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Master of Light

“Where is his Highness’ castle located?” Silou asked.

The chamberlain Hannes casually thumbed through a few manuscripts in his grip without much interest. “Ah, hum, hmm...yes, it appears to be off the Vawn-Euer pier. Have a safe trip, my lad.” He turned to quickly scuttle off.

Silou’s hand darted out to grab the ruffled sleeve. “Wait!” An uneasy feeling began to spread throughout his small chest. The safety of Ombre was quickly fading, as the massive city stood boastfully, a looming stranger instead of home. The sellers in the Blooming Market who had fed him only yesterday were still mixing batches and lighting their fires, as well as his friends at the Pod who were attending their studies as usual. The world continued to turn without him, as the chamberlain reminded Silou with an impatient ‘huff’.

“How--how do I get there?” a pair of ten-year-old eyes asked, in a slightly smaller voice. His small hand held on to the checkered sleeve for dear life, the only physical connection he still had to safety.

Hannes smiled, understanding. The thin man took the boy’s hand in his and made him form praying hands. He bent his knee to come to eye-level with the apprentice, and paused.

“Silou. That is the right question to ask your new mentor. Now hurry along, don’t keep him waiting! He is a High Prince, after all.” And with that, the chamberlain definitively walked away, still shuffling his papers.

Silou watched the little man disappear around the corner before accepting the words he’d left behind. Turning around, he looked at the dirt path before him and lowered his pack to the ground.

“All I have to do is make it to the Vawn-Euer pier. After that, it will be my master’s duty to take care of me.” He wondered whether he was more scared of no longer having access to food and shelter, or if it was the sudden abyss of freedom that terrified him. Before now, he had had only one path to follow: listen to the Teachers of the Forest, the Mountain and Rivers. Wake, study, work, socialize and sleep. And now? Now Silou’s survival, future and success laid on his shoulders alone.

He took out his map, compass and pencil. Vawn-Euer was only a two-day stretch from the capital of Ombre. He had been there before on one of their outings. The area was heavily wooded along a coast, but Silou had never seen a castle nearby.

He sighed and packed up his bag. No doubt the task before him would prove to be some kind of lesson the Teachers wanted him to learn. Silou decided to trust them. Walking down the path…

[skipping this part for now]

...He finally reached the Swaven River. The only ways of travel in the known world was either by magic, by air or by sea. Every land mass was to some degree, either an island, islet or peninsula. And so, unless one had a dragon or sorcerer handy, the boat was the choice mode of transport. Silou walked along the edge of the river in search of a shipmaster.

Red and gold metallic flashes of light glinted off the water. Silou paused, staring at the giant Arowana fish swimming along the surface of the river. This massive and docile breed was known to be a classic choice as a mount for Master rivermen. If one was skilled enough, the Master would meditate near the water’s edge and perform a traditional river dance, lightly dragging the toes of his foot along the surface as well as his fingers and lips. The resulting reverberations within the water would call the Arowana and other sea creatures to the Master, mesmerized and able to be domesticated for his use.

“If only. I should have taken the underwater survival class.” Silou crossed his legs and sat, mesmerized himself by the playful colors dancing in the water. Other than the red/gold Arowana, he also saw the sapphire and black snakeheads, white mola mola and emerald cory.

As he watched the dances that the fish’s scales created, Silou noticed bits of green leaf or moss begin to float down the river. The greenery dipped and bobbed with the miniature waves until they turned on their own and began to twist back towards the bit of pool near Silou, threading in line like a trail of ants. Standing, the apprentice searched the forest around him, sure that this was the work of a sorcerer nearby.

“Little boy, if mere fish can distract your eyes with their silly dances, do you honestly think that I cannot fool the ones looking for me?” A woman’s voice surrounded Silou, calm and authoritative. And yet, as she had said, her body was invisible to him.

“Yes, Master...riverlady. How may I be of service to you?” Silou dropped his head in respect, given his eyes were useless anyways. He only hoped he hadn’t done anything to anger the Master. Such discrepancies usually earned one’s transformation into a fish or turtle for about a decade, or so. Depending on if the Master remembered to turn one back into their human self.

The trees creaked as they shifted their wooden bones and the leaves rustled their branches. Silou heard a whisper of grass as bare feet approached him.

“Lift your head, child,” the woman said clearly.

His head raised, and Silou saw not a riverlady, but a Tree Spirit. Spirits differed from Masters, because they did not belong to the guilds in the grand cities of Ombre, Cembrain, Galapanne and others in the known world. They did not reform to a universal code and train apprentices as part of their duty to the guild. Spirits chose to answer to the authorities of nature instead of men, and so their reputations were that of the unpredictable. It was rumor that instead of dying, Spirits were eventually absorbed into whatever environment they chose to live by.

Roots rose from the ground to wrap around Silou’s ankles. He stood tall, trying not to panic.

“Lady Spirit, I thank you for letting me pass through your growing and beautiful forest. It’s the uh, greenest I’ve ever seen.” Silou tried to remember his Woods and Wiles class, hearing his teacher mention, when in a pinch, flatter any Spirits you come by, before you lose your voice and they turn you into a bug.

[next scene, have the Tree Spirit make Silou choose between catching a fish and continuing his walk to find a boat. She also teaches him how to use his ears instead of eyes to find a camouflaged Spirit.]

[after two days, in which Silou helps someone in return for a canoe, he floats down a river to reach Vawn-Euer. When he gets there, he will find nothing and be confused. After consulting his history book, he will solve a riddle and realize he must ride a cloud to reach the white marble castle in the sky that belongs to the Prince of Color, his mentor.]

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