Legends of Belariath

Ian Macross

Apprentice: Part One

A small figure creeps across the darkened village square, sneaking past hut after hut, filled with sleeping creatures…he can’t let himself be seen now, he simply can’t! There was his prize, the object he was risking banishment for…a simple staff, resting on the top of a small podium, in the middle of the square. If he could just get there safely, and return to his master…

But even from here he could see that was not going to be easy. There were two guards, albeit one was obviously asleep, and the other was very close to it…night had fallen, so neither was really alert…the guards were feline in origin, just as the figure was, and nearly the whole village, for that matter. That meant that his job would be that much harder…since the faint light from the moon overhead was -more- than enough to enable someone to see him from across the square…

He slinks forwards, on all fours even, desperate to maintain a low profile. This was his task…he had to take this staff, which was a symbol more than anything, and return it to his master, the village shaman. From there, he would finally be accepted into his craft, passing a test that many others had failed. He couldn’t bear the thought of the public shame that would follow…it might not lead to exile, but it would be nearly as bad…accepting this test had been foolhardy, he could have easily waited a year, until he would have had better training…

But he had been impatient, as always. The other potentials of the village had either picked another profession, or had declined any, waiting another year, as tradition fully allowed. It was not cowardice, according to the village elders…but signs of wisdom, knowing that their full abilities would remain locked for more time than their current training would allow. But he had not listened…he was sure his powers could be unlocked -now-, not later!

The only one who seemed unperturbed by his choice was the village shaman himself…but that feline wouldn’t bat an eyelash if the world was collapsing around him. He glares towards the guard that remained wakeful…how could he get past him? He knew no spells, his training hadn’t even begun yet. This was the test of Apprenticeship…to begin the path that would follow the Shaman…

He pads carefully around the sleeping guard…if he was completely silent, he might be able to grab the staff and escape…technically he could allow himself to be seen, he just had to return the staff to the Shaman’s hut without being caught. But he knew that being seen would reduce his status in the eyes of the villagers…and his family. He springs forwards, moving from the bare dirt ground right up to the platform…he was silent! He hadn’t made a…twitch One of the wooden supports wobbled, touching against the back of the guard…

“Hey! Arzak, watch what you’re…hey! GET BACK HERE!” The guard shouted, quickly giving chase to the small feline, who was desperately clutching the staff to his chest. It was now or never, he had to get there or else!! Within moments, the end was in sight, the larger than average hut coming into view…he leaps for the entryway, only to brutally be thrown back…wait. Thrown back? There was something wrong…the door was wide open, but he had felt resistance…of course! The shaman had warded his door…that was why no one else had passed this test! And they weren’t allowed to speak of it to warn other candidates, so it remained a secret…he wastes no time, simply leaping and clawing his way to the top of the hut, and slashing downwards…his claws were sharp, despite their size, and he quickly hedged a hole through the roof, falling into the room below with a thunderous -crash!!-

There was a lurch of movement, and the young lad found himself being held in the air by the ankles…but there was nothing physically there! He could see the shaman on the other side of the room though, having leapt to his feet at the disturbance. He looks at the boy, a much more ornate staff pointing towards him…his ankles in particular. So that was his secret…

“Boy, how did…I see. Clever of you…I’ll just take that now.” He takes the staff from the boy’s hands quickly, depositing it against a wall…”That must have taken some quick thinking…that guard was only inches away from catching your tail.” He says, raising an eyebrow at his narrow escape.

“Tell me, young Ian…why did you choose this Path? There were many others that were open…the Rangers would have taken you in, or the Guardians.” The thieves and the fighters, in honest wording. Ian frowns…for it -was- Ian, but without the midnight black fur…his fur was patchy gray, looking mottled and almost sickly, even though you could tell within moments the boy was in fine health.

He frowns, then shrugs…”T-they weren’t that interesting.” He says. A lie…they were quite interesting, and many were the times he had envisioned himself as a glorious warrior, or a stealthy thief, each path leaving glory and prestige in their wake. But he had picked this…and he had no real reason, other than a primitive calling of sorts…the desire to harness that world of energy that the spell casters spoke of. “I like spells, that’s all…” he says quietly.

The Shaman shakes his head slightly, still frowning at him. A guard pounds at the barrier at the front door though, distracting him…he walks up to the threshold, and exchanges a few hasty words in a whisper with the guard…who leaves, looking slightly disgruntled. He sits back down, still leaving Ian in the air, though he had been flipped right side up, enabling him to think clearly.

“So you were more interested in calling forth a small light globe than you were in wielding a blade or tracking wild animals? It is unusual that any your age would have more than a passing interest in this art, that is why I ask. I would not have you start this road, then decide it was not truly for you after all…” he says, shaking his head firmly.

Ian nods his head eagerly…it -was- his desire, and he wasn’t going to toss it aside on a whim. “But I want to be a wizard! Or a Shaman! Or anyone who can do what you do…” He says desperately…the Shaman raises an eyebrow again at this. “So your interest is not specifically in the calling of a Shaman, but in the calling of magic itself? That makes some sense, I suppose…” Magic was not always a calling, like priesthood, but in some cases it affected a person in that way.

Ian was apparently affected in that fashion, judging by his eagerness to learn, and the frantic urge to fashion something of a path of his own…though that wouldn’t be seen for some time to come. The two talk long into the night, the Shaman explaining the arts of his craft, as well as what ones Ian stood a significant chance of learning…by the end of the night, he had him learning a meditative trance-like state that would allow him to harness some of the magical field around him, even if he couldn’t use it.

Their training would go on for some time…but how would it end? And what would occur during the training?