Tuesday, November 30, 2021

WIZARD Chapter 9 - Fireballs & Magic





© Helen A. Howell

Chapter 9
Fireballs & Magic

“You!” Octava scrambled to her feet and moved away from Lostan, putting a small distance between them. Her eyes narrowed as she watched him.
“Not leaving are you?” His lips pressed into a sneer.
Octava took another few steps backwards. She knew she was no match for him, not without the talisman, but she also knew he couldn’t kill her, not while she had her half of the sceptre. She straightened up her old bent body and slipped her hand into the pocket that contained the fire powder.
“Lostan, you can’t kill me, remember? Not while I have my half of the sceptre. Why waste energy on a fruitless battle now?” She placed another hand in the pocket that housed the arrow and raised her second pair of arms as she shrugged her shoulders. “Let me go. Our time will come, very soon. I promise.”
“I take it that you didn’t get what you came for?” He looked towards the village and then back at her. “What was it you gave the boy? If you had it you would not be so ready to retreat. I know you Hag.” He took a step towards her. She took another step back. “I may not be able to kill you right now, but I can hurt you.” He held his hands up and flexed his fingers.
Octava blinked, but she dared not take her eyes off the Wizard. He knows I gave the boy the talisman? No, he just suspects I gave the boy something. He doesn’t know what. “What makes you think I’ve come from there?” She jerked her head in the general direction of the hamlet.
“Where else could you have come from? Don’t play games with me.”
“Even if I did, why would I have given him anything?” She tried to hide the fear she felt.
“Do you take me for a fool Hag? I don’t know how you knew I had the half sceptre, but somehow you did. I also know the boy is a novice. He would have needed help to force me out. You needed me to leave, otherwise the sceptre would remain out of your reach. It still does. I keep it on me.” Damn - I shouldn’t have told her that. Annoyed at having let that bit of information slip out, he pulled himself up taller and glared at Octava. “You will have to kill me to get it. I don’t think you can do that without whatever it was you gave the boy. Am I right Witch?”
He keeps it on him. Ha! At least I know where his half is. That’s more than he knows about me. “I will get your half Wizard, I promise you.”
Octava backed away further from Lostan. Her eyes stayed glued to those slender fingers of his that he held in the air as she tried to anticipate his next move. Her fingers grasped a handful of the powder in her pocket. Her knees trembled. She knew he could be dangerous and she knew she had to get away. She continued to move backwards. The woods were not too far off and she wondered if she could run fast enough before he did her any great damage.
Lostan looked at her and sneered. “Going somewhere are you?” He moved forwards, closing the gap between them. “I’ll enjoy hurting you.” He wiggled his fingers at her, knowing her magic, unlike his, needed the aid of potions to manifest. “Consider it payback for Lily.” He spat the barbed words at her. The fear registered on her face and Lostan laughed to see it. Octava’s heart banged. Without thinking she tossed a handful of the powder at him, swung around and raced off towards the trees.
Lostan stepped back as the powder fell at his feet to explode in a fireball. He clicked his fingers.“Gionorma hawkus—transformus.” He clicked his fingers again. The flames grew higher and formed into a huge bird. “Attack.” He pointed towards the retreating figure of Octava.
The bird screeched as it took to the air, fiery wings beating hard. It set the Witch in its sights and careered towards her. The first Octava knew of it was when she felt the downdraft from its wings, a hot blast that fell upon her like a blanket. She looked up just as the bird reached out and grasped her by the shoulders in its talons.
“Ahhhh, let go of me.” Octava lashed out at it with her four arms, the flames burning her hands. “Oowwww.”
The tip of her hat was on fire and her robe was starting to smoulder. She beat the hat with one set of hands while making a frantic attempt to put out the sparks that threatened to burn her clothing off her back, with her other set. The bird swung her around and with her feet just touching the ground it hurtled her towards Lostan. Octava puffed and huffed as her legs moved faster than she thought was possible. As they grew closer to the Wizard, the bird began to lose height. Its flaming body started to die and disappeared in a final puff of smoke. Octava found herself face down on the ground. Her hat toppled from her head and sizzled in the cold grass. She clambered to her feet. Her face and hands were blackened and her hair singed around the edges.
 Lostan stood a short distance away from her. “Are you ready to play some more Witch? I’ve only just got started.” As he stared at her he noticed the black streak in her grey hair. I wonder what she’s been up to, to have caused that? Surely she doesn’t know dark magic. But what else could cause a change like that? He moved towards her.
Octava reached down, grasped her hat, and returned it to her head. She knew the powder she had was useless against him. She thought about escaping again but she needed something to distract him in order to get away. She slipped her hand into the pocket that contained the metal arrow she had created to defeat the dark magic. Her fingers felt its coolness against her skin as she entwined them around it. I wonder?
“What’s this new colour scheme to your hair Witch?” Lostan stretched out a hand and lifted the ebony strands with a finger. His dark eyes glowered at her.
“What’s it to you?” Octava squeezed the arrow tighter with one hand and brushed his finger away with the other. With another set of hands she pushed Lostan hard in the chest. “Get away from me.”
“Shove me, would you?”
Lostan thrust his hands into her shoulders. The impact made Octava’s head wobble on her scraggy neck. With all of her arms she shoved him back as hard as she could sending him sprawling across the ground. She turned and ran.
Lostan sat up and clicked his fingers. “Freezum Sward.”
The grass beneath Octava’s feet crackled and crunched as it turned instantly from a lush green to an icy sheet. Her feet slipped from under her and she fell with a thud on her back to slide along the sheet of glass and spin off onto the soft turf. Her head felt dizzy and she could see stars before her eyes. She blinked a few times before regaining her senses, just in time to feel his grip upon one set of her arms, pulling her to her feet.
 Lostan shook her as he spoke. “Tell me Hag, have you been dabbling in dark magic? Is that why you’ve got that midnight streak in your hair? Don’t lie to me. I recognise the signs.” He continued to shake her, until she felt like her bones were rattling.
“Bbbbog Oooooff Wiiiiizard. Iiii’ll tellllll yooou nnnothing.”
“I’m the master of dark magic. You don’t know what you’re playing with.” He stopped shaking her and wrapped his long fingers around her throat.
Octava’s eyes bulged as she felt him crush her skin beneath his grip. She slid a hand back into her pocket and grasped the arrow. “You’re the master of dark magic all right,” she croaked. “See how you like this.” In one swift move she extracted the arrow and drove it deep into his arm.
A burning sensation ran up it and spread to his shoulder. It felt as though it was on fire. “What have you done?” His arm started to turn grey and became heavy as his finger tips tingled and one by one started to fade. The tingling moved steadily through his hand.
Octava tittered. “Master of dark magic, eh. Save yourself then.” Lostan’s first instinct was to grab the arrow with his free hand and try to dislodge it. His other hand had now totally disappeared and the process was creeping up his arm. Octava watched as he struggled to free the arrow. Can I get his half of the sceptre? She knew where it was and if she was quick she might just do it. She lunged forward, all of her hands extended towards his cloak.
Lostan, still pulling at the small metal arrow embedded up to its hilt in his arm, let go and punched her squarely on the nose. Octava reeled backwards and toppled over. His heart raced as he observed his forearm vanish before his eyes.
“This is not possible,” he muttered as he continued to tug at the dart. He stopped and took a deep breath to calm himself. “I’m a Fool. I cannot pull this out. I must use magic to fight magic.” He heard Octava laugh and glanced towards where she had landed. “You’ll see who’ll be laughing last Witch.” He grasped his arm and held it in a firm grip as he started the incantation to restore his flesh. He spoke it over and over again and watched as the spell began to work and inch by inch his arm, hand and fingers returned.
From where she was, Octava could see the Wizard and his magic at work. “Fireballs and Cauldrons, I have to run before the magic frees him.” She scrambled to her feet, held up her robe to free her legs and dashed off as fast as she could.
Lostan looked at his flesh, now fully recovered. The metal arrow fell from his arm to dissolve into the grass. He looked across the land just in time to see Octava disappear into the trees.
“I’ll destroy that Witch if it’s the last thing I do.”
He was still a short distance from the village and as he walked towards it, he turned his attention back to Octava and the arrow. That was a powerful spell. Did she know about the rats? Did she create it to try to get rid of them? She’d have done anything to get to the boy. But if it was made to combat dark magic, why did the arrow have an effect on me? He halted in his tracks as the reality dawned on him. “Dark magic and I are becoming one.” A smile spread across his lips.
When Lostan arrived at the village gates, there wasn’t a rat in sight. He observed the people going about their normal business looking none the worse for his attack on them.
Strange. Who got rid of the dark magic? It couldn’t have been the Witch. She still had that arrow unused. Could the great Wizard himself be back? “Hey you.” Lostan yelled through the gates at the baker pushing his barrow loaded with bread, towards the square. “Is Narcam back?”
The baker stopped and squinted at him. “You again. Whaddya want?”
Lostan took a deep breath and tried not to lose his temper. “Tell me if Narcam has returned.”
“Yes, Narcam.”
“No. Now clear off. We don’t need the likes of you around here.”
Lostan felt a rush of anger spread through him and for a moment forgot he could not enter. He rushed towards the old man, hands outstretched, fingers wanting to grasp him round the neck. The moment he passed through the gate, his skin started to tingle. “Blast.” He skidded to a halt, looked at his hands then the baker and screwed up his eyes. “You’ll be sorry. All of you will be sorry.” He swung around and dashed outside the confines of the village.
“We’re not scared of you anymore. The boy wizard took care of your rats. We have him to protect us.” The old man spat his words at Lostan as he picked up his barrow and began to wheel it away.
That boy never defeated the dark magic. I’d bet my life on it. Who’s helping him? The Witch? No. He started to pace up and down outside the gates. The more he thought about who rid them of the rats, the more agitated he became. There’s no one within miles of here capable of combatting dark magic. Never mind. What I have in store for them next will take a very powerful Wizard to combat. They’ll send the boy out, unless they want to drown.
Lostan moved as close as he dared to the entrance and tossed a handful of sulphur powder down at his feet. There was a flash and a bang and a whole lot of smoke. The villagers in the square all turned together to look at him. He coughed and waved the smoke away with a hand. “Now hear me. You defied me last time, but don’t think anyone but me can save you this time from a never-ending storm.”
“Never-ending storm? What’s ‘e talking about now?” said Betsy to the candlemaker, who just shrugged his shoulders. “Bah, what rubbish is this, Wizard?” Betsy took hold of a large red tomato and rolled up her sleeves and flung it in Lostan’s direction.
Lostan held up a hand. “Reverse.” The tomato pulled up within inches of his face, spun around like a top and flew off towards Betsy to land with a splatter on her nose. Betsy swayed with the impact, as tomato flesh and juice ran down her cheeks and onto her ample bosom. The crowd gasped and simultaneously took two steps back.
“Enough of this nonsense,” bellowed Lostan. “You have been warned. This is your last chance. Send Micos to the forest within the next two days and I will come back and stop this, or prepare to drown in a quagmire of mud that the never-ending storm will bring.” The crowd gasped again and took a further two steps back. No one was brave enough to utter a word.
Lostan slipped the silver vial from his pocket and pulled out the stopper. He held his arms up to the heavens and started to speak the spell.
“Mother Nature obey my command,
Bring rain, hail, wind and storm.
With lightning flashes, crashes and strikes,
Let the never-ending tempest be born.”
Into the air he threw the single tear drop. It sailed upwards towards the soft white clouds. Lostan watched as it glittered in the daylight until it disappeared. All eyes were on the blue sky. A soft breeze was the first to be felt. It rustled the leaves on the nearby trees as it gathered in strength to blow through the gates, a gust so strong it toppled the stalls. It swirled around the square, faster and faster, pushing the people this way and that, lifting their produce and clothing to fling it through the air. A dark cloud descended, black and threatening. A thunder crack rang out as the first heavy drops of rain started to fall. Big globular splashes hit the ground, one after the other. The sky lit up as a lightning bolt flashed across it. The rain poured down. Thunder rumbled through the atmosphere as more and more lightning bolts flared, striking the ground at intervals and making the people scurry for cover like insects dodging Zeus’s thunderbolts.
Lostan stood at the gates, his robes flapping around him with the backdraft from the storm that was raging within the village walls. He watched the sky ablaze with lightning, jagged forks that cracked and snapped their way to the ground. From above his head thunder boomed, its force so great it shook the ground and him. Lostan steadied himself and once more cast his eyes upwards.
This shouldn’t be happening. The storm should remain within the village.
Out of the black came a bolt of lightning which struck a short distance from him. So bright was the flash that he saw spots before his eyes. There was a loud crack just before he felt the rock hit. A shard broke off and slithered into his eye. He blinked but his vision returned to only one. The eye from which the tear had fallen, saw nothing but complete darkness.
He put a hand over the blinded one. “The price of dark magic is always dear,” he muttered. “But it’s a small price to pay to get what I want.” Lostan glanced towards the wild storm that was now taking place within the village walls. They’ll soon realise they have no alternative but to send the boy to me. He turned and made his way back to the forest. As the crackle and crash of thunder and lightning resounded behind him, he touched his damaged eye once more.
“I guess it’s an eyepatch for me now. Ha. I’ll look a bit like a pirate. I’ve always wanted to be one of those.”

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