Orb and Arrow, Book I: Exploration

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*** 6 ***

In the morning, ǣlfenic brought platters of food and beakers of fruit juices. They bowed as they left. An ǣlfen joined them after they had finished their meal and both stood.

“I am called Nywella in your tongue. May I speak with you Brillar?” Elden left them on the bank of the pool.

Brillar sat down in dread.

Nywella nodded understanding and reached out a hand. “All is well. He has been laid to rest with song.”

Brillar shivered slightly and couldn’t look at Nywella.

“I was told you were with him. May I hear the words from you?” Her voice was soft.

Brillar managed to repeat the story of her husband’s death, but wept when she came to his “thank you.” She wiped tears away hastily.

“No, please, it’s good that someone was with him, tried to save him and that there was no pain. Farendai was a good husband and I loved him. He was an ǣlfain lord and we have children I will cherish. You’ve met our son, Wa’olle. I thank you for this memory of him.” She rose quietly and with grace and was gone.

Brillar sat stunned, and put her face in her hands.

“What is it,” Elden asked, joining her.

“The ǣlfe who died? He was a lord and Wa’olle is his son. No one ever told me.” They sat quietly for some time.

Yarell joined them soon after Nywella left and invited them to join in a musical gathering. “Ǣlfain music is not to be missed on a summer day,” he insisted and they joined him. As always, with music there was food and drink. The music lasted through lunch unabated as ǣlfain joined them and took up instruments and songs, then drifted away. “It seems to me,” Brillar whispered to Elden, “that everyone wants to meet us or at least see us.” He nodded but only sat back to enjoy the music. As the afternoon grew late, Uthalef joined them.

“I am sorry to interrupt your afternoon but you should make ready. There will be a great homecoming feast tonight,” he walked back to their chambers with them. “Someone will come again to lead you,” and he took his farewell.

“I always find so much mystery from them. Ǣlfain music on a summer afternoon although I think it’s always summer here. Now a feast?” she shook her head as he left them.

Brillar opened her foldbox, removed the green dress, perfume, brushes and a hair ornament. They were the best she had brought with her and she frowned, thinking of the finery Elden had in his foldbox. Sitting, she loosed her braid and shook out her hair, brushing it until it shown. Two braids at the side of her face were swept up and pinned with Elden’s gift. Laughing at her foolishness, she set the perfume aside thinking how wonderful and scented everything was around her. She freshened the dress twice then looked at her arm, glad that the sleeves would cover the dimlock scar. She settled the dress carefully over her head lacing the bodice.

She was ready when Yarell called her name softly. With a deep breath, she stepped outside and stopped. Elden wore none of his fine clothing, only the simple greys he had purchased – it seemed so long ago – when they stopped at the Red Rooster. She blinked back tears at his courtesy and took his offered arm.

Yarell smiled. “If you will follow me, they are waiting.”

The forest walk, its air so rich, distracted them, and neither noticed that there was a stillness around them until they came to a crowd of ǣlfain all facing toward their walkway. Everyone moved aside as the pair was lead forward and then closed silently behind them. Before them was the plaza they had seen earlier, but now it was cleared. Yarell stepped to one side with a slight bow as the Ǣlfain Lord, Ǣlethee, stepped out on a slight dais.

“Brillar of Laurenfell,” his voice was quiet but seemed to ring in the space, “approach us.” His Lady was by his side.

She glanced at a bemused Elden and stepped forward, then dropped into a deep curtsey, holding it, uncertain.

“Come, child, rise,” she heard the Lady’s clear voice, and rose, keeping her eyes down. She could feel ǣlfain all around them watching.

“Brillar of Laurenfell, with this gift, we name you Ǣlfain Friend,” and she felt a light necklace slip around her neck warming and chilling her at once. She glanced up into steady eyes of clear grey and found herself held by them.

“Another gift we have for you,” said the Lady, stepping forward; she managed to pull her gaze from Ǣlethee’s and look at his Lady as Ǣdhahren came forward with a bow held on a fine cloth. “Archer they have named you,” offered the Lady. “We give you this ǣlfain bow. May its arrow always find its mark.” Ǣdhahren held up the bow and Brillar took it. Tears were on her cheeks. Feeling herself dismissed she backed away until she was beside Elden.

“Garnelden of Torennwood, approach us.” She glanced at him as he went past her and fell to one knee.

“Garnelden of Torennwood, with this gift we name you Ǣlfain Friend,” and she watched as Lord Ǣlethee placed the necklace, seeing him shiver in response as it fell around him.

“Our second gift,” the Lady said, and another ǣlfi came forward with a small charm. “If ever you have need, tap this three times and follow the sure-path through any danger.” He took the charm and rose, backing away until he was beside her again.

Lord Ǣlethee clapped his hands and there was sudden music everywhere. Tables were carried into the plaza then food and drink. Goblets were thrust into their hands and they were led forward through bowing ǣlfain folk and smiling ǣlfic.

Still bemused, they sat where they were led. Brillar was nearky breathless, drank deeply and could only stare at what surrounded them.

Elden’s hand was on her arm. “Ǣlfa drink,” he said eyes sparkling wickedly. “Better eat something or we will have to carry you away.”

Gathering herself, she smiled up at him. “You will have to carry me somewhere m’lord mage, for my apprenticeship is only half complete,” and she raised her cup as he dissolved into laughter.

**********

The Sisterhood

The Sisterhood is primarily dedicated to Life magic and the healing arts although Item magic is taught there. Older students interested in more study in the latter or who wish to get some skill in Creature magic are usually sent to the Brotherhood.

The Great House of the Sisterhood just outside of the town of Laurenfell takes advanced students from all the minor teaching houses scattered across Aesil. Both girls and boys are admitted to the house although girls usually outnumber the boys who are often drawn to skills not taught at the House.

The House and Healing Hall are of white stone, full of windows, courtyards and light. Color is encouraged and students and staff are usually dressed in a rainbow of color although staff members usually prefer pastels over the bright yellows and pinks of students.

Many of the married Sisters live in the town or have homes near the school. At times, they and their families move to one of the minor houses to take up residence and duties or leave completely to become healers in the world’s villages and towns.

The Sisterhood maintains, with support from the Brotherhood, a special compound for those Brothers who, broken by war, require special care. Elders from both houses are taken in by them if their families can’t provide for them. This is an extremely rare event.

The Brotherhood

The Brotherhood has, since its beginning centuries ago, specialized in teaching War magic, although Item and Creature magic are encouraged and are actually deemed more valuable than War magic. Foldboxes are made almost exclusively at the Great House by Grand Masters of Item magic.

The Great House of the Brotherhood is at Anbre-near-the-Sea near the northern coast. Its students and staff tend to be male although many older students from the Sisterhood who want to improve their Item magic skills and study Creature magic are often found there. The house is not as diverse in its colors as that of the Sisterhood, but it is also a place of great courtyards and bright corridors.

Like the Sisters, Brothers are often married and raise families near the Great House or are posted at smaller teaching houses in the north. Brothers needing special care are sent to a healing house in Laurenfell but they are often visited by their Brothers and family members.

*******

As far as anyone knows, there are no schools for mages south of the Wilds.

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