The Case of the Missing Shoes

[Extras]

[Y]

[My writing style has improved since this was originally written, and I can see a prevalence of some of my old mistakes. Some day I will revise it.]

1

            Another village. Glarus’ thoughts grumbled to themselves; the quest had not been going well lately. Perhaps it really was time to retire to some village somewhere.

            But Glarus walked into that village anyways. It seemed larger than most others, even though it was still just another scattered village. He began to wander, without any real purpose in mind. In this same circumstance, he could have wandered for hours. Then, somehow, he found himself in the local tavern. Slowly, Glarus entered, then sat in one of the chairs to rest his tired legs.

            He must have slept.

            When Glarus woke, he found himself with his head and arms resting on the table before him. Somehow, he felt more tired than when he had fallen into sleep.

            Sunlight was just beginning to come through the windows; it was going to be another long day.

            “You look even more world-weary than me.” a man’s voice said. The sound came from somewhere behind Glarus. Quickly, he turned.

            An old man stood there, with his hand upon another chair. His wrinkled, unshaven face showed its years as thin strands of white and grey made up his hair. Muddy grey clothes rest torn upon him. A large bruise held itself above his right eye as a long scar ran down his check. Dirt covered him, and the man stank as if he had not bathed in years.

            “Mind if I join you?” the man asked.

            Glarus did not object. No one else was even in this place at this odd hour. The old man must have wanted company. Also, Glarus knew that it would not take long for him to get used to the stench.

            The man sat in the chair across from him. The slight increase in distance between them seemed to ward off some of the man’s unnatural scent. But it still did not erase it.

            “So then, tell me. Why exactly are you so weary of the world?” the man asked.

            So, Glarus told of his quest. He explained the concept of Assiyara and why he would seek such a thing. How it was what you seek in life, and how he meant to prove its existence to the world. It was what he had set out to seek. His Assiyara. Unfortunately, he had not found it yet. And, it was the most dispassionate telling he had ever done. The lack of passion annoyed him, but he was too tired to do anything about it now.

            “Assiyara, eh? That is a most unusual name. What we seek in life.” the man commented. It seemed almost as if he was speaking to himself now. But he continued:

            “I met a young man who sought that once. He was a lot like you. And, you both had the most important thing: passion. I can see it within you. You haven’t shown it to me today, but perhaps you will find it again later. I know for certain that it is there. All you need is a little rest, then a reason to keep on going. Why don’t I remind you of why you started this quest in the first place?” The man asked.

            He had earned the interest of Glarus; some of the tiredness even seemed to be gone. So, Glarus added himself to this discussion:

            “The reason why I started?” he asked.

            “Yes.” the man said. His facial expression remained calm; it was almost as if something had happened to him, as if all his happiness was gone. He continued:

            “You want to mean something in this world. You can not believe that you were just randomly born without a purpose. You have to find some reason that you were put here in this world; you are seeking your purpose in life.” the man explained.

            “My purpose in life?” Glarus asked. He was unsure if he understood.

            “Yes, a purpose. It is what we all seek really. Everyone needs to believe that they were born for a reason. Without a purpose, then we are nothing.” the man explained.

            “I think I understand.” Glarus said uncertainly. He was still questioning the words of this man before him.

            “Your face now tells me otherwise.” the man said quickly. Even then, he did not smile.

            “Well, then help me understand. Tell me what it is that you seek.” Glarus said. He could feel frustration building up inside of him; he was starting to dislike this unusual man.

            “Of course. I can not expect for you to tell me everything without telling you something in return.” he said. He paused here for a moment, as if to find the words. Then, he continued:

            “Something. Something to show that someone thinks of me as worth something in this world.” the man explained. He knew just what he needed in his own quest for his own Assiyara.

            Now, Glarus had definitely become frustrated.

            “Something? What exactly do you mean by something?” he asked. His voice rose; his frustration and annoyance were both obvious upon his face.

            The elderly man did not have the chance to answer. Before he could, some already-drunk patrons entered the place. They seemed to be at home in this tavern, as if it was them who should have slept there overnight, instead of Glarus.

            “Hey, it’s the village scapegoat!” one of them yelled.

            “Hey, yeah it is!” another said as he began to slur his words.

            “Let’s mess with him.” one said. The others laughed with him.

            This angered Glarus. He stood to retort, but the old man stopped him:

            “Don’t mind them.” he said.

            “I deserve it.” he added.

            Surprised, Glarus returned to his seat. He was already confused, but he had to see what would occur.

            The old man stood. Then, he walked towards them.

            “Hey, old man. You want a piece of us?” one of the drunken ones yelled.

            The elderly man was now silent.

            Slowly, he moved to exit the tavern.

            “Not so fast.” one of the drunken ones yelled.

            “We’re not done with you yet.” said another.

            Suddenly, glass shattered upon the floor; someone had thrown a bottle at him. The others soon did so also. But, the elderly man did not react.

            The broken glass torn at the man’s feet.

            He left red footprint across the dust-covered floor.

            This is when Glarus noticed that the man wore no shoes.

2

            Quickly, Glarus made sure to avoid the drunks as he exited the tavern. They gave no attention to him, but they did seem to be a bit preoccupied. Then, their laughter rose up again as they moved on to some other joke.

            When Glarus reached the street, the man was gone. He searched around there quickly, but he was not to be found.

            It was then that Glarus decided that he had to speak to the man again.

3

            Glarus began to wander the village streets. He did not know how he would find the man again, but he knew that he somehow would. So, he wandered. From one street, to another. A random turn, another section of the village. And, still, he wandered.

            As he did so, he carefully listened to the people around him. Some of them were gossiping, while others were being outright insulting. At first, Glarus heard nothing of the ‘village scapegoat’ or an unusual, elderly man.

            Next he wandered through a slightly better off portion of the village. The streets were more clean, and the people walking about them stank of money. Glarus clearly felt that he was oddly out of place, in an area so uppity as this.

            As he was passing under some open windows, he caught the word pitiful from somewhere above. So, thinking that he might hear something of interest, he backtracked a few steps.

            “You know who he is, don’t you?” a woman’s voiced asked. It seemed to be coming from the window above.

            “No, I don’t. Exactly who is he?” a younger, girlish voice asked.

            “He is a murderer, and a despicable thief!” another woman’s voice rose harshly.

            Suddenly, a passerby noticed Glarus on the street below. Quickly, he tried to make himself look busy. He quickly searched through his bag, as if he was looking for something. Doing so only made him disappointed at the constantly-shrinking size of the amount of coins he had there. Unfortunately, Glarus was not being unsuspicious enough.

            “Well, what exactly did he do?” the second, younger voice asked.

            The passerby began to approach Glarus.

            “He murdered his wife and daughter, then stole their own coins!” the third voiced hissed.

            “Why?” the second one asked.

            Glarus listened intently as his mind began to search for an excuse.

            “He was drunk. The man was out of control; he had never been violent like that to them before.” the first voice explained.

            “That’s no excuse!” the third one interrupted angrily.

            “Why? What made him so violent?” the girlish voice asked.

            Glarus’ thoughts quickly thanked her for her curiosity. It seemed that perhaps the angry drunk was the unusual elderly man. That would explain why he had felt deserving of those insults. But Glarus had smelled no alcohol upon him, even with the man’s obvious stench. Unfortunately, the stronger-looking passerby was almost to Glarus now.

            “He blacked out. When he woke up, he claimed he didn’t remember anything.” the first one explained.

            “They say he was threatened by some debtor, then still kept on drinking.” the third one said.

            The passerby was to Glarus. The nearly middle-aged man gave him a questioning look.

            Quickly, Glarus knew he had to react:

            “I seem to be lost. I was looking for someone, and I’m sure I wrote his name down somewhere.” Glarus lied quickly. He continued to search through his bag.

            “Whatever happened to him?” the second one asked.

            “He gave up drinking, yet the villagers still blame him for what he did.” the first one said.

            “He’s lucky the mystics didn’t kill him.” she added quickly.

            “The mystics? They don’t care about us enough to even punish someone for murder. They would probably prefer if we all just killed each other.” the third one hissed harshly.

            Now, the topic of conversation had changed. It was no longer to his advantage for Glarus to stay.

            And, the passerby was no longer believing Glarus’ act.

            “It would be better if you would leave.” the other said.

            “Yes, definitely.” Glarus agreed quickly.

            He ran as fast as his feet would carry him.

4

            He found himself in the local tavern, again. The drunks were making their presence known, and no one did anything to stop them. It was almost midday now, and Glarus had to eat something somewhere. He had decided to return here since it was where he had first seen that unusual, elderly man.

            “We don’t usually see a man like you in these parts.” the bartender said. Oh, great. He must be trying to make conversation. Glarus’ thoughts grumbled to themselves; he hated it when bartenders did that. But maybe he could get something out of it.

            So, Glarus picked a tale of his adventures. He told it eagerly, with the passion returned to him. Perhaps all he had needed was a break from his true quest. The bartender and the patrons listened just as eagerly. Soon, Glarus found himself with a free plate of food before him. Quickly, he continued his tale.

            Even between mouths full of food, he spoke. The words came from him as his voice rang across the place. Laughter came when he wanted it, and smiles remained upon each face. Glarus laughed joyously with them; their laughter rose up, even into the night. He must have been talking for hours.

            But the passion had returned. It had been eagerly, readily waiting for him.

            It had returned.

5

            The drunks had long-since been passed out on the floor. Most of the patrons had either left, or fallen into sleep. Only Glarus and the bartender remained.

            “So, I’ve got a question for you.” Glarus said to him.

            “Anything.” the man said in response. He grinned as laughter rose from him.

            “Alright. There was a man I saw in here before. It was very early in the morning. He was older, and stank as if he had not bathed in years.” Glarus explained.

            “Oh. That guy.” the man said reluctantly. The cheeriness of moments ago was gone. His now unnaturally deep voice gave the illusion of sadness there. But, more likely, it was just annoyance. Soon, he continued:

            “No one likes that man. What is it that you want with him anyways?” he asked.

            Quickly, Glarus gave his response:

            “I need to speak with him again. Do you know where he can be found?” he asked.

            The bartender paused. He looked around quickly, with a suspicious look about him. When he was satisfied that no one else would hear, he gave his response:

            “Let me tell you something. No one likes that man, and there is no reason to go looking for him.  No matter what he told you, you can not trust that man. He killed people, a long time ago. And, if some idiots had not taken pity on him, then the villagers would have killed him years ago. But, now he is too old, and no one wants to kill a helpless old man, regardless of what he did. I can’t tell you what he did; even I myself do not know for sure. What I do know is that he killed people.” the man said.

            Glarus was not about to let that little speech stop him from asking again:

            “I need to know. Can you please tell me: where can I find that man?” he asked.

            The bartender gave him a nasty look. Anger grew upon him; he did not like this topic of conversation. For a moment, it seemed as if he would react with violence. But then something seemed to change inside of him. He continued:

            “You told some great stories. Very entertaining. Because of that, I won’t kick you out. Otherwise, you would find yourself out on the street faster than you could blink.” he said angrily. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added:

            “Besides, you can’t go there at night anyways. It is not anywhere near the safest part of town.” he said quickly.

            Glarus nearly smiled to himself; that was all he needed to know. It would not be good to anger the bartender even more. So, he kept his expression controlled.

6

            He spent the night on one of the tavern chairs. It was honestly not very comfortable, but he was tired enough that he slept there anyways. Fortunately, the bartender did not say anything more.

            When Glarus woke, he began his search.

            First, he found the worst part of town. Second, he looked for the elderly man.

            Broken bottles littered the streets; slivers of glass were everywhere. Drunks, along with certain other unmentionable and shadowy characters, walked about with recklessness. Shouts rose up into the air next to laughter; this really was not the best place to be.

            Every window was broken; every door stood open. Paint was nonexistent. Rotten wood formed the houses; none were lucky enough to still have stone. Dirt-covered children begged for food openly. Some let their bruises show, others tried to hide their obvious ribs. This was definitely not the best place to be.

            But this is where Glarus would start his search.

            The bartender had told him that it was not the safest part of town. Also, he had said that it was not a safe place to be a night. But Glarus was sure that this was not even a safe place to be during the day.

            A broken bottle shattered upon the ground. A large rat scurried past. An unmentionable literally kicked out a patron. The old man was nowhere to be found. So, reluctantly, Glarus had to use a different method to search.

            “Hey, kid. A coin if you can tell me something.” he said to one of the children. The little girl ran to him eagerly, then stood staring. Waiting, she would do what she could to earn that coin.

            “I’m looking for someone. An elderly man, who is thought to have killed someone years ago. Can you tell me where to find him?” Glarus asked.

            Quickly, the girl nodded. She reached up, and took his hand. Then, she led him through the streets, still unspeaking. He could not help but wonder if she could speak.

            A maze of streets, and confusing sets of turns. A shift to the left, then around three right corners. They were not lost; the girl knew exactly where she was going. More turns, a confusing labyrinth. No planning to the streets. Glarus was glad to not have to find this place on him own.

            One last corner. The girl pointed with her free hand; they had arrived.

            “Thank you.” Glarus said gratefully, as he gave her that promised coin. The girl smiled at him, then ran. Within moments, she was gone.

            Carefully, Glarus looked around that turn. That is when he saw him again; the elderly man. He was sleeping, on a blanket on the ground against the wall. One bowl sat on the ground before him, with no coins inside. They were alone.

            Quickly, Glarus approached. He wanted to thank the man for their conversation, and to show him that he was worth something. Unfortunately, he was unsure how.

            Suddenly, the man moved as if he was beginning to wake.

            Uncharacteristically, Glarus chose to not be there. Quickly, he climbed up some boxes and to the roof to his left. Then, quietly, he ran upon the roof, alongside the path he had been on. Silently, he thanked whoever was listening for his gifts of agility and movement. When he was near the old man, he jumped to the roof behind his place of sleeping.

            Then, he shifted to lay on his stomach, and to look down at the street before him.

            The man was awake.

7

            Glarus wondered why he had run. For him, running away was always a method of self-preservation, always for when the opponent looked tougher than him. Especially after the first time, when he had run away as a kid. At this point, he had not yet learned how to defend himself, how to stand and hold his own ground. Eventually, maybe he would.

            But that day was not today. Instead, his mind was already occupied, wondering exactly why he had run. Exactly why he had avoided the same man that he still wanted to thank. Perhaps it was because he hated owing anything to others, or perhaps because he had never had the opportunity to thank someone before.

            There was no way to show his thanks in words. How would you tell someone something like that anyways? The man had given him his passion back, his purpose again. Maybe he was too grateful, giving away too much thanks for just one conversation. But, somehow, caring for someone else’s dream had added fuel to his own. His passion had returned. Perhaps there was something he still could do.

            So, Glarus called down to the man:

            “I know about your wife and daughter. Whatever it was you did then, I know that you have struggled with your guilt ever since. You have tried to make amends and forgive yourself, only to find that you can not. That is why you let the others villagers do what they want with you, why you let them be so insulting to you. I know that you have not found forgiveness. But you do not have to live in shame forever.”

            At this point, Glarus jumped down and turned, to land on the ground facing the other man. Now, he continued speaking:

            “You are worth something. When we spoke, you brought my passion back to me. No matter what you did before, I can see that you are a good person now. I know that you saw a lot of yourself in me, and that you wished you had taken a different path, that you had pursued your purpose in life. You have not failed; it had simply taken you longer to find it. Whatever happens, I promise you that I will not fail. I will find my Assiyara, and I will share its existence with the world. I will prove to the world that you can achieve your life’s purpose, and that it does exist. Not just for me, for everyone.

            “So, let me give you something, something to prove that you are worth something to someone.”

            As Glarus finished speaking, he reached down towards his own feet.

            He knew just what to give to him.

8

            His feet greeted the dirt like an old friend.

            Well, at least the shoes have carried me this far. He thought to himself.

            Quickly, before he could doubt this action, Glarus placed the shoes at the man’s feet. You are worth something. He thought to himself.

            The man stared joyously at the gift before him. An old smile lit up upon his face; tears of joy fell from his eyes. Someone had given him something, something to show that he had meant something to them. His hands trembled as he reached towards them.

            As soon as he held them in his hands, the shaking stopped. Slowly, and with purpose, the man put the shoes upon his own feet. They were a perfect fit. Quickly, with the smile still there, the man turned to thank Glarus.

            He was gone.

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