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The Ways of Magic, Part IV - VIII
Copyright © 2003 by Maelan Peredhil
Again, Avaline was woken by Rodair. "Get-"
"Yes, I know. Get up now," she interrupted groggily before the other apprentice could finish his command. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.
Rodair glared at her, put off by her response. Avaline could not resist sticking her tongue out at him as she rolled off the bed and made for the wardrobe. "I'm up now, so you can leave."
"Believe me, I have no desire to stay," was Rodair's curt rejoinder. He stalked out, shutting the door behind him with a great deal more force than was necessary.
Avaline rolled her eyes and turned to open the wardrobe, then was interrupted again by Rodair's reappearance.
"Oh, and Shantir said to tell you he's waiting for you downstairs, so hurry up." He left again.
Hastily, Avaline grabbed one of her two robes and pulled it on, shut the wardrobe door, and hurried down to the hall.
Shantir did indeed wait there, a look of displeasure on his face. He brightened slightly when he saw her, however. "Avaline. I trust you slept well?"
"Yes, I did."
"I fear that I cannot give you your lesson today." He sighed. "I would dearly love to, however, the majority of the wizards here have decided that it would be a perfect day to have a meeting of the apprentices; unfortunately, you must attend."
"What happens at the meeting?"
"Essentially, all that happens is that the apprentices gather together to practice their magic. As you don't know any, you will just sit there and watch them. On second thought, it may actually be a good place for you to start, seeing most of the spells that you will learn here performed. It's at the Chapel, the meeting. Hurry along now, you don't want to be late. I'll see you this evening in my room, again." He turned and went into his office.
The Chapel proper was already filled with apprentices when she arrived. They stood about it in small knots, talking and laughing with one another. Avaline looked about, wondering where she was to go. Then she spotted Rodair, sitting alone against the wall some ten paces away with a book open in his lap, and headed over to him for a lack of anything better to do.
He looked up and his face fell into a scowl when he saw her. "Go away. Why don't you stand with that friend of yours- Katiye, is it- instead of bothering me?"
"Why don't you stand with your friends?"
"Because I don't have any." He returned his attention to his book.
Avaline squatted down before him. "Why don't you? Don't you get lonely?"
Irked, but unable to ignore her completely, Rodair's dark eyes flickered back to her face.
"Because I am a purely scholarly, insufferable, stuck-up git who doesn't want any friends. Leave me alone."
Just then, Katiye found them. "There you are, Avaline! I've been looking for you." Then she mimicked Rodair's way of speech. "Good day, Rodair." She bent down and snatched the book from his hands, earning an indignant shout from Rodair. In her own voice, she read, "The History of Magic Among the Peoples of the Northern Waste. Oh, that sounds so intriguing. What kind of a crazed mind induces you to read things like this, anyway?"
"Give that back to me!" hissed Rodair, struggling to his feet and making a swipe for the book. Katiye held it tantalizingly just out of reach. The apprentices in the clusters nearest them turned to watch, laughing.
Katiye grinned at Avaline. "I could. Though it would probably be a lot more fun to burn it." A glow started in her palm as her spell started to form.
"You wouldn't!" Rodair squeaked, making another unsuccessful pass for his precious book.
"Answer my question then."
"Mine does!" he snarled, snatching the book at last from her hands. He settled back down on the floor with a supremely annoyed glare at Katiye. "I'm going to tell Matrin about that, you know."
"I could guess." The picture of indifference, Katiye took Avaline's hand and led her away. "Come on, Avaline; you don't want to waste any more time with him. Besides, we're about to start."
A wizard had entered the hall. She looked younger than Shantir, with her red hair only beginning to gray, but her bearing showed the same authority as the other wizard.
"Apprentices!" she called, voice magically magnified to be heard over the talking apprentices. "We will now begin with the first spell. Commence!"
Around the hall, the apprentices began to make gestures with their hands, muttering the spell words to themselves. The Chapel's walls caught the sounds and reverberated them back, until it sounded as if a strong wind blew inside the hall. Avaline watched as balls of light formed at their fingertips and rose to hover a few feet above the head of their creator.
"Second!" the wizard bellowed.
The balls of light flickered out and the apprentices began new motions and words. Shadowy balls formed, mimicking the behavior of the balls of light that had
"Third!" The shadow balls, too, followed the previous spell into oblivion and the whispers began again. All the torches in the room, previously unlit, burst into flame. It made for a very pretty sight even in the sunlight filtering in through the Chapel roof, with sparkling lights flickering all the way up to the ceiling.
"Fourth!" The torches were extinguished.
At that point, Avaline stopped watching the spells and began watching Rodair. The young man looked rather nervous, to say the least; his usual straightforwardness seemed quite perturbed. He did not stand where he had been, but a few paces towards the door. As she watched from the corner of her eye, he took another small step sideways, nudging his book along with his left foot.
The spell in his hands changed form with the others, but he kept up his sideways advance,
maintaining a wary eye on the wizard in charge. By the eighth spell, he had reached the door, then, at the call of, "Ninth!", picked up his book and hastily scuttled out of the Chapel.
Avaline nearly turned and pulled on Katiye's sleeve, then thought better of it; she would never be able to make any sort of peace with Rodair if she brought Katiye into Rodair's private matters. So she settled back to watching the spell-weaving and tried to forget about his curious behavior.
Even though he had successfully escaped from the Chapel, Rodair took no time to breathe a sigh of relief.
He hurried across the Chapel grounds towards Shantir's house, keeping a lookout for any wizards that might be about. If one of them caught him outside the Chapel when he shouldn't be, he would be in trouble and besides, would never be allowed even the slightest opportunity to leave the Chapel during a meeting again.
He reached the relative safety of Shantir's house without mishap, however, and wandered slowly up to his room. It didn't matter if Shantir found him; the wizard knew very well that Rodair left the meetings and had been doing so for some time.
Which was just as well for him, as Shantir was sitting in Rodair's room when he arrived. Rodair stopped in surprise in the doorway, then relaxed and gave a rueful grin. It softened his stark features considerably. "I'm back." He tossed the book onto his bed with care, and sat down beside it.
From one of the chairs beside the fire, Shantir returned the smile. "Right on time. As always. You know, perhaps you should attempt to stay through one of them some time. It might do you good."
"It might make them laugh at me even more than they do now."
Shantir's thick brows furrowed with concern. "They laugh at you?"
"Yes, sometimes." Rodair recalled the recent experience of book-snatching he'd just come through. "And Katiye..."
"What of her?"
"She stole my book." He patted the book lying next to him fondly.
"I'll talk to Matrin about it." He shook his head at Rodair. "Rodair... What am I to do with you?"
"You could give me a lesson," Rodair suggested hopefully.
Shantir laughed. "I do have the time, yes. And you need the practice. Let's go."
"Five hundred ninety-six!"
The few apprentices who remained standing lifted their hands, made several elaborate gestures, and shot their spells at the apples lying on the floor in front of them; the apples had arrived about fifty spells back at a conjuration. The apples disappeared, leaving only a small cloud of apple-dust.
"They didn't make them disappear," Katiye whispered in Avaline's ear. "It's more like they... evaporated them. It's different than exploding, and much harder. Close to unmaking them."
She had been providing a running commentary on the spells being performed ever since she had sat down when she became unable to do the spells. Most of the apprentices were down at this point; most of those still standing joined them on the floor after they had finished the evaporating spell.
"Five hundred ninety-seven!" called the wizard.
The apprentices first called up another apple, then wove the newest spell. The apples changed into different kinds of fruit.
"Inanimate shapeshifting," Katiye murmured. The whispers in the Chapel were very
diminished now, and Avaline could almost hear each individual apprentice's spell. Another two sat down then.
"Five hundred ninety-eight!" The fruit was changed into birds, who fluttered out through the Chapel door. Five apprentices remained standing.
"Inanimate to animate shapeshifting. It doesn't have to be birds. Oh, and we hardly ever do animate to inanimate shapeshifting except when absolutely necessary; it's hard to reverse and isn't very nice."
"Five hundred ninety-nine!" The two remaining apprentices transformed then; the one into a horse, the other a dog, then back into their original forms, looking very pleased with themselves.
"That's very hard to do, you know." Katiye was almost squirming with excitement.
"Six hundred!" Only one apprentice was left. And then he wasn't. Nothing was there where he had been standing an instant before. Then he walked in through the door of the Chapel, grinning broadly.
"Teleportation!" Katiye screamed with delight, just as she and the rest of the hall burst into thunderous applause. The Chapel reverberated with the noise, making Avaline's ears ring.
Once they were out in the cool night air, Katiye finally managed to talk to Avaline and be heard. "The one who teleported was Danrel. He's taking his test for wizardry tomorrow. As you can see, he'll definitely pass it."
Just then, a man's voice hailed her from a distance.
"Oh dear, that's Matrin. I have to go now. See you tomorrow!" She waved to Avaline and ran off.
At the door to Shantir's room, Avaline stopped. Rodair and Shantir were obviously already inside, judging from the sounds of talk from within. She edged the door open a crack. Shantir was speaking, seemingly telling a story, and Rodair was- surprise of surprises- laughing. His gaunt face, freed of all its customary severity, had cracked into a wide smile and he was laughing. It was a pleasant sound, relaxed and easy.
Then Shantir caught sight of her. "Ah, Avaline. Don't just stand there, come in." The smile abruptly left Rodair's face, returning it to the stern set it usually wore. Avaline, feeling rather guilty for disturbing them, took her seat. "So, how was the meeting?"
"It was incredible! Will I get to learn all those spells?"
"In time, yes. 'Til then, hold your patience. Which spell did you like best?"
Avaline thought. "I don't know. The teleportation was certainly amazing..."
"Danrel," Rodair said disgustedly, "is a fat-headed fool and I am very glad I wasn't there."
That reminded Avaline. "Why did you leave, anyhow?"
Rodair's face suddenly became slightly panicked. "I... Well... It's just that..." He looked desperately at Shantir for aid. The wizard merely leaned back in his chair and looked at Rodair with a hint of amusement, silently pointing out to his apprentice that it was his own fault for bringing his departure up and that he would have to get out of it himself.
"Well, I just had other studying to do," Rodair finished hastily. He turned his head away from her, then turned it slowly back to meet her gaze. "You... You won't tell anyone I do that, will you?" he asked hesitantly.
"Not if you don't want me to."
Rodair was silent for a moment. Then, "Thank you."
Shantir nodded with approval.
Avaline stood facing Shantir in the practice room early the next day.
Excitement coursed through the apprentice's veins; at last, they had found time to begin her training.
Shantir began the lesson. "You will learn a spell today, Avaline. But first, there are some basic facts about magic that you must be aware of. Do you know where our magic comes from? What is the source we draw on?"
"The Wells of Magic," Avaline replied promptly.
"And what are the five wells from whence our magic comes?"
"Spirit, Life, Death, Light, and Darkness."
"And there is another. What is it and what has happened to it?"
"The Well of Evil; it was sealed off tens of centuries ago by the five most powerful wizards then living."
"Good. Where are these wells?"
"No one knows; the records were destroyed to prevent anyone from finding the Wells and opening the one that was sealed."
"Correct. Which Well do the Adani most often draw from?"
Avaline paused and thought. She did not remember ever reading that. "Life?" she guessed.
Shantir shook his head. "No. We draw equally from all five at once, as do all who wield magic. It is not a conscious choice, which Well to draw on. Only the Well of Evil could be drawn from alone, when it was open, and that is only because the other magics would not work with it. Understand?"
"Good. Onto the planes. Do you know any of the planes?"
"Well, three of them bear the same names as the Wells. The plane of life, the plane of death, and the spirit plane. We, for obvious reasons, live in the plane of life. When we die, we move to the plain of death, which is mildly dangerous for any living being who enters there."
"You can enter it before death?"
"Yes, but there is absolutely no reason to want to, as it usually happens only by mistake. The spirit plane, on the other hand, is quite dangerous; it is inhabited by all the souls of the dead who do not deserve the peace of sleep the plane of death offers. They will attack any living soul who enters there; again, it is usually visited only on accident."
"Couldn't you just return to this plane?"
"Only if you are equipped with the necessary items to do so; if not, you are trapped there for eternity, or until someone else comes to rescue you. Another danger of the spirit plane is that if you are attacked and killed there, you will become one of the spirits of that plane and the plane of death will be beyond your grasp. Therefore, do not, except in the most dire of emergencies, enter either one of them."
"Are there any other planes?"
"Oh yes. Thousands of them. More, even; I will not say that we know of every single plane in existence. The immortal plane, the half-life plane, the fire plane, earth plane, wind plane, water plane, lost plane, plane of torment, plane of desire, plane of chance... The list goes on and on." He gave a small chuckle. 'some of them are actually quite boring."
"You've visited other planes?"
"Indeed. Most of the ones I just named, in fact."
"How do you visit another plane, besides on accident? And what does "on accident" mean, anyhow?"
"There are certain spells that transport you there. On accident is when a spell for something else goes wrong and you are taken there."
"I see. Did you go there on purpose, or not?"
"Most of them, it was my full intention to visit. But enough of my journeys; they can be spoken of an evening. On with the lesson. The spells we start you with here are simple. Do you know what type of magic many of the more advanced spells use?"
"Umm..." She tried to remember the myriad of spells she had witnessed at the meeting the day before. "Shapeshifting?"
"Yes, more or less. The movement of matter, really, be it from one form to another or from place to place. The most advanced spell is..."
"Teleportation." She recalled Katiye's shout from the day before and hid a smile.
"Correct. Well, that is not to say it is the most advanced spell ever created, but it is the hardest apprentices learn before becoming a wizard. And it is very difficult."
"Does Rodair know it?" Avaline asked out of curiosity.
The wizard's face became void of emotion. "Well," he replied after a moment, "he knows how it is done, but has not yet mastered it." He reverted to his usual self and went on. "You see, merely knowing the words and gestures that form a spell does not mean you can make the spell happen. You have to be able to meld the forces the way you desire in order for it to work." He smiled at her. "So, shall we try it now?"
Avaline almost shrieked with barely-contained anticipation. Forcefully, she mastered herself. "Yes!"
"All right, then." He approached her and took her left arm gently by the wrist. "As a general rule, at least for the easier spells, the left hand is the base hand, meaning it is the one that holds the spell and helps to call it up the most. The right hand does most of the gesturing, earlier on."
He took her right hand and turned it so that it was over her outstretched left wrist, palm facing directly away from her body. "You will first learn a spell that summons light, or rather, a spell-ball of it. The movement is not complicated. See."
Guiding her right arm's motions with his hand about her wrist, he brought it around her left hand in a nearly complete circle, then bent her wrist backwards so her right palm was at a right angle to her left. "That's all. Try it on your own."
Avaline copied the gesture.
Shantir nodded in a satisfied way. "Well done. Now for the words. They are simple as well: By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth. You say it as you bring your hand around, though it doesn't matter if the circle and the words do not end at exactly the same time. You will probably not get anything when you try it the first time; these things take practice. But you will get it soon enough. Go on, try it."
Avaline began the motion of the spell. "By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth." To the surprise of both her and Shantir, a ball of light, slightly larger than both of Avaline's fists together, sprang up above her left palm. Avaline was so startled that she dropped the ball, which flickered out of existence.
Shantir clapped her back with his lined hand. "Well done! You do have an incredible talent. You will have no trouble learning all the spells in three years. Perhaps even less time. But don't drop it next time; it won't hurt you. Try again."
Avaline repeated the spell, and this time, held it. The ball of light remained steady above her hand.
"Excellent," said the wizard. "You can move your right hand away now. It won't destroy the spell."
At that moment, there was the sound of an explosion from outside and a supremely frustrated shout. Shantir muttered something Avaline could not hear and hurried from the room. "Wait here."
He was a few minutes in returning, in which time Avaline explored her new spell further. She walked the ball around the room and tried to will it to move higher, with no response.
Then Shantir came back. "And don't try that spell again without me watching," he was saying over his shoulder as he came in through the door. "You could hurt yourself, and I do not want you as a dead apprentice, do you understand me?"
"Yes, Master Wizard," Rodair's voice replied from somewhere behind him.
"Don't look so anxious; I'll be with you soon enough."
The wizard shut the door behind him with a sigh. "Forgive me for the interruption. Rodair was having a bit of trouble with a spell."
"Oh, some higher level one." Shantir was unusually vague.
"What exactly makes a spell higher level or not?" Avaline wondered aloud.
"A very good question, and I'm not quite sure of the answer. It's just the way it has been established over the ages. Really, everything above a warding spell is considered higher level. And," he added confidentially, "if you continue to learn as fast as you picked up on that one, you'll be doing them in almost no time. But don't tell Rodair that I said that; he'll be even more jealous of you than he already is."
"And one other thing, while I'm thinking of it. Did Katiye really steal his book yesterday?"
"Yes, she did."
Shantir shook his head. "I suspect he didn't like that very much."
"Not really." Avaline suppressed the unremorseful smile that wanted to creep onto her face at the memory of the look on Rodair's face.
"Well, would you mind trying to keep Katiye away from Rodair? I don't want to make him miserable; he has enough troubles as it is. More than he's willing to let on."
"I'll try, but with Katiye, it might be hard."
"I thank you for the effort, at least. Speaking of Katiye, why don't you go find her? We shouldn't rush your learning too much; one spell a day is enough. Besides, I'm sure you'd like to show her your spell. You can practice it at any time, by the way."
"All right." Avaline hid her disappointment at not being able to continue. "Thank you, Shantir."
"Nothing but my duty to you, Avaline. Send Rodair in on your way out, will you."
As it turned out, there was no need for her to send Rodair anywhere; the apprentice was waiting outside the door and brushed past her as soon as it was open. Avaline shook her head and went off to hunt out her friend.
As soon as the door was shut, Rodair spoke. "What did she learn?"
Shantir eyed him sharply. "Frankly, it's none of your business, but this once, I'll tell you. She learned the light-summons, of course. Now stop worrying about it and let's get back to that transformation spell. What on earth were you thinking, trying it alone out there?"
"Well, I didn't think it would explode," Rodair returned by way of sulky defense.
"Why don't you show Rodair what you've learned today?" Shantir suggested that evening as they sat around the fire.
Avaline leaned forward and held out her hands. "By the power of the Wells, light, I call you forth." The luminous orb appeared.
"Most impressive." Dry sarcasm tinted Rodair's voice. A quiet superiority glinted in his eyes. He leaned forward and imitated her gesture without a word. The ball appeared above his fine-boned hand as well.
Surprised to say the least, Avaline let hers die out. "How did you do that? You didn't say the spell!"
Rodair leaned casually back in his chair, very self-satisfied, like a cat who has just caught his first bird. "You don't need to say anything when you get better at this sort of thing."
"Actually," Shantir interjected, "it's really a special talent of Rodair's. Most his age need to at least whisper the spell. Most wizards do, in fact. I do." Rodair's thin chest looked almost puffed-up with pride at the wizard's statement.
"That's amazing," Avaline said admiringly. For once, Rodair's glance at her was not disparaging. "I wish I could do that."
"You've hardly begun your training," Shantir reminded her. "All in time, all in time."
Not bothering to wake Avaline, Rodair hurried down to the entry hall immediately after dressing the following morn. She should have learned when to get up by now. Besides, he wanted to see Shantir without interference from the other apprentice. Since Avaline's arrival, his own lesson times had been shortened considerably. And with his wizardry test looming in the future, he had no moments of practice to spare.
To his surprise, the wizard was already in the hall when he arrived.
Usually, he was in his office, his chamber, or the practice room at this time. Or not there at all. Rodair nodded his head cordially. "Shantir, I was wondering if you had time to give me a lesson n-"
Shantir interrupted him before he could finish his request. "Rodair, there's a visitor waiting to see you."
That stopped his apprentice dead in his tracks. "What?" Who on earth would want to see him?
His master hid a fond smile. "He claims to be your brother."
"Caydric!" Rodair looked around expectantly. "Where is he?"
"In my office."
"Of course." Shantir watched him with amusement as he hastened over to the office door, flung it open, and entered the small room beyond.
A young man remarkably resembling Rodair was seated on a chair in front of the wizard's busy desk. To be sure, he was somewhat shorter than Rodair and more fully-fleshed, younger as well, but his nearly-black eyes and mousy hair were the exact replicas of his brother's.
At the sight of Rodair, he grinned broadly and sprung up from his chair. "Rodair!" He
stepped forward and threw his arms around Rodair. "I haven't seen you in years!"
Rodair looked surprised for a moment, then returned the embrace with a force that appeared foreign to his slight build. "I've missed you," Rodair murmured into the top of his brother's head. He pulled back and surveyed Caydric. "You've grown."
"As have you." Caydric's smile widened. "Only you've grown more."
"How are you doing?"
"Very well, very well. It's a lot quieter at home without you."
Rodair snorted dismissively. "I can't believe that. You were always the noisy one. How's Mother?"
"She keeps complaining that you don't write enough, but other than that, she's fine. And what of you?" He studied his brother, taking in the robes and embroidery. "You could almost pass for a wizard."
"Perhaps." Rodair shrugged. "I'm doing well enough. There's lots for me to do around here, so I'm kept rather busy. But why did you come?"
"Well, when I got your last letter, I realized that I hadn't seen you since you came here, I might as well pay you a visit."
Rodair shook his head. "It's really been that long?"
"Yes." He tilted his head up at his brother. "Is it true? Did Shantir really get a new apprentice?"
Rodair's face soured. "Yes. Don't remind me."
"Don't you like her?"
"Not at all." He motioned for Caydric to follow him and turned from the room. "Here, I'll show you around." He walked quickly over to Shantir. "Well, I was going to ask for a lesson, but I suppose it will have to wait. Could I have one later?"
"What do you think? Of course, Rodair." He glanced over Rodair's shoulder at Caydric, who waited a few paces behind Rodair. "And perhaps Caydric would like to watch?"
Rodair looked uneasily down at the floor. "I'm not sure I want-"
Caydric spoke up then. "I would love to!" He turned expectant eyes on Rodair. "Could I?"
"Well..." Rodair pursed his lips. At last he gave in. "Oh, all right." Caydric's eyes brightened with anticipation.
Avaline herself came out of her room slightly later than usual, not having had Rodair to wake her. She heard voices coming from her fellow apprentice's room, then a burst of raucous laughter. Curious, she paused and listened again, but could hear none of what was being said. It was clear, though, that Rodair had company.
Just then, Rodair's door burst open and Rodair strode out, followed by another. At sight of her, he stopped dead, the smile disappearing from his face faster than a gnat blinking.
The youth following him did not stop in time, and walked straight into Rodair's back. He gave a mild curse, then sidestepped around Rodair to see what had caused the pause.
"Hello," he said as he saw Avaline. He nodded his head and stepped forwards to take
Avaline's hand. "You must be Avaline. I'm Caydric, Rodair's brother. Rodair has said a lot about you."
"Has he?" Avaline glanced over Caydric's shoulder at Rodair. The apprentice was standing with his arms folded across his narrow chest, staring at Caydric with disgust and, perhaps, a touch of resignation. She ignored him again and turned her attention back to the smiling Caydric. "Yes, I'm Avaline. Rodair didn't tell me he had a brother."
Caydric shot Rodair a teasing glare. "You didn't? Why not?"
Rodair approached them then and took Caydric's shoulder. "We were going on a tour," he reminded him sourly.
"Oh, right." Caydric began to follow him down the hallway once more, calling back to Avaline as he did, "I'll see you later then, shall I?"
"As you will." When the two boys had gone, she shook her head. It just didn't seem real that those two were related. Then again, the one didn't have to share a master with her; perhaps Rodair would be similar to Caydric if not for that fact. A wry smile twisted her lips. Very likely. Rodair just was the way he was, and that was all. She shoved both Rodair and Caydric from her thoughts and proceeded down to the hall.
Shantir was seated there, reading quietly. At her entrance, he shut the book and looked up at her. "Good morning. I assume you've met Caydric?"
"Yes." She settled herself in a chair near the wizard. "I didn't know he had a brother."
"One brother and three sisters, as a matter of fact."
"I see. He doesn't talk about them much."
The wizard smiled at her. "Does he talk about much anything with you?"
"Well... No," Avaline confessed.
"See, then?" Shantir rose to his feet. "Well, let's get on with your lesson for today. But first..." He strode over to the bookshelves that lined the wall and pulled down a fat book from one of them. "This is for you. It contains every spell apprentices learn here as a part of their training." He passed the book to Avaline.
The words on the book's musty blue cover were too faded to read. Curious, Avaline opened it. "To create light, the first spell," were the words that first met her eyes. The book then proceeded to illustrate how the spell was performed, with both words and drawings. "What should I do with it?"
"I want you to learn it, though go no further than the tenth spell. As Rodair has pointed out to me in several discreet and indiscreet ways, I really do need to spend more time teaching him than you. As you know, his tests for wizardry are fast coming up, and it is urgent that he finish his training before then. I must devote, therefore, the larger part of my energies and time to him. Do you understand?"
"Yes. But I thought that apprentices his age knew all the spells they had to learn."
"They do, and he does. He knows all of them and more. He just can't do them all."
Shantir said nothing for a long interval. Then, "That is for Rodair and Rodair only to disclose to you if he so wishes. I will not betray what he wishes to keep hidden."
A nagging feeling buzzed in the back of Avaline's mind. "Can he not do magic?"
"To the contrary; he can very well do magic. In fact, he is as powerful as you are. But power does not mean everything with magic, even though it does affect a large part of it. Now, that is the end of the matter and please do not ask further. And," he added, "please do not tell Rodair about it."
"I won't," Avaline promised.
"So, does that mean I won't learn a spell today?" Avaline tried to keep her disappointment hidden.
"No, I will teach you one, as you catch on to them very quickly. Then I must work with Rodair. Here, I will say this. When Rodair comes back from showing Caydric around, your lesson ends. Is that fair?"
"Yes. What do you mean, showing him around? Hasn't Caydric been here before?"
"No, and they have not seen each other since Rodair was admitted here, seven years ago." He assumed his teaching tone, slightly more formal than his regular speech. "The second spell creates a ball of shadow. Though not a very useful one, we maintain that all apprentices learn this spell. It is very similar to the first spell, but..."
The sound of a furious and despairing scream jolted Avaline off her bed, where she had been reading the book Shantir had given her.
She had mastered the shadow-spell that morning with an ease akin to her first spell the day before and Shantir had concluded the lesson early. Since then, she had been lying in her room studying the book. She had learned all the way through the fifth spell, creating an illusion of darkness, by the time the shriek sounded.
The next instant, a door slammed and the noise of feet reached Avaline's ears. She opened her door just in time to see Rodair come storming up the stairs. He was almost running, and a few frustrated tears were rolling down his sallow cheeks. Caydric followed at a wary distance.
Avaline put out her arm and stopped him as he drew abreast of her. "What happened?"
Caydric shrugged. "I shouldn't tell you; Rodair would kill me." He hurried onwards after his brother, who had reached the sanctuary of his room, and shut the door behind them.
Avaline left her room and hastened down the stairs to the practice room. Shantir sat there alone. "What was the matter?"
Shantir raised sad eyes to her face. "Rodair became upset with one of his spells. Ask him, if you want to know." He sighed deeply. "He worries me." Then he waved a hand to dismiss the matter. "Well, I have time for more lessons now, if you would like. I think we will not see Rodair for a while."
"I would like that, but I have one thing to do first." She departed and sprinted back up the stairs. Caydric was exiting Rodair's room as she did, and shrugged when he saw Avaline.
"He... I don't know what to do with him."
"Let me try," Avaline offered, though she doubted that her words would have any effect if Rodair's own brother had failed.
Caydric stepped aside and Avaline walked into the book-filled room. Rodair sprawled face-down on the bed, crying softly into his blankets. Avaline approached him and gently spoke.
"Rodair? Rodair, what's the matter?"
"Go away," Rodair mumbled, throwing daggers at her with his eyes.
"I'm trying to help you. What went wrong?"
"I said, go away!" His voice became dangerous.
"Go AWAY!" Rodair screamed suddenly, rolling off the bed onto his feet and standing over her. He seized the front of her robe, and Avaline was startled by the anger in his face. And the distress. "Why can't you see where you aren't wanted, you meddlesome fool!"
He thrust her away from him; then, as if all the strength had been sapped from his body, collapsed slowly onto the edge of the bed, put his face in his slender hands, and continued weeping.
Avaline backed away carefully, then turned and ran from the room.
Caydric waited in the hall. "I take it that you were not successful."
"No," replied Avaline, shaken. She took an unsteady step towards the stairway. "I... I think I'll go see Shantir about my lesson now."
Nearly two weeks after her first arrival at the Adani and some days after Caydric's departure, Avaline no longer needed Rodair's help to wake up at the proper time.
In the hour after dawn, she was up and dressed and down the stairs into the hall where Shantir was usually waiting for her. The schedule they'd established was that Avaline's lessons were first in the mornings; there, she and Shantir would go over the spells she had been learning from the books.
Avaline liked learning from the book; it let her cover more spells in less time and gave her more extra time than she would have had otherwise.
The weather had cooled somewhat, making it very pleasant to walk outside. And that was exactly what Avaline did one afternoon after her day's lesson. Rodair had not yet turned up for his lesson, unusual for him, though Shantir did not seem overly worried.
Spellbook in hand, she rounded the corner of Shantir's house, and there her eyes met a sight she did not expect to see. Rodair was there, as were several other apprentices, all younger than Rodair.
Rodair's arms were crossed behind his back and held there by one of the other apprentices. He was pinned against the wall by the apprentice's other hand. Nearly sobbing with frustration, he struggled futilely against the apprentice's grip. The other apprentices were gathered around something Avaline could not see, but from their actions she determined that it must be a book of sorts. Not unlikely, since Rodair was obviously involved.
"These are examples of common sorts of errors with magic, of course, and we all experience some if not all of these during our careers in dealings with magic," one of the apprentices read aloud from the manuscript he held.
The apprentices giggled, amused for a reason Avaline did not know. Rodair's efforts to free himself redoubled as the apprentice went on.
"However, there are other, graver instances of where magic can fail. For instance-"
Avaline did not know exactly what was happening, but it was clearly not to Rodair's pleasure and despite his continuing antagonism towards her she did not like to see anyone in such distress.
She stepped forward to intervene. "Give that back to him."
The apprentices stopped speaking abruptly and stared at her; Rodair's gasps were the only sound that filled the silence.
"Who are you?" one of the apprentices said at length.
"Avaline. I'm Shantir's other apprentice. And I want you to leave him," she jerked her head towards Rodair, "alone."
"We don't have to take orders from you." The apprentice prepared to continue his reading.
"Do you want me to bring Shantir into this?" challenged Avaline.
The apprentice looked at her despairingly. "Come on, why don't you join us? It's fun."
"It's mean," Avaline countered. "Let him go before I get Shantir."
Grumbling rebelliously, the apprentice shoved the book into her hands and stalked off, his cronies following him. Avaline looked down at the book in her hands. It had no real cover; it was just a bundle of papers attached together with twine. The top page read, When Magic Fails, and below it was Rodair's name.
Avaline looked at Rodair, who was shakily stepping away from the wall. "You wrote this?"
"Yes, I did," Rodair replied snappishly. He grabbed the book from Avaline's hands and held it close.
"Are you going to report them?"
"I would, but I don't know who they are." He sighed. Then he glared at Avaline. "Thanks a lot. Now everyone will think I need you to defend me from those idiots." He began to stalk away.
Avaline stiffened. She had not really expected kindness, not really, but downright anger wasn't it either. Then her own anger surfaced. "It wasn't as if you were doing such a good job defending yourself."
The only reaction she stirred from him was a pause in his stride and a look shot back over his shoulder. Then he disappeared around the corner, presumably to have his lesson with Shantir. Avaline sniffed. Well, then let him fend for himself. He'd probably end up getting his precious book dumped in a pond, that way. Serve him right.
With a sigh, Avaline leaned against the warm wall and slid down to the ground. She didn't really feel like that. However nasty Rodair was, he didn't deserve to have his work ruined. She just wished... wished he wouldn't be so nasty. She hadn't done anything to harm him, had even tried to help him on several occasions. And he constantly repaid her with sarcasm and coldness. It wasn't fair.
Her somber musings were interrupted by the arrival of Katiye. The other apprentice settled down on the ground beside her. "Hello, Avaline."
"What's the matter? You look down."
Katiye snorted. "What's he done? Because if it's upsetting you, I'll punch him so hard-"
"No, Katiye, there's no need for that. I'm just worrying about him, that's all."
"Worrying about Rodair? What on earth for?"
"Well, he just got into some trouble with some other apprentices..."
"He always does. Believe me, he deserves it. Slimy git doesn't have time for anyone save his books and Shantir. Don't worry about it, he has it coming to him."
"That's not very nice."
"Neither is Rodair. Come on, let's not waste this day talking about him. Show me a spell you've learned."
"All right, then." Avaline held out her hands and performed the motions of her latest spell, silence. "Sound stop, silence come, let noise be gone." The world around them went dead quiet.
Avaline banished the spell and grinned at Katiye. "I haven't quite learned how to control it, really. It just covers the area around me."
"It comes with time, don't worry."
"I'm not." Avaline smiled at her friend. "So, what do you suggest we do?"
"I don't know." Katiye stared up at the clear sky, then squinted at Avaline. "How does Rodair act towards you?"
Avaline hesitated a moment, unsure of what to say; her friend could be unpredictable when defending Avaline's "honor". Then she decided there wasn't much harm that could be done. "Oh, he's just his snappy self."
"Want to go pull a trick on him?"
"Katiye... You know I don't like to."
"Just a small one! It will be fun. Come on, Avaline, I'm bored. We need something to do, don't we?"
"Well... Not that, please. Something else. Rodair-"
"Fully deserves it. Please?" She looked pleadingly at Avaline, who, at last, reluctantly, gave in.
"All right. But nothing too mean, Katiye."
"Of course not!" Katiye bounded to her feet and Avaline followed more slowly.
"By my definition of mean." She had found it necessary to add such things with Katiye.
"Fine then. Let's go up to his room."
"You can't go in," Avaline pointed out as she trailed her friend to Shantir's door. "He's warded it."
"That doesn't matter." Katiye pushed the door open and grinned at Avaline. "By the way, I learned the warding spell today. I'm doing higher magic now." The warding spell was considered the boundary between the easy and high magics.
Avaline smiled back. "Congratulations."
They ascended the stairway and approached Rodair's door. Katiye turned to Avaline.
"Watch." She began to weave her hands in a fancy gesture, muttering to herself. The door flashed once, and Katiye stepped back. "There."
"What did you do?"
"I warded it," Katiye replied triumphantly. "Now he may be able to undo his own ward, but not mine. He doesn't know the trigger."
"I said nothing too mean!"
"It isn't. Shantir will be able to undo it easily as I'm not very good at it yet. But it will give him a bad shock." At the look on Avaline's face, she sighed. "Avaline, lighten up. If you don't, you're liable to turn into another Rodair, and then I'd have to punch you too. It could be a lot worse."
"Well..." Avaline realized that this had just gone completely off of her earlier pity for Rodair. Though a pang of guilt that hit her at the realization, she couldn't make herself spoil Katiye's fun. And the other apprentice was right; Rodair wouldn't really be harmed by the spell. "Let's go to your house. If Shantir found us here, he'd never believe someone other than us put up that spell."
"You think he will anyways?" Katiye smiled. "All right, then. You can eat your meal there."
That evening, they sat not in Shantir's room but in the entry hall. Shantir's only reason was that he was using his rooms for something that could not be disturbed. And so Shantir sat in one of the padded chairs, while Avaline felt like taking the ground. Rodair had not yet arrived.
At that moment, they heard a yelp from up the stairs. Shantir jumped to his feet. "Excuse me a moment." He strode briskly to the staircase and went up it.
He found Rodair standing at his door, clutching his right hand to his chest. "What's the matter?" demanded the wizard.
Through clenched teeth, Rodair replied angrily, "Someone warded my door!" He cast a furious glare at the offending door in question.
Shantir sighed. "One moment." He began to weave a spell. After a moment, he nodded. "It was an apprentice. They did it rather poorly, too. I'll unmake it." He began a new incantation, finished shortly. "You may enter now."
Rodair pulled the doorknob and stalked into his room. "Thank you."
"Won't you join us?" Shantir stood in the doorway, watching his apprentice.
Rodair paused. "I... I don't feel too well." Shantir waited patiently for more. "My day went rather poorly."
His apprentice paused, unwilling to admit the trouble Avaline had rescued him from.
Shantir took him by the arm gently. "Come down; you can tell us about it there."
"Avaline knows," Rodair mumbled, staring down at the floor. "Ask her."
"I will." Shantir, making no comment about his surprise that Avaline knew of something concerning Rodair that he himself did not, put a tender hand on Rodair's chin and lifted his apprentice's head so he was staring into Rodair's deep eyes. "But will you please accompany me down? I deeply enjoy your companionship, and I think Avaline does too."
"I doubt that." But Rodair allowed himself to be led down the stairs and into the hall.
"Do you know where Rodair is?" Shantir asked Avaline worriedly.
She had finished her lesson and again, Rodair was nowhere to be seen. Normally, he was waiting just outside the door of the practice room.
Avaline shook her head. She hadn't seen Rodair at all that day. "I'll go look for him." If she found him being tormented by the other apprentices again, she thought she might just take a cue from Katiye and punch one of them. And then Rodair, for making her do that.
"Thank you." Shantir made for the stairway to Avaline's and Rodair's rooms. "I'll see if he's in his room."
Rodair was indeed in his room, sound asleep with the covers pulled up to his head. One pale hand was sticking out from under the blankets, curled slightly beside his head. He was snoring softly. Shantir reached down and shook him gently by the shoulder.
"Rodair?" His apprentice slept on, oblivious. "Rodair, it's time to wake up." Rodair groaned and his hand twitched, but he did not wake. "Rodair." Shantir shook him again, and this time Rodair stirred.
"What?" he mumbled drowsily. His voice was gravelly, whether from sleep or something else Shantir was not sure.
"It's time for you to get up."
Rodair groaned and his eyes flickered open. "What time is it?"
"What?" Rodair shoved the blankets aside and sat up, dangling his legs over the side of the bed. "Why didn't you wake me sooner?" He coughed as he finished, his voice still ragged.
Shantir surveyed him with concern. Rodair looked paler than he normally did, and he rarely, if ever, slept in. "Are you feeling all right?"
Rodair shook his head. "Not really."
"My throat." He coughed again and sniffled.
"Well, get back to bed, then!" Shantir placed a hand on Rodair's chest and attempted to lie him back down.
"I can't go to bed!" Rodair protested, resisting the wizard's efforts. "I need to practice!"
He shoved Shantir's hand aside and stood. With the first step he tried to take, however, he staggered and sat heavily back down on the bed. Shantir took the opportunity to shove him carefully down.
"You are not going to practice in that condition! You can't even stand up." Lifting his apprentice's legs back onto the bed, he threw the covers over him. "You need rest."
"But..." Too tired to argue any further, Rodair's opposition died off mid-sentence. He snuggled down into the blankets without further ado.
Shantir patted his head tenderly. "I'll have some soup sent up for you."
"Thank you," Rodair replied hoarsely as the wizard left him.
A few minutes after his return to the entry hall, Avaline returned from her search. "I couldn't find him." In truth, she was relieved; she had not wanted to see Rodair in trouble again. Or perhaps he was, somewhere where she had not looked.
Shantir put her fears to rest. "He's in his room, sick. I don't think he'll be joining us today."
"He's sick?" Avaline repeated with concern. "Is it bad?"
"Fairly; he sounds terrible and he was too tired to walk." Shantir sighed. "He should be better in a few days, though. I don't think it's too serious."
"I'm going to go see him!" Avaline headed for the stairs, but Shantir put an arm out to stop her.
"No, don't disturb him; he's asleep. You can go up later. Give him an hour of rest."
"He's already slept 'til noon," Avaline muttered, but she complied with the wizard's wishes.
Then, precisely one hour later, she went upstairs to visit Rodair, with Shantir accompanying her briefly to undo the ward on Rodair's door. He was still asleep, lying almost as Shantir had left him.
Avaline tapped him softly. "Rodair?"
The other apprentice groaned and opened one eye, squinting up at her. "What is it?"
"Shantir said you were sick. I've brought you some tea. It might help your throat. Here." She passed him the steaming clay mug.
His fingers closed around it slowly. "Thank you." It seemed that he had lost his will to snap, at least temporarily.
"I'll help you sit up, if you like."
Rodair nodded and rolled onto his back, careful not to spill any of the tea. Avaline helped him up, propping pillows beneath him. Then she took a seat at the foot of the bed and watched Rodair drink. He sipped it slowly, watching her back.
Then he spoke. "Why are you doing this for me?" he rasped.
"Because you're sick, of course."
"No, I mean-" He shook his head. "Never mind." He took another long drink.
"Does it help your throat at all?"
"Yes. I think so." He studied her through half-closed eyes. "So, I guess you're having extra lessons with Shantir?"
"You should." He paused to sip. "It's a waste of your time not to. You shouldn't waste your time here; it's all too short." A strange look played in his eyes, but he raised his cup again before Avaline could catch more than a glimpse of it.
"I might, then."
He drained the cup and passed it back to her. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome." She fingered the pattern carved on the handle-less mug. "Well, I guess I should let you rest more now."
"If you wouldn't mind." He pulled one of the pillows out from under his head and flopped back down with a sigh. "Thanks for coming, though."
"My pleasure." Rather surprised at his new attitude, she left, pulling the door to behind her.
Setting the cup down amidst the clutter on one of the tables, she left Shantir's house and sought out Katiye. There didn't seem to be much else to do. Her boisterous friend was not in any of her usual haunts, however, so Avaline decided to pay a visit to Matrin's house on her own. The other wizard's dwelling was not far from Shantir's, which was good; the weather had warmed up again and the sun was glaring down on the Adani grounds with the same ferocity it had on the day Avaline had first arrived.
Reaching the house, she knocked on the door and waited. There was no response from within, so she tried again, more forcefully this time. At length, Matrin himself came to the door. He was far taller than Shantir, and younger, too; his straight black hair, streaked through with grey, fell evenly almost to his waist, though he kept his beard shaven, and clear blue eyes sparkled in his narrow face.
"Hello, Avaline," he greeted her in the deep voice he had. "Here to see Katiye, I expect?"
"Good day. Yes, I am, if that's no trouble."
"Actually, Katiye's having a lesson at the moment, but if you wouldn't mind waiting, I'm sure she'd like to see you when she is finished."
"I don't mind."
Matrin ushered her inside and bade her wait in the hall. It was a much neater hall than Shantir's, with almost none of the other wizard's mess scattered haphazardly around it. Matrin himself stepped through into the practice room and left her alone.
Katiye was not long in coming. "Hello, Avaline!"
Avaline grinned. "Hello."
"What are you doing here?"
"I just came to see you. I don't have much else to do."
"Had your lesson already, then?"
"Yes; I always have them in the mornings."
"So Shantir's with Rodair now?"
"Actually, Rodair's sick. He's been in bed all day." The instant she said it, she regretted it. Who knew what Katiye would come up with because of it?
Fortunately, for Avaline's conscience as much as for Rodair's sake, Katiye gave it no more attention than a brief gloat. "Is he now? That should take him down a notch or five. So, what do you want to do? Here, I'll show you the spell I'm working on." She assumed her position and began. A few moments later, one of the candles sitting on a table exploded.
Avaline was impressed. "Very nice."
Katiye snorted. "That is NOT what I meant to do. I was trying for levitation..."
"It's funny; now that Rodair's sick, he's actually nice to me," Avaline mused that evening as they sat around the fire, again in the entry hall. It was rather empty without Rodair there, and Avaline realized that she had gotten used to his somber presence.
Shantir smiled. "Too tired to fight back, I guess. He's like that normally, really; just, of course, not around you. I think he'll get over it in time, though. Just try to stay on his good side."
"I do try. It's just... He doesn't let me be near him long enough to be friendly. Why is he like that, anyhow?"
The wizard sighed. "That, I am afraid, really is because you are here. You see, Rodair wants, more than anything in the world, to be a wizard. That is, by the way, partially the reason he wears all that embroidery; it makes him feel more like one, I think. Anyhow, he desperately wants to be a wizard. And of course, the way for him to become one is through my teaching. Therefore, he is very defensive of me and of his position as my apprentice. To him, you are merely an intrusion on that position. Usually, when a wizard takes on another apprentice, it is because their other apprentice will be taking their test for wizardry soon, and he does not want to leave me. And that is why he does not like you."
It was actually a good deal more complicated than that, but Rodair would not appreciate him telling Avaline.
"I hope you'll forgive him."
"Of course I do. But it's obvious that he's not leaving because of me, so why...?"
"I'm not sure. He's probably just worried about his test."
"I see." She sighed. "Everyone's so mean to him."
"What do you mean?" Shantir leaned forwards, looking at her sharply.
"Well... Yesterday, I was out walking and I saw him with some other apprentices. They had him shoved up against the wall and had taken the book he had been carrying, something he'd written. They were reading it out loud, and he was very upset... I got them to give the book back to him then."
Shantir frowned. "I didn't know it had gotten that bad. He's always had some trouble with the other apprentices, but I've never heard him say anything like that. And what did Rodair do afterwards?"
"He snapped at me and told me to mind my own business, sort of."
The wizard rolled his eyes. "I really must have a word with him. When he's feeling better, of course. I'm sorry, Avaline."
"It's all right. I just feel sorry for him."
Shantir regarded her appraisingly. "You have a kind heart, Avaline. I think that whatever happens between you and Rodair now, you will be very good for him in the end."
To Be Continued in Part IX
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