Tuesday, August 19, 2014

100 Themes Challenge: Stars

     The wise men of the village said that centuries ago, a great wizard purposed to count all the stars in the sky. He had packed nothing, only lifted up a walking stick and began making his slow, deliberate way toward the mountain that towered over the village. He intended to seat himself upon the peak and count and name every star that could be seen from that height. He said in this way he would know all there is to know about the universe and return as the wisest man in the world.
     Years passed, and because it was a small village, people continued to talk of the old ambitious wizard. The tale was passed on, first to the children of those that watched the man leave, then to their children’s children. It was one of these grandchildren then that took it upon himself to discover what happened to the old wizard. His elders scoffed at him.
     “Depend upon it, the old man went to the peak and died. He took no food, and as you see, the vegetation is quite sparse there.”
     “But did not my father see a great light upon the hill five years ago?” asked the young man.
     “Your father was drunk, lad. Do not do this mad thing. Stay here, safe in the village, and do not chase after legends as the old wizard did.”
     But the young man would not be deterred. Unlike the wizard, he took a pack of food, and no walking stick. He left the village, promising he would be back within a month with news of what he found on the peak.
     The people shook their heads, and consoled themselves that as the boy was already an orphan there would be less harm in losing him.
     The lad took the shortest path to the mountain, by traveling through the great forest. It was thick with creatures, and he left his rations alone as he was able to catch many deer for his meals. Once he began climbing, however, the trees became thinner, and the animals remained below, except for a few hardy goats that hopped from rock to rock, deftly avoiding his attempts at catching them. The mountain became steeper, and soon the lad was climbing hand over hand along the rocks, feeling cuts form as he clung to the side.
     Soon, he hoisted himself onto a small narrow path, which led up to the tall rock on the peak of the mountain. He followed this, nearly crawling on his hands and knees from exhaustion. When he reached the top, for a moment he lay there on the bare rock, relief spreading through him. But as he lay there, a strange light hit his eyelids, and he opened them and stood.
     Before him stood a woman, beautiful and strange. Her hair was of purest gold, her skin a shining silver. Her eyes were black as the night sky, and just as cold and remote. The young man became afraid, but could not move.
     “Why do you come here, to this accursed place?” she demanded, and her voice seemed to come from some faraway place that he could not reach.
     “I come to find out the fate of the old wizard who journeyed to this spot to count the stars.”
     “You see his fate before you,” the woman said, and she gestured to the ground.
     Before the rock was thick ash, as though from a volcano; but the young man knew what it was. He started back, nearly toppling off the edge of that peak.
     “He tried to tame that which cannot be tamed,” the woman said. “He paid the price for seeking to control what was greater than himself. Shall you do the same?”
     The young man ran down the narrow path, and hastily climbed to the bottom of the mountain.

    When he stumbled into the village a week later, he was starved and exhausted. When the elders asked him what he saw, he could only babble incoherently. He was an idiot thereafter, and thereafter, no one tried to climb the peak of that accursed mountain, because of the wizard’s pride.

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