King Edward, Part VI
Chap 6: Training
The day Edward was to leave the Archmagister summoned him, presented him with a mithril staff and bade him farewell.
Back in his small cell Edward removed his novitiate robe and donned the grey shirt, black pants and red sash he'd worn to the Tower. He fingered the sash lovingly. His mother had purchased the shirt and pants, saying they looked sturdy and maybe wouldn't show the dirt from the journey. Moraelyn had given him the silk sash with its embroidery of twined leaves and flowers, birds and butterflies in mithril, dwarven and elven metallic threads. But he'd waited until they were across the channel. Aliera had said it cost too dear; she'd suggested cutting down one of Moraelyn's old ones to fit, but the elf had adamantly refused to let her have any of them. Edward smiled, remembering, and wrapped the sash twice round his waist then knotted the ends carefully. He took the staff and ran down to meet his parents.
He'd meant to fling himself at them, but Moraelyn was alone and Edward stopped still. "Where's my mother? Is she...?"
"She wanted to stay and choose a horse for you. Didn't trust it to Beech."
"A horse? For me! Really?"
"Of course. You can't walk all the way to Morrowind."
"I thought I'd have to ride behind...someone. Look, the Archmagister gave me...my staff! Isn't it beautiful?"
The elf took it and hefted it, trying a few swings and feints. "Good balance and weight for thee, I think. Light for me. Show me how you use it. Suppose I attack you." He used his bare hands and Edward fell into a defensive position, blocked him, then thrust the staff toward Moraelyn's ribs. He danced easily aside, but praised the boy.
"A mage should have a dagger, too. I thought you might like to have Tooth here." Edward's eye popped. Tooth had an ebony blade and a hilt made from a real dragon's tooth. The elf slid it from its sheath and handed it to Edward who took it carefully. The blade had a wicked point and the edge was sharp enough to shave with. Mats borrowed it sometimes. He'd carved the hilt, too.
"Are you sure Mats doesn't mind?"
"Quite sure." Moraelyn unbuckled his belt and slid the sheath off it. There was a new belt for
Edward of snakeskin, soft and pliable and a buckle with the black rose of Morrowind on it, just like Moraelyn's. "It's from the Companions." He knelt to fit the belt and dagger and the sash over it properly, and Edward threw his arms about his neck. "It's wonderful. I do thank thee and them, too! And oh, I've missed all of thee so much."
"We missed you, too, son. Let's go or we'll miss our tide."
"I wouldn't want to worry mother," he said, trying to sound casual about having a mother that would worry about him.
"No fear; I told her not to look for us until tomorrow night....just in case. But we'll surprise her."
They made good speed and reached the inlet before the tide was full.
"Shall I show you how to use Tooth, or would you rather rest?"
"Tooth! I can rest in the boat while you work."
Moraelyn shielded himself and Edward too, saying that Tooth's bite was no joke. "I could have shielded myself," Edward said proudly. "I'm good at that. But my Heals go all wrong."
"It'll come. Give it time."
Evidently Tooth wanted time too. Try as he might, he couldn't get near the elf with the blade, even though Moraelyn kept his feet planted and simply swerved his body, ducking and weaving...and laughing. Frustrated, Edward sheathed Tooth and picked up the staff and whacked at him, swinging it with both hands. It wasn't doing any harm, but it made satisfying sounds as it thwacked against the spell shield. Moraelyn let him hit, but stopped the staff easily when the spell had been used up. Edward threw it on the ground and turned away; the elf reached for him in consolation. Edward snatched Tooth from the sheath and thrust it straight at the elf's heart. The blade was knocked spinning from his hand. Edward had braced to stop the thrust and hold it and he felt the shock even through his shield. Then Moraelyn was kneeling before him, nursing his left hand across his right knee, his face grey with shock and disbelief. Blood was gushing from his wrist like a fountain. "Give me thy sash!"
"I...I didn't..." Edward's teeth were rattling in his head. He felt sick and dizzy. Bile washed up in his mouth. "D-d-didn't--m-m-mean." So much blood.
"Boy, don't faint now. I need thy aid. The sash. Now, Edward! Pack it into the wound. Gods, what a mess!" The hand was half severed at the wrist. Edward sat down abruptly, shaking all over, but his hands packed the sash into the open wound, then he wrapped the rest round the hand and wrist.
"Take my sash and make a sling." Moraelyn eased the injured limb into the sling and then released his other hand. He took the water bottle from his belt and drank it down. "I need more water. Where's thy staff? There's a well two miles back. Where's Tooth? Go find it and don't cut yourself on it."
"I don't want it."
"Not many blades have bathed in Moraelyn's blood. 'Twill bring you luck. Do as I say."
"The tide's in."
"Aye and Firsthold could be on Jone for all the good it does us. I can't row one handed."
"No, you cannot. You haven't the strength. The current's swift here. I prefer to die on land. Edward, we cannot stay here. The blood smell will draw beasts. If I faint, get well away and climb a tree. And pray." He climbed to his feet and leaned on the staff, breathing hard. "Stay close, but don't grab at me, no matter what happens." He took a small step, then another.
"Doubtless. You picked a poor time and place to turn assassin. A good assassin always has an escape planned."
"Yessir." Edward sniffed back his tears. "Sir, I cannot Heal you, but I can restore some vigor."
"Can you? 'T'would be of great help." The spell Edward cast shook the elf; he gasped, but stood straighter and firmer after the shock wore off. "I can do it again," Edward offered eagerly.
"Nay. You have plenty of power but want finesse. But 'tis much better, now."
Moraelyn was walking better; he sounded better too. Edward tried to blot the picture of the injury out of his mind. They moved slowly, Moraelyn leaning against a tree from time to time to rest. Nothing molested them. After an interminable time of silent travelling they reached the old well. Moraelyn drained the first bottle and Edward refilled it, drank himself, then filled it yet again.
"We'll spend the night in there." 'There' was a large ramshackle building, apparently deserted. The elf kicked the locked door open. Inside it was pitch dark. "Light?" Edward offered.
"Nay. I can see. Save your power and stay by me." There was a skittering noise. Rats! Edward shielded them both without thinking, pulled Tooth out, and placed his back to the elf's. A rat leaped and drove itself onto the blade. Moraelyn swung the staff and laid out two more. Others scurried off.
"Well done, lad!" They found a small windowless room and shut the door behind them. There
seemed to be some wood about; probably it had been some sort of storage room off the kitchen. Moraelyn sat down against the wall.
"So. You can use a knife. Was all that pretense? To put me off my guard?"
Edward was appalled. He burst into tears, protesting that he'd never harm Moraelyn willingly. "I meant it for jest; I thought it'd make you laugh...I was angry, at first, but at myself, my clumsiness, not you...it was a sudden thought....I love you dear!"
The elf reached out with his good arm and pulled Edward down to him. "That's worth a hand, then, any day."
Edward sobbed against his shoulder while Moraelyn soothed him with pats. "You are my real father."
"Edward, I am not..."
"Nay, thou art. Thee puts my well-being ahead of thine and loves me when I least deserve it. Thee's been kind and generous and never asked anything of me save to my own profit. Thee'd give thy very life for mine. That's what real fathers do. And I've given thee naught but pain. He who sired me despises me and my mother because we are unlike him. We are not like you either, and yet you love us well. I will do better by you, dear Father."
"I gave thee cause enough for offense. I took thy mother from thee."
"You risked losing her because you would not part me from my father. You did not know me and my father was your bitter enemy. And yet you took thought for us. You could not know how unnatural he is. It isn't in you."
"Granted. And yet the offense and your anger at it remain."
"I love you!" Edward protested. But he heard an angry edge in his voice.
"And hate me." Moraelyn's voice was so calm and quiet that they might have been discussing the weather.
"I can't do both....can I?"
"I didn't mean to hurt you."
"I believe you."
"Am I...am I, evil? I was sorry; I'd give anything if it hadn't happened, but...I..".
"Took some measure of satisfaction in it."
Edward's throat was choked with sobs; he couldn't speak, but nodded into Moraelyn's shoulder. The elf's hand stroked him gently.
"Did I'ric tell you of the Daedra?"
"The demons? No. Is it a demon makes me do such things? I am evil, then."
"No, you are not. But the daedra feed on actions such as that. They encourage them. And your anger draws them. But they can't make you do anything. And they or it's not inside you. But it is connected to you."
"I don't want it. I want it to go away. How can I make it go away?"
"Why don't you want it? You draw power from it. That's what let you shield us both with the rats attacked."
"Mana? That doesn't come from demons."
"No, but the ability to use it can. Look, some of your deeds feed the daedra. But you draw power from it at the same time. Then the power's yours, to use as you choose."
"Do you have a daedra?"
"I do and it's a big one, too, but I think everyone has one or more. Some are stronger than others, that's all. But don't go around asking after them. It's not polite."
"I want mine to go away!" Edward wailed.
"So you say. But pretending it isn't there will not accomplish that. Having a daedra is a bit like riding a horse. You must keep control. The daedra do not care for you. It would as lief feed off your pain or injury or death as any other, and find a new host. They do not think or plan as we can and I do not think they experience time as we do. So acts that feed the daedra take place in the moment and while you are caught up in them, past and future cease to exist for you too. It is an intensely pleasurable experience, but it can also be very dangerous. And very addictive, so that you begin to think only of feeding your daedra. You cease to think of the gods and those you love and even yourself. When you have walked too far along that path, you lose the will to choose another."
"How terrible! What must I do then?"
"It is terrible, the worst that can befall a person. Remember this night. How you felt. Learn to recognize the daedra's hunger for what it is, and think about what you do. You are young and this is heavy for you, but you are at risk. Ah!" The elf's body stiffened and he caught his breath. Edward guessed that the wound was paining him.
Moraelyn said that he must sleep a bit, and could Edward keep watch and wake him in an hour's time. Then he could set a lock on the door and they could both rest.
"Aye, sir...and I might do somewhat more. I cannot set a lock, but..." The door would not latch, nor would it stay open, but would swing nearly shut. Edward felt about near the wall behind it and found a wedge. He shut the door and drove the wedge home with a chunk of wood. "I thought so. 'Tis awkward to pass such a door with both arms full of wood. We have such at ho...in Gerald's palace. Now anything trying to come in will rouse you; you can use your power to cast heal instead of lock."
"Why, well thought of, indeed." He freed his blade and laid it on the floor beside him. "We may as well both sleep then."
They slept fitfully. There were often scrabblings at the door and in the walls, but nothing entered their small closet. Moraelyn cast Heal several time during the night. By morning he pronounced himself as fit "as a one-handed man can be." He unwrapped the sash-bandage and inspected the wound. The bleeding was stopped; the hand was still warm to the touch; it no longer hurt him nor was it swollen or discolored. But the wound was still open and the hand useless. Nerves and muscles had been severed and some of the small bones broken. Such repair was beyond his skill. Edward, feeling the daedra feed on the sight, turned quickly away.
Moraelyn grinned. "You may as well let it feed; it's a harmless sort of feeding. The damage is done."
"I mean to starve it," Edward said firmly.
"You can try to do that or you can learn to control it instead, and still walk with the gods. I think we'd best go back to the Tower."
"Aye, they'll be able to heal you there, will they not?"
"I know not. At the least they'll be able to attach it more firmly than it is at present. Ah, do not look so downcast. The skill to mend it is somewhere, if not in the Tower. Ssa'ass is good with battle injuries and there are Temples which know more of the healing arts than the Tower mages. Besides, it's only my left hand." He held up the wadded sash, stiff with his dried blood. "The color's more practical than thy mother thought. Let's see if we can wash it out a bit. Never have I come so ill-equipped on a journey. I might have been strolling down the main street in Ebonheart. Thy mother will kill me."
"Right after she kills me," Edward sighed. "At least returning to the Tower will delay that." They came out into the bright courtyard. The morning sun was already high in the western sky.
"Not so. Edward, the Companions are coming now! I hear them. Mara, let me think of a real good lie!"
Mith trotted into the courtyard. "Here they are!" he called back to the others. "By Torgo, you ARE injured. Let me see that. We thought to row across to meet you; we saw the blood on the shore and tracked you here. What attacked you?"
"A demon! What!? In the open like that in daylight? Gods, what was it carrying, an ebony dai-katana?" Mith whistled as he inspected the injury. Aliera and the others ran up. She hugged Edward, "Are you all right, darling? I was worried." then paled as she saw her husband's hand.
"You must be slowing down. How'd you let a demon do that to you?" Mith demanded.
"It was the boy...he grabbed at my arm in fright and my shield spell failed. It wasn't his fault; it was an accident. Ali, don't look at it. Edward, why don't you take thy mother to see the rat you killed?"
"I want to watch Ssa'ass," Edward objected, then remembered that it would feed his daedra. But he might learn something about healing if he watched, which would be a good thing. This was going to be more complicated than he'd thought.
"Oh, Edward," Aliera said. "You must keep clear in a fight."
"He killed a rat in the old inn there, after. Did right well. Kept his head, put his back to mine, shielded us both. Anyone's apt to panic in his first fight. Especially if he isn't expecting it."
Ssa'ass came up last, as usual, elbowed the others aside and inspected the injury, hissing. "I cann fixxxx thissss. It'ss cleann." He looked it over carefully, bending the hand back to open the wound. Then he brought the hand forward, so that the edges of the tissue met. He was very particular about getting it aligned just so. Then he had Mats hold it in place while he cast spells over it. All outer traces of the injury vanished, leaving not even a scar. Moraelyn swung it with satisfaction, twitching his fingers. "Thanks, Ssa'ass. It's stiff, but..."
"Tomorrow, I ffinissshhh."
"My poor baby," Aliera fussed over Edward. "You must have been so frightened. And you spent the whole night in that awful house?"
"I'm not a baby. I wasn't afraid; my father was there."