I grew up in a small town located in North Mandeek, known as Valley Hold. Most people haven’t heard of our small settlement due to the remoteness of it., that didn’t stop Rolan Macton, a Grey Wolf, from stumbling across me after my seventh turning.
He was passing through North Mandeek on his way back to Tal-Rena. He stopped by my father's shop while he stayed the night in our town. While he was there, he perused the selection of books my father had, and he quickly lost interest in them and gained an interest in me. He could sense my ability to Draw and when he found out I had had my seventh turning a few months prior he spoke with my father about taking me to an Academy where I would be able to learn to use this gift and to help others. My father was reluctant at first as I was the only one in our family left, my mother had succumbed to the Winter Sickness two years earlier. After some long conversations with Rolan my father agreed to let him take me to the Academy on the condition he would be allowed to visit me on occasion. I packed my few personal items and went off with Rolan on this new exciting journey in my life…
Once we had travelled around a mile from my village a large sandy beige wolf emerged from the treeline. We never saw wolves from the safety of the village so, needless to say, I was scared out of my wits. After reassuring me there was no need to be scared, Rolan introduced me to Mellak, his wolf. He told me all who train at the Academy bond with a wolf, these wolves are our companions and we gain a bond stronger than siblings. Their wolves tend to avoid going into towns and cities and prefer to stick to outlying woods, what better way to give away that you’re a Wolf if a large dog came loping behind you. Most men aren’t welcoming to Wolves, mainly due to their fears of Drawing that have been persistent in most men since the Aeon War; this means we need to travel secretly in most regions.
One of the first things I noticed was that Rolan seemed to be able to communicate with Mellak, I would hear him speaking to the wolf as if it understood him. I soon learned that he could indeed communicate with the wolf and all Wolves could communicate with their animal counterparts, but only with the wolf that they were bound to. If someone wanted to get a message passed to a Wolf, they would do it through their wolves who would relay the message until it reached the destination.
We had a long trip to Tal-Rena but Rolan was always willing to answer my endless stream of questions about the Academy and what I would become. I think that during that six-month period of travel I asked every question under the sun. Needless to say, I had never been more excited in my life, I knew that once I arrived at the Academy I would start on what is called The Path of the Sun, I would learn the secrets of Rhean-Quan and how to Draw with it; as well as different forms of combat, what interested me more than anything however was the prospect of using the Academy’s library. Rolan told me that they have an extremely large library with books on every topic known to man. My father had always emphasised the importance of knowledge and never missed a chance to buy me a new book when he could. I felt that if I couldn’t be with my father, I'd learn all that I could in the hopes of helping him and others to live longer, more comfortable lives.
The Wolves don’t often ride horses, due to the fact they have a wolf with them most of the time horses tend to shy away from them. This meant that traveling across two nations was going to take roughly six months. It would have taken Rolan less time as he could walk long and far without tiring, I however being only a child new to the world couldn’t walk long without needing breaks. Occasionally Mellak would let me ride on her back if we had to make up time, Rolan told me this wasn’t a common thing for a wolf to allow a stranger to do but as she could sense I was just a pup she would help me.
The journey for the most part was uneventful; we would stay in Inns if we ran across them or in the forests if there wasn't a village nearby. Our days were mostly filled with idle chit chat and my endless stream of questions. I wanted to know absolutely everything there was to know about the Academy, and Rolan was happy to oblige in telling me all he could. I'm unable to remember most of these questions, it's been far too many years since I've remembered this journey, but I do remember some of the most prominent ones to me. How can I do magic was among my first questions, Rolan told me that what I know as ‘magic’ is called Drawing. It's the art of tapping into one's Rhean-Quean and by using the living essence all around us to produce an outcome. Everyone has a Rhean this, in essence is magic flowing through you, to draw you need to seize this power and manipulate it, it isn't a partnership, you need to be in control of your Rhean or things can end badly. At the time I didn't understand what that mean but after joining the Academy I soon learnt Rhean is sort of like a living being wanting control over your mind, if you aren't strong enough to control it when you call upon it, it might just take over or in the worst of cases kill you. He told me at this point it is too early to tell how strong my Rhean is, but I was likely to be of an average strength possibly a bit on the weaker side of that.
My next question was what is Quean? Rolan seemed a bit stumped at this one, I can still remember the look of bewilderment in his face as he thought how to explain this to an 8-year-old boy with stories of adventure running through his head. He tried a few times to explain it to me but couldn't. After half a mile of trying and failing he told me he could try and teach me my very first lesson, how to sense my Quean. He said that usually a person's Quean is subdued due to it never being tapped into, but we could try and wake it. He had me sit on Mellak’s back, so I could focus fully. “Pick a point in the distance and focus on it, then clear your mind of everything think of a burning ember. Clear your mind of everything but that ember, that ember is you, that ember is your Quean. Look inside yourself, feel for that ember, once you can sense it, urge it. Imagine you're pumping bellows slowly trying to relight the ember and start a fire. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't light though, it takes some months to get their Quean glowing hot enough to light.” he explained that your Quean is the fuel that powers your Rhean, but it isn't volatile like your Rhean. Before the Aeon War this was known as a Spirit, everyone and everything had a Spirit within them it's what made them, them. Your Rhean can be sensed before you wake your Quean, but you won't be able to tap into it. Essentially it is sleeping at this point and trying to Draw would be as effective as pushing a rope.
I didn't master this training on my first attempt, it took the better part of 2 months of constant training to ignite my Quean. In all honesty Rolan was shocked; he said he never in his wildest dreams imagined I'd be able to light it with only the slimmest amount of guidance and for a boy on the cusp of 8 it was extraordinary. It came to me a few days later that I was going to this Academy to learn to be a Wolf and how to Draw but I had no clue what Drawing actually was. Sure, I knew it was a type of magic but all I knew were the stories everyone hear's from the traveling bards. Rolan told me that everything has these forms of essence inside them called Qi, these make up everything around us and cannot be destroyed only changed. They flow all around us and in time I'd be able to focus my mind and see them and understand them. We take these Qi and arrange them into patterns to create an outcome. You aren't able to create items out of thin air, but you are able to affect the world around you. He gave me a demonstration and to this day it was one of the most beautiful displays I've seen. While he took off his cloak and packs, he said that movement was extremely important in Drawing; he went into a stance known as Entering the Canvas. Shoulders back, legs spread evenly and hands clasped. He explained we do this to prepare for the Drawing, making sure he has sufficient Qi to perform the act and working out where he needs to position them along with amounts needed. He stood like this for less than a minute and instantly without warning drew his sword from its upside-down sheath on his back. The sword whipped up from behind him and he started a form much like a dance. He moved around in a small radius sword slashing through the air, himself moving like the blade, quick and precise. Every movement was calculated and deliberate, and he never faltered a step. His eyes were locked on a bulder near him and never left it, no matter how much he danced around he stayed fixed on that boulder. That's when I saw it, it started off as faint but as the dance progressed, I could see streams of colour dancing along with him in the air, greens, browns and bits of red were dazzling around the rock all seeming to flow from Rolan. That's when it started to carve away, chunks of rock falling off as he moved. Before the dance it was the size of a horse cart, now it was the size of just the wheel. He slowed and I could see some strain in his face. To do something on that scale, alone and only with the Qi in the air today strikes me as nothing short of miraculous. As a youngling though it was nothing short of god like, I had never seen anything comparable in my life, in all honestly, it's what finally convinced me whole heartily what I was doing and going to become was real. I flooded Rolan with a new eager stream of questions, what did he do? How did he do it? Was it hard to do? Why did he do that sort of dance with it and why with the sword? And what were the colours?
With a smile on his face he gave me the answers I was looking for, he performed what was known as a shaving. It can be done to almost any material given enough strength and Qi. The second question he never bothered answering as it was straight forward, he Drew. It was hard to do but that was only due to the circumstances and it being a very spur of the moment thing. The Dance is just that, a dance except a calculated dance designed to provide him with something called energy, the more energy you can provide a Drawing the stronger it will be. He calculated that dance to build up a moderate amount of energy to shave that rock. His sword was made by him and has been etched to help him guide and control his Rhean, it allows the person to control a Drawing more easily and in turn have a more, potent Rhean. Drawing is often done with just the hands and heat to guide the Qi rather than using your weapons movement to guide them in place but mostly this is done in smaller simple Drawings. The colour was the Qi in the air he was Drawing with. Wolves can see and sense the Qi around them if they concentrate the right way, and they can draw them from the metaphysical into the physical world, you won't be able to physically touch them, but you'll be able to see and read them. Most people will only see a flurry of colours, like colourful winds, but to those who practice drawing they learn to understand the Qi and instead of seeing a flow of air they will see the symbols the Qi form; Qi themselves are formless but we are taught to train our minds to associate these symbols with the respective Qi. It's aided some ancient races like the Elves or Forgotten use different symbols to draw Qi, but all Wolves use the same glossary of Qi.
Unfortunately, those are the only questions of importance I can remember from our journey. It went on with hardly any issues, we ran into brigands at the Burana border but a deep growl from both Wolf and wolf along with a flash of Rolan's sword drove them off faster than a hare running from a hawk.
Once we made it to the border of Tal-Rena, Mellak darted into the trees, Rolan told me she was going to tell the others that we were coming and that there is a new pup coming to the Academy. Pup is the term all wolves use for a new young student. I was confused however as he had told me no other man or woman would be able to speak to Mellak; he told me while this is true they still used wolves to deliver messages as wolves can communicate with each other and then pass the message onto their partner. Tal-Rena is mostly forested land, we walked a few days through the paths that had been worn away by centuries of wolves and came across no one. I did however keep getting the odd feeling we were being watched. I felt foolish but brought my concerns up with Rolan and he told me we were indeed being watched. Wild wolves and Wolves from the academy live in these forests. The men and woman live in sorts of dens which all interconnect under Tal-Rena and lead to the Academy's outskirts. These dens on the inside are houses, in a world where you're constantly persecuted outside of your land you find solace in the areas most men won't venture, mainly underground. An additional three days of walking and Rolan stopping to say hello to Wolves seemingly walking out of the ground; took us to a surprisingly well-maintained road, he told me this is where we have to part ways. The rest of the journey must be taken on my own. An hour walk along this road would take me to the Academy, there is nothing to fear on this road, I might see the odd wolf running by, but they won't harm me. One more hour and my life would change forever, I took that first step into my new life as a Wolf.