Authors: Jim Greenfield
Tags: #What type of Book- eg. Novel
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Gerrand sunk his teeth into the crunchy apple as he watched the man pursued by soldiers. The juice ran into his beard and he absently wiped it with his baggy sleeve. The running man would reach Gerrand before the soldiers caught him, barely. Gerrand softly spoke the words of power to give the runner speed to outstrip his pursuers.
The runner gasped for air and his legs burned but he dare not stop ere he vanishes like the other messengers. His footfalls thudded dully in the long grass. His raspy breath kept time with his feet. A sudden dip in the land pounded his knees. He glimpsed behind and saw the shapes of his pursuers. The plumes of their helmets waved up and up as they gave chase. He raced to reach Gerrand before the soldiers caught him.
His thin saliva dribbled over his lips, parted and dry as he sucked breath into his lungs. Every step should have been his last, but he pushed, pushed his body forward. If he stumbled, they would catch him. He would not be able to regain his footing in time. If he fell, all his energy and desire would flee. He gritted his teeth and focused on the rhythm of his stride, casting aside all other thought.
Torby Mola watched his soldiers chase the spy over the fields. They ran strong and fast but their quarry's feet flew from fear. The spy was in the open fields without concealment. Only a matter of time before they caught him. Mola knew they had to catch him before the runner reached the Sorcerer Gerrand's farm.
Gerrand would protect the man just to be difficult, but this man was trying to a message to Gerrand. There was no chance that Gerrand would turn the man over to Mola and no threat would force Gerrand to acquiesce. Mola signaled his herald to sound his horn urging the soldiers onward.
His men began to close the gap. They might catch him as they crested the hill. Then he lost sight of them. The wait was not long.
Over the hilltop came a blue flash of light. It rose high into the sky and fanned back to earth. The countryside was still. Toby Mola cursed and turned his horse around, beginning the journey back to the palace without seeing the figure appear at the crest of the hill.
The sorcerer watched Mola and smiled. The fugitive lay dazed but safe nearby. Gerrand stiffly bent down, snipped the flower from its stem and smelled the fresh fragrance, reminiscent of a romance. He smiled; amused that he could still remember what romance entailed. He stroked his long white beard, and then ran his hand across his smooth head. It had been a long time since a woman found him attractive. He frowned. He found it difficult to recall such a time with clarity. How long had it been? He remembered he had fathered three children, but they turned to dust years ago. He still recalled their bright faces as children. Their love and trust always cheered him even centuries later. Nothing in his life was so precious. It was one memory that remained fresh throughout his life.
He had lived more than eight centuries on this world and found he could not bear its ending, not yet. Especially he could not bear the endings of all the small things the Mages' Council overlooked: such things as the fragrance of a flower, or the laugh of a child; the delight of watching a raccoon clean its meal in a creek. The Council overlooked so much in their business, the business of power. Perhaps it had always been so, but Gerrand did not like to think it. He had led the Council for many years and knew their goals then had been his own. His ideals still sustained him. The search for knowledge and understanding he cherished even to Macelan's disdain. He searched his memory back over the years.
The tastes and smells of a thousand, thousand memories greeted him. He saw the birth and death of kings and their kingdoms. He saw the rise of the mighty and their fall into obscurity. It meant little to him. The smallest flower was dearer to him than the works of men or the greatest Mage. For this, they considered him senile, barely capable of his role as historian for the Council, but he was more, oh so much more.
The fugitive sat on the grass catching his breath. He looked around but couldn't see the soldiers that had chased him. He was slender and had traveled from across the sea. His clothes appeared of Curesian make. He smelled of fish. Gerrand knew the smell of the sea. He held the tattered remains of a scroll. The sorcerer took it from him and it fell to pieces.
"You are safe now," said the sorcerer. "I sent the soldiers back to the palace ahead of their captain."
"You, you, are Gerrand?" He looked up at the bald man in weathered brown robes. Gerrand still wore his long wisps of beard from his youth but it was white now. His startling bright green eyes peered out under shaggy eyebrows.
"I am. What can I help you with, Master Mayhew?"
"You know my name?"
"Come, come, and give me your message. I cannot read the scraps of scroll here. There are not even enough pieces to patch together."
"The Council of Mages has called a meeting. It is urgent. I spent too much time evading the soldiers. You must go at once. Tyman Stile was most insistent. I managed to reach Faeya Ryr before Torby Mola caught up with me. Her scroll survived. I'm not sure Tyman Stile paid me enough for what I went through."
Gerrand looked at the man and smiled. "You did just fine. Now, go to the house. The woman there will give you some refreshment. There will be a small bag of coin for you, too."
"Thank you, Master Gerrand." The man walked off slowly, still catching his breath. He glanced back at Gerrand several times before he reached the house.
"Chasing him for a scroll," Gerrand mused to himself.
Gerrand would not hurry to their summons. He waited. He knew the little Mage, Faeya Ryr, would be traveling from Saso to find him. She received instructions from Tyman Stile to escort the feeble sorcerer, Gerrand, to the Council meeting. It angered him briefly, but Faeya was so beautiful, he would do whatever she asked. They were the only members of the Council living on the Isle of Cothos and it pleased him to travel with her, especially across the sea.
He was Gerrand, son of a sea trader, sorcerer of Cothos, historian to the Council of Mages, and the true heir to Macelan the Great. It was Macelan that gave the Council its urgency in the summons of Gerrand. The signs of his rebirth and return had frightened the Mages. Gerrand knew this for he could see the portents as well as any of those youthful Mages and far better than the fool Tyman Stile. It proved difficult to refrain from cursing the Council. He was more than they, yet dropped to their level easily when his anger grew. He noticed his anger more lately; perhaps his age triggered it. He did not know.
His house lay in a wide valley with sweeping views of the hills on all sides. The lush green grass flowed like waves beneath the late afternoon breeze. The trees along the west side of the house danced and swayed with the wind, playing tunes to him with their long branches and leaves. Often he sat on a bench in the sun's warmth listening to the voices in the air currents. The old iron bench he made himself, years ago, when apprenticed to Macelan, before the magic. He was just learning a trade then; he did not suspect the future awaiting him. Using the arts he kept the iron free from rust. He enjoyed what he made with his own hands. He always had one project in progress to work on as the mood came upon him and he was content.
Macelan instructed Gerrand in many arts; each with its own rules of discipline. Sorcery required strict discipline and Gerrand felt prepared when Macelan finally began that instruction. Gerrand snorted when he heard of the struggles of current candidates for the Council. They want too much too easily. He offered no sympathy to the ones who fell short.
"Master Gerrand?" Urnban, his servant, stood several paces behind him. Urnban was a slender sun-browned man, standing several inches above Gerrand. It irritated Gerrand to see Urnban slouch so he didn't appear taller than his employer. It proved impossible to get Urnban to change his habits.
"Yes, Urnban, what is it?" Gerrand frowned; he often disliked interruptions of his reverie.
"Shall I harvest the berries when they ripen, even if you have not returned? I fear they will end up as last year's harvest. You went hiking and did not return for a fortnight."
"It was a good hike. I remember the smell of the flowers along the path." He smiled. "Yes, Urnban. Of course, harvest them. There is no telling how long I shall be gone from home. This trip shall be a long one I fear."
"My wife worries when you are not here."
"She is kind to worry, but it is unnecessary. You are capable of managing the estate. You have done it on many occasions."
"Yes sir, I believe so, but it is not that concern which worries my wife."
"I am so old; I may die before I return?" He shook his head.
"Yes, sir. That is the concern exactly."
"It is a treacherous world out there." Gerrand sighed. "Your wife may be right. Her name is Navera?"
"Yes, sir. Kind of you to remember."
"Not at all. Surprising, perhaps, but not kind. I should remember after all these years. You have the legal papers safely stored?" Urnban nodded. "Good. Lord Terha Nehan retains a copy. Go to him if there are difficulties. The papers say that this property is yours if I die. However, I shall live a while yet."
"You are very kind to us, sir."
"You work very hard, Urnban. You already care for this place as if you owned it."
"Well, it is our home."
"Shall I call you when the lady arrives?" asked Urnban.
"No. I shall wait out here. I have some thinking to do."
"Very good, sir." Urnban bowed slightly and returned to his work. Gerrand often found a need for thinking and left Urnban, his wife and son to manage the estate. Urnban's father and grandfather had preceded him in his position. Gerrand often forgot the names of all his servants through the years. He had lived in the same house for over five hundred years; five hundred years he spent thinking, mostly in solitude. His descendants had died out a generation ago. His living relatives too distant and fearful to meet a man whose sister was their ancestor from eight hundred years in the past. He did not seek out his family and seldom felt lonely. He did not know why and worried that it did not bother him.
He knew Faeya Ryr would arrive today. He felt it on the wind currents. The breeze off the ocean had a freshness that seldom failed to revive his energy. He stored his shorts and sandals away. He wore his long blue robe and the black breeches and boots he would need for the journey. The last journey was six years ago, before Faeya Ryr joined the Council. It was a long time ago for her, but a short blink in Gerrand's life.