Van Ella sighed, her shoulders dropping as she glanced around the immense hall, now filled from floor to ceiling with all manner of books. She picked up a red leather bound book and blew off a film of grey dust.
Coughing and waving her hands at the resulting dust cloud she opened it to reveal pages and pages of ... blank pages. The book was completely blank.
“How am I supposed to find my Spell Book?” she said out loud to herself as she lifted her eyes to the ceiling.
“Ahem” someone behind her cleared his throat.
Van Ella spun around in surprise.
Standing before her was a boy, roughly her age, with pale skin, close cropped brown hair. He had oversized glasses that he pushed up absently as he turned his gaze up from a book in his hand to regard her with a disapproving stare.
“Who are you?” Van Ella gasped.
The boy sniffed.
“I am here to make sure you don’t botch your first magical challenge.” His voice sounded both bored and irritated at the same time.
Van Ella placed her hands on her hips. Annoyed, she replied, “Oh really? Did my master think so little of me he sent someone to help, when I haven’t even started?”
The boy regarded her lazily. “Your master " he drew out the word for emphasis - “is a great wizard. Possibly one of the best - ever. And there’s been a lot of great wizards, let me tell you. There was Tuvis the Magnificent, Arvind the Mysterious, Katherine the Decidedly Above Average-”
“- Wait! Stop. ” Van Ella put her hands up, palms out toward him in hopes to put a stop to the boy’s seemingly endless dialog. “You said you are here to help me? Any idea how I should go about this? I could be here for days looking through these books.” She gestured to one of the more disorganized piles. In the distance, a book fell from a pile and smacked on the floor. The sound echoed across the hall.
The young man regarded her silently. “I didn’t say I was here to help you. I’m here to make sure you don’t mess things up.” He adjusted his oversized glasses and walked over to a smaller pile of books and sat down to resume reading the book in his hand. He was dressed in browns, with a open doublet and waistcoat of lighter browns, and dark brown breeches.
Puzzled, Van Ella turned away from the boy and began searching through the books. She tried to tap into her magic - to SEE which book might be that special book that she would have for the rest of her life.
“This is not working” she thought to herself. A small panic began to writhe in her stomach. “What if I can’t do this? This must be something painfully obvious to other apprentices. What am I doing wrong?” She went slowly around the room, scanning the impossibly large piles of tomes, books, even pamphlets for some sign of one that might be special. One that might resonate with her.
An hour passed. She could hear the boy coughing occasionally from the other side of the hall. In despair, she strode back to him and touched his shoulder. There must have been some static electricity in the room, as she felt a slight spark when her fingers touched him.
The pale boy looked up from his book. “May I help you?” he drawled.
“Sorry to disturb you. What did you mean by making sure I don’t mess up? Because, to be honest, I’m lost. I don’t know what to do!” Van Ella slumped to a chair nearby - close to the large dining table, and also covered in books. Worthless, empty, distractions.
The boy sighed. “I am here so that you don’t fail this test, Van Ella.” He looked at her strangely.
Something in the back of her mind surfaced, like a small fish gazing at the immense world above its watery home.
“Wait a minute.” She stood up. “Yesterday, my master said he was alone here, just with his cat Sparrow, and that ... horse, Mane.” She remembered with a small shudder the night black horse with glowing blue eyes.
“How can it be that you are here, and he not mentioning you?” She asked, leaning forward and pointing at the boy as she spoke.
He blinked. His eyes were magnified almost comically by his oversized glasses, so the blink looked more like an owl’s face. “I wasn’t here yesterday, Van Ella.” he said simply.
Yes! She was onto something. If she could just ... yes!
“You never told me you name.” Van Ella said quietly.
The boy put his book down and looked at her with more interest. “I don’t have a name, Van Ella.”
“You don’t have one, because you’re not really the boy standing before me, are you?”
He chucked. “Why, of course I am. See?” He reached out and punched her playfully in the shoulder.
“OW! You didn’t have to hit me!” She took a step back. But when he hit her, she felt it again. The spark.
“Ok, you’re a boy, but you’re more than that, right?”
He smiled. His face lit up. The boredom and heavy lidded gaze was exchanged with one of keen interest. “Yes, yes I am, Van Ella.”
“You... You’re my Spell Book!” she exclaimed and lurched forward to give him a big hug. Relief flooded her body. Relief not only that she figured out the challenge, but relief that she was not alone any more. Something clicked within her, and with that awareness she suddenly saw what she could not before. The books all around here did not appear as singularly special, they ALL were special. And somehow, they were linked to this boy who was not a boy standing before her.
“Hey! Lay off!” he twisted weakly in her embrace. She held him tightly as tears began to run down her face. A name appeared in her mind.
“Weland. Your name is Weland.” She released him. She grinned at him as joy overcame any fears or doubts in her mind. He scratched the back of his head and grimaced. Then he gave her a lopsided smile of his own. “Yeah, that’s my name. Now.” He held the book he had been reading out to her. It was small - covered in soft brown leather. In gold filigree the cover read “Weland”.
Gingerly, she took the book from his hands. As her fingers touched the soft leather, a gust of wind entered the room and whipped her dress and hair about. All the books in the hall were carried up in the wind, as well as the boy Weland. The book in her hand popped open and the wind was sucked forcefully into its pages. All the books, and Weland’s form blurred and shrunk as they were pulled into the Spell Book. An instant later, a very wind blown but grinning Van Ella pulled the book close to her chest. It was warm. She felt ... right. Connected. Whole.
From behind her, she heard a slow clapping.
Clap. Clap. Clap.
It was her master, Brand. He was smiling. Running in between his legs was Sparrow, her tail up like a sailboat mast, and her eyes gleaming.
“Yay!” Sparrow said in her chipper voice. “You did it!”
Brand smiled as he made an exaggerated bow. “Very good Van Ella. You understood that your trial has been going on since the moment we met. You remembered what I said, and you used logic to figure out that just because something looked one way, it didn’t mean it was not something else entirely. These skills are key to becoming a wizard. I’m very pleased with you.”
He reached over and patted her on the head.
Van Ella was overjoyed. She felt like a part of herself that had been missing all her life had been somehow restored to her. Weland was more than just some person, more than a book of spells. He was a part of her, yet also separate. She could feel his presence. Her mind moved around within his awareness, like a bird flying around a huge cathedral. There were spaces and places of wonder and confusion. Rooms filled with strange glowing boxes, others with flowers that turned and danced in the morning light. Others empty, yet filled with promise.
Her eyes fluttered closed and she fell forward and the world began to swirl around her, overwhelmed. Brand caught her deftly, a concerned look on his face.
“Close the book in your mind, Van Ella. You are a tiny fish in a very big ocean. But you’ll not be swimming today. ”
She struggled to control the visions, the feelings, the sounds and smells. The dizziness increased.
“Help!” she called out in her mind.
Weland appeared before her in her mind’s eye. In his hands, the book was like the vortex of a torrent of light and sound, energy streaming from it’s pages. With effort, Weland closed the book. Peace was restored to her inner world. The wind had caused his glasses to skew sideways on his face. Laughing inwardly, with relief. Van Ella fixed his glasses.
“Thank you, Weland.” she thought.
“No problem. Well, almost a problem. You did, however discover the secret almost 50% faster than other apprentices. With a variation of 3.5 hours factored in. Some apprentices never figure it out, and they end up having to have their master’s come show them the ropes. It’s really quite embarrassing for them. Why the apprentice Rupin ended up losing his book just hours after getting it - ”
Van Ella closed her eyes and shook herself. Weland’s voice faded quickly. There was a LOT she was going to have to get used to. Having a bookish boy talking incessantly to her about everything under the sun was probably the least of her challenges. Her eyes opened and she steadied herself. Brand released her and smiled.
“That’s my Bonded!” He patted her on the back.
Servants began to enter the Hall. Each one carrying plates of delicious looking snacks and small sandwiches. Van Ella realized not only was she famished, she had a positively roaring headache all of the sudden.
Brand saw the pain in her eyes. “Headache? Yes that’s an unfortunate side effect of your new connection to your Book. Nothing some food can’t remedy though! Let’s eat!” He slumped back into his oversized chair and snapped his fingers. The servants rolled their eyes as they were already placing the plates carefully on the long table.
Sparrow jumped up on the table and Van Ella rubbed her soft furry head. “Fish! I want fish!” Sparrow chirped.
A sudden cloud covered her joy.
“Master, what would have happened to me, if I hadn’t found Weland?” she asked.
Brand stopped in mid chew. “Ah Van Ella. You are a worrier aren’t you? Fear is probably going to be your greatest enemy. You fought back fear today and won. Take your victories when you can. The future holds many challenges” He gestured with a chicken leg. “But today, you took a first step. And that’s what’s most important.”
Nodding, Van Ella ate absently. Thinking about her new life, and her new friends.
Sparrow stole a small sandwich from her plate and she giggled. She had overcome her fears, for today at least.