Excerpt: The Oracle’s Golem

There was a child sitting in his lap. How strange. It had been nearly fifteen years since Golem had felt another’s presence. Only the rock of the unyielding mountain surrounding him had kept him company. The mountain was alive and she spoke to him as she shifted with the currents of the earth. She told him of roots burrowing deep and the evils of ice at the summit as it cracked the rocky surface. Golem enjoyed listening to the mountain and she had sustained him as the years had passed.
Yet not once had an actual human disturbed him.

“Lichen, you can’t be up there!” a second human’s voice sounded nearby. It was the voice of a young man, and it echoed in the small cavern where Golem rested. So, Lichen was the child’s name. A suitable name for a child believed to belong to the Earth Caste. A Fire child might be called Candle or Hearth, for example, but the names of children were only placeholders to be forgotten after the testing. Lichen the small boy might be called at the moment, but he would be known by his title forever after, particularly should he test into another Caste instead.

“But, Marl,” Lichen whined. So the young man’s name was Marl. He must be very, very low in the Earth Caste with a title that described the clay and calcium deposits that fertilized soil. Still, to reach so far beneath the mountain Marl had to have some power.

“You know better,” Marl said sharply. “You have your lessons in Air right now, and your teacher is looking for you.”

“I hate Air,” Lichen replied, a pout clear in his voice even though Golem hadn’t opened his eyes to see whether there was one also on Lichen’s face. “Everyone says when I grow up, I’ll be the next Dragon of Earth. Why do I need to learn Air?” Now derision colored Lichen’s voice. Golem had to hide a smile. He remembered his own similar conversation with his guardian. Lichen wouldn’t test as the Dragon of Earth, but Golem would guess he might be a Landslide or even go so high as an Earthquake.

“But look at what happened to the Dragon of Fire five years ago,” Marl said sternly. “Everyone said he’d be a Typhoon or a Samiel and he tested as the Dragon of Fire instead. You’ll go learn the Air Caste properly just in case, and when you test into the Earth Caste, you can complain then. ”

“Yes, Marl,” Lichen sighed. Lichen’s body left Golem’s lap as he clambered after Marl. Golem felt them move into the hard rock face and ascend to the Monastery far overhead. Suddenly, for the first time in nearly fifteen years, Golem felt very alone.
He buried himself into the thoughts of the mountain and tried to forget his momentary brush with humanity.

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