Throughout time, man has been faced with decisions, some of which were easy, and others much more difficult. Here tells the tale of such men, faced with a difficult decision that could alter their lives drastically if not chosen wisely.
Bartholomew Hornbuckle, a dwarfish man, short in stature, but strong in heart, traveled with his companions along the mountain pass. With a pack made of sinew and hide from a boar strapped upon his back, and his sturdy dagger still stained from his last kill, Bartholomew led the union of young travelers across the rugged landscape.
It was Angus MacPherson, a young Scotsman that towered nearly two feet over Bartholomew, who chose to protest his friend’s leadership.
“Where, may I ask, are you takin’ us, Barty?” Angus asked abruptly.
“Not to worry, Angus. I won’t lead you astray,” Bartholomew replied.
“Ya can’na expect us to just follow you blindly. Ya gotta give us somethin’.”
“Fine, my friends, I was told of a village on the far side of Harrod’s Pass where lives an old beggar. This beggar is told to know the way to a treasure beyond our belief.”
“If this beggar knows of such a treasure, then why has he not claimed it for himself?”
“Because, my friends, the beggar is blind, and he will only reveal the path to those he deems worthy.”
Intrigued by the thought of priceless treasures, the four men continued on their quest along the mountain pass.
Some time later, they came across an alternate path. They could continue along the wide path that appeared to remain level as far as their eyes could see, or they could choose the path that led further up the mountain on a narrower and more challenging course.
They debated over the choice for nearly twenty minutes before one of the men, Finneas Farbottom suggested that they split up into teams of two. Each pair would take the opposite paths and they could reconverge when they arrived in the village. The others agreed, and they broke up into teams of two, Finneas stayed with Bartholomew, while Angus took the easier path with Mortimer Darkale.
Bartholomew and Finneas struggled along the steep, narrow path. Many times, their feet would slide out from under them due to the abundance of loose gravel covering the path. Finneas spotted a small tree growing out from the rocky face of the mountain and broke off two branches. Using his dagger, he sharpened one end of each branch, wrapped some loose fabric around the opposite end, and handed one of the sticks to Bartholomew.
With each step, the men drove the pointed end into the ground and used them as leverage to pull their weight up the hill. As they reached the first plateau, the two men rested for a brief period and munched on loaves of rye bread that they had packed at the beginning of their journey, then washed it down with some whiskey from their favorite pub, The Dancing Dragon. Bartholomew filled up their flasks before they left their town of Penurious.
As they started back up the mountain pass, a cold wind swept over them, blinding them with eddies of dust and gravel. The two friends leaned against the cliff face and covered their heads with a woolen blanket from Bartholomew’s pack.
After nearly ten minutes, the wind gusts died down enough for them to continue their ascent. It took nearly one hour to reach the summit. They stood by the cliff’s edge and gazed out at the valley below. They could see for miles in every direction, and watched as the sun began to set in the West.
Using his pack as a pillow and his blanket for warmth, Bartholomew found a sheltered spot on the ground and laid down to sleep. Finneas did the same. They stared into the night sky. It was aglow with millions of stars that shimmered across the darkened canvas above them. Bartholomew laid silently wondering how his other two friends were doing, while Finneas sang a travelers tune that was passed down to him from his father, and from generations before him. It wasn’t long before they fell into a silent slumber.
When Bartholomew had awakened, his surroundings seemed to be enveloped in darkness. The stars that once lit up the night, now hid in fear of what was to come. Bartholomew could feel a sense of dread engulfing him, and he looked around to wake his friend, only to find that the darkness had separated them.
Blindly, Bartholomew grasped aimlessly to the area surrounding him until he felt the arm of his friend. Shaking his arm forcefully, Bartholomew tried to shout out a warning, but his voice had been absorbed into the darkness along with the light.
He felt Finneas stirring beneath his hand and squeezed his arm, pulling him closer. Finneas, also waking up in fear of this sudden darkness, began to panic. He screamed out in fear, but nothing but silence left his mouth.
Feeling a hand upon his arm, Finneas shuffled closer to its source, praying that it was Bartholomew. Unable to see one another or speak to one another, the two men continued to hold onto each other. They stayed that way for what seemed an eternity.
A brightness broke through the darkened veil and shone upon the two men. They still held on tightly as the darkness washed away and left them surrounded by field of green, lush shrubbery. In the distance sat a small village. Bartholomew and Finneas looked at one another in disbelief, then looked behind them to find that the mountain they spent the night on, was miles in the distance.
Unsure how they had made it off the mountain in the darkness, the two men were simply grateful that the nightmare they had faced was over with. They looked back toward the mountain pass and wondered if their friends had made it to the village yet. They decided to wait for a while to see if they appeared.
Four hours had passed, and there was no sign of their friends. Finneas suggested that they walk to the village and find out if Angus and Mortimer had already arrived, and Bartholomew had agreed, but continued to look back over his shoulder as they walked further from the mountain.
The village was nearly deserted with only a handful of people still residing there. It did not take long before they came across the blind beggar. His clothes were tattered, and his long, gray beard was matted with clumps of dirt and whatever food he was able to acquire.
The two men approached him and introduced themselves. To their surprise, the beggar told them that he was expecting them. Bartholomew asked the beggar if two other men had found their way into the village recently, to which the old man told them both “yes and no.”
Confused, Bartholomew asked the beggar to explain. A toothless smile lit up his face as he replied.
“Yes, two men entered the village, but not the same village that you are in right now. Those men chose the easier path, and arrived much quicker, but they were met with a different fate. The village they found was similar to this in structure, but filled with many people who care only for sinful pleasures and are filled with lust and greed. Those people all chose the easier path.”
Bartholomew and Finneas looked at one another with disbelief as the old man continued.
“You two, however, chose a more difficult path. It was a path that most do not dare to tread, but you did so without hesitation. When faced with challenges, you worked together to get through them. It was your choices that led you here to me.”
“So, what is this treasure that I have heard tell of, kind sir?” Finneas asked. “I admit that the thought of a wealth so unbelievable, would allow us to replenish our town and save the lives of many.”
“It is for this reason that I find you both worthy of this treasure, though it may not be what you expect. I shall show you the way nonetheless.”
Removing a piece of parchment from his torn clothing, the man held it out for the men to take. Bartholomew opened the parchment carefully and held it out for Finneas to read as well. On it, was a map that led them back into the mountain, and to the summit where they camped overnight. Confused, Bartholomew turned to question the old beggar, but he had disappeared.
With very few options, they headed back toward the mountain pass. The climb was more treacherous from this direction, but they pushed through until they reached the summit once again. As before, the sun had begun to set, so they found a place to sleep and laid down.
Bartholomew stared up into he starlit sky until he faded off into sleep. His dreams began with he and Finneas standing in an area void of any color. Even the clothes they wore, and their skin tone had changed to the purest white he had ever seen.
A figure approached them. It stood at least fifteen feet tall, and it had a long beard. The face appeared to be human, but it had a mane like a lion and hooves like a reindeer. The two men should have felt fear at the sight of this unusual creature, but instead, they felt at peace.
The creature spoke in a deep, echoing voice, saying, “You seek the treasure. What do you wish to do with this treasure?”
Bartholomew replied, “We come from a town where sickness and poverty has swept over us like a plague. We just want enough of the treasure to help our townspeople survive these trying times.”
The creature looked at Bartholomew and Finneas, pondering his decision. Then, with outreached limbs, the creature touched the two men upon their shoulders and murmured a series of words in a language they could not comprehend. When he finished, Bartholomew had awakened and looked to Finneas, who was also sitting up.
Bartholomew began to explain to Finneas what he had seen in his dream, only to find out that Finneas shared the exact same dream. The two friends questioned where they would find the treasure since the creature did not tell them a location, but none was to be found on the summit, so, disheartened, they began their descent toward their town.
When they arrived back in town, the townspeople carried on as they once did. They passed a man on the street who was coughing up blood. Without a second thought, Bartholomew laid his hand upon the man’s brow and recited a few words in a language he himself could not understand.
The sickly man suddenly stopped coughing and stood up tall and strong. Whatever Bartholomew had said, had healed the man. It did not take long for rumors of Bartholomew’s healing powers to spread throughout the town.
Finneas walked away as his friend became the most popular person in town. People came out in droves to meet the man with the healing hands. Finneas, however, chose to return to his wife and children. It had been weeks since they left on their quest, and he missed them terribly.
Along the way, he came across a young boy, looking frail from starvation. He searched his pack for any scraps of food that he might have left over, but there was none. Seeing a dying apple tree nearby, Finneas searched the branches for at least one piece of fruit that he might be able to get for the boy, but all of the fruit was rotting.
Finneas picked up an apple that laid upon the ground. It appeared to be healthy at first glance, but as he turned it over, the skin was blackened and worms had eaten away at the rotting core.
Closing his eyes, Finneas spoke words in a language he could not understand, and the apple became healthy once more. Surprised at his accomplishment, he then laid his hand upon the apple tree and repeated the words. Within seconds, the tree had sprung back to life, filled with fresh, juicy apples. He gave a handful to the boy, then walked home.
His wife and children were more than excited to see Finneas walk through the door. News of Bartholomew’s miraculous powers had already reached her ears as well, and it wasn’t long before a knock came to their door.
Finneas opened the door to find a large gathering of townspeople who had heard of the miracle that Finneas had performed with the apple tree, and asked for him to lay hands upon their crops as well.
Within two days, the town had been replenished and the sick had been healed. Finneas and Bartholomew realized that the treasure wasn’t of gold or jewelry, but a gift far more precious. Though, as quickly as the town was miraculously healed, thanks to these god-like powers they had been given, they had their powers taken from them once again.
Not having powers anymore seemed to upset the townspeople who thought they would have a lifetime without sickness or famine, but to Bartholomew and Finneas, it was a blessing to have been given the opportunity, no matter how short-lived it was.
Months had passed when Angus and Mortimer had returned to town. When they saw how the town had changed, they could only assume that their friends had found the treasure. They had met up with Bartholomew and Finneas later that afternoon and they exchanged stories.
According to Angus, he and Mortimer had found the village on the other side of the mountain. The villagers were partying to all hours of the night and doing whatever they wanted, wherever they chose. There were no laws governing that village and nobody to enforce them if there were any.
At first, the two men gave into the frenzy of the village, but in time, they grew tired of the constant drinking and evil way of living, and they found the way back to the mountain, then eventually back home.
Angus and Mortimer felt betrayed when Finneas told them that there was no treasure for them to sell. They thought Bartholomew and Finneas had spent it all on the townspeople but didn’t save any for them.
When Bartholomew told them of their experience, they did not at first believe Bartholomew and Finneas, but after speaking to the townspeople, they found the fables to be true and apologized to their friends.
The four friends walked to their favorite pub, The Dancing Dragon, and started back up where they left off, with a few pints of ale, and songs from Finneas, but this time, they were surrounded by townspeople who were healthy and happy, and all thanks to the choice of taking the path less traveled.