Rushing forth, I splayed my satchel and all it’s contents out upon the risen stone, my ink bottle and stray buttons rolling every which way to which I quickly collected in a scramble. I could feel his eyes, I could bloody feel them, as I bumbled myself together and sat down hard, myself emitting an “Oof!” and a wild following of the untangling of my limbs and buckles and scarves, to which I tried to situate myself the best I could with all my springing-jumbling of nerves. I couldn’t believe I had been late – again – three times now! I had never been late! I WAS NEVER LATE. Yet in all my fumbling and grasping for my surely unworthy pride I attempted to sit at supposed attention, as if I had arrived right on time.
However, Master El, well, he didn’t seem to be buying it.
“Miss Alexandra, do you understand what the word ‘prompt’ refers to?”
I looked up to my Master, his regal stature and mane of leaden gray hair struck magnificently backward in the high wind of the cliff, the quayside and the ships of the Southern Sea down below, and the green grass arced beneath him bending in bow to the suddens of squalls. The ocean I noticed was particularly volatile and rolling today. Not so unlike my stomach.
“Err, well, yes of course -” I bumped, but my Master quickly seized forward.
“And WHAT, pray tell, does the word ‘prompt’ entail?”
I swallowed, several lumps beginning to form in several places all at once, all of them unwanted. I took a breath, “‘Prompt’,” I breathed, “an adjective, meaning to act quickly, without delay… Punctuality.”
I had paused with the last word, strangely wanting to avoid it, as if avoiding saying the word ‘punctuality’ would somehow make him forget all about my complete lack of it. My Master leered, in that subtle way that splashes with a disapproving, yet passive acceptance that sets in guilt like no other way a single look can, and I shrunk from it.
“Then, Alexandra,” he said, “I suggest you begin putting that knowledge to good use.”
He swept back his robe, tossing it to a gust of wind, and my untied hair slapped into my face and mouth, causing me to sputter in the exact moment of my responding.
“Yes – pfft! Masst – pfft! Pfft! Master El!”
Why was I always reminded of things I had forgotten in the worst ways?
“Write this down.”
I lunged for my satchel, whipping out my quill and once again rolling ink bottle and slapped my parchment upon my stone desk and blundered and scribbled hastily ‘WRITE THIS DOWN’.
Pausing, I looked up, hoping my Master hadn’t just seen that moment of major-total-idiocy-stupidity times ten. He stared, and I stared back, eagerly, stupidly, overly attentive. My eyes were as wide as bloomed daisies, and for some reason I felt not blinking would make me appear focused, rapt and ready to learn! Instead, I seemed to only express my ability to be creepy beyond all reason.
“During,” he started, clearing his throat and taking his usual stance of his hands held behind his back, and eyes to the sky, “During the Age of Harmony, within the state of the Four Cardines (before the Great Upheaval) an important premise was born. A principle to which remains upheld today, by the mere observations of we, the existing men and women, upon our fellow men and women around us.’
“It is the principle of balance, the basic truth that excess, and superfluous accumulation, is a demon. This was well understood by our ancients, and was understood as more than a warning to materialism, but was also a caution to pedestalization of certain aspects of the personality, and segments of the self. From knowledge can come arrogance, from sovereignty – tyranny, and so forth. So the shadows of the Four Virtues came to be. The Principle of Balance was erected high, and became a staple of the First Age. And, as such, the Time of Harmony was aptly named.”
My Master always spoke with such vigor, yet such poise, and his voice was rich and captivating. It was hard not to be intimidated, or enchanted. He was pale, nearly albino, and swathed there in the snowy white of his robes and capped with the dash of his ash colored hair, within the breeze of the ocean he looked like a dancing rise of tall, silvery smoke. Upon sight of him, the mystery of his title the White Lily evaporated. And when he looked at you, with those faded, blue eyes, he was hypnotizing. Though we often argued, and I disappointed him frequently, it was never hard listening to him. Even after weeks and weeks of failing and falling into inadequacy, and constant rumblings within me that perhaps this apprenticeship had been a mistake, in these moments, I knew it all to be worth it.
Quill and paper was the lesson today, I supposed, though I cared little. These were the moments, where I truly felt a connection with my Master, and I wanted nothing more.
I scribbled, and he preached, and philosophized, and sang. The papers piled up, and when the wind died down and the sky bloomed in pinkish hue, he closed his hands elegantly together.
“We are done for today.” he said.