This is a continuation of a short story that I began writing a few months ago. Some who read it insisted that I finish the tale, and so I have set about on the task to do so. Just so you know, this story is officially completed, though it is not posted here yet. There will be a part 3 (and possibly 4 depending on how I break it up), I just have to slog through the (admittedly minimal) editing process that I typically employ. So, never fear, within the next week or two you will have the complete story.
I hope you enjoy. For reference, here is a link to Part 1 of the story. It will help to provide context to what happens here.
When Teller spoke, his voice slowly drifted from the consciousness of the villagers, and was replaced by something more. The simple act of listening to the story seemed to transport them into it. They were no longer sitting around a fire and listening to an old man speak, but were, in fact, living the tale. This seemingly shared consciousness amongst the people is what brought them together every night. It is why no one missed the telling. It is why there were certain rules that you could not break about the telling, rules which the children learned quickly.
One of those rules was that you never enter Teller's hut after he has told a story. It was not something instituted by Teller himself, but merely upheld because no one had ever done it before, and it stood on tradition. But, on this particular night, after a story unlike any that had been told before, a young man named Merrik found himself entering the hut. He was not planning on the visit, and even surprised by situation in which he found himself. Teller seemed not to notice him, so he started back for the door.
"It's all right, Merrik," Teller said as he reached the threshold, "you don't have to leave." Teller turned around to face the young man in the doorway, then motioned towards one of the chairs near his fire. "Please, sit and have some tea with me. I like to have a cup or two before I go to sleep, as it calms my mind. I tend to get worked up after my stories, and tonight's was particularly stimulating."
Merrik accepted the offer and sat down in the empty chair. Teller handed him a steaming cup of tea and sat in his own place by the fire. The aroma was intoxicating. It was unlike any tea that Merrik had tasted or smelled before. "There, much better," he said. "Now, what can I do for you? I sense that you have questions."
Merrik took a moment to collect his thoughts, not to mention courage, and finally spoke up, "Yes, Teller. Well, the thing is... I was just wondering if... well, I want to know if the stories you tell are really true. I know that you say they are, but is that for the children, or is it really real? The way you describe the world around us seems like it is impossible, but I'm beginning to think that you believe what you're saying."
Teller smiled and looked towards the fire, tea cup filling both of his hands like a precious object, as if he were afraid it would slip away and the precious contents would be lost. "Yes, Merrik, it is true. It is all true." His head bobbed up and down as he affirmed the question.
"So, the power that you described, it can be mustered here? You can truly manipulate the very fabric of our reality with your mind?"
"Yes," Teller said with a sigh, "but it has been too long, and I'm afraid that power has gone out from me long ago." He relaxed back into his chair and took a few long sips from his steaming cup. He could see the beginning of something in the young man, a glimpse of faith.
"Can you show me some of that power?" The young man was insistent. He clung to the hope of seeing some small sample of what Teller had told him was possible. The anticipation was visible within him.
"It wouldn't work."
"Because, it is not so simple as me believing. The real trick is your belief that it can be done. My faith has been tested, and I know in my heart what is true, but you have not witnessed this power, nor do you have the capacity to."
Teller shrugged, set down his tea cup, and closed his eyes. "However, because I can see within you a desire to understand..." he said, letting his voice trail off. Focusing his mind, his whole belief upon the flames, one of the logs began to move. Merrik nearly missed the movement, but the log lifted itself upright before tumbling out of the fire and rolling to a stop near one of the unoccupied chairs.
The old man opened his eyes and let out a long, defeated sigh. "I told you. Not much power left in these old bones." He picked up the long stick he had been using to prod the fire, and moved to retrieve the runaway log. "I'm afraid that my stories have not provided the level of interest that I would have hoped."
Merrik did not move. There was clear disappointment on his face, along with something more. He had seen what was possible, albeit a small sampling. As Teller coaxed the log back into the fire, Merrik slowly closed his eyes. As Teller retook his seat, he noticed something. The log had moved.
Again, the motion was almost imperceptible. It could have been caused by a small breeze, the updraft of heat from the fire, or a small pop of the pine, but Teller knew that it was none of these things.
The young man's eyes shot open. "Yes, Teller?" There was concern, and the slightest hint of terror in his voice.
"What are you doing?"
Merrik thought for a moment before replying, "I thought, since you moved the log, that I might be able to move it too."
"Do you believe you can move that log?"
"I think so. I saw you move it..."
"That is irrelevant," Teller interrupted. "You should never place your belief solely upon something that you saw someone else do. After all, I could have set up some elaborate trick. That would be a simple belief, shallow, the stuff of magic. What we are talking about here is so much more than that."
Merrik silently contemplated Teller's words, while the old man rose from his seat and began clearing away the tea pot and cups. Merrik could not tell if he was angry or simply preoccupied with the chore. The two remained in silence as Teller cleaned, and returned again to his seat, a look of quiet amusement on his face. "There's something that I tell my students, 'This world is not as it appears.' I cannot make you believe that, but I can guide you to the truth. So, I ask you again, do you believe you can move that log?"
"Then move it." The statement was forceful, a command, the weight of power and authority hanging on each syllable.
Merrik closed his eyes with a new resolve, while Teller kept his fixed on the young man. He completely ignored the log that now stood on end in the blazing fire. He seemed not to notice as it lifted itself from the flames and remained suspended a few feet above the fire pit.
"Merrik, open your eyes."
Merrik did so, and saw Teller staring back at him from across the fire. His eyes grew wide and slowly tracked upward to the log hanging above the flames. Only then did the log falter, and ultimately crashed down upon the fire, sending hot coals, ash, and various debris across the room. Merrik did not hesitate to spring into action, first covering the white hot coals with sand from the floor, then sweeping the bits of charred wood and ash back into the fire pit.
When he had finished cleaning, he sat back down by the fire and looked expectantly to Teller, who had simply been watching him with great interest. "Did you move the log?" Merrik finally asked, a considerably hopeful tone in his voice.
"No Merrik, you did that. I simply motivated you. You had faith that it could be moved, and it did."
Merrik seemed to contemplate this for a minute, then added, "But it fell again when I opened my eyes."
Teller chuckled and leaned back into his chair. "Yes, it fell. Why do you think that is?"
"Because I didn't believe what I saw."
"Precisely!" The old man's smile continued to grow, and seemed to light up the entire dwelling. Merrik could almost feel it, overpowering the warmth of the fire, bringing a slight curl to his lips as well. "Often it is easier to believe in our mind's eye, than in our physical sight. What we think we believe, is not always what we believe when we actually see it.
You are very young, and have more faith than most. It is important for you to hold onto that, because as you grow older it will become more difficult. Others will try to tell you that you are foolish to believe as you do, or that what you know to be true could not be possible."
Teller stood and began to pace about the room, hands clasped behind his back. "If you are going to learn from me, the first and most important thing to remember is: this world is not as it appears."
"Learn from you, Teller?"
"Yes, of course." Teller paused, thinking, as if he had forgotten something terribly important. "I could use some more tea." He walked over to where his tea pot and mugs were still drying from only a few minutes ago, and started arranging tea leaves and pouring new water into the pot from a larger container. As he worked, he continued the conversation, "There is one thing that we should address, and that is my name. 'Teller' will not do, since I am no longer simply conveying these stories to you. If I am to teach you, then you will have to address me as such."