Mistica Chronicles

Welcome to Issue 47

Red Winning Entry

The question came to Quar as he was pacing the road that wound to the gardens of King's Village. It was a spontaneous question, arriving at the doorstep of his mind as might a present, neatly-wrapped, waiting to be opened, examined, and explored.

Recognizing the present, Quar paused, hastening to slow his steady pace. It had been two weeks now since the last question, and he was in no mood to lose this one as well. So abrupt, all of them, he thought. Cannot they come on a schedule? He knew they couldn't, at least they hadn't in all the years he'd gotten them, but it was still worth asking.

As a child the Mandoran had leaned very much towards insatiable curiosity. Over the years he'd asked his parents a great number of questions, expanding over an even greater range of subjects. Each had come to him in like manner to the current, at seeming caprice, and it had been all that Quar could do to contain himself until he was poised at the dinner table between his parents, and a cousin if he was lucky, ready to pose the undying question.

The longer he went unanswered, the more Quar had desired the truth. He had nothing against his parents; they were a mellow couple, happy to care for their son when he wasn't troubling them with his unending queries -- but he had to admit that mellowness in this case was a harmful trait, a jail of sorts, binding the growth of knowledge with enameled fetters.

Quar had lasted for quite some time in this environment. The library had been his ballast, of course, and so too the librarian. Lyssa had many times shown that she shared an inquisitive mind, and the times were many that they spoke in hushed voices of myths and theories and unproved thoughts. While their questions did not often overlap outright, the discussions that arose of the individual ideas often ended in singular accordance.

After some time of this, however, Quar had realized that he was growing complacent, that his mind no longer buzzed in the way it had only months before. Frightened, and perhaps looking to reverse the effects, the Mandoran had taken up his possessions, gathering and considering and discarding until he'd filled precisely one knapsack.

And so it had gone, and so he was here, pacing the road, uncertain exactly what he would do if he chanced across a fork. Perhaps Jumboyo Village, he thought. The folks there are rather gifted, I'm told. But what if they weren't, and could answer this new question no better than Lyssa, or his parents?

He remained stumped by this for the better part of two hours. But it was difficult to be both stumped and inquisitive, so he focused the bulk of his attention on keeping his new-made question safe, well-stowed in his memory. He wouldn't easily forget this one, he told himself, he wouldn't. Who knew, after all, when the next one would present itself to him?

Another hour lapsed in silence. He had passed the gardens by this point, marveling at the form and structure of the wall that protected the castle from intrusion, the gentle sweep of ivy that descended from its battlements nearly to the ground, close enough to reach up and touch. He had also passed a sign indicating that Jumboyo Village was some miles behind him, far too lengthy a backtrack to be worthwhile.

He bumped at some point into a sizable Kratork, too lost in the task of keeping his question remembered that he hardly noticed the bulking fellow come into his path. "Pardon me," he said when they collided, shrinking off to the righthand side of the path, "I wasn't paying much attention to the road."

He intended with this statement to continue merrily forward, unweighted by the concern that he'd too badly troubled a stranger's stroll, but before he could the Kratork replied, "We give attention to the things we find valuable, traveler. Pay the bump no mind."

There was a sincerity in the voice that Quar could not ignore. He didn't quite stop, but pulled himself about in a half-circle so that he could look properly at the fellow. His back was slicked with lilac scales, glinting like daggers in the hot afternoon sun, turning to a deepish black at the small of his neck. "Valuable? I'm nursing a question, is all. Don't know how valuable it'll be until it gets answered."

Now the Kratork mirrored Quar, coming to an ostensible standstill, flexing his neck over one dark shiny shoulder. His eyes were red, and glinted as Quar, sizing him from shoulder to spine to tail. Just that look sent his skin to shivering. "Well, you're going the wrong way if it's answers you want."

"What do you mean, wrong way?" I never asked for answers. They'd only touched a second, a minor collision, when would the Kratork make leave?

"I mean, you're not heading towards the Quarry." With a raised claw, the Kratork pointed towards the smoldering horizon, the sun red and wavering against the ground's incessant heat. "That is where you will find answers."

Now Quar began to move. He was soon at the Kratork's side, his left forepaw nearly slipping from the road and into the underbrush around it. "Is that where you're going, then?" When the Kratork gave a solemn nod, Quar continued, "Walk with me, and I'll tell you what I plan to ask once we get there."

Again, the eyes glinted. "You alter paths rather quickly. Tell me, does that question in your mind leave no space for reason?"

"It leaves plenty of space," Quar said, hurt. Of course his decision had been quick, but he'd always been a quick boy. And if the Quarry really held the answers he sought, then... "I only, um, thought that you were a trustworthy fellow. This is how friendships are made, no?"

"Perhaps," the Kratork conceded. "Too quick for my tastes, in truth, but... I suppose we will do together. My mind does ache for a companion. And that question -- I will admit that I would have worried over it all the way to the Quarry. I like answers too, you know."

Quar fought a grin. Though he had still some misgivings with the Kratork, he had greater faith in the land which he had so briefly given mention. "Do you now?" With only the slightest glance back at the horizon, at the broiling sun trekking across the sky, the Mandoran set a pace, starting back along the trail with as much energy as he could muster. "Well, perhaps we can come to them together. You see, a friend of mine, Lyssa, and I have just recently..."