An old man walks a twisting path that draws him deeper into the mountains, a satchel carries his supplies for the long travel as he cannot wear a backpack with his missing arm and is too proud to wear its replacement. His footsteps follow those of a younger man, more vital, just as conflicted when he walked this path last. The brilliant white sun beats heavily upon his tanned and scarred skin with only momentary respite from rock formations or the thorny plants that call this place home.
He has prepared for all the hazards that he barely survived last time he walked in this desolate place. Upon the path he finds bones long picked by scavengers, just like life not everyone that sought out their destination would make it there but they were honored to have walked it. He gathered the remains and piled rocks upon them as a cairn, many such monuments lined the path he walked, a constant reminder of his own mortality which drew closer by the day. So many people he had known had already succumb before their time falling short of what the aspired to become.
As he progressed the path become more difficult rockier, narrower, and steeper the wind howled seeking to throw him into the vast chasm that lie beside him but he persevered, his boots scraped across the sharp tan stones his left hand steadied him. This was not a path that an old man should walk and return from yet his fate lie at the other end and he mustered the stamina to press forward aware of the pitfalls that lie in the road this time. Suffering from the great trials he walked through the final passage, it was dark and fearful, the wind outside howled and filled the chamber with wicked screeches and howls. The path grew darker, more difficult to follow as it cut a serpentine passage through the dark and damp stones.
Soon he found the light, no longer being force to follow the pale illumination of his lantern. He walked out and saw a verdant paradise, hearing birdsong, the bleating of sheep, and the steady calm sound of the waterfall that provided all the moisture that the valley required. The path eased, a well-trodden gently sloping ribbon of gravel and small stones that he followed. He passed through a strand of bamboo and a grove of hardy nut and fruit trees that overflowed with nature’s bounty grabbing an apricot from its branches.
Here the weather was steady, partly cloudy, and cooler than the path he traveled before, the tops of mountains lost in the mist. The man grabbed a handful of berries from a bush by the roadside, their flavor was sweet just as he remembered. Stopping by a stone basin he worked the pump handle with his left hand, cool clean water flowed out, and he dunked his empty canteen into it and drank greedily, relieved that his journey was nearing its end.
As he drew closer to the other side of the valley he noticed people, some he recognized many more were new, all were here for the same reason. A village of hovels stood at the base of a stone ridge visible throughout the small valley, the stone had been carved like that of Terra’s Cappadocia that he had witnessed long ago, a rare moment of awe in his impressive life. He walked forward with renewed vigor asking the people of the village for a name, “Peter”, none knew the man he spoke of or refused to answer.
Discouraged after a long quest he walked up the narrow steps and turned, he knew the way and his body followed his mind. At the end of his travel he arrived at a cell cut into the stone where an old man sat watching out the window. Unwilling to disturb him the man walked and took a seat on the rough-hewn bench placing his bag at his side, grateful for the break.
The older man paused and turned, he was wizened man his arms and legs were lean but gnarled, his garb was simple robes of coarse fabric hand-sewn and durable, his sandals were hanging by the door. The younger man spoke first, “Brother Giles”, but was interrupted, “Brother Kell, have you finally decided to join us?”
Grand Duke Morgan Kell paused, he could but he felt there was a more pressing need for him to remain. His heirs were not yet ready, Phelan still needed structure, Caitlin needed more time to grow into her position, he couldn’t stay.
_“No Abbot, I am looking for Peter Steiner-Davion”
“What will you do when you find him?”
“The Lyran Commonwealth needs an Archon”
“Does it not have one, Duke Kell?”
“It needs a new one!”
“Does it now, why?”
“Damn you Giles! Katherine killed Salome and Melissa”_, he paused again, _“She took my arm and almost killed me too”
“Are you not a Soldier Morgan? A soldier must always be willing to lay down his life if need be, you should always approach War with Peace.”
“Giles! Peter needs to fulfill his duty, he is the only one with a better claim now that Victor and Arthur are dead.”
“Yet he refused to stand up and fight for it. Brother Peter never wanted to be Archon-Prince, he walks his own path now as we all must”
“Where is he? I have to speak with him, I need his help.”
“I do not know where he is, he left St Marinus a small fortune, enough for my successor to continue all that I have done here when I pass from this life. I am afraid I haven’t seen or heard anything from him in three years.”_