“Kaelyn, please pick up a new fire marble from the wizards while you are in town, the old one is close to evaporating, I fear.”

“Yes, Master Colm,” Kaelyn said, as she gathered her wallet, basket, and a light jacket. The day was pleasant but the weather was changeable today and it didn't do for a healer, even an apprentice healer, to be caught getting sick when it was preventable.

Master Colm's other apprentice, Daisy, looked up from her workbench, where she had been diligently preparing herbs and placing them on a drying rack. Her eyes were full of barely-disguised hope. “Oh, is Kaelyn going into town today? I hadn't realized it was a market day. And it's so nice out today...” Daisy trailed off, her hands still, eyes fixed on Colm.

The master healer laughed gently, and with his own eyes full of mock seriousness said “I suspect Kaelyn might have her hands full with everything we need this week. Perhaps you could assist her, Daisy?”

Daisy laughed, a little at her own transparency and also in gratitude for her master's kind understanding. “Well, if you think Kaelyn will be so burdened down I'll go help her.” She stood and hugged Colm from behind, arms around his shoulders for a moment as she stood behind him. “Thank you, Master. We won't be too long” She said as she ran off to gather her things.

“You may as well sit back down, Kaelyn, I suspect Daisy will be busy for a few minutes.”

Kaelyn nodded and sat, smiling.

“How are you getting along with the others in town, Kaelyn?” Colm asked.

“It's very nice here, Master!”

“It is indeed, but that's not what I asked.” Kaelyn looked down.

“Everyone is very kind, Master.”

“But you get overshadowed by Daisy from time to time in town,” Colm said, a statement, not a question. Kaelyn looked up at him, slightly surprised, but she shouldn't have been.

“Well...yes, Master. It's not that Daisy tries to—well, overshadow me, like you said—of course. She's the sweetest friend in the world. And it isn't that the others in town are deliberately excluding's just...they have all known each other for so long. They can tell an entire joke in two words because they all know each other so well.” Colm nodded.

Just then his wife came in.

“Kaelyn dear, based on the fact that Daisy is doing her hair up I'm guessing the two of you are headed into town for a bit of shopping. Can you grab me a few things as well?”

“Of course, Mama,” Kaelyn said, and accepted the list. Colm's wife Marion was the heart of the Healer's home, and had been “Mama” to a score of apprentices before Kaelyn and Daisy. Many of them still wrote to her or sent her gifts during the holidays.

“You're such a sweet one, Kaelyn dear,” Mama said and patted the younger woman on the shoulder affectionately. “Something tells me you'll be done shopping a bit before Daisy is, so go ahead and hire a runner to bring everything home and enjoy yourself a bit.” She pressed an extra coin into Kaelyn's hand. Kaelyn looked nervously at Colm. Before either could say anything Mama said “Now now, old man, we can afford it and the girl deserves some time to be something other than an apprentice.” Colm looked at his wife and smiled. “Well, when Mama has spoken... Hire the runner, and enjoy yourself for a bit.”

“Thank you, Mama, and thank you, Master Colm,” Kaelyn replied.

Walking into town with Daisy was always enjoyable. For all of her half-expressed concerns about being overshadowed, Kaelyn really did enjoy her fellow apprentice's company. Looking at them side by side, no one would mistake Kaelyn and Daisy as sisters, but they both had that stamp of “healer” on them, although they carried it in different ways.

Daisy was a little taller, had wider shoulders, and a natural athleticism that hadn't been dulled by her long hours of apprenticeship. During the summer months Daisy's face and hands were tan as she was fond of spending hours searching for needed herbs and roots out in the forests and fields, although during the winter her complexion would pale to almost match her hair.

She had long blond hair that was usually done in a sensible braid to keep it out of her way while she worked, but on market days she put some thought and time into her hair. She loved her namesake flower and would often weave it into small crowns for herself and Kaelyn.

Kaelyn's smile was gentler than Daisy's, but just as ready. She was more likely to listen than to speak, but her gentle heart and deep empathy had made her a welcome sight whenever a healer was needed. If Kaelyn was less likely to strike up a conversation in the street, she was more likely to remember your birthday and surprise you with a small remembrance that was suited both to your needs and personality. Her brown hair was shorter than Daisy's, but had a richness and depth of color that was striking in candle light or sunlight.

Both young women carried that air of “healer” though. A healer takes other people seriously, and studies deeply. A healer balances thought with action, and also balances thought with empathy. A healer's magic comes from deep focus, care and attention to detail. Colm was an excellent master, and his calming and assuring bedside manner was evident in his apprentices. When you were under their care you were the center of their world, regardless of personal concerns or other conditions. It would be easy, in many situations, to dismiss Daisy as the giddier of the two, flightier and less serious, but to do so would be a mistake.

They walked in friendly silence for a while, the sun warm and breeze cool.

“Do you think we will be allowed to Sojourn together, next year?” Daisy asked.

“I don't know; would you like to?” Kaelyn asked.

“I think so! And wouldn't that be such a great honor for Master Colm, to have two of his Apprentices gain their Master's Cowls at the same time?”

Kaelyn found herself quietly re-thinking her friend again. Shameful as it was to admit it, even internally, Kaelyn hadn't really been thinking about how her progress as a Healer would reflect on her master. But where others saw flightiness, this was where Kaelyn realized Daisy was her strongest: she thought of others all the time, her attention was permanently outwards.

“I heard that Master Colm made himself a gray cowl instead of white when he achieved Mastery,” Kaelyn said and Daisy laughed.

“I think that might be Mama's favorite secret to tell us Apprentices. She told me the same. I might copy him; it would be fitting, after all.” Daisy replied.

“Speaking of Mama, let me see that list she gave you,” Daisy said and looked it over.

“Hmmm, looks like we need to go to the general store, the herbalists, the cloth store, and the wizards. Tell you what, I'll let you go to the wizards if you also take the general store,” Daisy said, smiling impishly.

“What? Why...why would I want to go to the wizard?” Kaelyn said, blushing a little.

“Oh, no reason! I'm sure Mason won't even be there today.” Daisy said and giggled. Kaelyn giggled as well and said, “Well, if you really want to go to the fabric store I guess I can go talk to Mason.” Kaelyn smiled and gently pushed her friend to the side.

The air carried a slight tang of the sea even this far inland. Strand wasn't a large town, indeed it had long been a simple fishing village until an enterprising citizen had spent some time building a deeper harbor, and a modest but prosperous shipping company that operated out of Strand Harbor. Strand was often called a “training city” due to the high number of young professionals in town, and the accordingly large number of apprentices as each master in their craft sought to build their reputation by training up a new generation. Colm lived just a short way out of town, closer than most farmers, but far enough from the bustle of the town square to feel peaceful and rustic. Still, young people wanted to spend time with others their age, no matter how kindly their masters.

Once they reached the town square they were greeted by several people. Daisy may be more outgoing than Kaelyn but it was a close contest. A small community like Strand was tightly knit out of necessity and both young women were well liked.

“Daisy, Let's meet back at the Fountain when we're done. Mama gave me money to hire a Runner, so we'll load everything up there and send the Runner back, then we can stay at the Fountain for a bit when we're done.”

“Oh, Mama was feeling generous today! Okay, I'll see you in an hour or so. Say hi to Mason for me!” Daisy said and headed off to complete her errands.

“Maybe I will, maybe I won't,” Kaelyn said, smiling quietly to herself as she headed to the wizard's workshop.

As she walked the short distance she thought about what wizards did. She hadn't ever really understood their craft, not really. Healing is...well, natural. Certain herbs and roots and preparations are good for people, that was just obvious. And of course the skill of the Healer counted, it took effort and focus to perform the preparations and remember the rituals. But wizard art was altogether different. Master Colm had explained that all kinds of “art”, as he called it, came from the exchange, and recited his favorite little poem, the one he had taught to every Apprentice that had been in his care:

For an act to have power It must also have cost; There must be something selected And something else lost.

And Kaelyn and Daisy had listened politely, that first day, but hadn't understood until weeks later. A lazily prepared charm did no good. Sloppily minced or dried herbs lost their potency. There was more to “the art” than just which leaves or which mixtures; that was just cooking. The art of healing required something of the healer, it required time, effort, and attention. And Kaelyn had started to understand that the other “arts” were similar.


© 2020-2021 Nathanial Dickson. Written during #NaNoWriMo 2020 Contact me on Mastodon