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.
“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…