Torval rolled over onto his back and stared up into the sky. Thin clouds passed overhead as he lay there thinking, giving his chest time to recover from the magic’s impact. Finally, he sat up and wrapped his arms around his knees, drawing them close. As he sat there, his breathing becoming regular once more, he considered what had just happened. Why had he not protected himself? For that matter, why hadn’t the staff warded off the attack? He shook his head, confused. What was it that Grafeldr had told him about the staff and its protective magic? Fähr-en-Nüel can feel your fear and self-doubt. It will not encourage weakness. You must be strong and confident when calling the magic or nothing will happen.
Slowly, Torval got to his feet and inhaled deeply, but painfully, until his head cleared and he felt stable enough to return to Grafeldr’s hut. He was still embarrassed by his poor performance at the last test, for that is surely what it had been: a test, but he was determined to get answers from the old man and started down the path.
The door was open when Torval stepped onto the threshold of Grafeldr’s hut so he entered and looked about for the magician. The hut was unoccupied and Torval called out for the old man, but heard no answer. He assumed that the magician had gone out on an errand, so he stepped farther into the room, shutting the door as he did. A small fire was burning in the central cooking pit and Torval moved closer to take in its warmth. It was then that he noticed the staff. Its base was resting in the coals, absorbing the fire’s heat just like the other night. Torval was still amazed at the staff’s ability to draw its power from the elements. He sat on a low stool and grasped the staff, withdrawing it from the fire. With tentative fingers he touched the base, marveling at how cool it was.
“You must learn to believe in yourself, Torval,” Grafeldr spoke from the entrance of the hut.
Startled, Torval dropped the staff and stood to face his teacher.
“What was the purpose of that?” Torval said, pointing in the direction of the clearing. “Why take the shape of my father?”
Grafeldr entered and lowered himself into his chair by the fire, gathering his cloak about him to ward off the cold. He gestured for Torval to sit. “As I said; you must learn to believe in yourself.”
“I do,” Torval said as he seated himself once more. “I believe in myself.”
Grafeldr shook his head, “Do you, really? Then why were you unable to defend against my attack?”
“You surprised me with the shape of my father; that is all.”
“Do you suppose your enemies will not try and surprise you as well?” Grafeldr demanded. “You cannot allow confusion or doubt to prevent you using the magic. You see what can happen if you do.” He pointed a gnarled finger at Torval’s chest.
“I was intentionally hard on you today,” Grafeldr said. “I have noticed that your father is as well. Is this not true?”
Torval did not answer at once, but considered the magician’s words. Then, he lifted his head and said, “Yes; it is true. My father does not seem to be satisfied with me. I think he wishes that Sveinn were still here and his disappointment is directed at me.”
Grafeldr considered the lad’s response and shook his head. “No, Torval, your father is not disappointed in you. Rather, I think he is trying to make a man of you, in his own way.”
“But…” Torval started, but was stopped when Grafeldr raised a hand.
“Listen to me,” he said. “Your father’s methods are his own and I cannot fault him. But you must understand that just because he is hard on you does not mean your father is disappointed or dissatisfied with you. On the contrary, I believe he is proud of you and you would do well to start believing in yourself, if for no other reason than the magic of the staff will not respond if you don’t.”
Torval sat and listened, but was unconvinced. His father never seemed to have a supportive word or kind thing to say to him. No, Torval was sure that the combination of Sveinn’s death and turning away from raiding was what made him that way. “He should return to raiding; then he would be happy again,” he said finally.
Grafeldr shook his head. “You are wrong, Torval,” he said. “That part of your father’s life is over. He has chosen to raise his remaining son instead. You would do well to remember that.” With that, he dismissed Torval with a wave of his hand. “That is all for today. You should go and think on what I have said. Tomorrow we will try again.”
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