"Please turn back!" The Sentry Guard told the young girl.
The young girl's hands were buzzing with magic as she had pushed through the barrier protecting the Papyrus of Providence. The minute, she had been successful in breaking the barrier, the alarm at the Guard's home had gone off, alerting him that the Papyrus was in danger.
Which was why the Guard had appeared here immediately. But the Guard knew that the Papyrus needed no protection. The true reason the Guard came was curiosity. Good, old fashioned curiosity. It had been ages since he had seen anyone determined to break through the barriers and see the Papyrus. The misguided fools who did not understand the Papyrus, were the ones who gave up first.
But not this person. It made her special. More than special.
The girl was a human. A young human and her face was filled with soot and she looked furiously annoyed. It had been ages since the Guard had seen a human. But he knew that the seekers always varied. It ranged from power hungry fools to the young child like the one he was seeing.
The girl snarled at the Guard angrily.
"And how are you going to stop me?" She demanded furiously. "I just crossed a fire breathing dragon and impossible Invisible shield and a trip to Neverending land, to get here!" She yelled at the Guard. "Anything that you can do, I will overcome it!"
The stubbornness in her voice made the Guard laugh. The anger in her voice was something that the Guard appreciated.
"I am very sure that you can defeat me very easily," The Guard told the girl.
For the first time a frown appeared on the girl's face.
The Guard could read the child's mind. He was powerful enough to do that. But he did not. He never interfered with people's minds or their workings. Besides, he did not need to be clairvoyant to know what the child was thinking.
"What did you say?" The girl asked looking at the Guard as the first bout of uncertainty struck her face.
Equina was feeling nauseous after her trip inside the Neverending land. No matter where she started, Equina always ended up in the same place. After a futile ten trials in trying to outrun the place, she had figured out that there was not the place she had to overrun. She needed to walk out of the time.
Neverending Land was nothing but a time loop. After the person reached the end, the time loop started again, bringing the person back to the start of the time.
Breaking the Time Loop had taken up almost all of Equina's energy and she was battered and tired. That was when she realized that the Papyrus of Providence had one more protection. When Equina learnt that, she had almost given up. She wanted nothing more than to just turn back because Equina was not sure what lay beyond the border of the Time Loop. And Equina had lost most of her magic power. It was just her and her wits.
But those were the two things she always relied on. More than her own magic.
And more importantly Equina was never one to give up. No matter how hard the task, she went through with it.
The Papyrus of Providence – the parchment which could provide her with the complete future of all things which would happen to her world, she needed to know it. That was the only way she could beat the Shadows during their impending attack on her kingdom. She had already devised various shields and her Magis were using all their powers to fight the Shadows. But she needed to take the knowledge of the Papyrus about the future, back to her people so that they could fight the Shadows and win.
"I said that you can very easily defeat me, child," the Sentry Guard said chuckling. He meant every word of what he had said. "You were able to outrun a vicious dragon and use your wits and your magic to get through the Time Loop. Trust me, even if I try to stop you, I can probably stop you once." The Guard shook his head. "No more than that. You..." The Guard studied the child's resilient heart and smiled, "...are someone who can learn. And you can learn very well from your mistakes." The Guard nodded. "You are not someone that I can fight and win."
Equina was puzzled. "Where is the Papyrus?" She asked. The Guard was confusing her. And she was not sure she wanted to waste her time listening to him prattle.
"Here," The Sentry Guard said.
Floating in the air before her was the papyrus. Like it had been all the time. But a second back, she had not been able to see it. Now she could. Equina wondered whether the Guard had put it inside a Shield and dismissed the thought. It was immaterial. She had to now read the thing and go back to her people.
She fully expected the Guard to attack, as she carefully walked towards the papyrus and picked it up.
The Guard did absolutely nothing.
"Aren't you going to do anything?" She demanded from the Guard. It was the lack of activity which got on her nerves. Enemies she could handle. The silence was something which really bugged her.
The Guard laughed. "Do not read it," He said.
Equina stopped. There was something in the tone of the Guard. Something which was not right. But the Papyrus in her hand cackled with real magic. She could almost feel the magic of the Papyrus nearly burning through her. It was the real thing.
"Why do you keep saying that?" Equina asked holding the Papyrus firmly as she eyed the Guard.
"You are wise for your age," The Guard observed and there was genuine respect in his eyes.
Equina said nothing as the Guard continued, "May I know why you want the Papyrus of Providence? It is meant for knowing the future." The Guard studied the girl once more, "I am guessing that you want to know about something bad happening in the future and the ways to avoid it," He said nodding to himself.
"Yes," Equina said reluctantly. "The Shadows are to attack my kingdom. If they spread their darkness around my kingdom, we shall all be doomed. I want to protect my kingdom which is why I want to know what I can do to protect them without any damage to any of my people."
"Have you fortified your people?" That was the immediate question of the Guard.
"To the best of my abilities," Equina said proudly.
The Guard smiled. "The Papyrus cannot help you," He told her gently.
Equina blinked. For a second, she had relaxed. She had relaxed thinking that the Guard was not going to hurt her. She was a fool. The Guard was obviously waiting for her drop her defences and then attack her.
"I will read the Papyrus and I will help my people," Equina said stubbornly, clutching the Papyrus so tightly that she was afraid that she was going to tear it.
"You will help your people, but not with the Papyrus. But because you are Equina, the ruler of your people. You will lead them to battle, because you believe that you will be victorious. And you will win because you have done everything to the best of your ability," the Guard told her.
Equina blinked again. Nothing the Guard said made sense.
"The future belongs to no one, child. It is made by people who believe in themselves. People like you. People who do things to the best of their abilities and keep learning."
Equina said nothing as the Guard continued. "Imagine if a Shadow came here tomorrow and looked at the Papyrus and learnt the ways to defeat you?"
Equina was frankly numb. So numb that she could not think. She could not be the only person who was willing to do such a thing. The Shadows were evil. But that did not change the fact that there could be people like her there too. People who could fight a fire-breathing dragon, cross an Invisible Shield or cross Neverending land.
"I will burn the Papyrus after I read it!" Equina said viciously.
That was when the Guard laughed. He laughed uncontrollably and Equina was shocked. Badly shocked. "You just crossed a time loop. Do you really think burning this Papyrus at this point of time is going to change anything?" The Guard asked after he had finished laughing.
Equina blinked again. What the Guard said made sense. People could always come at a time before this point of time. She could not burn something for all of eternity. It was impossible.
"So what should I do?" Equina demanded.
"I will tell you a story. Then probably you can decide what needs to done," The Guard said settling himself more comfortably in his chair as he snapped his fingers.
A chair appeared behind Equina. Equina rolled her eyes. Was she honestly supposed to be impressed with this? The Sentry Guard was a Legend. And all he could do was laugh and create a chair. That was something that a Level One Magi could do. Probably she should have her head examined for trying to come here.
"Once upon a time, a king of a powerful kingdom had two sons. The second son was into learning abstract and useless things and the first son was extraordinarily skilled in the field of administering the kingdom. Despite their varied interests, the two brothers loved each other a lot. And as time grew, their bond became stronger. On the day, they completed their studies, the Court Astrologer was summoned and he was ordered to look into the future of the two boys. The Astrologer looked into their horoscope and said something impossible. He said that the second son who was deemed to be completely useless in their kingdom was destined to become more famous – something of a legend among his people."
Equina blinked as the Guard nodded. "On hearing this, the second son was worried that his brother would do something silly like give up his kingdom to him, which was why, the second son immediately relinquished all his rights and exiled himself from the kingdom. The first son was unhappy with his brother's choice. But the first son ruled his people wisely and well and was one of the best kings that the kingdom had seen."
"Why do I get a feeling that this is the story of the second son?" Equina asked as the Guard fell silent.
"Because you are smart," The Guard said smiling.
The Guard noticed the child roll her eyes and laughed as he continued, "The second son roamed around a lot and frankly he had a lot of problems in all places. Finally he met a brilliant Magi, who was willing to teach him. Over time, the second son became so powerful in magic that he was..."
"...chosen to be the Sentry Guard of the Papyrus of Providence?" Equina asked completing what the Guard had to say.
The Guard was not surprised as he nodded his head.
Since the time the girl did not look inside the Papyrus, he knew that he was not looking at an ordinary child. She was stubborn, strong and clever. A leader. And she could join the dots much faster than almost anyone else could.
"Yes," The Guard said finally. "So what the Court Astrologer said came true. I did become something of a legend. But not in the way anyone thought I would do it. I did not understand it. I was trying to run away from my destiny and that was when I created my destiny."
Equina thought that for a few seconds as she saw the Papyrus in her hands. "So you are trying to tell me that I can do my best and then hope for the best with the war against the Shadows. That is all?" She asked. "I did all those impossible things to know that?"
"You did those impossible things because you believed, Equina. You believed you could do it." The Guard nodded. "That is the only thing which can help you. Not this." The Guard smiled shaking his head pointing at the Papyrus. "The knowledge of the future is always a dangerous thing. It takes away things that we find magical in life. It restricts us because we believe that what is written there would come true. I would not be wrong if I said that we would make those things happen, just by believing that those things would happen."
As he said the last sentence, the Guard sensed a sudden change in the child.
Her grasp on the papyrus loosened and the Guard smiled. People always asked him why he never read the Papyrus of Providence for himself. He was after all the Guard. No one could question him if he read it. The answer to that was simple. He did not want to know what was written in it. He wanted to create his future, not live the future that someone else had written for him.
It looked like the child before him had just understood that.
Equina completely let the Papyrus go as it floated to the place between them.
"I need to be getting back to my people. We need to be prepared," She said getting up.
"Can you open the Papyrus and read it?" The Guard asked. He had to tell the ultimate secret of the Papyrus to the girl. One that very few people could understand.
"You went all this way to convince me not to read it and now that I am convinced, you say this?" She asked faintly.
"I want to help you spread the idea of why no one else should come looking for the Papyrus," The Guard told Equina. "You seem to be someone who would understand. Others see the papyrus and think that what it shows them is the future. But people who understand the nature of the Papyrus would see the true future." The Guard said. "I am just curious what you see," he said with a small smile.
Equina thought that for a few seconds and nodded to herself as she pulled up the Papyrus. As she opened it, she knew that there was nothing that Papyrus could teach her. If she liked what the Papyrus said, she would follow it. If she did not like it, she would change it. She did not rely on it, any more. It was immaterial what was written there. She made her own future. The Papyrus could not make it for her.
Equina blinked for the largest second in her life as she opened the papyrus and read it. Or at least she tried to read it.
The Papyrus of Providence which was supposed to tell the future of all living things everywhere was blank. Completely and totally blank.