Kielaad and his father, who had been grandfather, rode their horses for a fortnight as Tallious taught the boy all that he could remember of his training before he had been forced by his father to give it up and return home, plus all that he had learned about magic since. "Father, how is it that you know so much, yet you say you only had training for a short time?" Kielaad asked him one night as they sat by their campfire. The old man rolled his eyes, as he had been a chatterbox their whole journey so far, but he ruffled the boy’s hair affectionately anyway, and answered the curious child as he had done each and every time there was a question, over and over and over.
"You will find, my son, that the power itself teaches you many things as you use it. You will learn what you can and cannot do, should and should not do, as much from your experience with the power as from your instructions about the power."
"How is that you have so much power now, Father?" Kielaad pressed on.
"How is that such a small boy can have so many questions?" Tallious replied, but he did so with an encouraging smile.
"Did you not tell me that my old father’s rule of silence of my incessant tongue held me no longer? That I would only learn once I opened my mouth with questions and my mind to the answers?"
"That I did, my son," Tallious admitted. "Though I begin to see why he made that rule," he teased the boy. The child blushed at the words, yet still smiled at the one man who had always loved and encouraged him. "I can only suppose that without the full training, there is only so much power and magic which a man may control and use. I poured all of mine into that farm in an attempt to keep it growing even when all others around it were drying up and dying, so that I had none left in me but memories. The night we left on our journey, I took all that power back into myself. That moment was as a long awaited meeting with an old and cherished friend."
"For what purpose do you seek the wizard’s keep?" a voice boomed around them suddenly.
"Father, what is happening?" Kielaad asked quickly as he darted to the old man’s side. He took a defensive pose, but he could not hide the fear that had him shaking as he stood looking around him worriedly.
"We seek the wizard Jothian, should he still live," Tallious called out.
"Jothian is long since dead, and so is my patience for one who does not answer that which was asked."
"If you are not Jothian, how is it your concern?" Kielaad blurted out.
"Kielaad, hold your tongue," Tallious advised with a supportive grip on the lad’s shoulder.
"If your old master is no more, we should leave this place, Father," Kielaad spoke as he looked up his new father’s face. "We can seek one who greets those who seek only knowledge more openly with the hospitality befitting a guest."
"You dare to invade my domain, drink your fill of my water, eat my game, burn my wood and insult me to my face?"
"I cannot insult a face I have not yet seen," Kielaad retorted.
"I have been far too lenient with your tongue, Kielaad" Tallious said with a roll of his eyes.
"Was your tongue not equally as sharp at his age, Tallious of the cursed farm?"
"How do you… My farm was not cursed," Tallious snapped back at the voice. "I poured all that I was into that farm to make it the most successful in all the valley."
"Yes and had I not cursed it, you fool, you would not have needed to go to such lengths to save it."
"Why would you curse my farm?" Tallious demanded angrily.
"He cursed it because you left him for it," Kielaad suddenly spoke again. There was a bright purple glow to his eyes as he spoke.
"First you insult me, and now you lay bare my oldest and deepest wound. Will you pour salt in it next, perhaps?" the voice called out woefully.
"Wounds must hurt to heal," the boy replied flatly. The glowing of his eyes grew not only brighter, but expanded to appear as an aura around his entire head. "You had a great and true friend, summoned back to his home by the manipulation of a murdering liar whom he cared not for at all. You chose to make that tragedy harder on him rather than support him." The glowing disappeared and the boy made a sad, but rather disgusted face. "By all the powers that be, may I never have a friend like you."
"Kielaad, you go too far," Tallious warned, though as he looked up and away from the boy, a smile began to spread over his face. "Our host is not likely to help us if we remind him that he was always a spoiled child with hair that was far too golden and pretty for a boy and threw tantrums befitting a girl half his age."
"I was not girlish, you churlish oaf," the voice snapped. "I was and am masculine with style."
"So you have taken one from the fairer sex, married her and bred children all with this style of yours, have you?"
"I have not! Bite your tongue," the voice said quickly with great disgust. "Fairer sex indeed. Nothing fair about them at all. And I’ll thank you not to sneer, peasant."
"My humblest apologies, oh vanity of vanities," Tallious smirked, and did a flourished deep bow. "As always your manliness is a wonder to us all."
"That’s better," the voice snapped, and then after a pause, "You mock me… you… you peasant you. I should destroy you where you stand for your brazen theft of my game, invasion and destruction of my property, to say nothing of your insolence, which you have clearly instilled in your spawn."
"I am known for a wicked tongue, Master," Kielaad said as he continued to bow lowly. "But I beg of you to be peaceful with he who is now my father as we are all the other has of family in the world anymore. I would be loath to lose him, no matter that it make me seem a baby in your eyes."
"Shall I spare him then, and slay you instead?"
"If you must, Great Master," the boy said sadly as he stepped away from Tallious and knelt on the ground submissively. "I ask only that you spare him from the sight of my death, as I hope that he is as fond of me as I him, and it would pain him to see me die." Kielaad sniffled and tried his best not to cry, but a few tears did escape his vivid blue eyes.
"That will be quite enough, Lurian," Tallious ordered suddenly and firmly. "You may play your pranks on me, if you must, you popinjay, but you will not make my child cry or I will snatch those precious hairs from your head by the root and leave you as bald as old Jothian was." He picked his young son up and held the boy close murmuring reassurances with one breath and insulting the faceless voice in the next.
"Father, did you not just say to not insult the faceless popinjay?" Kielaad asked in confusion.
"Well, my son, the rules differ for you and I, you see," Tallious explained. "Our host would no sooner harm me than he would shave his locks of which he has always been too proud, or give up his fine silken bedding as his precious rump is too delicate for more coarse materials." He finally stood his son on the ground beside him again as he spoke once more. "What you must know, my son, is that when I make jest of our host, it is the witty banter of a friend as close as a brother. When you do it, you show your disrespect to the one who will be your teacher."
"A thousand pardons, oh great and powerful one," Kielaad blurted out quickly, making a grand and deep bow, while looking around nervously, hoping he was bowing in the right direction.
"A noble apology with all the sincerity I would expect from the son of the one whom I saw mock our own Master Jothian at every opportunity."
"You care much for this old man, little one. He who is now your father, you say?" The voice now had a face and body. An old man walked into their camp in vibrant purple robes. "I would know more of this tale, my friends."
"My sire rejected us for our gifts, calling us infidels," Kielaad said, looking down at the ground sadly. "He who was my grandfather is now my father, and I his son. My sire is as dead to us as we are to him."
"Grandfather? Tallious, are we so ancient?" the man gasped as he sank onto a log beside the campfire.
"Bite your own tongue," Grandpa scolded him. "This one brings light to my heart and youth to my bones," he added as he hugged Kielaad. "Will you train him, my brother?"
"I was never able to say no to you, Tallious, nor shall I ever be it seems. Come, let us all learn together," the man said as he waved his staff in the air and Kielaad suddenly found himself inside a stone fortress. "Much better than the meager campfire, do you not agree, Kielaad? Your father here is a great man with much power, but his affinity for the outdoors leaves much comfort to be desired."
"If one is comfortable within oneself, one is comfortable anywhere," Tallious intoned.
"I am most comfortable within myself, Tally, but I am more comfortable with soft chairs and a warm bed to rest my bones upon. If that bed has silken bedding it is of no concern to anyone that does not share the bed with me," Lurian retorted and then poked his tongue out at Tallious like a naughty toddler. He turned back to Kielaad and bowed to him. "I, Lurian of Jothian Keep, accept thee, Kielaad of the Grange as my worthy pupil. Welcome to your new home, my boy."
Kielaad returned the bow sincerely this time. "I, Kielaad of the Grange, pledge myself to thee and to thy teaching, Master Lurian."
"Enough of this seriousness," Lurian announced grandly. "We must have the feast of all feasts to welcome home my dear friend Tally and his son, Kiely."
"Kiely?" the boy questioned.
"Lurian thinks himself amusing in that he bestows pet names for those he cares for," Tallious educated his son. "For him, it is amusement, for others…. Well, let us just say that Kiely is at least presentable in polite company."
"Tally, you wound me, dear friend," Lurian pouted melodramatically. He then grinned like a child even younger than Kielaad and whispered to the boy. "Shall I tell you the whole name I chose for your father?"
"No, you shall not, reprobate old degenerate," Tallious scolded as he quickly placed his hands over the boy's ears protectively. "Let the boy be a child just a little while longer at least."
"Reprobate old degenerate?" Lurian gasped. "How dare you? Need I remind you why I chose the name I did for you?"
"That will be quite enough talk of this in front of innocent ears, thank you very much, Luri the Lewd."
"Father, what do those words mean?" Kielaad asked. "Repperbate, degenetate, and lood. I do not know them."
"Nor shall you for at least four more summers, if I have anything to say about it," Tallious practically growled. "I would rather it be even longer, but I do remember what it is to be twelve summers of age. Innocence is lost even without guidance from another."
"Oh what a stick in the mud you always were, Tallywha…." His voice was cut off by a wave of Tallious’ hand. He glared at his old friend in shock, but not as much anger as Kielaad had expected.
"Had I known I brought my son to such a pervert, we would have sought a different path," Tallious grumbled. At the look of genuine hurt in the other old man’s eyes, he softened his expression and waved his hand dismissively. "I jest, but only a little, mind you. I can think of no other to whom I would entrust my progeny, old friend. I only ask that his innocence of heart and soul and mind be spared as much and as long as is possible."
Lurian’s eyes glazed over with a purple glow just as the boy had shown earlier, and his voice had a hollow sound to it as he stretched out a hand over Kielaad’s head and spoke hauntingly, "It will not be my mouth, hand, or body that breaks the innocence of this pure light. His is a spirit that will remain bright and pure through much trial and tribulation. Even when dimmed by grief and self-shame, he will be a constant echo of the truest light and power." The old man withdrew his hand and shook his head. "Come, we should eat and rest, my friends. Let us feast at the return of my prodigal brother in spirit, and the appearance of his son, whom I suspect will brighten my dreary keep in ways it has never known before." He then raised his voice and called out in a voice that echoed throughout the fortress. "Corbri, where are you, lad? Come and meet our friends."
"You called, Master Lurian?" Kielaad looked up to see a lad perhaps three summers older than himself walk into the room. He was dressed mostly in red and had dark hair and brown eyes. The young blonde haired blue eyed boy smiled as a show of friendship, but it was not returned. "By the powers, what is that dreadful stench? It smells like a stable in here."
"Bide your tongue, Corbri, we do not insult guests or friends," Lurian fussed. "Even if they are a bit overripe."
"You know full well it is some weeks riding from my former home to here, Lurian," Tallious scorned. "How would you have me travel if not by horse? You also know that there are precious few places where water can be had for drinking, much less bathing."
"I have read that travel can be made through the shadows very quickly indeed, sir," Corbri sneered.
"Those are very dark spells, lad," Lurian cautioned. "Those paths are not meant to be taken lightly or often."
"As I recall, a sacrifice must be offered to the shadows to walk their paths," Tallious said lowly. "A sacrifice of life."
"The death of a mere animal is no great loss," Corbri sneered again.
"The sacrifice must grow each time you venture those dark tunnels, lad. The price will become a great loss before you realize and soon it is one you find yourself unable to pay willingly. The price will always be paid, though. Best you never tempt yourself along those lines, Corbri," Lurian cautioned sternly. "Now, as you have graciously stated, our guests are in need of cleansing. Show our youngling to your chambers and fetch him hot water to bathe."
"My chambers, Master?"
"Yes, lad. You have the apprentice chambers. Had you never thought them large for only one apprentice?" Lurian laughed a bit. "The two of you will be as cozy as Talley and I were in our day."
"Follow me, little stench, and mind you keep up so you do not get lost," Corbrin stated a bit coldly.
"I will see to our horses before I see to myself, thank you," Kielaad returned just as brusquely. "I do hope they were not abandoned in the forest, for despite their size, they are still quite young and will frighten easily without Father or I."
"As serious as your father ever was, my young student," Lurian laughed. "Very well, have it your own way, then. I trust your father remembers his way to the stables here as he spent so much time mucking them out."
"Yes, as punishment for not abandoning you to your follies, thus ensuring that when you vanished, I was caught," Tallious scowled. "Well… perhaps some few times the punishment was worth the crime. Seeing Master Jothian’s robes changing colors with the blink of his eyes was… somewhat entertaining."
"That was most advanced spellwork, that was," Lurian defended in a huff. "I remind you, old friend, that we were still but nine summers old at the time."
"Yes, meaning that the shovels needed to clear the stables were larger than I was," Tallious pointed out.
"You’ll grow into them," both old wizards said in unison, imitating a voice only they knew, and then laughing together.
"Come along, Son," Tallious said with a gesture to Kielaad. "Though it is many years, I could walk the way blindfolded."
"Must I go with them to tend the beasts as well, Master Lurian?"
"No, you're with me, Corbri," Lurian told him. "We will set up the baths for our new friends and find them clothes that are presentable as wizards of Jothian Keep. No more Grange peasant rags in my sight, the coarse fabrics and dreary colors offend my senses."
"Yes, quite a manly teacher we have found for you indeed, my son," Tallious laughed as he led Kielaad from the room.