Set Up Option Aa1: Help Ezekiel

Magic Spark Lightening

We’re back for the last post in this adventure story! If you missed the first three parts, you can read them here: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Now let’s see if you survive this wizard’s duel.

Set Up…Help Ezekiel

Lightening strikes the road between you and the dueling wizards. In the brief moment of perfect brightness, Ezekiel’s tall form is outlined on the left with his hands upraised, creating a sort of shield around him. A moment later, you understand why he’s holding the shield.

The hair along your arms stands to attention and a buzzing pierces your ears. You jump from the rocks and land on the road just as a bolt of electricity shatters the boulders where you stood. Sharp splinters of stone ricochet off trees and rocks and hard packed dirt. Dozens of stings hit your skin.

Lightening StrikeA bubble, seconds too late, turns the chaos into a muffled mess around you. It stretches only a few feet in all directions with you at its exact center. Another lightening strike hits the top of the bubble directly above your head. The flash sizzles along the shield and dies in the hard dirt of the road.

A couple smaller flashes strike aimlessly into the nearby trees like the other wizard built up too much and realized he needed to discharge some before he lost control.

Those flashes reveal two things.

One, Wizard Ezekiel is only holding one shield. Perhaps he can’t control two at a time.

Two, the other wizard noticed Ezekiel is vulnerable and has turned to attack him.

“ZEK!” you shout a warning but can’t be sure in the storm if he hears you. You race for the other wizard and Zek’s bubble stays with you.

Bounding over a boulder, you land in the rocks where the attacker was standing. A sizzling tells you he’s near. You trust the bubble and the sound and charge towards that tell tale hiss.

Two blobs of faint light give a heads up that you’re slightly off and you correct your direction just as those two blobs turn into bright, hissing sphere’s of electricity. The wizard’s eyes widen as he sees you barreling toward him.

He tosses the two spheres he prepared for Ezekiel into your face. They hit Zek’s bubble and sizzle along the shield’s outline.

The timing is perfect. Just before the electricity dissipates into the ground, you reach the attacker with the outside edge of the bubble. It pops with a piercing zap that jolts the wizard off his feet. He flies backward and lands with a thud.

It’s like the gavel hitting the podium.

Trees and Night SkyJust like that, the storm vanishes. Fog, lightening, sound and all, disappear. Your ears ring with the silence.

A rumbling laugh breaks it a moment later. Wizard Ezekiel ambles up beside you to stare at the downed wizard. His huge frame shakes as he continues to chuckle.

“Zek?” he asks.

You shrug. “Needed something short.”

He snorts another chuckle. “You charged a lightening wizard. Guess you earned the right to Zek.”

He lifts the now senseless lightening wizard over a shoulder and motions for you to walk with him.

You check for the other downed man, Sam, but he must have regained consciousness at some point and ran.

“What about the others?” you ask.

“They’re pawns,” Zek says. “This one’s the mind behind the attacks. Give him to the King and let the King settle out the rest.”

***

Mug of Cider - Set Up Adventure StoryYou sit at a rough wood table in an inn that Zek recommended. It’s a small establishment that doesn’t seem to balk at the presence of a large wizard.

Across the table sits Zek. His large hands are wrapped around a clay mug of strong tea.

“Going to pay for that?” you ask.

“Already did.”

“Going to share?”

He grins and a second mug appears. You pull it toward you and sniff the contents.

“King arrested the innkeeper, the castle cook, and one of the stable hands last night,” Zek informs you. “The lightening wizard implicated them in his plans to kidnap the princess.”

“Why did he want the princess?” you ask.

Zek shrugs and takes a sip before answering. “No official statement,” he says. “My guess, they wanted to blackmail the King for some reason.”

“Hmm,” you grumble. It’s not a satisfying answer but it’s probably all you’ll ever know. You sip from the mug. “Gah!” You set it back down with a frown.

“Not cider,” you grumble.

“Not cider,” Zek agrees. With the innkeeper’s arrest, his cider is no longer available and not even Zek can make it appear.

You resign yourself to tea and take contentment in having your name cleared and gaining a wizard for a friend.

The End

Thank you for joining this adventure. I look forward to seeing you next time.

Until then, many blessings,

Jennifer

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Set Up Option Aa: Ambush the Ambushers

Foggy Woods - Set Up Adventure

We’re being brave this week and attempting to catch those who set you up for the dowry heist.

If you missed the first two parts of this adventure, here’s the quick rundown. You were the only one to survive a heist that stole the princess’ dowry. The wizard, who was supposed to protect it with you, didn’t show up for the transport because he was told the wrong details. Now he wants to clear both your names. When you investigated the woods, you found a contract for two more jobs. One of those jobs is happening now and you’re about to ambush those who ambushed you during the first heist. (Sheesh, that’s a bit confusing. If you’d like to read the first two parts, you can find them here and here.)

Now, let’s see what happens.

Set Up…Ambush the Ambushers

Trees tower in dark columns as night falls and obscures the fine detail of their shapes. Above, a small sliver of a moon peeks through the canopy but it’s the mass of stars that appear with it that give you any real light. Their silvery cast turns the road to a light gray pocked with shadow.

Much earlier in the day you and Wizard Ezekiel picked out two locations in which to hide. Now, you’re hunkered in a deep gray cloak as you sit on the hard ground. You blend perfectly with the boulders to the right and left of your position.

Tree tops - Set Up AdventureAcross the road sits the Wizard. Before night fell you could just pick out the rounded gray top of his head covered by his own cloak but now, even knowing his location, you can’t exactly say what’s him and what is the rock surrounding his position. He stays unnaturally still.

You keep half an eye on the road and half an eye on his general location. He set up several signals in which to communicate and, although they’re all sound signals, you strain to keep track of anything coming from his spot.

This diligence pays off when two cricket chirps pierce the stillness. There’s a pause and two more echo into the trees.

Two men spotted on the Wizard’s side of the road.

Movement catches your eye. It detaches from the trees and settles into the rocks to your right.

You blink and see another shape join the first. The darkness hides much of their outline but you blink again to be sure. Something else is making it hard to see. Then you feel a chill touch your exposed face and moisture beads against your skin.

You give two chirps, pause, and give two more to tell Wizard Ezekiel about the men on your side of the road.

He immediately responds with three chirps.

You’re stomach rolls with new apprehension. There’s a second wizard out there. That explains the fog that’s rolling in now in waves. Even with the dim light, which is dimmer now than before since you can’t see the stars, you can make out gusts of fog rolling around you.

Wagon Wheel - Set Up AdventureThe crunch of coach wheels on the hard packed road fills the eerie pea soup. By now it’s so thick you can’t make out the shapes of the men to your right but you can tell the coach is close.

You brought your sword but with the current weather, you don’t want to simply attack anything that moves.

Instead, you fall back onto the other plan you and the Wizard discussed.

“It’s an ambush! RUN!” Your shout breaks the quiet like shattering glass.

A muffled curse comes from your right, followed by the ringing of steel as it’s drawn from a sheath.

There’s the crack of reins and the whinny of horses and then the coach hurtles past your position.

All of this is drowned out by the sudden, blinding crack of lightening. You see it streak through the fog and crash against the road behind the sudden shadow outline of the coach. Then everything goes dark again. The outline of the lightening bolt is printed on your eyes and this almost makes you miss the approach of one of the ambushers.

At the last moment, you blink and catch movement to your right. Instinctively, you faint back and pull your own sword free. Your attacker’s footing on the rocks proves unstable as he overcommits and loses his balance. He cries out and in the next flash of lightening, you see him wind milling toward the ground.

He grunts as he falls.

You wait, ready for him to rise and attack again, but he doesn’t move.

“Sam?” someone hollers. “Sam, you there?”

“Sam is down,” you inform the person.

Another flash of lightening illuminates the scene. Two men now stand in the rocks with you, each with their own sword drawn.

Sam lays crumpled in the rocks with a welt swelling his temple.

There’s another flash immediately after the first. One of the men drops his sword and runs, fleeing up the road from the way the coach just came.

In the darkness that follows, you hear another sword clatter against the rocks and the pound of more running feet.

You could pursue and maybe capture them.

Across the road there’s a thud and a crack like a boulder hitting a tree. Lightening streaks through the fog and you can see the outline of the two wizards facing off. There’s no upper hand as far as you can tell.

You could help Wizard Ezekiel gain the upper hand.

Do you…

Aa1: Help Ezekiel?

Or

Aa2: Pursue the fleeing men?

Thanks for joining the adventure this week! In the comments, let me know which option you’d like to explore. Whichever one gets the most votes will be explored next Thursday.

Blessings,

Jennifer

Set Up Option A: Investigate the Woods

Forest Trail

(Read the first part of this adventure here.)

The sun plays in and out of the forest above onto the pathway as you walk. Compared to the evening you were ambushed, it’s a quite place, peaceful. Birds chirp and a squirrel chatters loudly as you get too close to his tree.

Squirrel - Set Up AdventureBeside you the wizard walks with surprisingly soft steps for his size. His large hands stay stuffed into the pockets of his robe and his eyes stay fixed on the road, on the sides of the path, and the forest surrounding you, like he’s just waiting for something to go awry.

In the inn he looked like a large man. Now, walking beside him in Mirrorland Forest, he’s a giant. Several times as you walk he ducks to avoid hanging branches from the trees. No wonder whoever took the dowry made sure he never even met up with it.

He introduced himself as Wizard Ezekiel. You wonder if calling him Zek would be an offense.

“The transport was ambushed just ahead,” you say and point up the road to a spot where several large boulders encroach on the path.

“What do you remember?” he asks in his rumbling deep voice.

“Shouts,” you answer. “I was the rear guard. When I heard the others shouting, I rushed to join them. Someone caught me there,” you point to an oak tree that overhangs the road, “from above. Dropped on top of me and, the next thing I knew, I was being woken by the King’s men who were sent to find the transport when it didn’t show up on time. Rather un-heroic moment for me.”

Wizard Ezekiel doesn’t respond to your last admission. He walks underneath the oak and stares up into its heavy branches.

“Piece of hair,” he holds out his hand.

“What?”

“I need a piece of your hair.” He snaps his fingers. It startles the birds into silence for a moment.

You hesitate. “No toads,” you remind him.

He snorts and shakes the large hand he’s holding toward you. With a resigned sigh, you pull a strand of hair and give it over.

“This isn’t enough to turn you into an amphibian anyway,” he gives a devious half grin as he twirls the single strand between his fingers. Chuckling at your consternation, he turns away and places the hair onto his large palm. He holds it up toward the tree’s overhanging branches and gently blows the strand into the leaves.

Just like that, you’re looking at a hazy image of yourself running down the road. In the oak sits a cloaked figure. With the cloak and his absolute stillness, he blends almost perfectly into the leaves of the tree. It’s only his hazy outline and the fact you know he’s there that you spot him.

You and the wizard walk around until you can see the figure’s face.

“We know him,” you say in shock.

“Hmm,” Wizard Ezekiel agrees.

The innkeeper’s face is lined and focused but his usual friendly smile is not in evidence. Instead, he’s staring at your running figure with consternation and a kind of guilty realization.

“I think you’re alive because he knows you,” the wizard says. “I’m starting to think you were not supposed to live.”

“What’s that?” you point to a piece of paper sticking out of his breast pocket.

Contract - Set Up AdventureWith gentle fingers, Wizard Ezekiel pulls the phantom paper free and unfolds it like it’s made from brittle bark.

“Contract.” He tilts the yellowed page for you to see. Orange stains pock mark the paper, making you think of the man’s cider.

“For the dowry—” you trail off as you read the rest, “and two other jobs.”

“One of which happens tonight when the princess leaves for her wedding,” Wizard Ezekiel points to the date.

The hazy memory image dissipates like smoke.

“This,” the wizard gestures at the tree where the image just stood, “is not enough to convince the King of the man’s guilt. He does not trust magic evidence. We need something more.”

“We could ambush the ambushers tonight?” you suggest.

“Or let the princess’ guards know about the ambush,” Wizard Ezekiel offers back.

You shake your head. “Both of us are under suspicion from the first job. The guards are not likely to trust us. We might be able to get the innkeeper to turn to our side if we confront him.”

Wizard Ezekiel shrugs. “You’re better with people. Which option do you fancy?”

Aa. Ambush the Ambushers?

Or

Ab. Confront Innkeeper?

Let me know in the comments which option catches your fancy. Next Thursday, we’ll see what happens next.

Until then, blessings,

Jennifer

Fire Wizard

Welcome!

I’m mixing things up this week. Due to a request, I’m continuing the Wizard Wittlestrom story with our new young wizard Pete. If you’re not familiar with this series, you can either check them out to the side under Wizard Whittlestrom (The stories are in order) or here’s the cliff notes version.

Wizard’s Coffee: Wizard Whittlestrom shows up in Dorsa looking for a new drink for the Missis and only the six year old, Pete, is able to help him after the Wizard’s magic runs amok.

Wizard’s Baker: Whittlestrom arrives home to find himself out of fashion. He employs the help of the Baker, Master Gus, to help him figure out new fashion and poor Master Gus gets the backlash from Whittlestrom’s magic but figures Whittlestrom isn’t nearly as bad as the others who tend to burn things down or turn people into frogs.

Wizard’s Move: The Capital decides to move the wizards. Whittlestrom gets out of moving by saying he’s helping to remodel the bakery but utterly messes up when he ruins the bakery with magic. Master Gus sends him away only to realize the next morning that Zorban, the fire wizard, is now his new neighbor and wizard. Zorban attempts to help remodel and Master Gus begs Whittlestrom to come back before Zorban burns down the bakery.

Wizard’s Justice: Pete comes to visit Whittlestrom in the Capital but when he arrives, someone’s blown up the bakery. Due to some previous observations, Pete’s able to point out Wizard Zorban as the culprit. Whittlestrom challenges Zorban to a duel and it’s discovered Zorban’s a fake and Pete has latent magic. Whittlestrom takes on Pete as his apprentice after the Wizards take Zorban into custody.

Fire Wizard

“Squat like a frog.”

“Ribbit.”

“No, no. Not the sound, you might belch fire with it. Just the squat.”

Pete giggled and did as told. His gangly knees angled out past his shoulders as he laid his hands on the grass.

“Perfectly ribbity!” Belch. A goute of flame shot from his mentor, Whittlestrom, with the R of the word.

“See,” Whittlestrom wagged his bushy brows, “never know what’ll come out with that word.”

Pete giggled again. Lessons always went this way. For the past four years, Pete danced, crawled, climbed and cartwheeled with the tall wizard. He loved it just as much now as he had when he was six. The wizard was just as much a kid as he.

It was great!

All the kids at home mocked Pete. The adults of Dorsa demanded maturity. Sit straight, keep you clothes clean, do your chores. Never run!

Pete couldn’t stop himself though. His feet demanded speed or at least a jig.

And the other kids knew it. They laid traps for him. Trip wires, pits of mud and so forth.

Not here. If Pete got muddy, Whittlestrom was more so. His long beard would drip with mud before the wizard was satisfied he’d taught the lesson to perfection.

But today didn’t involve mud.

No matter. Today involved air.

“Right then,” Whittlestrom crouched down next to him like a frog. “Hop.”

Pete hopped and barely suppressed the urge to ‘ribbit.’ Fire was a natural to Pete. Ever since he’d caught fire that first day, the element responded like a puppy, eager to please. Sometimes too eager. He didn’t want to catch the field on fire, so he clamped his teeth shut on the ‘ri…”

“Great, great! Hop again.”

Pete and Whittlestrom hopped in circles until they flopped over laughing.

Wiping tears from the corners of his eyes with the sleeves of his robe, Whittlestrom sat up.

“Air’s not heavy or pushy like earth or water,” he instructed, “air’s light like your laugh.”

The wizard repositioned himself into a frog squat and grinned.

“So hop and laugh. You are light as bee wings.”

Light as bee wings. Light as bee wings.

Squating, Pete hopped and giggled.

Light as…

Hop.

Ha!

Whittlestrom leapfrogged him.

Poppa would be incensed to see the distinguished wizard leapfrogging.

Whittlestrom landed to the side and in front of Pete.

My turn!

Ha!

He hopped higher than ever before but clipped the wizard’s shoulder.

Tumbling into a sprawl, Pete scrambled to his knees.

“I’m sorr-“

Whittlestrom giggled where he was strewn on his back. “Try again, boy. Try again.”

They both crouched and hopped until Pete found his chance.

Ha!

He cleared Whittlestrom’s back with ease. The wizard leapfrogged him back and it became a game of who could leap higher.

Collapsing in gasps, Pete looked up to see stars appearing.

“Yup, time to head back,” Whittlestrom agreed.

“Piggy back?” Pete asked.

Instead of answering, Whittlestrom threw him into the air and turned.

Pete landed slung over the Wizard’s shoulder. He scrambled around until he could ride piggy back and clasped his hands lightly around Whittlestrom’s neck.

“There’s a secret to magic,” Whittlestrom mumbled, “but it’s for you to figure. When you do, magic’ll be yours to command.”

“Secret?”

Whittlestrom never mentioned this before.

“Yup, a secret.”

The walls of the Capital came into view, hulking black in the night.

“Does Mrs. Whit know it?”

“Nope, though she might guess.” The wizard shrugged, lifting Pete’s arms with the motion.

As they passed the gates, the guards bowed, recognizing wizard robes.

Pete settled into the silence since Whittlestrom seemed reluctant to say more.

The Capital still amazed him.

Dorsa was nothing like the Capital. It didn’t have a wall or cobbled streets or tall buildings. Nor did it have wizards.

Listening, Pete made out the snap and boom of other wizards roaming the city. For the umteenth time, he was glad Whittlestrom apprenticed him. The other wizards, though kind, were nothing like his friend. They showed off a lot and didn’t care what they destroyed. Just that morning one almost put a boulder through the wall of Master Gus’ bakery.

Luckily Whittlestrom expanded his air shield to include the bakery after the duel with the false wizard Zorban.

As they turned onto the street with the plum colored cottage and the bakery, Whittlestrom’s step stuttered.

Then he stopped.

Peeking down the road over the wizard’s shoulder, Pete couldn’t see what stopped his friend.

“What’s wrong?”

“It’s gone.”

“What?”

“My shield and the lighted walk is dark.”

Now that he’d been told, Pete saw the cottage was dark too.

“Was Mrs. Whit out this evening?”

Whittlestrom let Pete drop and raced to the cottage.

By the time Pete caught up to the Wizard’s long strides, Whittlestrom was emerging from the front door with a slip of paper in his hand.

Pete shrank back from the look in the wizard’s eyes.

“Sir?”

“Find Master Gus.”

Pete bolted to the bakery. Shoving the front door open, his feet stuttered and he went sprawling over Master Gus’ legs.

Flipping over, he confirmed, Master Gus was tied to one of his tables. A gag muffled his mouth.

Pulling the gag, Pete clutched his hands around his sides.

“Master Gus?”

“That dirty-“

“So it’s true.”

Pete jumped. He’d missed Whittlestrom entering behind him.

“Yes,” Master Gus said. “Zorban escaped. He took Mrs. Whit.”

***

He’d seen goofy, he’d seen angry, he’d seen serious-well kind of. Whittlestrom took all things lightly.

But this wasn’t taking things lightly. This was downright scary.

The wizard paced his yard while Pete waited with Master Gus off to the side.

Master Gus’ arm rested across his shoulders. A gesture he’d usually pull away from. He was a big boy, after all. But not right now. Right now he hugged his arms tightly against his body to hide the shaking in his hands.

“Is he all right?” he whispered.

“Not sure,” Master Gus answered honestly. That was the thing about the baker. It didn’t matter who you were, he’d tell you straight.

Whittlestrom pivoted on a heel and came back toward where they stood against the fence. Shoots of fire spurted from his heels with every step. But it was the wizard’s fingers he watched.

Something orangish kept singing between those fingers, hissing as it jumped from fingertip to finger tip. This wasn’t the usual wizard sparks.

A part of him envied the easy magic. The only time it was easy for Pete was during lessons and he still didn’t know why. But that part was small as he watched Whittlestrom fidget over the fate of his wife.

“How to…” the wizard muttered.

Pete leaned forward but couldn’t hear all of the words. He clenched his teeth tight but the urge to ask popped out anyway.

“Wouldn’t Mrs. Whit leave a sign? Or Zorban leave prints?” He swallowed hard as Whittlestrom turned to eye him.

The wizard fingered his long beard.

“Great leaping frogs! Of course!” He exclaimed. Throwing his hands into the air, clouds of tiny particles like dust that shifted color flew from Whittlestrom to blanket the yard.

It settled into two colors, plum and red.

“Plum’s my Missis. Red’s the culprit.”

Pete jumped and pointed, “over there!”

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Over the side of the fence ran a mess of red smudges and hand prints.

Mixed in was one plum print like Mrs. Whit tried to grab hold of the fence.

“That’s the ticket!” Whittlestrom strode over and hopped the fence.

Pete darted after before he lost sight and Master Gus’ steps sounded from behind him.

Pete hopped like he’d been taught but light as bee wings turned into light as…bricks because of the worry in his stomach. His feet clipped the fence and he sprawled face first on the ground beyond.

Behind him Master Gus heaved himself over and then gave him a hand up.

“Okay?”

“Yup. Gotta catch up!”

Pete ignored the burning from his skinned palms and face. he couldn’t loose Whittlestrom.

He needn’t have worried. Whittlestrom continued to throw dust and the signs of plum and red prints lingered.

They followed them through the Capital and out the gates.

Then the prints headed off the road into the forest to the left.

“Come on, Master Gus.” Pete grabbed the man’s slender hand and pulled him along.

“Hope we find her soon,” Master Gus mumbled, “we didn’t bring any food and she’ll probably be hungry.”

Pete realized he was hungry. He hadn’t had dinner either. Poor Mrs. Whit.

They skidded to a halt a moment later.

Whittlestrom stood frozen.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Before them was a small stone building and then a sharp drop into a canyon.

Zorban sat in a chair before the building, whittling away at a piece of wood.

Pete shuddered. He’d never felt right about Zorban and had thought he’d never see the man again after Whittlestrom defeated him in a fiery duel. The wizards were supposed to pass judgement on him for impersonating a wizard but apparently Zorban was more clever than they anticipated since he sat here now, free.

It wasn’t the false wizard that had Whittlestrom frozen though.

It was the cable next to Zorban that extended to a pole over the canyon. From that pole hung poor Mrs. Whit.

Release the cable and away she’d go.

Tears trailed down her cheeks but she wasn’t whimpering or struggling. It took a lot of courage to be a wizard’s wife and that courage stood her in good stead now. Pete tried to smile at her but he didn’t think she saw him.

“Took you longer than I expected to get here,” Zorban said. “Must be slipping in your old age.”

He grinned, showing several blackened teeth.

“You know, the wizards decided to hang me for my deception? Figured it would discourage others from pretending wizardom. Very logical really.” The false wizard shrugged and pitched his whittling to the side before standing.

With a finger he tested the cable to Mrs. Whit. It twanged and Whittlestrom seemed to vibrate with the cable.

“But I’ve a problem with the wizard’s verdict. They get to make up laws? The get to punish people? Says who?”

Master Gus snorted. “They govern their own ’cause it’s not like anyone else could keep them in line. That’s who. You meddled in their business and now you complain? Didn’t complain when people bowed to ya!”

Zorban snarled and pitched something at Master Gus. It sparked and hissed.

Pete jumped and clutched the object to himself until it gave a soft pop.

Fire engulfed him as he hit the ground and rolled.

It still amazed him how fire was so eager at his touch. He stared at his arms to make sure they weren’t burned but only his sleeves smoked.

Zorban sneered and returned his attention to Whittlestrom.

“I figure if I take something precious from the great Whittlestrom, an original wizard to boot, and the others will think twice before passing judgement on me.”

Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out a few small balls the color of charcoal.

“You know my affinity for fire and I know your secret. The secret to magic,” he grinned, “so I give you a challenge. Save your wife.” He pitched the balls at the ground.

They shattered and exploded in a wash of fire.

“Wizard’s fire,” Zorban cackled from the safety of the stone building’s doorway. “Can only be extinguished by a wizard and his breath. Oh, and if you kill me, the whole house’ll explode and take your wife with it.”

The fire licked at the trees, the ground, the cable, the pole. Everything within reach.

Pete looked to Whittlestrom. So easy a task! He’d seen Whittlestrom do far more impressive things than put out a fire but the tall wizard huffed and huffed and then his eyes started tearing.

“I’m loosing it,” he said. “I can’t-“

“What?” Master Gus ran to shake the wizard. “It’s your wife, of course you can.”

“I can’t,” Whittlestrom stared at Mrs. Whit, tears falling unhindered down his whiskered cheeks.

“But only a wizard can stop this, you have to,” Master Gus shook him again.

Zorban’s laugh echoed over them. “Not so easy when it matters most.”

Pete’s eyes watered with smoke.

Only a wizard.

I’m not a full wizard…

But watching Whittlestrom try agian and sputter only sparks, Pete knew the poor man couldn’t think past Mrs. Whit.

But what’s the secret to magic?

Pete wracked his mind. Magic was always so easy during their lessons.

But he tried on his own with varying results.

Whittlestrom sat on the ground now sobbing. Splashes of water, a mimic of his tears, hit the fire but it only hissed. It wasn’t enough to cool the flames.

Master Gus held the wizard’s shoulders, speaking to him earnestly but Pete wan’t sure Whittlestrom actually heard. He continued to stare at Mrs. Whit.

There was a pop and the pole holding her sagged.

Oh no!

Maybe if I jump over, I can pull her out.

Pete crouched but even before he hopped, he knew it wouldn’t be high enough.

He heard a cry as he tumbled into the flames. They were quite warm on his skin but not scorching.

Hello flames.

The heat licked at him and tried to follow as he rolled free but he refused it.

Being soaked in flame wouldn’t help right now.

Maybe he could push it away.

Gathering his courage- walking into fire wasn’t exactly natural -Pete stepped forward.

Instandly the flames converged on him like moths to lights.

He tried to refuse it, to push it away. Hope flared as he cleared a circle. He reached the anchor to the cable but then his hope dwindled. He couldn’t get his circle to expand any more and the fire ate away at the cable farther along.

Zorban laughed from the doorway and Pete glared at him.

He couldn’t pull Mrs. Whit in. She was too far away from the canyon ledge for him to reach and he wasn’t strong enough to pull her in using the cable. Using magic to help might start her on fire considering his affinity to the stuff and how erratic his magic was, he couldn’t risk it.

Mrs. Whit’s dark eyes met his and the corners crinkled. She was smiling at him! This woman was all the mother he’d known and she was smiling while hanging over a cliff.

Pete smiled back as tears clogged his throat. Not that! Can’t break like Whittlestrom.

But Mrs. Whit threw back her head and started to laugh through her gag. She swung her legs, making her whole body sway crazily back and forth.

She laughed all the harder.

Sweet Mrs. Whit had gone crazy. Her eyes met his again. There was no insanity. Only laughter.

That’s it!

That was the connection between all of Whittlestrom’s lessons.

They were always fun, interesting, childish.

Pete’s eyes O’ed as all the wizard’s made sense.

They’re crazy actions were their way of keeping their child’s heart. And their magic!

Now that he thought about it. Magic had been easier at 6 than now at 10. When all it was to him was fun.

Fire caressed Pete’s hands where they hung at his sides.

He couldn’t repel it so maybe he should invite it.

Mrs. Whit grinned at him and he grinned back before turning to face the blaze.

Light as bee wings.

Instead of hopping, he imagined the wings making him fly and giggled as he rose into the air.

Zorban snatched at his ankle but missed and fell flat on the ground.

Pete chuckled again. Serves him right.

He stepped in the air over the fire.

Hello fire.

It crackled and flared.

Come to me.

It leapt to his hands but that wasn’t enough.

Recalling the story of Whittlestrom drinking stars, Pete laughed aloud.

How does fire taste?

He sucked in air like he was drinking water.

And then he was drinking fire. It filled him down to his toes and heated his blood.

He kept drinking. It warmed his mind and played through his thoughts.

Hello friend. 

He kept drinking…until there was no more and his lips snapped closed.

He felt full to bursting like his skin could light the night.

As he began to drop, Whittlestrom dashed to pull in his wife and Master Gus hit Zorban with a loud smack. Pete never would have guessed Master Gus could move so fast.

Zorban hit the ground, out cold.

Feet touching down, Pete collapsed to his knees, exhausted and suddenly feeling the scratches on his face and hands.

“Dear, we have a young fire wizard!”

Mrs. Whit!

Pete grinned at her. Of course she knew the secret to magic.

“Yes, how extremely rare,” Whittlestrom winked, some of his old humor returning as he held his wife.

“I think I’m starving,” Pete admitted. Fire might be tasty but it wasn’t filling to his stomach.

Master Gus burst out laughing. “I knew we’d be hungry.”

“Well, let’s get home,” Mrs. Whit suggested. “Dear, please take care of that one.” She waved her fingers at Zorban.

Whittlestrom snapped and the man disappeared. “To the wizard’s hold he goes. This time solitary confinement until I meet with the others.”

He snapped again and they returned home.

***

Finishing his last bite of bread, Pete belched and a wave of smoke escaped him. He clapped a hand over his mouth.

“Excuse me!”

“Happens when you drink fire,” Whittlestrom shrugged.

“Be glad it didn’t burn you from the inside out. Any other wizard would have killed himself.” Mrs. Whit offered him more bread but he declined.

“Burned himself?”

“Only a fire wizard can drink fire,” Whittlestrom explained. “It’s your best friend.”

Pete digested that and then glanced out of the corner of his eye at Whittlestrom. He wanted to understand what happened to his mentor, but he couldn’t seem to work up the courage. The wizard caught him looking.

“Wondering, I suppose, why the great and mighty Whittlestrom froze?”

Pete nodded as he flushed red.

“Because, my boy, the thing that makes all magic possible is a thing of childhood. It’s the fearlessness to try. Every wizard out there had that as a child. They never worried something might fail, they just tried whatever their mind could conjure. As we grow older, we all develop our individual ways to keep that fearlessness. Out there, I feared I’d fail and so I did.” He shrugged again.

“Happens to the best,” Mrs. Whit smiled. “Now, would anyone like some cherry pie?”

The End

Thanks for stopping by.

Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,

Jennifer

P.S. I love feedback, so if anyone has suggestions, questions, or comments on what they like or what doesn’t seem to work, please let me know. Just be gentle to my poor thin skinned feelings. Thanks.

Wizard’s Justice

Welcome to Monday=)

This story is our fourth adventure with Wizard Whittlestrom. You can read it as its own story if you like, however, there are a lot of references in this one back to Wizard’s Coffee, Wizard’s Baker, and Wizard’s Move.

You can read the previous stories by clicking on the links to the left or here’re the Cliff Notes version. If you’ve already read the others, skip to the title below and enjoy=)

Wizard’s Coffee: Wizard Whittlestrom shows up in Dorsa looking for a new drink for the Missis and only the six year old, Pete, is able to help him.

Wizard’s Baker: Whittlestrom arrives home to find himself out of fashion. He employs the help of the Baker, Master Gus, to help him figure out new fashion and poor Master Gus gets the backlash from Whittlestrom’s magic but figures Whittlestrom isn’t nearly as bad as the others who tend to burn things down or turn people into frogs.

Wizard’s Move: The Capital decides to move the wizards. Whittlestrom gets out of moving by saying he’s helping to remodel the bakery but utterly messes up when he ruins the bakery with magic. Master Gus sends him away only to realize the next morning that Zorban, the fire wizard, is now his new neighbor and wizard. Zorban attempts to help remodel and Master Gus begs Whittlestrom to come back before Zorban burns down the bakery.

Wizard’s Justice

He’d never been to the capital! Home was brown and stone buildings and muddy streets.

All very sensi…sensible, Papa always said.

Pete clutched his bag to his small chest and glanced at Papa.

Papa’s face looked funny, like he was sucking on a lemon. It was his thinking face.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

It probably took a lot of thinking to not get lost in the Capital. It had flattened rocks instead of muddy streets and the buildings! Pete craned his neck to see where they stopped. They were so tall. Papa said they were several floors. Dorsa didn’t have any buildings with several floors. Pete tried to picture being on the second floor and a shiver ran his spine.

How’d the people keep from falling through?

Papa headed toward a building with a horseshoe hanging out front. That’s why Papa made the trip, cause he needed a new workhorse and there weren’t any good ones to buy in Dorsa. Everyone knew if you wanted a horse that would last, you bought him from Master Kemmerling in the Capital.

Pete begged for a week to come along. He hugged his bag tighter. He hadn’t come to see Master Kemmerling or some horse, he’d come to see a friend.

Papa laughed and told him he was crazy but he still let Pete come along.

Papa didn’t understand. Pete wanted to give the wizard a smile like Mr. McCowen said he had before. Mr. McCowen was so surprised that day but Pete just knew he loved the way the wizard’s dark eyes sparkled.

They promised secrets and fun like no other adult.

Papa spoke to the tall Master Kemmerling while Pete stared at the things hanging on the wall. Leather straps and metal buckles, saddles and bits. All sorts of horsie items but he couldn’t name them all. He was learning. Papa was teaching him but he wasn’t strong enough or tall enough yet to really help out.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

He flexed his arm, checking the muscles. Nope, not yet.

The door swung open and a stocky man strode in.

Pete’s mouth gaped open. Another wizard! Bushy brows and long robe, the whole spiel!

“Morning, Wizard Zorban,” Master Kemmerling greeted the new comer.

“My horse?” demanded the wizard.

“Stall two, ready to go. Just watch…”

Zorban flicked his fingers and Master Kemmerling shut his mouth and swallowed. Wizard fingers could always throw sparks.

“I don’t need your advice, just bring my horse.”

Master Kemmerling bowed and excused himself.

Wizards always take first in line, so Pete and Papa waited.

Wizard Zorban eyed them. Pete grinned back. Maybe he could make a new friend.

“Have you ever…” he took several steps toward the stocky man as he spoke, which placed him between Zorban and the door.

The door opened, admitting Master Kemmerling. Pete yelped and jumped as the door clipped his heels and he landed at Wizard Zorban’s feet.

The wizard scowled at him.

“Outa my way, boy!” He shoved Pete back and his bag flew from his hands as he fell on his rump.

“My bag!” Pete scurried from under Zorban’s feet but not before something smacked his forehead.

Zorban had stepped over him and an object, like a black stick hanging from a string, swung under the wizard’s robe near his feet.

Pete rubbed his face. What would a wizard carry under his robe? He had no clue but whatever it was welted his forehead.

Wizards were weird. Papa always said so and Pete was starting to think he was right.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Papa gave him a hand up and handed his bag to him. Pete clutched it tight as tears pricked his eyes.

Sniffling, he tried to hold it in. I’m a big boy! And big boys don’t cry. Every one said so.

Several tears still escaped and Pete turned away as Papa finished his dealings with Master Kemmerling.

By the time Papa was done and they left the shop, he had himself under control and was excited again.

Who cared about Zorban! Pete was here to see Whittlestrom.

And tomorrow was the day! Pete gapped again as they walked the streets, barely able to believe his eyes at the arches and statues, vendors and buyers…so many people. Pete bounced, barely able to contain himself. He wanted to point at everything!

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

They asked directions from a vendor. The man looked at them like they were insane.

“Next to the bakery,” he said, “in a plum colored cottage. Can’t miss it.”

Pete bounced beside Papa imagining living in a plum colored house. Of course Wizard Whittlestrom lived in a plum colored house. It was awesome!

They rounded a corner and Pete jumped and pointed.

“Look, Papa!”

The vendor had been right. Sitting smack in the middle of shops and tall houses of wood and brick squatted a deep purple cottage with yellow flowers out front.

In the yard knelt a woman.

“That must be Wizard Whittlestrom’s Missis,” Pete exclaimed.

Papa gave an ‘oh, dear’ and his mouth turned down at the corners.

Pete’s stomach sank. That was Papa’s ‘I’m having second thoughts’ face.

Before Papa could change his mind, Pete ran forward, calling,

“Mrs. Whittlestrom? Mrs…”

She stood and turned just as Pete reached the gate.

Then there was a Kaboom! And Pete saw her feet leave the ground just before something hit him and he flew backwards.

He landed on his back with a whoosh and something smacked his stomach as debris fell around him.

It was a moment before air returned to him and then it whistled through his tight throat. He turned his head to see what hit his stomach.

A stick. A black stick with some sort of black sugar leaking out one side.

Pete sat up and couldn’t help the sob that came from his mouth. He hurt but there wasn’t blood.

“Pete! Pete!” Papa appeared and gathered him close. Then he pushed him back. “You hurt? You bleeding?” All the while his hands ran along Pete’s arms and legs.

Over Papa’s shoulder Pete saw the woman. Helping her to her feet was Whittlestrom and a thin man stood beside him staring at the remains of the bakery. It had exploded, leaving nothing but a black smudge in its place.

“At least you weren’t inside,” Whittlestrom was saying to the man.

“But nothing would have exploded like that. I swear, Master Wizard, nothing was on when I left this morning.”

Whittlestrom’s heavy brows drew into a bushy line.

Pete glanced at the stick that hit him and back to the poor baker.

“I’m fine, Papa,” he pushed Papa’s hands away and grabbed the stick. “Wizard Whittlestrom, Wizard Whittlestrom!”

All three adults swung around to see who was calling.

Whittlestrom’s brows shot up in surprise, wrinkling his forehead.

“Pete Meren?”

He remembered!

Pete stopped and looked up…and up. His mouth went dry and so he simply held out the black stick.

“What’s this?”

“It…it hit me,” Pete confessed.

The wizard took the stick in his fingers and dumped some of the black powder into his palm.

His lips pulled back into an angry snarl and Pete shrank back.

“Someone did this on purpose,” he announced.

“What?” The baker cried.

Whittlestrom dumped the powder onto the ground and sent a few sparks at it.

Boom!

Pete jumped but he wasn’t the only one. Mrs. Whittlestrom’s hand flew to her chest and she placed her other hand on Whittlestrom’s arm to steady herself.

“Who would do this?” Whittlestrom shouted, “who?” he looked around with flashing dark eyes and anyone close enough to hear his booming question ducked away before he saw them.

Pete stepped back. This wasn’t the wizard he remembered. This Whittlestrom was angry, scary.

“Oh, dear,” Mrs. Whittlestrom placed a hand on Pete’s shoulder, “you know, don’t you?”

Pete nodded.

“Who, dear?” Her eyes were kind. Pete looked at her and only her.

“Another wizard,” he whispered, “he pushed me yesterday and I saw those under his robes when I fell. A wizard Zorban.”

The baker gasped. Mrs. Whittlestrom bowed her head. The Wizard laughed and they all looked at him in surprise.

“Good lad,” he patted Pete’s head and the sparkle returned to his eyes. Pete grinned back.

“Dear, take Pete and his Pa and Master Gus to the yard.”

“Garius, what are you going to do?”

“Serve up some Wizard Justice!”

“Oh, my,” Mrs. Whittlestrom ushered them into the cottage’s front yard. “Hopefully the yard’ll protect us.”

“What?” Master Gus, the baker, asked. He looked bewildered.

“Garius placed thickened air around the cottage. I asked him to because it holds out some of the backlash, you know.”

Master Gus nodded vigorously. Pete pictured Mr. McCowen’s purple spikey hair and thought he understood.

Whittlestrom snapped his fingers and one Wizard Zorban appeared in the road before him. He snapped again and more wizards appeared along the curbs. Tall wizards, short wizards, fat wizards, skinny wizards. All in flashing robes and heavy brows. All with long beards.

Pete gapped.

“What’s the meaning of this?” Zorban demanded, eyeing the audience of government wizards.

Wittlestrom straightened his back and extended a hand although he was nowhere near Zorban.

“I, Wizard Garius Whittlestrom, challenge you to a wizard’s duel!”

A black glove appeared in the air before Zorban’s face. Whittlestrom flicked his wrist and the glove smacked Zorban across the chin.

Pete grinned at Papa. A wizard’s duel! It was legendary! He leaned against the gate to see better and Papa pulled him back by his collar.

He scowled and waited for Papa to let go before leaning forward again.

The other wizards muttered and gestured as they lined the road. Pete barely glanced at them. What would Whittlestrom do?

“This ends when a wizard can no longer spark,” said one wizard, a big one with a booming voice and pudgy cheeks.

Zorban and Whittlestrom bowed and then turned their backs to each other.

“On one,” boomed the moderator, “three…two…one.”

Whittlestrom immediately hit his knees as Zorban sent a ball of flame over his head.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Pete gasped but Whittlestrom winked before spinning and flinging dozens of large marbles down the road. Zorban jumped but there were too many. He skittered and stuttered with his arms flailing. He shot random balls of flame as he flailed.

Several stopped just short of the witness wizards.

One blossomed on the air shield just above Pete’s head. He gawked as it splattered sparks.

Whittlestrom flung his hands into the air and his sparks hissed and sizzled as clouds formed above Zorban. The clouds let loose and drenched the stocky wizard.

Zorban sputtered but pitched several round shapes down the road.

One hit the cobbled road with a boom! And cratered the stone. The second boomed and the building to Whittlestrom’s right crumbled, exposing the insides of a dining room and several people hiding inside.

Whittlestrom’s shoulders hunched as he raised his hands again. Large sparks flew as his clouds thinned into ropes and a net with stones weighing the edges. With a flick of his hands, he dropped his arms. The net entrapped Zorban.

Zorban hit the ground but he snaked one arm free and flame shot toward Whittlestrom.

Pete frowned. It didn’t look right. There was fire but…

Whittlestrom ducked and the flame hit a tree in the intersection behind him. The branches whooshed and great snakes of fire climbed high into the air.

Whittlestrom stepped back from the heat.

Zorban shot more flame while he was distracted.

Pete yelped a yarning but it wasn’t loud enough. Even still, Whittlestrom stepped to the side of the shot and it hit the flaming tree instead with a loud crack.

The tree tilted.

Zorban’s fingers beaconed it, like he controlled the tree’s fall.

Pete frowned harder. Still no sparks.

“He’s not sparking!” He shouted.

The tree cracked and fell.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

Zorban sent a new shot of flame, not at Whittlestrom but at Pete, just as Whittlestrom reached up and sparks flew as he held the tree off his head so he could escape its flaming branches.

Pete’s arms flew up. Air shield or no, a flaming ball warranted reaction!

“Ahh!” Pete screamed as the ball flashed against the screen. The air popped and then the fire rained down.

His arms tingled, his hair stood on end, and his teeth ached. But he wasn’t burning.

No, the fire danced along his skin in ticklish waves.

Pete held his hands up in amazement and then jumped as he saw Zorban standing down the street, free of the net.

Without thought, he balled his hands and pitched.

Sparks, great green globs of fire sprites that burned the grass at his feet, flew from him, sending him back on his behind.

Woosh! The air left his lungs for the second time that day.

But his aim was true. The fireball hit Zorban in the chest and the wizard’s robes caught.

Screeching, Zorban shucked the robe over his head, with it came black sticks, several odd tubes and what looked like a tiny lantern.

As soon as the robe and extras hit the ground, Zorban ran. The moderator stepped in his way just as Whittlestrom shouted “shield that!”

All wizards stepped forward and Pete couldn’t see the burning robe.

Kaboooooom!

Flame gutted harmlessly into the sky as the wizards shielded the blast.

When they stepped back, a crater the size of an elephant sunk the road.

“Zorban,” Whittlestrom said. His voice bounced around, unusually loud. “I hereby denounce you as a true wizard.”

The moderator returned with Zorban, who’s arms were tied behind his back with some sort of red goo.

Now in his undergarments, Pete saw sticks tied to the man’s legs, arms and torso.

“I second that,” the moderator spoke up.

There were mutters of agreement and then in a poof, all the wizards vanished with Zorban in tow.

***

Pete liked the inside of Wizard Whittlestrom’s home. It smelled like berries and was full of light.

The baker, Master Gus, and Whittlestrom were discussing rebuilding the bakery and whether or not to use magic to clear away the burn scar. Papa kept looking at Pete out of the corner of his eye, still unsure what to do with a wizard for a son.

Pete fingered the strap of his pack and waited. He found the pack on the other side of the burned tree and except for burned edged on the left strap, it was unharmed.

“Now,” Whittlestrom said and Papa jerked in his chair. “Let’s discuss your apprenticeship.” He looked straight at Pete and Pete couldn’t help but grin.

“Wizards don’t’ take apprentices,” Papa muttered.

“Well, this one does. It’ll cut down on fakes slipping through the floorboards.”

After questioning Zorban, they’d found he never could do magic. He just had a great set up for shooting fire and making things explode, an apothecary’s apprentice gone wrong.

He attacked the bakery out of pride, hurt that Master Gus didn’t like his rearranging style.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

“Would you like some coffee first?” Pete asked, no longer able to hold in his surprise. He set his bag on the table and pulled out a burlap sack. The rich aroma of coffee filled the room.

Mrs. Whit took a long sniff, “absolutely!”

“How strange,” Master Gus chuckled, “not only an observant wizard, but a generous one too.”

Pete grinned harder and shared a look with Whittlestrom, who had that sparkle in his eyes and a corner of his mouth quirked in amusement.

“Sounds like a good apprentice.”

Papa groaned.

The End

Blessings,

Jennifer

(If you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions to make the story or my writing better, please let me know. I love feedback whether you love the story, hate it, are confused by it or whatever. Please be constructive and professional. That’s all I ask.)

Wizard’s Move

Welcome!

So this is the third short story involving Wizard Whittlestrom. You can read this story without the first two but there are a few things that make more sense if you’re familiar with Whittlestrom, his wife and the baker first. So, if you’re not familiar and you’d like to be, check out Wizard’s Coffee, Wizard’s Coffee Part Two, Baker’s Wizard, and Baker’s Wizard Part Two.

Just like the previous two stories, Wizard’s Move will post in two sections just to make it a little less wonky in the reading.

Also, if you have any thoughts, comments, or suggestions to make the story or my writing better, please let me know. I love feedback whether you love the story, hate it, are confused by it or whatever. Please be constructive and professional. That’s all I ask.

Thanks and enjoy!

Wizard’s Move Part One

Lined up in a row like bushy little ducklings, the wizards of the capital waited for the Government Announcer to declare why they’d been summoned.

The Announcer, a tall, bloodless man with black curly hair and long fingers, let them wait. Usually he was delegated the task of proclaiming new taxes or publicly reading recently passed laws. Inevitably the government coached the announcements in high legalese and he became the fool trying to read them.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots. Check out her blog here.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots. Check out her blog here.

Not today.

Today before him stood the twenty government wizards of the capital and they were at his whim. He treasured the moment by leaning back in his wooden chair and sipping his lemon tea, all the while watching the wizards try not to fidget. They were not known for their ability to stand still.

A clicking sounded from the entry hall. A steady tap, tap, tapping and the Announcer bolted from his seat, spilling lemon tea down the front of his frilled shirt.

“Fiddlesticks!” He exclaimed just as a petite blond in tall boots strutted in. Her pants billowed from where they were tucked into the tops of her boots and her blue blouse fluttered with the swing of her arms. She moved with intention.

She also eyed the Announcer down her nose and sniffed. “Are the wizards informed?”

“As…well, ah,” the Announcer spun away from the woman’s blue gaze to face the line of duc…wizards.

“It has been decided,” he raised his voice, “that it is time to change locations. Each wizard is to move house counter clock wise in city as of this evening so that you can pair with a new trade master.”

The line of wizards bowed from the waist, all but one. A tall cloud haired, frazzled sort with cracked lips. The Announcer swallowed. Whittlestrom was an original and oblivious to his age. He sparked as any youngster but with a hell-of-a lot more punch. He even sported the heavy protruding brows that marked him as part of the founding faction of government wizards. Oh dear!

“Problem, Wizard Whittlestorm?” The Announcer’s voice cracked just a pinch at the end. He squared his shoulders and flared his nostrils as Whittlestrom met his eyes. He was the Government Announcer, by hash browns! He had no reason to look away.

“By order 1256a, we are directed to interact, help, and otherwise make good relations with the working class. I am in the midst of aiding Baker Gustafson remodel and to move now would be detrimental to the good will I am building.”

Nineteen wizard eyes swung upon Whittlestrom with avid surprise.

A wizard! Remodeling? Unheard of! But the old original was serious as his voice rang in the hall.

“This new order superseed…”

“One moment, Announcer,” the petite blond interrupted in a low voice. “Order 1256a is an ‘a’ order. It cannot be superseded by a none alphabetical order.” She turned to Whittlestrom. “Wizard, how long will these repairs take?”

“I cannot say, Secretary, we have just started.”

The woman’s nose came up but then she bowed. She actually bowed!

The Announcer choked.

“Take all the time needed, Wizard Whittlestrom. Skip the Baker in the rotation. Once the remodeling is done, switch with the trade in front of the baker and we will be back in line.”

Twenty wizards bowed.

“But Secretary,” the Announcer stuttered, “this isn’t done. An order must be…”

Those cool blue eyes settled on him as the wizards filed out.

“Decision’s made, Announcer. Now go change before your next assignment.” She sniffed, “lemon does not mix well with silk.”

***

Master Gustafson wrote furiously on the chalkboard while Mrs. Whittlestrom rattled off ideas. Master Gus called her Mrs. Whit for short and the plump woman appeared to love the familiarity. She blushed prettily and gave him a shy half smile every time he used the name.

Mid sentence stopped short as the tall Whittlestrom ducked through the door.

“Morning, dear,” he greeted his wife, “and Master Gus. How goes the remodeling?”

This was the fourth day of ideas for remodeling. This was also the first time Whittlestrom had ever stepped foot inside the bakery, much less shown an interest in the decorating of his wife.

A fine line formed between Mrs. Whit’s brows and her lips puckered.

“Can’t decide between violet or pumpkin for the counter color,” she admitted.

“Well, let’s see,” Whittlestrom’s fingers sparked and the counter turned orange.

“My pastries!” Master Gus exclaimed at the same time as Mrs. Whit shouted, “NO Mag—ic!”

The confections within the case turned orange and the whole shop smelled suspiciously of pumpkin.

“Unacceptable!” Mrs. Whit proclaimed. “Change it back and no more magic in the bakery.”

Whittlestrom gave his wife a courtly bow that made his beard brush the floor. “Yes, dear.”

His fingers sparked and the counter returned to normal with a few notable pastries missing from the case.

Whittlestrom munched one pumpkin colored fritter and hummed.

“Should make a few with pumpkin from now on, Master Gus. It adds a certain flare.”

He held the second fritter out and Master Gus couldn’t help the horrified look on his face.

“Sit,” Mrs. Whit pointed at a stool against the left wall.

Whittlestrom strode to it and sat, enjoying his second fritter.

“And reimburse our good baker for your snack.”

Finishing his treat and licking his fingers clean, he riffled through his robes and came up with several coins.

Mrs. Whit returned to making suggestions, all the while keeping an eye on her husband who muttered and hummed but never gave an actual opinion.

Master Gus kept his distance, just in case Whittlestrom forgot himself.

***

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

As the day closed and the street lamps were lit, Mrs. Whit turned her attention to lighting.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “we could place little lamps in the front window to highlight your most delectable treats. Oh, I like it!”

She clapped and Whittlestrom, who’d been dozing, snorted awake.

“What, what!” he stood with a whoosh, “lights!” sparks flew with a sharp bang.

Master Gus blinked…and blinked…and blinked until little dots of light came into focus above him.

Great snufflebugs! I’m on my back!

And the bakery ceiling swirled with stars to the tempo of a jaunty little jig.

“I’m going to be sick.” Master Gus rolled onto his hands and stood.

The wizard gawked at his handiwork with his fingers motionless at his sides.

Motionless? Master Gus checked again but Whittlestrom was indeed enrapt.

“Look, dear,” he muttered, “I’ve captured stars.”

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots.

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots.

The wizard gawked at his handiwork with his fingers motionless at his sides.

Motionless? Master Gus checked again but Whittlestrom was indeed enrapt.

“Look, dear,” he muttered, “I’ve captured stars.”

“You’ve ruined my work!” Mrs. Whit hid her face in her hands. “After this, I can’t remodel the bakery. I’ll end up putting stars into everything!”

In a swish of skirts, Mrs. Whit fled and a few stars escaped as the door whooshed open and closed.

Whittlestrom shook himself.

“That won’t do, Master Gus,” he finally said, “I’ve hurt the Missis.”

Master Gus blinked. Was that remorse on Whittlestrom’s face? He couldn’t be sure, his stomach still rolled with the swirl of lights.

“I must fix this,” the wizard threw up his hands and Master Gus ducked but nothing happened.

“Yes,” Gus agreed, “fix it, please.”

For once there were no sparks. Whittlestrom huffed and O’d his mouth and started to drink the stars. Tornado like, they swirled and disappeared into the wizard but also tornado-esque, the storm collected anything not nailed down.

A table shrunk and passed the wizard’s teeth, then a few chairs and then Master Gus felt he pull.

“No, no, no, no…” Gus clamped onto the counter, a solid piece of construction nailed into the floor, and gasped as his feet left the ground.

Pastries spun by and a few loaves of bread, and then a pan or two.

With a ‘Thomp!’ of his lips closing, Wizard Whittlesrom stopped.

“Perfect,” he exclaimed, “I’ve cleared the stars.”

Master Gus groaned. The bakery was empty, not a lick of furniture, not a pot or pan, not even a knife to call his own.

“Wizard Whittlestrom,” Master Gus braced himself to face the Wizard’s tempter, “you are no longer welcome in my shop.” To add emphasis, he added, “OUT!” and pointed to the door. Well, what was left of the door as it canted on its hinges.

Whittlestrom didn’t spark or shout. He stared at Master Gus with sorrowful eyes like Gus had never seen on a wizard before. Then he just bowed, beard to the floor, and exited the door.

***

I will not feel sorry! Master Gus affirmed as he gazed at his empty shop in the light of day. I will not!

“Master Baker Gustafson?”

He turned just as a burly robed man squeezed himself through the door.

“Yes?” Master Gus swallowed.

“Name’s Wizard Zorban,” the man introduced, “your new wizard.”

“My what?”

Zorban grinned and Master Gus’ head swam. No fainting!

He rushed out the door, hoping beyond hope for the plum colored cottage of Mrs. Whit and Wizard Whittlestrom but in its place crouched a metal structure reeking of burned grease and smoke. Gus caught a hint of fungus underlying the acidic creosote but he refused to speculate about it.  The sides of the building glistened in the sun.

“What’s that?’ Master Gus pointed.

“My home,” Zorban puffed with pride. “My beauty! I’ll add some of her character to your shop, let’s see…”

Zorban disappeared into the bakery and not long after a plume of flame sputtered out the door. Zorban was the smithy’s wizard!

“The smithy burned down three times last year,” Gus muttered. His fingers were numb in shock. “I’ll take stars over this.”

“Wizard Zorban, Wizard…”

“Yes, “ the burly Wizard stuck his head out of the smoke filled shop. His whiskers trailed smoke and Gus could just see the singed walls behind him.

“Why was Whittlestrom moved?”

“You no longer needed his services. He was relocated according to new orders.” The wizard shrugged and returned to his smoke.

“Well great leaping frogs! How do I retain his services?”

Something about a secretary came sputtering out the door with another wave of smoke.

Gus couldn’t figure what Zorban was burning. There wasn’t anything left! Don’t ask, I don’t want to know!

And Gus headed to the government buildings while he still had a bakery.

***

The plum colored cottage nestled next to the tanner’s shop. After facing the blond secretary, this should be easy but Master Gus’ stomach rolled.

He might refuse.

Photo courtesy of Sebring's Snapshots. Check out her blog!

Photo courtesy of Sebring’s Snapshots. Check out her blog!

Mrs. Whit puttered in her garden with a wooden bucket. She whistled off tune as she filled her pail with raspberries but Master Gus still hesitated.

She’d always shared those raspberries with the bakery for jam.

Squaring his thin shoulders, Master Gus marched up to the gate and deflated with a puff as soon as Mrs. Whit looked up.

“Master Gus!” she exclaimed, “what brings you here?”

In mute supplication, he held out his plate full of pumpkin flavored pastries. He’d borrowed his neighbor’s kitchen to make them.

Mrs. Whit sniffed and a grin puckered her sun ripened cheeks.

“Oh Garius dear,” she hollered.

The Wizard came striding out the door and his eyes sparkled as he saw Master Gus with his plate of orange pastries, but then his bushy brows drew together in a stern expression.

“Master Gustafson,” he greeted, “what can we do for you?”

“Well,” Gus sputtered, “I noticed I still need a new floor, and maybe some tables and a new door, and well, the kitchen’s lacking pans and I need some advice about lighting. I like stars but I can’t sell bread if my ceiling’s moving. Sooo…I need some suggestions. No magic, mind, just suggestions…”

“No magic?” Whittlestrom interrupted.

“Well no, I’d prefer no magic. Something about an empty bakery, you see.”

“This could take awhile without magic.”

“Yes, that’s true,” Gus nodded, “months, maybe even years if you’re up to the task.”

“Beautiful,” Whittlestrom declared with a snap of his fingers. The plum cottage poofed, gone, and a metal monstrosity replaced it.

A confused Zorban came with the metal house. He puffed up his chest and pointed a finger at Master Gus.

“You-“ he started, but then he saw Whittlestrom. “Oh.”

He bowed to the elder wizard and disappeared inside.

“Shall we go home?” Whittlestom asked his wife.

“We shall,” she grinned.

Whittlestrom snapped and he, wife and plate of pastries disappeared.

What the…

But Master Gus shrugged. At least his bakery would be there when he got home. And he started the long walk down the cobbled road.

The End

Blessings,

Jennifer

The Smell Of…New Years Resolutions?

It’s that time of year again.

That time of year where we review what we’ve done over the last twelve months like we can lay out our lives into neat little calendar boxes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rue our failures, cheer at our successes, and plan for the next twelve months. We often call this planning “New Years Resolutions” but these resolutions, for me at least, tend to be revisions on my past year’s failures and the stench of such failures tends to cloud my thinking. There’s that niggling doubt in the back of my head that questions, if all of 2012 wasn’t enough for me to succeed, what’s to make 2013 any different?

Such doubts make us reach farther, thinking that maybe I just didn’t have a big enough target last year and so I missed the mark. Last January I planned to finish writing my book. That’s such a tiny bulls eyes, so maybe if I plan to write three books this year, I’ll get somewhere. Now I can see the gigantic red dot. I’ll finish the books and send them to agents and I’ll go big! Just like that!

Gung ho and three days in I beat myself over the head for not having written anything yet.

Now I’m not saying don’t have big dreams. Don’t get me wrong. Big dreams are what make people stand out, they’re what give us passion.

As Daniel Lee Edstrom once wrote: “The smell of frustration cannot compete with the stench of non-creation.”

In other words, frustration is much better than nothing. If you’re frustrated, at least you’re trying, you’re moving forward, learning and active.

What happens, however, is we see the big dreams and forget all the small steps required in between to achieve those dreams. January 2nd rolls around and we sigh, well the big resolution was a good idea, but it’s just too big. Can’t eat the whole elephant so I won’t even try.

Here’s the trick though, you don’t have to eat the whole elephant, you just have to pick a piece to start. How about the tail?

My tail? Focusing on the senses in writing. Once I spend a while on those, maybe I’ll move onto a toe. I’ll call that toe Close Point of View but I won’t look too closely at that now because the senses is my start. Breaking that down even more, I’ll focus on smell. Why? Because smell is powerful.

Helen Keller once wrote: “Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousand of miles and all the years you have lived.”

I smell the perfume I wore on the day of my wedding and all the emotions of that day come rushing back to me. What magic!

So to put smell into writing is my challenge. I’ll dig into it and see what I can come up with.

For instance:

Nate and I were hiking in the fall when the aspens were dropping their leaves. Our path was so covered that I termed it the ‘yellow brick road.’ As we moved along, the crush of the leaves and their slow decay filled the air with that pungent oder so distinct to aspen groves in the fall. I began, like a first grade lesson in word association, to describe that smell.

Nate just called it the decay of leaves, which is true, but the word ‘decay’ sounds so gross for a smell that’s quite wonderful.

My Dad called it the smell of bitter tea. I like this better because the smell is indeed bitter but I like tea in a warm, ‘umm’ type of way. The description ‘rings true’ for me and, I suspect, rings true for a few others too.

How would you describe the fall of aspen leaves? The scent of snow? The smell of home canned peaches? These are my small steps to start the year.

Maybe you plan to start a business or learn to sing or stop smoking or loose weight or…

Whatever your resolution, what’s the first small step you can take to make it a reality?

Blessings and Happy New Year,

Jennifer