They first saw her as they rounded a bend in the path. A small, still figure sitting beside an equally small, still pool of water. She made no move or gave any indication of hearing them approach.

Hesitating, they scanned the area for hazards, remembering tales from childhood, stories of a woman who lived at the edge of the dark Forest. A strange woman who was said to prefer the company of animals and trees to that of other humans.

She raised her head from contemplation of the water’s surface and turned to study the travelers. Frowning slightly, she said, “So. You’ve come at last.”

The travelers glanced at each other before one replied. A slight man with thinning gray hair and large spectacles, he cleared his throat before replying, “We’ve come from the Wisdom Council. They want to hold a class, you see, to Befr-“

“I know full well who you are and from whence you hail. I know why you think you are here and what you’ve really come for, that which you yourself have not yet realized.” Standing, she dusted her trousers before studying the group. “You think you are here because the Wisdom Council realized specific knowledge and experience are needed in the Quest to befriend the dragon. You think you have come because the Council sent you to ask that I serve as your guide into the Forest. But,” she inhaled deeply and straightened her back before continuing, “you are here for much more than that.”

She turned her focus to the man who had first spoken. “You,” she pronounced, “Are the Academician, a Coach who lives more in the world of theory than application.”

The Academician raised a hand in protest and opened his mouth to speak, only to be cut short.

Impatiently, she dismissed him with a curt wave of her hand and continued, “I didn’t say it was a bad thing. We need theory. But you need to beware of the seduction of theory that keeps you locked in the safety of intellect. In truth, you believe the Dragon has no place in coaching, but you are bowing to the inevitable and intend to see what new theories you can generate and publish as a result of this Quest.”

She shook her head and snorted, “With your mindset, the Dragon will eat you for lunch and you will be too busy cataloguing the contents of its stomach to realize what has happened. This is just another study to you, but it could be an adventure.” She paused then said, “Yes, you will get experience and knowledge from this Quest, but to know the Dragon will require more than that. The Dragon will demand a new perspective.”

Abruptly, she turned her gaze to the next of the travelers. A younger woman, tall, muscled, wearing armor and bristling with weapons, greeted her gaze and grinned a challenge. “Tell, me, Sage. What do you know about me?”

The Sage pierced the female Warrior with a steely look, then said, “You are not ready to know all I see about you, Child. But this will I share: You are strong, that much is obvious. You wade into battle beside your clients; indeed, you excel at battle and at overcoming desperate odds. They call you the Turn-Around Queen in small business circles. You appear tireless and fearless, and you want to believe you can conquer the Dragon, because deep down, the Dragon – and what it represents – mystifies you. And you do not like being mystified.”

“In fact,” the Sage softened her voice and leaned closer to the Warrior Coach, “being mystified scares the snot out of you.”

The Warrior froze in place, easy confidence replace by wary stillness, the hint of a question beginning to form on her face.

Heedless of the Warrior’s reaction, the Sage moved to the 3rd traveler and looked up. And up and up, into the face of the young giant standing before her. With shoulders wider than the Sage was tall, he – and his oiled biceps – gleamed with abundant health and energy. He bounced on the balls of his feet with good natured restlessness and smiled at the older woman, half his size. “Yes’m,” he sighed, “go ahead and slice and dice me, too. Might as well get it over with.”

To everyone’s amazement, the Sage chuckled. “You are the Performance Expert, also known as P. E. You have a sweet heart but it gets lost in your rigid beliefs that doing the right things in the right way is all that’s needed for your clients to excel. And,” she chuckled again, “in this you are correct, but – and this is a big, big but – you overlook some of the most crucial ‘right things.’ The Dragon holds answers to questions you’ve not yet learned to ask.”

P.E. inhaled slowly and cocked his head as he considered the Sage’s words. Without waiting for a reply, again the Sage moved on.

She paused only briefly, studying the fourth and final member of the travelers’ company. A short woman cloaked in a flowing robe, mature yet somehow ageless, met her gaze levelly. The moment stretched as the two stood, almost nose to nose, staring into each other’s eyes. The rest of the company grew fidgety in the waiting.

Finally, the Sage spoke. “For you, Sister Light, I fear, this Quest may be the hardest, not because of the trials of travel, but because you believe down to your toes that you have already met the Dragon and know it. You are one who seeks to connect people with their Soul’s calling, yet, you believe anything can be achieved with sufficient Light. What you fail to realize is this: Life is messy and messiness is not a sign of failure. It is essential. Like the Warrior, you attempt to subdue or even drive out the Dragon, but you simply use Light as your weapon of choice. You want to defeat the uncertainties of life, but Sister – know this: Your path will force you through uncertainties as the way to the Dragon’s treasure for you, and for those you serve.”

P.E. looked at the Warrior and muttered, “How much trouble, you said, could one old woman be? Just grab her and hit the trail, you said.” He rubbed the back of his neck and hunched his shoulders.

The Sage abruptly wheeled and strode away from  the group, but not before rapping P.E. on the shins with her walking stick. Over her shoulder she called, “Are you coming, or not? We have a date with a Dragon.” And she disappeared into the Forest.

** ** ** *

If you’re curious about the date with the Dragon, stay tuned. And join us on Tuesday, April 2 for the first (no-cost) class in this series, Befriending the Dragon.