Monday, September 20, 2021

WIZARD - Chapter 5 Fire, Sword & Shield



                                         6 HERE

 Chapter 5
Fire, Sword & Shield

Nettle held her ground as the creature circled around her, its eyes spiteful and its lips curled back. She clasped her shield in one hand, the sword in the other, watching for its next move. It lunged forwards to aim another fiery flow at her. She dropped down behind the shield, the force of the blast nearly pushing her over. The draconky positioned itself closer, tipped its head back again and continued to breathe fire up into the air. Nettle saw her chance. She leapt up and thrust her sword into its body under its wing. The sharp blade crunched through its scaly skin and pierced deep into its side. The draconky screamed, “heeeeeeee haw,” and kicked its back legs out. She withdrew her sword and backed up. Blood dripped from the wound and down the blade of her weapon.
 Her leg stung. She took her eyes off her foe and looked down. There was a gash on her calf.
I must have done that when I dropped to the ground.
“Nettle look out!” Micos yelled from his position behind a boulder.
She raised her eyes just in time to see the draconky charge. Steam poured from its nostrils, teeth sharp, glinting in the light as it narrowed its ruby eyes and sucked in another breath ready to spurt an onslaught of yellow flames. Nettle held the shield up and dashed towards it. She swung her sword against its leg and raced past to its other side. The draconky spun around and blew out an inferno of flames. She jumped behind a large rock, bringing the shield down over her. The grass all around sizzled and crackled with the heat.
The draconky backed away and bent to lick the slash she had cut into its leg. Nettle dashed forwards again. With her shield protecting her body and her sword aimed at the creature, she charged, stabbing it in a wing. “Heeeee haw” it cried and backed further away from her.
It may have the body of a dragon but it has the brains of a donkey, she thought.
It continued to move away, its eyes searching for an escape route. It twirled around and dashed towards the trees and Octava.
“Aargh!” squealed Octava.
 She jumped out from behind her tree and started to run as fast as her old legs would allow. The draconky, catching up fast, puffed out the odd flame making Octava leap in the air as she weaved her way through the forest. Nettle lowered her shield and sword and watched the disappearing figures of Octava and the draconky.
Micos came out from his hiding spot to stand next to her. “I didn’t know you could do magic. Where did you learn that? That was advanced stuff, even I can’t do that yet.”
Nettle glared at him. “Please don’t thank me for saving you from that creature you created. Don’t mention it, it was nothing.”
“Thanks. I could have dealt with it you know, if you hadn’t pushed me aside.”
“I’m sure you could.” She softened her voice, not wanting him to feel less than her in any way.
 “Tell me where you learnt to do magic like that? I can’t transform objects without the powder.” There was an essence of jealousy in his voice. “Who taught you this stuff? Does the master know?”
“No, he doesn’t. You’re not going to tell on me are you?”
“That depends on who taught you.” Micos knew he had the advantage here and he was playing it to the full.
“No one did.”
“Oh come on. It didn’t just come to you,” he paused for effect, “like magic did it?”
“I taught myself. I studied every evening. Study. I don’t expect you know that word do you?”
“Pfft, study. There’s so many other things to do. Besides I have a natural gift for magic, you know.”
Micos kicked his heels into the dust. Nettle knew she had made him feel inadequate. She reached out and touched his arm.
“Yes Micos you do.” She smiled at him. He raised his eyes and beamed back at her. The equilibrium once again restored. “So you’ll keep my secret?”
“I will if you teach me how to do that clicky finger thing.”
“Deal. But we have something more pressing to worry about: Octava. Why didn’t you give her back the talisman?
“It must be powerful if she wants it so bad, so I thought why not keep it. Anyway I was told she never came out of that cave of hers. How was I to know that was a lie?”
“She’s not going to give up. We have to figure out a way of returning it without her doing something nasty to us.”
“I know. I shouldn’t have kept it. But how can we return it now? She’ll try to kill us you know.”
“I know. We can talk about it on the way home. We should get going.”
“You were very brave fighting that draconky.”
“Can I keep that sword and shield?”
“Sure.” Nettle handed them over to Micos.
 All the way home he pretended to be a gallant knight saving her from one danger to the next. Nettle laughed at his antics. By the time they reached the village gates, the sun was low in the sky.
* * *
Octava puffed as she ran through the trees, trying to put as much distance as she could between her and the draconky Hitching up her skirt she willed her legs to go even faster. Her boots galumphed across the ground as she picked up speed and increased the gap between them. Her eyes darted around in an attempt to see her best way out. A large tree stood in the centre of her path. She careered towards it and swung to the right. Just in front of her stood a huge green bush big enough for her to hide behind. She made a dash for it, jumped to the back of it and stayed very still. From her pocket she pulled the small leather pouch that contained the black powder she had used to transform the stick into a snake. She grasped it tight in her shaking hand. Her heart pounded in her chest. Her eyes searched this way and that as she waited for the creature to come.  
“Hee haw, hee haw,” called the draconky, thumping its way towards the tree. It skidded to a halt in front of it. It looked first to the left, then the right, then stooped to lick the gash on its leg. Ensconced behind the bush, Octava racked her brain for a spell to diminish the beast. But in her panic, she seemed to have forgotten them all. She dared not breathe as she watched it lick its wound. The draconky lifted its head, stared at the tree, blinked and burped, setting the tree on fire. “Hee haw,” it cried and took a step back before it darted away to the left.
Octava stayed behind the bush until she was sure the draconky wasn’t coming back. She parted the branches and peered out. She cocked her head to one side and listened. Nothing. She could not hear the creature at all. She climbed out from behind the bush, pushed the pouch back into her pocket and brushed the leaves and twigs from her robe.
“My poor old back. My knees.” She rubbed her back with one set of hands and her knees with the other. “I’ll make that boy pay for this.Wait till I get my hands on him.” She flexed the fingers on both sets of hands. He’ll be sorry. Oh yes, he will.
Octava started to walk out of the copse and back towards her cave. As she walked she thought about the girl and what she had been able to accomplish with just a click of her fingers.
Who was the clever Witch with him? Although her magic was more like that of a Wizard’s rather than a Witch’s. “Girls have never been allowed to learn Wizard’s magic. It’s not heard of.” We’ve always done magic with lotions and potions.
Octava stopped in her tracks, her mind working overtime on this new problem. “Where would she learn magic like that? Who would teach her?” She frowned as she thought about this complication. She took a few steps forward and stopped again.“The talisman with a lock of Lostan’s hair worked into the stone. I must have it. With it I can make my spells work against his body. Without it I’m lost,” she whispered.
She began to move forwards again, all the time her mind racing. Will this girl be a nuisance? A thorn in my side waiting to be plucked out? She may be clever, but I am old and my magic is powerful, when I have the right ingredients, that is.
A smile spread across her cracked lips. “Ha, I’m also devious. She’s no match for me.”

Monday, September 6, 2021

WIZARD -Chapter 4

You Can Find Chapter 3 HERE

                       Chapter 5 HERE



Chapter 4
Snakes & Dragons

Nettle yawned, stretched and pushed the bed covers aside. She swung her legs around and sat up. The birds were just beginning their morning serenade. She tiptoed over to the small window and peeked outside. The blackness that hung in the sky yesterday had now gone. She was relieved to see the familiar cobalt blue dressed in soft white clouds.
 I wonder when Narcam will return? It’s unusual for him not to have sent a message.
 She pulled her day dress over her slip, pushed her feet into her sandals, opened the door of her small room and stepped out closing it behind her. She made her way down the small passageway and into the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
I’d best get the fire lit.
She fetched the jar from the shelf that contained the fire dust, a magical powder that Narcam had formulated to make lighting the fire easy for her. All she had to do was sprinkle it on and the sticks would burst into flames. Nettle lifted the lid off the jar and peered in.
“Oh no, it’s all gone.”
Alone in the kitchen with no one to see, Nettle smiled to herself. This was an opportunity to use the magic she had secretly been studying. She knelt down and leaned towards the small pile of sticks that lay in the hearth. She had read in the old book she kept hidden under a loose floorboard, under her bed, that it was all in the way you clicked your fingers while speaking the words. When she had tried this spell before, she had only managed to get a spark or two, but that was just on a twig. Now she had a whole stack of twigs to try it out on. She held her hand out in front of her, thumb poised ready on her first two fingers.
“Ignit….” She was stopped in mid-spell by a rustling noise coming from within the chimney. “What on earth is that?” She leaned in further to looked up the dark shaft. As she did an object hit her on the forehead and glided into the room. “Ouch!”
A white paper bird, beautifully crafted, flew around the room. Nettle watched amazed as it spread its wings and floated down to settle on the wooden table. Its tail spread out like a fan behind it and its crested head turned to look up at her.
What’s this?
 She recognised magic when she saw it and stretched out a finger to touch it. ‘Poof!’ It burst into a shower of sparkling dust, then reformed as a piece of notepaper which drifted back down onto the table. She picked up the note and began to read it:
 ‘Nettle my dear, I have been delayed for a few days more. I trust that you will keep the house in order while I am away. Tell the boy to practise making his transformative powder. I will want to see the results on my return. I have called my staff to me. I thought it less a temptation to Micos. The boy is impulsive and tends to act without thinking. I should have done this before, but I have had more pressing issues to think about. Tell him to study his magic books while I am away and to help you around the house when needed.  Narcam.’
Nettle put the note down on the table and turned her attention back to the fire. Clicking her fingers she spoke the spell with confidence and the kindling burst into flames. She nodded her head in approval, then set about making creamed oats for herself and Micos.
“Morning.” Micos sat down on the bench at the table.
“Glad to see you’re up.” Nettle placed a bowl of oats in front of him.
“It’s not that late.”
Micos picked up his spoon and shovelled the warm oatmeal into his mouth. He watched Nettle as she dished out a bowl for herself. Her long straw coloured hair lay across her back. A beam of sunlight cascading through the window caught it and it shone like pale gold. He liked her hair, but he loved her periwinkle blue eyes, so bright, full of life. Nettle turned around and caught him staring at her.
“What are you looking at?”
“Nothing.” He smiled inwardly and carried on eating. She came and sat opposite him. “When’s Narcam coming back?” he said, as he scraped the last of his oatmeal from the bowl.
“He’s been delayed.” She put down her spoon and looked at him.
“Oh good. Then the day is mine to do as I please.”
“The day is yours?” Nettle held his gaze.
“Well, the master’s not here. So while he’s away I am free.”
“Not so fast. He sent a note that you were to work on your transformative powder and study your magic books. He’s going to examine you on it when he returns. Here. Read for yourself.” She took hold of the note that lay at the end of the table and pushed it towards him. Micos picked it up and read it.
“He’s taken his staff.”
“Are you surprised? He knows you only too well.”
Nettle stood up and taking hold of the two bowls, carried them across to the basin. She poured water into it from a jug, to wash them.
“How does he expect me to learn anything? I was just getting the hang of using that.”
“Go and work on your magic powder, will you?” She tried to sound firm. But there was something so appealing about Micos’s rakish behaviour, that a laugh escaped her lips.
“Okay.” He smiled as he swung his legs over the bench, got up and walked towards the door. “One large batch of transformative powder coming up.”
Nettle watched him go. She had liked him from the moment she met him. But they worked in the same house. For the same master.
It would never do to fall in love with him. Would it?
She tried to put the thought out of her mind, but a nagging voice in her head kept whispering to her—but you are, Nettle, aren’t you?
* * *
At midday Nettle went to fetch Micos for lunch. She opened the door to the workroom and studied the boy who was leaning over a bottle. He poured different coloured liquids into it, stirring the mixture to blend the contents. There was a fizz, a sizzle, then a great puff of smoke shot from the bottle into the air. First it turned blue, then red, then orange and finally green before it dispersed into the atmosphere.
“Very impressive.” She clapped her hands while laughing.
“It was, wasn’t it! I think I’ve perfected it. Watch while I test it.”
He beckoned her to the table. Nettle walked over and stood with her hands behind her back. Her eyes remained firmly fixed on the small piece of metal Micos had laid on the table’s surface. Taking a good pinch of the powder that was now the contents of the bottle, he glanced at her out of the corner of his eye. With a flourish of his hand he sprinkled the powder over the metal.
The metal crackled and the powder swirled around in a rainbow of colour. Then glittering stars that twinkled and winked, burst into the air and faded before their eyes. In place of the metal lay the most beautiful red rose. Micos picked it up and handed it to Nettle.
“For you.”
Nettle felt herself blush as she reached out and took the bloom. “Thank you. You got it right. Narcam will be pleased. Come, the midday meal is ready.”
“I’ll be right there. I just have to clear up.”
Nettle turned and walked back to the kitchen. Micos clearing up, that’s a first. Should I be worried? She shook her head and hurried on.
In the workroom, Micos poured some of the powder into a small vial and placed a stopper in the top.
You never know when this could come in handy.
 He slipped the vial into his trouser pocket. Walking over to one of the cupboards on the far side of the room, he opened the door and reached in. His fingers searched among the jars until they fell upon the cold stone of the charm he had hidden behind them.
“Got it!”
 He grasped the talisman and withdrew his hand. It was made of out of no stone that he recognised. Micos peered at it as it lay in the palm of his hand. Into its surface was carved a symbol. He picked it up and turned it this way and that, but still he could not make head or tail of what it was supposed to be.
It must be very powerful if the Hag wants it back.
He flipped it into the air and caught it. “I think I’ll keep it. They say she doesn’t leave that cave, so what can she do about it?” He pushed it into his other trouser pocket, strolled out of the workroom and headed towards the kitchen.
Nettle was seated at the table when he arrived. “Come, sit down and eat.” She had already placed a cup of cider and a dish containing bread and cheese out for him.
Micos sat down and greedily tucked into the food. “Perfecting spells makes me very hungry,” he said between mouthfuls.
“Slow down or you’ll choke. What’s the hurry anyway?” She nibbled her bread and cheese while keeping her eyes fixed on him.
“The sun is shining.” Micos gestured towards the window. “The day is still young. Let’s go out this afternoon.”
“But the master said….”
 “Pfft, I’ve done as he requested and I’ve made the powder. Come on. It’s a too nice a day to waste being cooped up in here.” He tipped his head at an angle and smiled. “Say yes. Please say yes.”
 Nettle sighed, “Oh all right. I suppose it won’t hurt just this once.”
Micos finished up his meal and gulping down the remains of his cider, helped carry the dishes to the bowl. Nettle washed them and he wiped them with a piece of clean linen. She took a last glance around the room to make sure all was well, then the two of them ran out into the sunshine.
“Where shall we go?” she asked as they ambled towards the gates of the village.
“Let’s head towards that small copse that lies to the west. There’s a stream at the far end of it. We could sit and dangle our feet in the water.”
 They fell into step with each other as they wandered out of the village and across the grass in the general direction of the copse. The sun’s warmth touched the bare flesh of their arms and legs. They strolled carefree, enjoying the rare moment of freedom that this afternoon offered them. Nettle stopped every now and again to pick wild flowers that waved their colourful heads above the blades of grass.
By the time they reached the copse and got halfway through it, it was mid-afternoon. The sunlight filtered through the trees to illuminate a clearing. Nettle ran into it. Twirling around and around she lifted her face towards the light and held her arms aloft. Micos stood and watched her flaxen hair tumbling over her shoulders.
“Now there’s a pretty sight.”
Nettle came to an abrupt halt. Both she and Micos focused in the direction of the voice.
Octava stepped out from behind a tree and moved towards them. “Boy, where’s the talisman you were to bring me this morning? Or had you forgotten?”
“What’s she talking about?” asked Nettle, grasping Micos’s arm.
“They said she never comes out of her cave.” Micos kept his eyes on Octava, who was rapidly closing the gap between them.
“Who did?”
“Everyone,” whispered Micos.
“Give it to her. Have you got it on you?”
“Yes, but she doesn’t know that.” Micos took a few steps backwards pulling Nettle with him. “I don’t have it right now Hag. I’ll bring it to you tomorrow.”
“Don’t lie to me boy. I’ve seen.” Octava pointed a bony finger at him. “It’s in your trouser pocket. Now give it to me.”
“If we bolt for it, we can outrun her,” he said under his breath.
Micos caught Nettle in mid-sentence. He gripped her hand and swung them both around in the opposite direction to Octava. But the Hag was quick despite her age. She grabbed a stick and threw it through the air, followed by a handful of black powder. Her voice reverberated across the space between them.
“Gionorma Serpenta.”
The stick landed in front of them and immediately transformed into a giant cobra. The snake raised itself up to stand as tall as Micos, spread its hood and hissed. Its forked tongue waved menacingly in his face. Without thinking Micos pushed Nettle behind him. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the vial of transforming powder, dislodged the cork and tossed the contents over the snake.
The powder engulfed the cobra, whirling around it in a rainbow frenzy of colour. Faster and faster it swirled until the creature was no longer visible. A crack rang through the atmosphere. The powder dispersed and in the cobra’s place stood a dragon, with the ears and tail of a donkey. Octava cackled with laughter as she kept her distance and watched.
“What’s that?” Nettled tugged on Micos’s shirt. He glanced at her and they slowly backed away from the creature.
“It was meant to be a donkey. I got flustered.”
“Flustered? You can’t get flustered when casting spells.” Nettle pushed Micos hard. “You’ve created a dragon with donkey features..
“What are we gonna do? The Hag is on one side, and this….” Micos nodded at the draconky who was staring at them with blood red eyes…. “is blocking our way.”
The draconky kept them in its sights for a moment longer, then tipped its head back and let out a screeching hee haw accompanied by a stream of fiery flames. It lowered its head and moved towards them. Steam clouds flowed from its nostrils with every snort it made.
 Without thinking, Nettle picked up a large stone and clicked her fingers.
The stone transmuted with a bang into a large metal shield. Nettle clasped it in one hand, stooped to take hold of a sturdy stick with the other, and tossed it into the air. With another click of her fingers she spoke the word, “Spatha!”
The stick twirled above her head in a flurry of sparks. She reached out and pulled down a sword, its metal gleaming and its edges razor sharp.
“Out of my way,” she yelled at Micos, who stood as though he was in a daze.
Nettle pushed him aside as the beast snarled, inhaled and blew out a fiery breath in her direction. She swung her shield in front of her body. The flames hit the silver metal and deflected back to the draconky. With a wild look in its eyes, it spread its wings and began to circle her.
“Courage girl,” Nettle whispered to herself.