That final night in the village, my sleep was filled with strange dreams. Rocks that talked, animals that followed us in the distance, trees that blocked our path. I didn’t know what it it all meant, except that I was tired that morning as we set off. I trudged on down the path with Mhorik, looking forward the adventure.

We walked along the coast early that morning. Only a bit of light showed over the mountains in those early hours as the sun began its slow flight across the sky. The light grew around us as we walked. Some of the morning birds began to sing in response to the sunlight, and that helped put a spring back in my step.

“How many birds are around us?” Mhorik asked, breaking our mutual silence.

“Uh,” I stammered, “I don’t know.”

“How could you figure it out?”

I thought for a while while walking, considering magical and mundane ways to do it. Suddenly, I had an idea.

“A counting spell!” I said, triumphantly.

“Good. Try it, but don’t stop walking.”

I took a steady breath and concentrated as I kept going, reaching out with my mind while tracing the scar-rune of counting on my arm and reciting a syllable for birds quietly to myself. I found I couldn’t sense very far, and couldn’t precisely detect the nearby birds.

“I can’t reach very far.”

“And why not?”

“Don’t know. Harder to concentrate while walking,” I said, with a bit of frustration edging into my voice.

“Remember, the more specific you are, the easier crafting magic is.”

“But, I do not know what types of birds are around.”

“Well, what distinguishes a bird from other things around?”

“Uh, feathers?” I guessed.

“Yes, but how many feathers on each bird?”

“Oh.” Then, I had it, “Beaks!”

“Try the spell again, but count beaks.”

I trace the scar-rune again, I reach out my mind while repeating the syllable for beaks, and I find my reach extended.

“Fifteen within sight of us,” I report.

“Good. You learned to cast spells better already on this trip.”

We continued walking into the evening and Mhorik took time to point out interesting plants and animals from the area that I had not seen before. I learned the plants both by sight and by smell. We talked about magic and he gave me a few more lessons. That night we set up camp. I was worn out from the constant walking and slept soundly, as I would for the next several nights.

We were breaking camp on the fifth day after leaving the village when my curiosity got the better of me. “Mhorik?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you… why are you male?” I blurted out, realizing how stupid that sounded only after I had said it.

Mhorik looked at me, then laughed. “You mean, why am I a wizard, despite being male?”

My cheeks burned hot and I nodded. “You said it’s mostly females who are wizards.”

He finished throwing dirt on the fire and got up. “Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean all wizards are female. Some males show some talent with magic. Just few of them become wizards of a village.”

“So, why are you a wizard of our village?”

“Simple reason: no female my age showed any sign of power. Usually that’s a very dire sign for a village, as being without a wizard means not having access to magic. The previous wizard trained me as her apprentice. I wouldn’t say she hated me, but I think she was not as happy with me as she would have been with a female apprentice. I was the last wizard in the village.”

We walked on a bit in silence. “But, you are a powerful wizard, Mhorik!”

“Well, I’m a capable wizard. But, there are others that are more powerful. You’ll meet some of them.”

“Do the other wizards accept you?”

“Some do, some don’t. Some think it’s a mockery that a male should be treated as a wizard, others think males cannot control magic as well as females can. Many do give me the respect due to a wizard, though.”

I felt that he was not telling me the full story.


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