The worst thing about getting tossed out of the window leading straight to a trash can wasn’t the horrible smell of the garbage produced by a filthy pub filled with unruly and unhygienic drunkard thugs—it was the humiliation that you get in front of horde of laughing spectators. I haven’t even started as a full-fledged wizard yet and my reputation was already tarnished by the person who was supposed to be my mentor.
I couldn’t believe I looked forward to this moment for weeks. After all those days of waiting in that cheap old rickety ship, after all those times reading dozens of magic books in advance, after all those preparations I made for this meeting, I get nothing but a big crack on what’s left of my dignity.
But before that dreadful encounter, at least something good and worthwhile happened first. Otherwise, that would have been the worst day of my life. Let me start at the beginning...
* * *
I was enjoying reading my book on the deck with the salty sea breeze blowing through when I was interrupted by a stranger.
“That’s some interesting book you have there,” said the old stranger sitting across me.
I’d been in the Blue Horizon for six days now. The Blue Horizon was an old sailing ship that looked like it had been through a lot of accidents that any ship could ever endure. It wasn’t even blue, just a moldy wooden ship that hadn’t even seen a fresh coat of paint since it was first built. I spent the first three days constantly worrying that it might not make it to Cape Moore in one piece—or it might not make it there at all. But after we survived the storm two days ago, I started to feel like I made the right decision by boarding the old ship. You see, Blue Horizon was not my first choice. If my family was fortunate enough, I would have been enjoying the whole sea voyage on board that famous Shooting Star.
Well... you can’t have everything, right?
Anyway, I stayed long enough on that ship that I began to recognize most of the passengers, the crew and the captain. But that old man sitting across me on the deck seemed unfamiliar. He was wearing a black inner shirt over his green tunic, a gray trousers and a pair of dusty black boots. There was a gray belt clamped tightly around his waist. His long gray hair was fastened in a ponytail on his back, and his short beard was trimmed evenly. He was the kind of person that’s impossible to go unnoticed in any place, so how come I hadn’t seen him before? Maybe he didn’t go out of his cabin often.
“Um, yeah,” I said, “It’s called The History of Magic and Sorcery.” I wanted to say I’d already read it twice, but I just kept it to myself.
“Are you a wizard, young man?” he asked, his pale blue eyes was strangely distracting.
“Well...” I scratched my head, trying to think of what to say next without embarrassing myself. “Barely. I’m on my way to see my mentor.”
“Ah, an apprentice!” The old man stood up and then sat beside me. “It’s so nice to see such a dedicated young wizard.”
He held out his hand for a shake.
I closed my book and stared at him for a while. I’d had my bad experiences with crooks before, and mostly it started with a friendly conversation just like that. But he seemed nice. And besides, no crook would want to rob a kid holding nothing but a book. Or while in a ship where there’s no way out to escape. So, I shook his hand, although I find it strange because you usually introduce yourself first when you shake someone’s hand. Also, there was something weird with his hand—it’s ice cold and it didn’t feel quite solid.
“I’m Rohan,” I said, “Rohan Stryder. Nice to meet you, too, sir.”
“It has been a pleasure meeting you as well, young man,” replied the stranger, not even noticing the hint of sarcasm in my voice.
I could already tell that it was going to lead into a long chat. But to be honest, I wasn’t the kind of person who enjoys a conversation with someone I just met for five seconds. I was going to tell him that I’d be going back in my cabin when Lewis called.
“I can see it, man!” he yelled excitedly as he ran towards me, his boots were pounding on the wooden floor of the deck. “Cape Moore! We’re nearly there!”
I stood up and strode to the rusty railings at the side of the ship, and sure enough, the outline of the port town of Cape Moore came into view on the horizon. The excitement flared up inside my chest. The feeling was far different when I first received the letter of invitation for apprenticeship. My future was just up ahead, and I couldn’t wait to get a hold of it.
I looked back to say farewell to the old man but he was already gone. He didn’t even tell me his name. I guess I was not the only excited one to get out that rickety ship.
“Let’s pack up,” I told Lewis, “This is going to be good.”
With the strong wind blowing through its white sails, the Blue Horizon eventually reached the dock.
* * *
Although it was very early in the morning, the Cape Moore Port was packed with people from around the world—vacationers, traders, merchants and businessmen, officials, circus performers, and many more. There was a buzz of excitement and hubbub in every corner of the town as the everyday activities and commerce were beginning to be carried out. I wondered if Cape Moore was always that busy during the summer.
Soon after we stepped out of Blue Horizon with springs in our steps, Lewis and I decided to stay in the first humble-looking eatery we saw—Mrs. Pickle’s Inn. They served cheap meals in there, and it was perfectly fine with us since all we could afford were a slice of blueberry pie and a glass of milk shake each. We sat on the free table on a corner, and there we ate silently what we called “the first decent breakfast we had for the week.” I had to admit, the meals they served in the Blue Horizon were a bit hard to keep down in the stomach.
“So,” I said after a greedy swallow of mouthful of blueberry pie, “I guess we won’t be seeing each other for a very long time after this.”
“Yeah,” Lewis agreed, “I can’t believe we’ve been friends for six days, and yet it felt like years.”
That’s right. I met Lewis in the Blue Horizon. We were roommates in one of the small cabins of the ship. We both came from Ravenville, but I never actually got to know him before. According to him, he used to work in the bakery two blocks away from our house.
Like me, he sailed thousands of miles away from home for a vocation. His uncle invited him to work in the forge that he owned in the Saberfield, a town not far away from Cape Moore.
Back in Blue Horizon, people always thought he was my younger brother. Well, that’s because we both had dark brown hair, gray eyes, and the same slightly tanned skin. I had always enjoyed his company. I didn’t have a brother back home—just a bratty little sister—but now that I know the feeling of having one, I wasn’t sure if I could handle seeing him going away.
“We’ll still see each other,” said Lewis, looking straight into my eyes as if he’s reading my thoughts. “It’s not like you’re going half-way across the world—” He paused. “Are you?”
“Who knows?” I shrugged.
“Well... we better make the most of today then.” He raised his glass of milk shake for a toast. I did the same.
“Yeah,” I agreed.
* * *
Later that morning, I found myself staring blankly at the small figure of the train producing puffs of smoke as it sped away from the Cape Moore Train Station. I stood unmoving in the platform while the people who bid their good-byes to their loved ones minutes ago started to drain out of the station.
I was abruptly awakened out of my reverie when I realized that I still had to go somewhere else. I was meeting my mentor.