After a brief rest on the first day, Nobel and Lucky silently make their way to the meditation chamber and close the door. “It is time for deep reflection”, Nobel indicates to Lucky with but a look. Whether Lucky actually understands his master is debatable, but he takes a position on his haunches opposite Nobel who has taken the lotus position. The two stare into each others eyes as they had done each morning at sunrise during their time together since Lucky came to him at that hunting lodge outside of Heldren. Lucky came along at the right time and these private moments together have helped keep Nobel anchored along their tumultuous journey.
However, this was not going to be a their typical meditation. Nobel intended not to anchor himself but rather to destroy himself and in the wreckage construct something new. He was going to peel away the layers and expose the true self before reconstructing himself as a new being.
Nobel pulled from his pack various totem objects he had gathered along the way to the dancing hut. Three daggers (silver, ice, and masterwork) with tips pointed in toward each other would form the base, representing his concept of self when he started his journey, one being in three separate parts (fey, magic, and human). Around the daggers he placed a cord he fashioned from braiding portions of the cloaks he had collected from Baba Yaga’s riders, representing three separate things that were really one (dawn, dusk, and midnight consisting of one day). In the center, touching the knife tips, he placed the acorn he received from his vision outside the temple of Desna. This was to to represent the mystery that was the inner self, a thing of infinite potential waiting to be actualized. And by doing this he formed a wheel with three spokes with all possibilities revolving around the true self at its core. He completed the arrangement by placing the dolls taken from the Pale Tower, Scratch and Shiver, on either side of him such that between Nobel, Lucky, and the dolls they would represent the four cardinal directions, something commonly done in the witching rituals of his mentor Arana Snakeroot. Finally he took the three knotted cord from his neck (the holy symbol of Megdh he had found in the blacktar satyr camp when he and Fenn were children, a symbol of friendship and faith) and the witches sickle still crusted with her blood from when he removed her head (a symbol of The Green Mother, a symbol of death and deception) and placed one before each of the dolls to invoke their presence.
Nobel then used his newly given power from Baba Yaga to consecrate the room and his alter. He and Lucky then focused on one another, watching each others breath, slowing down their heart rates and respirations so as almost to appear dead or like statuary if anyone were looking on. They slipped into a deep meditation into which they would remain for three days as the visions overtook them.
Nobel once again finds himself on an isolated forest path, but this time it appears to be set along a rock hillside. As he looks at the path behind him, he can see how far he has traveled from the forest and valley below. He can only guess it would have taken him days if not longer to get this far from the valley, but time is hard to track in this place. Ahead, he sees the dread spire of an impossibly tall mountain peak looming, clouds breaking against its sides, its peak obscured from view. The sun is setting and the first stars of twilight are beginning to show. Dew is starting to condense on the foliage and a light breeze is the only sound.
The silence is broken by the sound of rustling branches and the hoot of an owl. Nobel looks up to see a three headed owl the size of a wolf sitting on a low branch along the trail ahead. Only when Lucky fearfully jumps into his arms does Nobel even realize that Lucky had been with him the entire time. The dire owl fixes its gaze on Nobel with one head while another head looks far ahead and the last is turned all the way around to look behind.
“What do you expect to find this way?” says the owl.
“I’m looking for answers” replies Nobel.
“Then why the path? Why not climb the trees or fly to the summit? Why not dig in the dirt? Knowledge can be found in many ways. The path is but one.”
Confused, Nobel responds “I am but a man. I have no claws to dig, wings to fly, or strength to climb. The path is what I know.”
The dire owl hoots in a way that sounds like laughter. “Then you know nothing at all. No wonder you are here, he-who-is-man-yet-is-not-man.” It hoots again.
“What does that mean? I have heard this before and I have felt it to be true, but what does it substantiate?” Nobel demands.
The owl keeps its middle head fixed on Nobel but now cocks it 30 degrees to the right. “Why do you protest so? Does the spider lose sleep over why it has 8 limbs rather than 4? Does the tiger sulk about having sharp claws rather than the hands of a gorilla?”
“Of course not”, replies Nobel. “Those are their natural features and necessary for their survival.”
“And the same is true for you.”
“No, I have a curse. A darkness within me that I cannot fully control!”
The owl alights from the branch and knocks Nobel to the ground. His talons come to rest on Nobel’s legs pinning him in place. It screeches, “You are what you are and all serves its function! Look to the sky. What do you see?”
Night has now descended and the stars and moon are out in full. The beauty of this strange night sky is breathtaking. “I see the light of the moon and the stars. I see the darkness between them”, Nobel weeps with awe and fear.
The owl leans closer to Nobel’s neck. “You see as separate that which is one. You fail to see the summation. Light held in place and given order by its tether to the darkness. Mistake not the tapestry for its threads.”
At this revelation, Nobel’s eyes grew large as if he was seeing for the first time. The dire owl steps off of Nobel and reaches into the night air itself with its beak. From the darkness around them, it rips out what appears to be an ebon cloth as black as the night itself. The other two heads then move to pluck a single feather from each of its wings. It sets the items before Nobel. “For the journey ahead, princeling.” Then it fades into the darkness.