The Red Blade
Part Six – The Mysteries
Soft light drifted into Athradies’ study. It came in through the wide open doors that lead out onto a balcony that overlooked the gardens of the villa, light curtains that swayed in a breeze pulled across the opening. Bundles of dusty old scrolls were piled up on a smooth polished wooden desk, with ink pots and quills scattered amongst them. More scrolls lined the room, packed tight in shelves that reached from floor to ceiling. Athradies rolled up one scroll with great care, binding it closed with a red cord before setting it down beside him.
Carse sat opposite him, no longer the scrawny, unkempt boy that had been singing in the markets. Now a tall young man, lithe of build, he had a long face that bore a particularly somnolent look to it, as if he was almost asleep. His eyes were part lidded shut, completing the picture.
“It has been, what, three years now?” Athradies asked, folding his hands together on the desk. More frail than he had been back then, his eyes had lost none of their sharpness or life.
“Five years, Master,” Carse corrected him.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Athradies replied. “At my age, all the years seem to flow one into the other, this day the same as the last and the next. It is easy to loose track of time.” He took a moment to smile. “Five years and in all that time you have yet to ask me as to why exactly I took you in and saw to it you received the education you did.”
“I felt that you would tell me when the time was right, Master.”
“But you are no doubt curious?” Athradies asked, arching a brow.
“I can not deny that, Master. It had crossed my mind.”
Athradies laughed quietly. “Well said. Tell me,” he started to ask, “What do you know of the Mysteries?”
“Of magic, Master?” Carse asked, his lidded eyes widening with some display of surprise and confusion, mirroring those of his thoughts. “Only what I have read and heard, which is not a great deal as it turns out and more speculation that revelation. There are those that can shape the world around them through a power they can access, though that power does seem to vary from account to account. For some, they come by it easy, while for others they must study for long years.”
Athradies nodded as Carse spoke. “Not all that is spoken of the Mysteries is true, for there is much misunderstanding as to what it is; and much fear also. Men fear that which they do not know or understand, and this they do not. We find it better if few remain aware of the exact manner by which it works, and the breadth of our powers.”
Carse sat in silence for a while before he finally spoke. “You are a practitioner of the Mysteries, Master?” he asked, struggling to comprehend the revelation. Not once during the years he had known Athradies had the old man shown any inkling of being able to work magic.
“I have some small talent in that field,” Athradies admitted modestly, “Though I never had the potential that you do.”
Carse sat back in his chair, shock writ large across his now fully awake face, eyes large and wide. “Me, Master? But I have never before shown any indications that I possess such a gift.”
“But you have, my boy,” Athradies told him, “Every time that you sing.”
“I do not understand, Master,” Carse responded, confused, a frown creasing his forehead as it overwrought the look of shock. It seemed preposterous. What had singing to do with the Mysteries?
Athradies smiled and tapped his fingers together. “The power of the Mysteries comes from sound, from harmonics pitched in just the right way. It can take the form of sounds and tunes and much more like it, but at the heart of it all is sound. You shape it as required and release it and the sound takes form and effect.”
“Are you saying that any time I sing, I could call down sheets of lighting or pillars of flame as the old tales speak of?” Carse inquired,
“No, no such thing, I am pleased to say,” Athradies told him. “Our form of the Mysteries is limited in its extent, and can not really bring harm upon others. Destruction, such as of the type you mentioned, is the realm of another form of magic, one that delves into the Slumbering Flame and the Cold Beyond, dark and foreboding places that are as much a danger to he who traffics with them as to those they seek to inflict harm upon. We shall not talk of such things.”
Carse fell silent once more, retreating into a contemplative mood, his face returning to a more languid look. “All my training with Madame Natazde, then,” he said finally, “Was merely to hone my voice for this.”
“Not merely, my boy,” Athradies replied kindly, giving a shake of his head. “You have a fine voice, and have been most blessed that you retrained it when your voice broke. Not all are so lucky. That is a talent you will retain always, regardless of your skill with the Mysteries. But now your real training will commence. Watch, my boy, and learn.”
Athradies searched around among the scattered items upon the table, moving aside scrolls and parchments, ink pots and quills, until he found what he sought, a small blue velvet pouch, closed with a golden drawstring. Opening the pouch, he removed a small pinch of dust from within it. This he dropped onto the open palm of his outstretched hand. He stared at it, and as he did, a soft tune came whispering from his lips, a humming sound, delicate and light and airy, such as the trilling of songbirds at dawn.
As Carse watched on, it appeared to him that the dust reacted to the tune, trembling on Athradies’ palm in accordance with the notes. The dust swirled about, drawn in upon itself, spinning into a tightly packed ball, no larger than a pea. This lifted from Athradies’ palm to hover just above it. From within the small ball of dust, growing brighter by the moment, there emerged a pale, bronzed arcane illumination that began to bath the room in its luminescence.
“This is your first lesson, my boy,” Athradies told him, letting the light hover on its own, “And one of the most useful ones that you can learn, of the summoning of light to illume the dark places in which you may find yourself in. Take from the pouch a pinch of dust, and lay it upon your hand,” he instructed.
“Is the dust important?” Carse asked as he took up the opened pouch.
“It is not entirely necessary,” Athradies told him, watching as Carse took some dust from the pouch, “But it can be used as a catalyst to facilitate the working of the Mysteries, to make the outcomes easier to achieve. You saw what I did, heard the tune I produced. Now, try and replicate it.”
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