Today, instead of a stamp, I'll post an autograph. Many years ago, I was at a Sci-Con in Virginia Beach. Among the guest was this gentlemen. He was very pleasant to speak with and signed two books for me.
The late afternoon shadows hid Ky as he stood within a stand of pine trees looking at the farm he had once called home. That changed when he found Little Ky shredded just beyond the orchard. From Ky's vantage, only the tops of the pear and apple trees in the orchard could be seen over the roof of the farmhouse. Ky did not go to the farm anymore. Illya somehow knew when he was there no matter how carefully he hid himself. She always came to find him. It was not that he did not like Illya. It was more a matter of not knowing how to speak with her anymore. Little Ky's loss had opened an emotional rift between them. Every time Ky saw Illya, he also saw the pain in her expressive brown eyes. Ky did not know what to do about that pain. There was also the promise he made almost fifteen years prior.
“I'll bring him back. I will find a way,” he had said to her.
Ky had made lots of promises and kept few. This promise was the only one that bothered him. That was something else he did not understand. He shrugged and sat beside the trunk of a pine and pulled the parchment and quill Sage Tas'lin had given him from his shoulder pack. He was here because Sage Tas'lin told him to come here. The Sage had told him that before and Ky went elsewhere to complete the assignments, but somehow the Sage always knew when Ky did not go where he was sent. So Ky came to the farm, near the farm anyway. He frowned and unrolled the parchment.
Go back to your home, the farm, and compose ten questions that are not related to how to bring Little Ky back.
Sage Tas'lin explained as he sent Ky away, “You need to learn much more about other things before you can solve the problem with Little Ky. When you finish this assignment, bring it back to me and we will start without Little Ky as a distraction.”
Ky had learned other things. Very few of those other things were taught to him by Sage Tas'lin though. Most he found out for himself. The only thing Ky found useful in what the Sage taught him was the ability to read and write elven and human. At first, Ky did not see the value in learning reading and writing. He had done well not knowing all this time, why should he learn now? Then, as he struggled with the basics, he found books and scrolls in the library that explained magic, fighting techniques and many other things that intrigued him. Ky decided to learn to read and delved into it with single-minded resolve. Writing came to Ky when he learned that he could not trust his mind to remember all that he read.
Ky looked at the assignment again and his frown deepened. Why would the Sage send him to where Little Ky was, or what remained of him anyway, to write questions that had nothing to do with Little Ky? He set the parchment aside and turned his attention back to the farm. He could see the small graveyard set behind the house. Four bodies rested within the fenced in area; Illya's father and mother, Illya, and Little Ky. Only three of those bodies were actually dead. Little Ky still lived. Looking at the graves reminded Ky that he wanted to hide them. The protective barrier around the farm would stop anyone who wished to do harm to those that lived there. Ky was not sure if it would keep grave-robbers out. The Old Man had taught him the spell, but he had disappeared about a week before Little Ky was attacked so Ky could not ask the Old Man if it would.
Ky wished the Old Man were still around. He had learned far more from the Old Man than from Sage Tas'lin and what he learned from the Old Man was actually useful. Ky pulled his knees up and hugged them. He rested his chin on his knee and then let his surroundings become a blur of insignificance as he remembered some of the Old Man's lessons.
“Keep your spells simple,” the Old Man had said. “The more complicated they are, the more energy they will drain from you and the better the chance they will mess up. Simple is best.”
Ky had taken that advice to heart. Most of the spells he cast used one or two words coupled with a visual image of what Ky wished to happen. Sage Tas'lin scoffed at the spells Ky cast. The Sage believed that the spells should have complication so that the exact desired effect would occur.
Another time, the Old Man said, “Use something to focus your magic. That will ease the drain on you when you use magic.”
Ky experimented for several weeks with different objects to focus his spells through. Most of what he tried burned up after three of four casts. Gems lasted much longer. He also found that some gems would not burn up with certain types of magic. Emeralds would cast heal spells indefinitely, or they had so far. Rubies and diamonds were best for fire based spells. Blue sapphires worked best for lightning. The Old Man had often paid Ky in gems, as had Lord Maltar. Until Ky found that they could be used as focus items, he had little use for them and had simply put them in a box hidden in the barn. He had quite a large supply now.
Ky's mind drifted to his time in the library at Alle-Stecan. Most of the spells he knew, he learned there. The verbal portion of the spells was in the High-Elven language. The language was a struggle for Ky and some of the words must have been shared between High-Elven and his own native tongue because his throat would tighten, refusing to let him say them. They were also Sage Tas'lin type spells; very complicated. Ky learned to alter them to his needs. He changed the verbal portion to two or three words, experimenting with the original incantation to find the words that were essential. Most of the spells did not behave as they were described in the tomes and scrolls, but, Ky found that he could derive some use from them.
Glancing at the small graveyard, Ky picked up the parchment and began listing his spells, looking for one that would serve his needs now. He needed a spell that would conceal the graves from all save Illya and himself. He eliminated the various invisibility spells. Ky had already encountered several elves that could see through these and imagined that others could as well. After several hours, he had listed all the spells he knew. He sat reading over the list for a while. Finally, his attention focused on the maze spell. It had promise, but required a lot of magical energy to cast. Someone who could trace magical energy would be able to find it.
After staring at the graves for a while longer, Ky turned away from the farm and walked to the other side of the copse of pines. Nothing would distract him here. By this time, the sun had set and the sky above filled with stars. Ky spent an hour watching them as they slowly wandered above him. He wondered what they were and why they also traveled but never seemed to get anywhere. Sooner or later, they could always be found where their journeys began.
Ky had decided earlier that he would not be returning to Sage Tas'lin. He was not going to complete this last assignment until he started wondering about the stars. He would write his questions and send them to the Sage. He would never return for the Sage's answers though. Ky pulled a clean piece of parchment from his pack and wrote:
What are stars?
Why do stars always wander but never get anywhere?
Where do stars go during the day?
After writing these questions, he placed the parchment on the ground beside him and continued to think about the maze spell. As he thought, his senses watched the wilderness. He concentrated on what he had learned from the Old Man. The first thing he considered was what he would use as a focus item. The maze spell would be extremely draining, especially since it would have to be hidden and cover a large area. While considering this, he thought of another question. It was one he had asked the Old Man many years before and searched for the memory.
"What is magic?" Ky asked, seated cross-legged on the side counter in the Old Man's alchemy shop.
"Magic," the Old Man murmured. He finished trimming the herbs Ky had brought him and placed them in the jar he had waiting before saying more. When he finished, he leaned against the front counter and absently wiped his hands on a small towel as he explained, "Magic is an alteration of the natural rhythms that surround us. Elemental magic is the most prominent. There are four kinds of elemental magic: earth, air, water and fire."
"So when I cast a spell, I'm altering those elements?" Ky asked, leaning forward slightly.
"Usually only one at a time, I would think," the Old Man replied, smiling. "When you become better at magic, you'll be able to feel the natural rhythms around you. A true master weaves his spell into those rhythms so the magic appears natural, or invisible." The Old Man stepped away from the counter and traded his towel for a few gems he had sitting on the shelf. As he handed the gems to Ky, he said, "You have already done that. The protective barrier around the farm uses that type of mastery."
The memory prompted Ky to become more aware of his senses. The wilderness flooded his being with sounds, sights, smells and touches. He forced himself to become a part of his environment, to know its feelings, to find its pulse, to feel its breath. It took quite a lot of effort, but he was rewarded when he found the web that held all of nature together, and more, he found he was a part of that web. Ky was unsure if this ability was unique to him or if anyone could do it. Either way, he remained embedded in the web of nature until late the next afternoon. By then, he knew how to make the maze and he had the remainder of the questions for Sage Tas'lin. The questions, he had learned the answers to while he was one with the web. Ky wondered if the Sage could find them as well. He picked up the parchment and wrote:
Why does the wind blow through some trees sometimes and other trees other times?
Why are the leaves on some trees not green?
Why do some plants flower in the spring, some in the summer and others in the fall?
How do plants you did not plant get into your garden?
How long does a butterfly live?
Why do bumblebees always bore the same size hole in wood?
Then, he added one last question. This one he did not know the answer to and he knew that Sage Tas'lin would not know it either. He did know that by asking it, the Sage would realize that Ky would not be returning.
Why don't my eyes reflect light when the eyes of every other creature in nature do?
Ky folded the parchment and used the spell Sage Tas'lin taught him to send it to the Sage. Then he turned towards the farm. He could not see it through the pines, but he could feel it there. Sage Tas'lin referred to the farm as Ky's home. Ky was not sure what the word 'home' meant, but had the feeling that on this matter, at least, the Sage was correct. He started walking through the pines, intent on finding Illya before she found him. Then, with Illya by his side, he would spend the next few days protecting the graveyard.
Ky found Illya in the kitchen putting on the ribbon that would give her a solid body. He grinned at the surprise in her expression and waited for her to finish.
"Will you walk with me?" Ky asked quietly, tilting his head towards the door.
"Sure," Illya answered, then followed him outside.
As they stepped into the yard, Ky led the way to the small graveyard, explaining, "I'm going to hide the graves. That way no one can disturb them while I look for a way to bring Little Ky back."
Illya followed him silently, trying to find a way to ask if she would be able to find the graves. She did not have to ask, because Ky explained that when they arrived at the graves.
"I know you will want to visit your parents and Little Ky so I am going to make you a part of the maze. You will be able to get here whenever you want when I'm done." Ky paused and searched her expression a moment. "You'll have to stay with me while I set it up though and we won't be able to talk."
Illya smiled and answered, "I hope it takes a long time, even if we can't talk. It's just nice to be with you after all this time."
Even though she was smiling, the sadness still remained in her eyes and Ky saw it. He also saw that her eyes, even as a ghost, reflected light. He quickly turned away murmuring, "Wait here."
Illya waited as Ky immersed himself into the web of nature. It was easier this time and only took him a few moments. Then he walked along the fence of the graveyard, weaving the thread to his needs. He had decided that invisibility was unsatisfactory. Instead, he wove the impression that the area was just a blank extension of the yard. He excluded Illya from this portion knowing that if she could see it before traveling the maze, others might also see it if they came into contact with her. His other option was to isolate the farm completely, but he knew Illya liked visitors, so he chose not to do that. He knew by Illya's expression that he was successful. He grinned and took her hand, leading her away from the graves.
From then on, for the next four days, Ky used the earth as his focus, drawing energy from the soil through his right foot as he altered the web. He used his left foot as his anchor and Illya as his guide to set thousands of starting places for the maze. Ky wove Illya's observations into each anchor. Sometimes it would be a hawk flying over the farm; or a rabbit stealing greens from the garden; or the chair on the farmhouse porch where they used to sit together and watch Little Ky play; or a fire-wing butterfly fluttering nearby; or the orchard where the trees were just beginning to bear fruit; or the flowers Illya loved to plant in front of the farmhouse. Each of those things brought memories of Little Ky into Ky's mind and he wove those memories into the web as well. The maze itself, he wove into the element of fire so that it would light up when Illya searched for it. Each time he set a new anchor, he would wait until Illya told him that she could see the path, then he would move to set another.
Illya enjoyed those four days as well as the memories that she shared with Ky. She did not know if Ky intended to share the memories, but she was happy he did. It had been the longest Ky had stayed at the farm since Little Ky had been taken from them. She knew it would end, but she also knew that Ky was still working on bringing their son back and she accepted it without question. She could wait forever since she was a ghost. She hoped she did not have to wait that long. She also hoped that other ideas, like hiding the graves, would bring Ky back to visit her. She could always tell when he arrived at the farm, but his departures where always sudden, unannounced, and without farewell spoken. No matter how hard she tried to see him on his way, she always failed. This time was no exception. Ky stayed at the farm for one day after the maze was in place, then, while she was preparing to make him breakfast, she felt the emptiness and knew he was gone again. She smiled sadly and put the bowl and food away. They will be ready for his next visit.
© 2009 Tanner Artesz