2 - The Call of Tranquility
The old man stood in the kitchen of his small home and faced the window, cleaning the dishes from supper while watching the orange glow of sunset gradually descend upon the Commonlands. He loved this twilight time and the calm it brought to the countryside--a rare commodity these days. With Freeport having grown so much over the years and as more and more people built their homes in the surrounding area, tranquility was in short supply.
He finished with the dishes just as the sun sank behind the hillside. His bones ached slightly as he sat down near the firelight, closing his eyes and letting the warmth drift over him. Just as his masters in the Ashen Order had taught him so many years ago, he cleared his mind and began to meditate.
His eyes opened when he heard the knock at the door. It would have startled him had it not been so soft, so rhythmic, almost like a heartbeat. He stood and moved to the doorway, pausing to collect himself. While the Commonlands had become much safer these days, it would not be the first time some brigand had tried to take advantage of a seemingly helpless old man. He flexed his fist and smiled. Yes, the magic was still there if it was needed. He nodded silently to himself and opened the door.
The old man froze. He recognized her instantly, even though he had never set eyes on her before. She was just a small girl, but she glowed with a radiance and warmth that put the firelight to shame. A sense of peace emanated from her, touching him deep inside. Tears welled in his eyes and he swallowed hard, his mouth unable to speak.
She looked up at him and gave him a slight smile. Her voice was like a soft, lingering melody as she spoke. ?Hello, disciple.?
He realized he was trembling, despite the sense of belonging that flowed through every cell of his being. He knelt to the ground before her, his voice nearly a whisper. ?Is it time to go now? To pass beyond this veil and make my home in Tranquility at last??
She reached out and took his hand, her smile bathing him in warmth. She shook her head. ?No, disciple, you cannot rest just yet. I have need of you, now more than ever. Rise and walk with me, for my time here is short and there is much that I must tell you.?
He obeyed her instantly, following as she guided him out the door. The land around them was perfectly still, glowing with a kind of preternatural light that allowed him to see and sense everything around him. He breathed deeply and smelled every flower all at once. Suddenly he felt foolish for being filled with such a sense of wonder. Of course she could do this. She could bring forth the serenity from any place.
She kept hold of his hand as they walked. Her voice was soft yet clear. ?Troubled times lay ahead, disciple. We stand on the threshold of change, and whether this will come to good or ill I do not know. The future is clouded, even to me. Soon turmoil will fall across the lands. Events have been set in motion that cannot be undone, and dark things will come to pass. My presence will no longer be known here, and strife will take my place.?
?No, my mistress, this cannot be,? he pleaded urgently. ?Norrath needs your guidance and light. I need it too, so very much.?
She shook her head slowly. ?These things are written and cannot be changed. That is why I have come for you. It is time for you to fulfill your destiny and help your world. You must pass down my teachings, and prepare this land for the perils ahead.?
He fell to his knees in front of her and bowed his head. ?I am yours to command, mistress.?
She laid her hands upon his shoulders and spoke, her voice full of kindness and peace. ?Then, arise, disciple, and accept your destiny.?
He took a deep breath and stood. The ache in his joints was gone and his vision seemed somehow sharper. The wrinkles on his hands had faded, and he felt a new strength surge within them.
?The veil of age has passed away. Your body shall be renewed by my strength now, for as long as you serve me.?
He bowed his head and spoke, his own voice somehow new and different. ?Thank you, mistress. What duty now lies before me??
?You will be my presence in this land, disciple. You will preserve the ways of Tranquility and teach my principles as the world drifts toward despair. You will be my voice when I must be silent.?
He nodded. ?I will do this gladly and with great honor, mistress. All the lands of Norrath and the skies above will know your teachings.?
She grew quiet a moment, her eyes looking toward the moon of Luclin as it glowed brightly above them. Her brow furrowed slightly.
?There is more to tell, and time is short. Walk with me, Avatar of Tranquility, and hear my words.?
She reached out her hand to him and he took it, walking with her into the cool calm of evening. As their footsteps led him farther still from his old life, he knew his true purpose at last. This was an ending and a beginning, a goodbye and a hello.
The night was quiet and still. It would not remain that way much longer.