Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Wizard’s Task: Part Two

We sat in silence as the Cadillac accelerated smoothly down interstate 75. After a few miles, I said,” I don’t understand why you need someone you don’t know to do something as simple as delivering a package. Why can your driver not do it? For that matter why can you not simply deliver the message yourself?” Wolfe smiled his disturbing smile at me and said,” I can tell that you noticed my driver is a touch unusual.” 
I nodded staring at the top of the black hat that was all I could see of the driver who Wolfe had previously called Githix. ” He is a Goblin. Much of the lore,” at this he made air quotes and I instantly disliked him for it,” around his kind would have us believe that they are stupid, violent, and evil creatures. That bigotry is unfounded and unfair, but it doesn’t stop the prejudice against him and his kin. I wouldn’t have them suffer on my account needlessly.” 
I heard a faint chuckle from the front seat at this, but it did not seem to offend Wolfe. “The reason I chose you, Ethan, is that you have a choice of the life you lead and you have chosen the road of the vagabond.”  I frowned at this and said,” How do you know my real name?” He tapped his temple with a long index finger and said,”Your mind is quite disciplined and I have to compliment you on the fact that you do not think of yourself by anything relating to your real identity, but to someone such as myself it is a simple trick to read your mind and peel back the layers to the truth.” 
Telepathy didn’t surprise me at all. It was as believable as anything else that had happened with Andris Wolfe. I briefly thought about not speaking and just thinking about him. It felt like a very science fiction movie thing to do. Wolfe flashed me his big predatory smile obviously reading the thought. To deny the impulse I said,” I will deliver your message if you will explain why you need me to do it in the first place. I may not read minds, but I am good at telling when someone is trying to bullshit me.” 
He pulled a face that was clearly meant to show offense, but simply looked put upon and arrogant. His expression softened slightly as if he had practiced looking earnest in the mirror and he said,” There is rather a long history lesson to give you the full story. Would you like to hear it all or do you prefer the abridged version?” I considered a moment before answering.  
Andris Wolfe might be a Wizard, but his whole attitude screamed at me that he was an old school con man. I suspected if he could read my mind he could also influence it, and there might be very little real chance of me saying no. The best I could hope for is getting enough of an education out of the situation that I could keep myself alive, if not safe. I also felt that he was being honest in his intention of paying me. Like most good con men his bait was real. 
“I want to know as much as you can tell me without diluting the story with detail,” I answered feeling as if I had chosen well. He nodded taking on a serious nature and said,”When I was a very young man I was cursed. The curse drove me mad, and it caused me to hurt people. Over the course of some long years, I sought out knowledge to end my curse.” 
“How were you cursed,” I interrupted to ask.  He sighed and said,” I was cursed to transform into a rabid monstrosity. In the beginning, I was a beast all the time except for during the purity of a full moon where I was returned to the form of man…” I interrupted and asked,” So, you are a Wizard who used to be a werewolf and your name just happens to be Wolfe?” I snorted in derision. It seemed too cliché to be told as a story much less as the viable truth.  
He frowned at me and said,” Wolfe is not my real name, but one that I chose for myself to fit into modern society. It is something of a nod to my origins.  My birth name is one of those details that are not important to the story and so I have left it out.” I didn’t agree with him, but I didn’t see any advantage in interrupting his story again.I kept silent.   
He continued,”I was driven from my homeland and spent many years, more than I could count at the time, only really aware of myself when I woke in human form under the light of the full moon. I had little memory of my time as a wolf. In that form, I moved with animal instinct from place to place with little or no seeming reason or logic. “ 
“During one of these human moments I awoke in a pit. I came around slowly, which was not uncommon after a transformation, and as I gazed thankfully up at the moonlight shining down on me I saw that many men were gathered around the edge of the pit above me. I, naturally, feared their intention as it seemed clear that they had trapped me in my beast form and had witnessed the change. It would not have been the first time that I had been found thus, and it often leads to dangerous confrontation.”  
“I spoke to my captors in my native tongue and they answered in a language I did not understand. There was a brief conversation above me and one of the faces withdrew from the pit. Sometime later another man took his place and called down to me in words I could understand. I nearly wept in relief. The men were not there to harm me. Instead, they could, through some magical means, detect my cursed nature and had resolved to cure me. A rope was lowered, and they hoisted me out of the pit and helped me begin finding ways to cope with my curse.”  
Between the comfort of the car and the even tone of the Wizard’s voice I was drawn into his story and shook myself long enough to ask,” They were not able to cure you?” He shook his head and said, ” I remain uncured to this day. These days you might say I am managing the symptoms rather than finding a cure.” I felt very sorry for him and found myself saying so. He patted my hand and thanked me for my sympathies in a fatherly manner.  
“The man I want you to meet with,” He said,” is a descendant of the men who helped me out of that pit. I spent many years with them. They managed to hold off my curse and keep me in the form of a man. I learned from them and eventually was initiated into their Druidic order.  We performed many rituals and I learned mysteries. At times I still was taken by the curse, but the Brothers kept me from hurting anyone.” 
Confused I asked,”If you are a part of their group, why can you not deliver your own package?” He held up his hands in a gesture of placation and said,” This part of my story is a sad one, and I do not like telling it.” I nodded my understanding and waited for him to continue. He remained quiet gathering himself for several minutes. I shifted myself into a more comfortable position and worked my backpack between my boots.  
I watched the exit for Knoxville Center Mall, always East Towne in my heart, pass us by and realized we were making excellent time. The goblin driver seems intensely focused on the road as we passed by most traffic as if it were sitting still. I did the majority of my traveling on foot or by bus. It surprised me how comfortable I was in the back of a stranger’s car.  
Andris cleared his throat and said,”I’m sorry. I had to gather my thoughts. It has been many years and a great deal of distance since our parting, but these men were once very dear to me.” I mumbled out some comfort and asked him to go on. “It all came down to a difference of tradition.A misunderstanding really. I came from a world of learned men where collecting knowledge is considered the most important undertaking of mankind. After years of studying with the Druids I had written a dozen volumes on the nature of their rituals, their ways, and I had gone beyond that to begin to cultivate a better understanding of Magic in the universe as a whole. My curse gave me keen insight.”  
“When I brought my work before the Archdruid she was furious. It was against the law of the Druids to write down their traditions.  She banished me from the protection of the druids and the lands they served. In the face of her fury, I fled like a frightened child. The Archdruid alone held terrible power, but with her druids united behind her, I was in fear for my very being. I managed to steal a few things that allowed me to survive my curse and I was again lost in the world,” he finished sadly.  
I thought for a few moments on what he had told me and asked,” You wrote down things you were not supposed to and they banished you for it? Could you not have simply destroyed the books and stayed with them?” He shook his head and answered,” The crime was to have written them at all. It was a betrayal. It has taken me many, many years to come to terms with my sin against them. I was named an enemy of the druids and hunted for a time. Had the Romans not nearly wiped them from the Earth I likely would never have escaped. “ 
“So what am I delivering to these Druids,” I asked. He made a gesture almost too fast to follow and a heavy cloth wrapped package appeared between his hands. He unwrapped it reverently. Inside was an ancient hidebound book. I wanted more than anything to look through it, but the impulse felt somehow perverse. Instead, I looked up at Andris to find him smiling a seemingly genuine smile. He said,” I am going to make a gesture of peace and return to them that which I have stolen. My hope is this will allow me to begin to atone for my sins.”  
I knew then that I would take his money and deliver his package. My fear of having issues with the police had been erased. I could understand from my own history a desire to make up for past wrongdoings. I could even understand how Andris had not intended to do harm to the Druids that had helped him. With so noble a purpose what could possibly go wrong? 


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