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Jarm's Talent

By Eric J Kregel All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy

Jarm's Talent

Tira lowered her hood as soon as she came in from the cold.  Snow fell off her hood and her shoulders while she approached the bar.  The crystal snow still crunched under her soft, lambskin boots.  The bar was warm.  The reddish brown of the wood beams and rafters added a few more degrees to the tavern. 

  She slid up to a stool, draping her black cloak beneath her in an even hang.  She sat, serenely, waiting to be served.

  From the kitchen, hidden behind a small wall reaching only a meter high, a voice crackled.  “Good morning!  We only serve warm ale and potatoes.  Can I help ya’?” 

  Tira smiled a full set of bright white teeth, matching the glow of her pale green eyes.  Her face seemed to be the only clean thing in High Smoke that morning.  “Yes,” she beamed.  “I’m actually looking for someone, but I’ll have a pot of tea whilst looking.”

  A haggard woman emerged from the kitchen.  She wore an apron, still bloody from her morning’s slaughter for the evening meal.  Her gray and blond hair in a bun, she revealed more of her forehead than any other feature  “And who might that be?”

  “Jarmuschic?  I believe he’s your region’s wizard.”

  “Jarm?” the old woman said.  She looked up, seeing all of her memories of the man.  Her face turned instantly turned red with glee.  “Well, I guess he might be a wizard.  I ne’er figured him to be a wizard.  More of a problem solver than anythin’ else.  But it only stand to someone’s reasonin’ to make him a wizard.”

  “Do you know where-”

  “Right behind you!”

  Tira twirled around her seat, finding a bundle of clothes drinking tea by the hearth.  Upon closer look, a human face and beard broke through the piles of scarves and cloaks.  The face beamed a cat’s smile.  The man by the fire whispered in a loud, husky swish, “Bring the young woman’s tea here, whenever you’ve made a fresh pot.”  His gray eyes, popped quickly to Tira, then to the empty chair beside him.  “Thank you, my dear.”

  Tira pulled off her cloak, carrying it over her arm.  When she marched towards Jarm, she revealed an olive tunic that stopped in a drape just below her hips.  Her outfit exposed the skin of her legs, arms, and neck.  Her young, brown body stood out in the gray and white world of High Smoke.

  She sat in a large, black leather chair by the hearth.  Jarm smiled at the young woman with an expression belonging more to parents than equals. 

  “It is a pity that you came in the winter.  It may be a while until we get a Guide to take you back to Potter’s Trail,” the wizard said. 

  “I’ve just arrived!  Discussing someone’s exit as a greeting is a strange custom for welcoming strangers.”

  “Oh, you’ll be making plans on going as soon as you’re done with your tea.”

  “How do you know?”

  Jarm giggled.  He unwrapped the scarf around his neck, slipped off his hat, and peeled away his tunic.  Sitting before Tira, emerging from the cloth, was Jarm: Master Wizard.  He had a short, white hair and an even shorter beard.  Everything looked trim, intentional, and fastidious. 

  The lean man, in a husky whisper, spoke.  “You are from Tairb, the city of warm nights and Foculat’s School of Wizardry.  You are of the age, maybe on a speedy pace, to graduate.  In order to be a Wizard or Sorceress, you must spend three months being tutored by an actual wizard.  You enjoy Tairb, the fashion and being in the Hub of all other kingdoms excites you, and you have spent most of your life attaining unearned privileges handed down to you by either parents or family titles. 

  “And by your speech, which is similar to mine, you bounce in and out of proper speaking and common vernacular: from the ‘thee’ to the ‘you’ all within a hiccup of time!  Up here, they speak prim and proper, not that vulgar tongue from the city.  You stick out, dear.

  “So now you are in the tiny village of High Smoke.  It’s in the middle of nothing, attached loosely to the Kingdom of Regalt.  Loosely is the key word in my last sentence: King Hoynier may not even know of High Smoke and if it does, why would he care to notice a place that has no sun light for weeks in the Winter and skips Summer altogether?!  High Smoke is known mostly for our hospitality, for Frost Apples, for its inns, and for its communal cow ranches.  No one ever raids our cows.  You’d be a fool to!  Where are you going to drive them?  North?  Who lives up North?  South?  How are you going to get them past Lint’s Peak?  East or West?  Mountains and snow!

  “So here you are, pretty and young and fashionable.  You stand to gain nothing from being here in a land time would like to forget!”  Jarm chortled and, for the purpose of announcing his victory, he slugged down some of his cooled tea.

  Tira did not move.  She sat, arms crossed, and smiled an impish smile.  When Jarm’s moment finished, she leaned in.  “You overlook something.  There is your talent.  I have come to learn your talent.”

  Another laugh from Jarm.

  “My dear, pretty girl!  What sort of nonsense are your teachers filling your head with?”

  “Plain, simple teaching.”

  “And my dear,” Jarm said as he filled his mug with more tea.  “What are the classifications of talents.”

  “Well, every magic user is born in a classification, but they can chose their individual talent.  There are the Prophets-”

  “Boobs and ninnies!  They are the ones often most wrong and yet get the most credit.”

  “The Portitioners who travel both people or things-”

  “Glorified shepherds.”

  “Rifters, known to see lands beyond the edge of our reasoning…”

  “Always jealous of those guys.”

  “Grafters and Speakers-”

  “Zookeepers!”

  “Defenders, those who use magic as a means of combat-”

  “Bullies!”

  “And Intuits.”  Tira smiled.  “The classification both you and I are.  Intuits have the ability to read and, in some cases, influence the hearts of people.”

  “And our class of Wizardry is the least influential, the least interesting out of all the others.  We are the ones who never find themselves in bard’s tales or songs.  We never preside with kings and our outposts are…well, like High Smoke.”

  “But you,” Tira said as she pointed at Jarm.  “You, as an Intuit, can read people’s hearts.  Your talent is that you can see, upon an internal charm, what people truly want.”

  “Yes I can.”  Tira’s teakettle came, being plopped it on an empty stool next to Tira.  “And I can tell you that no one, in all of my years on this world, has ever been willing to yield so much as a Hay Penny to find out what people truly want.”

  “Until now.”  Her green eyes sparkled.

 

  “You look ridiculous,” Jarm said to Tira. 

  She stood in the snow, her knees and shins exposed to the cold and the rest of her body wrapped in blankets and cloaks.  Even from her nose down, cotton and wool covered her.  Her shape reminded Jarm of an apple on a stick. 

    “I’m still getting climatized,” Tira said.

  “Well, I’m not a very good mentor.  Sadly, you’ll be suffering from my tutelage.  But this is the best way to explain what happens with my talent.”  He walked off the path to a large tree.  The tree, covered with snow, still had all of it’s leaves, branches, and fruit.  Jarm reached up and pulled down a bright pink apple.  The apple steamed in his hand.  “This, my dear Tira, is a Frost Apple.  They only grow around this area and they are the only fruit in this area.  They survive long enough to plant their seeds in the spring time because most animals that would enjoy a good frost apple are either hibernating or sheltering.”  He reached into his pants pocket, producing a small knife.  “My talent is to poke a hole into someone’s defenses and see what comes out.” 

  He punctured the frost apple as his teaching example.  The tip of the knife burrowed into the center of the apple and pulled out the knife quickly. 

  Immediately, the apple matter and steam flooded out of the cavity. 

  “This is what I do.  Allow me to demonstrate.”  Tira nodded.  He closed his eyes and waved his right hand over her face.  He bid, “Sum up your heart’s passion in one word.” 

  Tira’s eyes rolled up into their lids.  She fell into a rapid trance.  Tira answered in a low, dark hum, “Ambition.”

  Jarm snapped his fingers, delivering her from the trance.  He recoiled in curiosity.  “Ambition, eh?”

  “Standard answer?”

  “Oh no.  Fear is pretty standard.  Shame is another one I hear a bit.  Glory.  Safety.  Love.  All of these, I hear a bit.  But ambition?  What a morally nebulous life’s word!”  He took a bite out of the frost apple.  “I mean, you could do worse, couldn’t you?” 

  “So you can show me how to pick this as my talent and finish my magic training?”

“Sure.  Let’s train you.”

  The next weeks were filled with things other than magic. 

Jarm instructed Tira to read in the morning, visit in the afternoon, and would allow her to have free time in the evening.  Tira found the reading to be fine.  Mostly, it was old magical journals that were unavailable at her school or it was out-of-print books telling stories about famous magicians.  Free time, given to her in the evening, was dull since there was nothing to do in High Smoke.  But being bored wasn’t the worse thing about her time with Jarm.  It was visiting the people of High Smoke.

She found them to be dull people fascinated by pretty much anything.  Jarm would sit on their porch, as they would come in from the fields or from town.  He would pull out his pipe and smoke. “So, how doth the wind blow?”

“It bloweth goodly,” all of them would say.

He would chat with them, hearing about their day’s work or problems.  At the end of their time, he would ask them the question, “So, how is your soul?”  A varied response would follow and he’d perform his talent. 

When asked why they would visit so many people, Jarm would answer, “Practicum.  Simply put, I want you to see what you can do with this talent.”

“Do?” she said once.  “You don’t do anything except hear people’s stories!”

“Exactly.  And what else could you do with this talent and still provide a service to our world?”  Jarm reached into his pocket, producing a small string.  Within a flash, he wrapped several chords around his index fingers.  “Do we hear stories from others because we believe we can gain something new from the world?  No.  Do we hear stories from others to gain more control, more power in the world?  Hardly.  Do we hear stories so that we confirm the notion, the movement that we are not alone, that humanity is connected in some way?  Yes.  Listening to stories provide connection.”  His eyes rolled over to Tira.  “This is the greatest gift we can offer anyone, eh?”

After this, she didn’t protest visiting others.  She also didn’t participate either.  She sat, watching Jarm chat with people and end his time by asking how people’s souls are doing.

She would spend her evenings collecting frost apples.  At first, he thought she was enjoying the novelty of High Smoke’s fruit.  But she didn’t relent in collecting them.  One evening, he found her hauling sacks of apples back to her room.  He kidded, “They make delicious pies.”

“Excuse me?”

“Pies, crisps…they make an excellent dessert.  Once, it was believed that frost apples possessed suggestive, hypnotic powers.  That if slow witted people ate them, they would be someone’s mental slave…only for a few minutes.”

She giggled.  “Any truth to this?”

“Hardly.  Pure mythology.  But it is not a myth that they are quite tasty when baked.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.” 

He took her frantic apple collection as something deeper: she was bored.  Alone in the snow, he felt something was dying inside of his young protégé.  Remedying this, he met her in the Inn early one morning and announced, “We need a change in routine.  I want to take you to the top of Wine’s Mount.  I want to begin on your Talent.”

She eagerly agreed.  Next morning, they mounted his donkey up with blankets, cloaks, wood for fire, and food.  After the donkey was ready, Jarm left Tira to fetch her some snow boots from a local woman about her size.  They bundled up and marched up Wine’s trail, leading up to the top of the mountain presiding over High Smoke.

They spent the whole of daylight hiking.  All human sounds, except their own, diminished behind them.  Nothing but the howl and whistle of the wind sounded near the crunch and crush of their snow trodden steps.  The world turned more and more white, hiding behind the layers of snow.  Tira felt every degree of the wind, chilled and sharp as she felt it pass right through her clothes.  Jarm simply marched, deadened to the shiver of High Smoke’s cold. 

After a day of hiking, they had traversed the zig-zag of trails climbing the mount and arrived at the top.  Jarm instructed Tira to make the fires, while he pitched two tents far a part from each other.  With the fire ablaze, Jarm produced some beef sausages and two sticks.  They roasted their meat over the flames, as light retreated into night’s darkness.

When night’s blackness reached it’s thickest, Jarm looked across the fire to Tira.  “Look into my eyes, Tira.” 

She did, uncertain of what to expect.

“Now Tira, I want you to collapse within your power.  Fall back, letting your power take over.” 

She had only done this once as a test to graduate from her 5th year at the Wizard’s School.  Back then, it was a strange sensation.  It felt like she had lived blind her whole life, only, one morning, discovering she could see.  She felt her inner strength collapse, becoming passive to a strange, natural force within her.  She touched the power within her, once again, reaching into the nameless presence within her.

“I have it, Jarm.”

“Speak to it.  You shall give it a name.  You shall say that the power is to hear what humans truly want, truly desire.”

I speak to you, Tira told her power.  I name you.  Yours is to search out the souls of men and women, drawing out their life’s purpose.  Seek out their heart’s dream and command them to name it.  I command this of you. 

Jarm smiled.  “Good.  Now use the power on me.”

Tira’s eyes widely shot open. 

He ceased smiling and turned terse.  “Do it!  I command you.  I want to see if you have the talent!”

She closed her eyes.  Power, through your intuitive strength, search out the heart of Jarm and give me one word that surveys his heart entire. 

Jarm fell into a slumber.  He did not move, but his consciousness fell into itself.  “Alone.”

Power, I need more clarity.  Search deeper.  Does he want to be alone?  Is that his life’s essence?  He just wants to be left alone?

“I do not want to be alone.  I need friends and will always have them.  But I simply seek Alone.”

Power, wake him up. 

Jarm, in the thickness of the night, awoke.  His eyes beamed in the orange glow of the fire.  “There.  Now that wasn’t too hard, was it?”

The next morning, they hiked down the switchback to High Smoke.  During the traverse, Tira waited for the right moment to ask Jarm about Alone. 

After lunch, while the sun peeked out from behind almost black clouds, Tira asked, “What is Alone?”

Jarm, attention fixed on his footing in the snow, asked, “Where did you hear that name?”

“From you.  What is Alone?  At first, I thought your life essence could be boiled down to being just alone.  I mean, that would explain why you discourage students.”

“I discourage students because what I do is of little interest to the outside world.  The world wants a wizard who breathes fire, kills people with just a thought, and sees into the future.  I simply talk to people.”

“Exactly.  But I used my power to dig deeper.”

“Right, right!”

“And I found out that Alone is something to be sought.  Is it a place?”

He looked up at the sky, as if something called him from above.  He did not move, but froze in his steps.  He dusted himself off and changed his mood.  Warmer.  “Well, he should be a place.  His presence is certainly big enough for a place.”  He laughed at this.  “No, Alone is a person, but that’s stretching the definition of what a person might be.”

“So you seek after Alone.”

“Yes.  One might say that’s why I’m a wizard.  That and, well, my innate talent.  I would have been happy to be a blacksmith and let my talent waste away.  However, one morning in my youth, I got lost.  Separated from my home, I wandered through the woods of my home’s village unable to get back home.  That’s how it begins, isn’t it?  You find your meaning when you’re lost and removed from your family?  Yes, this is part of a bard’s tale, my life.

“I digress.  I was lost.  I wandered, in the center of the day, in the middle of a field.  By myself, I walked onto the field and heard a voice.  A voice that spoke words I understood, yet could not find a language to repeat what was said to me.  I felt the words, more than heard them.

“Simply put, the voice told me that he was Alone and he was looking for me.  I introduced myself.  He acknowledged me and told me that I was to look for him again.  I asked why.  He said that this was his way, that he seeks those who seek him.  He said that he has arranged everything for me to seek him.  And that my search was to be extraordinary.

“And that was it.  I never heard from him again.  Now, if it was any other sort of words or voice, I would have reduced it to a funny little story, without moral or point.  But the sense, dear child, this voice left on me was amazing.  It was the first voice I ever heard that I didn’t want to rush towards, find, or command.  No, no.  It enveloped me, certainly, the overpowering quality of the voice made any sort of power struggle I might dream up seem silly.  Tira, the authority of the voice was such that it made sense, almost seemed natural, for me to submit to it.  Alone’s voice seemed that submitting to his voice is what power was made for!

“Again, I digress.  Such peace, such a feeling that this was right was the very thing that made me want to try to find Alone.  And that’s what I’ve been doing.”

“In any of your magical studies and experiences, have you found any leads?” Tira asked.

“Bah!  Nothing!  I knew his voice was magical, but nothing in any of the magical books suggest of such a name or person.  And that is the tension of my life, boiled down, resides: I search for that which cannot be found!”  He laughed at this pronouncement. 

Tira’s expression however was not any of Jarm’s mirth.  She simply stared back at her master without expression.  A long silence followed.  Finally, Tira asked, “What if you could change your life’s word?  Say instead of ‘Alone’, it was ‘contentment’?  Or ‘joy’?  Or ‘service’?”

Jarm snorted in laugher, only to recognize that Tira was serious.  “One cannot change their life’s word anymore than one can change their soul, change the core of who they are,” he said.  “The life’s word, I believe, is impressed upon someone very early in their life.  Could even be before they were born.  To change one’s own word is to mettle in such things as trying to change the color of the sky: you can’t and you shouldn’t.”

“But what if you could?  Wouldn’t that make your life easier?”

“Then you shouldn’t.”

“Who sayeth?”

  Jarm threw his hands up, gesturing to no one in particular.  Tira dropped the conversation, feeling the agitation of her master teacher.  They hiked back down to High Smoke, in considerable silence with the occasional chatter.

  In the days that followed, Tanard, the blacksmith, hung around Tira a lot more when they had returned from their hike.  Always at night, during her time to rest, and always as an invited guest.  A large, young man with shoulders the size of tree trunks and hands in likeness of boulders, Jarm tired to figure out what Tira saw in the man.  They were close in age, but worlds a part.  Tanard was known in High Smoke as an honest young man, so he had no worries about her safety.  They spent most of their time in the tavern together.

  However after a week, Tanard was joined by the Mosley brothers: Denner and Padd.  Both adults, but barely and quite a bit younger than Tira.  Again, very polite and honorable.  They would sit, muttering awkwardly in the tavern.  Tira spoke little, often times watching the others speak to each other or to her. 

  Jarm didn’t understand it, until one night he decided to spend one evening in the tavern and just watch.  All of the men’s eyes were on Tira, hanging on every word of hers, even though she spoke little.  When they spoke, it was often about their exploits and the reference was to outdo the other in their story.  Tira would listen and laugh at times  Jarm could understand why the men would clamor around Tira- the pretty girl from the south-but he was lost as to why she would be in such company night after night.  Was she that vain? 

  The crowds grew, all with the same unabashed, moon-eyed hunger shared by Denner, Padd, and Tanard.  The tavern had never been more filled with locals than those nights Tira held court. 

    Jarm, during one of their afternoon visits, joked with her about all of her male companions.  Tira quipped, “A girl needs to be a Queen at least once a day.”  They both chuckled at this idea.  She added, “Being Queen…keeps me company during the nights.”

  Jarm gave an over-frown, suggesting realization.  “I wish I wasn’t a man.  Or an older man at that.”

  “How so?”

  “You need a mentor.  You know, someone who can show you all of the connections between magic and your life as a woman.  I can only show you the magic.  I can’t make it personal, make it smack of reality because I don’t know what it means to be a young, metropolitan woman from the South.  I can’t maketh true for your femininity.  And for that, I feel like you’re coming up slim in the pocket.”

  She shared his over-frown, coming up with another realization.  “Jarm, I don’t think your life’s word is ‘Alone’.”

  “Really?  What would it be then?”

  “It would be ‘without’.  Everything about you, from what you say and how you behave, is about a man who lacks something.  When I first met you, you told me that I was going to reject your gift because it lacked excitement and drama; throughout our days together, you tell me that you lack wisdom in how to handle people’s souls; your life’s word is the very thing you lack; and now, you say you lack the life (IE. being a woman) to be of help to me.  Jarm, you are a man who spendeth his whole life haunted by what you are not and what you don’t have!”

  Jarm simply laughed, rubbing his short beard hairs.  Rather than fighting against Tira’s challenge, he remarked, “Probably true.  I am a man who lacks.”  He reached over and scratched her back.  His scratching was rough, clumsy, and smacked of paternity than anything else.  Tira liked this five-second scratch, for it best summed up their relationship.  Jarm pulled his hand away from her back and barked, “You shall make a great listener!  A great listener indeed!”

 

  The tavern grew with male admirers of Tira.  Within a short span of time, they were crowds outside, standing in the cold, looking into the gold rays from the window whilst shivering in the blue night air of High Smoke.

  The crowds coincided with Tira being left alone on her visits.  Jarm felt that she should make the rounds in town by herself, listening to their stories and offering help whenever she could.  He watched her on a couple of visits, finding that she was a natural in using her gift or simply chatting with the people of High Smoke. 

  Soon Jarm found himself alone in the afternoons.  They divided the visits, giving him some free time in the afternoon.  She, though, sunk all of her time in visiting people.  He did his normal rounds, finding that no one needed anything from him.  They simply chatted with him, more out of a commitment to politeness than anything else, and he was on his way.

  He doubted his role in High Smoke during the days of his extended free time.  Sure, he had helped them in the past.  But had they grown so strong during his time that they were self-sufficient?  Or was his young student, Tira, such a natural talent at this that they could do better with her than with an old wizard, who seemed to always be lacking the ability to truly help his community?

  One afternoon, his doubts got the best of him.  He was chatting with an old rancher who had just waved him off, saying he was too busy for magic that day.  “Excuse me, might I do something?  It will only take a second.” Jarm asked.  The old man shrugged.

  Jarm waved his hand and used his talent.  Within the space of time between the use of his talent and the life’s word being uttered, Jarm asked himself, Why am I doing this?

  Old fool, you feel replaced, don’t you?  Vanity of vanities!  Some young, competent sorceress comes along and gives this community what they need and all you can do is agonize in self-doubt!  Give these people their Tira!  This old rancher, especially, is one of the men who huddles with the rest of his friends outside, waiting for a break in the Tavern so he can come in and be close to Tira!

  She has given these people excitement.  Why endanger that? 

  I must, though.  I must find out if I still have my talent, if I can still read people.  Maybe I can’t.  Maybe the power has faded.  Magic can fade.  It’s cruel and fickle, often times leaving the old to favor the young.  If it has faded, I cannot, in good conscience, continue to train Tira.  But if I still got it, maybe I should just move on and help another community.  That wouldn’t be bad, would it? 

  So fall back.  Let the power take over…

  The old rancher gave Jarm the word that described what he hunger for most, what her desired, and what he, deep down, worshipped.

  After Jarm heard the word, he broke the spell and dismissed himself quickly.  He went out to two other farms, asking them to use his talent on them.  Kindly, they allowed the old man to fall back and let his power take over.  After each one, Jarm quickly left without allowing them to ask why. 

  For the rest of the day, he found himself in the tavern, drinking heavy drought.  He told himself he wouldn’t get drunk.  But he looked as though he wanted to.  Every sip, he looked as if he wanted it to be longer and to sink in deeper.  He didn’t allow himself to lose himself, though.  Only tipsy.  Only a bit numb.

  When he sipped, he did not move.  He just sat, wearing a face requiring everyone of his muscles to be tensed and taut.  His eyes, turning more red every minute he sat, occasionally flickered like a fireplace.  Other than this, he did not move nor emote anything.

  A little before dusk, Tira bounced into the tavern.  “Jarm!  This is unlike you to be here in the Tavern!  To what do I owe this pleasure?”

  Jarm extended his hand in the direction of the seat next to him.  She complied, sitting next to her teacher.  He took another sip of strong ale.  “I spoke with three men in town today: Carin, Tobais, and Moyd.  All three of them, I used my talent to ascertain their life’s word….”

  “Yes?”

  “Thrice uttered your name as their life’s word.  All three men- who formally had their life words be such things as ‘work’, ‘excellence’, and ’ear’- named ‘Tira’ as the reason why they exist in our world.  Now, why would they change their purpose in life?”

  Tira’s smile dropped and her eyes narrowed.  Quietly, she nodded to the barkeep for her usual.  After taking a small sip, she remarked, “Well, you were going to find out eventually.  I found a better use for your talent than just listening to farmers talk about their soul.”

  “And that is?”

  “A year ago, there was a break through in glamour properties.  It was discovered that one could induce one’s mind, hypnotically, through an ingredient only found in your frost apples.”

  “A myth!”

  “For centuries, yes.  I mean, myth is born out of some shard of reality.  But just eating the apples alone did not make people highly suggestive.  Rather, when the frost apples were boiled and reduced to a small oil, that is the substance that one can consume, in great volumes, that makes people, momentarily, highly suggestive.”

  “So you made all of your followers drink a bunch of apple oil?”  Jarm grew more and more agitated the longer Tira continued.

  “No!  I mixed the oil with flour, sugar, and such.  I made all of the men pastries.  While visiting them, I fed them the goodies and, when the oil took effect, I used my talent-”

  “To replace their life’s word with your name?”

  “Yes.”  She leaned toward him, her voice changing into a soothing beckon.  “Think of it, Jarm!  We can turn any warrior into a zealot, by whispering the name of a king or deity into their ears.  The works and sweat of religious mysticism is dead: all one has to do is intake the chemical and allow their god’s name to be whispered in their ear and…poof!  Instant devotion!  And romance can now be as easy as a couple falling in love and cementing their devotion to each other by our talent.

  “For years, you’ve used this talent as passive observation without ever challenging the world around you.  In a few short weeks, I’ve redeemed this talent.  I have made you an all-powerful wizard.  Now, you can work in places besides High Smoke.  You can have armies begging to be in your presence, knowing that the bottom of line of all of their dreams and goals is your name.”

  Jarm ceased being angry.  His heartbeat settled into a peaceful tap.  He looked up, with eyes to nothing in particular.  “Tira, you have misunderstood the foundation of our talents.  We must believe, must have confidence that the words written on the hearts of our people have been written there for a reason, written by the intelligent hand of destiny.  To change this design is to drive away destiny’s plans.”

  Her presence still taut with eagerness, “But Jarm, you don’t understand!  Destiny is what we make it to be!  There are no plans, no designs!  People just get their words from the luck of some lottery.  And now, we can alter things for the good of-”

  “For who’s good?”

  “Whomever we decide!”

  “You mean whomever has the power?”

  “Exactly.  We have become the most powerful of magicians.”

  Jarm rose.  His eyes down, he looked wounded.  And lonely.  “I misread your ambition, my dear.  I always thought ambition was a lofty ambition: the ability to do whatever one puts their mind towards.  The momentum, you’ve proved, is only as good as the aim itself.  Tira, I have failed you as you have failed yourself.  If you continue, you will have bankrupt our talent.”

  Tira swallowed some of her air.  “Bankruptcy or redemption?  I guess it be how you see it.”

  “No, our world has some design to it and by those intrinsic patterns I insist that it is bankruptcy.”  He started for the door.

  She turned around and watched him take three steps to the door.  Pale, emotionless, she inquired, “I am to continue in this pursuit.  Is it safe to assume our training be over?”

  “Absolutely.”

  “Is it safe to assume, as well, that you are to leave and do nothing to stand in my way?”

  He twirled around.  “What am I to do?  My magic only discerneth, only supporteth.  How can discernment fight against unbridled ambition?  My talent will only be drowned in your will.”

  “True, wizard.”  She took her drink.  Her face changed.  She looked older, with the sparkle and zest drained.  Her face changed quickly, as if she loosened a mask and her persona dropped.  “I allow you to leave.  Gather your things.  As soon as I collect all of the residents of High Smoke we shall march to the south.” 

  “You shall have a new army, eh?  Well, congratulations: an army gained only by the manipulation of magic!”  He left knowing she was no longer listening. 

The snow fell on him, cold and hard.  As we walked through the town to his cabin, he passed by all of the men in the town, eagerly striding to the tavern to get another peak at Tira. 

  What can I do?  She’s erased their life’s word.  Their words are lost forever.  I have nothing to listen to, nothing to read.  They are now one mind, driven by a uniform will that demands worship. 

  Tira’s great experiment.  I wanted to share my world with someone and I did, losing it with one flash of ambition.  I shall leave my home as it is turned into a great example, a statement of magical application. 

  He walked to his cabin, hugging the edge of town.  As he approached the steps, a light caught his eyes.  A light emitting from the woods surrounding High Smoke.  He marched to the light, figuring it out the closer he came to it.  At first, it was a mere glow but then grew into a ball, magically hovering near the leaves and branches of the woods. 

  He approached the ball and heard words speak from inside him.

Jarm, the search is over.  I’m here for you.

  “Excuse me?”

This is Alone.  The one you met in your youth.  I am here now.  You no longer have to search.

  “But I haven’t searched…”

Everyday, you searched whether you know it or now.  Every action, every reaction, every step was all in my direction.

  “So are you the one who gives men their life’s words?”

Among other things.  Step into my light.  We have much to talk about.  You are ready to be more than someone who lacks.

  Jarm looked around.  He stopped at the darkness around the ball.  He exhaled out of surrender and walked to the center of the ball… 

 


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