"I taught at the school for many years and also took over the kitchen when my father died. My life was helping students and training myself, always interested in new talents. I saw my body aging, the students and teachers come and go, but I began to notice the headmaster aged much more slowly than the rest of us," Rose resumes the narrative after ordering another round.
"I was sitting in the woods late one night after dinner. I loved seeing the nocturnal animals venture out of hiding, not to hunt them but to learn their habits, track them, and by being present with them, gain their trust. This kind of calming practice gave me great joy because I really did become part of the scene. That night with the full moon rising I heard familiar footsteps but they were headed toward a part of the wilderness no one was allowed to visit. Slipping through a fence, silently crawling to the edge of a bluff, and hiding behind an overhanging root, I saw the headmaster in a clearing emptying liquid from a large earthen pot into an enormous, decorative silver scrying basin maybe six feet in diameter. As the moon rose higher the liquid in the basin started to glow from internally reflected light. I heard chanting and there was motion under the water, dark forms moving rhythmically looked like a school of fish," Rose says in slowly softening tones and W leans closer to hear.
"As my eyes got used to the light emanating from the basin, I made out that the shapes weren't fish at all but a small mobs of humans walking to and fro - seen from above. The surface of the liquid was perfectly smooth. The headmaster, after performing a number of rituals, picked up what looked like a pair of comically long chopsticks, each elaborately carved and very pointy on one end. Swaying like he was in a trance, his hand began to follow the movements under the liquid. He leaned over and raised the pointed sticks above his head so he resembled a giant heron, froze, then suddenly plunged the sticks into the liquid and just as quickly lifted them back out without causing a single ripple. I watched the human figures stop moving and form a circle around one prone figure. When I looked back to the headmaster he was kneeling with his forehead touching the rim of the basin," Rose stops to look into W's eyes and gauge his reaction.
"Was that how the master kept his youth?" asks W.
"I found out later that the beings that can be summoned and fished using that method are called shroops and yes, they were his source.
I had never been anywhere in the world beyond the school and village but I trusted my talents, and from that night, even though I knew no one nor where to go, I resolved to leave that place and not be trapped under the headmaster's power."
W nods and makes eye contact, admiring Rose's talents, courage, and resolve.
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