The Hero's Apprentice

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Ch. 7 Mutton Hollow

Cro would’ve hit the ground hard after completing the displacement spell for two people but luckily Walter cushioned the fall. It was followed by a small groan, and Cro slowly picked himself up, Walter changed the subject almost the moment they were standing.

“We forgot Drey.”

Cro was concerned, already he was trying to make sure that whatever strange spell he had tried to do using Walter was slowing down Rye long enough for him to locate him and read what was going on. Rye was in pain, Cro was interested in how that had occurred. But having discerned that Rye was not in pursuit for the moment he turned to address Walters’ inquiry.

“He would’ve found us, I’m sorry master.”

Walter was about to shake some sense into the old man but was stopped by the use of the word he was supposed to be using. Cro was speaking English like Drey, the orb was back on the dining table in the castle. Walter didn’t care though, he just wanted to know why Cro was calling him that.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’ve searched for you for many years now, and always I thought you had been bound until recently. It all makes sense now. When you were bound I was nearing you. But you must’ve freed yourself or have been rescued, because then I lost your trail.”

“Bound? Cro are you some trickster just messing with me?”

Cro wanted to smack Walter for such an accusation, but he settled for letting his eyebrows drop. It was understandable. A moment ago Walter had found out that there was a girl who loved him. And now the wedding was as good as canceled unless one of them figured out how to arrive at the exact moment they had left. But that wouldn’t work cause Rye would be right there, angry as ever. And he wouldn’t just sit by and let the vows happen even if they did it in secret.

“Walter I don’t know why Rye has deserted the order, but he has and he wants you gone, maybe me and Drey as well.”

“Will he harm her?”

“Possibly, but think about it. If he kills her, he’ll have the villagers and the king and queen to deal with. Not to mention the knights, the wizards loyal to the crown, and I’d even go as far to say a neighboring kingdom that might seize the opportunity if he causes divisions among the people of Ando. He’ll diminish his strength if he tries anything. But there is another problem. He knows what Drey is to you, and that’s not good. Rather than pursue us, he might just wait, bide his time until we get back. And even I can’t tell you what traps he might set up, or what he’ll have waiting for us. He has the advantage in Ando. But if he pursues us, at least it will be two against one.”

“So basically we’re at war with a wizard, and we have no clue what strategy he’s going to use. He might wait for our return, or be heading towards us this very minute.”

“Yes, and now you must make a decision Walter. I can take you to Drey, but Rye might be there and he’ll seize that chance to kill or imprison one or both of us. I’m not sure if you’re ready to fight. I’d prefer we be on the move for the time being. Rye will recuperate possibly, but he might grow impatient and finally leave Ando to come after us. If he does that, then the odds switch to our favor. It gives us time to train you, and to be ready for him when the encounter finally arrives. One way or another we will have to go back. And we will have to confront him.”

“Alright. But if he hurts Drey, this entire endeavor is pointless.”

“There are worse things Walter, I’ve lived through them all.”

Walter didn’t want to argue with Cro. He was his only friend in Ando besides Drey, and possibly Rye if it turned out he wasn’t the foe Cro seemed to think he had become. Second, Cro was old. Maybe he had lost many loved ones in his time. So for now it was only fair that Walter listen to this wizard who obviously held him in high respect. But how or why was still the question egging Walter for every moment. How much of his life had already played out? Next thing you know he’d have some soldiers arresting him for some deed he had yet to commit from his perspective. That just didn’t seem fair. And yet if it was true then he had a history with Cro that hadn’t yet played itself out.

“Cro how do you know me?”

“I’d love to tell you master, but I think it’s best to let it play out the way you did for me.”

Walter wanted to ask more, but he knew that the more he knew, the less likely that the events would play out the way they should. Decisions needed to be based on the present situation, only the present wasn’t always that for someone. Even if Walter found some way to go back, Rye had been the one who had brought him here. So eliminating him in the past was not an option. That was an annoying paradox. How was he supposed to beat Rye if he couldn’t get him at his absolute weakest? It’d be so easy to get him in infancy, but then he’d never meet Drey, and he’d be back at his desk. Like other times Walter wondered if the dream was gonna dash his hopes by finally ending by him waking. It would all be in his head. And it would be a supreme disappointment all because it was only existent in the realm where artists and dreamers were the masters. And yet Walter did dream. He dreamed of finding Drey, keeping her safe, even if it meant it would take a hundred years to get there. So his love was gonna be tested? Fine! Walter in front of Cro got to his knees and said he would follow. Cro raised Walter from the ground and embraced him. Walter had done this when Cro had promised to teach him. This time it was Cro who was happy. Because now he knew what he had waited all these years to do. Why he had been at the academy, and why he had been separated so long from the man who had saved him all those years ago. He was going to teach him the mystic arts. And then at some unknown time past or future depending on perspective, Walter would do the same for him.

“We have to get going because Rye might choose pursuit instead of lying in wait. I’m wagering we’ll get a little of both cause he gets bored easily.”

“Where are we?”

“Mutton Hollow. It’s outside the kingdom boundaries, a place where giants dwell. They used to invade from time to time but we’ve cooked up some ways to keep them in this vicinity.”

“Let me guess, feeding them sheep?”

“As a matter of fact yes, we thought it was a great idea until they got tired of the mutton. Now we use spells, ones that make them forget what they ate the night before. It seems to be working quite well. They’ve been eaten mutton for years, and we haven’t had an incident yet. Should that occur maybe we’ll switch to pork.”

“How’d the giants come to be?”

“They say a wizard who delved into enlargement magic got entangled in a spell that made him or his victim stay big. When he got hungry he started to cause problems. And to resolve the problem, he and the few who had been unfortunate enough to become giants had to be moved out of the kingdom to reduce damage. It was an awful mess, and it caused heartache for the families who now had enormous relatives. The spell even now passes on to their children. They can’t learn magic, but they have a knack for smelling it, and it takes some pretty crafty spells to trick a giant.”

“Did this wizard have a name?”

“It is lost to history, but I did see giants for the first time when I was a kid. And there weren’t such stories before then when I asked the elderly folk. But enough chit chat. We are here because our aura will be masked by the enormous ones the giants carry. We hopefully wont bump into any. Just avoid the sheep and we should be ok. At least until dinner time, which wont be a long wait at all.”

“So no training today?”

“Not until we find a temporary place to hide and begin your service training, for now just listen to the hollow and gather up the needs of this place.”

Walter and Cro walked for quite some time. Traveling around hills to avoid going uphill and into the giants’ realm. The thunder Walter heard at one point turned out to be a giants’ burp. That was a relief because it meant he was full. Cro managed to get them some mutton from off one of their cooking sites. The hardest part was waiting for the cook to sleep cause they didn’t have dinner until sundown. But it was a relief to eat after so much walking. Cro led them deep into a forest. The giants wouldn’t go here often, so it was an ideal place for the moment. Walter found himself sleeping against a tree across from Cro. He wanted to think about Drey, but Cro had warned that Rye might be on the look out and would eagerly wait for any chance to learn their whereabouts by using the astral plane. So Walter went to sleep anxious to really start his training tomorrow. He’d learn the spells necessary to visit Drey, and the ones to stop Rye from hurting anyone if that was what he was doing.

Walter listened a little before passing out. To the wind, the tree, even the ground. It was all eager to talk to Walter. But why? Was this place so horrible? No! It wanted to be useful, it was lonely. The giants made things lively but this place was begging like Walter had all those years for a chance to be something more. Was that how it worked? You wished for something to happen, and if you waited long enough it would finally occur? That seemed to be what was happening. Drey had wanted Walter back, Cro had wanted to find his master. Rye had wanted some amusement, and Walter had wanted something to happen that would at least for a brief period make him believe he wasn’t just ordinary, mediocre, like everyone else. All of these things had seemed like forever in getting to their petitioners. But now it was all happening in an instant. All the wishes, prayers, requests were being granted all at once. Walter wondered if maybe the reason these magical things were happening was because so many people had wished for different things, all of which could be provided by the same incident. It seemed impossible. Different requests always got in the way of each other. Conflicts of interests was always what sparked contention, war, and debate. And yet maybe it was possible to please everyone. Once ever so often something would happen that didn’t just please one person and despair the rest. Was this that moment? If it was, Walter then had a responsibility to carry out the desires of others since he was finally getting his fair share of the wealth. As Walter decided that he would grant the wishes of this place if only to see Drey one last time, he finally let exhaustion claim his mind as it already had his body. The tree was a little rough on Walters’ head, but almost as if hearing his complaint. Moss grew around the spot and Walters’ comfort increased a bit.

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