Legends of Belariath

Ian Macross

Apprentice: Part Two

A moment of blissful superiority, a grin, and a flash of light…”It’s….” He falters suddenly, frowning as a wave of images assault him, flooding his senses and making it impossible to tell what he’s seeing. A vision of a man holding a bowl in the air above a cheering crowd, another of the same man smashing the bowl over his knee in rage, and finally repairing it…with tenderness.

But he only catches a flicker of one of these images, the breaking of the bowl. Ian’s eyes snap open, looking at his surroundings…he’s in the hut of his mentor, the Shaman, and he still attempts to learn the nature of this spell, used to identify strange and wondrous objects, or even mundane ones…any that has a story behind it, can be targeted by this spell.

He rests on a rose-red cushion on the floor, cross legged, with the object of his fascination in front of him…a plain, brown, clay bowl…he can’t understand why it’s important, he hasn’t heard anything about it before…but judging by the throng of the younger villagers that had been around it in his mind, he knew it had to have been known for something…

His teacher frowns, but waits silently…the lad was having far more trouble with this spell than he had expected…he seemed incapable of handling anything more than the basic sensory input, simple eyes and ears information…mystical knowledge slipped through his fingers like water from a leaky bucket. If only he knew a way to train him faster than this, or some other method…but other than the simple meditation exercises, he was unsure of what options he had.

Ian frowns, but doesn’t try again…he simply places the bowl back down, looking at Shaman. “Sir, I can’t…I can’t figure it out. The images are too fast, I can’t spot them in time.” He says, shaking his head sadly, clearly disappointed with himself. The Shaman frowns again, but nods…”It’s all right, I understand. Why don’t you take a break, maybe meditate again for a while? These skills do not come easily, and I will be honest, they come even less easily to one who is not focusing their entire being on it. To become a truly powerful mage, or spell caster of -any- following, one must have complete and total devotion to his arts, above all else. A need for training, a drive, something to keep them going…if you do not have such a goal, or desire to learn, you won’t get very far.” He says.

Ian bows his head humbly…”My apologies, Sir, I will strive to do better.” He says, before frowning and cocking his head. “Sir…this bowl…what is it?” He asks, picking it up again and frowning. “It feels…powerful.” He says…but that’s odd. It’s a simple bowl, no markings, inscriptions, or anything…how can it be valuable or magical in nature?

The Shaman grins, oddly enough, taking the bowl from Macross and lifting it into the air with a wave of his palm. “That, young one, is the foundation of this very village…it supports us with endurance, making our warriors hardier and stronger than others, quickens our reflexes and silences our footsteps, turning our rangers and scouts into the best in the land, and even tends to turn some of our more magically-inclined men and women into far cleverer thinkers than they were before.” He says.

Ian drops his jaw…”All that, from that little bowl? How does it work?” He asks. “Simple, you fill the bowl up with water, and give a small amount to every villager. It helps them in whatever way it is best to help…but since it’s a very powerful ability, the council only uses it in time of war, or some other disaster. There has not been such a disaster in your lifetime, and praise be to the gods for that, but if there ever is another, you, too, shall sip from this bowl. Don’t get any ideas about it now, there is much preparation involved before one can gain the magical properties of this bowl, believe me. It’s not as simple as I claimed…water is the first and final step.” He says, chuckling.

The boy nods, then gets up quietly, moving towards the door…obviously intent on spending a little time thinking about what he had just heard…as well as attempting to learn a bit more about why he couldn’t control his abilities…


Ian lays on his straw pallet, tossing slightly as he attempts to sleep…the day had been largely uneventful, and he wondered how in the hells he was supposed to learn that spell, if he couldn’t understand what the visions were showing him! It seemed divination wasn’t his specialty, after all. He wondered what his specialty -was-, after all…he hadn’t experimented with any other abilities up to now, and was completely in the dark…and feeling depressed.

.oO” So far, my attempts have failed…I can’t learn the magic! I…I just want to learn it, that’s all I’ve ever wanted…why can’t it work? Is it that much to ask for? Just one thing…one little thing…”Oo. He thinks, turning over onto his side, almost sniffling, but stopping himself from making the tell-tale noise. No need to get a reputation as a crybaby, now, was there?

Just then, though, he hears something…a faint creak of materials rubbing and grating against each other, from the vicinity of the roof…perhaps a woodland creature? Unlikely…few would dare come this far into the village, and few would be of the size necessary to make the boards and thatch creak like that. Just as he’s debating alerting his mentor to the curiosity, he hears a sharp noise behind him, at the wall of the hut. He turns, and finds a most amazing alteration…a hole in the wall! And through it, is a man, no, wait, a dwarf!? He had only seen them occasionally, when a visitor band of travelers had come into town a few years ago. Now, though, it wasn’t a calm and down-to-earth adventurer, it was a short, dark, and altogether imposing form…

“Sleep.” The dwarf says, pointing a finger straight towards Ian’s forehead. Ian blinks, feeling an alien presence forcing itself through his mind, ripping and tearing until it finds something…then Ian finds himself being jostled by large and altogether unfriendly hands, accompanied by a dimly heard shout and a slap to his face, jarring him to wakefulness.

“Where did it go?! What happened to it!!!” roars the village chief, fairly frothing at the mouth…an old cat, obviously he’s been through many hair-raising incidents, but this one seems to be taking the top of the lists, causing his eyes to bulge, and his frosty, snow-white fur to quiver, patchy though it might have been. Elsewhere, he saw his mentor being roused from sleep as well, but far more gently than he had been…apparently rank had its privileges.

“Omnek, leave the boy alone…if he had stolen it, he wouldn’t be here still.” Says another feline, a shorter, far stockier one, with reddish fur covering his body, and the leather coat and equipment of a smith…the town forge-worker, it seems. What was his name again…oh yes, Karsh, that was it. Karsh the smith, Omnek the Elder, and his mentor…they made up the three most influential members of the town in general.

Ian scuttles back as the Elder releases him…the Elder was much like a village chief, or a town mayor…but one dependent on the others around him for support. He was incapable of making a large-scale decision without at least consulting Omnek and the Shaman…but that was all right, the others had the same issues with the power, they had to share it equally, or risk rivalry, and they did -not- want that.

But there was still a problem to be faced…where was the bowl? Ian explained his story as best he could, and the shaman backed him up…”The issue here is this…whoever they were, they were working as a team, and there were at least two of them. One to distract and incapacitate my apprentice, and another to incapacitate me, as he did a few moments later, by a far more mundane option…” he says, rubbing his head, where a rather nasty welt was forming.

Karsh hisses…that didn’t look pleasant, not at all…but the shock of seeing it seems to have calmed him down a bit, he’s no longer as vengeful as he was. Omnek, however, seems enraged…”Who would dare lay hands on…well, if they wished to steal our bowl, they would dare a lot, I would warrant.” he says.

But who would want to steal the bowl, anyways? Any number of people…and the information was not -that- hard to find, the only reason Ian was not familiar with it was because of his youth. All mature villagers there knew about the bowl and its properties as a relic…and knew that without it, they were in danger…with no backup plan.

After the initial surprise, it was deduced that whoever the thieves were, they made better robbers than they did runners. Tracks were found leading to the west of the village, towards the cliffs…but that was only the beginning. Trackers reported that they were moving slow, chances were the village could take their time in preparing to move out in force…

The band could be made up of either with their full force of warriors, as Omnek advised, or with a few of their elite scouts and rangers, as the Shaman recommended. In either case, the only one of the three leaders that would go on the mission would be the Shaman…Karsh rarely left the village in those days, and Omnek, for all his strength, was far slower than he used to be…it was unlikely he could keep up.

As they argued and debated, Ian frowned, wondering how far the dwarves would go before they were caught…he sighs, and begins to pack a small bag, apparently determined to be ready and join his mentor on this expedition. A few moments later, the Shaman frowns as well, turning towards him…”Macross, my lad, you can’t be expecting to go, can you? Your skills are nowhere near refined enough for this…” He says, shaking his head.

Omnek chuckles…”Let the lad go, he can stay with you, and that should be safe enough for him.” He says, reaching out to ruffle the boys hair. Omnek had gotten along well with Ian from the start, when Ian couldn’t dare to approach the gruff and occasionally surly Karsh, and was too awed by the Shaman to approach him until it came time to attempt his apprenticeship.

Ian grins, nodding…”I’ll be safe, I promise! I won’t do anything foolish…and the others will be able to protect me, even if you’re distracted!” He says, practically jumping up and down with excitement. The Shaman frowns, shaking his head..”I…don’t know. I could take you, I suppose, but the risks…bah, all right, you don’t get many chances to adventure, do you? Take them while you can…chances are that you’ll be stuck in this village for the rest of your life, and probably take my place, tying you down even further.” He chuckles.

Ian nods gratefully, and continues packing…it seems that he’s going to have an opportunity to test some skills -other- than his magic, which right now was nonexistent. He might even be a hindrance, actually…one that the three leaders might regret allowing later on. But for now, he was allowed, and could practice his skills to his hearts content until they finished their preparations.

He heads towards the town square after accumulating what few supplies he deemed necessary…a smidgen of food, a skin of water, and a dagger…he knew very little about how to use it, though. Maybe he could learn that, too, from his mentor…except that he knew his mentor focused on staff-combat, not knife-fighting. He sighs, and continues looking through..

A small token, apparently of some use…a brown, nearly dead leaf, it seems..except that it’s petrified, hard as rock. His mentor had found it in the hollow of one of the local trees, and no one in the village had any idea of its origins. He had given it to the lad as a keepsake, something to keep as an idle amusement, nothing more or less.

Amusement? What humor was there in a stone? Ian couldn’t even begin to fathom that one…and did not feel like trying. But he brought it wherever he went, rather than risk angering the Shaman. That brought up another question…did he truly wish to become a mage, or a shaman? Both paths had appealing qualities, after all.

He grimaces, and plays with his dagger, running the point through the dirt, tracing odd symbols…working with a simple gut instinct, random designs…it was only later, as he packed up and was preparing to leave, that he saw what he had been writing…a crude image of a feline, holding a brown bowl above a cheering crowd…the image meant nothing to him, aside from the obvious significance of the bowl…but this was one of the images he had seen when trying to learn the identifying spell. Maybe he had more talent than he thought, with divination…