1 Mar 2018 – The Lightway to Al-Safar

Scott Summers365 Stories, Fantasy


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

There are a few deserts in the world where you can find the Guide.  He takes the shape of an older man cloaked in tattered robes, though his eyes are pale and his skin nearly translucent beneath the evening sky. 

When you meet him, he will ask you to spare a coin of bronze or brass.  If you have neither, or only one of the two, he will thank you for your offering and send you on your way.  But if you carry both, those pale eyes will shine, and he will ask if you know the way to Al-Safar.

The Lightway is difficult to find on your own.  It is a road of hammered copper that twists through the desert sand.  Should you find it alone, head north — and only north — to reach Al-Safar.  I learned this from the Guide himself on our pilgrimage to the ancient city.

“Not many come this way,” the Guide told me as we walked.  The red lantern in translucent grasp seemed to dangle in the empty air.  “Most follow the roads from the far side of the world.”

“Guess I’m just lucky,” I said.

The Guide chuckled.  “I have seen the shape of luck and you wield no such thing.  You have sought me out.  Why?”

“To see the city,” I told him.  “To see Al-Safar.”

“The City of Copper is no place for mortals,” warned the Guide.  “A single misstep will place you in the ire of titans this world has not seen in a thousand years.”

“All the more reason to go,” I told him.

The Guide smiled.  Should you make it this far, you should heed that warning.  Immortals are rarely amused by lesser beings, and no good comes of it.

The Lightway to Al-Safar will warm your feet.  The hammered copper is hot even during the desert night, and that heat will penetrate even the heartiest sole.  However, it is a trap.  If your feet are hot, you must keep your shoes on.  Removing them will scald your feet and leaving the Lightway will make the Guide disappear.  You’ll be stranded and alone, miles from salvation.

I saw the bodies just off the trail, though the Guide warned me off before I lost my own way by seeking them out.

“Careful, careful,” warned the Guide, and I took its wisdom and heeded its call.

However, I did not reach the city of Al-Safar.  I looked upon it from a distant hillside a few hours into our trek.  The Guide pulled up short, that lantern blazing, and fixed me with those pale eyes.

“This is your last chance to turn back,” it said.  “The city looms before you, but there is nothing about this place that will keep you safe.  If you walk through those distant gates, it is unlikely you will leave this place alive.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Because,” the Guide said, “Al-Safar is no place for mortals.  You die too easily for the denizens of the city, who know nothing of pain, death, or mortality.  What chance of survival do you see for yourself in a place where things simply do not die?”

“All things die,” I reasoned.

But the Guide simply shook his head.  “If you wish to follow me, I will take you there.  That is my purpose.”

I kept my feet on the Lightway and studied the distant city.  It was the chance of a lifetime, I knew.  Would I find the Guide again?  Could I, even if I wanted to?

There was something about the solemnity of its tone, the lack of willingness to argue the finer points of mortality, that convinced me to stay my hand.

“Take me back,” I told the Guide.  “I wish to be away from this place.”

At that, the Guide turned and I could see the barest smile on its translucent face.  “A wise decision.  Please follow me, and stay on the trail.”