Yes, after all that I realized that the best thing to do with Felda is pick up where I left off.
By late afternoon, Felda was able to follow the threads through Brom and into the ground. There was a vast and shimmering web of threads of every size extending forever in every direction, and now that she could see it–or feel it, or hear it, the sensation was somewhere in between all three–she couldn’t understand how she had never noticed it before.
Everything was different, new, and yet sensible in ways it had never been before. The soil beneath her feet was a dense mesh of incredibly fine and delicate threads, each thinner than the thinnest sewing thread, intertwined with something she couldn’t see. Whatever it was, the threads supported it, fed it, nourished it–“Oh,” she said.
Elmun grinned. “Yes. Those are roots.”
Felda nodded and felt deeper, following the threads down. She had expected some abrupt end to them, where farm-tilled soil ended and rock began, but there was no such boundary to be found. The threads gradually thickened, her family’s work atop her father’s family’s atop his mother’s family’s atop centuries upon centuries of their ancestors working the land, shimmering living threads of soil that slowly thickened and coarsened until Felda found herself down among the rock, huge inflexible bands that were the stone. And yet, at the same time, they were still the same threads as the soil, just woven in a different pattern.
“You’re beginning to get it, aren’t you?” asked Elmun.
“It’s all one thread, isn’t it?” Felda answered. “Bent back and forth who knows how many times, woven with itself to make a strong rope or a light cloth, but still the same thread.”
Elmun grinned. “Congratulations,” he said. “And welcome.”
Felda’s head was still spinning hours after her training ended–much too soon for her taste, but there were chores to be done. The work of the farm could not stop just because Felda was discovering the true underlying reality of the earth itself, and on a late summer afternoon there was plenty of work for her entire family and more. Felda herself spent most of the afternoon picking squash and peppers with Lal and Laal, a pair of migrant workers who had been spending their summers helping Felda’s family since before her parents married.
It was hard to focus when she could feel the earth thrumming beneath her feet, power and joy just waiting for her to figure out how to tap it. Brom’s eyes sparkled as he followed her through the rows of vegetables, carrying large baskets that Felda and the two old women filled with deep green zucchinis, bright yellow squash, and cheery red sweet peppers. Those last were Felda’s favorite, but too exotic and precious for the family to keep for themselves very often. Still, every time she did get one, she was very glad her father had imported the seeds from far-away Wanneth.
She bent to pull some squash from the vine and paused, reaching down to touch the earth. It was barely noticeable, but she could feel just a hint of thread, finer even than in the soil, too fine almost to see, running up through the plant itself. Or at least, she thought she could–it was so faint she couldn’t be sure she wasn’t imagining it. She needed to ask Elmun–
“Oi, girl, enough lollygagging!” snapped Laal, just a trace of a Keiokarnan accent adding music to the otherwise harsh tones. “You lovesick again? It’s not that skinny Guild boy, is it?”
“Always her and the skinny boys,” commented Lal from the other side of the row. “Give me a man with some meat.”
“Really?” asked Laal. “First I’ve heard of anyone giving you a man at all.”
The old ladies laughed, and Felda shook her head. “No, just woolgathering. Training was… interesting.”
“Bah,” said Lal. “This magic of yours. Had a cousin who went in for magic when I was a little one. Went off to the wars so they’d give him a bondling, and we never saw him again. That’s magic for you.”
“Not that I begrudge the help!” Laal patted Brom, tiny black hand against huge black flank. “Glad we don’t have to carry the baskets back and forth when they fill.”
“I’m not going to be in any war,” Felda assured them. Adventures in the mountains of the south or the vast unexplored oceans of the north, sure. But war? No, I’m glad being a bondling doesn’t mean you have to be a warrior anymore. I don’t want to see any wars. “There’s never been a war here, not for hundreds of years.”
“Ah, the old bat knows that,” said Laal. “It’s why we came here in the first place, get away from all the wars up north.”
“There’ll be a war someday,” said Lal gloomily. “Always is, sooner or later. And then do you think they’ll let the girl with the big strong bull stay at home?”
“Don’t frighten the girl! There’s no reason for a war, there’s no one to fight down here. Blightlands on one side, her own countrymen on the other, and nothing else for a hundred miles.” Laal smiled at Felda. “Just ignore her, child.”
“If it isn’t war, it’ll be something else,” Lal said, applying decades of practice in ignoring her wife. “You’ve got power now, girl. People will be looking to use it for you.”
Felda laughed. “You mean like you two using Brom to carry the baskets?” she teased.
Lal merely harrumphed, and they continued working until the sun sat fat and red on the horizon.