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.
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.