Two figures, a man and halfling, not yet 8 years old, run through a shoulder-high field of blue stalks lit in dim reddish light. The darkness does not slow them; the man knows the path well. In the trance of running, a memory overtakes him, blunting the edge of his pressing fear. Much younger, he runs down the same valley behind a halfling close in age to the boy who currently sprints at his side. Fear is laced with the giddy delight of mischief: he and his halfling friend have a stolen prize from home, and their plans are too perfect, brilliant and secret. Now the man’s breath catches as a deep pain squeezes out fresh tears, interrupting the dream… the more recent vision of his friend’s charring body momentarily upstages the childhood scene…
But the hard pace of the run calms the man and, … a child again, his friend sprints ahead through the same field of soft bluemana at the edge of their village’s territory. The field ends suddenly at an expanse of rough planes which reach out to the jagged grey peaks of the crescent mountains on the southern horizon. It is night, but the scene is brighter than the typical dusk, lit reddish orange with light from Miro, a huge gassy star. When full, Miro is quite bright, though never so bright as Shy, a smaller but much lighter star whose presence marks the arrival and departure of day. The boys have chosen this night well, as Miro is fully visible, casting more than enough light to run by.
A patch of clear ground near a boulder is scraped clean of debris and the stolen knife laid out carefully. The two boys crouch down opposite each other with the knife between them. The halfling picks the blade up first. His father is a healer, so he does not find thought of drawing his own blood so entirely forbidden. The blade is keen and draws a line of white blood on his palm with only a slight press. The human boy follows suit, determined to not betray his fear, though a tear escapes his eye against his bidding. White blood tinted pink by Miro’s light drips down both their hands onto the dirt. As the edge of the pain fades, both boys stagger upright. As their minds clear, they again become bold. Delighted with their mischief and ready to finalize the pledge, they grasp bleeding hands fiercely, both wincing momentarily as their hands awake with new pain and with the strange sensation of anther’s blood mixing with their own.
They’ve reached the boulder. The man glaces behind and, seeing the torch lights of their pursuers beyond the second hill, hastily pulls from his coat pockets a satchel, a small razor, and a small blue and green square of knotted threads. He sets down the satchel, and, clearing his mind, cuts two small incisions in his palms through recently clotted scabs and grasps the intricate knot with both hands. After a moment, a circle appears on the boulder’s surface and slowly deepens as the man squints and sweats. At last he relaxes and looks down to see the young halfling at his side handing him the satchel. “Thank you Lamar,” he says under his breath, taking the satchel and placing it at the back of the new hole. He then focuses again, grasping the knot tightly. Sweat pours down from his brow and he grinds his teeth, but the hole quickly closes, and the boulder again looks as if worn only by the hand of nature. Lamar, hearing their pursuers not to far off tugs at the man’s sleeve, and they set off again, Westward now, moving quickly, though the man falters now and again.
As the lights brighten behind them, casting their shadows far forward, they near a large cave on the side of a hill. The man pushes the boy inside, into the dark, and staggers to a stop at the entrance. For a moment, he bends forward, catching his breath; then drawing another knotted square from his pocket, he stands upright to greet his pursuers. The gang approaches the cave running and shouting, torches flickering; but before they come under the cave’s mouth their leader cries for them to halt. Quickly assessing their query and then the rocks above, he shouts to his men, “This man is a greenmage! Stay back from the rocks or he’ll bring them down upon us all!” The men slow to a stop nervously. “You two, grab him quickly and pull him outside!” The leader shouts, pointing at two of the men. The two men hesitate, but their hot blood overcomes and they rush the cave.
Clutching the knot, the mage steps backward and grimaces, calling strength he does not have to feed energy through the knot in his hands. The energy comes and he can feel it rush through his body, scraping the interior walls of his veins raw and then ragged as it tears out of him and then out through the knot, echoing the knot’s pattern into the rock of the cave’s ceiling. The rock groans for a moment, and then begins to fall, but the mage does not see. A feeling of unfamiliar nurturing entirely fills his consciousness. He smiles, in love with all of his children. As the last part of his mind lets go, he relaxes gratefully, knowing that of all known forms of magepassion this is one of the gentlest. The rocks are upon him now, crushing him now, but… “at least her children… at least my children will live and be happy, for now and forever…” the man thinks to himself, though he has neither a wife nor children of his own.