The old man studied a pitiful-looking collection of random bird feathers for several minutes, finally settling on a bluish-purple one. He held the feather up, which seemed to shimmer in the mid-day sun. "How much?" Merovynian asked.
“Five coppers, Sirrah.” The young man said, hopeful to make a sale. Like many of the other poor folk nearby hawking bits of refuse, the man's clothing was threadbare and filthy. Merovynian sighed and wrinkled his nose at the price.
“Very well. It's a bit expensive, but I suppose I'll manage.” The old man reached into a small purse at his belt, and handed the man several coins. The man eagerly squirreled the coins away as Merovynian place his new feather away into another pouch. “Come along, Clotho.” Merovynian leaned on his staff and took the girl's hand. Clotho very much resembled the peasant merchant. Her clothing wanted much repair, and hung raggedly about her small, slightly underfed frame. Her most striking feature aside from her unwashed, unbrushed purple hair, were her silver eyes. She blindly groped for the old man's hand and turned her sightless gaze up at him.
“Master,” She said, “ You over-paid him.”
“Oh? And how would you know that, child?”
“The silver piece. It made a heavier sound.” The girl said.
The old man chuckled. “The feather he sold me is rare, from a cloud crow. I would say, rather, that he under-charged me. I simply paid its value.” Merovynian looked at his young charge. “You have excellent hearing.
“I still don't believe I can do magick. How can I if I can't read?” Clotho clutched his arm as they walked.
A few days prior, Merovynian had come to her family's home, promising to educate the girl. Her parents, believing the old man had other things in mind, and seeing a chance to make a tidy profit, demanded an exorbitant fee, which the old wizard paid. He told the girl he was taking her to the academy in Norn, explaining that he was a sorcerer, and that she was to be his apprentice.
What he did not tell her, was that he was grooming her to replace him on Norn's Council of Mages.
It happened, it seemed, by chance. Merovynian, being every bit of three-hundred and seventy-two years old, decided he was getting too old to deal with the council, and had decided to take a walk. After a while, four days to be exact, the elder sorcerer came to a small hovel, where he witnessed a most remarkable thing. A cart, coming in the opposite direction, had suddenly lost a wheel and began to spill its cargo of firewood. A young peasant girl, sitting idly nearby, had heard the commotion and instinctively reached out a hand, the cords of wood ceasing their descent. She had not seen this, not because she was not paying attention, but because she was blind. Merovynian quickly approached the girl, no older than twelve or thirteen summers, and no taller than the old man's bent shoulders.
“Hullo, child.” Merovynian said in greeting.
“Hullo, sir.” Said the girl.
“Tell me, how did you do that? How did you stop the wood from falling to the ground?” Merovynian asked sternly.
“Was it wood?” The girl asked, “I only heard something fall. I did nothing either way to stop it,” She shrugged, “Things just happen.”
“Things do not simply happen, child. You, I feel, maybe have a talent for the arcane. Do you have an interest in the ways of magick?”
“Right now, sir,” The girl said, “I simply have an interest in not being hungry.”
The old man chuckled. “Magick and can put food in your stomach. But more-so, it can be a great burden.”
The girl shrugged again. “I guess so.”
And so, the old man and the young girl began to travel together. They headed not for the academy in Norn, but instead wandered the countryside. As the journeyed, Merovynian talked at length about magick; its complexity, its simplicity, and how it linked with the universe itself.
The flash and loud noises of a spell, Merovynian explained, were simple showmanship, a spectacle to impress the non-magickally educated. The real heart of a spell was much simpler. “You have the talent, child. You can do such spellcraft.”
“But Master,” As Clotho, for that was the girl's name, had taken to calling the old wizard, “I cannot see. Even if I could, I would not know how to read the spells.”
“Tut! You have a keen mind, Clotho. Even with your sight lacking, you may yet read.” He placed a gnarled hand on her shoulder. “I myself will teach you the way of it, with special lettering.” From his assortment of pouches, Merovynian retrieved a small bottle of dull black ink. Rummaging through another pouch, the sorcerer stopped and suddenly frowned.
“Is something wrong, Master?” Clotho asked, sensing something amiss.
“It seems, dear child, your lessons will have to wait.” Merovynian pulled a broken feather quill from the pouch.
So it came to be that they visited the refuse market. Mervoynian, in addition to the cloud crow feather, had purchased other oddments, seemingly worthless garbage. “Would that they knew what they truly had,” he mused, “they would live much more comfortably.”
“It smells awful.” Clotho remarked.
“It has never been decided, child, that magick required a pleasant aroma.”
“Even so, Master,” the girl retorted, “my nose would be grateful if you stayed downwind.”
“Tut! Such cheekiness from a villain girl.” The old man sighed. “Never mind that. Now we can begin.”
Merovynian dripped his new father into the dull ink, and began writing individual letters onto a piece of parchment. The letters quickly dried, shimmering faintly before puffing slightly and becoming dull. Merovynian took Clotho's hands and placed them over the raised letters. “We'll start with the basic alphabet. This first letter is 'A', and then...”
“How, then!” The girl interrupted, “How is it I can see these letters, yet nothing else?”
“Tis the ink,” The old man explained, sighing at the interruption. “A recipe of my own design. Now, to continue...”
Merovynian spent the rest of the day, and a good portion of the evening, educating the blind girl on the alphabet, the meaning of each letter, and how they formed words. Clotho, ever an eager student, sighed with annoyance when they paused their lessons to eat or when the old mage stopped to light a camp fire. The peasant girl's keen mind took in everything, and demanded more. When Merovynian called an end to the day's lesson, Clotho's protests were cut short by the wizard's promise to teach her numbers the next day. As he drew light bedrolls from his pack, Clotho sat on the turf and drew her knees close to her chest.
“I think,” she said, “that you just may make me a great wizard after all.”
“No.” The old man said, draping a travel cloak around the girl's shoulders. “I'll make you a good wizard. It is up to you to become a great one.”
“Then, I will become a great one.” She said as Merovynian helped her to one of the bedrolls.
The old man lay on his own pallet, and spoke quietly. “Perhaps,” he gazed into the fire, “Or perhaps, you will be something more.”
These last words fell on deaf ears, as the girl had already fallen asleep.