Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WIN (02/14/19)
TITLE: The Map to the Place You Shouldn't Go
By Zacharia Fox
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"It is the map to the place you shouldn't go."
He might as well've sent me an invite.
"What's it say?"
I glared at him until he put a colossal finger on the first rune. "What..." He fingered the second rune. "You..." The third. "Want. You know it as 'The Devourer's Den'."
My eyes narrowed over a slight grin. The Devourer's Den was a story told by the village wise-men. In the tale, the bravest warriors sought out the Devourer's Den, and all but one perished. They called him The Simple Man.
"So it's a fiction? A teaching tool?"
He sat in that same chair he'd had since I was young, that same wicked scar on his bare chest, scowling from that same ancient beard. But the look in his eyes was different. I'd seen it in others. In the eyes of my enemies. In the eyes of children when they heard the tale of The Devourer. I'd never seen it in him.
I thought he feared for himself. I know now, he feared for me.
"The stories are no lie. Neither are they the whole truth."
"'No lie'? Then where is the survivor?" As I was still asking the question, his scar caught my eye, and I knew. "You?"
He said nothing and for some reason it angered me.
"What aren't you telling me? Why are you so afraid? The Devourer's defeated!"
"Every man has a devourer."
I stole the map from his hands. "Clever answers are for wise-men and elders. Not warriors. If you won't tell me, I'll go myself."
"You're not ready."
"Ready?" I spun at the libel. "I'm the greatest warrior in the village; some say our greatest ever! Greater even than you." I stared into the tiny, trembling abyss of his pupils and saw only horror. "You're no warrior." I snatched my grandad's blade. All good blades have a name. He called his The Scroll.
"Your father never returned."
I glanced at him, tears disappearing into his beard. Realization dawned, redoubling my resolve.
"Boy. There's no lie in that place." I nodded. "Remember the old scrolls."
A day's hike into the forbidden desert, I spied the cliffs marked what-you-want. Stark against the litany of sands.
Halfway atop the cliffs I crept into a cave, the air a sick odor. In the heart, bones were littered about a monumental tablet.
You delight in your Lord.
Crawl in His presence, surrendering your soul.
You delight in His desires, devouring like fire.
You delight in your Lord.
Then I heard his breath, hissing.
I spun, The Scroll drawn.
He only grinned, tongue slithering between jagged teeth, tasting the air. "Why've you come, boy?"
"To kill you."
"Then, you will fail." As he spoke he grew immense. Or maybe I shrunk. Whatever, he was a giant, and I an ant.
I dropped my twig of a weapon as he grabbed me lifting me toward his mouth. I gagged, smelling the deaths of all who'd come before me in the heat of his breath.
All but one. 'Boy. There's no lie in that place...' he'd said.
I remembered the tablet and shouted, "You're my Lord!"
He hesitated, then dropped me by Grandad's blade. "I am."
"And... I delight in you?"
He chuckled. "Yesssss."
What do I delight in? My thoughts were a flurry of panic... Battles? No. Winning battles? There was more, though. Secret trophies. Idols... The Chief's Chair. The throne?
The Devourer grew impatient, unsheathing yellowed fangs.
"You're a throne!"
The tablet! 'Surrendering your soul...' The words were indicting.
He laughed a succession of hisses. "I'm your appetite. All your ambition."
I knew then, how perfect his control over me. I was his slave.
But I remembered the old scrolls. 'My strength works best in your weakness...' When I am weak, then I am strong.
I gripped Grandad's blade, The Scroll. The Devourer grinned, amused. When I turned it on myself he lunged, shrieking and open mouthed.
I felt The Scroll burst through my back and The Devourer disintegrated to ash.
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