Over the next days, before the wedding was planned to begin, Wendell’s mood was strange and surreal. He sat in his room, looking at one of the open chests of gold coins. He let the coins fall through his fingers again and again, wishing that somehow they were not so hard and cold.
The scroll room yielded only more horrible sayings, and he found the garden’s bright spaces to be the only respite from the wretched chill that hung over him always and seeped even into his bones.
Soon it was only a day from the wedding, at the end of the preparation week. There was another great banquet that night, to celebrate the wedding. Garim sat by the fire during the whole night, never stirring or saying anything. Finally, at the end of the banquet, he turned in the chair, and put back his hood slowly.
“Of all the stories that have been told, this is the greatest,” he began in a low, brooding voice.
“Of all the legends that are known, this one is the truest,” he continued...
“Of all the trials that have been faced, this one was the most terrible.”
Then he paused for a long time, until everyone became uneasy.
“Behold!!” he roared at last, never stirring in the chair.
“It came to be that Ren Zael, the great warrior, was born into the earth to hear the cries of the lost and the wails of the forgotten. To seek the one he loved, he came, though she was dead already, and her beauty had left her.”
No one in the room stirred.
“And great was the light of his face upon the children of men, so that even the darkness of night fled from his presence, and the bonds of all who sought his aid were loosed.”
Now his voice lowered to a growl.
“But there were those who did not wish it so. And so they trapped him, and put him to death by torturous means, and he did not resist them.”
A child at the far end of the table gasped.
“And so to the bottom of the worlds he went, where the great serpent, the Dragon, awaited to devour him forever, who had sought his life.”
“Many days they fought, down in that hideous realm, where none can leave, and hope is not remembered for days and ages to come. I cannot tell of the grievous blows and forgotten mysteries by which they fought, but know only this: that in the end Ren Zael was victorious, and rose again to life.”
“Many say it is only a lie. Many say it is but a story. For where is Ren Zael now, if indeed he came to life again? To what end of the world shall we go to seek him, to what heights must we rise to find him, whom not even death could destroy?”
“But it is rumored that someday he will return to the affairs of men. But watch carefully for the day of his coming, for it is like a thief coming at night.”
The fire had grown down to a smoldering crackle. With this, Garim turned and looked directly in Wendell’s eyes, his voice lowered to an urgent whisper.
“For the coming of destiny... is like the coming of death… swift, unexpected, and final.”
With that, the old man turned away and looked into the fire, never stirring.