pretentious cosmic picture


The next day, their first class was devoted to wandmaking. The instructor said, "Who can tell me why wands and staffs are important to wizards and sorceresses?"

Braele raised her hand. "Yes?" the instructor said.

"The affinity that elves have always felt for woods and wooded areas?"

"Good. Also, the life that once flowed through the trees gives a foothold for the magic to 'latch' onto. Elves rarely need such aids. But the once living-currents in the wood give us a 'lens' for lack of a better word, to focus the energies through. A truly living creature, plant or animal, might seize the power for their own. Does it have to be just a once-living plant? Can it be an animal?"

Heosun raised his hand. "Yes. Even a human."

"Those who use magic on dead animals or people...what are they called?"

"Necromancers," replied Falnee, when he was called on.

"Continue. Is necromancy approved of by the mainstream of wizards?"


"Why not?"

"Necromancy often uses the ka of the animal or person...the part that journeys to Pipiath's dreamlands, or that stays as ghosts in Zaer's lands after death...for greater power. Such often brings the wrath of Zaer, and is considered just one step from witchcraft. It can also bring Zaer to visit you--for you to die--sooner than you normally would. Plants have no kas, so..."

"Good. Now, let's go get our wands."

Many of the immense trees of the elvenforests were the giant yggsdrysil trees. They walked for about twenty minutes, and came to one grove of such, towering extremely high. The instructor said, "Now, to summon Vundnia, the dryad who will grant us our wands."

The instructor walked up to one tree, and then started singing a song of summoning and entreaty.

A dryad dropped down, sliding down the high portions of the tree. She was beautiful, her long hair wild and branching out into long portions like leaves. Her body was green-tinged. Leaves and long vines twined around her, keeping her from being completely nude. Her eyes--the irises were deep wells of green, also. The instructor spoke a few words to her, and she was smiling at him.

"I wish she would smile at me that way," Heosun hissed. He made a noise of animal lust."RrrrRRrrrr!!"

"Shhhh!" Falnee warned, although he could sympathize. She was slim yet beautiful. He had seen dryads before, of course, but never one so close nor one who tended such a large tree. Dryads link their life-forces to a tree, and thus their lives were not immortal, although they were often long-lived--he wondered if this dryad was hundreds of years old, since obviously this yggdrysil took hundreds of years to reach that height. You could never tell with dryads. They looked young, until their tree was cut unawares, and then they die. (If they are notified beforehand, sometimes they can "link" with other trees.)

The dryad, Vundnia, shinnied up the tree, like a mythical squirrel. She found one low hanging branch, and gently, yet with firmness, broke it off. Did she wince as she did that? Down she came, with the branch in hand, to the instructor. He bowed at her as she did. From a pouch she carried, she brought out seeds.

"For every wand taken, a seed must be planted," the instructor said.

Heosun whispered, "I'd like to plant my seed in..."

"Shut up!" Falnee whispered, but the whisper carried. The instructor raised an eyebrow.

"Ah! Our first volunteer. Come here, my young master from Grejakim."

Falnee went forward--like he had a choice?--and walked up to the dryad. She was so beautiful in a slim way, and the vines did not cover her the way clothing normally would, but instead had a rather peek-a-boo effect. He was blushing, and he knew he looked like a fool. Yet as he got closer, he could see countless small differences between her and a human female. She was still beautiful, but the closer he got, the more she was beautiful in the way a noble-looking animal is beautiful, and less the way a human female is beautiful. She smelled of flowers, like a woman with perfume on, but solely of flowers, rather than the musk underneath that humans also exude. Instead there was an underlying odor not unlike treesap. When he reached to pick up the seed in her hand, her hand was cool, like a plant's, and her palm had a green lines running through it perfectly straight, like a plant stalk's. She was totally silent, and did not blink at the sun, rather drinking in the sunlight. Dryads can speak, but they very rarely do, and they are very single-minded, comprehending little beyond the forest and their trees.

"Do I plant it now?" he asked the instructor, but his eyes were on Vundnia, the dryad.

"No. She wants you to take it back to another land, and plant it in a place that is fairly bare, so that the trees can spread. It is a pledge between you and her. If it is not done within five years, your wand will shrivel and die."

She tore off a long thick strip of the branch, and made it into a wand. "Now, she will make your mind link with the wand, as her life is linked to a living tree. It will not be the same, of course...your life-force is not linked to the wand, and if it burns, you will not die...but it will add a link between you and it."

Her hands reached out and touched his temples, and he looked into her eyes...

Suddenly he was falling into a cool, green essence. He seemed to hear whispering through leaves, in voices too low and slow for human ears to hear. For a few seconds, he seemed to feel the pulse of living things drinking in the sun and the minerals in the ground. It was a slight taste...a very slight taste...of how a dryad felt. Then he felt his consciousness envelope the wand, sustaining it now that it was torn from the tree that once nourished it. He sustained it, keeping it green and living, though disconnected from the tree. In turn, his mind seemed focus on where it pointed. As his instructor said, like a "lens".

She released her cool, pliant hands, and then handed him the wand...kissing the wand as she handed it to him.

"Thank you," he said, taking the wand as if it were her family. Which, in a way, it was. She looked at him, and the look said, Remember. Remember the seed. Remember now you are the root and trunk of this branch, this wand that you are entrusted with. Use it well, but use it kindly.

He walked back, thoughtfully, looking more at the trees around him, the plants he was walking on, then the people about him. Suddenly he saw a whole new infrastructure of feeling that he hadn't known before. Like a deaf man shown...for just a minute...the beauty of listening to a symphony...and made deaf again. Yet there was still the wand in his hand.

One by one, the others went up, and one by one they came back, looking strange and far-off at first. It was magic indeed, this glimpse into another world, another species' perceptions.

His wand was lithe, roughtly a foot and a half long. He held it aloft and aimed it at various things, and tried to concentrate on them. Did he feel more than he had before...their essence? Or was he just fooling himself?

He would find out.

When the last wand was given,and the last student walked back, the instructor bowed to Vundnia, and motioned for the rest to do the same. She smiled, but it was a sad smile, and she in turn much to the wands in their hands as to themselves.

Then she climbed the tree quickly and dismissively. The instructor smiled, as he turned on the young would-be wizards. "Back to the college, people. Most of the morning is gone. By the time we get back it will be time for lunch."

Braele spoke up. "Master. What if something happens to our wands?"

"You will learn how to make the link yourself, without a dryad's help. It will not be as strong, but it will suffice, until you can come back here to Elvish Isle to get another. Or to make arrangements with dryads in your homelands to link you so. Guard your wand well. You will be hard put to make one as responsive as the one you have been given, even if you were the Mage Supreme. Vundnia is a master of this. She is of Hedene's line, before Hedene married Tjisir."

Slowly, as the sun climbed to midday, they walked back.

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Copyright © 1997 Al Schroeder