Lucan paused to catch a breath. The mountain path was more arduous than he recalled—steeper, overgrown with roots and tangles, and blocked with fallen branches.
“It is no more difficult than when we walked it the first time.” The voice came from the same twisted brown little fellow who had led Lucan to the holy man three decades ago. The elf hadn’t aged and wore the same hooded buff pullover tied about the waist with a brown rope.
Lucan sat on a mossy log and cast his eyes skyward. “Well, maybe I’m older,” he said.
“Or maybe your heart is no longer in the journey,” the little man said, stroking his pointed beard. “You were only fourteen, but you knew then you had a destiny.”
“You changed. You gave up.” The elf’s gaze dropped to the sword across Lucan’s lap.
“Not really,” Lucan said, using the sword like a cane to stand. “I don’t need a sword anymore. Not for the life I’m leading. I thought it proper to return it.”
“Very well.” The elf shook his head. “The hilt shows no wear and the blade remains polished. My guess is that you and the sword remain untested.”
Without responding, Lucan returned to his climb, leaning heavily on the sword as he went. The elf followed. Upon reaching a clearing at the top, Lucan took a long deep breath and looked about. Arched boughs of towering oaks sheltered the space. Splintered light dappled the patchwork leafy forest floor with dancing yellow-green light. The fresh autumn air smelled of pine and rich humus. A bird dipped and, seeing Lucan, stopped in mid-air, gave a warning chirp, and flitted out of sight.
Here three decades before, Glinick the holy man had beckoned the earth with a thump of his staff. A shudder and quake had followed, then a crevice and a tongue of fire bearing the sword Lucan now carried.
This time no holy man greeted him, and there were no miraculous events. Lucan shrugged and drove the sword point into the ground. The sword sank easily, like cleaving soft butter, but on reaching the straight cross-guard, it refused to go further. After several attempts, Lucan placed a hollow broken section of a branch over the exposed grip and pommel. Then he backed away to sit beside the elf on a stone shelf.
“I’ll tell Glinick where to find his sword,” the elf finally said.
“I didn’t want to give up,” Lucan said, “but I never learned how to draw on the sword’s magic.”
“Glinick said you must persevere until the magic finds you then follow the path it points to you.”
“The magic never found me, and now Jill has left me, too. She thought I was a fool for lugging a sword around.”
“Is that why you gave up … your girl didn’t believe in your mission? So you chose to follow her instead?”
“She’s smart, beautiful, sophisticated, everything I want,” Lucan glared at the elf, “and she knows me … knows who I truly am.”
“She knows the version of you that fears to use his gifts.” The elf leaned forward with his hands on his knees. “All talents and skills are magic—gifts from God to help you fulfill your mission, to help you become what you are meant to be. When others tell you not to believe, they are telling you not to believe in yourself and in your gifts.”
The elf stroked his bearded chin then continued. “I suspect if you became what you were meant to be, Jill would not be with you. But your perfect partner would be.”
“I told you, Jill knows me.”
“It would be better if you knew yourself. But perhaps you do.” The elf pointed to the branch section hiding the sword’s grip and pommel. “The earth has not accepted the sword, and the holy man has not come to receive your resignation.”
Lucan pursed his lips nodding then locked onto the elf’s gaze and smiled.