The title is of course the same as a classical music piece that I used to play at Halloween along with an old LP of Chinese opera and Night on Bald Mountain and a couple of other moody pieces. The Chinese opera was especially spooky sounding!! I am such a casual classical music fan that I cannot even tell you who wrote The Sorcerer's Apprentice but it's basically a cautionary fairy tale set to music in which the youthful apprentice has been assigned many chores by his sorcerer master and tries to use a bit of magic to do them fast and easy with less than great results! Of course I had to put a twist on this theme when I wrote my own take on it!
The Sorcerer's Apprentice will be released on October 17 as part of the Making Magic PAX collection. I am betting the five stories will be great, hot and also evocative of the Halloween season with magic galore and a range of practitioners who maybe apply a bit of sex magic to their efforts ;-).
This is an unedited excerpt so be kind when you read; don't look for errors as I am sure there are some! But it will give you a flavor of the story, anyway. It is a wee bit droll in tone but there are serious spots too and a bit of romance and the mandatory happy ending. In between--well, you'll just have to wait and see!
Driz knew he’d received all the formal schooling he could expect. He was, after all, eldest of the three children of a hedge witch single mother in the ancient realm of Melcovia. After he had completed the mandatory four years of public school, deemed adequate for the average working class child of the realm, Mum had struggled to get him through the Mystik Magick Academy Charter School–ten long and costly years. But her strength and determination were both exhausted. She also had to consider the two younger children now. Nothing had actually been said, but she clearly expected Driz to do well enough to assist his siblings. Right now, he had little to offer.
Graduation behind him, he cursed the excesses of his last two years in school, an error that had seen his previously stellar marks plummet far below the scholarship level. He’d discovered sex, alcohol and recreational drugs, which played hell with his studies. It began to look like his remaining choices were but two. He either had to find a normal, mundane job – the word sat on his tongue like an obscenity—or locate a free-lance practitioner of magick who would take him on as an apprentice. The school, he’d found, didn’t teach nearly enough to make him the top flight mage he aspired to become.
So far his search for a master had not been fruitful. Was there no wizard, sorcerer or magician left who could take Driscoll Darnell under a protective wing and help him develop the talents he felt sure would prove exceptional?
Life was no long good in Melcovia, especially for the magic community. The latest incarnation of the government seemed to have lost traditional respect for the magical arts. What few mages were left either found employment at one of the remaining schools of wizardry which retained a bit of the old cachet or went into hiding to escape hassling by the personal police force of Premier-for-Life, Monsante Congerson.
His Excellence had no use for magic. Everyone said he called it an anachronistic folly beneath his notice, although a minor nuisance at times. Thus the police hazing of any stray gifted citizen, clearly condoned if not encouraged. Every minor blip on the smooth road of the ruler’s life, he attributed to bad magic and sent his enforcers out to discipline any likely candidate. Such discipline could be harsh. Anyone with a whiff of magic soon learned to keep a low profile or seek protection within the ancient and sacred strongholds far from the capitol city of
Driz and his family resided in a suburb of that city, where Mum could work legitimately as a midwife and a nurse practitioner. Those professions were still acceptable if one kept the magical aspects beneath the notice of the officials. Someone had to deliver babies and deal with the cuts, bruises and breaks of juvenile escapades and the routine complaints of the elderly. Mistress Darnell did this very well.
To get Driz through school she had also moonlighted as a waitress in a local pub and beer garden but she was getting a bit too old for that. Customers favored the youthful, buxom and flirtatious with their tips and gifts, not a middle aged mother showing the signs of her struggles. When her gratuities dropped below the pitiful wages the tavern owner doled out, she had quit. Even that small bit of added income was missed. The family had not a penny to spare.
Out of school now for three fortnights, Driz began to grow desperate. His hands did not fit a shovel handle, he loathed the idea of carrying weapons with the military or the guard force to enforce the dictator’s edicts, and clerical work bored him to tears. What else was there to do? He decided to send out an urgent telepathic call for a master.
Surely somewhere in the realm, someone would hear and summon him. Carrier pigeons had to have a known destination and hand scribed letters a place to be delivered. He did not know one single magician to reach by either method except his old teachers, none of whom would do for his needs.
Summoning all the magical lore he’d gained in school, and with an urgent prayer to the Powers-That-Be, he lit a candle. He then stood it in a low vessel of water taken from a running stream and focused his sight on the reflection of the flickering yellow flame. He sent out his frantic mental call three times and then waited for a reply.
Corydon Callipsich Cremonis rinsed his bowl after cleaning the last of the soup from its rough sides. Although his life had come to this sad pass, he knew he was better off than many of his brother mages and sorcerers. Dom Tanguich, who held to his ancestors’ traditional respect for magical folk, allowed Cory a comfortable cottage on the grounds of the Tanguich mountain stronghold in eastern Melcovia and generally kept him supplied with such necessities as wood for his fire and food for his table. This might not make for a luxurious life such as magedom had once enjoyed but was more than adequate. Of course one could always conjure up a few pretties but that just wasn’t the same. Gifts and offerings were much sweeter!
In exchange for the support, Cory shielded the estate from the notice of the Premier and his minions and turned the feet of any who wandered their direction to other paths unless they brought good fortune rather than trouble. Beyond that duty, the Dom made few demands on him. Yes, he was fortunate--but lonely. Living here, cut off from others of his kind, made for an austere existence.
He wandered out to the stone stoop of his abode and watched the fading sunset. From what he could see, much-needed rain was not likely. Perhaps a small spell was in order. The Tanguich livestock required new grass and the crops in the fields down the narrow valley from the hilltop fortress were beginning to wither from the extended dry spell. Ambling back inside, he went directly to his work bench and dragged up a three legged stool. He planted his bottom on the solid wood and prepared to get to work.
After he selected certain herbs, an appropriate candle and several other implements, he began. Although his powers were substantial, magic was taxing work. When he concluded the spell, he sat back with a sigh, weariness settling over him like a cloak. Far removed from others of his kind, he had few ways to recharge his special energies. That worried him. Still, unless he had totally lost his touch, rain would fall before daybreak. The Dom would appreciate his supportive gesture, or so he hoped.
Just before he snuffed the candle, it gave an urgent flicker. At the same time, from its niche above the work table, his crystal ball emitted a startling flash of light. Whoa, what’s all this? He snatched the globe down and gazed intently into its depths. As a shadowy figure appeared there, a wisp of thought trickled through his mind. He focused his attention on the signals until a message shaped itself out of the vague whisper.
::Is anyone listening? I seek a mentor, a master, a high mage who is not bound to any university or post but works alone. I am a talented young man with magical ancestry and gifts of my own, but I need further guidance and instruction. I’m willing to work hard, be your total slave if necessary. All I ask is that you teach me!::
Pinpointing the location from which the plea came proved more difficult but after a time Cory determined the caller was somewhere in or near the capitol city. This contact seemed an odd coincidence, almost as if his wish for companionship had summoned a response. Perhaps it had. He focused on the dim image within his crystal ball, trying to make it clearer. The young man appeared comely enough and perhaps sincere in his wish, earnest, at least.
Without giving it a great deal more thought, Cory replied. ::You must make your way to where I am to prove your determination and latent skills but if you arrive at my door within a ten day, I will grant your wish.::
::Wait! Give me some hint, a clue to where you are, at lest what direction I must take.::
Cory sent the tiniest glimpse of the mountains behind the Tanguich holdings. The area was remote but a couple of the peaks were fabled enough for portrayal in paintings and exotic tales of adventure. That was more than enough of a hint. Smiling to himself, he cut the communication, extinguished the image in the crystal orb and placed it back in its space. If the gods were kind, perhaps he’d get what he desired and needed. Maybe the distant youth would also.