The darkness of the deep lake rose up to consume the room whole. The light was void, banished temporarily into oblivion, before re-emerging--depositing the Rambling Man in a different place entirely.
The first room had been a lake. This second, instead of a water-filled depression into the ground, was a flat plan, dusty and barren. A hazy light came from vaguely above, where a sun might normally be, and tiny, crystalline structures of emerald and quartz grew into the shapes of cactus and shrubbery. Idly curious, the Rambling Man meandered over to the nearest emerald construct: a growth like that of a fat but stubby cactus. It looked like a tiny green ball, reflectant but cloudy in the uncertain lighting.
It was such a curious anomaly. It consumed his attention with its geometric shapes and smooth, flat surfaces.
A cactus grown from precious rock. It seemed so precious to him. He longed to touch it, to see if his eyes were deceiving him.
"I wouldn't advise that you touch that," warned a man in his late twenties wearing dusty brown breeches, severed roughly just above the knees, with an open and aged tunic. His brown hair fell in wavy curtains on all sides of his head. Upon his chin he wore a rough stubble.
"Why might that be?" the Rambling Man mused.
"You don't know what might happen."
"All the more reason to find out, don't you think?"
"Can you not leave well enough alone? Must you never be satisfied with things as they are without poking or prodding or experimenting?"
"Is it not human nature to be curious?"
"We are not discussing human nature, in general." The man stepped a step nearer, placing himself on the other side of the emerald cactus. "We are discussing your nature."
"And my nature is to ramble. I am the Rambling Man, am I not? I must know, if I may, and help, where I can."
"And is that not how you got into this whole mess from the beginning? You rambled, poking and prodding where you need not poke or prod. You brought all of this grief not only upon yourself, but upon those around you. You meddled, and caused great suffering both in your land, and in this one."
This gave the Rambling Man pause, and he looked gravely down at the hard-packed dirt before him. The emerald cactus shown back at him, winking in the artificial sunlight eminating from above.
His manner was solemn as he spoke. "Does not our mere existance alone throw stones into the pond of life? If a man were to never meddle, were to never speak to a soul or leave his house or interfere with the lives of any man or woman, than would the people of his village not mark him with all the more regard, thinking his behavior the most queer of all?"
"Upon birth, I believe our lives are thrown irreversably into the ebb and flow of the world, unable to change this, unable to not affect the lives of others and causing all the more effect if we try not to. Thus, is it not our responsibility as people to discover and strive to improve the world for ourselves and those who are impacted by our existance? Is it not our calling as human beings?"
"You certainly do ramble much, Rambling Man." said the man flatly, without a trace of humor in his eyes.
"'Tis my calling."
"And what if your rambling or your meddling should finally cause more harm than good? What if these people you affected, people like the Princess or the Sea Prince, are worse off for your existance?"
"Then..." The Rambling Man stopped, his mouth agape as he thought. His eyes were distant and unseeing. At length, he closed his mouth and shrugged lightly. "Then I shall have tried."
"Perhaps. Failure is always a possibility when one tries."
"Then it is no place of yours to have put the lives of others on the line so that you may 'try' to do the right thing. They would have been better off on their own."
"Perhaps," admitted the Rambling Man. He looked up now, and faced the man squarely in the eyes. "The consequences of our actions may be well or ill, but one thing remains certain: without having tried, we will never have known the outcome, will we?"
And without any hesitation at all, the Rambling Man knelt down and placed his palm firmly upon the emerald cactus.
The man before him drifted away into dust, blowing away on some non-existant wind, and once more the scene around him darkened and changed.
Tests, mused the Rambling Man. Is that all this is? First a test of mind, and then of spirit. What could remain?
When the Rambling Man was once more able to see, the landscape had changed quite dramatically, and he felt a chill in the air that disturbed him profoundly.