Upashna woke early before the sun and made a hearty breakfast of porridge, fresh warm eggs from her hens and dates from the tree near the cabin. She rolled the leftover bread from the night before in a moist towel for later in the day along with some berries and herbs from the garden. The Philosopher was still asleep, dreaming he was flying on the back of a dragon. He knew he was dreaming but the dream was real to him. His face was wet with the moisture of clouds. His hands firmly gripped the spines on the dragon’s back so he would not fall off. Why am I dreaming of dragons? He wondered, before hearing Upashna’s voice calling him to wake up.
“Philosopher. Wake up. We must eat and prepare for our journey. Wake up.” The Philosopher woke as asked.
“Good morning Upashna. I was dreaming of dragons and flying and… Anyway, I am awake now.”
“Let’s eat breakfast and prepare to leave as soon as the sun rises to light our way,” Upashna said. “I packed some food and water for the journey. I have never gone to the labyrinth but my father told me many stories about it. We have a full day of travel ahead. Then we will camp and enter the labyrinth on the second morning. You can use my father’s bedroll. I already attached it to your backpack.”
The Philosopher walked to the narrow stream behind the house to wash his face. He was surprised not only by Upashna’s beauty but also with her resourcefulness and order and the fact that she lives in the forest all alone, unafraid. He wondered if she were a wizard also. When he returned to the cabin, Upashna had filled the small table with food and hot tea. The two of them sat down to eat. There was very little conversation as both were anxious to start the journey. The Philosopher had many questions but was in no great hurry to have them answered. They had a days journey ahead of them. There would be plenty of time for questions later. He fought with himself to keep his eyes from staring at Upashna but one time she caught his gaze with her own and held it for a few moments. Both were a little embarrassed as they laughed and returned to their food.
The Philosopher washed the breakfast dishes while Upashna put out feed and water for the chickens and her two goats. She had never left them alone before but felt they would do well in her absence. She thought the journey would be no longer than five or maybe six days at the most. They both did a final check of their backpacks, grabbed their walking staffs, closed the door behind them and headed out toward the sun.
It was late afternoon when they finally stopped for a rest and a bite to eat. The Philosopher was surprised at how well his body of seventy two voyages around the sun held up along their journey. He had not ventured this far into the forest before but somehow the landscape seemed familiar. Once again he found himself staring at Upashna. Her small frame hid her true strength but there was nothing on earth which could camouflage her beauty.
“Was your mother a wizard also?” The thought had been on his mind but he did not wish to intrude into Upashna’s life. His asking the question caught him by surprise.
“My mother was a Moroccan princess who sought out my father to train her to become a wizard. In most parts of the world it is forbidden to train a woman in the art of wizardry. My father became an outcast because he chose to train my mother. That is why we live in the forest under a spell of invisibility. So no one can find us.”
“Is your mother still alive?”
“She transitioned shortly before my father. He joined her out of love for without her he could not live this life.”
“The book, The Search For Truth, which magically appeared in my home was sent from your father?”
“Yes. He sent the book to you from the Other Realm where it is one of the sacred texts. He needs our help. In your dream he showed you the path to find me because even his magic could not penetrate the shield around our home. No magic can.”
“So, I was sent to find you and together we can help your parents who are in the Other Realm.”
“Yes. We should go now if we plan to reach the labyrinth before nightfall. We will camp at the entrance and enter tomorrow.” They both picked up their packs and staffs and started their unexpected journey.