Chapter 21: The Place With No Name
I woke with dawn's first grey light and found the Abbot already up and about. He was adding wood to the still glowing embers of last night's fire. I sat up and stretched, trying to get out the muscle kinks that a night spent sleeping on the hard ground always left. Uriel was nowhere to be seen, but I somehow knew he was hunting nearby.
"Goodmorning," the Abbot greeted me brightly.
"Goodmorning," I replied politely as I sat up. "Have you been up long?"
"A while," he dismissed before handing me a steaming mug of tea. "Early rising is the way of thing for a monastic. You get used to it."
"We go to the island today?" I asked after taking a few soothing sips of tea.
"You go to the island today," he corrected, taking a seat near the fire an pouring a cup of tea for himself.
Right, well as Uriel reminded repeatedly on our way to Summer Grove, this is a Journeyman's quest. I guess it wouldn't do to have the Abbot tag along else someone might accuse me of cheating.
"So Uriel and I will ..."
"You will go to the island alone, Apprentice Kerri," he insisted. "Uriel and I will remain here and await your return."
Alone; the word struck me like a fist to the gut. I couldn't fathom going off without Uriel, it seemed wrong on every level.
"But he's ...I'm his ... we're ..."
"You are his Dragon Companion," the Abbot finished my stammered attempt at an argument for me. "I'm well aware of the bond that exists between the two of you, but the rules are clear. You must go to the island alone ... there are no exceptions." When I didn't protest further, he handed me a set rodes similar to the ones worn by the novices at the monastery. "Go into those trees over there and change. Remove all of your own clothing; even your boots and undergarments. You will wear only what I have provided for you."
I stood there for a moment, holding the robes that the Abbot gave me while staring in disbelief at him. My mind reeled, wasn't he supposed to be helping me?
"He is helping Companion, now go and get changed."
I looked over to where Uriel sat by the fire grooming himself. "Weren't you paying attention," I asked, sounding more frustrated than I intended to. The cat-dragon didn't reply.
"Apprentice Kerri, time is of the essence. There are things that must be explained before you can depart. Hurry up and change into those robes."
Outnumbered two to one, I accepted my defeat and slinked off into the thicket of trees to change clothes. The robes were made of a coarse fabric that chafed in places. They were also a bit too big for me, obviously meant for someone with a taller frame. I looked down at myself and sighed, I would just get used to them. I emerged from the woods, boots and old clothes in hand, to rejoin the cat-dragon and the Abbot.
The old monastic indicated that I should join him by the fire. He offered me more ham and bread and some dried apricots which I readily accepted. As I broke my nightly fast, the Abbot began to speak
"Now pay close attention Apprentice," he sighed, "eat well, for this will be your last meal until you return from the island. You will take no food with you. You will be on a strict fast as you complete your quest. I cannot emphasize this enough, it is absolutely forbidden to eat anything that you might find on the island. You must not drink from the island's waters either." Then he handed me a waterskin,"If you drink sparingly, that should last you three days."
"Is the island's bounty poisonous?"
"I cannot say, for I do not know. It has always been this way," he answered solemnly.
When I kept silent her continued.
"The boat will carry you the island where you will have three days to complete your quest. In three days, whether you are on board or not, the boat will return to Journeyman's Warf. If you are not on the boat you will be lost to the island." He handed me a canvas sack, "those are the tools you will need. Take nothing else with you, no tools of your own nor any implement of magic."
I frowned before removing the dragon scale from around my neck and handed it to the Abbot.
"Do not use magic of any kind on the island. And, as an extra admonition, do not attempt to access the bond between you and your Dragon. Do you have any questions?"
"Could I die on this quest?"
"It doesn't happen often, but yes. The island is ... mysterious and dangerous. For this reason, only Journeymen on the cusp of becoming full mages are given this quest."
"What or who lives on the island?"
"The island is said to be uninhabited, but ... well, sometimes... there are noises ... odd sounds that emanate from the island and defy explanation. Some of the Brothers think there is a demon of Chaos on the island. I don't hold with that opinion."
"Because," Uriel interrupted, "Unity's power in this place is too great for any demon to tolerate. Remember we discussed the valley and the curtain of power protecting it."
I nodded but kept silent and the cat-dragon continued.
"This valley is an anomaly, a fingerprint if you will, leftover from Unity's creative power when all was formed from the void. The island is the epicenter of the anomaly."
"Does the island have a name?"
"It is 'The Place with No Name', this is all I know." he paused here and when I didn't ask any more questions, he stood and offered me his hand. I accepted it and he helped me to my feet.
"How will I know when I've found the material for my staff," I insisted as we walked along the pier to where the small boat was mored. "How will I know how to complete it?"
"Ordinarily, I would advise you to rely on your training and years of magical study," he sighed. "In your case, the only advice I have to offer is this, put your faith in Unity's benevolent wisdom."
With that, he helped me into the boat and cast off the mooring lines. The small craft began moving across the glass smooth lake as if piloted by an unseen boatman. I looked back at the pier where the Abbot and Uriel remained and watched, with a growing sense of ill-ease, as it slowly slipped from sight. When I turned to face forward again, the island loomed on the horizion before me.
"Unity preserve me," I whispered as I made the sign of blessing.