The Miserable Prince and the Would be Wizard

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Chapter 9

After Arric had eaten several biscuits and drunk a cup of tea Mordi and Sir Hugo shooed him up to his room to change into his robe and get ready for his first teaching session. He wondered what all the other sessions had been and why this one was different. He couldn’t help lingering a little in front of the mirror. The long white robe with its stand up collar and frogged fastenings fitted him perfectly. The sleeves were flared with turned back cuffs and there were spacious pockets in the side seams. The white suited him. His hair looked less like its normal ginger and at a pinch could almost be described as strawberry blonde. One of the reasons he’d been dreading a pink robe was the effect of it with his hair and freckles. He was self conscious enough about them as it was.

He came downstairs to find Mordi and Sir Hugo also attired in their formal robes. Mordi’s had sounded a bit gaudy when he’d described it but it wasn’t. The flowers, plants, insects, birds and animals that covered the surface seemed as though they could spread out, step off and you’d be in a beautiful glade with the sun shining and the birds would be singing and the insects humming. He tore his eyes away with an effort. Sir Hugo’s robe was neither pink nor sparkly, but a deep blue with a depiction of the night sky with moon and stars, planets and constellations. Arric felt overwhelmed by the sudden realisation that the sweet old lunatics as he had mentally categorised them were in fact powerful and important wizards.

The spell was broken by Mordi’s laughter “Don’t look so worried! We’re just Mordi and Hugo never mind the fancy robes.”

Sir Hugo’s laugh also boomed out “Indeed. Now come on Arric let’s get you signed up in proper form.” He produced a quill pen and and a scroll.

Arric swallowed “Um Sir Hugo, I don’t have, well I don’t have any money. That’s why I was teaching myself.”

“Huh neither did Mordi; didn’t stop me taking him on. Don’t worry about coin. Now come along and sign. Then we can teach you properly.”

Mordi nodded “The apprenticeship allows us to teach you techniques and ways of using magic that we couldn’t otherwise. Self teaching can get you a long way but only an apprenticeship with the magical bond it gives can turn you into a true wizard.”

Once Arric had signed they both added their signatures and then they took him through to the workroom. There was a basket full of oak galls on a small table together with a bowl of water.

“We’ve already been through the idea behind transformation and you were good at the low level stuff you demonstrated like improving the quality of something. Today we’re going to move up a level. You’re going to try taking a raw material and making a product from it.”

“Like taking hops and brewing the beer.” Sir Hugo added.

“Only we’re starting with making ink. It’s a very useful thing to be able to do and it’s smaller quantities for you to work with.” Mordi smiled “Now watch while I demonstrate.” He picked a small handful of the galls and put them on the table. Then he gestured. The galls were replaced by a bottle containing dark liquid.

“You make that look very easy” Arric said.

“It gets easy with practice. These days I don’t say spells aloud, thought and intention is all the focus I need. To begin with you’ll need to learn and say the spells. I’ll do it again but this time we’ll explain as we go. You can make ink without magic. You need the galls, the water and a rusty nail. It takes several days. We just shorten the process to instant.”

Arric watched as Mordi repeated the process. He said the words of the spell aloud and the third time got Arric to say them with him. Then Mordi put several galls into a dish.

“Don’t try to make a bottle just make the ink in the dish.”

Arric nodded. It took four attempts before actual ink appeared. Mordi dipped a pen in the liquid and made a few marks on a piece of paper.

“I’d say that was pretty good, right colour, right consistency. Do you want to try again and make a bottle?”

Arric nodded. Flushed with the success of his last attempt he said the whole spell while making decisive gestures. It was a success in that there was ink. There was just no bottle and rather more ink than he’d meant. He was liberally spattered with the stuff. So were Mordi and Sir Hugo. Arric’s face flamed and he apologised profusely as he took in the ink stains on their beautiful robes.

“Don’t worry Arric, happens all the time.” Sir Hugo said with a smile and as he spoke the ink disappeared from his robe. Mordi also got rid of the ink on his robe and the table and the floor. Arric was now the only ink stained object.

“Just wave your hand while thinking ‘spotless robe’” Sir Hugo said. Arric did as he was told and was both amazed and relieved when it worked. His robe was as white as when he’d put it on.

They spent the rest of the day on ink and by the end of it Arric had transformed not just oak galls but several other types of plants into bottles of ink. He took the result of his first lesson up to his room and arranged the six different coloured inks on the shelf by the bed. He spent a few minutes admiring his handiwork and decided he’d take some to Beattie as a present on his way to rescue Blaise. Over supper Mordi and Sir Hugo explained to him what they had planned for the week ahead.

“We wouldn’t normally concentrate on just one type of spell and we wouldn’t cram an apprentice in the way we’re going to do with you but Hugo and I couldn’t see any other option. You’ve got to have a mastery of transforming rodents. These will be very high level spells.”

“It’s going to be exhausting but if you are to have any chance of getting Blaise clean away it’s the only option.”

“I understand. I’ll do my best. You two are very powerful and if Count Asgreen is more powerful than you then I have to admit to being scared. I have nightmares about bungling it and alerting him.”

Mordi scowled “Asgreen isn’t more powerful than either of us. The difference is he plays dirty, the spell on the palace is an example. If we were to breach it it wouldn’t harm us but several innocent people living in Whitecastle would drop dead.”

Sir Hugo sighed “Mordi’s right. I got caught unawares by his plots. By the time I realised the King wasn’t dismissing me of his own free will it was too late. Blaise’s continuing good health was the hostage to me going quietly.”

Arric’s normal fair complexion went an even paler shade of white and Sir Hugo hastened to add “The main thing is you will be in and out before he knows. If you can’t manage the Smitty transformation you grab Blaise and head back here as fast as you can. We’ve got a contingency plan but I don’t think we’ll need it. You have a lot of potential and Smitty, if we get it right, will be helpful. He likes to think of himself as a star performer. Now eat your dinner and stop worrying.”

Sir Hugo had not exaggerated when he said they were going to cram knowledge into him. Apart from a daily walk and times when he was eating and sleeping he studied continuously. On day three they took him to visit the Rodentarium. This turned out to be a long narrow room with an assortment of individual dwellings lining one wall. Arric noticed one mouse wearing an apron and cleaning the windows of its two storey cottage. He stared in amazement. He’d sort of expected cages and ordinary mice rustling about in straw. Mordi waved a hand

“The transformations have a cumulative effect on their behaviour. They aren’t your average rodents once they’ve been working with us for a year or two. It doesn’t seem to do them any harm so we’ve given up worrying about it. The mice and rats benefit from nice accommodation, good food and extended lives. We benefit from being able to supply very reliable transformed servants with no risk of odd behaviours disrupting balls or fetes. Now come and meet Smitty.”

They stopped outside a mini palace with an ornamental pond and turrets. Sir Hugo rang the bell and a grey rat opened the door. It was attired in a red satin smoking jacket and a little round hat was perched on its head.

It regarded Sir Hugo and squeaked.

Sir Hugo seemed to understand and replied “Good morning to you too Smitty. We have a job for you if you want to take it. It’s a starring part. Playing a Prince.”

The rat’s eyes widened and its monocle fell out. It hastily screwed it back into place and squeaked some more.

“Good. Yes we’ll discuss terms. This is Arric you’ll be working with him.”

The rat looked Arric up and down and squeaked. Even though he didn’t understand rat speak Arric got the distinct impression he didn’t measure up to Smitty’s standards.

Mordi beckoned Arric. “We’ll leave them to it. Smitty will do it. Hugo had him from the moment he mentioned the word ‘prince’. Today we’re going to start on the actual spells you’ll need.”

They said goodbye to Smitty who waved a languid paw in their direction. Arric followed Mordi back to the workroom trying not to feel nervous.

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