These staffs—these magnificent batons that tame the unruly power of Creation when a wizard wrests it from the Vine of Urluthe—lay in a tangled pile on the ground next to the fountain. Cale examined them as he awaited instructions from Elders Midsen and Horgan, preparing himself to get the one he wanted. He spotted two that he would try to get to before the others. An oak rod near the bottom looked nice, maybe professionally cut, it’s light color and straight lines distinguishing it from the pile on top of it. Another was a slightly gnarled piece of ash that grew as big as a melon toward the top. That was his first pick. He could carve the head into some noble creature.
“An elder’s bond to the Vine is deep and severe and open,” said Horgan. “Allow the elixir of your soul to reach through it and encounter the vitality of creation, then seek out these staffs as they appear from within.”
Cale’s nape tingled. He reached as he was told into the Vine and the world opened up to him. The staffs came immediately to his internal senses, their strange glow both strong and limited, the Vine’s unruly tendrils wrapping around them in ordered strands, each in a unique pattern of twisted braids or diamond weaves. In the Vine they were not jumbled in a pile, but arrayed with majestic arrangement Cale would never be able to describe.
Inside the Vine, the staffs drew the elders in so that they encountered each other’s vital essence. Dock’s imposing purity of spirit made his grandiloquence seem small. Cale felt Tiller’s presence like an unmoving stone, and Maz was expansive. Jockren, already clutching his staff, seemed to blend with the Vine and almost become part of it. Cale wondered how they perceived him in this sacred place.
“It is through the Vine that you see the true nature of what harmonizes with you,” said Horgan. “Make your selection from within, and you will find which one it is after you withdraw.”
Cale found himself drawn to one with random weaves creating a wild structure among the Vine’s tendrils that meshed with his heart and mind. Without interference each of the new elders selected their own, and Cale felt that all was right.
“Withdraw now,” said Horgan. “Withdraw and pick through the staves to find your own.”
The five of them lunged for the pile, driven by excitement more than greed. Tiller picked up the one with the large top before Cale could get to it. They pawed through the pile, throwing some shabby ones to the side, including a crooked one and a bush on a stick. Maz pulled triumphantly on a solid branch of maple. Cale and Dock grabbed the thick oak at the same time, but the energy from it disconcerted Cale, and from the gleam in Dock’s eyes, he’d found his.
The other four stood proudly regarding their prizes.
“Mine’s not here,” said Cale.
“It assuredly is,” said Midsen. The elder had a look that Cale could not decipher, perhaps admonishing, or mischievous?
“Check the other pile,” said Horgan.
“What other pile?”
“The one you’re standing next to.”
“The discards?” asked Cale.
The look was clearly disapproval, so Cale nodded and started picking through them. The crooked one agitated him. A twisted up one felt ridiculous. To get to a severely knotted one, he picked up the shrub on a stick to move it, and it seized him with well-being and harmony, sending exhilarating chills through his ribs. It was the most ridiculous looking staff he’d ever seen.
Dock chuckled and Maz snorted. Even Tiller smirked.
He would endure a lot of ribbing for this, but he didn’t care. This was the greatest tool he would ever have for becoming a great wizard. He joined the others for the consignment of their staffs in the Order of the Estherine.