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Deal 1042: Gwen doesn’t have cats?

I’m hopeful for the first time in many years. Sydney is turning out to be an apt pupil, often needing little more than a hint that something might be possible for him to do for him to go off on his own and discover how to do it. This is much better than my last two pupils, both of which died messily after running off too soon.

He still needs to work on his focus. He is rather apt to be distracted by irrelevant details.

Of course, sometimes those details show him an unexpected solution to a problem. The unsolvable hedge maze he was in yesterday was supposed to teach him that humility is not always a weakness by forcing him to acknowledge that he had no solution and was actually trapped. Then he found a way out that wasn’t there.

He claimed he followed a cat that had wandered in for a drink. But as far as I know, there are no cats in my estate. The pesky things seem to find me hard to deal with. I may need to revise that, however, and wonder if there are cats that are simply better at avoiding me than I realized was possible.

That makes the third time that Sydney has found an impossible solution to a problem. He may simply be lucky beyond reason. Or maybe he really is smarter, and can see the weakness in situations that I had thought were unassailable. When prodded about that he tends to go off on long discussions of why you shouldn’t trust your own failure to break your own code or solve your own puzzles.

Raven has been by. We are running out of time. I hope Sydney will be ready in time. I didn’t let Sydney and Raven meet this time. There will be time enough for that after he’s done here. I can only tolerate the trickster in small doses as it is. I don’t need him poaching my student as an acolyte.

So, tomorrow we will see what he does with the golden apple, and then it is on to the real quest. If he lives, that is.

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Deal 1041: Cat knows a way

Sydney’s frustration was mounting. The exercise was described as simple. All he really had to do was get from one side of the garden to the other. But the garden kept changing shape, and occasionally he’d turn a corner and find himself in another part entirely. Solving a maze without a view from the outside is hard enough. But solving it when the maze is constantly changing and is not simply connected is even harder. He knew that if he could only calm down and focus, his growing ability to draw on his sword’s powers would assist. But that is always easier to say than to do. And his score on the exercise will include the time spent as well, so he needed to hurry up and solve the maze. The more he stews about his dilemma, the worse it gets, of course.

He’s currently in a spot with a politely bubbling fountain at the center, and a continuous ring of hedge around the edge. There’s no sign of where he stepped in, and the dry flagstones are not showing any footprints. There are stone benches on four sides of the fountain, each offering a similar view of the fountain and the hedge beyond.

He drops onto one of the benches, and considers his next move. He forces himself to close his eyes and clear his mind, then draws the sword and lays it across his lap where he can see reflections in its blade.

The reflection of the fountain is subtly wrong. He shifts a little, and realizes that the reflection of the far wall is also wrong. Wrong in the sense that it differs from the reality he perceives with his eyes. Which may not be a surprise, lots of things he’s meeting now that Gwen is training him hide differences between perception and reality.

In the reflection he sees a cat walk nonchalantly into the fountain area, take a drink, and walk out again.

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Deal 1040: Gwen muses

Interesting times indeed. This latest adventurer or victim (it is so hard to tell them apart) has potential. He might yet live to prove himself.

He survived his initial trials mostly unscathed. Since that usually involved a visit to the labyrinth, that is no mean feat. There are enough deadlies in there to give even me pause.

He ignored the taunting of the frog, or at least broke away from his attempt to control him. That at least shows an innate stubbornness that will prove valuable. The frog is a slippery critter, however, so he could very well return. We’ve seen him attempt to crash my garden already. I expect more.

Sydney has not attempted to make a pass at my human form, also a sign of innate or latent capability. Or perhaps he’s just not interested, although I get the sense that he sees through my form more than is typical. I wonder how many of my forms he can recognize?

Our next few days together will be interesting. I won’t have many more days to work with him before others take an interest. So he needs his strength tested soon. After that, assuming he passes, we shall see.

But for right now, he’s getting much needed rest, and while this form needs less of it, I should take some rest of my own.