Enderal:Tales of the Wanderer: The Well-traveled One
The Well-traveled One
I cannot claim that I attended many parties in my life. I also never loved like normal people. And concerning women, well I … don't know what it means to share a bed with them. Soft, mellow kisses or tenderness are not part of my destiny. The harsh wind of the tides which slowly carries me off, the surging waves of the salty sea, on mountains and in the shadow of old trees, underneath a sparkling starry sky, that is where I feel at home. I visited many places, saw much evil. These are my priceless memories which will stay with me until death. A lone wanderer, eternally cursed to stride ahead towards a brightly shining sun at the horizon. At this mild evening near the end of summer none of that mattered. Every so often I wished that the time could stand still, the world stay as it is with me still sitting on the wooden bench in mid of the decorated village square, having the seducing whispers of that girl in my ear.
The festivities were in full swing since early noon and were still going strong in the evening. The party put the whole village in an exceptional state. The tall oaks and poplars shine in the light of red, green, blue and yellow lampoons which were hung at ropes between houses and trees. The villagers danced, ate and drank exuberantly — in fine it was a party straight from the book. The reason for the festivities was not only the bountiful harvest but also the marriage of the village chief's daughter, with a young, sturdy and good-looking boy from the neighboring village to boot. Singing and the sounds of lutes, flutes and of whatever other instruments could be found resounded in the alleys. The elderly told their fable stories to the children, and several artists performed the whole day long on a stage, starting with jongleurs, to animal tamers, … ah, I could tell you about the splendid atmosphere the whole day, I enjoyed it to the fullest even though one could hardly tell as such when looking at me. In the middle of all this hustle and bustle I cautiously sipped on my mug filled with beer. Despite my inner joy, I wasn't here by chance. There was something to do for me in this village. I had to meet somebody. As I was watching the villagers dancing, a finger tenderly tapped on my shoulder. I turned around and found myself looking in the face of a young woman. Her hair flew down her shoulders as walnut brown little curls and framed her pink-colored face with cheeks reddened by the alcohol. Her glance was light and sweet but there was something more to it, some sort of immeasurable depth. Still waters run deep, as the popular saying goes … but enough of that. “Mysir, may I ask you for this dance? You look so gloomy, such is simply not allowed at such a nice and festive day”, she said. I smirked. “Am I not a bit too old for you?” I still was in my prime, but anyone would have seen that the girl was very young and that she could have decided on every other young man out there instead of me. “Luckily that is not yours to decide”. She held her hand out to me. I shortly struggled with myself, but I eventually yielded to my desire. She led me to the place where the dancing people gathered. I never was a good dancer, that is something you should know, but after a short while she had ensnared me so much that I even whirled her around and performed dance steps which I never even dreamt of. I enjoyed it. It does not happen often that I can forget everything around me, all the torrent and the whispers of the earth. At that day, her beautiful face in front of me, I was allowed to do just that.
We sat down on a bench, talked about this and that, about the things common people usually talk. I could not resist telling her that she was to my fancy. If my appointment would have allowed me to, I would have probably spend a few days with her. Perhaps we would have become a cute couple, with children and calm evenings filled with clittering crickets and coziness. While thinking about that my heart sinks, but I always knew about the sacrifices I had to make. It slowly got darker — the night fell — and the artists left the stage one by one. The village chief, obviously drunk, teetered onto the podium located at the head of the celebrating people. He put his mug down and clapped his hands. Silence spread in the village square. Meanwhile a joke of mine made the girl laugh so much that she nearly fell off the bench. “My name is Lari. You still haven't told me yours, stranger. ”, she said and got so close to me that I could clearly perceive her odor. She bathed a short while ago, maybe even just today before the party started and smelled unbelievably nice. The moment I wanted to answer the village chief with a loud voice announced: “Come on guys, until now everything was well and good but now the real show begins. For the highlight of the evening I have an extraordinary surprise for all of you, since for my daughter and her groom no price is too high. He came to us from far lands, and after he already greatly astonished the neighboring villages with his skills he finally arrived at this place. Let us welcome the legendary and crazy fire-breather. Welcome Dragobar, the famous Flame of Nehrim!”
I pricked up my ears. A tense silence filled the air. I owed my name to Lari, although I couldn't have told her a name anyways. I didn't have one … would have been a nobody, in her eyes. A scrawny fellow entered the stage and bowed to the audience. He wore long baggy trousers which he had put into his boots. Some burn scars could be seen on his naked upper body. Sideways he was missing some hairs, probably also victim of a scorch, the rest protruded from his head like a gray white thicket. He bowed, drank a specific liquid and picked up his torch. I curiously watched what happened next: From the torch a gush of fire shot in the air. With his other hand he opened a phial and pivoted it in front of the fire. The flames followed his motion and created a long, swirling and shimmering snake. He let the “snake” whirr above the stage so that it did several tricks while he himself acrobatically danced over the wooden planks to finish all the complicated figures. His performance took the breath of the whole audience — the snake only had been the beginning of his show. It was followed by artistic interludes with bow and arrow and with several other home-made constructions which he combined with his flame arts. In any case Dragobar lived up to his name. Eventually — the artist was busy with entwining two fire spirals — I noticed some movement in the rear rows of the spectators. People were roughly brushed aside. Three guards pushed their way through to the stage. I anticipated that — now things would get even more interesting. The guards, who were clearly men of Chancellor Barateon who had recently taken control of Nehrim's Middlerealm walked on the stage while the village elder wildly protested. One of them took the torch from the fire-breather, threw it to the ground and noisily stamped it out. Lari moved closer to me while being frightened. “Are you the man called the “Flame of Nehrim”?”, one of the soldiers grumbled who was apparently the commander of the small troop. “Who wants to know that?”, Dragobar asked. “Don't get cocky. You are using forbidden arts, magic, right? — don't deny it, we saw enough of your frippery. Chancellor Barateon doesn't tolerate your kind anymore. We were ordered to take you with us.”
“And to where do the sirs intend to bring me?”, asked Dragobar politely. “To the dark cell in which you belong”, was the answer. Dragobar sighed. “Alright. Let me collect my belongings, then I'll come with you.” I frowned. That was too easy. He would never surrender so fast. The fire-breather went to the backside of the stage and rummaged around in his stuff. “I never liked Barateon one bit, even before he came to power. I always thought that his breath smelled awful, and that you could smell it throughout the whole town whenever he held a speech.”, he said with his back to the soldiers. Weapons clanked at that. Suddenly Dragobar turned around and threw a metallic something between the three soldiers — something with eight mechanical legs. ” Ahh, what's this?!” There was a loud noise and the thing exploded. A greenish smoke screen engulfed the soldiers and they started coughing and staggered around aimlessly. The village square descended into turmoil. I broke away from the baffled Lari without any sort of goodbye and shouldered my way through the crowd. Now my merry “life” was over, I had to leave, I had to leave my dream bubble which I had created for a short time and went back to my mission.
I saw Dragobar only after I had left the crowd. He left the village at a smart pace. I quietly followed him for a while through the dark night and small forests. You stopped in one of those — with their roots two big trees overgrew the entrance to an old burial chamber, bathed in moonlight and placed in the fangs of a slope. The iron gate, which should bar said entrance, was bent so much that one could easily get through it. If I kept on following him there was the danger of scaring him away, so I placed everything on one card. “So this is where you are hiding.” He flinched, just like a timid animal, shortly before he disappeared into the tomb. I slit down the slope so that I could see him clearly. “A good hiding place. The soldiers surely won't search for you here.” “If nobody tells them about it, then yes.” There certainly was a bit of a threat mixed into his tone. He turned around and faced me. “You have nothing to fear from me”, I declared. Silence descended upon this place. The cry of a Tawny Owl resounded in the forest, cutting the silence in half like a sharp sword.
“There are stories about a wanderer in this area. Those are about you.” ” From where…?” “I can tell by your smell. You do not smell like this part of the world — it is more like a combination of many different smells from all over the world.”, he interrupted my question. “It seems that you have quite the fine nose.” He went closer to me and sniffed. “No, just an exceptionally trained one. I interact quite often with animals, like squirrels. Smart fellows. They taught me how to truly use one's nose.” “I see”, I responded while being mildly irritated. It was known that Dragobar was a bit of a lunatic. But it is also said that he was not always like that in the past, before the madness caught him. Nevertheless he still was very intelligent as his inventories for the stage and his thought over way of moving showed. His every move was thoughtful. “Then perhaps you also know why I am here.” “Of course. It is not like I am stupid. You want to write a story about me, just like your sort tends to do. You are not the first person of that craft that I meet. Not a common wanderer, a collector. But why are you collecting them, the warrior skills I mean. For a war? Are you building an army in secret, molding it according to your beliefs? Or is there a much bigger mystery behind all of this?” He fell silent. “I will tell you my story only after you answered my questions.” I returned his mad look unyieldingly and resolutely with a glance, steadier than an old stone. ” I cannot answer them. If you really know my “craft”, you should know that.” “Well, then you may leave again right now. I won't tell you anything about me, no matter what you may have heard about me before.” He tried to disappear into the darkness of the burial chamber. “There are many stories about you. That Dragobar, the Flame of Nehrim is said to have learnt fire-breathing from dragons themselves. That he himself is a dragon with a human appearance. And…” I shortly paused to deepen the impact of the following words. “That he is said to be the only survivor of the Sunfire.” Dragobar's face froze to ice in the moonlight which broke through the trees. As if a long-forgotten memory slowly creeped back into his mind. “I investigated you for a long time before I could finally track you here. That wasn't easy, you managed to hide yourself darned well.”
Dragobar stayed silent. “I know many things about you — who would I be if I let a genius like you slip through my fingers without mentioning them in my chronicles. You were present when Dal'Marak researched the Sunwheel and destroyed Thalgard with his greed. No, what am I saying, you were not just present but even his assistant, one of the most famous arcane inventors and strategists of your time, or not?” The look of the fire-breather had lost its focus — now it turned back to me. “Torus, the “Arcane One”. Or Torus Tasselsrock, if you prefer your given name to the drivel poets impose on one. Perhaps you also already forgot your real name. After all that happened more than 2000 years and several lives ago. There is just one thing you have to tell me, as that is something I have yet to understand fully: How did you manage to survive for so long?” Dragobar looked ahead aghastly. Suddenly he started laughing. “That's a nice story you created there. You should not take too much of that Glimmerdustcap, mysir. I am a simple fire-breather from Enderal. I am honored that you saw such a famous character in me. At the same time I am sorry that I have to disappoint you.” He bowed, obviously a sign to tell me how unwelcome I was. “Cut it out. Your mask fell off long ago. You know exactly that you cannot trick somebody like me.”, I insisted. His silly kindness was gone quickly. “Let's come straight to the point.” “Does somebody else also know thereof?”, he asked with a cold voice. I sighed. “Are you in earnest? Do you really want to threaten me? That would belie your former splendor.” I could hear how he grinded his teeth. He had to fight with himself which told me that I was on the right way. “I would call that one of the most enthralling discoveries of our era. The way I see it, you have only two choices from your standpoint. You kill me and by doing so bury your secret for all of eternity, or you try to have a conversation with me and hear what I have to say. I advise you to choose the latter with regard to the abilities one as myself has to acquire in my line of work which can make me into the worst nightmare for my enemies if I have to use them, as you should know.”, I said.
The fire-breather remained silent. He most likely weighed his options. Then he took a step towards me. I twitched barely noticeably. He walked past me, towards a rock and sat down. For a short moment I thought that he would attack me. “What is it that you want to know?” “Tell me what happened back then.” “If I could … The last thing I can remember is an ear-pircing and enormous explosion, which took both my hearing and sight. Beforehand Dal'Marak and I tried to decipher the artifact. We failed which should be common knowledge. When I awoke after the explosion I was in an entirely different place, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Qyra's desert. I was lucky that a caravan took me in. Like that, all took its course …” He started to tell me about what happened from then on, about his travels over the continents, about his search for a new meaning in life. About how he let Torus die and took the name Dragobar and many more. In a way, his current self resembled mine. He wandered all the time, home- and nameless. He became a nobody.
“You changed after the explosion, didn't you? Something had changed.” He nodded. “I lost all of my magical abilities. I cannot even lit a small fire anymore … how disgraceful for a former master. At the same time I gained eternal life. Age cannot kill me anymore. As long as nobody pierces me with a spear I will live until Vyn turns to ashes.” “Immortality, an eternal life. I thought that was only possible for the Lost Ones in a much more macabre way.” “Then you were wrong. Though it is not like I can live the dream that most have. The longer I live, the more insane I get. Madness takes over my mind slowly and I live for the day. Fighting it doesn't help, I cannot prevent it.” “Why did you work as fire-breather, and why on Nehrim?” “Fire-breathing was a nice hobby for me next to all the battles, even in the past. This identity as Dragobar gave me support when I had none. And why Nehrim? — Well until this Chancellor came into power it was a nice place to live. I wandered from North to South through the settlements on the way, always had something to eat and a roof above my head. Most of the people here highly esteem true talent.” He made a sweeping gesture with his hands. After a longer period of silence I collected myself for the coming, and also most important, part of our conversation. I thought that it was finally time to get to that point. “I am not just here to write about you. Every so often my mission also involves the task to help souls, which do not belong into this world anymore, to find their path. The magical power of the artifact had a different effect on you than on your companions and your master. It spared you, for whatever reason, and brought you to another place. Perhaps the reason was that you still had a mission to accomplish in your life. It granted you supernatural powers and left much of you in the here and now. But this magical trace also was the reason why I found you. You do not belong here anymore, Torus. I can see into your innermost self. Your time is long up. The mission which bound you to life was already accomplished.”
He dropped his gaze. “Do you want to kill me?” “No. Killing contradicts my creed. I can do something else for you. But it will only work if you made peace with yourself and you are ready to go. After such a long time it is always hard to say goodbye.” “Tell me, what is it?” I reached into my bag and pulled out a flat stone, roughly as big as a fingertip. I shimmered weakly in the light of the night and mirrored the colors of the rainbow. “This is a shifter.” I put it down on a tree stump. “Swallow it and you will be able to leave this world without any pain.” “Won't you force me to swallow it?”, Torus asked in wonder. “Judging over life and death is not my task. I want to help you. If there ever is a time in which the ordeal of being immortal becomes too much for you to handle, take it. It will set you free.” I pulled my cape closer and turned around. The foliage of the last autumn which covered the floor rustled under my boots. “Thank you, Wanderer.” I nodded while looking in the opposite direction and left the little wood.
Whether he still lives or made use of my help, I cannot say. Dragobar, Torus, the Arcane One, the Flame of Nehrim — that man had many names, many of which we do not even know. I want to add one to those: Torus Tasselsrock — the “Well-traveled One”.