April 30th, 1990 • Avigdell
Lask walked through the velveteen spring night, listening to the sounds of the island. The unceasing wind whispered and shushed itself in the trees as he walked, rustling his feathers, and running its blustering fingers through his hair. His wings trailed behind him like the train of a king, brushing the faces of wildflowers. He had ridden the winds above the island until his shoulders ached, then taken up walking.
This was the place he had arrived. The Light had sent him to this place, this island of wind and springtime, and he was eager to learn every acre of it. He had found a house for himself in the tallest tree of the forest, a quaint treehouse with wide windows, and bells that rang in the breeze. The sun had set in a glorious palette, and he did not fear the nighttime. He walked through the trees in a swath of flickering light, cast from the lantern he carried on its long pole. He had managed to place a bit of his magical fire into the lamp, but it seemed frail against the constant wind.
All of a sudden, a gust snuffed the flame, and the inky night enveloped him. Lask blinked, momentarily blind in the shadows. The starlight filtered through the foliage in faint patches, but did little to illuminate forest floor. Lask fumbled for the lantern, and felt his way to the latch on one of the panes to open it. He snapped his fingers, producing a few sparks, but they winked out like fireflies. He shook his hand a bit, as if he could jostle the magic loose, and snapped again, deciding he’d need to devote some time to practicing.
There was a faint rustle nearby in the darkness, and Lask whirled, though he could see nothing in the shadows. Perhaps it was only a forest animal afoot in the night. He went back to clicking his fingers at the lantern, summoning a few more sparks, and a brief flame that sputtered in the wind. There was another sound in the trees ahead of him– for a moment, he thought it sounded like an echo of the wind in his feathers. He let out an exasperated scoff at himself, and snapped his fingers at the lantern, feeling his heart quicken warily in his chest. All of a sudden, a voice came from the shadows:
A sudden flare of fire blazed in front of him. Lask started, scrambling back, dropping the lantern in his surprise. There was a man in front of him, like some distorted mirror. He was the same height, with the same white skin the color of moonlight, and blazing crimson eyes. His hair was white as well, a few pieces seeming to glint golden in the firelight. The flame hung in the air above his head between two golden horns, curving above him like a lyre-shaped crown. He had proud wings, white at the shoulders, then cascading in red, each feather edged in gold. His matching crimson coat fluttered in the breeze, and Lask was stunned at the extravagance of it. It was edged in gold trim, with fine embroidered vines and roses along the seams and sleeves. It fastened high on his neck, and was sewn with rubies and pearls, which glinted in the firelight.
“Who are you?” Lask demanded, gathering himself.
The newcomer chuckled, and bent down to collect the fallen lantern. One of the panes had broken when it fell.
“I am you,” said the man. He passed his hand along the glass with a shower of sparks, repairing the pane. “Or at least, what you’ll be near the end of your days.”
Lask’s brow furrowed, and he examined the strange creature across from him. He looked much the same, though he had lost all his black coloration. Lask unconsciously reached up and smoothed back his black hair, as if he could somehow keep the color from bleaching away with time.
“I don’t have horns,” said Lask.
“You will,” replied the White One. He snapped his fingers at the lantern, and it blazed to life again, a merry bundle of flame that danced in the wind. He offered the pole back to Lask, who took it, keeping a wary eye on his visitor.
“How are you here?” asked Lask, “If what you say is true.”
“You will be a great Time Walker. I can go anywhere I please– past, present, future.”
“Just coming to say hello then?”
“Not quite.” The White One smiled at his dryness. “Let’s walk, shall we?”
Lask fell into cautious step beside the older version of himself, and the two passed through the trees together, the beginning and end of a mysterious tale of fire. For a while, the White One was quiet, and Lask was not brave enough to press him for words. He seemed a fierce and wild creature, dangerous and commanding, but he walked softly, and hummed a gentle melody that seemed to purr from his throat and answer the wind.
“Happy first night,” he said after a time. “Welcome to this life, and welcome home.”
“Thank you,” replied Lask. “It is kind of you to visit me.”
“I have brought you something.”
“What is it?” Lask looked over at him with eager and curious eyes.
“Patience,” crooned the Old One with a fond smile.
Lask swallowed his enthusiasm and glanced to the forest floor, watching their boots keep pace with each other. The White One walked slower than Lask would have if he’d been alone, and as he studied their feet, he realized his companion moved with a gentle limp.
“What happened to you?” he asked before he could stop the question.
The White One arched a curious eyebrow at him.
“You limp,” Lask said, then wondered if it had been polite to comment.
“An old wound,” replied the other, rubbing his right leg. “Nothing you’ll need to worry about for some time yet.”
Lask glanced at him, trying to study him as they wove through the trees. After a brief silence, he asked, “Are you happy? Have you– will I– have a good life?”
The Old One beamed at him, and his eyes seemed to soften in the firelight. “You could not dream of a more beautiful adventure, nor write so rich a story. There will be pain, terror, and sorrow aplenty, but there will be much laughter too, kisses to leave you breathless, people to love you, and people to teach you, and enough loveliness to soothe the agony of living.”
Lask brooded on his words.
“Don’t be afraid,” the White One told him. “The Light is great and kind, and all will be well in the end.”
“Where are we going?” asked Lask, putting his questions aside.
The trees thinned out and opened into a meadow that rolled on to the east edge of the island. The Old One started across it. Lask slowed a bit, falling behind a few steps to watch his older self stroll through the night like a living lantern. The tongue of flame danced above his head in the wind, casting the white feathers at his shoulders golden. The Old One glanced back at him, but said nothing, allowing Lask his study.
“When do I get the horns?” asked Lask, returning to his side.
“I didn’t like them either at first,” the White One replied with a knowing smile, “But they are a mark of one of our greatest victories. You’ll learn to wear them with pride, and you can hide them like your wings, so you don’t have to sport them all the time.”
“That wasn’t my question,” Lask replied.
“Not quite twenty-six years from now.”
Lask nodded with a contemplative hum.
“Have you found your given weapon yet?” asked the White One.
“All spirits are given one when they get here. Yours is probably tucked up in the house somewhere. You’ll find it in due time.”
The Old One stopped and knelt in the meadow, touching a hand to the ground.
“One day the greatest tree in the world will grow here,” he said, “And you shall be its keeper. It will teach you many things, and you will bring it to bloom in beautiful splendor.” He smiled a little, and took a handful of dirt, igniting it with his fire. “Now then, I promised you a gift.” He rubbed his hands together, sparks falling from his fingers and swirling in the wind as the fires took shape. With a flare of light, a longsword in a red leather scabbard appeared in his hands. Its hilt was golden, with a black leather grip, and an enormous emerald in the pommel.
“This is Aegys,” the Old One told him, offering him the sword. “One day it shall have another name. Learn to wield it well, and it will defend all that you love. When the time is right, I will adjust it for you.”
“Adjust it?” Lask repeated, eyeing it.
“You may find it needs… other properties in the not too distant future.”
Lask accepted it, thinking its weight felt pleasant in his hands. He gripped the black leather and drew the blade. The steel reflected the starlight and the Old One’s fire. Lask smiled.
“It is beautiful. Thank you,” he said.
The Old One nodded with a pleased smile.
“Do you still carry it?” Lask asked.
“Yes. It has served me well.”
Lask fastened the belt around his waist, feeling the scabbard rest against his thigh. The White one winked at him. Something fluttered past Lask’s face, and he saw a broad luna moth glide over to rest on the White One’s shoulder.
“I should be going,” he said. “You will see me again from time to time. You may not want to always tell others when you see me.”
“Understood.” Lask nodded.
“Before I go,” said the Old One, “Would you like to ask one question of me?”
Lask cocked his head a bit, not understanding.
“Questions are one of your greatest resources,” the White One told him, “With the right question, you can find out anything. You must learn to ask the right questions. Why pass up an opportunity to practice?” He grinned.
Lask thought for a moment, listening to the wind in their feathers. He looked back to the Old One’s face and inquired, “What are my names?”
The White One arched an eyebrow. “Usually that’s a question spirits ask the Library.”
“I’d rather ask you.”
The Old One smiled a little. “We are Al– Avec– Alu–, Lask Maveran Somadar, Lask Corilius, Alastair, Adar and Amadar, Renemorex, Lygoranthian, Lusayr, Magnus, and Alrexator. The world shall call you many things, and you shall be many things to many people.”
“What do you call yourself?”
The White One smiled, and answered only, “Lask.”