The winds whipped around the tower, causing moans and whistles to sound through the rooms and down the stairwell. By the time they echoed their way to the room in the basement — a room which was a foundation for the tower and study for an aspiring mage — they had quieted to soft and eerie whispers of their former voice, as if not wanting to disturb the room’s sole occupant. Jason paid them no heed as he sat hunched over a flawed piece of quartz, concentrating intently on the opaque surface. His mind was clear of all but the stone, which he spun slowly in his hands. He had to get *inside* the rock, had to find the very essence of the force which originally shaped the rock, and bend that force to his will.
The rock spun and the bells passed. The winds slowly died as daylight gave way to dusk and clouds rolled in from the sea. A candle guttered and extinguished itself in the sconce on the north wall. Jason watched it fade and die, the light reflected in one of the stone’s shinier surfaces, before giving up, his concentration broken. He straightened slowly, the vertebrae popping and cracking their way back into position as he did so, and eased his way to his feet. Feeling old beyond his thirteen years, he leaned against the stairwell and let the feeling return to his legs.
That done, he paced gingerly across the room, legs numb from so much time spent sitting on a stone floor, and tried to chafe some warmth into his backside. His legs eased as he wandered, and he eventually decided he was fit enough to make his way to the top floor.
Looking up the stairwell, he saw that it was dark above, and so, taking one of the remaining candles from the wall, he made his way up to his father’s study, leaving the rock lying beside the bottom stair for use in his next attempt. Reaching the forbidding, arched doorway, he paused to sigh before steeling himself to knock.
He rapped three times and waited for the invitation which he knew and dreaded. “Come,” came a voice from behind the door. Sighing yet again, he raised the lever and opened the door to a scene of perfect order.
Kilan Rainmaker’s workplace was a study in neatness. Everything was catalogued, ordered, and referenced in a leather bound tome on his desk. Scrolls were stored in labelled leather cases on a shelf on the southern wall, with potions and powders below. Blocks of wood were stacked with almost perfect symmetry to either side of the fireplace; its brass grate still gleaming where the soot had not blackened it. A poker, brush, and shovel sat to the right, and a number of dried peat blocks to the left for use overnight. Three tomes sat on his desk — two folio sized books written in his own hand, and a smaller one, bound in green, tooled leather sitting atop them. All were aligned perfectly at the front right hand corner of the desk, while two oil lamps hissed gently at the back. The man himself sat writing on a piece of parchment, long moustaches as black as the ink he used.
Kilan noticed his son from the corner of his eye, but continued to write a while. When he was finished, he cleaned and replaced his quill in the writing drawer, shook sand onto the paper to blot any excess ink, and closed the drawer. Only then did he deign to look at his son.
“Did you unlock the stone, then?” he inquired, pale eyes looking into the boy.
Jason sighed again, and replied. “No. I tried for bells. I can lock the image in my mind, I just can’t see inside it.” His hands clenched in frustration, and his head was lowered slightly as a result of yet another defeat.
The older man huffed, obviously annoyed. “Jason, the quartz is the simplest stone to unlock.” His exasperation showed plainly on his face. “Even to look at it, it is slightly translucent. Looking on an ethereal level, you should not have any trouble at all getting a glimpse of the weaves that you need. I *know* that you can visualise properly. The way you describe the things that you see — you sound like your grandfather or myself. This skill is part of your heritage. If you would only learn to use it, I *know* that you would do your ancestors proud.” He fell quiet as he began to see the depths to which this latest failure was affecting his son. The boy wore a pained expression, and looked on the verge of tears. He changed tack, and said gently, “Come, boy, and sit by the fire. I know how cold it can be in that room at times,” and standing up, he placed a stool by the fire.
Jason slunk across the room, and sat as far back on the stool as he could in order to get the full benefit of the log fire behind him. His father moved back to his own side of the desk and began to interrogate him to find what had gone wrong. He sat back in his chair to think a mene, then leaned forward, fingers steepled before him.
“If you close your eyes now, can you still visualise the stone?”
Jason sighed and complied with the request. Holding his head in his hands, he closed his eyes and concentrated. After some moments, he replied with a hushed “Yes.”
Still looking at his son, Kilan went on. “Do you see any cracks in the stone?”
Another uttered “Yes.”
“Move toward one of those cracks. Ease yourself into it and become the stone. Feel it. Breathe it. Be it.”
Silence. Jason’s face started to twitch with the effort of embracing rock. He looked as if he was about to say something, but his mouth did little more than twitch. His eyes were still closed, but a frown appeared on his brow.
Knowing that Jason was no longer at ease with his inner self, Kilan interrupted. “Jason. Jason!” Jason’s eyes opened, and he looked about in desperation, at the window, at the desk, the walls, the books — anywhere but at his father. His eyes were starting to show a wet sheen, and his mouth opened and closed in a futile attempt to explain why he could not force himself into the stone, no matter how he tried.
Kilan stood and walked around the desk. He knelt and held his son to him as the tears started to eke from his eyes. “I can help you, you know,” he whispered in his son’s ear as his hands made their way to the youngster’s temples. The boy broke free violently, overbalancing his father as he jumped up, breathing hard. His eyes were wide in anger and fear.
“No! I don’t want you messing with my head like you did with my mother’s!”
“But Jason, I just want to take a look,” said Kilan from his prone position, looking hurt that his son could say such a thing. “I wouldn’t do anything, just try to find out why you can’t get anywhere. If I know where you fail, I can guide you past that point.”
“No! I know what happened to my mother. I *know.* And though I believe that you are a great weatherweaver, I just don’t think you understand people well enough to start playing with *their* weaves. Maybe I’m just not destined to be like you, but please, accept that rather than trying to change it.” He then turned, ashamed of being so forthright with his father, and made his way to the dim shadows of the far wall. He leaned back into it, folding his arms in front of him in a sulk.
Kilan stood, using the desk for support, and made a shamefaced appeal to his son. “Jason, I know that the past few years have been hard, first with your mother dying …” Jason rolled his eyes and laughed a disgusted laugh, which his father chose to ignore. “… then trying to unlock the power that you have in you. But that power is *there,* son. You have it. I know you do. All you need to do is find a way to take hold of it, and you will be well on your way to a good life. Fishing towns like Armand pay well to have a weatherweaver nearby; you see the evidence of that here.” He gestured around the well furnished room, watching his son’s downcast eyes intently the whole time. “You have that power, Jason. My father had it, as do I, and now you. Just let me help you take it.” The last was said as an appeal. Kilan watched his son, hoping to see him come to his senses, but saw only distrust when his son looked at him, holding his gaze for some moments before leaving, unbidden.
Back in his room, Jason sat on his bed and hugged his knees to his chest. For two years he had been trying to get inside rocks, look beyond the water, see the patterns in the clouds, and feel where the wind was going. Not once had he succeeded. His father kept saying that he had great potential, that he would become a great weatherweaver, that it was in his bloodline, but Jason had tried and failed at any of the more advanced exercises. He could see the outside of rocks, and hold that image in his mind, but could never see past the surface. He could see through the water, but never to anything other than the bowl holding it. Clouds were just clouds, and while it was true that if you looked hard enough you might see recognisable shapes, there were no consistent patterns that he could see.
All this after two years of work. All that time spent in useless effort, and he was getting nowhere. All this because his father said he should follow in the family line, and become a weatherweaver. For two long years he had tried, and failed. Not that his father was a bad teacher — he had helped his son through all the problems at the start, before getting stuck on the problem of helping him see beyond the surface of an object. Kilan had spent four months trying to help, before retreating to his study and telling his son to keep at it, that practice was the key, and that it would come in time.
Rocking backwards, Jason put his head back and started to keen softly, mourning over the loss of his childhood, his mother, two years of his life, and his father, who had abandoned him in favour of his own studies. Tears started to overflow from his eyes, and made an erratic path down the side of his head, only to pool in his ears. If he did not think he had failed his father before, the fact that Kilan was now countenancing using the same type of magics on him that he had used to disastrous effect on his own wife proved just how far Jason had fallen in his father’s esteem.
Slowly, his pained expression changed to one of resolve. The rocking stopped, and he lay down flat on the bed, hands crossed behind his head. There was a way out of this which should benefit everyone concerned. A plan was coming together in his head. Once the creases were pressed out, he considered a while and decided it had to be done. He arose from the bed and made his way quietly to the kitchen to start his preparations.
Kilan was slumped in the cushioned leather chair in his study, eyes closed tightly as he knuckled his furrowed brow. Why could the boy not understand that he needed help to get past this mental block? For over a year now, Kilan had worked on spells which would help his son focus his mind, and thereby his power. He knew it would work. It had to. The only thing he had been unable to take into account was the paths that magic ran through *within* his son, since the fool boy did not want any magics directed towards him. Kilan could have wrenched the patterns from him, but the boy would notice, and his trust was important.
Kilan bowed forward onto the desk, head resting on the cool surface, and groaned as he considered his situation. He knew his son would never trust any spell or potion that his father directed towards him because of the misunderstanding over his mother’s death. He knew his son was reaching the end of his patience for magic, and would soon give up even trying. And he knew that potential for power could not be allowed to go to waste. Looking grim at what had to be done, Kilan picked himself up and made his way to the shelves to retrieve a number of mortars, pestles, weights and jars. A set of scales complemented the weights, and he went to work, weaving a great magic into the herbs, powders and roots, which would enhance and maintain its effects. In the end, he tipped a small pile of dark green powder into a glass phial, returned the ingredients and equipment to their proper places, and trembling, went in search of his son.
When Kilan arrived in the small room which served as a kitchen, he saw that his son had been busy. A black dough was rising in a large clay bowl on one side of the kitchen — seed-bread if he was not mistaken. Eggs from the hens in the courtyard were laid out in preparation for tomorrow’s breakfast, as was a small slab of bacon. A peat fire could be seen burning slowly in the grate, banked for the night.
Searching the stairs behind him for any sign of his son, Kilan made his way furtively to the rising bread, and after checking behind him again, took a last pensive look at the phial of powder before emptying its contents into the bowl.
That done, he released a breath he had not realised he held. The only sound was his heart pounding in his chest, and the shaky breaths he took. He turned to sneak out of the room, but found his legs weak from relief at having the task accomplished. He leaned back against the trestle as he tried in vain to get his breath back, and holding his hands incredulously before him, saw them shake from nervous energy.
Suddenly, a door banged shut somewhere down the stairs. Kilan jumped, and looked around himself like the rabbit who spies the hawk, and searches frantically for the nearest bolthole. He found one in the bowl behind him, and spun to knead the dough.
Hearing his son arrive at the door and stop, Kilan realised that he was still trembling. Releasing a shaky breath, he commented “Hard work this breadmaking, isn’t it?” The tension in his voice sang out to him. He hoped it was mistaken for exertion.
Jason stood silent witness to the unusual sight of his father doing any menial task. Since his mother had died, it was only on very rare occasions that he had seen his father do any work away from his study or rooftop. Jason held his place at the door, awaiting his father’s next move.
The dough back to a flattened state, Kilan turned to his son. “Jason, I want to … apologise. For what I did in the tower earlier.” Jason’s eyebrows raised in surprise. This was something new.
Still in a state of controlled panic, Kilan grasped for the first straw excuse that he could think of. “I had no right to even contemplate probing the paths your power follows, especially when I know how you feel about submitting to magic.
“Jason, I know what you think happened to your mother. But you’re wrong about me. She was dying, Jason. I had to do something to help her! I know that I failed, but I’ve learned from that failure. I know what went wrong, and I would never make the same mistake with you, my son.” He trembled still, but looked hopefully at the young man before him, waiting to see the acceptance in his eyes.
Kilan was not the only one who shook. Jason’s hands were clenched, white-knuckled, at his sides. Only this did not look like fear or trepidation. This was more like a controlled rage. Jason spoke in tones which were as cold and measured as the words were considered. “My mother was not dying. She was getting older. Your vanity was the only thing at stake when you attempted to slow her ageing to the same rate as your own. Only it doesn’t work like that, does it, father? You knew that, but you just couldn’t accept it, could you. You believe in nothing but your own superiority.” Jason paused as his father’s mouth worked silently up and down. “You can’t keep doing this, father. All that will happen is you will end up killing someone else, and I don’t want to be the recipient of that particular gift.”
With this, he turned slowly and left, thumping stiff-legged down the stairs to his chamber. Kilan leaned weakly back against the trestle as he took in what his son had said. Almost half a bell passed before he eventually stood, and made his way back upstairs, whispering “It’s not true. This *will* work,” but realising that his son must never know what had been done to help realise his potential.
Jason hardly slept that night. He thought of the words which he had never expected to say aloud to his father, and his father’s reaction to those words. He knew they would make no real difference — his father’s ego had walls built higher and stronger than Magnus’ own. He just didn’t want to have his flesh made cold the next time his father decided to go against proven magical principles.
As the false dawn brought some small light to the sky, Jason steeled his resolve and arose. He made his way to the kitchen and threw some small sticks and larger logs on top of the peat which burned beneath the oven, and opened the vent in front fully. Taking the side of bacon, he rubbed the fat onto a metal tray and dumped the bread mixture on top. After putting both bacon and tray into the oven, he returned to his room to pack the few necessities he would need.
Spreading his blanket on the bed, he chose carefully. A linen shirt was folded, and placed in the centre. Then came a fresh pair of breeches, three pairs of thick woollen socks and a woollen pullover. He looked around, confused. Something was probably missing, but he had all the clothes he would need — the only things missing were food and coin. The food was cooking, and he had a few pennies of his own that would have to do for money. He shrugged off the feeling and went instead for slate and chalk, made his way to the kitchen, and composed a short note to his father.
Finally, as the sun could be seen taking its leave of the horizon, Jason left the note deliberately in the centre of the small kitchen table. Juggling the hot bread and bacon which he had removed from the oven, he made his way back to his chamber. Once there, he tore off a side to chew on as he walked and piled the remainder on top of his clothes, then wrapped the lot in his blanket. Taking a last look around, he reluctantly left his room and headed for the courtyard, feeling every bit the runaway that he was, but unbowed and unrepentant.