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|Dedicated to Pete Anderson. He read the first part and gave me the title, so kudos to him.|
Don't read the ending without reading everything else or it just ruins the story! I really like this story. It took me awhile, and I'm proud of its moral. Some of it still needs work in the description department, but overall, I'm really happy with it, though some comments would be nice.
It's really just about... fate. Also, I have to admit that Mountain somewhat reminds me of Link the the N64 game, 'The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time'. But that's okay :) Link is my hero... <3
A long walk down a long path. A long way till the fork in the road. A long time to decide which way to go.
A hot summers day in an unknown place. Where will the young hero go? What path shall he take? The path of righteousness or the path of darkness?
He walked slowly down a cobblestone road out of town: the place where he grew up. A brown leathery bag slung across his shoulders. He seemed relaxed and arrogant as he walked coolly away from the bustling place, although some people stood to gape at him strangely for a moment, puzzled. The baker, the florist, and the librarian knew better and waved shortly and nodded their heads in respect.
The boy, Mountain, smiled smugly at them and continued his pace. He walked right off the cobblestone road onto the gravel pathway, through the poorer part of town. The huts had black and gray smoke billowing out of the holes in the tops of their roofs; the color depended on how much wood they had, and that depended on how much money they had after they’d gone to the pub the night before. Children looked out the holes in the walls that they called windows, peeping at Mountain and then turning away, giggling. Mountain smiled at them and stopped for a moment to collect some stones, and treaded forward, throwing the stones at the children who scrambled to grasp them quickly and pocket them as if they were money.
Mountain eventually became isolated on that particularly hot day, finally stepping onto hot sand with his sandaled feet. He began to perspire and felt drenched by the time he’d come to a tree and sat by it. It was a big oak tree, very healthy indeed. He sat at the trunk and opened a very large leather-bounded canteen, drinking heartily from it. He then pulled out something that was wrapped in a waxy sort of paper. It was a piece of edible mint cake, kept cool from the waxy paper. Once he was finished munching on the mediocre piece, he put it back into his pack, stretched the strap over his chest and shoulders, and began again his walk in the hot humid air.
The sandy path seemed almost endless. It appeared to be stretching forever, so thought Mountain, dauntless yet modest. He wondered when he would reach the green, grassy land. Then again, he wondered if he were tricked into this. What if men and women just died out here of thirst and heat? Surely it was possible for no man or woman had ever come back after leaving the town in such an ancient fashion of ritual. They’d never returned to the town, but to Mountain, that seemed sensible. He wanted to go on this “self-finding journey” so that he would never have to return to that malady town.
So, they could still be alive. There really could be a fork in the road. But who knew? There was no folklore that could explain it, for no one ever went back, and it surely wasn’t going to begin with Mountain. What would he run into on the way there? Would he find any new creatures? People? A girl, perhaps? Would he be baffled if he beheld the wonders of the world once he got there?
Mountain shook the thoughts from his head and watched his feet intently as they walked on. He wondered how long it would take to get there. Two days? Perhaps three?
The sky was an azure color, with no clouds. The sun was beginning to turn into a terribly hot ball of fire, coming closer and closer to Mountain, as if to tease him. Every time he felt himself not able to go on, there appeared a tree. The tree was always luscious, but every tree progressed each passing time.
The first tree was plain. It was thin with big green leaves, and was in sand. The second one was a bit thicker than the first, and the leaves were even more succulent. Every tree ascended the same way, getting better and better as he went along. Though the tree he came up to next didn’t seem, to him, something that could get better. It was a huge, ancient trunk. Healthy with fresh brown bark, with its large, tough green leaves and branches longer than him in length, wider than him in breadth. There were roots sticking out of the ground, like it could walk, and all around it, under its large shade was grass. The verdant grass blades gave off a pleasant smell and Mountain felt himself sitting very comfortably on it, as if he were sitting on tons of pillows instead of a hard Earth. He ate the rest of his mint cake and rolls, quaffing down what was left of his water, and sank to the ground in satisfaction. He felt careless at first. But then thought: I’m close enough, aren’t I? And it’s a surprise I hadn’t already run out of food.
When he awoke, it was by a shiver. A zephyr had come across him and he woke with a start. It was still daylight and very warm, so Mountain had no idea where the wind had come from. He decided to leave his bag there, since it was empty anyway, but then saw that the bag was not flat and lifeless as it had been before he’d fallen asleep; instead it was plump and full of food. Skeptical, Mountain shook his canteen. It was full of water!
Happiness restored and renewed (though ambiguous as to how it all happened), Mountain walked forward with vigor and hope, watching intently for a sign of something other than a tree and desert land.
Of course, one never can find what one is looking for. After many more stops at what seemed to be the same tree, Mountain continued to walk forward, until an idea hit him. What if he was supposed to walk in some other direction? To the left or right?
He looked around him, and decided to walk on the right side. It was too late to turn back now, and Mountain was afraid of it. He turned on his heel and walked past the recent tree. A few feet past it he stopped. Something seemed abnormal about the land. It was curvy and almost seemed to be melting. He walked closer and reached out a hand. Nothing.
He put his hand down and walked straight into something. A wall. A wall? A transparent wall was blocking Mountain’s way. He scrambled to his feet and ran to the left, running into the same unseen border. Then he tried going backwards. Again, the clear border blocked him. He had no choice except to go forward. Mountain stopped for a moment to think. He was a literate boy for his age; he had come from a wealthy, educated family. This certainly was no labyrinth to conquer; just a straight dirt road… an enigma, if one will.
His vibrant mood now distinguished and his hope almost gone, Mountain moved on in a paranoid manner. Night hadn’t even come yet. Had timed stopped? He finally felt anger bubble up inside of him, and in that anger he turned around and swore into the sky that the next tree he saw he would climb. He cursed the Gods above and asked them why they hadn’t let him find his destiny yet. When Mountain turned his back to the sky to brush away angry tears, he opened his eyes to the ground and saw blades of grass. Not many, only a few gathered around his feet. He lifted up his head and ran forward, his canteen banging against his leg and his backpack hitting his back. He stopped when he saw a large wall: a real wall that could actually see.
It was made of stone, embarked with moss. Old, old ancient stone that was molding, grimy and a very dull gray color. He laughed out loud, so happy and jovial, and bounced on his heels as he stopped at the wall in front of the large door. He knocked and the door swung open. Wonderful! he thought.
Immediately he ran inside, and to his dismay came across another conventional path. Mountain then felt very frustrated, but he observed his surroundings nonetheless. All it was was a square room with plants growing in tufts here and there. It was very disappointing to Mountain, to go all that way and not reach a conclusion. He guessed that this was where it ended for most of them. He searched around for any human objects or bones, maybe even fleshy remains, but could not find any.
While he was searching a corner, however, he found a small square hole in one of the stones. It was like four little squares created one big hollow hole. Out of curiosity he looked inside of it, and noticed something that looked like a button. He stuck his fist in and pushed the button.
Immediately he knew there was a change and he pulled away from the wall as quickly as a rabbit, his canteen jingling excitedly at his waist.
The wall, slowly morphing, opened up and created a doorway. Mountain could not be so oblivious as to not heed it. He was headstrong, and therefore would do anything in his power to make it through this enigma. But he had to wonder, what was on the other side of the doorway, which was blocked out by shadow, so Mountain could not see? He felt afraid at first, but then he thought: where else have I got to go?
With a large, giant step, Mountain swallowed his fear; shut his eyes tight, and walked right into the shadow of the doorway, expecting to be dropped down into something. But when his foot met solid ground on the other side of the wall, he thought for a moment that he was back where he had started, on the sand.
Before he opened his eyes though, he felt the ground. It did not move like sand, it was grass. The air smelled sweet, not dry. Even a wind rustled slightly, and his hair was lifted gently with the zephyr. Mountain opened his eyes and saw what lay before him, vigilant of what he might be losing.
For goodness! Another tree! He saw the same tree that he had last stopped at; the same exact one! Its shadow even mimicked the last one! Mountain then felt that he would have to stop and cry at his failure, but his eyes caught two more things.
The Path of Righteousness
There were two pathways besides the tree, one on either side of it. It was the fork in the road mentioned in the Elder’s Tales. The pathway on the left was slightly run down; it seemed have been used a lot. The grass was smoothed down in the trail, and it appeared that the tree branches had been cut.
On the right side it was like a jungle. From what Mountain could see, he could not find any step prints. The trees had not been tamed and they were tangled together in a mean fashion, as if they had fought one another once one of the travelers chose the other path.
Mountain began to contemplate which way to go. He already knew that when he chose, there would be no going back. The wall behind him had sealed, so he couldn’t turn back there either.
He went over to the tree and smelled the branches; they smelled like wonderful. But still, he had no idea what he was going to do; which path he was going to take; or even if he would live to see tomorrow.
He contemplated for a long while, conscious that his choices would lead him in the same path that the traveler’s before him had to endure. He looked at the left way, so worn down and beaten, then at the right, so wild and exciting.
I did start this journey for excitement, he thought tenderly. I think the right path will be the best choice.
Thus, he took a step forward into the mingled jungle, letting the branches gulp him up and wipe the sweat off him, combing back his hair, letting the breeze come through… the sensation was fantastic to Mountain. Then he felt blackness and darkness, not morbid or cruel, it was a safe feeling, like being tucked into bed at night, or lying on the grass staring up at the dark sky...
Mountain woke up, startled. His body was swinging from side to side: he must have been thrashing around as he was sleeping. He sat still and soon his canopy bed slowed down and stopped, gently walloping the tree beside him. He held the tree trunk and stopped the movement fully, his foot feeling around below for the branch that he used. Once his foot found it, he climbed down the tree and landed onto the dirt with a loud thud!
He shook the dizziness out of his head and stood up; smiling as he thought, that was my intention. He looked around; another beautiful day in the Perfect Lands. Mountain smiled and patted the tree gently, the healthiness of it glowing. Everything in the world glowed all because of him, the hero.
He took his daily walk to the village and stopped at a small shop for some bread. The baker gave him a fresh loaf on the house and also some sweet pastries for later. Mountain thanked him generously and gave him a gold coin, but the baker would not have it.
“Anything for the wonderful young man you are,” he said, his chubby face smiling a gleaming smile. “Our epicure here at the bakery,” he said as he winked and bowed.
Mountain continued to stroll through the town, looking into the Taylor’s cloth shop and purchasing some material for his tree hammock. He chose a nice green color that sunk into his own green eyes. In its pattern, it had small yellow green leaves stitched into it. He gave the Taylor his blessing and went on his way, carrying the bundle under his arm securely.
He made his way to the end of the other side of town, where a luxurious Victorian house stood. He tapped the gates and they opened with approval, allowing him inside. He crossed over the lawn, walking onto the grass with no scolds and went to the door. Before he could knock, though, the door opened to a dark skinned, plump woman smiling.
“Ah, welcome Sir Mountain. M’Lady Mae is waiting for you.” She had a hint of a Piracy accent trying to be concealed. Mountain smiled and walked past her, nodding his head in respect.
“She be in the back with the tea and treats,” she said with slang, and winked. Mountain grinned back and walked through the large hallway and through the French doors. Mae sat with her back to him, a man moving in a motion in her hand, keeping her cool on the porch shade as she looked to the large verdant backyard in front of the woods. Mountain cleared his throat and she turned around, smiling.
“About time you showed up, Mountain,” she said with a faint accent. Mountain shuffled and looked at his feet, smiling. “My apologies, ma’am,” he whispered.
She smiled and looked him over, then patted the table. “Have a seat, will you? You probably walked all this way again, telling by the dirt on your feet. Tea’s nice and cool now, and there’s some strawberry jam and cornbread for you, but by the looks of it, I’d say you’d dropped by the bakery on your way here,” she winked, and watch Mountain as he walked and stumbled lazily into the chair next to her, helping himself. She continued, “Your probably had yourself a good few pastries, am I right?” She paused. “But no bother, you boys work up an appetite by just running in circles.”
“You look sweet today, Miss Mae.”
“Are you playing poet today, Mr. Hero? Thank you very much, you egocentric boy named Mountain, but you know very well you’ve already stolen my heart.” Mae took a dainty sip of her tea, and then finished with, “It’s my father’s heart you’ve got to worry about.” Mountain’s grin faded. Mae took a sip of cold tea, the raspberry in it bobbing around and sinking to the bottom. She was smiling.
“Oh… with your reputation, I’m sure that will happen in no time.”
“You’re mighty talkative today, Mae.” Mae shifted around in her seat.
“Oh Mountain…” She hugged him, her light, glowing locks bouncing around her neck when she sat back down.
She looked at him, shaking her head in disbelief. “You’ve completely inspired us, Mountain. All the way to the point where everyone’s insight is as good as it gets. Mountain… ponder this; don’t worry about answering now, but think about it… Mountain, will you marry me?”
Mountain dropped his teacup into the saucer, nearly choking on the food he was eating.
“What?!” he exclaimed.
Mae shook her head, her shiny hair falling around her face. She looked back up at him like the maverick she was. “I feel indifferent most of the time,” she said diffidently. “I… I… Mountain,” she took a breath and composed herself. “Mountain, you’re a precocious young man, and I’m just a confused young woman with pallor skin and the need to procrastinate most of the time,” she smiled and went on, “I prattle, but I never say truisms you don’t want to hear – you can’t deny it! My philosophy has always been to expect the worst and hope for the best, so if you say no, I’m not going to cry. I’ll stick to being tough like I was taught, so there’s no worries about my tears. Just… think about my heart…” She looked at him with big round eyes, her hands clutching each other and pushing themselves up against her bosom. Mountain could see her toes clenching beneath her gown, the anxiousness in her eyes. He glanced at the archaic town to his left, then back to Mae.
“Of course I will,” he smiled. He opened his arms and she fell into them, sobbing.
“Oh Mountain, I hope you don’t mean fallacy…”
“I don’t,” he breathed against her hair, the scent of strawberries filling his nostrils.
The plump servant woman came out in a hurry, breathing heavily. A little boy rushed past her and went to Mountain. He let go of Mae, who sat back up, her eyes wide in questioning.
“What is it boy?” she asked sweetly.
The boy took a deep breath, the red on his cheeks almost as red as his hair. He looked at Mountain with large blue eyes, still gasping for air as he said, “Mountain! There’s a man… a boy… a young man… He looks just like you, M-Mountain sir! Only… only…”
Mountain leaned forward, close enough to see the sprinkle of freckles on the boy’s nose. “What? What is it?”
“He’s… he looks like you, but he’s… he’s evil. There’s a large black cloud following him! He’s coming this way! Mountain, you’ve gotta run!”
Mountain looked at him and stood, then picked him up. “Heroes don’t run, boy. Now point to where he is.” The boy pointed straight ahead, at the dark black cloud.
The Path of Darkness
Mountain looked at the unused trail to the right. He took a step towards the right pathway, and then faltered. He had come on this enigmatic trip for adventure, and to him, it seemed like he had been through enough adventure just getting there. The trail looked deep and dangerous, while the one on the left looked easier.
Well, thought Mountain, time for me to make it easier on myself. He turned left and walked down that pathway.
The sky was ominous and morbid black. Mountain stood at the tip of a cliff over a small town, his hands on his hips. He wore a spangle helm and carried a square target shield around his back. His rapier was an Aged Hercules Knot Reitschwert; custom made to fit his very hand. Of course, the blacksmith who made it had been killed once he finished.
Mountain smiled maliciously as he watched the scream and terror of those he put his wrath upon. The sun no longer existed for the wretched world. He had pulverized it himself; smashed it to bits until it crumbled in his fury. He laughed a dark, gloomy laugh thinking back on it.
Mountain turned and faced his white horse, kept under control by the sweet girl named Mae.
Mountain approached the girl, who was about his age, and gently stroked her cheek; she spit in his face. He smacked her as punishment, and then mounted the horse, pulled her up with him, and rode away into the town.
The sky was black: there was no moon and there were no stars due to the billowing smoke that invaded the sky. Mountain would conquer the whole world soon enough. He smiled coldly.
Mountain rode Mae to the outskirts of town, getting off the horse and grabbing her by the waist, carrying her. With his armor, he was stronger than any human alive. He set Mae down and said to her gruffly, “Make me something to eat, Mae.”
“That’s Miss Mae to you,” she spat. Mountain glared and she flinched.
“Pompous girl,” he murmured. “Get into the house!”
Mae flinched but did as Mountain ordered. She ran inside, tears bursting from her eyes as she closed the door and slammed the shudders hard enough to make the wooden shack shake.
Mountain smiled, feeling no remorse for the nondescript girl. He leaned against his white horse, stroking it, feeling its weight shift from foot to foot in nervousness, its obedience and discipline being the only thing keeping it there. The silver gauntlet on his right hand stroked the horse, catching some hair in its metal folds.
Mountain looked towards the gloomy sky, his muscles twitching to feel the rumble of thunder under his feet, and the sudden shower of rain. The horse reared up when the lightning flashed, causing Mountain to throw his head back and laugh, his mouth catching rain drops. He took the horse by the reins and led it to the broken stable, tying it to a post.
“I won’t be so cruel tonight,” he said, scrutinizing the area. “Hopefully none of the village boys get any ideas to steal you from me,” he finished, pulling the horse’s neck towards his face and kissing the damp hair, laughing when the horse became antsy. He left the stable and walked into the house, where Mae was thrashing and throwing things all around, apparently cooking a stew over the fire. Mountain stood with the door open, the rain drenching him completely, amused when Mae jumped at the sight of him.
Mae looked up at him, one hand to her breast as he approached her, pinning her to the table with his gaze.
“Supper will be done soon,” she whispered, a fierce lion behind the mouse in her words.
Mountain smiled and said a little too softly, “Of course, my dear.” He ran the cold metal fingers of his gauntlet down her warm face that blushed a deep crimson. He continued in his soft purr, “My armor will rust, as well as my rapier. I’ll need you to clean it so it doesn’t.” He smiled softly, and then smelled the air. “Smells like something’s burning, Mae.” He looked down at Mae who instantly ran to get the stew off the fire, glad to have an excuse to get away from him.
Mountain went to the other corner of the house and began to strip. It was loud as he took off his armor, piling it up beside the unused bed. He took off his wet shirt, looking sidelong at Mae who stole a few glances at him. He looked at the pile of clean clothes, then removed his pants and changed into brown breeches and a cream shirt. He approached Mae again, reasonably smaller and more his age, and she said over her shoulder, “Supper is served.” She moved gracefully out of his way, carrying two bowls and setting them onto the table, one on each end.
“I want you to sit on my right,” he said, his voice not so demanding. Mae silently moved her own bowl to the right of his, handed him his utensils, and sat down after him. Mountain smiled and ate his stew greedily.
“I think it’s good, don’t you, Mountain?” Mae asked humbly, taking a delicate sip.
“Don’t gloat, Miss Mae,” Mountain teased meanly. Mae slouched forward into her seat, staring at the candle in the center of the table glumly.
“I’m finished,” she announced, standing and taking her bowl. She paused for a moment and looked at Mountain, who stared at her, his spoon halfway to his half-opened mouth.
“Looks like you’re finished too,” she said in a stone voice, taking his bowl away. Mountain looked after her as she kicked opened the door, poured out the bowls of stew, and then dumped the bowls into the mud angrily. She turned on her heel and slammed the door, getting into the bed on the right, and turning her back to Mountain. Mountain hadn’t even put the spoon inside his mouth.
He decided to sleep on the unused bed that night.
In the morning, not much different from night, Mountain watched Mae clean his armor with a content look on his face. Her sweaty face was distraught with anger and hard work as she scrubbed the rust away.
During the afternoon, as Mountain stood stiffly with his armor, he saw a small boy running furiously to his side, his red hair shocking to the gray. The boy huffed and puffed, his fear forgotten from the look of surprise on Mountain’s face. The boy looked up at him, and said in a panting voice, “There’s someone… there’s really someone!” The boy’s hand reached out and pointed behind him, meaning to the other side of town. “He’s just arrived… He looks like you…” Then he stopped, remembering his fear. He ran somewhat away and squeaked, “But he’s a good fellow, unlike you!”
He ran, Mountain gazed, thinking, Not him again, not the hero…I thought I took care of that goody-goody! How dare he in the name of Hhales ruin my plans so incisively! He saw the word spread throughout the people, and then they all went towards that end of the town, excited, their fear all forgotten, just like the boy’s, completely replaced with a bright hope.
“Miss Mae, out here now!” Mae appeared, pale and weak at the doorway, visibly shaking. “Get something on, you’re coming with me.”
Mountain had put his armor on, his body clanking with every movement. He had Mae in his grasp around her neck, and she stumbled to keep up with him. He went to the cliff, the highest part of the town, and called to him. “HERO, GET HERE NOW!” He shoved Mae to a far part away from the cliff’s edge.
Mountain the Dark took his rapier and unsheathed it as Mountain the Hero came scrambling up the cliff side, first looking at Mae with fear, and almost rushing to her when he noticed Mountain the Dark.
“We meet again, Hero. What are you sporting? No armor?”
“You killed the only blacksmith,” he said defiantly, standing up straight. The Hero was soaked, his hair plastered to his head and his white shirt clinging to his body. He had mud caked on his shoes and the bottom of his pants. He looked wet and cold: but angry.
Mountain the Dark smiled wickedly. “Yes, I didn’t think he’d be of any use to anyone. You look positively pallor, Hero.”
“You look as disgusting as ever, Dark.”
“Do you have a sword?”
“And shield.” Hero ran behind him and the boy with the shocking red hair handed him (with some difficulty), his only protection.
“Those are impressive. In fact, they look new.”
Hero looked at him. “They are. I’ve been saving them for you.” Mountain the Dark was silent as Mountain the Hero strapped his shield to his arm and gripped the sword securely in his other hand. Hero looked at Dark with narrowed eyes and said in a low voice, “Do you wish to contend with me?” Dark nodded, putting his helmet on, which creaked under the rain.
Hero moved his blade, what little light there was catching it and reflecting it into Dark’s face, making him blink, but he dodged the Hero’s blow. The Hero took the butt of his sword handle and made contact with the Dark’s helmet, making a ringing dent.
The Dark took a swing at Hero’s side, but he missed by a thread, only cutting Hero’s shirt. Hero stood back, his shield protecting his torso as he jumped at Dark, stabbing him.
Dark used his hand to hit Hero across the head, making Hero fall. He got back up quickly, already in stance. Blood poured from Dark’s side, but he took no notice. His eyes were nearly red with rage.
As they circled each other, swinging an attack every now and then, people started gathering. Mae still lay on the ground, watching in horror.
Finally, the Dark slipped, his knee pushing deep into the mud so he could not get up quickly. The Hero stepped in front of him, looking down at him; anger in his kind eyes.
Mountain the Good and Mountain the Evil, fighting one another in fury for power. Hunger, passion, desire, all those elements powered them to move, motivated them to fight, to bleed, and to cry.
The Dark took his sword and hit the Hero in a capillary in the leg. The Hero staggered near the up-slope of the cliff with a groan, but refused to fall for the Dark. He glanced at Mae with love.
The Dark removed his knee from the mud, approaching Hero in a dominating fashion, growling. He took his helmet off, figuring he had already won. He took his dazzling rapier and lifted it high above his head, ready to make a swing at the Hero’s head. He swung it low to make contact. But it made contact with the Hero’s blade. The Hero continued to push with his anger powering him, but he couldn’t stand much longer, his blood drenching the ground and his leg already.
A bolt of livid lightning flashed down onto them, making them both stumble.
As Mae screamed Mountain’s name, they both pushed each other off the cliff in absolute ire.
The Last Way
Mountain pondered both ways to go. He’d come for adventure, which would lead to the right. But he’d had a lot of adventure getting there, and the plainer way was the left.
He stood, trying to make a decision. Mountain yawned widely, his jaw cracking, bored with thinking about it. It wasn’t so exciting anymore.
Well, after a small nap I guess I could make my decision then… he thought sleepily.
He looked at the big tree in front of him, and about how sweet it smelled, and sat under its luscious leaves, yawning and stretching out, then leaning against it and closing his eyes, a small smile on his lips as he dreamt.
Then, suddenly, the bark on the tree opened where Mountain napped, and Mountain fell through the black pit silently.
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