I wrote this a few years ago for a different forum. I thought I might as well post it here as well. Hope you enjoy!
In a place far from here three men, each on a pilgrimage met each other as they were travelling down a forlorn path. Conversation quickly revealed that the three were all desirous of reaching the same destination. One was an old man named Sage who said he had himself carved these paths many years ago. The second man was Simple, a smithy by trade, who often seemed quite pliable. The third man, a young noble named Shrewd, was wise in his own eyes and often desired to forge new paths, even as he imagined Sage had done when he was young.
As the three travelled on for some days, Sage offered direction time and again as he led them through grounds neither of the younger men had seen before. Every time he provided direction, no matter how unlikely it seemed, his word proved to be true and they found themselves to always be headed in the right direction.
Eventually, when the two young men awoke one morning, they found Sage already dressed for travel. He informed them that he had to depart for some time, but that if they followed his directions, he would meet them at the end of their journey. After some days on the path, he said, they would come to a cave. Despite what they saw, no matter how difficult the path through the cave would become, they were to keep going and not give up. This was the only route, he warned, that would take them to the land they desired.
Sure enough, after two days of walking, Simple and Shrewd found themselves at the mouth of a cave. Shrewd took a good long look at the cave, examining it from various perspectives. He warned Simple that caves such as this had been found to be perilous traps before for clueless pilgrims. Simple, however, was convinced that this was the cave he had been told they would find. Seeing that Simple would not be swayed, Sage reluctantly said he too would enter, but that Simple must go first.
As they entered the cave, they found that it travelled only down. Further and further it went, and the air got increasingly frigid. Soon it was totally black and both Simple and Shrewd were in despair for their lives. Looking ahead as far as he could, evaluating the little of the contours of the cave his eyes could discern, Shrewd began to speak:
‘Simple, this is all wrong. Anyone with a half a brain knows that a cave which leads to open land lets in light from both ends. If it is day time outside, and there is a way out of this cave, then we would be able to see light. It makes sense. To follow this path any longer is illogical. We can see that with our eyes. If you insist on staying here anymore, you will have to go it alone, because wisdom advises me to turn around.’
Simple reasoned, ‘The man Sage has never lied to me. He has led me safe this far, and even his words about this cave proved true; the way is difficult. Would it not be more foolish now to turn back, having seen that his counsel has been good thus far?’ And so he spoke to Shrewd, ‘I cannot see the light we both know we should see. But I know the man Sage, and I trust him. I will not turn back.’
So Shrewd and Simple parted ways.
Shrewd quickly, since he was moving towards the light, found his way out. Once out into the forest again, he surveyed the land, checked his compass, and headed off to forge his own path; to take the road less travelled and make his own mark. Not a mile from the cave, as he was looking at his compass, thinking hard about which way made the most sense to him, he happened to walk in between a family of bears, separating a mother from her cubs without even knowing it. He was mawled, and there he died, compass in hand, never having reached his desired land and never having carved the paths he had wanted.
After Shrewd left, Simple continued slowly through the cave. Shortly he had to feel his way along with only his hands as his sight completely failed him in the dark. Several times he hit his head or stubbed his toe, and many times he even began to question whether or not Sage’s words had been correctly spoken–or perhaps they had been misunderstood on his own part? He was, after all, an unlearned man.
But after some time of following the dark, damp, cool walls of the cave, Simple noticed that the wall on his right side disappeared and he realized that he was at a corner. Turning the corner, he caught a glimpse–could it be?–just a glimpse of light ahead. The more he walked toward it, the brighter it got, until he was finally able to walk with ease.
Coming out the other side of the cave he found his old friend, Sage to guide him the rest of the way home to the land of rest he had always desired.