Alkazar the Wise: Chapter Two

Chapter II:

Alkazar the Wise strode into the forest as the sun finally began dip beneath the green boughs of the tree line. Leaning on his staff, he stepped over a twisting tree root and onto a faint dirt trail leading into the depths of the woods. His eyes squinted into the long shadows cast by the towering trees as he studied the path ahead.

The trail, although covered in roots and leaves, pleased the simplicity of man far too much to be the work of nature. Winding only to slide between trees, the dirt path cut straight through the heart of the forest. The most telling sign, however, were the prints in the dirt. Animal tracks cut across the trail, not along it, and only faint shoe prints actually followed the dirt path.

Frowning, Alkazar turned his attention towards the woods on either side of him. No Alf would ever willingly tread the paths of man when there were perfectly good animal trails for him to follow. Therefore, to find an Alf, Alkazar too would have to leave the beaten track and wander into the woods.

The path would then be, as by the beauty of nature’s design, neither slow nor fast, and neither wandering or straight. Much like the strands of Fate, it would lead him along a merry journey. Neither the destination nor the journey would eclipse the other in importance, for both were ends unto themselves.

The path would take the pace that nature gave and follow the trail that nature provided. Alkazar the Wise nodded quietly himself before suddenly amending his previous thought. Given the pressing situation regarding the Tyrant of the Dark, perhaps haste would be of the essence.

Forcing a hearty spring into his aching heels, Alkazar hastened off the path and into the depth of the untamed woods. As he walked hurriedly around trees and bushes, ducking beneath branches, Alkazar let the sounds of the forest flow into him.

Chirping birds whistled overheads as they perched upon the thin branches swaying high above the forest floor. Deer softly trotted across the leaf-strewn ground, while the idle buzz of insects hovered softly in the background. Soft footsteps ghosted alongside Alkazar in the quiet gait of…

Alkazar’s rather substantial eyebrows narrowed suddenly as a ghost of a grin crept across his face, hidden underneath his silver beard. Apparently, he did not need to find the Alf boy after all. The Alf boy, it seemed, had found him first.

To avoiding scaring the poor thing, Alkazar let his breathing grow heavier. Slowing to a halt, the old wizard hobbled over to the nearest fallen tree trunk. With a great creaking of bones, Alkazar lowered himself to sit upon the sideways trunk. He sighed softly to himself as he stretched to alleviate some of the aches hunched through his back.

The footsteps froze for a long moment before cautiously coming closer. Alkazar merely closed his eyes and leaned back against a conveniently-nearby tree. The footsteps shuffled closer again, but Alkazar’s breathing remained calm and deep. Finally, the footsteps came within a few strides of Alkazar.

“Good evening,” greeted Alkazar calmly, cracking open his eyes.

The Alf boy’s appearance – a flash of scruffy black hair, a thin pale frame, and long, nimble fingers – greeted Alkazar’s vision for a heartbeat before the boy vanished behind a tree trunk. Alkazar smiled fondly in the direction of the boy, suppressing a hearty chuckle.

“It’s quite alright, young one,” called out Alkazar with a hint of friendly amusement underlying his calming tone. An Alf usually did not learn any language besides the animal tongue until they were over two decades old, so tone was essential. “I won’t hurt you.”

Slowly, the Alf boy crept back around the tree with great hesitance. He shot a furtive glance at the sweet rice cake that Alkazar was pulling out of his robes. With a benign smile, Alkazar handed the cake over to the young boy. The boy nibbled on the treat, glancing up cautiously at Alkazar on ever-slowing intervals.

“Who are you?” mumbled the Alf boy between the final bites of his sweet rice cake.

Alkazar raised an eyebrow at the boy, who was in the process of licking clean his sweet and sticky fingers.

“You speak English?” noted Alkazar in surprise.

The boy cocked his head in a confused look.

“Common, I mean to say,” amended the old wizard.

The Alf boy shrugged, as though confused by the purpose of the question.

“Of course I speak Common,” he replied. “Even the wolves speak Common.”

“Ah, of course,” agreed Alkazar the Wise, coughing faintly to clear his throat. “I see.”

Alkazar studied the boy for a moment. The wolves spoke Common? He must have been further out of touch than he had thought. Alkazar realized that he was frowning faintly and let a smile return to his face. The Alf boy glanced back at him before looking away nervously.

“Well, to answer your previous question, I am Alkazar,” he admitted. “Sometimes known as Alkazar the Wise, although whether I deserve that title or not, I cannot say.”

“I’m Sen,” muttered the Alf boy towards the floor.

“The pleasure is mine, Sen,” responded Alkazar pleasantly, holding out a wrinkled hand for the boy to shake, which he did hesitantly.

“Why are you here… Alka… Ala… Alka—” Sen frowned thoughtfully.

“Alkazar,” interrupted the old wizard with a smile to remove any sting from his words.

“Why are you here, then, Alkazar?” asked Sen.

Alkazar let a silence hover between them for just the perfect length of time before answering.

“I’m here because of you.”

Sen stared at Alkazar for a long moment before remembering his nervousness and glancing away. The Alf boy looked away for a while before gathering up the courage to meet Alkazar’s grey eyes with his own sharp blue ones.

“Why me?” asked the boy, with the innocence of a child. He could not be older than thirteen or fourteen summers. “What did I do?”

“You did nothing,” replied Alkazar honestly. “But you mean something. You have a great potential in you, Sen. A potential for great good or evil, or more accurately, the potential to stop a great evil.”

“But I’m a nobody,” denied Sen. “I’m just me. I haven’t done anything. I haven’t even asked for anything.”

“Perhaps that’s a sign that you’re destined for it,” answered Alkazar with a smile.

“But I don’t want to have potential,” cried out Sen. “I didn’t ask to be different. I just want to live with the wolves.”

“We don’t always get what we ask for,” Alkazar reminded him gently. “You were chosen because you can and will do great things. Even if it isn’t what you would’ve planned, it’s what will work out for the best in the end.”

“I just want to live with the wolves!” cried Sen, standing to his feet.

“Sometimes we don’t always have the choices we would like,” apologized Alkazar, laying a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Be glad, at least, that I found you first. There are many who have strayed from the light who would not be giving you the same chance to decide that I am.”

“Be quiet!” shouted Sen, breaking free of Alkazar’s grip. “I just want to be left alone!”

With those words, Sen sprinted out into the woods, vanishing into the trees’ dark embrace. Alkazar rose painfully to his feet and frowned into the darkness. Almost as though on que, an eerie wail began to echo in the distance. The Tyrant of the Dark’s servants had finally arrived.

The old wizard glanced at the forest around him. The wispy strands of fog were beginning to coalesce, just as the farm boy had predicted. The moon, whose shining face just began to peek over the shadowy trees, cast a strange silvery hue across the rising mist.

Another howl pierced through the fog, followed by a third. Alkazar scowled and hobbled across the root-strewn dirt. Despite his aching back, he forced himself to stride forcefully into the dark embrace of the forest. To the sound of a final chilling wail, Alkazar vanished into the mist.