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1st Chapters 
Strange Magic
Buried Mist
Strange Magic
Mark Hammar
Chapter 0 
Young Princeling

       Justin was four when he learned the way of things.  Life was laid out for him and his siblings as neatly as a pattern on a tapestry, as it had been for generations in his family.  His oldest sister Jeanetta, the first child of King Charlie, was to dedicate her life to rule and would secede the King when he died.  She was to learn the arts of war and diplomacy so that she could one day sit on the throne of Balmoria and conduct wise and honest dealings with the neighbouring countries.  Through the king's tutoring she would continue the long and prosperous history of the small northern country, and bring up her children in their rightful place. 
       His older brother Peter, the second child of the King, was to learn from his Aunt Rebekah the life of a Cleric and the ways of the gods.  He was to become a runecaster and reader of the oracles under the guidance of his aunt.  From her he would learn all there was to know about tracking the Solar festivals, and the lunar calendar.  He would learn to use the power of the trees to cure and prevent disease, and to divine an image of the future from the rune stones or Ogham sticks. 
       Justin himself, the third and last child of the King, was to learn from his Uncle Arthur the practice of magic and the manner of the Sorcerer.  To learn the arts required to protect the country from all manner of magic and mystery when the time came for him to take the position of court sorcerer.  As foretold in prophecy each generation of the monarchy would have three children and they would dedicate their lives to these disciplines.  So, at the tender age of four and a half, Justin went to spend most of his life with his Uncle in the tower. 
       Justin spent many hours studying the laws of nature as apprentice to his uncle, the court sorcerer.  He learned how the trees intermingled with the birds, how the birds visited the flowers, and how the flowers carpeted the grass beneath the trees.  Uncle Arthur would take his apprentice up into the tower for days at a time, filling the court and peasants with awe at the thought of their seclusion.  Then, after an hour of setting small fires burning under bowls of foul smelling liquids and setting smoke puffs to be released every hour, Arthur and Justin would don simple garments and creep down a hidden back stairway to spend days in the woods, living off the land and their wits, eating only what nature or a humble farmer or wood cutter supplied.  For a young boy this deception provided endless fun and excitement.  
       Justin was almost eight when he first questioned his Uncle about his education.  He had learned a lot about how nature worked, and how to change nature through experiment, but he felt an empty something in his learning.  Something was missing, something was wrong.  His Uncle took him to the top of a nearby mountain and sat him on a rock. 
       "My dear nephew.  I have waited so long for you to ask just this question, and I will answer it thus.  This mountain on which we stand, how is it measured in importance?" Justin stared and thought a long time, his Uncle waiting patiently. 
       "By its size, I suppose, my Uncle." 
       "And how did it attain this importance, where did it learn?" The question puzzled Justin. 
       "Learn to be a mountain?  It just, IS, a mountain I guess." Justin hazarded an answer.  His Uncle answered the unasked question.  ‘What do you mean?' 
       "A Sorcerers magic," he said, "is like the mountain in two ways.  It cannot be learned, it merely is. One cannot learn to be magic, one can only use magic like one uses the mountain.  This is the first way in which magic is like a mountain.  The other way is that, like a mountain, magic draws its importance from the perception of others, it is not important in and of itself.  Magic is in everything, and around everything, and through everything, yet it is nothing.  Do you not understand my child?"  Arthur stood over Justin and awaited his answer. 
       "I think that I do not my Uncle," answered Justin.  Arthur nodded his head. 
       "Your eighth birth celebration is upon you.  The time has indeed come.  To the east lies a larger mountain than this, and at its base stands a building of learning.  A building of Sorcerers.  In this building you will be taught all that you need to know about the magic of sorcery and the ways of working nature.  After nine years you will return, my worthy apprentice.  Show them this at the door and they will let you enter."  He placed an amulet around Justin's neck, on it was the sign of a hawk.  "Come now, we must return."  Justin felt the amulet around his neck with his fingers, then he turned and followed his uncle. 
       That night he was startled from a deep sleep by his Uncle gently shaking his shoulder.  He woke with a start.  The Sorcerers gentle voice calmed him at once.  "My child, remember this one thing.  Magic is five parts what you do and ninety-five parts what others think you did.  Sorcery is science, witchcraft is true magic.  Sleep now."  When Justin woke this was only a faint memory in his mind.  
       In the next few months Justin's birth celebration arrived and the time for his departure drew near.  In the spring of his eighth year, the caravan from the southwest made its yearly journey through Balmoria on its way east to the trading centres in Mortainine.  Its arrival always brought joy and feasting as the people of Balmoria traded with the caravan during the day and listened to news and stories from afar around the fire at night.  After a late night of stories and food around the castle fire, Justin packed his few belongings for the trip to the School of Sorcerers, a days journey past Mortainine.  When the morning came, and the caravan struck camp and moved on, Justin was ready to join them on their trek. 
       In the company of this caravan traveled a storyteller named Bard, who fast became friends with the young sorcerer.  Justin liked him as much for his friendly and confident manner, as for the tales he could tell as they traveled.  Five days into the journey they emerged on the eastern side of the Forest of Jacobis and he could see the top of the mountain, which his Uncle had told him about, on the very distant horizon.  Bard told of the many men and women who had gone before Justin into the academy of learning.  Six days later, as they entered the town of Baltain for a much needed stop and rest, the mountain was still in the far distance.  They stayed in Baltain for two days as they traded goods and news much like they had in Balmoria.  Justin was in awe over his first visit to the sister castle of Balmoria, and the days passed quickly as he searched every nook and cranny of the town to see what there was to see.  They set out in the morning after their third night and Justin's mind was once again on the mountain in the distance, and the Academy of Sorcerers. 
       After another sixteen days, as the caravan came to the trading centers in Mortainine, the mountain finally drew near.  After a day in the trading center, Bard accompanied Justin on the last day of his trip.  With his friend he had come through storms and long hours of walking over the hills and vales of the land, now they had crossed over the last river which ran from the Elfwood in the north and past the academy.  They were standing at the door to the great institute of sorcery, and the time had come for Justin to say goodbye.  Bard shook his hand with a promise to be there to meet him for his return at the end of his schooling, then turned and walked away.  Justin turned and used the large, heavy knocker on the door. 
       A tall, robed man opened the door and asked his business.  Justin silently handed over the amulet Arthur had given him and followed at the tall man's gesture.  They entered a great hall, along the walls of which hung dozens of amulets like the one Justin had until recently carried.  Each amulet had a different symbol emblazoned on the crest.  Falcons, crows and eagles.  Wolves, foxes and weasels.  Dragons, Nymphs and Satyrs.  Every manner of beast known and imagined.  Justin was to learn that each amulet belonged to a sorcerer who either had an apprentice at the school or had died.  The sorcerer walked to one of many spots on the wall, which was empty save for a peg.  Under this peg was written the name ‘ARTHUR' in bold script.  The man hung the amulet on the peg and escorted Justin to the room that he was to call home for the next nine years.  The door closed behind him, and all was silent. 

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