Chapter 4: IV

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 70

Sooner or later Laina returned to the manor. He was now tired and emboldened by endorphins. However he retained his shy mood, and sought to be inconspicuous. As he did yesterday, Laina entered through the front gate and walked through the otherwise uninhabited garden. Once inside, he was met with Wilagras informing him of the impending lunch. He ascended the stairs to his bedchamber, shut his door behind him and rested on his bed. He did enough thinking and so he found himself in a meditative state. He nearly dozed off when he was alerted by the sound of footsteps descending the stairs. His emotions were now conquered by his hunger, so he followed, if a little sheepishly. Once at the bottom of the stairs, he entered the dining room. What he found was Jolanthea sat at the table and Anisé and Marneas conversing. Laina did not understand the context and made little sense of their talk. What he did take away from the situation is jealousy, of them both, although he did not realize it. The two shared a laugh and then all three turned their attention to Laina.

Thus spoke Marneas, jovially: "I see Laina has joined us!"

Anisé then joked: "did you get lost?"

Laina responded after a pause: "yes actually".

Jolanthea added with a touch of concern: "you were too much in a hurry to bring our map I see".

"Er... yes. I was eager to explore, you know being new and never having seen a place like this before" responded Laina awkwardly.

Jolanthea looked downward and very subtly smirked. She in her decades of wisdom understood profoundly. Laina understood slightly less. Marneas and Anisé thought nothing of it. The food was brought by Wilagras to the table and the four sat down and ate. Marneas and Anisé resumed their discussion, while Laina and Jolanthea listened. It was an apparently amusing anecdote about Marneas reading the mind of a gardener who sought therapy from him, and discovering embarrassing secrets that were not meant to be uncovered, nor were relevant. The two found the event hilarious, and Laina didn't because he did not hear the entire conversation. He found Anisé's smile and laugh beautiful. However there was an itch to participate, and after a pause he spoke politely.

"What exactly was the secret?"

"Ah, you'll enjoy this. The client wanted to know why he was depressed and how he could get out of it, so I touched his hand and looked into his mind. In my searching, I found something by accident: a recent memory of misplaced clothing. He bathed and forgot where he put his clothes. The rest of his clothes were being washed by his wife outside, and he could not go to ask her where his remaining set could be without exposing himself before the light of the orb, and anyone else who may see. He walked around his house naked, avoiding windows, in search of his attire. At last he braved the outdoors. His wife was aghast and did not in fact know where his clothes were. Feeling all sorts of things he returned to the bath and found his clothes in plain sight"

Laina was indeed quite amused by that story, and wanted to make Anisé laugh again, so he retorted: "I did something like that at the university once". Marneas was horrified, but Anisé did laugh, and Laina enjoyed her laugh once more. This was an icebreaker moment, more so than the introduction at breakfast. Laina wasn't trying to conquer her, but he saw the value in the two being on friendly terms. He then looked to the table and finished his meal. Marneas had done the same and politely left for the library. His mood suddenly changed, and he sought to lead the conversation. He was the least cultured of the four and he knew it, so he would ask questions.

"Where are the plants in the garden sourced?"

Jolanthea answered: "depending on what our projects require, we get them from gardens in the city, or from dealers in the city for imports".

"What sorts of things do you get from dealers?"
"Well, the pansies for one. Carnivorous plants are our guard dogs, those come from various far off lands. There is one species that is found in Andarow, but only in the bogs of a single region on the southern coast. And there is one plant we have to import that we use for curing nausea."
"What are the pansies for exactly?"

"Oh they don't have any medicinal properties of their own. Anisé likes planting them".

Jolanthea and Laina were now looking at Anisé. She blushed and felt a need to justify herself, and said shyly: "I like them because they remind me of home."

Laina understood, and said less sweetly than he hoped: "please do keep maintaining them, I enjoy them too!"

Anisé took the facetious route and said: "Now I feel that there is the burden of duty upon me" and chuckled and looked to the floor.

Laina said without thinking: "they remind me of home too..."

There was an awkward pause, as both of the youths were taken aback by Laina's sweet words. Anisé ended this by saying: "You know, you've come here to study geology under Marneas, and before your first lesson you've taken more interest in gardening and alchemy".

Laina was a little embarrassed, but Anisé meant this not as a criticism. Perhaps she wanted to bond with him, and perhaps she had a propensity towards sardonic observations. Was it a sign of affection? Laina didn't know. But he did understand that he needed to focus on his own master.

"Go see Marneas upstairs"

This got Laina's attention.

"He's been waiting an entire year for the chance to teach you techniques in person, and I bet you'd make his day if you went up there to begin."

Now Laina felt duty bound. He felt a little ashamed, and got up.

"Yes, thank you, I shall do that!" spoke Laina awkwardly.

Before he made it to the stairs, Anisé spoke one last time, to Laina's surprise.

"I'll be in the garden. Afterwards, perhaps you can meet me out there and I'll show you how to tend for pansies".

Laina didn't know what to make of this, and he almost wanted to reject her offer, but he played it safe and uttered "perhaps" with a stutter. He quickly moved up the stairs.

At the third floor he heard the soft shut of a book, and found Marneas seated. He was still shook by Anise, and didn't notice how much Jolanthea enjoyed the exchange. He was relieved to talk to Marneas, and said: "I am ready for our first lesson." to which Marneas stood up gleefully and replied "right this way". Marneas led Laina back downstairs and through the dining room. Anisé and Laina very briefly made eye contact, and everted their gazes just as fast. Eventually Laina was led to the cave, and two two were seated.

"I am going to teach you how to comprehend straight down, in an easier way than you may have been taught".

"I was taught to just sense in a way that moves slowly and carefully downwards. What do you have in mind?"
"This involves preparation that makes that method a little quicker. Simply lay down on your back on the cave floor, and clear your mind. You may want a pillow."

Laina grabbed a small pillow and placed it on the ground. He laid on his back in the middle of the cave and got relaxed as best he could. He knew how to clear his mind, but found trouble this time. He let his master know of this problem. Marneas understood.

"What are you thinking about?"

Laina did not want to answer this, so he lied.

"The city."

"You'll get used to the city soon. And you'll be going down, so you won't encounter it."

Laina laid there and stared at the ceiling of the cave.

"Something is troubling you".

"No, I don't believe so".

"I don't have to read your mind to sense this. You are trained in meditation. Something nags unpleasantly".

"Yes" Laina said after a long hesitation.

"I'll guide you through this. Once you are truly at peace, then I'll show you my method."

Thus, Marneas performed a guided meditation and then demonstrated the technique. Laina learned how to gradually lose focus of the world the deeper he sensed, and he felt his mind go deeper into the rock, and he sensed further than ever before. After this, he maintained his serene state and subjected himself to more techniques from Marneas, and an hour passed. Marneas then informed Laina that he had taught all he had prepared, and let him go. Marneas then told Laina that he had some rock samples that needed labelling, and that he wanted to make sure Laina could do it accurately, so Laina said: "in the hour before dinner I'll get it done", and this satisfied Marneas. Laina went to the dining room, and saw Anisé in the garden writing in a journal. He went to his room instead of the garden. He was too shy. On his bed he laid, and between his walk and guided meditation, he was sleepy. He napped, and woke up the hour before dinner, and labelled the rocks. Marneas was pleased with his accuracy, and Laina went to the library and examined the books out of curiosity and boredom. He was now ashamed and rueful that he did not meet Anisé in the garden.

Dinner was quieter. Marneas and Jolanthea spoke about the past, and Anisé and Laina did not interact with each other. At the end, the two elves went up stairs and Anise began to follow. Laina needed to atone for his mistake, and spoke.

"I had not met you in the garden. Marneas's lesson put me to sleep, and I had chores. Perhaps tomorrow afternoon?"

Anise found Laina's nap funny, and she was cheered up by the scheduling of the appointment. She smiled at Laina and agreed with the plan. She went up stairs. Laina sat at the table feeling a little doomed, and went to the library to read. He was determined to give elven literature a try. Anise was in one room reading, so Laina picked the other. He found a book of elven poetry at random and began reading. He didn't fully appreciate it, but he was glad to attempt it. After a while, Anisé went to bed, and Laina did the same. That night he dreamed that she humiliated him in all sorts of ways before Marneas and Jolanthea. He did not appreciate this dream, but still he awoke thinking of her.

Submitted: April 21, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Alf McGuire. All rights reserved.


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