The Soothsayer

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Chapter 41: The Waking of the Mountain

Colin stared into a gigantic stone face. What first appeared to be simple crevices in the giant rock now gazed at him, slight outcroppings above the holes moved up slightly like eyebrows, and a long-curved crack below it opened to a dark cavernous mouth that echoed when it spoke.

“If you insist on building a fire, you’ll need the right rock for the task.”

The ground shook slightly beneath Colin and a chunk of black obsidian-like rock tumbled down the stone face and rolled next to Colin’s foot. Shock set itself into Colin’s face like rust on metal.

“Please, please don’t kill me,” Colin gulped and scurried back up against a tree.

The face furrowed its stone brow to Colin and peered at him. “Should I kill you? I had not thought of that . . . but perhaps . . . ”

Colin shook his head frantically, “Please no, no.”

The face softened. “No, crushing you serves no purpose. You’re already such a tiny pebble.”

“What are you?” Colin asked and wondered if he could get to his feet quick enough to run.

“I am . . .,” the face said. “I am as old as the mountains. Indeed, in the first dawn, I was a great mountain, but time has worn me down . . . time and wind and water.”

“What magic controls you? Do you serve Mariselle? The Amorites? Dagon? What do they call you?” Colin asked as he pulled himself up.

“Many questions for such a small pebble. I serve no one, save the Maker. What am I called?” The face looked down as if deep in thought. “I had a name, but I’ve forgotten it. It was a good name I think . . . but I’ve been asleep for so long.”

“Are you real?” Colin shook his head as he stepped closer to the face.

“As real as rock. Yes. But you’ve posed a good question . . . my name . . . hmmm.”

Colin looked around the woods, “Do you know where we are? You see, I’m lost and . . .” Colin’s hand started to shake again with cold.

The face looked up to him. “Yes, I do see. You’re here.”

“No, I mean where is here?” Colin asked as he rubbed his hands together, his teeth chattering.

The stone face raised an eyebrow as if trying to comprehend. “Here is here, and there, and there.” His eyes gazed out across the expanse of the wood. “It’s all the same to me. I’m everywhere you know. Every rock is part of me. Every stone forms my being.” The face stared at Colin and frowned as the human shivered. “I can stand the rain and water, but you, little pebble, are made of flesh. Make your fire.”

Colin knelt beside the wood he’d dropped and picked up the flint that the great rock had given him, being careful not to turn his back to the behemoth.

“Use the stone you have with the one I gave you. Two stones can make a spark when they’re the right ones.”

Colin knocked his stone against the dark flint. A spark caught hold of the timber. He quickly blew on it and added nearby pine needles until the smoke became a small warming blaze. He sighed as he sat beside it and gazed at the face across from him. “Thank you. So, you’re . . . you’re everywhere? You’re in the mountains in the distance and here?” Colin asked.

“My mind wanders when I’m not sleeping. Sometimes I am the bedrock of a mountain peak, sometimes I am in the watery deep, but most times I am here. This place holds my memory . . . this is where I began.”

Colin looked around. The dark leafless wood seemed an unlikely nursery. “You began here? How?”

“How else? I was formed from the dust, like you, like everything. This was the Maker’s garden once. All life was chipped from this place. But the green left long ago and all that’s left are dead trees and silent stones.”

“Dead trees? The dead wood? Is that what this place is called?” Colin asked.

“It’s a new name for this place, but yes. Long ago it was called Erewhon.”

Colin’s mind raced as he thought out loud, “Samuel told me about this . . . the vision showed me this place . . . tell me, is there a tree nearby, a great burnt tree, a tree that a man once . . . died on?”

The face became sullen. “Who are you again? I was so caught up remembering my name, I never asked yours.”

Clearly the creature knew of the tree if Colin could only convince it to tell him. He tried to speak his name but again, the words were silent, finally, he sighed. “I . . . I can’t speak it, for some reason, maybe there’s a curse on me, but I can’t seem to say it. It’s almost like I’ve forgotten it, too.”

“A name is a powerful thing, little pebble. The Maker named us all, and by our names, we are defined. To forget your name is either very good . . . or very bad. I’m not sure which. But at least I am not alone in forgetting mine.”

“I guess . . .well, in my vision a man called me a beast tamer. I survived in the mouth of . . . well, whatever that thing was before I came here,” Colin said.

“Then Beast Tamer you shall be called, but I doubt that’s the sum of it. I’ve not spoken to a human in eons, so I will call you . . . Beast Tamer, Stone Speaker. . . until it gets longer, most names do over time.”

“Your name must be huge then, whatever it is.”

“My name was longer than the great Sanhedrin mountain range, more mixed than the shifting sands of Arabah, and deeper than the abyss at the edge of the world. I think . . . it held great power.” The stone face frowned.

“What can I call you then?” Colin asked. “Like a nickname? Or do you like ‘Big Rock Face’?”

“A nickname?” The face frowned. “This word is new to me.”

Colin sighed. “Like a temporary name, a short name, you know?”

“Hmmmmm” the great stone rumbled in thought for a moment. “Crag . . . I think that was part of my name, yes ‘Crag’ will do . . . though it’s woefully inadequate.”

“Right, okay Crag. Look, do you know about that tree? If this is the Dead Wood, then it’s here and I have to find it. Samuel called it the Gilead tree. Ring any bells?”

“I have no bells to ring, little pebble. But I do understand. It’s not a place you should visit. The ground there has long been cursed. Nothing will grow near it. Not since those people killed the Maker’s man on the tree. However, a nice quarry is not far from here. Sometimes it fills with water. I find it quite peaceful. You should go there.”

Colin shook his head. “Crag . . . I need to find the balm of Gilead. The only reason I came into this world was to find it. The tree is the only hope I have of saving my mother.”

Crag’s rocky brows raised. “You came from another world to save the one you love?”

Colin nodded.

“You were called then? By the horn of Joshua?”

Colin shrugged. “Yeah, I guess so.”

“Mmmm . . . little pebble, you should have said this earlier.”

“Why would it matter?” Colin asked him.

“The horn is one of ‘The Ten’. It only calls those who will have a grave impact on our world, but to what end is a mystery . . . even to one as old as I. The Maker told me of these things long ago. I never thought it concerned me, until today. I will shift the wood for you. The path will lead you to the tree.”

“Okay, thanks, I guess.” Colin stood and watched as the ground slowly shifted before him, parting the wall of trees to his right and closing the gap of trees to his left. Colin turned to Crag. The face seemed almost completely rock-like again.

“Crag . . . what do you mean ‘the ten’? Are there more of those weird conches out there? Are they dangerous?”

“Little pebble, that is a story for another time, and I grow tired. Take the flint and your own stone . . . roll down the slope I’ve given you. It’s clear you’re not meant to gather moss here.”

“But Crag . . . I need to know, am I in danger?” Colin asked again.

“You’ve always been in danger, but how you choose to roll through it will either shape you or break you. Farewell.”

Crag closed his eyes and his countenance disappeared into the rock.

“Crag?” Colin asked, but there was no response. Colin turned to the small campfire and rummaged through the pine needles on the forest floor until he found a large stick. He took off his shirt, ripped the arm sleeve off, and wrapped it tightly about the stick until he formed a makeshift torch.

“This will have to work,” he mumbled as he put the remnants of his shirt back on and knelt down to set the torch ablaze from the cindering campfire. He moved down the dark forested pathway, holding his torch high, hoping its flames would be enough to ward off the darkness pressing in on him.

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