There is a monster in the mountain. Everyone knows this who knows anything at all in the village. Sometimes the monster speaks, and the world shudders. Rarely, the monster screams and the stars themselves take new shapes. The village survives, though no one in it knows why. Sometimes kings come, and armies that fly with steel that sings, but the monster merely looks and they are unravelled and unmade.
The stranger came to the village in a year worse than others. Most crops had failed, and the stranger walked and listened to stories. He carried something within him that drew stories from others. After, he nodded and walked toward the mountain.
The locals have no records of what happened next.
The monster emerges from the cave. He is twelve. He looks human, even now. “That is not my name.”
“Devourerer. Entropos. The Walking Emptiness. Those are the names I hear, when I ask of you.”
“My name is Jayseltosche.” the monster hisses.
“You are not worthy of it.”
The monster raises a hand, then slowly lowers it. He swears in a language extinct for many years.
“You can try again, but you have to know it won’t work. My skill in this is far more than your own. And know this as well: if we fight, the village at the base of the mountains will be gone.”
“It is under my protection,” the monster says, voice not at all empty.
“There has not been a child born to the village in five years. Every year since you arrived, their crops have lessened with each year that passed.”
“Don’t you dare talk to me like that!”
“In a tone of truth? I will if that is what I have to say. This place did not ask for your protection. Not to be some sort of point you could make to yourself.”
The monster stiffens, says nothing.
“We could fight. You can’t win, but we could fight. At the least, the local galaxy would not survive the result.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because you can’t keep hiding. You have to move, to be in order that you may become.”
“And if I do not?”
The stranger sighs. “I can force your hand, monster.”
“You are not that much older than me.”
“No, no I am not. But I was you once. And I am older, and I can be nastier than you’ve ever dreamt of being.”
The monster laughs. The sound is harsh, wild and fractured. Had any birds in the world survived his gaze to the sky, the laugh would have killed them all. There are no insects left, after the laugh. “Try me. Older me, older Jay who isn’t any more jaysome than I. Try!”
The stranger sighs. “You should know what springs forth when I try.”
The monster hurls power then. The mountain screams, unmade and remade between moments. The village rocks visibly like a drop of rain in a wild ocean. The villages cry out, huddling together as if their fur can somehow warm them against a cold that knows nothing of kindness.
The stranger does not move. His voice carries, because he is fifteen and remembers being twelve. Because he is older in so many ways than his younger self. But even so, he almost hesitates before he speaks: “He knows. He sees, he watches, and he knows.”
The monster turns a colour even ghosts cannot manage. He flinches visibly, and only terrified madness stares from his eyes. He vanishes.
“Well. At least he’s left the mountain.” The stranger sighs, begins restoring bindings to the world. “Sometimes, just sometimes, I almost wish I couldn’t move through time.”
No one responds, and the stranger seems to be alone.
This is probably for the best.