By Jane Yolen
“One of our original members was a wizard named Nettle from Overton-Across-the-Waters.
Though he was an accomplished magician, he was well named. He was prickly, both outside and in. At first he was quiet, well-mannered even. But soon enough, we learned his real character. His words stung, and he loved to use them in anger. Still, we were thirteen, and he was one. But when we voted him out of the Hall, he began to study the black arts long into the night. In his nightwork he conjured up a Beast from the black side of our souls. Bit by bit, he quilted that Beast together, until it had swallowed up—” “Excuse me,” said Thornmallow, his voice soft with fear, “but I don’t understand.” Magister Hickory nodded. “Of course you don’t, young Thornswallow. You have only been here a few days.” “I mean—wouldn’t it be a good idea to lose the black side? That way, your souls could shine all pure as gold? And it’s Thornmallow. Sir.”
Magister Hickory smiled indulgently. “By ‘black,’ my prickly friend, I do not mean evil. Or wicked. I mean dark and deep, as in the black water of the deepest lakes. All those strongest of emotions that—if used improperly—tempt us to wicked, evil deeds. For example, ambition, which can become greed. Or desire, which can become gluttony. Or admiration, which can become envy. We are all made up of such deep and dark emotions, and as we grow more mature, we learn to control them.”
Thornmallow nodded, remembering how often his dear ma said, ’Good folk think bad thoughts; bad folk act on ’em’.”