Saturday, July 28, 2007

Part Four - The Fire

Turstin sat cross-legged with his back against a rock, covering himself with the wizard’s traveling cloak, shivering and glancing nervously from left to right and back again. The wizard perched atop a small boulder several feet above ground, looking through the large, blazing fire at Turstin’s face, studying him indiscriminately.

A snap somewhere in the surrounding darkness stole Turstin’s attention. He stared wide-eyed into the bushes for just a short moment before forcing himself to look away, trying desperately to compose himself on behalf of the wizard’s insufferable scrutiny.

Suddenly, a terrible urge pulled on Turstin’s mind, one that was contrary to his very demeanor while in the presence of his master ever since the day they first met. Turstin had never once looked directly into the wizard’s eyes, more out of respect than fear; but now fear took control of him as he struggled against what felt like a gigantic invisible hand cupping the top of his head, turning it slowly toward the ominous figure on the rock. He clenched and pushed against it, tried to squeeze his eyelids shut and grabbed hard onto his knees as he fought and tried to resist. Only a few seconds later, the wizard had a firm hold on Turstin’s entire visual scope, but let go soon after they made eye contact. Turstin did not break this connection, though he could have; the urge to resist had been miraculously transformed into an urge to never look away.

The wizard was beaming, smiling at Turstin as would a proud father. Turstin immediately felt comforted, relaxed and strangely invincible while in his master’s vicinity. The wizard leaned forward and Turstin heard a soft noise emanate toward him; the sound became words that floated on the air, but the wizard’s old gray face never moved.

“Be afraid of nothing. We are perfectly safe in these woods.” The crackle of the fire burnt the sound away as a large teetering log atop the roaring heap cracked in two and rolled into the surrounding rocks.

“I understand,” muttered Turstin, embarrassed, but then turned quickly to his right when another snap in the darkness seized his notice. He wanted to giggle at the absurdity of his nerves, but withheld as he shook his head exhaustedly and looked back toward the wizard.

“Why did you submit to me for this journey?” the wizard asked him suddenly, returning to normal speech. Turstin was taken aback, flustered and sickened by all the constant changes in mood, but found comfort in the fact that his master was at least still smiling. He sputtered before answering timidly:

“Well, um… I didn’t exactly know what this whole thing was about, and I just heard in town that you were looking for assistance, and I know I can carry stuff and help you with most of your basic traveling needs, so I submitted… more to the pressure of my mother than anything.”

“You heard nothing of the details?”

“Well, not before we left. I mean, you said something earlier about some great fire and the idleness of fortunate people and something else…," Turstin mumbled, feeling uneasy at the inconsistency of the wizard’s glowing, kindly attitude versus the subject matter of his prying questions.

The wizard detected Turstin’s uneasiness and said smoothly, “You seem to have no knowledge or even… interest in magic at all. It was my intention to train someone in my craft... but unfortunately you were the only person who submitted for……” and the words stopped.

“Oh, I’m definitely interested!” Turstin said with bold enthusiasm. “I don’t know anything about it at all, but I’m all ears if you... well, if you would have me.” Turstin hoped for an equally excited response from the wizard, but the old man said nothing. Turstin sat back and sighed.

The wizard continued to stare straight ahead, unmoving. After several awkward seconds, Turstin moved slightly to his left, noticing that his master’s gaze did not follow; the wizard’s eyes squinted as the smile left his face. Turstin leaned to brace himself on his elbow and turned completely around to see what his master was looking at; a small gasp escaped him as he realized he was staring straight down the shaft of a crooked, jagged arrow and up into the eyes of the ugliest creature he had ever seen or could have imagined.

The nasty, festering ball of flesh grunted and chortled, “Well, I see... come on, Greust, stand up...” and the woods seemed to Turstin to be suddenly infested with a whole army of hideous creatures like the one standing before him, all bearing worn, partially broken weapons. Turstin wrapped the wizard’s cloak around his shoulders more tightly and shuffled away from the troll-ish monster, staring at the wizard accusingly. The wizard glanced at Turstin and blinked, slowly opening his mouth.

“So what?” he said. “I can be wrong about some things too, you know.”


Cindy said...

Very nice, the plot thickens and twists...the characters are becoming more substantial... This is fun, like the way stories used to be serialized in newspapers. I have wondered what that would have been like, to be waiting for the next chapter in a story over a period of time rather than being able to read at will...I like it ;-) Thank you for sharing this. I look forward to more.

Jean said...

I am enjoying it too.

I am looking forward to drwings as well!!!

and also, how wonderful and generous thst you guys are the art bead scene people for this month! This motivates ME!