The Scroll of Midas
We searched the packs of the dead men finding nothing. We searched the men’s bodies, (Unbar was given that gruesome task), but found nothing.
“Have we come all this way for nothing?” Aoki sat on the ground, frustrated. “Can we not just leave this quest behind, and go find another? I have no use for great riches in gold.”
“I think we are bound to this quest, Aoki,” Mardel replied, although he offered her no further explanation.
“Then what do we do now?” Her question was directed at me.
It was the first time I had seen her this way. If anything, she looked more lovely when she pouted. I reminded myself to breathe, and answer her question.
“I don’t think we should give up. Let’s keep looking.”
I searched the ground around the campfire as Aoki had taught me. The men’s footprints were everywhere. I spread my net in an ever growing circle, studying the ground for any disturbance. Outside the main campsite I found footprints leading away from camp and followed them to a tree where I knelt down to examine the ground. The dirt looked disturbed a foot out from the trunk. I ran back to the packs of the men, searching.
“What do you hope to find?” asked Unbar, his face doubtful. “I’ve searched them several times over. It isn’t there.”
“I know the scroll isn’t here, but I’m hoping something else is.” I continued to rifle through the belongings of the dead men until I found it: a shovel.
“Every traveler carries a shovel such as this. In fact, I have one in my pack.” Unbar replied, still looking doubtful.
“Then bring it. I could use some help.”
I ran towards the tree and the disturbed earth thrusting my shovel into the dirt as quickly as my tired arms would allow. I was joined a few minutes later by Unbar, who removed vast swaths of dirt with each pitch of his shovel. With Unbar’s help, we cleared out two feet of dirt from the hole in a very short time. I stuck my shovel in the growing hole and struck something hard, sending a jolt up through my wrists and arms. We cleared dirt from the object and discovered a small chest.
I had read about digging up a treasure chest before, it was even more exciting doing it firsthand. Unbar pulled it from the hole as Mardel and Aoki joined us, excited by the discovery. It was covered in leather with no lock, so I unlatched the plate and pulled it open.
The contents of the chest were disappointing. There was a small purse of coins, but other than that, no gold, no gems, just a bunch of documents. Documents! I remembered what we were after. On top was an ancient looking scroll with a leather string tied around it.
I untied the string and handed the parchment to Aoki, who read to us.
“Thou hast found the sacred scroll of the three Gods and art called to fulfill the quest of purity. Thou must follow these instructs exactly and in the order given. Begin neither to the north nor the south but in the middle where peace reigns. Prepare yourself well to receive wisdom. There, in the middle, thou must pass the test of reality and the test of patience. Read no further until thou art in the center of the middle. There thou wilt obtain more than thou hast.”
Aoki finished and the group grew silent, thinking of the meaning of the clue. I tried to remember reading the book and where this clue would lead us. For some reason the memory of a boat and an island on a sea came to me.
“Could this have anything to do with the sea?” I asked, looking to Mardel.
Mardel seemed a little surprised and judging by the look on his face, impressed. “Yes, I think our leader is exactly right. We are very close to Sea Inachus or the “middle” sea and it was Inachus who it was said gave the gauntlet to King Midas, making him rich beyond man’s understanding. But Midas would not remove it from his hand so everything he touched turned to gold including his beloved daughter whom he turned by accident in a sudden embrace. In despair, he tried to rid himself of the gauntlet but when he finally attempted to remove it he found it had become a part of him. He prayed to Inachus to remove the curse and was told to throw himself into the river Tethys where it flowed into Sea Inachus. He did so and when he emerged from the sea, the gauntlet was gone, but as a reminder his ears were for the rest of his life shaped liked those of an ass. He was forever after known as the fool king. The gauntlet was thought to be gone forever, although legend of course has taken many on the quest to retrieve it.”
“It sounds horrible,” said Aoki and I couldn’t disagree.
“Midas was a fool,” Unbar said with a faraway look in his eyes. “He wouldn’t take the thing off. None of us is that greedy. Think of the good we could do with that much gold, Aoki.”
“I’m sure that is your motivation Unbar, to help the poor and the needy.” Aoki’s skeptical tone was lost on Unbar who still looked to be spending his part of the gold.
“We aren’t going to do anybody any good standing here,” said the wizard. “I think Tomeri is right. The sea is our best chance. Tomeri, how are your sea legs?”
That night, further down the trail, I sat up long after the others, staring into the dying fire. All that had happened in the few short weeks since my fifteenth birthday replayed in my head.
“She could have died back there,” He said, breaking the silence.
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“Aoki, I know she is not real in your world but I would have grieved for the rest of my life had we lost her due to your unwillingness to take a life.”
I could only stare in disbelief. “I saved her; I kept her from getting killed.”
“No, you put her in danger. You insisted we take those men alive and for what purpose? That we may bring them to a trial as in your world? Is that justice? That they may live in a cell for the rest of their lives? You saw how long the cell held them in Jurulus. They were on the streets in less than a few hours, yet you would have us risk our lives for your type of justice. In Mirador these men deserved death, meted out in the quickest and safest manner to our group. I could have dispatched of them before they knew we arrived. I would have been told to do so by our leader were it not for the ridiculous system of justice you have brought from your world.”
The wizard became more heated. “Your world seems to view jails as a way to punish criminals. Here, they are holding cells for their real punishment. While you are here, you must see things as they exist here and deal with them as a man would in this world. You cannot apply the solutions of your world to the problems of this one. It could prove fatal for all of us, including you.”
I thought I’d been doing the right thing, but the wizard was right. I had to think differently in this world or I could get us all killed.