A late snack

“However it must be stated that the usage of the seven sigil transformation in combination with the principles of Kordur does not grant confluence to the Baghya Strand as was described in the previous chapters. As to why the aforementioned theories did not work, no final conclusion could be made”, Azadus sighed.

He had tried it dozens of times but never achieved any success. He has had such high hopes but now the only thing left, was to write a proper documentation, a documentation of his failure. What bugged him was that he could not see any reason why it did not work. He had asked colleagues to review his sequences of spells but none of them saw any mistake.

While he was thinking about what could have been the reason, the candle he had lit hours ago went out, leaving him sitting in the dark. Azadus cursed. He mumbled a few words under his beard and a small sphere of light appeared out of nowhere. He smiled. However old he was or whenever he cast that spell, he would always remember learning it as a little boy and the first time he succeeded. While attaching the sphere to the candle stick holder, he started to stretch and yawn. He noticed the void inside his stomach. “So many missed dinners and yet so much belly”, he thought. Maybe he should stop trying to figure out the fundamental principles of magic and focus on this phenomenon. He smiled and started his way to the buttery, wondering about what gluttonous adventures might wait for him.

A few meters on his way he felt lightheaded. Lacking something to lean on, he stopped and took deep breaths. He had overdone it again. The others had already left for dinner, seemingly hours ago but he had stayed and tried to prove his theory, maybe once to often. He needed more exercise, he knew and he needed to stop staying so long in the library. “Nothing some cold meat can’t cure”, he said to himself. Gaining more confidence in his feet bit by bit, he continued his way through the long halls of bookshelves.

As Azadus arrived in the buttery, he was disappointed. In his mind he was indulging himself in cold meat, fried bacon or maybe some fish but the only thing he could find was millet gruel, stale bread and old cheese. And not even the good kind of old cheese. But he could smell something delicious. He started rummaging around in the cupboards searching for some gammon, mustard and butter. Every once in a while he forgot that he lived in a monastery and that there were fasting periods. A barbaric relict, he thought. He had read about the former religious devotion of the cloister but since the concept of the five strands had been proven and found its way into society, many wonders could be explained and overall people had become more secularistic. But yet, some things never changed

“Missed dinner again?”
Azadus dropped the knife he just found and turned around in shock. “Erm… yes.”
“You know that it is Pahilo Bhoka and that you are not supposed to eat after sundown?”
Azadus relaxed. It was Pienna, one of the kitchen maids.
“Ah, but you know, since the earth is a round object, somewhere it is daylight, just now”, he countered.
“You have tried that before but I still cannot see that the earth is round.”
“Well if I had, then I would have told you that the radius of the earth is quite large and since we are tiny compared to the earth, we wouldn’t notice?”
“Yes, you would have told me that.” Her glance could pierce armor, Azadus thought.
“Ah, well, then I am sure you know that you could see the effects on the ocean, you would see another ship disappearing on the horizon with the bottom first.”
“I have never been to the sea.”
“You can be quiet a pest, Pienna. Do you know that?”
“Maybe, but I know that there have been some warnings from the Prior, regarding missing food.” They both laughed.
“What are you doing here anyway? Aren’t you suppposed to sleep?”
“We are preparing the Sveta for the Thulo party and it is my turn to check the fire and stir the broth.” Lamo paka’i’eko Sveta was one of the traditional dishes served on the large feast, ending the fasting period. It was said that a cook would die of shame, if he hadn’t cooked it for at least 24 hours or more. Resulting in a thick brown broth that could not only cure any cold but revive the dead.
“If you have such an honorable duty, why are you hunting down poor old men who have eaten nothing all day?”
“To be honest, I doubt that you haven’t eaten all day. But maybe there is a bowl of Sveta left for a poor, old, half blind, senile old man.”

Pienna opened the door to the kitchen. She took one of the bowls out of a drawer and filled it with the hot stock. It was thick and filled with carrots and celery and whole corns of pepper. Azadus could feel his stomach growling.
Pienna added some of the meat from the stock, which was already detached from its bone. “Here, have some bread. I roasted it a little on the fire.”
Azadus inhaled the warm steam coming from his bowl before dipping his spoon in. The smell was intoxicating.
“It is not done yet but it will be a very good Sveta.” They sat a while and shared some more food, before Azadus thanked Pienna and went for his chambers. Thankfully, she hadn’t noticed that he slipped some gammon in his robe.

An Idea

Azadus couldn’t stop grinning on the way to his cell. Pinching small portions of food always made him feel like a master thief. Sneaking in and sneaking out, like a shadow and no one would ever find out. Except Pienna. And the Prior.
Maybe stealing wasn’t his forte. However, the short distraction didn’t last long. How could he get in touch with the Essence of Fate? It had always fascinated him, more than the other strands. His tutors often warned him that no one has ever been able to use the Essence of Fate, if he was not born with the talent for it.

Back in his small room, he created a small sphere of light and warmth. It had gotten warmer but the chambers in the cloister still were cold all day and especially at night.

How would it be? Seeing the future? He had read all the books and scrolls he could find about the topic, reports of fateweavers, describing their experience, mediums talking about their contact with the deceased, even though Azadus thought that this was just a ruse or a mental disease anyway.
People talking about a sixth strand, the Essence of Chaos? This was ridiculous and they had no evidence to back it up, none of the suggested experiments were repeatable.

But forecasting the future of individuals, this was proven to be true. So why exactly were his experiments failing?
He had talked to Ephihom a few days ago, during one of the morning prayers, about the sequence he was going to use in his experiment. Ephi said that it seemed to be good and he trusted Ephi’s opinion on magical rituals.
But not when it was about going for a drink. He could still remember him saying “Just one beer, come on”, but the memories of what happened afterwards were blurry, if present at all. What he could remember, however, was the torture; morning prayer had been the day after. The priest had noticed that they were still drunk and had appointed them to be his acolytes, just out of spite. Azadus had to sing three prayers, trying with every sentence not to throw up, while Ephi had to stand still holding the ostensory.

It was their bad luck that it had been the fest of Dina’s rise, where the sermon took twice as long as usual. And Azadus could not get rid of the thought that the priest would just stall the whole sermon already. He held back as long as possible but in the end, when the last churchgoer was gone he puked in the font. The priest’s screaming could be heard for miles. For six weeks he had to clean the lavatories using only a hand shovel and was not allowed to speak, except for prayer. And even months after his original punishment was over, he still got the cold shoulder from the other monks. It was only when he had taken care of Buren Ashendai, the head librarian, during his sickness, that he was treated as a fellow monk again.
Ephi had been on the easy end of the stick. He still claims that he threw up twice inside his robe and that it was therefore quite easy not to move. He had been punished to take a shower everyday in winter but when he developed a pneumonia, he was let off again.

But the relation to Buren had brought Azadus an enormous insight in the studies of magic and the five strands and was considered his starting point for being seen as an expert on the strands.
He often wondered if he could have foreseen those consequence if he had that ability.

Azadus lay muffled in his blanket for quite a while ruminating over his theories until he finally fell asleep.

As he woke up the next morning, his room was icy and cold. Boestos had held a comeback overnight and the snow lay thick on the ground, even though Eltos had already shown its face. Azadus’ nose was cold and it was hard to fully wake up, like rising from sticky, viscous honey, as if a weight held him below the boarders of conciousness. He took a deep breath, opened his eyes and saw his breath as he exhaled. Again. In his own room. Every day in Boestos and it wouldn’t stop until Eltos was already over. Why couldn’t it just be warm the whole year? He turned his head and realized that sunrise still wasn’t over, that he had woken up early, before the first stroke of the bell. His body sat up, even though his mind wanted to stay in bed. He sighed. The small bowl with water on his table had an icy covering on it. Again.

A quick check of the pan under his bed, the one with the coals to keep him warm at night, told him that it was already cold. Usually he used the rest of the heat to warm up the water, but this night the ember was already out, so he put it back under his bed. He dipped his hands into the water and huffed two times, bracing him for the upcoming shock. While the water hit his face and the blood rushed into his cheeks to warm it back up again, he puffed and blew and the water splashed around everywhere. After repeating the procedure two more times, he took a piece of cloth to dry his face.

He sighed. Couldn’t he just be motivated to get up for once? Longingly he saw to his blanket. There was still some time until morning prayer, but if he fell asleep again, it would just get worse. Maybe some day he would be able to sleep as long as he wanted.

Fully clothed he shut the door to his cell. He longed for some warmth and went down the hallway to the cauldron room. It was frowned upon using magic for everyday purposes, like lighting fire or warming up your water for washing, but during Pahilo Bhoka it was strictly forbidden, with dire consequenses. So, since hundreds of years during this time, the monks used a large and heavy cauldron, filled with wood and coal, whatever was cheaper that year, to keep one room warm in the monastery, for the inhabitants to warm up and have a cup of tea. It was also a good way to have a chat outside of the daily duty or a surreptitiously chat during one of the sermons. Except for the week of silence, before the fest of Mortus. No one ever talked there.

The fire guard jumped up as he entered the room. It was one of the novices, Azadus had not managed to remember the name of. “D.. Dina be with you!” stuttered the young man. The rings around the eyes were telling on him. Most likely he was about to fall asleep. “And with you.” Azadus mumbled and went to the teapot to take one of the fresh mugs. The fire was dangerously low, but the tea was still steaming.

“Tell me, son, how low do you think the fire should burn?” he said while pouring a cup.
“Not so low, I think.” The novice stood up and added a few pieces of wood.
“No, no no, not like this, look here. How is air supposed to get to this piece? And over here?” Azadus took the long iron hook from the holder and started to poke around in the fire.
“Look, if you stack it too tightly, it will start to smoke instead of really burning, and we don’t want that inside of the room, do we?”
“No, master, of course not.” The boy looked inside the cauldron with interest.
“See? Like this.” Azadus had shuffled the wood into a complicated pattern.
“But if you continuously put more wood inside, you don’t have to stack it up that much.” The boy lowered his gaze.
“How long have you been here? Err… what was your name again?” “Ibon, Master, Ibon Nashuni.”
“Good, Ibon. Next time, rather put in a small amount more often, than seldom more, do you understand?” Ibon looked puzzled. Azadus smiled.
“Maybe some quiet contemplation will help you understand. After all, it is Pahilo Bhoka, a time to go inside yourself and think.” Ibon nodded and folded his hands. Both of them stared into the ember until it arose to a fire again.
The warmth flooded his chilled bones and eased the tension inside his muscles and he kept staring at the flames, sipping his tea.