The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 2 Magical Conflicts

Rye didn’t care much for the ways of the mystic, partially because it got him into situations such as this. But he had a gift his teachers would say. The ways of the universe simply revealed their secrets to him. Rye knew any fool could learn them, it was all a simple test of patience and diligence. Rye fancied a more simple lifestyle where he could be an entertained bystander rather than the center of attention. But here he was in a wizards duel with yet another bully from the academy of the town of Ando who just wouldn’t be satisfied until he had at the very least singed Rye’s garb or landed a single spell that could get him to stumble or trip. Rye was disappointed as usual. The so-called warlock was known as Karn. And it was no town secret that he was just using a bunch of spells from a text that could be mimicked for sure, but they would fall apart the moment Rye reconstructed them and bended the rules a little. Rye puzzled as to how he was able to do this, and why in all the precious three years of study nobody had opted to learn with him. Rye knew he was the best, but he couldn’t say that because arrogance was a large obstacle to the higher learning and spells that were yet to be told him by the earth, sky, and ocean. Maybe someday even the sun, moon, and stars would yield answers to questions he simply had to ask. But today like so many others, Rye was just a plaything for other people to get enjoyment out of. Rye felt like taking a dive just to see if the ruckus would give Karn some counterfeit confidence or at least take the attention of the town off of him long enough for him to go fishing or just sneak into the castle to catch a glimpse of the princess.

That was it. Rye did this because it did get him an invitation to the palace ever so often. Once in awhile his services were requested. A simple protection spell around the palace, or some enchantment on the guards’ weapons. Nothing so powerful that it would spiral out of control, and always, he eyed Princess Drey. Never knowing if she was in on the secret. But it was fine that way. Rye was a local wizard, not the castle wizard. That privilege was always left to the academy headmaster. For he was the eldest, and had stuck around long enough to be trusted by the community. There was no way they were going to put a young man like Rye that close to the princess. Still, Rye gave in to the requests that took him away from the town. There were monsters to subdue, curses to weaken, and above all the trip home to collect his reward. The money was good, but Rye had no need for furnishings or decorations. He had those all around him. The rivers, the mountain, the trees, each was a delight if only someone sat down long enough to notice. But Drey, there was nothing more beautiful in his mind. And he’d give up learning magic if it meant he could talk to her the way the universe talked to him.

It was his fantasies of the princess that suddenly got dashed as Rye was pulled back into the match when Karn tried a displacement charm. It had restored his concentration and luckily had just missed his head. His wizard hat would’ve blown off, but Rye clamped his head instinctively and decided for once he would have a little fun. He would use a large spell. The kind that required meditation and lots of the stored up magic he collected each day by performing good deeds and listening to where it was being given willingly by the elements. Of course he would have to return all the favors nature was granting him. But he knew full well that a weeks extra meditation wouldn’t change the enjoyment he would get out of taking Karns’ displacement charm and landing him at the top of a mountain, or worse, in some other kingdom until Rye discontinued the spell, or it wore off due to his death or lack of concentration cause he was bored. Rye raised his staff with both hands. Naturally Karn was terrified. Simple spells utilized the fingers, but Rye was using two arms and was closing his eyes. Utilizing the massive amount of magic in the mind. Whatever this spell was it was going to either hurt or cause a lot of problems for Karn. Karn belched out a surrender, and Rye opened his eyes. Both for surprise that Karn had actually done something smart for once, and the fact that the spell had already been spoken and couldn’t be called back. Rye was concerned the spell would displace a persons’ hut, or worse relocate some of the crowd to who knows where. But Rye had been trained for this. He would modify the spell so that it did as little damage as possible. He quickly adjusted the displacement spell by adding a summoning to it. It would displace something, but rather than send it away, it would bring it right in front of him. Chances were it would be something simple like a rock, tree, or maybe even a dragon. But Rye anticipated best and worse case scenarios and was confident that whatever he summoned would be just as easy to send back. It would be two weeks of meditation, but he had had enough duels anyway. And there was a good chance he wouldn’t be summoned to the palace any time soon.

Sadly none of that happened, because Rye’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open when he saw what he had summoned. A man, not quite old but a good decade or so older than Rye in some strange foreign attire was there between him and Karn. The man eyed his surroundings then looked at Rye and then Karn. Rye was about to say something when the strain of using so much magic caught up with his body and he collapsed to his knees. For Karn this would’ve been a fine moment, but he had surrendered a second before, so Rye was still the winner and the crowd was rather puzzled by the victory. Rye had won. The rules dictated that. But why in the world would he summon an old guy as a spell in a duel? It took Rye a moment to get back up, but then he momentarily shuddered. He sized up this man whom he had displaced and summoned from an unknown where and when. He seemed healthy enough, not a beggar, but the clothes were very strange. Pockets dotted his brown pants. Rye was excited to some degree. Those pockets at his leg, rear, and sides could allow him to carry all sort of useful things. Maybe he’d barter with the man for them. Or simply get someone to copy them. The bracelet was another thing that bothered Rye. It teemed with power. Rye could sense it. He just couldn’t place it. But upon closer observation he noticed four runes upon it. And then Rye got really excited. He noticed two smaller runes that were switching, changing. What sort of bracelet could have spells rewriting themselves? It took Rye an even longer time to realize why he had fallen. This man whoever he was must be quite the conjurer in his land. No wonder the spell had latched onto him. The runes on his arm, and possibly more at his home wherever that was must’ve attracted the summoning. Rye hadn’t quite finished the spell so the magic had simply decided to manifest the summoning this way. Not quite complete, but enough that it understood it was to summon something akin to Rye. Rye had not specified an element or action. So only the words of the spell mattered. And naturally the words had sought out other words to bring here so that the summoning would be complete. Rye hadn’t been thinking all clearly, but he had had the thoughts of fighting something more competent. Something that would ease the repetition, something powerful that could challenge him to use new spells, or at least pressure him to learn and practice a little harder. And now not quivering Rye realized that the spell had done just that.

Whoever this man was, he was teeming with magic. Lots of it, so much Rye contemplated where it ended, and what the extent of his power was. He could very well summon a mountain, maybe even move the moon if he wanted to. Rye would have ample time to find out. And yet the man simply stared at Rye. Eyeing the staff, clothes, and his eyes. He knew there was a smile behind the curious eyes cause this man was getting the enjoyment Rye got out of staring at stars, or maybe even Princess Drey. For those brief moments, Rye realized that before him was probably a being of immense power, and for the first time since he had met the princess. Rye thought that something amazing or at least temporarily interesting was about to happen. A volcanic eruption, more like two of them because Rye wasn’t able to contain himself anymore. Rye was about to contemplate how he would exploit this sage when he broke the silence.

Hi! Name’s Walter Redd.

Rye jumped at the strange words, out of instinct because for all he knew it was some incantation that would enslave him for all eternity. He was about to do a binding when he realized that no energy had entered the air. This man had not used a speck of magic. What was the meaning of it? How could a man with so much potential power keep it completely suppressed? Rye could read his own flow leaking out to some small degree. But this guy hadn’t expelled anything traceable. Rye was starting to get scared, what if this wizard or mage subdued the realm? There was no doubt in Rye’s mind that he could’ve done it already if he willed it. Rye had exhausted himself and would be no match for this warlock if he chose to fight. Rye knew he had to do something. The man waited for Rye to respond then extended a hand to Rye. A greeting perhaps? In Ando people bowed and made eye contact. Why the addition of touch? Oh well! Might as well get some knowledge from this strange and new source. Rye extended his arm likewise, and felt a strong firm grip followed by a release. Rye would’ve stabbed him but the man had no weapon so Rye controlled himself. And once again, no magic left him and none entered Rye.

Rye tried some local dialects, but the man shook his head and motioned that he didn’t understand what he heard. Well of course not. This guy was from somewhere else, the odds of two languages being exactly the same was more ridiculous than the idea of being able to travel between worlds. People did it when they dreamed. Built ships to cross oceans into the unknown. Even birds and insects had somehow acquired the means to travel great distances. This was well established knowledge. And now Rye realized that he and this mysterious figure had something in common, they needed more knowledge of each other if they were ever to learn or help each other. Or rather if Rye was ever to send him back where he came from. The spell had been unclear, and so the only reference point would be the runes on the mans’ wrist. He would have to decipher them, if he was to ever land the stranger back in his own world and plane of existence. The other option would be to try and kill him and see what the effect was, but Rye preferred not to find out what would happen if he killed something with such an aura. There was no telling where the magic would go once the man died.

Questions needed answering, that was what Rye needed. And apparently some of the villagers had thought so to. Cause while Rye had been trying to converse with him, the villagers had raised the uproar about a foreigner in the village. It had been a few months since their last harvest festival, and several years since they had needed to go to war, so the appearance of a stranger from an unknown land using an unknown tongue, was now the most exciting thing besides Rye’s duels that were always one-sided anyway. Rye would’ve strayed from the scene had he not been weighed down with the guilt of what he had done. This man had a home, and might’ve been in some important business affair before Rye kidnapped him. Well not kidnapped, it was unintentional. But he had still taken someone against their will. Unless the man were about to be executed or die from some horrible beast or predicament. In that case Rye would’ve been the mans’ savior. But there was no way to know until the man talked. Rye stayed close to the traveler, though it hadn’t really been a long journey since the spell was instantaneous. Soon the castle guards had them surrounded, Rye informed them what he had done, and that the man could not understand the language of Ando. But the guards were not amused. Their concern was to take them to the castle, satisfy the king and people who were always more curious than they were about such things. The guards only cared about their next meal, and the oft chance they would get to chase off a gang of bandits or some unholy monster that entered the realm. This enigma of a man didn’t seem dangerous, nor had he provoked anyone. He was just someone in the wrong place at the wrong time. And the king and queen would settle the matter quickly. If he was a spy, it would become obvious, and if he were some ghoul in disguise, the castle wizard would divine or subdue him quickly. Rye got to come along, and for once Rye wasn’t concerned about getting a look at the princess. He was more concerned about what the castle wizard and king would decree in regards to the visitor.

Walter was under the impression that this was one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming. He was thinking about it being the first thing he would write in his new journal. However after the thought of the journal crossed his mind, shouldn’t his subconscious realize it was time to wake up? Walter was still dreaming he thought, and maybe it would end any second. But you never knew with the control dreams. This fantasy might last as long as Walter could feed it suggestions. The handshake seemed to have worked, and now he was being taken to a castle. The style and structure amused Walter. He had read of the castles that armies stormed, burned, and flung rocks at. This castle proved his imagination needed a little work. Walter was sure the fantasy was going to end any minute now and he would be back in his room. He was almost tempted to pinch himself just to make sure this was a dream. The visual and audio parts of the brain were active in dreams. It was the olfactory and feeling sensations that were semi-active, otherwise unconsciousness would never be achieved. Things had to be tuned out for sleep to occur. And Walter soon realized this dream was feeling more real. His socks were aching as he walked to the castle. He was sweating. He had never sweated in a dream before. This was just pent up desires, manifesting themselves with an enormous downpour all of the sudden. That was the last thing Walter was telling himself as he followed the unit of soldiers, and the wizard who fit his vision of one to the letter. Walter was begging in his mind to see a spell performed. When the wizard collapsed Walter suspected he had missed the battle. Nearing the castle, Walter expected some out of place fantasy to ruin the dream and wake him at long last. He’d be in his underwear, his teeth falling out, or maybe something close but still out of place like Elliot from Pete’s Dragon. But instead, the tie-breaker vote was before him.

Walter could not stand the sight before him. Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, none of them could’ve invented this. Walter blinked several times and then realized this was no dream. Or if it was it was not a tad less real than his room he had been in just minutes ago. There was the princess, indescribably beautiful seated upon the throne. The king and queen were not present, but that wasn’t really important now. Walter could not bear the feeling that he had no camera or pencil and paper. No angelic vision, or sci-fi fantasy would ever top what he was beholding. The wizard had excited Walter as it should have. But that was before this creature appeared. Walter didn’t want to take his eyes off her ever, but instinctively he looked to his surroundings and then noticed the wizard was looking at her too. Walter had been rejected by girls countless times and it had just made him more determined to try harder and better the next time. Only this time Walter could see that the wizard had the same look as him. He had no mirror to prove it, but he could see the contours of the mages face and knew he had just made those expressions himself. Walter didn’t care how you pronounced her name. No fault was great enough to take away from the supreme aesthetic scene that he and the wizard were sole witnesses to. Well them and the guards, but they seemed to think she was their master, and not some impossible to obtain prize. It was in that spacious hall that Walter finally decided that in spite of anything and everything that could and would happen to him. He would not be going home willingly until he had at least tried to make a pass at her. And if she was off limits, then he had the constellation prize of trying to get a wizard to teach him magic. Walter finally convinced himself that this was no trick, either the greatest dream ever, or this was the afterlife, and heaven was whatever he wanted it to be. Walter silently prayed that he’d never sleep again, and even more that he wouldn’t wake up.

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