Hello once again to another back log, this one, again, probably written about a year ago, which is the trend I’m slowly seeing that I’ve left things untouched for a year. But, this one’s actually quite long and is a piece that is more dialogue heavy than anything. It’s kind of just a prevailing mind game that happens between these 2 characters, and that was the point I had when I wrote it, kind of a play on trust and integrity. Anyways, here you go, “Within Winter’s Way”.
The harsh winter winds blew across the expansive fields. Grey clouds hung in the sky and veiled over the empty lands. Far from these fields were dead trees and somewhere further, a village. The field would not see movement for many days on end. In short, this field was just another part of the world, abandoned and forgotten. Except, on these lone winter days, there was one reward to be sought.
Arnus was one such man that knew of the legend pertaining to these lone winter fields. They say that a medicinal plant grows during the harsh winter days, and that it will only last for a single day. The plant has no official scientific name, but it is well known in urban legends, and in myths. Arnus travelled two days to reach this destination, in order to seek out the Legendary Winter Plant. He has nothing to spare but wasted time, as the longer he takes to find it, the more his dying wife will have to suffer. But, if he does find this Winter Plant, then his wife will suffer no more. Legends speak wildly of this Winter Plant. Some say it can cure cancer, others say it can give eternal life. And yet others say it can bring back the dead. As Arnus’s bed-ridden wife is ailing over an unknown disease, the only thing he can do is hope that at least one of those are true. And if not, then he will simply have to pay his respects to the gates of death.
The day grew old, and Arnus, who had finally arrived at the fields, grew tired himself. He spent his day searching for the Winter Plant, but he could not find it in due time. They say it is hidden beneath the snow, and Arnus had been busy shoveling away at snow that seemed endless. His hands were ice, while his feet sank into the ocean. His entire being was submissive to the cold of the fields, but he knew that he didn’t have long. That thought alone was enough to keep him going.
Before Arnus could tell, the day had grown to night. Even with will alone, his eyes were simply not light. He had to give it a rest, and hope for a more fruitful find next morning. But, before Arnus could go out to find firewood, he began hearing footsteps. It was difficult not to notice such loud crunching on the snow’s surface, especially in the dead of night. Arnus did not know of the village’s existence. As the person came closer to Arnus, he began tensing. The grip on his axe was enough to redden his hands.
“Hello!” A voice called out to Arnus. It was a male voice, one that has seen time itself. As the man came closer to Arnus, he was able to finally make out his figure. The man who had walked so boldly to Arnus was indeed to the word, barely holding on. His cane jabbed into the snow with each step. However, finding the right footing in such snow was difficult. His back slightly hunched, but despite his age he was more than fine coming out in such harsh conditions, perhaps due to his fur coat. The man finally came within cane’s reach to Arnus; his axe now freely to his side.
“My name is Bruno. I am the chief of Niliag, a village not far from here.”
“My name is Arnus. I am a traveler in search for a flower.” Bruno looked at Arnus with a great deal of concern. He peeked over Arnus’s shoulder, implying to him that he could see more than Arnus could. Arnus left a large trail of disturbed snow in his wake, which made Bruno nervous.
“What kind of flower are you looking for? Perhaps we can provide it in our village.” Despite Bruno’s nature, he still spoke with great poise. He gave off a reassuring smile to Arnus, hoping that he would fare away from the fields.
“If you could sell me the flower I am looking for, then I think your village would be a country,” Arnus remarked. His playful smile was not returned by Bruno, rather Bruno’s face contorted into one of indignation. At the same speed, Bruno’s face changed back to his poker face, reconsidering his next choice of words. To Bruno, this was a game of wit, a game played in secret, while his opponent is unknowing. Bruno is also a man who knows of the field’s legends. Rather, he is the one who created those legends, as if to fill the minds with grandeur fantasies. His hope was to create an apparition that could never exist. Bruno believed that in this world, nothing ruled the masses more than science, and a miracle flower is not bound within science. However, Bruno’s plans had backfired, and he is faced with a man more fool than he was. Bruno needs the Winter Plant so that his village can survive the winter.
Every year, many casualties occur over the harsh conditions set by winter’s way. Medicine is scare during these times. However, ever since Bruno had discovered the Winter Plant, his village has been able to come through the winter with their lives. It is a godsend to Bruno’s village, a secret that he had kept for many years. To think that a man foolish enough would venture to obtain it, was more than what Bruno could understand.
“Why do you seek this flower, Arnus?”
“For my dying wife. I have heard the legends of a miracle flower. And I hope to use it to cure my dying wife.” Bruno was surprised upon hearing Arnus’s story. If a man were to venture out here for no reason, they would be casted a fool, but if a man had reason, they would be casted naive, Bruno thought. The flower could indeed cure his wife, but the entire flower is not needed, a simple petal is enough, thought Bruno. It was a simple matter of clockwork. If Bruno could convince Arnus to take a single petal home, then he would, but even then to prepare the flower was another story. And if Bruno were to follow him home to prepare it, then his village would be in jeopardy. Bruno also believed that Arnus didn’t have much time either, and so if he did stay in the village and wait for his preparations, it may cost him. The plant did not restore the dead, Bruno knew this for fact.
Bruno considered his options. The flower could only be uprooted for a single day. If not created into medicine by that time, it would wither and become just another part of nature. Even with a single petal, if Arnus could not make it to his wife in a single day, then it would end all the same. Bruno knew that the flower would only see good use for him, in that his village was nearby. Coaxing a madman is easier than coaxing a fool, thought Bruno. But there was no way to coax a man filled with naivety.
“I do not know much about legends and miracles. But my village has flowers, even ones used for medicine.”
“Unfortunately not, all the doctors say they can’t cure her with anything conventional. I have travelled far to come here to place my hopes on the legends. It is the only thing I can do now.” Bruno grew even more tensed. A man with will has no need for reason. Bruno did not want to stir up Arnus in any way.
“I see. However, I have not seen a single flower out in these fields.”
“This is still a large field, and legends say it’s hidden in the snow. I have faith, and I will continue my search out in the morning.” Bruno weighed his options. If Arnus does find the flower in the morning, then problems will arise. But if he could find the flower with the night to hide him, then Bruno could leave without a trace.
“Will you be setting up camp here? If so, then why not stay in our village? We can provide you with great lodging.”
“Unfortunately, I do not have any money.”
“Not a problem. I understand your circumstances, and we are a humble abode. If it’s only for a day, then even we would be able to spare a room.”
“If it’s not far from here, then I guess I have no other choice.”
“Rejoice! The least of your problems should be to die from cold. If you will, we can set off right away.”
“Of course. However, if you may indulge in my curiosity Bruno, I have one thought to inquire.”
“You are a chief of a village. If one were to patrol, then I would understand. However, surely one such as yourself does not need to participate in the garrison.” Bruno kept his attitude stale. One wrong move and Bruno would be moving into strange territories. Bruno planned to lead him to the village, slip out, and find the flower for himself. If he used the grounds that Arnus had already cleaned as a reference, then he would be able to easily find the Winter Plant. It grows in the same spot every year, however, Bruno does not mark where it grows, which to Bruno, now seems like a brilliant decision. Using only his memory and intuition each year, Bruno has not failed in finding it.
“As you know, our village is quite small, and our people grow tired much as yourself. It is as you said, I am a chief. My activities are not physically strenuous, even in my form.”
“It is quite honorable for one such as yourself to compensate your people. Not many leaders can hold that to their name.”
“All in a day’s work. Being able to hold constitution is more than what most people would think of anyway.”
“Quite right. But, I find it strange for you to have to meet me here in these fields. Your village, it is well within the secluded nature of winter. I have not heard of it.” Arnus knew not of the village, which is a true fact. However, in his desperation to seek out the Winter Plant, he had no room to ask for information either. The only thing he knew was of the location where the legends spoke of. Bruno thought it would be wise to lead those curious to an actual location, only to be deterred by nothingness. Arnus caught Bruno in a strange situation, however Arnus was still on the fence of whether something strange was going on.
“That is unfortunate, but I can guarantee it is only a short way ahead.” Bruno tried to deter Arnus’s train of thought.
“A short way ahead huh? That is quite good. I can continue my search early in the morning. Funny how you have never heard of these legends.”
“I am not one that verses with the unknown, no matter how fanciful.”
“A small village, close to the origin of the legends. It’s really strange how even rumors didn’t spread in your village. Considering the severity of the legend, many people might have already come to your village seeking its rewards.”
“We are indeed a small village, and if there ever were rumors, then caution will be thrown to the winds. However, we do not get many visitors, we are quite far from anywhere near people.” Bruno’s patience began waning. Bruno needed to end this conversation as quickly as possible and get Arnus to head to his village. Anymore, and Bruno will have thought that Arnus had caught on to his scheming. Arnus did not falter on his defense, keeping a straight inquisitive face while facing Bruno, and not showing a single opening.
“Even the farthest places are sought out by wayfarers. The odd bunch may flock to your village from time to time, but those who know, come seeking treasure. These fields are legendary, and there are many people who seek legends.”
“Those seeking legends are none of my concern, nor our village’s concern. We receive very little company. There is no need for you to worry, our village will be able to accommodate you, so please feel at ease.”
“I find it strange that your village can just provide housing to the odd company. You do not receive a lot of visitors, so why the need to accommodate one such as myself?” Arnus continued his assault, not giving in, and attempting to rile Bruno with as much prying as possible. Any word Bruno says is another avenue for Arnus to walk onto, and he proved not to falter.
“I see you are concerned. While it is true that we may not provide the best lodging, we can find something suitable for your night.”
“Perhaps you can, but you gain nothing from lending a spare room to a traveler such as myself. If I do find my treasure, your village will suffer heavy losses. Such an event is not something a chief can uphold. You find yourself well to fend off travelers.” Arnus knew that if he were to stay passive, the conversation would loop. The one push he needed to do was to state unstated facts, and tempt Bruno to admit to them. However, how much Arnus can fabricate, was something even he was unsure of.
“I do not know of treasures, but our village will be fine. We gain nothing but the pride in helping a traveler such as yourself. If I can uphold my morality, I think that is fine.”
“It’s a shame, if you were to capitalize on the treasures this field held, then your village would prosper. It would outrun the shambles it holds, and then even you would not need to worry about the odd company.”
“Our village is fine, and you need not worry about our tidings.”
“Suit yourself, once I find my treasure, that will be it. It’s not on your property, it’s a little way away. Your village is close by, but even then, it’s anyone’s game. You find yourself needing to fend off travelers so that you can utilize the flower for yourself.”
“The Winter Plant is naught for one’s own reward!” Bruno finally snapped. And Arnus grinned. In the end, it was Bruno’s pride that costed him this game. Bruno realized the situation he was in. His one sentence ended his facade, and his next course of action will determine everything. Bruno’s options slowly began running thin, and it was all in Arnus’s favor.
“I’ll tell you something,” Arnus said. “There are two reasons why man, or woman, would hide secrets. ” Bruno understood full well what Arnus was doing. The only thing left for Bruno was to sit and listen, and in wistful prayer, maybe he could salvage his position.
“The first reason; to hide truth from those they do not want affiliated with the truth. And second; to capitalize on the secret themselves.” Arnus did not let up his grin, and even he could not hold in his laughter.
“But even then, you would not tell me where the flower is. I’m sure you have your reasons to keep it a secret. I respect that, I truly do. But now, you know my story. And my reasons, and for that, I will find it.”
“And what will you do with me?”
“I’m in search for a miracle flower. If you kept this secret, that means you have people you need to protect. I’m sure you can agree with me, that each life is precious, chief. Now, the only thing I’m unsure of, is why you opted to keep it a secret. Surely a petal would be enough to spare.” Bruno was backed into a corner, and could not get out of it. He drew from his old age, wisdom that only he could know. A man with will, and a man with a mission is a man to be feared. They would do anything, even give up their humanity to seek out what they seek. They are unwavering, and will not take logic. Bruno knew this, but even then he could not win.
“Or perhaps, you knew of my story, and wanted me and my wife to suffer.” Bruno opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Arnus cut him off. “Whatever you say at this point, I will take as lies. You have already lied to me before, how can I be sure now that I know the truth?” Bruno didn’t bother advocating his position. He knew he couldn’t break Arnus’s will.
“I have told all my truths. I do not know where the village is. I do not know where the flower is, except here on these fields. But you do. We can settle this peacefully.” Arnus brought his axe over his shoulder. The last option for Bruno is violence, for he could not fight. But perhaps Bruno did not need to fight. From Arnus’s demands, Bruno could muster up one last lie.
“To extract the plant, I need special equipment. If one were to pull out the Winter Plant carelessly, they would render its properties dry. I have the equipment back at the village.”
“So why the need to come empty handed?”
“I came to ascertain the location of the flower.”
“Alright, and why should I believe you?”
“I created the legends. I know the Winter Plant’s true natures for I have been harvesting it for years.”
“Why create legends?”
“To deter the truth. Most people wouldn’t come here in search of the flower. The legends would speak so highly of it, making it a dream that surely could not be real.” If Bruno could get Arnus onto his tune, the situation might be overturned. Bruno backed his lie with truth, and it was all up to this to determine whether he has a free pass. Arnus thought hard, and after wailing away another laugh, pointed his axe towards Bruno.
“Very well. I will accompany you to your village.” Bruno turned from Arnus, and began heading towards the direction of the village. Arnus followed slowly behind, his footsteps much lighter than Bruno. However, it was not long until Arnus gave a snide remark to Bruno, his hand still gripping onto the handle of the axe.
“You make it well to hide the flower from me. I take that as wit. But once I had caught the truth, you were forced to comply. You still have no reason to give me the flower, or a petal. I need no reasons anymore. You lead me to your village, and I am in your territory. I call that scheming.”