Profession: Magehunter (Questioner)
Sciences: Letters, The Eye, Binding
Skills: Swordfighting, Public Speaking
Teuthal, where you were born, is the twin kingdom of Cathál, the Kingdom that made you a man.
If this is true, strange the mother, and perhaps the two fathers of these twins.
The Teuthal of your memory is a low, fair place of water and bogs and the distant dark horizon of Teinwood. The Cathál of your second and third decades is a place of craggy wonder. High mountains and dark, pounding sea define Cathál. Oak forests of vast complexity, age, and intelligence march across the spine of Cathál. Her mountains abound with small colleges, manors, hidden impossible organic minarets of the Culae (what the Cathál elders call the Builders).
You were found, as a boy, to have The Talent (capital letters audible even before you knew what letters – much less capitals were). Taken from your home, and your mother Granwe, you were delivered by scar-faced men into a land of tumbled grey stones, moss, and the towers made from both.
At Caer Afon, as the school was called before it became the College of Practical Talents, the Headmistress herself met you in the arch of the great stone gates of the school, festooned, the both of them, in intricate serpent knots (the gates have since fallen – but that is another story). She bowed to you, her godblood bracelets making a music wholly different than the brooding birdsong of the country. Very seriously, she rose to her full height, still-red hair piled above her ancient (perhaps 4 decades!) face, she peered at you closely, the way you had seen your mother peering at the stars on clear summer nights, as she tried to read the future.
“Young Master Caerdwyn,” she said, by way of introduction, and as though she were tasting the tenor of your name. She made small movements with the fingers of her right hand, which you would later come to associate with the secret science of Letters. “It is a great honor to have you join our student body, this first time.” When the seriousness of her face broke into a smile, it was like Haul, the sun, coming at last through the clouds of long winter. “Be welcome and safe, and above all things, of great meet with the promise of who you might one day become.”
She did a spell, you think, of protection on you that day, and wrote in the gloaming of you characters of safety and protection.
Perhaps that, in retrospect, is what drove you, perversely, to the Ternyn fencing master, the preposterously-embroidered Glayn. Letters were difficult. The Path of the Flesh was as incomprehensible to you as the pale, imperishable structures of the Builders are to all the denizens of Mawr – Talented an untalented alike. But the gleam of the blade – that was immediate, clear, a revelation. The dance of the body and the strange slip-slide dance of thought that goes behind it. This is what Glayn taught you – that and that embroidery is not for everyone.
Your friend, Bayeo, the Vulfen pup who took a new name in this land of mists and mountain, was re-made at The Practical (as students and staff called the place) as well. Surprisingly, he was not treated like a slave or a servant as he might have been in Teuthal. He too was offered an education at the college. He was taught the secrets of numbers, of storytelling. He was offered full run of the tutors and workshops that dotted the mountains. He even went sometimes with the trade runs to the “nearby” seaside city of Ardlee.
In later years as he grew much more quickly than you, he joined you in weapons play, proving to be more than a match for you in pure physicality, but no match for your sheer tenacity, or understanding of movement.
Master N – all the faculty were known only by a letter, never their names – began to watch you when you were 14. At first you thought he might be like one of the seamstresses (who was notorious for giving young men overly thorough fittings). Perhaps he was watching you with Glayn for sweaty hours of practice to whet private appetites. There was something in the predation of his gaze that drew these thoughts out of you.
Master N’s preference for sex – or age – for that matter was something you were not to discover. When you broke into his offices by night, you didn’t find what you initially sought. His Study – part office, part classroom, part residence – was quiet, and ordered, and simple, much like the man himself. What you found first was not disturbing pornographia, forbidden writings, or curses woven into the papers you touched. First, you found art. Charcoal drawings, brushed-ink sketches, a few hard quill-stroked diagrams. Some of them were simple scenes, or seeming nature-studies. Others were nightmare images full of indiscernible violence or familiar-yet-indistinguishable scenes that filled you with inexplicable nausea.
You found a series of lithographs – tracings of complex symbols and cartographia that made the eyes swim to follow them. There was something in those designs, something lively and alive.
Later, after you became N’s student, because you couldn’t control any longer how the diagrams and designs and scenes were exploding in your mind while you slept and then later while you woke, you learned some of the Secret Letters, and their purposes to unlock the secrets of the world, the secrets of the soul. Yours became the Path of Thought.
You worked diligently to understand first the Word, the voice that was given to creation by the Night Goddess, Macháin. By understanding the extension of the Word, you are able to learn about the world, and to change it. Harder, much harder, for those who follow the Path of Thought, is the way of Letters, stolen into the world by the Dark Twin Who Stands Apart, Ciánan.
An older student, the homely-but-brilliant Aoife, from Ternyn, became a confidante of yours in your years at the school. She followed the Path of Flesh and the two of you ended up working, complementarily, many times over the years. In the end, she even helped with the making of your sword – surprisingly strong arm on that girl!
Another student at The Practical was great friends of yours early on, tall, dark Aerun, from Cathál. The two of you grew into much mischief together. But when you began to find your way in the Path of Thought, he grew jealous of your talent and close, early adoption by one of the Masters, and things went… poorly between the two of you. He graduated a year before you did, and you’ve not seen him since.
Mistress T was the one who oversaw your final exams. She was young, and more severe than either the headmistress or Master N ever were. A trial by a fire that, in the end, was too not enough to burn you. Strangely, your passage seemed to in some way deflate the harsh woman, and you had word she left the college a few months later.
Once you were all finished, Master N gave you a sheaf of beautiful paper made nearby in Cathál, and a few fine crayons that smelled of beeswax and came from across the sea. He told you to send him etchings of anything you might find that was…interesting. You dreamed, that night, that you had the ability to fly, and that you circled high above the unusually-clear air of Mawr, and saw the great designs of the mountains, and the great spindrifts of the sea, but had no hands to trace them for Master N.
After what you think of as your Green Years at The Practical, you made the crossing back to Teuthal, the journey beautiful and full of life. Then your career began as a Questioner, and perhaps, your childhood finally ended.
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