As he walked home from school that afternoon Valborn thought it was a beautiful day to ride his horse Fastrax along the beach, but it was a sad, forlorn thought because he had to go to his great uncle Gustav’s funeral. The whole family was gathering in the clearing where Gustav’s caravan was parked. Inside the caravan lay Gustav’s body, washed, prepared, and dressed in his finest clothes, laid in a wooden casket and sprinkled with sweet-smelling dried flowers and herbs. All of Gustav’s possessions, except for his horses and his truck, were inside the caravan with him.
“Valborn, you’re late, go quickly and put your school things in the caravan and come stand over here with us,” called his mother. Why was everyone here before him, he wondered? He’d come straight home after school … but, no, he had stayed behind in the science lab to check on their experiment to use seaweed as fuel. Valborn loved science and often astounded his teachers with some of his ideas.
He joined his family, and tried to look suitably sad and solemn. It wasn’t hard. He loved old Gustav and would miss him, and he was one of the family Elders, wise even beyond his great age of one hundred and four years. The funeral liturgy commenced and the gathered crowd chanted their responses to the leader Samuel, one of Gustav’s sons, and an Elder in his own right. With the last of the words, Samuel took a burning wooden torch from the fire pit, walked with it to Gustav’s caravan, entered and set alight the interior. The flames could be seen leaping and spreading as Samuel walked back down the steps. He led the people back away from the fire to the feast that was awaiting them at his caravan. The People, and they had many names such as Travelers or Gypsies, celebrated the death of one of their own, knowing that he or she went on to another life, which they believed was better than this life.
Valborn sat with his family and told his mother Elena how his experiment was coming along. She understood little of what he said, but knew it was important to him, and that it was important to the People. When he was born, Elena had presented him to the Chief Elder Marisella, who had exclaimed over him and bowed down in front of him. Elena was shocked and confused, but when Marisella told her to leave the baby with her and go to fetch her husband, she obeyed. The young couple listened wide-eyed and silent to Marisella prophesying that their baby son, who must be named Valborn, would grow up to become the One who would save their People, and save the whole Earth, from destruction. They knew of this myth, of course, but never in a million years had either of them dreamed they would be the parents of this child. They were nervous, and Marisella calmed their fears and told them to relax and enjoy their child, the Elders would take care of his training. She said his powers would begin to manifest when he came of age at fifteen, and would be complete when he reached the age of twenty. He would become an Elder at that age, the wisest and youngest Elder for many ages past. She had instructed them to watch over Valborn, to keep him away from obvious dangers, to keep him healthy and strong with plenty of food and exercise. Valborn, she told them, would excel at everything he did, but especially at school, and they should send him to the school nearby, not teach him at home. He would love all wildlife, all nature, and all people, and they would feel his love and respond, so she charged them with protecting Valborn from too much adulation from others. If and when Valborn asked them why he was treated differently from other children, they were to tell him of what was prophesied for him in the future, but insist that he not talk about it to anyone but them and the Elders.
This seemed like a tall order to Elena and Valborn’s father Jonnas, but they were steeped in the ways of the People and had to obey the Elders. Failure to follow the ways of the People resulted in banishment, and they did not want that. It turned out that their job was not such a difficult one. Valborn was a happy baby, and had always been obedient to them. He got along well with everyone, and everyone loved him. Their only difficulty was in making sure people didn’t spoil him.
Changes began to happen when Valborn was nearing his Coming of Age, his fifteenth birthday. One day their youngest child, Vanessa, was riding her pony Hermes around the field next to their caravan, along with a few other children on their ponies. Something in the woods beyond the field startled Hermes and he reared up, stepped down into a ditch, and fell, and Vanessa came tumbling off his back. The poor pony tried to get up but began screaming in pain – his leg must have broken. Vanessa was crying over her pony and holding her arm up because it hurt. Jonnas and Elena came running over, then Valborn rushed out of their caravan and knelt beside Vanessa. He smoothed the hair off her face and spoke soothingly to her, then helped her stand up. Valborn put a hand around her arm, and it seemed to straighten up and she stopped crying. Jonnas picked her up and carried her into the caravan. Valborn knelt down and rubbed Hermes on the nose and head, then he took hold of his front leg and squeezed it. The pony stopped screaming, but made little nickering sounds. Valborn passed his hands all over the pony, making sure there were no other badly hurt places, then put his hands back on the bad leg and held it for several minutes. Hermes lay quiet and relaxed, then lifted his head and tried to get up – and made it! He walked forward, limping a little on the hurt leg, but turned and nuzzled Valborn. Valborn looked around at his mother and the small crowd that had gathered and gave them a huge smile.
“He’s alright I think. But maybe we should get the vet to come and take a look at him,” said Valborn.
“Your brother’s gone to telephone for him. Val, that was wonderful. Thank you for helping.”
“That’s OK, Mamma, they were both lucky they didn’t get badly hurt,” he said, giving his mother a special, secret smile.
His parents had told Valborn about his destiny when he was about nine years old, and like any self-respecting boy of that age, he had snorted in derision. When he and his parents were planning his older brother’s Coming of Age party, they mentioned the prophecy they’d been given at Valborn’s birth. He laughed this time, and said, “yes, and you and Dad will become King and Queen next year!”
He loved his parents dearly, and felt warm and loved when they praised him and said he was special. Sometimes Valborn wondered about them and their belief in this secret prophecy. Were they a bit touched in the head? They really seemed to believe that nonsense. He knew better, he was just an ordinary boy like all the others around there and anyway, how could anyone know what would happen to them in the future? It was all silly, old-fashioned nonsense. He didn’t like his People’s tradition of fortune-telling, and thought it was a dishonest way of getting money from people. It wasn’t scientific, and Valborn wanted to be scientific more than anything.
Things got even more difficult for Valborn when the Elders started taking him aside and talking to him about his “destiny.” He was worried that these older, wiser people believed the stories his parents were telling – it just wasn’t right. But he did love hearing the Elders tell stories about all the marvelous things their ancestors had done. Whenever the weather allowed it, the families would gather around a fire pit in the evening after supper, drinking tea, at least he thought it was tea, and listening to the stories the Elders told.
One evening after it had rained, the wood for the fire was damp and had a hard time getting going. The Elder Samuel started telling the story about an Elder from long ago named Alexander, who could start fires just by gazing at the wood. People sitting around said they needed him right now. Valborn was looking at the smoky, feeble little fire in their fire pit and imagined it was a warm, sweet-smelling, fire, with glowing coals, the wood popping and cracking as it got going. As he watched and yearned for a fire like this, their little fire sprang into life, a couple of flames shot up, joined by more. Everyone cheered him, and the Elders stared at him. Valborn thought it must be a coincidence and said nothing to anyone. But he began to feel strange.
Valborn grew into a fine young man as the years passed. He was always kind and generous to everyone he met, and people would come to him for help with all kinds of problems, and to get him to fix things. He was able to fix most things that seemed broken, and it gradually became clear that he was a healer. Healers were not unknown among the People, and Valborn accepted that he might have a knack for helping people and making them feel better, but would never call himself a healer. After his Coming of Age at fifteen, people began coming to him for advice on all sorts of subjects. He saw nothing special about this – he loved people and wanted to help them.
Valborn loved school, and did so well he won a scholarship to University, where he studied science, of course. He got a degree in Environmental Science and was hired by the University as an Assistant Professor and Research Fellow. He was to be an Instructor and work on the various experiments being conducted in the laboratories while studying for his doctorate. He loved his work and spent almost all his time there, going home to visit his family for holidays, and was the same kind, generous, unassuming fellow he had always been. The people in his new life at the University would come to him for help with their problems or to fix things for them, and he continued to do these things because he loved people. He didn’t agree with his mother and father, or the Elders, that he was “fulfilling his destiny.” He was just being himself, Valborn.
The planet, however, continued to deteriorate because of global warming, habitat destruction, and extremes of weather. More animal species were dying out, and population losses were increasing each year. The earth needed rescuing from human overuse and misuse of its natural resources. Of course all the universities in the world had scientists working on these problems. And then Valborn and his team discovered a method of generating power that needed no mining, no digging, no clearing of forests, and would generate no pollution or poisonous residues in its creation.
His parents and the Elders all nodded and said “he’s fulfilling his destiny and saving us all.” Valborn was so happy to have been a part of something so good for the planet, but insisted it was a gigantic team effort that would save the world. But he did wonder again about the prophecy that was made at his birth.