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Chapter 5: Mentor Madness A Boy Without Guidance Gets More Time to Himself


— Sorcerers Almanac, Section Two:

On Weather and Its Effects

How a person so big could manage to look like anything but an advertisement for a tent salesman was anyone’s guess. Erwyn certainly didn’t know.

The intruder came just about to Erwyn’s shoulder. And he hadn’t dismounted, yet. With her width being little over half her height she was, to Erwyn’s eyes, immense.

Strangest of all was her clothing. Most of the large women he’d ever met tended to emphasis their size. They chose to flaunt themselves in wide horizontal stripes, bright colors, and huge, flowing robes. In short, they looked like the aforementioned advertisement. Ludicrous.

“If you can’t veil it, vaunt it,” Heatherlyn’s mother used to say, often and loudly. That was another reason Erwyn tried to avoid the frequently-scheduled visits to Caldoria.

But this woman, dressed in a modest robe of midnight blue with a trickle of silver, seemed to need no such bolster to her ego. She carried herself as though her size were only an outer manifestation of her inner self. Her whole bearing reeked—of power!

For a second, Erwyn stared at her, suspicious. Could it be Fenoria Two in disguise? But no, there was no trace of Sharilan’s sister in the face in front of him. And no trace of Sharilan, either.

The hair was too dark: black, with bluish highlights. Her size, attitude, even her eyes were wrong. Especially the eyes. Even disguised as a wolf, Fenoria’s eyes usually gave her away. Then who ...?

“Who are you, boy?”

That took him by surprise. She’d been quiet for so long, he didn’t expect her to ask the first question.

“My-my name is Erwyn. Uh, ma’am.”

Her eyes narrowed for a second as she looked him over. “Come down here, where I can get a good look at you.”

Not knowing what else to do, he swung his leg across the pommel of the saddle and slid off his horse. Holding the reins in his hands, he took a few tentative steps toward her.

She walked around him, one finger to her chin, as though considering an important decision. The grass bent in front of her as she walked. About two feet in front of her. The orange and vanilla scent changed. The aroma of tea roses tickled his nose. Odd, since there were no tea roses in sight. Or oranges or vanilla.

Erwyn watched her, amazed and curious. She moved with unusual grace and dignity. Her light robe fluttered behind her, reminding him of ladies-in-waiting flitting behind their mistress.

What did she want?

Finally, she came to a stop in front of him, nodding. “I daresay you’ll do.”

The fragrance surrounding her changed again, this time to lavender and leather.

“I’ll do? Do what?” He had enough irons in the fire without adding another.

She smiled and her whole face lit up. “My name is Aralia, Master Sorceress, level four. I’ve decided to take you on as my protégé.”

“But I don’t need to be anyone’s protégé!”

“Of course you do. You’ve only recently graduated from the Sorcerer’s Apprentice School, haven’t you? Of course you have.” Without pausing, she placed an arm around his shoulders and headed him back the way he’d come. “Well, when I was an apprentice, we were required to have more than a rudimentary talent for magic and had to learn more than a few basic skills. We had to be good at everything. No minimum entrance requirement for us. We had to do it all. And none of this ‘go out and discover what you’re good at’ nonsense, either. Sorcery nowadays is just too narrow, too specialized, too constricting—by the way, what, exactly, is it you do, sweetheart?”

“I-I ...” The sudden slight shift in subject caught Erwyn off-guard.

“Now, don’t be shy. Just tell me what you’ve found yourself to be particularly good at. Something that wasn’t taught you at school.”

Erwyn felt himself blush. How could he tell this mountain of a woman, this sorceress, about his one tiny accomplishment?

“Come, come. You’d better tell me before I get angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

That could mean trouble. He turned his head away, staring at the ground and mumbling, “Sand ... sles.”

“Excuse me, I didn’t catch that.”

“I said sandcastles.” He spoke a little louder this time, but his ears burned and he didn’t look up. He’d been so proud of his progress that he hadn’t stopped to think how strange it sounded.

“Sandcastles?!?” Her voice cracked. “You must be joking.”

Erwyn couldn’t tell whether she was angry, frustrated, amused, or a combination of the three.

“Well, I can see that I was right. You do need ...” She stopped, listening to the sound of the vegetation being shoved out of someone’s way.

Temporarily saved by another body stomping around in the tall grass, Erwyn sighed with relief. He turned in the direction of the sounds. He was pretty certain he knew the source of the noise, this time.

Seconds later, Chesric burst into view. And he wasn’t alone.

“Fenoria!” Erwyn raced over to the princess. “What in the name of the Four Hells did you think you were doing, running off like that? Without an escort or anything?”

Fenoria’s eyes sparked and she held her chin up defiantly. “You did it first! Dashing off after some phantom which, might I remind you, you have never bothered to describe, much less tell anyone why you were chasing it in the first place. I, on the other hand, was chasing after something real. And you’ll never guess what it—”



“You were chasing Fenoria.”

“No I wasn’t. I was chasing a—”

“Wolf. I know. It was Fenoria.”

“How did you know? What do you mean it was Fenoria? I’m Fenoria! Are you sick or something?”

“Yes, I am. I’m sick of this whole situation. But that’s beside the point.” He threw his hands up in frustration. “Let’s get this straight. You were chasing a wolf, who actually happened to be a woman in disguise. Her name is Fenoria—no relation to you, fortunately. She’s a fairy or a witch or something. She is also the sister of the sorceress Sharilan. You getting all this?”

All Fenoria got was a blank look on her face.

“You remember the fight at the castle? The brown-haired girl with the wand and the tutu?”

“Yes, but ...”

“That’s her. The other Fenoria. I call her Fenoria Two.”

“Yes, but ...”

“I tell ya, he don’t need one!”

That was Chesric.

Chesric’s voice bellowing louder than any other argument in the vicinity struck Erwyn as reason enough to drop his “discussion” with Fenoria. They both turned to watch.

Aralia towered over the old man, glaring at him ominously. For his part, Chesric stood, hands on hips, a defiant look on his face as he stared back at the sorceress.

“Don’t be obtuse. Of course he needs one. He doesn’t have one right now. It’s essential to his sorcerous development.”

“His sorcerous development is doing just fine, if ye don’t mind. He don’t need yer help. We’ve got it all under control.”

Watching the two of them argue made Erwyn curious and more than a little nervous. Curious because he’d never seen Chesric argue with anyone else but him. And nervous because Chesric still carried a veritable arsenal of weaponry. On the other hand, if Aralia really was a fourth-level Master Sorceress, the old knight could be in serious trouble. Erwyn wondered if he should try to break up the argument.

The young sorcerer spotted the telltale flicker of blue lightning at Aralia’s fingertips. She raised her hands, spreading her fingers and pointing them in Chesric’s direction.

Erwyn took a few steps toward the pair, yelling, “Chesric! Look out!”

His warning came too late. The lightning crackled toward Chesric’s unprotected head. Thunder boomed around them as blue flames engulfed the old man, armor and all.

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