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Jarl hauled himself onto the plateau in time to see the first rays of the morning sun shoot skywards as the the great burning golden globe rose majestically between the distant twin peaks of the Protas Mountains. He raised his arms heavenwards in a gesture of victory and defiance. Then he fell prostrate in an act of humility and submission,remembering his quest.
It had been five years since his master Zhalas Khan had addressed him in the great Sacred Chamber of
Darath. “I have called you here in the name of all the great spirits of the Zorthan. You have been prepared through meditation and prayer, through the martial arts and secrets of the Gormoth. You have been humbled and raised up to wisdom and inner strength, you have been tested with fire, pain and challenges to your mind and heart you have been broken and restored to a new and greater whole. You are at one with the spirits of the Zorthan. You are ready.”
“Master, “Jarl had replied with bowed head, ” can this humble one ask his great teacher for what humble task this poor servant is ready to perform?”
“My son,” Zhalas had smiled,laying his hands softly on Jarl’s head. “Yours is the task which can only once be undertaken in the cycle of Tryoperus and by the One who is he specially honed and prepared for this great task. You are he. You are the One. ”
Jarl fell to his knees. “I am ready,Master. Instruct me, show me the way to my destiny.”
Zhalas then had reached into his tunic and produced an ancient parchment He unrolled it on the floor of the chamber. It was an ancient map. “Here,my son”, Zhalas pointed to the map, “is the chart of the long and dangerous journey you alone must undertake before you can complete your destiny. It takes you across the Great Sea of Phorl, over the Makassi Desert, and through the unchartered Jungles of Dalathea. Each of these holds unknown dangers, wild and fierce animals of incredible size strength and ferocity. You will be alone, armed and fed only with what you might find along your journey “
“Master, I will obey and suffer whatever I must to serve the Spirits of Zorthan”Jarl had replied.” But what will I find at the end of my journey,what task awaits?”
“When you have climbed the Cliffs of Yarl.”, Zhalas had continued,” You will stand before the Cave of Tarran on the Shorg Plateau At the entrance to the cave is the Great Bell of Tarl. You must ring this three times . This will awaken and summon Zorgon the guardian of all truth and wisdom. “
Jarl had remained bowed. “What is my purpose in summoning the guardian of all truth and wisdom?”
Zhalas had replied ” Then you must ask him the question”
Jarl had spoken still without raising his head. “Master, what is the question?”
Zhalas had smiled and then spoke softly but with great seriousness “You will know the question when you have completed your journey. You must stand before Zorgon and look into his ancient eyes and ask your question. Only He,the Great Guardian of all truth and wisdom can answer, only he can decide if your question is wise enough to allow you to live and return to us. Do not fail, my son in your hands is this task of ages, the hope of all mankind rests upon your shoulders. “
Jarl remembered how he had kissed is masters feet and humbly intoned his reply “Master I am prepared
I will complete this great journey and seek the wisdom and truth in the question I must ask.”
Zhalas had taken Jarl’s hand and lifted him to his feet. “Go now, my son, and the great spirits guard and protect you and the force of the Cosmos be with you.”
So Jarl had began his perilous journey. On the shores of the great Sea of Phorl he had built a boat from the phasa trees along the shoreline using axes and chisels fashioned from the hard razor sharp boros rocks. scattered along the beaches. He caught fish to eat and made fire with driftwood. He used the huge leaves of the grampas plant to make sails for his boat, he carved oars from the trees in case he should find his boat becalmed. When he had stocked his boat with make shift spears and knives and a small number of fish for the first day he launched his boat as the skies darkened using the stars to navigate his way across this great sea. He recalled the weeks of desolation, thirst and hunger. He remembered The night he was attacked by a colony of Sherphu eels and the huge shark like creatures that often circled his small boat in the day. Then there was the serpent. In his wildest nightmares he had never imagined such a creature. Hundreds of great crimson coils thrashed the sea into a seething cauldron of spume and foam Then a great storm suddenly brewed and huge bolts of lightening played over the head of the great serpent and it sank slowly into the waves and disappeared. At last after months at the mercy of the elements and sea monsters Jarl’s little boat ran ashore at the edge of the great Makassi Desert.
Already the cold biting winds from the east froze Jarl’s very bones.He tore down the tattered shredded sail from his boat and wrapped it around his frozen body. Finding a rock he huddled away from the winds icy blast and using the timbers of his boat made fire to warm his body and cook his meagre rations of fish caught on the last few days of his journey across the sea.
Daybreak brought warmth and dew upon his clothing the precious drops of water he licked and savoured. He began to run across the warm sands heading southwards towards the Jungles of Dalathea.
As the sun rose the sands became unbearably hot. As weakness dehydration and delirium began to overtake him Jarl suddenly stumbled upon a small wadi. Shade and water and fruit hanging from the small number of trees revived Jarl. As the afternoon cooled the sands and the fierce heat subsided Jarl resumed his journey making good progress until nightfall brought back the biting winds. This daily
cycle was Jarl’s lot for the next unknown number of days. One evening at a shady wadi a giant porcupine came snuffling to drink as Jarl picked fig fruit from one of the tall trees he had climbed.. Using a vine as a rope he quickly made a lasso and dispatched the porcupine with a quick and expert jerk on the noose around the neck. The giant quills were tipped with poison and would Jarl reasoned make good arrows or javelins. He constructed a bow from flat spring branches using weed rope to bind and for the drawstring. A few nights later Jarl had cause to be grateful for his weaponry when a pack of two headed wolves began to circle the rocks where Jarl was sheltering. Jarl expertly shot a spine arrow into the eye of the leading wolf. Immediately the rest of the pack fell upon their dead companion and started to devour him. Jarl hastily made his escape and continued on his journey. Jarl all but perished in the freezing quicksands of the Farral. Only his lightening reactions and strength saved him when he managed to jam a quill in the crevice of a overhanging rock.
The desert gradually gave way to the thick and foreboding jungle of Dalathea. The jungle soon became practically impenetrable. Razor sharp spines of cacti and huge thorns barred the way. The rays of the sun barely penetrated to the floor of the jungle through the giant trees with there lush and large overhanging foliage. Leeches the size of a man’s foot threatened to attach themselves to Jarl’s exposed flesh. Weird and exotic plants of every colour and hue grew in abundance. Jarl knew from his studies guided by his master Zhalas Khan how distinguish poisonous fruits and berries from those that would sustain and nourish him. Then there were the beasts. Large three fanged lion like beasts that prowled and fed on the small animals. The great crimson and green snakes many feet long that spat venom into the eyes of their prey before devouring them whole. Jarl used man’s ancient protector against the wild beasts. Fire He kept a large roaring blaze during the times he rested at night. Using his stone tools and spines from the desert Jarl was able to snare and kill small mammals to roast on his roaring fire.
Jarl was able to navigate by noting the faint shadows cast by the rays of the sun and the very occasional glimpses of the moon and stars in a a rare clearing. Once Jarl had been bitten by a Quax beetle. Before he lost conscientiousness he was able to make a brew of berries and herbs which he remembered should clear the poison from his system and heal him. He was just able to take a draft of his brew and stoke his fire with large logs before he passed into fitful fever. Finally his fever broke. Weak and light headed Jarl continued his journey. Then as he emerged into an early morning light he stood before the towering Cliffs of Yarl.
He had found here and there a few small crevices hand and foot holds which Jarl had used to inch his way slowly but inexorably to where he now stood at the entrance to the great Cave of Tarran with his hand on the rope attached to the Great Bell of Tarl. He was ready. He knew the question he must ask He pulled on the rope and the Great Bell Tarl sounded its rich deep tone, echoing across the valleys, relayed from mountain top to mountain top. Three times Jarl pulled hard on the rope. The final echoes of the huge tones finally died away. The great gates slowly swung open at the cave entrance, silently and smoothly until the cave entrance was fully exposed. Jarl waited. He waited what seemed an eternity until finally a tall and majestic figure emerged from the darkness inside the cave Zorgon, the Great Guardian of all truth and wisdom stood imperiously before Jarl who bowed his head in humility and submission Zorgon spoke in rich booming and deep tones. “Who disturbs the mediation of Zorgon and for what purpose?” Jarl raised his eyes and met those of the great Guardian He was drawn,hypnotically,into deep blue pools of great passion and infinite knowledge. A wizened ,wrinkled but kind face bedecked by a great long grey beard, encouraged Jarl to speak. “I am Jarl son of Goreth. I have travelled from the land of the great spirits of the Zorthan. I have journeyed here to ask the Question.”
Zorgon’s eyes became as burning coals “Jarl , Son of Goreth be warned. If your question is not befitting the journey you have made and the centuries of meditation of the Guardian Zorgon, your life will be forfeit. You will be cast into pit of fire in the valley of the needle rocks.
Jarl drew himself straight and looked straight into the eyes of the great guardian, “I have journeyed far and faced many dangers. I stand now before you great Zorgon, and on behalf of all humanity I ask you the Question.” Jarl paused and took a deep breath ” Great Guardian of all truth and wisdom tell me now. Does man have an immortal soul, is there life after death?”
Zorgan let out a great sigh “AAAAAH!” He seemed to grow in stature and rock gently back and forth
His eyes burned even brighter and his shoulders shook with obvious emotion. “Jarl ,” Zorgon’s voice trembled a little before he gently laid his gnarled hand on Jarl’s strong young shoulder, You have braved many perils you have shown courage and endurance beyond what most men would find possible. Your humility and dedication has led you to this momentous point in time. .You have asked The Question of eternity, only Zorgon, who has for ever been the guardian of truth and wisdom can know the true answer. Now sod off!”
W.F.Randle Oct 2011