Dust flew in wisps around his feet as he stood at the edge of the rocky peak. He stared down into the deep valley below the mountain, fury gripping him in tight bonds. The smooth features of his face were taut, frozen in a grim snarl.
“Not now. Not here!” He focused on the small figures far below. They scurried like ants around a small, newly forming building with a symbol perched on its sharply peaked roof. A symbol he recognized. A symbol he did not want to believe was in his village.
He had given them everything within his power, and spared them countless times, only for them to allow this filth to come amongst them. His anger rose, and with it came a sharp, howling wind. He turned and walked into the small whitestone building that stood behind him. The polished columns gleamed in the morning light. He walked into his throne room and grasped the gnarled wooden staff that leaned against it. As soon as he did, the roughly hewn span of tortuous oak, straightened and became a shining piece of pale ash.
He gripped it in a tightly corded fist and thrust it skyward, the wind whipping his thick dark curls into his face. Within moments he was at the foot of the mountain, a flash of light accompanied him but none of the workers paid him any mind. They could not see him. Not unless he wanted them to, and this was not the time. The people here were smaller than him, but he recognized most of the faces. His eyes scanned the group looking for what he assumed would be a new face. He would be wearing something that would set him apart. After walking around the perimeter of the building he spotted the small fat man wearing a stained burlap robe. He was speaking with a group of villagers, finalizing plans for some section of the building. They bowed their heads to him as they left, and he bowed back. He wanted to breathe fire.
“You!” he said in a deep rumbling voice. The balding man looked up at him, his eyes lit up with recognition and a smile spread across his wide face.
“I was wondering if you would come down from your mountain to greet me,” he paused, his eyes looked down to the ground for a moment, “I do apologize but I actually do not know what I should call you. I know the name these men and women have for you is not your real name.”
The dark haired man stood at least two feet taller than the pudgy robed figure and he resisted the sudden urge to cut him down immediately.
“You will not need to worry about what to call me for long, priest.” He spat the title with a snarl. “You will tear down this filth,” he looked to the half finished building as he spoke before turning his eyes back to the priest, “and you will leave, tonight!” He pointed the white staff at the priest, the tip of it glowing as he spoke.
The priest spread his arms out wide, smiling as he spoke. “There is no need for such strong words,” he paused again before adding “sir” to the end of his sentence.
“I do believe that it has been decided to let the people choose for themselves.” He looked around at the small town square, watching the people duck in and out of the small buildings. He smiled again while watching them.
“Your ways are old ways. Your time has past. There is no need to resort to anger or violence.” The priest walked toward the dark haired man slowly. His hands pressed together solemnly, a sign of submission and respect. “Please, sir, tell me what I may call you and we can talk about this as we should. Not with these threats.”
The dark haired man eyed the small man in front of him for several long moments, trying to decide what he should do next. The priest was no threat to him physically, that was certain, but he represented something that was very dangerous. Perhaps he could reason with him.
“You may call me Gregorim, Priest.” He stood as tall as he could as he spoke. “It is the closest thing to my name that you would be able to pronounce.”
The priest nodded his head and pressed his palms together again. “Thank you, Gregorim. It is important that you know that I am sorry for your sadness.” Gregorim kept a stern face, but watched the priest’s eyes for any sign that he was not being sincere. What he found behind the surface of his round face was something that caught him off guard. There was a calm serenity that belied honesty. Something that Gregorim was not used to in these people. Usually they were afraid and rigid, but this man had no stain of those things.
Gregorim felt the fire fading from his chest and the tension leaking from his muscles. The fury was subsiding and a new emotion was beginning to push its way past the anger. An emotion he did not know was there until the priest said it.
His people had been falling away from him one by one in the past few generations. There was a time that he had no equal in his peoples eyes. His people loved and revered him and he treated them well. When they defied him, he displayed his wrath with a measured hand. That was more than he could say for others of his kind. Some of his kin had destroyed whole civilizations in their hasty rages. They only realized after they had acted that the largest amount of their power was derived from their people, and with the people gone, they had withered. He had never been harsh, or demanding, wanting only to watch over his people and protect them, but now there was a threat he did not know if he could face.
“You know that my reaction is much more than jealousy, don’t you?” Gregorim asked with a guarded tone.
The priest looked at him silently for a moment before speaking in a low soothing voice. “I have come to learn these people are the source of your power. It is them that have allowed your kind to live as long as you have and control things as you do.” He paused for a moment, bowing his head and rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “But you do understand why your time must end, do you not?”
Gregorim only stared at the man. He knew that this man and his like were spurred on by the devastations caused by some of his hastier kin.
“You are good natured and kind, I got at least that much from the villagers here.” He held an arm out, sweeping an arc pointed attention at the people milling around in the town’s common areas. “You have never caused them great harm, nor do you ask anything to costly of them. You, unfortunately are the exception and not the rule.”
Gregorim blinked slowly, knowing both what was coming and that he may actually be right.
“The time has come for our kind to stand apart from yours. You helped us get to this point by leading us to safety in a world that was dark and dangerous. You protected us from the evils that would have been set upon us and that we would have set upon ourselves. But we are no longer the children that needed your protection all of those centuries ago. It is time for us to come out from beneath your protection and forge a new road forward.” The priest was deliberate in his words, but never cruel or hard. Gregorim could feel that the priest wanted him to understand, but he did not want to be cruel or spiteful.
Gregorim held up a hand to stop the priest’s words. “I watched as your kind stumbled out of the forests, frightened and weak. I went to my people, who were even at that time wilting under the weight of time. I told them that you needed our help. That there was the spark of life in you that had allowed us to thrive in this place.” Gregorim leaned heavily on the white staff as he spoke. His eyes were focused on distant memories.
“It was only after we had shepherded you, and gave you the beginnings of the lives you now enjoy that we understood. We grew stronger by helping you. We felt the weakness that had begun to seep into us, that had begun to make us weary and brittle, we felt it shrinking.” He leaned back and pulled the staff in front of him. “We guided you like shepherds with our crooks, and your energy was contagious. We knew longer life. We went on and on without end. All of us that refused to help died. Some waged war on us for it, fearing the new power that we had gained from helping you. In the end all were slain, we were victorious, but it was also our end.”
The priest sat on the ground before Gregorim. His legs crossed beneath him and his eyes closed. He looked like a child. Gregorim continued.
“Though we could not die from the passage of time, nor could we create any more of us. That was the hidden cost of this power. We paid it along with all the others, content to guide you and protect you. Some of us grew bitter, demanding more followers and more power. It is they, that in their greed, created the need for you.” Gregorim shifted uncomfortably for a moment before sitting before the priest, within arms reach. He crossed his legs under him and continued.
“I knew in those first rumblings that you would soon shrug off our protection. I have known for some time now that you did not need us, but I fear that we now need you. Without you we fade to dust in this place, and time will have done what it set out to do all those centuries ago before you stumbled out of the forest frightened and weak.”
The priest opened his eyes and spoke, again his voice was the quiet soothing voice of serenity. “That was your fate long before my kind. It was always to be this way. You must see that?”
Gregorim nodded. “I challenge you, priest. When you see the end to everything you know hovering on the horizon, you try to be as understanding then as you are now. We are now the ones who are frightened and weak. We are again brittle and feeling the weariness seeping into us, and in some way we do know that this is the way it was always to be, but fear affects us the same way it affects you. And it is more dangerous for us in some ways.”
They sat there for a long while, workers buzzing around them unaware of them. Neither said anything.
* * *
The priest watched as Gregorim gathered himself up and offered a hand of help to him. He reached up and grasped the much larger hand, feeling himself being pulled upward as though he was a child. He looked down and knocked the dust from his robe. He smiled back up the Gregorim, thankful for the time he had been allowed to spend. His eyes found only empty air.
Gregorim was gone.
* * *
His eyes, dimmed by the pale veil of age, looked down from the great height of the peak and watched the burgeoning town in silence. What was once a small group of buildings had grown, filling the valley at the base of the mountain. A fluttering wind, pushed pale grey curls into his face and he pushed them away absently. He leaned heavily on the gnarled wooden walking stick, its twisted form absorbing his weight and keeping him as straight as possible.
He turned back from the peaks edge and walked into the crumbling whitestone building that stood behind him. The once gleaming stones were now a pale grey, and the torches inside had long since been extinguished. He walked slowly to the small wooden throne at the center of the room and lay a hand on the high back. A smile creased his weathered face.
He patted the chair once more before turning to leave. His sandalled feet stirring small clouds of dust as he walked. Once again he walked to the edge of the peak and looked down. He took a deep breath and stepped out onto the thin ledge that encircled this space. He crouched down, his spine groaning at the exertion, and grasped the ledge in his once large hands. He swung his body carefully and slowly over the edge, finding a foothold below and looking for the next place to place his hands.
The going was slow but over the course of the rest of that brisk fall day, he managed to climb down to the footpaths that led through the foothills surrounding the mountain. He stopped to rest for the night, his eyes were not what they used to be and would be little use here in the dark. He built a small pile with the sticks he could find around the camp he had chosen and set the top of his walking stick in the center of it. It glowed faintly after a few minutes, and finally a small flame could be seen dancing over the twigs. He sat back from the fire and smiled, watching the embers float up into the inky black followed by the thin grey wisps of smoke.
He was the last, and this was his twilight.
He lay down on the hard earth, and closed his eyes. The fire crackled quietly as he drifted away.
The shriek of a Bronze eagle awoke him just after dawn. He had seen it during his descent. It was building an aerie on one of the smaller peaks. He had called it to him, speaking to the animals was one of the last gifts he had left. It flew to him and sat at his feet, calmly looking up at him, it’s head cocking from side to side. He pulled three strands of his silvery hair from his head and one from his beard, presenting it to the eagle. The creature cocked it’s head a few more times before reaching out and grasping them with its beak. It stretched its wings and jumped into the air, beating strenuously as it climbed back up to its home. He watched as the eagle tucked the hairs into the base of the nest, smoothing them with its beak.
He smiled up at the bird as it wheeled overhead, most likely looking for small vermin. Even through the haze in his vision he had to shield his eyes from the bright sun. He stood slowly, once again using the stick to lift himself to the fullest height he could manage. He stretched for a moment before dusting himself off. He took one more look at the eagle before taking the road toward the town.
After a few hours of walking he reached the edge of town, and noted that – as he had expected – there was no one outside in the common areas this morning. Not a single soul could be found in the streets.
He was not worried.
He knew where they were.
It was Havenday.
He walked for a few more minutes until he found himself outside of a large building with a familiar symbol on the high peaked roof. He took a deep breath and pushed through the door and into the main hall. Upon entering, all he was able to see was row upon row of heads turned away from him. He followed their gaze to the front of the hall where a larger and more ornate version of the symbol the roof outside hung.
In front of the symbol was a short man, shrunken even further by age. His face was round beneath his smooth skinned head. Deep creases covered his face and he spoke with a slow serenity that was instantly recognizable. The small, round-faced man stopped in the middle of his sentence, taking note of the shape that had just come through the door.
The smile that came to his face then was full of warmth. He nodded and said only two words. “Gregorim. Welcome.”
Gregorim nodded. “Thank you, priest.”
He shuffled up the aisle and sat on one of the long low benches. He took a long, deep breath and smiled as he looked left and right at the faces of his people.
So this is definitely a first draft, and I’m not quite happy with it just yet. Please feel free to drop a a comment if you have any feelings about the piece. I think it may be a little rushed, couple possible be 2-3 pages longer. But I thought I’d throw it up here and see what kind of impressions I get, if any.