The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 17 Wizard Krell

Walter wasn’t sure if he should fight Rye because he had no idea where he was. So he figured he’d only attack when attacked and only hex when a hex came for him. Cro had said a few times that listening was the first principal and most mistakes happened when a person didn’t listen and then attacked or acted out of a lack of knowledge. Walter didn’t want to do any collateral damage in this place, so he had to at least find out what kind of place this was, and if he could use his magic here. The forest seemed to like Walter. And so Walter tried to stay off the grass. By that point the grass told Walter which way to walk and Walter listened eagerly as it led him to a small village beyond the forest clearing where he and Rye had ended up. Walter eyed a stream and it seemed to remind him of Mutton Hallow. The river was much smaller though, and Walter didn’t sense any giants nearby. In fact he sensed very little except the forest and the little village.

Walter walked through the village and recognized no one. Walter also didn’t dare speak because he was sure he wouldn’t understand or be understood. He figured he’d just get some bearings, and then replenish enough power to try and get back to Drey and Cro back in Ando. It would be hard and yet doable. If he concentrated on the person or place he was sure he could get there. He needed to be far away from Rye though. Otherwise Rye would just follow his magic scent and the footprints he left when he did a spell. Better, if he succeeded, he could set a trap of some sort for Rye when and if he followed him. He probably would. Rye could get back to Ando for sure. But the best part was if he did Walters’ first spell would bring him along. And that was what Walters’ spell was. Any spell Rye used to his advantage, would be to Walters’ advantage. Any spell used on Walter would affect Rye likewise. Walter had barely enough time to modify the flame charm. If he had let it hit him, Rye would’ve caught on fire as well. But that would’ve given away the spell. They had both been sent home, but Walter had modified that spell so that it would take them to their home from home. That meant Ando for Walter, but for Rye there was no telling what it meant. And that was why they had ended up here.

Walter finally remembered how hungry he was so he decided he’d try his luck at any eating establishment he could find. If that didn’t work, he go to the forest and hopefully find a fish, a hare, or something that would satisfy him until he could do some service, and then go back to Cro and Drey.

While Walter was mime bartering his minor possessions for a loaf of bread and some cheese. Rye had found a farmers sheep pen and was luring one of the herd away with a curiosity spell. The hard part was making the farmer not perceive the missing lamb. He kept counting the sheep he had just shut up. And always Rye made him lose count until he finally got tired of double checking. He’d never slipped up before, so how would he break a spotless record? The lamb tasted good, especially since Rye hadn’t eaten since an early breakfast. Best of all he had rations now and could at least survive as long as he found water. Rye hid deep in the forest where he was sure he wouldn’t be found. And sure enough there was a stream where there was plenty of water. Rye eyed the stream up and again and then realized it was the stream by his house. Smaller, but the same contour, shape, rock type, and soil type. Given more time, it would widen and reach the size of his time. So at least for now, Rye realized he was a hundred, no at least two hundred years in Andos’ past. That was an exciting fact. Rye could investigate this past, maybe even his own. Perhaps there were red wizards in this place? Or at the very least the progenitors of the mystic arts? Rye had time. He’d look into it while Walter had problems that were going to be at his feet in a few days. Maybe if Rye got lucky, he’d get strangled in his sleep. Unlikely, Walter would sniff out the hexed vines when they got too close. But at least for now, Rye was gonna find out if magic really was still around. No point looking for the academy now. The villagers wouldn’t be laying the first bricks until some time later. And if they had started, they were probably not even three feet high yet. Once again Rye found himself in need of more information. But he was good at gathering that. So he made a small camp in the forest that afternoon. And prepared for a night of snooping in the village.

Walter didn’t want to part with one of his three wedding gifts. But he finally traded the beautiful boots for a meal and lodgings for the night. Walter swore he’d never sell the bracelet. And he set the wooden flute Drey had given him by his dinner plate. Walter didn’t know how to play it beyond how to hold it. Drey had shown him that much. Walter knew his notes though, and decided that if he found himself missing Drey he’d learn the flute to help keep him calm and remind him that he was going to get back to her. Walter knew he was in Ando the moment his charade was laughed at by the innkeeper. Walters’ Andoish was even more laughable, but he had managed to make it clear he didn’t speak well, and that he needed food and shelter. The innkeeper became nicer after seeing how hard Walter was trying. But still, the boots were obviously a gift fit for royalty. And the innkeeper had made no small game of wanting them if not to wear them himself, or make some friend or relative happy with the gift that had been scarcely worn. Just enough to be proven reliable and well made. Walter didn’t mind being barefoot again. He would just have an easier time talking to the forest. It would warn him where to watch his step. And it would keep him clear of snakes and holes. Walter was tired after walking a whole day. And he would have to leave as soon as possible. If he stayed, he’d cause trouble. And worse Rye might cause trouble.

Walter half expected Rye to follow him. But Walter sensed that Rye was far away. Probably doing the same thing Walter was, except with a dark taint to each action. Rye had fallen. Walter never thought he’d see it but he had. A wizard who now wanted to use magic for himself and only himself. That would make service meaningless. Every service Rye did would have a means attached, payment would be not so obligatory as forced out of the poor victim. The forest would help Rye out of fear rather than a sense of friendship. Eventually the forest would either surrender to him or fight him at every turn. Walter hoped it was the later. The forest would eventually learn of Ryes’ intentions and tell him less, if it told him anything. Walter realized that already he was in a state where he could feasibly defeat Rye without Cro. Cro would be nice, but he wasn’t here, and even if he was, the duel was between him and Rye. Walter decided he would end the duel quickly. Create some spell that either stranded Rye for a very long time or forced a surrender from his mouth. Walter didn’t know such a spell. But maybe he could learn it while he was here. One reason would be so that Rye would lose patience and take them both home. Walter finished his meal and was about to check into a room to rest when a screaming girl entered the inn and said “forest” of all the few words Walter understood. Walter closed his eyes and pressed firmly on the floor his feet. Then he did the extra effort and went outside where the dead wood wouldn’t deafen the noise of the living ground.

Walter had never heard the forest say hungry so much, and then he got really nervous when he heard it calling for him. Walter tried to reason with it. But it was ravenous, and it was also infected with anger. Walter then spoke much louder for the entire forest to hear and asked what he had done. Perhaps he had trespassed? Not performed service. Immediately, Walter emptied the remainder of his gourd on the grass to demonstrate a willingness to serve the forest.

“Sick, help.”

Walter understood, only a part of the forest was rebelling or had been fed some emotion that it had latched onto. Magic was an addictive thing, but develop too much of an appetite and things got really out of control. Cro had said magical webs were the causes of many horrible problems. Some that went untreated for decades because people moved away, and then someone else would inherit the problem, or muster the courage to find what had happened to the area and eventually restore it to balance. Walter had dealt with places with balance being dominant. Now he realized this was one of those nasty spells that would have parents telling scary bedtime stories to their children. Walter hadn’t caused this spell he knew. But he’d be a pathetic excuse for a wizard even if he was only starting the profession. Walter went back into the inn and tried to locate the girl. He asked around and then realized that the inn was less populated. Where had the villagers gone?

Walter rushed outside and eyed a few villagers traveling to a well situated near the center of town. Near the well the villagers were all yelling and bickering with one another. When they saw Walter they seemed angry. Walter suddenly realized he was being suspected. He’d wanted to inquire as to what the situation was, but realized he would more likely be bound and tried, maybe even executed. Walter had no intention of being hanged for witchcraft. He’d always wondered how many of the Salem witch trial victims had been real witches. That really didn’t matter he soon realized. It was just a question of who was a witch that was causing problems. True he was a wizard, but that didn’t merit suspicion or guilt. But these were people who needed either a solution or a scapegoat. Walter decided he’d like to be the former. The scapegoat didn’t really have a fun job. And he also figured sometimes the scapegoat was the solution. If he cleared up the incident, maybe they’d take a liking to the good things a wizard could do.

Walter had just eaten, so running was a pain. But he went in the direction of the hungry forest. It got louder as he neared it. And he soon saw that the crowd that had started chasing him was now watching from a safe distance away. Some of them had weapons. So Walter had two choices. Fight a bunch of angry villagers, or fight a hungry forest. A wizard that attacked a village that was then attacked by a forest. That would be a scary fairy tale. A wizard who stopped a forest, seemed more PG and the kids would feel safe knowing that somebody in the world tried to stop the monsters sometimes. Walter listened because he wanted to be sure that he wouldn’t attack without at least trying to understand the situation. Cro said it was important to conserve energy so Walter tried a simple flame spell. The vine it hit sprung forward with greater speed and growth. Great! Walter thought. A plant that likes fire. He tried an ice one next. It did slow the vine down, but it was still growing and moving, just slowly. Walter was scared, he’d never dealt with a monster before, let alone one that was liking his attacks. Walter then remembered what Cro had said, there were three ways to hex. On the enemy, on self, and on the environment. Walter thought about making it rain or hail, but if ice helped the vine, then water would still help it. And fire had the same effect. Walter had an idea though. The vines needed energy to grow, so if he could make the surrounding area void of energy, the spell that was enticing the vines would shrivel up along with the vines. Walter etched a rune circle around him and prepared to do an extraction spell. It pained him to take the energy away from the trees and grass and all nearby but he had no choice. It was either a portion of the forest and village or the entire thing. Walter sat down and meditated the spell then shouted it out loud.

“ES KEP”

The villagers didn’t understand what he’d said and that was because Walter used his English as much as possible in the spells. The runes were the Andoish ones, but Walter still vocalized in English and Andoish because at least that way the spells would be complete and not halfbaked and butchered by his awful weeks worth of study. The spell caught hold and began taking the water out of the surrounding area. Walter figured if giving water or fire made it stronger, then taking it would have the opposite effect. And it did. The grass and trees shriveled and died all around Walter, and the vines that were almost within an inch of Walters’ legs stopped. The villagers watched in awe as the vines began dying further out from Walters’ seated location. Soon the entire thing was a heap of dead wood and shriveled plant. The water Walter had collected had gathered in the low level land he had been sitting in. The villagers were watching from a small hill and were looking at the strange man who was now in a small lake of water. Walter shouted the earth rune and the earth beneath him created a fissure and the water disappeared, except that which dripped from Walters’ tunic and clothes. Walter then directed the earth to close up again, and made a path for the water to reach the well at the top of the hill. The well began to overflow, but then Walter enlarged the aquifer he had just made and the water subsided till the well was full almost to the brim.

The last thing Walter did was test to see that the spell had left the dead vines. Breaking a piece off Walter set it on fire and it burned into ash. Walter then torched the entire mass and it burned magnificently. When it had burned a good two thirds Walter chanted the Air rune that would make it rain and the fire was put out by the time all the vine had been burned away. The villagers at this point were amazed by this man in green who had obviously just saved their village, added several months of water to their well which would make it easier to find and dig a new one when it dried up. And had single handedly cleared out a large sector of the entire forest.

Among the crowd a young man named Krell had been at the inn watching Walter the entire time. Having not suspected him, but being curious to who he was and how he had just done all that he had just did. It was Krell who came up to Walter clasping Walters’ hand with his own and thanking him in Andoish. Walter bowed and eyed the man, and then Krell asked his name but Walter declined and realized he’d better leave before he became the town hero for longer than a few days. Walter had just slain his first beast and realized that he’d have a lot of service to do to make up for the large amount of forest that had just sacrificed itself for the village. Walter told Krell in his best Andoish to take care of the forest, and to keep the surrounding area as a field should another attack occur in the future. He also tried to say build a shelter to protect the villagers. But had to use the word for academy in its place with the word protect. It gave Krell the impression that they were to build an academy that taught how to protect the village.

Having left Krell with the instructions, Walter decided that he would try to go home since if he stayed, more troubles might arise, and he was in no condition to deal with them. Walter stepped away from the crowd and tried his best to mimic the spell Cro had done a few days before that had taken them to the castle. Walter focused on the castle as much as possible but also couldn’t help thinking about Drey and Cro who were on the battlefield moments ago. In an instant Walter vanished and the crowd all were struck with wonder. Krell relayed what he thought the man had said and the crowd all cheered in joyful agreement that they would build this academy and train their children in the ways of this man who had obviously tried to rescue them, even if the cause of the attack was unknown. Krell was more determined than all of them to learn this power because he knew that this stranger had risked his life for a bunch of people he did not know. If he was willing to do that, who knew what wonders he did for those he loved and cared about.

The next day the town set to work clearing the land and building the academy one brick at a time. It has a difficult task, but the entire village helped. The village population was small, but they finished it in a relative short amount of time. But the tale of the light green wizard spread from the village of Andor into the distant lands. Travelers came to Krell and the village to study what they were trying to reverse learn from the incident. The words he had spoken, the runes some of them found in the circle he had drawn, and the wearing of tunics and the holding of staffs. Krell quickly figured out the earth, fire, water, and air runes Walter had used. When he found they stopped working he went into the forest closed his eyes and did as Walter had done. In time he understood listening, and since Walter had saved the village serving was second nature to the people of Andor. Soon Krell and others were masters of the first three principals of magic. And with their deeds of service Andor began to thrive more and more. As the population grew, the need for a larger academy became a regular project. Every few years the academy grew in size. An additional hall, tower, or storage room was added until it was the largest building for hundreds of miles.

Krell became a legend of sorts because many came to see him as the founder of the art. Krell knew this wasn’t true and cited this constantly. People whispered about it, but the witnesses soon grew senile or passed on. Krell was the last of them to die, but he had told his sons and daughters the story many times to make sure they always kept watch if the hero who had saved their village ever returned or was heard of in other lands. Krells’ sons kept the legend bright in Andor, which later became Ando to emphasize the protection rune, which eventually led to the fourth principal being added to the academy records and lessons. Krells’s sons aspired to learn what their father had yearned to learn. He told them what the green stranger had done and how they had to learn how to do those spells. Disappear, slay anything that threatened the land. And so they tirelessly studied. Soon the academy had become an organization and that led to the duels and hierarchy. The villagers didn’t mind for a time, but eventually the academy heirarchy became too involved in the affairs of the people. So the villagers elected an official who was not an academy graduate. This led to the government that eventually became a monarchy when the governors’ family continued to reign in relative peace. This was largely in part due to the emphasis on protecting the village and sticking your neck out for strangers. Wizards became respected even more, and so the first king of Ando appointed the strongest wizard as the guardian of the town to hold the hero in remembrance for all time.

Eventually those wizards erected the castle, teeming with power to protect the realm. Almost like a second sanctuary in case the academy needed the additional help of the villagers and knights who still adapted the deeds of the hero to their own activities. Not everyone was an enthusiast of the guild of mages. But the entire realm agreed that were it not for the hero and his skills, the forest would’ve engulfed the land, if not the entire realm in search of whatever it was that it had sought. For the first few decades there was much peace in the realm. But sometime after that, the land of Ando entered the second chapter of its’ encounter with forces that magic to them seemed to have been sent to them as a protection. Cro read these stories a lot as a child and student at the academy. The age of Giants and Demons.

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