Highshield Chapter XVII
© 2017 Randolph Lalonde
Rendiran followed Yimere down a narrow hallway and through a secret door he’d never seen before. His eyes wouldn’t have noticed the seams marking the portal if he had all day and all the light he wanted to stare at it. As he followed the short, thin, angular featured Ava-Ondi down a long, winding stair and through several darkened halls that were marked with covered eyeholes, he tried to track his location. “She is right, you know,” Yimere said. “As a mixed blood of many years, I can tell you; there is Ondi-Ne in you, and any Ondi-Ne blood gives you the potential to become as connected to the universe as any great Ondi. How someone with your potential has missed it is beyond me.”
“Somewhere along the way my ancestors thought it would be amusing to lay with different species. Once a dwarf, and even further back someone had a part imp child.” Yimere shuddered. “Imagine. I do have a remarkable aptitude for channeling though, thanks to my one sixty fourth part imp, but we’ll keep that between the two of us, yes?”
“My lips are sealed. How much Ondi is in my blood? What kind?”
“You are one quarter Ondi-Ne, of excellent pedigree from what I see.”
“Did you know my parents?” Rendiran was seldom hopeful where finding his parents was concerned. He’d tried several scrying methods, but none of them led anywhere.
“I read your blood, as did my master. We don’t know anything more about your lineage because who your parents were isn’t important to us. What they were is more pertinent to what you learn from my master.”
“How could I not have known?”
“It was hidden from you,” Master Hidel said as the pair emerged from behind a book case into his private section of the library. One wall was covered in a tall scroll case stuffed to capacity with records and accounts of divine encounters. Throughout the middle of the room were piles of books as tall as he was, taller than Hidel or his guardian, and in the middle was an old oaken table. It was the centerpiece of the room, with stairs leading up one side and a small chair for Master Hidel in the middle. Normally the old half Ondi-Ne, half Ava-Ondi was surrounded by books, but today he seemed focused on several scrolls that at a glance bore detailed family lineages. “Our Rendiran’s blood carries secrets that no one dared tell, your lineage is locked. Someone decided that you should live, but not know who your parents are.”
The Master’s blue eyes looked to him, they were always bright and youthful looking. An old horn hovered in front of his face and tipped onto his lips enough for him to get a sip of hot tea. When he’d had his fill, it righted itself and kept drifting in its slow orbit around the magician’s head. He was never without his tea horn.
“So, until someone has the power to reveal my lineage to me,” Rendiran said. “Most likely whoever hid it.”
“True, but only a student of reality magic, a master weaver who has accomplished a high skill in healing can hide someone’s bloodline like this. Such a practitioner could undo the work, whether they cast it or not. I found it amusing that your area of interest is in healing, and that you excel at it. You have everything to learn about weaving, however.”
“The Order looks down on weaver’s magic,” Rendiran said.
“Yes, the Order fears it, a sad fact that comes from its mostly human congregation. Humans can learn divine channeling many times easier than reality mastery, and the fight for control of Brightwill is still fresh. All of that’s political, useless to people like us. Miradu, Irekirk, and Viis were all adept at weaving. Miradu was a true Master of Reality, she had to be in order to ensure that when she died, she became a Goddess. She taught her children the secret, and that is how the Pantheon was created. Irekirk only built the temple in this world, his mother created something much more impressive. I follow Miradu’s teachings because I believe they are the correct way to move through this world, and because I admire her. The Order that has added so many rules, political mechanisms and such is of little interest. It’s that political system that stands to work against you, I’m afraid.” Master Hidel took a sip of tea and sent the horn drifting around further out from him with a tap of his finger. It joined the other objects in his orbit: a fine feathered quill, two books, an open scroll, and an old pipe.
““I received word this morning that I am no longer your teacher, Rendiran. A surprise to me, since three years is a very short time to be in my tutelage. If I had known, I would have hurried things along a little more.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Rendiran said, feeling a pang of loss so deep that it surprised him. He looked forward to his assignments from the old magician, even though every one of them was challenging. He finished them as quickly as he was able so he could visit again. Sometimes he would finish an assignment in a few days, other times it took him weeks.
“I know, I’m a charming old elf,” Master Hidel Lightcliff said with a chuckle. “It wasn’t my decision. Five of my students are moving on today, with two more by nightfall. Drastic changes in this Order are taking place, and I feel even my time will end here before long, and I’ll have to find another library to plunder. Perhaps it’s time for me to return to Brightwill. What do you think, Yimere?”
“The fires that drove the Ondi out of these lands have grown cold, but I would still not return to that country. During your slumber I’ve visited, just here-and-there.”
“What have you seen, here-and-there in Brightwill that would keep me from the country of my birth?”
“Jealousy. For most it is for money or political power, but the desire of a Thanga or two might be alarming to you. They are jealous of anyone with your kind of connection to the divine or mastery of reality.”
“Thangas,” Master Hidel scoffed. “If Coriath could have prevented them from appearing, then I may not mourn the purging of my kin as much.”
To Rendiran, a Thanga was as much myth as flying horses or white dragons. When Coriath began teaching magic to humans, several of them began to mix divine and Ondi magic with it. Most of the experiments didn’t work, but Lisar of House Thanga, a powerful disciple of Coriath, found a way to twist his teachings in order to command the flesh and minds of humans as well as some Ondi. Before long, she learned how to apply the new style of magic to other things, especially the recently dead.
Before he could discover the corruption, or because of it, Coriath left Brightwill never to be seen again. Her household was eventually stripped of all titles and lands, and the bloodline was hunted down and killed, but Rendiran had heard that it left an order of powerful magicians behind – the Thangas. It was the first time he’d heard any indication that they were real, and the very idea that some of the stories he’d heard could be true, that greedy, powerful magicians practiced that line of conjuring and control sent a chill through him.
“So, we won’t be going to Brightwill, then,” Master Hidel said. “Perhaps we should go see the dunes of Old Sharr”
“That desert is called Ember Scar now,” Yimere corrected quietly.
“Any large cities? Old libraries?”
“Three, two swallowed by the sands.”
“Then perhaps there, we’ll go digging for something everyone else has forgotten. I love old books. Well, perhaps not books, what I’m looking for was probably written on slats, or carved in stone. Do you think we should go on an adventure? It’s been some time.”
“I’ll begin packing, Master,” Yimere said.
“Just the prizes of my collection this time, no need to bring anything after the Second Age.”
Rendiran drank in every word, memorizing the names of places he’d never heard in his life. He’d never heard of the Ember Scar, didn’t know there was more than two Ages – the Old before Coriath and the New – and he’d only seen one ancient scroll written on slats of wood held together with string, it was older than anyone could estimate accurately. He’d only seen one such candid conversation between the Master and his Guard before, and he ended up delving into countless tomes, learning unbelievable things about the world thanks to it.
“Oh, Rendiran, I forgot you were here in all the excitement. Yes, I wanted to tell you personally. You have been assigned to Worton. It seems this Order wants to bring your days of study to an end so you can administer to the needs of that fine city instead. You will be a street healer, drawing people to Miradu as you mend wounds and cure ails. I was surprised to hear your new assignment, since Warton is almost entirely in the Order’s pocket already, I even told them you’d grow bored, but the Matron’s man didn’t seem very interested in my objections.”
“So I’ll travel to Worton,” Rendiran said, thinking of Tadrin. It was half way to Forge Hin. He’d heard it was a great, bustling city that attracted as many pioneers looking to expand past the wall as well as soldiers who wanted to train for the Order of Miradu’s army. It was also a producer of the finest ale he’d ever tasted, though he rarely imbibed. The fate of Tadrin, his parents and Oria weighed more heavily on his mind.
“I wonder, would you like to come with us on our adventure, Rendiran?” the Master asked. He observed his student as he snatched the pipe from where it drifted by in the air then lit it with his forefinger. “No, I see you wouldn’t. You feel responsible for Tadrin, and you should. It is an old law of magic: ‘what you bring into the world does not belong to you, but you are answerable for it.’” He puffed on his pipe.
“Irenick The Just brought him into this world, I was only his instrument,” Rendiran replied. “His humble instrument.”
“Humble you are, but you must know that the Gods require someone competent and dedicated to perform a resurrection. It is an act of love that requires a partnership, one that leaves an indelible mark.”
“Where do you think I should go? If you were in my place, where would your wisdom take you?” Rendiran asked.
“You flatter me,” the Master said with a puff of smoke. A little ember escaped his pipe and he patted it out on his thick, tea stained silken robe. “What would you learn if I made this decision for you?”
“He doesn’t always give the best advice, anyway,” Yimere muttered as he passed by with an armful of well worn leather bound books.
“You know what choices you have. To leave the cloth and find your own way, or follow Haffor to Forge Hin, me to a still uncertain adventure, or to take your place in Worton. Tell me what you would do, I know you’ve already decided.”
“To Worton,” Rindiran said, but it wasn’t the answer in his mind.
“The Order you owe much to for your upbringing is fading, changing by the moment in this Temple,” Master Hidel said. “You can see it, and feel it more so. I’ve never known you to lie to me, why lie to yourself? What is your true answer?”
“I’ll fetch Tadrin’s parents and make sure that he and his family reach Forge Hin safely,” Rendiran said with more certainty.
“The truth of your heart’s desire,” the old Master said. “Let me give you some actual advice, just as a parting gift from a master who barely had a chance to teach you anything. I’ll send my most trusted messenger, Onila Splitfoot, to fetch Tadrin’s parents and lead them to Forge Hin. I’ve looked ahead a few chapters and see that Tadrin’s father would die protecting him if he and his mother accompanied their boy on their journey. I would rather see them survive, if only to prevent horrible grief. Tadrin’s parents will be safe.”
“Then I’ll stay at Tadrin’s side,” Rendiran said with a bow.
“You should take your leave, then, though a sorrowful parting it is,” Master Hidel said. “Oh, but there’s a book!” he said, gesturing to Yimere.
“Here, it’s a book of tables for translating ancient languages,” his guard said, handing him a book only a little longer than his hand that was bound in thick, stiffened leather. The metal latch keeping it closed seemed new, but there was some wear on the leather. “Oh, and don’t take up smoking of any kind,” Yimere said. “I’ve been trying to get him to quit for a century.”
It was then that Rendiran noticed that there was a pipe jammed into the spine of the volume. “Thank you,” he said. He turned to Master Hidel then. “Thank you for your help, and for being a truly great teacher,” he said, feeling that it wasn’t enough.
“Read the book, skip the preface if you must,” the Master said. “I’ll see you again if luck is kind.”