I’m mixing things up this week. Due to a request, I’m continuing the Wizard Wittlestrom story with our new young wizard Pete. If you’re not familiar with this series, you can either check them out to the side under Wizard Whittlestrom (The stories are in order) or here’s the cliff notes version.
Wizard’s Coffee: Wizard Whittlestrom shows up in Dorsa looking for a new drink for the Missis and only the six year old, Pete, is able to help him after the Wizard’s magic runs amok.
Wizard’s Baker: Whittlestrom arrives home to find himself out of fashion. He employs the help of the Baker, Master Gus, to help him figure out new fashion and poor Master Gus gets the backlash from Whittlestrom’s magic but figures Whittlestrom isn’t nearly as bad as the others who tend to burn things down or turn people into frogs.
Wizard’s Move: The Capital decides to move the wizards. Whittlestrom gets out of moving by saying he’s helping to remodel the bakery but utterly messes up when he ruins the bakery with magic. Master Gus sends him away only to realize the next morning that Zorban, the fire wizard, is now his new neighbor and wizard. Zorban attempts to help remodel and Master Gus begs Whittlestrom to come back before Zorban burns down the bakery.
Wizard’s Justice: Pete comes to visit Whittlestrom in the Capital but when he arrives, someone’s blown up the bakery. Due to some previous observations, Pete’s able to point out Wizard Zorban as the culprit. Whittlestrom challenges Zorban to a duel and it’s discovered Zorban’s a fake and Pete has latent magic. Whittlestrom takes on Pete as his apprentice after the Wizards take Zorban into custody.
“Squat like a frog.”
“No, no. Not the sound, you might belch fire with it. Just the squat.”
Pete giggled and did as told. His gangly knees angled out past his shoulders as he laid his hands on the grass.
“Perfectly ribbity!” Belch. A goute of flame shot from his mentor, Whittlestrom, with the R of the word.
“See,” Whittlestrom wagged his bushy brows, “never know what’ll come out with that word.”
Pete giggled again. Lessons always went this way. For the past four years, Pete danced, crawled, climbed and cartwheeled with the tall wizard. He loved it just as much now as he had when he was six. The wizard was just as much a kid as he.
It was great!
All the kids at home mocked Pete. The adults of Dorsa demanded maturity. Sit straight, keep you clothes clean, do your chores. Never run!
Pete couldn’t stop himself though. His feet demanded speed or at least a jig.
And the other kids knew it. They laid traps for him. Trip wires, pits of mud and so forth.
Not here. If Pete got muddy, Whittlestrom was more so. His long beard would drip with mud before the wizard was satisfied he’d taught the lesson to perfection.
But today didn’t involve mud.
No matter. Today involved air.
“Right then,” Whittlestrom crouched down next to him like a frog. “Hop.”
Pete hopped and barely suppressed the urge to ‘ribbit.’ Fire was a natural to Pete. Ever since he’d caught fire that first day, the element responded like a puppy, eager to please. Sometimes too eager. He didn’t want to catch the field on fire, so he clamped his teeth shut on the ‘ri…”
“Great, great! Hop again.”
Pete and Whittlestrom hopped in circles until they flopped over laughing.
Wiping tears from the corners of his eyes with the sleeves of his robe, Whittlestrom sat up.
“Air’s not heavy or pushy like earth or water,” he instructed, “air’s light like your laugh.”
The wizard repositioned himself into a frog squat and grinned.
“So hop and laugh. You are light as bee wings.”
Light as bee wings. Light as bee wings.
Squating, Pete hopped and giggled.
Whittlestrom leapfrogged him.
Poppa would be incensed to see the distinguished wizard leapfrogging.
Whittlestrom landed to the side and in front of Pete.
He hopped higher than ever before but clipped the wizard’s shoulder.
Tumbling into a sprawl, Pete scrambled to his knees.
Whittlestrom giggled where he was strewn on his back. “Try again, boy. Try again.”
They both crouched and hopped until Pete found his chance.
He cleared Whittlestrom’s back with ease. The wizard leapfrogged him back and it became a game of who could leap higher.
Collapsing in gasps, Pete looked up to see stars appearing.
“Yup, time to head back,” Whittlestrom agreed.
“Piggy back?” Pete asked.
Instead of answering, Whittlestrom threw him into the air and turned.
Pete landed slung over the Wizard’s shoulder. He scrambled around until he could ride piggy back and clasped his hands lightly around Whittlestrom’s neck.
“There’s a secret to magic,” Whittlestrom mumbled, “but it’s for you to figure. When you do, magic’ll be yours to command.”
Whittlestrom never mentioned this before.
“Yup, a secret.”
The walls of the Capital came into view, hulking black in the night.
“Does Mrs. Whit know it?”
“Nope, though she might guess.” The wizard shrugged, lifting Pete’s arms with the motion.
As they passed the gates, the guards bowed, recognizing wizard robes.
Pete settled into the silence since Whittlestrom seemed reluctant to say more.
The Capital still amazed him.
Dorsa was nothing like the Capital. It didn’t have a wall or cobbled streets or tall buildings. Nor did it have wizards.
Listening, Pete made out the snap and boom of other wizards roaming the city. For the umteenth time, he was glad Whittlestrom apprenticed him. The other wizards, though kind, were nothing like his friend. They showed off a lot and didn’t care what they destroyed. Just that morning one almost put a boulder through the wall of Master Gus’ bakery.
Luckily Whittlestrom expanded his air shield to include the bakery after the duel with the false wizard Zorban.
As they turned onto the street with the plum colored cottage and the bakery, Whittlestrom’s step stuttered.
Then he stopped.
Peeking down the road over the wizard’s shoulder, Pete couldn’t see what stopped his friend.
“My shield and the lighted walk is dark.”
Now that he’d been told, Pete saw the cottage was dark too.
“Was Mrs. Whit out this evening?”
Whittlestrom let Pete drop and raced to the cottage.
By the time Pete caught up to the Wizard’s long strides, Whittlestrom was emerging from the front door with a slip of paper in his hand.
Pete shrank back from the look in the wizard’s eyes.
“Find Master Gus.”
Pete bolted to the bakery. Shoving the front door open, his feet stuttered and he went sprawling over Master Gus’ legs.
Flipping over, he confirmed, Master Gus was tied to one of his tables. A gag muffled his mouth.
Pulling the gag, Pete clutched his hands around his sides.
“So it’s true.”
Pete jumped. He’d missed Whittlestrom entering behind him.
“Yes,” Master Gus said. “Zorban escaped. He took Mrs. Whit.”
He’d seen goofy, he’d seen angry, he’d seen serious-well kind of. Whittlestrom took all things lightly.
But this wasn’t taking things lightly. This was downright scary.
The wizard paced his yard while Pete waited with Master Gus off to the side.
Master Gus’ arm rested across his shoulders. A gesture he’d usually pull away from. He was a big boy, after all. But not right now. Right now he hugged his arms tightly against his body to hide the shaking in his hands.
“Is he all right?” he whispered.
“Not sure,” Master Gus answered honestly. That was the thing about the baker. It didn’t matter who you were, he’d tell you straight.
Whittlestrom pivoted on a heel and came back toward where they stood against the fence. Shoots of fire spurted from his heels with every step. But it was the wizard’s fingers he watched.
Something orangish kept singing between those fingers, hissing as it jumped from fingertip to finger tip. This wasn’t the usual wizard sparks.
A part of him envied the easy magic. The only time it was easy for Pete was during lessons and he still didn’t know why. But that part was small as he watched Whittlestrom fidget over the fate of his wife.
“How to…” the wizard muttered.
Pete leaned forward but couldn’t hear all of the words. He clenched his teeth tight but the urge to ask popped out anyway.
“Wouldn’t Mrs. Whit leave a sign? Or Zorban leave prints?” He swallowed hard as Whittlestrom turned to eye him.
The wizard fingered his long beard.
“Great leaping frogs! Of course!” He exclaimed. Throwing his hands into the air, clouds of tiny particles like dust that shifted color flew from Whittlestrom to blanket the yard.
It settled into two colors, plum and red.
“Plum’s my Missis. Red’s the culprit.”
Pete jumped and pointed, “over there!”
Over the side of the fence ran a mess of red smudges and hand prints.
Mixed in was one plum print like Mrs. Whit tried to grab hold of the fence.
“That’s the ticket!” Whittlestrom strode over and hopped the fence.
Pete darted after before he lost sight and Master Gus’ steps sounded from behind him.
Pete hopped like he’d been taught but light as bee wings turned into light as…bricks because of the worry in his stomach. His feet clipped the fence and he sprawled face first on the ground beyond.
Behind him Master Gus heaved himself over and then gave him a hand up.
“Yup. Gotta catch up!”
Pete ignored the burning from his skinned palms and face. he couldn’t loose Whittlestrom.
He needn’t have worried. Whittlestrom continued to throw dust and the signs of plum and red prints lingered.
They followed them through the Capital and out the gates.
Then the prints headed off the road into the forest to the left.
“Come on, Master Gus.” Pete grabbed the man’s slender hand and pulled him along.
“Hope we find her soon,” Master Gus mumbled, “we didn’t bring any food and she’ll probably be hungry.”
Pete realized he was hungry. He hadn’t had dinner either. Poor Mrs. Whit.
They skidded to a halt a moment later.
Whittlestrom stood frozen.
Before them was a small stone building and then a sharp drop into a canyon.
Zorban sat in a chair before the building, whittling away at a piece of wood.
Pete shuddered. He’d never felt right about Zorban and had thought he’d never see the man again after Whittlestrom defeated him in a fiery duel. The wizards were supposed to pass judgement on him for impersonating a wizard but apparently Zorban was more clever than they anticipated since he sat here now, free.
It wasn’t the false wizard that had Whittlestrom frozen though.
It was the cable next to Zorban that extended to a pole over the canyon. From that pole hung poor Mrs. Whit.
Release the cable and away she’d go.
Tears trailed down her cheeks but she wasn’t whimpering or struggling. It took a lot of courage to be a wizard’s wife and that courage stood her in good stead now. Pete tried to smile at her but he didn’t think she saw him.
“Took you longer than I expected to get here,” Zorban said. “Must be slipping in your old age.”
He grinned, showing several blackened teeth.
“You know, the wizards decided to hang me for my deception? Figured it would discourage others from pretending wizardom. Very logical really.” The false wizard shrugged and pitched his whittling to the side before standing.
With a finger he tested the cable to Mrs. Whit. It twanged and Whittlestrom seemed to vibrate with the cable.
“But I’ve a problem with the wizard’s verdict. They get to make up laws? The get to punish people? Says who?”
Master Gus snorted. “They govern their own ’cause it’s not like anyone else could keep them in line. That’s who. You meddled in their business and now you complain? Didn’t complain when people bowed to ya!”
Zorban snarled and pitched something at Master Gus. It sparked and hissed.
Pete jumped and clutched the object to himself until it gave a soft pop.
Fire engulfed him as he hit the ground and rolled.
It still amazed him how fire was so eager at his touch. He stared at his arms to make sure they weren’t burned but only his sleeves smoked.
Zorban sneered and returned his attention to Whittlestrom.
“I figure if I take something precious from the great Whittlestrom, an original wizard to boot, and the others will think twice before passing judgement on me.”
Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out a few small balls the color of charcoal.
“You know my affinity for fire and I know your secret. The secret to magic,” he grinned, “so I give you a challenge. Save your wife.” He pitched the balls at the ground.
They shattered and exploded in a wash of fire.
“Wizard’s fire,” Zorban cackled from the safety of the stone building’s doorway. “Can only be extinguished by a wizard and his breath. Oh, and if you kill me, the whole house’ll explode and take your wife with it.”
The fire licked at the trees, the ground, the cable, the pole. Everything within reach.
Pete looked to Whittlestrom. So easy a task! He’d seen Whittlestrom do far more impressive things than put out a fire but the tall wizard huffed and huffed and then his eyes started tearing.
“I’m loosing it,” he said. “I can’t-”
“What?” Master Gus ran to shake the wizard. “It’s your wife, of course you can.”
“I can’t,” Whittlestrom stared at Mrs. Whit, tears falling unhindered down his whiskered cheeks.
“But only a wizard can stop this, you have to,” Master Gus shook him again.
Zorban’s laugh echoed over them. “Not so easy when it matters most.”
Pete’s eyes watered with smoke.
Only a wizard.
I’m not a full wizard…
But watching Whittlestrom try agian and sputter only sparks, Pete knew the poor man couldn’t think past Mrs. Whit.
But what’s the secret to magic?
Pete wracked his mind. Magic was always so easy during their lessons.
But he tried on his own with varying results.
Whittlestrom sat on the ground now sobbing. Splashes of water, a mimic of his tears, hit the fire but it only hissed. It wasn’t enough to cool the flames.
Master Gus held the wizard’s shoulders, speaking to him earnestly but Pete wan’t sure Whittlestrom actually heard. He continued to stare at Mrs. Whit.
There was a pop and the pole holding her sagged.
Maybe if I jump over, I can pull her out.
Pete crouched but even before he hopped, he knew it wouldn’t be high enough.
He heard a cry as he tumbled into the flames. They were quite warm on his skin but not scorching.
The heat licked at him and tried to follow as he rolled free but he refused it.
Being soaked in flame wouldn’t help right now.
Maybe he could push it away.
Gathering his courage- walking into fire wasn’t exactly natural -Pete stepped forward.
Instandly the flames converged on him like moths to lights.
He tried to refuse it, to push it away. Hope flared as he cleared a circle. He reached the anchor to the cable but then his hope dwindled. He couldn’t get his circle to expand any more and the fire ate away at the cable farther along.
Zorban laughed from the doorway and Pete glared at him.
He couldn’t pull Mrs. Whit in. She was too far away from the canyon ledge for him to reach and he wasn’t strong enough to pull her in using the cable. Using magic to help might start her on fire considering his affinity to the stuff and how erratic his magic was, he couldn’t risk it.
Mrs. Whit’s dark eyes met his and the corners crinkled. She was smiling at him! This woman was all the mother he’d known and she was smiling while hanging over a cliff.
Pete smiled back as tears clogged his throat. Not that! Can’t break like Whittlestrom.
But Mrs. Whit threw back her head and started to laugh through her gag. She swung her legs, making her whole body sway crazily back and forth.
She laughed all the harder.
Sweet Mrs. Whit had gone crazy. Her eyes met his again. There was no insanity. Only laughter.
That was the connection between all of Whittlestrom’s lessons.
They were always fun, interesting, childish.
Pete’s eyes O’ed as all the wizard’s made sense.
They’re crazy actions were their way of keeping their child’s heart. And their magic!
Now that he thought about it. Magic had been easier at 6 than now at 10. When all it was to him was fun.
Fire caressed Pete’s hands where they hung at his sides.
He couldn’t repel it so maybe he should invite it.
Mrs. Whit grinned at him and he grinned back before turning to face the blaze.
Light as bee wings.
Instead of hopping, he imagined the wings making him fly and giggled as he rose into the air.
Zorban snatched at his ankle but missed and fell flat on the ground.
Pete chuckled again. Serves him right.
He stepped in the air over the fire.
It crackled and flared.
Come to me.
It leapt to his hands but that wasn’t enough.
Recalling the story of Whittlestrom drinking stars, Pete laughed aloud.
How does fire taste?
He sucked in air like he was drinking water.
And then he was drinking fire. It filled him down to his toes and heated his blood.
He kept drinking. It warmed his mind and played through his thoughts.
He kept drinking…until there was no more and his lips snapped closed.
He felt full to bursting like his skin could light the night.
As he began to drop, Whittlestrom dashed to pull in his wife and Master Gus hit Zorban with a loud smack. Pete never would have guessed Master Gus could move so fast.
Zorban hit the ground, out cold.
Feet touching down, Pete collapsed to his knees, exhausted and suddenly feeling the scratches on his face and hands.
“Dear, we have a young fire wizard!”
Pete grinned at her. Of course she knew the secret to magic.
“Yes, how extremely rare,” Whittlestrom winked, some of his old humor returning as he held his wife.
“I think I’m starving,” Pete admitted. Fire might be tasty but it wasn’t filling to his stomach.
Master Gus burst out laughing. “I knew we’d be hungry.”
“Well, let’s get home,” Mrs. Whit suggested. “Dear, please take care of that one.” She waved her fingers at Zorban.
Whittlestrom snapped and the man disappeared. “To the wizard’s hold he goes. This time solitary confinement until I meet with the others.”
He snapped again and they returned home.
Finishing his last bite of bread, Pete belched and a wave of smoke escaped him. He clapped a hand over his mouth.
“Happens when you drink fire,” Whittlestrom shrugged.
“Be glad it didn’t burn you from the inside out. Any other wizard would have killed himself.” Mrs. Whit offered him more bread but he declined.
“Only a fire wizard can drink fire,” Whittlestrom explained. “It’s your best friend.”
Pete digested that and then glanced out of the corner of his eye at Whittlestrom. He wanted to understand what happened to his mentor, but he couldn’t seem to work up the courage. The wizard caught him looking.
“Wondering, I suppose, why the great and mighty Whittlestrom froze?”
Pete nodded as he flushed red.
“Because, my boy, the thing that makes all magic possible is a thing of childhood. It’s the fearlessness to try. Every wizard out there had that as a child. They never worried something might fail, they just tried whatever their mind could conjure. As we grow older, we all develop our individual ways to keep that fearlessness. Out there, I feared I’d fail and so I did.” He shrugged again.
“Happens to the best,” Mrs. Whit smiled. “Now, would anyone like some cherry pie?”
Thanks for stopping by.
Blessings and have a wonderful weekend,
P.S. I love feedback, so if anyone has suggestions, questions, or comments on what they like or what doesn’t seem to work, please let me know. Just be gentle to my poor thin skinned feelings. Thanks.