The Rock Song Company, Episode 6

Episode 6

Zoiya: Astral Peak

Zoiya turns away from the group endeavor and commits to the Astral Peak climb to learn what the ancestors have planned for her.

The town glows amongst the early morning fog and dim light, a warm fire in the ice. The inn’s two stories and the wooden attachments around make it the biggest building in town. Apart from the market, which is more of a collection of buildings smashed together. I can now clearly see it’s layout, a branching line of rectangles, the shops and the paths to get to them. It’s possible part of the market is inset into the mountainside, though I can’t quite see.

The roofs of all the homes are heavily slanted to account for snowfall. Some sections of the town are connected by covered wooden boardwalks where the mountain features aren’t conducive to civilization. It’s still a small town by comparison, but from up here I see the homesteads extend further along the ridge than I realized. Probably fit for about a hundred people. I had only seen a small portion of Windreach. It was a good couple days here. The townsfolk are good people. The prospects for Tok’s Company are good people.

The gold coin in my pouch feels like a weight dragging me down. I pull it out and hold it between two fingers. Dirt dulls the shine, and the metal is cold. If I ever see Landon again, I will pay him back. I just need it for tonight. Just one more night before I return.

I look up at the steepness of the snow-covered mountain peak, the height of the remainder of my journey. A path winds around the mountain peak leading to the top, but the borders of the path are partially unclear, obscured by age and fallen snow.

I’d never forget these past few weeks of exploration. Being on my own for the first time in my life, witnessing the world like an outsider. Taking a moment to imagine what it would look like if my life was different. I could have had my start in any one of those places they came from and I would have been a whole new person. Jorta with her gladiator fights, Margot’s school training, Landon moving here, Zachary wanting to be anywhere else. A delusion of a life beyond, a moment to leave a comfortable and structured life for a bit of fun and adventure, pretending we’d all become fabulously rich and have a grand time traveling the world together. That was a fantasy. It is time to turn back to something real.

I remember what Zachary said last night and face a whole new surge of anger. This is something I am afraid of, and I am doing it. I’ll have an accomplishment to show for when I return to the tribe, something to show equal for the crime of leaving. I was in doubt for a long time, but I must trust those who raised me. I must trust in their ancestors, in my ancestors, to speak to me upon Astral Peak and guide me to how I will best serve my people. Whatever the ancestors tell me is where I am supposed to go. An adventuring company is for those who have nowhere to go. I have somewhere to go. I just don’t know what that is yet.

I mutter a small farewell and a wish of luck and safety to the company that will set off for their lives of adventure before I return. I tuck my hands into my cloak and begin the steep climb upward.

 

~~~~~

 

That’s the last time I allow myself to look back, to force myself to remember that the future is forward. I have to make it to the Peak and back before nightfall, and that doesn’t allow for any wasting of time. I swear the storm gets thicker the longer I go, like the mountain has a personal vendetta against my ascent. The path takes me over a wide and flat part of the mountain, a basin for snow cover and sparse camps of trees. It’s not as steep, but the path is only a few inches less thick with snow than the rest. I try my best to step on the surface, and thankfully the path is more compact than expected. Maybe this route is part of Polar Pass, the main road across the Squall Mountains. Or even a detour for when it gets obscured.

The world is just wilds up here. If I didn’t already know, I probably wouldn’t guess that travelers come this high up. It’s just a ridge upon hill upon slope of snow and rock and trees. If I wasn’t freezing I would probably be able to appreciate the beauty of it all, but for one I’m wishing for the escape of the wilds back into civilization where people build fires or use magic to keep themselves warm over braving the elements.

At the top of the wide expanse, I see the path ahead narrows back into a steady slope up the second to tallest ridge, the one that connects to Astral Peak. I sigh and start towards it, bargaining with myself for when I get to take a break. I decide upon a point halfway up the  spiral path around the next ridge so I get to pause along the stepper climb. I count my steps until I reach it. 

At that point, I stop and lean against the hillside, a bit of shelter against the wind. The width of this path isn’t precarious, I don’t feel at risk of misstepping and falling, but I don’t like the reminder that the dropoff on the opposite edge is at least a hundred feet before hitting a slope that tumbles down even further. I pull a bread roll from my bag, a portion of my hoard from the inn’s breakfast this morning. It’s cold and hard now. I chew slowly, both because of my tightened muscles and admittedly, I’m stalling.

It’s a small comfort when I realize that this is perhaps the coldest I will ever be. Except, of course, after I die, but that’s not a cold I feel. Are there any other regions in Vos’ahria as cold as this? I would bet no for the Eastern side, but I know little of the West. Would I ever have a reason to visit even if there was? No, all I have to do is get through today. I’ll be warmer for the rest of my life.

I jolt out of my thoughts and freeze suddenly. Was that a scratching sound over the wind? Or just another odd expression of nature? Something feels different. My heartbeat quickens and I gaze up the path. Did I imagine it, or has there been a change in the wind?

The pearly white snow cover shifts against the hillside. Or maybe I imagined it. But then it happens again, a portion of the sheet of white flickering, like…like it’s moving.

I push off from the hillside to stand up straight. My eyes hone in on the shape, seconds feeling like an eternity as I piece together the figure. Two shiny sky-blue pearls stick out in the sea of white, set on a large, gray ape-like face and a head with two sharp gray horns curling out. The head follows a ten foot tall thick humanoid shape. An entire body covered in fur that blends in perfectly with the white snow. Long clawed hands and equally as large fangs. I see the vague shape of it emerge into clarity like it fazed out of the snow wall.

Hungry blue eyes train directly on me. The beast is out hunting, and I’ve been chosen as the prey.

With the rest of my bread roll still clamped between my frozen fingers, I sprint back down the path. The beast roars behind me, reverberating through the mountain range. I know immediately when it begins the chase after me because the ground shakes with every thundering footstep. It moves silently when stalking, but cares not for stealth on the pursuit.

I run fast, but not too fast to get tripped by the snow or the shaking. I’m trying my best but with those long legs built for snowy environments I have little chance. I should have been more careful, I was warned to keep a sharp eye, I’m a hunter, I have a sharp eye—

The ground quakes get stronger. It must be so close now. I can hear it’s heavy grunting. And then the rumbling is no longer rhythmic. Instead it’s constant, and growing louder. The throat of the mountain is groaning. I risk a glance upward. White clouds of snow puff up from the peak, then lower, then lower. The snow from the top is sliding, spreading, collecting, towards the bottom of this ridge path. In front of me.

I’m not about to stop and be trapped with this beast. I sprint faster with a new surge of adrenaline. Pieces not even connected are beginning to fall, drawn into the clutches on the main slide. I know it’s still following me. The avalanche has almost hit the path now, but I have to make it across. My lungs burn like they’re just about to collapse on me, just adding a third outcome to this situation where I die, but the only one where I might live requires me to push through.

The initial spray of snow hits the path just as I burst through to the bottom of the hill. I don’t stop running as the avalanche crashes into the ridge path and sprays. Clumps of snow hit my skin like ice darts and I cover my face with my arm to catch the rest of it. The rumbling sound explodes and echoes, mixed with a long cry from a powerful monster. I glance back to see the shadow of a large shape swept over the edge with the snow, to tumble down and be swallowed by the mountain. Whether it carried on chasing me right into the sheet of ice or it was smart enough to stop but was still too close to avoid its force, the beast meets an unfortunate end. The majority of the snow pile splashes over the ridge and down the side. There’s now a heap of snow collected on the edge, but the way forward is not impossible.

I take a long pause to catch my breath, my heartbeat slowly returning to normal, jolting every time I think about how else that might have ended. Torn apart by a monstrosity born of the mountain. Tumbling down the mountain with the race of snow. Either way, never to be seen again.

It’s all too close, too lucky to be luck. I feel a wave of relief, reinforcement that I am doing the right thing. Whether the coincidence was spotting the monster at the right time, the snow fall delayed just that extra second for me to slip past, or the avalanche itself. The ancestors are protecting me. They are watching me. They are following me going to Astral Peak, and they probably know what I’m going to ask of them when I get there.

My journey continues.

 

~~~~~

 

Near the top of the second tallest peak, the path curves upward and out of sight. I put a hand on my axe, uneasy with the unknown of what lies over the hill. I reach the top and stand on a flattened ridge against a steep cliff face there would be no hope of scaling. Instead, the path leads directly to a wide vertical slit in the mountainside of the tallest peak. Sunlight filters in the first few feet of the hole, and then it’s dark.

I look to my left, where the platform narrows until it eventually melds with the vertical cliff edge. I look to the right, and it drops off the side of a cliff. I hear the voices of the locals in my head telling me how bad of an idea this is. I’ve already encountered one of their aforementioned wandering monsters, and now I’m about to enter a dark cave that is most likely the entrance to some dragon’s lair. But this appears to be the only way forward, and I’m not about to go back.

I am not a coward.

I swing my bag from over my shoulders and dig inside the main pocket for the lantern I took from the tribe village. Crooked branches are woven to form a sphere only big enough to fit in the palm of my hand. A flame burns inside it, flickering an orange glow through the cracks in the sphere. But the flame never dims or dies, and doesn’t burn or spread. A pinpoint of magic, a gift. The tribe weaves the spheres, and then they ask the ancestors to bless them with light. A never-ending lantern to guide our path.

The glow isn’t visible until I enter the tunnel, where the sunlight that used to surround me is snuffed out and only marks the entrance. The wind whistles on the mountainside, but in here it’s closed off and muffled. My ears and face sting, a relief from the pounding frigid air. The cave walls narrow in the immediate vicinity, creating a difficult journey for anyone taller than a human. Maybe I can rest easy that this isn’t a dragon’s lair after all.

I clutch the ball of light in my hand and press forward. My feet sink into the snow trailing into the entrance for the first few steps, but eventually reach solid rock floor. The ground slopes upward, leaving the snow behind. I assume this will in fact take me higher up the mountain. The road ahead is dark, but I must trust that it will take me to where I belong. The roar of the wind subsides, the light diminishing into a sliver at my back, and all that’s left is dark and quiet.

It’s amazing how much warmer it feels where the wind can’t reach. Of course, the sun never reaches here either, so it’s a new form of cold. This is a stagnant cold, a perpetual cold, over an aggressive and pressured cold. I prefer this greatly, like winter nights in the forest huddled around whatever fire we can manage while fighting the wetness of the earth. I wish this lantern did give off heat so it could warm my numb hands. I switch off frequently which one gets to stay in my pocket, pressed closed to my body.

There’s nothing to see but an empty tunnel. No signs of dampness, like icicles or frozen pools, at least not here. Nothing grows on the walls. It’s just jagged rock, barely anything to show me that I’m actually traveling forward. The firelight only reaches a few feet ahead of where I step. I’m used to having the moonlight cover the space beyond my lantern, so while I wouldn’t see much I could at least make out general shapes and know at least there was a world in front of me. But here there is nothing but black and the potential to change direction or even drop off at any moment. I take my steps carefully.

 

~~~~~

 

I do eventually come across a dropoff, but I know about it before I fall. My lantern reveals, surprisingly, not just more rock, but wood as well. There’s a wooden bridge built across the chasm. The ridge continues to the left, and it looks like there’s a whole tunnel that way that I could just follow. But I’m intrigued by the bridge, and I approach carefully. I listen but hear nothing strange coming from the depths of the dropoff, just the general shifting air inside the cave and the very distant sounds of the windstorm from some passage to the surface unknown to me. I press on one of the rope rails of the bridge, and it bounces back firmly, but sways the whole structure precariously. My lantern light doesn’t even reach far enough to show me how long the canyon is. Stepping onto this bridge is either the ultimate test of fate or the reckless act that will send me to my death.

There’s that other path to the left, but why would this bridge be here if it wasn’t made for future travelers to walk to visit Astral Peak? I don’t feel I have a real choice if I’m to make it. So I stick one foot out and press it down firmly onto the first wooden plank.

The contraption bows under my weight, pulling taut from the other side. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, then grip tightly onto both ropes and take another step. It wobbles. I don’t have the worst balance, but it’s also not great either. I keep my knees bent and my footsteps slow across the bridge. My heartbeat starts pounding once I get far enough away from the bank, no longer able to leap back if something cracks.

I’m not afraid of heights. I’d race my peers up trees sometimes back home. But the main difference is that when climbing trees, I get to choose which branch I put my trust in. If one looks too weak, I can avoid it and take another path. Here, I’m limited to the planks built into this bridge and how far I can spread my step to skip the thinner ones.

My only cue of distance is by the stretch of the ropes. I’m too far now to see where I came from, and still have too much ahead to see my goal. I’m just a floating body above a seemingly unending chasm.

I’m starting to get frustrated at the nervous reactions of my own body. I am not a coward. Therefore my body should not be responding like it’s afraid. I bet Zachary would dance across this like it’s no big deal, then get to the other side and tell me it isn’t that hard. And it isn’t, really. The ropes steady my balance and the planks are wide enough to resist the bridge wanting to tip. The difficulty is all in the ability to trust that I can make it to the other side. Trust that the ancestors will keep me aloft above this chasm, that they sent me here because this is the kind of challenge I need.

As much as my body threatens to tense up and just freeze in the middle of the bridge, I refuse to let it. So long as I keep moving, I am making progress towards the other side, and that’s what matters. I find new strength in my movements at sight of the ropes starting to bend upwards, signaling the end is near. I walk faster, but still careful not to trip, and eventually am able to put my feet on solid ground again. The path leads back into another tunnel.

I take a moment to breathe and find strength in my legs again, because they currently feel like jelly. It then occurs to me that I’ll have to cross the bridge on the way back, doing that all over again. At least now I have security knowing it can fully hold me. I switch the lantern to my right hand and press on into the tunnel.

It’s only about a foot taller than I am, even more cramped than the first section had been. Tok would’ve hit his head. It still slopes upward, but at a slower pace, and there’s no telling how much of the path to Astral Peak is within the mountain itself. The enveloping rock is unsettling. I’m used to having ground beneath my feet, but not also above my head. The pressing surroundings make me question if I prefer the tunnel or the storm.

Before long, the tunnel widens into a smaller cavern. The path continues around the right side as a ridge to walk on, bordering a hole I can’t see the bottom of. What I can see is a faint glow coming from the left wall. It’s a faint blue glistening that appears to come from nowhere, no bioluminescent plants or creatures or a humanoid-made object. Instead, it shines through the running water of a waterfall. It starts from near the ceiling, but not from the ceiling, and falls a few feet down below me before the water just dissolves into mist. I blink a few times and squint, thinking it’s the trick of the light that it appears the water comes from nowhere, and goes to nowhere. The water must come from a floor above and it just looks disconnected from the ceiling. But from the light of whatever that blue glow is, no matter how hard I try to find a better explanation, it still looks like this water is just suspended in midair. And despite the sheet of water being vertical, the waves drift slowly down rather than being affected by the rapid pull of gravity. At that realization, it also registers that the water is soundless, a phantom in the cave tunnel.

I stand there watching for a few minutes, taking in all the details, confirming that I’m actually seeing what I think I see. The only explanation is magic. The question is, who? And why? Or perhaps not either of those—maybe it’s a what? Could this be a result of the thinness between the veils, a mark of Elysium in our plane? Perhaps the waterfall is not real at all, and I am merely witnessing a glimpse into the other world?

I would wonder if this cave was the real Astral Peak landmark if the tales I had heard hadn’t specifically mentioned standing at the tallest peak and seeing the world of Vos’ahria laid out before you. The veil may be thin here, but it may be even thinner up there. I leave the floating waterfall behind and keep going.

 

~~~~~

 

I feel the draft before I see the exit. If I had truly decided earlier that I liked being out in the storm instead of the enclosed cave, I immediately change my mind at the thought of returning to the pounding snow. But I can’t be far now. The slope was much steeper at the end, and the mountain doesn’t go on forever.

I turn at a small bend and see the opening at the end of the cave. I see the wind whipping rapidly, hear its howling over the peaks. The subtle shift in the gray tones is snow whipping around against the storm cloud backdrop. Elysium is said to be a peaceful place, and yet the crossing of the veils is like where the Material Plane is at its angriest.

My heart beats rapidly at the thought of finally being here. Weeks of travel have led me to this moment. Arguably, my whole life has led me to this moment. If my ancestors could not guide my future from afar, I must go to them and ask what they wish of me.

I breach the exit of the cave, into the storm. A solid wall of wind crashes against me, and I stumble a bit for balance. Holding up a hand to block the snow from spattering my face, I look out over the cliff. I spin to look in another direction. Then another. Then fully around. Visibility is difficult, but shadows against the gray sky cast the mold of other mountain shapes. This small flat section of mountain is the tallest peak in sight.

I am standing at Astral Peak.

I take careful steps in the deep snow to the center of this platform. The wind subsides slightly and I put my hand down, snow no longer pelting my face. I pull the blanket from my pack and set it on the snow, still folded up, to at least create somewhat of a barrier between myself and the frigid ground. I drop to my knees on the blanket and stare up into the storm.

I wait and watch. If the ancestors already know I’m here, then perhaps they are sending me a sign. Maybe I’ll see visions in my mind or shapes in the clouds. Maybe I’ll hear a voice directly, speaking out what I am to learn. They know why I’m here, and they’ll know what I ask of them, if they’re really out there. Which this is going to prove.

The storm kicks up again with a surge of snowfall. The air is so thick, I can barely see the sky anymore. There could be more signs of where the veil is at its thinnest, like the waterfall in the cave, but I can’t see them. I can’t even tell what time of day it is. I watch pure white snow pile up on the mountainside, a solid blanket of cover. Chunks of snow trickle onto my own blanket, and before long it will be entirely covered, without a trace that it’s here. If I wait here long enough, maybe I will eventually be buried by the snow, lost forever to nature and to memory.

I see nothing in the clouds, feel nothing in my mind or my heart. There is only the grounded reality before my eyes of snow and ice. Perhaps they don’t know I’m here, and I have to address them?

I clear my throat. “If you can hear me…” I stop. It feels odd to speak with no one around, and my voice is all but swallowed entirely by the wind. I suck in a breath and try again, much louder. “If you can hear me, I’d like some guidance!”

The wind howls, but not in any particular new way. I look around. Is this really Astral Peak, the landmark where the veil is thinnest between the Material Plane and the land of the gods? It just looks like the top of a mountain range, and I see no marker or humanoid-made structure to show for the many travelers that claim to have been here. Then I remember the waterfall. That’s not here by any accident. Water doesn’t just appear and disappear in thin air, even in a world of magic. I try again.

“All I’ve ever known is the tribe,” I begin. “According to them, that’s all I’m ever supposed to know. They say that’s the will of the ancestors—your will.” It’s new on my tongue to address them directly on my own. I’ve only ever done prayers in a group setting. “I feel like I’m meant to do more. I feel like you’re telling me to do more, with the dreams and the strange feelings of longing that I can’t place…”

Is anyone even listening? Or worse—is anyone even out there at all?

“What are these signs supposed to tell me? Is it true that my path lies outside of the tribe? Where are you trying to send me? Where should I go? What quest are you asking me to complete?”

That’s probably too many questions at once, but they just spill out of me. I have so many. I’m tired of being lost. These untethered feelings, they’ve plagued me for a year. For a year, I felt mismatched, a stranger amongst kin. If I was like them, I would’ve never considered leaving. If I was like them, I would have been completely satisfied with a life of hunting to provide for the tribe and setting foot beyond the Skygrove Forest. If I was like them, the bonds I formed of friendship and family within the tribe would have been all that I ever needed. But these thoughts, no matter how hard I tried to fight them, made me not like them. And eventually I felt like such a liar that I left.

My search for meaning led me here. If they weren’t going to tell me what they wanted from within the tribe, then I was to go to them directly, fall on my knees before them, and hear what they ask of me. The moment that is supposed to give me a compass, to point me in the direction I will go to find where I’m meant to me. I just need them to answer me.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I ask again, thinking that it might be better if I take the questions one at a time.

I wait for an image, a sound, anything beyond the nature that persists. And I am met with nothing.

“Where should I go?” I ask, much louder this time, shouting across the mountain peak. If I get an answer to any of these questions, it needs to be that one. That one is the most important. It’s the reason why I’m here. If I just stick with one, just one question, that’s not too hard, right?

The storm swells, pelting harder. My heart flutters. For a second I think it’s about to tell me something. But after a moment it’s clear it’s nothing but the world fighting my every move.

I stand, feeling the full force of the air and having to actively try to stay balanced. I scream into the apathetic storm. “WHERE SHOULD I GO?”

My voice doesn’t even echo, so much of the force just lost to the void. My throat tightens. My body is tense. I’ve never been so angry at snow before.

I yell again. Over at over. My voice becomes raw. I’m suddenly sick of my surroundings. The howling, the way my skin burns from the constant pelting of icy snow. I feel everything and nothing as I scream with rage. I plunge my hand into the snow and my feet, grab a fistful and throw it to no end. This was it, this was the last line. I have nowhere, I have nothing, I have no one. Not even the ancestors, who promise eternal protection to all of their descendants, can answer a simple question. I keep screaming it anyway, and I’m glad no one can see that I’m practically begging, thinking maybe if I keep trying, if I show that I’m desperate enough, they’ll notice I’m here.

The storm rages on with no response.

 

~~~~~

 

Colors burst from the distant mountain peaks as the sun sets on the world. I stand at the same ridge above Windreach where I stopped before my climb. Before, I felt a guilty longing as I stared out over the city, but now that space is filled with dread. I don’t want to go back to the inn where Zachary spoke the infuriating words that turned out to be true. My quest was nothing but a failure. I relied on it to tell me what to do, and now I have nothing. It’s anger that I feel most of all. On the descent, I had nothing to do but think over every way that this had turned out for the worst. I thought about everything I went through to get up here. All the time my muscles ached and my skin stung from the cold. The money I spent and the stress I felt over the money I spent. How lost I felt, but how I told myself that it was okay because all of that would go away once I reached Astral Peak. I would be told where to go and everything would be solved. How naive.

I would almost rather sleep up here than go back, but I know that’s not an option. I should at least use the coin that I stole. And I didn’t want to suffer for one more minute in this horrible cold. I’m done with it all. I’d rather just skip to the part where I have to return to the tribe and submit to the consequences of running away, and wasting time thinking I can dictate the ancestors’ choices. But can I even follow the ancestors anymore happily after they so blatantly ignored me? If they’re real, then they knew that I had traveled all this way to get answers, and they gave nothing in return but silence.

A second surge of anger boils up inside me, remembering that they are supposed to help me. My emotions threaten to explode and I’m about to curse to the wind when a sight of movement catches my eye. Down in Windreach, the door of the largest building in the town opens. A group exits the inn led by a half-orc cloaked in gold. An armored man with a shield, a black-haired young woman with the robes of a Helgerra scholar, and an elf with his hair tied back with a green strip of cloth follow behind.

 I bolt down the snow-covered wooden stairs into Windreach two at a time. The ancestors promise guidance to all, and they turned their back on me. They made their choice, and now it’s time for me to make mine.

 

~~~~~

 

The others catch sight of me before they reach the bottom of the hill leading from the tavern.

Zachary smiles. “I told you she’d show up.”

I stop ten feet away from them and heave, catching my breath. I avoid looking at Zachary, the lingering emotions resulting from my trip to Astral Peak too conflicted to make a choice on how I would want to look at him. I’m still breathing hard, and haven’t thought of anything to say, so I just stand there in front of the group until Tok speaks before I get the chance.

“Zoiya. I didn’t think you were still in town,” he says, sounding genuinely surprised.

“He thought you didn’t like us and left so it wouldn’t be awkward,” Margot says. Zachary laughs, presumably at her forthrightness. Nevahl looks apologetic.

“Erm,” Tok interjects before she can say more. “We all met up this morning. I was going to offer you membership in the company, but—”

“I’ll take it,” I say.

Zachary smirks like he knew it all along. Nevahl and Margot look pleased. Tok is still frowning. “You left…it didn’t seem like you wanted it.”

“I had to take care of something first,” I answer. “I want to travel with you. I want to be an adventurer.” I don’t want to just go back to the tribe and accept defeat.

Moments of silence pass. Tok appears hesitant to let me back in, and I wonder what the big deal is. He was already going to let me in. So I wasn’t there this morning. Does he not believe that I want this? Is he afraid I’m about to abandon them?

“She’s here now,” Margot offers.

“There is strength in numbers,” Nevahl says.

Tok sucks in a breath. After a moment, he gestures to all of us. “Welcome to our new company.”

“Yes!” Margot says under her breath.

A small smile creeps onto my lips that I can’t hold back. I take a few steps closer to the four of them, now, the five of us. But… “Where are the others?”

“These are who I have selected,” Tok answers simply.

The others didn’t make the cut. Interesting. I’m surprised—Jorta and Qinlar were very strong fighters. I would have felt a lot safer with them on my team. Not up to me though, and admittedly, I’m a little smug at the thought that Tok chose me over Jorta, when she clearly thought I wasn’t meant for this life.

She may prove to be right. A quaint and quiet upbringing in the forest is far different from seeking to save the world. The ancestors’ silence doesn’t mean that I’m rejected from the tribe. I could’ve gone back and pleaded for forgiveness for thinking there was a purpose for me beyond the forest, for selfishly seeking more than the comfort the tribe has worked so hard to provide. For thinking I had any right to demand justification from the ancestors. I’m cut from the same cloth as my kin, and none of them feel a burning need for more in life.

But I do. And if the ancestors aren’t going to tell me where to go and find it their way, then I’m gonna do things my way.

A life of adventure it is.