- Chapter Three -
As the wizard drove the horses through the darkness,
I became even more convinced I had entrusted my life to a madman. I thought,
surely, no sane person would drive a wagon in the dead of night. What if we ran
off a cliff or into a tree or a river? But
my master appeared to know where we were going, and, amazingly enough, the
horses seemed to trust him. I held tightly onto the handle at my side, listening
to the whispers of the grass and the smacking of small branches as they hit the
carriage. The anticipated crash I was certain was imminent never came. Stranger
still was the smoothness of the road. It felt as though we were floating on air
rather than driving on the ground. Rarely did a rock or ditch disturb the wagon,
and when it did it was only with a small bump rather than a jolt.
The wizard’s eyes remained fixed ahead, narrowed in
concentration. I saw little beyond the wagon and the horses and wondered what he
was looking at. The full moon and the stars peeked through the trees, but layers
of shadow covered everything else. At first I was too frightened to fall asleep,
and then I fought to stay awake so I might have some idea as to the direction we
were traveling. It seemed if I knew where we were going, I might have a better
idea of how to get back. But I was exhausted. The long trek down from the
mountain we call home and through the woods, the almost sleepless night I had
spent under a tree with Amder, and the ordeal that followed all took their
tolls. Though I fought sleep, it soon overpowered me.
I awoke alone hours later to discover that I had been
placed once more inside the wagon. I tried both doors, but they were locked.
Sunlight streamed in through the cracks in the walls and roof, so I knew I had
slept well into the morning. A peek through the slit in the backdoor told me I
was in an unfamiliar town. I sighed.
My heart jolted when I suddenly heard the wizard
“Had a good sleep, did you?” he
“Yes, Master,” I replied.
He handed me a loaf of bread, his large
knife and a small jug filled with milk.
“Sit at the table,” he said. “And
don’t forget to clean your hands first.”
I found a water flask, washed up, cut a
slice of bread and took a sip of the milk.
“You will do everything I tell you to
do, won’t you?” he asked.
“Yes, Master,” I replied quietly,
my head bowed.
“You will not attempt to run away.”
“For if you do…” He took the
knife from the table and pointed it at me. “…You will be punished. Now
finish your food quickly. We have a lot to do today.”
I was so anxious to obey that my hand
shook, and I accidentally spilled some of the milk on the gray tunic.
When I finished eating, he proceeded to
teach me my first spell. He lit a white candle, held a needle over the flame and
took my hand. I winced as he pricked my finger and squeezed out a tiny drop of
blood. He placed it inside a little vessel made from green glass veined with
streaks of blue and white. He added nettles and a few drops of white, candle
“This is a protection spell,” he
explained. “It’s complex, but vital for every magic wielder to know.” He
tugged on a thin gold chain around his neck, drawing out an amulet of orange
glass from under his robe. “You see? I wear one, too. Now recite after me. Vilakchoo
meen-hudom, viyinatnoo baklee.”
“Vilakchoo meen-hudom, viyinatnoo
baklee,” I repeated.
“Vayehee hudom lachem le’oat,”
hudom lachem le’oat,” I said.
“Vayipasach huroo’ach alechem,”
“Vayipasach huroo’ach alechem,”
I said, “vilo yeheeyeh buchem negef.”
My eyes opened wide with horror, and I
gasped. The wizard was also clearly amazed, but the look on his face soon
changed to a smile.
“How do you know that spell?” he
“I don’t!” I stammered and jumped
up from my seat. “I mean I… I…I couldn’t. How could I?
I couldn’t know any spells!”
“But you know that one.”
“My mother taught it to me!” I blurted. “I
didn’t know it was a spell! It’s
a charm to protect the land. The nettles and wax are the same, but she taught me
to put them inside a hole carved in the corner posts of the field with a bit of
soil, not blood.”
I slumped down on the chest again, and
my eyes fell upon the little amulet on the table. This was the first time I saw
Bender smile, and I decided I would rather have him scowl at me.
“The method your mother used to
protect your family’s land is the same as the one I use for my wagon,” he
said. “The only way she could have known it is if she were a witch.”
“She was not!”
“But she knew that spell.” He
paused a moment. Then his face
brightened. “Your mother isn’t still alive, is she?”
“No,” I grumbled.
“Well then, how did she die?”
I shut my eyes tight and wished he
hadn’t asked. I didn’t want to think about it.
“It was almost exactly a year ago,”
I told him, “a year after my father died.
My mother went to sell our wine at the autumnal fair in Pardessia. We
worked all spring and summer long. It wasn’t easy without my father, but we
still managed to fill four barrels. I
remember how cold and windy it was the day she left.
After we loaded the cart and harnessed the horses, my mother took me to
the corner posts and had me recite that charm. She was so proud I knew the whole
thing, and I was just happy to have a little time alone with her, truly happy.
We expected her to return two days later, but she didn’t. A third day passed
and a fourth. On the fifth day I found her collapsed on the ground only a few
steps from our door. The horses, cart, and the jewelry she had always worn were
“Her skin was ghostly white except
for red patches around her eyes. There was an unseeing stare on her face –
such a frightening thing to see. Her lips were tinged with purple, and her whole
body shivered. I did everything I could think of to save her. I had Amder carry
her to a bed and my sister Shennen brought healing herbs, which I made into a
drink. I placed it on mother’s lips. I wiped the sweat from her brow, stroked
her hair and sang to her. I told her how much we loved and needed her. I begged
her not to go and held her hand. She slipped out of my life without a word.”
Once again I fought back my tears.
Bender listened and nodded. When I finished he asked, “Is your mother the one
who told you the tale about the wizard?”
I shook my head. “That was my
“Your father.” He raised one
eyebrow. “Was he a storyteller?”
Again I shook my head.
“A wizard, then?”
“No!” I shouted. “He was a
vintner. Both sides of my family have been growing grapes and making wine for
“And how did he die?”
“The same way my mother did,” I
said, “after he returned from Pardessia to sell our wine at the autumnal fair.
He came home three days later and became more and more ill until he passed away.
Bender frowned and stroked his short
beard. He sat down again opposite me. The he began to chuckle.
At first it was very soft. Then it was silent. And then he let out a
He practically roared with merriment,
and the longer he laughed the angrier I became.
How dare he? I thought. I watched both my parents die horrible
deaths, and he thinks it’s funny? How dare he?
“What is so amusing?” I asked
between clenched teeth.
“Your mother,” said Bender, wiping
tears from his eyes as he tried to regain his composure. “If she had only
known about the amulet and the blood, she could have saved herself and your
father with that spell.”
I was stunned.
The wizard sealed the little, green
glass container with a silver lid attached to a chain and slipped the necklace
over my head. He began to chuckle again.
don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life, “ he said. “Really,
you should have told that story in the market. I would have paid a gold piece
for it. Two people possess the key to their salvation, and they die anyway,
because they don’t know how to use it? I
have never heard anything so ridiculous in my life. Oh well, their loss is my
He tossed a box with scissors, needles
and thread into my lap.
“Fix that tunic and the leggings
you’re wearing. We’ll get something better as soon as we can, but you’ll
need to make the best of them now. They’re the smallest I have.”
At first I couldn’t move. My mind
reeled with thoughts of what could have been. My parents could have still been
alive, and I wouldn’t have been sold as an apprentice to a heartless wizard. I
wished there was some way I could go back in time, so I could save them.
But I took a deep breath and returned
to what was. I went to work on the clothes. It wasn’t easy. The shirt came out
fine except for the collar, which was hopelessly too big. Sacrificing fashion
for modesty, I only removed a bit at the bottom so it would come down to my
knees. The leggings, however, were beyond repair.
The best I could do was to remove a little of the wool from the openings
and thread a ribbon along them. I tied each as tightly as I could around my
thighs, but they billowed over my calves like sails. Even after my adjustments,
the only things that actually fit were my underwear and the old shoes that used
to belong to Amder.
When I was fully dressed again, we went
to the market. I was surprised to discover I had slept past noon. My master
instructed me to stand by his side and watch, listen, and learn. There was a
great deal to see and hear, although I had no idea what knowledge there was to
gain from any of it.
The wagon stood on the edge of a small
plaza, not very different from one in Pardessia. Alleys flowed in all directions
around building and under overhanging structures of white stone. Balconies with
elegant, iron railings protruded above the walkways. Shops rose to the sides,
and peddlers behind carpets and temporary stalls filled the open area. People
sold everything from furniture and horses to jewelry and vegetables. The usual
cacophony of a crowded market day struck at the air with vendors loudly
advertising their wares and customers trying to bargain the prices down. The
smells of animals, leather and dust mixed with the delicious scents of fruit,
spices and freshly baked goods. There was, however, no trace of the sweet
fragrance of fermenting grapes, and high mountains didn’t peer over the tops
of the buildings. It was familiar and probably still in the region of Sepheria,
but it wasn’t home.
Still, my master told me to observe,
and that was what I was trying to do when a man knocked me to the ground.
Instead of apologizing, he shot a dirty look.
“Watch where you’re going, boy!”
he yelled at me.
My master saw what had happened and
shouted back at the man, who walked away cursing. The wizard mumbled a few words
over his open palm and blew. The stranger tripped and stumbled, knocking over an
open barrel of salted herring. He regained his footing for only a second, before
he stepped on a fish and landed with a splash in the brine. Several people
“If he is going to curse like that,
he might as well have something to curse about,” said my master with a smirk
and a wink.
As he grabbed my arm and walked off quickly through the crowd, I could hear the fishmonger argue with the man sitting in the stinking puddle about who was going to pay for the ruined fish. It was then I realized that Bender wasn’t the worst master I could possibly have. Despite all his threats, and the way he laughed at my pain, he wasn’t going to let anyone bring me any harm.