The New Ward


The New Ward

THE ELDERLY CHEIU KOENRAT looked up from the scroll for a moment to consider his visitor. Having handed his new master the scroll as he had been told, the young boy – surely no older than elven or twelve summers! – took several steps back. Koenrat watched as the boy, his new ward apparently, began to fidget. The youth – Yan, the scroll had mentioned – seemed completely unsure of where he was allowed to look. Koenrat’s temper, stoked after having been interrupted by the unannounced visitor, began to cool as he saw the poor Yan visibly sweat under the old Cheiu’s gaze.

Koenrat stood and tried to remember what was proper in such a situation. It had been several years since he had last had a ward. Deciding to improvise, Koenrat began to walk around Yan, noting his dress and stature. The boy was certainly the son of a minor noble. The scroll had read Greenbriar or brook or some such quaint, rustic Anderan name.

A scion of a minor house and the ward of a Cheiu? Wielding both the covenant right of Blood and the power of the Cheiu, Yan might be quite an asset indeed. Yes, this one certainly demanded Koenrat’s attention. The duke’s boorish and ridiculous letters would have to wait.

“My son,” Koenrat began. At the wizard’s words the boy sucked in his breath and stood rigid like a soldier. “They say,” Koenrat continued, stopping in front of the nervous youth, “that you have some potential to become Cheiu.”

Yan looked up at his new master and respectfully nodded his head. “Well, don’t be shy,” Koenrat replied. “What is it? What makes you think Rayel has given you his gift?”

Yan stared immediately at his toes. “I. . . They say . . . Well, master, last winter father invited a Vestman lord to table. His eldest son’s name was Marten, and I. . .” Yan paused at the memory.

“You knew that was his name before he told you,” Koenrat finished. The boy nodded. Koenrat sighed audibly. Koenrat told Yan to be silent a moment. Then the old Cheiu intoned a single world silently. He allowed the lone syllable to fill his mind, then his body, and then the room. With some effort, he did not permit the word to leave the room. Holding the spell for just a moment, Koenrat Looked at Yan closely – more closely that anyone had ever seen the boy. Gazing at the very essence of the boy, Koenrat could indeed see the boy’s talent.

Koenrat released the spell and the word faded away. Koenrat caught his breath – even such a minor task seemed a lot for him these days – and invited the boy to sit down on a stool in the corner.

“Yan – What is magic?” As he waited for the boy to stutter out an answer, Koenrat opened a window, rang for a servant to call for some food and drink, and then moved his chair across from the young scion.

Yan looked up. “My father says magic is power. My tutors read to me the account of how Rayel’s gift to the firstborn gave man the strength to defeat—”

“Yes, of course,” Koenrat interrupted. “But what is it?”

Yan Greenbriar just blinked in response.

Koenrat sighed. On several occasions he had been asked by the Blood he advised to explain the workings of magic. This was an impossible task! It wasn’t impossible because magic was somehow incomprehensible but rather because it was so plain and natural. But how to explain that to one so young? Koenrat took a moment to gather his thoughts. He had to make Yan understand this or else all their time together would amount to nothing profitable or safe.

The Cheiu wasn’t sure how long he had been sitting silently in thought before there was a knock on the door. The servant brought in bread and some browned apples and quickly ducked out of the Cheiu’s quarters.

Finally the wizard spoke. “A farmer grew the wheat that made this bread. But if it had not rained or if the sun had not shone on the crop, the wheat would not have grown, yes?” The youth nodded. “Even the best farmer needs the sun and rain to … to tell the plants to grow. Does this make sense to you, Yan?”

As the boy nodded, Koenrat asked, “Why?” Eventually the boy replied slowly that he wasn’t sure but that his father’s farmers had said it was tuathseart who made the wheat grow, and that they were servants of the sun.

It was the superstition of the Old Faith, but it was closer to the truth than Koenrat had heard in a long time. “Yes, Yan. The sun has the power to command the plants to grow. Just as your father’s servants and farmers must obey your father, so the tuathseart and plants must submit to the authority of the sun.” Yan nodded slowly as if waiting for Koenrat to explain the relevance.

“Yan, my boy,” Koenrat said earnestly, “that is magic.” The old Cheiu let his statement sink in before continuing. “The power comes from having the authority to command. Whether it’s your father commanding you to go to bed or a Cheiu commanding a stalk of wheat to grow from stone, it is magic.”

As Yan squinted to look out the window at the sunshine, Koenrat thought he could catch traces of understanding spread out on the boy’s face. Suddenly the boy turned to his master and said, “My father is a lord. By the Bloodstone Covenant he has the authority to command those living on his land.” Koenrat smiled, knowing what the boy would ask next. “But how does a Cheiu command plants and stones?”

Koenrat could hardly hold in his excitement. Here now was the cusp of all things. This boy could became a loyal servant of his people and liege or a sorcerous tyrant like so many sorcerer-kings of Polm. Koenrat worded his next statements carefully.

“Yes, Yan. It is not within the dùil of man to command plants like the sun. Some masters would say it it is their inheritance as Cheiu.” The old Cheiu had decided to use a word familiar to a boy raised around the Old Faith. And since the boy would eventually hear the conflicting philosophies of the other cabals, Koenrat knew it was wise to be honest with the boy now.

“But Yan, even Cheiu are not gods. When we command a plant to grow or even the flesh of man to rot, we are borrowing the authority of powers greater than ourselves.” Yan’s eyes had shot open at the mention of what Koenrat knew was a favorite spell of some cabals. “And Yan, there is always a cost.”

Koenrat chuckled and, walking back to his desk, said, “Remember that when some silly, boring duke writes and asks you to use enchantment to make his son more handsome.” Yan blinked, not understanding. That was all right to Koenrat. He knew this boy would be a fine ward and hopefully one day a fine master.

“Now, my young apprentice, what is my name?” The boy opened his mouth and said, “Master Koenrat, of course. But I heard that from my tutor.”

The old wizard smiled. “Yes, Koenrat is what you have been told no doubt. But by the time I have taught you all that I can, you will be able to take from me my true Name.” The new ward’s master took up a browning apple and and with a wry grin said, “And with that you could even command me to grow from stone.” Yan’s face went pale at the idea as the old wizard laughed. “And then, young Yan, you will be Cheiu.”

The New Ward

Legacy of Orphans seanpmcochran