The Weaver and the Wind
Chapter 23: Somewhere twixt past and future
Copyright© 2010 by Sea-Life
I arrived back at the Tower of the Wind with Trellis Valse clinging tightly to my hand. We had to leave her father Hayrick at Skaldale to finish his trip back to the family farm. There were too many irons in the fire at the moment for me to do more, but Hayrick was grateful for the quick trip from Whitecliffs to Skaldale. I had saved him many dangerous days of travel on the road.
"Welcome to the Tower of the Wind Trellis. Your new home, at least for the next little while."
"Thank you Master Weaver, it is beautiful!"
I had thought I might have to come up with a new variation on my bonding spell, but Trellis had insisted that she would be happy to share whatever link the rest of the people of the valley had with me, so it was done. I gave Trellis the quick tour, noticing immediately the big smile Ketch had for the new resident. Biter too was happy to have another young person in the house.
"Do not forget you two," I said, trying to sound stern. "Trellis is my apprentice. She is here to learn how to use her Magic and she will often be busy with her studies. She may not have time to visit or play, and you will have an unhappy Wizard if you insist on complaining about it!"
We let the kids run around with Trellis until midday meal, showing her all their favorite parts of the tower, and at mealtime I had to promise Ketch that he could take Trellis for a ride along the valley road to show off the rest of the valley.
"No further than this side of the Gate though," Opal insisted. "No taking Trellis to visit the kids at the inn until she's had some time to get used to things here."
"Spring season is heading into summer down there Ketch," I reminded him. "The other kids will have little time for play while the caravans are running," he was already somewhat disgruntled that Root, Bug and some of the other companions he had found to help fight off the winter boredom were now busy with their jobs. Childhood on Arbor was much different than it was on Earth, but I would have to ask Cor about that. My childhood was not normal for any facet, let alone Earth.
I found Master Jo in the 'gym', a section of the tower we had set aside for his use. He often did private sessions with the kids here.
"Master Jo, this is my new apprentice, Trellis Valse," I said, bowing to him. "Trellis, this is Master Jo. He is our weapons master, and you will soon begin training with him, just as we all do, in the staff and the bow."
Trellis copied my bow and gave a very polite greeting. I let the two of them make their own arrangements, leaving Trellis instructions to find me at evening meal.
The High Council of Westhal had agreed to send two full divisions of heavy cavalry, and a division of pikemen. They would also assist Beletara in blockading the Northwestern coast, to make sure the Ice Queen was not able to slip any ships out of her northern ports once the ice had melted. The two divisions would ship to the port of Ardyne in 25 days. Prince Verity was bringing his entire army, minus the border guards, a discrete unit whose purpose was homeland defense. Porin and Glest were sending the bulk of their armies as well, though Glest kept their marines at home. They bordered on the small inland sea, and while they were currently at peace with those they shared the border with, they felt the presence of their marines and their navy would 'encourage the peace to continue'.
Events were set in motion and forces were stirring. I had my part to play for sure, but I was a wizard and not a general. When it was time to ride to battle I would take my place with Firetree, Lightstorm, Seablaze and the other wizards. In the meantime, I considered how best to maximize what assistance I could render to those who would be fighting. Trellis, on her own initiative, had already suggested a couple helpful applications for her own Talent, but some would require her to do a lot of traveling, and others put her too close to the battlefield. We would have to play some of these by ear until we had a better handle on how well she worked at long range.
Lord Esterhal commanded his own army, and Prince Verity and Dusk Olmorn shared those duties with the Laminite army. Verity commanded the horse and Olmorn the foot. The Westhalians had sub commanders for their forces but did not send generals of their own, putting their troops under Prince Verity. Princess Redstone's armies were under the command of General Trace Keterel, a big, leathery fellow with a wicked sense of humor and a booming laugh that I liked as soon as I met, but who was sometimes a bit grating. Collectively these four made up the War Council.
I had studied the 'taste' of the purple fire that had been thrown at me during my battle with Glimmer. I had managed to duplicate it and test it a little during my idle evening hours on the road to Whitecliffs. It was actually quite nasty stuff, extremely corrosive, especially to metal, but also to flesh to a lesser degree.
I imbued some arrowheads and crossbow bolt points with it. Others I dipped in Sunfire. They would go hot as the sun for a split second when they struck their targets. Neither of these effects were intended to last for more than a moment, though the purple fire did last a few long seconds, quite a bit more than the almost instantaneous blooming and extinguishing of sun's heat from the second set of arrows. I didn't want these weapons laying on the battlefield spreading fire and destruction; they were target effect, not area effect weapons, though the Sunfire would impact the very immediate area around human targets.
The Light signature work was mostly to make the arrows 'very likely' to hit their target. They would actually be able to assist the archer or crossbowman wielding it in 'feeling' their target. These weren't Weaver-made guided missiles. They were not guaranteed to hit their target, but they were absolutely going to be as close to a guaranteed shot as I could manage without violating reality too much. The Purple fire arrows I gave purple shafts and the Sunfire arrows I gave red. The crossbow bolts received the same colors on their shafts as well. The finished weapons made a formidable pile.
Working that much Magic, even in my 'forge' was a serious drain on my energies. I spread the work out over several days, but even so, each of those nights I fell asleep early, slept hard and woke late the next day. I did almost nothing for two days after except visit with people, introducing Trellis to everyone. Master Jo began her staff lessons, and demanded I get caught up as well. Master Jo said I owed him a day for every day I missed a lesson. At the rate I was going lately, I was going to have quite a backlog when or perhaps even if my life ever settled down.
I was expecting word to come from Cor before it did from Winter, so I was surprised when I felt Winter's mental call.
<I am ready for you Weaver.>
<Conditions?> I asked.
<Friendly!> Came the reply.
I collected Trellis and with NeedleThorn in hand I jumped us to Winter.
I stood in a clearing atop an amazing sweep of stone and tree. I saw Winter standing before me, and beside him was a young woman. The two of them were holding hands!
"Welcome Weaver," Winter called in greeting. "It is good to see you again."
"It is good to see you again as well, Winter," I replied. "And this is... ?"
"Weaver, this is Snow. We are mated as far as she, I and the Fenrim are concerned. Snow, this is the Wizard Weaver."
"A pleasure to meet you sir," The young woman said, holding out her hand.
"A pleasure for me as well Snow, and please, call me Weaver," I answered, stepping in close and giving her a hug. "Welcome to the family."
Winter was shaking his head and laughing. Snow gave him a look and he slid an arm around her. "We will have a lot of interesting family explanations to sort out on both sides when we get home and have time."
I felt a tug on my cloak and realized in the excitement I had forgotten Trellis!
"I'm sorry! Winter, Snow, this is my new apprentice, Trellis Valse. Trellis, the tall young man here is Winter Hellerin, Warden of the Valley of the Wind and a good friend."
There were some brief hellos exchanged between us, but Winter was quick to introduce me to Spray Ano, the elected Battle Chief of the Fenrim and his four lieutenants. Spray had the air of a battle tested veteran, as did his men.
"Winter has made it clear that although his fealty lies with you, we should be looking to King Esterhal's War council for our guidance. This is good, because to be honest, the history of Arborian Wizard Warlords doesn't exactly inspire trust and confidence."
I grinned when he said this, and my grin brought out his own.
"I would certainly not trust me to lead a battle, since I have never been in one. But I have seen war, and I have seen the effects of it, good and bad, and I am glad to leave the decisions of war to the warriors. I will do my share, and perhaps a bit more though, if no one objects?"
The last bit had been pretty tongue-in-cheek, and Spray took it exactly as intended, roaring in laughter, bending almost double as he did.
"I have no doubts that you shall be a mighty force Weaver, no doubt at all. I'm sure even the little girl beside you will be a terror on the battlefield."
Suddenly we were all fifty feet in the air and weightless. Trellis giggled.
"You can set us down now Trellis, I'm sure these folks all appreciate your little demonstration," I said with a touch of anger in my voice.
"I'm in trouble, huh?" Trellis said once we had all touched down gently to the ground again.
"You are indeed, and may need a spanking for this when we get home. In the meantime you should be thinking about our discussions on restraint and obligation."
Snow seemed conflicted between sympathy for the cute little girl she had just met and support for me. I gave her a wink that let her know her sympathies were in no danger of running afoul of me.
"Needless to say, whatever influence Trellis has on the battlefield will be applied from quite some distance away, or else not at all," I said to Spray.
"The battlefield is no place for sweet little girls, I agree," he replied.
"No matter how formidable," he added. His four lieutenants thought that was hilarious, and even Trellis overcame her impending punishment long enough to giggle a bit.
There were some handshaking and hugging as we prepared to leave, and then with a wave of NeedleThorn we were back in the Valley of the Wind, atop the Tower.
"Welcome home," Winter said to Snow.
<Let's leave them alone for now, okay?> I sent to Trellis.
I took her hand and we went downstairs to the commons to check on the midday meal. Our trip to Imhur had been brief, much quicker even than I had anticipated, so we still had almost an hour to go before the meal would be ready. Trellis offered to stay and help out in the kitchen, so I left her there while I went to check in with Plank.
Plank and a crew of the guard were making planks! Fleet had built us a very nice water powered mill house a half mile upstream from the tower, and I had added a mill saw setup to the side of it that got its power from an auxiliary power takeoff. Fleet's ingenious design allowed the power takeoff to be shifted between three different positions, so we could come up with two additional facilities to take advantage of the availability of water power down the road.
The Durmiter's oxen were paying for their feed with this operation, as the animals were hauling the raw logs from their stacks further down the valley to the mill site. My mill saw setup had its own switchable power coupler that split the power from the mill house takeoff into two, one for the band saw and one for a cutoff saw. The cutoff saw was used to trim ends and make uniform lengths out of the sawn timbers. The band saw was used to make lengthwise cuts, producing squared timbers at first, and then later making planks.
I won't even try to pretend I understood the discussion, or the difference between plain sawn or quarter sawn wood. The carriage I had built for the band saw was a thing of beauty as far as Plank and Fleet were concerned, and they were determined to do as much of their cutting using the quarter sawn method as they could get away with. Something about the wood being more 'dimensionally stable'. I guess you don't have to be in a science fiction movie to hear some terms used after all.
I am not a woodsman, carpenter, architect or cabinetmaker. To me, wood is a sometimes beautiful mystery. But Plank and Fleet were busy turning mystery into material for homes and furniture, so I decided to keep it brief and got caught up quickly on where things were at.
"Fleet, I know that Winter is first on the list for having a house built, after your own, but has he expressed any interest yet in it?"
"Winter is at the top of the list, not behind me. I've told him a couple of times that Iris and I would not move ourselves ahead of him just because Iris was expecting."
"He will be much more receptive now, I think. I just fetched him back from his mission in the Imhur and he found himself a mate! I wanted to let you know to do whatever needs doing to get him started on planning. What's on the list ahead of housing?"
"We've got to get the corn storage built, but that's it."
"What about the hay?" I asked.
"We'll build the hay barn later." Plank said. "We'll be grinding the corn into meal and storing that, and we can't start harvesting corn until we can mill it, and we can't mill it until we can store the meal, so its a daisy chain. Hay we can store in the field until we're ready."
On my way back to the Tower I had a sudden thought. I jumped to the facet and grabbed a couple of sets of the modified Legion armor from their storage place at the bottom of the pool and jumped back to the tower. It suddenly occurred to me I was treading on uncharted territory with what I was about to do. I needed a woman familiar with putting on Legion armor and Cor was off to the Zadrain steppes.
<Zho?> I called out.
<Weaver?> Came the reply.
<Can I borrow your assistance for a moment?>
<I'm on patrol. Did it need to be me, or would someone else do?>
<Sorry, I needed a female guard and you came to mind.>
<Try Giana, she should be free.>
<Giana?> I called.
<Can I steal you for a moment to assist with a little problem?>
<Sure!> She sent. I jumped her in immediately.
"What's up?" She said cheerily.
"I needed someone to help Trellis put this on," I said, waving the loose folds of the armor in the air."
"The poor helpless wizard is stymied by the thought of dressing a ten year old girl?"
I sent Giana off to the kitchen to find Trellis, her laughter left echoing behind her, and sent a thought to Winter.
<You two come see me in the commons when you're ready.>
<On our way, > came Winter's reply.
I threw the armor to Winter as soon as they came through the door.
"You know what this is, help Snow into it," I said.
"c'mon, I'll show you our room. Getting into this is a lot harder than getting it off."
"I'm sure you will be very helpful," Snow said as they were leaving. The couple were still very much living in a universe of two at the moment. It was like I wasn't even there.
I checked in the kitchen and found Opal and Ketch, with Biter sitting on a stool.
"Twenty minutes," Opal said, not waiting for the inevitable question. Trellis and Giana came in while I was there, and Trellis was spinning around and dramatically debuting her new attire. I dumped the knowledge needed to fully use the armor into her memory.
"Wow!" She said in response.
I heard from Cor the next day. The southern clans were on the move, and she was moving with them.
<It's not just politics, more a matter of clan pride. I'm Copper Canyon Clan now, and I have to ride with my clan. For me to wave goodbye and tell them I'd see them in Midhal would cause them to loose status.>
<I understand, I'll miss you though. Sure you can't pop back and forth a little?>
<No, it probably wouldn't be a good idea. I'm newly adopted into the clan and have to be at my clan father's beck and call, though that is only a theoretical hardship at this point.>
<Can you have visitors?> I asked, failing to keep the pleading tones out of my thoughts. <I've got surprises!>
<Once we're in camp tonight. I'll let Kel, the clan leader and Ayal, my father know to expect you.>
<Okay Damsel, there'll be four of us. Can I bring something to smooth the way?>
<Mmm. Fresh fruit would be good. But you'd need a couple shop baskets full.>
<Two hours!> Came her final thoughts, accompanied by a mental hug and kiss that would have to do for now.
I returned the mental affection, letting it and the connection fade for now and got busy. Trellis had her armor, but she still needed her apprentice's cloak. I had some ideas of what the unofficial standards were, hastily acquired from Lightstorm's thoughts before we left. In the north at least an Arborian Wizard's apprentice usually wore green robes, or in the case of a Wizard with distinctive garb, a cloak that mirrored his, but clearly marked with green markings.
I wasn't sure how green would go with Tellis' soft brown hair and freckled skin, but a robe would work better for her than a cloak alone would, so I wove her a robe and cloak both with the same distinct woven patterns of my own, but I made her robe a translucent green and her cloak, while it matched mine, had a green translucent stripe at the lower hem and at the sleeves.
While she was trying on her new gear - over the armor, not in place of it - I had cautioned, I went to let Winter and Snow know that we were making a quick trip to the Steppes to visit with Cor and the clan that had adopted her. They were both out on the bow course with Master Jo. I jumped to join the Master.
"They are both running the bow course for me," He said without looking. "The girl is already a match for any of my students here as far as skill goes. We will see if there is much unlearning to do to get her mind on the proper path, but I do not suspect it will be a problem."
"How about the staff?" I asked.
"She is no novice with it, but she is still behind most of those in the valley. I will have to give her those lessons separately."
"You seem to be doing a lot more individualized lessons than I had envisioned when you first came. If it becomes a burden, let me know."
"Your concern is appreciated. If it comes to that I will consider who amongst my students would serve as an instructor for the novices."
"Oh! Good idea. Do you have any likely candidates?"