Indentured to Sentridemus
By Todd R. Falk
Sentridemus enters Xenograg’s chamber unannounced and uninvited. Xenograg chooses to ignore the slight to his position by the master sorcerer.
"The lesson continues, student," Sentridemus intones. He holds his staff before him, upright in both hands. Xenograg unclasps his sword belt as he stands, letting it clatter to the floor, then summons a magical shield.
"Good play, student. Already on the defensive. I am flattered." Sentridemus spins his staff around his head, murmuring a series of words, and summons his will against the Realness-That-Is. Wispy tendrils of vapor and smoke arch across the room, wrapping around Xenograg. Sentridemus’s attack twists and tears the shield away like a leaf from a tree.
"It was a good shield, student. Good angles, excellent posture, and thoughtful intent. Of course, taking the first move is a disadvantage, always. It allowed me to pick my reply better. You should listen more to your own sermons of sword-play. The lessons are holistic." Sentridemus releases his spell-work that has crawled across the room on its own, seeking to strangle Xenograg. "This lesson tonight is adjourned."
"If it pleases the Master…"
"It does not," Sentridemus snaps.
"…may we continue a dialogue about the runes I have been researching?" Xenograg had read independently of his lessons and duties, and became interested in often-ignored types of magic. Types of magic that Sentridemus usually found boring and unimportant.
"I do not see your interest in such matters. Your indenture to me has nothing do with what you wish to learn, and everything to do with what I am willing to teach you. I feel that your father would agree, yes?"
"My father," Xenograg says without affection, "did expect me to take liberties if it meant practical improvements worthy of His will."
"Yes…this is true." Sentridemus remembers his own tutelage under Demograg, where Xenograg’s father would expect—if not demand—that all that could be learned was to be pursued. Initiative was valued even though it attracted suspicion. "Go on, then. Say what you are craving to say."
Xenograg takes a thoughtful breath. "Runes have a versatile nature that can enhance spell-casting." He opens a text and continues to speak his mind without formality. "This section describes using one or more compatible glyphs to strengthen a shield. This section describes an experience of using two glyphs—held in the palms—to allow for shifting conditions, and give the caster some ability to compensate. With this, you will not be able to twist my shield away from me like the lid of a jar."
"Now I see why you chose the shield so quickly as your first move. Did you intend to use your failure to broach this topic?"
"No, Master. My father had a saying: ‘With my feet in the ground, and my head in the sky, I shall crush my enemies between the Two Worlds.’ Can you understand the meaning in the phrase and my reasons for wanting to ask you about this?"
Sentridemus nods slightly. He retrieves Xenograg’s saber off the floor and balances it across the arms of a chair. With a quill, Sentridemus scratches a different rune on each palm. "The ground…the sky…" He holds the ground hand under the saber and hovers the sky hand above. "…between the two worlds…" and he claps his hands against the scabbard. Metal shatters inside the leather sheath and the sword’s hilt falls. "It is a good quote, student. I had forgotten it in my own lessons with your father. Perhaps I should think about it more." Sentridemus haughtily walks for the door. "I shall honor some of your inquiries into runic magic. Thank you for reminding me fondly of Demograg’s wisdom."
Xenograg takes the scabbard in his hands and slowly pours the pieces out, none larger than a coin. He shakes the last crumb of metal and says to no one, "I have always hated those words of my father."