Van Ella was out of breath as she skidded into the Main Hall. For some reason, it took her ten minutes to get to this large, open room that doubled as a dining room in the evening when she ran here, instead of five minutes walking from her own room when she wasn’t in a hurry to get here.
“Magic” she thought to herself grimly.
Her master Brand was sitting in the large throne-like chair at the end of the elegant wooden dinner table. Actually, Van Ella saw he was sitting sideways, his legs bent up in the seat of the chair while his arms wrapped around his legs. He held a small, leather bound book close to his face.
He was so still that she thought perhaps he was sleeping. He was wearing a white poet’s shirt with shin length trousers. She could even see the odd green ring on his hand that gave off a light that would hurt your eyes if you started too long at it.
“Ahem” Van Ella coughed.
Startled, Brand let out a stifled cry and the book tumbled out of his hands, landing with a leathery slap in the stone floor.
Van Ella could swear she hear a small yelp from the book as it hit the floor.
Slowly, Brand stood up and regarded Van Ella with his lips pursed in an exaggeratedly exasperated expression.
Nervous, Van Ella couldn’t help but put her hand to her mouth and stifled a giggle.
“I’m sorry I’m late. Sparrow only told me to come here ten minutes ago.” She said. She pulled at the hem of her dress nervously.
Brand picked up his book and walked slowly towards Van Ella. He smacked the book thoughtfully in his left palm while holding it in his right hand.
Each SMACK made Van Ella cringe a little.
“Is he really mad at me?” She thought.
“I’m really very so-” she started to say but Brand placed a long finger on her lips and shook his head slightly.
“Are you as excited as I am, Van Ella?” He said, his eyebrows rising and his whole face lighting up with anticipation. He spun in place on one leg and gestured to the large dining hall. The light from the day poured in through huge windows on either side of the hall, giving the room a cathedral like quality.
“Um” Van Ella said. “You’re not mad?”
Brand had stopped spinning with his back to her and now looked over his shoulder. “Mad? Whatever for?”
“I - I’m late for my first lesson! I made you drop your book! I -”
“Ah ah ah!” Brand wagged his finger at Van Ella.
“First off, it was Sparrow that made you late, not yourself.” Brand pulled down one of two raised fingers. “Secondly, it was my own clumsiness that made the book fall, not your polite announcement of your presence.” He pulled down the second finger.
“As a Mage, dear Van Ella, you will learn to perceive cause and effect as it really is. Not filtered through fear or nerves.”
He spun to face her. Her eyes were wide with surprise. “Why should I be angry? You’ve done nothing wrong...”
Van Ella looked at her feet. “I guess- I guess I’m so used to being in trouble, I just assumed ...” She bit her lip.
Brand suddenly swept her up, spun her around in the air and set her gently on the edge of the table. He had a lopsided grin on his face. Van Ella was astounded.
“You will find life here as my Apprentice very different from your old life of toil and guilt. I’ve been alone in this castle cooped up with my magic for far too long. I am NOT your Aunt and Uncle. I’m something far more generous ... and dangerous.”
He waved his hands in a mock mysterious fashion. He looked so happy and almost comical, Van Ella couldn’t help but smile.
“Ok” she said quietly.
“Are you always this ...” She gestured at his hands “dramatic?”
“Oh, no no. Sometimes I’m much more” he replied as he took a step backwards and made a series of complicated movements with his hands. His eyes glowed a deep azure for a moment, and Van Ella, through her connection to his magic felt him pull something - some things - from somewhere far away into the room.
The air exploded as BOOKS appeared all about the room. Big books, tiny books, books that gave off a lazy green aura, others that were wrapped in vines, and still others covered in gaudy jewels. They all appeared a few feet above the floor, then fell with a great cacophony of thumps and crashes.
Van Ella covered her ears for a moment with the sound and fury, then suddenly it was quiet again.
Brand walked around the now hopelessly cluttered Hall. It was filled with all kinds of books. Stacks - some neat, others haphazard were everywhere. He looked like a circus ring master as he gestured grandly at the immense collection.
“Oh my gosh! What? Why did you do that? Is this my task? To clean up all this mess?” Van Ella asked, astounded.
Brand paused. “We have a lot of work to do, Van Ella. But cleaning up is not one of them.”
She gestured to the door as she slipped off the table toward her master.
“But, I’ve been sweeping floors...”
Brand raised a finger to his temple ” That, my dear girl was to ground you. Doing something mundane while you processed your new surroundings. I can’t imagine what state you would be in if we had come straight off the carriage to Lesson One, eh?”
Van Ella sighed. She was forced to agree with his logic, as odd as it was.
“Ok, master, what am I to do?” She raised her hands as if in wonder.
“Curiosity! I love it. Once we get past fear, and guilt, your true self emerges.” He winked at her and she blushed.
His face turned serious as he picked up a book at random. “The life of a Mage is a long one. And we are constantly learning. Our skills, experiences, and spells are recorded in spell books. Each one is unique to the Mage, and represents the heart of your power.”
He stepped close to Van Ella and spoke quietly - all pretense of showmanship gone. “Your spell book is your core. It’s all that you are as a Mage. Don’t let anyone ” he paused and his eyes glowed green. Van Ella shuddered.
“Anyone, other than yourself even touch your spell book . If someone steals it, or destroys it, your existence as a Mage is over. If you never learn anything else from me, Van Ella, remember this.”
She gulped and nodded her head vigorously, her eyes wide.
“But, I don’t have a spell book.” She replied, just as quietly.
Brand’s expression lightened. His dark goatee offset his shiny perfect teeth as he grinned.
“Such a clever girl. Of course, of course you don’t.” He took a step back again and spun in place once more. Effervescent light played from his fingers and traced glowing paths to book after book - each one lighting up for an instant in turn.
“But, somewhere in this room is your book. Your companion. Your lifetime record of all you are, and all you will be. ”
He turned and held out his hand - one finger raised. “So, Van Ella, Lesson One! Find your spell book!”
And with that, Brand was consumed by a burst of green flame and disappeared.
“But ...” Van Ella whispered to the thousands of books stacked almost to the high vaulted ceiling “How am I supposed to do that?”