The Wizard's Apprentice (The Apprentice) (2 page)

BOOK: The Wizard's Apprentice (The Apprentice)
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Zebulon looked stern but not angry. "You are a silly lad, but you have learned your lesson. I'll not punish you, unless you think being my apprentice is punishment."

"I don't want to be your apprentice. You tricked me."

"No my little man, I didn't trick you, I simply placed some food for you to take if you chose. It was filled with a potion that would encourage you to stay with me until I don't need you any more. I didn't force you to steal the food. Your own greed did that for you."

"Y-you n-need me? " stammered Brock. "What can I possibl
do for you?"

"Yes I need you. You will soon discover what you can do," was all Zebulon said.

"What will you do with me when you don't need me any more?" Brock asked as he tried to stop that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Why, I'll turn you into a toad, or some sort of horrible creature." He laughed. Then Zebulon noticed how pale Brock had become, and he continued. "I'll send you back home. If that is what you want."  "Now, it's getting late, time for us to be on our way. We are staying the night with the herbalist."

Chapter Two
Karman's house

Brock followed slowly along behind Zebulon and Karman. For the most part the two ignored him and talked together. Brock took little notice of them, preferring to dwell on his own unhappiness. After a while he became more curious about Karman. He had heard of the famous herbalist but few had seen her or knew her because she was  something of a recluse. He had heard that she had helped many people with their problems and sickness. She was known to be very skilled in her art.

The little party of three were walking along a river bank now. It was a pretty river, not very wide, but winding around the hills. A sudden thought came to Brock. Maybe the collar around his neck would melt if he went into the water, or maybe Zebulon would let him go if he dived into the river.

As Brock looked longing at the water, wondering how he could get close enough, Zebulon suddenly looked down at him.

"Not a good idea," said Zebulon.

"What?" said Brock, trying to look and sound innocent.

"To dive into the river will not help you," he said.

Brock remained silent. Zebulon can read my mind, he thought, and he spent the next few minutes trying not to think. The harder he tried not to
think, the more he thought
until in the end he gave up and went back to wondering what he could do.

Brock didn't realise that Zebulon hadn't used any magic to know what he was thinking. He was very observant as well as being a good judge of character. Few details escaped his shrewd grey eyes
e knew that Brock had spent most of his young life working out ways he could avoid work or any unpleasant situation.

"You don't know how fortunate you are to be my apprentice, young lad," Zebulon told him. "Many would like to be in your position. I don't normally take on an apprentice."

Hopefully, Brock looked up. "They could change places with me, I don't mind."

Zebulon's only reply was a deep chuckle.

Brock looked sulky and began thinking dark thoughts. Zebulon only wants me because it suits him. He doesn't care about me, thought Brock. Then he remembered that maybe Zebulon knew what he was thinking, and if he heard those thoughts he would punish him more. From there the poor lad began thinking of home and all that he would miss. With those thoughts he was surprised that the sharpest image that came to his mind was the sad face of Yelena.

The softer light of sunset filtered through the trees as they reached Karman's house. Brock was surprised that it was built into the side of the hill, so that very little of the house was visible from the outside, and from most directions would not be seen at all. There were many plants around the house and on the hillside. Brock guessed correctly that most of them would be some kind of herb.

Inside the house was neat, welcoming and uncluttered. Without a word Karman moved to her kitchen and set some water to boil.

"Some supper or some herbal tea?" she enquired of her guests.

Zebulon accepted but Brock shook his head.

"Maybe you would like to sleep, you look tired, young one," she said kindly.

"Yes," replied Brock. He was happy to do anything to get further away from the wizard.

Karman took him to a neat and cosy little bedroom. He didn't expect the room, or the rest of the house to be like this. Karman was such an elegant and aloof lady. But then he didn't really know what he expected it to be like.

It wasn't until he lay down on the soft bed that he realised he was further away from the wizard than he had been able to move since he found he was bound to him
Once again he felt hopeful, but that feeling died as he touched his throat and felt the collar still there. It was strange though. As his mind grew dim with sleep his last thought was the idea that the spell was wearing off, allowing him to move further away.

Sometime later he woke with a start, not remembering where he was at first. He rose quietly from the bed and walked carefully over to his door. On opening it he saw that there was a light coming from a distant room.

He tiptoed  along the passageway until he reached another room. In the dim light he could see the wizard stretched out on a bed. Brock hesitated for a moment and then as he listened to the slow deep breathing of the sleeper, he crept into the room. A plan had already formed in his mind and he went straight to the bed. He must find the silver cord and loosen it from the wizard's hand. But he couldn't see the cord. He felt the cord attached to his collar and followed it with his hand until he found where it rested in Zebulon's hand. Holding his breath and trying not to tremble, Brock gentl
and slowly began to lift the large hand from the cord.  As he did so, Zebulon moved his hand and almost captured the boy's hand in his.

Withdrawing from the room as quietly as he had come, Brock decided that it wasn't
best idea. It was time to explore the rest of the house and then another solution may come to him. He walked all over the house. Even though all the rooms were dim, they had a soft glowing light, and Brock could see they were richly furnished. There was no restraint to his wandering which gave him yet another idea. He made his way to the outside door. Before opening it, he glanced nervously around
There was no sign of the wizard. All he had to do was get outside and he would be free. Quickly and quietly he opened the door. As soon as he placed one foot outside he felt the collar pull tight. He looked back into the house to see if Zebulon had woken. There was no sign of him. Brock realised then that he could only travel as far away from the wizard as he would permit.

After failing in the escape plan he decided to take a look in the room where Karman was working. She was sitting at a desk intently examining certain concoctions and writing something into a book. As Brock entered the room she looked up.

do you want?" she asked impatiently.

"I need your help," said Brock timidly.

"Really, are you sick?" she responded.

"No not really, I just need to be free of the wizard and get back to my home," he said.

To this request Karman gave a soft laugh. "What do you think, that I'm a wizard? Anyway even if I could I wouldn't"

"Why not, don't you think it is wrong to take me from my home?"

"Well I think you had a part in this too. You could have been punished much more for what you did. And...I won't help you because I don't want Zebulon blowing the roof off my house in his temper."

"But," said Brock, becoming very agitated and ignoring most of what Karman had said, "You made the potion so you should be able to undo it. He doesn't even need to know."

Karman was becoming more impatient and a little cross. "The potion is combined with the wizard's magic and only he can end it when he is ready. Go, make the best of what you have and consider yourself fortunate to have such a rare opportunity."

Brock could be very stubborn when he wanted something. Unfortunately what he wanted tended to only be something that he believed would benefit him. He hadn't learned to think of others. "If you won't help me," he said, getting angry himself, "Then I'll just have to go through all your herbs and potions to find a cure for myself!"

"You silly boy," said Karman. "Taking my potions without knowing what they might do would be very dangerous. You may well find you have turned yourself into some creature far worse than what Zebulon had planned, or what you could dream up yourself. Now leave before I wake Zebulon and have him put a spell of silence
on you."

Karman bent her head once more to her work and took no more notice of the troubled boy, but a faint smile touched her lips.

The boy did not see this. He left the room, his head bowed in rejection. It was going to be a long night. For what seemed like hours he lay awake. He thought he was thinking hard but at the end of it all he knew his thoughts were going around in circles. He gave one grim smile as the last thought hit him, if Zebulon was reading his thoughts, it would be driving him crazy. But the wizard slept soundly in the other room, as though he didn't have a care in the world. Yet he did have troubles, but for now he would keep them to himself.

Brock finally fell asleep again and didn't wake until light and the sounds from in the house woke him once more to the reality of his fate. As Brock washed and dressed, the great smells coming from Karman's kitchen gave him some pleasure. He was hungry again and ready to enjoy some good food. A disturbing thought came to him, what if Zebulon wouldn't let him eat. This was followed by another thought which gave him a thrill. He couldn't travel without some clothes and other personal things, Zebulon would have to let him go home and fetch his belongings. As soon as he thought that he tried hard to think of something else so Zebulon wouldn't know his brilliant plan.

Zebulon and Karman were already seated at the table when Brock entered the kitchen. It seemed such a comfortable and normal scene that Brock felt almost at ease
The food looked as good as it smelt. Brock was surprised that such a stately lady as Karman could cook. He sat tentatively on the edge of his chair but didn't reach for any food.

"Come," said Karman encouragingly. "Eat up, because you'll need plenty of energy for your trip." She placed a cup of steaming hot herbal tea in front of him.

The other two smiled at him. Brock was not used to this treatment when it came to food. Everyone was always telling him not to be greedy. As he served himself to ample helpings of the various foods, and  the others looked on smiling, he began thinking about Karman's remark. He liked the invitation to "eat up" but he was not so sure about the "energy" and "trip" parts.

" Do you like that, young lad?" asked Zebulon.

M," mumbled Brock through a large mou

"It's the herbs and spice Karman uses in her cooking," said Zebulon,

Karman and Zebulon laughed as Brock threw down his fork and almost choked on his food at the mention of herbs.

"Silly boy," said Karman, "they are not going to hurt you. They are good for you. We're eating them too, because they give health and strength."

Despite his anxiety, Brock found himself laughing with the others. Mea
time was so pleasant that Brock quite forgot his problems until Zebulon reminded him that they needed to thank their gracious hostess and be on their way. They had a long way to go. Brock wanted to tell him he wouldn't go but instead of just telling him, his objections came out like excuses and whining. It was the same with the twins, if Chet or Chad wanted him to do something silly he would do it even if he didn't want to. It was a surprise to Brock to realise he did this. He had always blamed others for being pushy

As they left Karman
house, Brock remembered his plan. "I need to get my clothes and things from my house," he told Zebulon in a timid tone.

"Not necessary," Zebulon reassured him. He pointed to a large bag he was carrying. "All you need is in here." He dug in his pocket and produced a small bottle. "Here, take this. You are going to need it."

Brock was so accustomed to doing what other forceful characters told him to do that he swallowed it first and then asked questions afterwards.

"What is it for?" Zebulon repeated Brock's question in his powerful voice. "Why it's so I can hear what you are thinking."

Brock turned pale. "I thought you could do that already," he said in a thin doubtful voice.

Zebulon laughed. "You thought I could read your mind? I wonder what gave you such a crazy idea? Now we need a horse because it is too far to walk. What's that you are thinking, we need two? No
one is all we need." Then Zebulon began to speak in a low strange voice.

Brock hardly had time to think how awful it was that Zebulon knew what he thought, or that he couldn't understand him,  when he began to feel very strange. His face felt all different and his body did too. His heart was racing in fear. What had this terrible wizard done to him now? He looked down at his feet but all he could see were horse's hooves. He tried to cry out, but the sound he heard was that of a horse's whinny.

"Now you know why I need to hear your thoughts. For now you won't be able to talk. Hold still while I get on your back
" In one swift movement, Zebulon was on Brock's back.

Brock felt true panic as he felt the wizard
knees press firmly into his sides with a command to go. He's turned me into a horse. A horse...and now he can read my mind! thought poor Brock.

"No, I can't read your mind," said Zebulon, "Only the thoughts you want me to hear. I've got more to do with my time than listen to all your mind's ramblings." He gave a harsh laugh.



BOOK: The Wizard's Apprentice (The Apprentice)
4.33Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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