In the Well of Thorns || SoelleKhiss

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"Silas the Dim!"

"Silas the Dull!"

The hateful names echoed and reechoed in the hollow at the bottom of the abandoned well. Amplified by the narrow channel, the taunts vibrated in Silas' sensitive ears. He closed his eyes and pushed the izsawe shells deeper into his ears. Worn down over many years, the edges no longer cut into him. The tiny, empty shells created soft, sweet tones from the air current, drowning out the world's dissonance.

Silas sat with his back against the craggy wall, exactly where he had fallen some thirty feet from the surface. Though not broken, his ankle was badly sprained and throbbed with every heartbeat. Walking would be difficult, climbing impossible, but there was no need to do either, not yet. He reached into the tattered leather tote that his mother had given him and retrieved his journal and a quill. Unhurried, he sketched the dimensions of the old well, its circumference and depth, as well as annotating the types of rock jutting from the curved wall onto the page.

Vizurji sa wiibe — the Well of Thorns. Long abandoned, the ancient watering hole was haunted. One day, the bucket sent to retrieve fresh water from the bottom instead brought up nothing but jagged, black thorns the size of a man's thumb. Silas saw no evidence of thorns in the shaft, for which he was obviously thankful, and noted this in the journal along with the odd scratches etched into the rock wall for as far up as his eyes could see.

Writing was his escape. He knew no greater joy than the feel of a quill and the pleasant sound and sensation of scratching out words or images onto a blank page, breathing life into the parchment and giving both his hand and the page purpose. An observer of life rather than a participant, he kept his distance and avoided interaction with people. The tribal elders referred to him as afflicted, a victim of acute sensitivity to his senses. Any overstimulation, even the close proximity of strangers, left him bed-ridden for days to recover.

He had not uttered his first words until well into his fifth year. That was by choice, as he was fluent in both his mother's dialect and the neighboring language of her assistant. His first attempt at communication was written: a ledger listing the inventory of the very rare herbs and minerals that his mother kept in her study, including the ones hidden in a drawer at her work table. Whatever Silas wrote, he remembered, committing it all to memory.

This pleased his mother so much that the next day she took him to her private study and gave him his own book of parchment, a quill, and a pair of izsawe shells covered in beeswax. Izsawe meant salvation in Quaafiran. The shells permitted him to venture from her side into other parts of the house without the fear of being startled by unexpected noise. He spent the next three years copying the tomes in her library. When one journal was filled, she put it on the shelf and gave him another.

However, the theory of magic was quite different from the practice. His first attempts were intentionally rudimentary, as he believed in being practical. So Silas crafted a quill that drew water in through its tip and turned it into ink, allowing him to take up writing whenever the need moved him. For a mwambo who came from a family of famous shamans, he showed little prowess with magic, not even in the healing arts. Still, he was determined to master some meaningful task, even if the end goal would be to leave his mark on the world as a lowly scribe and not a powerful sorcerer.

"Are you alive or are you dead, Silas the Fool?" the cruel voices taunted from the surface. "Are you afraid to be in the dark alone?"

The answer was unequivocally no. Silas neither feared the dark nor being alone and preferred the latter. He closed his book, their sardonic words dimly coming to his ears through the shells. More beeswax was needed to secure them. His ankle throbbed angrily as he stretched out his legs. He reached into his bag for a twig of kucha weed and put it in his mouth to chew.

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