The Search for Kris’s Gift (Part 4)
The elven trio turned their backs to the Swamps of Sadness and continued their way with heavy weary footsteps along a dusty path that led to an arch in the distance. The sun drenched their backs and caused the powered surface of the baked path to throw up small swirls of dust with every footstep. Still onwards they trekked, step-by-step, until the arch of the gates came into clear focus and the silhouettes of two large wolves were made out, standing on either side of the entrance, like a pair of military sentries. One of the wolves was standing upon a stone on the left and the other was standing on the opposite side, on the right.
The three elves knew, from ancient elven folklore that the Gates to the Southern Oracle were guarded by two beings, the Guardians of the Gate, and they then realized that these guardians were the wolves that stood before them now. The one upon the stone, raised its head nobely towards the three visitors and greeted them with a growl, by means of a translation crystal that laid resting upon the ground.
“Stop and identify yourselves, visitors to the Southern Oracle,” he snared between his clenched teeth, “I am Dyrth, The First Guardian of the Gate.”
“I am Sylumn, The Second Guardian of the Gate,” growled the second wolf, “And who may you three be?”
Kris, the eldest of the three approached first. He raised a flat empty palm as a gesture of peaceful welcome and hesitantly replied to the two wolves.
“I am Kris, an elf from the Northern Forests, and these are my two brothers, Maxwell the Whisperer and Skippy the Weaver. We have trekked through icy lands, The Plains of Loneliness and the Swamps of Sadness to get to the Southern Oracle. We need to ask a question, if you would be so good as to let us pass,” he replied with a hesitant tone.
“No one passes these gates without our consent,” growled Dyrth, standing erect and proud upon his stone “for we are the eternal guardians and it is our duty to protect her with our lives.”
“The Southern Oracle is a woman?” interrupted Skippy with a confused tone.
Sylumn turned his head slowly and powerfully, like a grinding millstone, towards the youngest elf and a faint grin spread across his wolfish face. He raised his head, chuckled to himself and howled upwards towards the skies. As he did so, the translation crystals glowed and shimmered with a cascade of a thousand dancing rainbows.
“She is no human woman,” Dyrth laughed, “You elves have so much to learn about this world and the legends of the Southern Mountains. The Southern Oracle is a she-wolf and has lived in these parts since the First Rift in the Great Peaks, that formed both North and South.”
The three elves nodded as one accord and understood his words. The ancient tales that they had heard in their youth resonated in their unconsciousness and they began to make sense of what lay before them.
Maxwell interjected impatiently, “So how do we gain your consent and pass the gates to see her?”
Both Dyrth and Sylumn turn to the middle elf and each of them pushed a single pebble through the dry earth with their paws. The pebble left a slight grove in the dry powdery earth and rested snuggly in the dust at the end at the end of the trail. As they did so, the two wolves spoke in unison as one.
“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one,” they both growled together. “To pass the gates you must first answer our riddle.”
The youngest elf, Skippy, looked at Dryth, the first guardian upon the stone.
“And what is the riddle?” he asked with an inquisitive tone.
Dryth turned to the smallest elf and snarled between his clenched teeth, like a chained beast, “That is for you to find, my little fellow?”
“But …” asked Maxwell, “… how can we solve a riddle if we don’t know what the riddle is?”
Sylumn pushed his paw into the dry earth and kicked it up, creating a small cloud of dry dust that evaporated into the air.
“We did not say that the entry to the Southern Oracle would be an easy one,” he answered. “Many have gotten this far and have failed to pass these gates.”
Skippy looked down with confusion at the two pebbles that laid in the dust.
“Are these part of the riddle?” he asked aloud, desperately searching for clues and hints in any answer that the wolves may provide.
“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one,” they both repeated together. “To pass the gates you must first answer our riddle.”
Maxwell studied the two pebbles and wondered upon the words of the guardian wolves.
“Does the shape of the pebble help us answer the riddle?” he asked, for he was completely baffled by the riddle and how to solve it.
“The arrival at the right destination only proves that the …” repeated the two wolves again.
But before they had a chance to continue, Kris stepped forward and yelped with excitement.
“I have it!” he cried with elated tones, “I have it! May you two wolves please swap places? Dyrth please step off your tone and take your rightful place as the Second Guardian. Sylumn, please take your position upon the stone, as the First Guardian to the Southern Oracle.”
The two remaining elves looked at their elder brother with complete bewilderment and confusion.
“What do you mean, Kris?” stammered Maxwell with bafflement and disorientation. “What is this all about?”
Kris turned to his two brothers and gave them a knowing smile, full of compassion and understanding.
“It is a trick and that is their puzzle.” he began to explain, “The two guardians have simply swapped places before we had arrived and the solution to their puzzle was to understand this.”
“But how do you know?” interjected Skippy with a disorientated tone to his question, “What makes you think this?”
Kris pointed to the two wolves, one-by-one, and began his reply.
“I spotted the flickered of the whisker, the tremble if the paw, the turn of the tip of the tail and the quiver of the lip. All these subtle clues are the unspoken words that told me that Sylumn is the dominant and more powerful wolf and Dryth is his underling.” he explained in triumphantly. “Always listen to the unspoken sounds for the words that are spoken can often be false and untrue but the unspoken word is always correct and the one to be believed.”
The two wolves bowed their heads in respect towards Kris and Sylumn took his position upon the stone whilst Dryth stepped down and crossed the path to the opposite side. When each wolf had taken their rightful position, they bowed their heads and nodded again and ushered the three elves through the gate with due reverence.
“Remember,” they both said in parting, “The arrival at the right destination only proves that the journey was a valid and just one.”
The three elves paced through the gates with lengthening stride, for they were eager to complete their quest.
“Thank you Sylumn and Dryth” they called back and then they turned to complete their final steps. Their words echoed and danced back along the winding path towards the two wolves. They had arrived at the Southern Oracle and in a few moments they would discover the true identity of Kris’s gift.