The Barbarian's Saving Grace

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He was a foreigner in this country.

He was careful to stay to the fringes of the great cities.

Still, there were those who came across him---those from the cities, acting more important than they were---deigning to stop at one of the villages, near the great roads, where he mingled with the simple folk...

The people from the cities hated his differences---dark skin and blue eyes.

They hated his size---heads taller and well-muscled.

They hated when he spoke---words so different from the ones they spoke---yet, words the villagers could feel the meaning of...

Some of the cities' men would challenge him; though, of course, they would always lose.

He hated it when they persisted to the point where there was a need to kill them...

~~~

He was on a quest.

Sent to roam this country at a wizard's behest.

Given a rune stone to "guide him" said the wizard; though, he could see no way it guided---it could not find north, no one he met could read it, and he could not see any way it could serve as a key...

But, there had been times he had shown it and the person would react a certain way, look a certain direction, twitch with a certain pattern...

Over the years, he learned to remember these responses and used them to build a memory-map---a place in his mind that he felt pointing this way and not that, leading that way and not this...

And, even though he had been wandering for nine years, he had no complaints to speak of.

~~~

The wizard had told him he would meet a griffin.

He didn't believe the wizard; but, he kept that to himself.

Griffins were made from imagination---lion bodies, eagle heads and wings...

Yet, the wizard had paid him with a pack full of gold pieces---to wander around with a rune stone and find a griffin who would be in trouble...

He could not see how, even if there were a real griffin, it could ever need the help of someone like him.

He was very strong; but, an eagle-lion was certainly stronger...

~~~

So, the barbarian continued to roam; spending his gold wisely; living a carefree life; slowly learning to obey his memory-map; seeming, at times, to feel he was headed toward a certain destination; and, hardly ever having to kill a proud man with something to prove...

~~~

Half-way into the tenth year of his trek, he began to notice the rune stone getting warmer...

And, those he showed it to would react more strongly---all looking the same direction, all twitching exactly the same way...

His journey began to have some mysterious meaning, even if he never met a real griffin...

~~~

One day, when the sun was hotter than usual and the air was strange with a smell like death, he thought he saw a lion running along the crest of a hill.

But wait...

He is jumping off the cliff...

He is flying!

But... he looks to be lacking control...

The barbarian found himself running, at breakneck speed, to where he saw the griffin fall...

~~~

The further he ran the slower he got.

He began to cough and felt his breathing get stiff.

Just as he stumbled to the ground he reached a pit and saw the griffin down at the bottom, struggling to spread its wings in the cramped space.

He could hardly breath...

The griffin was screaming...

~~~

He passed out and fell into the pit.

As he rolled off the griffin's thrashing body, hitting bottom, the rune stone fell from his pouch.

It began to glow...

The griffin, near death, stared at the stone's symbol, began to utter a sound---piercing yet sweet...

It woke the barbarian.

He saw the griffin looking at his rune stone, he heard the griffin sounding its compelling call, and realized the animal was saying what the rune meant...

~~~

The air began to smell clean.

The griffin plucked him up by his hair and clawed its way to the top of the pit.

He began to regain his strength, could breath easier...

He sat up and stared straight into those golden eyes---thought he could hear the griffin speak in his mind...

"You have saved the world. You will now be known as a Hero. I will be always ready to aid you. Prepare for a very hard life. Prepare for unbelievable adventure."

~~~~~~~~~

Of course, you have undoubtedly read the tales of the barbarian who tamed a griffin?

Of course, they are exciting.

Of course, they can't be true...


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