I woke at dawn of the third day of my return. The final day of this month. The people were already rousing from the night’s sleep. I tried to yell, but all that issued forth was a rush of dry air. My mouth was parched. My tongue rough. My body doused in pain. I watched helplessly as they all began the day’s work. The last day in our home.
I had read the Words. The same as anyone else. They meant as much to me as they did to the others. It had been my nourishment all through youth. I, as all the others, relied on the Words to sustain us. And still the day came when I had to ask the question.
Called forth in front of the people on the dawn of my fifteenth year, I was given the task to ask this question: My question to decide my truth. I was tasked to search as long as I needed to find my answers, but know that none could wait forever for my return. So I chose to learn of the Promise of The Distant. The frozen winds were bearing down on us and the question begged an answer. When my decision was made, it was shown to me that I would be unwelcome on my return if I had failed to find the correct answer. The winds howled once more in the distance; announcing their imminent arrival. With these warnings my choice was sealed above all else.
The pack was heavy, but it would be needed. The people questioned my decision once more, but they did not fail to provide for my journey. The sting of cold coming on the air reminded them of my choice.
I set out as the sun began its rise. I began my trek toward it. On the way to greet it on the final dawn. The village stood at my back. I knew even then that the people were preparing to flee in the face of the wind. They would make this same journey in a month’s time. I would have to be swift. Half the time there, half the time back. My question had to be answered and I had to return it to them. I had to try.
Three days’ time I spent in the forest. The calm, welcoming lands had been my home since birth. The cold on the wind was coming to change that. On the final morning, it gave way to shifting sands. I feared to cross, but let the nights give some shelter in my passage and spent the days clinging to wandering shades of abandoned skeletons. Five days through and I was a husk. My feet led me to a river to refill my body. It sprang as if from nothing and went my way. My companion for two days through arid lands before losing itself in the swamps. Three days in the swamp. I was beset by dragons and made ill by dark waters, but I had been prepared by the people. Some of them had seen this far. At the edge of the swamp, I thought of the final two days I could spend. I wanted the words to be true, and yet I found nothing. I hoped above all that I would find the Distant on these final two days. Mountains rose before me. Higher and higher until the clouds hid their peaks. I prepared myself with the items I had been given on my departure and pressed forward. I fought the cold. Fought the unsteady earth. Fought my own fear. I climbed on in darkness through the final night.
On the morning of that second day, I found my answer. I stood atop of the highest peak and waited for the sun. The clouds had scattered in my presence. I felt this moment had been given to me. What I saw answered my question.
Knowing they would refuse to believe, I still had to return and try. I had to share my answer. I had to do whatever possible to help them choose. Our way forward would not lead where we had hoped. There was nothing there. An empty void where the very earth falls away at our feet. The true way forward would send us back through what we had been told to fear. Through things the Words had cautioned against. On our own, but whole. This was the answer I had received.
I watched them still on this dawn of the third day of my return. I had given them the wrong answer. I had not found their truth. Yet as they prepared, there were eyes that regarded me with a certain knowledge. A renewed understanding or at least a desire to understand. Change was already coming and for that, I was at peace with my end.