Prodigal Son
Chapter One
The Distant Torch
The sun was high and effervescent as it hung from a string of its own light above her head, beaming down warmth. The autumn had begun some time ago but the days still maintained that comfortable heat which was characteristic of the German summers in Saxony. She hoped that it would mean a warm winter as well, though it would probably end up being one of those crazy winters where God couldn’t make up his mind whether he wanted it hot or cold and so had it fluctuate erratically between the two. She liked those winters, never knowing if you might get an unexpected day of sun. Every day waking up and immediately bolting a hand out of from the sheets –wriggling it out if it was trapped by the body of a brother or sister- and feeling the air to test the promise of the day. Feeling the smoke-scented air of the hovel and if it were couple jumping up as quick as she could without waking the others in her bed to lift the porcelain cover from the fire in its open hearth too fan the embers back to life. If it were warm she would get up just as quick but would step outside to soak up the delicious predawn chill, slightly cutting at the skin but only so much as to wake one’s body but not enough to cause discomfort. She preferred those days since on the colder days she would freeze in the frost that would collect around her while she stood.

But mornings, she supposed, were nice like that. Everyone seemed happier at dawn, the work was always lighter for their backs before they set out, the soil much easier to till before it had been cut. They drew strength from the sun as it lifted up the dark, as it pushed up the darkness, its face red with the flush of hope and potential before it later crashed back down, red with embarrassment for having dreamed so much and left it all unobtained. She truly did love the mornings.

Now though it was afternoon, the sun, having reached its crest was now realizing the comfort it had left behind deep beneath the earth, had begun its retreat to the ground. But for now the world was still bathed in the miasma of its warm light, almost palpable in the air and giving it a taste that the tongue flailed to gather into itself, a taste of comfort and heat. And the sight it gave her! The way she could see clean to the forests that surrounded her small hamlet on all sides and then… then she could see passed those trees, through them, beyond them, to some far off shore. A shore she long to reach.

But for now she was here and she had a job to do. Up until a moment ago she had been helping her father and several other of the men of the village –a few rather attractive boys- to gather in the last of the harvest. But now she had been sent by her father to beginning gathering water for the monthly bath. They always had the bath around the night of the full moon. She never really knew why, only knew that she was grateful for on the new moons, when it was darkest and saddest, she bled. Her life seemed filled with these cycles. Always. Every day she rose and every night she lay down in bed with her brothers and sisters. Every day she worked with her father. Every Sunday she went to church and would fall asleep listening to the pastor slow dulling voice and every Sunday her father would trade drinks with some of the other men around town. Every month she would bath and every month she would bleed. Every year there was a fall, a winter, a spring and a summer and every year the snows would come and there would be a few lean months but every year they lived through it. Every year… Every lifetime… Every day she would look to the horizon, look through it and every night she would dream, dream of that far shore, see it their somewhere far distant and ephemerally close, a long trek away but only a journey distant, and there on that shore stood a form. She had dreamed this every night for a long time and new that form by heart. It was that of a man, who stood there tall and proud but it held something in its hands, something it did not wish seen and reaching out for it he pulled it away and the shore receded, farther and farther into the distance till it left the world of her perception entirely. Every day she looked to the horizon and every day she looked but did not go. Every month she bled.

Such were the cycles of her life, the wheels upon wheels that rolled every lasting upon on another. She sighed and her head dipped down to stare out the earth. How she wished to venture beyond the veil of trees. She lived near a trading town and had gone their a few time with her parents to get things for the village and their own home that they simply could not make themselves, such as iron for the blacksmith and other materials and items of that nature. She had walked amidst the streets, bustling with lively faces and motley people, some having blond hair and bright blue eyes, others dark skinned and thickly weathered as though they had been smoked in order to toughen them against the travails of the road. While her father had been doing his dealings she had stay close to him but could still hear the voices of these people and how they carried such wandering grace and the eddies of their restless lives. There were a couple pedagogues, walking a speaking about either the great teachings of the now-late Martin Luther or perhaps the opposite message of the Catholic Church in Rome. Sometimes both were speaking at once and often times fights broke out between them. But there were other people as well, a caravan guard who told stories of how he had defended his charge against bandits that had attacked in the night. There was a particular dark-skinned man who, in a strange accent, spoke about how he had one lived in the Holy Land and how wise and great the Saracen leaders were and how gold seemed to flow like water and the beauty of their silks and spices. She did not believe him though. She doubted any place could be that wealthy, sure her village was probably not the richest but she thought they were a fair indicator of the rest of the world.

She loved going to town to town to hear those stories, the epic lives of those men who traveled the world. She always asked if she could go with her father every time and normally, after a long persuasive argument she managed to convince him to allow her to go. And every night when she got backed she would lay awake and think of what was beyond and when at last she fell asleep she would dream of that distant shore and that boy.

Now, though, was not the time for dreaming. She was standing outside the family house, a well built little cottage of a single room with a small overhead loft area for storage. Her father had built it before she was born, he had been obligated to build a house her as part of the requirements for receiving the land from his father. Some parts of the house had obviously been repaired since that time but for most part it had remained unscathed by the passing of years. Stepping outside she pulled out a large barrel that the cooper in the town had made and set it outside. She went back into the house and grabbed the bucket to go down to the creek in the woods for water. When she got back she would put the water in the pot and start a fire to begin heating it but for now she would just get the first bucket full of water.

She crossed the edge of the village and entered the fields that surrounded the village on all sides and form a ring between the houses and the trees themselves. She began moving through this barrier. There was a viscous nature about the air here that seemed rather odd. The wind was hard at her back and she was pushed away from her town into the welcoming arms of the woods.

Stepping lightly into the woods, she was filled with a great sense of well being as the light peaked between the leaves making arcane patterns on the ground and her skin. She was connected with this forest almost instantly. The way the wind blew through the branches creating a wonderful torrent of sounds in her ears filled her with a sense of fascination and desire. Her feet carried her mind, overflowing with thoughts, which beat in tune with the blood in her veins. There were fruits that hung on the trees like beautiful little fetuses, young ideas and dreams all bursting in their sugarcoated seeds, the dreams of future plants which would one day feed the dreams of future humans and push them towards their destinies. Perhaps.

Eventually, she found the creek. Its clear, chill waters flowed with a soft sound through the channel which they had dug into the forest floor. Occasionally, a leaf would drift down its currents, twisting around but always going with its flow. The leaves seemed happy to follow the water away from their tree, who knows how far from their home they would go before they would scuttle themselves against the shore to rest and their spirits would leave their bodies to rot their. And all would be good and at peace. The water would continue to flow and continue to carry those leaves forever down its channel.

She always came to this creek whenever she needed to get water. There was a well in the village but the water from this creek always tasted and felt cleaning, its crystalline fluid still twirling with the breath of life that had coursed through it when it had been in motion. Also, it gave her an excuse to walk out into the forest which she always loved doing. Even as a child she had ventured out here and had always received reprimands about wild boars and animals that could attack from her mother. Her dad also warned her but his warnings involved demons and witches, the forces of Satan and Mephistopheles that loomed in the trees. She had never seen dark things in the soft flowing wave of the trees, in their cradling boughs that seemed to hold up the sky. There were only the wandering paths made by deer and other denizens of this primeval forest.

Dipping the bucket in the water she watched it fill with that life giving liquid and gazed at the light jumping of its glimmering surface. She lifted up this small bit of life, gathered in the half-darkness of this wild forest and began to head towards her home. She always wanted to venture deeper, to even more pure and reclusive creeks but she knew that if she took to long her parents would be angry. There angry faces, well, her father’s angry face, was enough to send her wayward body home. She slipped through the trees for a moment then stop. There in the middle of the forest was a small clearing where all the fallen leaves had been pushed aside and small lean-to had been made.

The lean-to was a shoddy structure and seemed to be about to collapse. It was covered with a blanket, which was then covered with leaves for insulation against the cold nights that plagued the village in the fall and early winter. Beside the lean-to was a pile of wood that seemed freshly hewed; the ax was still in one of the pieces. In the center of the clearing was a small ring of stones and the remains of a nights fire. It all spoke of being recently lived in and seemed to her to be profoundly lonely, Spartan, cold, exposed.

Gazing upon this small, living space, this miniscule area of tamed ground in the middle of the endless, she wondered who lived there. Who would take the time to hue a small home into the forest, like a stone cutter sculpting the visage of life from solid rock, when he could probably just as easily find someplace the nearby trading town? Even if he merely slept in the shadow of the buildings, in the allies, or on the counters of the taverns, was it no better then this frigid place, with no human contact and no protection against the elements? She thought of all the people she knew and wondered, since it was no great distance from the Cannewitz, whether or not one of them had built it, perhaps as a refuge where they could find solitude. However, few indeed were those who ever, went out into the forest, and there were none, that she knew of, who didn’t purely for the joy of doing it. Those were people who did everything they could to be lost in the day to day existence within there small circle of purpose, that hollow ring that surrounded the village on all sides, or, perhaps, they were just too busy looking down, at the plants in the ground or the yarn in their hands, that they never had a chance to look up and realize that there was a beautiful, deep, dark, and welcoming forest stretching out its arms toward them. So this man, for she, looking at the Spartan and starved appearance of this little home, could only think that it was a man, so this man must have had a reason for going out into the woods to live rather then remain in places safer and more comfortable.

Perhaps he had no choice? Maybe he had been driven out from his home, bearing some minor defect of character that could not be reconciled with those around him, a habit for stealing things left unattended. It reminded her not long of ago when Barend got caught stealing and was given twenty lash across the hands and told that next time his hands would be removed. She knew Barend, he was a nice man, sure he was one of the poorer villagers but he never seemed bothered by it. He smiled more then was his due, even when his crops routinely failed. She couldn’t have imagined him stealing but she knew that if it were true he could very easily have been exiled from the village. Perhaps something like that had happened to this man. Cast out from his home and forced to take refuge in lowly places in order to survive. How it would be, to be this close to a tame little village like her own, watching the passing of people and their lives, as they smile to one another, constantly echoing one’s own lose, the shade of one’s memories floating in the back of one’s head, painting pictures of lost bonds which now lie broken like fallen chains.
Or maybe, he was a bandit! In her travels to the main town, Kändler, with her father, she had heard rumors of bandits which prowled the country side. Many were supposedly out of work mercenaries since the war had cool down. Some were just the bandits that had been a problem for as far back as the towns memory stretched. However, few would set up camp so close to towns and she didn’t think a bandit would travel alone but she lacked experience so could not rule it out as a possibility. She wondered what he would look like. She had always imagined bandits as where thick leather cloths and perhaps a few scavenged pieces of armor, maybe a shoulder guard. And a sword. It would be massive, of such a size that even she with both hands could not lift it. His frame would be large and solid, excess muscle seeming almost to ooze off of him in a sickeningly powerful fashion.


Her eyes bulged. Her body tensed. Every part of her seemed to become calcified, glazed over with stone. She very slowly turned her head around to look behind her where the voice had come from. Her entire essence screamed to run as fast as she could and to never look back but her flesh seemed completely opposed to the notion and refused to move even a hair’s breadth.

The form she now saw behind her was that of a young man, she couldn’t tell his age because his body and face were shrouded by a cloak, the hood brought up high casting his entire face in a thick, almost palpable shadow. And from that shade, from that ever-creeping blackness, shone two bright yellow eyes. They glimmered like two gold coins in the dead of night and seemed to pierce into her being and dredge her out into the light of day, but at the same time there was an aura of sad softness to them, something hidden and tucked away, deep beneath layers of shadow-folds. They were the most brilliant hue of gold as well, like sun-waxed summer days mixed into the eye of a wolf as it stalks it prey, leaping and snatching. Wild. Untamed. Potent. They were there in that darkness and seemed all the brighter for it, undiluted by the fact no sun reach them those eyes shone with their own inner light, radiating out from their climb. She could then immediately feel his thoughts upon her. She did not need to see the face those eyes, with there primal luminescence shifted some psychic bond deep into her mind and grasped at her core. She had never been good at reading emotions. Her father would say to easily his emotions, and her mother had become to grizzled by the passing of German winters to have any warmth in her heart to spare, her friends gossiped and squeed (what she called making a high pitched sound almost like a pig that had been castrated), but others, like the boys who she sometimes fawned over as they past through the village, those were ones whose thoughts she could not read. But despite all her inability the emotions in those eyes where show sharp and keen, like blades and swords, that she could not help but know almost instantly the thoughts that beat behind them. The vague mix of apprehension and wonder, coated softly with apathy and a sadness chilled fatalism, all over some dark thought she could not read, a sinking pit in the middle of his pupil which seemed to open a gateway to a greater being.

That was the first thing she saw, even before she saw the man whose eyes they were she had gained an intimate awareness of those irises, how the floated and gazed from the shadows. But soon her eyes broke away from his and she looked at the form of the man in front of her. The great cloak that shrouded his body almost completely, of course wool to keep out the cold gusts of the coming winter, seemed to act as a great border around his body. The blackness of the material was a degree of separation between the boy and the forest, which reached up behind him. His shoulders were confident, though somewhat slumped, as though some stone weighed upon them, and his arms were at his side with the relaxed self-confidence of experience. Though his head seemed to sway and drift ever so slightly in some gust of wind far greater then the small eddies of air that currently washed over the forest, his feet were solidly in the earth and were now braced against it, a ready grace to them. He was not overly tensed by any means but having that proper suppleness to his form that made her feel he knew very well that she was a threat. Or so she would guess.

“Who…who are you?” she asked, her words slipping out of her mouth with hardly any motion from her lips. She trembled slightly throughout her being. She swallow the saliva which was pooling around her tongue.

The eyes blinked. As soon as their glow faded from the hood some of the tension faded from her person, her lungs expanded and she breathed in for the first time in what had seemed to be the passage of eternity. His eyes remained closed for a moment more and when they opened they were looking past her and past the horizon to some far of place, glazed and out of focus. “I am myself. That is all.” His words fell at a slow deliberate pace his mind completely focused on each syllable as they plummeted from his tongue, landing with earth-shaking weight upon the ground below.

She looked to the side of his face so she didn’t have to look in his eyes. The eyes of storms. She was getting her usual courage back. “What does that mean? What are you then?” she scoffed. She almost faulted as she rethought her tone but it was too late now and she would stand by it.

He turned his head and walked towards his small camp as he intonated his response with a hesitant tongue, “It means… what is means. I’m a person.” He pulled something from his cloak and set it on a stone nearby. It was a large loaf of bread, almost circular in shape and mostly crust. He sat down beside it.

She hesitantly moved closer, not too close though. She was certain to keep the fire pit between them. Her eyes were focused on him intently, waiting for even the slightest movement. “At least tell me your name!” Why did this person have to be so difficult? Was it so hard to just give a straight forward answer to a straight forward question? This person made it seem like she was pulling teeth. It almost reminded her of those nights she would spend talking with her friends on the village green talking and chatting until the moon began to set its back down onto the earth. She remembered how they traded titillating information about which girl liked which guy and hoped their marriage would be arranged with him and whether or not anyone knew who they would marry when they came of age. Whenever one of the girls knew something the other girls always gave them an inquisition. The questions were always designed to pry every last bit of information out of the victim and she had seen how nervous the person would get. She remembered when Hilde revealed that she would be getting married the next spring and how long those questions had taken. “Who is he?”, “What’s he like?”, “Have you talked to him yet?” standard fair like that, but also some more, at least by her mind, peculiar questions which made her blush a little just to think about. Now that she was thinking it over interview this man wasn’t really at all like that…only superficially, in the fact that many questions were being asked of a single person in order to pry out every last bit of information. Otherwise, this couldn’t be farther from times like that. Those time talking with the other girls… they had been inundated with flighty dreams, illusionary ones, she now though, lacking substance and possessing so little substance. This, this time however echoed with something more real, there was something being born, she could not say what, but there was that pregnancy about this moment. She could feel the birthing fluids swirling through and around her.

He looked up for a moment then turned his face towards the loaf of bread that was still sitting on the rock. “Name?” he said thoughtfully, as he picked up the bread and brought it near to his mouth. However, his hood moved awkwardly about his head, pushed aside by the bread as he took the first bite and while he was chewing he pushed the hood back to reveal his face.

He was young, which surprised her. He looked barely older then herself and she was still only newly turned to 17. Those eyes of his still sucked ones attention, even in the light of the afternoon they seemed to radiate with more brilliance then the sunlight streaming off his skin, which seemed soft, even where it was still raw around a scab on the bottom right portion of his jaw. But his hair! How strange it was indeed! It was strange because it was white at the root and most of the follicle however at the last third it turned get black, just in front of his eyes. The hair swirled around his head, ragged and uneven save for in the back where it was held in a short and simple ponytail. He swallowed and her mind was immediately back in reality. “I have no need…of names. They are for the weak.”

How could he talk so easily and with a straightforward tone and yet everything he said was so confusing? “You don’t have a name? What manner of person are you?”

He shrugged, “The manner that I am.”

Her head slumped forward and she sighed. This was not progressing quite like she would have hoped. However, she was becoming quite interested even if she did not think she was. Her entire mind was bent towards this boy because he had something she desperately wanted. Experience. The feelings of having seen beyond the veil. “Well, where are you from?” Her tone was a bit breathless perhaps but her she was becoming frustrated. She always became frustrated when trying to figure something out, like when the leather harness had broken from Mu’s back. She had spent the better part of two hours trying to fix that cow’s damnable harness until she screamed. Hearing her, her father walked up and had the harness fixed in moments. She had almost screamed again just watching that.

His expression turned thoughtful, as though thinking about something which the fate of the world depended on. “I…Don’t know.” He then took another bite from his bread.

“Why are you living here?”

The reason he gave was that winter was coming and it would be more difficult to travel in the cold and so he was settling in for the winter. He didn’t use that many words though. He was quiet and his answers well thought out. His mind almost didn’t seem to think on the same plane as what she was familiar with, living in some ambiguous ephemeral psuedo-world. He was quite humble in his tone though he occasionally mentioned a group of people he called “the weak” or “the fools” but he never elaborated on this group to any great extent, almost taking it for granted that she knew what he was implying. She also learned a few things about him if she asked the right questions. He had been traveling for two years, he had mentioned. However, when she asked about why he had started two years ago he clamped up. Over the course of the conversation he had gotten more free and though he didn’t smile or even grin, he definitely appeared more at ease. But as soon as she came close to that time two years ago he return to his previously guarded self and it took a while of talking about herself to get him comfortable again.

She told him as much as she could. Her name was Blasa Dering. She lived in the small village of Cannewitz not far from the trading town of Kändler. She had a fair sized family with two brothers Harold and Otto along with three sister one older Hilde, and two younger, Giselle and Lamar. Her father was a villain who worked all day in the fields as per his contract with the master of the village, who lived in a castle a few hours travel distant. The mother who had birthed her was a calloused old woman who spent most her day knitting, spooling out past dreams in the subconscious twiddling of her yarn. Her life was rather boring, nothing but getting up in the morning to work and then eventually collapsing in bed after she had drained her life. “However, I have a dream. I want to leave my village one day and go beyond the forest. I want to live as you have. Traveling from place to place, my minds fingers slipping sweetly across the worlds surface, my feet treading not far behind. It would be beautiful! The thought of seeing and grow accustomed to the comings and goings of different places, learning all that this sun shines upon as only it knows fills me with a white, holy feeling! It would be bliss!” She closed her eyes and leaned back with a dreaming smile.

“Don’t.” he dropped that single syllable with deafening softness.

“What?” she jerked upright. Not only was the first time he had spoken without being prompted with a question but it also seemed so profoundly strange that a travel, one who has perceived the bliss of it, would warn her away. She could understand when her father had, for she in her younger moments had said her desire to travel aloud to him and he quickly chastened her of the horrors of it, but, of course, he had never traveled and could never know its allure. To see one who had played the part of the wander ward her from her course seemed… frightening. “Why not?”

Just as suddenly he pointed, “Sun”.

Looking to where he was point she gasped slightly and all thoughts of their conversation fled from her mind. The sun was almost to setting! She hadn’t gotten any water! The bath! She picked up the bucket and began to run away but turned around. By this time the boy must have reached back and grabbed a log from the pile not far behind him for he tossed it lightly on the fire. “I’m coming back tomorrow to finish this alright” he merely nodded and stuck a flint to light the log. She was into much of a rush, she didn’t notice. Didn’t find it odd that, he lit a log with one strike of flint and steel without tinder. Didn’t even turn her head back when it immediately burst into a large campfire. This was all beyond her thinking now. Her mind was focused on water. Running and water.

She managed to get back before her parents did. But, even using the well in town rather than going to the stream, she hadn’t managed to fill the barrel or get much water boiling in the cauldrons before they got back. Her father chastened her harshly, unduly so she thought, but she managed to convince him that she had gotten caught up with gossiping with her friends and not wandering in the forest. He hated it when she went into the forest, ever since she had first gone in as a child. “Cavorting with demons” he called it.

Later that night she looked out across the field around the town form the back of the house. She was cleaning out the cauldron, her brothers and sisters having already gone to bed, her mother putting out the fire, and her father asking her to loan him her body for the night. She would refuse a few times, then nod ascent. She normally liked to come in after they were finished and cleaning the cauldron normally provided her a good enough excuse. Finishing, she leaned back against the wood and could her a few low moans from within. This was normal. Her siblings had gotten so used to it they could sleep through it without trouble but she had never numbed herself enough to be able to. However, she liked looking out at night. Not being able to see let her mind paint the world for her. Odd. Normally, that was merely metaphorical but now it seemed as though her mind were truly playing a trick on her eye. She thought she could see a light out there in the forest. Bright and tantalizing. Her hand stretched out towards it, opening and closing futilely in an attempting to grab it. Then she remembered, the boy was out there. She watched his fire for several minutes, her mind placing it farther and farther away until, rather then being in a forest right near her house, it was in a forest man miles away, across the contient, across the world. And she wanted so badly to go there.

The wind blew soft through the trees, and the leaves in their rustling made a delicious song upon the breeze. It tinkled into her ear and, for a moment, she felt she heard one of her father’s demons. A siren.