It certainly had to do with the changed perceived in the ether. The farther south they travelled, the odder the colours became in the other plane. The old man insisted this ethereal stock-taking become an evening ritual. Both of them sat before a fire, prepared but unlit. They would endure the physical wrench of the 'self' deserting the flesh (a process Roache described as having an impacted molar removed without anaesthetic..), light their fire on the earthly plane, and sit, as it were, above the Ley. There the Mage would point out the changes he saw, describing the way it should have been in great detail. Roache committed the old man's memories to his own verbatim, and gradually he himself grew to where he could see the way it should be, and what might be done to put it right.
He understood the 'what' of 'it is to be done', but had no idea of the 'how'. Not clue one, and for once the old man proved to be unwilling to be of any help whatsoever.
"You will know what is the right, when it's time to be right.." was about the best Roache could get in the way of direction there.
But the elf was filled with the optimism of youth; too full of the 'I am immortal' phase to be put off too severely by something as inconsequential as 'how'. The old man had drilled into him to such a depth that the best defence was preparation, that the young elf found himself working probability lines for the next few moments of their journey. At times, it gave him headaches. But it always gave him a sense of security, and as there came more and more to be seen for the first time, he learned to keep his vigilance active on another level, allowing him to enjoy, and in some cases such as when a pheasant exploded from a bush not a yard from where they walked, marvel at the realisation of that which hithertofore had only existed in words on a page, and a young elf's imagination.
Roache knew himself to be educated far beyond his years. He was also fully aware his practical experience was immensely limited, but this only spurred him on to see everything, to put life to the words he knew so well. He progressed at an amazing rate, watched closely by his Master.
Some months of wandering brought them to the edge of a hilly, wooded part of the island. For the first time since leaving what had always been 'home', Roache could feel himself relaxing. It was a sensation almost imperceptible, yet sensitively tangible. The old man led them into a small wood, deep enough into it that Roache could sense the small clearing they came into, was the centre of the copse.
"This is an old place boy," wheezed the old man as he eased his pack to the ground. "We'll stop here for the night."
Roache immediately laid down his packs, and without a word went off to the edge of the clearing looking for deadfall for their campfire.
"No, wait!" called the Mage. "We'll be needing a fire this night my boy. Tonight we'll walk a slightly different Path, and you'll want the dark about you."
'Something new' mused Roache, as he turned and walked back to his pack. He could not imagine a topic left uncovered in their years together, and to go further in some of the things they worked together would not be wise for some years yet, until the youth became an Elf, albeit Swamp Elf. The concept of something brand new was in itself, a novelty. He wondered if this waRoache really enjoyed convoluted thought processes.
The old man sat on his pack, and lit a bowl of pipeweed.
"It's actually something we've been doing for years, but I think perhaps it's time you realised it."
"Right then..". The Elf dropped low into an extreme defensive posture as he felt what seemed to be a wind so chill, so bitter, that it stung his soul, and did an amazingly fast 360. Where his Master had been just seconds ago, there was now nothing at all. No Master, no pack, no pipeweed. Roache knew with a wrenching that was almost enough to drive him to his knees, that this was no disappearing trick, no glamour, so spell.
Tears welled, as he realised his Master was gone. He did, then, drop to his knees the lesson, to expect something new, when all was thought to be known.