Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Vignette: Rainmaker

This scene is based on the content in the Elementalism Clarified, Part 2 post.

Dax stood in the field and tried to work the kinks out of his neck as he surveyed the early afternoon sky. Yesterday’s rain-calling had been more difficult than usual for this time of year, and it had been late afternoon before he’d soaked the earth at Gressa enough to move on to Karcher, where he’d had to keep the clouds busy into the night to make up for the late start and poor volume. The Karcher folk had been none too happy about that—they’d paid his fee, but the ceremonial meal he received for his services had been paltry and cold.

Still, he was on schedule, moving from village to village in his little contractual domain and calling down steady rain for a day to nourish their crops and fill their catch-basins. Six villages in all, two in a day, the cycle set for a dozen years now, arranged to give two steady days of needed rain each week to the village fields while not competing with the work of his fellow Rainmakers in the neighboring communities.

You could make the rain come, if you had the gift, but you couldn’t squeeze water from a stone or draw too many clouds too close to where another Rainmaker was crafting. The sky held only so much water and it had to be parceled out wisely.

Less than usual, this planting season. There were years when he hardly had to work his magic at all to get a steady downpour. Easy living, that, but then those were the times when people grumbled about the need to be paying a Rainmaker at all. Dax snorted to himself. As if the farmers hadn’t made back his fee ten times over from the extra yields at harvest time or gained security from the ability to get paid a little in advance for bushels promised to the city merchants at the county market.

No, the real trouble he faced was not a lack of demand for his services. It was that whelp of Jerzy Klint’s, the moon-faced apprentice of old Prat Dauber. Word was that the Klint boy could whistle up winds as easily as call the rain.

Dax could barely hold a cloud in place on a breezy day, much less guide it along like a yoked ox. He had to break up the clouds, walk his way from one village to the next, and draw down the waters again. If the apprentice kept progressing in his studies, he’d be able to call a nice downpour and send it floating pretty as you please over three or four fields in a day. One way or another, that meant more rain on the crops and competition that Dax would have to underbid to beat.

The wind picked up in his face as if to spite him. He dropped his hand and flexed his fingers. He’d just have to diversify, was all. Youngsters got caught up in the power of calling down the rain, but Dax could stop up the clouds as well. And he had a knack for shaping snow in winter. Next time a wedding ceremony was in danger of being washed out, he ought to show up and settle things down just to remind folks.

He nodded to himself and then caught old widow Bonner watching him with a critical eye from the edge of the field. Her stern gaze reminded Dax that he was burning daylight talking to himself. He blew out his cheeks and rolled his stiff neck around one more time before throwing his head back and flinging his arms up to the sky.

Within a few heartbeats he knew something was wrong. The water heard him, sure enough, but there was a stronger voice calling, a long way off but strong in spite of it. Dax stretched his spirit out into the sky like a fisherman casting his net, trying to sweep those little droplets together, get them to join up and attract their kin the way they always wanted to once enough of them got together. But that far off pull remained strong.

He caught the thread of that call and tried to trace it to the source. For his trouble he got a shock that froze up his muscles and fixed his face into a grimace of pain. He broke the contact and fell to the field like a discarded rag doll.

His fingers clawed at the soil while he tried to stop the world from spinning. He’d touched the edge of a swirling thunderstorm, wind and electricity and rain drawn together in a terrible fury. No Rainmaker would call down a storm like that, even if they could. That was weather magic meant for war, to batter and slow down an army on the march, or turn a field of battle into a wind-lashed quagmire.

This was the work of a powerful sorcerer, for there was a clear unity of purpose in the voice behind the storm. Dax looked over his shoulder in the direction of the city, saw the darkness building on the horizon. Everything was being pulled to the city. But was it Balthazar Black drawing it to stop an army heading toward the city, or an invader trying to keep soldiers and citizens from getting safely inside the walls?

Either way, there would be no rainmaking today. Nor tomorrow. And one way or another there would be men coming, demanding food and shelter . . . and maybe worse.

Dax picked his way gingerly to his feet, rubbing life back into his sore muscles as the widow and the headmen of the village approached him, their worried eyes on the distant skies. In a final indignity, his hungry stomach growled at him.

Copyright 2009 by Doug Sims

2 comments:

Aaron DaMommio said...

This is good. However each vignette makes me want more.

Doug said...

Thank you. I have fallen behind a bit, keep throwing myself into different things.

At the same time, you're the ONLY person who has read or commented on any of these stories. Even within my tiny circle of direct family relations who read fantasy (wife, mother, sister), nobody has bothered to look at them despite repeated invitations.

If I sound a bit disappointed about that, I am. And it does make a bit harder to motivate myself to write them.