Letter from the Traveler VI: The Sanctuary of Hidalgo
I left Maria Delorda’s home as quickly as I could. I had already imposed on her a great deal and hoped not to increase my burden for a further length of time. When I asked what I could do in return for the care she took towards me in my sickness, she asked only if I had written of her in my letters home. Confused and hoping not to anger her, I replied that I had written of her by name. She nodded then and answered that it would be payment enough. Not understanding, I implored for some additional means of assisting her—some other form of payment I could give. Dear reader, I felt greatly indebted to her. She asked me if I thought I was the first wayward traveler she’d nurtured back to health. I replied that no, I did not think that. And that was the end of it.
Before I left, Maria Delorda confirmed a suspicion I already had: that I was not yet entirely well. Out of the danger I once had been in, yes. But I could claim no sincere health. I had noticed slight peculiarities in my person: a taste of salt perpetually about my lips, a weakness of eyesight, and a twitch to my hands when I sat down to write. Undoubtedly, I was not well. There was little more she could do to help me in my recovery. Of this she was certain. She told me of a place I must go to recover entirely from The Seclusion—a place known as The Sanctuary of Hidalgo.
Hidalgo, she explained, was a natural rock formation that appeared as a short human figure sitting on his knees with his face turned up towards the sky. Hidalgo had appeared over 300 years ago near a natural hot spring. The twin brother and sister who had discovered the form recognized its healing aspects, and christened him ‘Hidalgo.’ The Sanctuary was always open, but only those who truly required their services for treatment were admitted.
Towards the Sanctuary at Hidalgo I traveled for three days. I won’t write of the journey to this place, as it was largely uneventful. After all, I have much stranger things to tell.
When the landscape changed once again to verdant forest, I quickly reached an age-old stone path that wound up the mountainside and was hugged on either side by dense foliage. Up this path I went. I was careful, for Maria Delorda had warned me to disturb the greenery as little as possible. I noticed many mockingbirds flying between the trees above my head. They seemed to watch me as I continued along.
Although the path was steep, I thought that it wasn’t as taxing as it ought to have been. I found myself neither sweating, nor needing rest. The air was clean, crisp, and almost soft about me. I could hear water running against rock somewhere in the distance. This, coupled with the sounds of the birds, gave me a lightness of mind that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I soon reached the end of the path, near the peak of the mountain. Here, Hidalgo stood sandwiched between two large rocks at the edge of a pool of water. Steam was rising from the waters, rolling over the rocks, and obscuring a small bridge. Everything was still.