Two wizarding tales, p.1
Two Wizarding Tales
By Lorraine J. Anderson
Copyright 2011 by Lorraine J. Anderson
All rights reserved.
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I rubbed my hand over my long white beard and glared at my reflection in the mirror. Was that blood? If it wasn’t, it was a damned good imitation. “Damn this comb, damn this beard, damn this pointy hat, damn this broken wand, damn it all, anyway!” I hurled the comb across the room and it made a satisfying clunk into the fireplace. What a pity — the fire wasn’t burning. I grinned and raised my hand to throw a spark...
“Master?” A tenor voice wafted down the hall.
“And damn nosy apprentices, anyway,” I muttered to myself. I looked at myself in the mirror and smoothed my beard, disciplining my features into the proper sagely mien, just like I was taught just last year. Instead, I looked sour.
I turned around. Trep was just entering the room. I smiled at him warmly. He was a bright boy, around ten years of age, and was already learning simple transformation spells. I was inordinately proud of him. Trep was my first apprentice. I had discovered him -- well, he had discovered me, coming to milord's palace and asking to learn the trade -- and I had to get special permission from the Council of Wizards to train him, considering I was just out of Wizards school myself.
He was wearing his usual drab brown, but it was covered with dirt, and I noticed a shiner around one eye. “Trep... come here.” He obeyed reluctantly and I turned his face up. “Where did you get this?”
I saw a flash of anger in his eye. “Meib. I gave back as good as I got.”
I sighed. “Trep... you can’t go around hitting Milord Baron Reil’s son. You may be a Wizard’s apprentice, but you’re still a peasant. They could put you in the dungeon.”
“They won’t.” He smiled. “I made sure of that.”
“You didn’t do anything to Meib... did you?”
Trep turned his head to one side. “I didn’t do anything to Meib. But I hinted that you might.” He smiled wryly. “He turned extremely pale. He remembered the other three wizards before you. And he also remembered that last spell.”
I chewed my lip. One through three didn't pass milord's muster. And my last spell went a tiny bit awry – I was trying to cure the Cook’s acne and instead gave her a beard. Which I corrected right away, and I hadn’t thought that Milord knew.
Milord Baron Reil was very exacting. Milord was also very important to the King, one of his chief counselors. Why the Consortium sent me – a recent graduate -- I don't know. Probably because they didn't want to come, and I had no choice. Then they insisted that I maintain myself as the most decrepit creature in the Kingdom: hence the beard, the wrinkles, the robes, the hat, the creaky gait.
"You shouldn't use me as a threat," I said finally and automatically.
I saw Trep looking at me, his bright blue eyes slightly narrowed.
“By the way, that noise... was nothing,” I said hastily.
“What noise, Master?” he said blandly, but I saw a quick grin. The child was way too perceptive for his age. “Milord summons you.”
“I see." I frowned at my image in the mirror and growled under my breath.
“Master?” Trep grinned at me. I sighed loudly.
“I’m coming.” Geez, I sounded querulous, even to me. I hopped off the chair and winced as my bad knee throbbed. Did the spell have to be so realistic?
I grabbed a staff and supported myself as I hobbled after the boy. “What does the old... Milord want?”
Trep glanced at me sidelong. “Milord doesn’t often confide his troubles to me, Master,” he said. “But... I believe it has to do with his accountant.”
I stopped dead in the hall. “He’s calling me to deal with his accountant?”
Trep grimaced. “So to speak, Master. His accountant is dead, eaten by a dragon, so the guards said. The Chief Steward made me clean what looked like blood in the hall, then sent me.” His eyes flashed.
“What looked like blood?”
“To my eyes, Master, it didn’t seem like there was enough blood for a man, but,” he shrugged, “what do I know? But Milord said it didn’t look like enough blood, either.”
“Why did they have you clean it up, then? I would have liked to have tested the blood.” I mean, I know my room was in the farthest reaches of the castle, but geez.
“The Chief Steward was having me clean it up, then Milord walked in, and wondered why you hadn't been called. The Chief Steward argued with Milord.” He looked at me, expectantly.
I sighed again. “I hate to ask, but what about?”
I knew the course of the argument, then.
“Milord capitulated because good Chief Stewards are hard to find.”
Whereas Wizards are a dime a dozen. Figures.
I creaked on.
Ten minutes later, we reached the main hall. It still smelled of roast beef, the midday meal from three hours before. I looked around. Musty antique tapestries hung on the walls, but the floors were spotless... just the way milord liked them. The table top gleamed, and what little gold there was in the hall shone brightly. In spite of that, rats (both human and animal) hung around the edges of the room. It was an easy spell to repel rats, but milord hadn’t asked yet. Oh, why not? I said the spell, and the rats – the animals -- left like they were being chased. The humans stayed.
I stood before milord and bowed, almost falling down. It took quick action by Trep to balance me again. I don’t think milord saw me, he was staring at the ceiling, obviously in thought. Or asleep. I couldn’t tell.
'I have come, milord.”
“Ah, Wizard Mahar, you’re here.”
Didn’t I just say that?”
“It seems we have a dragon in the Treasury.”
I looked sideways at Trep. He didn’t tell me it was in the Treasury, although, I suppose, if he had eaten the accountant, I should have assumed that. I pulled out one of my stock phrases. “A dragon is a fierce foe, milord. Impossible to drive away, impossible to kill. But I have a number of spells on hand to defeat the vile lizard.” Sure I do. Most involve destroying most of the surrounding vicinity. I didn’t believe that milord wanted his treasure to be a steaming slag of melted gold.
“Do you?” Milord’s gaze fixed most disconcertingly on me. “Can you do it without destroying the castle? Your spells, lately, seem to be rather careless.” One spell. One spell! And, actually, it improved the appearance of the cook. I kept my mouth shut. He looked at me shrewdly. “I do tend to blame it on your advancing age, which you admitted yourself.”
My eyebrows shifted upwards. Oh. The other problems. “I have apologized for the fire in my quarters, milord.” Fortunately, he attributed the fire to age, rather than the fact I was dead drunk at the time. I swore off liquor after that, but I was still frustrated, so then I had taken to splitting boulders. I had not known they were for the castle wall. So the spells hadn't actually gone wrong, um, I was just wrong. I could feel myself blushing. “There are one or two non-destructive spells, milord,” I mumbled.
“Are there?” Milord still stared at me. “One wouldn’t know that from the quality of wizards the council i
Neither did I. Chak came back from his assignment rather tight mouthed I hadn’t known about Ellek and Zob, who were, actually, senior Wizards. Did the Consortium dislike milord? I was beginning to suspect that this posting was to humble us. “Spells are sometimes rather touchy things, milord,” I said, pulling out another stock phrase.
“Apparently. You all say that.” He stared at me. “I wonder if I’m being punished by your Consortium.”
I stood silent. I wondered what was going on, myself. Trep, at my side, put his hand on my arm, almost in a restraining gesture. I glanced at him, wondering if he thought I was going to do something to milord.
Milord sighed, echoing my own. “Never mind. Go see what you can do.”
“Yes, milord,” I mumbled. I shuffled out of the room, almost as if I were ashamed. Well, I was, but that wasn’t why I was shuffling. My gout, along with everything else, was acting up again.
This disguise was way too realistic.
As soon as I was out of the room, I turned to Trep. “Where is the Treasury?” I hadn’t been out of my rooms much, for obvious reasons.
Trep grinned and pushed his blonde hair back. “This way.” He turned and walked slowly to the left, so I could catch up. I hobbled after him.
After another five minutes walk, we came to a poorly-lit door with a large, rather nervous looking guard. “Halt!” he muttered half-heartedly, glancing at the door behind him.
I raised my bushy white eyebrows at him. “Halt? Since when does the Baron’s wizard halt?”
He squinted his eyes. “Oh, you’re the Baron’s wizard, sir? Yes, you are. I do apologize, sir, My eyes are not what they used to be, sir. Advancing age, sir. As you yourself may have noticed.”
I looked at him closely. Yes, he was large, but he wasn’t young, by any stretch of the imagination. A month ago... or even last week... I might have said that his eyesight was not my problem, but I had been dealing with every other problem for three months. I chewed my lip and got a mouthful of beard. It wasn’t exactly forbidden to use magic on commoners, but it was very rarely done. I sighed. “Come by later on. I’ll see if I have something that can help you.”
He smiled broadly. “Can you? I would surely appreciate it.”
“I will try. I can’t guarantee results.”
“That’s enough, sir. At least you’re willing to try. That's more than the other Wizards were willing to do.”
I looked at the door. “But right now... I’m afraid we need to see what’s beyond the door.”
He sobered instantly. “Sir, I can’t let you do that! There’s a dragon in there.”
I grimaced. “Yes. I know. I need to see if I can eliminate said dragon.” I started to push forward, then back up, pulling my beard thoughtfully. “What’s your name?”
“Cim. Um... Cim... is this the only door to the Treasury?”
I looked at him sharply. “How did the dragon get in?”
“I don’t know. The man I replaced... Teg... said it was the damndest thing. All of a sudden, he heard roaring. He opened the outer door, and the only thing in the accountant’s office was a puddle of blood. He heard roaring in the treasury, peeked in and saw the dragon, then exited the room...”
“Through the puddle of blood,” Trep muttered.
“... as fast as he could.”
“Why in the world didn’t he summon the other guards?”
Cim shook his head. “We have no training in this, sir. We’re trained in all forms of combat to guard milord, but dragon-fighting is a knight’s business, and we’re none of us knights. Just plain commoners, sir.”
I had a sudden thought. “Teg saw a puddle of blood, huh? Bet it was by the desk.” I looked at Trep. “Have you washed your hands?”
“I wiped them off, then came straight to your room.” He raised his hands and studied them. His face sobered. “I wiped them off with water.” He turned his hands so that I could see the bright red staining them. “Ink.”
“Ink.” I agreed. I stared at Trep, not really seeing him. “So we have three options. One... the dragon ate the accountant. Two... the dragon is in league with the accountant. Three...”
Trep opened his eyes wide. “The dragon is the accountant. Dragon’s gold!”
“Um... yes.” How did Trep know? For a ten year old, he was awfully perceptive. “Cim... let us through.”
Cim hesitated a second, then stepped aside. The door creaked open, and a musty smell wafted out. I sniffed. “Books. And brimstone.”
Trep sniffed dutifully.
I stepped in, all senses alert. Yes. There was the ink puddle, anxious steps leading away towards the hall. I looked around. The room was an organized mess. Precious hand-written manuscripts were laid higgledy-piggledy on each other. The desk in the center was covered with various sheets of paper — milord’s inventory, I suppose. A few of the sheets lay on the floor. I tsked. Paper was rare, and to waste it like this went against every grain I had. And, I suspect, milord’s. He struck me as that way.
I looked to the opposite door. A few wafts of smoke drifted through the cracks, and I hoped the room was ventilated, even though I suspected it wasn’t. It was a treasury, after all. I took a deep breath, stepped over to the door, and opened it with a bang.
At least I tried to open it with a bang. In my weakened, elderly state, the most I managed was a dull creak.
The room came into view. As a treasure room, it was rather large, which made the contents seem rather puny. Milord’s golden dinner service was lined up on shelves on the wall. Armor -- the decorative kind, not the practical kind -- were hanging on the wall in various states of repair. Chests were scattered liberally around the room, and the dragon had torn open one chest and was lying on the coins. That, I would bet, was Dragon’s Gold... coins that had been coveted by a real dragon at some point in time, and had taken on the dragon’s magic, transforming any who improperly coveted it into the form of the original dragon. You didn’t even need any intention of stealing it; you just had to covet it. But I had no proof of magic. And I wasn’t about to covet it to find out.
It was old magic. Boring magic, actually. It's happened a number of times, and every time, there was one spell to change them back. But I had to get close enough to do it.
The dragon was sleeping, but had opened one eye as the drawn-out creak. He looked at me, sized me up, and laid his head back down. “Mine,” he drawled lazily.
Dragons were known for their power, their might, their fire, and sometimes their snake-like cunning. They weren’t generally known for their intelligence, even if they were transformed people. Even so, I felt vaguely insulted by his body language. He was dismissing me from having any power, simply because I wasn’t a mighty warrior. Well, I could conjure up a warrior, but the thing about that kind of magic defense is that they had even less intelligence than dragons. So I had a few choices. I could debate the dragon, I could trick the dragon out of his gold... no, that had the disturbing tendency to turn the trickster into a dragon, himself, and that’s all I needed to be was an elderly dragon.
I also I to make sure that this dragon was, if fact, the accountant, before I started debating him.
“Hmmmm?” he said lazily.
“Where’s the accountant?”
“Acc... tant.” His eyes turned inward, then he stared at me. The yellow eyes narrowed, and then his head dropped as he fell back asleep.
I was being too intelligent for him. “Dragon!” I took another step close.
“Hmmm.” The big yellow eyes opened aga
“Where’s the man who was here?”
“The man sitting out there.”
“Hmmm? Gone.” The head dropped again.
I poked at him with my staff. “Dragon!”
I must’ve hit a tender spot, because he yelped. Flames spurted out the sides of his mouth. He turned his gaze towards me, looking rather annoyed. As insurance, I pulled out my wand. “Where did the man go?” I took another step closer.
“Gone! Gone away!”
“Did you eat him?”
“Just gone." He glared at me.
Hmmph. I might as well start to debate about the treasure. If I argued, maybe I could get closer.
“Dragon. Go away. The gold isn’t yours.”
“Mine!” He shook his head, thrashing his tail. Precious golden goblets flew and smashed into the walls.
Ah, well. May as well incite him. Part of the damage was already done. “No.”
His eyes narrowed, and he lunged towards me. Quickly I put up an invisible barrier between us and the dragon, so that he bumped his nose, then sat back, rubbing it. I had to press my point quick, or he’d forget what we were talking about.
“Dragon. The gold isn’t yours.”
“Mine!” He reared back, then tried to swipe at us with his claws. The barrier held, but I knew it was temporary, and wouldn’t hold for much longer. I raised my wand and zapped a lightning bolt at him... just a warning shot. He flinched back and rubbed his shoulder, then glanced at me. Well, I was close enough, but I couldn't cast the spell and keep up the barrier at the same time.
“Dragon. The gold isn’t yours.”
He reared back, getting a good load of fire up his gullet. Just as he was about to release it, Trep shouted, “Watch out!”
I glared sideways at my apprentice for this entirely unnecessary warning, then raised my wand, but the tip wobbled and fell off. Damn. The dragon snickered, then advanced. Never mind, the wand was just a prop, always was.
I almost hesitated. This could be my last spell – I was way too close to that flame-throwing, large mouth.
But what were the words? Oh, yes. I muttered the spell, pointing my finger at the dragon, then realized this particular incantation affected everything enchanted within a fifty foot radius, including me.
“Oh, damn!” I said, before everything changed.
Two Wizarding Tales by Lorraine J. Anderson / Fantasy have rating 3.9 out of 5 / Based on35 votes