Uri prevailed. To my credit, it was a close match, but the boy sidestepped at the right moment and the big man flew past him and into the crowd, which parted to let him land with a grunt. The opponents bowed to each other solemnly, then the man ruffled Uri’s hair, smiling.
Uri waved at me, a grin consuming his face. Then he pointed to himself and then at me and nodded. I took that to mean that if he could do it, so could I. I nodded back. Sure, I could do that in about a year of constant training.
The Owl snapped his fingers again and everyone gathered up their belongings and slipped away into the late afternoon haze.
Following The Owl back to the sleeping area, my body felt like wet wool – heavy and stinky.
“You’re fatigue comes from your magic use. It will get better.” The Owl left me with those words and a tray of carrots, onions, hard bread, and a weak beer.
Grateful that Dreanan hadn’t served me, I stripped off my grimy clothes and bathed the best I could in small washbasin. My face itched from my beard growth, but I hadn’t a razor. Did the ancients have a water system like Trommel? Pondering this, I ate and tossed bits of bread to Zat, who enjoyed catching them and turning them to little bright flashes.
I looked through my returned goods, reading again the letter to my mother that mentioned me. It also congratulated my mother on the birth of her daughter and the person’s wish to someday meet that child. I poked my memory and could not come up with the child’s name or what happened to it. Som said that she’d died, but I had a feeling. I poked at my memory for a while longer and ended up with a headache. Maybe it’d come back to me while I slept. I supposed I should ask The Owl if he knew the author of the letter.
I placed the map to the side and reached in to pull out the shards of the vase. They crumbled in my fingers, turning into the same tan ash that the rest of Tiria’s things had. I poked at it. It felt cool and stuck to my finger – sort of a consistency between ash and sand. I poured the rest of it out of the bag and pushed it into a pile. Zat came over and perched on my shoulder, curious.
I poured a bit of beer into the pile and made a ball. Zat patted at it with a tendril and the tan ball solidified but remained malleable. It turned opaque.
I examined it more closely. A web of green light ran through the ball, reminding me of the green power that had given me a boost in the tavern in Trommel.
I pulled out the map and looked, under Zat’s helpful light, for the green lines. If the green lines were the soul of the land then perhaps these green lines were a part of that soul? Did the land have separate souls or just one big one? After all, a map was a construct of man, not the elements. The elements and their associated weather gods didn’t care on which side of the river you were on when it flooded.
“It rains equally on the just and the unjust,” I murmured, repeating a phrase my mother frequently recited to me when I’d whined about moving.
Ha! I’d whined about moving. If only I could remember where from and to. I assumed Oakvale was the ‘to,’ so maybe the sanctuary had been the ‘from.’ Coalfen Swamp?
Zat knocked the rest of my beer over and then settled in the pile of wet ash, purring with content. Fire elementals like to nest in small spaces, like lamps, so I formed the ash into a deep cup around it. It settled down to rest and I followed its example.
The next morning I went with Uri to learn how to grapple. By the afternoon, I’d been thrown so many times I’d learned to lessen the impact by grabbing the wind. Uri complained to The Owl that I’d been cheating, but The Owl shook his head, saying “He’s using his natural ability just as you are using your size.” So Uri asked how he could negate that natural ability.
The Owl said, “Shot him,” which didn’t sound like fun to me. Uri rolled his eyes behind The Owl’s back.
We moved on to weapons, actually sticks the size of daggers and learned circles.
Lots and lots of circles – circles to defend, circles to attack, moving our feet in circles, moving our hands in circles. Circles.
My head seemed to be spinning in circles, so it took me a moment to notice the tan-clad men coming up out of the refuse tunnel, crossbows and swords in hand.