Everything on here is purely symbolic and nothing more.

The Pilgrimage

Chuckling to myself, I travelled down the road and found the inn described to me by the farmer. It was evening when I got there. The innkeeper was just coming out of the taproom as I entered.

"Excuse me, sir!" I said. "I was told that an old woman might be able to find a good meal and a soft bed here!"

His tired eyes regarded me warily. I smiled as I pulled out the coin I was given along with some coins of my own and offered them to him.

"I didn't say I wanted it for free," I grinned.

He laughed. "Then pick out a table for yourself and I'll have something brought out immediately!"

I chose a spot against the wall, where I could watch the other diners. Soon a hearty meal was set before me. I inhaled the wonderful aroma and savored each bite. As I ate, other patrons began to fill the dining hall. A man came up to me.

"Mind if I sit with you?" he asked.

"No! Of course not!" I answered, scooting over to give him room. A server quickly set another plate of food in front him. He took a bite and closed his eyes.

"No wonder this place is so popular," he said. "This food is delicious."

"Indeed it is," I said. "Indeed it is."

"So, are you from around here?" he asked.

"No, just passing through. And yourself?"

"The same as you. Thought is was about time I saw the world for myself. How about you?"

"I'm on a pilgrimage of sorts. I feel the need to cleanse my soul."

He chewed thoughtfully for a moment. "Hmmm," he said at last, "a pilgrimage to where?"

"I understand there is a valley far from here, where water bursts pure and sweet from solid stone. It is said that this fountain blesses anyone who drinks from it."

"Sounds like a place worth seeing. Maybe I should go with you."

"That is your choice. Why do you want to see the world?"

He shrugged. "I feel there is something missing in my life. I couldn't find it back home, so I thought I would go looking for it."

"Then you are already on a pilgrimage," I said.

"I guess I am."

"Tell me more about yourself," I entreated.

His name was Byron and we spent the rest of the evening chatting about his home and childhood. I shared a little of my own past, but I didn't mentioned my poor little princess. Afterwards, the innkeeper showed us to our rooms. My sleep was deep and untroubled for the first time in ages.

I awoke the next morning with the rising sun. I opened the window to welcome the coming day. Quickly, I washed my face and changed my clothes, invigorated by the chilly morning air. There was a bounce in my step as I descended the stairs. The innkeeper looked at me strangely as I wished him a good morning.

"You look much younger this morning," he said.

I laughed. "It must be your wonderful hospitality," I told him. "I feel like a new woman."

He nodded slowly. "Well, breakfast is waiting in the dining hall. Your friend from last night is waiting for you."

I found Byron at the same table we were at the night before. His eyes went wide as he stood to greet me.

"You're the first woman I've met who actually looks better in bright light," he said.

I just laughed and sat down to eat. Perhaps I should had kept up my old woman visage, but I had no real need for it. I ate my breakfast with gusto. Afterwards, Byron and I purchased some provisions from the innkeeper and stepped out into the morning sun.

"So, which way are you headed?" he asked.

I pointed eastward. We began walking.

"I don't need to have company," I told him. He shrugged.

"It's not like I have a destination," he said. "I might as well walk with you for awhile. As you said, it's my choice."

I nodded and we spent the morning quietly walking. Around noon time, we made ourselves comfortable under an old willow and nibbled on some lunch.

"You're a strange person," Byron said as he sipped from his waterskin.

"How so?" I asked.

"You're extremely cheerful most of the time, but every so often a sense of great sadness eminates from you."

"As I have told you, I feel the need to cleanse my soul."

"And," he continues, "you keeping looking younger as time passes."

"Well, that should stabilize soon," I told him. "I'm becoming myself again."

"Did someone put a spell on you?"

I laughed. "You might say that."

"The same person who put you on this pilgrimage?"


"And who was this person?"

I kept my smile to myself. "Some people call her Ylana the witch."

His face darkens for a moment. "I would like to deal with this Ylana someday."

I bursted out laughing. "Oh, please! Don't do that! She's one of my dearest friends!"

"What type of friend makes you look like an old woman?"

"One who knows what I really need and loves me enough to help me obtain it. Not everything is what it seems."

He stands up and brushes himself off. "True. Shall we continue?"

"Of course!"

I stand up and was brushing myself off, when a pillar of blue smoke appeared before me. From within its depths, was revealed a man who beared a very strong resemblance to the knight I sent to the castle. Byron reacted to protect me, but I stopped him.

"Well, if it isn't the good Doctor Faustus?" I sneered. "And how is Quixote doing?"

"It was a terrible thing you did to him," he growled. "And if you are going to call me 'Faust', then I name you 'Dulcinea'. It fits you better than 'Ylana'. You have become a bitter woman, mia carmina."

"I had, but I am better now."

"I doubt it. You have killed the most beautiful part of yourself. The part I loved the most."

I laughed in derision.

"Love? Is that what you call it?" I chided. "It is the illusion you loved, Faust - nothing more. You want the rest of the world to be envious of you and nothing but perfection will do for you. Or at least your concept of perfection. You know nothing of true beauty - only popularity and fame and that is the Mephistopheles you have sold your soul to."

"I treasure the beauty of the soul above all else," he insisted.

"So you say, but to quote one of your favorite characters, 'Talk is cheap. Whisky costs money.' Your actions speak of other beliefs, Faust. Maybe Quixote does believe that in earnest. That is possible. That I can believe. Unfortunately, he is connected to you and you I cannot stand."

"He loved you even when you were at your worst, Dulcinea, and then you tried to destroy him."

"I didn't want to, but you were too much of a coward to face what you did yourself. And he was the only way I could get at you."

"And that is why you killed my little Gretchen?" he asked.

"I killed her because unlike you, I loved her too much to leave her in pain." I clenched my fists in anger and continued in a mocking voice, "I'm sorry I deprived you of the touching scene of you returning when it is too late to save her, and she forgiving you of all your sins just before she fades from life. I guess you will have to cleanse your own soul now."

"You are a heartless wench, Dulcinea."

"Yes, Faust, believe that. Believe that a slow torturous death is kinder than a quick and painless one. Believe that there is something noble in deceit and betrayal. Believe that love and dedication is only a convience to be discarded as soon as it becomes uncomfortable. Believe whatever you want, Faust, I don't give a damn anymore."

I turned away. I had nothing more to say to him. Byron looked at me with a concerned, yet thoughtful expression.

"This matter isn't closed, Dulcinea," said Faust. "I will yet make you see the error of your bitterness."

"Go and continue your chase of fame, Faust. Tell Mesphistopheles I said 'hi'."

He disappeared in another column of blue smoke, as I let out a deep breath. My hands shook. Byron cleared his throat.

"Are you all right?" he asked.

"I'll be fine," I said biting back my tears.

He tried to lay his hand on my arm, but I jerked away.

"No," I told him. "I am weak at the moment and I do stupid things when I am weak. How do you think I got involved with Faust in the first place?"

I turned my attention back to the road and made my steps firm. Byron kept up with me.

"The name you gave me last night?"

"Was my real one," I admitted. "I use to treasure honesty above all things, but that was before I realized how hard the truth was."

"Yet, you still search for it," he pointed out.

I laughed.

"Call it an obsession. I am as susceptible as anyone else to them. Just as I am as foolish enough to fall in love with a fantasy. Some call it being human."

We walked in silence for awhile. A city came into view before us.

"What do you think you will receive from this spring you seek?" he asked.

"Peace," I told him. "That is the only thing I truly crave right now. Plain and simple peace."

We walked to the city.

The City

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