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Volume 15, Issue 2: Similitudes

Always West

Douglas Wilson

Andrew walked down to the far end of the table, where the raven had been, and leaning against the table, he found a light sword in a scabbard. The hilt was covered with inlaid silver, and the leather belt that held the scabbard had been worked by a craftsman as well. Next to it was a shield, also covered with silver, and with a bright red cross in the shape of an x across the face of it. On the ground next to the sword was a small pouch, apparently filled with provisions, a small canteen, and a gray cloak.

The sun was below the trees by this time, and so Andrew put on the cloak and sat down at the table again to conduct a brief inventory of the pouch. There were many small pieces of what seemed like shortbread, and wrapped separately, Andrew found some dried venison. He put it all back and sat quietly for a long while, drumming his fingers on the table, thinking about his descent down the mountain. What was he here for? What was the sword for?
When darkness covered the meadow, Andrew crawled underneath the table and went quickly and quietly to sleep. He slept soundly and woke with the sun.
Standing up, he looked to the West, and there, standing by the edge of the forest was the unicorn. His white hair shimmered in the morning light, and Andrew could make out his crimson horn whenever the light caught it. Hurriedly assembling his possessions, he walked gladly toward the unicorn. His name is Beow, Andrew thought. I wonder what that means.
The unicorn waited expectantly, and Andrew approached boldly, though he slowed down slightly, wondering what he would say. Not able to think of a noble greeting, he simply said, "Hello."
"Greetings, Andrew," Beow said. "I am glad you made this choice. The adventure will be great."
"Adventure?" Andrew knew there had to be an adventure, but he was curious to know if Beow would tell him more about it.
"I will tell you on the way."
"Which way should we go? What are we doing?"
"Sons of Adam are always to go West. And it is there we will meet the dragon, and there we will take whatever hazards the Lord Christ is pleased to send us."
With this, Beow turned and walked into the forest, back along the narrow path that emptied out in the meadow. Now the name Lord Christ is meaningful to you, but it was not to Andrew. I don't know if it ever had been, but it did not matter because Andrew knew nothing about his life before he came to this place. And yet, when Beow mentioned the Lord Christ, Andrew felt himself feeling both overwhelmed and encouraged. The overwhelming sensation was like someone had placed an enormous weight on his chest. The encouragement was in the fact that he could still walk.
He decided to say nothing about it, and so he asked about the dragon. Beow lowered his head, and spoke softly as they walked together, side by side. "The dragon lives at the most western point of Greenland in the ruined castle of Rye. Beyond him is the sea. The dragon's name is Fafnir. He is of the third clutch of the drake you met on the mountain, and is wily like his father. His craft is deep and subtle, and you will have to meet him in a way he will not expect."
"Is there a maiden in the castle?"
"Of course," Beow said. "The dragon is evil, but not an outlaw. He follows the deepness of things, and loves to do what is expected of him. The maiden is very young, and her name is Maggie. She was taken last year from a village to the south of us here. Your task is to rescue her, and to kill the dragon."
"Is she is a princess?"
Beow turned his crimson horn back and forth. "No, she is not a princess. She is the daughter of a simple miller. Her parents were both killed in the ravaging attacks of the dragon last autumn. But she has been taken for a reason, just as you have been sent to rescue her for a reason."
"But I am just a boy. How can I kill a dragon?"
"You were born of a woman, and so you come from a race of dragonslayers. This does not mean you will succeed. It just means the thing is possible. And I have come to help you as I can."
Beow and Andrew walked quietly side by side for a few moments more. "Beow, can you tell me where I am from?"
Beow replied, "I could tell you a name, but it would mean nothing to you, just as it means nothing to me. If you fulfill the quest that is set before you, you will return there, and you will understand everything at that time. But until then, you simply have to trust in those who have given you this path."
On either side of the path, the forest extended into a dim artificial twilight. No beams of sunlight broke through the green roof of the woods, and yet fragments of that light made their way down to the ground where vast trunks of trees and brown leaves covered the forest floor.
"How far do we have to go?" Andrew asked.
"A fortnight of good walking," said Beow.

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