All you need to know about a writer is in their written word; below is my introduction. Post your own writing in the comments if you wish to introduce yourself.
The Legend on the Mountain
by Austin Phillips
The Young Man scaled the mountain certain of what he would find upon the summit—The Legend on the Mountain. The Warrior, The Assassin, and The King had all journeyed this path to reach The Legend, and when they returned, each told of an individual so enlightened that every word he spoke was prophetic. He foresaw their greatness and blessed them to follow their destinies. It was now The Young Man’s turn to be guided.
However, the path was not easy.
Razor-edged stones sliced his feet, but he thought of The Legend vanquishing the invading tribes of the Great Beyond; he too wished to find glory on the battlefield, so he pressed on.
The wind and frost bit into his flesh, but he thought of The Legend slaying The Dark Tyrant and putting an end to his terrible reign; he too dreamed of defeating such a foe, so he pressed on.
His eyes glazed and his breath weakened from climbing the ever-steepening cliffs, but he thought of The Legend bringing a generation of peace and stability to the kingdom; he too yearned to rule so valiantly, so he pressed on.
The Young Man pressed on and on until there was nothing more to press against. He had reached his journey’s end. In front of him was the man he so desperately sought—The Legend on the Mountain. The boy saw a noble figure draped proudly in armor so bright it blinded, a cloak so regal it awed, and an aura so magnificent it demanded a bent knee. The Legend turned and looked at the newcomer.
“Another?” The Legend’s voice was a wail of fury and anguish.
The Young Man froze. This was not the welcome he dreamed of.
“Be gone, be gone from this wretched place!” The Legend cried.
The Young Man could not draw a breath. This was not how it was supposed to be.
“I have nothing more to give!” The Legend bellowed.
The Young Man’s eyes refocused on the decrepit man in rusted armor, a soiled cloak, and an air of madness that forced attention to go anywhere but to it. Whoever this creature was, it was not the hero The Young Man sought.
“I am here to see The Legend on the Mountain. What have you done with him?”
The Old Man stumbled forward and grabbed The Young Man with frail hands. The elder’s breath coated the youth’s skin like oil. “Flee!”
The Young Man pushed the crazed figure away. “Where is the Legend on the Mountain?”
“There has never been a legend here.”
The Young Man struck out with a fist, sending The Old Man sprawling into the snow.
“Where is he?” The Young Man screamed.
Propping himself up on elbows long ago cemented to stiffness, The Old Man looked out through matted hair. “He is I, and I am he.”
No! The Young Man’s knees hit the snow and his hands covered his face. Impossible. This thing could not be The Legend. It was a sick lie. A joke at its cruelest. The Young Man pushed himself upward with joints that could still handle such strain and shook his head.
“May a curse be placed upon you for whatever heinous deeds you have done to The Legend on the Mountain.” He turned to leave, determined to forge his own path in the wake that The Warrior, The Assassin, and The King had left behind. He would become legendary with or without the wisdom they had received upon this mountain.
Barely a step he took before he was spun around by The Old Man’s suddenly ferocious grip. Cruel words leapt to The Young Man’s mind but curdled on his tongue. Although the man’s breath still stank and his hair remained neglected, there was unquestionable sanity in his eyes.
“You think your curse is worthy of being added to the pile upon my back?” The man’s voice was heavy with pain The Young Man could not comprehend. “Forget your folly of becoming like The Warrior, The Assassin, and The King. They are broken creatures. They are shattered dreams. They are fallen men.”
The Warrior, The Assassin, and The King were everything a boy could aspire to be. The Young Man could not let these lies stand. He tried to shake his head, tried to refuse the words, but The Old Man’s grip did not break. Unable to escape, The Young Man lashed out with words of his own.
“The Warrior is a man of pride, when he walks the streets he holds his head high for all to see.”
“But when he is alone he hangs his head low, for the weight of his horrid past is too great a burden to bear,” The Old Man countered.
The Young Man’s heart quickened, uncertainty setting in. “The Assassin is without fear. He alone has mastered death and can wield it however he wills.”
“Death is not a weapon only one may brandish, it’s a disease that any can inflict. That man feigns fearlessness to cover the pain of his own cowardly deeds.”
The Young Man tried to stay strong. “The King is loved by all. No matter where he steps he is followed by a crowd of endless love and respect.”
“He is a ravaged island weathering the unrelenting storm that is the demands of his ungrateful people.”
“It is not true!” The Young Man said like a mourner over the body of a beloved. “Why claim you know these things? You are only a madman forever alone upon a mountaintop.”
“I know because I am the three you seek to be, and they are me. Not by blood or flesh, but by experience and folly. Your heroes have been destroyed by their blind desires just as I was destroyed by my own.”
The Young Man had no reply. His throat tightened; his tongue tied. If this man truly was The Legend on the Mountain, then his words were true. But if his words were true, then The Young Man’s dreams were poison. That meant this man could not be what he claimed he was. His words were the poison—a poison The Young Man would not swallow. He gripped the lunatic’s wrists and tried to get free, but the wrinkled fingers tightened, digging deeper.
“You deny what I say because of the glory you crave, but that glory requires a price none should be willing to pay.” The Old Man’s voice rose to a shrill panic. “If the truth from my words will not convince you, then the truth of my past shall.” The Old Man brought the youth close, and like windows into the past his eyes allowed The Young Man to see into an age fondly remembered but long forgotten.
The boy found himself upon a battlefield where war had raged not long ago but now lulled into terrible stillness. This was not the glorious battlefield painted from the tongues of bards. This was carnage at its worst. At his feet, and spreading out like fire from its source, dead bodies lay twisted and mutilated. Dirt, ash, and blood could not hide the grotesque masks of pain and horror that were once faces of living men. He looked away, but The Old Man shook him until his eyes opened again. And with open eyes he saw a man sitting among the dead. But sitting was not the right word. The man was on all fours like a wounded animal blindly searching for sanctuary that did not exist. Dirt, ash, and blood covered The Crawling Man like the dead around him. But even through the layer of death distorting the human beneath, The Young Man recognized the eyes of The Old Man on The Crawling Man’s face.
“This was but one nameless battle fought between the kingdom and the tribes from the Great Beyond.” The Old Man’s voice cracked and threatened to break. “The stories won’t tell you that these so-called invaders were not the conquering savages. They were the noble defenders of their homeland. Nor will the stories tell you how I survived through sheer luck and happenstance that left me more lifeless than the dead at my feet. All they will say is that I, The Legend on the Mountain, stood alone against the ravaging hordes of the invading tribes and beat them back with not a single injury or pain.”
“This can’t be,” The Young Man muttered. In his infancy, he knew the tales to ring true. In his adolescence, he knew them to be fact. In his present, he began to doubt. But it was not yet strong enough to break his old beliefs. “Do not deceive me. The bards may embellish, but The Warrior himself speaks fondly of the righteousness found in battle, and it is nothing like the blasphemy before me.”
A harsh bark of a laugh escaped The Old Man’s throat. “He must deceive himself as much as he deceives others. The reality is too much for any man to overcome.”
The Young Man opened his mouth to refuse. But before he could, the battlefield was gone and he found himself in a room dimly lit by candlelight. On the floor was a pool of blood, and in the blood were two men—one dead and the other weeping. On the dead man’s face sat only confusion and fear; on his throat a fatal slash. The Weeping Man’s face was obscured as he cradled the body and buried his head into its chest. Next to him a bloody dagger and crown lay forgotten.
“The Assassination of The Dark Tyrant.” The Old Man’s voice was strained as if dragging the words out with an otherworldly effort. “The art of the assassin is romanticized into an act of bravery and strength, but it is the most cowardice and deforming act of them all.” The Old Man paused a long moment, forcing The Young Man’s doubt to grow. “The tales of my exaggerated victories against the invading tribes had earned me such renown that when the people had decided The Dark Tyrant’s fate, I was chosen to seal it. For three years I infiltrated, gaining his trust and love. I became his protector, then his confidant, and finally his friend. I came to understand he was no tyrant; he was a strong man who did not bend to the rash impulses of others. I tried to tell the people this, but they threatened and cursed me, demanding I take his life. Unlike my friend, I feared them and cowed. And when my knife slit his life from flesh, he did not believe the deceit even as he choked on his own blood.”
The Old Man collapsed to his knees, bringing The Young Man with him.
“The Assassin claims his targets are deserving of his blade and that he is doing the good that must be done,” the boy offered meekly, clinging to the denial as a child would to his mother’s leg.
The Old Man said nothing. Instead the vision changed, and a bewildered man stood in front of them with the now bloodless crown upon his head. Surrounding him, in the very room where The Dark Tyrant was slain, swarmed an angry sea of faces. They screamed at him for their petty problems. Their neighbors did not share their beliefs, their children did not behave, their lives were not what they hoped. They had food but not the type their tongues desired. They had safety but feared the unknown. They had freedom but did not want the burden of choice.
Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, and years to misery. Again and again and again the whining crowds demanded justice for their own decisions, blood for their own mistakes, death for their own rage. They wanted what others had. They wanted what was not theirs. They wanted more. The Bewildered Man tried to show them they had lives of plenty, but his words fell on closed ears. More, they cried, More! More! More! The Bewildered Man could not give them more, and so the people concluded he was not worthy. They labeled him tyrant. And like the tyrant before him, he deserved the same fate.
Knowing what awaited him if he stayed, The Bewildered Man ran, throwing away the crown from his head. The people gave chase, crushing the feeble headpiece under their charging feet. The Bewildered Man ran down the halls. They chased. He ran into the streets. They chased. He ran into the forest. They chased. He ran and ran, and they chased and chased. Then the man found himself upon the harsh mountain, his armor and cloak battered and torn, his limbs fatigued and feeble, his hair wild and unkempt. But no longer did he have to run, for they no longer chased. At last he had found the peace he so craved. Here he could find solace in his solitude.
On the mountain The Bewildered Man could not differentiate one day from the next, and soon he lost himself in his happy loneliness. But then arrived The Warrior, speaking of The Bewildered Man’s past but omitting the harsh realities and inserting fanciful lies. No, The Bewildered Man screamed, that is not my story! The Warrior ignored his words and left to achieve his self-created fantasy.
Next The Assassin came. He too heard the warnings but transformed them into something they were not. He left to become what he always dreamt himself to be.
Last was The King, and The Bewildered Man could hardly speak his truths before the man left with ideas of grandeur fully blossomed.
The vision faded, and The Young Man’s eyes refocused on The Old Man’s tear-streaked face. This was not what The Young Man wanted to become. If his dreams led only to this, then they were nightmares. And if they were nightmares, then this mountain was something far worse. Scrambling to protesting feet, the boy could no longer deny the old man’s wisdom. So he fled.
“Remember my words. Remember my warnings. Remember my truths!” The Old Man shouted after him.
The Young Man replied by running faster. He ran and ran until his breath became jagged and his vision blurred. Memories of the crowd’s vicious faces and cruel words chased after him. How could they be so blind to what The Bewildered Man had tried to tell them? No dream of ruling a kingdom was worth such ignorant malice.
He scrambled down the steep cliffs and tried to keep running but stumbled. As he did, the crowd’s faces returned to his mind, but this time he became uncertain of their cruelty. Weren’t opposing voices to be expected no matter how great the ruler? Maybe The Old Man simply wasn’t worthy to lord over the land. The Young Man’s rule would be different, his would be worthy.
A gust of wind heavy with ice whipped against him, pushing out the dreams of rule and replacing them with memories of The Weeping Man clutching his friend’s corpse. The Young Man regained his footing and hurried forward. Even if he would be a glorious king, the price to obtain it was not worth the sacrifice. He would never kill another simply to appease the wants of others.
His foot collided with a rock hidden by the snow, and he crashed to the ground. He did not rise. Instead he pondered about the honor in assassination. If an individual deserved death, wasn’t the one to deliver it a man of honor? And if so many people claimed The Dark Tyrant was in fact a tyrant, why should The Old Man’s words be believed over theirs?
The answer was clear: his shouldn’t.
Obviously, The Old Man had appeared as a lunatic spouting lies to test The Young Man’s resolve. The Legend was judging whether his successor was worthy of his destiny; he was verifying that The Young Man had the strength of character to follow through with the epitome of all heroic deeds—an assassination.
The Young Man got up and walked onward, picking his way carelessly through the sharp stones. They cut into his feet deeper than before, yet he cared not, for he was too occupied with memories of The Legend proudly standing atop the corpses of the savage invaders of the Great Beyond. Through skill and ability, he had survived those battles unscathed and unmarred. The Young Man vowed he would do the same.
He strolled down the remainder of the mountain, trailing bloody footprints with each step; he paid them no attention. Like The Warrior, The Assassin, and The King, The Young Man would become a legend. That was his destiny. That was his right. That was what The Legend on the Mountain had prophesied.
Upon the mountain, The Old Man wiped his tears and smiled. Unlike the three before him, The Young Man had not twisted the words, warnings, or truths. The others had failed, but The Young Man would not repeat The Old Man’s mistakes. Of that The Legend on the Mountain was certain.
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