Day 53: What Choice, the Vine of Power?

Shup watched for any opportunity to use the power of the Vine now that Elder Cale Barnside agreed to let him try. Just over a month had passed since the elder caught Shup bleeding the Vine to set cockroaches afire, causing Cale to bring him along on his quest, whatever it was. It was either that or get carried off to the elders’ castle, probably to be imprisoned in a cell for a few years.

But now Cale had purified Shup’s bond to the Vine, and Shup was ready to do something magic. They walked through a small town called Beddingrove. Hours away from mealtime, there was no reason to stop, so they strolled down the main street at a good click, Cale digging his bush-capped staff into the ground as if to emphasize his doggedness.

“What about that statue?” asked Shup.

“What about it?”

“It needs repairing. Do you think it’s something I could handle.”

“Maybe,” said Cale. “It’s kind of big. Let’s go look.”

The bigger the better, thought Shup. The damaged statue was of a man holding a sword, a bird on his shoulder and a child at his side carrying a smith’s hammer. Whole chunks of it lay on the ground around it.

Shup studied it. “If I visualize the complete statue—what you call flessing, I should be able to draw power from the Vine and get it to fill in the missing parts, right?”

Cale nodded. “Normally that’s true, but you haven’t properly observed it. Open yourself to the Vine, reach through your bond to it, and tell me what you perceive.”

Like reaching blindly through a small opening in a window, Shup groped thinly into the Vine of Power, the sensation of it washing through him. He let his mind experience what his eyes could not see, reaching for activity within. Finally he found it. A bond like no other he’d sensed before. Not pulsing with life, but with a hard and cold vitality nonetheless.

“It’s already made from the Vine,” he said. “That’s why they haven’t picked up the pieces.”

“Yes,” said Cale. “We call it steck, and the thing about steck is that it remembers where it belongs. So to mend the statue, you need to coax it into using that memory to rebuild the statue.”

“So I don’t get to create anything?”

“Not this time.” Cale nudged him with the bush of his staff. “Go ahead. Coax it.”

Shup reached further into the Vine and joined his wishes to it, brushing the statue pieces in his mind, feeling their constitution. “Come on,” he said. “Remember.” He thought he almost had it when he sensed Cale’s presence in the Vine. “Remember,” he repeated. The pieces floated off the ground and attached to the statue a few pieces at a time until it was complete and flawless.

“Excellent,” said Cale.

“It wasn’t really me,” Shup said. “You helped.”

“It wasn’t really either of us,” said Cale. “It was mostly the steck itself. Let’s find you something else.”

They came across a farmer with a wagon that had a broken hitch. “Hello, sir,” said Cale. “Would you allow us to fix your hitch?”

The farmer backed off and waved them to it.

Shup composed an image in his mind of a hitch twice as thick to be more durable, and prepared himself to draw the power and pour it into it, hurrying to avoid Cale’s interference.

“I can’t see it. Open yourself to the Vine, let the image into it so we can share.”

Shup drew the power and directed it, but the image disappeared and he lost touch with the Vine.

“Come on. Let me see it,” said Cale. “Remember what flessing does. It creates complete cooperation with the Vine and allows the Vine to take eternal measure whether the object should be created or not.”

Shup recomposed it and offered it to the Vine.

“Ah, there it is. I can barely see it. You’re overdoing it, though. Steck is much stronger than the iron this original was made of. Imagine the same size and shape as the broken one.”

Shup complied, and this time when he poured the power into it, a cool breeze blew within him, tickling his ribcage. The hitch materialized fully attached to the wagon. Shup laughed. “My first elaman.”

“Indeed,” said Cale. “Well done.”

They bid farewell to the farmer and walked to the edge of town, Shup reveling in his success.

“Here’s a thought,” said Shup. “Don’t get mad, I’m not suggesting we do it this way, but I could have fixed the hitch by bleeding the Vine to create fire, melting the metal back together.”

“And where would that leave us now?” asked Cale.

“I know, I know. I’m just thinking about possibilities.”

“Say it,” said Cale.

Shup sighed. “By bleeding the Vine—belaisan you call it, my bond would be corrupted, and it would weaken my ability to create from its power.”

“You would be impure,” said Cale. “But it goes even further than that. Belaisan always destroys. The melting metal would be a secondary effect, but some of it would have vanished from existence, thus weakening the hitch with both insufficient material and impurity.”

“Oh,” said Shup. “I guess I knew all that, but I hadn’t put it all together.”

“For virtually every problem you’ll face, there will be ways to deal with it using the creative power, and ways to handle it with the destructive power. Belaisan will always leave you worse off no matter how well you believe to have fixed things.”

“I see,” said Shup. “One question comes to mind.”

“That is?”

“How do you use elaman to get rid of roaches?”

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