A long time ago - soon after humanity got their first hero, but before they managed to build the Great Wall - there was a legend. Back then, very few managed to travel past the Great Wall construction areas. It was Barren Lands, where only the greatest adventurers would or could go.
Back then, the fact that the first hero managed to slay the very first named great evil was considered a miraculous event itself. It was one of the greatest celebrations, and it was the biggest step towards building the wall. After all, all the demons began to return to their homelands to make a claim to the opened Demon King’s seat. As a side mention, they were truly surprised just to see a huge wall when they tried to return.
But after the hero - or perhaps I should call him by his real name Hin Qia - had defeated the Great Demon and the Great Wall construction had begun, rumors began to spread. Mostly because a lot more adventurers began to travel to the other side of the wall, cleaning and fighting nearby demons to keep the construction site safe.
According to stories, the Barren Lands have always been like that: full of dead, or ashen, or coal trees. The crop doesn’t want to grow there or it’s a real struggle to do so. It took us a long time to find ways how to do that at our outposts. And to make it worse, on bad days, it could start raining volcano’s hot ash. It’s still a mystery how beings who live in the Barren Lands manage to feed themselves. But we haven’t really had our chance to ask them either.
But yet there were stories of an oasis. A small part of the land that was supposed to be filled with grown exotic plants, grass, food, water and everything else. It was so bizarre story, that most adventurers didn’t believe in that. Many higher-ranking adventurers went to search for it, just to find nothing but misery.
That is until Hin decided to go and find it, taking only his best party with him.
And this is where the story becomes difficult. While some bard songs still talk about the oasis, there’s only one story that talks about what actually happened. It was told supposedly by Hin’s traveling bard companion. He only revealed that story after Hin had died, and he was on a deathbed. And since it wasn’t told directly to the public, but to his children, adventurers thought that they just tried to reap some attention with his name. So, not many believed the story - after all, he was already considered senile, and most of his stories about Hin were exaggerated; he was the first hero, after all. It wasn’t a bad thing, of course. That was the point of bards.
The bard - who only liked to be called Ceo'ge, and I believe that was just to stand out from the rest of the bards - was a bard who mostly told stories. He wrote poems or songs very rarely - but became later legends. Many of his stories are still known as legends. Some are told more frequently than others. But this one never got far.
I wish I could tell you the original script, but I’ll try to tell you the best of my ability.
You see, Hin spent quite a long time to find the Oasis of Barren Lands. Many of his companions told to abandon the idea, and most did so themselves, calling him delusional and the oasis itself as a waste of time. But Hin kept searching. Eventually, he found it. And when he did, there were only three left: him, Ceo’ge, and his best friend - or soon to be his wife - Ren.
Perhaps the fact that both of them were monks who had all the patience in the world helped a lot. Ceo’ge said that he wanted to abandon the search many times, but the fact that he was the bard chosen by the hero himself, he wouldn’t stop following no matter what. It was the biggest honor.
But when Ceo’ge saw the oasis, he couldn’t help but write a haiku about the oasis. Funnily enough, the haiku survived but is often referenced as something truly scary. Almost as a quiet before the story.
In the Barren Lands
The greenest grass of them all
He said that none of them had ever seen as a beautiful and peaceful place as that. It was an alien world, out of nowhere. And it was unsurprising how hard it was to find it until they suddenly saw it all at once. After all, it was hidden in a small valley, and it began as soon as it began to descend.
But they all saw it. It was very visible even from the edge. Maybe others didn’t differentiate it from other trees, but they did. Or perhaps they couldn’t see it? Or maybe they did, but refused to talk about it? Nobody knows.
At the center of the valley, there was a very thick tree, but with no branches or leaves. The top side looked like the roots grew upwards, not into the ground. Perhaps the best way to explain it would be that the tree was reversed, upside down. The closer they got to it, the more apparent it got.
And as they got really close, they noticed how the tree’s bark was more like large scales covering its entire body, protecting it from any harm. But there was one more thing.
It was looking at them, staring, but not saying a word. Its eyes were made out of wood, and the pupils were darker than coal. Like any other face, it had a nose and a mouth. Its lips were slightly opened, so they could see that there was a hole behind it.
Finally, Hin said his first words. “What are you?”
And as they hoped for silence, they got an answer with a really low voice. Even though they saw a face, they still didn’t expect to see a talking tree.
“Hin. We finally meet. I’m many things. But for you, you can call me an elder.”
Hin told his companions to leave, and they talked. And talked. What they talked about, we do not know, but they did it for a long time. It seemed as he asked questions, and then the tree told him long answers.
And finally, Hin decided that the tree was too dangerous. It knew too much - many answers which we shouldn’t ever get answers to. And the secrets he had found out, he decided to take them to the grave. So, he pushed his hand into the tree’s mouth and pulled out a heart.
The Elder Heart, he called it.
He hid it away, and never talked about it again. He told Ceo’ge to talk of an oasis as it was a myth - a hopeful story about hungry and lost adventurers in Barren Lands.
And he was almost successful.
There was a moment when Ceo’ge finally told the story to his children, just before he died. “My children, I wish I could go there once more, touch the grass one last time. I wish I could lie down on that descent that was more comfortable than my best bed, and enjoy the sky. I wish I could take one last sip from that pure water - so pure that it had an indescribable taste. But I cannot do so, as he hid my paradise away. One thing I could never forgive him. I only wish I could speak of it to everyone, my last story. The story that I’m cursed to keep quiet about.”
But in my opinion, maybe because he got old and senile, he could tell the story. Or perhaps it was the curse that killed him - not that it mattered. It was forbidden, yet forgotten story.
Of course, many searched for such an item, but nobody ever found anything about it. But if the stories are true, and one could get an answer to any question, it would be too dangerous if it would fall into the wrong hands.
Support "I Only Wish I Had a Cliché Adventure"
- Matthew E. Damson
I'm someone whose pen-name is Matthew E. Damson. Some others know me as Elven. I'm also known as elf, elfie, elves, pointy ears, and some more. To be honest, I have no idea why they call me other names, but they create nicknames, not me.
You can read my stuff and shorts at reddit.com/r/Elven
If you like my stuff, I'd really appreciate if you'd become patreon or perhaps show your supports with any other means ^^. Or show it via comments, discussing the story and sharing your thoughts.
I'm not the best at grammar, but I try to fight against it with a better story-writing.
Cheers, and thank you each and one of you who support me and my writing in any way! You have no idea how much it matters to me!