The days are long, confined to my room in the Bormean compound. Letting my system slow down to a near rest state, I sit by the balcony and attempt to discern scents and odors that waft up from the market square below. Occasionally I pick out the scent of spices with which I became familiar when I was with the Caysas.
The dry, arid land that surrounded their outcropping proved invaluable for not only growing these spices, but in drying them out to sell in the city. I routinely closed my eyes as I approached the end of a passageway in the lower portion of their outcropping which led to their spice fields. Then, as I stood in the entryway, I inhaled deeply as I opened my eyes. The variety of fragrances mingling together proved to be as intoxicating as the sight of row upon row of lush vegetation in varying hues of greens and other bright colors. The thrill of the moment, especially when I repeated it every day during my stay there, became unforgettable.
Some of the food that the Caysas grew tasted bitter when eaten raw. But, when steamed with spices over the source stones, there was an explosion of flavor. Even now my mouth is watering thinking about their food instead of the blood soaked meat that Bormeas devour or the tasteless nutrient that I choke down as a scout.
Elder once showed me how they processed their spices. It took place in yet another area of the outcropping. The space was nothing more than a sun-dappled corridor of stones. Unlike the rest of the outcropping, this area had been hand-crafted as the ceiling of the corridor featured wood beams. As far as I could see there were bundles of drying spices hanging upside down from hooks imbedded into the beams.
* * *
“Why did you come here?” Elder asks as he examines the bundles.
“You brought me here,” I blurt out.
“Did I?” Elder pauses and looks at me, “Or, did you help me to help you?”
I remain silent, unsure how I am to answer him.
Elder returns to examining the bundles, removing one and placing it on a nearby ledge. “It is for me to care for my people, until another proves his worth,” Elder informs me, as though on an unrelated topic. “My son thinks it to be him, but I sense his emotions will control him instead of doing what is best for the others.” Turning again toward me, Elder leans against the ledge. “You … you I sense are new to your emotions. You have not earned the lines that are on your face. I have not seen you use your emotions often enough to control them. Why is that?” he asks without needing a response. Looking me over, he continues, “And the muscles in your arms and legs … better that you would have come here weak as a child and earned them, then to display what you obviously don’t know how to use. If you meant to fit in, you succeeded as far as the others are concerned — they are too busy with the day-to-day life to take note. But, I have looked ahead. I seek what is to come and what yet may come and I see you as part of that.”
Silence follows Elder as he plucks a small stone with a sharpened edge from a groove cut into the ledge. With deft handling of the stone, Elder has the bundle of spices cut up into pieces before I can even think of how to respond to his statements.
“You see what is before you and you are able to follow it to the end,” Elder informs me, pointing the sharpened stone at me, its edge slicing through the distance between us. “You have studied much in the time that you have been here. Why is that? I feel as though I do not know you, as though, you do not know yourself … that you have only just begun to know a little of yourself. When you leave, and I know this to be true, how will you remember us? How will you remember yourself as part of us? Reflect on this and you will learn why you came here and who it is that you are or will be.”
Having no response for his words, I continue to remain silent.
Elder puts down the stone and collects the cut up spices in a woven sack he pulls from his belt. Lifting his hands to his nose, he deeply inhales the scent of the spice before wiping his hands on his garb to clean them off. “What are you afraid of?” Elder asks, pushing me even more, while pulling me back into the conversation.
“Afraid?” I reply, finally finding my voice, though not any logical response to his inquiry.
“What do you fear the most?”
Under Elder’s intense scrutiny I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, “Never finding out who I am.”
Elder nods, “Many fear the same, but don’t have the courage to admit it. Because you seek it, I can see in your eyes that you struggle with the search. When you do discover your identity, it will never let you go. What you seek, once you earn it, you may wish you never had because you may be called to use it or sacrifice it.”
Picking up the sack, he indicates with a wave for me to follow him. We continue down the corridor with its rows and rows of bundles of spices. The corridor provides just the right warm, dry atmosphere for such a process. With openings here and there throughout the corridor, there is also airflow and light to aid in the process. The scent of the spices is strong in here though and it fills my lungs, much like Elder’s words fill my mind. As we walk between the bright shafts of light along the corridor I think about what he is telling me.
Reaching the opposite end, Elder steps out into the full light of the sun before turning to me as I remain in the shadowy corridor.
“I think you came here to protect us,” he tells me. “On the surface you observe and take in all the information given you – but HOW you use it defines you. You protect things you observe because you want it to be saved for the next generation. You protected me from further harm when we first met. You protected Nemel from further shunning by helping him develop a talent. You protected Dar-el from an attack and from being hurt by withholding yourself.” Elder’s voice drops, “In that you protect yourself as well. Protectors have a clear vision of who the enemy is. The problem with protectors — their greatest triumph is when they sacrifice themselves for the ones they love, never knowing the end result.”