(Xenograg and his apprentice, Amanda, have come to the Eldarië realm of Matlal to help find out why trees are no longer growing.)
“The task at hand is of earth, so that is where we shall start.” He turns to his apprentice. “Amanda, begin the preparations.”
The teenage girl nods and lowers the bags she carries to the ground. She methodically removes two robes of forest green color. She pulls one over her head and secures it with a rope belt; the robe is ankle-length and has a hood. She takes up the other robe and carries it to Xenograg. She helps her master don the robe, and ties the rope belt around his waist. They raise the hoods of their robes in unison. Lastly, Amanda bends down and takes a long oaken wand from the bag.
“Ready, Master,” Amanda says at last.
“Proceed,” is Xenograg’s command to her. She turns and walks towards an area of plants. Xenograg follows her in single file. She seeks a place where a tree should be, and soon finds one. Amanda looks to Xenograg for a cue, but he simply gestures for her to proceed on her own judgment. He stands behind her, observing everything with three eyes.
Amanda digs up the tree seed with a hand shovel from her bag. She takes the seed between her palms and closes her eyes. She murmurs an incantation several times before turning to Xenograg with her findings.
“Father, this seed is still alive.”
“Indeed?” is his reply.
“Yes. It is still dormant despite all the met conditions for germination.”
“So…?” is Xenograg’s leading question. Amanda smiles as she answers with enthusiam.
“So the problem is not with the seed but the ground!” Xenograg just gives her a critical look, and her smile vanishes. “Um…possibly. We must look at more seeds.”
“Very good,” Xenograg judges. Amanda has realized her conclusion is premature, and that is the lesson of the moment. Xenograg expects her statement will be proven, but it must indeed be proven with sufficient evidence.
Amanda fills in the hole but keeps the seed. She stands and moves off to find another planting.
Amanda and Xenograg dig up three more tree seeds. All appear alive yet dormant.
“But why only the trees?” asks Amanda.
“When we understand that, we will likely have solved the problem,” is Xenograg’s conjecture.
“How shall we examine the earth?”
“Scrying is channeled through the senses,”, Xenograg instructs. “Each element has a preferred sense. With air, it is sight; with water, taste. What of earth?” Amanda smiles as she remembers the answer from a previous discussion.
“So we should start with a magic circle.” It was not a question, and Amanda begins looking for an appropriate location.
After selecting a suitable spot, Amanda clears it of loose debris. Using her wand, Amanda encloses herself and Xenograg within two shallow rings in the dirt. Xenograg guides her drawing of the glyphs between the circles.
“Done?” she asks.
“Test it,” is his instruction. Amanda nods and centers herself. She takes her time with the working, knowing the crucial importance of quality. With a labored exhale and upswinging arms, Amanda raises a ward from the magic circle. She feels momentarily drained, and sits down on the ground. After checking on his daughter’s condition, Xenograg inspects her work. Like her, he takes his time.
“Well done, my girl,” is his judgment. Amanda beams with pride. “Do you want to rest?” he asks, not as a test but in concern.
“No, I can continue. I want to,” comes Amanda’s reply without hesistation. Xenograg smiles and nods his assent.
“Very well. I will return in an hour or so.” With that, Xenograg carefully steps out of the magic circle. Amanda’s ward is a focusing one — rather than interposing a boundary between within and without, it channels energy to the sorcerer within. Amanda should be able to sense the entire isle from where she sits.
“So are you going to make Amanda do everything?” is Alais’s half-teasing question to Xenograg. They are standing on the porch of her house.
“Perhaps,” is his retort. After a moment of silence, he continues. “Seriously, my skills are weak in both green magic and divination. With Amanda, they are strong.”
“Yes. Her first manifestation was the Sight, in dreams. We shall see if she can summon it awake and at will.” Xenograg takes a sip of fruit juice. He does not know what fruit it is from, but it is sweet and slakes his thirst.
“Didn’t you tell me your old master was a seer?”
“Yes. Maret was the greatest of his time. I always felt myself a disappointment to him that I could not learn to See.”
“He did not feel you were a disappointment, did he?”
“No, and he strove to get me to forgive myself.”
“He succeeded,” Alais reminds him. Xenograg smiles.
“Yes, though he did not live to see it.” Xenograg sighs. “How I wish he were alive to advise me on teaching one who has the Sight.”
Amanda eventually tires and cannot hold her concentration. She has been laying on her back within the circle, having found that more contact with the earth improves her sensing to a noticeable degree. Xenograg walks over when he sees her sit up.
“Tired?” he asks, and she simply nods. “Hungry, too, I expect,” is his follow-on statement. Amanda realizes she is very hungry. She also notices it is late afternoon — later than she expected it to be.
“I lost track of time,” she admits.
“A very common occurrence. Come, Alais has arranged an early dinner.” Amanda smiles at that, but then remembers the task at hand.
“What of the circle?”
“It will fade in time. I trust you can raise another?” he challenges. Amanda smiles again, this time in pride.
“Yes, I can.” Xenograg smiles, too, and holds out his hand. Amanda stands and brushes some dirt from her clothes. She steps out of the circle and takes her father’s hand. “I am hungry.”
“I told Alais you would be,” he replies, “and that you are a growing girl. She accused me of not feeding you enough, though, judging by your stature.”
“Now I am embarrassed,” she blushes. Amanda is petite and self-conscious about it. Xenograg puts one arm around his daughter as they walk to the house.
“Alais is fond of you. I think you impressed her when she visited Xenodar.” Amanda nods but her smile fades. The disconcerting memory of Alais’s lesson in necromancy is one Amanda will never forget.
“She told you?”
“No, but I hear it in her voice. Listen at dinner and see if you do as well.” Amanda smiles again and nods. It is not another test, but a reminder to always pay attention.
(continues in “Amanda’s Nightmare“)