By Jaap-Peter Hazelhoff
Chapter 73 - Teachings
Berdusk 1371 DR, Eleint, 11th day (Penultimate Thunder: Hoar), late afternoon - early evening
Tarim walks into the room where Immerine went, with only a slight pause at the door to look in timidly. “I was right behind you… um… La- ah Immerine” He smiles nervously and pulls out a chair next to Immerine, unslinging his pack and resting it on the floor. Ened’ome takes wing to the rafters as the young mage sits, regarding the two with large dark eyes full of secrets.
Tarim digs into his pack and lays out a thick sheaf of papers held together in a large piece of leather and tied in the same manner as a package. He reverently unties the leather thongs that bind it and lays them on the table carefully. “These” he begins “are spells. Each symbol on the page means something… obviously. But more than normal writing, each symbol has a significance on multiple levels, and on multiple planes of awareness. I will show you what the writings mean and then I will teach you how to put them into practice. Sound approach?”
Immerine looks at the papers intently. “So there is a connection between these writings and the Weave and the Hidden One. It is a threefold, no fourfold pact. The Weave is the force, the Hidden One is the power, the writings are a formula and you are the focal point. Right? So all four must combine on several levels of understanding to combine for the desired effect. I need papers to write upon, like you. I have a few coins would these buy much?” Immerine pulls out three platinum coins.
“Excellent, I knew teaching you would be more formality than anything” Tarim gushes “You have a fine grip on magical theory from what I see… and a ready mind. It’s a pleasure to see someone as eager as I to understand”
“I must learn to make these marks and understand them. May I?” Immerine’s fingers itch to touch the papers.
The young mage is positively beaming as he watches the lovely witch reach for the papers. “Yes three platinum will get you started nicely…” he agrees gravely. “These papers are now as much yours as mine. Mystra gave these to me… I would be remiss if I denied you any of the gifts that she has provided for me as a beginner in The Art.” he releases the sheaf of papers into the hands of the witch and watches her intently.
Immerine’s smile gets larger when he offers her the papers. “I am sorry Tarim, I did not even ask you if you minded me inviting the others to this lesson. I will try to be respectful of your teachings in the future, well – as respectful as I can be. I know I am trying to be around. I am demanding, imperious and sometimes cruel. These really are things I want to work on.” She looks like she wants to say something else, but instead drops her attention to the papers.
Tarim smiles gently at her apology replying, “This is your time Immerine… If you choose to share it with others I welcome that decision. Personally however, I would rather focus on teaching you personally…”
The young barbarian searches her eyes with his and a kindly expression of understanding spreads across his face. “Actually I find your honesty incredibly… attra- ah… admirable. I would not allow you to take what I am not willing to give and I see no cruelty in you… no, not one bit, abruptness and perhaps a bit of insensitivity… but not that. There is no need to apologize, I like you. I enjoy a good challenge.” he laughs, his eyes dancing with amusement.
She bites her lip as she picks them up reverently and starts to look at them. After a few minutes she puts them down and frowns. A hint of frustration crawls into her voice, “I can’t read them. The words crawl across the page and squirm into my brain. They are familiar yet unfamiliar. I suppose I won’t be able to cast spells by morning, will I?”
“No Immerine, probably not by morning, but maybe not too long. The fact that the symbols are familiar to you and that they affect you is a sign that you are ready. I promise I will help you as best I can and that I have every confidence that you will be casting spells in relatively short order if my instincts are correct.”
“I had a dream when I came here. I knew I would be learning magic.” Immerine smirks a bit, “I have visions a great deal Tarim. These visions are reflections of future possibilities and past occurrences. They are not always pleasant. I want to understand this gift better and I know learning this will help focus me more. These things are familiar because I learned them in visions and dreams. The wychlaran knew this would happen when I left Rashemen. I was raised by a sisterhood of sorts. All the ladies are talented and blessed with gifts of the gods. So I am familiar with magic, but not exactly as how your friend out there described it. I could not learn from him. He bores me and makes this very tedious. I knew you were the one I would learn from as soon as I saw you in the stable.”
She is quiet for a moment and actually looks like a reserved Lady, “Do you know what it is like to be feared but all you want it to be liked and have true friends? You are very wrong Tarim, I can be cruel. I have been cruel and I will have to be cruel in the future. My homeland has shaped me to be what I am.”
She sighs and pushes the papers back toward him. “I will learn because it has been ordained that I shall become a Hathran of my people. I will learn to protect my people. I will learn because I have been commanded by the Hidden One. I will learn because of your kindness in agreeing to teach a stranger. How do I begin?”
A subtle change comes over the barbarian youth as Immerine opens up a bit, his enthusiasm dampens a bit but his eyes never leave her face and he listens ever so carefully. “I had always hoped to be guided by a vision, blessed by some sort of insight that might tell me what the right thing to do is” Tarim says softly “To know without a doubt that I was an instrument of Mystra’s will rather than a foolish mageling floundering about in the dark meddling with things beyond his understanding.”
“She’s marked me as one of her own…” he ventures, rolling his sleeve back over his forearm exposing a marking looking very much like a circle with seven stars around it and a stream coming from the center. “That’s been there since I was born.”
“Kevin… well yes…” Tarim grins softly “He can certainly talk…but he is brilliant without a doubt and gifted in The Art. You would do well to listen to him if you can bear it” He reaches over by the papers to pat her hand, but catches himself, blushing.
“I have never been feared nor have I any true friends save for my sister. The world has by and large ignored me… till now.” he says with a glint in his eye. “And because I have escaped notice I have a chance to do some good in the world.”
“As far as kindness goes… If I am kind Immerine, it is because kindness was shown me and I know its value well. I would not have lived beyond my first winter save for extraordinary kindnesses. I have much to give in that regard, my sister always said so and I believe she was right. I merely continue the cycle by helping you and perhaps you in turn will do so to another one day.”
“I will tell you something Immerine, I am drawn to you. I believe I was brought here to teach you, that it is my purpose now and the will of Our Lady of Mysteries. To that end I will do everything I can to teach, assist, and protect you.” Tarim’s eyes are fierce as he utters his vow and there can be no doubt as to his truthfulness.
As Tarim speaks Immerine’s eyes lose some of the guarded appearance and stress lines smooth across her forehead. She reflexively pulls back when he moves to touch her. When he finishes his vow to her, she flinches. “No Tarim. You do not know what you speak. Too many have pledged themselves to me in the last few days. In my home such pledges are binding, but I cannot hold any of you to your words when it seems vows are not taken seriously outside my home. Please do not complicate this. Do not… for your sake and safety… please.” There is fear and concern in Immerine’s eyes. She adds with a barely heard whisper, “Death follows me. I can’t do that to you.”
As Nik comes in he sees Immerine seated across from Tarim at the table. He hand is poised above a neat sheaf of papers, as of she just pushed them back to Tarim and there is an odd stricken look on her face. She turns her head as Nik speaks and the look is gone as if it were never there.
The tall bard waits for a pause and approaches the witch. Clearing his throat nervously, Nik starts hesitantly “Erm, before I forget…” Nik looks away, tugging anxiously at the gaudy scarf around his throat. When he looks back at Immerine his eyes are worried and faintly embarrassed “Could you please thank Qwenta for not biting me earlier?” the bard says softly. “I… erm… there were a lot of things on my mind in there, and, well, it’s likely a good thing, too, since I didn’t even notice him there until after you had left.”
Nik sighs, looking truly embarrassed now, dull eyes now fixed on his broken-down boots. “And please don’t get yourself banished over the likes of me.” he adds faintly. “Banishment weighs heavily on even a feckless drunkard like myself.” He gives Immerine an anxious glance, his dull eyes filled with worry. “I treasure your help, milady, more than I can say, and I swear on whatever scrap of honor I still possess that I’ll help you in return. Any way I can.”
He gives Tarim an apologetic smile, and says “Sorry. I promise to shut my mouth now and let you teach.”
“Not you too – oh Nik,” Immerine hangs her head. “You are the fifth man to pledge himself to me on honor, or vows. I will help you and any who require it because it is the right thing to do, not because I need anything in return. This is so hard for me because your ways are not mine. What you consider simple courtesy in such beautiful pledges is not that simple where I come from.”
Immerine looks up her green eyes troubled, “Let me see if I can explain. In my homeland I am in training to be a Hathran – a ruler and protector of my people. Pledges such as I have been hearing are very serious things to us. Usually a man only pledges himself this way if he intends to follow and protect with his very existence, or in some cases with the future intention of a possible bond with the wychlaran he has pledged himself too. I ask that you not do that. Let us simply have a fellowship together where we will help one another because it is the correct thing to do.”
“Nik, I am honored by your vow. And you as well Tarim, but you both do not know me well enough to say these things. It could very well mean your death, and I cannot condemn you to this fate. Death follows me, or I seem to find it. It comes for me in the air, the water and the earth. It strikes at me in my dreams and even as I walk beneath the sun. This is why I seek to understand the spark of the Weave that pulls at me. I have to understand so I – well, so I can feel at peace and whole again.”
Immerine smiles gently, “So please, no more pledges or vows. Let us be friends instead.”
Tarim smiles kindly at the witch as he listens. “You may be right, Immerine in that I do not know you or your people well. But you do not know me or mine either.” he begins gently.
“I do not fear death. Death and I have been constant companions for most of my life. I spent nearly my entire youth expecting to die, victim of some fever or whatnot. It was only after I embraced the Weave that I began to strengthen. Mystra has given me such gifts…her favor, my life and some small talent in The Art…, I cannot treat her wishes lightly. I have been brought here to teach you Immerine, and teach you I shall. To that end I will protect you in whatever way I can.” He stops and smiles “And that IS my vow, not to you dear lady, but to my Goddess.” he says with a finality.
“Oh…and before we begin Immerine, my people abhor oath breakers…they are banished, if not slain outright, and while I do not consider myself of the Tree Ghost Tribe any longer, my soul still abides by certain truths of right and wrong” he explains, his manner suggesting perhaps a bit of hurt pride.
“I have nothing to stop me in this matter save fear of what follows you” his gentle voice is low with seriousness before he pauses and adds “You will find that fear has no hold on me.” a dangerous light in his eyes.
“Nik’s vow is his own business…it has nothing to do with mine or my reasons, nor does anyone else’s. If you find that many are vowing to protect you, I would be both grateful and careful. You are likely to need them. It sounds as if your future holds great danger. If you are to rule you must know that responsibility must come first and in order to return to your people a ‘Hathran’ you must avail yourself of all viable resources. Think on that for a bit before you shoo us off” he suggests.
The tall bard looks chagrined as Immerine explains how he has added to her burden instead of easing it. Tarim’s confidence adds doubt and guilt to Nik’s haggard face. His narrow shoulders slump again, and the old bitterness flares in the bard’s sunken eyes.
“I didn’t mean it the way either of you thought I did.” Nik says, in clear denial of the desperate need in his eyes just a few moments ago. The crooked, sardonic smile on his face, he continues with a brittle cheer that only highlights the harsh bitterness in his voice. “I’m not brave, or strong, or even clever. I’m just a drunkard, a coward, and a… thief… who happens to have some small skill with a guitar, a rather extensive education and an astonishing memory for the most trivial of things. I’m more of a liability than an asset in a fight, and the very idea of dying scares me beyond the capacity for rational thought. I can’t be counted on to do the right thing, or even the sensible thing. Fear owns me, completely…”
Nik looks away suddenly, eyes full of anguish as he realizes he has fallen back into the destructive pattern of self-loathing that he has promised to try to break. The gaunt man shudders, arms wrapped around his narrow chest, and when he looks back at Immerine and Tarim his eyes are bright with shame as he offers them an apologetic smile. “Sorry.” he mumbles.
He sighs and straightens up slightly. “I really didn’t mean to add to your burden, milady.” he says to Immerine softly. His dull eyes are clear now, his smile faintly hopeful. “And I don’t want you to mistake my desire to help you for anything more than it is. I…” He looks away again, clearly uncomfortable with what he is about to say. “Julia always called me a helpless romantic. Her off-white knight in paper armor.” Nik gives Immerine and Tarim a small, earnest smile, a flicker of humor in his dull eyes. “The gods know I can’t take care of myself, but I always find myself trying to help others, even when it’s clear they are far more capable than I am.”
Nik chuckles wryly, and adds “And I tend to repay kindness with the sort of fawning, needy loyalty most often seen in an abandoned puppy rescued from the gutter.”
“So I’ll help you out of friendship, and because it’s the right thing to do. I promise not to widdle on the carpet.” The tall bard grins at Immerine, his crooked smile guileless and open and his sunken hazel eyes finally free of the turbulent storm of emotions that usually clouds them. Nik looks decades younger with the crushing weight of his past off his narrow shoulders, even if it’s likely only a temporary respite.
Immerine shakes her head at the answers from both men and smiles. “Friends, we shall be friends and help each other.” She looks Tarim in the eyes, “I do not know you and you are correct. But I feel you still need the warning. You have steel in you that is not readily seen Tarim. I hope it serves you well rather than bending beneath the strain. It is good to know you are devoted to your mistress. Very good indeed. So let us get on with the lesson.”
Not seeing anyone following his suggestion, Kevin shrugs and takes the lead. Kethron scampers after him, the tressym’s wings held tight to his body to avoid hitting them on anyone’s ankles. After reaching the impromptu lesson room, he knocks on the door and sticks his head in. “Hello, sorry to keep you waiting.”
Seeing the serious expressions on their faces, Kevin looks hesitant. “Erm, not interrupting anything, am I?”
“No, we have been expecting you and your shadow. Come in Teryn. Tarim was just getting ready to begin the lesson.” Immerine smiles and nods at the chair next to Tarim and one next to Nik. “Is Emlyn coming?” she asks Kevin.
The witch’s question is answered as even be fore anyone can answer, the small but brave woman enters. “Lady Ditalidas and Puddy went to check on Marc. Of Matteo no sign yet.” She says as she takes a seat at the table. “By all means continue, like the warrior,” Emlyn gestures at Teryn, “I’ll listen and learn – even though the arcane magic is beyond my grasp, I might learn indeed how to counter it if I ever come across it – not unlikely in our situation judging by the events of today.”
Teryn turns to Emlyn when she mentions ‘the warrior’ and he smiles, gesturing for her to sit in a chair next to him, but he says nothing more.
Nodding gravely to the small woman as she enters Tarim gains his feet and takes a spot a few feet from the table where everyone can see him. “Where to begin…” he muses for a few seconds.
“All right, Immerine this is your time… “You have expressed that your primary interest is the actual casting process. Not uncommon.” he assures her. “It certainly was mine. I have seen that magic is not unknown to you and so we will begin in the middle as it were. If there is anything that you do not understand stop me and I will explain. I am going to be assuming that you know certain things and assumptions are often wrong. Even mine occasionally.” he chuckles.
With that the young mage utters a few arcane syllables and gestures oddly. “I am beginning with the mechanics of spell memorization and casting, to memorize a spell you must be able to bring these symbols into focus in your mind and to let them bring your mind into a state of readiness to accept the energies that must be locked in your mind for the casting. It is in that state that a wizard brings the energies within her and locks them away for later use. I should add that despite what some will tell you there is no one way to master the Art and that is why it is –Art– and not science. Each spell it as much a product of the mage as the symbols on the page. You will find that my scribings are no doubt different from Kevin’s should you ever see his spellbooks.”
“Each of these symbols,” he says turning and rapidly scribing various signs in the air, “is part of the memorization process. Together they form a common ‘phrase’ of symbols and are to be found in almost all spells. What you must do is look at these symbols and bring your mind to a state of readiness to accept the energies. It is like a form of meditation, you must prime your mind to accept then the symbols that follow instruct you how to collect them, lock them away and then how to release them safely and in the manner of your choosing.”
Tarim pauses and looks at Immerine intently “So far so good?”
“Continue. I am following you” says the witch brusquely.
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