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The table would always provide. We had doubts at first, but each time we showed up, any doubts we had would be proven wrong. Eventually the only doubts would come from newcomers, who had never seen the table personally before. To them, it was just a legend, a myth, its power unconfirmed until they were able to experience it themselves.

Its effects were never specific, and changed depending on who was there, and where they were in their lives. Maybe it depended on which of us were there at any given moment as well.

"Nobody's scheduled to meet here today," I said. "You will have to come back some other time."

The newcomer was trying to look past the doorway into the meeting room. It was dark inside, so there wasn't much to see. I tried my best to keep her out.

"Can't I just take a look? I promise I won't be a bother."

"Sorry, we can't just let anybody in there. You will have to schedule with the secretary upstairs."

"I don't really have anything to schedule," she said. "I just want to take a look."

"Sorry, that's not our policy. We have to protect it from possible dilution of its power. Why don't I take you to our secretary, and we'll see what we can work out?"

I motioned to another guard nearby, who came over to take my place. I escorted the visitor upstairs.

"We have someone who would like to participate in one of the meetings," I told the secretary. "Can you get her set up?"

"Sure, let me check our schedule," the secretary replied.

It wasn't until four months later that I saw Charis again. Maybe it was the earliest meeting we could book her for, I didn't know.

I nodded at her as she entered the meeting room. I wasn't going to be inside that day, merely working security and logistics outside. Inside was already seated numerous people, some famous magicians from across the realms, others totally unknown to me.

They would be able to show her the ropes and what the table was capable of. The table never failed us before. It was an artifact from the ancient days, and its power was still strong.

We couldn't let just anybody in there, but we tried our best to meet the requests that came in. Our oldtimers, magicians who had learned under the guidance of others around the table, would be able to guide newcomers to where they wanted to go.

Most never returned, their visit having satisfied whatever it was that brought them to us. But once in a while, we would get a new recruit, who would go under the tutelage of the more experienced magicians, and learned to join the next generation.

As the meeting concluded a few hours later, Charis got up to leave. The look of worry on her face was gone. She walked as if she were about to take flight at any second.

"Everything went well in there, I presume?"

"Are you kidding?" she said. "I couldn't have asked for anything better. And you know what?"

"What?"

"I'll be back. This may become a permanent thing for me."

"Well I'll be," I said in response. "Congratulations."

I wasn't expecting we'd be getting new recruits that day, but it was a great thing to see. We were both wrong though. She did return for quite a large number of meetings and training sessions, but she did not become a permanent fixture at the meetings.

A couple years later, she decided she had learned enough, and would take her teachings into the outside world. Her participation in the meetings no longer had the same appeal for her. We bid her a fond farewell. There was no bitterness. We knew she would take our teachings and put them to good use.

In the subsequent years, she would make a name for herself, even returning every once in a while to visit a few old friends, and participate in a few meetings, sharing what she had learned in the world beyond.

To many of us, the outside was still seen as a place of danger and potential hostility. She was much more comfortable out there. I suppose what she had learned from us had given her the confidence to handle herself, while we on the inside just got too used to life inside.

It wasn't such a bad life for any of us though. We would always welcome her when she returned, and once in a while, she would offer to guide some of us in visits to places far removed from the table. In theory, most of us on the inside could outmatch her in terms of magic, but because of her knowledge of how the external world actually worked, we felt much more secure with her by our side.

"Hello," a new visitor asked me one morning, "may I have a moment with the table?"

"Nobody's scheduled to meet here today," I said. "You will have to come back some other time."

She squinted at me. "Do I know you? You look familiar."

I didn't recognize her. Not at first. But the next time she returned, the others told me who she was. Many of the magicians of Lin's table were able to extend their lives through the use of magic, but in this case, our past student had managed to split her soul. In many ways, this was the same person, but in others she was quite unique. Apparently the original had discovered or invented some form of magic out there that we had never seen before, but we never saw Charis again.

"She can still see through me," the newcomer said.

We couldn't tell how true that was, or even if she was speaking metaphorically.