The Master of the Mountain
I was along on my travels across Neopia when I stopped by a small village in Shenkuu. Next to some empty crop fields, I came upon a group of villagers chatting amongst themselves, sounding very concerned. Some looked completely terrified. My curiosity got the better of me and I approached them, asking what the matter was.
"There's a monster," an old farmer said, voice shaken and face pale. "...A beast that lives up the mountain that lives to destroy our crops every summer. It does not show itself, but we know its there!"
His voice was fearful when he described the atrocities of the beast. It had everyone in the village on edge. The others nodded along to his story. One of the younger farmers told me that the chief of the village was looking for someone to climb up the mountain and drive the beast away. Me being the adventurous type I am, decided to take a look for myself. The younger farmer quickly scrawled out a map for me and sent me on my way.
The mountain had conveniently placed steps up till about halfway, and soon the terrain became tough and rocky. The way up became steeper and steeper with every step and I struggled to keep my footing. The weather was not any better as the humidity and heat slowed by expedition. But every so often a light breeze blew my way, driving me onward. My sandals were worn and a few of the straps had broken when I had finally reached the top.
I looked around and saw nothing but dried out trees and rocks. There was a clearing nearby next to a traditional Shenkuu mountain shrine. Tired from the trip, I stepped into the shrine, seeking shade. It was cool inside and there was a fountain filled with cold water which I gladly accepted. I sat down after filling my belly and learned my back against the fountain, closing my eyes. Before I knew it I had drifted off into a light sleep.
Suddenly a gust of hot air blew my direction, waking me up. I jolted upright and scrambled to my feet only to see a spinning wall of fire just a few meters outside the shrine. I cautiously made by way out to get a better look, blocking my face from the heat of the flames with my backpack. My heart was pounding when a deep voice arose from the flames.
"Hello, mortal, do you wish to seek my counsel?"
The fire slowly diminished and I could see who was speaking to me. It was one of the traditional Hissis I had heard about in old Shenkuu folk tales. It had scales as red as a burning fire and eyes as yellow as the day's sun. Its horns were like long fingers stretching from its head. It rose almost six meters above me.
I was quite shaken but managed to utter a few words. "A-are you--?"
The giant Hissi nodded. "I am the master of this mountain. I know all of this land and this sky. Do you seek my counsel or do you wish to meditate with me?"
A warm gust of air hit my face every time he spoke. I summoned up my courage and asked him about the fears of the village and their dying harvest. I told the Hissi how they fear that it is him who is destroying their crop fields, leaving them to starve.
He shook his head solemnly. "I can do nothing of their fears and their crops do not grow for the day is too hot. It is knowledge they lack but I cannot give it to them for fear blocks that path. But perhaps my knowledge can give you, brave one, insight into helping them."
I was waiting for him to tell me how to help them, but he said nothing. He slithered around me into the shrine. I followed hastily. He made his way to the center of the shrine and coiled up. I stood, simply watching. He peered down at me.
"Come, meditate with me."
I slowly approached as the smoke around him subsided and sat cross-legged next to him. We closed our eyes and began meditating. I could feel the heat from his scales next to me but also something else. It was almost surreal as I felt his knowledge from thousands and thousands of books slithering through my mind as we meditated together.
Then he spoke. "Use this knowledge wisely. For you will have it for eternity."
Three hours later, I opened my eyes and the traditional Hissi was gone. There was a small brown sack in my lap. I picked it up, bedazzled. After looking around one last time, I decided to make my way back down the mountain. The trip down was a lot easier and I felt almost lighter than my former self that had climbed up.
The sun was setting when I reached the bottom and the villagers were all waiting for me. Their eyes widened and they hurried towards me when I was in sight. I opened the sack, as some of the villagers watched, and to my surprise, it was a pile of dirt and a gold and red scale that looked almost like a rose petal. The villagers looked disappointed when they realized I had not done my job.
"What were you doing up in the mountain, collecting flowers?" one of them muttered.
"All he brought down was dirt and petals," another scoffed.
They soon dispersed and I headed back to the village to speak with the chief. I presented him with the Hissi's scale and told him everything that happened. He looked puzzled but allowed me to speak freely. I explained to him that there was no beast in the mountains, only a wise master who had no ill intentions. The chief nodded and sent me off. As night approached, I went to the fields and scattered the dirt from the sack onto them. I did not know why I did but it just felt right.
The next morning, word rose of bountiful crops growing in the fields. The fearful villagers looked in disbelief as their harvest flourished. The chief called a town meeting and soon the beast in the mountains became yet another myth. Villagers began to forget what they had feared for so long. And after many years, the traditional Hissi's presence was forgotten.
But I had not forgotten. Six years later, I returned to the same village and it was as peaceful as ever. Each year's harvest was bigger than the last. The chief of the village greeted me as the traveler who saved the village's harvest, but did not mention a word of the traditional Hissi. He gave me free room and board in his own house.
It was noon on a bright, hot summer's day and I was packing my bag with food and supply as the Hissi scale slipped from my pocket. I picked it up and left it on the village chief's table. I walked through the village and was greeted with smiles and kind gestures. I waved back to them, then headed up the mountain to meditate some more.