The Eternal Quest

By: J. Anne Mauck

(Originally appeared in EDL 3-4)

When Fydren waved goodbye to those gathered to see him off, he felt full of their good wishes. Though it seemed strange, he could swear he'd heard someone laugh once he was outside the gates. A quick glance back revealed nothing unexpected save the tears in his father's eyes. Fydren wasn't all that surprised since this was the same quest his father had undertaken thirty years ago. And failed.

The old man said he would find the statue in the North. So, once Fyd was out of the town's territory, he circled around to head in that direction. There was a road several miles east that turned north, but the shortcut through the woods would, for once, be shorter.

Fyd worried about the statue. He knew what it looked like and he had seen drawings from many a Troubadour that had whiled away the day near such a famous piece of stonework, but he had never actually seen it. Part of him even wondered if it was real at all. But surely the town would not keep a special place for it to return to if it did not. Would they?

The woods were seasonally quiet, springtime kept the birds busy building nests and finding mates. Their song was familiar to Fyd and served to maintain the joy he felt in his heart for beginning this quest. After several minutes, he realized the birds were silent. Not really concerned by this, he kept traveling but kept his hand near to his sword.

"Excuse me, son."

Fyd looked around. "Pardon me?" His eyes had adjusted to the dim, filtered sunlight long ago, but still he could see no one.

"Over here," the voice said. Fyd felt a hand on his shoulder.

When he turned around, Fyd saw an old man with a crooked grin. "I'm sorry, sir, I hadn't seen you." Fyd tried to bow, but the man's hand was strong enough to prevent him.

"No worries." The old man chuckled. "My name is Vestren. Are you on a quest?" With a smile on his face, Vestren grabbed Fyd's hand and pulled him back the way he had come.

Fyd was confused but felt no malice from the old man. "Actually, yes, I am on a quest. Have you--"

"No questions now, Fyd. Come with me, I may be able to help." The old man released his hand, but kept walking at a surprisingly brisk pace. He stopped by a large tree, one so large that Fyd thought it must be older than the Scourge. "See this tree, Fyd?"

Fyd nodded, wondering for a moment when he had told the old man his name.

"This tree is sacred, belongs to Jaspree. I think if you wait here for a while, the answers you seek will come to you."

"But, sir, I'm not looking for answers. I'm looking for statues, or rather one specific one."

"No you're not, son. Trust me." Vestren grinned his crooked grin again. "Now, you just wait here. If you still haven't got what you're looking for by nightfall, someone will be here to help you." The old man bowed to him. Backing away slowly while Fyd looked up into the tree, Vestren disappeared with a familiar sounding laugh.

*I can't wait here until nightfall,* he thought. Looking around, he saw no danger and decided to eat lunch there. After perhaps an hour, he decided to be on his way. Perhaps it would be best to follow the road after all, fewer opportunities to be sidetracked.

He headed back to the south and found the road as the sun was beginning to set. With a sigh, he headed east. When it became too dark to continue traveling, he set up camp near the road.

In the morning, the sky was clear and everything was touched with springtime dew. Fyd smiled and decided that he would make good time that day. Spotting some fruit trees nearby, he went to get some fresh breakfast.

Under a tall tree, he saw a little girl trying to jump high enough to pull down some of the brightly colored fruits. With a smile, he approached her. "Let me help you." He pulled down a branch. The girl grabbed several fruits and started shoving them in her mouth.

He ate a few of the delicious and juicy fruits while he watched the girl. After she finished eating, she grinned at him, juice still dripping from her chin. "Thank you, sir. My name is Vestra. Is there anything I can do for you in return?"

Her smile was so disarming that Fyd just laughed. She wiped her chin on her sleeves and watched him. "Actually, Vestra, have you ever seen the Statue of Tros?"

"Sure, it's always been in Tros." She started dancing around to the music of the morning birds.

"Vestra, I'm from Tros and the statue has been missing for forty-three years." He reached into his pouch for a scrap with the drawing of the statue on it. "Maybe if you looked at it?" He held out the scrap.

Vestra looked at it. "Oh, -that- statue of Tros. If you walk south for a day and then turn west at the hermit's cottage, it's in the middle of the lake there. But there's a horrible monster guarding it. You wouldn't be able to get it." She giggled, her tone similar to the old man's, and ran off before Fyd could say anything more.

*First north, now south. I can see why my father never found it.* Fyd sighed and headed south, hoping to find the hermit before nightfall.

In fact, the girl had been right. At dusk, he reached an abandoned cottage, or at least, it appeared abandoned. Fyd knocked on the door, but no one answered. He'd hoped to ask if what the girl had said was true. When he knocked again, the door came off one of its hinges. Fyd looked inside. The dust on the floor was thick, cloths covered the meager furniture. Looking at the sky, he saw some dark clouds. Knowing it could be a bad storm, he decided to spend the night inside.

Fyd slept soundly through the storm, the cottage was soundly built. The next morning, he saw a dusty mirror on the wall that he hadn't noticed before. In the dust he could make out some text:

Go a bit to the west
And all day north
To the gates of Tros
A father's quest
All done -V

With a curse that would make his father blush, he went outside. Perhaps this quest required a bit more consideration than he had previously given it. He slammed the cottage door behind him, hearing that laugh carry on the breeze. He was sure now that it was a laugh, and the thought irritated him. This was no game, but someone thought it was and was entertained by it.

Fyd decided to continue on to the lake instead of going home. It wasn't where the legends had suggested it was, but it was the newest information he had. The lake, however, was nothing more than a nearly dry pond, last night's storm had allowed it to collect some water.

There was a muddy trail heading north. There were no footprints, but it looked like something had been dragged away. Curious, he followed the trail. For the rest of that day and half of the next, he kept following the trail. About fifty feet from the gates of Tros, the trail ended. *I'm this close, I might as well go in.*

Inside Tros, life went on as it usually did. Merchants traded in the streets, children played wherever they found room, and a group of Troubadours sang at the fountain near the statue. Stunned, he headed toward the statue.

"Fydren! Why aren't you at the smithy with your father?" It was his mother yelling at him from the market place.

He waved to her, but kept walking to the statue. A young girl was dancing around the fountain, giggling. She looked like Vestra, especially with that smile. "Vestra?" He tried to get her attention. She ignored him and kept dancing.

In front of the Troubadours, an old man sat, listening to the music. Fyd approached him. "Vestren? Is that you?" The old man, who Fyd remembered was nearly deaf, kept smiling and laughing without responding to him.

He looked at the statue. When he reached out to touch it, he heard someone say, "You didn't wait at the tree." He spun around to see who had spoken. And again, "You didn't read the mirror." And then the laughter again.

The little girl tugged on his sleeve. "Happy day, Fyd!" She giggled. When she ducked behind him, he saw the same girl where she had been before, when he had tried to talk to her. Two of them? There were no twins in this town, he was sure. She tugged on his other sleeve. "Passions be praised, Fyd! Perhaps you should pray for a sense of humor." With a wink and another laugh, she danced away into the crowd.

*What a nasty trick to play on someone,* he thought, *on a whole town. But who?* And then he realized... Passions be praised, or at least one of them...