5 Shvat 5778 / Sunday, January 21, 2018 | Torah Reading: Beshalah
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The Dare    

The Dare

Motivated by his friends’ approval and praise, Tzalaii accepted the challenge of this reckless dare, a seemingly impossible feat which he had never previously considered.


Warriors of Transcendence, Part 7

Tzalaii descended the Southern slopes of the Northern Forests. He was tall and thin, with hair as dark as a winter night and eyes like a curious child. As he walked, he recalled the fateful conversation that had propelled him to set out on this lonely and perilous journey, which would take him many weeks' distance from his village by the sea. His mind traveled back in time to the day he had allowed himself to take this daring step into the unknown.
The members of his gang had gathered, as usual, by the beach, that fateful day, close to the stand of boulders which protruded from the sea. Some of them idly cast small stones into the water; others relaxed in the sand or etched meaningless drawings in it. They were all awaiting Tzalaii's return from his dive, down below, in the great water tunnel under the rocks. And then Tzalaii emerged, out of breath, though smiling triumphantly at the approval of his admirers. One of them, a boy much stronger than Tzalaii and always envious of his leader’s achievements, spoke up boastfully. "It's no great feat to swim through that tunnel." At once all the boys laughed at his comment for it was quite clear that this was, in fact, a dangerous feat that required courage. Only Tzalaii was capable of successfully executing this stunt time and time again. Realizing his foolishness, the envious boy reddened in embarrassment as he tried to correct his error.
"No, of course it is very difficult. But still, it is just a childish stunt, not a truly brave act." 
All were silent and looked toward Tzalaii who was sitting in the sand.
"Well, my friend," Tzalaii retorted confidently, "what is, in your opinion, a truly brave act; one that is not child's play?"
 "A brave act entails a journey to a truly dangerous place, such as the Green Lowlands."
Everyone gasped in fear, suddenly confronted by something seriously and enormously terrifying. This conversation no longer sounded like playful, innocent banter. 
But Tzalaii was not frightened. "And what, in your opinion, must one do there?" he asked.
"A particularly brave feat," the boy suggested. "This feat alone can prove a person’s bravery.”
"Like what, for instance?" Tzalaii asked, his interest awakened.
"For instance”, he paused for a moment, "touching the wall that surrounds the Towered City." 
This was going too far. Very few villagers ever mentioned the Towered City. Even fewer knew of the dangers lurking in the Green Lowlands. The boy was brazenly and publicly challenging Tzalaii to go there and to touch the wall.
Passionate, furious voices arose from amongst the gang members. The envious boy almost rescinded his dare, but Tzalaii calmed the assembly.
"It would be the most daring feat ever attempted by a villager," he said.
"And the dumbest", added one of the members, though he was quickly silenced by the others.
"I'll do it!" announced Tzalaii with certainty.
"But how will we know you speak the truth?" asked the envious boy.
“Maybe you should bring one of the guards back to testify." he added jokingly. Tzalaii remembered the Magnathought Crystal, and replied in a serious tone, "Would a shard of the wall serve as sufficient proof?"
Motivated by his friends’ approval and praise, Tzalaii accepted the challenge of this reckless dare, a seemingly impossible feat which he had never previously considered. Now as he journeyed toward his quest, his doubts and fears surfaced.
He would often yearn to return home, but then he would imagine the eager faces of those anticipating his glorious return, and this vision compelled him to continue on his self-appointed mission. Many long days filled with anxiety and doubt had passed since he had ascended the tall cliffs surrounding the Valley of the King. Now, descending the eastern slopes, he knew that each step brought him closer to the Towered City.
From a distance, the City appeared as an enormous motionless beast, and the gleaming light reflecting from its windows looked like the multiple eyes of some mythological beast awaiting its prey. The great wall concealed only the base level; six additional levels soared above it.
A pale ray of light was rolling in from the east, slowly filling the skyline. The light illuminated the outline of the valley revealing scattered trees and structures, lying in disarray, in the lowlands surrounding the great City. As the sun rose, the lights in the windows faded. A vast and irksome darkness emerged from the tower, and seemed to descend into the entire valley. Its tentacles reached the mountain slopes, driving fear into Tzalaii's heart.
Where will my legs carry me this morning? he asked himself, trying to convince himself that this journey would not be difficult. The sound of galloping hooves cut his thoughts short. Five shaven-headed horsemen, wearing dark leather attire, and sitting as upright as swords, appeared in his path, their black horses boasting the same might as their riders.
"Identify yourself!" called one of the horsemen.
The others surrounded him, confident of their strength as they questioned this insignificant passerby. Frightened yet sure of the answer he must give, Tzalaii pointed towards the mountain tops as if to indicate: "I have come from there.”
"He is not marked!" announced one of the horsemen.
Like all villagers, Tzalaii wore a blue garment, devoid of a flame. And so, it was obvious that he was not one of the residents of the Tower. The horses came closer to Tzalaii but the five horsemen   seemed calm and somewhat amused. This was to be an easy kill, with no risk involved. The soldier closest to Tzalaii turned to him with words that were surprisingly soft and soothing.
"The center of strength, granting goodness to us all," he said, while pointing south, "lies in this valley."
The shaven-headed soldiers murmured in agreement.
"There, in the great chamber, the holy fire is revealed; Messenger of the ancient sun, root of all strength."
A tense silence filled the air, as all awaited the words which would transform Tzalaii   into an altered being.
The holy fire, root of all strength… Tzalaii considered these words. An unsettling vision permeated his consciousness. He envisioned himself as a horseman in shiny leather garb, holding the reins of a mighty black stallion, and galloping off into the distance.
The whinny of one of the impatient horses, forced to wait, disturbed his reverie.   Tzalaii once again focused on the erect, poised riders, and from deep within, he sensed silent warnings. He felt trapped as though an obscure, spider- like web was holding him against his will. Fear rose in his throat. Did he have a way out? He was untrained in battle. Showing off his strength to his young admirers, his gang, had not prepared him in any way for confrontation with a serious rival.
Suddenly his hand, as if moving on its own, reached into his satchel, extracting a gleaming Crystal. A ray of light momentarily passed through it, illuminating its fine interior wooden sketches. Tzalaii, gathering his thoughts, attempted to focus on the object in his hand. The strength of his spirit was enhanced by the ever -increasing fear he felt, and he struggled to produce the image of a flame in his mind. The Magnathought Crystal began to heat up, and his hand began to tremble. The warriors, gazing at the object in Tzalaii's hands, came closer, causing Tzalaii to become enraged. He had managed to disregard the words spoken by these Obliterators, but now he felt foolish trying to use this weapon against them.
Tzalaii became increasingly courageous. He concentrated with all of his might, and a. narrow, blue flame emerged from the crystal, surrounding it in a threadlike manner. The horses whinnied and recoiled; the warriors retreated. "A Warrior of Transcendence!" exclaimed one of horsemen, taken aback. Tzalaii took advantage of their embarrassment and escaped   into the depth of the woods. The blue flame continued to serve as a shield between him and the horsemen. He could hear their howls of fury at the loss of their intended victim. Eventually, their voices died down and Tzalaii wondered if the fire he had created had actually harmed his assailants.  
To be continued.
Purchase Warriors of Transcendence online at a special discount for Breslev Israel readers here
(With sincere gratitude to www.levhadvarim.com)

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