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An Apprentice and a Walk
“Step lightly now!”
Calvius stood where he hadn’t been a moment ago, his feet flat on the leaves and his perfect, white teeth flashing a comfortable grin. His change in position marked only by Jonathon seeing him there now. A second passed Calvius had been next to him, his rough fingers pointing to where he would be. Jonathon had been distracted by some stag behind him and had been foolish enough to look before realizing that his teacher’s intention was to be where he had gestured.
Jonathon took a single silent step, placing his feet at just the right spots to avoid the deathtrap of dried leaves and twigs. His second step gracefully followed, his third with more speed but less grace, and his dexterity wriggled out of his grasp as he fell on the fourth step into Fall’s debris.
Calvius laughed, his eyes sparkled with it. Jonathon felt he could be at ease around Calvius, but he knew he wasn’t to be easy, only to seem at home. It was the one of the greater lessons he had to be taught. Calvius taught the best lesson; you need to learn things for yourself. Jonathon was good at that.
A dedicated teacher that wanted to motivate, inspire, and make a name for a lad would have beaten him, yelled at him, told him to do it again and again until it was perfect.
“That’s called love, or friendship, which is why I delve in neither.” Calvius had said. “Remember to be friendly, but never a friend, and loving, but never a lover!”
That was the lesson Calvius taught; you must remember.
Jonathon stood up, and told himself to try it again. This time, it was on his fifth step he fell, right at Calvius’ feet. His master chuckled again. “Come now Jonathon, we have a walk to continue.” But Jonathon refused to give up. It was six long steps total, a small ditch the only barrier between the apprentice and his master. The shift in height made his steps heavier, and he couldn’t help but make sound as he crossed the ditch. He knew Calvius heard it, because Jonathon heard the slightest crunch.
“Want a tip?”
Jonathon looked determinedly at his master. Calvius smiled and leapt over the ditch to Jonathon’s side, catching the branch above his head as his feet dangled over the ground, then lightly touched down; silently.
Jonathon looked to where his master had been, saw the branch above where his head had been, and leapt. He felt alive in that jump, no running start, just an improvised leap. His arms reached above his head to catch the branch opposite the ditch…
…and was just short of it. Jonathon crashed onto the ground with a louder thump than his misplaced footsteps had been. Jonathon pushed himself to his feet, embarrassed and frustrated at himself, and angry at his master for giving him trick advice. Calvius roared with laughter from the other side.
Jonathon brushed the leaves off his shirt, and glowered at his master. Calvius raised his hands in surrender to his apprentice’s glare, allowing his last chuckles to escape. Jonathon, infuriated, broke a branch off the tree and flung it at his master’s face, or rather where his face had been, because a moment later the bald man’s laughter ensued again ten feet away from where the stick fell. Calvius raised his thumbs to his ears and wiggled his fingers, grinning like a stupid, bald baby.
“You stupid bald baby!” Jonathon shouted, and threw another branch at Calvius’ indeed bald scalp. Calvius agilely jumped with his back to the large tree next to him, placing his feet just so on the bark, that when he pushed off, his outstretched arms caught him as he somersaulted down the ditch Jonathon had meant to cross. Jonathon simply jumped in and gave pursuit as Calvius ran off, quick as a deer, his steps lightly shaded while Jonathon’s picked up the dried leaves Calvius barely lifted from the ground.
Calvius enjoyed his game of chase despite Jonathon’s awful determination to catch his master. Calvius broke off from the ditch’s path, pushing off the ground onto the higher level in one try while Jonathon had to scramble up. Calvius continued to laugh as he led Jonathon in a large circle whilst anger was the only thing Jonathon could feel. When Calvius stopped, his back was to Jonathon and his laughter stopped, but Jonathon did not let up his charge as he made his hand to a fist and made for the small of the bald man’s back, where he would cringe and Jonathon could grab his throat…
…but Calvius twisted around, Jonathon’s wrist broken in his right hand and his throat grappled in his left. Calvius, ominously solemn, drew Jonathon’s head up and whispered in his ear.
“Don’t be so foolish, boy. Were you chasing me or following me?”
“I…” Calvius’ grip tightened on the already mangled bones in his apprentice’s wrist, causing Jonathon to scream in pain.
“You were chasing me.” If Calvius’ voice had been stone, it was now steel, brittle and painfully biting into Jonathon’s ear. “What will happen when you chase, Jonathon?”
Without waiting for an answer, Calvius slammed his knee into the small of Jonathon’s back, giving him view of his master’s dark, intelligent eyes and forcing him into even greater torment.
“When your chasing, they will go straight, they always do. I know these things Jonathon.”
The apprentice gaped, his eyes wide and his body burning, into the darkness that was his master’s eyes. Calvius’ jagged fingernails began to scratch Jonathon’s throat.
“They will scream, but they will not see the paths they could take, and it wouldn’t matter if they could, you are faster. You will always be faster.”
Jonathon began to lose himself, his breath running short, the world beginning to spin, but the eyes remained steady, those beady, bird’s eyes.
“I am a hundred yards ahead of you, why did you punch the air? Remember, that was a straight line we ran, because it was a chase.”
Just before Jonathon was engulfed in darkness, Calvius released him, and slapped him hard in the face.
“Wake up, boy. You got angry. Emotion leads to that. Dampen it, and they won’t get free if you’ve bound them.”
Jonathon supported himself with his unbroken hand, and faced the terrible man, watching down on him, seeing down on him. Or, worst of all, knowing Jonathon, down at his feet.
“If you bind them, they cannot run unless you are weak. If you bind two, they cannot run unless you are weak.”
Calvius squatted in front of Jonathon, looking into his own eyes, grey as the clouds in the sky. Calvius saw through the grey, and saw Jonathon’s true colors, knew Jonathon’s true colors.
“If you chase them, they will fall. But the chase must also be subtle. Not silent, but subtle, like your emotions.” Calvius straightened himself up, and removed his shirt. The bald man proceeded to address Jonathon’s broken wrist.
“Remember Jonathon,” Calvius said, as he wrapped Jonathon’s snapped bones. “Be friendly, but never a friend, be loving…”
“…but never a lover.” Jonathon finished, his eyes never leaving the black stare of his master.
Calvius’ face returned to the amiable man, the friendly man, who smiled lovingly at Jonathon.
“That’s right. Remember those words, and one day, one sweet day,” Calvius licked his lips as he saw blood trickle down Jonathon’s neck from where the fingernails had harvested flesh.
“You will have revenge.”