The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 12 Reunited Again

Walter was soon listening and serving in his everyday step. Each spell practiced followed by a quick pause to read the environment, look for ways to decrease the need for his own magic and use the place around him. If he gave the place what it needed. It responded in turn and filled the vacancies in his spells. Soon Walter was booming with power that was still growing. Cro knew one of the reasons was the anticipation of seeing Drey. The forest could hear Walter screaming about it. And knowing how much power Walter was willing to give, the forest, streams, and mountains all lent him their power. Knowing perfectly well that he was there for them and they were there for him just as he wished to be for this Drey they all soon knew by name. The forest was interested in this Walter and his Drey. And soon the forests and mountains were chatting to the neighboring lands telling them about it. The neighboring lands wondered about this and became excited. Every rock, breeze, and drop of water wanted to be a part of this Walter and his quest to get back to her and protect her. By doing so they would be indirectly protecting themselves and making things better for the entire land. Cro soon realized how loud the forest was with the trees, blades of grass, and even the chatting of birds and insects was about Walter. Cro was entranced by it all. Still, Walter was now working with elements and protection, and it was hard work even for a natural like Walter. Walter had coaxed Cro into teaching him the K shaped fire rune that third day. And soon the fish shaped rune for possession followed. The hour glass shaped rune for day and night was next and the X shaped rune for enhancement. Cro stopped that day because ten runes was adequate for the training. Walter was not permitted to use the fire rune, but he did practice with the others, and soon even Cro was wondering if he should be worried about Rye at all. Walter was learning too quickly and Cro wanted to know why. Not because he was jealous. But maybe it had to do with something he wasn’t thinking about.

“Walter are you doing anything to the spells?”

Walter looked up and had the look of shame a child has when he had stolen something and didn’t want to confess it. Well Cro would go easy on him depending on the answer.

“I was just wondering if I could use the runes from home.”

Cro was shocked. Was Walter serious? He had already learned a third of the Ando runes, and was already thinking about adding twenty six additional runes to the arsenal. Cro had to test this. He had had little time to study all the runes Walter had given them. But he already knew they were potent, even if they weren’t really meant for magic. The runes had been designed for trade, making money, it was depressing for Cro to be honest. He almost wanted to laugh at the idea that Walter had written these down and somehow they had found an intricate way to get him here by finding Ryes’ summoning. But Cro also knew that some of them had powers that even Andoish didn’t have. Especially L, J, and Z. A, B, and C were pretty powerful, but they served the same purpose as the X rune. And Walters’ X rune had a completely different meaning that Cro didn’t even want to start guessing. D was the fish rune. The writers had gotten too lazy to draw it in detail. P, U, and Y baffled Cro. They were all the same rune. Why would a language have additional runes that meant the same thing? Well possibly it was that Walters’ language was laced with runes from many other languages. Cro knew a language for trade didn’t need that many runes. Numbers yes, but you only needed five for that and Walters’ language had ten. Coincidentally the numeric rune for zero was the protection rune in both their languages.

That must be it Cro thought. Walter is going to eventually master fifty six runes, and how to use them not separately, but together to do magic. How Walter would teach anyone seemed impossible, or it was. Cro had learned the Andoish runes only, back when Walter was his teacher they had only done magic with them. However Cro suddenly remembered how badly Walter spoke Andoish. The time he had spent with Cro had fixed that. Even now Walters’ Andoish was awful, but Cro spoke English and Andoish together with Walter, and no one else. Cro had gotten Walter to teach him English near the end of their time together, that was when Walter had vanished without saying good-bye. But Walter had taken great care to teach Cro the language of his mysterious land. Walter had great difficulty describing it to him. But Cro had listened and secretly hoped that he could visit it one day. Walter had forbidden it saying that Cro would be killed the moment he was found out there. Walter could live without using magic, but Cro would slip up for sure. That was his excuse. Now after seeing Walter, Cro knew Walter wouldn’t live without magic either. He was born to use it, made to use it. Cro then realized that he had to spend at least some time getting Walter to learn Andoish. Walter was good enough with magic runes and how to use them. But if he was going to stay in Ando he’d have to learn Andoish. Otherwise start a cult gathering of English speakers. But that wouldn’t work cause eventually even the English wouldn’t be the same. It would become a dead language very fast. For all Cro knew, his English was completely incoherent to people in Walters’ land. No, Andoish had to be learned by Walter. It would take years, but the learning had to start now. Or else the young Cro wouldn’t even understand Walter when he met him for the first time.

Cro was getting a massive headache thinking about all this. But he decided to teach Walter stage five now. Defensive magic. This was more important than offensive because defensive magic was way more powerful, and unlike offensive magic it could use an enemies’ magic against him by deflecting it or redirecting it. That was where Cros’ lessons would end. Even now Cro only had begun to grasp offensive magic with his yellow tunic status. And Cros’ only clue as to what level seven was were legends he had been chasing. But if anybody could figure it out, Walter could. He’d try to teach Walter defensive magic in two days, and try to start teaching offensive magic. But Walter was more likely to teach Cro. It was such a short period of time, but so had been the time he’d spent with Walter in the good old days. Cro wasn’t sure about the future because a lot of it had already happened for him in fragments. Walter would live the entire story. Knowing every character and in between quest. Cro just hoped that Walter would tell him before he disappeared again. Of course he couldn’t because it hadn’t happened to him yet. Cros’ only prayer was to wait for Walter to live through it all, and somehow find him before he was on his deathbed. Just one more time with old Walter was Cros’ desire.

Cro spent a good deal of time on defensive magic because most wizards like Rye didn’t care much for it. They always tried to skip it and get to offensive spells. That was why Rye was still a green. Knowing the advanced spells wasn’t good enough to advance. You always had to beat a color class to move up in the colors. Of course if you lost you moved down. So given enough time, your tunic changed less and less. Cro had never lost a duel except with Walter, and that was back when he was an Indigo. And only because the color status had been invented after that event. When Cro finally beat the former headmaster and took his spot, the academy was shocked and thrilled. Shocked because Cro had spent a lot of time out of class not studying, looking for his legendary master. And thrilled that the wizard who had experienced the adventure was now the head wizard of the academy who would now advise and protect the royal family. Cro didn’t stop there though, he wanted to keep searching for Walter and so sometimes he lost on purpose so that he could go off on his travels. Eventually this had to stop cause everyone knew he was holding back. It was dishonorable to give false confidence to an aspiring wizard. The academy heads even used the excuse that Cros’ so-called master would be ashamed of him for that. That had the effect they wanted. Cro no longer faked injury. He won the duels without fail. And soon he was stuck as headmaster and castle wizard.

Walter liked defensive magic oddly enough. He found uses for the ten runes quickly, and eventually Cro even threw in the luck rune that was shaped like an S that had been sliced in half. Walter used it too much, and it made all his spells more powerful. But Cro warned Walter that more runes meant more magic drain. If he didn’t need so much magic, it was wise to avoid big spells. That made sense to Walter. He didn’t want to use up too much magic, cause he had to save up enough to see Drey in a few days. Cro was reminded that his student had the worlds’ greatest motivator pushing him, and the best teacher in the realm, who oddly enough was just teaching him stuff he’d learned from him. For once Cro really believed that he would get his wish and get to see what had happened to Walter. The days flew and Walter spent the last two days learning offensive spells. Cro dueled with him, and of course he won. But by the end of the two days learning offense, Walter was getting used to all the tricks Cro had. And Cro was running out faster than he could invent new spells. They were joys to Cro. If Walter beat him he really could quit his job at the castle and academy and go look for the older Walter. Unless the only way to do that was stick around with this Walter. The last thing Cro taught Walter was that there was a legendary seventh level of magic, that no one of present day had ever achieved. Walter asked if Cro knew anything that might be the seventh principal. But Cro shook his head, stating that he had tried countless principals, and they all cycled back to the six they had mastered. Walter said if he thought of it he’d tell Cro first. Cro strictly forbade him. Stating he was not to teach anything until he had properly mastered it himself. Walter agreed, and thanked Cro for all he had done. Cro thought the thank you was a little fake so he asked sarcastically.

“I suppose you want to go see Drey now?”

“Will a travel rune and day and night rune do the trick?”

“Only with the proper thoughts and hand movements.”

With that said, Cro had Walter kneel, and Cro conjured Ryes’ purple tunic he had hoped would be a decoy back and converted it to a tunic of light green. Lighter than Ryes’. He reiterated the lessons Walter had learned and told him he was to accept all duels he was challenged to. And should he defeat an underling he was to educate them in how to do better. Walter agreed to this than asked if he could fight Cro after they saw Drey. Cro said of course and Walter realized his stupid question. Finally Cro handed Walter his staff. The same staff that had once been a tree branch at the academy. That Walter had given Cro the day he had finished his lessons. It was a sad day for Cro because Walter had said he had to leave for a short while. Only Walter had been gone a long time. And even now the only Walter who had come back was a different one. The master raised his master student up, produced a wand from his yellow robe, and in an instant the duo were atop the castle of Ando.

When Cro replaced his wand inside his robe, he then remembered that Walter was far from done learning. He told Walter he’d have to study Andoish loyally everyday. Walter agreed of course. He said it was hard enough having only two people who could speak English. Walter suddenly realized that he had forgotten to ask Cro this and so he did. Cro once again said it wasn’t yet time, that now he had to find Drey and tell her he was gonna learn Andoish, and that Rye was after them with malicious intent. Walter also wanted Cros’ orb back, and Cro suggested that’d be the wisest course of action to take.

The trapdoor on the roof of the castle was shut from the other side, but Cro had enchanted the door himself and released it without a breath. They climbed down a ladder hastily and slowly made their way down the stairs to the main floor. Cro had them halt halfway so he could sense for traps or worse Rye. Rye was sleeping, somewhere. And apparently he was not gonna wake up anytime soon. That was good, there would be no dueling tonight, just a quick visit to Drey and then Cro honestly had no idea what would happen next. The week had been planned well, and no setbacks or unexpected turns had occurred. Rye had obviously had a productive week if he was sleeping so soundly. Cro wasn’t sure what the next hour or day would entail. Didn’t matter, he had promised Walter a visit, and wizards had to keep promises or the place would remember it forever and be unwilling to help in the future. Oddly enough the princess was in the dining hall rolling the orb between her two hands. Cro commanded the orb to his hand and handed it to Walter who placed it in his new light green tunic. Drey looked up where the orb had flown and rose with relief.

“I thought you had left, so you only went to change for the wedding.”

Cro was a little confused. Wasn’t Drey mad they had been gone a week without a leave of absence? She had certainly commanded them not to leave the castle until she married Walter. Had Rye erased her memory of the week? Only one way to find out.

“Princess how long has it been since you saw us?”

“A few hours.”

Now Cro was terrified. They were back in Ando but it was still the night they had left. How was that possible? Cro knew it had to be time travel, but Cro had never successfully traveled backwards in time. He eyed Walter and Walter pulled out the explanation. Using water and dirt, Walter had written the runes for night and day along with travel on his hands. But the runes were upside down. Genius thought Cro. The runes would have the same meaning but the opposite effect. Rather than travel forward to the next morning. They would travel backwards to the previous night. Only it was seven previous nights to be precise. So Cro probed Walter some more.

“How did you figure?”

“I promised Drey I’d be back for the wedding, so I tried using the runes, and tried willing it to happen like I did with the ring.”

“What ring?”

Drey produced the ring from off her finger and Cro gave it a look. It reverted back to a class ring but quickly went back and Cro shed a tear.

“You’ve found it Walter. The seventh principal is will. If a wizard desires to make a spell, he will find a way with the available resources to make it so.”

It was so obvious. The textbooks and even Cro had hinted at the principal but not realized its importance to the study of magic. Walter was here because he willed it. Rye had added his own will to a rival coming here. Cro willed his master back. And Drey had willed Walter to return. So much will had brought Walter to Ando. And Walters’ own will had transformed a ring into its current state. And to top it all, Walter had willed to be back at the designated time Drey had specified, and the magic had found a way with the runes and weeks training to make it occur. Cro was excited as the day Walter taught him to make it rain. His master and he had both figured out the seventh principal. And they would have vast amounts of time to study it and then Cro could find the older Walter, no, all the yellow, orange, and red wizards who were missing from the realm.

Cro wanted to hug Walter, but then realized in his reflective state Walter was already holding hands with Drey and complimenting her dress. She adored his green tunic and said everything was prepared. She ordered Cro to be their protection as they headed towards their destination. A carriage was awaiting them at the south gate of the castle. They were going to travel to a neighboring town to get married. Cro seemed ok with it. Except he was concerned that nobody was at the castle, and the king and queen were obviously late. But that had been Dreys’ plan. They were heading to the town her parents should be at, and they would relay what they knew to the king and queen. But they would marry first, then they could resolve what to do with Rye. Cro was surprised at the plan, because it seemed to solve everything. The king and queen would resume the affairs of the kingdom. Drey would be safer with her parents and them than if it were just her and Rye. And with any luck, they would still get the jump on Rye by coming back in a way he’d not expect. It occurred to Cro that the princess was not so helpless and brainless as the court officials all thought. She wanted to discuss things at the meetings, but was always bullied off. Well Cro respected her silent confidence, it was surely showing tonight that she wouldn’t be so easy to get rid of, let alone be subdued by Rye without her putting up a decent fight.

The carriage ride was downhill mostly, so they arrived in the town of Peor by the time the sun went down. Cro was still amazed that they had arrived back in Ando when they did. That meant Rye hadn’t even accomplished anything yet. Well probably more, just not to the degree that Cro and Walter had. Walter was ready as Cro had hoped. But if they were crafty, they might even go for another week, and delve into the seventh principal. Cro willed this, and was hoping the trees and air were listening, because it was no joke that Rye would do something truly devious the moment he was done sleeping. Since they were almost to Peor. Cro decided there was no harm in probing Rye. It would be risky if Rye caught Cro, but at the same time, Cro was far away, and if Rye chased them right away, Cro and Walter would have the advantage, and Rye would have no bait and hostage in his situation. Cro delved into Ryes’ mind. He didn’t like what he found.

Cro had the sick feeling that Rye was going to find the information that Cro had sought for years. He would look up all the old legends, and they would entice him to try harder and to do more. Cro had been alone while he studied the old stories. His experience with Walter had been when he was young. And it had caused a brief stir, but it soon died down when Walter didn’t come back. But Walter was back now, and it had obviously gotten Rye worked up. Cro began to have theories about everything that had happened. He theorized that Walter or some wizard even further back than Walter had achieved what Walter had that day, or was it a week ago? Either way, the wizard had learned how to travel between times, maybe even worlds. That power was dangerous, and perhaps there were enemies who wanted the power for themselves. Cro just hoped the secret would be hidden from Rye. Cro was sure Drey knew what Walter was just like he knew for certain. Cro had told no one Walters’ name. So the day he found out that Drey knew Walter may have been another reason he had been in the castle so long.

Drey and Cro never spoke about Walter. It had all been just a simple chat about old legends, and Cro had mentioned his encounter with the young man in a white shirt and brown pants with many pockets. Drey then relayed another story where she had been rescued by a young man of the same description and he had protected her from a vampire, and even from a storm that would’ve had her soaked if he had not stood over her while it rained. Drey didn’t finish the scene, but Cro guessed that that was when Walter and Drey had both fallen in love with each other. Drey would’ve wanted to talk more but ended that conversation with the assurance that Walter had promised to come back, and he would. Cros’ promise had been less comforting. Walter had just said he had to go, and he might not come back for a while. Cro had begged Walter to take him with him. But Walter told Cro he needed to train more, and at a future day he would understand why he hadn’t been able to come. Cro had vowed never to complain to his master, so he had endured all those years, still clinging to the hope that Walter was coming that day, or the next. Drey hoped even more, Cro could see that. He knew she couldn’t wait till she was an old woman. But she seemed to believe that even if that happened, Walter had a way to resolve the problem. Cro had the same kind of feeling. Anything was possible if you were with Walter. It was an amazing feeling, and Cro wanted to remember it even if he was old when it happened.

Cro was unsure what to do. If they went back and got Rye now it might all be over. But breaking a promise was dangerous business for a wizard. If Cro broke a vow now he’d be no different than Rye and would start down the path of selfishness. The rules made everything possible. No rules meant chaos. Cro decided he would bet on the promises. Walter had come back hadn’t he? So at least even Walter was keeping promises, even if he hadn’t made them to Cro and Drey yet. But then of course Walter was about to make vows with Drey. Cro wanted to hear them. He was sure Walter would honor all of them, as would Drey. The difference was, Walter was going to have to convince Drey somewhere in the past. Cro wanted to witness that. But things had already happened for Cro. He shouldn’t even contemplate complaining. He had been part of a great story, just not the main character.

So Cro decided that tonight would be a wait and see. He would make sure King Yur and Queen Lain knew the situation and what the danger was. That was when the carriage came to a stop. Walter and Drey were both still awake. They hadn’t slept at all. They had spent the whole time talking. Cro wanted to beat himself up for not eavesdropping cause he was so scared that he was gonna be left out of whatever was going to happen next. It turned out that the carriage had stopped because some epidemic had engulfed the town, and was causing problems for the local physician. That was odd. Usually the doctor didn’t get sick. But if he was, then there really wasn’t anyone who could treat the doctor unless another doctor from out of town showed up. That was very unfortunate. Cro asked if the king and queen were lodged there and then was shocked to find that they were infected too. Drey was concerned until she heard the symptoms. Laughing and yellow sores. Cro then grew suspicious. It wasn’t normal for an illness to have neutral effects. Unless the laughing turned out to be insanity. Cro asked Drey and Walter if they wanted to see the king and queen first, then get married. Drey almost didn’t, but then cited she had waited three years for this. Her parents could wait till morning. If they were dying then of course she’d postpone, but how horrible could a little laughter be, especially if it cleared up soon after. Cro saw the sense and so they exited the carriage and walked the short distance into town.

They located the town priest and got things underway. The only attendees were the priest, Cro, and the kings’ captain who had gotten word of their arrival moments ago. Cro rehearsed to him all that had happened, and how they would return to Ando in the morning. The captain had placed his troops around the church and the place where the king and queen were. Cro put a few choice enchantments of his own. He would’ve liked to try and treat the king and queen that instant. But Cro knew better and listened for a while. The disease was not dire, just a minor nuisance. The locals had named it jester fever. Probably because the locals were laughing about the disease more than the victims were. When the local doctor had tried to treat it, he had contracted it too. So everybody else had stayed away and only come in to feed the poor victims who almost couldn’t swallow their food and water cause they couldn’t stop laughing at the soars that tickled. Inflicting pain seemed to dull the effects. And so they would periodically give them a good slap or whack and they always received a thank you for it. In the end they decided to see how long it took to get worse or better.

Walter and Drey enjoyed their wedding even if neither of their parents were there. Walter had been so caught up in the last nine days for him because he was learning magic and wanted to see Drey. It felt like being at camp to be honest. And Walter didn’t want to go back just yet. But Drey couldn’t contain herself. She had prepared a few things for Walter. Her wedding gift was not a ring but a bracelet. Basically his ring only several sizes larger, the inscription exactly the same as on her ring. She also had a pair of boots for him. Walter had long since abandoned his filthy socks, and had been barefoot for quite some time. He didn’t mind, but the gesture was too much for him, and he promised to wear them. Unlike the socks that only got in the way without boots, Walters’ pants, shirt and undergarments had mended themselves. Walter had to bathe himself and wash his clothes of course. But it was quite nice to have clothes that didn’t wear out. The tunic had done a good job of drawing attention away from his feet. But when Walter put on the boots he realized that the sock fabric had been sewn into it. That was sort of clever. He would only need to remove his shoes now, and hopefully he’d learn how to wash boots at some future date. Dreys’ final gift was a wooden flute. Walter was curious but Drey put a finger to his face to shush him and told him he’d understand one day. She promised and kissed him passionately.

Cro heard the basic vows of the priest but when it came time for Walter and Drey to say their own vows, Walter whispered into Dreys’ ears. Cro tried to listen but couldn’t tell which language Walter was using. Drey teared upon hearing and whispered something back. Again it was unintelligible to Cro. Cro would have to ask in the morning. If they ever told him at all. The priest pronounced a blessing, and the newly weds embraced and kissed for a long time. The captain allowed the guards a peek and they saluted the princess’s husband that they all swore to protect. Walter saluted back and in perfect Andoish said.

“I too will protect you.”

The guards were quite taken by the gesture and bowed and excused themselves to resume their watch. The couple ate at a local tavern together. Cro stayed close by and for some reason asked Walter if he could produce some more of that Root Beer. Drey laughed lightly at the request, and Walter complied. As it turned out, Cro passed out pints of it to the guards, who liked the drink a lot. Finally it was Dreys’ turn to be alone with Walter, which is what she had wanted more than anything. She had worried that Walter would be taken away after their moment in her room. And for the few hours he and Cro had vanished, she feared that she was going to have to wait another three years. She feared that Walter had forgotten the promise. Or more accurately forgotten that Drey had told them that he was going to promise her. It always bothered her that Walter hadn’t explained everything to her. Just given her a few lessons and jotted down notes on how to speak English, and told her he would be back. All those years ago Walter had been suffering. He knew their relationship, but Drey knew nothing, and it wasn’t till Walter was risking his life all those times to keep her safe that she finally believed his story that they would meet for the first time for him in a few years. It sounded impossible, but Walter did the impossible for her. He had learned magic, learned Andoish, and even now was protecting the realm in ways this young Walter had yet to learn and assume responsibility over. Drey knew she may not get another chance to express her feelings for Walter, that had grown so much when he was gone. And overflowed when he did come back only to see her long enough to leave again to combat some other terror that was threatening the land. Tonight Drey would tell Walter everything. So that when and if he left again, he’d be able to find her again, and somehow convince her younger self of what she was absolutely certain of. That he would always love and protect her, and that she would always believe he loved her. Just as it was inscribed on his bracelet and her ring. One side in Andoish, and the other in English.

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