136 A Young Shadow*
The building at the back did not look quite as awful. That wasn't to say it wasn't destroyed, it was, but it left fewer things to the imagination when trying to picture how the original building looked.
The ground floor was like any classic style home. It had a large kitchen and the skeletal remains of a library, as well as a sitting room and what Rassa assumed had once been a music or entertainment hall. It was clear someone well off had once lived here. The second floor was a little less structurally intact, though seemed to have been composed of another sitting room, bathrooms and bedrooms. It was unclear what the third floor had had, but Rassa assumed there had been more bedrooms, possibly a study or two.
This was not however, going to be a home. At least, not just a home. Rassa intended for this place to one day be a way-point for him and his people, whoever they turned out to be. As such, the first floor would be totally dedicated to the business side of things. The back half of the house would consist of offices, the library would be turned into a records room, and the front rooms would be altered to become a store of sorts for whatever Rassa wished to sell. At this stage, it would probably be Runed Crystals, but who knew what he'd come across in future.
The second floor would consist of work rooms and a large storeroom for the products. The top floor would be a living space for himself and a trusted few. It would mean the bedrooms were smaller, but it was a temporary solution at this stage, besides the fact that Rassa didn't need much to be content.
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The girl who held the most seniority amongst those living at the ruin, a dark-haired girl in her late twenties called Sharli, quickly became aware from Rassa's questions that he was not in the least bit interested in harming them. Unless of course they did something against him, she'd gotten that threat loud and clear like the others. The only member of the group who was older than her was an old blind man by the name of Tegin. Sharli said that his tree didn't go all the way to the top branch, as he often told stories about events in his life that had never actually occurred as far as she knew. Still, his stories entertained the children, of which there were many.
Apart from Sharli's younger sister Iah, the rest of the residents were below the age of sixteen. A couple of them risked working at the docks, but the money they earned was nowhere near enough to feed the twenty-seven residents of the ruin.
That was what they'd affectionately called it, the Ruin. It seemed to fit, not because of the state of the building, but the state of those who lived there. They had nowhere to go, had no aspirations beyond surviving. In a state of ruin that no one seemed concerned enough to attempt to get them out of.
After a tour, Rassa, took the young Shadow Magician, a boy named Kit, out with him. He could tell the boy was burning with questions, and figured it was faster to get them over with now.
"How did you move with the shadows?" asked Kit, "How did you make them solid enough to take weight? Have you been trained at an academy? Can I do that one day? You're not going to send me away are you? Not to be an assassin like Sharli says will happen if someone knows-"
"Slow down kid, you'll bite your tongue," Rassa smiled in amusement, "You're pretty good for your age, I don't think the Academy could teach you much. As for assassination, I personally believe shadows have their uses for more than killing".
"Like making chairs and blocking exits?" asked Kit.
"Perhaps," Rassa shrugged, buying two large baskets and handing them to the ten-year-old to hold, "Follow me".
Kit followed eagerly, as if Rassa had never appeared to be the scary entity that had threatened him and his mismatched family. In truth, Kit had felt the intent behind the shadows, they had been lethal, of course, but not out of desire, only out of necessity. Kit hadn't mentioned it to the others.
To him, this was not a form of betrayal, he trust this new man. This new Shadow Magician. In truth, he was the only Magician Kit had ever come across apart from himself. When he'd awakened, Sharli and Iah had insisted that he stay put, that he stay quiet. They'd had many experiences in their life, and those who awakened as Magicians were always taken away. It didn't matter if they didn't desire it, training those Magicians became a necessity, it was simply a matter of who did the training. In the end, Kit had managed to stay hidden, and due to his connection with the shadows in their dark and abandoned corner of the slums, he grew to become quite skilled even without a teacher. The shadows taught him for all intents and purposes.
But still, he knew he was not powerful enough to protect the others. Not indefintely. What would happen if someone came along that he could not scare off? His fake ghosts wouldn't do much harm.
But this man, the one who hadn't been scared...he was an opportunity, and despite Kit's young age, the boy didn't wish to pass it up.
"Can you teach me?" asked Kit.
Rassa was looking through a stand full of vegetables when Kit spoke, and he paused to look down at the kid. Rassa didn't need their shared connection to the shadows to know the look in that kid's eyes. He'd had that look once. A determination to protect what was dear to him. That look had disappeared over the years, as he became less and less capable. He'd only just started to feel an inkling of it again here on Rouke. This world was big, and the potential enemies numerous. Even with all of his power, he could not guarantee the safety of those around him.
He'd thought of another use for this kid. Besides, the kid was not like Rassa, he could only do so much with the shadows.
"I'm not really a great teacher, but I do have an idea," Rassa said, "Something that could help your family. Something only you can do".
Kit frowned in thought for a moment, "What is it?"
"Do you understand what the Mist is, Kit?"
Rassa paid for the vegetables and moved to another stall.
"The Mist?" asked Kit.
"The dust that others can't see, the stuff that seems to sit over the world and that helps you with the Shadows," Rassa explained.
"Oh," Kit said in understanding, "I suppose I just understand it as how you described it".
Rassa paused on the edge of the crowd and took out a piece of paper from his jacket, taking a piece of charcoal from a nearby pile and drawing a cirlce within a circle.
"What is this picture telling you?" asked Rassa.
Kit frowned, taking the paper from Rassa and looking at the symbol for a moment before looking at Rassa, "I don't understand what-"
"Don't look with your eyes, look with the Mist," Rassa replied, "It will tell you if you listen".
Kit hesitated, but looked back at the symbol. After a moment, the symbol seemed to become sharp with clarity. It was not just a circle within a circle. It was a barrier around something solid, something with will. The word seemed to whisper into Kit's mind as the symbol became more and more clear, as he saw layer after layer of meaning.
"Protection," Kit said softly.
Rassa smiled, "When we get back, I'm going to get you some ink and paper, I want you to let the mist teach you how to draw these symbols, these runes. When you can understand them as you draw them, when they have the same clarity as this one, I'll give you the next task".
"What about the shadows?" asked Kit, "Can't I learn them".
"You've done a pretty good job on your own kid," Rassa admitted, "Unfortunately, I'm not quite the same as you so my abilities are a bit different. Perhaps one day you can create solid objects, but you need to practice, to test your limits and be more creative. Maybe learning about these runes might help you with that".
"You think so?" asked Kit.
"Maybe," Rassa replied.