Thunder & Lightning
“Where did this storm come from?” Nettle climbed on the workbench against the wall and peered out of the kitchen window.
“It’ll probably go as quickly as it came.” Micos lifted the mug of hot tea that Nettle had made him, to his lips.
“I’ve never seen it rain so hard.” Nettle pressed her nose against the rough pane of glass.
A golden flash buzzed through the sky, spreading veiny fingers out to hit the ground a short distance away from them. She jumped back from the window and tumbled off the bench. Thunder rumbled all around and exploded in a loud bang, shaking the walls of the house as its heavy tone vibrated through the air.
“I don’t like it,” she whispered.
“It’s just a storm. Nothing to be afraid of.”
“Have you looked out there? If it carries on the ground will soon turn to mud.”
“Then the sun will come out and dry it up.” Micos laughed at her as he placed his mug back down on the table. “Stop worrying. I’m going to finish my new batch of transformative powder. I expect the master will be back any day now. Better have it ready.” He swung his legs over the bench and stood up. “What’s for supper?” But Nettle didn’t seem to hear. Instead she continued to stare towards the window.
Micos looked at her for a long moment and wondered if she felt the same about him as he did about her. A smile spread across his lips as he took in her long flaxen hair, now with a white streak down one side. He had quizzed her about it, but she just shrugged and said she didn’t know how it came about. It didn’t really matter to him. He had thought her hair beautiful before the white streak and now, it was just as beautiful with it.
Nettle looked over her shoulder at him. “What?”
“What’s for supper?”
“Is food all you ever think about?”
“No.” I think about you sometimes. The moment the thought entered his head his cheeks began to colour. He turned away and walked towards the open door. Without looking back he said, “I’ll see you later then,” and stepped into the hallway.
Nettle tried to busy herself in the kitchen but the constant sound of the rain pounding on the roof was hard to ignore. She moved back over to the workbench and climbing up again, she pressed herself close to the window and glanced up at the sky. It was as if a dark blanket had been thrown carelessly over the village, only to have holes gouged out of it every few moments by lightning bolts that flashed with ferocity. Something didn’t feel right to her. She knew it and yet she didn’t know what it was. Anxiety was growing within her. As the storm gathered momentum, she felt a tingling sensation on one side of her head. Her hand instinctively came up to touch the strands of white that now adorned her otherwise straw-coloured hair.
With her fingers wrapped around the silver strands, she felt the faintest vibration. She clambered down from the bench and ran to her bedroom. She held the small looking glass in her hand and studied her reflection. The white strands of hair glowed in the dim light of her room.
Why are they doing that? She touched them once again. The tingling sensation grew stronger with every moment that passed. “Dark magic,” she whispered. What else could it be?
Nettle flung the mirror down on her bed and ran into the hallway. She dashed to the front door and grasped the handle. Just for a moment she hesitated as her heart pounded in her chest. Half afraid and half curious as to what she would see, she pulled the door wide open and ventured out onto the top step.
She gasped as her eyes took in the scene.
“The storm, it’s only over the village.”
She saw beyond the gates and walls the blue sky and the soft white clouds that drifted silently by. Within the village itself the deluge was quickly turning the ground into a quagmire. No one was to be seen. All were locked away in their homes.
It’ s dark magic. It has to be. That’s why my white hair is tingling. It too is born out of dark magic. But how? Who did this?
She closed the door and stood still. Her mind was in a whirl. It had to be Lostan. Who else could it be? But why did no one tell us? She chewed her bottom lip as she tossed these thoughts around in her head until it all became clear. “Of course. The storm. They’ve all run for cover.”
Nettle hurried down the hall. The door to the workroom was open. She stopped and peeked in. Micos was standing at a workbench, head bent over a bowl, mixing with sedulous care the various ingredients he needed to create his transformative powder. He was so engrossed in what he was doing that he never noticed her standing there. She backed away without making a sound and headed to her own room where she retrieved the book of spells that she kept hidden under her bed. Turning the pages she searched for the one on dark magic.
“Here it is.”
The contents she knew, because she had read it once before, contained a brief history of dark magic and a warning against using it, along with a spell for combating what it referred to as minor dark magic. But she didn’t remember it saying anything about how to control the weather. She scanned the page. A frowned creased her forehead.
There’s nothing. But there has to be. If it’s dark magic there must be a solution.
She started to read from the top again and taking her time, ran a finger along every line. But still she saw nothing. Then a small symbol at the bottom of the page caught her eye. It looked a lot like a lightning bolt.
“I never noticed that before,” she whispered as she turned the page over.
There on the other side was the same symbol embossed in gold ink. The whole of this page was dedicated to just one small paragraph:
To manipulate nature’s elements is the most dangerous of dark magic spells. Nature will demand a price and what it takes cannot be restored. If the spell is spoken incorrectly, nature will take your life. Only the strongest of Wizards can combat a dark spell that has been cast to change the weather. Be warned, be sensible and LEAVE WELL ALONE!
Nettle put the book down. “Oh my. There’s nothing I can do.”
The realisation that the village was now in deep trouble hit her like a slap in the face. She closed the book and pushed it back into its hiding place, got up and walked towards the workroom. Micos was still busy with his potion making when she arrived. He looked up and smiled.
“Hi Nettle. Have you come to check up on me? See I’m still working.”
“Micos, I have to tell you something.”
He put down the beaker and looked at her. “What’s a matter?”
She walked into the room and came to a halt on the opposite side of the workbench. “The storm….”
Micos laughed. “Oh you’re not still worrying about that are you?”
“No, not the way you think. If you’ll let me finish, instead of interrupting, I’ll tell you.”
“Go on then.” He noted the serious look on her face and thought better of teasing her.
“It’s no ordinary storm.”
“It’s just a storm Nettle. I’ve never seen you like this before.” He came around to her side of the bench. He wanted to reassure her, but he didn’t know how. So he just stood staring at her with a stupid grin on his face.
“It’s not funny and it’s not an ordinary storm,” she snapped.
“Okay, I’m listening.”
“It’s dark magic Micos. The storm is only falling over the village.”
“Come, I’ll show you.”
Nettle grabbed hold of his sleeve and tugged. “Come on, follow me.” She led the way out and he followed her into the hall and along to the front door. She pulled it wide open and tugged him down onto the top step. “Look.”
Micos gaped at the raging storm that was assaulting only the village. The rain was hammering down, the sky intermittently grumbling with the sound of thunder or being lit up by the flash of lightning. Beyond the walls he saw blue skies, fluffy white clouds and not a raindrop in sight.
“How?” was all he could say.
“How do you think? It could only have been Lostan. When you didn’t go to him to cure the plague of rats, he must of come back and done this. Who else could it have been?”
“Why did no one tell us he was here?”
“They couldn’t. It’s pouring with rain. Really heavy rain. They’ve all run for cover.”
“Then you don’t know for sure it was him, do you?” Micos stepped back inside. Deep down he knew she was right but part of him really hoped she wasn’t.
Nettle came in and closed the door. “Micos wake up! She shoved him hard in the stomach and he fell against the wall.
“What’d you do that for?” He straightened up and for a moment thought about shoving her back, but thought better of it in case he hurt her.
“Of course it’s him. Who else wants you? Narcam’s due back any time now. We, or I should say you, are gonna be in so much trouble, and that’s if we don’t drown first.” Nettle pushed past him and strode angrily towards the kitchen.
Micos ran after her, grabbed her arm and pulled her around. “Perhaps I can transform it like I did the rats. I’ve just made a new batch of powder.”
“Pfft, how little you know.” Nettle yanked her arm free from his grip. “It’s elemental dark magic. You can’t do anything.” She moved towards the water jug, filled a pot and hung it over the fire.
“That’s what you said about the rats. But I got rid of them didn’t I?” Micos puffed out his chest and crossed his arms.
“No you didn’t.” The anger in her voice was tangible.
“But I did. You saw me do it.”
Nettle swung around to face him. “I did it.”
“You?” Micos dropped his arms to his side and came closer to her.
“Where do you think this white steak came from?” She held out the strands of silver hair.
“I dunno.” She might have done it. After all she can do that clicky thing with her fingers, he thought. But why then did she let me think I did it? He was beginning to doubt himself. “You said you didn’t know how you got that streak of white hair.”
“I lied. I didn’t want to tell you to make you feel less than me. But Micos this is serious.” She placed a hand on his arm. Her blue eyes looked into his and her features softened.
Micos could feel the heat grow in his cheeks, part from the realisation that she was a better magician then he and part because she wanted to protect him. “How do you know all this about dark magic?” His eyes searched hers.
“I read it in the book I use to study magic. Dark magic is hard to combat, even a minor spell like the rats takes its toll. In order to combat it you have to put part of yourself into the spell. Thank goodness I chose a strand of hair and not a nail or eyelash.” Nettle shuddered at the thought of what might have happened to her.
“I didn’t know,” he said as he turned around and walked to the bench by the table and slumped down. He felt his cheeks grow red again, this time from the anger of his own stupidity and bent his head to gaze at his feet, in the hopes she wouldn’t notice. How could I have thought my transformative powder did it? He shook his head, lost for a moment in his own thoughts.
“Micos.” Nettle waited for him to look up. When he didn’t, she called his name again. “Micos, listen to me.”
He lifted his head. “What can we do?”
“The village is in danger of being flooded. But there is nothing we can do. It would take a powerful Wizard like Lostan or Narcam to cast this spell out.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, that’s what it said in the book.”
“Then I must await my punishment when Narcam returns.” Micos’s bit his bottom lip as the colour drained away from his face.
“That’s all we can do and hope that Narcam comes back before the village floods.” Nettle moved towards the fire and lifted the pot of boiling water away from the flames. “I’ll make us some tea. We both could do with a cup. You know you’ll have to tell Narcam everything that’s happened don’t you?”
“But then he’ll know about you. Girls aren’t allowed to do wizard’s magic. What will he do to you Nettle?”
Nettle shrugged. “Probably send me away.” She handed him a cup of the steaming brew and went to fetch one for herself.
Micos watched her. Perhaps I don’t have to tell him the whole truth, just a distortion of it.
They both sat and sipped their tea in silence. Micos smiled to himself as he began to allow a thought to grow in his mind.
“Nettle I have an idea.”
“Narcam doesn’t need to know about you if you show me the spell you did and share with me the knowledge about dark magic. I could say I did it.”
“What about your hair? You don’t have a white streak in that black hair of yours.”
“We could paint it in.” He grinned at her.
“Where would we get white paint?”
“The baker made a new sign for his cart. I saw him over at the blacksmith’s place painting it. It was white letters. I bet there’s still some of that paint left. We could borrow a little.”
Micos nodded at her. “But you need to teach me that clicky thing and soon if I am to convince Narcam it was me.”
“You’d do that for me?” Her blue eyes glistened with the threat of tears.