It is dark out. I cannot yet see what approaches the fire. My mind sees many things. Most of them are creatures, like Gollum, lurking closer, with deceit. I do not trust the pictures generated by my fear, so instead, as I learned on my final vision quest, I reject the fear, and I close my eyes. I express love toward the rustling in the forest.
With my eyes closed, I find my center. I take a deep breath, relaxing my body. I abandon all of my expectations. Then, sitting in front of the fire, I open my eyes. The first thing I see as the world comes into view around me is an older man. He is small and has a long gray beard. I rush to bring a log near the fire, where he can sit. He grumbles a small response. I cannot tell if it is because he is grateful or insulted. It doesn’t matter. His feelings are not my responsibility. I return to my seat, where I cross my legs and put my hands in my lap. He will speak first. So, I bow my head, and I wait.
He puts his walking stick into the fire until it catches. With it, he lights a pipe then snuffs it on the ground next to the log. He leans on the stick, smoking his pipe while he watches me. I know he is venerable and wise but not very patient. I must be careful to maintain respect, or he will make me work twice as hard to achieve what I seek. I wait.
Finally, the conversation comes in his first words, “You have called me here.”
“Why?” He knows I don’t have the answer to his question. My response is a test.
“I have called you here because you have asked me to do so.” The words come from my mouth, but they are not my own. They must be correct.
He chuckles, but it is not a kind laughter. I am not sure if he is pleased or disgusted by my knowing the correct response, but I know it also does not matter. If I am careful and answer his questions correctly, he must help me. It is something to do with honor and some agreement made between him and The Gods & Goddesses long ago. He seems disturbed by the potential of having to keep his end of the bargain, but he continues.
“You have done this before.”
My answer surprises him and seems to gain me a small amount of respect. I am not a person who fell upon a book recounting the correct steps to gain his assistance. He is beginning to realize this may be a legitimate request from a legitimate requester and not some play at magic. The world is full of ‘play witches and wizards,’ of people who think they understand magic and use it to cast spells upon people who have not met with their simple earthbound expectations. True wizardry is a lost art that isn’t shown the proper respect by the mortals of today. The Gods & Goddesses who granted it power tend to discount such attempts. He is hopeful at the opportunity for real magic and climbs from the log to get a closer look.
I remain seated, in the same position I’ve used when sitting with others on my journey, and this time, it is to show respect. He comes very close and plops himself onto the earth beside me.
He puts a hand on my knee and says, “Raise your head. I don’t like talking to someone I cannot see.”
I raise my head and open my eyes. As I do, I gaze into bright blue eyes, almost white… no, silver. They are silvery blue, and his face dons the creases of one who smiles a lot at their corners.
He looks deep into my eyes and continues, “You are in great pain. There is suffering. Do you look for revenge?”
I can sense his concern. He does not often see the pure heart. He sees hopes for vengeance from those who do not understand the ways of his people—those who have learned of their abilities but not of their faith.
I answer honestly, “I do not seek revenge. I seek healing.”
It is not relief I see in his eyes, but hope welling towards excitement as he responds, “Healing of your soul? Healing of hurt in your heart?”
Again, he assumes a selfish motive. It is a sad commentary of our times that this is what our Guides have come to expect of our intent. This Wizard has seen the most selfish of requests, and all I can wonder is for how many centuries. I also wonder how many could have been my own.
“I do not seek healing for myself, dear sir. It is for another.” He leaps from his seat and dances a bit. I knew he was hoping for this opportunity. Still, he has completely transformed from the one who came to sit by the fire to the Wizard who now dances around me. I don’t know how to react to his jubilance. I do not feel moved to dance with him. I am solemn, and I remain seated, waiting for him to finish his celebration.
After a minute or two more of celebration, he comes before me, holding my arms in his hands. “What is it we need to do? I will grant whatever your wish may be.”
“There is a man who needs help, desperately.” I bow my head again as I speak, and he releases my arms.
Realizing the gravity of the situation, he slowly returns to his seat beside me and puts his hand upon my knee.
I continue to speak, and he listens intently. “He has suffered for nearly fifteen hundred years, and I would like you to end his suffering. We must heal him so he can pass into the great beyond. I need your help to guide him over. I am not strong enough to accomplish the task alone.”
“Why is your strength not enough?”
“Because he has caused harm, great harm to many mortals. He has taken lives, and he has tortured souls. There is still a recent death upon him, and my magic is not enough to pull him through. I need the support of magic far beyond my own to assure a successful passing through the veil, and for this man, there must be a success.”
He looks at me for a long time. He is trying to decide what to make of my statement and consider possible loopholes. As a Wizard, it is in his nature to know all of his options. I understand the lesson one receives from a Wizard is not always the lesson requested. They teach what they decide to teach, and he is deciding what I really need. I know what I need, and I must receive it exactly as requested, or there will not be peace at the end of this journey. I hope we land on the same page.
Using a Wizard is a risky venture, but I need strong magic, and I know his magic is beyond even what I had hoped. The Gods and Goddesses have sent a wise magician. If he chooses to follow the path I have chosen, the work will be nearly effortless. The key is in his choosing.
I sit quietly, in the same position as before, while he contemplates his options. He spends some time mumbling. It appears he is having an earnest conversation with himself, weighing all of the options, and in the end, I think the spring of hope born of a single unselfish act has outweighed all of his other considerations.
“Lift your head and meet my eyes.”
“I will follow you in your journey, but do not lead me astray, child, for my kindness, is extended as a courtesy and can be easily retracted.”
“I understand,” I say with deep respect, knowing this is not a Wizard I would want to cross. I cannot imagine the pains he could rain down upon me were he to choose.
He sits beside me and eagerly says, “Please, let’s make a plan. Tell me where it is we go.”
We speak until the sun has risen and passed halfway between the Earth and its noontime position. I tell him of Amber and her journey. I explain the mountain and the cave and of the self-loather waiting there. I do not tell him of the pursuer, as it is not part of the healing I have requested. I will need to face the pursuer after this Wizard has returned to his world, and I am no longer his charge.
I tell him everything I can, but we do not make a plan. I simply tell him the tale and answer any questions he asks. When we finish, he stands. He is not jumping or dancing. He is grave. With a wave of his hand, he douses the fire pit and fills it with earth. It looks as if we were never here.
Then, he turns to me, and he says, “Gather your belongings. We leave now.” With that, he walks deeper into the forest.
I grab my bag, and I follow. As we leave, I wonder why he hasn’t gone back toward the crater, but it doesn’t last long. I know I am no one to doubt his direction, and within moments of falling in line behind him, it all clicks.
I realize, at the beginning of my journey, I entered this man’s house. I’ve always felt our homes reflect who we are, and our basements represent our deeper, subconscious selves. I had an immediate fear of going into his basement. Of course, it turned out to be a vast wasteland. After fifteen hundred years of obsession, the upstairs would be a bit dusty, and even the immediate subconscious would be a wasteland. I have decided not to wonder what the volcano might represent, but the lush, green forest; this I get.
We are going to need to travel deep into this man’s subconscious to find him. I understand now. We will move deeper into the forest, and when we are at the end of our trail, there will be a black mountain. At the peak, there will be a cave—his cave and not mine. I am curious to see our interaction from his perspective. Curious and a little frightened.
We travel for many days, through multiple terrains and every kind of weather. We have little conversation. I don’t say much at all. My companion, KaeDunfte, does most of the talking, but even he doesn’t say much. When he does speak, it is usually an order, which I obey without hesitation. Occasionally, he will ask a question or relay a teaching. I cling to every word. This is an opportunity for me to receive an education that was lost to this world for centuries. I am like a child absorbing as much as I can.
Eventually, we reach a river. It snakes through a valley of long green and yellow grass. Ahead, beyond some trees, I see a black mountain rise against the horizon. We are here. KaeDunfte says we will camp here and travel again in the morning. I begin the evening preparations.
After making the fire, he tells me to stay by it. “Tonight, we will remain awake by the fire, and you will learn great things. As we travel into this cave, I will know your deepest thoughts. We will need to prepare those thoughts to be strong. This is where the magic begins and ends, in our deepest hopes and fears.”
Tonight, if I am willing to share these thoughts with KaeDunfte, he will help me to be strong in the face of my fears, and we will be successful in our journey. Here, I sleep. There, I open. In both, by the time the sun rises tomorrow, I hope to see a vital, self-loving Linda. I pray I open enough to assure our success. I pray for the strength to do this, at least.