‘The amount of knowledge Faerwald possesses is too much!’ Col pronounced with authority. ‘He has too much influence over this village! Why should a man who has never stepped a foot outside of home be allowed to counsel our lord?’ As the crowd surrounding Col shouted their sentiments and clanged goblets of beer together, Col leaned into his friend standing beside him and spoke quietly, ‘We must do something now, Thornton. I hear our king is to be seeking counsel from Faerwald tomorrow evening. Are you not tired of our lord going to Faerwald for advice and not us? We used to be the wise men of the land! Do you not remember those times, Thornton?’
Thornton echoed his sentiments, ‘Folks! This is dangerous times when our leaders walk into one man’s home, takes councel from him, and obeys him! Our lord ought to be listening to us, the people of the village! It is our duty to the lord, our land, and our rights as men to steal Faerwald’s collection and kill him! And I propose we do this tonight and end this atrocity immediately!’
Aelfric rose as the throng shouted ‘here-here’, and ‘aye’ towards their leaders. The noise from the mob allowed Aelfric to slip out of the building unnoticed. He hurried across town to Faerwald’s home.
Aelfric rapped upon the threshold and was greeted by William, Faerwald’s servant and apprentice. Upon entry, the scent of books saturated the air and would overwhelm any newcomer to the home. Aelfric, on the other hand, was not a newcomer, and paid no mind to the scent nor the multitudinous amount of stacks of books measuring from the floor to the ceiling; which, not only spanned the length of the foyer, but the hall and every room within the home.
William led Aelfric to Faerwald’s study; and as usual, found Faerwald reading a book and taking notes with his quill and parchment. William left the two alone and resumed tending to his duties around the home.
‘Faerwald,’ began Aelfric, ‘we need to leave immediately!’ Faerwald held his hand up to his intruder, indicating he must wait. ‘This cannot wait, Faerwald. We must…’ Again, Faerwald indicated to Aelfric he must have patience.
Faerwald was not elf; he was pure human. Yet, the elfs of the land, along with the lords of the land, have gone to Faerwald for many years seeking wisdom and direction. Faerwald is a man who believed books hold more knowledge than any one man could posses; and therefore, he read books. Every book in his home he has read; and most, he has read multiple times. The last count William performed for Faerwald totaled over fifteen thousand works of literature that had taken him nearly two scores to collect. It is rumored he has not ever been outside of his home since first moving there thirty five years ago with, what was then, a small collection of only seven hundred works. What is not rumored and is agreed upon by all folks of the village is no one has ever seen the man other than elfs and lords over the years. Often times, Faerwald receives invitations to embark upon a journey with folks of the land; however, each time he declines with the reply, ‘My journeys do not consist of walking upon land. My journeys are within books and literature; and there is where I shall travel alone.’
After a few moments, Faerwald set his book and quill upon the end table beside his bed. He looked up to Aelfric and questioned, ‘Now what is so important that you came to my home unannounced, and screaming like a mad-man we must leave?’
‘I apologize for my rudeness, sir; however, I have been listening to Col and Thornton, and they have gathered a large mob determined to kill you. They are on their way over this very night to burn your books and take your life. You must flee my counselor!’
Faerwald responded to Aelfric’s advice, ‘You know these books are my treasure, Aelfric. I cannot abandon them. And you know I have never once left my home for a journey of any sort. No. I will not leave my home. I will die with my books.’
‘Faerwald, they are not intending to destroy your books. They want your knowledge. They seek to have what you have; the respect of your lord, and the wisdom of your intellect. Your books will be theirs once you are dead. You must leave and come with me. We, the elfs will protect you in our forest just outside of the village.’
‘I will not abandon my collection. I would rather watch my books burn before I have them ripped out from under me. No! I will not leave for those fools to rule this land from the makings of evil.’
‘I understand, counselor. But what you must understand is our land needs you! We need your guidance as long as you are with us; and it is the elf’s duty and privilege to protect you. I will not leave this home without you, Faerwald. We must go!’
Faerwald contemplated this in his thoughts. He spent a few long, hard minutes debating his options, and when he came to a decision, he spoke, ‘Ok, Aelfric. I will leave; however, these men cannot have my collection. We will burn my home to the ground at dusk, with everything in it, and I shall embark on a journey.’
For the next few hours, Faerwald, William, and Aelfric packed Aelfric’s horse and another two horses they had purchased from the kind couple living next door. Most of what was included were some of Faerwald’s treasured artifacts, pieces of literature, and his own writings. When dusk came, the two finished packing and began rigging the house to burn.
When they were setting up the final piece for the home to burn well, they heard a mob off in the distance. Aelfric looked up, ‘They are coming. We must hurry!’
Faerwald, in agreement, spoke, ‘You and William wait with the horses; I will finish this task.’ Aelfric left Faerwald to perform what had been asked of him. Faerwald walked to the front of his house, grabbing an unlit torch on the way, and waited for Col and Thornton to arrive with their zealots.
When the crowd arrived a few moments after Faerwald began waiting for them, Col spoke up, ‘There he is! Get him!’
Before the crowd could advance upon him, Faerwald lit the torch he held, and held it near a stack of books standing beside him. The crowd stopped and listened to the words of Faerwald, ‘You seek my knowledge and respect from our lord by presuming you will receive both once you commit murder upon my soul. You fools live in folly. You can murder me, you can even gain my knowledge; but what you cannot have, is the respect of our lord. He will not respect you, or any other fool in your crowd for murdering a man he seeks counsel from. If you wish to seek me and my collection of knowledge and literature, then you are more than welcome to come into my home.’
With that, Faerwald lit the stack of books on fire and proceeded to enter his home as it began to burn. The crowd stood motionless in front of the home, watching it burn, unsure of what to do next. Faerwald walked to the back of his burning home and spoke to William and Aelfric, ‘Go! Tell the elfs and lord I cannot abandon my books. Take what I have given you and learn what you may. Goodbye.’
Aelfric jumped off his horse screaming, and pleading with Faerwald. There was, however, nothing Aelfric could do. With the thousands of books within the home, flames engulfed the house forcing any intruders to remain distant. The crowd, Aelfric, and William watched as Faerwald walked into his study where most of his books were gathered. He sat in a chair, opened a book and began to read. Just as the flames were surrounding him, he looked up from his book and to Aelfric. The last thing Aelfric saw before the flames consumed Faerwald’s soul, was a smile gleaming across the face of Faerwald, and then his head bowing towards his new journey.