Sorry it has been so long. My life has been busy to the extreme of sanity. But I’m finally posting this again. Enjoy!
Warnings: None for this chapter. A lot of theory is discussed, and Adyn acts up. Nothing special. ;-P
Bound to the Flame
Margery met Rowan in the chapel that morning, for prayers. She gave him a sidelong glance. It seemed that he wouldn’t be done for a long while; he was kneeling upright, hands folded demurely, large golden-hazel eyes turned slightly up toward the makeshift altar in the pavilion. The lights cascaded down over him in a golden shower of shifting, glittering dust motes, adding to the home-like atmosphere. Margery slid into a row of pews, kneeling down as she did, and shooting another sideways glance at Rowan. He looked as if he was exhausted, but drawing comfort and strength from this place.
After a long while, Rowan made the sign of the cross and rose. He picked up the stick that was resting against the pew beside him and made his way out of the makeshift chapel, struggling to genuflect. He limped slowly out of the tent and into the open. Margery followed. “I thought you were going to tutor Adyn…” she began.
“I am,” Rowan replied, “but only after we’ve had breakfast, and once we’re well within the woods. We don’t want any trouble. Meet us in the glade by the stream with the two standing rocks once you’ve eaten. That’s where we’ll have our classes.”
“All right. I’ll see you then,” Margery said.
Margery ate breakfast with her family and some of the other members of her clan and made her way into the woods as soon as she had finished. This was perfectly normal for her, so no one remarked on it. She followed the stream that ran through the encampment at Cremlegged, instinctively avoiding the forest on the side of the encampment that faced the ancient circle of standing stones in the woods beyond. She didn’t know why, but she dreaded to enter that ancient star wheel. She found her way easily to the glen Rowan had specified. Just as he had said, there was a stream flowing through an open glade with two large gray moss-covered, lichen-encrusted boulders at its head. She perched on one to wait, enjoying the sunny morning in the woods.
She was sitting there, as pre-arranged, on that same stone, when Rowan finally appeared, leaning heavily on his staff and shepherding a reluctant Adyn ahead of him. She rose, quickly. “What took you so long?” she asked.
“Adyn has a ritual of playing hide and go seek before magic lessons,” Rowan replied succinctly, with a little irritation evident in his breathless voice. Adyn grinned, unabashed, then he looked up at Margery with a look of awe.
“Are you a pixie?” he asked, eyes wide. Rowan groaned.
“That’s a marvelous way to start an awkward conversation, Adyn.” he reproved. Almost miraculously, the incorrigible, insufferable grin reappeared on Adyn’s face. Rowan sighed. “You’re impossible, obstreperous, and frustrating, and you’ll likely come to a bad end one of these days.” Rowan sighed and faced round to Margery. “Once in a blue moon, one word in three will get through to him. Not much more than that, though.” He sighed and gestured to the base of a nearby tree. “Shall we begin?” Margery stared at the huge—at least ten feet across—pixie ring that stood a few feet away, under the canopy of a spreading oak.
“Wouldn’t you rather use the pixie ring?” she asked. Rowan shrugged.
“Suit yourself, but you might as well make yourself comfortable,” he said, adding a slight emphasis on the last word. “We’re not doing magic practice today. Only theory. And mystique isn’t really worth much. There’s not much point in exhausting yourself just to sit in a circle of mushrooms.”
“That’s all it is?” Margery asked, disappointed.
“Quite everything,” Rowan replied. “Though some plants are thought to channel magic or have magical properties, mushrooms often just make you hallucinate. They have nothing to do with magic at all. In other words, they’re perfectly normal. There was a rumor, once, about mushrooms that could supposedly block a magic user’s abilities, but that’s just legend, with no substance that I know of. They just started calling those things pixie rings because someone thought that a toadstool would be a nice little place for a pixie to live. I don’t know why they would think that. It might make a nice place to hide under if you got caught outside in a downpour, but it would make a pretty poor seat or house in the long run. I think that pixies would really rather prefer trees, actually.” Feeling rather foolish, Margery sat down on a low stump nearby, and Rowan began the lesson.
“Much of modern magic theory is based on the work of Greek philosophers, such as Empedocles and Aristotle… you remember that much from last time, don’t you, Adyn?” The boy nodded. Rowan continued. “The Aristotelian theory of the elements states that there are not four, as in Empedocles’ theory, but five. The first four, which you probably already know, are earth, air, fire and water. The fifth Aristotle called ‘ether.’ He postulated that it was the material which made up the heavenly bodies, the stars, sun, comets, and planets. Maewyr the Great, whom we consider to be the first of the true Wielders, was the one to come up with the idea that the heavenly bodies were made up of similar materials and elements to Earth itself, and the fifth element, ‘ether’, was in fact, the essence of magic itself. All the work of later Wielders in theory is based off of his.
“According to Maewyr, the two classic elements most akin to magic are fire and air—air, because it is invisible, like magic is; only its effects are commonly seen and felt—and fire, because it is pure energy, just as magic is. Magical manipulation of the elements is a very large part of traditional magic, and more challenging than simple telekinesis or enhancement of the senses. Most people have an affinity for one, or two, but it takes training to effectively wield all five. Magic and fire are the two most difficult to use, as both are pure energy and as such are hard to control, but for the same reason they are the easiest to summon. It takes practice and experience with the elements to control plants and growth, and to learn to bend and summon light, which is considered the highest form of magic.
“Each element has an extension, or a separate form or continuation beyond itself. Some are both. The extension of fire is lightning. Water’s is ice. Earth’s is stone. Air’s continuation is rain.”
“Why rain?” Margery interrupted. Rowan looked at her, half-bewildered at having his discourse thus interjected.
“The air feels moist at times, does it not?” he asked. “And clouds come from the air, and rain comes from clouds. I think there is rain hanging suspended in the air at all times; it only falls occasionally, though.”
“Oh,” Margery said, subdued.
“Elemental storms are the most dangerous form of this kind of magic, especially since they can be so hard to master and remain in control of, and can be so easy to start in some circumstances.” Rowan continued. Adyn’s eyes wandered, following a butterfly across the pixie ring. Rowan sighed, frustrated. “And you’re not hearing a word of this, are you, Adyn?”
“Nope,” the boy said cheerfully. Rowan groaned.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to turn him into the kingdom’s champion,” he confided to Margery. “The little scaramouch.” Margery looked surprised.
“He’s supposed to become the Champion?”
“Well, what did you expect? He’s too scatter-brained to be a Seneschal,” Rowan bemoaned.
“Then… why are you training him? No offense, but you’re just a kid like me. Younger, even. How old, exactly, are you, anyway?”
“Seventeen,” Rowan replied, scuffing in the dirt with the toe of one boot.
“I’m a year older than you, then,” Margery said. She glanced at Rowan, coyly. “I thought you were younger.” Rowan sighed.
“Everyone tells me that,” he said. Margery shrugged.
“So… why are you, of all people, training Adyn, then?” Rowan sighed.
“I think it’s partly because of… the accident… to keep my mind off things. Keep me from brooding.” Margery frowned.
“Accident?” she asked, uncomprehending.
“Your highness, I’m crippled.” Rowan said bluntly. Margery gasped, both her hands going to her mouth. Rowan carried on, ruthlessly. “I’m not so badly crippled that I’m helpless, but one of my legs is weaker than the other, and some days the pain is so bad I can’t even walk at all. Since I can’t always walk and ride, I can’t be a knight in the strict sense, so I teach instead.” He glanced around, to see Adyn attempting to sneak off. With a startling burst of speed, he caught the miscreant by the collar and dragged him back. “Where do you think you’re off to, wretch?” he asked. Adyn struggled helplessly.
“I can’t help it if you’re boring, can I?” he snipped back. Rowan shook him gently.
“You just want to sneak back and see what’s going on at the Gathering, don’t you?” he said, softly. “A Wielder does not seek adventure or excitement for their own sakes!”
“Yeah, well, maybe I don’t want to be a Wielder,” Adyn retorted. Rowan’s eyes widened and he dropped Adyn, taking a step back.
“How can you say such a thing?” he asked, horror-struck.
“I don’t want to spend my life stuck in some moldy old castle in Ertraia! I want to see the world and have fun!”
“Adyn, being a wielder is an honor and an ancient tradition, and you have the potential to be the greatest,” Rowan said. “You can’t just throw that away! You can not disregard the Call like that!”
“It’s my life,” Adyn said obstinately.
“You wouldn’t go back to what you had before my mother took you in,” Rowan pointed out threateningly.
“I was a baby,” Adyn said, his voice whiny, completely ignoring Rowan’s ominous tone. Rowan’s dark eyes flashed.
“How can you be so ungrateful? You have talent, Adyn, talent, and you could be greater if you tried harder, but no! You throw it away the first time you see fool’s gold! There’s a reason why it’s lying by the wayside, Adyn, and that’s because it’s worthless!” Rowan gestured to the stone upon which Adyn had previously been sitting. “Now, sit back down, and we’ll complete the lesson.” Adyn stepped away, shaking his head.
“No. Not anymore. I’m not doing this any more. I’m leaving!” Rowan gripped the staff.
“Adyn!” he called after the boy, but it was too late. Adyn dashed off, ignoring him, vanishing into the surrounding trees in a matter of seconds. Rowan moved to run after him; limping a few steps, he tripped over a tree root and fell, stumbling and falling flat on his face, sprawled across the soft, moist loam. He gasped in pain. “Adyn!” he called again, but Adyn was gone. Margery ran to his side and helped him to his feet. Rowan limped forward, leaning against a tree exhaustedly for a moment, drawing in a slow, painful breath. Margery moved with him, supporting his slender form.
“Rowan…” Margery began.
“No time—I have to find him!” Rowan replied, anxiously.
“No. Wait.” Margery said. “You can’t catch him by your own speed, Rowan. You have to use your wits. And before you can find him, you have to rest.” Rowan groaned.
“I have to find him soon,” he stressed. “You don’t know Adyn as I do. He’s going to try to run away. His response to anything that doesn’t go his way is to run. And here, he could run anywhere.”
“But he won’t run just anywhere,” Margery said. “You know him. You can make an educated guess as to where he’ll go. And I—Right now, I need answers.”
“’Need’ and ‘deserve’ are dangerous words,” Rowan said coldly. “It would be both arrogant and shallow to take your high birth for granted, Your Highness.” Margery dashed his icy words aside as if they were so many annoying insects.
“I may not know Adyn, Rowan, but I do know humankind.” Rowan stiffened.
“And you’re saying that I do not?” he asked dangerously.
“Adyn didn’t really mean everything he said to hurt you,” Margery carried on, brashly ignoring him. “He… well, to be harshly accurate, he feels interest in me, almost fascination. He was showing off in front of me, trying to impress me. You were just an unintended victim caught in the crossfire, nothing more.”
“Do other boys act like this?” Rowan asked.
“Yes, I think it’s part of their natural disposition. Hormones are terrible things.” Rowan groaned.
“Why does Adyn have to pick someone twelve years older than himself to develop an attraction to? Sometimes I swear he’s just doing it all on purpose to give me grief.”
“Haven’t you ever had a crush on someone?” Margery asked. Rowan looked confused. “Puppy love. You know.” Rowan frowned, still confused.
“Maybe it has something to do with you being so short,” Margery mused. Rowan dismissed the comment as unintelligible, walking slowly off, leaning heavily on his staff. “I’ll help you look for him,” Margery offered, running after him. Rowan paused and turned, a look of relief on his thin, narrow face.
“You will?” he said, tawny dark eyes deeply grateful. “Thank you.”
“Where would he go?” Margery asked, catching up. Rowan looked throughtful.
“When he’s having fun, he generally hides where he thinks I’ll never find him, but when he’s mad or upset, there’s no telling where he’ll go. He might even consciously put himself into danger of some kind, just to spite me.”
Margery nodded. “Where did he come from?” she asked. “I heard you say that your mother took him and his mother in.” Rowan sighed.
“Years ago, his mother came to us. She was a an orphan, and had been chased from her home by accusations of sorcery, though she was not a magic user in actuality. She was about sixteen, then. My mother offered her work in the royal household, and she took care of me when I was little. Eventually, she left us to get married. A few years after that, she came back. Her husband had been murdered by sea raiders. She took care of me, again, after I was injured two years ago. Adyn was a child at the time. He doesn’t remember anything about the sea raiders’ attack, and he doesn’t understand. He’s a volatile child. I’m afraid of what he’ll do when he’s a bit older, old enough to be interested, anyway, and finds out what really happened to his father. But, when he’s upset, he runs to his mother, she’s the only parent he’s ever known…” Suddenly, Rowan froze.
“His mother—that’s it! Margery, he could be in one of two places. One is with his mother. Hurry back to the encampment of Clan Caerlen and ask around for Taryn. If Adyn is there, with her, well and good. If not, tell her I’ll find him.” The determined ring in Rowan’s voice said he would brook no argument. Margery nodded and set off to find the mysterious Taryn. Rowan headed off into the deeper woods—toward the circle of the Cremlegged.