Monday Fiction – The Making of Talon – Part 3 Section 4
After breakfast, Katrina walked Ludwig down to the Kinder School in the center of the village and introduced him to Agatha, the local mage.
Agatha was a thin woman with green eyes and a warm, smiling face. She welcomed Ludwig into the small house and told him to sit by the fire and that she’d be with him in a few moments after she talked to Katrina.
“A new foundling, Katrina? He looks in better shape than the last two.”
“Yes, Agatha, but he’s different from any we’ve had so far.”
“How do you mean? He looks like a pleasant enough boy.”
“He’s very pleasant. Has manners and is respectful. And he already controls manna.”
“How well and how much?”
“Well, I think, and more than one would expect of one his age and newness to Heartshorn. Already he has bested Jurgen and Hans twice. Once by draining himself of his manna; that was last night, and again this morning when he said he passed out again. But he didn’t show the signs of draining this morning and last night he recovered very quickly.
“Agatha, I think he’s going to be very powerful and very dangerous. Please do what you can.”
Agatha patted Katrina’s shoulder.
“Don’t worry, Katrina, he’s young and I’m sure we can direct him in the right direction. And we will be needing a new mage by the time he’s an adult. Perhaps he’ll apprentice to Conrad or Gerhard down in Skuldwald.”
“I hope so, Agatha. Somehow I think there’s something about him that is tainted. He killed his mother, you know.”
“He was trying to keep the manna away from her and, of course, all it did was draw the manna closer. She suffocated under the weight of it. Teach him, Agatha. Teach him all you know about manna and how it behaves, because if you don’t he’ll hurt more in his ignorance.”
“Okay, Katrina, you go home now. I saw you packed his lunch. Leave him with me. And he needs boots. Were you going to see the cobbler this afternoon?”
“I’ll take him after lunch. He needs to know the town and I can teach him as we walk. Now, don’t worry. I’ll bring him home in time for evening chores.”
Katrina left and turned towards her home. She passed Jurgen and Hans on their way to their morning classes with Herr Dengler. The boys did not look happy.
Agatha went back into her house and found Ludwig had pulled up a chair next to the fire. She moved another chair up and sat down across from him.
“So, Ludwig, tell me what you know of manna,” she said.
Ludwig thought for a moment, then said, “It’s a gold dust that’s everywhere, even where I come from but I’d never seen it until I came here four days ago. It killed my Vati and my Muti. I can’t go home because of it. I’m told that everyone here uses it. I want to use it. I want to control it so I can go back home.”
“Well then, let’s get started.” Agatha replied.
Agatha worked with Ludwig until mid-day then told him to go outside and eat his lunch in the back at the table outside. There was a well in back where he could draw water. She joined him a few minutes later and sat with him as they both ate their meals. She asked him about where he had lived Earthside, what it was like, what friends he’d had. Then she told him about Nornford and who lived there. The village was smaller than Baden and there were fewer children. When he learned the basics of manna he would start at the day school, but not the one Jurgen and Hans went to. That would come later, when he was 16.
After lunch Agatha took Ludwig on a walk around town, stopping at the cobbler to have him fitted for shoes. Herr Schumacher promised they would be ready next afternoon and he’d have a pair for inside as well.
The rest of the afternoon passed pleasantly for Ludwig. Agatha had him point out where manna had accumulated. Soon he was noticing that there was more manna where things were living, like on or near trees, and clouds of it around people. Some people had bigger clouds of it than others.
When Agatha walked him out of town below the river and into the forest she told him to find water. He tried to go back toward the river but she told him no, he had to find water in the forest.
“How?” he asked.
“Think of how water feels on your tongue and how it will calm your thirst.”
Suddenly Ludwig found he was very thirsty. He looked sharply at Agatha then closed his eyes and felt the dryness in his mouth being bathed in cool, fresh water. He opened his eyes and started walking straight into the forest. Agatha followed. After five minutes, Ludwig sat down on a rock next to a bubbling spring. He dipped his hand into the water and lightly tasted it. Then he drank his fill.
“You made me thirsty, didn’t you?” he asked.
“How?” he asked.
“It’s something you’ll learn when you’re older. It’s very useful when you are lost and thirsty yourself. You can make a hare thirsty and follow it to a spring or better, a fox. A hare can just eat the grass and get water from the dew.”
“But if I’m thirsty, I can find water myself,” Ludwig said. “You don’t make sense.”
“You’re right, Ludwig, and smarter than most who come to me. Yes, if you’re thirsty, you can find the water yourself. Now. But before, you wouldn’t have been able to because you weren’t thirsty enough. So I put a compulsion on you to be thirsty. And you have learned how to find water.”
“Will you do that again?”
“Make you thirsty? Probably not, but there are other compulsions I may put on you. It is the easiest way to learn.”
Ludwig thought for a moment and then nodded. “I understand. But first, let me try. If I fail, then you may use the compulsion.”
Agatha, surprised by Ludwig’s response, could only nod.
“Oh my,” she said, “Look at the sun. I promised Katrina I’d have you home in time for evening chores. We’d better hurry!”
Agatha turned quickly and started walking rapidly. At first Ludwig had no trouble keeping up with her but she seemed to be speeding up even though she didn’t run. Before long Ludwig had to run to keep up.
“Wait, Mage Agatha, please. I can’t run that fast,” he called after her.
She stopped and turned for just a moment and he heard, “Use the manna to keep up with me. Let it feed you what you need. Breath deeply and keep up.” Then she was on her way again.
Ludwig stopped in the middle of the trail, bent over breathing hard. ‘Use the manna,’ she’d said. ‘Breath deeply and keep up.’ Focusing on what she’d said, Ludwig took a deep breath and imagined himself beside Mage Agatha, able to converse.
And he was.
When Ludwig appeared beside her, the Mage slowed to a normal, quick walk.
“Very good, Ludwig. You learn fast,” she said.
Five minutes later they were at the Wainwright’s house. Agatha bid Ludwig goodbye until the next day.
For the next month, Ludwig took his lessons with Mage Agatha. Then he transferred to the day school. But he made it a point to stop by and visit with the Mage everyday. She was his first friend.
Three years after Ludwig’s arrival, Mirin brought a young girl to the Wainwright’s. Her name was Yseult. She had wandered into the wood surrounding Vienna and got lost in a cave. She said she’d been following a fairy.