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The man in the dark wasn't stirring.

He was more of a boy than a man; limbs dark with emaciation, body slight and ragged: he was only 14 years old. But the eyes that sat low in their sockets were quietly ancient. They were eyes that laughed when first he was bought here, as an infant. Now they stared blankly at the dull wooden walls as he waited for Master Ben.


The boy shifted on his haunches to get a better smell of the incense that burned lowly in a bracket to his left. Master Ben had come, unexpectedly, into the small hovel of his stable exactly four years ago. One day he was just there, standing framed by the brick archway that led out to the rest of the stalls. He stood aloof, but his face was jolly and rounded, and he held none of the hardness that the other masters seemed to breath like air.

Then he was in front of him, the boy remembered.

Their noses touched, for the Master had squatted down to the young man's position in the earthen centre of the stable. He had breathed his breath into the boy, close to him like a father.


'You are made for this.'


It was like a promise.


From then on, Master Ben and he had done all things together. They ate, slept and bathed together, although luxuries such as those were not often permitted within the stables. The kind master breathed life into the regimented rituals that were so crucial for the boys purpose. He explained the importance of each one carefully to his pupil:


'We fast because we must become more spirit than man.' he explained one day as they sat in meditation. 'The less we are involved with material concerns, the more we can devote ourselves to those concerns of the spirit.'

Another day Master Ben held the boy's quaking body upright as the contents of his stomach piled violently out.

'The exercise hardens you.' he said quietly as the shaking subsided. A sharp pat on the back was his way of expressing sympathy. 'Soon you will be strong enough for the magic.'


The End

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