Warriors of Transcendence, Part 24
Sihara crossed the sea aided by the Transparent Ones to whom she had been introduced by the Transparent Master. She was delighted to discover the unexpected existence of these curiously charming and friendly creatures. Traveling together, they were careful to avoid the White Desert by making their way along the slopes leading towards the Land of the Northern Forests, an arduous journey that would take two weeks. But the pleasant melodies sung by the Transparent Ones and the communal meals they shared with Sihara uplifted her spirits. Her companions’ inner lights revived her.
Eventually they reached a dark valley. Here, the Transparent Ones took their leave from her, warmly wishing her well. And so she was left alone.
How, she wondered, had she come to such a place, young and alone, treading on a deserted path to an unknown destination? Yes, her Transparent Master had dispatched her on this mission. His words still echoed in her mind: She alone could release Tzalaii from imprisonment. How would she accomplish this feat? She did not know. But hadn’t he promised that the Master of Transcendence would explain everything to her in the future?
The Master of Transcendence!! Sihara had learned from her Transparent Master that the Master of Transcendence had instilled his fear upon the Descendents of the Emperors, who fear no others. This pervasive fear prevents them from seeking conquest. They exist in perpetual terror, searching unceasingly for his signs everywhere, wary of his followers.
But where is the Master of Transcendence? Sihara’s Transparent Master had conveyed this secret information to Sihara.
Tell no one, he admonished, as she agreed to take an oath of secrecy.
Sihara gazed upon the great valley; a gray mist hovered over it like birds of prey. The earth, the atmosphere, the tangled masses of foliage and, in fact, everything visible as far as the distant, obscured horizon, seemed gray and lifeless. She descended along the pathway hesitantly, with trepidation, moving inevitably towards an abysmal land devoid of splendor. In days of old, this valley had been the site of one of the great rivers, The River of Profundity as the Descendents of the Ancient Progeny called it. But now, with the river gone, the parched gray valley presented a sharp contrast to the nearby blue and awesome sea.
The dark, gray forest of Shadow Valley was covered by layers of ancient dust. Trees and gnarled trunks, rocks and shrubs, even the few leaves that had managed to survive, seemed old and decrepit. The dust covered Sihara’s clothing and her face and hands took on a gray pallor.
Such a gloomy place… she mused, as her confidence and courage weakened. Thorns and broken branches interfered with her progress and large boulders blocked her path.
Nonetheless, Sihara continued to descend into the depths of the forest, bravely distancing herself from familiar territory, sinking into a deep gloom where darkness prevailed. The main path was difficult to follow as it veered off into side paths from time to time. Although she attempted to focus on her goal, Sihara’s clarity was disturbed by the pervasive eerie silence and dismal gloom which affected her thoughts and cast doubt in her heart.
Many dull, uneventful and wearying days passed. Everything began to look familiar, predictable to her- the stones scattered along the path, tree stumps and boulders. But, in spite of this, she was, as yet, unaware of the fact that she had been walking in hopeless circles…
A ray of light striking the treetops attracted her attention. She looked up, awe- struck, to see green tree-tops, a surprising contrast to the infernal gray down below. Looking further, she noticed a flock of birds... Their bright, lively colors were enchanting, their songs sweet and alluring, dreamy and peaceful. The dancing rays of light came closer and a lone bird parted from the flock and flew towards her. Its wings were a luminous purple, its belly pure white, and a golden feather was perched on its head, pointed backwards. Sihara felt a sense of pleasure as she observed the bird, joyful that the creature had flown her way. She stood motionless, staring at it. Maybe I should follow it, she wondered. Such a majestic bird can surely guide me forward.
Do not be deceived by appearances, Sihara remembered her Transparent Master’s words of advice. She trembled and closed her eyes. The bird's cries intensified, urging her to open her eyes and look at it. But when she did she was horrified; enfolded in the luminous purple wings she saw ominous, claw-like talons, and now the bird's beak was hideously wide open. Why hadn’t she noticed this before?
"Do not be deceived by appearances,” she admonished herself aloud, her voice echoing through the thicket of trees.
"Do not be deceived by appearances!” she repeated, this time with even more conviction as though to strengthen herself. The forest, once again, became gray and dismal. The bird had vanished!
The path began to twist and turn. Sihara focused her sight upon a stone lying on the path, noticing that it was becoming larger. As she concentrated upon a thorn bush, its stems began to thicken and lengthen, sending out rapacious, sharp tentacles towards her, seemingly hungry to destroy everything in its path. Her only chance, she quickly and astutely realized, would be to reduce her focus on her surroundings by restricting her vision, looking at things only out of the corners of her eyes.
Eventually she reached a stone well. The scent of sweet, fresh water was in the air. As she neared the well, her thirst increased. She suddenly became aware of her parched lips, her intense thirst. Although the satchel given to her by her Transparent Master held a leather thermos, the little water that remained tasted bitter. How happy she was to have discovered fresh water! A wooden pail, conveniently perched on the well, seemed to invite her to lower it and quench her thirst.
To drink…There was nothing Sihara wanted more! She leaned on the edge of the cold stone well, grasped the rope and lowered the pail into the well, deeper and deeper, but it never seemed to reach the water. Sihara could clearly see the pleasant glimmer of the water deep within the well. Why was the pail not reaching it? To drink….to drink…to drink….
I will climb down into the well to drink, she thought, pleased with her idea.
Inspecting the well’s inner wall, she noticed a rope ladder leading into the depths. How strange that she had not seen it before. Sihara moved towards the well, reaching out to grab the ladder. The water in the depths seemed so cold, so inviting! But before she could place her feet on the ladder, a whisper was once again present on her lips: "Do not be deceived by appearances.”
But how could she be deceived? She wondered.
Nevertheless, before descending, she gazed at the waters once more. For a fleeting moment she sensed a dark shadow in the depths, like the presence of a large beast. Terror-struck, the consuming thirst dissipating, but still attracted, she forced herself to look, once more, into the well. And the water once again seemed pleasant, sweet and clear.
"Do not be deceived by appearances!” she heard herself shout, in a voice emanating through her as in a dream. At once, she let go of the ladder, shut her eyes, returned to the path and forced herself to continue on her way. The water in the well bubbled and shrieked, letting out angry cries.
How had she been able to see through this trick perpetrated by the Shadows of Illusion? Seductive, paralyzing, captivating, designed to entrap her…Although she had escaped this time, a heavy feeling overcame her.
Would she ever find her way out of this seemingly endless forest? Would the path lead her to a clearing?
No, she suddenly answered her own question. This path leads nowhere.
It had taken her around and around in hopeless circles, from one illusion to another. Fear now rose in her throat.
Was she destined to spend the rest of her days wandering aimlessly? She stopped and inspected her surroundings: Bare branches, dark treetops, faint light, a faraway wail….
Who would guide her through this?
She noticed that the foliage was becoming less dense. She hopefully removed several decaying branches, discovering a clear path beyond the tangled trees. A faint green hue seemed almost visible among the trees, and if her eyes did not deceive her, fresh green leaves were visible in the distance. Life!! Life beyond the chilling barrenness! Sihara breathed deeply as fresh air entered her lungs, and the trees appeared alive and lush.
The living forest, no longer gray and ominous, sprawled out over the mountain slope, the light gradually increasing. Here and there, broken branches, Shadows and rocks still obstructed her path, but Sihara reminded herself that appearances are deceiving, and she continued walking, confidently. Gradually, the Shadows disappeared. The slopes became steeper but Sihara ascended steadily and purposefully. Shrieks were replaced with the soft sounds of a gentle breeze. The light of day increased, and Sihara felt calm as the breeze in the treetops blew the promise of redemption.
But as Sihara approached the long-awaited end of the trail, with only a few steps to go, an unexpected turn of events occurred: With every step, the resonance of life began to fade. Once again, the air became gloomy, the sunlight diminished and she felt, paradoxically, as if she fell backwards with every forward step she took.
"No!" shrieked Sihara. A multitude of echoes rang through the darkening forest.
Sihara came to a halt. If every step seemed to take her farther from her destination, would it not be better to stop now? Perhaps I should go back in order to move forward? a shadowy thought entered her mind. She turned around toward the last place on earth she wished to see.
"Do not be deceived by appearances," she heard a distant voice whisper in her heart. Ashamed, inert, listening to the battle of voices from within herself, and with a strength of spirit not solely her own, she turned around, away from the gloom, closed her eyes and walked one step at a time towards the illusionary darkness ahead murmuring: "I will go forward…I will go forward…I will go forward…"
Her pace increased as she found herself walking with a lighter step. She neared the forest, dark and bursting with Shadows, and announced with all her might, challenging all illusions: "I am going forward!"
The Shadows faded away. Sihara ran towards the light. Limp and exhausted, with branches striking her face, her hair in disarray, she felt confused as she emerged from the tangled trees. Though the forest was behind her, though she had emerged from the endless tangle of trees, though the sun shone brightly upon bare hills where Shadows did not rule, it was not over yet. Sihara now faced another obstacle- a wall composed of rigid, tangled, twisted shrubbery, an impassable natural overgrowth, extending as far as she could see.
To be continued.
Purchase Warriors of Transcendence online at a special discount for Breslev Israel readers here