KNAVES AND FOOLS

KNAVES AND FOOLS, BOYS AND WIZARDS

Suddenly Alternaeus looked up to see the boy standing beside him. How long the boy may have stood there patiently waiting for him to finish or may have attempted to summon him from his numinous labors he knew not.

He looked back down at the grael. The roiling and lotic liquid was lentic and smooth again, untroubled and clear. Not a shadow lingered, not a ripple disturbed the surface or the depths. It was as if the grael were one more and without any apparent transition a spotless and terrene lens by which to view our naïve and evident world. Or at least some sort of polished glass to see blemishless to the bottom of the Black Sea. From whose distant waters Alternaeus had filled the grael.

“What is it boy?” Alternaeus asked.


“You are summoned sir.”

“By whom, to where, and for what possible reason?”

“I know not the reason sir, I am but a boy,” he said. “But it is by the lord Drew and by master Iter, and to the main hall and hearth. They wish to converse with you, I think.”

“I see,” Alternaeus answered. He rose stiffly. How long had he sat hunched over the bowl this time he wondered?

The boy stepped back with that certain kind of awe reserved for children in the presence of people they considered dangerous or miraculous in some way.

“Did I disturb you sir?” he asked Alternaeus with unfeigned reverence.

“What?” the Wizard asked. Then realizing the boy’s intent he smiled sympathetically and said, “No more so than usual.”

“What I mean is sir, were you able to finish? I waited as long as I dared to signal you as I feared you might be deep in some vital craft I cannot understand,” the boy said in a hushed tone. “But my masters demanded you come quickly.”

Alternaeus placed his hand lightly upon the boy’s shoulder.

“You did well lad. However you reacted. Though I was merely in my private communions. Nothing more. I will come with you shortly. I need merely drain this grael and wash my face and hands. Wait for me at the door.”

“Yes sir,” the boy said, but he did not move.

Alternaeus noticed his non-compliance and motioned for the boy to speak again.

The boy hesitated but then pointed at the grael.

“Is your cup enchanted? Or is this more a cauldron for mixing poisons and curses?”

Alternaeus almost laughed.

“I mix medicines, not poisons. And that requires a mortar, not a cup. Also I never curse anyone or anything. Well, only once have I ever done so. And that ended very badly. This then is neither a Warlock’s cauldron nor a Wizard’s cup. This is but my grael.”

“The Lord’s Grail!” the boy said too loudly and in shock.

“Lower your voice boy, and no, not the Lord’s Grail,” Alternaeus answered firmly. “Though I would certainly pay all I have or know to but discover and examine it for a short time. No, this is but a far less impressive thing. This is my Grael of Spirits.”

The boy considered the meaning of the answer.

“Do you then call up and speak with the dead sir?” the boy whispered, conscious of his manners this time, but still awed. “That seems very impressive to me.”

“Perhaps to you it might.” Alternaeus said. “But, no, you err again, but only from inexperience. I do not call up and speak with the dead, or with any spirits. I am forbidden to converse with or to seek the counsel of the dead or of any spirit not of this world. I merely watch them, and mark their habits, and from time to time see what I may learn by my observations.”

The boy nodded slightly, then continued with his inquiry.

“My mother, sir, says that those who practice traffick with the dead are damned and should be avoided at all times. For the good of my soul. Should I therefore avoid you?”

“Your mother is wise,” Alternaeus answered. “It is a hard enough thing and a complicated enough thing just to try to understand the living and those who inhabit this world. One should not place too much emphasis on the actions of those in other worlds. Their behaviors and motivations are indeed very hard to read, their worlds are yet alien to us, and we can know little of their true intent.”

The boy was quiet and pensive for a moment.

“You are a very strange Wizard sir,” he said after a while.

Alternaeus laughed.

“You think so? Then help me boy to drain this grael and to return these waters to their proper vessels. Your masters await us and my strange assistance.”

“Yes lord,” the boy said with a slight bow.

“And never call me lord. I am no man’s lord, and have no desire to be,” Alternaeus insisted.

“Yes sir,” the boy replied. “But I am not a man,” he then protested as an afterthought.

“You come much closer than many men I have known for far longer.”

“Yes, lor… yes sir.”

Alternaeus pointed out the vessels for storing the waters and when the boy had fetched them they set about their task. Then, after completing their work the boy walked to the door and Alternaeus ritually cleaned his hands and face in a small pewter basin.

“There,” he said. “Let us now see what lord Drew and master Iter require of me. Then, after that is concluded, you will return to this chamber and explain to me how and why you know such much for a mere serving boy, and how your language has flourished so being as you are so often surrounded by knaves and fools.”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answered doubtfully. “But if I do will you promise not to hex me?”

“Oh, I may do far worse than that,” Alternaeus said craftily.

“Sir?” asked the boy, his eyes widening in surprise.

“I may very well apprentice you…”

from The Wizard and the Wyrdpack

Note to my Readers: Recently I have been moving between my main novel, this novel, my detective novel, and writing short stories. So I’ve been posting here some of my work as I have been creating it. Just been in one of those moods.

Hope you have been enjoying it.

And have a good weekend folks…

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IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?

IS THERE NOTHING ELSE?              

“You look very young to be a Wizard I should say,” she replied confidently, and yet quite demurely.

“Yes, well,” Alternaeus said, staring at her searchingly for a moment. “I’ve never been as young as I look my dear. Or as young as I desired to be. But some things are not within our mortal sphere of action, choice, or circumstance. Though once, long ago it now seems, I was almost young enough to wish to remain happy for a while. But, as with most things, Fortune did not favor me.

I suppose, now that you have made me reconsider my unlikely fate, that my lifelong argument with Fortune is perhaps the chief reason I became as I you see me now.”

“Sir?” she asked. “Mayhaps I do not fully comprehend. You seem to me the very most fortunate of all men. Kings consult thee, lords fear thee, wise men seek thy company, men of war avoid vexing you, high and low churchman both look upon you with some measure of real wonder, women seek thy weird but alluring charms, and I have even heard that demons and many other forms of diverse spirits bow before thee and thy power.”

He placed the instrument he held back upon the table very carefully, as if he exaggerated in his own mind some memory of it, and then turned his attention solely to her once more.

“Indeed, my lady. If only men were what was said of them then our reputations would be our lives. And our portion in life. But we do not so easily gainsay Good Fortune, or Evil Fortune, or our unsleeping and jealous God.”

She smoothed the folds of her gown, moved closer to him, touched his hand and looked studiously into his face.

“Are you indeed only a man, sir Wizard?” she asked him questioningly.

He sighed. Deeply.

“I am, in both nature and in deed, only a man, my good lady,” he answered sincerely.

“Is there then nothing else?” she inquired.

“Indeed,” he whispered wistfully. “Is there nothing else?”

Alternaeus the Wizard and the lady Cynewise

from the Wizard and the Wyrdpack

https://www.artmajeur.com/en/art-gallery/amelni/258892/663-jpg/7539862

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

YOU CAN NEVER GET TOO MUCH PRACTICE

“Maugham, do you remember that time a few years back when I drew my revolver on you and shot you in the face with a blank round?”

“Hell yes I do,” said Maugham. “Scared the shit out of me. I thought you were really going to shoot me.”

“I did shoot you, you idiot. Just not with a bullet. But tell me, what lesson did you draw from that?”

Maugham looked at his friend, then squinted.

“Never assume I guess,” he answered.

“Then you drew the wrong lesson. The real lesson was ‘always assume.’ That the other person is dangerous. Cause they are.” Steinthal countered.

Maugham looked thoughtful for a moment.

“What are you saying then?”

“I’m saying that just because she is pretty and sexy, and nice, and smells good, is fine in bed and is maybe even sincere doesn’t mean she won’t shoot you in the face. If she needs or wants to. As a matter of fact maybe she already has and you’ve been too busy or too stupid to notice.”

Maugham looked thoughtful again. That’s twice in one day Steinthal thought. Hat trick coming?

“Yeah, I guess love will do that to you,” Maugham finally conceded.

“Or being pussy-whipped by the wrong woman,” Steinthal said. “Or, even the right one. Take it from a man who knows.”

Maugham nodded as if he agreed, at least in theory. After a moment or two of silence though he turned sinister to look straight at his friend.

“By the way. I never asked you Steinthal. Why did you shoot me in the face with that blank?”

“Because someone else tried it on me.”

“They shot you in the face with a blank,” Maugham asked, kind of surprised.

“Not exactly,” Steinthal said. “They tried to shoot me in the face with a live round. Luckily they missed.”

“Was it a lady?” Maugham asked.

“Hard to say,” Steinthal replied. “You never really know about that kind of thing nowadays, do ya?”

Maugham laughed.

“So then, you were trying to forewarn me?”

Steinthal smiled broadly. Then he clapped his friend on the shoulder.

“Maybe. That, or I just needed the practice. You can never get too much practice shooting someone in the face.”

“Yeah,” said Maugham kind of wistfully. “I’ve had the same thought myself once or twice.”

Steinthal smiled again. But this time he kept it to himself.

from The Detective Steinthal