Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chapter 5 - I BEGIN LEARNING

After we cleared the little valley, there was enough room for all of us to walk abreast. The uneasiness that was building between my closest friends and me was getting on my nerves, I mean really, they were walking behind me and Durmas, and they insisted on being so quiet and so stiff. I finally blurted, "What is the matter with you all? It's me. Remember? I'm the same kid who helped you milk cows the other day, Brom. And Lagge, I helped you butcher a bunch of chickens last week. You'd still be digging that new root cellar, Carm, if I hadn't jumped down into that hole and helped." I might as well have been talking to a stone for all the difference I made, or at least that's what I thought until Brom spoke up.

"Liam, you must not understand, You are magic now. You are different."

"No I'm not," I said, vehemently.

Durmas stepped in then and tried to explain. "You are different now, Liam. You still think the same as you did before, but you are no longer the same boy who came here three years ago. Your friends walk with you now, and they may choose to do so from now on, but you must accept that you are very different from what you were."

My stubborn burrs dug in and I vowed to myself that I was not different.

We walked on in silence; we would have a long walk too. When we came here, we had run almost all the way (we always ran wherever we went), and it had taken us all of four hours to cover the distance. With an old man like Durmas along, I just knew it would take us all day long to get back.

As the sun climbed, I noticed that Carm, who was walking closest to me, was sweating freely. I tipped my face up to the sun and felt its heat. I should be roasting in my heavy leather sheathing, but I wasn't. I was rapidly growing hungry again though, so I called a halt for an early lunch, and then instantly felt like an idiot for opening my mouth. Unless Durmas had some massive pockets in those robes of his, none of us had brought anything to eat or drink.

Durmas didn't seem at all flapped about stopping though. He drew us into a small circle and had us sit on the ground, then he took my hands. He smiled when he touched me. "I see you already have a very good instinct."

I didn't have a clue what he was talking about, but I didn't have much time to figure it out as my lesson began.

"Pay close attention. I'm going to show you how to do this. First, in order to be able to slake our thirst in a civilized manner, we must have a cup." He reached down and placed one of the rocks that littered the ground into my hand. He clasped both my hands around it, and then, with a wash of I don't know what, the rock morphed into a coffee mug; in fact, it looked a lot like one of the mugs my mother liked to use most. Durmas held up the mug and looked at it, smiling. "It is strange looking, but it will hold water. Now, for water, where do you suppose we can find that?"

"From a well," I offered. "But there's no well around here."

"No, there's no well here, but that doesn't mean that the water isn't down there. Pay attention."

I watched him dig a small depression in the ground and place my mug down in it, then he took my hands and laid them flat on the ground on either side of the hole with its cup.

"Pay attention," he said again.

I felt a chill and a tingle run up my arms, and suddenly the mug was full of water. The hole was still dry, but the cup was brimming. Durmas raised an eyebrow but made no comment, he just took the cup and tasted the contents. "Good," he said and then passed it to Brom. "When you gain more control over your magic, all these props won't be necessary."

We made water for Carm and Lagge, but Durmas made me try on my own for his cup. I did it, but I was glad I was already kneeling on the ground. My stubborn burr was still digging under my saddle, so when he handed me the empty cup, I tried to call the water without any other contact with the ground than the fact that I was kneeling. I did it, but the effort made my head spin and the ground caught my backside while Brom caught my hand and prevented me spilling my hard-earned drink. Durmas only looked at me with disapproval as I drank my water. It wasn't enough, so I make another cup the easier way, and then another.

"Now for food," Durmas continued. "Food is much harder. Are you finished being foolish?"

I just shrugged. I was starving, but I wasn't about to admit it.

He wrapped my hands around the mug again. "First, we need a bowl." The cup morphed into a bowl, but it wasn't big enough, so I made it bigger. Durmas raised an eyebrow. "Now for food. What are you hungry for?"

What was I hungry for? An elephant might do. Aloud, I said, "That stew you gave me earlier was good."

"That had meat, several vegetables and herbs in it. What you will be doing is remaking these things," he waved a hand at our surroundings, which might look appetizing to a horse, "into those things, and then cooking it. You may have some problem with cooking it, but we'll see."

"Why do you say that I might have a problem with heating it?"

"Because your magic is water based."

"What?"

"I'll explain while you're eating. First you must feed your friends."

By the time it was my turn to empty the bowl, I was so tired that I almost didn't have the energy to eat. If I had been a fraction less hungry, I would have gladly curled up on the ground and went to sleep without bothering. When the bowl was empty, I so wanted another, but I just didn't have the energy to do any more. Durmas took pity on me and made me a second bowl without my help, whatever help that way (he was a much better cook). While I ate, he answered my question.

"There are four types of magic - earth, air, fire and water. Any magical creature, which is what you are now, is predominantly one of those types. Yours happens to be water, So anything you do that has something to do with water, will come easiest for you. That also means that anything having to do with one of the other elements will be more difficult, particularly fire, which is your elemental opposite. You will learn how to use all of the elements, but you will feel the differences most acutely now. Now, you're tired. I want you to lie down and rest before we continue."

"No, I'm all right; I'm not a child. It's only a little before midday and we've a ways to go yet." I got up and took three steps that I remember before I keeled over in a dead faint. He was right, again. I really must do something about that burr under my saddle. I really wish they would import horses; I could do with one of those too.

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