V

“Through the blackness of eternity, he marched on—never to see the rays of the sun again.”

—The Tale of Yetomese of Nunic

Darkness surrounded King Wulfbrok as he navigated the labyrinth of tunnels in the Caves of Divinity. He had been walking for some time—having left the carriage driver at the entrance of the cave. An ethereal blue glow guided him through the never-ending night. It seemed no matter how far or how long he trudged forward, he could not catch up to the glowing light. 

When his old legs grew weary and his breath labored, he stopped and rested against the cool cavern wall. A trickle of moisture running down the surface dampened his back and sent a shiver through his body. He could advance no farther.

“Oracle, please.” The King dropped to a knee and bowed his head in a solemn show of respect. “I give the sincerest of apologies for my transgressions. I shan’t return without seeking your great wisdom.” His words echoed deep into the void.

An all-enveloping silence took hold and the King buckled under its deafening power. The sound of his heartbeat resounded through the silent caverns and beads of perspiration began on his brow.

“What can I do,” his voice trembled, “for you to bestow upon me your great wisdom?”

The answer came in the form of a deeper silence. Failure seemed inevitable. Death, even more so.

“So Chasetree spoke the truth? You refuse me and there is nothing I can do to sway your decision?”

The blue glow began to dim and darkness—the kind usually known solely by the blind—crept into its place.

Facing the threat of being confined deep beneath the Earth, King Wulfbrok tried once more to persuade the unseen Oracle. “What if I offer my life?” The blue glow blinked out of existence and left him sightless in a world of absolute black. “What is the blood of royal lineage worth to the Gods? Because I shall offer every last drop in my veins for a single moment of your time.”

The cave began to rumble as if the tunnels were rotating like the gears inside of Sansylgate’s majestic clocktower.  

“You may enter.”

The voice sounded near and distant simultaneously. King Wulfbrok thought it came from two persons; one hidden in the darkness next to him and one way off within the deep cave. He was told to enter but had no idea where or what he was to enter into.  

“I’m afraid I cannot see even my hand before my eyes.”

A low hum accompanied by a whoosh of hot hair blew past the king. This was followed by the return of the blue glow. 

It first started as a glimmer—a lone firefly flickering in the unknown depths of the underworld—but quickly illumined the entire cave with its supernal radiance. The King in all the long years of his life had never observed anything like it. 

“This way,” the voice echoed, drifting to and fro like a guiding spirit.

King Wulfbrok moved forward. His legs quaked with fatigue but he pushed on. Stopping numerous times along the way to catch his breath, he refused to quit and always continued back on his silent descent into the Earth.

 Many hours passed this way and eventually, the blue glow gave way to soft white light. The cave was not as it was before; its walls now had an ocherous hue and the cold air had turned stifling hot. 

Each step zapped more of his energy. His arms became heavy. His head lulled forward as he walked. Sweat slicked his white hair down and his tunic stuck to his body. He walked until he could go no more.

Exhaustion won out and he dropped to the hot ground. The old King’s pulse slowed and his breath grew faint. 

“I have failed Sansylgate,” he whispered to himself.

As he closed his eyes and prepared for the death he knew would always come, a cool hand gently caressed his weathered face.

“It is time to make good on your offer, King.”

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