IN FURY AND FRUSTRATION
The boy stared searchingly at Alternaeus.
“But she will die,” he said urgently.
Alternaeus looked down at the girl and then over to the boy. Then he sighed deeply, but answered stoically.
“It seems very likely to me that you speak the truth,” he told the boy.
“But, but…” the boy stammered in near desperation. “You cannot let that happen, you must not let that happen.”
Alternaeus placed his hand lightly on the boy’s shoulder and shook his head.
“You are now my apprentice. You must learn this lesson sooner, or later, yet I would have preferred you had learned this one thing, at least, by another and more hopeful method.
I am only a Wizard boy. I am not God, or a god. Some things lie far beyond my power. Death is one of those things. True, Death and I are old friends, and on occasion I can persuade him. But sometimes Death listens to no man. No matter who he may be. Or who he might think he is. I have earnestly tried in this case to persuade Death favorably for the sake of the girl. With little effect it seems to me.”
There was a long moment of silence while the boy looked at the girl and made no reply. The owl was preening itself on his wooden stand. It was the only sound that could be heard clearly in the room. Otherwise the entire tower seemed little more than a tomb to Alternaeus.
The boy shook his head in disbelief, but slowly seemed to sense the atmosphere.
“But you are a Wizard…” the boy said, yet his manner seemed more subdued, or possibly even resigned, and his voice was lower and less demanding.
Alternaeus gently squeezed the boy’s shoulder and lowering himself to his knee brought himself down to the boy’s sitting height.
“A Wizard is only a Wizard my son. Sometimes that is the greatest thing in the world – the most grand, and magnificent, and possibly even the best thing in this world. But it is only one thing of a very many possible things in this world. And because of that, knowing what I know, seeing what you see, being aware of what we are aware, and still on occasion understanding that we are powerless to stop what is truly wrong in this world makes being a Wizard a wondrously lonely and a miraculously terrible thing as well.” The Wizard paused and looked hard at the boy to gauge his reaction. But the boy looked only at the girl.
“Do you understand?” Alternaeus asked him at last.
Finally the boy turned and looked at the Wizard, tears welling in his eyes. In a choked and thick voice the boy replied.
“Yes sir… but, no, sir,” he said with a struggle. “Does it even matter? For what good then will it do me to become such a Wizard? What good then has it done for you to become such a Wizard?”
Alternaeus reached over and took the girl’s soft but cold hand and placed it into the boy’s rough but warm hand. Then he answered truthfully.
“I have no answer to give you boy. Indeed, I have no real answer to give myself. Other than the hope that one day, possibly, we both shall know.”
Then Alternaeus rose and walked quietly from the room. He shut the door silently behind him and left the boy and girl to whatever awaited them. It was well beyond his ability to influence now, no matter what he may wish, or what he might do. There was no need to linger, and no point to watch.
Then Alternaeus descended the steps until he came to the floor of the tower where he crossed the gritty stone, opened the heavy oak door and walked out into the bright sunshine. He continued walking and did not stop for several miles until he came to the marshes at the bend of the river where he saw a young songbird flitting about the reeds, tweeting loudly, playing energetically, watching the water for a meal, and perhaps even looking for a mate. It was, after all, early springtime.
Then Alternaeus sat himself down upon a large rock beside the river and clenching both fists in fury and frustration wept like a small child.
from The Tales of Alternaeus the Wizard