Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Knack for Powders, Pt. 1

Merph grimaced as the pain flashed across his body and he ground his teeth to keep from screaming out. The healer's face stretched as a haze stole over the room. The healer slapped him on the cheeks and the room returned to focus. "Hurts," grunted Merph.

"Yes, I'm sure it does," said Kluvenstrom. He smiled at the boy before him with one leg splinted and the other leg rocking back and forth. "If you'd stay off your leg like I asked you to, it would have time to mend. You may be a growing boy, but bones take time to knit together."

Merph looked around his parent's hut at the three rooms before him. He sat at the dining table where they ate their meals. During the late summer, the pot bellied stove sat empty with its dried logs behind it. Chairs and beds filled that room. A jail for a growing boy, especially with the sunshine pouring down outside and he knew how much work they had to do in the fields. "Can't you use magic? Can't you make it faster?"

"Everything takes its time." The healer picked up one of the birch logs from behind the stove. He tapped the end of the log with its growth rings. "Feel how solid the birch has grown. It grows at its own speed over years. I could speed it up, like your leg, but it takes time for things to grow whole."

The healer removed a vial of ocher powder from his satchel. He lifted the cork stopper off and removed a pinch of the powder that he sprinkled over the log. The healer braced one edge against the table and then smashed his free hand against the point where he had left the powder to break the log into two splintered pieces. "If they made it grow fast, it would be weak like this log." He pushed the pieces of the log with their jagged edge together and handed it to Merph. The pieces came apart in his hand.

"What is the powder?" Merph pointed at the vial.

"Magic as you said and not as simple as you think."

"Can you teach me?"

Kluvenstrom paused as he put the twine and leftovers splintboards back into his satchel. A glint caught his eye. "It's hard work."

Merph recognized the way the healer looked at him. A little more subtle than his parents feeble attempts. He wondered if the healer caught the twitch of a smile on the edge of his face. "I've done hard work. Pa lets me work the fields."

The healer placed both hands on the table and leaned over so his face was right before Merph's. "You must make your own powders and it's slow work. You must have patience and sit still."

As long as Merph had something to do, he imagined he could sit still. "I can do that." He hadn't managed to mask the excitement in his voice.

The healer nodded. "I must talk to your parents, but if they approve, you shall come and visit the Lord's tower where I stay and I'll train you for a fortnight."

That afternoon Merph waited as he tried to be good, but he paced the porch of the house and looked towards the fields where his parents and siblings worked. The light began to fail, falling earlier every day as the crops neared completion and people toiled to finish the harvest before the fall rains began.

At the top of the hill, a man walked with a scythe swinging at his shoulder. Merph limped towards his father.

"The healer says you're supposed to stay off your leg."

Merph looked at the ground. His father walked over and ruffled his hair. Merph looked at his Pa's face and saw the smile there. "He said he'd ask your permission for me to study with him."

His father laughed. "Yes, you can go with him as long as you let your leg heal."


  1. I really liked the way you handled the reasoning behind magic in this world. It sounds like this might be a long one... any idea how many parts this story will be?

  2. Thanks. I've decided that I'm enjoying the Merph/Whitey world and instead of waiting for a chance to write a novel [1] in this world, that I'd write a couple of series in this world. I'd like to say that I've worked out the idea thoroughly, but I haven't at this point, so can't say how many parts this series will be yet, but I should know in a week.

    [1] my novel idea queue has grown to an unimaginable length (especially, since I've been focusing on writing short stories).

  3. I suppose an origin story. Although, origin stories make me think of super-heroes and Merph doesn't think of himself in those terms.