Initiation of a Sorceress
“Father?” asks Amanda.
‘Here it comes,’ thinks Xenograg. After a long day in the fields, the two were laying in the grass under the early evening stars. This is the first privacy the two have had in weeks, and Xenograg expected his daughter to eventually bring up what was bothering her. “Yes, Amanda?”
“I…,” she begins but loses her resolve.
“You want to know when I will teach you real magic.”
“Yes!” she blurts, then becomes embarrassed. “Um, I mean, you have been teaching me, but not like Erwyn or Mystic.” Xenograg sits up and faces Amanda. She does likewise.
“Each of you is very different,” he begins. “Both Erwyn and Mystic came to me with some power already manifest. In fact, they are with me because they are so strong so young. That is not healthy in some ways. I am pacing you with that reason in mind.”
“I feel…awkward,” she admits.
“You feel weak, especially when the youngest of you three is the most powerful.”
“I do not have much to show for all the training.”
“Perhaps, and you have not complained until now, a year and a half in.”
“I do not mean to complain, Father,” she apologizes. “I just want…something. As you said, it has been a year and a half already.”
“And if I say you are not ready for the next step?”
“Is it a big step?” She asks, and Xenograg mentally gives her credit for doing so.
“Yes, it is,” Xenograg informs his apprentice. He watches her carefully, as this is the crucial moment. He can see Amanda pondering, thoughts and emotions fighting each other for primacy.
“Is it a test?” Xenograg gives her another point for forward thinking.
“Perhaps,” is his cryptic answer. Amanda adds that to her mental stew. After another minute, she takes a deep breath.
“I want the next step, Master,” she announces with nervous courage. “I cannot stay where I am any longer.” Xenograg looks her hard in the eyes for a long moment. She meets his gaze with the same nervous courage. He then grunts and stands up.
“I will think about it. Now come, let us get home.” Amanda stands, and Xenograg puts an arm around her shoulders. She hugs her father and they walk back towards the incomplete keep.
It is Midsummer’s Eve and all is ready. It has been over a week since Amanda made her first adult decision: asking for early advancement to the next stage of sorcerous training. Despite his reservations, Xenograg decided to grant her request. He believes Amanda’s assertiveness should be encouraged. The past week has been spent making preparations.
Following Xenograg’s instructions, Erwyn and Mystic dress Amanda in a plain gown of white linen and slippers. Amanda is nervous, and the other girls hug her for comfort. They then escort Amanda to their teacher who awaits them in Nom’s Tower. Amanda’s eyes widen when she beholds her father dressed in an ornate, blood-red robe.
“Thank you, Erwyn, Mystic,” he says to them in a formal tone. “From here, Amanda must walk alone.” The two girls bow and withdraw. Amanda reminds herself to breathe.
“Follow,” he instructs his apprentice. Without another word, he turns and walks through the already-activated portal mirror. Amanda hurries to catch up. She steps through into a room she has never been before. Any thought of questions is superceded by the need to keep up with Xenograg. They move from room to room until they come to a stone stairwell. Xenograg takes a torch from the wall and descends. Amanda holds a hand to the wall while she walks down into the darkness below. She begins to smell mustiness and dampness.
Down and down they go, the corkscrew stair beginning to make Amanda dizzy. Finally, they reach the bottom. There is a faint light coming through a narrow stone archway. Xenograg walks through into that other chamber, leaving Amanda in almost total darkness. She steps through the archway to find another person is already here. He, too, brought a torch which is fitted in a sconce on the wall. Xenograg places his torch into a sconce on the opposite wall. In the far wall is a rough cave-like opening into the rock. Xenograg turns to Amanda.
“You are in Demodar, in the Monastery of Arra,” Xenograg informs her. “I told you the next step was a big one. It is the Rite of Initiation.” Amanda gasps, this being far more than she was expecting. He ignores her reaction and continues to speak. “You still have a choice, Amanda. You can return home and leave this for another day, or you can enter the Grotto and be transformed.”
Amanda looks from her father to the other man. He appears to be in his twenties, and is dressed in a plainer red robe. The man meets her gaze but remains silent and unmoving. Silence fills the whole room as Amanda weighs the choice. She stares into the grotto’s opening. Xenograg has told her that the Initiation Rite changes you, and you are never entirely the same person again. Did she really want this now? Right now? She closes her eyes and takes deep breaths.
She opens her eyes and straightens her back. Without a word, she walks forward. She passes between the two sorcerers and stops before the mouth of the grotto. Taking a moment to check her footing, she places a hand upon the threshold and steps into the darkness beyond.
Amanda emerges after almost three full days. She is filthy head-to-toe and has numerous scratches, several of them bloody. Her face is haggard; tracks down her muddy face indicate that she has cried at least once.
Xenograg was on the floor reading until he heard sound coming from the grotto. He is now standing, looking at his apprentice and daughter with tired eyes; he has slept little during his vigil. The other man, still un-introduced to Amanda, wakens from his sleep and also stands.
Amanda walks up to her father but says nothing. Xenograg sees in her eyes that the experience has changed her—aged her in all ways but the physical. He holds out his hand to her.
“We will go home now,” he says in a comforting voice. Amanda looks back over her shoulder at the cave mouth for a long moment, and lets out a heavy sigh. She looks forward at Xenograg and wearily nods.
“Home…,” is all she says, in a whisper, and takes his hand.