Archive for May, 2014

In the gloom of the setting sun, I panicked. I started running through the trees toward my only hope, toward the dying light of the sun. I stumbled out of the trees into a flat, sandy area. The restless deep stretched out before me.

The sea! It had been so long since I had seen it. I stood there in the fading light, inhaling that familiar scent and listening to the crash of the waves against the shore. I realized that I was very close to home. I walked along the beach as the sun set, and in the distance I saw the village’s fire. I continued on toward that beacon.

Dark shapes moved around the fire, villagers keeping a vigil and maintaining the fire. One stopped and started to wave, probably a hunter with keen eyesight able to see me even in this dim light. Half a dozen other figures were near the fire, all watching me.

As I got closer, I noticed that they weren’t waiting to welcome me. Spears were at hand. I became worried until one called out my name.

“Dorua!”

One of the figures ran down the slope with nothing in his hands. I got a brief glimpse of his face before he swept me into a giant embrace.

“Balar,” I managed to say before the wind was knocked out of me. He put his arm around me and lead me back to the fire. The others circled us, asking questions.

“Dorua, you are alone! Where is Mhorik?”

Wounds I had been working to close were ripped open again. I would have to repeat the story. But, I was too tired tonight.

“Later. I will tell the story tomorrow. I am weary and would like to rest tonight.” I leaned heavily on the staff.

There was murmuring, but nobody spoke against me. Balar put his arm around me again and helped me to the sacred hut.

I was pleasantly surprised by Balar’s behavior. After he avoided me when I was leaving, I was worried he would forget about me. To be honest, I had not thought about him very often when I traveling. But, now he was personally helping me. At one time I would have fallen in love right then, but now… wounds were still too fresh.

I said goodnight to Balar and went into the hut. I dropped the pack on the ground, got out the sleeping furs, and basically fell asleep as soon as they were spread out.

I awoke the next morning in a bad mood. My mouth tasted of dust, and dirt was caked all over my clothes and skin. I stripped out of my travel robes and put on a light shift. I went out to the sea and washed off the grime and let the cool water wake me up and purify me. Back to at the hut, I dried off and found a heavy ceremonial robe. After dressing, I grabbed the staff and walked out toward the the village fire.

I found a few villagers guarding the fire. The stood up to meet me as I approached.

“Tell the village that I will tell Mhorik’s story when the sun is at the peak of the sky.”

The guards nodded and wandered off. I sat on a nearby stone, and looked at the fire. With my sight, I could see part of Mhorik in the fire, a portion of his power still protecting the village. I remembered the tablet Mhorik carried, and a crazy thought crossed my mind.

I took the pouch of ashes out and laid it on the stone. Carefully, I coaxed the power out of the fire, and put it into the pouch. A bit of concentration, and I found the power remained there. I now had a definite reminder of Mhorik’s power I could carry with me.

I sat near the fire, and watched the village come to life. I saw people go through their daily routines. Some gathered food, some prepared food, others took care of children or the infirm. It was the old village I had remembered, but it was changed. No, I had changed.

As the sun approached the top of the sky, people came to the fire and sat down. When most had gathered, I stood up, and stamped the staff on the ground three times. I wove a wisp of magic into it and into my words as I remembered Mhork doing so long ago.

“Friends, it is good to see you again.” I looked out in the crowd and spotted some of the people I knew. I smiled at Sama, and saw Balar sitting next to her. “I have traveled far to the convocation, and I have seen many wonderful things.” I took a deep breath, preparing myself.

“But, I bear sad news. Our friend Mhorik has fallen. Wizards at the convocation cast a spell at him that destroyed him.”

A gasp arose out of the audience, and there was murmuring. I stamped the staff on the ground again, giving it a bit more magic to emphasize the sound.

“Mhorik may be gone, but he is not forgotten. Thought his teachings, I have become a Wizard. I bear his staff, a sign of his faith in me.”

The noise of the crowd died down, and all eyes were on me.

“I swear to you, I will protect this village. Yes, we have enemies, but we also have friends. I have met spirits of the forest. I have met the rock men of the mountains. I have met kind wizards from far away who now live in our lands. I have met animals that walk and speak like we do.”

There were quiet murmurs.

“My friends, will you accept me as your wizard?”

A thunderous noise erupted from the crowd. A group of people surged forward and lifted me up. “Dorua!” came the shouts from around me.

I held tight to the staff in one hand, and gripped the pouch of ashes in the other. I knew Mhorik would still be proud of me.

My mind raced as I noticed the missing magic. Looking around, I started to recognize the area and I realized that my feet had carried me back near the village of the Lelra.

“You are alone, apprentice Dorua,” a Lelra voice whispered behind me. The presence I had sensed, but could not see.

“I am no longer an apprentice, ” I said, steadying racing pulse. “And I have news for the matron.”

I turned and saw what looked like one of the two Lelra who had first found Mhorik and me, but I wasn’t certain. I never even learned their names.

His pale green eyes looked into mine and a frown perturbed his serene face. “I see. I fear I know the news, and I will take you to the matron. She will want to hear.”

He walked past me, and I followed. This time, I was able to see the path he was taking. I was still surprised when we came to the village, as the buildings were still not easy to pick out. My guide lead me to the doorway I recognized from what seemed like forever ago, and we entered the large room with walls made of plants.

The Matron sat on her chair, looking down, but something was different. Her color had perhaps faded. The green of her hair seemed to have a bit of brown mixed in.

“Dorua,” the matron called as I entered. She stood up from the grand chair and walked toward me. “You come to tell me the news I have already heard from the wind.”

“Mhorik is dead,” I said flatly, delivering the news.

She fell to the ground as if a blow had struck her. Attendants rushed to her, but she raised her hand and waved them away. “I had known and I did not want to believe. But now you are here with his staff and show me the truth. It is true, he has left further than our ancestors.”

I took a few steps forward and lowered myself to the floor. I set the staff between us.

The matron reached out and laid her hand on the smooth wood of the staff. “He was a beautiful soul. Bold and kind in the way that only you wizards can be.”

She looked up and our eyes met. “You are the same.”

Again, people compare me to him. I looked away, emotion threatening to overwhelm me. I could only nod.

The matron stood up, then offered me her hand. I grasped it, and she helped me to my feet.

“I would ask you to stay with me, but you have a village to protect. I only ask one thing: stay here for the night, so that we may remember Mhorik together.”

I smiled and nodded. “I would like that.”

The matron sent others off to prepare a feast for that night. We sat and told stories. She told me her version of the story about how she had met Mhorik, young and brash and disturbing the careful balance. As she talked, others entered the hall and listened. Some told stories of when Mhorik stayed, about how the wizard taught them the value of learning form outsiders.

I showed everyone the pouch of ashes, and after a deep breath, told he story about how Mhorik had found me that night when the forest burned. I felt ashamed as I finished my story, telling of the destruction of a forest in a place of such beautiful nature.

“He was wise to see the promise in you,” the matron said as we were served slices of a sweet fruit. “You have power, and he taught you to control it.”

“I feel I have more to learn yet,” I said quietly. “But, now I have no teacher.”

“The wisest of us realize that we never stop learning. And, that we can learn even without a teacher. Now you have that wisdom for yourself.”

We spent the rest of the evening talking about Mhorik, remembering his life. As more people told stories, I realized how many lives he had touched in his life.

I slept well that night, for the first time in what seemed like a long time. The soothing food, the comfortable environment, and pleasant memories of Mhorik lulled me into peaceful sleep.

The next morning, I found some of the sweet fruits and some bladders of the sweet water waiting nearby. An attendant ran off as soon as I stirred, and the matron arrived to greet me soon after.

“It was pleasant seeing you again. I appreciate that you told me the news.”

“You seemed to like him.”

“Very much so. And I like you as well. If you should need anything, know you have friends here.”

“Thank you.”

“Please, take these items on your journey. I wish we could spend many more nights telling stories, but you have responsibilities.”

I nodded and gathered up the supplies. “I appreciate this. I appreciate our friendship.”

The matron smiled. She summoned a Lelra over and spoke with him quickly. “He will guide you along the way out of our village. I hope the wind carries you back soon.”

“I hope so, too. Farewell.”

I walked out of the hall and through the village. I could spot more of the buildings and doorways now. I waved to the people I saw, and many waved back. My guide lead me out of the village and through the woods on a faint path. I was lost in thought, and the guide didn’t say much until he turned, said something and left. I watched him leave and continued on my way, still lost in thought about all that had happened to me on my trip.

The day I walked almost by instinct, still wrapped up in my own head. I should have found the river that we followed to get toward the sea, but I had been too preoccupied with my own thoughts.

The sun was low in the sky when I stopped to rest. But, as I looked around terror gripped me: I had no idea where I was.

I swallowed hard as I asked Carves-the-Foundation, “What is your news?”

“I must return to the caves. I have received a message that I am needed.”

I exhaled and nodded. “I understand.”

“It has been a joy to travel with you and to help Mhorik find peace. I wish I could have known him as well.” Carves-the-Foundatinon’s face showed a sad expression.

I put my hand on his shoulder and smiled. “The very best part of this trip home has been your companionship. I hope we will meet each other again.”

“I would like that, too.”

I gathered my gear together, packing it together tightly. Young ones sniffed around, curious about my actions. When I was ready, I turned to the pack as a whole and gave a bow.

“Sad to see stories leaving,” Lookout said as he approached. “Many wishes for safe feet on travels.”

“Thank you,” I said, fighting back the lump in my throat. “I will cherish your kindness.”

I couldn’t resist making one last bit of magic to show off. I created a miniature image of Lookout, dancing in place as he had the previous night. Nearby members of the pack gathered around, and cries of joy came from all corners.

It was time to leave. I gave Carves-the-Foundation a hug, which seemed to surprise him. “Farewell, my friend.”

“To you, too, wizard Dorua.”

I walked along a thin path. From behind me I could hear the howls and yowls of the pack saying their goodbyes. I stopped once more, turned to wave, then continued on.

The forest was thick around me, and I kept mostly to a barely visible path. I walked for days, setting up small camps to rest at night, but covering as much ground as I could.

I was alone with my thoughts for the first time this trip. I caught myself talking to Mhorik, asking some question out loud before I realized there was nobody there to hear me. I’d gasp, look around slightly embarrassed, and then grip the staff and carry on. I came to realize how much I really missed Mhorik, and I came to realize how lonely being a wizard can be.

I wasn’t sure exactly where I was, but the ground sloped gently downward, away from the mountain and toward the sea and home. I would cast the occasional spell to get my bearings, but I still got turned around a few times.

Late one night I saw a glow up ahead as the night started to fall. The light was too dim to be a village’s fire, so I reasoned it was probably a traveler like me. I approached carefully as to not spook to other person. I let my footsteps fall heavier than normal, and called out when I was almost to the clearing.

“Greetings, traveler. May I share your fire?”

“Oh, welcome!” It was a feminine voice and sounded slightly startled.

“I am the wizard Dorua, from the village near the restless deep.”

I entered the clearing, and a lump formed in my throat. A woman sat in a simple robe with a staff across her lap. She was waving her hands, building up the fire on very little fuel.

She was a wizard.

“Welcome, sister. Forgive me, I am trying to maintain this fire. We are near the supposed home of the tree spirits, so I don’t want to tear down more wood.”

She looked up, and her face showed that she recognized me. I held my breath in anticipation of an attack.

“You! You’re the one who shamed Riversdepth!”

Her face showed a smile, open and without hostility. “Come, sit by the fire. I am pleased to meet such a famous person!”

She wove her hands in the air a few more times, and the fire burned more brightly.

“I thought you were an apprentice? You carry a wizard’s staff.”

“My master, Starwise, was killed. Attacked by other wizards at the convocation and a spell ate at him as we left.”

Her hands flew to her face. “No!” she gasped.

My vision blurred as my eyes started to water, but I gripped the staff. “I burned his body as the ritual requires. I am the village wizard now.”

She sat, unmoving, and looked at me for a few moments, collecting her thoughts. “I am sorry to hear. I knew Starwise, and I am ashamed of those who could not accept him as one of us.”

I exhaled in relief. “I am sorry, I did not hear your name.”

“Oh! I forgot my manners. Apologies, Dorua. I am called Wildfire by some, Katia by others. I knew Starwise, and I know his cousin Moonwind. I live in a village near the sea, on the far side of Moonwind’s village.”

I smiled. “You freely tell me your name? So, you agree with Mhorik that names have no power?”

“Not entirely. Names have some power, but not as much as other wizards fear. I knew you were using your name given at birth, for example.”

I nodded. “I knew Mhorik’s name, and could never land a spell on him.”

“Starwise was a powerful wizard. Although, I sense some of that same power in you.”

I felt a slight smile form on my face. “Thank you.”

“Starwise was a good man. No, a good wizard. I remember visiting Moonwind and seeing him there often. Moonwind was always a lazy teacher, but Starwise taught me the real lessons that helped me. And, he taught me about the hidden pictures in the skies.”

It was a great gift to find an old friend of Mhorik. I asked her to tell me more about him, and learned many things about him. I would tend the fire, and she became very animated, sharing stories about her childhood and learning magic. I shared a few stories of my own.

It became late, and we slept soundly next to the fire. In the morning, I got up and prepared some food from my pack that Wildfire ate eagerly.

“You are a better cook than he ever was!” She laughed as she enjoyed the meal.

We broke camp and walked together a little while longer.

“We should travel together!” Wildfire offered.

“As much as I would love that, I have another matter to attend to. You said the tree spirits live nearby?”

“Yes.”

“I know the Lelra, as did Mhorik. I should tell them of his passing.”

Her face showed surprise. I guess I told her yet another thing about Mhorik she didn’t already know.

“I understand. It was a blessing to meet you, Dorua. I will come to visit you sometime.”

“I would like that.”

She grabbed me and hugged me tight. She took a step back and looked at me, smiled, then walked off without another word. She turned and waved, and I waved back.

I started walking with no particular goal in mind. But, after a few minutes it hit me like a punch in the stomach. The tears started, and I crumpled over to the ground. I didn’t realize how much I could miss Mhorik until now. I just sat there, blubbering and sobbing, missing my teacher. Missing my best friend.

Afterwards, I sat there exhausted. I wiped my eyes and nose with the sleeve of my robe.

My mind sprang to attention when I felt like I was being watched. I looked around, but couldn’t see anyone.

Did Wildfire return? I reached out for magic to cast a spell, but found… nothing.

Carves-the-Foundation made a noise like grinding rocks while moving forward to meet the beast.

“Oh, rock one. Regret my actions,” the beast said in a frighteningly clear voice.

“This wizard is with me. No quarrel?”

“Yes I see a lightning eater.”

“Yes, and a friend. No quarrel?”

The beast stepped forward. I saw a lithe body covered in dark fur with a wolfen head on top. Standing upright, the creature towered over me. It’s gold eyes shined in the gloom of the dusk as it looked me over. I felt a quaver of fear under its gaze.

“No quarrel, rock one. This one Lookout.”

“I am Carves-the-Foundation, and the wizard is called Dorua.”

The beast dropped to all fours, moving low to the ground and looking up at Carves-the-Foundation.

“I hear the old one. Elders howled it before me.”

“Thank you.” Carves-the-Foundation said. I didn’t understand what had just happened.

“Take to pack?” the creature asked in a low voice.

“Yes, it has been too long. Please lead us, Lookout.”

Carves-the-Foundation motioned to me, and I followed. “What is going on?” I asked in a low voice as I got close.

“No need to whisper, he can hear easily.”

“Oh.”

“This is one of what we call the speaking creatures. This one can speak your language, which is rare.”

“They have their own language?”

“Yes. They are ancient friends with the Korodan, and we have talked to them many times in the past. I mentioned them before.”

I thought for a moment. “You fought an ancient enemy together.”

“You were listening to my stories!”

“A good wizard learns as much as she can.”

“The speaking creatures have shorter lives than we do, but they pass down stories about us so that they remember us when we visit.”

“He called you an old one?”

“Yes…”

“How old are you?”

Carves-the-Foundation looked up at the sky.

“My name in your language is Carves-the-Foundation. Do you know what that means?”

“The foundation is the bottom of something?”

“Yes, the foundation is the first thing.”

“The first….?”

“Nobody knows for sure. I was there when we first fought the green enemies of the speaking creatures many of your lifetimes ago.”

I fell into a stunned silence. Is this what it is like to talk to the first person who ever existed? What would it be like to have such a long life like that? I was in awe of my new-found friend.

We entered an empty clearing and the speaking creature stopped. He let out a series of three, short barks and the area exploded with motion. From under bushes, out of trees, through the grasses, and even seemingly appearing up out of the ground a whole group of creatures appeared. Some were wolfen, but there were a myriad of other types, too. They seemed to be clustered into similar groups; cat-like over here, other wolfen ones over there, and a few I couldn’t even try to recognize over in the back. They started barking, yelping, and howling all at once. These sounds must have been their own language.

A few of the speaking creatures came over and bowed low to the ground in front of Carves-the-Foundation. A few came up to me, particularly the smaller and younger ones, sniffing me and poking at my clothing with interest.

The first creature we met, Lookout, came over to me. “You have name Dorua?”

I tried to give my friendliest smile, despite the slight feeling of dread I had. “Yes. You are the lookout?”

“Yes, have name Lookout. You are lightning eater?”

“You mean… do I have magic? Yes.”

“Please, show the pack?”

I almost called out to Mhorik, then I realized that I was the wizard now. I grasped the pouch of ashes I was carrying, and found the courage to continue on.

“Yes. Have everyone move back.”

Lookout turned to the crowd and gave a short yowl. A few barks and wave of his arms and the group moved back to the edges of the clearing.

I took a deep breath. It was almost completely dark now, so I started small. I summoned a small gout of fire, and a spark of light. I had them move in a slow pattern, growing in intensity. There were animal sounds from all around the clearing. I heard small feet scamper and bushes rustle. I moved the lights lazily, slowly building up.

I then drew pictures in the air with the light and the fire, mostly to see if I could. I created an image of myself in crude form and made it wave. I formed a scene of my village, with waves of the sea lapping up against the shore. I drew images of the friends I had made along the way: Calvis, Cloud’s Reflection and his son, and Carves-the-Foundation. I drew an image of a bearded figure at the end, but I couldn’t bring myself to draw his details. With that, I snuffed out the flames and it all fell into darkness.

The night erupted into howls and calls. Many surged toward me, and I felt and smelled their breath upon me. The reached out to touch me and nuzzle me. Although I couldn’t see anything, I felt a strange sense of comfort as the speaking creatures surrounded me.

“The pack seen what beauty!” I heard Lookout speak to me nearby. “All impressed.”

The celebration when on for quite a while. I created a small bit of light and saw the animals capering and dancing all around.

But, it was too much for me. Exhausted, I fell asleep where I was when the activity calmed down. I awoke the next morning part of a pile of bodies. Some were stirring, and I took the opportunity to free myself.

Someone offered me a bit of raw meat, but I politely declined and got a bit of food out from my pack. Carves-the-Foundation saw me and came over.

“That was truly beautiful last night.”

“I think the pack approved.”

I heard the low rumbling laughter. “Yes, I have never seen these speaking creatures so excited.”

I chewed on my breakfast a bit more, taking in the scene. Feeling a bit of pride in my show from last night.

“Dorua,” Carves-the-Foundation said as I was eating, “I have some sad news.”