Passing by the old man’s room today, you see that his door is shut. A sign that says “Will return soon,” is hanging on his door. You can tell it is in his handwriting. Realizing he must still be out on his adventures, you remember the story that the old man left you with. Once back in your quarters, you take the neat little pile of papers containing Abraheim’s story and continue to read.
Master Delk’s age was beginning to show as of late, and as he walked over to a very much preoccupied Aren, the soft orange glow of the candles made wrinkles look like canyons that lined the man’s face.
“You know… “ Master Delk paused as he put a hand on Aren’s shoulder, making him jolt in his seat out of fear. “I used to do the same thing when I was young.”
Aren, with his heart beating heavily from being startled out of his trancelike state, gave a soft smile as he studied the man’s weary and wrinkled face. Aren could notice that even through the stress and weather of the man’s years, there was still a faint fire that burned in Master Delk’s eyes. It made him seem as if there was still the spirit a young man trapped within the deteriorating body of the old one who now pulled up a seat beside Aren.
“ I would shut myself in a room and read for hours. Once the Headmaster of the school was even called in to make sure I wasn’t dead in my room!” Master Delk gave a short weary laugh.
Aren’s smile grew as he gave a small chuckle.
“I wish that one day we might travel back to your home in the Blue Kingdom. You have even more reason than I to want to walk the beaches of the Natain,” Aren said in yearning. When he could get them out, Aren had quite the way with words, but Master Delk was one of the few people that Aren ever talked to, save for the people he had to converse with throughout his daily tasks. Master Delk’s eyes drifted upward and then closed as he imagined the cool breeze and wonderful sounds of the city and its many ports.
“Yes, that would be nice…” He paused. “But I have made peace that I will probably never see it again. I am only saddened for you, someone with such knowledge of the outside world, yet barred from ever experiencing it. There is so much more knowledge than can be gained from our books, young Aren.” Master Delk’s smile faded and showed that something was truly troubling him.
“Something is bothering you?” questioned Aren. His eyes now showed genuine concern.
Master Delk said nothing for a few moments, as if he was searching for words.
“I grow more troubled with this city every day.” He let out a soft sigh. “When they first closed the Great Gate all those years ago I thought I understood the justification for it. I thought the council wanted to protect the people of Redkep, that the self-induced isolation would only be temporary, but it has become obvious that they do not plan to ever reopen the gates.”
“I know this. We have discussed it many times. It is indeed a travesty.”
“Yes, but a trend is growing in this city, Aren. One that does not bode well for you and I.” The wrinkles of Master Delk’s face grew deeper in the candle light. A mixture of sadness and worry now seemed to overcome the young spirit in the man’s eyes.
“What do you mean?”
“Know this, before I tell you anymore,” began Master Delk, “I do not blame the people of Redkep. Fear is a very powerful emotion, and can drive the actions of even the greatest minds. The Council has sowed fear into their minds, and they are only reacting naturally. Do you understand?”
Aren thought about Master Delk’s words, and believed he understood.
“Some years ago, the council of Redkep began closing many of the schools in this city, as you know. Education is no longer valued in our small corner of the world, and it is growing ever more apparent that fear of the outside, of the unknown, is taking hold. In their ignorance they are growing to fear knowledge and intelligence, Aren. They believe the old ways are being threatened, the ways that the Council and Redkep holds so dear.”
At this statement, Aren looked at Master Delk, he pondered for a moment, retreating into his mind to digest what his old mentor had told him. Aren was unsure of exactly what happened outside the city walls that caused such a great response from the council, but he was sure that the measures they took were not entirely necessary.
“That is why we must show them! We could hold classes, show people that the world outside isn’t so scary, and that knowledge of the world is not bad!” Aren sprang up while he was talking. He could now see over the wall of books on his desk and see that the clock on the far end of the room read two in the morning. There weren’t many windows in the library to see that the sky had grown dark since Aren began his work.
Master Delk looked down at the dirty tile floor, and then back up at Aren.
“Do not take offence to this, but your time spent in here has left you somewhat oblivious of the stirrings of the city. I’m afraid to do something like that now would be considered heresy.” Aren sat back in his chair. He was not offended by Master Delk’s statement. In fact, he agreed. He wished that he could comfortably walk the streets of Redkep and mingle with its inhabitants like everyone else, but a feeling always came over him. It made his heart race and his palms and back sweat. It felt like his veins and heart would burst in his own body, he could feel them begin to pulse now even just thinking about it. Even though Aren was confident in his power over words, it seemed to him that he could never find the right thing to say when talking to anyone other than Master Delk. Sentences that sounded fine in his mind would come out mumbled, jumbled, or stuttered. He was sure that people would think he was of a simple mind if he interacted with them, and even though he knew he wasn’t, the thought just made his feeling worse.
“The Council works to propagate this fear, Aren. You do not spend much time outside of the walls of this library, but I can feel the people’s fear in the air. Pamphlets and posters are spread that tell of evil ideas and customs outside these walls … and the people believe it.” There was a slight hint of desperation growing in the old man’s voice.
“It has been so long since they have seen the outside that they don’t know any better. To attempt to educate them on the wonders of the outside would bring too much attention to ourselves, and I fear that the outcome for us would not be favorable.”
Aren was filled with a deepening sadness, and his gaze drifted slowly from Master Delk to the floor. The old man looked at the books on Aren’s desk.
“It is very late, and I did not mean to spoil any inspired mood that you might have been in. You should go to bed, your mind needs as much rest as your body.” Aren realized that Master Delk was correct. He was once again aware of his own exhaustion, both mentally and in his hands and wrists.
“You’re right,” replied Aren. “I’ll go to sleep soon.” He gave Master Delk a forced smile as the old man got up from his seat. The forced smile was returned with another from Master Delk as he turned and left Aren’s room. Not much sleep would come to Aren that night, however. His short conversation with Master Delk had left him with far too much on his mind.