Harvest break had arrived! It was time for all the students to pack up and head home . Jarec ran in and out of his rooms trying to get his pack and saddle bags loaded up. Every time he thought he had everything something else would be remembered and he'd scuttle back to retrieve it. Thinking of getting back to his brothers and his family made it hard to concentrate. He wasn't the only one. Students from all over the world came to the Garden to train and to learn, and right now, all of the young ones were getting ready for break! The student dorms like a kicked anthill, with kids running every which way, adults spaced throughout the mass to try and keep some semblance of order. That and attend to the inevitable bumps and bruises caused by the chaos.
The end of this second Season's studies meant that classwork had come to an end. The Masters had been watching and soon would be choosing the students who would be their next pupils. A very exciting time, Jarec heard the murmur of excited voices like the buzz of a hive. The actual ceremonies and what not that went along with it didn't really happen until winter next when the students returned, but some Masters didn't wait. Master Mendon helped pack Bran's things. Jarec found himself feeling a bit jealous. He had hoped to be chosen by Master Mendon, actually there were few who didn't want it. Master Mendon taught well and with kindness. He had to be the nicest Master ever! Jarec's own scores in Shaping had been much better than Bran's! Why didn't he get picked? Not the end of the world though, Master Mendon generally picked a good handful of students to teach. Jarec could still be one of them. The thought didn't help much. Masters often took more than one apprentice at the start of the third Season.
"RAA!" Jarec about leaped out of his skin! Edivan hunched over the small bush he'd jumped out of by Jarec's pack. It took Jarec a moment to collect himself, he touched his hair to make sure he hadn't gotten any leaves stuck in it when he'd hit the trees a dozen paces above them. He swore he'd felt his head touch them.
"Hahaha! Oh…oh your face…hahaha!" by this point Edivan rolled on the ground, clutching his chest.
"Har har,"Jarec sneered, "at least I'm not the one rolling around in itchweed." That got him. Jarec took his turn to laugh as Edivan jumped up and brushed his clothes furiously. There really wasn't any itchweed there. He noticed that soon enough and shot his own glare at Jarec. Behind them someone laughed and they both jumped! Damon, just laughed harder. He came out from the dorms holding another load, clothes mostly, to be packed away.
Everything, and everyone eventually gathered up in the Eastern Meadows. Season's End, the closing ceremony, if it could be called that, to every Season here at The Garden. The last day here, they would be leaving for their homes early in the morning. A last chance to visit with everyone and play a bit before going home to labor with their families. Jarec found Bran with Damon and Edivan.
"…telling you, she's going to kill you Edivan!" Damon seemed a bit worked up.
"Its fine," Edivan just waved his hand as if to dismiss the issue.
"What happened?" Jarec slid down into the soft grass next to them.
"Oh, you remember the night Ed came back to the dorms late a few days ago?" Bran had a habit of calling Edivan Ed, mostly because he didn't like it.
"What about it?"
"He let a bunch of field mice loose in the girls' dorms, and now Deida," Damon's older sister, "is going to kill him." She often found herself the target of the boys' pranks, which usually ended in a sound thumping for the lot of them. Jarec had heard of the event, it had been hard not to really, the screams had probably carried all the way to the Crescent Coast.
"I said it wasn't me!" the slight smirk gave the lie. That's about when they saw Deida herself stomping towards them. With a quick glance at one another all four boys got up and took to the woods on the edge of the Meadow. That started a game of hide and seek that lasted well past dark.
With the sunrise came the cool of morning. The sound of cots being broken down and bedrolls being folded up wafted through the air like the smell of breakfast from the cook fires. It was common practice for a Master to choose to escort his soon to be student or students home that they might introduce themselves to their charges' families. The students lined up quickly, the Masters gathering them for the journey home. A tough looking Master came to organize Jarec's group. He, Master Ikurel , and two others whose names Jarec did not know were to be his group's escort home. Master Ikurel had been Jarec and Bran's Shaping teacher. Jarec recognized one of the others as one of Edivan's teachers. The Tough-looking one glanced in Jarec's direction and Jarec found himself closing his mouth and standing straighter. This was not going to be a fun trip.
Like the wind rushing through grassland, the whole body began to move. Jarec's group was one of the first to leave, they having a longer way to go than most. The tough-looking Master leading them out. It would be several a few weeks before the actually made it back to his home, Jarec lived the furthest out of his group. Jarec asked one of the Masters if he could ride with the group ahead for a little bit. He got her approval and rode up to meet Damon with the third district group.
He found Damon trailing behind the group a little bit, waiting for Jarec to catch up. He had one hand, palm up held up just above his saddle. Two round stones slowly worked their way around his hand. Across the palm, then dipping past the end of the palm to roll along the back of his hand, then coming back up to and across his palm to make the cycle again. As Jarec pulled alongside him the stones began to gain speed steadily. Soon they were a blur, spiraling like mad around his hand. They jumped…one shooting down right past the saddle and harmlessly to the ground the other launched right towards the crowd of people ahead of them. Jarec reached out, pulling at the piece of earth, which slowed to a stop less than a hand's span from one of the Masters in Damon's group. It dropped from the air, clinking on his saddle before falling to the ground as well. The Master turned to investigate the noise, giving the boys a good, long look but said nothing.
Both turned bright red for a moment. They looked down at their saddles sheepishly. Jarec glanced up at Damon and, seeing how red he turned he couldn't help but snicker. Damon leaned out and punched him in the arm. Jarec returned the favor, which started a back and forth of punches and shouts. The Master turned back around, both jerked their hands away from each other, then broke into fits of giggling.
"How did you do that?!" Jarec managed as the giggles subsided.
"I have been trying to think of something really amazing to show my older brother, he can make the rocks actually stay in the air as they spin! He says it's easy, but won't tell me how."
"In the air? Whoa. Hmm…I wonder if…" Jarec reached out and pulled at one of the rocks on the road, willing it to come to him. It started rolling across the ground right up to his horse, it followed along but did not come up off the ground. With a thought he pulled at the air jerking it under the rock and throwing it into the air with a gust of wind. He caught it, right in front of him, it sat in there in the air.
"How did you do that?!"
"Air! You have to kick it off the ground with air." Jarec spoke while the rock quivered in front of him, it took a lot more concentration that he thought it would to hold it there. He tried air again, this time pushing against the rock while trying to hold it in place. It started to spin! Oh, wait till his little brothers saw this!
"Look! Look at this!" Jarec turned to show Damon, who had his own floating rock now, and lost control, the rock dropped harmlessly but the air blasted out around it, blowing by Jarec and Damon both, knocking Damon's rock down. Damon glared and Jarec and sent a blast of air at him. Jarec responded by blasting him back. They went back and forth for a few minutes, messing each other's hair and clothes. It stopped suddenly when they found themselves gripped at the ears by one of the Masters from Jarec's group. Still holding Jarec's ear, Master Ikurel led Damon back up to his group then dragged Jarec back to theirs.
So it was that the journey continued with Jarec practically strapped to Master Ikurel's saddle until they got to Lake Minereth, where they would load up on boats to sail out to the coast and up towards Kambryn and the Ocean's Maw. Jarec managed to sneak away to get one last good bye from Damon before the Masters herded them onto the waiting ships.
"Hold the Earth, but push it with air to make it spin." Jarec shouted back to Damon as they walked to their respective ships. To which Damon shouted back a thanks.
Time passed quickly for Jarec as they traveled. The ships navigators and captain took turns coming down to the bunks to lecture the students on the proper handling of the ship as well as the currents and tides of the ocean and the winds. Jarec found it hard to understand, but they had them come up in turns and work to sails and rudder and other workings of the ship as well as stand with the navigators as the Shaped the winds and the waves to help the ship along the coast. That part Jarec liked. He liked being able to do something. One of the navigators, Patsi, even let him have a turn pulling the wind through to fill the sails.
Two days later they came to dock at the port of Kambryn. It would all be on foot from here. Several of the students broke off with Master Ikurel and headed into the city, those had come from Kambryn, and would be home before the sun set. That cut the group in half. The rest continued, led by the tough-looking Master, Sossoman he'd been called by the other Masters, and the other two Masters. They stayed the night at an inn near the eastern gates of the city leaving early in the morning. One of the other Masters, Conna? Split off, taking most of the other students with her out the north gates. That left all too few of them with Master Sossoman. He gave Jarec the creeps. He had a hard face, and cold eyes and he never seemed to smile. Jarec had heard the other students talking about him, one of the Journeyman Masters, a higher level than the students , they didn't usually help with the escorts.
All said, it made for a very quiet trip between the lot of them. Oh, Master Sossoman would call them up one at a time to have them practice their shaping, recite the Rule of Wills and answer questions. But they all did it while trying to make as little noise as possible, not sure of what might make him upset, he was scary enough already, Jarec really did not want to know what he might be like in a bad mood. Worse mood anyways. About midday they reached Rinquist , a small town, Kambryn's walls still on the horizon to the west nestled against the radiant Red Lake to the east.
Everyone there had been waiting for them to arrive, the whole town seemed to be out on the square. Jarec recognized a few of them, Malyee she and her husband owned the butcher shop where Jarec's parents would sometimes get them dried meats to chew on during their visits here. Bem, the carpenter. His brother Sam, the smith. Elnan, Jarec's cousin with his wife Victoria, they came and greeted Jarec. The congratulated Jarec on his making it through his second Season at the Garden. They offered to house Jarec and Master Sossoman for the night, so they could start fresh in the morning. Master Sossoman took them up on the offer, Jarec himself was all too happy to be able to spend the night with Elnan, he liked to show Jarec bizarre and exotic things he'd found or learned. That night they joined in on a celebration, the town came to life with lights as the sun went down on the horizon. They feasted and sang and had a great big bonfire. Jarec hadn't gotten to participate last Season, though he couldn't remember why.
As expected Elnan came and peeked into Jarec's room after the festivities had ended, when he saw that Jarec was awake he slipped in holding a book.
"You have to see this one!" He said casting a mischievous grin at Jarec. "The scorpion people of Rot Rock in the Glass Falls desert!" He went on to spin a tale of horrid creatures, and crazy tales. Waving the book all over the place, gesturing this way and that, He never actually opened the book. Jarec liked it that way.
Master Sossoman came in to wake Jarec up at the crack of dawn, Jarec only vaguely remembered falling asleep. Elnan and Victoria stood at the door to see them off. Elnan looking rather cheery despite the bags under his own eyes. They left Rinquist behind as their mounts trundled south east towards the coast where Jarec's family had set up their homestead. Within the hour they had entered the familiar marshlands of the Ocean's Maw, a series of rivers and lakes running through the midst of hills and mountains that stretched for miles and miles. They curved around Red Lake, the odd red lichen that gave the lake its name making the water seem to glow in the light. They stopped about midday between Red Lake and its sister lake. They tied the horses to a stake the Master sank into the ground. They took a moment to eat and rest, both for themselves as well as the horses.
Another rider appeared coming from the direction of Jarec's home as they prepared to leave. Deddren, Elnan and Victoria's boy, practically one of Jarec's brothers. He was several years older but came down almost every year to help at harvest time. Last Season he'd been and Rinquist and come down with Jarec when he'd returned from his first Season at the Garden. He looked tired, he saw Master Sossoman and did a small bow from the saddle. He looked at Jarec, his eyes got tight, glowing sadly, for just a moment before turning away.
"Keep going, I'm not sure what happened…you…you'll have to see for yourself. About an hour's ride more. I'll stay here for a bit." With that he slid off the horse and set his own stake, already tied to the reigns into the ground, the Earth welling up around it. He dropped by the fire they had been about to douse and just stared blankly into it. They finished packing up and left, what else could they do? Just as Deddren had said, it only took them an hour, they hadn't gotten to Jarec's home, which should have taken most of the rest of the day, if not the entire day. It did not look like the road home. It was the road, and yet it wasn't. The land didn't look right, didn't feel right. The air felt wrong. They had since gotten to the west edge of Red Lake, come south to the bottom corner of the lake. They topped a hill that Jarec had never seen before and saw a river, a huge river. It's banks rough and jagged, like the Earth had been torn out and the wound filled by the waiting ocean. That had definitely not been there last time he'd checked. There, on the other side, land, an island. Home. Smoke puffed leisurely up in several spots, surrounded by black.
"I've never…It's Shaping…on this scale…un-unimaginable power." Jarec couldn't look away to see the Master's expression. He felt a hand on his shoulder a moment later, Master Sossoman looking a little stunned led his horse forward and motioned Jarec to follow. He did so, still staring at the torn and broken landscape.
Moving closer, they could see the damage truly. Tears, scars across the ground some as much as several feet wide, and very deep. Craters, where enormous chunks of Earth had been ripped up or come crashing down. Swathes of blackened, burned land. Some of it still smoldered, embers glowing faintly in the shadows of mounds of torn Earth. As the sun began to set, they reached Jarec's home. Broken. Shattered. All that stood of Jarec's home, one wall. Part of a wall, resting on most of the chimney. The fence around their garden Jarec had helped his dad finish building last Harvest. Half of it still stood, though there was no longer a garden to protect. Everything around the house had been burned to ash, or torn asunder.
This couldn't be right, that couldn't be his house. Mom, and Dad, Jarem, and little Jakob should be out here, waiting for him. Everything looked blurry, it took a moment for Jarec to realize he was looking through his tears. He no longer sat on his horse. When had that happened? It didn't matter, this had to be a dream…a nightmare! He could hear his name being called, there they were. It must be time to wake up. Everything went black.