“Well,” she said, “he began his journey, so the story goes, when he was a young man. He was born in the Iberian Peninsula, the great-grandson of a very powerful general. The wanderer left the Peninsula by boat, sailing the Mediterranean until he reached Constantinople. He saw the wonders of the Byzantine Empire and traveled on horseback traveling east. He met with merchants who spoke of the Silk Road, a passage to China. He embarked on his expedition traveling as a lone wanderer, at times he teamed up with traders on small caravans. Sometimes traveling on foot, he hiked up steep mountain paths and grew stronger by the day.

The scenery was stunning. Brilliant blue-green lakes surrounded by snow-capped mountains. He feasted his eyes on sand dunes that stretched as far as the eye could see and marveled at the low humming of the wind as it blew over it. He enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow travelers on the road, some dropping off and others coming on as they moved through small towns. He made his way through the great Taklamakan Desert by boat through rivers and white water. He spoke of harrowing rapids where his small craft nearly capsized. He floated east at a vigorous pace, accomplished the great distance by rivers and narrower tributaries on the Northern Silk Road route and eventually made his way east near our capital city.

“He arrived on horseback after traveling from village to village making friends and collecting knowledge along the way. In exchange for food he would sometimes help till the land of a farmer or assist with odd jobs.”

The Emperor was transfixed. “Please continue,” said he to Lady Feiyan.

“What adventures the wanderer had, traveling as he did through different countries! He traveled from oasis to oasis where towns flourished. He told a story about an incident where a small group he traveled with heard merchants behind them screaming as they ran down a slope. The wanderer who was ahead of them zigzagged to his right rather than rushing to the plains below as a landslide of huge rocks came crashing. A small earthquake had shaken the ground and loosened boulders at the top of a mountain. Dust rose everywhere, but the wanderer was the only one who escaped unharmed. His instincts were sharp. In countless instances where anyone else would have met with robbery or death, he could literally smell danger before its onset. He had a sharpened sixth sense.

“Somewhere along the way he boarded with an old sage,” continued Lady Feiyan. “The old master showed him how to meditate, how to levitate, how to treat injuries of the soul through prayer, and other spiritual practices. The villagers say the old master he studied with is a great soul who came from Persia and is known as the Blue-Eyed Barbarian.”

“Yes, I have heard stories about the Barbarian. He’s either from India or Persia and I wish to know everything he teaches. Anything more?” queried the Emperor with bated breath. He was captivated by the description of this foreigner and his adventurous journey.

“This wanderer is an exceptional seer, they say, and has the ability to actually see very clearly into the future and know the past,” reported Lady Feiyan. “He sees and knows more accurately than the best clairvoyants on the Chinese continent. I should think he is more talented than your Sorceress. His reputation is huge, and he has gathered quite a following of admirers. Because he has lived on our continent for a number of years, he speaks several Chinese dialects.”

“Summon him immediately!” shouted the Emperor. “The Sorceress has gone away,” the Emperor sighed, “I need a seer by my side and he sounds perfect!”

Of late, the Emperor had been obsessing over the Elixir said to grant eternal life. He was sure the wanderer if he were truly as gifted as rumored, would be able to tell him if it existed and, if so, where to find it. The ruler had amassed so much in the way of boats, buildings, jewels and riches that he decided it would be a shame to let all of it slip from his hands.

“Get the wanderer straightaway!” the Emperor commanded.

Within a few days, three of his soldiers appeared on horseback with the foreign man in question. They had apprehended him, wound a tight knot with a leather cord around his hands which had caused minor lacerations on his wrists, and brought him to the palace. He was bronzed as would be expected from his history of travels and his vagabond life. His beard was thick with strands of gray, and his hair, also graying, was tied up in a topknot. Both beard and mustache were in need of trimming. His dark eyes were deep set with permanent lines on the outer edges. He stood in stark contrast to the impeccably dressed Emperor in his imperial yellow robes flanked by his gleaming courtiers, pale skinned, waxen and looking younger than their years.

The wanderer was dressed in a long garment with flowing sleeves showing that he had adopted the local dress. Deep lines were carved on his weathered cheeks. He had eaten and slept erratically, lodging in squalid conditions. He looked like a man in his late sixties although he was a good twenty years younger than that. Most people lived to their mid-fifties. Rarely were people older than that. Living to a ripe old age of seventy or eighty was a sign of good karma.

“I did not tell you to make a prisoner of him!” yelled the Emperor. He wanted to be in the good graces of this foreigner, but his soldiers had treated him harshly and with disrespect.

The soldiers jumped from their horses, untied the prisoner’s wrists and bowed quickly to him. They then bent down on their knees and lowered their heads to the Emperor. The foreigner also bowed but appeared oddly calm  and unfazed by the rough treatment he was made to suffer. He had no complaints or harsh words. He simply brushed off the dust from his vest that was draped over his garment and broke into a smile.

The Emperor was relieved and with open arms said, “Come, come, let me show you my palace.”

Together they climbed several stone steps to the ornate entrance where, upon entering the palace, the Emperor loudly clapped his hands and ordered his servants to show the guest to plush chambers where he could bathe. In time, servants streamed in with pheasant cooked to perfection dripping with the juice of fine spices, wheat noodles in exotic soups with local wild greens, sweetened lychee fruits marinated in malt sugar, and wine in a tall straw-glazed ceramic jar. The foreigner was pleased and gave a hearty laugh as he partook of the feast.

The next day, the Emperor, after ensuring that the foreigner had had a good rest, requested a private audience with him in one of the palace meeting rooms. “What do you know about me?” challenged the Emperor, “and be completely honest.”

The wanderer leaned back on his chaise and bobbed his head side to side as he produced an amulet from his pocket which he rotated in his left hand. He rubbed the stone between his thumb and index finger as he peered at the Emperor.  The stone had been given to him by a famous diviner a few years back and rubbing it in this way enhanced his sight.

The wanderer said, “You were born a kind person with a big heart, but you lost your way. Your mother was a beautiful spirit who guided you to the best of her abilities. She was extremely gifted and loved by all. You betrayed your mother’s love and in fact, you were responsible for your father’s…..”

“Stop!” screeched the Emperor. “No more, no more, no more. That is enough.”

“I am sorry,” said the foreigner, “I didn’t mean to upset you, but you asked me to speak the truth. If you would like me to withhold some facts…”

“I have no more need to test your powers of sight. I know now you are all that the people say you are. I appoint you my Court Magician. You are too valuable to let go. You may have anything in my power to give you as long as you serve me,” said the Emperor to which the foreigner bowed and agreed. The wanderer knew he could not be tied to anything if he did not wish to be tied. In this instance he knew he had a deep karma with the Emperor, not knowing any details, he knew he was obliged to accept.

Fate had brought them together and the Court Magician was struck by an obligation to assist in the Emperor’s spiritual development. “I accept this place in your Court to serve you as you wish, but I am assigning myself as your mentor, dear Emperor,” the newly installed Court Magician stated confidently. “You have had no one to help you see from another perspective since the departure of your Monk friend. It is important for each of us to have a friend who is not afraid to offer differing views to us at all times. The world is vast and wide, and we must be able to see it from many points of view.”

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