|Image credit: DeviantArt|
Suggested by: +Zachary Totah
-The edge of the world
-a book of blank pages
Torik took one glance at the mud squelching under his boots, the rickety old shack half sagging into the swamp, and the wide expanse of nothing but fog and muted vegetation—he took it all in with a single glance and shook his head. He whirled upon his parents, sitting up there on the wagon; he thought they looked so smug.
"I hate it here," he grumbled. "I don't want to stay!"
His father jumped down from the wagon, smoothing his sore hands on the front of his soft jerkin. His thick boots hardly sank at all into the mud.
"Tis all right, lad! Your mother and I shall have this fixed in no time at all, and you will not know it from the home we had in the city!"
Torik crossed his arms as the cool breeze bit through his trousers. He gestured round about them. "With the exception of—I don't know, another living soul within twenty miles of this place. Honestly, father! It's pretty much the very edge of the world out here. Why did we have to travel so far out of the kingdom, anyway?"
His father helped his rosy-cheeked wife from her seat in the wagon. She only had eyes for her husband; she didn't much care about the state of her hem or shoes. At Torik's petulant question, the couple glanced uneasily at each other. He saw Father nod to Mother. She obliged and turned to Torik, placing her hands on his shoulders.
"Sometimes it happens," she attempted feebly, "that a decision is made and those affected by it must wait to discover the purpose behind it."
Torik looked at her, the disgust at her suggestion showing plainly on his face. "You don't know?" He pushed away from her. "You took me away from my school and my friends and any hope of a bright and prosperous future... And you don't know why?"
Mother opened her mouth to say something, but Torik was done listening. He stormed away—but the only place to go was inside the dilapidated inn. He knew he wanted to get away, so he did not stop in any of the rooms but kept going to the furthest point of the building: a small turret at the back of the attic. He closed the door behind him, both informing them of where he was, and also warning them not to come after him. Torik hunched in the bay of a window in the turret, where the spires of the castle were only barely visible through the hazy mist. Unmanly tears stung his eyes, and the sobs formed like stones in his throat. He gaped and heaved a few deep, slow breaths to calm himself. The move had been the worst thing ever to happen, but there wasn't much he could do about it now. As the sun dipped below the horizon, Torik's stomach rumbled, reminding him that it had been a long while since the midday meal, and he was hungry all over again.
"Though what she could cook in a place like this," he groused to himself, "is beyond me!"
A flash of white caught his eye. Torik stopped and peered closer. A stack of folded pages, tucked into a forgotten, dusty corner. A book, perhaps? Torik pulled it out.
The pages were blank. Everything about this place was one disappointment after another! He almost dropped it, but an impulse drove him to slip it into the pocket of his tunic instead. He would decide what to do with it later.
Mother, Father, and Torik sat down to a silent, simple meal, after which Torik went up to the room that he could claim as his own. Quite alone by candlelight, he pulled out the blank book. It seemed pretty pointless to him, to have a book so skillfully made and yet left unfilled. Pointless—useless—like moving to the backside of the kingdom.
Torik let a bemused smirk curl his lips as he found a small pencil nib in his pack and marred the dull-white surface of the page.
I hate it here. The bog smells, there’s no sound—not even birds—and no people and nothing. This is the Inn at The Edge of The World, and it’s every bit as horrid as one would expect.
He read over his words with satisfaction. Somehow, venting them gave his feelings merit, and he could blow out the candle and sleep without the weight of his current depraved circumstances keeping him awake.
It felt like only a few scant hours had passed when Torik found himself awake yet again. A part of his mind alerted him that the candle still burned—but the wick was dark and the wax still cold. So what had awoken him?
The white flash of light ignited in his eyes again. Torik blinked and reached toward the source—his fingers connected with the familiar rough surface of the blank book he had found. Curious, he pulled the book toward him and opened it.
A thin thread of light flashed around in swirling, swooping arcs. Torik put out his finger to trace the nebulous figure—and the glowing thread seemed to reach out of the page and wrap itself around his finger! Torik nearly dropped the book as he pulled his finger back—but the light remained. A tiny face at the end, alongside his fingertip, blinked at him. Torik recognized the shape from fables: it was a miniscule wyrm—a book-wyrm, to be precise. It had been trapped in the blank pages, but Torik’s simple action of writing words had freed it.
Torik sighed as he cleared the table after the evening meal. Neither his mother nor his father had commented yet about the dramatic change of attitude over the last week, but then again, Torik liked it better that way. At least they didn’t give him those nervous, guilty glances. They could interact as a family again, much more comfortably than Torik ever expected.
His parents had accepted that Torik’s habit of running up to his room and then out to the moor was all part of his accepting their new situation. They didn’t question him.
Torik stroked the cover of his book as he walked. It had been blank and useless when he found it—now it was nearly full of story upon story telling of his adventures with Akhenar, the Book-Wyrm trapped inside the pages. He walked until he was well out of sight of the inn, and only then did he dare open the cover.
Akhenar swirled out of the cover, bursting forth in the twilight. As the story had grown, so had the wyrm. Now its head was bigger than Torik himself, and its body could reach from one end of the moor to the other. It hovered over the murky surface, bending down so Torik could rub its head.
Torik only had one more part to write in his story, one more page to fill. Once again, he felt the sobs lumping in his throat as they had the first day he arrived—but today, it was for quite a different reason.
Akhenar must have sensed that which was to come; it bent down and nudged closer to its friend and master.
“Our time is short,” Torik murmured, hugging Akhenar once more. “Thank you for helping me.” He stood and pulled out his pencil. “Now it is my turn to help you.”
Turning to the last page, he wrote.
Now it comes time to say farewell. The boy is happy here with his family. The story is ending, the Book Wyrm shall be free.
He stopped and looked up at the beady eyes hovering over him.
“You’ll visit me, in the city,” he asked. “Won’t you?”
In answer, Akhenar swooped around Torik a dozen times, wrapping the boy in a cyclone of blinding light. Torik understood; Akhenar would always be around, even as a free Wyrm.
He nodded. “Then I guess this is farewell, for now.”
He set the pencil to the paper and scratched the words:
Previously In This Series:
Crossover Parts: "Rendezvous" (SM 6/SL 2) "The Viking and the Lore-Master" (SM 9/SL 4)
#26 "The Tides of Battle"
#1 "Red of Morning"