He traveled for seven days and seven nights across the forbidden lands.
The first day he encountered a mighty river. Its current was strong, too strong for a man to cross. So he called upon his pact with the fish spirit, and the markings on his legs and ankles unfolded into a fish's tail. With the fish's sleekness, he reached the other shore.
The second day he encountered a gaping chasm. The gap was wide, too wide for a man to cross. He called upon his pact with the falcon, and the markings on his arms became strong, supple wings. With the falcon's swiftness, he reached the other side.
He called upon the lion's strength and the fox's cleverness. He called upon the hawk's sharp vision and the mouse's discretion.
On the eve of the seventh day, he encountered a dense forest. The moonlight could not filter through the tightly woven branches, but he stumbled unseeing deeper into the woods. As he walked, a gentle light began permeating the darkness. He moved towards the glow, becoming more surefooted as the brightness illuminated his path. At last he came upon a small clearing. On the moss-covered ground, a perfect circle of glowing mushrooms indicated the spot for the ritual.
He knelt, moss soft beneath his knees, and slipped the pack from his shoulders to remove the sacred tools.
"O spirit of the cosmos, I humbly come to proffer these gifts." He placed his hands on the ground and bowed, briefly resting his forehead on his knuckles. The air in the clearing began to hum with energy, but he ignored it.
"I give you wheat and wine, so you may be nourished." He placed the bread and wineskin in the circle.
"I give you the blade, so you may protect the innocent." He plunged the dagger into the moss.
"I give you the scales, so you may judge the wicked." The hum in the clearing changed in frequency, his ears hurt from the noise, but he pressed on.
"I give you the ring, so may rule forever." His whole body was reverberating from the strange sound, but he could not turn back now. The deed was almost done. He drew his own knife from his scabbard.
"Finally, I give you the blood of a warrior, so you may live!" He drew the knife quickly across his left wrist, wet crimson splashing against the gentle green of the moss.
A roar of wind and sudden light filled the space. He might have screamed. He was lost, helpless, senses overwhelmed. He was only vaguely aware of his body hitting the ground before the world went dark, silent, and still.
He awoke gradually, slowly, painfully. He opened his eyes gradually, unable to focus at first, seeing only a sea of green. He had fallen forward, cheek resting on the ground, arms by his sides. He moved his hands slowly, gingerly, and began to raise himself off the ground.
The prior chaos had subsided, and a soft glow once again suffused the clearing. Yet the mushrooms on the ground had fallen dark. The light came instead from a figure standing in front of him.
It was the size and shape of a man, but it was faceless, sexless, featureless. Seeing him rouse now, the being moved toward him.
He was aware that he should feel awe or reverence or humility, but a feeling of puzzlement tinged with hurt washed over him.
"You can't possibly be here...?"
[I AM HERE.] The spirit did not use words, but he knew its meaning perfectly.
"My life. The summoning was supposed to cost me my life. Yet I'm still alive...?"
[YOUR PART OF THE BARGAIN IS FULFILLED.]
The panic gripped him now, and the fear. "But the agreement...my life for your services! It has to be finished! My people..." he choked on the words, chest tightening with emotion. "The end times have come. Strange monsters have appeared. The crops refuse to grow, and there are no animals to hunt. My people are dying. Please, if my life is what it costs to save them, take it!" Glancing wildly around, he snatched his knife on the ground and offered it to the being.
[YOU ARE MISTAKEN.] He sensed a gentleness from the figure. [YOU HAVE GIVEN ME YOUR LIFE IN THE WAY THAT IS IMPORTANT. YOU HAVE OFFERED ME YOUR SKILL AND SERVICE, AND TOGETHER WE WILL SAVE YOUR PEOPLE AND MINE.]
"Yours...? But you can't possibly..." his voice trailed off, words not forthcoming.
[MY WORLD IS NOT SO DIFFERENT FROM YOURS. THEY ARE CONNECTED. IF YOUR PEOPLE SUFFER, SO DO MINE. IF YOUR PEOPLE DIE, SO DO MINE. YOU CAN'T SAVE YOUR PEOPLE ALONE, NOR CAN I SAVE MINE ALONE. I NEED YOUR SERVICES AS MUCH AS YOU NEED MINE. WILL YOU FIGHT BY MY SIDE? TO SAVE BOTH OUR WORLDS?] The figure stretched out a perfect, shining hand.
He stared for a moment, uncomprehending. He inhaled slowly, and dropped his knife to the ground. "I will fight."
[TO THE END?]
The man smiled. "To the end." He reached out his hand and touched the luminescent fingers.
The clearing was silent and empty once again. ( Click for prompt )