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.”
“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.