The Wanderer unslung the bow from across his shoulder, careful to not disturb the rocks at his feet. Sound would give him away. There was something strange about this fog-shrouded land. He could feel the eyes of a thousand unseen watchers, peering at him from the corners of his vision. He reached into the bristling quiver at his hip and nocked an arrow.
He had come here not out of some petty desire for treasure or adventure. He had been called here.
He had been asleep when it had happened. Beneath a sky full of stars, he tossed and turned, caught in the midst of a nightmare that he could never escape. Then the whole world trembled. The ground beneath him shook so violently that he was surprised when he opened his eyes and found no bones broken. He felt something pull at him, something far and distant, far and far-off to the north. A low, haunting voice rumbled in his mind.
Come, Lost One. We await.
That was all it had said, and that was all he needed.
For all his life he had wandered the lands. He had no memory of being a boy or of his parents. He did not remember playing with other children or having any boyhood friends. One day, he was just there.
He drifted from town to town, city to city, without thought and without purpose. He lived solitary, and alone. The days brought only a chain of visual sensations, none of which cohered into any sort of meaning. The world felt out of focus, without meaning.
His name was The Wanderer, for he knew nothing but the long, lonely roads, and the never-ending journey of a man with no home.
Until the message.
He had travelled, moving northwards slowly over many long days–long days that turned to weeks, weeks that turned to months. He did not know if he was getting any closer at first and he felt as if he were destined to walk north forever, until the end of the world. However, he had felt that rumbling again and heard that ancient, rumbling voice.
Come, Lost One. Return to us.
And so he continued on his journey. Onwards and onwards, further north. As he travelled, he felt that pulling become stronger. Day by day, the tug on him became more focused, until he could point directly at his destination, wherever it was.
And on the thirteenth morning of the thirteenth month of his long journey, he had come onto this valley, this valley enshrouded by a mist that swallowed the lands in front of him. The mist did not deter him, for he knew exactly where he was meant to go. He could point right at it through even the thick, grey fog. A place of vast stones and ancient ruins. That was where his journey had taken him, and where he was now.
He stepped carefully over the rock-strewn slope that slowly angled upwards. This close, he could see the ruins in more detail. Whatever this place was, it had been abandoned for some time. Moss clung to the stones tightly, blanketing them in hues of green. Ivy creeped over the cracks in the ancient stonework.
Suddenly, the ground shook again. The earth heaved up and down, and he dropped to the ground, clinging onto tufts of grass to stop himself from being thrown about like a rag-doll. The stones around him crumbled and fell.
And then the quake ceased.
We have waited long for you, Lost One.
He stood, slowly, and stared at the hundreds of stone creatures, ancient beyond imagining, peering down at him. Their eyes glowed unnaturally. Runic carvings in their stoney-hides thrummed with energy. He could not believe them to be made of stone, for they moved with fluid, snake-like movements. And they had spoken to him.
He dropped to a knee before them, for he felt that it was only right, “Why am I here?”
You have been gone for too long, too long.
He looked up at them, he did not know what they were talking about, “What is this place? Why have you brought me here?”
Suddenly, one of the great creatures lifted its head and howled a mournful cry. And a hundred throats echoed that sorrowed sound.
“Why am I here?” He shouted, trying to be heard over their grieving cries.
Your mind was addled in the escape. When the invaders came, our creators–your people–sent away the young so that they would be spared from the killings.
All across the lands were you spread. Ashes to the wind, scattered to the north, to the south, the east and the west. Far and farther away were you sent.
We were created to stand guard over the ancient city.
But we failed.
We could not hold back the enemy’s raving hordes. In the final moments of the war, we were given new instructions. We were told to bring back their children once it was safe.
So, we went into slumber. For many long years we have waited until the time is right.
Until we could send out the message and bring home the Lost Ones.
Bring home the Lost Ones.
Bring them home.
Flashes of memory, flashes of images, burned into the Wanderer’s eyes. He shook his head, trying to clear it of the images that came unbidden.
Like a flood, his memories rushed to fill the empty voids of his mind.
He could see himself as a boy, playing with his father’s reddish-blonde hair. He could remember the girl in red who had been his first childhood love. He could remember the red of her lips when they had first held each other. He could remember the girl in red who was his first love, and who became his first sorrow. He could remember the fires that had burnt down his home. He could remember the crimson pool which made a bloody halo above his father’s head.
Lost No More.
Suddenly, life–bleary, washed out–snapped back into focus. The ancient guardians looked down at him and suddenly the world had meaning again. Purpose flooded into him, overwhelmed him.
Go into the city, Lost No More.
Go into the city!
The Wanderer stood… No, that was not his name. He would not need that name anymore, for he would wander no longer. He had another name.
Long have we awaited your return!
Go into the city!
Atlas was his name. Atlas.
Save your people.