|The Staff of the Magi (standard:fantasy, 2172 words)|
|Author: Alexm||Added: May 11 2003||Views/Reads: 1701/1050||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|A prehistoric tale in which an elderley shaman tells his young protege of an encounter with a fire spirit and how the spirit becomes a reluctant ally|
The Staff of the Magi Over stones and hard-packed earth Amudan carefully arranged the firewood and struck sparks from his flints to set it smouldering. Though the fuel was dry, the air was moist and the pieces of bark and dead grass that he had collected for kindling were damp. With increasing impatience, Amudan brought the jagged stones together, but the little splinters of fire would not ignite the pile. Just then, the Druid appeared in the cave-mouth, dishevelled and yawning. With watery eyes he surveyed the morning, scratched vigorously beneath his furs and then, leaning heavily on his staff, he hobbled over to join the youth. The ancient spied the ground squirrel upon the grass and with a voice still thick with sleep he croaked: “What's this? Food but no fire to cook it – and me as hungry as bear at winter's end. This will teach me to waste half the day sleeping!” Amudan looked ruefully upward at his guardian and slumped back in the grass. Deliberately, the Druid placed the butt of his staff at the base of the pile and spoke sharply the words: “Aie Gorias!” Immediately the twigs were enveloped as the fire sprang to life. The Druid lowered himself to a sitting position and favoured the boy with an expectant smile. Amudan shook his head in affable resignation. He knew better than to be surprised by such displays from the old magic-man. In haste, the youth set about skinning and preparing their meal. A short while later, his hunger satisfied, Amudan tossed the remains of the carcass into the flames and turned to the Druid – his expression thoughtful. The old man had reserved a small, slender bone from his meal and was busily picking at his few remaining teeth. “Old one, the words you spoke when you lit the fire with your staff – what do they mean?” Wonderingly, the boy reached out and stroked his hand over the smooth-worn wood. It had obviously been cut from a single branch and rudely finished. Slightly warped, it was thick enough that he could not quite close his fingers around its girth and of a length that, stood beside him, fell just short of his shoulder. “The words are a summons,” replied the Druid, “they call to the Gorians for aid – and the Gorians, as you know, are spirits of fire.” Amudan was still curious. “Why,” he asked, “would the fire spirits care if we eat a cooked meal?” The Druid chuckled. “Why indeed, lad, why indeed. It is important to understand that we are talking now of one particular sprite. How this one came to place himself at my beckoning is a tale not too long in the telling – if the listener be of a mind to heed.” Amudan needed no further prompting and eagerly he settled a little closer to his teacher. “Many years ago,” the Druid began, “long before you were born, I journeyed to the lands of the distant west. Far beyond Ith's edges I travelled and beyond the Broken Lands with their deep valleys of dust and stone. I sought a green and fertile place where a fair and gentle people dwelt in peace by a wide river. In a vision I knew them and I learned also of a spring of pure water in the midst of their land. This spring was a most hallowed and sacred spot. From its depths a Goddess would come forth to speak in love and wisdom to the people”. The Druid sighed and inclined his head. “Ah, how I longed to rest my eyes upon that spring. However, my journey was fraught with difficulty and misfortune. West of the Great Plain, I was beset by all the perils of the wilderness. Man and beast, storm and hunger – all conspired to prevent me from reaching my goal until at last, disheartened and beaten, I turned back. Exceedingly miserable was I to have come so far but not to have reached the fair, green vale, nor received wisdom from the Goddess of the spring. In forsaking my search, my troubles were by no means at an end. Weary and despairing I became lost, wandering far to the north of my intended path. Through rank, poisonous swamp and night-haunted forest I strayed. Denied the sight of sun, moon and stars I knew not the passing of time until, at length, the ground climbed beneath me and I emerged into the light – only to find my way east barred by the Mountains of Fire.” The old man paused. Amudan sucked in his breath, knowing well - through other sagas – the perils of this region. Despite the fire's warmth and the pale rays from the sun, now directly overhead, the youth felt a chill of danger and apprehension in his bones. Satisfied of his captive Click here to read the rest of this story (128 more lines)
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