by Christopher Brown

 Awkward silence was broken only by the occasional dripping of water until curiosity got the better of Henry.

“Who are you?”

“I am Abdul-Baari.” The stranger turned to face them, his hand still holding a flame. “I apologise for being rude. I am not accustomed to keeping company.”

“How are you doing that?” George referred to the flame in Abdul-Baari’s palm. “Are you a witch?”

“There’s no such things as witches,” Henry interrupted with an eyeroll.

“There are such things as witches,” Abdul-Baari said. “You are likely to find them if you go to the jungle. But to answer your question, no, I am not a witch. Witches draw power from darkness, while I am a light.”

“Are you one of the Seven Sages?”

Abdul-Baari grinned. “You believe there are still seven sages?”

“They ruled all of Tirsana. Why would they not leave some kind of heirs?”

“The original sages found that they could be more than rulers. Otherwise, would they not also rule your home land?”

“So they just died off?”

“Most of them. But it is said that all will be sages.”

“Didn’t they predict the end of the world?”

“George, can you knock it off with the wives’ tales?”

George backed off and Abdul-Baari let the conversation close. 

“Follow me. There’s a cavern where we can rest that is not far ahead.” 

____________________________________________
Henry and George chewed on beef jerky while Abdul-Baari sat in meditation fifteen feet away. He had heated a boulder to the point of glowing while he “focused on the truth.” Still, the boys had trouble ignoring the light from a flame that absent-mindedly appeared and vanished in Abdul-Baari’s hands. 

“How does he do that?” George asked. 

“More importantly, can he teach us to do it?” Henry added.

“That would be so cool!”

“The machines wouldn’t stand a chance.” They turned toward Abdul-Baari. “Could you cut it out with the flashing light?”

Abdul-Baari opened his eyes. “Sorry. It is how I fidget.”

The question that was stuck in Henry’s throat came out George’s mouth. 

“Could you teach us magic?”

Abdul-Baari grinned as though he’d seen this moment coming. “I am sorry, but no.”

“Please,” Henry begged, “just teach us the basics of magic and we’ll figure out the rest ourselves.”

“It is not that I do not want to help, but I have seen that great power can corrupt the best of men.”

“Can’t you give us something?” George asked. 

Abdul-Baari sighed and pulled a thick book from his leather bag. “This is the written word of our Creator. Study it. Let it mold your hearts and lead you to the Truth who sets men free. Then you will have the maturity and the wisdom to handle such power as magic.”

“Can’t you just tell us this truth?” Henry complained.

“The Truth cannot be told, only known. You could tell someone about me, but would they truly know who I am solely from your description?”

The boys thought for a moment before George answered. “I suppose not.”

“They could know about me, but they would not truly know me until they see me for themselves and spend time with me. So it is with the Truth. You must gain not only a factual knowledge of Him, but an intimate acquaintance with Him.”

Henry scrunched his nose with criticism. “You talk like truth is a person.”

“Exactly.”

George sought clarification. “So after we learn….Or get to know this truth, then you’ll teach us magic?”

“Yes. Then I will teach you.”

“Deal!” George grabbed the book.

“Still, it could take some time, and there will be dangers in your path.” He removed a golden ring from his right hand. It had a flame design engraved in it, and a ruby on top. “I have stored some magic in this ring. Enough for three or four good uses. It will throw flames where you point it.”

Henry took the ring.

“Can I see it?”

“You’ll just play with it. I’m team leader; I get the magic ring.”

“Come. The town is not far.”

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