Read Foundling Wizard (Book 1) Online

Authors: James Eggebeen

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Foundling Wizard (Book 1) (8 page)

BOOK: Foundling Wizard (Book 1)
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“Now!” Lorit whispered tugging at Chedel’s arm. “Run for the ford.”

Lorit ran for the river. As his feet plunged into the swiftly running water, they turned numb from the cold. The Strotailye River was fed by mountain streams that were as frigid as ice this late in the year. They splashed their way across the ford making it more than half way before Lorit noticed the water was getting warmer, and not just because he was adjusting to it.

“Do you feel that?” he called to Chedel. “Is the water getting warmer?”

As if in answer, the water surrounding them started to emit heavy clouds of steam in the cold night air. The water was undoubtedly getting hotter as they made their way across the river.

“The water’s getting hot,” Chedel cried. “What’s happening?”

“I don’t know. It must be the priest. He must have woken up. He’s doing something with the water. Hurry up!”

Chedel splashed through the knee deep water alongside Lorit. The water grew hotter with each step they took, until it felt like they would be boiled alive before they reached the far shore.

“You’ll never make it,” a voice called. It seemed to come out of the steam that surrounded them.

“See if we don’t,” Lorit muttered to himself. He pulled at Chedel. “Come on! We have to hurry.”

“It’s too hot. We’ll never make it.”

“If that were true, he wouldn’t be taunting us,” Lorit said. “Keep going.”

The water grew so hot it was almost unbearable. They were only a dozen spans from the far shore, but Lorit could see that the water nearer the shore was bubbling, as if it were boiling. He had to come up with some way to get through that.

Lorit calmed himself and tried to imagine a shield around the two of them. He focused on a wall made of ice and filled with snow. He tried to think of anything he could to conjure up images of cold. As he focused, the water near the shore calmed, and the pain in his ankles lessened.

“Come on,” Lorit called to Chedel. “I think we can make it.”

The two young men splashed to the shore through water that was scalding hot, but not so hot that they couldn’t stand it. They stomped ashore, and fled up the road, running as long as they could breathe, before stopping in the shadows of the woods.

“That was close,” Lorit said, sitting on a rock to rest. He pulled up his trousers and examined his legs. His feet and calves were raw and red from the heat, but otherwise undamaged.

“What did you do back there?” Chedel asked.

“I conjured some ice and snow,” Lorit replied. He rolled his trouser legs back down and stood. “Come on, we have to get off the main road before they come after us.

They walked on for another hour, wandering deep into the forest, far from the main road, before they finally stopped for the night. Lorit rolled out his bedding and was fast asleep even before Chedel finished making his own bed.

 

 

Lorit was awakened from his sleep by the now familiar feeling of Zhimosom contacting him. If he was truly awake or this just happened in a dream, he didn’t know. He sat up and focused as the shape of the wizard came clear.

“You’ve had quite a day,” Zhimosom remarked.

“Yes,” was all Lorit had to say.

“What made you think of using ice and snow to counter the boiling of the river water at the ford?”

“It just came to me. I knew I needed something to counter what he was doing. I first thought of a simple shield, and then I decided on ice. When it started to form, I thought that if it were filled with snow, then the water would cool off, and we might make it across.”

“That was very quick thinking, given that you were in imminent danger. You did well today.”

“Thanks,” Lorit said. “I would have preferred a clean getaway myself.”

“Of course you would,” Zhimosom laughed. “Being able to deal with things that go wrong is a skill that serves a wizard well, you know?

“I’d rather not need that skill.”

“None of us do, son. None of us do. Now that you’re free of the temple, I want to direct you to a place where you can get some assistance. I want you to send the boy on to us, but I have another task for you that I need you to undertake before you head here.”

“What do you want me to do now?” Lorit asked. “Someone else need saving?”

“I will explain that later. For now, you need to head towards Ryeren Grove. When you get there, there is a small settlement. You will find an inn there where you will meet a Sorceress. She will help you get supplied and prepared for the next part of your journey. She will bring the boy to us while you take a separate path.”

Zhimosom started to fade, but Lorit was not finished. “Wait!” he called.

The shimmering stopped. Zhimosom looked stern. “What is it?”

“Why shouldn’t I eat the apple? You did not tell me.”

“Lorit, when you conjure something, it takes energy out of you. When you conjure food for yourself, it takes more energy to conjure the food than the food yields when eaten. If you eat it yourself, it has a double penalty. It will make you hungrier than if you had not eaten it. If you conjured food for yourself, you would soon starve to death.”

“What if I give it to someone else?” he asked, recalling the intense hunger he experienced earlier.

“That you may do. It will have no ill effect on them. But remember, you are using your own energy to create that food. That’s a losing game.”

“Thank you for explaining.” He didn’t think he was going to try that again, but he knew what his options were, should he need them.

“Will there be anything else?” Zhimosom asked.

Before Lorit could reply, the old wizard turned to mist and vanished.

 

 

Lorit was awakened to the trill of the morning birds as the sky lightened and the forest began its song. He turned over in his bedroll and saw Chedel already packing up.

“It doesn’t sound like you slept well,” Chedel remarked.

“No, I didn’t,” Lorit replied, sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his eyes. “Do we have any food?” he asked.

Chedel looked through his pack, rummaging through the remains of their foodstuffs.

“There’s only a little cheese and some bread left. What are we going to do?”

“You ever do any hunting?” Lorit asked. He stood and looked around the woods. The underbrush was thick and lush. There should be an adequate supply of small game around.

“Not much,” Chedel replied.

“You know how to make a fire?”

“Yes, I can make a fire.

“Good, you make a fire, and I’ll get us something to eat.” With that Lorit headed into the brush. He pulled his knife from his belt and occasionally slashed a mark into the trees at head height to help him find his way back to the campsite.

When he returned, Chedel had a small fire going. Lorit inspected it to make sure that there was no smoke to give away their position, and decided it was good.

“That’s a nice fire,” he complimented Chedel.

“Thanks, my dad taught me how to cook, too,” he answered. “I wish we had some pots and pans, so we could make a decent stew.”

“Maybe later we can find a place to get some supplies,” Lorit remarked. “Today it’s rabbits.” He un-slung the rabbits he’d snared from around his neck and tossed them to the ground.

“I saw some roots over there,” Chedel said. “I think they would go good roasted with the rabbits. I’ll get some while you dress your kill.”

“Good idea,” Lorit answered. He brushed some of the fallen leaves aside and sat down to clean and prepare the rabbits. Lorit had just placed the second carcass onto the fire when Chedel returned with the roots. He’d dug up a few wild sweet potatoes, and had them cleaned and ready for the fire.

“Looks like today we feast,” Lorit remarked.

“Good eating,” Chedel commented as he placed the sweet potatoes on the rocks he had positioned inside the fire ring.

 

 

Late that afternoon, the haphazard mix of old oak trees gave way to neatly organized fir trees that showed signs of meticulous care in their arrangement.

“We’re almost there,” Lorit said when they reached the line of fir trees. “This is what he told me to expect.”

“Where are we supposed to go once we get there?” Chedel asked.

“We’re supposed to find the inn. Zhimosom said there was only one, and we’re to wait there. Someone will contact us.”

“Over there.” Chedel pointed to a break in the trees where the evening sunlight illuminated the clearing. The trees had been cut away from the fields and a small town.

“That looks like the place,” Lorit remarked.

The forest path turned into a rough road that ran through the middle of the town. At first, there were a few scattered buildings along the route, with no marking. These were the homesteads of farmers who lived on the outskirts of the town. They gave way to buildings packed, side by side, with very little room between them.

Lorit spotted the tavern that Zhimosom said would be their ultimate destination. “That looks like the place,” Lorit pointed to the sign hanging from the inn.

“Good,” Chedel remarked. “I was getting tired of all this walking.”

A young girl came running out of the alleyway between the nearest buildings. “Please! You have to help me!” she called. “He’s after me.”

She ran up to Lorit and grabbed his arm. “Please, kind sir. Please, won’t you help me?”

Lorit examined the girl. She was about sixteen summers, with dirty long brown hair. She was dressed in the style preferred by city girls these days. Her face was smudged, and her dress was in disarray.

“Please help,” she repeated, tugging at his arm.

She led them into the alley next to the tavern, where the evening sun cast shadows. The buildings were tall, and the shadows were so deep that it was hard to make out what was before them. The girl suddenly stopped and released his arm. Lorit blinked, trying to adjust to the dark.

“Let’s have your packs,” demanded a young man standing in front of Lorit.

“Are you bothering this girl?” Lorit asked. The young man was about his height. He looked a few years older than Lorit, and was dressed in dirty tattered leather.

“Bothering her? Of course not. She brings me chickens for plucking.” He pulled a club from behind his back and slowly slapped the knobby head in his free hand. He looked straight at Lorit and repeated his demand pointing to the ground before him. “Your pack! Just drop it there and you don’t have to get hurt.”

Lorit stepped slightly to the side and turned to look behind him for Chedel and an escape route. There were three more toughs blocking the alleyway behind them, cutting off their retreat.

“We don’t want any trouble,” Lorit said, turning to face the tough again. “We’re just passing through, and we need our packs.”

“I don’t care about you. You’re going to give up your packs and any money you have on you. It’s your choice to do it now, before I beat you, or afterward.” He tapped the club in his empty hand again as he spoke.

“Me?” he asked. “I could use a good beating. It’s been a while since anyone was foolish enough to resist.”

Lorit relaxed and focused, he imagined a fence strong and tall made of solid oak surrounding himself and Chedel. He closed his eyes and imagined the strength of it, admiring the thickness of the oak planks that made up the fencing and the sturdy poles that supported the planks. He slowly opened his eyes to see the tough lunge at him with the club raised.

The boy slammed into something invisible. He came up short, as if he’d hit a wall. As the tough impacted the imaginary boundary, Lorit felt a sharp tug all over his body. The wizard had warned him about the energy he used to conjure things. This could only be more of the same.

The tough raised his club and swung it hard, impacting Lorit’s shield again. The tug at his body was more distinct this time, almost painful in its intensity.

“What the hell? What are you doing?”

“I’m not doing anything,” Lorit replied. “It’s you who’s acting foolish.”

“I don’t know what’s going on here, but it won’t stop you from the beating of your life!” the tough declared. “Come on boys, he can’t hold out against all of us at once.”

The rest of the crew proceeded forward, swinging their clubs. Each blow contacted Lorit’s shields with a jarring impact, but stopped short of any physical harm to the boys. Lorit could feel himself weakening. Soon enough, his shields would collapse, and he would be at the mercy of the toughs and their clubs. He sunk to his knees and pulled the shield in as close to the two of them as he could. He prepared for the worst.

“Hold on there, boys,” came the voice of an older woman. “What do you think you are doing?”

An old woman appeared out of nowhere. She stood straight and tall, holding a staff in one hand. Her other hand rested on one hip. Her long white hair cascaded down over her amber robes. She favored the tough with the same look that Lorit’s mother reserved for him when he’d been especially foolish.

“Do you want some of this?” the tough called to her. “Unless you do, just back off, Grandma.” He turned back to Lorit and resumed his attack.

“Grandma? You wish I were your Grandma, because then I might have mercy on your stinking hide.”

She raised her hands and made a flicking motion. The toughs were thrown against the wall as if they were rag dolls tossed out in a fit of rage by a small child. They were dazed, but soon recovered and ran from the alley, almost tripping over Lorit and Chedel as they fled.

“Come on, boys. You’re obviously my new charges,” she said as the toughs ran off.

She extended her hand to Lorit. “You must be Lorit.” It was a statement of fact, not an implied question. Whoever this was, she obviously knew more about them than she could have learned in the few seconds she'd been observing them.

Lorit took the proffered hand. It was old and wrinkled, yet strong and firm. He looked into the face of his rescuer. Her hair was gray and long, she wore the robes of a wizard, and she had a knowing smile on her face.

“Thanks for the help,” Lorit said. “I could feel my shields weakening and didn’t know what to try next.”

“Not bad for your first battle,” she said. She paused a moment, then corrected herself. “Sorry, this may be your second. Third, if you count the temple in Mistbury Tye.

BOOK: Foundling Wizard (Book 1)
2.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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