My heart fluttered like the wings of a nightingale as I entered the taxi that the chauffeur holding a placard with my name boldly written on it. I had just arrived McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas. It was my first trip out of Nigeria, my first trip by air, my first… so many “firsts”.
I had won the Terry Goodkind “Know Your Author” challenge on Facebook. There had been thousands of contestants from all over the globe and it had, indeed, been a very tough battle but my endless hours of reading his novels and drooling over his Wikipedia page paid off. My prize was an all-expense-paid trip to spend the weekend with Terry Goodkind – one of the greatest authors to ever walk the face of this terrestrial ball.
The taxi pulled up in front of a blue-painted bungalow. The scent of the myriad of flowers bordering the well-mown lawn made my nostrils dance with excitement. I got my luggage out of the car and took a deep breath of the fresh air. A part of me didn’t want to return home, I felt like I belonged to this serene environment.
I walked up to the door where an attendant was waiting to take my bags. The interior of the house seemed so natural. Mr. Terry Goodkind, who was also a carpenter and professional violin maker, probably made all the furniture himself. So many talents embedded in one human.
“Please have your seat, Mr. Goodkind will be with you shortly Sir,” the attendant said with a bow, waking me up from my reverie.
I sat and continued my tour of what seemed like the most decorated sitting room in the whole universe. I could see various quotes from his novels on the walls and one, in particular, caught my attention “YOUR LIFE IS YOURS, RISE AND LIVE IT”. It was a line from my favourite book.
‘A very good day to you”, a voice said.
There he was, staring at me with a bright smile on his face.
“You’re welcome to my humble abode.”
“Mr. Goood… Goodkind, it’s an honour to meet you” I said stammering, my knees feeling really weak.
“It’s an honour to meet you too”, he said, his calm smile still very evident.
We started talking about sports, novels, and life in general, he listened with rapt attention and answered all my questions with extreme calmness. After an hour or so, we were served tea and he took the reins of the conversation and started telling me about his life.
After what seemed like an eternity, I looked at my time and it was almost evening.
“Wow,” I said, “time flies when you’re having fun.”
“Yes, it does,” he said chuckling out loud.
“So Mr. Goodkind, can you show me where you write, where the magic all happens?” I asked.
“Well, I write everywhere, but if you’re asking for a magic room, I don’t have that, but I can show you my study”, he said smiling.
He stood and walked through a door on the right leading to a narrow passage.
He opened the door to his study and I could see the four walls of the room were covered with shelves that held books of all sizes, some bearing several layers of dirt and others beaming with freshness. I could see books from familiar authors on the shelves, the likes of J.K Rowling, J.R Tolkien, Chimamamda Adichie, Wole Soyinka, etc. In the centre of the room was a table that held a laptop, open books, and several containers of pens. I could see parchments and letters here and there too.
“This is where most of it happens.” He said.
“Wow,” I said looking around, feeding my eyes to stupor, “This is, indeed, huge.”
“So now let’s get to the main reason you’re here,” he said.
“The main reason I am here?” I asked him in surprise.
“Yes, I want to show you something” he replied as he went to the wall on the left and pulled out an age-beaten book.
At his touch, the wall came alive and creaked as the shelf moved forward and aside.
“Grab a torch from the table and come with me, don’t be scared.”
I was skeptical about his instructions, things had taken a weird turn, I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
I picked up the torch from the table and walked behind him down the stairs that had appeared in the wall. We emerged into a wide, round room. The room looked like a medieval prison with dust-covered walls, though, I could still make out markings and symbols all over it. It looked as if the room had not been opened in ages. Another weird thing about the room apart from the fact that it had no edges was the enormous metallic structure at its middle.
Terry moved over to it and said,
“This is the Symph, no one alive except the 2 of us has ever seen it, and only a few people have beheld it since the beginning of time”
Walking closer, I could make out the features of this odd-looking object. A faint humming sound was coming from it and there were several inscriptions and symbols on its surface. One, in particular, stood out – a rune that looked like a circle with a dot in the middle from which lines radiated outside the circle. I also noticed concrete slabs that bore similar markings at the base of the structure.
“What’s a Symph?” I asked.
“It’s named from the Greek word Sumphõnus meaning harmony. This machine here is older than time itself and from it radiates all inspirations for poetry, writing, and literature. It has been described with several names for eons – the merger of souls, the aligner, the source. And now it has chosen you as its next bearer”
“Chosen me?” I asked with a low giggle.
“Yes, it chooses a bearer from every generation to make sure the authenticity and beauty of literature do not go extinct. From that bearer to the rest of the world emanates the inspiration for writing. You have to make a choice now – either accept or reject the offer.”
I thought of myself and how inexperienced I was at writing. I hadn’t done more than scribble a few words on paper in the privacy of my room, I wasn’t worthy of the honour been bestowed to me by the universe or this Symph thing.
“Yeah,” he said, reading my thoughts, “we all feel unworthy at the beginning.”
I gave it a thought and replied ‘Yes, I accept.”
“That’s good, come closer then.”
As I moved closer to the machine, it came alive, its runes glowing brightly.
“It senses you, step into the circle and place your fingers on the dent by the side. When you do that, it will merge our souls, and the bearer’s seal will be transferred to you. If you want to back out, now’s the time to speak up.”
“No, I am ready”, I said.
I stepped into the circle with Terry and he placed his hands on the side and gave me a nod.
I placed my hands on the dent and blinding light emerged from the Symph. I felt electricity flow through me causing so much pain – I could swear my bones were being detached from one another and reset back roughly. The world around me twirled at an unimaginable speed.
And then it all came to an abrupt stop, the twirling, the light, the pain, it all ended.
I found myself staring at an open grassland, the sky was bright blue and the breeze moved smoothly through my hair. I couldn’t say where I was but I could see some figures in the distance. I tried to move towards them and found out I couldn’t feel my feet, I was floating a few centimeters above the ground.
At the thought, I materialised beside them, their undiverted attention made me realise they weren’t aware of my presence. A huge man wearing a flowing gold cape was on one knee with his hands in the dirt. The large scabbard by his side made me recognise him immediately – he was the main character, Richard Rahl, in Terry Goodkind’s most famous novel series. That scabbard housed the legendary Sword of Truth which possessed magical powers and could cut through anything from rocks to steel, so many had fallen under it.
He was flanked by four men and four ladies. The men were covered in chain mails and bore different types of deadly weapons. They were men of the First File who offered him protection – not that he needed any. The ladies wore tight-fitting red leather dresses and had a little rod each suspended by chains from their wrists. These were Mord-Siths, ladies who were trained from childhood in the act of pain delivery and torture. The rods hanging from their wrists could deliver unimaginable bouts of pain when they touched a person and could kill with just a twist. The Mord-Siths prided themselves as the closest to Lord Rahl and had pledged their lives to his protection. They all watched as he moved his hands in the sand.
“Their tracks lead to those mountains,” he said pointing eastwards.
At that moment, my hands moved on their own accord and started writing every detail in a book I didn’t realise I was holding.
“The mother confessor must be hidden somewhere out there, they tried to cover up their tracks but did a bad job.”
“So what do we do Lord Rahl?” The closest Mord-Siths asked, “should we scout and prepare an ambush?”
“No,” he replied, “we don’t know how many they are – we attack together. They won’t be expecting us. We’re nine in number, so the Law of Nines is in our favour.”
“The light-bearers made a mistake when they kidnapped the mother confessor, today they will feel the wrath of the D’Harans.”
They moved towards the mountain and I glided alongside listening to them talk about their tactics and attack strategies, noting it all in my book.
At the entrance of a cave at the base of the mountain, he stopped and waited for some minutes.
“I can feel at least twenty men inside, they are armed and well-built. The mother confessor is unharmed and so are her babies.”
“Let’s save our queen”, the Mord-Siths said in unison.
At that, Richard drew the sword of truth from its abode. It emerged with a resonating loud ring that lingered in the air.
“Attack!”, he screamed as they rushed into the cave.
“Bismarck, wake up. Your alarm is ringing,” my roommate’s voice brought me back to reality.
The corroded metal framework of my bunk came into view.
Looking at my phone, I turned off the alarm. I realised it was 3 in the morning.
Then it all rushed in at once like a flood, the trip, the Symph, etc. A tear ran down my cheek when I remembered that Terry Goodkind died several months ago, in September 2020.
“Oh Tobi, why did you wake me up? Do you know what I was dreaming of?” I admonished my roommate.
“What do you mean? Your noisy alarm was disturbing us,” he said and went back to sleep.
I rose from my bed and stretched out my arm, yawning. I felt a sharp tingly pain in my upper arm. Feeling it with my fingers, I felt something on my arm.
I almost screamed when I looked and saw the seal of the Symp – the circle with a dot having lines radiating from it – tattooed deep into my skin. I realised I had not been dreaming after all. At that moment, I rushed to my reading table, picked up my pen and paper, and started writing.
Bismarck Faola is a medical student at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria. He writes as a hobby but also yearns to make a career out of it because he has so many thoughts struggling to be set free into the universe. He writes poems, essays, articles, etc, and has taken various training and courses on writing and editing. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org