Exile of Light Part 1, Chapter 2
By Ephraim Glass
Having begun our journey in solemnity, so it continued for the first three weeks of the journey. Our days were spent in silent remembrance of those we had left behind and our nights were haunted by guilty dreams and terrifying nightmares. If not for the children, who made up perhaps a quarter of our number, the occupants of the Great Whale would surely have gone mad within a week of our departure from Earth. The young were not as horror stricken-as were the adults and so we were constantly reminded that hope remained.
The oldest children, those who themselves bordered adulthood, understood nearly as well as we did the gravity of our situation. But as the young often do, they casually dismissed that which they the ability to change. The littlest children, still too young to appreciate what was happening to them, were as happy as though they were back on Earth. They were truly a source of joy, muted as it was by our mourning. I looked forward to the afternoons, when the young children would have finished their naps. It was then that I would meet with those who promised to develop magickal talent to teach them the first charms of healing that would form the foundation of a mastery of White Magick. Watching the youngest try so earnestly to mend a chapped lip or a bruised elbow was what allowed me to go on, in the first days of our exile.
Twenty three miserable days passed before the tension among us was finally broken. A red mage journeyman was practicing his art by trying to sweeten a bit of hard tack he was eating. He misspoke the incantation and before he realized his error, he had bitten into the biscuit. Finding it salty instead of sweet sent the children about him into fits of giggling, which drew the attention of the nearby adults. As the ship learned of the young man's plight, none could help but smile and a few even let escape nervous laughs. The time for mourning was ending. We needed to begin looking forward with hope and to cease looking backward in despair.
After we'd begun to grow accustomed to our situation, each person began to retun to their habits and routines from Earth. I readily resumed my role as a healer and as a teacher. Most of my companions had started schools to rebuild their arts, following the disruption that Zeromus had caused in the course of his first invasion. I taught White Magick, Edge and Yang taught Martial arts, Rydia travelled throughout the world, searching for children with traces of Caller blood. These schools continued aboard the Great Whale, for many of the students were already known to be among the most talented children of Earth.
Leviathan had warned us of the coming invsasion early in the month of April, so it was shortly after two months had passed that the eldest students of most of the schools were to graduate. The exception to this was Yang's Karate school, which had no formal graduation, but rather passed students only after they were able to succeed in a rigorous physical examination. Several days prior to the planned celebration, the ship's inhabitants were hard at work. Crates in the hold were moved about so that space might be made for a ceremony and the magi worked feverishly converting tack and fruit into cakes and tarts.
With the preparations completed, the students assembled to receive the commendation of their teachers. Formal robes were a luxury we could not afford, as were diplomas, but nonetheless, it was a proud affair for the students who had now proven themselves masters of their arts. There was no lack of tears, for the knowledge that these students, the finest that Earth had to offer, were the future of our people. Toward the end of the evening, Cecil spoke to the passengers. Those unable to fit into the cramped assembly hall were able to hear via the fantastic magick that suffused the Great Whale.
"We are a perseverant people," he said. "We have escaped from Zeromous - at great cost, but toward an even greater benefit. Even now, as we seek a new home, we continue to show our strength. These graduates are our magnum opus, proof that we will neither forget our past nor forsake our future. People of Earth, I am proud to be among you. I am proud to call myself your leader, your servant, and your friend."
Cecil stepped down from the podium then and crossed the hold to where I was standing. Not saying a word, he reached down and took my hand. We were both overwhelmed with the import of the occasion. These young people would certainly rise as leaders among us when we reached our new home. Cecil squeezed my hand and kissed my cheek. "I love you," he whispered into my ear. "I would be lost without you at my side. When I dream of the horrors we're facing, I can return to sleep, reassured by you sleeping beside me. When I'm afraid, I remember your selfless courage." Flattered by his sudden display of admiration, I could not help but blush. "Let's turn in early," he suggested, an impish grin on his face such as I'd not seen for a long time. Glowing with girlish bemusement, I happily agreed.
When I awoke, Cecil was no longer there. Rising, I whispered a simple spell to recall the time of day and realized why; it was nearly noon. I felt terribly silly to have slept in so long, but at the same time I was girlishly delighted that Cecil had nobly chosen not to wake me. Nonetheless, I had to wash up and dress, so that I could get some breakfast before meeting the children for their afternoon lessons. Though they normally would have had a respite for the summer, most of their teachers had agreed that it would be best not to interrupt their studies. We didn't know what we would be facing in our new home and we felt it best to prepare them as much as we could in the meantime.
When I arrived at the impromptu classroom that had been set up, I found waiting for me not just my usual students but eight children who had been attending Rydia's lessons. One of them, a polite, nine-year-old girl, stepped forward and handed me a note. "From Miss Rydia," she said.
I glanced over the scrap of paper and then remembered that I had agreed to teach those of Rydia's students who showed promise in White Magick. Of course, all callers are formidable magi in their own rights and while Rydia could teach those of her students who gravitated toward Black Magick, she needed to seek help elsewhere for her aspiring White Magi.
After the new students had introduced themselves, I assigned an exercise to my regular students so that I could gauge the talent of the new arrivals. Three of them, children of Mysidian lineage, proved that they belonged in the more advanced lesson that I taught later in the afternoon. Four of the others, none of whom had any formal training in White Magick, were to remain in the fundamentals class. The eighth student, a young man of ten years by the name of Raime, showed remarkable talent, beyond that of even the Mysidian children. I told him that I would assign him to a class after I had a chance to speak with Rydia. I doubted I would, however. Few of the White Magi who had graduated the evening before could boast as much untamed power as this fledgling seemed to possess.
Two days later, I managed to catch up with Rydia. I found her seated high atop a stack of crates in the cargo hold, reading a book with a brightly illustrated cover. "What are you doing up there?" I demanded incredulously, unable to fathom how she'd gotten up.
She slid a satin ribbon into the book to mark her place and then scampered down from atop the crates, utilizing ledges and cracks that I'd never have seen to make possible her descent. "I'm reading, silly," she said with a musical laugh. "What does it look like?"
I smiled lightly. "I wanted to ask you something," I said. "About one of the students you sent to me."
She nodded and adopted a more serious expression. "Which one?" she asks. "And what about."
"Raime," I replied. "He's...incredible. I've never seen a Magus with such talent at that age. Normally it takes years of practice to develop the skills he's shown." I shook my head. "And he's just ten and never trained in White Magick in his life! I've never seen anything like him. My mentors told me I was gifted, when I was still just a student, but I give that child three years before there's nothing more I can teach him."
Rydia listened closely, showing increasing surprise. "I'd never have guessed it," she mused. "He's a mediocre Caller at best." She smiled softly. "The sylphs love to be around him. If he's got such an affinity for White Magick, I suppose that explains that.
I nodded distractedly. "I guess I'm sort of glad to hear that he's not a spectacular Caller," I admitted. "I have a favour to ask and I feel a little bit guilty doing so. I know there are so few children aboard with Caller heritage, but I want to take Raime as my apprentice, to train him to use his talents to their full extent.
Rydia's smile faded. "Remove him from his training as a caller, entirely?" she asked. "Impossible. I've only got eighteen students. Each and every one carries a precious gift. It would be heresy not to develop that gift fully.
I sighed. "Please don't be difficult, Rydia. I know you want to restore the Caller blood line to its former strength, but don't you see what Raime has to offer the art of White Magick? He could work wonders of healing I've never even imagined!" I paused, trying to supress the passion that I felt rising to the surface. "I understand that I have dozens more students than you have, but Raime will be so much more than any of them. Please, at least think about it. Talk with him. I haven't said a word to him. I thought it would be fairest to speak with you first.
Rydia bit her lip. "I won't make any promises," she said resolutely. "I'll speak with him, but I am not going to pretend that I want him to be your apprentice, if it means ending his training as a caller." Her voice cracked and she paused for a moment. "I don't want to fight with you over a student, Rosa, but I will. I think it's necessary to prevent the Callers from being wiped out again.
I quietly agreed to this course of action then hastily returned to my chamber, disappointed. Rydia's reaction could have been far worse, but I had hoped she'd see the value of training Raime as a White Sorceror, that she would have immediately released him to be my apprentice.
A week later, Raime attended my advanced lesson of his own volition. He tried to answer questions that he'd clearly never concerned himself with and lightly performed exercises that I knew were no challenge to him at all. After I had dismissed the other students, he approached me, a torn look on his face. "Miss Rosa," he said in his quiet manner, "Miss Rydia spoke with me last night. She told me that you wanted to take me as an apprentice, 'cause I'm so good at White Magick. But..."
I allowed the silence to settle for a few seconds and then prompted him to continue. "But what?" I asked, dreading the response.
"Well, she really doesn't want me to do it," he replied. "She told me I'd be betraying my heritage if I were to give up training as a caller. She was crying, too." Imagining the turmoil Rydia was experiencing, it was all I could to keep myself from tearing up. "She doesn't know I'm here," Raime continued. "I'm a pretty bad caller. The only thing that I can always manage to summon is the sylphs and that's 'cause they like me. If you want me to be your apprentice, that's what I want to do," he said with as firm of conviction as a child his age can muster."
I smiled feebly. "I want you as my apprentice very much," I told him softly. "If you'd prefer, I'll tell Miss Rydia of your decision."
Raime gulped and nodded, an embarassed look on his face. "Would you?" he asked. "I don't want to make her cry anymore."
'I don't want to make her cry either,' I thought, 'but better I do it than put that burden on Raime.' "Of course I will," I told him, straining to keep a brave face. "Why don't you head on back home. I'll talk with Miss Rydia tonight. I'll send for you when I am ready to begin teaching you, all right?"
Despite the bravado I'd displayed for Raimie, it was not that night, nor the next that I rallied the courage to speak with Rydia, but rather five days later. Rydia was in a fair mood when I found her. Several of her students had succeeded in conjuring a stowaway rat from the hold of the ship, instead of simply out of a cage, as they'd previously done, and she was excited at their progress. I felt my moxie waver as I realized what a blow I was about to deal her. I took a deep breath and proceeded.
"Rydia...I've spoken with Raime. He told me that he wants to study under me, as my apprentice."
Her countenance instantly went sour and she glared at me. "What did you say to him to persuade him to leave his studies as a caller," she demanded? As tears welled up in her eyes, I knew that she felt I'd betrayed her. "Did you lie to him?" she demanded. "Did you swear I wouldn't mind as much as I claimed?" Her bitter accusations stung like a whip. I was left unable to speak, caught between hurting my old friend or relinquishing a student who would be the best White Magus of his age.
"I didn't tell him anything," I promised her. "He made the decision on his own, without any prompting from me."
"Liar!" she shrieked. "He must have known how much I needed him to be a caller - how much I need all of them to be callers. If you didn't convince him to do it, why is he forsaking me?"
Tears I had expected, but I was not prepared for hysterics. "Calm yourself, please, Rydia. You told me yourself that he's a mediocre caller...and he knows it's true. He probably wants to do what he's good at."
"You told him I thought he was a poor caller?" she cried, twisting my words. "What sort of person are you? I thought you were my friend. How could you betray me like this?" She crumpled to the floor of her compartment, weeping pitiably. I stepped forward, hoping that she'd spent her anger and that I could try to comfort her. She glared up at me, a wild look in her eyes. "You can have him, witch!" she snarled. "But get away from me." She raised her fist and I could see flecks of ice forming as she summoned the magick. "Get out of my room," she repeated, her voice as cold as iron. Devastated, I fled.
It was weeks before I could collect myself well enough to return to my responsibilities. My students seemed to have enjoyed their unannounced holiday. I found that Rydia had withdrawn the remaining seven children from my classes. I made a few inquiries and discovered that she'd enlisted a Mysidian apothecary of middling power in White Magick to teach her students. Heavyhearted, I returned to my own teaching.
I sent for Raime that night and told him that he would start his apprenticeship the next day. He noded somberly and studied me intentely, his bright, brown eyes seeming to look right through me. Just as I was about to ask him what he saw, he offered me a weak smile and departed.
I had gained an apprentice, but I had lost my best friend. It was my first taste of the cup of tribulation, which has brought me to the precipice, where I now stand.
"Rosa, what has happened to my Rydia?" came a voice from beind me and off to my right.
I spun and called the magic to my hands, preparing to defend myself. "Who speaks?" I demanded. I watched as Edge's form coalesced from the shadows. Relieved, I let the magick dissipate. "I don't know, Edge," I sighed. "I heard she had a fight with Palom last night. Porom was treating him for frostbite, I understand."
He nodded and stepped to my side, gesturing that I should continue walking. His countenance was tired - a far cry from the lighthearted man I recalled from our shared adventures. "I went to pester her this morning, like I used to, when we travelled together. She turned me away with a fistful of lightning. She also threatened the White Mage who she'd gotten to teach her students until he agreed to train them under her supervision." Angrily, he flicked a tear from his cheek. "I think that she slipped a cog after she and you had that fight." He paused. "It ain't your fault, Rosa, but she's not right in the head, anymore."
I sighed and nodded ruefully. "I fear you may be right," I agreed. "I'm afraid that she believes I designed to betray her."
Edge paused and leaned against the wall. "If that's so, something's got to be done. She's strong and she's teaching Earth's children. That makes her dangerous. I can't stand the thought of working against her, but she has already told me she won't have me around any longer." His face grew grim. "I killed my own parents when I saw it was necessary. I won't hesitate to strike down Rydia."
I patted his arm and steeled myself so that my voice would not betray my torment. "Let us hope it doesn't come to that, Edge. If she is unwell, we may pray that she can be helped."
He grunted his assent and slipped back into the shadows. "I'm going to watch her," he promised. "I'll keep you up to date."
"Thank you, Edge," I said, but he did not reply. I cast a magickal light where I had last seen him and he was already gone.
Unnerved, I returned to the cabin and settled myself onto the pallet that Cecil and I shared. As I prepared myself to sleep, he roused himself and embraced me. Feeling the tension in my shoulders and my hesitance to hold him, he came fully to consciousness and took my face in his hands. "What troubles you, darling?" he asked.
"It's Ryida," I moaned. "I've spoken with Edge. She's not herself anymore. Edge fears she may be going mad. If he's right, what is there for us to do?"
Cecil sighed. "She'll be dealt with, of course," he replied. "She has already shown, with Palom, that she's willing to resort to violence. Do you think that she can be treated?"
Helplessly, I shook my head. "I don't know," I admitted. "I have precious litle experience with mental illness. I'll speak with Porom. She may be better trained in such matters.
"Come to sleep," Cecil advised. "Troubling matters are best considered by a mind unclouded by need of sleep."
I agreed and climbed beneath the blankets, intent on getting some rest. More exhausted than I had though, even my worries didn't prevent me from falling alseep within minutes.
I spoke with Porom the next day and learned that she had no more experience with mental illness than I had and so we resolved to observe and hope that our lack of expertise wouldn't prevent us finding a solution.
Edge continued to report to me, but his findings were scant. Rydia kept a careful watch over her demesnes and even Edge's skillfull ninja technique was insufficient to avoid her scrutiny for long. He confirmed that the children were unharmed and continued to learn, although Rydia went to lengths to secure their loyalty to herself. I was concerned at this news, but Edge urged patience, until more could be uncovered. He also reported that Rydia was peforming some magickal experiments on a number of rats that the Callers kept. He regretted that he could not elucidate this matter, but his skill was at ninja magick, so he could tell only that magickal energies were at work.
Over the next several weeks, it became clear that out fears weren't at all unfounded. Rydia and her students continued to isolate themselves until we woke one morning to find that they'd shut themselves off entirely. Using black wizardcraft such as had sealed Mount Hobs, she walled off, with great barriers of ice, the portions of the ship set aside for her and the Callers. We did not dare cut our way in for fear of harming Rydia, just as her mother had been felled when Cecil and Kain killed the Mist Dragon she'd summoned to defend the Village of Mist.
Our greatest concern was that Rydia's madness would cause all those beyond the ice to starve, but these fears were soon replaced by horror at how they were obtaining food. Monstrous rat-things, no doubt the result of Rydia's work on her rats, were discovered pilfering our stores and carrying supplies back to the walls where they were summoned back to the far side.
Unable to ignore the situation any longer, Cecil summoned the elders of the people to a council. Edge, Cecil, and I advocated trying to cajole Rydia and her students out from their isolation. The elders felt that it was far safer for the majority of the people to leave the Callers where they were, out of the way and unable to do any great harm. Reluctantly, we agreed to obey the decision. We would have to wait until we found a new home to reconcile with Rydia or to punish her, if necessary.
Aside from the presence of the rat-things, life aboard the Great Whale began to return to normal. As events began to calm, I finally found time to properly begin Raime's apprenticeship. I found that a pair of Sylphs had found his company more compelling than Rydia's summons and they now hovered constantly at his shoulder. He posessed such talent that it was difficult to keep him focused as I tried to refine his technique. He could accomplish sloppily what most Magi attempted only with great precision.
As I continued to work with him, I was constantly astonished at the feats of healing that he could perform. Once, one of Edge's students came into the infirmary with a finger severed by the razor edge of a throwing star. I mended it, but I've always found such wounds troublesome. Without the essence of the living body assisting the magick on both sides of the injury, I have difficulty preventing a scar from forming. After I reattached the finger, before the young man could leave the infirmary, Raime approached him quietly and reached for his hand. Curious, I did not interceded as the ninja allowed Raime to trace his own finger, dipped in a healing unguent, around the fresh scar. So careful was Raime's call upon the magick, I barely felt it flowing around me to his healing hands. After Raime released the young man, I stepped over to investigate and found that my apprentice had erased any evidence that the finger had ever been hurt.
Afterward, when I asked Raime what he'd done, he put it into terms so simple that I at once understood the magick he had worked, but at the same time I was also unable to duplicate the spell, for I was unable to command the elements at so base a level as he could.
His mastery of White Magick continued to develop at a pace far greater than I had anticipated. It was not long before I simply allowed him to treat patients himself, keeping notes for me to review at the day's end. I, too, kept notes, so that he could continue to learn from me. Although I did most of the teaching and him most of the learning, I was humbled to change a few of my techniques to correspond with innovations he had developed.
For the following few weeks, until shortly after we completed the fifth month of our journey, life proceded in a peaceful, but dull routine. It was easy to forget for a few moments that my best friend and the children she desperately taught were sealed behind massive sheets of ice. Perhaps matters would have remained such until the present day, had we not received a great shock. The rat-things had vanished and the ice had begun to melt.