The Traveler led the Warrior along the broken, icy path that lazily wound its way up The Mountain. Their journey had taken them across barren wastelands, through lush, green forests, dusty towns, and giant, bustling cities. The path had brought them a long way, carrying their feet along for over a thousand sunsets. Now, as the top of The Mountain loomed above them, their quest seemed to be nearing its end. They had persevered for so long, drawing ever nearer to the Temple of Time, yearning for the day they would stand face to face with The Storyteller.
The Traveler turned around, pausing briefly to check on her charge. The Warrior trudged along several paces behind The Traveler. He noticed the look in The Traveler’s eye, and grunted and nodded, acknowledging that even as worn out as his body was, he could carry on. Their exhaustion seemed to melt just enough that the passion for their goal could spur them onward towards their destination.
They continued on for several days, rising almost imperceptibly into the clouds. Finally, they broke through the clouds, and they saw it. There, a mere league ahead of them, stood the ancient temple. The Temple of Time was believed to be older than time itself, and by appearance, that belief could almost be assumed to be true. The temple was segmented into five sections, five separate buildings that stood together as a single unit. At the four corners of the construct, Pillars rose into the sky, seeming to scrape against the very stars. In the center, where one would expect a central spire, instead a low, single story mound of stone brought together the strength and might of the four Towers of the Winds with a subtle grace and humility. And at the entrance to this mound stood an old woman.
As the pair drew closer to the woman, they saw that while she seemed to be as old as the temple itself, she stood tall, unwithered by the assault of the millennia she had endured. A light breeze whispered through her hair, gently playing with her silver locks as they lay loose on her shoulders.
“Greetings, sister,” The Traveler said when they grew near enough to converse.
The Storyteller smiled thinly.
“It has been many cycles since we last met, young ones,” she said softly.
The Warrior dipped his head.
“Too long, if had been but a day.”
“You tell the truth, brother,” The Storyteller replied.
The Traveler shifted her pack to her right shoulder. “You know why we are here, yes?”
“Of course, dear one. But the Tale has told me that you are to tell me nonetheless. You must ask your questions.”
The Warrior sniffed. “Why can’t you just tell us the answers without the ceremony of asking?”
The old woman’s smile lit her face with joy brighter than the noon sun.
“Brother, in all the lives you have lived, you still do not understand the Tale any more than when you were on our mother’s breast. I do not write the Tale. Nor do I dictate what I see. The wind speaks to me, and I write its words in the book. I do not imagine the story of this world, even though it reaches my imagination long before it ever comes to pass. Those events must come to pass as they have been foreseen…more or less. It is integral to your journey that you come to the crux of your story on your own terms. It would be more of a crime than a gift to do things any other way.”
The Warrior huffed, but did not reply. The Traveler searched the face of her sister for some clue about where to go from here. They had arrived, and now it felt as if they were further from finding the answers they sought than when they had begun all those years ago. A crushing wave of despair washed over her as the questions they had set out to have answered disappeared from her mind. She suddenly could not remember why they had come, and both the absence of purpose and the frustration of having come so far to be stumped by her own mind hurt more than any wound, sickness, or loss she had endured thus far. She closed her eyes, squeezing away unexpected tears.
“What does the book say we should do now?” she asked quietly.
The Storyteller took a long, slow breath, and looked up at the sky.
“Wait. Your quest will find you once again. Wait. Watch. Listen. Exist for but a moment; let your worries quiet themselves.”
The Traveler opened her eyes again, and noticed that the sun was setting to her left. The three turned towards the red-gold of the sunset. Birds sang in the valley far below. How she could hear them, the Traveler did not know, but the birdsongs comforted her soul. The skies danced in shades of red and yellow, slowly giving way to brilliant purples and blues. The stars, which seemed close enough to touch, shone and twinkled silently, watching the Tale unfold below them with bated breath.
They stood like that for a century or more, the sun swinging above and below them over and over, with each pass being similar in beauty, yet unique and breathtaking. They did not speak. They only watched. Waited. Listened. And when their hearts had calmed themselves and the fire of their passion had burned down to stubborn coals, The Traveler looked back to The Storyteller.
“Sister, does the book permit us to walk through the temple?”
The old woman nodded. “It does much more than that; it demands it. But it also demanded that you ask it so.”
The Warrior was silent. It seemed that after all this time, he was beginning to understand. The Tale. Beginning. He still understood almost nothing, but the beginning is important, as understanding little is infinitely superior to understanding nothing. It is a slight, yet critical difference of mind.
The Storyteller led the way into the Temple of Time, and the Traveler and The Warrior followed her. The world below stood unchanged. Time had stopped. Or so it seemed. While the days kept changing, the land was more or less the same as when they had set out on this adventure. The Tale was not something that came to fruition in a day, or a lifetime, or even a million lifetimes. The Tale was written on the tapestry of time from the first second to the very last…and beyond. The Tale had a different name among the mortals who lived below. They called it “eternity.” And they could no better understand it than the two Prime Walkers who had ascended to the Temple of Time.
Inside, secrets unfathomable were shared, questions begat more questions, and answers simply led to more inquiries. And as far as those who lived below could tell, the Traveler and The Warrior never emerged again. When the first eternity came to an end, and a new Tale had need to be told, they came forth, being some of the first to lay eyes upon the uninked pages of the new eternity. The next stage of their quest had begun.