Two companions search for a fabled garden with enchanted affects.
Poem: "The rose is red, the violet's blue. Honey's sweet and so are you."
Young Nithos sat at his brown oak wood table with a book before him. With an elbow on the table and his fist supporting his chin, he quietly studied. He had been in the library for hours. He looked up and saw his blond haired sky-blue eyed sister Melony walkthrough the tall row of two book cases. Her sandals clicked on the cracked stone floor work.
“You’re reading about it again? How long will you realize it is a myth?”
“It’s real, I know it is,” replied Nithos.
“Even if it is real, you’ll never find it,” said Melony.
“Someday I will find it. I’ll go on a quest and discover where it is. According to this book, The Garden of Manna is somewhere in the north part of the realm.”
Melony frowned and shook her head. “What!? Being somewhere in the north of the realm is a little broad, don’t you think?”
“Perhaps, but perhaps not. None will know for sure if it is not sought after.”
“You’re impossible Nithos,” Melony said as she turned and left.
Nithos closed the book and stood. He smoothed out his blue tunic and walked out of the kingdom library with his outer grey cloak swaying behind him. “I know it’s real,” Nithos said to himself.
He stepped into the open air filled with trees and birds fluttering from branch to branch. He walked down the cobblestone path near the city square.
Suddenly he was approached by a youth a little older than Nithos. “Melony, told me you have thought of going after the Garden of Manna. Get your head out of the clouds.”
“I’m not crazy or delusional. Someday I’ll find it. And when I do, I’ll smell one of its roses and be immortal just like the legend says.”
At the end of the day, Nithos slipped into bed for the night. Someday I’ll go, even if I go alone. He thought looking at the grey stone ceiling. He stayed up two hours thinking about the day when he would go looking for the Garden of Manna. Then longing turned to anxiousness and impatience. When will I feel ready to search for it? Will it be when I am a full grown man? But I can’t wait that long! Nithos spoke in his mind. “I will procrastinate no longer. I will leave a note for my family of my departure and leave town tomorrow,” he said to himself.
That very night, Nithos tip toed around the house for victuals and supplies. Forty minutes later he had gathered all that was needed including a small bag of silver. Then he composed a short letter that read:
I cannot wait any longer. I must know if the so called myth I’ve so longed for is real. I Give you all my love and a promise; if I don’t find the Garden after six months, I will come back. And do not worry. Father, you’ve trained me well to live in the wild. I will remember all the travels and excursions we have had together. Farewell.
He exited his house and mounted one of the three horses that were tethered in their yard. The horse was a midnight black with and white mane.
He left the kingdom full of houses, both wood and stone and most prominently, the immense castle with towers that rose hundreds of feet high crowned by red and blue flags.
Nithos had decided to go the nearest town to the north called Thourn. He had never been there but he heard, even from his own kingdom, that it was always a bustle with rumors and unusual traders and that many travelers passed through there.
Finally Nithos arrived. Thourn was a modestly established place. Most homes were made of wood and thatched roofing. The only stone structure was what looked to be a monastery about fifty yards away from where Nithos was. The path to it, and any path it seemed, was a wide dirt trail.
Nithos saw a group of men with horses carrying large sackcloth bags. They themselves were dressed in colorful embroidered robes that contrasted from everyone else weeing simple one color tunics and cloaks. Nithos watched them go into an inn. It was the perfect place to listen to the nomadic traders and travelers. He neared the inn called The Golden Sun that was engraved on a wooden sign hanging over the entrance. Nithos tethered his horse to a tying post and entered.
Inside was a wooden counter where the keeper was standing behind. Everywhere he looked, people had a normal pitch of voice. It was not loud and boisterous as most inns were.
Nithos approached the innkeeper who was tall and plump with a balding head. He was dressed in a clean blue tunic. He smiled with a set of blond teeth then spoke. “Greetings young sir. Would you like a room or something to eat?” he said to Nithos.
“Perhaps later. Tell me, have you recently heard of anything strange? Like old wives tales or rumors around this town?”
The innkeeper chuckled. “I’ve heard a few outlandish claims.”
“Have you ever heard of something called the Garden of Manna?”
“Hmm…not really. What exactly is so special about this Garden lad?”
Nithos looked down. “I would keep that to myself if would let me Mr.”
“Very well then,” said the Innkeeper. “I’ve never seen you at all in Thourn. Are you traveling with your family?”
“No, I’m on my own.”
The innkeeper turned his head and looked from the side of his eye at Nithos. “I see. Well, if you request anything I’m happy to oblige.”
Nithos sat down at a small square table with two chairs on each side. I must think of what to do next. Maybe I could eavesdrop but then I would have to be very close to hear anything.
Then, in the middle of his thinking, a man came boldly to his table and sat across from Nithos. Nithos’ eyes widened and he gasped. “Umm…can I help you?”
The stranger was in a slightly dusty grey and brown tunic and wore a brown cotton vest. “More precisely, it is I who can help you.” His voice was raspy. He folded his hands. “I know where it is.”
Nithos was speechless.
My name is Euticus young sir.”
Nithos frowned. “I am Nithos. May I ask what this is about?”
Euticus leaned in. “I overheard your conversation. I know where the Garden of Manna is.”
Nithos’ heart jumped to his throat and he tensed up. He felt his blood race through his veins like a small excited child about to open a Christmas gift. He took a big swallow and jumped to his feet. “You do!”
“Shh! Sit and stay quiet!” Euticus said.
Nithos sat and took a deep trembling breath. “Are you telling me you’re immortal?”
“I only know where it is. I cannot enter into it.”
“Why?” asked Nithos.
“At the gate of the garden, a ferocious dragon guards it.”
“You must be in jest.”
Euticus shook his head. “I’m not mad or a charlatan. My knowledge of its location should give me merit enough.”
“Then how does one enter into the garden?”
“I am bewildered. I had with me a double edged sword but the dragon’s scales are stronger than the hardest metal.”
“Why then are you telling me this?”
Euticus fidgeted with fingers with his eyebrows raised. “I suppose I am lonely. Even telling a young person like you is relieving.”
“There must be a way to get past the dragon,” said Nithos.
“Perhaps, but how will we find out?”
“I don’t know.” Nithos felt his stomach rumble. “I’m hungry.” He got up and went to the counter and spoke to the innkeeper. “I’d like anything hot to eat.”
“Coming up,” said the innkeeper.
Next to the inside of the entrance was an old man in a tattered tunic and a cloak. His eyes were pure pale white and he had a walking stick at his side. “Hello Nithos.”
Nithos jerked his head towards the man. “Who are you? How do you know my name?”
“As you can see I am quite blind. But being so has greatly enriched my sense of hearing. I could hear you talk of the Garden of Manna with that man Euticus.”
“And what is the meaning of this intrusion of privacy?” asked Nithos.
“The great dragon that guard the garden, I know how to subdue it.”
“You’re blind. I don’t think you know what you’re talking about.”
The old blind man smiled. “Ah, but I have not always been this way. I lost my sight when I was twenty five years old.”
“In what way did this occur?”
“I used to be a mountain climber. One day while clinging to a cliff face, there was an avalanche and a rock struck my head and I blacked out. When I woke up I could not see anything.”
“I see. You said you know how to thwart the dragon. How?”
The old man pulled a small green emerald from within his cloak. “This is a magical gem. It turns into a bow and arrow in the presence of the guardian beast. One shot to the heart will destroy it.”
“And how do you know this? Where did you get this supposed magical gem?” asked Nithos.
“When I was young, my grandfather gave it to me. He said it would destroy a great beast that guards a place called the Garden of Manna, where the fragrance of any of its roses would grant immortality. I didn’t believe him but I gladly took the precious stone.”
“And what makes you believe the legend now?”
“It is because of the conversation you just had. If someone else knew of it, it had to be true. I am old and blind now so I cannot go in search of the garden. That is why you must take it. I may not be able to be immortal but at least you and that man can. Take it.”
The blind man stretched forth the gem and Nithos took it. “You have a generous heart sir. Thank you.”
Nithos return to the table where Euticus was staring at him. “What did that blind man give you? What were you talking about?”
“He said he knows how to defeat the dragon.” Nithos showed Euricle emerald.
“That emerald must be worth a thousand gold pieces!”
“According to what the man said, it is a magical gem that turns into an enchanted bow and arrow, wielding the power to pierce the beast’s scales.”
“Do you think it is true?” asked Euticus.
Nithos was silent as he turned the gem in his hands. “I don’t know. The only way to know is to try it. If the blind man is a lair or crazy, we simply turn tail and run like you did when you faced it.”
“I barely escaped!” exclaimed Euticus.
“If you don’t want to come along, just show me where the Garden is and you can leave.”
“You really believe it could work?” Euticus said with raised eyebrows and doughy eyes.
“Regardless, I will take the chance. Will you come or stay?”
Euticus bowed his head and ran his hands through his hair then rubbed his temples. He took a deep breath. “I will go.”
“Good, do you own a horse?” asked Nithos.
“Yes. I think we should rest for the night and depart at dawn.”
“Agreed. I’ll rent some rooms for us.” Nithos paid for some rooms at the counter with the innkeeper. Nithos thought his bed in the inn was very comfortable. He quickly fell asleep.
Nithos rose with the cock of a rooster. He sat up and swung his feet to the ground. He dressed, exited his room and saw Euticus already eating a bowl of oatmeal. The inn was vacant except for the two of them and the innkeeper.
“We leave in thirty minutes,” Euticus said without looking up from his breakfast.
“I’ll pack my things.”
Nithos did so and when Euticus was ready, they left the town on their horses.
They found themselves on the wilderness in a wide prairie with small rivers and streams running throughout the area. Dotting the landscape were trees and shrubs. In the distance, was the tree line of a great forest.
“The Garden of Manna lies within those woods,” said Euticus.
“It’s enormous! How can you know where it is?”
“My memory is exceptionally keen. What is more significant, I am a scholar,” Euticus said with a coy grin. “The mental capacity I hold has bestowed upon me great knowledge. I know the way by heart.”
“Amazing! When did you leaner of the Garden of Manna?” asked Nithos.
“In a town called Pathos, I was visiting a library that was quite extensive. In one book, I came across a book in an almost dead and foreign language. In it was written instructions to the garden. It was then engraved into my mind. I followed the landmarks that lead to the Garden of Manna. And soon I met the dragon guarding the gate to the garden.”
Nithos was wide eyed and speechless. “How much do you know?”
“Too much to recount,” Euticus said with a chuckle.
All Nithos could do was stare at the tree line in silent awe and Euticus whistled a tune. Soon they were in the forest.
“Just follow me and do not ask questions. I must concentrate,” ordered Euticus.
The two passed by a large boulder covered in moss, immense trees, steams, waterfalls lakes and open groves. The air smelled like pine there was a cool moister in the air and birds of different sorts fluttered happily.
Suddenly Euticus stopped. “It is upon us. The dragon and the garden are just over that hill. Let us hope the emerald truly is magical. Are you ready?”
“Yes,” Nithos said, poised with a still face.
Both trudged up the hill and Nithos gasped. “The Garden of Manna!”
“Alright, this is the moment of truth,” said Euticus.
They dismounted and walked to the gate of the garden. When they were twenty feet away, an immense red dragon with rams horns and two large red eyes, dropped in front of them.
Nithos saw a light glow within the emerald. The enchanted jewel shot up from his pocket and floated until in mid-air. In a flash of green light, a shining bow and a quiver of arrows floated in place of the gem. Instantly Nithos grabbed it. He took an arrow and stretched the string with an arrow and shot. It landed in the dragon’s belly. Black blood dripped from the wound.
“It still stands! It did not work!” exclaimed Euticus.
“I have to strike its heart!”
Nithos aimed again, carefully this time. Just before he let loose the arrow, the enormous beast lunged forward with an open mouth. Nithos shot at its exposed throat causing the dragon to reel back as more black blood dripped everywhere. Nithos had two arrows left. He aimed again but the beast was writhing in pain from the arrow to its throat. The young man took up another arrow. His heart was pounding and he was struggling to keep his grip and aim steady. He took a deep breath and fired. His chest tightened and his stomach turned. He had missed his mark by a few feet from the dragon’s heart and hit its shoulder instead! He withdrew his last arrow. He took a slow deep breath and closed his eyes, calming himself. His body stopped shaking and he took aim at the beast’s heart. He counted. “One…two…three!” He released the arrow and it sailed through the air. Success! The dragon cried an earth shattering roar and stumbled about until it fell on its chest. Suddenly the huge carcass was engulfed in flames until it was completely devoured by fire.
Nithos shouted and wasted no time in going through gates and stepping foot in the garden. Euticus ran right after him. Pungent delicate fragrance wafted into their nostrils. To be immortal they need only to inhale a rose directly. They each plucked a flower and inhaled the rich, tantalizing sent. Then Nithos had a feeling like a cool, effervescent cloud was coursing through his veins.
“I feel wonderful! I feel I could do anything!” said Euticus.
Nithos smiled. “I can literally feel the immortality!”
“Do you realize of we distribute these to others, this generation could live forever like us!” Euticus gleefully emptied a small coin bag and bent down and plucked some roses and out them in the bag. Just as he was about to get more bags from his horse, he stepped outside the gate and immediately the roses withered. “NO!” said with upturned eyebrows.
Nithos looked in the bag. “It appears immortality has a condition - other than the dragon.”
“Oh well, at least we’ll live forever,” said Euticus.
Both men turned around.
“The garden itself must have been a little more enchanted than we thought!” Nithos approached a tree and sat against it. “How typical!” He lowered his head and cupped his hand over his eyes. “…to discover such a secret and not be able to share it with the world.”
Euticus threw the bag down and stomped it with his foot. “Ahh! Confound it!”
Nithos stood, approached his companion and put a hand on his shoulder. “At least we’ll live forever.”
Euticus smiled. “You’re right. Let’s go home.”