Continued from December 25, 2012…
“What now?” Whittlestrom held out his arms for inspection, “stop sitting around, Master Gus, what have I forgotten.”
Reluctantly Master Gustafson came out from hiding, racking his brain for more details of Wizard Randle’s robes. Remembering, he bit his tongue, not wanting to say it.
Whittlestrom snapped his fingers. “I see your hesitation, what have I missed? The missis won’t accept anything less than total style.”
“Trellis design across the back,” Master Gustafson muttered, barely loud enough to be heard.
Wizard Whittlestrom pursed his chapped lips and raised his hands.
Master Gustafson darted for the nearest alley. He didn’t quite make it as sparks flared before his eyes. In seconds, all was dark but Master Gustafson had seen the wizard waving and twitching, turning and flailing as he changed his attire.
Reaching up, the baker found his face different and with a cry, he realized his beard and brows and hair were shaved in a trellised design. Seeing his arms, the same design patterned his arms and where the hair was missing, his skin was as black as ink. He refused to check his chest and back. Being a hairy man, he had no desire to see the design etched out of his usually thick mat of hair.
Brave due to his recent loss, Master Gustafson shouted, “Whittlestrom! Why do you do such things? How can you stand such a shrill wife?”
A flame jumped to life from the tips of Whittlestrom’s fingers, revealing his raised bushy brows and pinched lips but the look was not angry. No, it was simply surprised.
“What wizard,” he asked, “do you know, beside yours truly, has a wife?”
Master Gustafson twitched. It was not a question he expected.
“Why, none!” he realized.
“Exactly!” Whittlestrom exclaimed. “No woman’s brave enough to be wife to a wizard. Except my missis! And she’s my missis! Unafraid and proud!”
Turning to walk home, Whittlestrom seemed to forget about Master Gustafson but the baker had just opened a door and found new insight, he wasn’t about to let it go.
Rushing to catch up to Whittlestom’s long stride, he asked, “If she’s so unafraid, why didn’t you change your robe at home?”
Whittlestrom snorted. “No magic allowed in the house. Missis’ rules. I can’t imagine why.”
Smart woman! Master Gustafson praised her silently, imagining the bell and bench and, ruefully, the lines shaved in his own hair.
“Imagine what would have happened inside the house with that bell,” the baker tried.
Whittlestrom’s head snapped up. “What bell?”
Master Gustafson wilted. The wizard, like all wizards, was oblivious.
“Never mind,” he muttered, stepping closer to Whittlestrom as they passed a street that seconds before flared with a loud resonating boom.
Elsewhere in the capital other loud snaps and booms could be heard. It was a hazard of living around so many wizards, Master Gustafson mused, at least his neighbor tended to be harmless compared to the tanner’s Wizard Lentem, who’d turned the tanner into a cow a week before, or the smithy’s Wizard Zorban who burned the smithy to the ground three times this last year.
As long as he stayed with Wizard Whittlestrom the others would leave his bakery alone. It was a trade he was willing to make.
“The missis sure has a way with color,” he complimented as they arrived at the plum cottage with its yellow garden.
“Think so?” Whittlesrom puffed with pride. “I’ll send her over tomorrow. She’ll turn the bakery into a real looker.”
Master Gustafson suppressed a groan. Harmless, he reminded himself, harmless.