A Kingdom for a Soul

It had been a strange journey, Orrin thought as he approached the path into the mountains that ascended steeply.  Strange and cold.
            He had followed the signs as he had been bidden.  Crossed the oak tree with a branch of yew.  Blinked twice at the Pool of the Fallen Faeries.  Chanted the Poem of the Wandering Lost in the Cave of Being.
            And so far none of it had restored what he had lost.
            The thing was, he needed help, and he needed it desperately.  He had come to realize a folly he had made in his youth and was desperate to right it.  He would take all the help he could get, and do all the tasks set before him.  He would dance naked around a thousand faerie rings, if that was what it took to get his soul back.
            For Orrin had sold his soul. 
It had happened long ago, when life appeared less sweet.  When the world seemed as though it had nothing to offer.  And when ego said it did not matter if one possessed the essence of a self in exchange for all the power and riches one could imagine.  What was self, Orrin had thought, when one could have what one could never work to earn?  It was a whole kingdom he received.
            An unfair exchange, he had slowly begun to realize over time. 
            And now, as life offered him the one thing he craved most, he knew that he could never have it—though he had given away his kingdom and shed his wealth—until he had back his soul.
            Thus, after he had returned that for which he had traded his soul away, he had gone to the wizard at the edge of the wood who had looked him up and down, first kindly, then sadly, then with the gaze a wizard has that makes its object feel small—and then had sent Orrin on his journey, the final step to gaining back his soul.
            But Orrin had done all that the wizard had asked of him, save one.  Only the Lake of Glass remained.  This was where he would find his soul.
            He shivered.
            The air glittered with cold.  Or perhaps that was the effect of the frost that covered everything about him.
            There it was.
            A lake, frozen solid.
            He leaned over and his reflection beamed up at him.
            So did something else.
            The merest hint, a shadow, a tiny flickering.  It was a thing he recognized.  He had known it long ago.  It was his soul.  And it had, after long last, been restored.
            He went back by way of the wizard, and as he stepped inside the old man’s home, he said, ‘Your plan succeeded, old sir.  I have found that which I sought to recover.’
            ‘Of course you did,’ said the Wizard, a twinkle in his eye.  ‘It never left.  And so I sent you on a quest where the chants and branches and waters did nothing.  But once you believed it was there, well, there it was.  For a soul, as it truly is, can never truly be sold.’
            Orrin stared at the Wizard and pondered all that he had done to retrieve his soul.  His kingdom gone, his wealth diminished, and with it his person a shallow drop in the bucket of humanity.  It was then that he noticed something else—something strong within him that had been offered but never before received.  He was at peace.
‘Ah, but I would never have seen it there without the journey to find it,’ he said to the wizard, who simply sat and smiled, happy to see someone no longer lost.

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