Chapter 5: Ashwind
May powerful wings carry us deeply into the abyss of the skies blue, may heavy winds hold us high and push us through, and may the hands of gods guide our path true.
We’d been flying for a few minutes now, I was really starting to feel like this could be my thing. Aunt Emily’s familiar flew among us, crossing over and around me and I obliged him with playful flight. Wis was a chipper little pigeon, if id ever saw one. Finally I had caught up to Emily with a burning question, “so nobody really flies on brooms?” I yelled, trying to make myself heard over the sound of the air moving past us. “Oh god no!” she said, letting out a laugh “would you want to be sitting on a broom right now?” she shouted, then letting out another laugh. I thought about it and realized she was definitely right. “Although you can fly on anything made from Floating oak you know, it can be anything really.” She paused,
“I once seen a giraffe made out of the stuff before, a young sorcerer flew it in a parade” she shouted again, so I could hear her over the sound of the passing wind, followed by a chuckle. Then glancing playfully at me she flew upward quickly as to evade me then took off, I followed close behind in this friendly race. Soon we were flying over small houses then large houses some buried half into the hills, some on top of them, even some in the trees and then we came upon the city, which I knew was Citrine. It was amazing to look upon this bustling city from above, people flying low, just above it from shop to shop, on whatever strange flying device they had sat upon. I even saw a man pedaling a wooden bicycle through the air, as if just pedaling nonchalantly along the street. He’d even sent us a cheerful wave when he noticed us above.
Soon we moved beyond the energetic city of Citrine, leaving it behind us as we closed in upon a place that was growing of dense eeriness. A vast forest came into view, stretching as far as my eye could see. It was really dense, unlike the forest we had been flying over for quite some time, this forest seemed impenetrable. I imagined the sun never seen the forests floor here. As I looked out I seen alien looking trees towering over others, leaves larger than my entire body and some seeming as small as a fingernail, Emily brought us down to a clearing right before the forest, the clearing was a circle of dirt with no plant life within it at all, it had been encompassed by 10 large podiums. Atop them were one single large, but dirty looking yellow candle. It seemed as though within the circle of which these candles were placed, nothing grew and no birds flew. Once we touched down I saw that the candles burned very brightly against the dense, dark innards of the forest around us. On the north end of the circle I now seen a wooden sign, hung from chains and latched to a large twisting tree branch, it read Ashwind.
Before my aunt said anything i asked her another question, which i’m sure she’d had enough of at this point. “Do you think i have a familiar?” I asked, she looked at me intensely for a moment, then her head fell. “i’m afraid not, i imagine your familiar would have died when you were an infant. Whatever had blocked your attachment to the source, would have surely blocked your link with a familiar. and without that link, your familiar would hav perished.” She said sadly, a sad feeling washed over me. Something i guess i couldn’t blame my unknown parents for, from what Emily said my mother must have been trying to protect me.
“Go now, don’t want to stick around here too long” Emily said, I paused and didn’t react right away, still taking in the scene around me. “Is it safe?” I asked, feeling nervous as the only forest i’d ever been in was central park. “Yes, and I’ll be keeping an eye on you from here,” she answered, though I didn’t understand what this meant. So I began to walk, I passed underneath the eerie sign and into the dense alien forest, once I was within it, my surroundings seemed dark. I felt weary again, so I had turned back to look at my aunt once more, before she would be out of view, she nodded at me as if it was ok, then began sitting cross legged with her hands on her knees. She went under some type of trance, her familiar Wis perched now upon her shoulder. From my view now, her eyes seemed strangely white. I turned my head back to focus on the forest in front of me, I had been surrounded by immense trees that looked not of this world, or at least not of the world I had been accustomed to. Large roots or vines lurched from the ground and then back within it, like large bark covered serpent statues frozen in time. As I walked deeper the protruding roots grew even larger to where I could walk beneath them, as if a natural archway.
Around me swirled what looked like small glowing insects of all colors, they would flutter away when my gaze cast upon them. Unlike the forest surrounding my aunt Emily’s house, I wouldn’t think to find a rogue unicorn roaming these woods. Walking deeper my surroundings darkened, I could see no sunlight peering through the treetops, only an ambient glow seemingly cast by the forest itself lit my way.
At one point I heard the treetops chatter, pushed by a large gust of wind. A leaf the size of a car fell nearly on top of me as it shifted back and forth dancing its way to the ground. This gave the illusion that if I wasn’t careful, I may be crushed. Mushrooms grew from the ground here, towering over me like a large umbrella. The more I walked aimlessly, the more strange creatures I noticed. First a strange little chipmunk like creatures sat in my path, it had 3 feathery tails and pointy ears, an odd butterfly or moth drifted past me, its wings reminded me of the white dandelion seeds, that would fill the air in springtime. I had soon become more comfortable, I also became more explorative and in tune. I noticed a strange, monkey-like creature peering around a small tree at me, this went unnoticed before, but I knew it was following me, curious of what I was doing here.
I’d only noticed its swirly ears and large eyes as they peeked out from behind random things, looking as if it traveled from one to the other by teleportation, though I couldn’t tell if this was the truth, i’d expected anything at this point. What I could see is it’s petite long fingers as it grasped things to peer around them, ready to dart away as my eyes found it, but then soon it had vanished entirely, becoming bored of me I assumed. I could have sworn one of the trees even shook itself, causing all the birds on its branches to take off. It reminded me of a horse shaking off flies. Soon after I had an urge to veer to the right, I almost felt as if it was whispered into my ear by some unseen entity. I also felt watched, but not in a way of malice, more in a way that had felt of curiosity. As I delve even deeper now into the living forest, I seen a glow in the distance, bright and orange its source hidden by a large group of trees, but given away by the light it cast on those surrounding it. I was compelled to find out what it was, though so much of me screamed to turn back and not pursue it. I felt my breathing become more rapid as I got closer, telling me I shouldn’t push towards it. Even my hands were now clammy. Those same whispers in my ear spoke of weariness.
My feet all of a sudden felt soar, I realized I had been walking for close to an hour. It felt as if my body had been trying to convince me, in every way, to turn around. I hadn’t actually known how long I’d been walking, only assumed, I encroached ever so near to the eerie warm glow, I could almost see the source as its light kissed my skin. The glimmering lights that I’d thought before to be insects we’re now surrounding me. They had arms and legs and glowing little faces, they seemed to be tugging on me, telling me to stop and turn back.
This is when I was distracted by the sharp crack of a stick beneath my feet, I was so mesmerized with inspecting this out of place light, that I hadn’t watched where I was going. I looked down to see my foot had sat upon a strange branch of wood, it looked very out of place, almost as if it were placed there. The wood had been covered in black ashy bark, and its shape curled like the lock of a little girl’s bouncing hair. Yet beneath the bark, its wood was colored scarlet like fine red wine. I picked up the strange branch then glanced about to find the source, I couldn’t see a single tree that looked as if it bore this branch. But after all the treading through this alien forest, I felt as if I had found what I came looking for, my mind no longer hungered to know the source of the glowing light which eluded me, I now only felt the need to turn back. So this must have been what Emily meant, that it would call upon me to take its branch. Though this one had just been sitting upon the ground, i guess that would do though.
So i turned, heading back the way I came. The return journey back to the circle was less nerve wracking. I was now being led by the tiny glowing creatures that filled the forest, as a lighthouse would guide a stray ship, I soon felt as if I was exploring familiar terrain, my steps seemed more confident with every one I took, then soon the forest opened up, I could see the flickering of the large yellow candles upon their pedestal. As the sky came into view I realized it was now nightfall.
This is something I couldn’t have possibly noticed before, as the strange forest blocked the sky almost completely, giving off its own lighted glow, that seemed to beam through its living skin of moss and wood, this had guided my path. I couldn’t believe it, had i been in the forest all day? It was morning when we’d left to come here. I walked towards the flickering candles now, to my surprise seeing my Aunt Emily sprawled out on the dirt, like she was making snow angels. She leaped up after hearing my footsteps, looking bored. “I wasn’t sure if you were planning to camp out or what!” she said excited to see me. “I suppose you found your branch?” She asked happily, “Yes, right here” I screeched with excitement, holding my red curling branch in the air as if my winning trophy. “Interesting” she said glancing at my branch, “did you pull this right from the tree that it came from?” she asked, “no” I replied.
“Did you see the tree?” she then asked, “no” I responded again, “I did look around for the tree, a bit, but couldn’t find anything that looked similar.” I then replied, deciding to leave out any mention of the glow I had seen from within the forest. “Odd, but very cool” she said, reaching her hand out waiting for me to hand her the branch, she then examined it thoroughly. “It’s a good piece, nice and strong, also seems dense enough to focus a good amount of power. It looks like you’ve found a pretty rare wand wood!” she sang confidently, handing it back to me. “Though i wouldn’t know the first thing about wooden wands. Off we go again then, night flight can be dangerous and I forgot our lanterns, how silly of me. Lets hope we don’t collide with any flyers-by” she said with misplaced joy, as if to poke fun at how long I’d kept her waiting. I responded with a smile and a nod, I was eager to be off and start the process of making my wand.
I held my float in my right hand, my scarlet branch in the left, before I took flight I glanced back at an old creaking sign, hanging ominously overtop a forest entrance, “Ashwind” I said to myself, as I reminisced about all the beauty and mystery that it held within its woods.
I then sat upon my so called float and willed it to go UP! We made our way over the trees and past the city again, which looked even more enticing at night. Aunt Emily’s pigeon perched upon her for the flight back, Wis, peered on in all directions as if scanning for something, keeping watch. I could see the blinking of lightening bugs and other strange creatures below me as they fluttered or crawled about, the leaves would glow when shaken by the creatures that danced upon the branches. I was stunned by their luminescent abilities, when I asked Emily why this was she simply answered “do you think we’re the only ones who use sorcery?” Then giving me a wink.
We had finally arrived home, the flight back had seemed to take twice as long. Though I chalked this up to my excitement. That’s when my aunt pulled out a pocket watch, “oh hun, we must hurry and make your wand, its almost time to nod off to the academy!” she said, “Academy, are you crazy?” I screeched, I had been dead tired there was no way she expected me to go to this place at bedtime, and after i was meandering through a strange forest all day. Did people here also not need to sleep and I just missed the memo, I thought. “I’m not going anywhere but bed now.” I said sternly, my aunt burst out with a laugh. “Oh I forget that you don’t know, bed is precisely where you’re headed off to” She said as if what she was saying had been common information.
“Don’t get your wand in a knot hun, it’s only orientation for tonight, and you’ll be astral projecting to the academy while you sleep!” She added, “astral projecting, like a ghost or something?” I asked, I’d read enough books and seen enough TV to understand the idea, but I was unsure what she exactly meant. “Well not quite, we are going to send your spiritual body to the academy, while your physical body sleep soundly here in your bed. Your mind will retain everything that you learn, as the mind is the link between your spiritual and physical body, also the academy itself is enchanted to make everything you do feel and seem as real as possible when projecting there, the only thing you can’t do is eat” she said, which seemed simple enough. “Yeah sounds good to me i guess” I responded, sarcastically followed by a shrug, I really had no idea what I was getting into, I was just along for the ride at this point.
“I’ve just got to dig up my old whispersilk,” she said, pausing “A cloth woven by the loom of a the gods themselves ya know, the same loom that wove the fabric of existence they say. it’ll hide and protect your physical body from entry by any unwanted spirits or entities, even hides you from sight of those same gods.” She added, i thought about what she said for a moment “unwanted entities, like rapists?” I asked jokingly, “well I guess rapists too, but unwanted spirits and things along those lines, the ones looking for a vessel” she answered with sarcasm. I was about to ask her if she could delve deeper into what “things along those lines” meant but she pulled me away in haste to begin making my wand, i probably didn’t want to know anyways.
I was sat down, Emily threw a towel on the table in front of me then scurried off, rummaging through the old house, setting things she dug up upon the towel as she walked past, coming from one direction then the other, setting down tools, and stones, and then some type of wax or clay before finally returning one last time, holding a silvery transparent blanket. I was mostly drawn to the blanket that seemed to allow me to see straight through her arm it hung over. She noticed my impressed gaze, “Yep, that’s whispersilk for ya” she said cheerfully.
“There now you’re good to go,” she added, explaining what each tool was for, how to use the grinding stones and exactly where I should cut my wand, to designate the tip and the base. All of this was a little trickier due to the swirling shape of my branch, but I made it work. I slowly and carefully cut the branch to what felt like the perfect length, then slowly peeled the scaly bark from the bare wine colored wood. I hadn’t done anything like this before, but as I started sanding it with the stones and tools given, the wood seemed to know exactly how it wanted to be carved, seemingly guiding my hand in its travel. Once I had finished I then waxed it softly with what she called witches wax I was given, 3 times over to make sure it was perfect.
I had now finished my wand. In my hand I held a smooth swirling branch thicker on one end, thinning out to nearly a point on the other. No sooner did I yell for my aunt to tell her, she walked into the room with the look of joy on her face “how wonderful a job you did Ellie! I’m so proud of you.” she said, “now you’ve got one more thing to do before its ready, hold it above your head and say…” she paused “we’d better recite this a bit first, its and important one. Ok put the wand down and say, “Oro Amendus” just like that” she sang, this I was told meant “one together” in the high tongue, the high tongue was a language specifically spoken by sorcerers, originally taught to us by the Elves, the children of Gaea and the life tree. The creators of worldly sorcery.
She repeated it a few times, annunciating so that I’d understand, and I repeated after her, she explained that these were words were a method of spell casting which would bind my wand to me. “Ok I think you’re ready.” she said, “now pick up your wand, hold it in the air above your head and recite the words” she added, and that’s what I did. Holding my wand as high as I could over my head I said “oro amendus!” A jolt of what felt like static electricity coursed through my body, igniting into the wand, which now glowed bright yellow-orange from every striation within the wood. I had felt the wand I created bind to me and I was bound to it, the wand seemed to carve itself into further ornate designs and the handles end grew and warped, changing into a beautiful and poised design which fit snuggly in my hand, it even slightly curled around my thumb.
Once this was completed it meant the wand was bound to me, I knew this was so because it had felt different. When I held it, it no longer felt like an object in my hand, it became an extension of myself, feeling as if it reached within me connecting to every nerve ending in my body. I’d spent a few minutes feeling it out, I could pass the unfamiliar energy within me, into the wand and back into myself. It felt similar to breathing air in and out with my lungs, I could pass my energy into it quickly or slowly or in any pattern of which I wanted, if I passed a large amount into it, the wand seemed to glow and almost unnoticeably vibrate. Emily watched on in wonder as I experimented with this new extension of my being. After I was done exploring I tried to take my focus away and just let it sit in my hand, I noticed my magic pumped regularly through it like blood through a vein, even without my input. “What kind of wand did my mother have?” I asked, Emily thought for a moment, “your mothers wand was made from to branch of a milkwood tree, we call them the butterfly tree” Emily said with a smile, i smiled. I wondered what my mother would think of me now if she seen this. I wondered if she would even like me, this broken vessel of a person i was, i wished for a moment i could have met her, that she could have watched me accomplish this.
Once I’d spent a few more moment relishing in the feeling, Emily showed me how to tether our wands together. She explained that this was how sorcerers communicated nowadays, basically our version of making a phone call, telling me once our wands touched, we would both say the word “Salo” meaning “hello” in the high tongue, once this was done, our wands would each glow in a color that reminded us of the other. From this point on we could always contact each other just by thought, and when my wand glowed the familiar color that reminded me of her, that’s how I knew she was reaching out. And from there we’d be connected, Emily warned that through this connection though, one would be susceptible to another as the connection went as deep as even our soul.
So we stood facing each other and crossed our wands, touching them together. Then in unison we both said “Salo”. My aunt’s wand began to glow, a beautiful orange light shone from it, a color that must have made her think of me. Mine cast a warm yellow glow, which once I thought about it was suiting as its warmth reminded me of her. She explained that once this spell in particular was recited, untethering required touching wands again and reciting the word “Chora” which meant “farewell” in the high tongue. I was told of the importance of only lacing or tethering with your closest friends, as if you laced with someone you didn’t like, or didn’t feel comfortable with. The color your wand would glow could easily reveal any negative feelings you had towards them. Blues would represent a cold feeling towards someone, thought if it was a bright blue opposed to a dark blue it may just mean you feel as close friends, and brown meant you didn’t like the person at all, where red or magenta usually meant you had strong love feelings for them. This felt like a lot to remember but she said it mostly went by feeling so I didn’t need to think too hard about it.
Aunt Emily had been in a hurry to astral project me off, she had some little fluttering creatures make me food in the kitchen, these were called sprites and they came in all shapes sizes and attitudes, these sprites served sorcerers as far as I gathered. They would usually take up residence within the yard, or home of a sorcerer and in return would clean, build, cook or garden for the sorcerer, though I’d known by now, Emily was very fond of doing her own cooking and gardening.
I had eaten and made my way to bed, laying down under the comforter and getting cozy when Emily came in. “Are you sure i have to do this academy thing tonight?” i asked grumpily, “oh no need to waste any time hun, it’ll be nothing you’ll see. Ok I put your wand and grimoire in this pack,” she said putting a large book and my wand within what looked like a purse or messenger bag, “anything you put in this satchel, will still be with you when you appear at the academy ok? ” she asked, “ok but what’s a grimoire?” I asked, “oh don’t worry about it you’ll find out soon” she said, flapping the silvery blanket overtop of me. It coasted down slowly as it caught the pocket of air above me floating slowly downward, I could see Emily holding on to it still, “wait what about clothes?” I asked, but before I heard an answer, like a beautiful piece of performance magic, when the whispersilk touched over me I felt transported. As it covered my view, the image of my room trickled into that of another.
Firstly I noticed that the tired feeling I had as I crawled into bed, had entirely dissipated. I was standing in a large darkly decorated hallway, deep black marble floors lay beneath my feet, surrounding me were gray lockers and walls painted red. I soon learned these had been the academy colors. Now i felt awake, I imagined I was sleeping soundly in my bed as I stood there starry eyed and confused taking it all in. A boy walked by me carrying a large book, he glanced at me funny then I realized I must have looked a bit daft, maybe even drooling, then something else dawned on me, what was i wearing? Was that why he gave me an odd look? was i still in my sweats? I started to panic, i also had no idea where I even was.