by Paul D
Sara has a problem.
|Sara frowned, being a wizard's apprentice was never boring, and today was no exception in spades. Qufoile was losing his mind, literally. If a wizard lived three hundred years, they were old. At one thousand, Q was ancient, and his spells were unreliable. When she first apprenticed herself to him, she believed she could learn spells no one else knew about. Little did she realize how little Q still remembered.
There were three appointments today, and her main task was to make sure Q didn't mess up. The first one was easy. A young man by the name of Wiese had warts on his hands and wanted them removed. After he paid his fee, Q wrote out the spell, and she checked it to make certain it was properly cast, then she said the spell invoking words and threw the parchment into the fire. Instantly, the warts vanished, and Wiese happily departed.
The second appointment was a bit more complicated. Marjole wanted her husband turned into a frog. Transmutation spells were dangerous and intricate. Q wrote out the spell, and she read it through twice. After she was satisfied it was correct, it was cast into the fire, and Marjole left.
The next appointment was not until after lunch. As she prepared to leave, Q said, “It's kind of sad Marjole is unhappy with Kiesh.”
A chill ran up and down Sara's spine. “Don't you mean, Keish?”
“No, no, I've known him from childhood. It's Kiesh.”
Sara ran from the cavern laboratory. She'd been apprenticed to Q in her early teens after she'd been attacked by a vicious wizard named Kiesh. She agreed to serve as Qufoile's apprentice for five years in return for a spell to turn Kiesh into a stone gargoyle.
Transmutation from one living thing to another living thing was a quick process; however, it was slow and painful to turn a living thing into a dead one and vice versa.
After Kiesh became a gargoyle, he was placed over the entrance to the castle. Every time she passed, she stomped on his shadow, which gave her a sense of great satisfaction.
Now she ran as swift as possible toward the castle. Unfortunately, Q had been banned from the castle walls several years earlier because an explosion from one of his spells went awry.
His laboratory had been moved into a cavern inside a hill about three hours from the castle. It would take time for the gargoyle to change to a living creature. What she didn't know was what the gargoyle might become, and she didn't want to find out. She needed to get there and destroy the gargoyle before it changed.
As she ran, she chided herself for not taking action sooner. She had had many opportunities to destroy the gargoyle, but seeing it displayed over the castle entrance had given her great satisfaction. Now her desire to gloat in retribution was coming home to haunt her.
Her right side started hurting when she was almost halfway to the castle. She tried to ignore the jagged pain, but it stabbed at her over and over like a knife, but she couldn't stop no matter how much it hurt.
She promised herself: one more step. With each promise fulfilled, she made another promise. She should have asked Q to make a transport spell for her, but then she would have needed to apprentice herself for another five years, and she couldn't do that.
She tried everything she could think of to take her mind off the pain, but it was too intense to ignore. When the castle walls came into view, she wanted to shout for joy, but her breath was so ragged, it was hard to even grunt.
She forced her feet to continue forward. She must not be defeated now with her goal in sight. In her mind, she could see herself with hammer in hand, attacking the gargoyle. She could feel the laughter and joy that would overtake her at its destruction. She played the scene over and over in her mind as she refused the pain that wanted to bring her run to a stop.
Finally, she ran through the castle entrance. As she ran through the lower bailey, she formed a plan. When she reached the smithy, she removed a small hammer and kept going. Her legs felt like they might collapse at any moment. Her breath came in short pants, but her focus was on the castle ahead where she could see the gargoyle on the outside wall.
A moment's doubt stabbed at her. Perhaps she was mistaken, and Q did the spell correctly, but she couldn't cling to that hope. She pressed forward.
The cobbled path to the castle on the hill was torture. Her run became a quick walk, which led to a struggle to put one foot in front of the other. She knew she was too late when, the shadow of the large gargoyle over the entrance to the castle moved.
She didn't even have time to scream before she was caught up by the creature's claws and carried high into the air. Suddenly, she realized she still had the hammer in her hand. Would it be effective?
She looked down to see a large lake. She swung the hammer with all her strength. The gargoyle screamed and released her. Her breath was taken from her when she slammed into the water. She struggled to reach the surface and felt a tug at her sandals. She looked down and saw a monstrous fish with its mouth open. Today is not my day.
Suddenly, she stood in the cavern, staring at Q. “Where have you been?” he complained. “Our next appointment is here.”
As water pooled at her feet, she said, “I want to apprentice myself to you for another five years for a spell.”
Q cut his hand and handed her the knife, and she cut hers as well, then they gripped hands. Q said, “For a spell you belong to me.”
Sara shook her head. “No, I will be your apprentice for five years.”
Q smiled. “If you want the spell, it is on my terms.”
Sara shivered at the thought of Kiesh and knew Q was so old he would soon die and she'd be free. “I agree. I belong to you. Make a spell so that Kiesh remains a gargoyle forever.”
“Agreed,” Q said.
“Stop! I meant a stone gargoyle.”
Q smiled. Sara gasped as he shimmered and vanished and Kiesh stood in his place.
“No, no no,” Sara protested as Kiesh slowly transformed into the gargoyle.
Sara screamed, “What have I done?”
The gargoyle gathered her up in its claws and flew from the cave.