The apprentice lowered his ear to the smooth wood, but he did not strain himself trying to hear anything. He doubted his teacher meant listening with his physical senses. Rather, he opened his other senses-- the deep ones.

"What if it won't talk to me?" the young wizard asked his master.

"It talks all the time. What you should worry about is if it will let you hear it," the older wizard explained calmly.

The apprentice tightened his lips. It was not a displeased gesture. It was more thoughtful. The reason he'd been chosen as an apprentice by this particular wizard had been for his patient nature, which aided him without tempering his youthful vigor. As far as talent went, he did not have much, but he was willing to learn.

Sometimes, his lessons were strange and some he was not even required to understand. 'It will come to you in time,' the old wizard had said.

Now he attempted to tackle yet another skill that would 'come in time'. Listening to his wizard's staff.

"Is this in any way useful?" the apprentice asked.

"Well," the old wizard drawled thoughtfully, "that depends."

"On what?"

"On what it tells you. Why, my own staff once spent an entire afternoon indulging in a virulent rant against crows."

The apprentice gaped.

"Though I hear Aleodorus' staff once gave him an astoundingly delicious recipe for cherry pie," the old man shrugged.

The apprentice shook his head slightly and went back to listening to his own staff. After a while, a shy, but victorious smile spread over his face.

"What did it say?" the old wizard asked, knowingly.

"'Hello'. It said 'hello'."