“Teacher,” the young boy said, “what makes a river run backwards?”
“Run backwards?” The sorceress stopped and stared at the boy. She’d been adding sun potion to the sunflower and now it glowed golden petal-shaped flecks onto the walls of the room they used to relax and read in.
He nodded and put his book down. He hadn’t been able to focus on it anyway. He’d been too busy thinking about the river.
“What do you mean?” She asked.
“Every day, when I come to see you, I cross the river on a small wooden bridge. “Every day, I collect little sticks so I can stand on the bridge and race them down the river. I drop them on one side then run to the other side to watch them race downstream. It always carries the sticks towards the old mill with the apple trees. “But today it went the other way. Away from the mill with the apple trees.”
His teacher cocked her head in thought, deep purple eyes like the universe looking into his set, honest eyes.
“I’ve never heard of a river running backwards. That would mean it would be going up-hill. According to the laws of nature, that doesn’t happen.” She admitted.
The young boy’s mouth dropped open. But she knew everything!
She smiled. “I don’t know everything. But I do like to know much of the way the world works.”
“But, you knew what I was thinking just then!”
“That’s because it was so obviously painted on your face!”
The boy hid his face behind his hands and peeked through a gap between his fingers. “Could magic make a river run backwards, up the hill?”
“Perhaps. But none that I know. And I don’t know why you’d want to make it run the other way. There’d be no use in it.”
It was his turn to ask what she meant.
“Well--” She started to explain, “That river’s source is in the mountains, yes? The little lake in the mountain, and the melting snow, slip down the mountain towards us. It brings us cool, clear spring water that we use as it travels past, running wider and faster as it meets other little rivers. Eventually, it ends up in the sea. Why would we want to bring seawater back up the mountain, when there is a beautiful supply of fresh, clean water already?”
The boy moved his hands from his face and rested his chin in them, thinking hard. The sorceress chuckled.
“I don’t know! Does seawater taste nicer?” His eyes were wide and curious.
“Oh, definitely not.”
“Does it clean things better?”
“I’d rather use spring water.”
“Then, I don’t know!”
“What do we do when we don’t know?”
The boy thought again, sitting back on the comfy sofa and swinging his legs as he stared up at the patterns of golden light the sunflower made around the room.
“If you don’t know, you should go and try to know?” He asked. He looked uncertain.
“Of course. If you don’t know, you go on an adventure to find out!”
He jumped up, small round face lit up as brightly as the sunflower. “You mean it? We’re going on an adventure?”
The sorceress smiled and nodded, eyes twinkling.
“Our first adventure!” He jumped in the air and spun around. “What do I need to take? Do I need a sword to fight off mountain-dwelling dragons or a lantern to catch fire-faeries to light our way through dank caves?”
His teacher laughed and he paused, watching as the sorceress’ eyes crinkled shut with amusement. He wasn’t sure whether to feel embarrassed or pleased that she had laughed.
“We’re just going to the nearby mountain. I can sort out the necessities this time. You will need to go and ask your parents to make sure they agree, and they can help you put together your change of clothes.”
“No swords for dragons?”
She guided him gently but firmly to the door, persuading him they would only be able to go on their adventure if he went to get ready. He bowed quickly and grinned as he raced off, back over the bridge towards his cottage on the other side of the village.
On the bridge, he paused to watch the water slide past.
It was still going in the wrong direction.
Funny, he thought. I will need to tell Teacher it goes slower when going backwards.
And, to test this theory, he ran the rest of his way home backwards, finding it a very slow job and entirely proof that everything going backwards had to go slower.
He thought he’d just discovered a new rule for the world.
She would be proud.
Adventure time! Follow the boy through his lessons of wonder and magic with his teacher, the sorceress. What will the boy learn next, and what great adventures will they go on when he's ready to face the magical world beyond the village? See more in The Sorceress and her Apprentice series.