The journey they said would be hazardous. I would have to cross the Swamp of Lost Souls from which very few returned.
But the need to succeed, to find and return the magic Urn of Silicox was worth every danger I knew I would encounter. The Urn was part of our heritage and contained a magic that only the person who rescued it would be fortunate to tap into. But to do that I had to wrest it from the Denizens of the Twisted Forest.
The Denizens were a fierce people who had ravaged the landscape in the past millennia and had until now led a safe and protected life, thanks to the urn.
The only hope of real success was to find the Oracle who lived at the gateway to the Twisted Forest. An Oracle of legendary reputation but a most elusive one as well.
For three days I laboured my way through jungles and across crocodile infested swamps, fought off the demons in the Swamp of Lost Souls whom I must admit were the most hideous creatures I had ever encountered.
But on my departure our tribal elder and mentor, Backana, had entrusted me with the tribe’s most valuable weapon, the Sword of the Kings. Only the most worthy man in the tribe could ever be given the sword, its blade razor sharp, its hilt laden with precious stones and a protective spell placed on it in the days before the Denizens attacked and stole the Urn. It had been hidden for a thousand years, unearthed for my quest and handed to me by Backana who told me to listen to my instincts when faced with what ever danger I encountered.
The demons of the swamp had fallen easily with no answer to the sword, which in my hand had felt all powerful. My success had given me great confidence to complete my journey and return the Urn to its rightful place.
After five days and two of them crossing a hot and arid desert I began to wonder if I might ever reach my destination. I knew I was going in the right direction for the instructions I had been given were simple. Go west; eventually I would come across the Twisted Forest.
The morning of the sixth day dawn hot and humid.
My water supply was getting low and I feared if I didn’t find water soon the whole quest might come to an untimely end. Over the first ridge that morning I spied a clump of trees stretching away to my right.
With renewed enthusiasm I headed towards them believing I was getting close to the Twisted Forest and the purpose of my journey.
The trees afforded me shelter from the heat and at last a sense of conclusion came over me. There was a rough track between the trees so I followed it to see where it went aware that it was also going in a westerly direction.
A little way in I came across a small hut surrounded by a white picket fence. There was a tendered garden and in front of the door sat a small stocky man whittling.
He was totally engrossed in his activity and I thought he didn’t know I was approaching. He never once looked up at me but was concentrating on the knife he held in one hand and the object of his whittling in the other.
“You want to be careful wandering in this forest. Easy to get lost easier to get yourself killed.” He said as I stood in front of him.
I explained my quest to him and asked him if he knew the way to the Oracle.
“The Oracle? Why would you waste your time going to see him? Silly old man he is.”
“I believe he knows the way to the Twisted Forest as I am on a quest to retrieve the Urn of Silicox.”
“You’re insane yes?”
“Not at all. The urn belongs to my people. It was stolen by the Denizens millennia ago. It is my quest to return it.”
The old man looked me up and down and went back to his whittling.
“So you are Silicoxian?”
“You have the sword?”
“Yes. You know of the sword?”
The old man chuckled to himself and said that he had heard of the sword and knew of its powers.
“I was told the Oracle would give me directions to the Twisted Forest.”
“The ways are closed to most folk. Its too dangerous and the Denizens do not take kindly to the arrival of strangers, especially ones carrying a sword like yours.
One look at that sword and they’ll know who you are what you want. They have been awaiting your arrival for a thousand years. You will have to tread carefully.”
“Are you the Oracle?”
“I have been lots of things young man.”
“Do you know the way to the Twisted Forest?”
“I know only one way. Take the path behind my house and at every turning always take the path to the left, never go right. The path to your right will be your death, the left path will give you a chance.”
“You are the Oracle aren’t you?”
“I’m an old man, an old man who knows some things, who recognised you, your sword and who believes you have a chance to succeed. Remember go left at every turn.”
With that he returned to his whittling as I contemplated the journey ahead.
The following days I knew would be the most arduous of my life. There was so much to gain, even more to lose.
Behind the old man’s house was the path he had spoken of. A little further and it split in two.
I made sure to turn left.