Wearily, I woke up the next morning with my now tangled black hair covering my face. I took a deep breath and slowly sat up to the side of the bed. I wiped my eyes, stood up and looked at myself in the mirror on my wooden bureau. I grabbed my comb and started to straighten my hair when I noticed that posted on my door was a little note. It seemed to be quickly done as if someone needed to leave immediately. I approached closer to the door and held the note in my hand. It read:
"Went out for the day to go ice-fishing; we should be back before nightfall.
Please go see Eleanor at the inn sometime today as well.
~ Raguel, Henry, and Ben"
I quickly got around and changed into one of my dresses that Eleanor gave me. I almost had my foot out the door, "But wait!" I shouted to myself. I almost forgot about that intriguing box that Raguel had placed somewhere in his room. I decided that it would be worth a peek at least. After all, he never said I couldn't do anything like that; he should've been more specific if there were rules about perusing around in the church.
Rather quickly, I reached Raguel's room. The only thing that blocked my path was the door. I looked to the right and saw the chandelier hanging from the ceiling. As I walked over to it, there was no key hanging below! There was just an empty string hanging lonely above my head. I then looked down toward the floor to see if the knot came undone and the key fell, but there was still nothing to be found.
Finally after searching for a while, I gave one last futile attempt to open the door and just hope that maybe Raguel forgot to lock it. I put my hand around the doorknob and started to turn until I was harshly stopped by the lock. Oh what could be so important enough for him to bring his own key? I knelt down on the ground to look through the keyhole as if it was a peephole and saw the box just taunting me in every way it possibly could. It sat boastfully on the desk, untouched and mockingly. I was so close, yet we were separated by an impenetrable barrier to which apparently no human, other than Raguel, was allowed to pass.
Tasting of my horrible defeat, I then just decided to put my shoes on and go to Eleanor for the rest of the day. The sky was clear, but the air was silent; it carried no songs of birds. Only the harsh rustling of tiny leaves and large branches could be heard. I could feel that the calm before the storm had come, and the arrival of the storm was coming fast and hard.
I knocked at the door to the inn and heard someone moving around inside. Again I knocked at the door and eventually Eleanor was standing right in front of me. She welcomed me inside and had a meal for lunch preparing. While she was tending to the meal, I was walking around the inn. I then came to the room where I stayed when I first came to Canlagos.
My first memories with Canlagos could have definitely been a bit brighter, but I don't think I would have had it any other way. I sat down on the bed and looked out the window. Watching the small clouds drift along in the air was relaxing. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I saw Eleanor standing in the doorway. She gave a smile as I looked toward her and then she said soothingly, "Would you like to come to the table now?"
"Yes," I said while standing up and brushing my clothes.
When we were both seated at the table with our meals in front of us, Eleanor asked, "So how has the pastor and the church been coming along?"
"So far it's been going pretty well; I suppose. Raguel is nice, and the church gives a nice place to be calm." I said as I played with my food a little. When I noticed that my answer didn't quite meet her expectations, I added, "Raguel does what he can for me. What do you think of him?"
"He's quite fine; more than what Henry and I could have offered you at least. Though I had been meaning to ask," Eleanor paused and looked me in my wandering eyes, "Do you want to hear a tale?"
I looked up and replied, "Yes, I think I would very much like that actually."
"Okay," she said and after taking a sip of tea, she went on, "In the woods, there lived a disconsolate hiker; though, one day this hiker was greeted by a wise nobleman, who had often visited this hiker as his greatest friend. The two had once been observed by the king of the land, for their friendship was like no other. At noticing his friend's depression, the nobleman was persistent in comforting his friend. In spite of the nobleman's kind words he spoke (and I must say they were true to every word), the hiker could not begin to comprehend them. But one thing, and one thing alone, could the nobleman tell the hiker: if the hiker was able to collect an ancient relic from each of the seven lands, he would be rewarded with eternal happiness. And with those final words from his greatest friend, the hiker set afoot to return with all seven relics in hand.
"The hiker was already well acquainted with the lands, for he and the nobleman had traveled far and wide on a perilous quest before. Through the fiery fire and the icy ice they went beyond, but that is another story for another time. From the far far west across three seas, the hiker found himself at the first of the seven lands. The first was of only poor monks who had cultivated the land for a living. So as the hiker explained his reason for coming to their land, the monks gave him graciously the best they could offer. Their relic was only a small bucket of compost! The hiker had no complaints though, if it was the best they could offer he would take it.
"South of the first was the second. This land was of hunters; they were neither poor nor rich in their own regards; however, to a man of a wealthy nation they were poorer than the monks. Again the hiker told his reason for coming and the hunters offered them their best. This time, the hunters offered a pelt that they had been working on for over ten years. Surely it was better than the bucket of compost, but not anything that the hiker had expected.
"Still in high hopes the hiker traveled West to find the third. To his surprise, he found nothing but a ghost-town. The third tribe (as you may know) is known for being nomadic in their living style. So, the hiker just took what he thought to be one of their best relics. Just as he entered the temple of the third land, he saw a ruby placed in the middle of an altar. He was about to grab it when a priest shouted him to stop, for the priest has something better to offer: the priest gave him a large diamond and swore that it was their best relic to offer him. Gladly the hiker took the gem and left the priest in peace.
"To the fourth land the hiker traveled, and this land was full of flowing rivers and flowing hills. The fourth land was notorious for their infinite natural resources of oil and sometimes their precious metals. The hiker came with very high hopes to this place and as he approached, the gates opened and he was welcomed widely. Boastfully he said why he was here and still they offered him the best, they gave him a horse coated in golden armor. On the hiker's way out, he was quite pleased with the horse, for it was getting burdensome to carry the other relics.
"After traveling North, the Hiker had now come to the fifth land. This land was of a large group of craftsmen and artisans who found themselves with so much. Even the town had been completely carved out of marble stones! Though, as the hiker approached the land, he was taken to the king of the land. Here the king had heard he was coming and prepared him with the most decorative piece of craftsmanship in the land and done by himself (for the king was the best craftsman in the seven lands). Taking the decorative piece of stone, the hiker then thanked the king and went on.
"The hiker then rode his way to the sixth land full of wealthy merchants. They had almost everything that you could imagine and yet again when the hiker came to tell his story of why he had come, they treated him as their own. They gave hiker a rather peculiar gift. It was said to have been in the ocean for centuries yet untouched it was. When the cloth had been taken off of the object, the hiker's eyes were stunned in pure amazement. The merchant's had said it was the Soul of the Sea, and the sea was kept within. As the hiker held the object in his hands, the Soul of the Sea seemed to have it's own heartbeat; it was living. 'Indescribable!' shouted the hiker, and with that word he left thanking the merchants for their gift."
"Now the hiker had but one land to go to: his own. After his long journey he had now been gone for many many years. Upon his return to the last land, which again was his own, the hiker arrived to the kingly court. To his surprise, his greatest friend sat upon the throne! Had it been so long that he had missed his own friend's coronation? The hiker was so overwhelmed by what he had missed, but he had to pay his respects. Before the throne, he bowed before the king, his greatest friend, and told his story as to why he had come. The king tilted his head, and at first thought the hiker to be mad, but when pondering and seeing the now rugged face, the king recognized some key features of his long lost friend. After seven minutes of silence, the king said, 'You need not to bow down to your king, for to you, and you alone, I am your greatest friend. As for the relic you seek in this land, I offer you anything that you see.'
"The hiker burst out in tears and stood up. Sadly the hiker exclaimed, 'For what I set out at first was eternal happiness, but now the world is seen differently to me. Before I first set out for the seven relics, I had seen everything in this land as special but my eyes have lost their once great sight. I am blind and I cannot choose a relic from this land, for it offers nothing greater than before.'
"The king responded, 'Then you are blind my friend, as I had told you the day before you left:..."
I quickly interrupted Eleanor and finished the story, "'The greatest rewards come not from oneself but from that of a heart of another. Why else would I send you to the seven lands that gave to you so graciously? Can you not see that I am your seventh relic?'
After the king's words, the hiker replied, 'Then come with me now onto the horizon where we will stand, for tonight I die; and I would not want to spend my last hours without you.'"
Eleanor was surprised that I knew the story. Her mouth was hanging wide open and then she asked intensely, "How did you know the story's end?!"
I replied to her shyly with a glaze of innocence in my eyes, "I just remember hearing it once before..."