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Chapter 3



Just before the headache had struck him down all that he could sense were swirling, ever changing patterns, patterns that were somehow linked with the headache. As he awoke, he lay there on the hard pallet, ignoring the discomfort as he sorted through the past few days with his eyes tightly shut against the insistent light of the sun. Against the black background of his eyelids, he could see the patterns still. They were intricate and complex, and in their finesse of design they were fragile yet continued to swirl in a dizzying dance, and yet they were not morphing as quickly as they had. The patterns slowly began to take a more final shape. Finally, the images stopped shifting. Whether he had lain there ten minutes or ten days he did not know. He did not care, for the shifting pattern had been replaced by another pattern that was steady, constant and reliable, and along with the pattern, the pain had subsided. What had been an excruciating pain that should only have been known in the deepest of the pits run by the demons, was not, and began to throb in a slow and patient pulse, that was more reminder than anything else. He felt almost as if something had been etched into his mind. He opened his eyes briefly and then shut them tight against the advancing light of day.

"Ah! You are awake after all," the old man said from the corner on the far side of the room. "I should expect that you did not sleep well. No one has ever completely escaped the pain of having their mind reforged by their will. Some are lucky enough that they feel only a very bad headache, but a select few others are struck down as their mind is born anew. But we shall not dwell on this matter right now." There was a brief pause, and yet Derrl knew that the trader was not yet finished, "You must pull your senses together and pull yourself awake for the moment. These lessons will do you no good if you insist on sleeping through them."

Derrl grunted. Not only could he not get any rest with this old man rambling on as such, but the pallet seemed determined to leave its mark on him, and there was a sharp splinter that was working its way through his clothes to stab him in the rear. He had best get up lest things get worse, and apparently they could, since the day had only just begun. For the moment, the pattern hung before his shuttered gaze. It was as close as he could be to himself and yet it stretched out to infinity. It seemed to hold some strange meaning in and of itself, a meaning that was tantalizingly close to understanding, but forever just out of reach. He sat up on the pallet, feet out to the side, eyes still closed against the light. Kevesk poked him lightly in the side of his head with the end of the staff, as if reminding him to open his eyes. He obeyed, only to find that he could not remember any line of the pattern. Though he knew there was one, he could not recall the pattern itself. The puzzle of the pattern took up the better part of three minutes before Kevesk intruded.

"You're trying to remember what the pattern was. You know it's there, don't you? You just can't recall what it looked like. I wouldn't advise trying any harder, or much longer. You'll find out when you are ready, not a day sooner, and having me hit you in the head with my staff won't help much either."

As Derrl finally looked over to the trader, he couldn't help but feel that something was out of place. His eyes skipped over the trader a few times before he realized that the trader did not look the same. Although that is not to say that the trader's face looked as if it were someone else's. The trader's face looked completely different from what it had the day before. As it was, it seemed almost as if what he saw now was the true image, and anything from before had been an elaborate façade. What had been the face of a simple old trader, was now a wise, almost kindly, humorous face, with a kind of half smile twisted in at the corner of the mouth. The eyes behind the face however remained the same. They were a steel gray that reflected the observer's curiosity. There was a glint to the eyes that betrayed vast amounts of wisdom in the archives of an ancient mind. A mind that, while ancient, could still appreciate a boyhood prank.

"I'm guessing by the look on your face," Kevesk said as the smile twisted the corner of his mouth up further, "that you've seen through my childish disguises."

"How long have you been doing that? Hiding your real face I mean," Derrl asked with a sort of innocent curiosity.

"If I told you, I'm not sure you would believe me. Let's just say that I've been at it so long I've forgotten when exactly I started." The corner twisted farther.

"If you won't tell me how long, will you at least tell me how?"

"This much, I can tell you, it is one of the simplest tricks that a mage can perform. It's all simply confusing the minds of your audience. Which is even easier to do when your audience doesn't know what to look for. It's what one of those street 'magicians' " he said the word with disgust, "call diversion. Any man can direct someone's attention away from something to show them what they want to see. But to able to direct someone's attention to the thing that you are trying to show them, and only let them see what you want them to see is truly a skill. A mage can direct the flow of thought as it defines a situation to the mind. That being the least of a mage's skills, and yet one of the most useful, I think that we shall start you off on that." Although he would not have believed it possible, he saw the corner of the mouth tweak even farther up, defying what would seem to be natural law. "Do not let yourself be fooled. What seems, and what is, are often two very different things," the mage in the corner said.

Somehow, over the course of the morning, Derrl had come to think of the old man as less the trader but more the mage. This marked an important transition for him, because until that point he had not truly been able to say that he believed that there even was such a thing.

"Oh wise and great mage, what would you have this lowly rat do to earn your wisdom?" He said in a voice dripping with sheer concentrated sarcasm.

"First you can scrap that act. I find it insulting to the rats." His voice took on the merest hint of edge, which was set off by the smirk on his lined face. "I find it funny that you remind me of myself when I was your age, only … a little bit more brute force … and less cunning," he said with a grin that threatened to split his face.




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