Authors: William D. Latoria
Tags: #Fantasy, #Fiction
The magician stood up and walked over to one of the shelves. There were hundreds of books of all shapes, sizes, and colors kept on it. After glancing through a few, he chose a smaller book, no bigger than a foot tall and six inches wide. It had a bright red binding and dark brown cover. It looked as though it might have been made for a child.
He walked over to Tartum with the book. Tartum looked at the book and was transfixed by it. It was the most amazing thing he had ever seen, and for a moment he thought he could feel it calling to him. The book made him feel something. He didn’t know what it was, and he didn’t care. Tartum wanted that book more than he had ever wanted anything in his life. Isidor saw this and knew the book was meant for the boy. Holding Tartum’s left hand, the magician placed the book against Tartum’s open palm, and chanted two words. “
There was a flash of light, the book began to hum.
Tartum, not knowing why, repeated the words. “
!” The book stopped humming, there was no flash of light. No giant lizard came bounding out of the book. The book was now in both of Tartum’s trembling hands. He didn’t know why, but it felt like he had found part of himself, now that he possessed the book.
“You have the ability inside of you to become a great caster, little Tartum.”, Isidor said, and he stood. “This book has chosen you as it’s master. The words I spoke were words of power. They asked the book if you were to be trusted with its secrets. If the book hadn’t thought you worthy, it would have burst into flames and destroyed itself rather than be in the hands of one it felt was unworthy or incapable. Such is the security magic requires. You won’t be able to understand anything in the book yet, but as you study and hone your skills, the book will reveal more and more magical secrets to you. I will stay in Zerous, for now, and train you if you wish. I will show you how to harness your power and use it for the good of all humanity. In return you will obey me in all things, taking commands from no one else, save your father. I understand this is alot to ask of someone so young, but the potential you harbor inside yourself does not care about your age. If you do not learn to control it, and yourself, it will destroy you and possibly those around you. I can teach you how to prevent that. What say you?” Isidor asked.
Remembering his father for the first time, Tartum looked at him now, pleading for permission. His father’s first thought was to deny him. Magic scared him terribly, and he didn’t understand how his innocent little boy could possibly be a caster. Just as he was about to tell his son no, he saw the desire in his eyes. The need and want that only the eyes of a child can produce. With a sigh and a weak smile Tartum’s father nodded. “Sure son, go ahead.” He said.
Tartum looked Isidor directly in his eyes and spoke with a voice years beyond his age; “I will do whatever you tell me to do, if it allows me to understand the secrets inside this book.”
Taken aback by the sudden change in Tartum’s personality, Isidor grinned. “Good. Let’s begin.”
A week had passed since Tartum had buried his father. Alone and miserable, sitting in his father’s old chair, Tartum was concentrating on his spell book. Determined to unlock another spell, determined to gain even an inkling of power from the book. His anger had driven his ambition. Strength was now his only concern. To gain strength, he needed power. To gain power, he needed magic, and magic was inside his spell book. Waiting for him to prove his readiness for the secrets.
Yet try as he might, the secrets wouldn’t come. He had been focusing on the same page for a week, and nothing. Barely taking the time to use the bathroom or eat, and yet, no new spells, no new magic, no new anything. Just a jumble of markings, that meant nothing to him. The failure was too much. It added too much fuel to the fire inside him, and he raged. Flinging the book at the wall, Tartum threw, kicked, and broke anything he could get his hands on. A vase disintergrated into the wall. His father’s chair smashed against the floor, over and over, as he used it as a hammer, to vent his frustration. The table that he and his father had made when Tartum was ten, was destroyed when he stomped on it, and then bashed the pieces into the wall.
His rage spent, Tartum fell to the floor breathing heavily. Taking tally of the damage, he felt regret. He just wanted the book to reveal one new spell...one new iota of power. Anything to give him the one thing he needed to keep going. Hope. Tartum realized the night after his father’s death, that he had nothing to look forward to, no plans for the future. His only true goal was his magic, and that goal, currently, seemed unattainable.
He decided it was time for a change. Tartum didn’t mind being alone, but a week of solitude had him craving companionship, and he decided to seek out his mentor. At the very least, maybe he could shed some light on why the magic wasn’t coming to him. Plus, the house didn’t feel like home anymore, and Tartum was beginning to realize he didn’t like being there. It made him uncomfortable.
Feeling better now that he had a plan, or at the very least something more constructive to do than sitting around with a spell book that wouldn’t cooperate, Tartum stood up and brushed himself off. Going out to the well, Tartum pulled up bucketfulls of water and filled the tub. After his bath, he put on his father’s best set of clothes. A hunter green button up tunic, made from finely woven cotton, a brown leather vest with plenty of pockets, and a simple design in red string sewn into the lining, that gave the vest a more refined look. A pair of well fitting brown trousers completed his new ensemble, and Tartum thought he looked good in it. It was nice to have a little bit of his father with him. The clothes still carried his scent, and he found them comforting. It made him think that maybe a small part of his father was still with him, watching over him. He knew it was foolish, but the thought made him feel better and lifted his spirits. Finally, Tartum gathered up his heavy grey cloak, to protect him from the elements, slung on his pack, and various pouches filled with his precious spell components, and headed out to his mentor’s wagon.
Looking back at his home, Tartum got the distinct impression he would never see it again. The thought didn’t hurt as much as he expected. In fact, it made him feel...free.
Arriving at his mentor’s wagon a little after dark, Tartum wasn’t surprised to find Isidor waiting for him. The man always seemed to know when he was coming, and it was rare he wasn’t prepared for a visit. Tartum’s training with Isidor was never very regimented. Isidor would have him concentrate on his newest spell, memorizing the words and the gestures needed to make the magic work. Opening himself up and surrendering to the flow of magic had been difficult at first. It had been almost impossible for Tartum to surrender himself to such an invisible and invasive force. It had terrified him. Plus, if he found himself losing his concentration, it would result in a loss of focus and then the loss of the magic. The sudden shock of being so filled with power, to being so empty of it, caused an acute pain that took time to recover from.
Long and tedious were his early lessons with Isidor, but Tartum wouldn’t have traded them for the world. For the moment of success, the moment when the magic allowed him to use it to reshape his reality, was like pure, concentrated, ecstasy. There was no better feeling in the world, than when his spell worked. It made him feel accomplished, self assured, and powerful. Releasing the magic after the spell was done, felt like breaking up with your soul mate, or losing a favored family member. A feeling, Tartum was all too familiar with now.
One of the first lessons Isidor taught Tartum, once he was able to open himself to the flow of magic, was that it could not, or would not, be controlled. Magic was too pure, to raw, and far too powerful to be controlled by any mortal. Magic itself, was what the Gods were made of, and as such was too powerful to be forced to do his bidding. When opened to the magic, if you knew how to manipulate it, how to ASK it to do your bidding, you could change your reality in anyway you saw fit. Provided you could handle the amount of magic required for the spell, said the correct words at the correct times, with the correct inflections, made the correct gestures, and had the correct components if the spell required them. A misspoken word, a failed gesture, a loss of focus, trying to force the magic to your will, or the absence of a component, meant the failure of the spell and with failure, came the possibility of burn out. Burn out occured when a caster took in too much magic, or if he lost control of his spell once he began casting it. It wasn’t a pretty or clean death, from what Isidor had told him, but it was a danger that one had to face, if they wished to obtain true power.
It was the surrendering to the magic Tartum had the most trouble with. He did not wish to ask or plead with the magic for its power. Somehow, doing it felt...wrong. He wanted the magic to react to his will. Sadly, this was a point of much contention between Tartum and Isidor, and had on more than one occasion, lead to Tartum storming off in a huff and Isidor calling him a pathetic brat, not suitable for magic.
“Well Tartum, I was beginning to think you had given up on life and decided to join your father in that nice hole by the tree.” Isidor said with a snicker. He didn’t want to hurt Tartum. Truth be told he loved Tartum like a son, but this pouting brat routine was old. Now that he was sixteen, Isidor decided enough was enough. He had to see what kind of change occured to his pupil’s character before he gave him his gift.
“I apoligize, Isidor, I took my father’s death harder than I expected. I have made my peace with it now, and I wish to continue my lessons. However, if you ever insult his memory again, I’ll kill you and leave you for the dogs. Do we understand each other?” Tartum spoke with a voice born of anger and loss.
His words hit home, and Isidor saw that the youthful look of happiness and joy no longer lingered in his eyes. The boy had lost his innocence, with his father’s death, and was now seeking to fill the void. It appeared anger was already starting to fill it. “Good” thought Isidor; “He’ll need to stop brooding and start acting like a man if he’s to take the next step.”
“I apologize, Tartum. I spoke in jest and went too far. I missed you is all, and I must admit, not having you around for so long has put me in a foul mood.” Isidor said. Upon seeing his apology and explanation hadn’t placated his young friend, he continued; “Your father was a good man, and I swear I’ll never disrespect his memory again. So please, no more death threats, ok?” Isidor said with a smirk.
.” Tartum responded. He knew Isidor hated to be called that, and only called him that to get under his skin. Judging by the frown on Isidor’s face, the word had the desired effect.
“Come, I have something for you. A gift, in celebration of your sixteenth birthday.” Isidor said.
Obediently, Tartum followed him inside.
The wagon was as big has it had always been. There had been a change however. The farthest two sections still held the stored props and equipment required for his magic show, and the kitchen with toilet was still where it had always been. The change was in the living area of the wagon. Where there were once plush couches and extravagant tables meant for lounging and relaxation, there was now, nothing more than empty space, and thick red carpeting spread out on the floor. The shelves with the books and components, were pushed back against each other, and the pillows where Isidor slept were stacked up in a far corner of the room. Confused, Tartum turned his attention to his master. He was standing in the middle of the carpeted area, holding an extraodinary staff.
The staff was six feet tall and three inches in diameter, at its base. The diameter gradually increased to seven inches, towards the top, where it was capped with a mushroom-shaped design. It appeared to be a solid piece of jade, and had six, half inch-wide lines of decorative gold, running down its length. The bottom of the staff was a blunted point, which made it look more like a weapon, rather than just an aid for walking. The gold lines glittered along its base, and gave the staff a very elegant look. The gold spiralled around the mushroom-shaped top, giving the impression of a whirlpool, if you stared at it long enough. Tartum had never seen anything more breathtaking in his life.
Isidor saw Tartum’s eyes, absorbing the staff and smiled, knowing how excited he would be once he gave it to him.
“Yes, it’s yours Tartum. Happy belated sixteenth birthday.” Isidor held out the staff for him to take.
Half numb with shock, Tartum took the staff from him and held it in front of him. It was HEAVY. At least a good forty pounds if it was an ounce. The weight didn’t bother Tartum. In fact, it only made the staff seem more exquisit, more substantial in his hands.
“Thank you...thank you so much! I...I don’t know what to say. Thank you, Isidor!” Tartum stammered in his delight.
“Heh, don’t thank me yet, pupil. Every good caster needs a good weapon. Something he can fall back on if the magic fails him, or rather, if HE fails the magic. I’ve noticed you have been failing the magic more than you’ve been succeeding with it, and I decided, now that you’re sixteen, it’s time for you to learn how to fight and defend yourself. The world can be a violent place.” Isidor took on his instructor posture now, and the change in Tartum’s demeanor let him know he was paying attention.
“Now, as you know, jade and gold aren’t the most suitable of substances to make a weapon with. In fact they’re terrible choices. Therefore, I took the liberty of enchanting your staff with spells of fortification. Your staff is as durable as folded steel and will serve you quite well, once you’ve learned to use it. Also, seeing as the staff is enchanted, do not, I repeat, DO NOT attempt to add further enchantments to it. No material of this world can hold more than one enchantment. To try to add another would only destroy your weapon and possibly burn you out in the process.”