Posted by: jolantru | January 31, 2010

Second Branch: Winds of Change

“Magic,” I regarded my class of mixed ages steadily, “comes from within you. Think of it like a light that never goes out.”

The younger children closed their eyes, placing their hands on their chests, breathing slowly. I enjoyed watching them. They absorbed the lessons like sea-sponges. The older children – the pre-teenagers and the teenagers – took some time to be convinced. They all came from all sorts of backgrounds: some from the coastal lands, some from the Innerlands, some from the inbetweens. I was instantly drawn towards the ones who used light circles and shapes. I was one myself, hiding my magic from my family and the village. Remembrance of my childhood was bitter-sweet.

I inhaled deeply and spun a shining white circle. With some concentration, I lifted a delicate tea cup from the teacher’s table with it.

“Remember to ground before you work any form of magic,” I said, placing the tea cup into the hand of a girl child of four. She giggled. She was a little Air-user from the inbetweens.

“How about us Earth people?” A boy challenged. Benyi. He had grown so much, now a gangly teenager fast outgrowing his garments. He grinned playfully. “We work with the earth a lot.”

“The principle is still the same,” I laughed and Benyi’s grin grew bigger. “Find something that gives you peace, strength.”

“Even my doll?” The girlchild piped up, her dark eyes curious.

“Yes, even your doll.”

A breeze brushed the gauze curtains. It was unusually cold. I felt it through my robes. Then the bell rang and the children filed out, breaking into groups and laughing amongst themselves. I loved their infectious cheerfulness. They were so fortunate to study in Auri’s School.

I could hear snatches of conversations as I walked down the corridor. “Earthquakes”, two teenage girls were whispering to each other excitedly. “I feel ’em, I feel ’em.” Further down: “Weird winds. Farrod said that he saw weird lights.”

Earthquakes were common in the City. Most folk lived with it and even laughed about it. We lived on land surrounded by the Ridge, a whole family of volcanoes, some dead, most of them still live and active. The Innerlanders lived on a knife-edge, but they had coped so far, growing vegetables and farming nu and ma, supplying the City with their abundant produce.

I couldn’t help shivering.

~*~

Auri was waiting for me under the she-oak. She was clad in her favorite blue robes. Warm arms wrapped around me, her smile sunlight to my eyes. I could smell her skin and the musty scent of the she-oak needles scattered in concentric rings around the base of the gnarled tree trunk.

“Unusually cold,” she said as we walked towards the Main Kitchen where Cook Chan had prepared a good mid-day meal. Herbs, freshly plucked from the School’s garden and supplemented with produce from Lambs Quarters, enticed me with their intense aromas. It was seafood soup, spiced with basil and rosemary, generous with fish, sea clams and crustaceans.

“Winter comes early,” I observed, nodding warmly to the other teachers before settling at a table. “Too early.”

“Time to over-winter the she-oak,” Auri nodded, ladling the seafood broth into two wooden bowls. “Josh is so worried about his she-oak.” We both laughed. His she-oak. I guess he missed the Innerlands and longed for the evergreen trees in his family orchard.

We ate in silence, the heat of the broth delightful in my stomach and a hearty boon against the chilly breeze. The shellfish were fresh and juicy. Once more, I was reminded of home. Perhaps it was time to cross the Sea of Dead Ships again.

“I talked to Physician Habibah.”

I heard the hesitation in Auri’s voice and I gazed into her eyes. I loved her eyes. They told me so much about her emotions. I put my eating sticks down on the table, ignoring my broth. There were unshed tears in those dark intelligent depths.

“I am not pregnant.”

“Auri…” I touched her hand and squeezed it. I could feel her trembling.

“I am past my child-bearing days, Mirra. It is the truth.”

Her sadness was palpable. Tears brimmed under my eyelids. We wanted a child. It would be a honor to be co-mother. But…

“Life,” Auri shook her head slowly, her curls gleaming like spun gold.

Our bowls started to shake. Cook Chan swore angrily when a bowl of tossed rojak salad tumbled over the kitchen counter. Children playing with she-oak seedpods squealed with fright and held each other fo support. It was a tremblor. Auri exchanged glances with me. We needed to make sure Josh was uninjured.

The breeze grew colder. Seedpods scattered, desolate.

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