The magician performed in the square for several days. Each day, Carthinal went and watched. By the prickling sensation, he quickly learned which of the man’s tricks were real magic and which sleight of hand.
Wren went with him the first couple of times, then she said, “Why do you keep on going back? It’s the same show every day.”
Carthinal shrugged, “I’m unsure myself, Wren. I’m fascinated by his magic. His real magic, that is, not that other stuff.”
After watching a number of times, Carthinal thought he could remember the words and hand movements the magician made when he conjured the small flame on his finger. He decided to try it out, but not in the Gang’s Headquarters.
He walked around the area until he came to a back street, Sitting on a doorstep, he began to mutter the words and copy what he thought were the hand movements. Nothing happened. He tried again. Still nothing. After a few attempts, he gave up.
The next day, he was again standing in the square watching. He thought he noticed a few things he’d got wrong, and he went to practise again, in the same back street.
He practised for a week. By then the magician had left the area. One day, sitting on the step, he wondered why he did this. The man he had been copying had gone, so he could not refresh his memory. He sat there, head in his hands, trying to picture exactly what the magician had said and done.
I’ll try one more time. If it doesn’t work, I’ll give up.
He chanted in a slightly different way. His skin began to prickle and he felt a sensation deep within his stomach. A tiny flame appeared on his index finger, then quickly vanished.
The young man leaped up and yelled. “Yeah I did it!”
He ran all the way back to headquarters and burst in shouting “Wren, Wren, I did it.”
“Calm down. Did what?”
“Made magic. I got a little flame on my finger.”
Wren shrugged. “So what? How’s that going to help with anything.”
Carthinal took her by her shoulders. “Don’t you see. I can do magic. Perhaps if I practice I can learn more and then go and perform like that magician. We could be rich.”
“Who’s goin’ ter be rich?” Cat was just passing.
“Cat, I managed to do some magic. Real magic.”
Cat laughed. “You think ’cos yer did a little trick yer can become a real mage? Dream on, Fox, but keep ’em for sleep-time.”
Carthinal shook his head, but determined to keep on practising. Apart from the pride in learning to do it all on his own, when he had succeeded, the physical sensations it gave him were enough to make him continue.
Each morning, the young man went to the same back street and chanted and wove his hands around. Sometimes he succeeded, sometimes he failed, but he did not give up. Eventually, he could keep the flame going for several minutes.
One say, as he tried to make the flame walk from one finger to another, he became aware of a shadow falling over him. Quickly, he extinguished his little flame and sprang to his feet.
“Steady, lad,” a voice said. “How did you learn to do that?”
Carthinal scowled at the man. “Why should I tell you? Who are you, and how did you find me?”
“My name’s Mabryl. I’m an archmage and I felt a disturbance in the mana, so I tracked it here.”
At the sound of ‘archmage’, Carthinal pricked up his ears.
“Archmage? You’re important, then. So why’ve you tracked me down?”
“One simple reason. Hardly anyone can learn to do magic of any kind on their own. What made you try?”
“I watched the magician in the square on Grillon’s day and during that week. I copied what he said and did,”
“Impressive. How did you know what to copy? In other words, how did you know what was real magic and what wasn’t?”
“I felt it. It was like a tingling all over my skin.”
“Young man, you have a talent for magic, but you need training. First, although you’ve managed to get this far on your own, that’s only a very simple spell. One we use to teach apprentices at the beginning. It’s called a cantrip. More importantly, though, is the fact that magic can be very dangerous in untrained hands, both to yourself and those around you.”
Carthinal looked into Archmage Mabryl’s eyes. “What are you saying? I should stop?”
“Not at all. You have a tremendous talent. I would like to train you.”
“No. I’ll not fall for that. You know who I am and want to lure me to your home so you can hand me over to the guards”
Mabryl laughed a soft laugh. “That would be such a waste of talent. Anyway, who are you that I’d want to hand you over? What have you done that the guards would be interested in?”
Carthinal looked down and shuffled his feet. “Nothing. At least nothing you need to know. I have to go.”
As he turned to leave the street, Mabryl said, “I live on Grindlehoff Street. Number forty three. Come there if you change your mind. I hope you do. Your talent will be wasted if not, and you could cause great danger to everyone around.”
When he got back to the headquarters he searched out Wren. He told her all that had happened.
“What did you say?”
“That he could go away and leave me alone. That I’m not interested. He’s only trying to tempt me so I’ll lead him to the rest of you.”
That night, Wren propped herself up on her elbow on the bed they shared. “I’ve been thinking.”
“Not too hard. I hope.” Carthinal yawned and turned to face her.
“About that man, Mabryl was it?”
“What about him?”
“If you went there and learned to be a proper mage, you could be a help to the Gang.”
“Suppose you could use magic to help people not notice us when we pick their pockets? Then perhaps you could make Cat invisible when he goes buglaring so no one sees him. Then you could use it when we fight other gangs. We’d be able to take over all the others.”
“Mmm. Perhaps. I’ll think about it.” He turned over and went to sleep.
Will Carthinal accept Mabryl’s offer and go to his house to become his apprentice, or will he stay with The Beasts? The relative security and friendship he knows or an unknown life are his choices. Read the next episode on the first Tuesday of December to find out which he chooses.
Find out more about Carthinal by reading The Woves of Vimar series. The first three books can be got from Amazon.