The Quest

He saw up north through the large teak window that overlooked his huge garden, and saw the mountains of the north smudged against the horizon. The forest that divided the mountains from his town slept in between like a huge green ocean. His fairy land of a home town was located on a huge, largely uninhabited and ruggedly beautiful tropical island. His town was nothing short of paradise on the face of the earth with clear blue ocean down south and a large evergreen forest up north competing to accentuate its charm. Beyond the forest were the great mountains of north, standing atop one of which one could see the entire island, or so it was told for no one alive at the time had ever been on top of one of them.

The very same mountains beckoned him. He had lived his life to the max. Now he had nothing left but a burning desire to seek the stream of sweet manna that flowed somewhere near those mountains. He remembered the first time he had heard about the stream. He was a very young then and had fallen sick, soon everyone had given up hope, everyone but his mother. He faintly remembered his mother coming in and slowly lifting his head from his pillow, making him drink some water from a vial. She was saying something, something about the water being sweet manna from a divine stream from up north and that he would be cured, cured he was, miraculous as it may seem, he had grown well.

What was it that was in the vial that had cured him? Plain water, it seemed; but somehow, to him it appeared to have been touched by something divine. His curiosity raged to its peak, his mother had plainly pointed her finger to an old sagely figure who ran a shop that sold nothing but those vials filled with the seeming manna from heaven. He had asked the old man, “where do you find this manna, old man?”. The old man with seeming saintly aura had told him about the stream. “How do I get there?”, he had asked. The old man just smiled, for he had always avoided direct questions about the path to the stream. “Please tell me how to get there, old man”. he had asked, almost sobbing, “Have faith, my son!”, was all he got in return.

No one in the town had been to the stream, but everyone seemed to have an answer about how to reach it. “Work hard, son, you will find it one day”, the blacksmith had said. “Just relax, you will be shown the path when you are ready” lazy joe had said. Who would show him path, where should he prove his faith, all these questions were too complicated for a small boy to answer. And so he remained mesmerized but ignorant.

He had lived a life that could easily induce envy in even the most sober of souls, for throughout his life he had the manna blessing him. Whenever he was about to fall, it had held its hand out and helped him out of trouble, for he had never lost faith in it. He had been prosperous and happy, content with his life and wise. Now he had grown old, and resembled the old man of the vials who was dead a long ago. And now, he had nothing left but his intense urge to reach and touch the stream.

And there he was, staring at the mountains that hid his beloved stream. He had made up his mind. He would pack some food and a vial of water from the stream and would leave on his quest the next day. At last he would see the stream, with exotic flowers lining up on each of its shores, with golden sand spreading a bed as soft as a bed of roses, with the sweet manna itself flowing down a stream making sweet noise that would make him ecstatic with joy, at last, he would bathe in manna and be free of any burden that darkened his soul.

Townsfolk lined up to see him go, to bless his soul, to pray for him, to give him offerings. He was not just a rich old man, he was a saint, a deity of the town. It took a while for him to talk them into letting him go. At day break, he started his journey, his quest.

It was not much after noon when he entered the forest. The forest was treacherous, rugged, but undeniably beautiful. Beneath her lustrous green coat she hid a myriad range of beasts of prey. At every other step she had laid her traps, It looked as though she was determined to not let anyone but the most determined, wise and strong to pass. Though old, he stood strong and tall, and wise, he undeniably was. So she let him pass, though it took five full days of exhaustion for the old man to pass. Now he saw the green blending into white, the large evergreen trees making way for small shrubs that could bear the cold. Snow covered the earth all the way beyond the point he stood, it seemed, the mountains stood ahead of him, majestically as though questioning the supremacy of sky over the earth, as though they were mother earth’s most potent display of power.

His quest was nearing its end, it would not be long before he would be bathing in the manna of his sweet stream, or so he thought. He started climbing a mountain that was closest to the place he stood. If the forest was treacherous, the mountains were no less deceitful. Mother nature had put a challenge at every step. Determined, as he was, he continued his journey. Nature threw every obstacle that it could, now there was a blizzard and then there would be a slippery steep boulder. But he overcame every obstacle that was put on his path and as his prize he stood on one of the mountains. Sure enough, he could see almost all of the huge island, and since it was almost dusk he could see his town bathed in light at the horizon. He pitched his tent and rested on the acme of that mountain. As the sun rose next morning, he looked all around anxiously, try to gather any hint of the stream. He saw nothing but snow and fog in all the directions. He waited till noon, when he could farther, still nothing, unfazed, he decided to climb a taller mountain. And so he climbed, mountain after another, in vain, until he stood on the tallest of the mountains, disappointed for the last time, pale as the snow itself, weak to his bones, his rations emptied, his long beard dotted with ice, with not an ounce of energy left in him, he fell.

And then, when nothing was left for him to do but die, when the fog hastened to descend his pale pall, when the snow tired itself to make him a grave, he fell. He fell clutching his vial of water, he was on the tallest place on the entire island, dying, and the last thing he wanted to do was to drink from the vial, from the waters of the stream that the hermit of the town had collected. Lady luck, it seems, had betrayed him, left him forever, for the water had turned ice in the ghastly frigid weather of the mountain. The snow, with the efficiency of a clockwork, buried him in his makeshift grave, where he had died, still holding the vial close to his chest.

The stream of love, of beauty, of peace, of greatness, of everything there is in this world which he held dear: the stream that gave him his life and his riches never was.

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