Apprenticeship

Image: Shipwreck Valley by Juhani Jokinen. Used without permission, will remove if requested.

“Concentrate. Focus.”

Xe tried to keep calm. Being in the middle of a hailstorm didn’t help with that.

“Use your stone. That’s what it’s there for.”

Xe focused on the amethyst hanging from her neck. Without opening her eyes, she visualized it. The silver chain with the clasp that sometimes didn’t hold and would have to be replaced someday. The the broken hook in the mounting. The stone itself, the way it reflected light, the minute variations.

Xe opened her eyes. The storm had calmed down to a fine drizzle. Magistra Kanya stared at her sternly, but then stern was the normal state for Magistra Kanya.

“Well done,” she said. “And now manage this,” and she gestured with the palm of her hand upwards.

Xe repeated her concentration trick.

It worked.

“I’ll see you tomorrow by the temple gates,” Magistra Kanya said.

Xe bowed. When she looked up, Magistra Kanya was gone.

* * * *

Xe rose early. Magistra Kanya was obsessed with punctuality; Xe intended to be at the temple before her. She knew Magistra Kanya appreciated little details like that one.

It was thus with chagrin that Xe discovered Magistra Kanya already waiting for her. She didn’t need to check the time in the sundial above their heads in the temple’s façade; she knew she was early.

Xe bowed and remained silent, as befitted her. She tried to hide her surprise at the Magistra’s attire, which had exchanged formality in favour of practicality. She looked ready for a long trip through the forests. Kanya even carried her own backpack!

“You’re early,” she said upon Xe’s arrival, “good. Let’s not tarry; it’s a long road.”

So they set off immediately. The temple occupied the exact city center, or at least what was the center of the old town before it grew out of bounds. As it was her custom, Magistra Kanya kept to the narrow, solitary back streets and alleys, meandering their way out of the city. She kept a lively pace that suited Xe perfectly.

Xe felt the eyes of the assailants upon them before she actually saw any of them. She struck a defensive pose at once. She knew she was fast. Apparently not enough, because Magistra Kanya already was a blur.

A miniature blizzard hit the first thug square in his face, knocking him out. Swinging around, Magistra Kanya froze the next one on the spot. He fell down, shivering. She then turned around to look at Xe.

The third criminal was upon her, brandishing a knife. Xe parried, thanking her iron-reinforced leather bracelets, and struck back at her assailant. She discovered it was a woman, with feral eyes that never left her as she swung the knife from one hand to the other, waiting for the best moment to plunge forwards.

Xe didn’t give her time. Focusing on her amethyst, she created a personal storm for her aggressor. Exactly around her head.

* * * *

Xe had always called it the Forests. She knew some people called it the Wilderness. Both were wrong. This was an authentic jungle, barely half a day away from the city, if you just knew where to look for it.

“Come, this way,” Magistra Kanya said, as they got deeper within the jungle. She walked effortlessly, as if a path opened for her. Xe soon struggled with vines and roots just to keep pace.

Then they reached a clearing. A cliff opened before them. Xe heard water running down below.

“There it is,” Magistra Kanya pointed. Xe followed her finger. Over there, at the other side of the canyon, a column of stone rose from the ground. It was as if a giant god had decided to point a finger upwards. But most spectacular was the wreck of the ship on top of the spire. Some of its masts still stood, but the sails were long gone.

“That, Xe, is the wreck of the Merhawk. Once you become a weather wizard, your duty will lie with your ship.”

Xe felt her heart soar. It was the first time Magistra Kanya had implied she would succeed.

“You cannot fail your ship,” Magistra Kanya kept saying, “for you two will be bound through your stone. We keep the Merhawk wreck to show apprentices what happens if you dare to fall. We’re going to get up there, but remember this: a weather wizard is as good as her service to her ship.”

Magistra Kanya started climbing down the cliff using a stone staircase Xe hadn’t noticed. Xe stared at the wreckage, and a thought crept into her mind: who had been the Merhawk’s weather wizard?

~~~~

This is my accompanying entry for the Weekly Writing Exercise: June 12–18, 2017 at the Writer’s Discussion Group on Google+. I am responsible for creating the prompts for the Exercise, so I don’t take part, but I still like to write a story each week.

This week the image sent the words “weather wizard” into my brain, and I went with them. I felt the wreck had to mean a wizard had failed, and tried to use that as well. Hope you like it.