pretentious cosmic picture


Smiling, Stilchaun led him to a long, low barracks. He noted that she spoke the name, "Stilchaun" and the door opened for her. Inside were many from many lands. From far Reir and Honrar, as well as closer lands to his native Grejakim. He saw those as young as ten and as old as forty there. "Here sleep the disciples, the male would-be wizards. There is another barracks for the women...and no, your name will not unlock that gate, so don't think about sneaking into the women's beds late at night." She turned to the men. "Where's the bed that the washout used to sleep in?"


"Not everybody makes it here. It's a hard discipline. You have talent, but discipline is also needed."

A thumb was jerked towards a particular cot. "Ah, that will do nicely." At the foot of the cot was a chest. Stilchaun squatted on her heels while clasping her hands against the chest. Then she straightened. "Say your new name to the chest."

"Runsdri," he said. The chest sprang open.

"None now, save a master mage, can open that chest save yourself. Stow your bags there, and then come with me."

Quickly he slung his burdens into the chest, and closed it.

"Try it now. Without saying the name."

Try as he might, the chest would not budge, though there was no clasp or lock on it, and it looked like the top part of the chest should lift straight out.

"Your things will be safe," Stilchaun laughed. "Now come with me, and we shall introduce you to the head of Eddiya Guindun,Enchanter's Academy, in your language...but in Elvish, they call it Ober Hedunin, where mortals watch magic."

They went back to the main comlex of buildings, encased of the giant stockade with the totem-carved logs. They entered the main entrance, and the curious glanced at him and then went back to their scrolls and meditation. Walking the distance of the building to its back, he emerged to a huge clearing with only a few of the gigantic trees. There were other buildings, circular amphitheaters, and a very tall tower at the end of the clearing, also of that strange stone-hard rock. They entered the tall tower. Dizzying were the flights of steps they climbed, and he was hard put to keep up with her, despite her age.

Then came a door without lock, very bare and plain, at the top of the tower. Yet Stilchaun stopped respectfully. "Here neither name of ours will work. Here dwells the mortal in all the world who is most knowledgable in the elven art called magick." She knocked lightly.

"You may enter, Stilchaun, you and your young charge." The voice had a Honrarian accent.

Inside was a fairly small room, but crammed with books and scrolls. In it was an old man, bald with a small goatee, in a humble smock. He was plump and smiled hesitantly. He didn't seem terribly competent, yet he seemed eminently likable. Falnee knew that it had to be an act, or rather, no need to emphasize his competence and skillfullness, having attained the mastery of the mages of Tu. Stilchaun inclined her head, and Falnee did the same, trying to catch hints of how to act in his presence.

The old man grinned. "Now you show me respect, Stilchaun! One would not think you were the same woman who made fun of the food that dappled my goattee this morning at breakfast. Do as she shows you now, boy, because otherwise she's a horrible example. She only has on her best manners because she thinks you're of impressionable years." The Mage Supreme came forward and shook Falnee's hand. "Ielme is my name. You are...?"

"Runsdri is the name given to me just a few minutes ago."

"Of Grejakim by the accent. Good to have you." The old man's frank manner, after the mistification of the past hours, was a welcome change.

"That's an interesting name...Ielme. It means 'servent-dweller', doesn't it?"

"Yes. I was a beggar on the streets on C'Stepho, when the then-Mage of Honrar detected the talent within me. He sent me here. Though now I dine with the Elvenking Jequeror at feasts, I can't forget where I grew up, or the class of person I was...and am."

He led Falnee, the newly-christened Runsdri, to the window. There was a magnificent view of a hill behind them, with no trees, merely like a great green dome. "Do you know what that is, Runsdri?"

"An elvenhill?" guessed Falnee/Runsdri.

"Not just an elvenhill. It is, in a sense, the elvenhill. Underneath that placid exterior, Jequeror and Thorifay hold court and rule the elvenpeoples."

"That is Rorjunon?" Falnee tried to see something that lifted it from an ordinary hill to a place of fable...but failed. There was no sign of the kingly halls that existed underneath it. "I have met one elf today," sighed Falnee. "It was a...humbling experience."

"It is indeed. That may be why I rose in the ranks of Mages. I am used to being humbled...and the least inexperienced elf is my master when it comes to magic. I have cause for humility when I talk to them. Magic is part and parcel of them, and they take as naturally to it as a roc to the air or a sea-serpent to the water. And we are like human swimmers, trying to keep up with a sea-serpent. It is their element, not ours. Yet we can learn a little." He clapped Falnee on the back. "Good to have you!"

Stilchaun and Falnee descended the stairs, and Falnee said, thoughtfully, "He was not at all what I expected."

She nodded. "Long may he live! His greatest magic, perhaps, is his common sense, his refusal to awe us, which---believe me---he very easily could. Now, are you hungry?"


"Come with me."

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder