Monday, June 6

Sixteenth Birthday

My name is Lizzeth Vernes, and today is my sixteenth birthday. When I was a little girl, I always thought about what today would be like. When Lydia turned sixteen, Daddy threw her a big party, with fancy clothes and food and all that. I was seven, and I was allowed to stay up and watch the fireworks he had arranged. Seeing those magic fires scorch the sky is one of my happiest childhood memories. Sometimes I think I spent my whole life waiting for a party like that for me.
Of course, that was in the good times, when we still lived in Hydraaltowne. It was back in the "Second Age," when we could still ignore the troubles of the world, for the troubles of the world hadn't reached us then. When things got bad, when the orcish hordes breached the northern walls, we fled in our boats, down the hydra tail river. That was when I was nine.
Things were more difficult when we finally dropped anchor in the port city of Lyssander. The Lithians were cold to us, and the journey had left us penniless. But Dad dug in, and we all helped. He used to say that a merchant makes profit, not excuses. I thought he was a wizard, that he could pull gold form the air. And it seemed like he could. Things were hard, but they got better. We opened a new shop, and if it wasn't quite as successful as the one in Hydraal, then we still lived comfortably enough. The news in those times was dark, though.
The Orcish army seemed unstoppable, led by the Destroyer, their dark god, himself! There was a hasty alliance of the Five Peoples against him, but mistrust ran deep between them all. The Lithian Army called for soldiers, and they sent for the Hydrians first. Dad was too old to fight, but they took him anyway, at the point of a spear. I remember running crying after the conscript wagon. I was shouting and crying. I hated the Lithians then. I hoped something horrible would happen to them. It was then that the first strange thing happened. Something bit one of the oxen, I think, and it went wild. the cart crashed and one of the drivers was killed. He was flung off and broke his neck. Dad's leg got broken, and so he was forced to stay behind. I was twelve. Everyone said what a strange event it was. I didn't say a thing. But I'll write it here, what I've never said to anyone. Somehow, I did it. I wanted it to happen, and it did. It felt like, I don't know, reaching out with a hand I don't have. It's hard to explain. But I was sure, and I still am, that I was responsible for that man's death.
Dad's leg didn't completely heal well, so he still walks with a limp. He stayed home through the war. I remember that our house was strained then, always fearing the dark influences that came from the gods walking in the world. Eventually they all fought together, and the Halfling Goddess did cut out at his right eye, and the Human God smote him upon the left leg, and the other Gods took him home to the world beyond worlds, and left us mortals to clean up after their messes.
But as I was saying, at home, there were strange lights, and strains of music, and sometimes the plates would jump, or the doors would slam in empty rooms on still days. Momma thought the house was haunted, and called in a priest. When he finally came, a pale man in dark robes who looked more at his own nose than at us, he said he could find no presence here, and a few other things about Hydrians that I won't repeat here. We thanked the cleric coldly and watched him go. But Grandmother watched me instead. I think that even then she knew.
I don't know how she convinced my father, but it was a long argument. It must have been months, but in the end, she had her way. I was to be sent away to school. Up to now, I had been taught in the local schools, or by my mother and grandmother when we traveled down the river. I was perfectly happy with my education, and I said so.
"Ah," but my grandmother had said. "This is a different education. You'll be going to wizardry school." This took me by surprise. Lithians don't like mages, and ones found are considered witches here. Needless to say, I took to the idea immediately. So my sixteenth birthday party was a going away party. They made some secret of where I was really going, of course. They said I was going to live with my Sister and her husband.
Today I'm sixteen, and I'm sitting on the back of a cart filled with hay, headed for the Mage's city of Carabein, in far distant Carbos.

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