The Tale of Catani Daller, The Lefthanded wizard . . .

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    • Markshire PCs:

    Nevin hobbled slowly up the greenstone walk that led to the tiny dwelling she called her cabin. It was a stretch of the imagination for her to call it a cabin. It was more like a hovel or a shack, he thought to himself.

    The trip had been a long and painful one for the old man but he’d promised his brother he’d look in on the child from time to time. Keeping his word was important to him. After all, the girl was in fact his niece. He pulled an old well worn handkechief which was already quite damp and stained from years of use from his pocket and blotted away the sweat from his brow as he approached the entrance to her cabin.

    It was now mid-morning and the glare of a blazing sun in a cloudless sky beat down relentlessly upon the old man. He’d have to remember to apply a salve to the bald spot atop his head to prevent blistering.

    It was unusually hot for this time of year. He wondered if the hot weather was in some way a consequence of the Titan’s break out from the portal which had held him imprisoned for so long. He shrugged. Mayhap it was. Nowadays folk were blaming whatever misfortune that came their way, on the Titan’s escape.

    He paused a moment before rapping on the door and looked around and shook his head in despair. The place was sorely in need of refurbishing. Most of the shutters had fallen away from the windows and the few still attached were hanging askew.

    The roof thatch had turned an ugly dark brown color and large splotches of black were dotting the surface. The thatch was rotting now, and long overdue for replacement.

    He glanced at a tiny swatch of garden off to the side of the house. Once it had been lovely and had flourished with every sort of herb and spice sprouting up out of the soil but now it lay fallow and overgrown with weeds.

    There was no denying it. The girl was a terrible housekeeper! She’s even worse at learning to use magic he thought to himself. Catani’s spell weaving was at best, erratic and, well, most times horrendous and indeed she was a danger to anyone who happened to be standing nearby!

    He remembered well the time an errant spell of hers hit the mayor of the tiny hamlet just outside of Gastlynk where she used to live. He’d just happened to be sauntering by one day and noticed the girl practicing her spell weaving in a small court yard adjacent to the town square. There was a flash of light along with a clap of thunder, and sparks flew out of her hand! Her left hand, mind you! The sparks sailed directly at the mayor, who unfortunately, also happened to be walking by. A ball of fire struck the man square in the chest and instantly transformed him into a chicken!

    Even worse, he stayed a chicken for three days until the spell finally wore off! And worse yet . . . while transformed, the poor man managed to lay a full three dozen eggs! Extra large! Well . . . the spell she hit him with somehow turned him into a hen and not a rooster.

    For months after it was painful for the man to sit! He had to carry a soft down filled pillow around with him where ever he went! Oh, the shame of it! The embarrassment to the family!

    Of course they punished the girl. But, the mayor, being a kindly and understanding man decided not to lop off her head. He chose banishment instead. It was just as well he did for shortly after, the Titan broke out of his prison and when he destroyed Gastlynk he took the tiny hamlet along with it!

    A terrible tragedy that! So many died, including her parents. A great loss for me also, he mused. I was very close to my brother. So . . .she was an orphan now. All the more reason to look after her he thought. And I did promise my brother. And a promise made is a promise kept!

    He’d teach her the ways of a proper wizard, or die trying. He was more than half sure the latter would happen first. He stepped up to the door. It was un-latched and when he gave it a tap with his staff the door swung open. The girl is truly a nitwit, he thought. Out here in the wilderness with only heaven knows what wandering about and probably looking for a meal, she does not even have the sense to keep her door latched!

    He shook his head in disgust and made his way inside. . .

    • Markshire PCs:

    Nevin glanced quickly around the room. To his supprise it looked rather well kept. The floor was swept and free of dust. Dishes and utensils were sparkly clean and neatly stowed or hung on their respective shelves and pegs.

    He ran his finger across the top of the little wooden table where she took her meals. It was crumb and clutter free except for an unmarked potion bottle sitting in the middle of it. It was obvious the girl had wiped away all stains and spills, mayhap even applying a bit of polish to the oak.

    Nevin shrugged. Perhaps there’s some hope for the lass. Mayhap I’ve been pushing her too hard. After all, re-thatching the roof is a job for a man. Hanging shutters also. It’d be unfair to get after her about it. I’ll post a note on the board in Foothold. Surely I’ll find someone who’s anxious for a bit of work. But I will have a talk with her about the state of that garden! That’s entirely her responsibility!

    He called out to her. “Cat? Catani? I’ve come to review your studies! Where are you girl? We’ve not much time. The sun’s already past its zenith!”

    There was no answer. The old man sighed. She’d probably run off on an errand, he thought. She’d be back shortly. He was sure of that. The girl never missed a lesson, he’d give her that much.

    He ambled over to a bookcase she’d placed against the wall adjacent to her table. Even though the room was well lit the old man had to squint as he began checking the titles of the works she’d collected over the last few months of study.

    I’m getting too old for this business, he thought to himself. Years of reading had worn out his eyes. Years of teaching had worn thin his patience and years of trudging around in the godforsaken wilderness had taken its toll on whatever else was left of him. He shook his head. I’ve nothing more to give, he muttered to himself. She’ll be the last one I teach. I’ll pay a visit to the Mages Guild in Stonemark first thing tomorrow and turn in my retirement papers.

    He started on the first shelf. Hmm, now let me see. Spell Crafting Made Easy by Vana Doolendoffer, and then, The Complete Unabridged Guide to the Art of Making Magic. The author none other than Dame Jana Olsen herself! Exalted Wizard and High Priestess of the Stonemark Mages Guild. Oh! I know this book well, the old man exclaimed. A fine tome it is! I’ve memorized most of the passages over the years. He noticed the spine was not cracked. A cracked and worn spine meant a book had been read or at least opened now and then. It was obvious the girl had not touched it.

    He shook his head in frustration and moved along the shelf. The next book in line was titled Scribing 101. Author anonymous. It stood next to Three E-Z Steps to Becoming a Powerful Wizard. That one published by the Lumpkin Mail Order Learning Center. He’d never heard of them. It in turn, was resting against another book titled Magic for Dummies. The old man rolled his eyes, shook his head and moved on to the last book on the shelf. It was the first one he’d come across that looked as though someone had actually been reading it. The cover was so badly worn the print on it was no longer legible. Nevin removed it from its place on the shelf, carefully cracked it open and leafed to the title page.

    It read, The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress. Nevin gasped and his heart skipped a beat or two. The poor man almost dropped the book on the floor. Bluestockinged mis . . . what? He turned a page and read a few lines. Oh! Oh my, he thought. This is scandalous! And indecent! Lewd and bawdy too! This is why the girl is slow to learn, he mused. She chooses this drivel to read rather than her text books. Well, we’ll see about this.

    Nevin began to return the book to its place of rest upon the shelf but paused and thought about it for a long moment. Instead, with a quick motion he made the book disappear beneath his robe. He made his way over to the tiny table Catani used for her meals and sat down. The old man was prepared to wait forever if necessary, for this pariah of a child who had a preference for trashy novels rather than textbooks, to return.

    There’s no use in sitting here twiddling my thumbs, he thought to himself. He took another look around the room. Satisfied the girl wasn’t hiding in some corner peeking out at him he retrieved The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress from under his robe. He glanced quickly at the preface and scanned the acknowledgements, wondering whether he’d see a name or two he might recognize, and started in on the first chapter.

    • Markshire PCs:

    Nevin had read about half way through chapter two of The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress, and was enjoying the story, when he paused, wrinkled his nose and sniffed the air.

    What in Odin’s name is that ghastly odor? That stink was not here when I came in. It smells like a zoo, he thought to himself. Worse even. More like a stable left unattended and not shoveled out for a whole summer!

    He glanced around the room again; looking for some scrap of food the girl might have left out. Perhaps it had spoiled and was now rotting away. He saw nothing. He suspiciously eyed the potion bottle he’d noticed when he first walked in.

    It was still sitting in the middle of the table. He hadn’t bothered to move it when he sat down to read because it wasn’t in his way. Maybe it’s some concoction she’s mixed, he thought? A potion she’s working on? What brew could she be blending that could possibly smell so bad?

    The old man shrugged and leaned forward in his chair so that his head was directly above the bottle and inhaled deeply. ARRRGH!! Nevin jumped back, the chair, tumbling out from under him, The Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress flying out of his hand and skittering across the floor.

    Odin’s apples! What an awful stench! He dabbed at his eyes which had begun to water profusely, with his old handkerchief.

    His first thought was to take the potion bottle outside and drain out whatever liquid was in it. Better yet, he’d bury the whole business, bottle and all!

    He approached the table and cautiously picked up the flask being careful to keep it at arms length and as far away from his nose as possible. He shook the bottle slightly. He hoped it wouldn’t explode.
    “Please stop that!”
    Nevin froze, his hand tightly gripping the neck of the bottle. What little hair he had left atop his head was now standing straight up. His eyes began darting about the room attempting to locate the source of the tiny voice he’d just heard. “And just what is it do you wish me to stop?” he asked tentatively, not yet quite sure what apparition he might be having this conversation with.
    “The bottle. Please stop shaking it!” the tiny voice said.
    “Ah, I see. And now please do tell me why should I stop?” he asked, while carefully examining the flask. He could see nothing unusual about it. He peeked inside, taking care to hold his breath while looked.
    “When you shake the bottle I bounce around and it’s hurting me!” the tiny voice replied.
    The old man smiled and nodded to himself. Nevin was a wise old wizard who had seen many oddities in his travels. There was no puzzle he could not solve, no riddle he could not reason out. And now I have it, he thought to himself!
    “Cat? Is it you in the bottle?” he asked.
    “Yes uncle, it’s me in the bottle.” the girl replied.
    “And how did you manage that trick?” he asked.
    “I tried to cast a healing spell into it. I must have made a hand gesture wrong and I wound up in here instead of the healing spell.”
    “Ahh, your lefthandedness again?”
    “Yes, my lefthandedness.”
    “And the odor? Where is that coming from?” the old man asked.
    “Kitty’s in here with me. And . . . she made a mess.”
    “Your familiar? Why don’t you un-summon it girl?”
    “I tried. The spell fizzled and she snapped at me!”
    Nevin sighed. “There is no magic I can think of that will get you out of there. The only way I know of would be for me to break the flask.”
    “Please do it uncle. And be quick about it! If you think the stench is bad out there, it’s tenfold worse in here!”
    “Hold fast to something girl!”
    The old wizard mouthed a small wordless prayer to Thor than gave the potion bottle a sharp rap against the side of the table . . .

    • Markshire PCs:

    Luck was with her. Whatever spell she’d invoked that made her tiny and squeezed her inside the bottle had shattered along with the flask. Catani now stood before him, disheveled, but thankfully, as large as life.

    Fortunately, her familiar had gone but the dreadful stink from the cat remained. Nevin quickly wove a modified, more directional version of the ‘Gust of wind’ spell which wafted the odor and shards from the broken flask out the door.

    “Thank you uncle! She said, grinning at him, one hand fidgeting with her hair, the other attempting to smooth out the wrinkles in her robe. “I’ve been trapped in that bottle almost three hours! Now I’m behind on my chores! I need fresh eggs and must run to the market!” She paused for a moment eying the old man, than choosing her words carefully, she took a deep breath and said, “I’m sorry uncle but we’ll have to cancel today’s lesson!”

    “Sit girl!” Nevin said, gesturing to one of the chairs surrounding the little table.
    “I’ve not come all this way to have you tell me you’ve no time for a lesson! The eggs can wait!”
    “But uncle, my robe is a mess! It must be washed and hung out to dry while there is still sun! It‘s already dropping low in the sky!”

    “SIT!!” he commanded, now using a much stronger voice.
    Her shoulders sagged; she looked away and mumbled something under her breath. Nevin couldn’t quite catch all the words she spoke but was sure from the two or three he managed to hear, the girl had uttered a curse.

    Catani spun around, reached for the one remaining chair at the table, forcefully yanked it out and plopped down hard, hands in her lap, fists tightly clenched. She glared across at him.

    Hmm, the girl is quite upset, he thought. He’d have to remember to pick up a pamphlet for her on Anger Management from the Stonemark Library. Bad enough she was a left-handed wizard, even worse if she became an angry left-handed one! Nevin righted the chair he’d tipped over a few moments before and sat down, facing the girl. He reached under his robe, pulled out a package and placed it on the table.

    “I’ve found another book for you Cat. Not that it matters, seeing as you’ve hardly touched the ones you already have.”

    She sat, impassive, still eying him, making no motion to unwrap the package. Nevin cleared his throat. “Well, ahem, I’m so glad you’ve responded in such a positive way to my gift! Here, let me open it for you lass!” He un-tied the parcel, picked up the book and read the title aloud.

    The Modern Wizard’s Official Dress Code, published and up-dated annually by the Markshire Mages Guild! And a wonderful source of knowledge it is, Cat. I know most of those who’ve compiled the information. You’ll find much in it that will be of great value to you. I hope you’ll thumb through it at least.

    They’ve added a chapter on the care and proper use of the wizard staff. I insist you read that chapter! I’ll quiz you on it at our next lesson! Some folks have told me they’ve seen you wandering around with a cross-bow! The old man sighed, rolled his eyes in frustration and shook his head. That will not do lass. You must always carry your staff when out and about!”

    “The staff is useless to me uncle” she said. “I’m more comfortable with the cross-bow, and every day my aim improves!”

    “Nonsense child!” he scolded her “The staff must be your weapon of choice if you expect to be accepted into the Mages guild. For sure they’ll turn you away if you’ve not learned to be proficient with your staff. You’ll be a mage without a guild! You’ll be known to all as an outsider, a wilder!”

    He shook his head. “In time the guild will search you out and it’s possible they’ll strip you of your powers! It’s a rare thing, but I’ve seen it done! And when they’re through with you, you’ll be a shell, useless to anyone. Useless to yourself! The only job left to you will be cleaning out stables! Is that your desire? You wish to be a stable maid?”

    “I killed a Cyclops with my cross-bow. “ She said, still glaring at him.
    “Oh dear child!” he exclaimed, placing his hands on the table and rising half way out of the chair. “Has it come to this? Now you invent falsehoods to placate me! You did NOT kill a Cyclops with a cross-bow! It would be impossible for you to accomplish that!”

    Catani rose from her chair, hands on her hips and stared defiantly across the table at him.
    “It is not a fib, uncle. As sure as I am standing here facing you, I downed a Cyclops with my cross-bow. It is the truth and I swear it!”
    “And where may I ask, did you achieve this feat?”
    “Just outside the east gate of Foothold.” She replied.
    “Than the guards saw . . . and of course Captain Hillar has a record of the encounter?” he asked.
    “Well, the guards were on a lunch break, uncle. So . . .” she shrugged. “There is no record of the battle. I was alone. Well the Cyclops was there also, but of course he’s dead now so he’ll not be able to authenticate my story. But I swear to you uncle, I felled the beast with a bolt to the heart. You can believe me, or not. I don’t really care.”

    Nevin sat back down and wrung his hands and sighed deeply. “Well, I can see no useful place this conversation will be bringing us to. Mayhap its best, as you suggested earlier, we cancel the lesson. It is getting late and with the forest not safe I’ll not want to be making the better part of my trip home after dark.

    But Catani, promise me you’ll thumb through at least a page or two of the tome I’ve brought you today.”
    “I will uncle. I promise.” As the old man stood and turned to leave she nodded a good bye to him. Nevin smiled in return.

    Nevin stopped his march toward the door. “Yes child?”
    “You may borrow it if you wish.” She said.
    “Borrow what child?”
    “The book you were reading.” She motioned to the Lurid Tales of the Duke and his Bluestockinged Mistress. It was still lying on the floor where Nevin had dropped it.
    “You see uncle, while I was trapped in the bottle I could hear you comment aloud from time to time if you read a passage that, well, a passage you thought interesting! It did not take me long to discover just which book it was you were um, so enthralled with!”

    She smiled sweetly at the old man. Nevin looked at her a moment, his mouth opened and he began to make a comment but could think of nothing to say. Instead, the old man turned and stalked out the door, slamming it behind him.

    “He’s such a darling old man!” she said, smiling to herself. “How on earth could I ever manage without him?”

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