Raaj glanced surreptitiously at the candle, it flicked and was almost at the mark indicating they could stop, stretch and have a break. His left handed script was not as elegant as Nat’s, and he was not as quick as either Deneel or Moratiin, but in the last six months he had made significant progress and it was now legible. Flagsteen had reassured him reading and making script would come naturally before the lengthy volume was complete. Now at more than the halfway mark he was still finding it a chore, if not a bore, and shifted uncomfortably on the stool.
Focusing back on the parchment of stiffened fabric filled with Flagsteen’s meticulous notes he mentally prepared his mind to transfer more information onto his own sheet. This particular parchment detailed complaints of the digestive system. As a former slave without access to Healers some of the herbs and remedies had been previously know to him but the breadth and depth of knowledge, the reasons why and how they worked was intriguing and Raaj would have possible enjoyed learning to become a Healer if the process had not been taking so long, he was not physically limited, and the effort to memorise thousands of word symbols such a daunting task. He had been cheerful informed no other profession needed to know so many word symbols. It was typical, and a little depressing, that he would need to learn the one with the most extensive vocabulary.
Flagsteen made the lessons relevant, had vegetative samples collected, took every opportunity when treating the people of the village to expose his students to common ailments. When the weather permitted, and Raaj was strong enough, they foraged at the forest edge identifying natural remedies in the environment. Learning the correct names and information pertaining to cures, extracts and mixtures that brought relief to various ailments was all useful knowledge and he was grateful his uncle was willing to share it. But the script work was tedious and stretched the limits of both his patients and sanity. Deneel and Moratiin had been brought up in the village and as a matter of course script had been inculcated into them from an early age. As slaves Raaj and Nat childhood’s had been spent attending to the basics of survival, avoiding Commanders and the daily struggle to get enough to eat. Manuscript’s had been well outside his range of experience until ten months ago. Now he was not only entrusted with the weighty responsible for making one, given expensive equipment to met the outcome, and supported by the community during the process, but he was expected to be intimately familiar with it’s context. So no pressure.
Quills scratched, and silver lines precisely placed in the nonagon representing words joined with other to make a sentence. Almost magical, defiantly mysterious. Scratches on a page becoming thoughts and concepts. Transferring information, there was a surreal quality to the process and even though he had learned so many new words the experience still defied exact definition. The students each copied a separate but related parchment Flagsteen had previously worked for them. Counting each symbol, line and paragraph, they checked for accuracy, before swapping them between themselves until they all had completed the same information. It was then discussed at length with Flagsteen. The intention was not to just make identical copies of the information but to thoroughly learn the art of Healing.
The practical aspect of Healing were if anything more demanding but on completely different levels. They had been a group of six initially and although Nat glowed with happiness and found neither the practical or scholarly parts of learning the craft arduous her extending midriff indicated she only had potentially another couple of months before other womanly duties would impinge on her time and attention.
Glancing up at his sister, Nat’s petite face was creased with concentration. He was happy for her, happy she had found love and security, a place to belong with people who accepted and respected them. Life was never certain but her contentment and delight sustained him. During the dark and lonely pain filled nights when his never healing injuries filled the shadows with silent anguish or his critical mind and the value of hindsight berated him with scenarios of what he could have done, she was his beacon of light. The one slave in his world who’s life had become fulfilled and blissful, better than anything they could have previously imagined.
Raaj shifted on the stool again, resisted the urge to rip at the wound that irritated his back and drained his strength. He needed to learn Healing, it was an absolute necessity, but he had spent all of his life physically active, pushing his young body to the edge of it’s abilities. Now that it was no longer possible, his energy levels depleted, living with constant pain and with limited mobility the adjustment ha not been easy to reconcile.
Directly after the battle Raaj had believed he would die. So many others had, and he accepted it as the cost of hard won freedom. A sacrifice that had needed to be made so others, like Nat, would have a chance at happiness. He had thought he had courage, had shown it in battle, but the consistency of daily pain worn away at his resolution to survive. It took an entirely different sort of courage to great each day incapacitated. To be a young man and feel old. The days had dragged into months and his own bodies natural Healing raged against the poison with limited success. At least continued existence offered opportunities for alternate solutions. Raaj eventually found a limited range of food he could keep down without it violently reappearing, and treasured each small success. Initially optimistic an elusive solution would manifest itself, time had dragged wearily by. Flagsteen, and the ancient and serene Amaraanth, proposed a variety of cures, some offered temporary relieve, but a permanent solution was unidentifiable. Nobody else poisoned had previously survived more than a few heartbeats, he was a paradox.
He glanced at the candle again, needed to focus, set himself a goal, one more paragraph, copied and understood. Dipping his quill into the silver solution he slid the ruler he was using up to the next line needing to be duplicated. The word for ‘take’ a familiar symbol, one he could script without coping. The next three were also relatively common and the proceeding one simple to work out because of its roots. Four more everyday symbols completed the sentence. Proceeding to the next and the next he completed a reproduction of the paragraph. Now the second part of the equation, deciphering the meaning.
Raaj ran his finger up the now dry silver script, the individual word symbol translated themselves into thoughts and a coherent sentiment was transferred into his mind. Yes it was an awe-inspiring occurrence, one of truly significant and of long-standing consequence. The privilege and advantages of manuscripts was not lost on him. Anna would have loved this, and the pang of sorrow that gripped his heart whenever he thought of her rose unbidden and fragmented his torn heart.
With effort he turned from the painful spot in his heart and back to his paragraph, the symbols swam, but the thoughts remained. He pretended to read them, absorb the meaning, was surprised how much he remembered from simply copying. Without drawing attention brushed the water that had suspiciously gathered in the corner of his eye. He didn’t feel motivated to continue, and again glanced at the candle.
Not enough time to complete another paragraph, and he thought he could guess what it would say. Glancing at the next row of symbols he was pleasantly surprised to note his supposition was correct, although additional information unfolded. He ran his finger up to the next line, nodding, that was interesting, he would not have thought of that application.
Realisation slowly dawned, he was reading, not just deciphering individual word and letter symbols but understanding them in sequence. It was like a door had opened and a light had gone on in his mind. He read another paragraph just to be sure. It contained a couple of symbols he was not as familiar with, but was able to decipher meaning from the context. With a moment of complete clarity becoming a Healer went from an abstract necessity to an achievable reality. He could do this, and if he could make this happen other impossible things were also within the realms probability. Diligently he bent his head to study once again.
“Okay, well done everyone. Take a break, I heard they are serving Noc’keey in the cafeteria, it’s always better warm,” Flagsteen smiled at his students.
Raaj raised an eyebrow, it wasn’t one of the limited foods he could digest. “I will join you shortly, just want to finish this paragraph.”
“You just want to finish a paragraph? Who are you, and what have you done with my nephew?” Flagsteen grinned.
Raaj nodded. “I deserve that, but it’s just starting to make sense.”
“Now we will have to really watch it, you will be reading for pleasure before you know it.” Flagsteen handed him the crutch.
“That will be the day,” Raaj chuckled.
Flagsteen raised an eyebrow and grinned. Infuriating man his uncle, the problem was he was usually right.