Uncle Hyena (unclehyena) wrote,
Uncle Hyena
unclehyena

Rust and the Wizard

Rust and the Wizard

Rust had no trouble finding the wizard's house; the directions had been adequate and there was a sign above the door that depicted a broad-brimmed conical hat and a book. There was also a note on the door. Rust decided that she should probably read it before knocking. She looked about quickly, saw no one, and then mumbled something in the strange language and made a gesture. A piece of charcoal appeared in her hand. She repeated the process with minor variations, and got a pea-sized salt crystal. A third iteration turned the random scratchings on the note into words. Rust looked around a second time, then read the note.

"Knock loudy and regularly, but no more than twice in each quarter hour. I will answer when I can. I hope you brought a lunch." Rust thought about that for a moment, considered bashing the door with a sword pommel, and then settled for the heel of her hand. There was no point in irritating the man before she met him, even if he had already irritated her. She hit the door twice, then sat down on the stoop. A while later, the watch tower struck the quarter hour, and Rust hit the door twice with her elbow. She leaned back against the door, closed her eyes, and then almost fell backward when the door opened behind her. She looked up and backward into the startled face of a tall, thin man about twice her age.

Rust scrambled to her feet, did a slight bow, and said, "Rust Stonecrow at your service, Sir."

The wizard cocked an eyebrow and said, "What do you want?"

"Information," Rust said sheepishly.

"Information costs," said the wizard.

Rust shrugged. "I can offer services in trade."

The wizard cocked his eyebrow again. "Such as?"

"I'm a topmast monkey," Rust said. "I can hurt people and break things. And my marker is good, if you will take it."

The wizard's face went blank. "No topmasts. And no one I need hurt or broken at moment. But I will consider your marker. Come in and ask your questions." He waved Rust through the door, indicated a chair for her, and then took one himself and said, "Speak."

Rust took a breath, then said, "Ten days ago, when we made port here, I was illiterate, and could do no magic. The next day, I got very sick, and was bed-ridden and delirious until yesterday. When my mind cleared, there was a language in my head that I had never heard anyone speak, and I could not only speak it, I could read and write it. And I could do spells. Nothing big or fancy, but I used magic to read the note on your door." She pulled back her sleeve and indicated the skin on her forearm. "And I have scales now. Not everywhere, and most of them are so fine they are almost invisible, but they are there. And they weren't before I got sick."

The wizard put his hands on his knees and leaned toward her, staring intently. Rust leaned back as far as her chair would allow, and felt very uncomfortable. After a couple of eternal minutes, the wizard stood and collected a slate and chalk from his desk. He gave them to Rust and said, "Write this: Dragons rule land, sea, and air."

Rust blinked. "I know what the characters are supposed to look like; I'm not good at drawing them."

"Do your best," the wizard answered, then looked around the room, strode to a shelf and pulled down one of the myriad books. He looked at what Rust had written, compared it to something in the book, and said, "Draconic. I thought it would be. Do you know of any dragons in your family tree?"

"Dragons?" Rust asked. "No. What kind of question is that?"

The wizard shrugged. "There is one; you are proof of that. I just wanted to know if you were aware of it. I didn't think you would be. Ah, here we are." He sat down again. "How old are you?"

Rust blinked and answered, "Nineteen."

The wizard looked up at her for a moment, then back at his book. "Younger than I thought, but still too old for a spontaneous crisis. So there must have been a trigger..." Rust glared at him; he sighed. "You have undergone a draconic sorcerous transformation crisis. That is what it is called; you already know what it IS. As to what it means, you are now a sorcerer."

Rust's glare softened to a scowl, and she asked, "And something triggered the change?"

The wizard nodded. "Have you had any contact with dragon's blood lately?"

"What?!?"

"No, I didn't think so. How about kobolds? Kobolds are distant dragon kin; they are actually a more likely source. It being so much easier to survive a fight with a kobold."

Rust shook her head, wide eyed. "I'm not sure I have ever been close enough to a kobold to throw a rock at it."

The wizard frowned. "Really? They are quite common around here. Nuisances, mostly." He looked back to the book. "Have you had any dealings with a sorcerer lately?"

Rust shook her head. "Never, that I know of."

The wizard scowled. "All right then, tell me about the day before you got sick."

Rust nodded. "We docked, secured ship, stood for wages, and then everyone who wasn't on duty headed into town for a party. We had had a successful hunt, had a prize to sell, and we were celebrating. I had done something flashy, taken down two pirates single handed, and everyone was buying me drinks."

"So you got very drunk," the wizard said; Rust nodded. "Did you spend the night alone?"

Rust glared at him and her cheeks lit up; she looked at the floor and said quietly, "There was a stranger who had red hair and green eyes, like I do, and we started calling each other 'Cousin', and, well..."

The wizard nodded. "And did he have scales, as you do now?"

Rust looked up quickly and glared at him, then her eyes went wide as memory leaked back into her consciousness. "Gods. He did. I asked him about it, and he said to just forget it, and I was drunk enough that I did."

The wizard nodded. "There is your trigger, then."

Rust squinted at him. "But he didn't bleed on me..." The wizard looked at her blankly for a moment, then rolled his eyes. Rust's went wide again, and she said, "Oh. Right."

The wizard closed the book, and said, "Is that all you want to know?"

Rust looked down at her hands for a moment, then looked up at the wizard. "I want to know what happens next."

The wizard shrugged. "Live your life. The path of the sorcerer consists of just that; random bursts of knowledge and power will come to you along the way."

"You sound like you disapprove," Rust said.

The wizard shrugged again. "I do. Sorcery is stupid magic; it comes from nowhere. A wizard has to... *I* had to learn my magic from the ground up. I know what I am doing. A sorcerer is a child with a torch in a warehouse full of whale oil."

Rust nodded. "I can see that. I feel very much like that child, and all I can do are trivial things." She stared at the floor for a moment, then looked up and said, "And what about my debt to you?"

The wizard shrugged a third time. "I have your marker. I am not yet sure what I should value it at. The most valuable thing you have is your knowledge of Draconic, and while I very much want that, it is worth far more than you owe." He rose, located a bottle and a goblet, poured, and sipped. Then he looked back at Rust and said, "Brandy? It's local, and closer to mediocre than awful." Rust nodded; the wizard found another goblet, filled it, and offered it to Rust.

Rust accepted the glass and took a sip, then said, "Would you consider a larger trade, then? Would you teach me wizardry, if I taught you Draconic?"

The wizard almost dropped the bottle he was returning to its shelf, then turned to look at Rust. After a moment he began to smile, and said, "I think that we can work something out."

Paul Haynie 1/18/2018

Lifted from this: https://uncle-gnoll.livejournal.com/7742.html
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