I let out a breath of relief when I saw a woman step onto the edge of the brook.

“Well met, sister,” the wizard said as she stepped forward and slipped off a lavish robe. I stared, stupidly, as she set her robe along the side and stepped into the creek. Complex rune scars covered her arms and chest, with dozens of symbols woven into an intricate pattern. I could feel them pulse with magic.

I looked up and saw a bemused smile on her face. “I see you are young and likely an apprentice, so I will forgive your lack of courtesy. I am Amberstone, high wizard of the clan of the icy mountains. And you are?”

“Um… apprentice of Starwise, of the tribe near the restless deep,” the words stumbled out of my mouth. I hastily added, “We just got here.”

My face burned, and I scooped up some water cool myself and scrub off more of the grime.

“Well, apprentice, let me give you a lesson that it seems Starwise neglected. Courtesy dictates that you should introduce yourself to other wizards. It helps to avoid confusion and conflict.”

I nodded dully, looking away and scrubbing myself in the water. “Sorry.”

“Do not worry. We will see your true worth tonight, won’t we?” A slight smile carried on her voice.

I nodded again, then stood up and walked toward the bank and my clothes. “I will see you tonight, Amberstone.”

“I look forward to it, apprentice.”

I shook to get most of the water off, then wrung out my hair. I slipped into a light robe and my ceremonial cloak then grabbed my traveling clothes then went back to the fire.

I found Mhorik sitting near the fire. He had stoked it and build it up. A thick smoke was billowing out of it, heavy with the scent of sacred herbs.

“I met Amberstone,” I said as I dropped my clothes next to the bags and sat down near the fire.

Mhorik looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “The master of the convocation?”

Words failed me. She was the master? My face burned again with the shame of having been rude to her.

Mhorik took a look at my worried face and laughed. “Do not worry, she does not offend easily. She is respectful of all wizards.”

I glanced at Mhorik, but he stroked his beard with one of his “I know what you’re thinking” smiles on his face and said nothing. I took a deep, calming breath to settle myself.

“So, when is the presentation?” I finally asked.

“Shortly before sunset. There will be a cry to draw us to the grove. Until then, rest up. You will need your strength.”

I sat and watched people moving around, turning things over in my mind. The fear crept back, pushed by the shame. The afternoon passed while I was lost in my thoughts. It was the cry that shook me out of my stupor, a yell that seemed to come from right next to me, echoing off every surface. I was amazed at the use of magic.

“Let us go,” Mhorik said, using his staff to get to his feet. “It is time for the presentation of the apprentices.”

We walked back to the grove, turning from the main path into a twist of side paths. After a few minutes, we left the canopy and entered a huge clearing.

The sight took my breath away. The clearing was almost large enough to fit an entire village. A stone floor took up most of the space, flat except for a raised part in the middle. A fire burned on the raised area, but it was bright blue in color. A large group of people were already gathered here, and more were entering from other paths along the side.

Then it struck me, these were all wizards. Every single one. My mind reeled.

Mhorik walked down toward the raised center. There were some low wooden benches where we finally sat down. I sat next to him and spent my time looking around, watching people fill the clearing.

A whistle pierced the air, and the murmuring of conversations stopped almost at once. Five people in hooded cloaks, faces obscured, walked from the edge of the clearing. The crowd parted silently, allowing them to travel to the center.

When the five arrived at the center, they took places in front of the fire. The started a low murmur, building in intensity and obvious magic. The fire blazed a brighter shade of blue as they raised their arms to the sky. Finally, they threw back the hoods and turned away from the fire. In the middle, I saw Amberstone.

“Sisters and brothers!” she spoke, her voice amplified by magic. “We gather again for the convocation. We welcome those joining us today, and now we will be introduced to the apprentices.”

One pair got up, an older wizard and her young apprentice. I could barely understand the words, the accent was so thick. After the wizard gave her name, her apprentice turned toward the five robed wizards.

“Apprentice, let us see what you have learned. I see the rune of light on your arm, create a light for us.”

The apprentice’s finger went to the rune scar on her arm. She traced it and a small orb of light appeared before her.

The five murmured their appreciation and the apprentice smiled. The pair walked off the raised center and back to the benches.

Five other pairs went up, did a trick, and went back down. Finally, Mhorik nudged me as we stood up. Fear clawed at me, but I stared intently at Mhorik’s back as I followed him to the center. I would have followed him into a fire if he had lead.

“I am Starwise, wizard of the village near the restless deep. I present, my apprentice.”

My mind went blank, and I simply copied what I had seen the others do. I turned to the five women. Amberstone gave a small smile, but the others looked at me impassively. It was Amberstone who spoke.

“Earlier today, I saw the rune of wind on you. An advanced rune for an apprentice. Let us see your mastery.” She pulled a piece of cloth from somewhere. “Keep this in the air.”

“Oh, but this is the apprentice of the great Starwise!” another of the women said. “Surely she needs more of a challenge.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mhorik turn defensive.

The other woman snatched the cloth from Amberstone’s hand and wove a spell. A splash of water erupted from her hands as she crumpled the cloth into a wad.

“Keep this in the air,” she said as she threw the cloth right at me.

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