Carthinal moved from the spot where Mabryl found him. The archmage now knew where he practised and so he decided he would be safer elsewhere. Even so, a little nagging thought dogged him that Mabryl would be able to find him in the same way he did previously. He did not want to become part of the established society. Since the theft of his inheritance, he thought of The Beasts as his family. They had been good to him. So what if it involved criminal activity, and possibly killing or being killed in a fight? He had a home and friends, and a lovely girlfriend, too.
He sat in some shrubs practising his magic spell. Cantrip, Mabryl had called it. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it did not, but it was beginning to work more often than it did.
Mabryl found him again, of course.
“I see you’ve made progress. Are you sure you don’t want to learn more? How are you going to find out how to do more spells?”
“Go away. I don’t want your help.”
Mabryl raised an eyebrow. “Really? As I said—how are you going to learn to do more spells?”
“My friend’ll come and steal a spell book. I know you mages have spell books with your spells written in them.”
“But perhaps the books are trapped with magic. What then?”
“Oh, go away and leave me alone.” Carthinal shouted as he jumped to his feet. “I don’t want to come to your house. I’ll find a way to learn. Just leave me.”
The life of The Beasts continued as normal. Carthinal had to go out picking pockets with Wren as usual. Cat continued to improve his burglary skills and Bull grew into an impressively muscular young man, and took over the running of the security of the gang.
Then one day, Rooster called Carthinal to one side. “Fox, I believe you’ve had an offer to learn magic.”
Carthinal puckered his brows. “Who told you?”
“Wren, of course. Who else? She also told me how useful she thinks magic might be in the gang. I agree. I think you should take this man’s offer.”
“You should go and learn, then come back here to us.” Rooster continued as if Carthinal had not spoken.
“I said ‘No’.”
Rooster walked away shrugging his shoulders, and said no more of it, but Carthinal did not forget about how he felt when he managed to conjure the flame. He wanted that feeling and more.
He realised he craved the power of a mage, too, so one afternoon, he found himself standing opposite Mabryl’s house. He stood there for an hour, just looking.
The house was a modest one by the standard of his Grandfather’s house, but was not one of someone of little means. There was a front door under a porch between two sets of windows, and there were windows above them as well as one over the porch. It had no third storey like his Grandfather’s had, and no apparent basement. He took a couple of steps towards the door, but then, like a young fawn confronted by a wolf, he turned and fled.
He returned three days in a row, but each time lost his nerve. Finally, on the fourth day he approached the door and raised the knocker. Holding it in his hand for a few seconds, he almost ran again, but then, taking a deep breath, he let it fall.
There came the sound of footsteps approaching the door and it slowly opened. A woman in her mid forties stood there. She had dark hair with greying strands peppered through it, and blue eyes.
She frowned when she saw Carthinal. “What do you want? We need no beggars here. Be off with you!”
She went to close the door.
“I want to speak with Archmage Mabryl”
Her frown deepened. “What does the likes of you want with a respected archmage? He doesn’t want to see you. Go away.”
Carthinal heard heavy footsteps approaching, then a familiar voice saying “What is it Lillora?”
She turned and spoke to Mabryl. “A young man, about sixteen by the looks of him. He says he wants to speak with you. I told him to go away. He looks dirty and untidy.”
“Ah! I know who it is. Let him in. I’ve been expecting him.”
The door opened wider to reveal a hallway with stairs on the right hand side.
“Come in, Carthinal.” Mabryl beckoned to the young man as he continued to stand at the threshold. “Come into my study and we can talk.”
With faltering steps, Carthinal entered the house and followed Mabryl into a room on the left.
The young man stopped as he entered and gazed around him. The room was a treasure trove. Two windows faced the street with a floor to ceiling bookcase between them. Opposite the windows was a fireplace, again with shelves filling the spaces on either side. On the shelves were bottles and jars, all filled with things Carthinal could not name.
In the centre of the room stood a large table. Books covered that, too. He had never seen so many books in one place before. No, that was not right. He’d never seen so many books in his entire life.
Sitting at one end of the table, a young girl of about twelve or thirteen looked up as he and Mabryl entered. Carthinal appraised her. She had brown hair and eyes, and a rather plain face.
“You said you can read.” Mabryl walked over to the bookshelf, paused, searching the books, then pulled one from the shelf. He walked over to Carthinal and handed it to him. “Read me some of this.”
Carthinal turned the book over in his hands. He read the title. ‘History of The Forbidding’and opened it at random, He began reading aloud.
“The mage war ended eventu…eventually, but it had taken a great toll on the inno…cent. Innocent.” He looked up. Mabryl was looking at him intently.
He continued reading. “King Consyl the third was deter…determin…determined?” He looked at Mabryl, who nodded. Carthinal continued.
“Determined such a war would not happen again. He forbade the practice of magic on pain of death. All spell books, he… decreed, must be burned.”
“That will do, Carthinal,” Mabryl told him. “You can indeed read, even if it needs some polishing. Now, about writing. Let’s see how you do at that. Copy out what you’ve just read on this sheet of paper. There’s ink and a pen on the desk.”
Carthinal sat in the chair, picked up the pen and began to laboriously copy the passage he had just read, frowning all the time. His tongue stuck out at the side of his mouth as he concentrated. He had not written anything in the time he had been with The Beasts. He dropped a few spots of ink on the paper and scowled all the more. Mabryl would never want him as an apprentice if he made a mess of this.
“That’ll do.” Mabryl came over and peered at what Carthinal had done. “A bit messy, but that’ll come with practice. Now, is there anything you need to go and get? I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.”
Carthinal’s eyes widened. “Sleeping? I’ll be sleeping here?”
“Yes, of course. Apprentices always stay with their master. Follow me.” He walked through the door, leaving Carthinal with no choice but to follow him.
They ascended the stairs onto a landing. To the right was a door, but Mabryl passed that door and led Carthinal to the left and along the landing. Two doors opened on his right and another on the left. It was to this one that Mabryl led him. He opened the door and stood back for Carthinal to enter.
The room was large enough to have two beds, with a wardrobe and chest.
“This is where you’ll sleep. If you don’t have any clothes other than what you’re wearing, I’ll get Lillora to go and buy you some. Those you’ve got on need to be burned by the look of them. Downstairs there’s a copper for heating water. You’ll go down and get a bath. I’m not having you sleeping in my beds as you are. You’ve probably got fleas or something.”
This as Carthinal scratched his head.
While Carthinal sat waiting for the water to heat up in the copper urn, Lillora went to buy some clothes. Once the water was hot, Carthinal took a bucket and poured water into a metal tub. He climbed in and soaked himself, then plastered soap all over his body. Especially his hair. Mabryl had been right. He probably did have fleas.
When Lillora returned with the clothes, Carthinal climbed out of the tub. After drying himself and putting on the clean clothes, he felt better than he had in a long time. He had forgotten what it was like to be clean.
Carthinal left the bath-house through the door to the kitchen. As he entered, Lillora was just carrying some plates through to the dining room.
She stopped and looked at him. “That’s better. You look almost half-presentable now. Come on through to dinner.” She paused and looked at his shoulder-length auburn hair. “I’d get that cut, if I were you. You’d look better with it shorter.”
Carthinal pressed his lips together. Not now you’ve told me, I won’t.
A few nights later, as soon as darkness fell, Carthinal looked out of his window. Could he climb out and go back to The Beasts? They would need to know what had happened to him. Yes. A tree grew just outside. It would be a risk, but he thought he could probably manage to reach the branch nearest to him.
Climbing onto the windowsill, Carthinal reached out for the branch. He thought he couldn’t reach it, and wobbled dangerously. Steadying himself, he tried again and managed to grab a small branch. He pulled it towards him and soon could reach a larger one.
He took a deep breath and, hanging onto the large branch, he leaped from his window. Fortunately, the branch held and he shimmied along it to the main trunk where he climbed safely down. He looked up at his window. How am I going to get back in? He shrugged and trotted off towards his gang’s headquarters.
Here ends part 8 of Carthinal’s Story. If you want to read more the next episode will be at the beginning of January. Will he manage the discipline needed to be a mage? Find out in later episodes.
Carthinal appears in The Wolves of Vimar series. Book 1 can be obtained from Amazon by clicking here, or by clicking the book cover in the side-bar. This will take you to Amazon where you are.
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