It had been a ten day and the winds would not let up. Qua’ Jon had not been permitted to leave the cave in that time. The mage had spent as much of it as he was able trying to teach Eernon anything about magic, but it was hopeless. Her mind was very regimented, the hallmark of a good warrior. Magic could not be taught through practice and study alone, however. There was a certain weaving of reason and belief that was a necessity. It was not enough to know how a spell would happen, one had to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it would indeed happen.
“Staluv,” she said, her hands tracing the same path they had fifty times before. She thrust her right palm out from herself as if she was throwing a punch. Qua’Jon was glad she wasn’t, as her strength was quite formidable. She tried to make up for what she lacked in technique with ferocity. Fighting was deep in her blood.
“I swear to you, little Elf, if I find that you have been holding information from me, I will kill you slow.”
Qua’Jon shook his head. “Eernon, there are many secrets in magic. Each spell is like a dance. You can put your body through the motions, but it is useless without soul. One of my greatest students was a master of dance long before I met them. It is motion and sound, yes, but it is also belief and heart!”
“My tribe would have long ago gutted your dancers. No matter. Show me again.”
Again, Qua’ Jon repeated the motion and said the word. He had run out of energy much earlier that day so he was unable to cast the actual spell, but still he went through the effort. His shoulder was moving much easier now, the wound having done some significant healing the past ten day. He worried about the dampness of the cave, but the fire burned near constantly, dispelling the clamminess.
Eernon held her outstretched palm in front of her, a look of awe on her face.
“I felt something! Yes, that was it! I must be getting close! Tell me little Elf, did you see it?”
“That is it! Yes, keep practicing!”
He had not seen it, but if she kept practicing he could rest. The Elf sat against the stone wall as she repeated the word and motions a dozen times. Qua’Jon watched the others out of the corner of his eye. Vanlaug grew restless, for which he blamed the mage. He had come to this land to pillage and kill, yet he had done nothing but gamble and repeat the same stories. Often, he looked at the elf with contempt, picking his fingernails with the long slim blade of his knife.
He has met the others as well. Melin seemed to be friends with Vanlaug. While not as hostile, she seemed to share his wishes of plunder. She spent her time practicing her sword work, which was impressive. It was unlike the elven movements Qua’ Jon had watched his entire life. Her sword strokes were more direct, relying more on ferocity and speed than the misdirection that Elven swordsmanship entailed.
Then there was Ingdol. He spent the most time out of the cave, leaving in the early morning. He’d return with freshly killed game and whatever other food he could scavenge. Eernon spent each evening in council with him, sketching out crude maps in the dust. From what he could tell, they were scouts for a much larger force. If this larger force was on their shores or not, Qua’ Jon did not know.
Finally, there was Gwenich. She was a curious sort. The girl had hardly spared words for the elf, but he often caught her watching him. Once, when he had made his way to the back of the cave to relieve himself, Qua’ Jon had seen her stacking rocks in a strange formation in a dark hollow. He watched for a while, her face never turning to see him. Try as he might, the Elf could not ascertain meaning from the pattern.
A bolt of lightning flashed close to the cave entrance, followed by a clap of thunder that gave everyone pause. Qua’ Jon stared in awe at the mouth of the cave as the rain started to blow into it.
“You watch the storm often, elf. Did you make it, eh? I bet you conjured it to follow us, I bet you did.”
Vanlaug looked up from the bone dice he held in his hand and pointed to Qua’ Jon as he spoke. He then looked around nodding, as if agreeing with himself on everyone else’s behalf.
“No, no, no. Even my queen didn’t know who created the storm. She knew it was big, however. Very big. It stretches to all places at once. They watch the very same storm back in Mirlethia! Even the dwarves feel it under their mountains! It will tell us it’s story when its ready. Yes, yes!”
“Ah, Eernon, he’s broken in the head. Let me run him through and we can go back to filling our purses.”
“He may be mad, Vanlaug, but you saw him disappear just as I did. You saw the white bolts that struck down Old Markin. If I learn this, Vjorn Germain will make me her second! If not her, any Vjorn would gladly take me on.”
“Aye, but what if the cost of learning it is your head? Keep it on your shoulders, Eernon. Vjorn Germain will reward you most for gold and silver. Bring her spices and Elven weapons. Fill Yarrloth’s pits with the screaming dead for her. She does not want witchery.”
“You think small, man. Do you think to carve out a new empire with that knife of yours? The elves have land in abundance. The floors of their forests are fertile and rich. Clear cut the trees and put in fields. Bring over cattle and let them graze on the planes. The Sylvan lands could belong to Mirlethia, Vanlaug. “
Qua’ Jon ignored the conversation. Instead, he has walked closer to the mouth of the cave to stand in the oncoming rain, initially unobserved by any of the Mirlethians. His mouth hung open in awe and joyful glee. He could feel the air charging. The wind howled through the opening, assailing his ears.
“Ay, Mage, come away from there!”
He couldn’t hear them and would not likely have moved if he could. It was time. He could feel it in the hairs on his arm which stood on end. The storm that touched all realms was about to impart its gift. That which he did not know, that which he waited for, was coming.
“Ay, Elf, I said get away from there!”
Vanlaug grabbed his wrist, intent on dragging him back into the cave. Before he could, however, the sky exploded. A jagged bolt of lightning crashed into the heart of the forest, followed by a blinding flash of light. The sound deafened everyone in the cave, even as they shielded their eyes from the intense light.
Then there was nothing but silence.