The first chapters of An elusive hero can be found here.
We stared at each other for a moment. Laurenar had a confused look on his face, as if he did not anticipate getting to the Lighthouse to be a path filled with talking statues. Seraphina was more curious than confused, inspecting the statue carefully. I could do nothing but look into the statues golden eyes, which were firmly planted on me, leaving me feeling queasy and uncomfortable. After around 30 seconds, the statue repeated its startling question: “Who seeks entrance?”
Laurenar and Seraphina now looked to me, as this time it was clear the question was directed at me. I fidgeted with the hem of my new leather armor and my eyes darted around the cave entrance nervously. Then I noticed the beautiful sorceress smiling at me reassuringly. Somehow, this calmed down my breathing. I cleared my throat and answered, hoping to project an air of confidence: “Humble servants of Queen Sophia seek entrance to the Silver Lighthouse.”
The statue nodded heavily, but did not move or show us which direction to take. “And what exactly do you seek, servants of Sophia?”
This time I looked towards Laurenar, who didn’t smile, but nodded lightly in my direction. I relied so much on the skills of my two companions, but this was the first time the two of them were letting me take responsibility for something since I’d arrived in Illusio. I could feel my heart skipping a beat. Again, I calmed down my breathing before I answered: “We seek answers to our questions.”
The statue didn’t hesitate with asking the follow-up question: “And what kind of answers do you seek?”
I didn’t immediately understand what the statue meant. And I didn’t actually know what kind of answers we were looking for. The attack on the ship had taken away our opportunity to discuss our procedure in depth. Rowing to the island had proven to be a tiring adventure, leaving us somewhat clueless. Our lack of preparation showed now and I could see a look of surprise and disappointment in my companion’s faces. This was as new to them as it was to me.
“We seek knowledge to help protect this world from evil.”
I wasn’t proud of this answer, but it seemed vague and true enough to be believed. Weirdly, the statue only chuckled, but it did not continue with another question.
“This Lighthouse possesses a lot of knowledge. But not everything is available for everyone. You must choose your path carefully. I will show you two paths at your disposal and depending on which you take you will receive the answers and knowledge you seek.”
Which one of the two entrances would bring us closer to our goal of learning more about the enemy of Illusio, the first human being from planet Earth to step into this world. The statues ended his pause:
“The right path is the path of the righteous: It is for those who believe their cause to be just and seek a complete victory over their enemies. The left path is the path of the lenient: It is for those who believe there is a place in this world for everyone and who seek a compromise with their enemy. The sword symbolizes the right path. The feather symbolizes the left path. The right path will lead you to honor and glory, but also to agony and pain. The left path will lead you to honesty and selflessness, but also to deceit and betrayal. Following one of these paths will prevent you from fulfilling the destiny of the other. Choose wisely.”
Seraphina, Laurenar and I looked at each other. I looked at them intently. Seraphina broke the silence: “We should choose the right path. We saw what our enemy is capable of and we need to stop him. Sophia is preparing for war.”
I fully expected Laurenar to share her feelings, since he was the greatest knight of the kingdom. “No, I believe we need to seek knowledge to prevent bloodshed and to make peace above all. I’ve seen what war has done to Illusio. Finding a way to crush our enemies will only lead to more innocent lives to be lost. However, finding a way to make peace will be more lives can be saved.”
“In the short run maybe, but we do not know what the so-called Chosen One will do, if we allow him to stay here and have his way. More people might suffer through that.”
Seraphina and Laurenar stared at each other. I examined their faces. Laurenar’s expression was heavy; like this wasn’t the first time he was forced to choose between a rightful fight and a wrong compromise. It seemed to me he chose the former his first time around. Seraphina on the other hand was disappointed in his answer and she was as surprised as I was to find him supporting the path of the lenient. I looked at the statue. It was still staring at me, as if it was clear that I would make the call.
“How long do we have to decide?” I asked, my hand starting to tremble nervously.
“As long as you need. This is a difficult decision.”
I nodded and looked at my two companions, who staring at each other, trying to read each other’s expressions. I was no fighter, but it was clear I did not want the Chosen One to be victorious and I didn’t want Queen Sophia to be forced to pursue a peace she didn’t want. On the other hand, going into battle knowing fully well that compromise was the only option would only lead to holding back on the battlefield. Giving in to demands wasn’t a realistic option for the empire of Illusio. Neither way was perfect.
This kind of black-or-white thinking had always given me problems. Of course, in my favorite books and movies it always seemed to be straightforward: the Jedi were good, the Sith were evil, Harry Potter was good, The One-Who-Must-Not-Named was evil, The Fellowship of the Ring was good, Sauron was evil. But my favorite characters were always the grey ones: Anakin Skywalker, Severus Snape and Boromir. I tried to listen to my guts, but it remained silent except for a slight grumbling reminding me I hadn’t eaten for a day. What was clear to my mind slowly became clear to my entire being. Neither way was perfect. Neither way was bad enough to forsake. Neither way was good enough to take.
Seraphina and Laurenar had let me think, unsure if they were to interrupt my constant circling or if they were supposed to help me with my decision. But I didn’t need their help, I only needed the confirmation by the statue. I cleared my throat and addressed the statue:
“You said you would show me two paths at my disposal.” I sighed and gathered my courage. “Unfortunately, neither of them will provide us with the answers we are seeking. We do not seek complete victory nor will we be forced into compromise with our enemy. What we are looking for is knowledge about our enemy and a way to send him back into his world while protecting as many lives as possible. That is path we have chosen to walk down.”
Seraphina, Laurenar and the statue were staring at me, while I caught my breath. The words had come out effortlessly, but I still wasn’t sure what would happen now.
“Very well then, servants of Queen Sophia. You have chosen your answer to the test of sincerity. You have chosen the path of the wise. Follow me.”
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