Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Little Cat's Fifth Lesson

Written while listening to Siúil a Rún by Celtic Woman.
((98% of the text for this fifth installment comes from in-game RP with Umbraan of Moon Guard. In fact, all credit for the creation of Xeremuriis as a character goes to Umbraan's player, since I came up with the idea for her while RPing as Valdiis with Umbraan.))

. . . . . For six months, the Little Cat studied writing, reading, and speaking Common. From time to time, her friend Seung would stop by for several days and stay with her at her room in the Crystal Hall. Seung was intent on finding the strange man who had rescued her after the crash, so she roamed the islands for much of the time. The Little Cat was intent on learning as much as she could before she set out to find a ship. It was her plan to find Zunaadrin and his Argent Dawn.
. . . . . The earth elemental in the glade at the Vale stayed in her memory, along with the Farseer’s advice to find a mentor. Augmenting her study time with more meaningful work, the Little Cat picked up her broom again and resumed the duties of sweeping out the Crystal Hall. She tried to listen to Chakaa’s lessons again, but he shook his head at her and shooed her away with a stubby hand. She asked Seer Skaltesh if he had time for an apprentice and he rebuffed her gently. Sulaa, too, turned her away with a gentle smile.
. . . . . The Little Cat sat on her bed and considered her situation, her wooden hammer lying on the bed in front of her. “I can feel them,” she muttered grumpily. “I know that I can do this… Why won’t anyone give me a chance?” Sparks jumped between her fingers as she concentrated on practicing calling down the bolts of lightning from the sky. A spark now, maybe one day a full bolt… She watched the sparks moodily, thinking of who else to ask, what else to do about her desire to learn more about the shaman’s path.
. . . . . “Farseer Nobundo,” she said quietly. “I’ll ask him. Tomorrow.”

. . . . . Tomorrow came, and the Little Cat took her sweeping duties up to the platform where Farseer Nobundo tended a shrine. She carefully swept all the rugs, even though it kicked up more dust than it removed, and swept behind the boxes stacked in the corner. Seers and Farseers alike came and went on the platform, carrying on conversations of deep gravity with the most revered Farseer.
. . . . . As she swept by the edge of the shrine, Farseer Nobundo looked up at her. All her courage and resolve formed a knot in her throat through which no words could emerge. She flushed violet and fled with her broom. Tomorrow, she told herself.

. . . . . Tomorrow came again. And went without the Little Cat finding the courage to approach Farseer Nobundo. Several more tomorrows followed. Embarrassed at her own lack of courage, the Little Cat swept the Farseer’s platform with gusto, but no longer attempted to approach the shrine.
. . . . . After nearly two weeks of cowardice, she resolved that this time – this time! – she would ask Farseer Nobundo if he had room for an apprentice. She hummed a quiet lullaby to herself as she swept up the ramp to the Farseer’s platform. When she reached the top, it was empty. With a sigh, she took her broom to the rugs nearest the shrine, then moved off to ones at the back of the platform. Her back was to the shrine when another Farseer came up the ramp with Farseer Nobundo. They were not conversing, and so she didn’t notice them at first. The Little Cat turned and leaned on her broom, looking wistfully up at the shrine.
. . . . . The other Farseer set down a bowl of water on one of the rugs near a shrine and huffed to himself, stirring the water in irritation. Four totems appeared in formation around him. He stood up and paced to the shrine, then sat down again, then stood again. When he let out a sudden hacking cough, the Little Cat spun around, nearly dropping her broom. “Oh no! I’m sorry, revered one! Did I kick up too much dust?”
. . . . . The Farseer looked up at her. “What?”
. . . . . “I just swept the carpets… I thought maybe I’d kicked up dust. You coughed,” she explained, holding the broom behind her back as her cheeks purpled.
. . . . . “No, no, I cough occasionally. Since when do we have a cleaning service in these parts of the Hall? Most of you younglings stay as far away as you can!” the Farseer scoffed.
. . . . . The Little Cat looked down at her hooves, the broom dipping towards the floor behind her. “Ehm. Well… I wasn’t told exactly where I should sweep. Just that I should. I like it here.” She looked around the platform and indicated the floors with one hand, nearly dropping her broom again. “Oops! They’re pretty clean now, aren’t they?”
. . . . . The Farseer looked around. “I suppose. I hadn’t noticed.”
. . . . . Looking over his shoulder at a wiggling teal totem, she blurted, “Why does it bounce like that?”
. . . . . He turned and looked at the water totem. “It… It just does. The water likes to be animate and flowing, I suppose.”
. . . . . The Little Cat tilted her head to the side and considered this. “It must be hard to flow from a rock…” Realizing that she was starting to pepper the Farseer with questions, her cheeks turned violet again and she lifted a hand to her mouth. “Oh, revered one, I didn’t mean to interrupt your meditation. I’m sorry. I forget my manners sometimes.” She bowed deeply, her broom held behind her back.
. . . . . The Farseer scoffed. “Did I look like I was meditating? I had just arrived, child. We do not spend our entire day and night in meditation.”
. . . . . “You don’t?”
. . . . . “No. Why would you think that we do?” He sounded gruffly perplexed by her.
. . . . . “Because it seems that Chakaa is always in either meditations or lessons with his apprentices. I never seem him resting!” Her gaze fell to her hooves. “I mean. Ehm… I wasn’t listening in or anything! Just sweeping…”
. . . . . The Farseer folded his arms and looked at her. “Sometimes we teach. Sometimes we meditate. Sometimes we eat, and rest, and sit, and talk.”
. . . . . As he spoke, the Little Cat regarded the green totem in front of him. “I don’t think you mystics do enough eating or resting…” She shook her head. “The Farseer who came with me as far as Azure Watch tended to wander off a lot and forget to eat.” A frown crossed her face at the memory. “The others didn’t notice. But I made sure he got something to eat when we made camp.”
. . . . . “You came with a Farseer?”
. . . . . She nodded. “Well, only as far as the Watch. He went back to the Vale to keep helping the wounded.” The Little Cat finally gathered enough courage to look at the Farseer’s face. “You know… You look a little bit like him. You wouldn’t happen to be related to Farseer Firmanvaar, would you?”
. . . . . The Farseer sitting on the rug huffed. “I am not. There are few of us, but enough that we do not always know each other well.”
. . . . . “Oh. Well, he said only that he knew Farseer Nobundo was alright and that there were other Farseers here too. He said I shoul-…” She stopped and looked down at her hooves, fidgeting with the broom behind her back as her courage faltered.
. . . . . The Farseer blinked at the girl. “Should what?”
. . . . . “Oh. Ehm. He said there were protocols for such things and I should find something with the time to answer my questions properly instead of listening in on Chakaa’s lessons… I was only sort of listening in,” she finished on a mumble.
. . . . . A frown crossed the Farseer’s face. “Explain yourself.” His tone was gruff.
. . . . . The Little Cat fixed her gaze on the green totem and sighed. “You see, my grandmother’s an exarch. She doesn’t think this ‘shaman stuff’ is good for us. But while I’m on cleaning duty… I’m invisible when I sweep!” She began to sound excited, proud of herself for discovering this little mystery of life. “No one notices the cleaning service. So I sweep here in the Crystal Hall.” She looked away from the totem. “And I listen… But it’s so fascinating! And beautiful! I think Exarch Omii is wrong about it being bad.”
. . . . . “Some of the older ones were there when we began, and see only the bad.” The Farseer unfolded his arms and softened his expression slightly. “Why would you want to be invisible?”
. . . . . The Little Cat’s shoulders lifted in a small shrug. “So no one tells me to go away because I’m too young. Or too curious.”
. . . . . “Curiosity is not a bad thing, child.”
. . . . . “I’m plenty old enough!” she blurted out, her courage returning as she thought of all the times she’d been rebuffed. “I even helped an earth elemental in the Vale with some snarly rock that wouldn-…” She popped a hand over her mouth. The Farseer on the rug simply arched an eyebrow at her. She dropped her hand with a sigh and continued. “Well, you see, there was this glade I found at the Vale, while Sennar and I were searching for crash survivors. And there was this huge swirly rock! But it seemed upset…but friendly. I don’t know.” A crestfallen expression settled on her face at her inability to find the right words. “I can’t explain it, actually. I just… It told me? I knew the balance was off and some of the earth was snarly and mad because we crashed here.”
. . . . . “I see…” An odd tone had crept into the Farseer’s voice, like a man with an impending headache who knows he won’t be doing anything about it.
. . . . . “So I helped!” She sounded pleased with herself. “But… I think I may need a new mace. My wooden one doesn’t do much good against snarly rocks.”
. . . . . “Nor that broom,” the Farseer gestured at it behind her back. “So, you heard the spirits talk to you, then.”
. . . . . “I wouldn’t fight with a broom, anyway… I don’t know if I’d call it talking. Feeling, maybe? I just listened. And then, on the way here, I asked Farseer Firmanvaar a lot of questions. I think maybe he was tired of answering them…”
. . . . . “Eh. Feeling, hearing… When it comes to the elements and the spirits, they are the same thing.”
. . . . . The Little Cat tilted her head to the right and regarded the Farseer. “Really? Do they talk to you too, or are they a feeling?”
. . . . . The Farseer huffed and glanced at his totems. “They talk to me, yes… But I feel them. And hear them. It is…complicated. One can learn to feel what the spirits tell you.”
. . . . . She looked puzzled at this, like a small kitten presented with a large, hoppy bug.
. . . . . “You have questions? Ask.”
. . . . . The Little Cat regarded the green totem for several moments. “Oh, revered one…” her voice carried the weight of months of disappointment. “I don’t want to be a bother. I have far too many questions. I know you said curiosity isn’t a bad thing, but I have an abundance of it…”
. . . . . The Farseer looked at her thoughtfully. “Proceed. With a limited number of questions. If your curiosity is not sated, you may return another time to continue once I have rested.”
. . . . . The girl’s gaze dropped to her hooves again. “Ehm, well… The earth. When the Exodar crashed into it…did we hurt it? Is that why some of the elementals were snarly?” She paused for a breath. “And the water here. Why doesn’t it rain so much like in Zangarmarsh? Is the water mad?”
. . . . . The Farseer chuckled. “You have identified the spirits has having sentient thought. This is good. The short answer is yes. We did not belong here. And the elements have reacted to our presence. We try, now, to appease them.”
. . . . . “I don’t suppose simply being nice is enough to appease an angry spirit, is it?”
. . . . . “Sometimes. Sometimes it is not. You must listen, and communicate, and find out what they require.”
. . . . . Understanding dawned on the Little Cat’s open face. “Oh! That makes sense! It’s like finding out someone’s favorite food. You have to ask them, and listen, or you don’t know.”
. . . . . The Farseer blinked in surprise, then chuckled again. “I suppose you are correct, though I had never heard it put quite that way…”
. . . . . The Little Cat looked down at the rugs and mumbled, “I wonder if I could ask the dirt to kindly move itself along from the rugs for me so I don’t have to push it around so much…”
. . . . . Another raspy chuckle from the Farseer. “You are an interesting young woman…”
. . . . . She looked pleased with herself until the Farseer let out a hacking cough. A furrow of worry formed between her eyebrows. “That doesn’t sound good, revered one… You should let Farseer Nobundo treat that! Or one of the anchorites…” She lowered her voice conspiratorially, “But I think the Farseers do a better job.”
. . . . . The Farseer on the rug snorted. “The Farseers cannot cure me. I am a Farseer. I am simply old, and Broken. There are many of us like this…coughing and weak at the knees.”
. . . . . The girl frowned at him. “That doesn’t seem fair. You have a cough and you don’t even have tea!” Her tone indicated that she felt this was a great injustice. “Someone should bring you tea…”
. . . . . “I bring my own tea, if I need it.”
. . . . . The Little Cat leaned her broom on the ground and braced it with one hand, her expression doubtful. “Pff. I mean you no disrespect, revered one, but you mystics have your heads in your magic far too often and forget simple things like bringing your own tea when you need it. I’ve seen it. Mages are even worse than Farseers.”
. . . . . “I am just an old man with his totems.”
. . . . . “But you’re an old man with totems!” she protested. “You should have someone who fusses over you! That’s one of the perks of being old. Or at least, that’s what grandfather Arkun tells me. I think it sounds like a fine idea.”
. . . . . The Farseer arched an eyebrow at the girl as her tone became more impassioned. “Does it now? What would you know of age?”
. . . . . The Little Cat nodded emphatically. “It does. What else are young people good for?”
. . . . . “Becoming old.”
. . . . . Momentarily rendered speechless by his reply, she tilted her head to the side and regarded him quietly. She eventually gathered up a reply. “Well… It’s a matter of respect!”
. . . . . “Is it?” The old man sounded weary. “Why respect me?”
. . . . . The Little Cat looked from him to the red totem. “I figure you have to have earned it. The spirits speak to you, and I don’t think they speak to just any old man randomly. And you seem pretty nice, so you didn’t get old by being a dictator…” She paused, then plowed onwards. “So there you go. You’re nice and the elements like you. That’s enough for me.”
. . . . . The Farseer blinked and considered her carefully. “You are interesting…”
. . . . . A bright smile lit the girl’s face. “I guess that’s better than being called weird.”
. . . . . The Farseer chuckled. “Indeed, child.”
. . . . . “And my mama calls me her little cat. She says cats were these small things on Argus that always put their noses into things and got in trouble.” Her mouth pursed in an expression of dismay. “Now that I think about it, I think I like ‘interesting’ better…”
. . . . . “Curiosity is not a bad thing,” the Farseer reiterated. “One must learn to find balance in all things, though. Even curiosity.”
. . . . . “Balance? What do you balance curiosity with?”
. . . . . “You balance curiosity with temperance. You learn when not to ask, and simply to listen.”
. . . . . The Little Cat opened her mouth to ask another question, then seemed to consider what she was just told. She shut her mouth and looked at the Farseer for several moments.
. . . . . “Any more questions?” From beneath his hood, the Farseer smiled slightly at the girl.
. . . . . She looked down at her hooves and fidgeted with the broom behind her back. “Well… Maybe…” A gusty sigh escaped her. “Maybe I should just listen for a while?” This lasted all of a few seconds while she nibbled her lower lip, then blurted out, “What element is here? I can’t hear it.”
. . . . . “Here? This is the shrine to the air. Air is one of the more…ethereal of the elements. Always around us, without a ‘bold’ presence in our lives like fire, or firm beneath us like the earth, yet it is part of our entire existence.”
. . . . . The Little Cat lifted her head and sniffed a little.
. . . . . “Do you feel it?” the Farseer asked her quietly.
. . . . . She closed her eyes, her lips tightening in concentration. One hand moved to her stomach as she breathed in and out several breaths. Then her eyes flew open as she gasped. “It’s like breath! But…bigger. And it feels like…” She fished for the words. “Like… I can’t find it. Like moving fast against something misty?”
. . . . . “Perhaps,” the Farseer huffed, regarding her. “We each experience the elements in different ways. Yours sounds…reasonable.”
. . . . . The Little Cat frowned and looked at the Farseer. “Well, how do you know it’s right, then?”
. . . . . “Because experience teaches more than words can.” He gave the girl standing before him an appraising look. “You are interested in the spirits, then?”
. . . . . She nodded quickly. “Yes!”
. . . . . “Why?”
. . . . . Her head tilted to the side as she gave the Farseer a confused look. “That’s a silly question. They are interesting! So I want to understand them.”
. . . . . “The Light is interesting. Anchorites and Vindicators are interesting,” the Farseer huffed. “So are the mages and the exarchs. The world of the artificer is also interesting. Why the spirits?” He let out another hacking cough and touched his hand to his chest.
. . . . . The Little Cat tapped her lips with her fingers absently as she thought about her answer. “Well… Because I hear them, I suppose. I mean, if you hear something… Don’t you want to understand it? That’s an odd question.” Her tone indicated that she was genuinely perplexed by this question.
. . . . . The Farseer watched her as she thought up her answer. “Maybe… You may have potential.”
. . . . . She tilted her head and considered the Farseer. “But I didn’t answer your questions.”
. . . . . “This Farseer of yours. Will he not take you on as a student?”
. . . . . The Little Cat looked down at her hooves and shook her head. “No, he said he didn’t have time for someone with so many questions. And he was needed to help in the Vale’s infirmary.”
. . . . . “I see. Well, Chakaa may be willing to take on another student…”
. . . . . Her face fell at the mention of Chakaa.
. . . . . “Don’t like Chakaa?” A smirk passed fleetingly over the Farseer’s face.
. . . . . “I asked him already. While the Exodar was still flying. He knows my grandmother. He said she wouldn’t like it and was too young. I’m only a few decades younger than his own students! It’s not fair!” Frustrated, she sat down at the edge of the Farseer’s rug, setting her broom down beside her.
. . . . . The Farseer chuckled. “Life often is not fair. Although, I remember Chakaa as someone nearly a youngling himself.”
. . . . . The Little Cat sniffled a little and looked at her hooves, her hands folded in her lap.
. . . . . “Well. I will ask around the Farseers. I am certain one would be willing to take you on.”
. . . . . The girl nodded slowly, her shoulders slumping. “You honor me, revered one. Thank you for your help.” The Farseer simply regarded her for several minutes as she did not rise from the edge of his rug. She sniffled again, then quickly looked up. Leaning forward on her hands, her expression brightened. “You’re a Farseer!”
. . . . . His mouth slanted down in an unsurprised expression. “Why, yes, I had realized this.”
. . . . . “Do you think you could start asking around by asking you?” She looked hopeful.
. . . . . The Farseer snorted. “Hmph! I do not take students.”
. . . . . “Well, why not?” She put her hands down on either side of her knees and leaned forward. “You said yourself that Farseers teach as well as meditate!”
. . . . . “Because I am not a good teacher.”
. . . . . The Little Cat beamed. “Maybe you need practice!”
. . . . . “I lack patience. I work people hard. You would regret the work, I would be remiss in taking you on.”
. . . . . Looking at her broom, the Little Cat forged ahead. “I’ve been sweeping floors and picking up after everyone in the Exodar for nearly a year. I’m used to hard work. My mother is a fire mage. She’s not patient either.” Her face took on a determined set as she put her hands on the edge of the Farseer’s rug.
. . . . . The Farseer blinked at her. “And if I refuse? Will you simply remain until I give in?”
. . . . . The Little Cat looked down at her hands. “Would it work if I did?”
. . . . . “No. Are you going to attempt it anyway?”
. . . . . She bit her lower lip and looked at the Farseer, then at the totems on either side of him. She nudged her broom to the side with a hoof and sat back on the tile. “Yes.”
. . . . . The Farseer regarded her evenly for a moment before pulling out a book. “Very well, then.” He opened the book and began reading, humming to himself.
. . . . . The Little Cat folded her hands back in her lap and closed her eyes, listening to the Farseer hum.
. . . . . The two continued in this vein for quite some time, the Farseer reading his book and paying her no heed, the Little Cat sitting quietly at the edge of his rug as if meditating on the virtues of being ignored.
. . . . . Eventually, he looked up from his book. “Still here?”
. . . . . The Little Cat opened her eyes and calmly regarded the Farseer. “Yes, revered one.”
. . . . . A short staring match ensued, then the Farseer snorted and looked back down to his book. The girl closed her eyes again and tilted her head to the side like a cat with its ear cocked to hear a sound. She took a deep breath, paused, then did it again.
. . . . . There was a clatter as the Farseer tossed a small, totem-shaped object at her. “Take that. Soon, you will seek out the water of this world.” He continued to read his book.
. . . . . The Little Cat stopped the small totem as it skittered across the tile next to her. She picked it up and looked at it curiously. “Why water, revered one?”
. . . . . “That is what we give when we take an apprentice,” the Farseer said, nodding to the totem in her hand. “And just because.”
. . . . . A huge grin spread over her face. Quickly, she unwrapped one of the myriad of leather cords around her neck. She looped it carefully and securely around the little totem, and then slipped the cord back over her head. “Thank you, revered one!”
. . . . . “Well, go on then! You shan’t learn by sitting here watching an old man read!”
. . . . . She jumped to her hooves. “Wait… Farseer?”
. . . . . “What?”
. . . . . “I’m Xeremuriis. Xere, mostly, for short.” She bowed deeply before the Farseer.
. . . . . “Alright. Oh. Umbraan, Farseer.” He eyed her a moment. “Go on then. Luck to you.”
. . . . . The Little Cat beamed at him. “Thank you, Farseer Umbraan! I promise I’ll make you proud!”
. . . . . “We will see!” He watched the girl bound off, then spin around and sprint back to the Farseer’s rug.
. . . . . “I forgot my broom!” She scooped it up and hurried off.

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