*Listen to the Audio* | Read Part One
I shouted a battle cry. Sure, to the untrained ear it might have sounded like a squeal of fear but believe you me, I was devoted to this adventure now. So it was a battle cry.
I tried to channel my inner ninja but only succeeded in tripping over my own feet and falling, hauling the person who had grabbed me down to the ground too. I added ninja (right underneath woodsman) to my list of things I would not grow up to be. I finally managed to disentangle myself from the other person, who it turned out, was a rather hairy man. He was a waifish fellow with a white beard nearly down to his knees but as he got up I suspected it only looked long because he was bowed over with age.
He grumped and complained about ‘youngsters these days’, which made me feel a little guilty for knocking such an old guy to the ground.
“Well?” I said, a bit defensively, “You shouldn’t just grab random people in the woods!”
“Hush! He’ll hear you!” The old man ordered, “Do you have the Spark?”
“Spark? Who will hear? What on earth are you talking about?” I stood, doing my best to scrape mud off. “You are SO lucky I don’t have my mace with me!”
“Mace?” He snorted with derision. “You don’t have enough muscles to even lift a mace, let alone hit me with it.”
That remark snuffed my building grumpiness. Was this an actor? He had to be. Our tumble into the mud had revealed he was solid and not a hologram. I eyed him and suddenly I got it. This was going to be the old-man-who-knows-everything-you-need-to-know-about-this-quest cliche! I mentally shifted gears.
“Sorry,” I said, “You startled me is all.”
He shrugged then grumbled quietly, “I suppose I did at that. Come, my cave is not far and it will hide us from the Arrgorak for a time.”
He started off at a good clip, catching me flat-footed. He was faster than I expected a man of his age would be! I scrambled to follow, having to jog a bit to catch up.
“Arrgorak?” I asked.
“An agent of of Destruction,” He said, shaking his head. He somehow managed to insert capitol letters into his speech, emphasizing that Destruction was a name or title, not just a description.
“I don’t understand,” I said. I assumed an agent of Destruction was bad. It sounded bad. But when one is handed an information resource, one should use it by asking questions.
He gave me a, long, appraising look over his shoulder. Amazingly, he kept his brisk pace and didn’t trip or run into anything as he eyeballed me. Finally he said, “No, I suppose you wouldn’t. You do have the Spark though, right?”
That was the second time he had asked me that. I was confused for a moment then it dawned on me. The only item I had received on this quest was the orb. It was still clenched in my fist but out of sight. I liked my sweatshirts just a little bit big so the sleeves came down over my hands, eliminating the need for gloves most of the time. I pulled up my sleeve and held out the orb.
“You mean this?” I asked. A rumble of thunder shook the woods. The old man looked at me with alarm.
“Yes, yes that! Put it back! Hide it!” I quickly pulled the sleeve down over my hand again. Immediately the rumbling thunder died away. Hmm, that was interesting. So the monster – this Arrgorak character – was able to track the orb somehow. But keeping it hidden, even under the scant protection of my sleeve stopped his divining of it’s location? Seemed a bit of a stretch to me but whatever, I mentally shrugged. This was some kind of beta test anyway.
It didn’t take us long to reach his cave. It was just the right size for him but I had to bend and walk hunched over to get inside. It was lit by a small fire that had been banked to side of the cave. There must have been a natural chimney above it, otherwise I think the cave would have been filled with smoke.
The old man sat down near the coals on top of a pile of furs. He gestured for me to join him. I did and the old man tossed a couple sticks onto the fire and poked it to life. I was grateful for the warmth and stretched out one hand toward the fire, keeping the other, with the Spark, in my lap.
“You can bring the Spark out now. There is no sunlight that reaches my cave until near sunset.”
“So it’s sunlight that makes the Arrgorak find it?” I asked, setting the Spark down and extended both hands to the fire.
“Roundaboutly, yes,” he said. “Tell me, what do you know about Creation?”
“Um,” I said. These were the moments I hated when playing D&D. I wanted to like them, really I did! But quick and clever conversation was never my strong point. Didn’t matter if it was real or role playing. I was not good at talking to people. I liked to think too much and sometimes when I think of a response it has a hard time reaching my mouth.
The old man waited while I thought. A group of impatient players, he was not.
“Creation is bringing something to life,” I finally said. “Making something where there was nothing there before. It’s drawing, painting, writing…is that what you mean?”
He chuckled, “Yes. And more.” He leaned back, looking up at the ceiling of his cave. His eyes had a far-off look in them.
“There are three major forces that govern the worlds. Creation, Destruction, and Balance. The forces of Creation build up. The forces of Destruction tear down. The forces of Balance can do both and will side with either if one gains too much advantage over the other.”
“What would happen if one side did gain the advantage?” I asked, “Wouldn’t it be good if Creation won? Isn’t Creation good?”
“It’s not really about good and evil, child. These forces are not moral. They simply are. They do what they do and they are necessary. Without Destruction, Creation would have no materials with which to build. Without Creation, Destruction would have nothing to tear down. Without the constant change of building up and tearing down, nothing new would happen. Nothing would ever change. Nothing would ever grow. Nothing would ever die. Lessons would not be learned. People would not change. Everything would remain as it is, always.”
“Is that bad?” I asked. He rapped a knuckle hard on my head, eliciting a yelp from me.
“You’re not listening. It is not good. It is not bad. But it would be rather boring if nothing changed. No love, no life, no babies. Just the same thing always. Stale. But since these forces exist, we do have change and growth, and new things. ”
I wasn’t sure I grasped his meaning. Stale was bad. Growth was good. But I kept my mouth shut, rubbing the stinging spot on my scalp. He continued.
“Each of the forces have powerful tools at their disposal. Tools that enhance their respective works. Three for Creation. Three for Destruction, Two for Balance. That orb that Mitinia gave you is called the Spark of Creation. One of the three tools.”
I held the orb up, it pulsed one.
“Did you see that?” He asked. I nodded. “One of the Spark’s special properties is that it will always pulse once when truth is being spoken. You can also ask it if something is true.”
“Is it true that I love technology?” I asked experimentally. The Spark flashed once. I grinned.
“I love mushrooms!” I said. The Spark’s light remained steady. Despite myself, I was impressed. I hated mushrooms. They must have built in some kind of lie detector to the Spark. I looked again at the old man.
“You said confirming truth is one of it’s special properties. What are the others?”
“It can become a weapon in your hands. Any kind that you choose.”
My eyes widened. “How do I make it do that?”
“You can’t make it,” He said with a scoff. “You must ask it.”
Feeling a little silly I held up the Spark and asked, “Please transform into a gun.”
There was a blinding flash of light and I felt the Spark shift in my hands. The light faded almost immediately and I found that I held a small pistol in my hands.
“Wow,” was all I meant to say but then my mouth started running faster than my brain. I guess I got excited and whatever word dam was in my subconscious, that blocked my speech most of the time, just broke. I fired off requests in rapid succession and the Spark kept changing from one weapon to another as I asked. Sword, Bow, Sniper Rifle, Dagger, Kitchen Knife, Grenade…
“Stop!” The old man shouted, his voice echoing in the cave. It startled me into silence.
“The power of the Spark is not to be used lightly! It takes a great deal of sunlight to power it. You will use up all it’s energy with your foolishness if you are not careful and there is still an enemy out there who at this very moment is hunting you. Even in this cave, out of the daylight, such rapid pulses of power could draw his attention.”
Chastised, I blushed and mumbled an apology. Then I bid the Spark return to it’s normal shape. Good to know it had a mana limit, and here I was burning it up for no good reason.
“Plus,” the old man continued, “I do not think it’s a good idea to use the grenade form. Throwing your most powerful weapon out of your reach is rarely a good idea.” He kept a straight face when he said it but I caught a twinkle in his eye.
“True,” I said, smiling sheepishly. “I hadn’t thought of that.”
“The last ability,” He said after a moment, “Is it will give life to anything.”
“You mean, it can make anything?” I asked, confused.
“No!” I got a knuckle rap on the head. “You create. The ability to create comes from you. It comes from here.” He tapped my head, more gently this time. “And here” He tapped my chest, over my heart.
“It is your mind, your heart, and your will, that creates. Your imagination is limitless. Your will is boundless. Your heart has room for it all. The Spark, for all it’s glory and wonder, can only give your creations the breath of life. Nothing more.”
I nodded then sat thinking for a little while. “Why me?” I asked.
“Humans are agents of Balance. You are able to create and destroy. You, I think, are a natural agent of Creation. Otherwise I don’t think Mitinia would have given you the Spark and sacrificed herself and her tree in order to give you a chance.” He eyed me appraisingly. “You are some kind of artist? Inventor? Writer? Do you build things? Help people?”
“Help people?” I queried. “How is that creating?”
“Don’t you think building a relationship takes time and effort? Don’t you think when you help someone you are building them up?”
Nodding thoughtfully I said, “That makes sense. And to answer your question – yes. I do dabble in a lot of things. Usually whatever catches my interest.”
“I thought so! It is that gift and that desire within you to create that made you worthy to carry the Spark. And now that the Spark is in the possession of a creator it draws the Arrgorak to you. Destruction wishes to destroy you before you become fluent in this tool’s use. So child, you must make a choice; to hide or to create.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, puzzled. I was expecting a fight-or-flight speech. Hide or Create? That was a new one on me.
“It is a choice given to all new bearers of one of the tools.” He said, solemnly, “For nearly two centuries, Destruction has been gaining the upper hand. It easily finds allies whereas Creation’s allies are few. Few are willing to take up the Spark and make something with it. It will draw agents of Destruction to you and you will have to fight them from time to time. Agents like the Arrgorak – though most of the time you will not face enemies who are so strong nor so obvious as him.”
I chuckled. Big always equaled dumb in every game I’d ever played. This one was going to be no different. The old man smiled at my amusement but continued to speak in that solemn voice.
“The agents of Creation, like the dryad and I, have given the Spark to many a mortal, only to have them decide to Guard instead of Create. You can choose to do the same.
“You will be perfectly safe so long as you never bring the Spark into the light of day. And while you are it’s guardian, you must never do anything to draw the attention of Destruction to it. You must suppress your creative desires and curiosities. It’s surprisingly easy to do, you know. The demands of your modern lifestyle are many. You can get caught up in a hundred different things to do and not leave yourself a moment to think about doodles or rhymes or the needs of others.”
He let that hang in the air a moment.I shuddered, thinking of a life without creation in it. I could well imagine what he described. It had been my life as of late. I had been running from project to project, working on autopilot until every waking minute was spent and I had not found time for myself, let alone spare time for my favorite hobbies. If this whole thing were real, I don’t think I could live like that. Hiding all the time.
“Or,” The old man went on, “You can create. You can counter Destruction’s tearing down by building up. Creating with the Spark in your possession will amplify your work and it’s effectiveness against Destruction’s efforts.
“I will not lie to you, child. We need champions in this day. Too many of the chosen have succumbed to Destruction’s influence. Too many artists and creators listen to the voices of critics – voices of Destruction – and put away their creations forever. Or if they do create, they hide it. They apologize for it. They don’t bring their works into the light. They don’t share with the world. No, instead, they too often join the forces of Destruction and tear down the works of others.
“Guarding and hiding the Spark will keep it safe, but it will do Creation no good. The scale is tipped far in Destruction’s favor right now. It has been nearly two centuries since someone took up the Spark and used it as it was meant to be used. We need our creators. We need those who are brave enough to make, to build and to share; to inspire others to do the same. To bring the world back from the brink of chaos.
“You have been given a gift. You can choose to hide it or use it. There are no other options.”
That was a great life lesson if I’d ever heard one. I sat and pondered for a while. The old man left me to my thoughts as he too sat in silence. The rain pattered down with only the occasional distant thunder to interrupt the gentle sounds.
Though I knew what the answer would probably be, I asked anyway, “Can’t I just give the Spark back to you?”
He shook his head, “No, child. The Spark will stay with you for the rest of your life. When you die, the Spark dies too and it takes nearly twenty years to grow a new one.”
“Grow?” I asked.
“Yes, the tools can never be truly destroyed but the life goes out of them when the mortal they are bound to dies. Then the essence of the Spark returns to the earth to be reborn. Mitinia’s spirit will return with it and it will grow a new tree for her while she hides it from Destruction until another human is chosen to take it.”
“So Mitinia and her tree will live again?”
“Yes, she will.”
Every quest needs a logical way to reset for the next player, I thought, amused. I felt thoroughly drained of questions and the old man didn’t make any more leading remarks so I assumed it was time for the next step in this quest progression. I stood, looking out into the rainy afternoon. There was a rumbling in the distance, as if the Arrgorak too knew that it was time.
“So what will it be youngster?” The old man asked.
I glanced at him and grinned. “I’ll fight.”
He raised an eyebrow at me and I amended my statement, “I’ll create.”
To Be Concluded on 2/23/2015