or insects be greedy?”
“Well, figuratively speaking,” said Shrealock. “It seemed that all the beings of this world wanted a piece of the Scarlet Ribbon Tree. Its long red blossoms emitted a wonderful fragrance that inspired tranquility. Humans cut the blossoms to brew tea, animals ate the blossoms, and insects consumed the tree itself until nothing was left. If you are successful with your present task involving the protectors, you’ll need that seed to survive. For without out it you will surely destroy us all.”
“Destroy us? What do you mean?” I did not believe him.
“Gosh child, I would like to believe that with all your trials you would have gained some insight! Here you are, a young girl with powers stronger than any other being, you share your life with a protector, but you do not realize what you have? I must confess,” Shrealock said and took another deep breath before continuing. “That one would think after so many years of pondering life’s questions I’d be free of primal emotions. Yet I’m quite envious. Most of my life has been in pursuit of those whom you call protectors. I only wanted a glance. But, you…you end up marrying one!
“My dear, if you have not yet discovered, you are linked to the ground you walk on. It is not good and evil that pulses through your veins. Rather, the battle is of this world – one of preservation and destruction. The world’s magic comes from this constant battle and it rotates rhythmically to keep its balance.
“Most beings are lucky if they inherit just a touch of either power in their blood, making them part of this world. But, by some fluke of nature you have captured more magic in your veins than any other. From your Farmoore bloodline you gained the power of healing, of preservation. From your father’s line you harbor the need for destruction. With these two great powers flowing through you, you control the world itself. Do you know why your grandfather Tegan named your kingdom The Land?”
“No.” I said.
“The land and the preservation of it, in his mind, were everyone’s purpose in life. There’s no question why your kingdom harbors the best farmers. He chose those with the same love for land to join him – it was his quest. And you carry the same love he does. It flows in your blood. But you have long suppressed your need to destroy. That too flows through you and must escape. Just as the creation of a mountain begins, its fate diminishes by the force of wind, rain, and snow. Understand that both sides must flow equally. If your magic does not remain balanced for the duration of your life, every being near you will be at risk.
“We must get to work right away. I will explain what is happening to you so that way you can mend yourself.
“Picture a cylinder running across your body from left to right. Your great power is generated by the mixing of these two bloodlines, preservation and destruction, or as you see it, good and evil. Now, imagine that something has weighted your tube to one side. For some time your sights have been set on fighting the protectors, destroying them before they kill humankind. Is this not so?”
“Well, yes. I guess we were set on killing them to preserve our race.”
“Ah,” said Shrealock. “Then you were balanced. You believed on the start of your journey that the protectors are evil, so humans must be good. Your cylinder of magic was straight across – Good on one side and evil on the other. It was the same when you destroyed your father to preserve The Land. This mixing of good and evil, of preservation and destruction has made you strong, flowing equaling through your veins.
“But, what if protectors are not what you once believed…hmm? Indeed, they’re not evil, nor must they be destroyed and you see that humans are not as good as you once believed. Once the pendulum swings you begin to see both sides. Tell me, : how did you feel when the white crane flew back to the Barrens?”
“I loathed the humans who had taken what belonged to the animals and the land.”
“For you, my child, preservation has taken over and destruction is leaking. As you contemplate the true enemy, who’s right or wrong, your tube is breaking in half as the pendulum swings back and forth, forever weighting you down on both sides. Finally, you saw what protectors have been struggling with for so long. You saw both sides and are now at odds, but the turmoil resides within you and, if not mended, it will tear you and our world apart.
“The decision for our future rests now in you and your king. When all comes to pass your king will play a much greater role than you had anticipated. Seek guidance from him. He saved you for a reason, even though his reasons are unclear to him at present. Together you and your king will decide all destinies and you will see that our enemies are formed by years of misunderstanding.”
“So what do I do?” I asked. “I’m afraid of myself, of what will happen.”
“If I can channel your own healing powers through me, then it’s possible you can heal yourself.”
“But how can that be? It’s not a physical injury. How can I heal myself if no real cylinder inside me is broken?”
“Real is a perception.” said Shrealock. “You must imagine, . You must believe it resides within you. Find the tear and fight to restore your control. It can be done, but not until you believe that you can heal yourself. Look for the broken cylinder, it is there and will be mended by your healing abilities. Are you ready?”
The old man looked too frail even to lift his arm. How could he help me? His confidence filled me with hope, however. “Yes,” I said. “But how do I know I will not break again?”
“Nothing is certain, little one. That is the future, broken is the past, and now we must concentrate on the task at hand. Please, help me up and we’ll go outside.” Shrealock raised a hand and I helped him up. Bent over like a brittle twig, he shuffled across the floor with crippled talons.
“I don’t know what will happen,” he admitted. “So I’d prefer my house didn’t get too messed up. Better do this outside.” I doubt anything would have been broken in his sparsely furnished home. Nevertheless, we headed outside and braced ourselves once the mountain breeze blew against us. Most of my strength was spent keeping Shrealock from blowing over.
Together we huddled in the cold, standing on the landing, and I took hold of Shrealock’s hands. As old as he was, his grasp held unexpected strength.
“Concentrate!” Shrealock yelled. “Your healing powers will be channeled through your right hand, pass into me and re-enter through your left. Do not let go of my hands until you have mended yourself completely.”
Rapidly my healing powers flowed out of me and returned into my left side, just as Shrealock had said. I did not feel the usual sickness during my healing, possibly because my life force was being returned to me.
At first I watched my hands, not concentrating as I had been told. I was too interested in what was happening. My hands began to glow brightly and gradually the brightness spread through Shrealock. I closed my eyes as the blinding light radiated from my bound companion. I felt numb, unaware of my physical body. Shrealock and I had, in a sense, fused together as one being and I forgot I was even holding onto him.
Numbness took over my entire body and I began to travel through myself, searching for the part that had been broken. came from veins that looked like rivers being bombarded by lightning. There was a constant pulsing in my head and I began following my own heartbeat. The beat seemed to push me through the flashes of light until I came across a large dark mass. Once within the mass I slowed down. The flashes were now on the outskirts of this huge void of darkness, and I sensed that I floated within my cylinder of magic.
An eerie calm swirled about as I drifted in darkness – the pulse was gone. I could not imagine that I could hear anything in my state of healing, but that is what happened. The sound of rapid flowing water, like a waterfall, grew as I drifted upward. Then I saw something coming from the sound. A huge fissure was above me and from it poured a vapor of swirling purplish-sliver mist. It was rising forcefully into gray matter. Beyond that I saw flashes in the distance.
What was happening seemed much too large for me to repair, like capping a spewing volcano. I figured the hard part of locating my break was now over, but I never considered what to do if I found my tear. The vapor became thicker as I watched from my low vantage-point, and I sensed that my current thought had just made the fissure larger. I had no time to waste. If I sat there in awe of my own destruction, the world would surely crumble. My imagination had to save me and the world. How would I close the gap? Everything I had experienced within myself thus far reminded me of the natural world: lightning, rivers, volcanoes and waterfalls. I was connected to nature, and she would be my cure.
I imagined the ground under my erupting volcano and saw hard plates beneath it. They had separated, allowing molten lava to seep out. I would have to seal the gap by moving the plates.
I used my magic to push the hard stone underneath the volcano and noticed a slight jerk of my body. Either the actual ground shook, or the jolt was within my body. I did not know. The next plate slipped under the first, securing it firmly in place. My purple mist was thinning out until I noticed an area to the left spewing more purple mist. I gasped while in my state of healing. The plate used to secure the first had already been blocking another gap.
Hmm…no one said this would be easy. I spent time using my healing powers, which in turn were my magical powers of manipulation, and they pushed around imaginary plates under open areas of seeping evil powers. It was like a jigsaw puzzle, pushing and pulling numerous plates until finally all the gaps were blocked. I never realized how vulnerable I had been.
The purple mist that had been seeping was now mixing with the darkness. Liquid with a silver sheen began to fill the dark void, and my magic was finally contained in my cylinder. I glided down out of the liquid until my pulse returned. A mass of swirling shiny silver was all I remembered before being swept away by my heartbeat. The pulse led me back through the rivers shrouded by flashes of light until I opened my eyes.
“What?” A young Nocteen with bright blue eyes stared back at me. “What’s happened?” I asked.
“I can see.” said a quite different voice from the one that had just spoke to me before the healing. Shrealock’s crystal clear eyes stared back and his long beautiful hair tossed in the breeze. He ran his hand through his beard and full, flowing hair. “Quite unexpected this is.” He said and examined his firm, unwrinkled skin.
“What has happened? You’re young?”
Shrealock straightened his back, stretching his wings. “I had not foreseen this. By being your channel I have benefited from your healing. You have completely restored my cells, making me young again. And…I feel wonderful!”
He gazed at me and tears welled up in his eyes. Then for no reason we began laughing while snowflakes dropped gently from above. The sky was clear and bright, and my cloud of evil had vanished.