One day towards the end of [our] Fourth Change Master Liathimo arranged a Family Day in the Gathering Hall for the children of our hamlet. Together with other Masters and Mistresses we had enormous fun showing off the Games we’d learned, telling our stories, and making things together.
Late in the afternoon everyone gathered round to hear a special story. As usual, some of us wanted to sit next to Master Liathimo, but he very skilfully made sure each child was with their parents, and Master Kearimo, who had just joined us, was given the favoured place. Once were settled and quiet Liathimo looked round at us and began:
‘We are the Myldorangi of Myldora, and we have three Great Gifts: The Remembering, The Turning and The Calling, and we live long full-lives. Hear now The Tale of Fulure, who long ago wanted to become the Great Mistress of the Guild of The Turning.
‘She lived with her Ami and Adi at the Scarlet Valley Place of Learning, and when she became a Seven she found that with her mind she could Turn her toys with her as she crossed her room. At first it was quite difficult, but without telling anyone she practised carrying them around her room until it was easy.
‘She knew what she was doing – she had learned the stories of the Myldorangi just as you are doing, and just as your amures and adimos did when they were Fours.’ He paused and smiled round at everyone.
‘She’d already been Turned by her village Master many times since she was a Four – over to the Dawn Hills two days’ walking away, on trips with other Childlings from her home to the Northern Forest Town, and once to the Place of Gathering. But now she was a Youngling and had begun her Learning at the Place and her ambition began to soar.
‘One day, proud of her skill, she decided to try Turning herself, and set off towards the pool in the Scarlet Woods. It’s a beautiful spot in a hanging valley above the Place where a deep pool surrounded by grass, flowers and moss lies among the Scarlet trees. The sun shines down through the water, and she and her friends had often gone there to watch the fish, the greenwings, and the slender, antlered deer. As she reached the path which climbed the hill her friend Breolimo happened to come along and she couldn’t resist telling him what she was going to do.
‘ “It’s easy” she said, pretending she’d done it before. “You only have to look at where you want to be and think it, and there you are! Do you want to come and see me do it?” She decided she wanted an audience who would tell the Master just how skilled she was.
‘Secretly Breolimo was horrified at the whole idea, but Fulure was strong-willed, as all those who Turn are, and could persuade others to her way of thinking.’
I remember well how he and Kearimo looked at each other then, and the sadness in their look. I felt it inside me. They were heartfriends, and I wondered how and where they’d met, little knowing that in the future I would play a large part in their lives. But I must return to the story.
‘As they climbed the hill Fulure told Breolimo her version of all she’d already done – adding to the tale and building up her confidence with her exaggerations. By the time they reached the pool she felt almost invincible, and even tried to persuade him to let her carry him over the water. But that was going too far and too fast for him, and he declared he would have nothing to do with it. Failing to dissuade her from her attempt he said, “I’m going home,” and ran off through the trees, hoping the disappearance of her audience might stop her. However he knew there wasn’t time to fetch someone older, so although he was terrified, he got the better of his fear and crept back to a point behind a tree where he could see her without being seen.
‘Fulure stood at the edge of the pool, gazing at the trees on the other side with fierce concentration.’
A shiver ran round the group, and every Childling took a firm hold of their parents. Reshi looked at me as he held on to his ami and adi, and I knew he was just as frightened as I was. I had a vice-like grip on Ami’s arm – there were purple bruises there next day where my fingers had dug in – but Adi’s arm was round my shoulders, Ami’s other hand covered mine, and I felt their love comforting me.
Liathimo’s voice grew quieter, but we heard every word as he spoke into the tense silence. ‘One moment she was standing there, and the next she was gone. But though he scrambled out from behind his tree and ran to the pool’s edge, Breolimo couldn’t see her on the other shore.
‘ “Fulure! Fulure!” he called again and again as he raced desperately round the pool, almost tumbling in in his haste. But there was no answer, and in utter dread he slowed as he approached the trees at which she had been staring so determinedly. Why couldn’t he see her? Where was she? Had she been Lost in the black nothingness of her Turn?
‘No, she was there. He saw her back outlined against the bark of a mighty Scarlet tree, but most of her body, including her face was embedded in the wood. He grabbed at her clothes. He tore his fingers pushing them between her body and the wood, and he pulled and he heaved, while the tears rolled down his face and he gasped in his terror. “Fulure, no! Fulure, come out of there! Please!”
‘His desperation lent him strength, and at last he hauled her free and laid her gently on the grass. Although it was clear from the blood on her face and body that she was badly injured, she was still breathing – he took a trembling breath himself – but she was unconscious. He covered her with his tunic, and tore down the hill to find the Master of Turning. In his haste he fell several times, arriving well bloodied, but within the hour she had been brought down to the House of Healing, and the Master Healer and her parents were at her side.’
Liathimo looked around and smiled comfortingly at us – Childlings, parents and Masters. It was a look which told us he shared our feelings. ‘She survived,’ he concluded, ‘though the credit for that must go to Breolimo. Had he not been there she would most likely have died alone and her soul gone into the Void of the Nameless Ones, for who would have known where to go looking for her to release her from the tree’s grip?
‘The least of her injuries was the loss of her Gift. The shock and terror had injured her mind far beyond that, and even as an adult she remained confused and fearful; but the tree had harmed her body even more severely. The bones of her face had been broken and she was badly scarred. Her hands, knees and feet were crippled, and she could no longer walk. She spent the rest of her life hiding herself away from everyone but her family, and if she had to travel she went by closed carriage. And that, my friends, is The Tale of Fulure.‘
No one spoke at first – we couldn’t think what there was to say. I was filled with terror and relief in equal measure, and felt faint with emotion in a way I’d never done before. The Fours were hugged, and their parents murmured comforting words to them. Adi held me close and said, ‘It’s an important story which we all heard just like that, but my Ami and Adi were with me, and though I was frightened I knew I was safe. We’re with you now, and you’re safe with us, and safe with our Masters and Mistresses.’
Liathimo gave us time to talk and relax while food and drink were shared around. Then when he could see smiles returning, and our murmurs began to turn to chatter, he called us to attention again.
‘I’m sure your amis and adis will answer as many of your questions about The Turning and about Fulure as they can, but if anyone wants to ask more, or talk about Fulure to Master Kearimo, he will be glad to help you.’
‘Yes, indeed,’ he said, ‘you may come to find me at any time. But next Star-Passing-Day I will make a special visit to each family, because before I give the Fours their First Turn I want to get to know them in their families.’
In our small hamlet that should have been easy, but because he kept himself so much apart from us he only knew those he Turned often, and the Tinies and younger Childlings were strangers to him.
‘We’ll talk together in your homes,’ he said, ‘and you can ask me all the questions about The Turning you’ve ever thought of. And don’t worry, I won’t treat any question as too simple, too hard or too silly. Amis and adis I hope you’ll talk to your Fours about Turns you’ve made, because very soon they’ll experience their First Turn with me.’