Prelude

Submitted by Riibu on Thu, 11/01/2007 - 20:17

It was an ordinary day. The land was at peace, the people were not warring (at least, not anywhere nearby the kingdom) and even normally ferocious carnivore animals seemed more mellow. It was rather strange then, that a man had set on a journey with a heavy heart. The brightly shining sun did no raise his spirits, but he looked at the land around him in a bit of a sorrow. His face showed lines of worry.

The man rode his horse on a well-travelled road, in a peaceful trot so as to take his time. Every now and then small groups of happily chatting peasants passed by him going in another direction. They only glanced at him, not recognizing his status in the kingdom. Well, how could they know? The man did not travel much by himself and a high position which included him a lot of responsibilities. But for this time, he had taken a little vacation – of sorts, anyway. Even his clothes did not betray much of him. The man had dressed as simply as he could, but he still looked more nobility than ordinary, thanks to the fine cut of his clothes and even more so the glittering great sword hanging by his side.

When the land started to rise and the man could see the mountains in the distance better, he began to look around more carefully. Somewhere close by would be a track, almost never used anymore, that he had found out a long time ago. But it took him an hour more until he found out the right little nook. The man paused his horse and looked around at the road. He was alone as far as he could see. He jumped down from his horse, took the reins in his other hand and lead the horse to the side of the road, where the thicket was perhaps slightly less overgrown than elsewhere along the road. The man pushed through the thickets, walking on a forgotten trail.

After a while the thickets grew less and the man got on his horse again. It was easier to ride then, with the sun coming down in slices through the trees growing around them. the forest was quiet and for some time the man fell into deep thought, which didn’t seem to brighten him up any. He sighed and came back to reality when the horse stopped to eat some grass at the beginning of an large meadow.

“Come now, Nicodemus, let’s not dawdle”, he muttered gently and urged his horse along. A gust of warm wind swept through the long grass and wild flowers of the meadow, raising with it a summery scent. The man breathed deeply and smiled a little sadly. He rode towards rising ground and soon reached more trees. this time, it almost looked like there was a trail between them. This road had been heavily used, once, and tiny signs still showed of it to anyone who might wonder by. The man knew of the road though. It had been in use at least once when he’d been but a child that he could remember. But that was a long time ago, and no one had visited his destination since then.

The road rose sharply soon and the trees around it sharper still, well above him until ending into rock face. The mountains sided his trail where close to each other, and the trail went just in the middle of them. He got to the top of the climb and saw an overgrown, green valley beneath him, with the road snaking downwards. The valley was rather small and it was sided on all sides with the mountains. You could have fit in an entire village and still have some space for a proper forest, but a town would’ve been stretching it. The valley had had neither, just a sacred temple.

The man rode down, down in to the valley, past trees and chirruping birds, until he saw ahead something white, nearly vanished into its surroundings. He came off the horse, took it a little way on and tied the reins to a low, sturdy looking tree branch. The man looked at the old, worn temple. The walls were covered in green vines, thriving on the stone. The temple had never been anything grand, that much could be seen clearly. It was simple, but beautiful, build with love and hard work. The man couldn’t remember to whom the temple was dedicated - he was too young for that, even though he was old.

He pushed some of the growth off, looking for the doorway. Inside was dusty and a little bit dark. One or two lone, brave sun rays came in through the vines, lighting up the dust he unsettled as he stepped inside. There were no benches, no alcoves, just an area where people could stand, and a few steps leading up to a marble shrine. The man reverently came to the shrine and looked at it.

It had carvings of flowers and plants, animals and stars, but no runes telling the name of a god or anything else. Most likely it had once been a shrine for some nature god or perhaps even goddess, but all those beliefs were long gone.

He carefully touched the shrine, feeling its cold stone. Pulling his fingers along the carvings he paused at a star and pushed. Something went very quietly ‘click!’ and the man stood up. A tiny, empty compartment had opened up in the middle of the shrine’s top. The man took off a large, heavy ring from his left hand. The ruby flashed a bright red as he put gently inside the compartment. He closed it again and it could not be seen apart from the stonework. The man sighed and seemed suddenly older still. There was a resolution in him, like he had finally made a decision and had to stick by it, no matter what came. It didn’t seem like the decision had been easy, but quite the opposite. The man stood still looking at the shrine for a while, trying to remember back to his childhood and what it had been like to come visit there that one, special time. Then he turned and walked out.

“Well, that’s that done, Nicodemus. Let’s go back home, shall we?” the man spoke to the horse as he took the reins and got on his horse again. He turned and rode away from the valley, never coming there again in his life.

Dust settled, the birds continued their singing and with the slowness plants usually possess, they continued to grow and envelop the temple. Inside lay waiting for the right time – and the right person – a ring of power.