Did You Read It? (Extended)
“Of all the foolish things – what in Wune’s name is wrong with you, boy?!!”
He slammed against the wooden wall of the inn, muscles crying out, his jacket ripped on a wayward carpenter’s nail. They both stared at the loose strip fabric now hanging off his arm.
The wizard released him, stepping back. his wild grey beard bouncing with every muttered curse word as he paced back and forth on the dark lawn.
Nyal rubbed his aching back and stood up straight, acting like the man he wished he were instead of the boy he really was with fitful, scared tears still in his eyes.
He had thought the wizard was going to kill him.
Not an auspicious first meeting.
“I’m sorry!” he cried, then lowered his voice. “I-I didn’t know-”
The wizard rounded and came back towards him, his voice low and growling, sounding every bit half-wild animal. “One does not stride into any inn and boldly ask the only wizard in the room if he knows anything about the Legend.”
The boy could have kicked himself. He hadn’t thought it would be a tea party, asking people such questions, but this… “I’m sorry,” the boy managed again in a shaking voice.
“It was foolhardy.” the wizard shook his head, staring into the night. “Unless you want to die. Be glad it was me you found and not someone else.”
The boy stopped apologizing, and the storm-grey eyes of the wizard pierced him with a graceful sort of majesty.
“My name is Melmidoc,” the wizard said, “and I am with the Guild. It just so happens the gods were with you. I am currently the only wizard still studying the Legend in depth anymore. Everyone else has given up on it. You’re fortunate, indeed.” He extended a hand in such a sudden gesture that the boy could only stare at it in shock, and it was withdrawn just as fast.
“Well don’t just stand there with your mouth gaping open so wide a pixie could fly in- come on. Let’s walk.” He turned and strode off.
The boy started and followed behind. The wizard had remarkable speed for someone his age- but then again, it was impossible to tell just how old he was. He was wrinkled and grey, yes, but his temperament was that of a much younger man.
“My name is Nyal. Nyal Chandler,” the boy said. “You’re with the Guild?”
“Yes,” Melmidoc said, stopping them with a hand and glancing both ways down a side street before motioning them on. Nyal followed, speaking in a hurried whisper.
“Then you’re safe. I mean, I’m safe in talking to you. The Guild – the balance – you’ll protect us from the Fae. I knew that, approaching you.”
“You’re wrong,” Melmidoc replied, “not even the Guild is safe anymore.” he stopped them once more at the mouth of an alley. He waited a moment, staring into the dark, watching something only he could see. After a second he continued forward, into the dark, and Nyal rushed behind him.
A thin, sickly looking woman wearing little more than an elongated slip and loincloth smiled at them with painted red lips as they passed. She opened her mouth to speak and the wizard waved a hand, silencing her. “You are not safe here,” he said, giving her a pointed look. “There are shadow stealers nearby. Run.”
Her eyes grew wide and white, and she ran down the alley, onto the street, and out of sight.
“Shadow stealers?” Nyal asked.
“It’s better you don’t know. Come on.” he led him to a rotting doorway, which he kicked in before grabbing Nyal unceremoniously by his vest and forcing him into the room.
Melmidoc cast a wane, yellow Wizard’s Lamp in the dusty air. Nyal had seen the spell before, and he watched the bobbing sphere of light for a moment before looking around.
The room was dilapidated, filled with old furniture and tapestries and wiggling spiders. He avoided one as Melmidoc cast glittering silver spells in all the corners. Nyal’s ears popped, and he felt like he was back home, leaving the mountains for lower ground. He grimaced.
“There. We are safe for a short time.” Melmidoc turned, sitting on a nearby pouf of rotting chair for all the world like it was a regular meeting and they weren’t standing in a back alley slum that was home to rats and bugs and gods knew what else.
It didn’t even phase the wizard when a spider took up residence on his boot. “Now. How does a young boy come to know about the Legend?”
“I’m from New Terrania,” Nyal said, and he saw a darkness come over Melmidoc’s face.
“I’m sorry,” Melmidoc said. “It was truly a tragedy. There was nothing the Guild could do about it, I’m afraid.”
“There was a woman, you see, a town Rebel,” Nyal explained, trying to change the painful subject by clearing his throat. “She left a scrap of parchment in the rubble… It read: the answer is the legend of the light witch.” he paused, looking at Melmidoc. “And I believe she was right.”
“That still doesn’t explain how a boy of – how old are you, anyway?”
“Old enough to know about such tales,” Nyal said, “and enough to know that some tales have a bit of truth.”
“What have you heard about the stories?” Melmidoc asked.
“Same as anyone. There will be a powerful witch that will restore the balance to our world – the balance destroyed by the Dark God. Humanity will rise from their captivity and fight the Fae once and for all. I found a piece of the story, once.” Nyal grew quiet, thinking about it. The memory surrounding that moment was still too raw, still too fresh. He touched the scar on his torso, under his shirt.
“Did you read it?”
He snapped back to attention. “What?” Nyal said.
“The Legend. Did you read it?” he leaned forward, and the air was filled with the scent of cloves and smokeleaf, and the burnt tang of magic.
“Yes…” Nyal said, and again, more softly, “Yes. I’ve read it.”
“Then… what do you believe?”
The boy hesitated for a moment, and then told him.
This story is backstory for my original fantasy series, Ebony.
This was in answer to this week’s challenge on Red Writing Hood: tell about a face to face meeting that doesn’t go as planned…this is the longer version. I was getting WAY too into it. I tried to make it a little more stand alone than my usual- and explain a little more for the reoccurring fans. To know more, you’re going to have to wait for publication! Sorry!
You can go ahead and ask questions if you have them, but I can’t guarantee I will answer! I may write more about Nyal’s backstory here though, I’m finding it a lot of fun, and not really detrimental to the Ebony series at all.