Progress Made and Questions Asked

Oh, Dear Reader, I feel lately like I am two people!

One Bernice is Illuminated, and at once excited by and frightened of her Gifts, but trying very hard to learn how to use them. She meets Professor Greenwater every evening to practice for over an hour, then wants to fall into bed immediately after. But she is loyal to her country and is determined to learn all she can in order to help it, and so she perseveres.

The other Bernice is just a girl, a young woman, with the normal hopes and worries about normal (I think) things. She worries that her clothes are too shabby, that her hair is strange, that her nose is crooked. She wonders if she talks too much and if she says anything when she speaks. She tries her best to know her own heart, but at times finds it so impossible she is nearly moved to tears!

Oh dear, I am afraid I am making very little sense. First I shall write about my lessons with Professor Eberhart, and if my head is any clearer then, I shall write more about the life of the second Bernice.

Last night, Professor Eberhart said he would start me out with the simplest "trick" of all the elements: drawing water from earth. It should be easy, he said, as he set a bucket of damp dirt on the desk before me. The earth was already heavily imbued with water; it was only a matter of separating the two, really.

Well, it was much easier said than done. I tried to call up the feeling I had when I sent objects through the air, but that didn't help much at all. After staring at the bucket with no effect for several minutes, Professor Eberhart tried to help.

"See it in your mind. Imagine the drops flowing up through the earth and beading on the surface. One drop at a time. Do not imagine the top of the bucket filling with water. Start small. One single drop of water."

This seemed to help, though only a little. I stared at the earth for several more minutes, imagining in my mind, as the professor said, that a single drop of water was rising from the middle of the dirt, up, up, to break through the surface. When that didn't work, I pretended that I was the drop of water, struggling inch by inch toward the top of the bucket, but that was even less helpful, and gave me a bit of a headache.

(I can imagine this was very boring for the professor, but he merely sat opposite me in his great big chair, arms folded, and watched silently.)

The ache at the base of my skull grew worse, and I wished for a glass of water to drink, but did not want to ask for one as I was supposed to be working. I licked my lips and swallowed to moisten my dry mouth, and that is when things "clicked" in my mind. I longed for water at that moment, and suddenly several drops appeared on the earth at the top of the bucket! I looked up at Professor Eberhart, smiling, and he nodded his bald head up and down.

"Good, good," he said calmly. "Again."

After another twenty minutes or so, I seemed to have mastered it well enough in the professor's opinion, for he brought out a different bucket of earth, drier than the first. It took more time and a lot more concentration, but eventually I succeeded in pulling a few drops to the surface, and then a few more.

"You have done well," he said to me as he took the second bucket away. I breathed a sigh of relief and leaned back in my chair. "Tomorrow we shall do more with water. Heat it and cool it, and move it if you can."

"Wow," I breathed. I had never thought I would be doing such things, yet here I was, manipulating the elements just like Catherine in the books! That brought to mind a question. "Are you teaching me this so I can..." But then I trailed off, embarrassed.

"Yes?" the professor prompted.

"Well, I..." I'd been meaning to ask if I would be able to call up golems of earth and stone to defeat our enemies, like Catherin did, but thought it would sound terribly absurd aloud. Instead, I asked, "Why am I learning all of this? You hinted at a conflict, but what can I do to help?"

He cleared his throat, and it seemed he was stalling for time to think of an answer. "I do not wish to involve you too deeply yet," he said. "Right now it is mostly conjecture. Hints and whispers." He cleared his throat again. "But there has been talk of some of the old loyalists--like our friend, Mr. Bergstrom--wishing to turn our country back over to Britannia. Mostly it is members of the upper class, those who own companies which use things we import from Britannia (and are heavily taxed, so the public buys little of it), or who control trade routes. Those who used to hold titles, or their fathers did, before we did away with them. In other words, those who had the most to lose when we won the war, and the most to gain if we went back to Britannian rule."

This was very bad news indeed. The war had gone on for nearly a decade and was hard-won. As a new country (relatively speaking), we had fewer resources and fewer soldiers on our side. Miss P___ still talked about the rationing, the way all spare metal was donated for bullets and bayonets, and how the women knit stockings and caps and the like for the soldiers. As I learned in my lessons, our country was still experiencing the aftermath of the war: bombed buildings still being rebuilt, women and children left homeless because their husbands and fathers were killed in the war, and so they were unable to keep their houses. Because of this, crime rates rose because the homeless children turned to theft and worse to get by, and fallen women were more and more common, especially in the larger cities. After all the trouble we'd been through to win the war (just ask Captain Winters), and all the trouble we were still having because we'd won, how could these Loyalists think of turning the country back over to the very people we'd defeated? It was sickening, really. And rather terrifying, to think I might play a part in stopping it.

"Do not trouble yourself about it now," Professor Eberhart said, as if he could read my thoughts. "If anything is to happen, it will not be for some time yet. All you can do right now is practice your Gift, and get plenty of rest. On that note," he said as he rose, "I think you should return to your rooms for the night. Goodnight, Miss Gardener."

The name still sounded strange to my ears, and I curtseyed belatedly because it took me a moment to realize he was speaking to me. As I had the night before, I was asleep the moment my cheek touched my pillow, worn out from such hard work at my lessons with the professor.

Oh dear, it is time for lunch now. Captain Winters left just after breakfast this morning, so it is to be Mr. Miller and me alone. It will feel strange, I think. I had convinced myself that I would never see him again, yet here he is now, and for I know not how long. I shall ask him his intentions over our meal, though I suppose I shall have to ask the housekeeper for paper and pen once more, if I am to get any reply.

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