Points of view: Part I

By Accipiter G. Goshawk

“So? How was your first day?” Cassie asked enthusiastically.

She’d caught up to him as he was exiting the wide doors of the Hall of Thaums. High above them the spires of the Observatory shone in the light of the dying sun, like the crooked branches of a silver tree. Their footsteps led them down to the lake, where other like-minded Observers were cooling off after a long day of study.

He slumped down heavily and dipped his sandal-clad feet in the water. He sighed happily and Cassie dropped down next to him.

“It was interesting,” he said carelessly, “I didn’t really get to do much, but tomorrow Obseran Matthews assigned me to the Focus. Now that will be something.” He didn’t look up but his whole stance radiated proud arrogance.

Cassie whistled under her breath; the Obseran was well known for being a difficult woman to impress. For Trav to be given access to the Focus on his second day was a great honour. She beamed at her blonde-haired friend.

“That’s amazing! Wow! I knew they would recognize your talent someday! You must be so proud!”

“Thanks…It’s nothing,” he mumbled, dropping his superior tone and reddening slightly.

They had known each other since they had been old enough to walk. Like many refugees of the Zorinian Wastes, they were orphans. The powers of the Crevasse had overrun their villages when they were no more than babes. In the last hours of the war, the Hementh Council had finally intervened, rescuing the remaining survivors from the jaws of oblivion. In those days, the orphans had been divided according to their skill and magical affinities. Many had been found to possess a strong affinity for the Thaum and had been given to the Hementh Observatory to be trained as scholars and mages.

From a young age, Cassie had proven to be the more joyous of the two. She was an eternal optimist and an enthusiastic student, if perhaps a little distracted. Trav on the other hand was exceptionally focused and what he lacked in people skills he more than made up for in raw talent and dedication. How the two of them had ever grown close was something of a mystery to the other members of the Observatory.

Throughout the years, they had each turned towards the subjects that most fascinated them. Cassie dove into the study of all the lifeforms of the Werrach Continent, while Trav turned his sharp mind to the fabric of reality and the laws of the Thaum. Their apprenticeship had lasted five years; at the end of this period, they had been inducted into the hallowed ranks of the Observatory.

That had been one month ago. The Obserans to which they now reported had given them only a few short weeks to move their belongings from the Bricks to the Hall of Thaums. It was the customary amount of time given to new scholars; everyone knew that the move would take no more than a day –the Zornian orphans had very few material possessions-, which left the new members ample time to explore their quarters and blow off some steam before the real work began.

As soon as they had received their scholar’s girdle, Cassie had run off to the docks to take a ship south to the Iksen Coast, a region famous for its verdant forests and rich wildlife. She had tried to convince Trav to come along but he had preferred to stay behind and prepare for his new position. While she had been gone, he hadn’t gotten much sleep. Instead, – contrary to her instructions – he had haunted the library. He had wondered like a restless ghost amidst the dark stacks of leather-bound tomes and crumbling grimoires, finally settling in a far corner, surrounded by rickety columns of research materials.

That was where Cassie found him when she returned, full of energy and stories. She’d forcefully dragged him blinking into the hot summer’s day and had marched him down to the Three Figs where she’d spent the next three hours describing her travels in minute detail. He’d huffed and growled a little but finally he’d given in to his friend’s irresistible charms and had happily sipped on a mint syrup while she’d imitated the calls of wild birds, rodents and ungulates.

Their move from the Bricks was quick and efficient and one day later, they were both summoned to their new posts. Cassie was escorted to the Greenhouse and Menagerie complex by a lanky student with thick bandages wrapped around most of his hands and arms. Trav tried not to laugh as the odd spindly Observer hobbled away wincing each time his left foot touched the ground. The Menagerie scholars were known for their propensity to injury; some of the beasts they handled were quite temperamental.

Trav on the other hand was summoned to the Third Spire by an impeccably dressed footman who after having made certain that the young unkempt man before him was indeed Trav Zorn, proceeded to hand him a small dark envelope bearing Obseran Matthews’ sparrow hawk seal.

“I would advise you hurry, young master,” the footman had sniffed. “The Obseran dislikes tardiness. And,” he added pointedly, “shabbiness.”

One shower and a quick change of robes later and Trav was standing in front of the High Obseran, Remex Matthews. The newly-minted scholar had to stop himself from trembling. The woman before him was considerably shorter than he was; her angular frame and sheer velvet robes seemed to accentuate every small movement she made, giving the impression that the Obseran was constantly surrounded by a small storm. Her actions were far from casual; every single muscle contraction seemed to be aligned to a higher purpose.

Standing before the beaked stare of the most powerful woman on the continent, Trav had quaked a little in his poorly shined shoes.

“So, Zorn is it?” she squawked eying him with a beady violet eye.

“Ye-yes Obseran,” he whispered staring at the ground.

“Another shy orphan, hmmm? Well, I can’t say I’m surprised.” She stared at a scroll of parchment before her. “I can see why they sent you to me Observer Zorn; your marks are impeccable. I see here that Lecturer Koln has praised your work as being “insightful” and “approaching genius”. High praise indeed,” she mused scratching a stray hair on her chin.

“Tha-thank you Obseran.”

“It’s a shame that I consider Koln to be a fool of the highest order, otherwise that recommendation would actually mean something,” she said carelessly tossing the scroll into the fire.

Trav paled but didn’t protest.

“Interesting. A quiet one. Calculating? Uncaring of my hurtful comment? Or maybe just afraid?” she hissed questioningly as she stalked around him.

“Obseran, with all due respect, I am none of those,” he answered, forcing his mouth to shape the words.

“Oh? And what do you think you are Observer Zorn? Enlighten me!” She quickly flew behind her desk and steepled her hands, her eyes fixed on his shaking frame.

“I am a scholar. I am dedicated, hardworking and tireless. I love my work and if I could do without sleep, I would forsake my pillow for a stack of books. I see the world and I see the Thaum and if you give me a chance, I’ll be the best student you’ve ever trained.”

Matthews had narrowed her eyes for a moment and then had effortlessly grabbed a huge tome from the bookshelf behind her.

“Interesting. Tell me, Trav, do you know how many students I’ve successfully trained?” she said, opening up the great leather bound book and running her finger down the page.

“No Obseran.”

“None,” she answered happily. “None of them had what I was looking for. None was worth the trouble. They all gave up and left. Will that be your fate as well I wonder?”

“I don’t give up, Obseran,” he said straightening slightly, his jaw tightening in determination.

“We’ll see. Very well, Observer Zorn. Here is your assignment for today: prepare a thaumic diagram of the relationship between the plains of necrotic and biotic energy using only the materials you can find in this room. You have until the end of the day.”

He’d worked for hours and when she’d reappeared at the ringing of the fourth bell, he’d arranged the chairs and a ball of string into the correct four-dimensional conformation. A soft hum of energy resonated through the chairs and the Obseran had nodded quietly.

“Not bad. Maybe you can see the Thaum. Maybe,” she added softly. She’d waved him out the door with the promise of the Focus on the morrow.

“I can’t believe you’ll get to use it!” said Cassie as they joined the throng of scholars moving towards the mess hall. “Do you know what she’ll have you look at?”

“She said something about it being basic,” answered Trav thoughtfully as he grabbed a wooden tray.

The Focus was the most renowned – and mysterious – of the Observatory’s instruments of thaumic investigation. Remex Matthews was its jealous keeper and to their knowledge, its only user. The rumour in the Hall of Thaums was that the Focus enabled the user to probe the mysteries of the Universe with undivided attention, looking past the veil of human near-sightedness to see what lay beneath.

Trav couldn’t wait.

***

The next morning he was standing once more in the centre of Matthews’ office. The top of the spire was curiously colder than the rest of the Observatory and Trav found himself shivering slightly in his linen robe.

“Well Observer Zorn? Will you be coming up any time soon? I don’t have all day!” came an angry screech from above his head.

Looking up, he saw Matthews’ hooked beak pointing at him from a trapdoor in the ceiling. She carelessly threw down a rope ladder, which he climbed gingerly.

He emerged and immediately gasped. His awestruck eyes swirled around aimlessly as they took on the impeccable perfection of the room lined with crystal pendants and endless spiralling gyroscopes set on the background of dark blue wall. As he followed each piece of the intricate moving mosaic he found his mind wandering; the crystals gleamed and shimmered disappearing in an instant. The gyroscopes and odd markings on the wall seemed to move and swirl until he was utterly lost in the unending confusion.

“When you’re quite finished gawking!” snapped Matthews sternly. She motioned to the small raised platform in the centre of the room. He moved to stand next to her; with a complex flourish, she twisted her hand in mid-air and caused a small pedestal to appear. Resting on a blue velvet cushion was the Focus, a simple crown of copper with two glistening opals set on either side.

“Right, boy. Listen closely:” she said grabbing the Focus and slipping it on to his head roughly, “today’s assignment is simple: I want you to observe the Sun. Nothing fancy. Take the day and really look at it. Then, if that goes well, tomorrow I’ll give you another assignment.”

She left without another word, slamming the trap door behind her.

Quiet filled the room and for the first time since his graduation, Trav felt calm. He closed his eyes and cautiously reached out with his mind towards the Focus.-

The story continues in Points of view: Part II

One thought on “Points of view: Part I

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