The Crossroads

The Crossroads

The scars drawn on his face depicted his ferocity; they were complemented by a sword worn with use, ready to unsheathe in case an opponent thought anything less of this proud and rugged warrior. He walked down a long winding road until he arrived at a greying monk lost in meditation, sitting upon a rock that split the path in two. It was near nightfall and the man was headed for a garden that legends said had ignored the sway of centuries by the magic of a marvelous fountain’s special water. These waters granted immunity to time- the gift of immortality- to all that bathed in it. The garden had come to be called by different names in the many legends that spoke of it: The Garden of Life, the Garden of Time Forgotten, but most knew it as The Hourless Sanctuary.

The crossroads divided the path evenly: one travelled left and the other right, but both travelled forward. Even had it not been getting dark, they would seem identical to even the well-versed traveller. Upon realizing that he had arrived at an impasse, the warrior stopped to ask the monk which of the two roads to take.

“You there, monk, which road will take me to the garden where it is said that time is forgotten?” the warrior asked, drumming his fingers along the hilt of a sword.

“Oh, both of these roads will lead you there. But one of them hides a poisoned plant called the Scorpion Nettle. If you so much as brush against it, it will chase all life from the body before the mind can so much as comprehend it,” the old monk replied.

“On which path does it lie?” the warrior inquired.

“I cannot say. I am bound by duty to protect the Hourless Sanctuary, and only allow passage to those who are worthy,” the monk said.

“Then deem me worthy, old man. I am a decorated warrior who has fought in many battles. Many have fallen before my blade, and my King values my sword-arm alone more than the sum of all the rest that occupy his ranks,” the warrior boasted.

“To what end do you seek the Garden?” asked the monk.

“To gain eternal life of course. So I may fight a thousand more battles in a hundred more wars in the name of my King!” the warrior roared.

“I cannot tell you,” the monk sighed.

“Tell me upon which path the poison plant grows or I will slit your throat where you stand!” the warrior threatened, with a swift gesture in demonstration.

“I cannot. You bear too great a lust for death in your heart. I cannot let you profane the Santuary’s ground with the blood that your soles have steeped in walking the path of violence,” the monk asserted.

“Monk. No man should enter then, for no man is pure,” the warrior said.

“It is no matter of purity of the soul, for you are right. No man is pure, all men lie and cheat and are prone to all manner of infallibility, myself included. It is about harm, and the intent to do harm. No man should commit himself to the wanton destruction of anything,” the monk replied.

“Off with you then, I will cautiously wander any path and if I see this nettle then I will turn back around to take the other” the warrior said smugly, clearly pleased at his own intelligence.

“I wish you luck, my friend. Upon the other path, the harmless Green Nettle also sprouts. They are nearly indiscernible as they are, but in the night they will be near impossible to see. I suggest you turn around and leave; the time you’ve left is better than none.” The monk insisted.

Enraged at the monk’s blunt and pointed nature, the warrior grabbed him by his habit and dragged him down the path to the left. “In that case I will take you down any random path, and let your screams for mercy betray you, revealing the path that keeps the poison plant.” The warrior snickered at his own ruthlessness, as he walked the monk by his skinny neck, the aged man leading every step of the way.

“No! Please! Do not go down this path!” the monk cried out, “You will doom us both! Do not take another step! Death is no more than a stone’s throw in front of you!” The warrior smiled and pushed the monk down against the trunk of a tree, bending down to examine the thorny green plant in front of him.

“Ha,” the warrior gave a pleased smile, “your cowardice has told me all I need to know. Now that I am done with you…” he grabbed the monk and, with one effortless heave, tossed him into the thorny plant. The monk went limp and lifeless as if the prickly brush were a cloud of heaven to instill sleep on any soul.

“Fool monk. Had you told me at the start, you may have walked away in peace. Instead you lay here, food for the worms! And I, in only hours, will be a master of Death and Time!” The warrior spat on the monk’s corpse.

As he turned around to meet the crossroads once more, and take the other path, the monk lay still as he was when the warrior left, but for the hint of a smile on his face that was not there before.

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