The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 21 Library Assistant

Walter was relieved to find that he was back in Ando. The forest recognized him instantly and clued him in to what had happened while he was gone. Walter did a good deal of service that day if only to thank the forest for being so understanding. He was in the midst of doing so when he heard a rustling in the bushes. Walter prepared to fight in case Rye had just arrived, but saw through an opening that it was a boy running away. Walter figured he’d follow the boy back to town so he jogged lightly to get to him.

When the boy turned to look at Walter he fell into a nearby stream. Walter got concerned when the boy didn’t surface immediately. Walter dropped his staff and the cardboard rune circle, threw off his tunic, emptied his pockets, removed the not his shoes, and then remembered his boy scout training and removed his pants after jumping in. It was scary searching for the boy, but Walter knew he had only a few seconds before it would get even harder. He felt an arm and grabbed hold of it and yanked it up. It would have been impossible if Walter hadn’t used his pants as a makeshift life jacket as he had learned getting the lifesaving merit badge. The water pulled them in all directions, but the pants made it possible to stay above the water. Walter made sure the boy was holding on so he could free an arm to grab the bank and get them out by rotating his hips. The kid was safe, and Walter wrung out his pants before putting them back on. The boy was in shock and cold from the looks of things so Walter got things started and tried to calm him down. Then the kid blurted out thanks and asked where the village was. That was the question Walter had wanted to ask, but seeing as he was lost Walter asked the forest. The forest complied and told Walter it was strait ahead, on the other side of the river. Walter didn’t mind going around since he would need to dry off but the kid may not want to go with a stranger so he devised and alternative. He found a tree that was nearing the end of its life and asked if it would assist him in helping the boy. The tree hesitated but then agreed if Walter would stick around for the rest of the forest. Walter agreed and the tree fell exactly the way it knew Walter wanted, over the stream making a bridge.

Walter helped the kid over and told him to walk strait to get back to Ando as he called it. When the kid asked why he wasn’t going into town Walter explained he’d have to help the forest first. The kid didn’t understand, and resumed his eager quest to get back home, which was back on schedule. Walter was in a boy scout mood so he made an old fashion fire, and managed to get by without any dinner. When the fire was big enough he tossed the flattened cardboard box, Airwalks, and dollar bills into it since they didn’t really belong here anyway and Walter had no use for them. Walter even tried burning the change, but then decided to bury it and just mark the spot and come back to it in case of an emergency. Walter would’ve liked a sleeping bag, but went further into the forest and found a grassy hill to sleep on. It was nice actually since it was a starry night, and Walter was just relieved to be back in Ando. Tomorrow he’d go into town, and hopefully it wouldn’t be too many days ahead or behind where he wanted to be. If that was the case, Walter would just hide out in the forest until the desired date. Which of course he didn’t know, and his watch only made things worse by pointing out that it had only been several hours since he had been with Drey and he was annoyed that so much had happened in so little time.

Walter could handle one more day without Drey and Cro. Tomorrow he’d find them, and hopefully before Rye got out of his binding and any trouble he might’ve gotten into with the police. Either way Rye was certainly crippled for the moment. Unless of course Rye showed up as an old man the next time they met. If that happened Walter just hoped he hadn’t been practicing spells. Walter hadn’t had any time to do that with the duel still in full effect. He had to find Cro and hope that he had done enough to Rye to merit a victory.

Walter awoke hungry and aware that yesterday which had been in three places, and three time periods had left him needing time to replenish his magic. Not that he was empty, but any bad habits he developed would make him one charm and incantation weaker than he could be. So Walter tried to avoid using magic for the day. He decided his search for the village could count as his morning jog, and his reward could be breakfast. It wasn’t a long walk so Walter was disappointed about that, but at least that meant the kid had gotten home safely.

Walter found the village quickly and saw that the academy was now at half its eventual size and that the castle was also a bit smaller than he remembered. But Walter had done his best, and now he just had to find out when he was. In town Walters’ appearance attracted and yet blended perfectly. Some looked at him in awe and whispered. Others didn’t seem to care. Walter realized it might be due to the fact that his little incident might have become a local fairy tale or nightmare. Walter would soon learn the answer. Walter tried to enter the academy but was shooed away by the knights out front. Walter asked in his best Andoish what was required to attend the academy, and they replied he had to win a duel. That didn’t seem hard, but Walter was already in a duel, so was it really ok for him to enter another one at the same time? Didn’t change the fact that he wasn’t getting in without a fight with the guards or with someone else. Walter asked if they knew where he could obtain food and the guards laughed at his inquiry. Fine! Walter wasn’t deterred, he just thought he’d try and get some honest work so he could eat something was all.

Walter spent a good deal of time that day searching for work so he wouldn’t have to stay in the forest too long. The listening and service was important to him, and at the same time he was simply trying to serve the town as much as the forest. If he favored one, he’d get mistreatment from the other. Walter had saved the town once, but the forest had paid for it. Now he was gonna give the forest a break from him except as far as he tried to help it grow and recover from the vines and tree that had just given him an added bonus assistance. Walter found only two jobs that might be up his ally. He could either feed the horses in the castle, or he could organize the library at the academy. While Walter wouldn’t mind working in the castle where the wages were better, his real goal had been the academy anyway so he applied to that one. And when he showed his summon for the job to the guards, they eyed him and one of them snugly said that he’d still have to duel sooner or later. What did that mean? Probably just mad I found a way around his sword. The library was smaller than Walter expected, but still it was impressive for the amount of time that had passed since Krells’ time. When Walter asked if Krell was alive the librarian laughed at his ignorance. Then Walter explained he was from far away so news didn’t always travel like gossip in town. The librarian felt ashamed after that and apologized. It had been decades since Krell had established the academy and the town was actually going to celebrate the academies’ anniversary in a few weeks. Walter was glad to hear it and then inquired as to his duties. Not much really. Walter found that most of the wizards didn’t read the books. They skipped the listening and service and tried to go strait to the elements. Walter was a little upset but realized he had to give them some credit. Walter dusted the books, and went through them carefully. Eventually Walter requested pages to compose his own book and the librarian consented mostly out of curiosity to see what he was going to write.

First Walter created an organization system for the library. Books weren’t in any discernable order and that was annoying for Walter. He put histories in one section he labeled with the hour glass rune. Elements got their own section, which seemed to be the only section visited on a daily basic. Walter then added his own sections. An adventure section where the stories could be found in their exciting forms. Walter added references at the end of each book if the reader wanted to get into the details. The librarian didn’t object since Walter was now doing both their jobs. After a month Walter had seven sections in the library. History, Adventures, Elements, Runes, a section where listening and service were combined, a sixth where protection, defense, and offense were combined, and an empty section where Walter labeled it most recent discoveries and theories. The librarian questioned this section and Walter explained that new books would be written and would add and improve the store of knowledge. The librarian named Ler thought it was stupid, but that was before he realized that Walter was finally getting to the book he had been preparing to write.

The organization of the library made Walters’ research that much easier. Walter recreated the history for the people. He connected stories, commonalities among the wizards and warriors. He listed the principals so that they’d be easier to grasp and master for the students. Soon Ler found himself reading the unfinished manuscript Walter was writing. Then Ler was curious as to where Walter went when he wasn’t in the library. He asked around and found that Walter spent a little money on food at the different inns and then headed out for the forest. That was strange. Ler did eye Walter one time coming back and asked him why he was in the forest. When Walter confessed he didn’t have a house Ler wouldn’t hear of it. The reason Walter didn’t want a house was because he had spent countless days serving the forest and village and was brimming at full strength once again. He was ready to leave and go back to his home as he called it. Ler then suggested that Walter sleep at the academy. True it had no sleeping quarters, but Ler didn’t want Walter to not finish his manuscript. It was so much clearer than Krell or his sons’ writings. Ler was getting excited and even trying to do what Walter hinted of in his manuscript. Walter agreed to sleep at the school but still insisted that being outside was good for a wizard or the common man. Ler confessed he hid in the library to avoid the dueling that occurred outside on the field and sometimes even within the school. Walter asked why fighting was so popular. And Ler related the tales of monsters that were finally dying down after much labor. Walter had thought the vines were nasty, but he didn’t like the story of Ven trying to feed giants, only to have them get tired of the tribute, and then Krells’ encounter with winged humanoid freaks that had claws and jagged teeth. Walter went back into the library after that tried to find all the stories Ler was hinting at.

As Ler predicted, Walters’ tomb was adding everything. An entire guide to magic. It now mentioned monsters, plagues, every possible scenario Walter could think of where magic could be useful and how. Ler had to tell someone and that’s how Krells’ son Tre the headmaster found out about Walter. Ler waited till he thought the manuscript was good enough and then showed it to Tre. Tre asked Walters’ name, and Ler admitted he had never asked. He had simply asked for the job and done it flawlessly. Tre entered the library and found that it was much fuller than he remembered. He also noticed the sections and above all he noticed the empty seventh section Walter had made.

“Are there any books in this section?” Tre asked

“Not yet, my assistant what’s his name said it was for future discoveries and that anyone here could write what they found out.”

Tre found a few pages with Walters’ messy Andoish handwriting but he beamed when he saw what was on it. Suggestions on traveling spells, walking through time, but that had warnings scribbled by it. Invisibility, super sensory, an even a suggestion of longevity of life. Tre wanted to meet this assistant and find out where he had learned magic if he knew any. Why wasn’t he dueling like the others? Tre had so many questions. No one was enthusiastic about magic like this except his father. Tre told Ler to inform him the moment his assistant got back.

Walter was busy eating at the inn, and prepared to leave to try going home in the forest when Ler walked in. Ler knew Walters’ commute by that time and told Walter he was to see Tre the headmaster. Walter didn’t want to meddle anymore. Being here a month had been hard enough on him since he was still thinking about Cro and Drey and if they were doing ok. Walter realized it would be awkward if he left without a word so he figured going home would be the next thing he did after meeting Krells aged son who was obviously a grandfather by now.

Walter eyed the same pompous guard as he entered the academy. They had an understanding at that point, but still both were waiting for a chance to slice or enchant the other.

“Today.” Walter said.

“What?” The knight asked.

“Today we’ll see if you can keep me from leaving this place.”

The knight was confused at the suggestion, but realized that this was a direct challenge at him. He could fight him now or wait till he came out and try to keep him from leaving. Either way the knight had been secretly hoping to do more than just stand at attention all day, settling at words to be unwanted guests out of the academy.

“I’ll see you when you get back.” The knight said with a grin.

“Have your shield ready, or it’ll be over before it begins.”

That last remark was a dart in the knights’ shoulder because he realized he didn’t have a shield, just a spear. The knight wanted to leave his post, but had to abase himself to asking a student to go to the armory and get him a sword and shield. It was a one time opportunity and the knight was going to enjoy it.

Walter planned to excuse himself if the discussion got boring so he planned a duel with his daily nemesis at the gate just in case he got his way. It would further merit his being expelled or suspended from the academy, which was fine with him. Anything to finally get back to Drey and Cro. The discussion was more of a praise of Walters’ efforts than an inquiry of where he learned magic. Walter had been in the library long enough to blame the books as his source of knowledge. There was no way he was gonna reveal he had learned magic from a yellow class wizard who was either an infant at present, or yet to be born in the near future. Tre inquired as to how Walter had obtained a green class tunic, and Walter simply stated that it was a gift from his teacher, and that he was eager to return and continue his training there. When Tre asked what land he hailed from, Walter got nervous and said it was beyond the forest. Tre asked if it was Mutton Hollow and Walter said close enough. Tre didn’t know there was a land beyond Mutton Hollow. Walter changed the subject by asking about the most powerful wizards in the realm and where they were currently so he might find them. Tre said he knew of no such wizards, and Walter gave a pretended sigh as if he had hoped to learn more at the academy. Walter said he hoped one day to meet and orange or red class wizard. Tre had never heard of this and inquired about it. Walter explained that from violet to red a wizard advanced in power and skill. Tre liked this idea, it would sort the students into small groups and make it easier to learn magic among peers who were at the same level.

On that note Walter excused himself and said he’d have Ler add it to the library and school curriculum. Ler didn’t object cause he hadn’t done any real work in a long time anyway. With that Walter prepared to leave. When Walter exited the room he saw his knight friend coming at him fully armed. Walter was glad, and branded his staff and prepared for a quick fight. Walter got caught off guard when the knight lunged his sword at Walter. Walter blocked the blade with his staff that broke in two. Walter quickly grabbed up the sword and the knight grinned and readied his spear.

Walter felt sorry for the knight, but at the same time envied him for what he was about to do for him. Walter knelt and quickly poured the power leaving his staff into the broad sword. Walter incanted the blade would increase the speed and reflexes of the user. And just as Sir Wes came at Walter he slashed his spear in two and pointed the sword at him. Wes got to his knees and Walter demanded surrender. Wes complied and then was surprised when Walter handed him his sword. Walter told Wes it was enchanted with speed and dexterity now and it would serve him better than ten spears. Wes tried for himself and was amazed at the skill the sword gave him. He got so into it that he didn’t see Walter get drug away by a small boy onto the dueling field.

Walter recognized the boy he had saved and asked if he was all right. The boy reassured him and said his name was Cro. Walter suddenly realized that maybe it wasn’t quite time to go home yet. Walter wasn’t sure about teaching Cro but now all those times calling him master seemed to make more sense. Walter began about listening when Cro rudely interrupted him and said he knew it. Really? Thought Walter, let’s see. He cast a simple gust at Cro and he got knocked over effortlessly. This wasn’t Cro. This boy was at least fifty years away from being the Cro Walter respected.

When Cro got mad, Walter reiterated the importance of listening. This was too easy. Cro fell right into the trap and was now doing what Walter was already well aware he was going to do. Walter realized he might be going too hard on Cro so he helped him out with one of his spells. But when Cro threw fire, Walter knew he had to be careful. There would be no burning a child in front of other wizards. He tried changing the fire into raw magic and managed to do it to his own surprise.

Then Cro said be would listen and Walter got hopeful again. He figured an old exercise would be a good place to start, but found that Cro just liked to argue about everything. That had done it, Walter wasn’t gonna teach Cro. He couldn’t anyway if this Cro was gonna whine about everything. Walter figured Cro would need some alone time and decided he’d go back to the forest and see if Cro came searching. When Cro complained about him leaving Walter finally made it clear.

“Fine, go and learn it the slow easy way.”

Walter knew Cro would try another spell so this time he wanted to try one other thing. He wanted to see if he could take Cros’ magic and use it as his own. Walter summoned a branch from a tree to replace the staff Wes had broken. Only after the fact did Walter realize how stupid he was and that he could’ve just repaired the staff if he was studying just a little harder. Oh well, too late now. Walter let the spell hit his new staff, and Walter found he could do it. By using the staff to read the spell Walter could use his own magic to trap Cros’ magic in it, and then modify it enough that he could use it later or moments later. It was a displacement spell so Walter tried to see if it would take him to the forest. He saluted Cro and found himself back at his campsite where he had buried the loose change.

Walter knew he’d win against little Cro, but he was still excited that he had learned two new spells from his duel. It was a shame Walter couldn’t go back to the academy, but he knew he couldn’t get too comfortable or he’d end up stuck here too long. Walter had a Drey to get to and this Cro had to become the amazing Cro that had trained Walter. Walter decided he’d wait three days to see if Cro came looking for him, otherwise he’d go to Drey who was only a few decades away and zero miles in distance.

Walters’ duel with Cro excited the whole school, as had his disappearance. Ler was sad but filled Walters’ vacancy as if he’d never been there. Ler did his best to refine the volumes and writings so they became easier to learn and practice. Tre wondered about the green wizard and wondered if he was serious about locating the red and orange wizards as he called them. Tre wanted to go look for Walter or at least go and see if he could find anything to add to the library, but Tre was honestly desirous for the peace he had worked so hard to obtain. He passed the torch to his sons and grandkids to go out into the world if they desired and see if they could learn things beyond the scope of Ando. Some of them did, and when they came back after a year or two in the field, they said it had been an eye opener. They could hear rivers and forests, and they knew the spells that they all had yet to learn.

Cro was in his room studying, and Walter had checked up on him when he was sure he was asleep. Walter forgot his promise to leave because he had to hide his presence from the wizards who were doing precisely what Walter had expected Cro to do. Look for him to train. Walter wouldn’t have minded other students, but Walter was also curious as to what Cro was up to. He sensed Cro when he went to school, and when he was at home being grounded in his room. Walter kept himself busy waiting by hiding from the traveling wizard fad his disappearance had caused. He almost got caught a few times, but he was practicing a lot in the forest, and serving and listening up in the mountains and rivers now. The forest he always returned to, but he found just as much to learn from the mountains and rivers as he did from the grass and trees. Walter thought about doing this with Cro. Either one would be fine because Walter was lonely from time to time.

When Cro showed up at Walters’ campsite he was surprised because he had thought Cro would be at school. When he saw Cro doing elements he realized why Cros’ movements had seemed like trips to school. He had been here listening, serving. It was just that when Walter came back Cro had gone back to the village. They had both been doing the same exercises and that was good. It would make Walters’ job easier. Walter told Cro to get a fish, which he eagerly did, before Walter told him to slow down or he’d fall in the river again. Cro was careful, with his feet and his tongue. Walter decided he’d stay a week, just like Cro had done with him, maybe eight since Cro would have to get home before his parents found out about his secret cram school.

Walter drilled Cro on everything he’d learned from him, and things he’d managed to read in the time he had been assistant librarian. Walter did his best to avoid the books because he knew the world was a much better teacher than any talking or eloquence. Walter eventually did take Cro into the mountains to help him get even further with his training. They were safe from the giants because Walter showed Cro how to do some choice charms he had learned while waiting for him. Walters’ time in the library had improved his Andoish somewhat and his grasp of the runes. He knew almost all of them at that point. And he had his own little book of spells he now carried since he was starting to have more spells than he could count. His spellbook was only half full which Walter liked. He’d add to it, and it would get full as time went by.

Eventually the eight days were up and Walter told Cro he had to leave on a journey. Cro wouldn’t hear of it and told Walter he’d come with him even if he had to leave his parents. Walter forbade him telling him that the village and academy were not to be abandoned. Cro argued Walter did and Walter made it clear that that was precisely why he was leaving. He had to protect his home, which was somewhere else. Cro was about to say something else and then Walter mentioned his wife for some reason. Cro was ashamed of what he had said. This Walter had been his teacher such a short while and yet it seemed like forever. Cro embraced Walter because he wanted so much to stay with his master for a year, no even a single month on some adventure where he’d get more experience and finally move upward beyond his green class, which had been recently instated. Walter assured Cro he’d be back and that Cro would understand everything when the time was right.

Before leaving Walter had Cro kneel and entrusted his staff to Cro, saying it was his and that he hoped it served him well until he gave it back to Walter. Cro was touched by the act and promised he wouldn’t lose it. Walter drew a rune circle and began the spell and then realized he had forgotten to dig up the loose change. The thoughts of the change and Drey entered the spell and Walter vanished from Cros’ sight. Cro left the forest with his new staff, and revisited the spot periodically waiting for master Walter to come back. He waited a very long time.

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