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My legs buckle, and I drop to my knees. Silent! All silent! When I had been living in the city, I hadn't heard, either, but I had thought that because the city was so "noisy", I would never sense anything. But, no. I'm a fool. It wasn't because it was so loud... it was because my separation from nature and my delving into other types of magic were slowly rendering me deaf.
I feel like breaking out into tears. To have such an integral part of me just... gone, it's too much to bear. What can I do, now? To go back to my family and friends blind to the land is frightening to contemplate. I would still be welcomed back as a Nelthari, but the strain caused by me choosing to learn in the city would be pushed past the limit when they learned that it had rendered my insensate.
But I will not lay here and weep on my knees. I... I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'll think of what options remain open to me. I lay my hand on the gate, steadying myself as I climb to my feet. As soon as my hand touched that sandstone wall, I felt... pressure building up in my hands. What is it? I had never, in my eighteen years of life, felt something like that. I frown, and focus my mind on my limbs...
...And a pulsing ring of light washed out over the wall, speeding off over the entire breadth of the bastion.
And suddenly, my sight came alive again. For over a mile around me, I... sensed. I could feel the thumping of feet, see scores of faces, hear the clamor of thousands of voices. It nearly overwhelmed me; never had Nelthari sight been so vivid, or encompass so many senses. It took my hand away from the wall... and the sight stayed. I could still hear, feel, and see the city from the city's point of view. By my ancestors, this was astonishing! When I had first arrived in the city, my Nelthari communal magic had been drowned out by the noise of the city. Now, the noise is no longer a problem, and its so.. vivid.
As the euphoria of my discovery fades a bit, I realize something: I can feel something else. Something... forceful. Almost as if I could...
No, that will be left for another day. I must return to my clan!
Something's... something's wrong. Through the earth itself I can hear...
Screams. Ancestors above. I run towards the circle of sturdy tents, brushing my hands to the group and pulsing.
No... No! Fen raiders have attacked my family! Inhuman beasts, the Fen are known for their aggressiveness, strength, and speed.
I climb up a hill that overlooks the settlement, and gasp. The Fen are among my people, hacking them down even as the Nelthari attempt to fight back. It's a losing battles. Iron blades and obsidian-tipped arrows cannot defeat tempered steel, and the fiercest Nelthari warrior pales in comparison to a Fen berserker. Damnation! What can I do? I have no weapons and...
A Fen raider suddenly locks eyes with me, and a howl goes up. No! I stumble back from the edge of the hill and try to run to somewhere, anywhere, where I can hide. I...
I trip, and roll down the rocky hill. When I come to a stop near the murmuring stream, I am battered and bloodied and the world is so twisty twisty twisty twisty.
I shake my head to clear it, and I remember where I am, what is about to happen to me. And, in this moment, I realize that I am a coward. My eyes are clenched shut, and my panicked mind his closed off my sight to me. I hear the grunts of the Fen language, and I'm going to die. Die cowering. Yet, no steel bites into my flesh. Slowly, so slowly, I open my eyes, and I see massive Fen legs through the thick grass which conceals me.
Wait a moment. Where had the grass come from?
Suddenly, pain. Pain in my scalp. I feel myself dragged up by the hair and thrown out onto the ground. I'm surrounded by Fen. They spit their ugly language at each other, and I'm forced onto my hands and knees.
Hands and knees...
I pulse out my magic into the ground, and my sight becomes alive again. I can see all the Fen the are attacking the village, and I can literally see, smell, and feel the ones right next to me. And, as before, I feel that forceful sensation tickling the back of my brain. I see one of the Fen leaders raise a bloodstained axe over his head. I'm going to die, I'm going to die. In despair I release the pressure in my mind. The axe falls...
And the Fen holding it is dragged screaming into the earth as a column of shifting soil pulls it into a hole that has opened in the ground. What...? I see the other Fen stare at where their leader had stood a moment before, and then they snarl at me and raised swords, axes, and spears. Instinctively, I reach out to the earth around me, and it responds, shielding me and striking out.
Rocks rocket off the ground of their own accord, massive, gripping hands of soil swat down and crush, sinkholes appear in the earth to swallow the raiders whole, jaws of streamwater rip and tear, and portions of the the hill itself transforms into a rolling wave of crushing black as it crashes down upon the Fen. As the last Fen around me dies, I stare down at my hands. What's happened to me?
I finally understand what I have achieved. I have transformed the benign powers of the Nelthari into something... active. what I've learned of manipulation of the earth, of how to command water, how to manipulate the energy currents that run through everything in this world, everything, has helped me to achieve this. Not only am I one with my environment, but my environment responds to my commands. It's--
Through the earth I feel the oncoming footsteps of a Fen as it closes in on me. Pillars of sharp stone attempt to impale it, but it's faster than its comrades, and it avoids my defense. It's fast, so fast, and I cannot... Wait. I can hear every footfall, I can feel the pressure of feet on the ground. I don't have to be faster than the creature. If I can see how it balances itself, how it's going to move, I can move before it does.
There. The pressure on the ground has increased underneath the Fen. It's gathering itself up to leap, and I move to the side just in time. The Fen hurtles past me... right into a swinging fist of seething earth that crashes into it with bone-shattering force.
I look up, and to my horror I see that I'm too late. Even as the Fen were killed by the earth under my command, they had completed their slaughter. I am the last of my family.
Familiar despair wells up again. I had come back to share what I had learned, and now there was no one to share it with. At least they had been avenged.
I know the true shock of what I have just experienced will hit me, hard, in the near future, but I... I can't stay here. If I do, grief is going to drive me to madness. I'll... I'll go back to the city, see where I can go to from here. Yet, the city is still too close to where my people once lived, and I don't think I could live like that. We'll see what other worlds await.
I turn away, and I direct the earth to swallow the remains of my people, entombing them safely forever.
Perhaps this is what it is like to be a true exile. No, that can't be, since an exile at least has the chance to someday return. I don't even have that. Perhaps I will look for the friends I made while studying here. Yes, that would be good to ease my mind.
I find a friend's house and knock on the door. Nothing. With a frown, I pulse the building, and open the door for myself. I look around, impressed with the tasteful furnishings, when it finally hits me with terrifying force.
I am an orphan. I am a peopleless person. The Nelthari are all gone, dead, slaughtered by the monstruous Fen. What am I doing, admiring interior decorating? Am I going insane? I fall to my knees, clutching my arms to myself, weeping. Mother, Father, my siblings, my friends... all dead. All dead. And this new... magic that I have, the fusion of proactive other-magicks and Nelthari land-communal, would make me a target for the insane and evil people of this world who want nothing more than more and more power. I can't stay here. I can't involve anyone else. Not--
I hear the tumblers of the door turning as a key coaxes them open. I have been so engrossed with my own thoughts that I had not heard him, even when I could hear and see for miles around me. I panic and race deeper into the house, getting out of sight just as the door opens. I hear my former classmate rummaging through his house, and I make my decision. I must leave now.
Reaching out around me, the very interior of the house shifts subtly, furniture sliding a bare few inches, lamps sliding so their light is blocked; the eaves of the house tremor, and wind chimes set outside sing loudly. I run, and the house itself conceals my in plain sight as I dash for the door. My friend, a talented extrasensory perceiver, does not even guess that I have run past him.
I escape without being detected, blending into the crowd outside as I will the house back into its original configuration. Again I am alone, and again I must discover what path my life must take.
I rub my head and take another swig of the ale. The tavern is a... noisy place, and expensive, but at least the drinks are reasonably good. I hope I don't make a habit of this. Drunkenness isn't going to help anyone. Well, perhaps me, since I'll be in such a stupor that I won't be able to dwell on my grief. The day after tomorrow, though, after I deal with the hangover, I'm setting out again.
I had closed off my environmental sight when I entered; I hadn't felt like wading through the hundreds of sounds, smells, and sights that were prevalent in this packed building. I'm going to have a headache in the morning after I drink all this alcohol, so I'd rather not have one prematurely.
I hear a commotion behind me. With a sigh, I turn to look. Eh. Perfect. Two drunks are yelling at each other, something about one of their mothers. I pulse the tabletop, and the building around me comes alive to my sight. Every nail head becomes my eyes, and the mugs lined up along the room are my ears. From the looks of things, the two drunks are going to call in some friends, and this looks like it's going to become a full scale bar fight. I sigh; I'm nowhere near inebriated enough.
Then I hear a rumble beneath my feet. Frowning, I look back at the men, then unfocus my physical eyes as I look to the earth beneath my feet. Hmm... one of them must be a geomancer. By the sounds of their slurred words, the one with the power to open house-swallowing fissures in the earth itself probably will, over something trivial.
Oh, well. I'll probably leave early. With a brief casting of will, I lock down the earth the geomancer is attempting to manipulate, overriding the geomancer's magic with my own. One of the two drunks looks confused for a brief moment before the other one knocks him out with a punch. Time to go.
As the bar erupts into shouts and blows, I push through the door and make my way towards an inn. Looks like I'm starting my wandering a day early.