“You’re missing the point, Van Ella.” Weland admonished as he pushed away from the wall he had been against with one leg. He wagged a finger at the sitting Van Ella and leaned against the desk she was sitting at.
Brand had decided today was a day to practice writing drills and put Weland in charge. Van Ella could read and write in the Common language that was shared across the kingdom, but Brand had insisted that she begin to learn High Majick, the written and spoken language of Wizards and Witches.
It was hard, exacting, and incredibly Boring.
“But, I missed a major point. My master Brand has servants come and go all the time. Why would I think it was unusual for you to show up? And why would he even say he’s alone with all these people around?”
They were discussing (at least SHE was discussing --Weland was pacing around gesturing about how wrong Van Ella was ) the circumstances around her realizing Weland was her Spell Book.
“Your logic, while simplistic and unorthodox,” Weland continued dryly, “still reached the desired conclusion. By stating that he was ‘alone’ with just Sparrow and Mane as his companions, your Master was conveying to you how to interpret his current living conditions.”
“And thus --” he continued with a flourish of his hands “your own.” He quirked a half self-satisfied smile.
“You’re too smug, ” Van Ella started, poking the air near his hip with her pen, ” and --”
At that moment Brand burst into the room. This was Van Ella’s personal study room - not much more than a big closet with an oversized wooden desk. It also had a pleasant round topped window that overlooked the castle courtyard.
The sunlight from the window glistened off the sweat on Brand’s face. He was wearing his red leathers, without his floppy hat. His chest rose and fell deeply, as if he had been running, either to or from something urgent.
“Master! Are you ok? ” Van Ella dropped her pen and rushed over to Brand. He held out a hand to stop her.
“No, no. I’m perfectly ... fine.” His odd pause filled Van Ella with concern.
Weland proffered a chair and Brand slumped into it with a nod to the young boy.
The thin wizard closed his eyes, which had been flickering back and forth between red and green, and visibly calmed himself with a deep breath.
He opened them again, and they had regained the deep, almost glowing color of purple. He regarded Van Ella intensely as he sat forward and steepled his hands together, his elbows on his knees.
Almost imperceptibly, he nodded and took another deep breath.
Van Ella stared back. Her internal alarm bells were going off at her master’s actions and she put her hand to her mouth. She risked looking at him with her newfound magic vision. He was swirling with magical energy. A veritable storm of energies, symbols, and things that made Van Ella’s eyes hurt but her mind could not put into words encircled Brand like a magical swarm of bees.
“Van Ella, your writing lesson is over for now. Something more ... urgent ... has come up. ” He sat back, suddenly looking very tired.
“What is it, master? Did I do something wrong?” Van Ella bit her lip. Anxiety gripped her stomach.
Brand’s face went blank for a moment. “Wrong? Oh no no no. That was our last lesson, right? It’s so hard to keep track of your progress, my dear. It’s not what you’ve done wrong. It’s what you did right, you clever, clever girl.” Brand smiled.
“Yes. Of course.” Brand stood up suddenly and gripped Van Ella’s shoulders urgently. She stifled a yelp with wide eyes.
He reached around and ushered her quickly out the door. Weland arched an eyebrow and followed without a comment.
The ink slowly dripped from the pen, dropping on the parchment ... an expanding wet darkness to undo all of Van Ella’s half finished writing exercise.
Brand held Van Ella’s hand as he walked with intense purpose down the castle hallway. Van Ella had not visited this part of the castle yet, and noted with wonder all of the strange artwork on the stone walls, the odd statues that would suddenly change positions, or doorways of all shapes and sizes. Even some so small, even Sparrow would have a hard time squeezing through.
“Master, where are we going?” Van Ella managed, as she struggled to keep up with the leather garbed Wizard.
Brand looked back at her but did not respond. His eyes were alternating between green and red again, and Van Ella began to wonder if perhaps she had made a huge mistake, apprenticing to a Wizard, who not only was decidedly odd and sometimes downright scary, but might even end her life, if she was not careful.
After another 10 minutes of a dizzying array of left and right turns, down stairs and up ramps. They reached the end of a long white featureless hall. The walls were illuminated with something Van Ella had never seen before. Instead of torches, or even gas lamps, the light was coming from some kind of recessed glass in the ceiling. It was an intense, bright white light that made Van Ella’s skin feel odd.
“More magic” she thought to herself.
At the end of the hall was a single black door. The white walls and stark blackness of the door made Van Ella shudder.
Brand let go of her hand and turned to face her grimly.
“Van Ella, my Bonded. I was hoping to save you from having to face this so early in your training, but alas if you do not face this today, there might not ever be an opportunity again, and all will be lost. ”
Van Ella stared into her master’s eyes. “What is it? What are you talking about? Face what?”
Brand shook his head and closed his eyes for a moment, his face a conflict of emotions. “I cannot tell you. I can only show you this door. You must decide if you will choose to pass through it, and face what is beyond. I know you are not ready. But you would never be ready. I’m sorry Van Ella. This might very well be the end of our relationship, before we’ve even gotten to know one another. ”
He bit his lip. “Being a Wizard is so much more than just casting spells and mixing potions to cure some farmer’s arthritis. If you choose to pass through that door, you will be taking a step into a bigger world. One that , frankly , is almost incomprehensible, and inevitably deadly. But as a wizard, it is our duty to face that world, and try to make it better. ”
Weland appeared behind Van Ella and she turned to look at her Spell Book.
“Weland must stay here. You have to face this alone,” Brand said sadly .
She looked at Weland. “I’m scared. What is this about?”
“I don’t know. Your master never told me anything about this, ” Weland spread his hands, at a loss.
She looked at her master. “You told my my Spell Book must stay with me at all times. Why is this different?”
“I will take good care of Weland. This is not part of your training, Van Ella. This is something else. Something I cannot help you with. Nor may Weland.”
Shuddering, Van Ella turned and faced the door. It was black as night. A stark blot against the whiteness of the walls. The strange intense light from above seemingly unable to reflect at all upon the face of the door. The handle was made of crystal. Van Ella could see something like small fireflies swirling within the crystal faces.
She turned one last time to look at Weland and Brand. Weland adjusted his glasses and smiled weakly. “We will wait for you, Van Ella.”
Taking a deep breath, Van Ella reached for the crystal door knob. The blackness of the door suddenly loomed over her. Surrounding her. Consuming her.
An instant later, she was gone.