The next morning Kaelyn dressed as normal and realized that she wasn't working for Colm that morning...her routine was broken...it was a moment of freedom that every apprentice thinks they hope for until the moment comes. She went downstairs and Mama greeted her, and asked her to help set the table. At least that hadn't changed.
But...after breakfast. Somewhat self-consciously Kaelyn put on her new cloak and told Colm, “Master, I believe I should learn more about Brant, so I'm heading back into town...if that's okay...” She hadn't meant to ask permission, that wasn't how it was done, she wasn't an apprentice any more. But just telling Master Colm what she was doing, it seemed disrespectful.
“That seems like a good place to start, Sojourner.” Colm said. “I wish you good luck.” He smiled. “You know that you don't need to ask permission any more, but you don't want to be disrespectful. Trust me to know you better than that, my friend. Follow your intuition, and ask me for advice, but not permission.”
“Thank you, Master Colm,” Kaelyn said and headed outside. She wondered how obvious her new rank would be to others in town; those who have seen Colm's apprentices would know why she was wearing a dove gray cloak...Suddenly she was very self-conscious.
But also determined. This was important, this was Daisy. She stood up straight, and walked into town with confidence. She was a Sojourner Healer now, capital letters and all.
A few glances were cast her direction as she walked into the town square, but she had one target in mind right now. Heading straight for the dry goods store, she smiled at people she knew...and realized something. This wasn't hard, these weren't strangers. This was still “her town” even if she was promoted now or whatever.
She found Eric tending the shop when she entered. “Hello Eric, how are things today?”
“Good, Miss. What can I do for you today?”
“I'm concerned for Brant, and wondering where he went, wondering if he was fully healthy,” She said, all of that actually true, although not entirely accurate as far as her motives were concerned. “Could I see his bedroom? Perhaps there are some hints there.”
“Well, I guess that would be all right, Miss Kaelyn, if you think it will help.”
“Honestly, Eric, I don't know if it will or not, but I'm doing my best.” Eric seemed to consider this and nodded. He led her to Brant's small bedroom above the shop. It was a typical hired hand type of room: a bed that was meant to outlast a thousand tenants, a nightstand built of raw wood, a dresser that had been in the home as long as the home had been there. “Thank you, Eric. I suspect I will be down shortly,” Kaelyn said and unfastened her cloak, laying it carefully over a chair. Eric took her meaning and left her to it.
So. Now she had access to Brant's room and no idea what she was looking for. But she had a nagging thought. That...sullen spot in his mind. That was something. She had no idea how to find an emotion in a room...but maybe this was the point of the Sojourn: to use your skills in new ways. She closed her eyes, and let the feelings of the room soak into her mind.
Being a healer gives you a different view of the world. Healers know more about people than “nice girls” should know; there are few realities of the human condition that stay hidden for long. This room was...was permeated with the feelings of being a teenage boy. And it almost made her cry as she felt what it must be like to be Brant. Fear, desire, curiosity, these were similar to her own feelings, but with a harder, more urgent edge. Kaelyn was considered reticent when in comparison to Daisy, but Brant...Brant had been cut off almost entirely. She sat delicately on the chair, feeling her cloak with one hand, eyes still closed.
In the dark, the smallest amount of light eventually makes an impression. And so it was with Kaelyn's senses as she sat there, eyes closed. Slowly she became aware of a red...spot in the direction of the foot of the bed. As she sat still it grew in her mind, a sullen...yes, it was the same feeling. A sullen red spot. She opened her eyes and walked to the bed. Then, glad that Eric had left the room, lay full on the floor, looking under the bed. Yes, there it was. A book. She pulled it out and put it in her satchel, worried that it might destroy the energies she had worked so hard to instill in her herbs. But it couldn't be helped. She needed somewhere to focus and read. And she had an idea where she might go.
She put her cloak back on and headed down the stairs. “Thank you, Eric. Tell me, was Brant studying anything beyond the mercantile profession when he lived with you?”
“Um, I don't know what you mean, Miss. He never went to any classes if that's your meaning.”
“That's good to know. What did he do in his free time?”
“Well, sometimes he would go out into the woods, but so does anyone. He spent a lot of time alone in his room. Ma said that weren't healthy for a young man, but Dad said Brant was his own man and to leave him be.”
“Hmmm... Well, thank you again, Eric. Oh, by the way, when Brant sent a runner out to Colm's cottage...did it return that night?”
Eric looked at her like she was speaking crazy. “Um...runners don't usually return, Miss. You should have used it for firewood, I would think.”
Kaelyn smiled gently. “That's good advice. Thank you again, Eric.” She said and left the building, heading to the edge of town, to a place that might be able to help her with understanding why a book would feel...ugh, she needed a new word, sullen.
Or maybe she just wanted to see Mason again.
The bell over the door rang as Kaelyn entered the wizard's workshop. Mason was bent over a workbench, heavy book in front of him on a stand, while Sonja carefully measured some powder into a wide, flat dish made of glass. Sonja looked up from her work and turned to face Kaelyn.
“So, the apprentice...no, the Sojourner comes again. Have you so impressed Colm so quickly? That's no small feat, girl. And what can the arcane arts do for the natural?” Sonja's voice was a low, clear alto, powerful and untarnished for all of her apparent age. So too were her eyes sharp and clear.
It would be pointless to dissemble even a little here. Kaelyn pulled the book from her satchel.
“I know that objects can have energies, beyond their inherent materials, and while our art doesn't use books, but I know that yours does. This book seems to have a...negative energy. I'd like to know more about it.”
Sonja was opening a small cupboard before Kaelyn had stopped speaking and pulled out a small device that looked like a pince-nez made of ruby. She looked at the book in Kaelyn's hand and...froze. No exclamation, nothing so amateur. But every part of her indicated that this was suddenly very important. Keeping her voice impassive she said, “Mason, this would be a valuable learning opportunity for you. Come, observe through the spectroscope, and give me your impressions. Sojourner, would you please set the book on the workbench...not just there...here, between these sigils.” She said, all business.
Kaelyn set the book down on a section of the workbench that was made of a different wood...it looked like oak, and each corner had sigils picked out in inlaid gold. The four sigils shone briefly as she set the book down.
Mason took the pince-nez from his magister and came to look at the book. He had yet to learn his teacher's self control, and the look of shock that crossed his face was quite obvious.
“Have a seat, Sojourner.” Sonja said, and Mason silently brought a chair over for Kaelyn.
“Perhaps you had better explain; this requires some context, I think.”
Kaelyn nodded and explained briefly about the disappearance of Daisy and Brant. Mason nodded but Sonja listened intently. “I see...honestly I hadn't thought about that. Apprentices disappear all the time. Can't be helped. But you saw more. Go on.”
So Kaelyn explained about the runner, and Daisy's meticulously neat room, and her own fears, and Colm's charge. Finding the right pace for Sonja was frustrating; some parts of the story were met with “of course of course, what else?” While other points that Kaelyn had thought minor were scrutinized, and Kaelyn often felt that she had somehow given a wrong answer.
”...And then I brought the book here, I figured your workshop would be safest place, should it be...malevolent.”
Sonja nodded. “Sensible. Marion taught you sense, or you've always been sensible. Don't know; haven't really paid you much attention yet. Might have to now.” Kaelyn had absolutely no idea what to make of that.
Sonja stood and paced the length of the workshop. Kaelyn looked to Mason for any advice, but his alert eyes were focused on the older woman. After her second circuit of the room Sonja came and stood in front of Kaelyn. Even seated, Kaelyn was almost as tall as the Magister.
“Sensible decisions should be rewarded. You are free to use the secure bench. Don't move the book, it's safe where it is. You can come here at any time. We can answer questions, Mason can help you if you need his help. But this is your responsibility, Sojourner. So said your Master, I won't gainsay.”
And then she stood there, bright eyes focused on Kaelyn's face. Another test.
“You've never seen this book before, but...something about it, something you saw through your device...told you something. Something you didn't expect.”
“But it fit something else you already knew about.”
“What did you learn? Can I use your device to learn the same thing, or does it require proficiency with your art?”
Sonja smiled a thin, tight smile. “Good question. You wouldn't understand what you saw, not without training. Mason understood. Mason, tell the Sojourner what you saw.”
Mason nodded, and looked at the ceiling to focus his thoughts. “There is an aura...an 'energy' as you say, around that book. It's powerful, in a way beyond the normal power of words. The energy is negative, again you were right. We have seen evidence of a...similar energy being practiced, some days ago. We have been researching it, because it's not something you want in your town.”
“Are you being elusive on purpose,” Kaelyn asked. “What is being practiced?”
“Can you read, Sojourner?” Asked Sonja.
“Then read the book you have brought us. We are not being elusive, we just want your unbiased opinion. Form an opinion, then ask again.” Sonja said, then looked around. “Lunchtime, I think. I'll go eat. You are free to stay here, come and go as you please, just close the door when you leave. Good luck, Sojourner.”