The sun was setting when the
The sun was setting when the boy’s heart sounded a danger signal. They were surrounded by gigantic dunes, and the boy looked at the alchemist to see whether he had sensed anything. But he appeared to be unaware of any danger. Five minutes later, the boy saw two horsemen waiting ahead of them. Before he could say anything to the alchemist, the two horsemen had become ten, and then a hundred. And then they were everywhere in the dunes.
They were tribesmen dressed in blue, with black rings surrounding their turbans. Their faces were hidden behind blue veils, with only their eyes showing.
Even from a distance, their eyes conveyed the strength of their souls. And their eyes spoke of death.
* * *
The two were taken to a nearby military camp. A soldier shoved the boy and the alchemist into a tent where the chief was holding a meeting with his staff.
“These are the spies,” said one of the men.
“We’re just travelers,” the alchemist answered.
“You were seen at the enemy camp three days ago. And you were talking with one of the troops there.”
“I’m just a man who wanders the desert and knows the stars,” said the alchemist. “I have no information about troops or about the movement of the tribes. I was simply acting as a guide for my friend here.”
“Who is your friend?” the chief asked.
“An alchemist,” said the alchemist. “He understands the forces of nature. And he wants to show you his extraordinary powers.”
The boy listened quietly. And fearfully.
“What is a foreigner doing here?” asked another of the men.
“He has brought money to give to your tribe,” said the alchemist, before the boy could say a word. And seizing the boy’s bag, the alchemist gave the gold coins to the chief.
The Arab accepted them without a word. There was enough there to buy a lot of weapons.
“What is an alchemist?” he asked, finally.
“It’s a man who understands nature and the world. If he wanted to, he could destroy this camp just with the force of the wind.”
The men laughed. They were used to the ravages of war, and knew that the wind could not deliver them a fatal blow. Yet each felt his heart beat a bit faster. They were men of the desert, and they were fearful of sorcerers.
“I want to see him do it,” said the chief.
“He needs three days,” answered the alchemist. “He is going to transform himself into the wind, just to demonstrate his powers. If he can’t do so, we humbly offer you our lives, for the honor of your tribe.”
“You can’t offer me something that is already mine,” the chief said, arrogantly. But he granted the travelers three days.
The boy was shaking with fear, but the alchemist helped him out of the tent.
“Don’t let them see that you’re afraid,” the alchemist said. “They are brave men, and they despise cowards.”
But the boy couldn’t even speak. He was able to do so only after they had walked through the center of the camp. There was no need to imprison them: the Arabs simply confiscated their horses. So, once again, the world had demonstrated its many languages: the desert only moments ago had been endless and free, and now it was an impenetrable wall.
“You gave them everything I had!” the boy said. “Everything I’ve saved in my entire life!”
“Well, what good would it be to you if you had t6 die?” the alchemist answered. “Your money saved us for three days. It’s not often that money saves a person’s life.”
But the boy was too frightened to listen to words of wisdom. He had no idea how he was going to transform himself into the wind. He wasn’t an alchemist!
The alchemist asked one of the soldiers for some tea, and poured some on the boy’s wrists. A wave of relief washed over him, and the alchemist muttered some words that the boy didn’t understand.
“Don’t give in to your fears,” said the alchemist, in a strangely gentle voice. “If you do, you won’t be able to talk to your heart.”
“But I have no idea how to turn myself into the wind.”
“If a person is living out his destiny, he knows everything he needs to know. There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
“I’m not afraid of failing. It’s just that I don’t know how to turn myself into the wind.”
“Well, you’ll have to learn; your life depends on it.”
“But what if I can’t?”
“Then you’ll die in the midst of trying to realize your destiny. That’s a lot better than dying like millions of other people, who never even knew what their destinies were.
“But don’t worry,” the alchemist continued. “Usually the threat of death makes people a lot more aware of their lives.”