Inside a dream, we were gathering at the academy for a new lesson, it was a right of passage for new alchemists to learn how to work together in guilds. We had come already having chose our guild members, and registered our names with the wizard authority.

The training would go on for an unknown number of days, and we would be together with our guilds scouring the countryside, surviving with only what was in our backpacks. We packed all of the water filters, cooking supplies, and headed out of the space craft landed deep in the forest surrounded by an unknown terrain. Our primary goal was simply to survive, and the right of passage would have it’s way with us.

Walking in the waterways in search for herbs and berries proved itself to be efficient, but we needed more substantial food. My waterproof rubber toed shoes allowed a firm grip on the rocks in the low rivers and creek beds. I pushed onwards into the dark watery passages with several admirable mages by my side, leading the guild of mostly young magicians through the waterways, ever watchful.

On edge, not only did we need to survive in the wild, the wizards who operated the academy would constantly play trickster in such ways which could cause certain harm and possible death if we didn’t practice total situational awareness. Stories we heard involved remotely mind-controlled wild animals, and natural disasters used to deliver teachings.

Walking in a quaint neighborhood of farms with little village houses on pastures and forest acreages, I saw it, I felt it coming. A lesson was descending upon us. A shaman giant, tiger pelt around his waste, danced in the field creating flames around him with his feet. He grabbed a goat, slaughtering it right there in the middle of the small field. A farm house behind him had a thatched roof and flowers in the driveway with a cute little address sign.

Blood was flowing off his knife, his laugh haunted the air, echoing off nearby trees. I followed behind the guild of magicians as they were magnetized to witness what was happening. I approached cautiously as they gathered near the fence in front of the field where the giant drank the blood of the goat and laughed.

“As you were distracted, one of your physical bodies has been severed in such a way that is irreversible.” A dark laugh.

I reached for my nose, and facial features, and felt the limbs of my body for any missing pieces. I appeared to be in tact. The fat young mage to my left bursts out, “You didn’t sever anything, I cannot be severed.”

Just then a big 4 foot by 10 foot floppy ear falls out of the sky on our side of the fence, flopping and bouncing slightly on the compact gravel road next to us, across from the shaman giant. People are reaching for their ears.

The fat young mage looks down to find his ear clean cut off and cauterized sitting on his scarf, as though perfectly cut off by a surgeon with a laser. His shriek causes the guild to gather around looking at his missing ear in horror.

The giant bellows out from the field, “I have taken your ear young mage, but had I not, your lack of focus would have killed you too early. Receive this boon.”

I walked over to the big ear and folded it up in my hands, and handed it to the shaman giant over the fence. He received the ear, and it shrunk as he ate it. Turning back to his goat, the giant dug into it with his jagged blade, severing its head from its heart, and began to tear it apart. As he ate chunks of the goat, the body of the goat dissipated as though it were an illusion, and the giant laughed, vanishing into the damp air.

His disappearance left a void. Looking around, I turned without a word and started heading up towards a hill, jumped into the creek, and started hiking up inland. The guild lingered behind a minute and then followed at a distance, with the fat young mage following close by. “How do you manage to keep focus?”, he kept asking, severed ear in his hand.

At one crossing our road, which was a stream bed passing under forests and under road tunnels, we intersected with another cave tunnel. Coming down the cave tunnel, another guild approached us with high precision RGB lighting equipment shining on the cave and forest walls. Their movement was highly organized and synchronized, as though they were all dancing to the same music as they were walking, I could tell they were alchemists from the same academy. We signaled our league signs and passed like spaceships in the night.