Read A Bad Spell in Yurt - Wizard of Yurt - 1 Online

Authors: C. Dale Brittain

Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Science Fiction, #Fantasy, #Fantasy Fiction

A Bad Spell in Yurt - Wizard of Yurt - 1

BOOK: A Bad Spell in Yurt - Wizard of Yurt - 1
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A Bad Spell in Yurt - Wizard of Yurt - 1
Wizard of Yurt [1]
C. Dale Brittain
Baen (1991)
Fiction, General, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Fantasy Fiction

Newly appointed Royal Wizard Daimbert, learning his king is under a fatal spell, must find out who in the castle has been practicing black magic--the young queen, her flighty aunt, the royal heir, or Daimbert's own predecessor


By C. Dale Brittain










I was not a very good wizard. But it was not a very big kingdom. I assumed I was the only person to answer their ad, for in a short time I had a letter back from the king's constable, saying the job was mine if I stil wanted it, and that I should report to take up the post of Royal Wizard in six weeks.

It took most of the six weeks to grow in my beard, and then I dyed it grey to make myself look older. Two days before leaving for my kingdom, I went down to the emporium to buy a suitable wardrobe.

Of course at the emporium they knew al about us young wizards from the wizards' school. They looked at us dubiously, took our money into the next room to make sure it stayed money even when we weren't there, and tended to count the items on the display racks in a rather conspicuous way. But I knew the manager of the clothing department--he'd even helped me once pick out a Christmas present for my grandmother, which I think endeared me to him as much as to her.

He was on the phone when I came in. "What do you mean, you won't take it back? But our buyer never ordered it!" While waiting for him, I picked out some black velvet trousers, just the thing, I thought, to give me a wizardly flair.

The manager slammed down the phone. "So what am I supposed to do with this?" he demanded of no one in particular. "This" was a shapeless red velvet pul over, with some rather tattered white fur at the neck. It might have been intended to be part of a Father Noel costume.

I was entranced. "I'l take it!"

"Are you sure? But what wil you do with it?"

"I'm going to be a Royal Wizard. It wil help me strike the right note of authority and mystery."

"Speaking of mystery, what's al the fuzzy stuff on your chin?"

I was proud of my beard, but since he gave me the pul over for almost nothing, I couldn't be irritated. When I left for my kingdom, I felt resplendent in velvet, red for blood and black for the powers of darkness.

It was only two hundred miles, and probably most of the young wizards would have flown themselves, but I insisted on the air cart. "I need to make the proper impression of grandeur when I arrive," I said. Besides--and they al knew it even though I didn't say it--I wasn't sure I could fly that far.

The air cart was the skin of a purple beast that had been born flying. Long after the beast was dead, its skin continued to fly, and it could be guided by magic commands. It brought me steeply up from the wizards' complex at the center of the City, and I looked back as the white city spires fel away. It had been a good eight years, but I felt ready for new chal enges. We soared across plains, forests, and hil s al the long afternoon, before final y banking steeply over what I had been cal ing "my" kingdom for the last six weeks.

From above there scarcely seemed to be more to the kingdom than a castle, for beyond the castle wal s there was barely room for the royal fields and pastures before thick green woods closed in. A bright garden lay just outside the castle wal s, and pennants snapped from al the turrets. The air cart dipped, folded its wings, and set me down with a bump in the courtyard.

I looked around and loved it at once. It was a perfect child's toy of a castle, the stone wal s freshly whitewashed and the green shutters newly painted. The courtyard was a combination of clean-swept cobbles, manicured flower beds, and tidy gravel paths. On the far side of the courtyard, a wel -groomed horse put his head over a white half-door and whinnied at me.

A man and woman came toward me, both dressed in starched blue and white. "Welcome to the Kingdom of Yurt. I am the king's constable, and this is my wife." They both bowed deeply, which flustered me, but I covered it by striking a pose of dignity.

"Thank you," I said in my deepest voice. "I'm sure I wil find much here to interest me." The air cart was twitching, eager to be flying again. "If you could just help me with my luggage--"

The constable helped me unload the boxes, while his wife ran to open the door to my chambers. The door opened directly onto the courtyard. I had somehow expected either a tower or a dungeon and wondered if this was suitably dignified, but at least it meant we didn't have far to carry the boxes. They were heavy, too, and I had not had enough practice with the spel for lifting more than one heavy thing at a time to want to try in front of an audience.

The air cart took off again as soon as it was empty. I watched it soar away, my last direct link with the City, then turned to start unpacking. Both the constable and his wife stayed with me, eager to talk. I was just as eager to have them, because I wanted to find out more about Yurt.

"The kingdom's never had a wizard from the wizards' school before," said the constable. I was unpacking my certificate for completing the eight years' program. Although, natural y, it didn't say anything about honors or special merit or even areas of distinction, it real y was impressive. That was why I had packed it on top. It was a magic certificate, of course, nearly six feet long when unrol ed. My name, Daimbert, was written in letters of fire that flickered as you watched. Stars twinkled around the edges, and the deep blue and maroon flourishes turned to gold when you touched them. It came with its own spel to adhere to wal s, so I hung it up in the outer of my two chambers, the one I would use as my study.

"Our old wizard's just retired," the constable continued. "He must be wel past two hundred years old, and when he was young you had to serve an apprenticeship to become a wizard.

They didn't have al the training you have now."

I ostentatiously opened my first box of books.

"He's moved down to a little house at the edge of the forest. That's why we had to hire a new wizard. I'm sure he'd be delighted to meet you if you ever had time to visit him."

"Oh, good," I thought with more relief than was easy to admit, even to myself. "Someone who may actual y know some magic if I get into trouble."

I took my books out one by one and arranged them on the shelves: the
Ancient and Modern Necromancy,
al five volumes of
Thaumaturgy A to Z,
Index to Spell Key Words,
and the rest, most barely thumbed. As I tried to decide whether to put the
Elements of Transmogrification
next to
Basic Metamorphosis,
which would make sense thematical y but not aesthetical y, since they were such different sizes, I thought I should have plenty of quiet evenings here, away from the distractions of the City, and might even get a chance to read them.

If I had done more than skim those two volumes, I might have avoided al that embarrassment with the frogs in the practical exam.

"You'l meet the king this evening, but he's authorized me to tel you some of our hopes. We've never had a telephone system, but now that you're here we're sure we'l be able to get one."

I was flabbergasted. In the City telephones were so common that you tended to forget how complicated was the magic by which they ran. It was new magic, too, not more than forty years old, something that Yurt's old wizard would never have learned but which was indeed taught at the wizards' school. How was I going to explain I had managed to avoid that whole sequence of courses?

He saw my hesitation. "We realize we're rather remote, and that the magic is not easy. No one is expecting anything for at least a few weeks. But everyone was so excited when you answered our ad! We'd been afraid we might have to settle for a magician, but instead we have a ful y-trained and qualified wizard!"

"Don't worry the boy with his duties so soon," the constable's wife said to him, but smiling as she scolded. "He'l have plenty of time to get started tomorrow."

"Tomorrow! A few weeks!" I thought but had the sense not to say anything. I didn't even have the right books. If I did nothing else, I might be able to derive the proper magic from basic principles in four or five years. I was too upset even to resent being cal ed "the boy"--so much for the grey beard!

"We'l leave you alone now," said the constable. "But dinner's in an hour, and then you can meet some of the rest."

I had seen faces peeping out of windows as we went back and forth with the luggage, but no one else had come to meet me. While I unpacked my clothes, I tried gloomily to think of plausible excuses why Yurt could not possibly have a telephone system. Nearby antitelephonic demonic influences and the importance of maintaining a rustic, unspoiled lifestyle seemed the most promising.


Dinner was formal. Freshly washed and brushed but stil wearing my red and black velvet, I was led by the constable out across the courtyard and to the castle's great hal . On the way out, I stopped to put a magic lock on the door to my chambers, a lock that would recognize only my own palm print. It took me only a second, even though it's fairly complex magic; I had needed it on more than one occasion in the City, living among an unruly group of other wizardry students. The constable was impressed, as I knew he would be; that's why I had waited to do it until he came back.

We walked under a tal archway, through studded doors that looked as though they stood permanently open in the summer, into a hal whose high roof was four stories above us. The wal s were hung with brightly-colored pennants, and a cheerful fire burned in the great fireplace at the opposite end, in spite of the warmth of a summer evening. The room was wel -lit by a series of suspended globes. I peeked at them surreptitiously as we advanced across the flagstones, and my opinion of my predecessor went up; I didn't think I could make magic lamps that burned so wel .

A group of people waited at the far end of the hal , made to seem almost insignificant by the height of the room. Their talking faded away as we approached. My attention went of course to the throne, pul ed close to the fire, where a stooped-shouldered, white-haired man watched me coming with surprisingly sharp eyes. The velvet of his ermine-decorated robes was even more bril iantly red than my pul over.

"His majesty, King Haimeric of Yurt!" announced the constable. "Sire, I wish to present the new Royal Wizard."

I did the ful bow in the proper stages, first the dipping of the head, then the wide-spreading of the arms, then the drop to both knees with my head stil lowered. They had taught us etiquette in the first few weeks after we arrived at wizards' school, while I was stil attending al classes.

"Rise, Wizard, and advance to the throne." The voice was thin and quavery, but the eyes regarded me shrewdly as I lifted my head. I came toward him, holding out my hands palm up. He placed his hands on top of mine; they were dry and so light I almost didn't feel them. "Welcome to Yurt."

This seemed to end the more ceremonial part of the introductions. The constable now came forward and began introducing the rest of the party. There were a number of knights and ladies and two boys. The queen, it turned out, was not there, having gone to visit her parents. "I wonder how old
can be!" I thought.

The most important person there, after the king, was Dominic, the king's nephew and, I presumed, the royal heir. He didn't look like someone you'd want for an enemy. His golden hair had gone sandy with the first streaks of grey, and his once doubtless heavily-muscled body was pushing out his tunic in places where muscle didn't grow. But there was a hard look about the eyes and a twist to the lips that made me glad he didn't seem to resent me.

After Dominic came an assortment of other knights, ladies, and more distant royal relatives, none of whose names I caught. The boys, it seemed, were there to be trained in knighthood.

I did the formal half-bow to each of the men and the ful bow to the ladies. "He looks, so--
!" I heard one of the ladies whispering to another. She was very young herself, but I feared it was not a compliment.

Last came the chaplain. Even though he was young, probably no older than me, he had a maturity about him that made my own two-inch beard seem rather trivial. He had a gaunt face, enormous black eyes, and a mouth that looked as though it rarely smiled. In short, he looked like a good chaplain should look.

I wrung his hand with enthusiasm. His was the only hand that was offered for me to shake. His responding squeeze was both stronger than I had expected and much stronger than my own. "I'm delighted to meet you," I said and meant it. Calculating quickly, I decided he was the only person in the court I would be able to talk to, real y talk to, about interesting topics. I was used to a social life in the City and had no intention of spending every evening with my books if I could help it. Priests and wizards traditional y do not have cordial relationships, but I never let something like that stop me. "I hope we can become closest friends."

BOOK: A Bad Spell in Yurt - Wizard of Yurt - 1
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