“So the plan is, we will take you to Caldea. There you will set out on foot. Now, when this fortress comes in sight,” Mr. Nohj pointed at the map to a picture of a large white castle. “then you must head to those woods and take your invisibility potion.” He directed my attention to another spot on the map. “After that, leave the woods and go the same direction until you get here.” He showed me picture of a grass-filled plain marked only by a small, outpost building. “Your invisibility potion can get you in, I think, and . . . “
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” I exclaimed. “You think!? What if they have motion sensors or invisible guards or things that can see invisibility!? After all, I could just be killed there!”
“No Islyn, we have checked. As best we can tell this is the most unguarded spot; it is a quiet spot inside the country and Ergoeg has proven it! He checked it thoroughly in more ways than one!” He nodded towards a huge, burly man with tan skin and a pleasant face. If he hadn’t had such a beaming smile, he would’ve been the scariest person I’d ever seen. Oblivious to my mind, Mr. Nohj was continuing. “When you get in, travel fast. You know the way to the capital?”
“Yes, I studied all night and day coming here. I studied that as well as the culture and language.” I groaned. Everything had been fairly easy, except for the language. And the culture. And of course, the map.
“So do you understand it all?”
“Nope.” I calmly announced. “Not a thing!”
Expressionless, the man contemplated my words. “Islyn! I understand you do not want to go. So . . . why are you doing this?”
“Because . . .” I stared back at him. “Even queen Asha wishes to do other things than what she does; however, she must do them for they are her duty. And this . . . this is my duty.”
“Duty to what?” He questioned.
“It’s your duty to what? Your country? Your people? Who?”
“Oh, yes. It is my duty to serve my people and my country.” I let my word roll out like a boring history fact.
“Islyn, we do indeed have a duty to those around us and to our country, but first and foremost we have a greater duty. One that is always first.”
“And what is that?” I gawked at him, feeling highly confused. Would it mean I didn’t have to go?
“Islyn, you have a duty to love. Love must guide you. It will show your heart which way to go and who and when to help.”
I starred back at him for a long moment, processing his words, until he finally explained.
“Islyn, I am an army manager because I love my people and wish for their freedom. Asha is queen for the same reason. The love for her people and their well-being is why she does what she does. Islyn, your love for others determines you. A thief loves no one but himself; he only wants things for himself.
But a noble person sees we are equal and realizes he cannot spend his life for just himself. If someone spends his life caring for only himself, it’s like saying, “I am the only one that is worth caring for!” Yet Islyn, everyone spends their life in a different way. Some are leaders. Some are artists. Some are builders. All are different and all are important. We chose you because you are wise, bright, and energetic, but if this is not the path love has planned for you do not take it.”
I stared a him, my eyes as big as saucers. Normally when someone got to talking I blanked out and only heard some of their words. But I had heard every word he’d spoken.
Just say no, no, no! Then you can leave and be done! You love nature! You love your life and friends at home! That is love, that is a path of love! You will serve them there!
But then I saw it, the panda they already had. She was a tiny panda, her parents had manged to get her out of the country but sadly they had been killed. I thought of what the pandas had done for us all and I thought of queen Asha and her work. I thought of the wisdom of the pandas and how they had led many people in the past. And I remembered the stories Asha had told, the true history stories and suddenly, suddenly, I knew we needed the pandas and needed them as soon as possible!
I realized that if trained military men and queen Asha had chosen me, then maybe they knew what they were talking about. They knew who they needed for this job, I didn’t. They had told me just to be myself (minus the fear) and then I would be fine on my journey. Perhaps I was different than I thought I was. I might be better at it all than I’d imagined. And I guessed the only way to find out was, well, find out!
“I’m going.” I said. “I choose this path, if I die, I die! Besides everyone dies eventually, I might was well die heroically!” And, suddenly, I was pretty sure all the things I’d been reading on the trip there were starting to come back to my brain. Maybe I had understood more than I remembered! Funny how that goes!