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The Mischief of Apprentice Brown

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The Mischief of Apprentice Brown

 

Copyright 2017 David Petrey

Published by David Petrey at Shakespir

 

 

 

Shakespir Edition License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Shakespir.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

 

 

 

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements

Prologue

Map of Tellus

Mischief One – The Chosen

Mischief Two – Patience

Mischief Three – The Art of Illusion

Mischief Four – The Forbidden Tower

Mischief Five – The Art of Potions

Mischief Six – The Tower at the Edge of the World

Mischief Seven – The Art of Elements

Mischief Eight – The Tower of the Mountain Meadow

Mischief Nine – Words

Mischief Ten – The Art of Melody

Mischief Eleven – The Citadel Tower

Mischief Twelve – The Art of Soul

Mischief Thirteen – The Tower of the Tropical Forest

About David Petrey

Other books by David Petrey

Connect with David Petrey

 

 

 

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Lyndsey.

Map of Tellus

 

Mischief One – The Chosen

The Hopefuls

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. Emerging from the roof of this most curious of houses grew a large chimney stack. Every day the cloudy puffs of smoke which softly rose from the chimney changed in their colour. One day they might be a fresh, pale green, and then the next a bright and uplifting yellow; or maybe even a cool, calming hue of blue. From a distance, to any unsuspecting onlooker, it appeared as if a floating flock of painted sheep danced away from the rooftop of the mysterious, old house.

Some people said that the colour of the smoke was decided by the mood of the Sorcerer who lived within this most distinguished of houses. Luckily for the townspeople, the Sorcerer was famous across the land for being a very kind and generous man. The one colour that nobody had ever witnessed coming from the chimney was a fiery red, as the Sorcerer was never angry.

Within this special house the wise, old Sorcerer had five dedicated Apprentices. They were all learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. Every two years the Sorcerer would choose a new Apprentice, when the Apprentice who had spent ten years studying magic was finally ready to be called a Wizard.

It so happened to be a very special and busy time for the town. This season the Sorcerer would be choosing his new Apprentice. An electrical atmosphere of excitement was growing by the day. Already people were arriving and setting up camp in the fresh, spring meadow which lay opposite the Sorcerer’s house. Coming from far and wide, some had braved the hottest of deserts, or climbed the highest of peaks, or crossed vast monster-ridden seas, all for the chance of becoming the lucky chosen one.

At the opposite side of town there lived a little boy called Arek. Being so young, this was the first time he could remember such an event. Every morning he would leap out of bed and rush over to his small bedroom window. He was always eager to see what weird and wonderful sights awaited him. Pressing his little nose up to the pane of glass, his breath would eventually fog up the window and he would have to wipe the mist away just to stare some more. Some of the outlandish travellers he beheld wore magnificent garments, with all kinds of intricately fashioned fabrics in a variety of vivid colours and patterns. Others passed by in mere rags. Some brought animals of all descriptions, large and small with them. Others brought nothing.

‘It doesn’t matter how you are dressed, or what you look like,’ his grandpa told him over breakfast one day.

‘But how does the Sorcerer decide?’ Arek questioned. His grandpa often seemed to know as much as the Sorcerer did, if not more. But today he seemed to be avoiding any questions and just frowned at his inquisitive grandson.

‘He just does,’ was the short reply. ‘That’s why he’s a Wizard.’

Following a rushed breakfast, Arek quickly scrubbed his face and made a half-hearted attempt to tame his mousey-brown hair. It seemed to be forever sprouting tufts of itself in all directions at once, as if trying to escape from the very head it was rooted down to. After annoyingly being sent back by his grandpa to clean behind his ears, the impatient little boy was finally able to grab his straw basket by the door and stumble outside. Raiding their henhouse, he plucked six warm hen’s eggs from their cosy, little nests and carefully placed them into his basket. His grandpa had told him to take a trip to the meadow. There he could trade each of his eggs for the rare and exotic items that the travellers brought from afar.

Today, like most days, Arek was joined by his friend Oxana. She was the same age as Arek, but rather irritatingly had always been that little bit taller. She had long, velvety strands of black hair that curled up from her head before cascading down past her shoulders. Arek was sure that if he could just shave his friend bald she would be almost the same height as him.

Oxana lived with her mother and father in the little cottage next to Arek and his grandpa. Mr. Pike, her father, was an expert fisherman. Today, Oxana was to meet him later to finally start learning how to fish, as was their family custom. For now however, the two friends both hurried with excitement along the winding road out of town with the precious basket of eggs.

Arriving at the meadow, both children stared up at the strange people they passed by. At times they stood open-mouthed with the wonder of the amazing sights they beheld. They encountered strange, ill-tempered animals with humps on their backs; fierce, orange-striped animals which had to be kept within cages because of their large teeth and sharp claws; as well as giant animals that looked like huge, grey boulders but with funny, long noses and big, flapping ears.

‘That is called an elephant,’ Oxana announced proudly, pointing at a large grey animal. They both watched spellbound as it cleverly picked up some grass with its extremely long nose and tucked it away into its mouth to slowly chew upon.

Making their way further into the field, the campsite grew more crowded. The pair of friends approached a stall appearing to sell a variety of goods and took the time to have a good nose around. The tall and thin stall owner patiently described the usefulness of each item that they held aloft.

‘That’s for cleaning carpets with,’ the man said of a barrel-shaped object with a spinning wheel and a long hose attached. Both Arek and Oxana returned a blank look at the man, having no idea what he was talking about. The man rolled his eyes at his uneducated audience. ‘A carpet is like a rug that covers the entire floor of a room. Distinguished people of wealth have them throughout their entire home. To use the device, one person turns the wheel and it helps to suck up air through the nozzle that the other person moves across the floor.’

The children nodded politely, but having no use for such an object they looked around at what else was available. Arek lifted up what looked a bit like the skull of a rabbit, but with long pointed teeth.

‘That there is the head of a blood-sucking vampire-weasel,’ the man explained. ‘It helps drive away evil spirits and unwanted guests.’ He then turned to see what Oxana was looking at. ‘That, little girl, is what the rich use to pick their noses with.’

Oxana screwed up her own little nose with distaste and instantly let go of the item she held, her hands suddenly feeling rather sticky. At first she had thought it to be some kind of slender musical instrument, but now she wondered which end you did the actual nose-picking with. Maybe both.

‘It’s hollow,’ the stall owner added. ‘So a servant can help when you have a particularly nasty cold by sucking at the other end.’

Oxana grimaced at the thought.

‘Or you could even attach it to the carpet cleaner and actually suck out someone’s brain,’ the stall-holder added as an after-thought in an attempt to sell both items together. However Oxana just grimaced some more, whilst Arek edged closer for a better look, finding the nose-picker strangely alluring. Then his eyes sparkled as they cast their gaze upon something else. Smiling he picked up a long, firm stick with a net affixed to the end and asked the man behind the stall if he could trade it for one of his eggs. The man accepted and Arek beamed with delight, holding it out for Oxana.

‘You can take this to help with your fishing,’ he said.

Oxana’s eyes widened as she suddenly recollected the meeting with her father. Looking up to the sun she saw it had already climbed high into the sky meaning she needed to be off.

‘Thank you,’ she said, hurriedly taking her gift before rushing away. ‘I promise to catch you a big fish for supper,’ she called back. Arek watched with envy as she left. He wished he could go fishing as well. But he had these dumb eggs to trade, though he didn’t want to disappoint his grandpa.

Arek spent the rest of the morning wandering through the camp. Most of the people he met seemed extremely friendly. Nobody had told him to stop being a bother the way Mrs. Mallory the Mayor’s wife did. He managed to swap one of his eggs for a bag of rice. He also gained a pair of new shoes. They were a deep blue in colour, like the depths of a vast lake, and the seller had told him they would last a lifetime, having been made from the skin of the last ever Laculus. Arek had heard tales of the Laculus, the fishfolk of the great Lake Tellus, but he was sure the seller was just pulling his leg about the shoes being made from their skin. Still, the stitching almost invisible under inspection. Each shoe cost him an egg, but it seemed a fair trade considering the state of the current pair he wore, which had grown so tattered and worn they were almost falling off his tiny feet. His biggest toes could be seen poking from holes at the end of each shoe, like timid tortoises peering from their shells.

Moving on and having only two eggs left now he came to a stop upon spying a pile of peculiar objects nestled outside of a wooden caravan. They were large and oval shaped, and orangey-brown in colour. Marked across their surface were ridges with the shape of diamonds. If it hadn’t been for the thick, waxy, spiked leaves sticking out from the top Arek would never have guessed they were the fruit of some plant. They could easily have been mistaken for little, tucked-up piglets with spiky, green hair. In fact, so much so that at any moment he expected one to jump up with fright, give a high-pitched squeal and then scamper away to hide in the longer grass of the meadow.

Beside the pile of unusual fruit stood a short, round man. He was dressed in a yellow silken shirt with frills running down the sleeves. Over the shirt sat a shiny purple waistcoat, which seemed far too small for the man with his large belly swelling out, his belly-button poking from underneath. A large brass-buckled belt held up a pair of black, baggy trousers. And from the belt hung a short, broad sword, which gave a glint each time it caught the sunlight.

‘What are those?’ Arek asked as he approached. The man turned and smiled down at the little boy. Upon his face was a thick, black moustache which looked like a large, hairy caterpillar sat above his upper lip.

‘They are known as pineapples,’ the man announced rather loudly, with a twitch of his caterpillar-like moustache. Then without being prompted further he picked one up and sent it sailing high up into the air. At the same time he expertly drew his sword and with a well-timed swipe as it fell back down, the pineapple was sliced into two equal pieces. From it burst a shower of sticky sweetness which Arek could even smell. Inside was a juicy, yellow fruit. His mouth began to water at how good it must taste.

‘They look funny for apples,’ he replied. ‘But could I please trade you for one of my eggs?’

The round man peered into Arek’s basket and let out a deep chuckle, causing his whole belly to wobble under his silk shirt. Holding up an egg in one of his large and rough hands he said, ‘You want to trade one of my large, fine and juicy pineapples for this teeny, tiny little hen’s egg?’

Those standing nearby heard this also and laughed. Arek just nodded his head. He didn’t know why people were laughing, but he smiled because everyone else was.

‘Yes please,’ he replied.

The round man laughed out heartily and rubbed Arek’s hair playfully.

‘For you my little friend, I will accept the offer,’ he said. ‘Just don’t tell anyone else, or they will think I am giving my pineapples away. I hope this egg is the most delicious I have ever tasted.’

Arek beamed with delight as he accepted this new piece of fruit. He only had one more egg left now.

Unfortunately for Arek the new pineapple proved to be a very heavy load for such a small boy to carry. He was almost dragging his basket along behind him now. And the temptation to take a bite of the sweet smelling fruit was nearly too much to resist. He became incredibly hot and tired.

Stopping for a rest he peered around to see what could be traded for his final egg. Nearby he spied a small tent, if tent was what it could be called. For it was more like a piece of cloth held up with a few branches. Arek was sure that if he was to sneeze the tent would tumble down, as if a great storm has passed through.

Sitting by the tent was a very old man with a grimy face. His nose was long and thin and bent down like a hook. His chin also pointed out and up as if trying to grow upwards to meet with the nose. He was squinting at Arek with a toothless smile. Sat beside the man was a sleek, petite black cat with large green eyes. Occasionally it would turn its head and lick the fur down its back.

‘Little boy,’ the old man rasped before letting out a painful cough. It sounded like small, sharp pebbles were being tossed around his dry throat. ‘Little boy,’ he repeated when the raw coughing fit had ended. ‘I noticed you had some eggs before. Do you by any chance still have some at all? I am ever so hungry.’

‘I have one left,’ Arek replied. ‘What do you have to trade for it?’

The man held out his empty hands. ‘Sadly I have nothing,’ he said with another cough. His belly then gave a long and low rumble that was so loud it sounded like distant thunder.

Arek looked down at his last little egg, and then up at the poor old man who seemed very frail and thin. Surely giving away just one egg wouldn’t hurt. And because he was so tired it would be difficult for him to carry anything else all the way back across town to his home anyway.

His mind made up, he held out the last remaining egg for the old man. It was snatched up in an instant, before Arek could even blink. The old man then gobbled it down whole with a single, quick gulp. Arek stared, his eyes wide with disbelief. The man must have really been hungry.

‘Thank you, young one,’ the old man said and then let out a short burp. The cat beside him mewed, as if to give him a telling off for being rude. Arek just giggled at the strange old man.

Leaving for home, Arek struggled along with his basket of goods in a surprisingly cheerful mood. Although he hadn’t received anything for his last egg he felt a lot happier because it had been given to someone who really needed it.

 

I Name You Apprentice Brown

 

The next day began with another sun-bleached sky. Arek took two large, white duck eggs and four small, brown hen’s eggs from the birds he and his grandpa kept. A wild rabbit was also caught in one of their snares.

‘We will have the rabbit for supper tonight,’ his grandpa told him over breakfast, smacking his lips together at the thought of tasting the juicy rodent. ‘You can use the eggs to get another bag of rice. It can be kept for the winter time.’

Arek also wrapped up a fish-head left over from supper last night. Oxana’s father had caught the fish for them yesterday and Arek planned to give it to the cat belonging to the poor old man he had met.

Oxana had gone fishing early with her father today so Arek was all alone. He made his way out of town and up the winding road to the meadow opposite the Sorcerer’s house. First he headed for some rice. Then he walked past the wooden caravan that had sold pineapple’s yesterday. The taste of it had been so absolutely delicious that he considered trading for another. But as he stopped to take a look outside the caravan he noticed a pile of new round objects instead. They were smaller than pineapples and covered with short brown hair. Arek thought these also could be mistaken for some kind of tucked-up little piglet, but this time all hairy and brown.

The short, round man who owned the caravan spotted Arek.

‘Welcome back my friend,’ the man smiled, noticing Arek staring at his new goods. ‘Don’t tell me you have never seen a coconut before.’

Arek shook his head. He was familiar with peanuts and hazel nuts and walnuts. But these coconuts seemed enormous.

‘Then you must trade for one,’ the man insisted. ‘Inside they contain a deliciously soft white fruit and the sweetest milk you will have ever tasted. Yes, that’s right, you heard me correctly, milk. Far better than the milk from an ordinary, boring cow.’

Arek held out a hen’s egg and the man laughed as he had done yesterday. His belly wobbled along with his laughter.

‘I see you have some large white duck eggs in your basket. I will have to ask for one of those this time.’

Arek reluctantly agreed. He had been hoping to keep the duck eggs until later.

At the next tent that Arek decided to stop at there was a man with a huge dark-brown, warty toad sat beside him. Arek had never seen such a large one before. It was even tied up with a leash, like a dog, and sat there completely still looking at Arek suspiciously with its big, bulging eyes.

‘I am selling the finest sheets today,’ the man said. ‘They keep you incredibly warm and dry and can even be used to carry water.’

To prove his point the man gathering up one of his sheets and tipped a jug full of water into it. Not a drop found its way through, even after he gave it a firm shake. Arek was impressed. He held out a hen’s egg to trade, but the man shook his head.

‘That coconut you have will make a much better trade instead.’

Scratching his head, Arek thought for a moment. If he traded the coconut he could always go back to the caravan later and get another. Deciding to agree with the deal, he handed the coconut over. The sheet he got in return was smooth and waxy. Not like the soft and fluffy sheets he was used to on his bed.

‘They are made from the skin that my pet here sheds.’ He looked down at the toad as he said this. Arek suddenly wasn’t so sure he wanted to wear warty toad-skin.

‘It will be useful for when it rains later,’ the man added. But his words only confused Arek, who frowned, as the sky was beautifully clear and blue.

‘My toad can predict the weather,’ the man explained. ‘He is never wrong.’

The toad raised itself up and sniffed the air, giving a short croak of agreement. Arek saw its big, slimy tongue roll across its mouth and decided to leave. He was fairly sure that he could fit into the toad’s mouth and didn’t want to wait around for it to realise this as well.

Scurrying off, Arek decided to head to a different part of the meadow today. Walking past a large blue tent with a faint waft of smoke coming from the entrance he paused. Poking his head inside the gloomy interior he could see candles burning and an old man sitting on a chair in the corner smoking a long pipe.

‘Come in child,’ the man said. ‘Come see what amazing treasures I keep.’

Arek peered across shelves. There were jars full of a variety of insects, living and dead. One jar contained bugs whose behinds glowed with an eerie green light. Another held a large, hairy spider with sharp fangs. In one corner of the tent he noticed a wooden walking-stick poking out from the top of a barrel. The handle was carved to look like a clawed hand with long and skinny fingers. Inside the wooden hand’s grasp was a smooth red stone.

My grandpa could do with a walking stick, Arek thought. He’s always complaining about his aching back.

The old man accepted Arek’s last duck egg as a trade for the walking stick. With only three hen’s eggs left now, at this rate he would be finished by noon and could play for the rest of the day. But moving around now proved difficult for little Arek, particularly with the long walking stick. He soon found himself feeling hot and uncomfortable again, just like yesterday.

Stopping for a short rest he looked ahead and wondered where to head to next, when a long, low growling noise came to his ears. Turning his head he encountered two large yellow eyes staring at him intently. They belonged to a fierce looking creature with orange and black stripes. It resembled a cat, only much larger. Its muscular body was tensed in a crouch, ready to pounce, and as Arek turned it growled louder, showing two huge, pointed teeth from its mouth. Luckily the animal was caged up but it still made Arek jump and take several steps back in alarm. But by doing so he managed to trip on his walking stick. Stumbling unsteadily he swung his basket out to try and regain some balance and saw one of his eggs whizz round the inside of the basket. It then leapt up and out, sailing over his head, as if thinking it had already hatched and was trying to fly away.

Arek watched the egg escape, and looked beyond its flight-path to see a table holding some very large and finely painted vases. With a splat of slimy, yellow ooze the egg hit the top edge of a vase at the corner of the table. The vase gave an unsteady wobble and Arek could only watch in horror as it first rocked one way, and then spun back the other way, teetering at the table’s edge as if daring him to try and stop it from falling. But Arek just screwed his eyes tightly shut, knowing it was too late. Sure enough, a loud shattering noise came to his ears only seconds later. First opening one eye, and then the other, his gaze was met by the sight of hundreds of broken vase pieces scattered across the ground. The owner of the vases did not look pleased at all.

‘Look what you have done you stinky, little fool!’ the angry man unkindly shouted.

Arek tried to say sorry, but felt like crying because the man was being so mean.

‘I, I can give you an egg,’ he stammered and held out an egg as a peace offering. The nasty man have a cold scowl and fiercely snatched it up. Then Arek fled as fast as he could. He felt thoroughly miserable and thought the man was very rude to have called him stinky. But sniffing the air now he realised the smell of the fish-head within his basket had grown stronger. And with his nose still raised to the air, a sudden drop of water landed upon it with a plop. Frowning, he looked up to see the sky was no longer a bright blue. Dark grey clouds had raced over, to match his unhappy mood. Soon large raindrops were pattering all around.

Wondering if things could get any worse, he hurried to avoid getting soaked but stumbled over his walking stick once again and landed in a muddy patch. Glancing down into his basket he noticed his last remaining egg now had a crack running round it. With a sigh, he slowly pulled himself to his feet and patted down his legs to try and remove any dirt.

The rain was falling more heavily now just as the man and his toad had predicted. Fortunately this reminded him of his new waterproof sheet. Unfurling it he wrapped himself up tightly, glad he had traded for it now.

Arek decided to go and see the old man he had met yesterday. He would offer him the cracked egg. It was better than letting it go to waste. And there was still the smelly fish-head to give to the cat.

Making his way to the unstable tent, Arek could see the old man sheltered inside with his cat beside him.

‘Come in,’ the old man welcomed. However it seemed to be dripping more inside the cramped, damp tent than outside. Arek held out the fish-head above the sleek, black cat. It lifted its nose and took a sniff at the fish before turning its bum to Arek, clearly not impressed with what was being offered.

‘Ignore her,’ the old man said. ‘She’s a fussy eater.’

Arek then offered his new friend the cracked egg, but the old man shook his head.

‘Thank you, but I am still so full after yesterday’s egg.’

‘But it was only one small egg,’ Arek protested.

The old man ignored him. Instead he said, ‘I want to give you a gift for your kindness yesterday.’ He pulled off the ragged pair of gloves he wore and handed them over. Arek warily took them between his thumb and forefinger, as if they carried fleas, or a flesh-eating disease, or both.

‘These are special gloves. They are known as Power Gauntlets. They will give you the strength to lift even the heaviest of objects when you wear them.’

Arek suspiciously examined the threadbare gloves once again. They seemed far too old and tatty to be able to do anything as special as that.

‘Can you do other magic?’ he asked out of curiosity.

‘A little,’ was the man’s response and he grinned showing his glistening, toothless gums. ‘What I really want though is to live in that nice, warm house the Sorcerer has,’ the old man said.

A large, cold droplet of water hit Arek upon the forehead and ran down his little nose. It seemed to sit there for a while, as if it was deciding what to do, before finally choosing to take the plunge and drop to the floor. Living anywhere was surely better than in this damp and draughty place.

‘Would you like to stay in my house tonight?’ Arek offered. ‘It is awfully cold and wet in here.’

The old man smiled his gummy smile once again and accepted the kind offer, so Arek helped him to his feet. He handed over the walking stick for support and the waterproof sheet to keep the old man dry. However this meant that poor Arek got soaked to his skin on the journey home.

When Arek awoke the next day he found himself laid stiffly out upon a thin rug on the hard floor of his bedroom. He could hear the snoring of the old man who was asleep in his bed. Aching and cold he wished to be the one tucked up cosily within his soft and warm bed. With this thought he let out an enormous sneeze. The noise awoke the old man with a snort.

‘Sounds like you have a bad cold,’ he grinned.

After breakfast Arek collected more eggs. Then, with the old man, he trudged his way up the long and tiring road out of town. At least the rain had stopped, but Arek was still feeling cold. With every step he sneezed or sniffled his way up the hill. It seemed a longer and more exhausting journey than usual.

As they finally reached the meadow the old man stopped to scrutinise the camp-site. An unsettling hush seemed to descend over the crowd before them. Then the strange old man unexpectedly called to everyone in the field. His voice sounded much stronger than it had before.

‘My dear friends,’ he said, lifting his arms to the air. Everyone looked over at the strange old man. ‘I want to tell you of this little boy by my side. He has a kind and good heart. Of all the people I have spoken to these past few days he was the only one who offered me food and shelter. It is for these reasons that I am pleased to ask him to become my new Apprentice. From this day forward I name him Apprentice Brown.’

There was a sharp and almost painfully blinding flash followed by a puff of multi-coloured smoke. To the amazement of all who watched there stood the Sorcerer where the old man had just been. He looked down at his new Apprentice and chuckled, unfurling a brown cloak from seemingly nowhere. As it drifted down over its new owner’s shoulders the sight of the Sorcerer’s silver seal flashed in the morning sunlight. The Sorcerer then promptly fixed the cloak around Arek’s neck.

‘ATCHOOO!’ was all the poor little boy could reply.

 

 

Mischief Two – Patience

The Art of Magic

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. Upon the roof of this most curious of houses lay tiles of smooth grey-blue slate. When the sun shined upon the tiles they glowed like the brightest of lanterns. Under the moonlight in the dark the tiles sparkled like the millions of twinkling stars in the night sky above. Some believed the tiles held the wishes of everyone in the world, and it was said that each night the Sorcerer who lived within the house would grant the wish of someone who had been especially good.

Within the special house the wise, old Sorcerer was training five Apprentices in the Art of using magic. This year the Sorcerer had chosen a very young boy to be his new Apprentice. The boy had been given the title of Apprentice Brown.

It was Apprentice Brown’s first official day of training to be a Wizard and he was ready to burst with excitement. As the lesson began he was sat on a wooden bench outside the Sorcerer’s house and couldn’t stop fidgeting, as if there were furry caterpillars wriggling in his underwear.

‘Every bit of magic learned is called an Art,’ his Master explained. ‘Everybody in the world has a unique Art that they will master more than any other Art. Anybody can learn magic, it’s just that for some it is easier than others. Most people spend their entire lives never using even the tiniest piece of magic or realising their true Art. But discovering your gift is not always easy.

A person’s Art should be their own secret, but learning other pieces of magic is just as important. People can be taken over by a single power that grows too strong, without a strong mind to control it.’

Apprentice Brown wondered what his special Art could be. At first he hoped it would be to fly. How amazing it would be to soar freely across the sky like a bird. But then he remembered he didn’t like heights, so that wouldn’t be any good as he wouldn’t be able to look down. Maybe if he could run extremely fast. Yes that would be much more useful. He was always last in races with the other children in town.

‘Now for the rules of magic,’ the Sorcerer said firmly, fixing Apprentice Brown with his grey eyes to prove that he was being serious. ‘Remember these as I will often ask you what they are.

Firstly, the most important rule. You should only use magic for good. Using magic for bad deeds will only lead to a dark soul.

The second rule is that you must not use magic for your own benefit. That is not good magic.

And the third and final rule is that you must not use magic openly if possible. People know magic exists but it will always frighten them no matter how kind you are. Magic is not a toy and it should only be used when all else fails. Choose when to use your magic wisely and you will remain pure.’

Apprentice Brown was asked to repeat the three rules, and after perfectly doing so his Master looked pleased.

‘I will now demonstrate only the tiniest possibility of what magic can achieve,’ the Sorcerer said. ‘Follow me.’

Apprentice Brown hopped from the bench and was led inside the Sorcerer’s house to a room where he was told most of his magic classes would be held. There was a small window at one side of the room, facing the garden. The rest of the room was packed with cupboards containing row upon row of wooden shelves filled with books and jars. Some of the jars were full of liquid. Others contained curious objects that Apprentice Brown didn’t recognise. A tingle of excitement welled up within him once again at the thought that he would now get to perform some magic.

The Sorcerer showed him a few spells, with Apprentice Brown gasping in wonder at everything he saw. Sometimes the magic required his Master to utter a special word, or use a potion from one of the many jars in the room, or merely just to think about the magical effect. One of Apprentice Brown’s favourite sights was seeing his Master put a single drop of some cloudy blue potion onto an egg and watching it miraculously burst into life. In only a few seconds it had hatched into a chick then grown into a large, red hen right before his eyes.

‘Over time and with a good heart and a lot of patience, you can learn these secrets for yourself,’ he was told by his Master. ‘We will start your training in the garden.’

Apprentice Brown happily skipped after his Master. Maybe now he would finally undertake some magic.

Outside, the Sorcerer looked up at his own house and Apprentice Brown did the same.

‘The tiles on my roof are important,’ his Master explained. ‘They are like a special map that tells me anywhere in the world where dark magic is being used. It is important that those using magic for no good know the error of their ways.’

The Sorcerer fell silent for a moment. He looked extremely sad at the thought of people using magic for evil deeds.

‘My grandpa told me the tiles were full of wishes,’ Apprentice Brown said. His Master looked down at him and smiled.

‘Unfortunately that’s not true, but it’s sometimes okay to let people think what they want to believe.’ He then went back to his teaching. ‘I would like you to polish the tiles on my roof. Take some water from the well to help.’ He pointed across his garden to a small stone well near the edge of the large forest that surrounded their town, stretching off far to the east.

‘You should have no trouble lifting a full bucket with the gloves I gave you,’ his Master reminded him.

Apprentice Brown recalled the Power Gauntlets he had been given. They were special gloves that could lift anything, no matter how heavy the object was. He had completely forgotten about them with all the recent excitement of being made an Apprentice.

‘Twenty tiles each day should be enough,’ his Master instructed.

Apprentice Brown craned his neck up at the roof. The house was too high for a little boy like him to climb, and he would surely get scared being so high up.

‘W…where is the ladder to help me climb up?’ he stammered. His Master looked at him and gave a chuckle.

‘Why, all you have to do is just ask the roof and it will give you its most dirty tile to clean.’

Apprentice Brown appeared confused and frowned, so his Master demonstrated. ‘Could I please have a tile to clean?’ he called up.

Almost immediately a tile hopped from the roof and slowly floated down in front of them. Apprentice Brown stood mesmerised, with his mouth wide open in surprise. The Sorcerer took hold of the floating tile as if what had happened was nothing special, and showed it to him.

‘It needs to have all the dirt removed, and be so shiny and clean you can see your face within it. Is all that understood?’

Apprentice Brown managed a faint nod but still gazed at the magical tile in wonder as his Master stared down at him.

‘You may close your mouth now, Apprentice Brown’ his Master offered with a smile. Apprentice Brown quickly snapped his jaw shut and came back to his senses.

The Sorcerer looked at the tile he held. ‘You may go back now,’ he told it. Magically the tile floated from the old man’s grasp and out of view above the house. The Sorcerer then left Apprentice Brown, who spent the early morning doing what had been asked of him.

 

Chores

 

At the conclusion of his tile cleaning duties Apprentice Brown was taken by the Sorcerer to a new room at the side of the house. It was completely bare with just a wooden floor and a large window spanning the entire back wall. The sun shone through, making the room all nice and warm. They sat cross-legged upon the hard floor, facing each other.

‘Learning to stay calm and relaxed is an important part of using magic,’ the Sorcerer said. ‘I want you to close your eyes.’

Apprentice Brown did as he was told.

‘First, slowly breathe in,’ his Master said.

Apprentice Brown breathed in.

‘Then breathe out calmly,’ came the next command, which he did. ‘Then you must relax. You need to clear your mind of any bad thoughts, and do not move. Now repeat that again. Breathe in….Breathe out….Relax.’

His Master repeated the phrase several times. Apprentice Brown followed his instructions.

‘Repeat those words in your head until I tell you to stop,’ his Master instructed.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Relax, Apprentice Brown thought. He could hear his Master’s breathing in front of him.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Relax.

He wasn’t quite sure how to relax. He had been told not to think bad thoughts. So he decided to think of nice thoughts instead. He thought about going fishing with his friend Oxana and her father. She had mentioned that he could join them one day, but he would have to ask permission from his Master. Now didn’t seem a good time to ask.

Apprentice Brown then thought of how warm it was in this room. He was feeling rather tired. Drawing water from the well and cleaning tiles all morning was hard work for a little boy. Thinking all this he quickly fell into a slumber.

Opened his eyes Apprentice Brown found himself curled up on the hard, wooden floor. His Master was still in the same position in front of him. As Apprentice Brown stiffly sat up his Master opened his eyes and smiled.

‘Sitting here will get easier with each day that passes,’ he reassured. ‘Now it’s time for some lunch.’

After lunch they visited the garden once again. Apprentice Brown was led to an orchard of fruit trees. Walking beneath the canopy of fresh green the branches above appeared weighed down with juicy, red apples.

‘I would like you to collect ten red apples in this basket,’ the Sorcerer said, suddenly holding out a basket that Apprentice Brown was sure hadn’t been there a second ago.

‘Please take all the apples to Baker Bumblebelly in town. You will receive two loaves of bread in return. There you will be told who else needs some apples. Bring the loaves back here and give them to Ethel my cook. She can be found in the kitchen at the back of the house. Then get some more apples and take them back into town. Understood?’

Apprentice Brown gave a nod and his Master took a short bow and proceeded to leave. Apprentice Brown stared up at the leafy trees and although they weren’t too tall, the apples were still far out of his reach.

‘How do I pick them?’ he shouted at his departing Master, who turned back and chuckled. ‘Why, just ask the trees of course.’ And with that the Sorcerer left.

Turning to the trees Apprentice Brown put his hands behind his back, cleared his throat, and then said in his most polite voice, ‘Please may I have ten of your finest apples.’

With a rustle of leaves, ten apples floated gently down to the ground and Apprentice Brown picked them up.

‘Thank you trees,’ he said. They rustled their leaves back in response.

Feeling extremely happy, Apprentice Brown headed down the hill and along the winding road. Making his way into town to the Bakery he passed its window and spied mountains of breads and buns, cakes and candies, pastries and pies, spun sugars and sticky syrups. It was a doctor’s nightmare of health problems, but it made Apprentice Brown stop and press him nose to the glass, almost licking the window pane at the marvellous sweet feast before his eyes.

With his mouth-watering he managed to tear himself away from the window. Stepping inside the delicious smell of freshly baked bread wafted his way. He spied Mr and Mrs Bumblebelly the Bakers in the corner. They seemed to be annoyed at something.

‘A whole batch of burnt bread,’ Mrs Bumblebelly snapped at her husband.

Then upon hearing a customer enter the shop they both looked up with a smile.

‘Well if it isn’t the new Apprentice,’ Mr Bumblebelly said. ‘I’ll be careful I don’t make you angry in case you turn me into a warty toad and eat me for supper.’

Apprentice Brown giggled, but then screwed up his face at the thought of eating a slimy toad.

‘I have some apples for you,’ he said, and heaved his basket onto the wooden counter for them to see.

‘Why thank you,’ Mr. Bumblebelly replied and picked up an apple to examine. ‘They look juicy and ripe today.’ He then reached under the counter. ‘Here are two loaves of bread for your dinner. Mrs Bumblebelly made them herself. She makes the most wonderful bread.’

Mrs Bumblebelly gazed at her husband all dewy eyed at his praise.

‘Oh dearest, it’s you who makes the best bread, so light and fluffy like clouds.’

‘But not as tasty as yours, my sweetness’ he added.

‘But your bread has a golden sheen like no other,’ she replied with rising annoyance.

‘Just take the compliment dear wife,’ he said with gritted teeth.

‘How about spending more time watching that the bread doesn’t burn rather than chattering, dearest husband,’ she snapped back so that they were both arguing once again.

Apprentice Brown took the fresh, warm loaves and slunk off quietly. But as he was departing Mr Bumblebelly called after him.

‘Oh Arek, I mean Apprentice Brown, I hear that Mr. Pike the Fisherman would like five of the Sorcerer’s apples also.’

A large smile spread across Apprentice Brown’s face. Mr. Pike was the father of his good friend Oxana. Even better though, his grandpa also lived with the Pike family now. Part of being an Apprentice had meant having to live in the Sorcerer’s house. Apprentice Brown had cried when he was first told this. He didn’t want to leave his grandpa. But his grandpa had been so proud that his grandson had been chosen he had insisted it as the right thing to do. Mr and Mrs. Pike had kindly offered his grandpa a new place to live. And although Apprentice Brown still missed his grandpa, delivering apples meant they could see each other every day.

He waved goodbye to Mr. Bumblebelly and rushed back out of town as fast as his little legs would allow. Up the hill to the Sorcerer’s house he went and all the way there came the tempting smell of the fresh loaves of bread. He began to feel hungry, even though he had just eaten lunch.

Taking the bread to the Sorcerer’s kitchen he found Ethel the cook hard at work over bubbling pots and sizzling pans. She was a very short and skinny old woman with a turned up nose and short curly grey hair.

‘Can you do any magic?’ Apprentice Brown asked as he handed over the bread.

‘Why of course,’ she smiled, showing several crooked teeth and pointed to the table in the middle of the kitchen with a long, bony finger. ‘I can turn those eggs and that pile of flour and that plate of butter, as well as the bag of sugar, into the most delicious cake you have ever tasted. Even better than what that Baker in town can make, that’s for sure.’

Apprentice Brown loved cake so he waited eagerly for her to perform the magic trick. She noticed his expectant gaze and narrowed her already wrinkled eyes with a frown.

‘You will have to wait till dinner time,’ she snapped. ‘My magic works slowly.’

Disappointed, Apprentice Brown made his way back outside to the orchard and asked the friendly trees for five more apples. Then he made the long journey back down the hill again and across town, passing by his old home. It stood there, all empty and lonely. It made him feel sad, longing for his old life with his grandpa.

The next house belonged to Oxana. Upon entering Apprentice Brown spied his grandpa with Mrs. Pike, Oxana’s mother. Apprentice Brown flew into his grandpa’s open arms. He had only been away two days, but it felt like they hadn’t seen each other for years.

‘Hello, little Arek,’ Mrs. Pike said, giving him a hug also. Apprentice Brown smiled at hearing his old name. The people living in this house were the only ones who would now call him Arek. For that reason they would always feel like his family. Everyone else in town called him Apprentice Brown.

‘I have some apples for you, from the Sorcerer,’ Apprentice Brown said.

‘Thank you,’ Mrs. Pike replied. ‘Mr. Pike and Oxana brought these trout back home at lunch time.’ She pointed to several large, brown fish laid out upon the table. ‘I will wrap one up so you can take it back to the Sorcerer as our way of saying thank you.’

With Mrs. Pike busy in her kitchen, Apprentice Brown spoke with his grandpa.

‘Are you behaving for your Master?’ was the first thing his grandpa asked.

‘Yes Sir,’ he replied.

‘Good.’ The old man smiled with pride. ‘I hear Daisy the Blacksmith’s daughter and Ben the Baker’s son are engaged to be married.’ He paused briefly, building up to some announcement. ‘I was going to let them move into our house,’ he eventually added. ‘We don’t need it anymore.’

Apprentice Brown fell quiet for a moment. He was sad for losing his old home, having shared many happy memories there with his grandpa. But now it had the chance to be a family home for Daisy and Ben, rather than sitting empty and lonely. He knew it was for the best and slowly smiled before giving his grandpa another hug.

‘I want you to have this,’ his Grandpa said revealing a necklace fixed with a shiny, blue Topaz pendant upon it. Apprentice Brown was honoured, knowing it was his grandpa’s most treasured possession. Reaching out he carefully took the precious gift and tied it round his neck.

‘Now, if you can get me five more of the Sorcerer’s apples I will give you some eggs,’ his grandpa said. Apprentice Brown gave a bow of pride and then rushed off to get some.

On his way back into town with the apples he was spotted by the twins, Lisa and Lyndsey, the daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Saddlebottom the Butchers. They were a few years older than Apprentice Brown and were always playing tricks upon him. Nobody could tell them apart with their red curled hair and pale, freckled faces. In Apprentice Brown’s opinion they both looked just as mean as each other. His friend Oxana wasn’t scared of them though. She called them Moaner Lisa and Whingey Lyndsey because they were always fussing and complaining.

Apprentice Brown’s pace slowed as they came nearer.

‘What have you got in your basket?’ the twins grunted at the same time, leaning over to nosily peer inside.

‘Apples,’ he replied quietly. Then a brilliant idea struck him at how he could boast of his role as the Sorcerer’s new Apprentice, and he smiled. ‘They are special apples. I made them myself with the magic I have been learning. They are the most delicious apples you will ever taste.’

The twins appeared impressed, and stared into the basket. Then before Apprentice Brown could do anything, one of them had grabbed an apple.

‘Give it back!’ he pleaded. But instead the naughty girl took a bite and handed it to her sister who also took a bite.

‘They are truly delicious,’ they said with glee at the same time. ‘Give us another.’

Apprentice Brown panicked. The apples were for his grandpa, but here these greedy girls were eating them. He then had another, more enjoyable idea.

‘My magic isn’t quite right yet,’ he announced slyly. ‘The apples have a curse. You will go to bed tonight and never wake up. The only thing that can help will be if a Prince comes along and gives you a kiss. But because you both look so mean, that will never happen.’

The two girls stared at Apprentice Brown open-mouthed, then at the munched apple in one of their hands, and then at each other. Apprentice Brown felt quite pleased with his little tale. But much to his surprise, both girls burst into tears, flung the apple to the ground and ran off crying. That had never happened before. But looking down into his basket he was annoyed at the pair of silly girls. He only had four apples now. He had to trudge all the way back up to the Sorcerer’s house, ask for another apple, and then walk all the way to see his grandpa again.

When Apprentice Brown had finally finished taking requests for apples for the day he was very tired. Going back and forth from his Master’s house and into town all afternoon had completely worn him out. His eyes felt heavy as he ate his dinner. Twice he almost dropped his head into his bowl of stew. Even eating a slice of the cake Ethel had promised seemed an effort. When he had finished his meal he gave a big yawn and stretched out his arms.

‘Time for some sleep,’ his Master laughed. Apprentice Brown nodded and was helped upstairs.

‘How did you begin teaching magic?’ Apprentice Brown asked sleepily as the Sorcerer laid him down upon his soft bed. The old man looked thoughtful for a moment, staring at nothing, but at the same time remembering so much.

‘I haven’t been asked that for a long time,’ was the eventual reply. ‘But that is a story which is best told during the day, when the sun is shining. It is a dark and sad tale. Now, get a good night’s sleep and I will tell you tomorrow.’

 

The Boy Is Ready

 

The next morning the Sorcerer walked Apprentice Brown through the garden.

‘Am I going to learn some magic today?’ Apprentice Brown asked, with hope in his little voice.

‘Patience,’ his Master replied. ‘Remember last night when you asked me how I began teaching magic? Well, it happened quite suddenly, a long time ago. One day there was a knock upon my door and five people were stood there, eager to learn some magic. I’m ashamed to say it but back then when I was younger, my pride took over, and I accepted their offer. I was somehow blind to the consequences and I still sometimes wonder whether it was a good choice.

It all went well at first. My Apprentices were all truly gifted individuals. Each of them with their unique abilities, and other Apprentices since, have helped me shape the various parts of the special house that you now live within.’

The Sorcerer paused and they both took time to look up at the unusual house, before continuing.

‘But there was one of my Apprentices who wouldn’t stick to the rules. His special Art was to control the element of fire. I believe it was the burning desire within him that eventually took over his heart. He wanted to learn ever more, and he grew stronger than I realised, until one day he challenged me.’

The Sorcerer rubbed the back of his right hand as he said this without knowing. Looking at it Apprentice Brown could see it was scarred; perhaps a burn-mark as a consequence of the battle that had taken place.

‘It was only with the help of the other Apprentices that we managed to contain his flaming fury. Sadly we had no choice but to banish him to the Forbidden Realm. He could no longer be reasoned with.’

The Sorcerer fell quiet after telling his story of sorrow. He somehow seemed much older than before.

‘I was lucky that events concluded well for me,’ his Master said after a while. ‘But in the end it didn’t frighten me away. I became more determined than ever to continue teaching magic. I realised that people needed to learn how to control themselves before they could use magic.’ He then looked down at Apprentice Brown and smiled. ‘Such dark words on such a fine day.’

They had come to a stop now and were standing by a patch of strawberries. They were the largest and most juicy looking bright red strawberries that Apprentice Brown had ever seen.

‘Let us get back to your work,’ the Sorcerer suggested. ‘I would like you to clean twenty tiles again and then join me for meditation, like yesterday. Then this afternoon I would like you to fill a basket with these strawberries and take them to Mr Bumblebelly again. He will tell you who else has need of some.’

The Sorcerer then asked Apprentice Brown to repeat the rules of magic. Apprentice Brown remembered all three perfectly.

‘Very good,’ his Master replied. ‘Remember, the rules are not just about using magic, but being aware that others know you can use magic. If you say something is magical then they will believe you. You must be trusted by others, so telling lies about magic can be just as harmful as using bad magic.’

The Sorcerer went to leave Apprentice Brown to his work, but then turned back to say something else. ‘One other thing, I heard that the Butcher’s twins were up all night long. They were too scared to sleep for some reason. Therefore they were also too tired to help their parents this morning. Maybe someone should pay them a visit. Taking some strawberries might help to cheer them up.’

His Master gave him a long look under his big, bushy eyebrows and then left. Apprentice Brown knew it was his fault the twins had not slept. He felt bad for having tricked them with pretend magic and set off to apologise. When the twins saw the strawberries all was forgiven, though they probably wouldn’t be eating apples any time soon.

Time gradually cycled by, one day after another. Spring turned to a fine summer and the days grew warmer and longer. And Apprentice Brown ever repeated the same daily routine. In the morning he cleaned tiles and meditated. Breathe in; breathe out; relax. In the afternoon he delivered what seemed like an endless supply of fruit to the townspeople, the Sorcerer’s magical garden never running empty. Now and then Tabitha, the Sorcerer’s cat, would keep him company, trotting beside him as he made his way in and out of town. Sometimes his Master would request of him to take potions to people who had fallen ill, or ask for leaves to be scooped out of the pond, or for Tabitha to be fed. And every day Apprentice Brown would ask his Master if he was going to learn any magic, and every day the reply would be the same; ‘Patience.’

But despite the hard work, Apprentice Brown also grew to love his new life. Any worries he had about his grandpa being lonely vanished altogether. His grandpa was extremely proud of him and seemed quite content living with Oxana and her family. In fact, Apprentice Brown was soon so happy he even started to forget about learning magic. And after a while he even stopped asking his Master when he would be casting his first spell.

Then one day the Sorcerer appeared as Apprentice Brown was about to head into town to deliver some apples. ‘Apprentice Brown, I have something very exciting to show you today,’ his Master said.

The Apprentice looked down at his basket of apples, unsure of what to do. ‘But Mr. Bumblebelly is expecting these apples. And there will surely be others who want some also. I wouldn’t want to keep them waiting. Would it be okay to show me after I have finished?’

His Master nodded and smiled as he watched Apprentice Brown skip his way down the hill and along the winding road into town. The Sorcerer looked down at Tabitha who was sat by his feet. She looked up at her Master with her calm, green eyes. ‘The boy is ready,’ she purred.

Mischief Three – The Art of Illusion

The Dangers of Magic

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses was built from large blocks of smoothly polished, black marble stone, the likes of which people had never seen before. It was said that the stones helped to absorb dark magic, so only good magic could ever be used around the house. The townspeople knew that the wise, old Sorcerer who lived there only ever practiced good magic. But they also knew there were five Apprentices within the house learning magic to perform good deeds. And if one should accidentally make a mistake within, the strong and steadfast walls of the house would always help to make amends.

One of the Apprentices who lived within the house was called Apprentice Brown. Today, after months of preparation, he was finally going to learn his first magic skill. For the occasion all the Apprentices had been gathered in the magic room for a lesson together.

The Sorcerer spoke with a whisper, but still sounded very serious as he explained to Apprentice Brown. ‘I will tell you the honest truth, as it is important that you are aware. In some Kingdoms those who use magic must fear for their lives.’

A chill ran through Apprentice Brown. Why would anyone want to cause him or his good friends harm? His Master continued the lesson.

‘It is in these places that all magic is considered evil and those who command it are hunted down mercilessly. These Kingdoms cannot always be avoided. Therefore the Art of Illusion is one of the most important Arts an Apprentice can learn. Firstly it will allow you to cast an illusion upon yourself. This means you will trick the eyes of others into believing your appearance is different. Then with more practice you will also be able to change the look and behaviour of the things around you.’

The Sorcerer then went on to explain how to use the Art of Illusion.

‘You must imagine a disguise for yourself and truly believe it is what you look like. The transformation will happen as soon as you believe.’

Apprentice Brown waited patiently, expecting more. Surely it couldn’t be that easy. But being eager not to disappoint his Master, when called upon to finally try some magic he imagined himself as a man. He was thinking of Mr. Pike, the father of his good friend Oxana.

Looking around, the smiling faces of the other Apprentices and his Master told Apprentice Brown his disguise was complete. Rushing to a nearby mirror he gazed upon his own reflection. There before him was an old, grumpy-looking man. It wasn’t quite the look he had imagined for himself, but at least he had changed.

‘Now change back,’ the Sorcerer told him, but Apprentice Brown wasn’t sure how. He tried to wish himself back to normal, but nothing happened. With a frown he concentrated harder, willing himself to look like a little boy once again. But he remained standing there, with the same mean and wrinkled expression upon his face. It didn’t even show how upset he was becoming.

‘Give it time,’ the Sorcerer reassured him. ‘Don’t keep staring at the mirror. If you see yourself looking as you are, that is how you will remain. Remember, breathe in, breath out and relax.’

Apprentice Brown looked away and screwed his eyes tightly shut, wanting so much to look normal once again. But when he glanced back at the mirror the awful old man was still staring back at him.

‘Don’t worry,’ Apprentice Green said, trying to offer some comfort. Apprentice Green was the most experienced of them all. He was only a teenager, but like Apprentice Brown, he had been chosen at a very young age. He was gifted at using all sorts of magic. Apprentice Brown hoped that one day he would be as good at magic as Apprentice Green was.

‘Apprentice Yellow here spent a whole week looking like a little girl,’ Apprentice Green explained.

‘A whole week!’ Apprentice Brown was shocked. He imagined himself looking like this forever and felt like crying. But everyone else, including Apprentice Yellow, laughed at what Apprentice Green had said.

Apprentice Yellow was a large man with a deep, growling voice who always wore a frown upon his face, even when happy. He had been studying with the Sorcerer for four years now. At first his appearance had frightened Apprentice Brown, but it soon became clear that he was a very kindly person, despite his gruff exterior. And at this particular moment he didn’t seem too worried either, which helped Apprentice Brown to remain calm. Though now for some reason he felt extremely tired.

‘Magic is like energy,’ the Sorcerer explained to him. ‘If you run you will use up all your energy and eventually become tired so you must rest. It is the same with magic. But of course the more you practice the better you will be. Let us now leave the lesson for today and meditate.’

 

The Challenge

 

With a yawn and a stretch Apprentice Brown awoke the next day. Remembering yesterday’s lesson he immediately rushed over to the mirror in his bedroom. To his relief he found his appearance had returned back to normal.

Over the next few days Apprentice Brown was soon able to choose when he looked like a grumpy old man or when he looked like himself. The one thing he couldn’t seem to do was make himself look like anything else. It made him very frustrated. Every time he tried his magic the same old, grouchy face would stare back at him.

A week passed by and the Sorcerer decided to move to the next stage of the Art of Illusion, with all the Apprentices crowded around.

‘Let’s see how you are at changing something else. The technique is the same. Just imagine that the item you are looking at actually appears to be different. When you believe, the transformation will happen.’

And with that the Sorcerer gave them each a challenge in order to help practice their magic. To Apprentice Brown he bestowed a small potted plant.

‘I would like you to make this look like an animal. Any animal of your choosing.’

He then looked at Apprentice Orange. She had been at the school for just over two years now, but was a lot older than the other Apprentices. She often told Apprentice Brown of her two sons who were married and had families of their own. So when her husband had died she had grown lonely and had decided to visit the Sorcerer to see if he would teach her magic.

The Sorcerer gave her an apple. ‘I would like you to make this look like a dog. I also want it to move and act like a dog as well. That is something much harder to do.’ Apprentice Orange thanked the Sorcerer with a small bob of her grey-haired head and took the juicy apple from him.

Their Master then turned to Apprentices Blue and Yellow. Apprentice Blue was a slender woman with pale brown skin, large almond-shaped eyes and long black hair. She had been learning magic here for over six years now.

‘Today we will learn The Art of Change,’ their Master told them. ‘It is a lot like the Art of Illusion but you will actually change the appearance of something, rather than just fooling people’s eyes. Other Sorcerers can easily see through the Art of Illusion, but cannot as easily see through the Art of Change.’

Then turning to Apprentice Green he said, ‘I expect you to use the Art of Change and turn this wooden stool into a tree.’

Speaking to all the Apprentices once again the Sorcerer said, ‘Tomorrow I hope you can all show me what you have achieved.’

And that was the lesson over for Apprentices Brown, Orange and Green. Apprentices Blue and Yellow remained behind to practice the Art of Change.

‘What should I turn my plant into?’ Apprentice Brown mumbled to himself as he departed.

Back in his bedroom his first idea was to make it look like an elephant. That would be a marvellous sight to see. It would have large ears and a long trunk. But looking round his cosy little room he wondered if it would fit indoors. It would have to be a rather small elephant. That just didn’t seem right. If he couldn’t imagine an elephant like that then the magic simply wouldn’t work. He was pleased with how clever his thinking was already.

‘I’ll try a rabbit instead,’ he decided.

He placed the plant on the floor and sat back upon his bed, wriggling a little to get comfortable. Looking down at the plant he thought of a wild brown rabbit. He imagined a fluffy, cotton tail and two long ears held aloft and alert for hearing danger. He also thought of its twitching nose, ready to smell trouble on the breeze.

To his surprise the plant transformed before his very eyes. But there wasn’t a rabbit in front of him as he had hoped for. Instead a grumpy old man stood there staring back at him. At first Apprentice Brown expected the mean old man to snap at him angrily. But he just stood there as still as a statue. Apprentice Brown knew it was all an illusion. It was a bit of a relief really, as the last thing he wanted was a nasty old man telling him how badly he was doing. Luckily Apprentice Brown managed to change the plant back to its original appearance. At least he had learned something over the past week.

All day long Apprentice Brown practiced the Art of Illusion. He thought of all sorts of animals from the smallest, wriggly worm to the biggest, most ferocious tiger. But every single spell ended up with his plant looking like the same mean old man.

Then just before bedtime, as he was about to admit defeat, a brilliant idea came to him. Some time ago he had seen his Master use a potion to turn an egg into a chicken. Maybe the potion would make his plant turn into a chicken also.

Pleased with how clever he was being once again, he waited a while till everyone was sure to be asleep. Then he cautiously sneaked out of his bedroom. The house was deathly silent with everyone tucked up in their beds. Carefully he crept downstairs but no matter how quiet Apprentice Brown tried to be, as he went a-creeping the wooden stairs went a-creaking. With each tread of his feet he could also hear a tiny ‘ouch’ being cried as if the stairs were complaining about his weight upon them.

Finally he reached the cold stone floor below. Standing in the dark hallway for a moment he listened for any sounds of movement. Nobody seemed to have stirred so he made his way into the magic room.

Once within the room he peered around and in front of him he saw the bottle of blue potion sat on a shelf within a large cupboard. It shined in the dark room like a beautiful cloudless sky. There were also many other potions glowing, all with different colours. Apprentice Brown stood there for a moment, enchanted by the wonderful display of mystical light in front of him.

A noise from behind made him jump. Spinning round he saw old Tabitha, the Sorcerer’s cat. She was staring at him with her cool, green eyes.

‘Shush. Please be quite,’ he begged.

‘Meow,’ she replied calmly and rubbed herself against his leg. Apprentice Brown decided she was agreeing with him so he bent down and stroked her to say thank you. She arched her back up to meet his hand as he did so.

Moving over to the cupboard, Apprentice Brown reached up for the magical blue potion. Luckily for him it was placed upon the lowest shelf. He could just about reach it by standing upon his tip-toes and stretching up.

Placing his plant down on the floor he carefully tilted the jar of potion over it. A few drops soaked their way into the soil. Apprentice Brown held his breath with anticipation, and waited. But nothing happened. Tabitha was sat beside him looking utterly unimpressed, as if to say ‘is that it?’

Then all of a sudden the plant gave an energetic rustle of its leaves and in less than a second five large, green pods had burst from the plant. They were so large the poor little plant bent over under their weight, as if ready to snap.

Tabitha gave a screech of astonishment and darted out of the room. Apprentice Brown just stood looking at his plant with disappointment. It wasn’t the lovely red hen he had hoped for. Carefully he placed the potion back where he had found it. Then he picked up his sorry looking plant and carried it back to his room. As he climbed back into his bed, snuggling into the soft sheets, he was feeling thoroughly miserable. He had failed his very first test.

 

A Lesson Learned

 

The next morning the sun shone in through the curtains heralding the start of a lovely new day. But the first sight Apprentice Brown beheld as he awoke was the state of his plant at the window. It caused him to jump up in bed, as to his dismay all the plant’s leaves had fallen off. All that remained was a pathetic brown twig sticking out from the soil with five large bean-pods surrounding it. He felt ill with worry. The Sorcerer would surely be angry with him now. He could picture red smoke rising from the house’s chimney for the very first time.

Snatching up the useless bean-pods he wandered outside for some fresh air. Maybe his grandpa could offer some advice. So he unhappily plodded into town and approached the bustling marketplace at its centre. Dodging round squawking chickens and rowdy shoppers he moved past a stall of succulent fruit. In front he spied a boy accompanied by a cow and overheard the boy talking to the stall owner.

‘Please sir. My name is Jack and I need to sell my cow so my mother and I can get some food.’

Apprentice Brown looked at the cow. It would be the perfect animal to have turned his plant into. A smile crept over his face as an idea formed. Making sure nobody was looking he cast the Art of Illusion. Upon seeing his reflection in a nearby window he knew that his appearance was that of an old man. His plan was working. Rubbing his hands together happily he approached Jack.

‘Little boy,’ Apprentice Brown said in the gruffest voice he could muster as he pretended to be an old man, ‘I will trade these wonderful magic beans for your cow.’

Jack turned and stared at the bean-pods within the old man’s hands. They certainly looked larger than any beans he had ever seen before.

‘Magic beans?’ he asked, puzzled.

Apprentice Brown just nodded his head, thinking the boy didn’t look very convinced. The stall owner certainly didn’t and gave a disapproving shake of his head. But because he wasn’t interested in buying the cow he turned to serve another customer. Luckily for Apprentice Brown Jack hadn’t seen the stall-owner’s response.

‘Thank you, old man!’ Jack smiled. He immediately handed the old man the lead for his cow. Overjoyed, Apprentice Brown almost threw the beans at Jack to seal their deal. He felt like leaping into the air with glee as now he finally had his animal.

Bidding each other farewell, they both departed in opposite directions, each feeling that a good deal had been stuck. Apprentice Brown tried to hurry back to his Master’s house. However the cow he now pulled along wouldn’t be rushed.

‘Oh please move. I shall be late for my lesson,’ he pleaded with the cow. It stood there blinking its long lashes then gave a long, low moo like it didn’t care.

After some struggling, the cow was finally dragged all the way out of town and up the hill to the Sorcerer’s house. Apprentice Brown left it in the garden and rushed inside. Everybody was patiently awaiting his arrival. He stopped abruptly as all eyes turned upon him as he burst into the room.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he apologised slightly out of breath. ‘But whilst I was in town I finally changed my plant into a cow. It’s taken me all this time to lead it back here.’

Everybody merrily bustled their way outside to see Apprentice Brown’s handiwork. The Sorcerer frowned and Apprentice Brown held his breath.

‘Well,’ his Master said at last, ‘we can see what Apprentice Brown has achieved. What about the rest of you?’

Apprentice Brown breathed a sigh of relief. All eyes turned from him to Apprentice Orange who stepped forward with her apple. She placed it down upon the floor and everyone watched the apple as Apprentice Orange concentrated. Before their eyes the apple suddenly looked like a small, brown puppy. It sat there staying very still like a very well trained dog. Then it gave a small, sharp bark and stood upon its two back legs wagging its tail with glee.

Next it was Apprentice Blue who stepped forward. With a look of concentration upon her face, everyone waited for her magic to begin. But after a while she let out a sigh.

‘I’m sorry. I can’t do it,’ she announced, and cast her eyes to the floor in shame.

The Sorcerer smiled to her. ‘That’s okay,’ he said kindly, so that Apprentice Blue looked back up and smiled. ‘With more practice and patience it will come, my dear.’

Next it was Apprentice Yellow’s turn. He turned to Apprentice Brown and gave a wink. Then immediately his short, black hair started to grow down his head and turn lighter in colour. He also seemed to shrink in size, and at the same time his clothes changed. His yellow cape grew around his body and faded in colour. Eventually there was a little girl wearing a white dress with pink polka-dots standing where Apprentice Yellow had been.

‘Hello, Apprentice Brown,’ the little girl chirped in a sweet, high-pitched voice. ‘I was once stuck looking like this for a whole week! Imagine that.’

Apprentice Brown, along with everyone else, laughed at his friend’s transformation.

Finally it was Apprentice Green’s turn. The young man walked away from the group with his wooden stool and placed it down at a distance. Then he backed away several paces and everyone watched as the top of the stool sprouted branches with leaves growing upon them. At the same time the three legs of the stool twisted their way into the ground like roots. With a lot creaking and groaning sounds and a rustling of leaves, the stool magically grew into a large tree before their eyes.

‘Very well done,’ the Sorcerer congratulated them all and clapped his hands several times. ‘Now I would like all of you to change everything back again.’

Oh dear, thought Apprentice Brown.

One by one all the Apprentices who had succeeded undid their work. At last all eyes fell upon Apprentice Brown who stood there uneasily kicking at the dirt beneath his feet. Summoning his magic he willed with all his might for the cow to look like his plant. It did change of course, but not how Apprentice Brown would have liked. Standing there staring back at everyone was a familiar grumpy old man.

Apprentice Brown angrily stamped his foot. Why couldn’t he use his magic properly? He changed the old man back into a cow, never wanting to see that horrible face ever again.

The Sorcerer patiently looked down at his young Apprentice, who shuffled uncomfortably under his Master’s gaze.

‘Is there something you would like to tell us?’ the Sorcerer asked.

Apprentice Brown felt foolish, especially with all the other Apprentices watching.

‘I couldn’t do it, Sir,’ he whispered. ‘This is a regular cow.’

The Sorcerer nodded his head.

‘It is wrong to use magic to trick the innocent Apprentice Brown. Nothing good will come of you for telling lies and using such magic. Let this be your first true lesson.’

The Sorcerer then gazed into the distance, lost in thought for a moment. Then he turned back and smiled down at Apprentice Brown. ‘I think Jack will be just fine with his beans,’ he said.

Mischief Four – The Forbidden Tower

The Secret Entrance

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses had five distinct towers sprouting from it in all directions. Some came out from the side of the house, some from the roof, and one even stood next to the house, rising from somewhere underground looking like a very lonely tower indeed. Wherever they were, all the towers reach up high into the sky. Some said that if you climbed up the winding staircase of a tower you were magically taken to a far off land.

However there was one tower that nobody was ever allowed to use. It was the tower which stood alone and nobody even knew how it was entered. It was known as The Forbidden Tower. The wise, old Sorcerer who lived in the house never spoke of what lay beyond the Forbidden Tower, not even to the five dedicated Apprentices who were learning from his ways. However some said that if you crossed to the strange and mystical land on the other side of the tower you never returned.

One of the Apprentices in the house was known as Apprentice Brown. A whole year had now passed since he had been chosen as an Apprentice and he was finding learning magic a lot more difficult than expected. Today Apprentice Brown had been delivering fruit to his townsfolk, as was his task most days. Even with the weather being particularly grey as it was today, he didn’t mind the constant to and fro along the winding road in and out of town from the Sorcerer’s house. The special pair of gloves bestowed to him by the Sorcerer allowed him to carry even the heaviest of items so that he never got tired. And at least he also got to visit his grandpa each day who lived at the other side of town. Plus he saw and heard a great deal of the town’s business whilst going about his daily routine. How else would he know that Mrs. Mallory the Major’s wife secretly threw her dirty washing up water over into the garden of her neighbour, Mr. Cobble the Shoemaker? And this causes his prize roses to bend and wilt. And that way the Mayor’s roses are always given the gold rosette at each annual flower festival.

Apprentice Brown’s last delivery involved a basket full of apples for Mr. Saddlebottom the Butcher. During his short visit Mrs. Saddlebottom stood perched at the far end of the counter chatting idly away to Mrs. Mallory.

‘Well, I have my wedding attire all sorted now,’ he heard Mrs. Mallory boast. She was talking about the upcoming wedding of Daisy and Ben. ‘Which is more than can be said for the mothers of Daisy and Ben,’ she added, widening her eyes and giving a knowing nod to Mrs. Saddlebottom. ‘I hear they are in a battle to outdo each other, and are on their sixth choice of outfit so far.’

Apprentice Brown received a large leg of ham from Mr. Saddlebottom in return for his apples. Looking up to say thank you, the Butcher just rolled his eyes at the gossip being uttered, and they both smiled. Although Apprentice Brown was aware that Ethel the Sorcerer’s cook enjoyed hearing chatter like this, as juicy as the large leg of ham he had just been given, so making a hasty retreat back to the Sorcerer’s house he headed straight for the kitchen. However Ethel was nowhere to be found.

Where should I put this ham? Apprentice Brown wondered, as he looked around the room of streaming pots and sizzling pans. It’s too warm to leave it on the table.

Apprentice Brown knew his grandpa stored meat and fish in his cellar. And just like at his grandpa’s, the Sorcerer’s kitchen also had a set of doors built into a corner of the room for such as purpose. Placing the ham down momentarily on the large wooden table at the centre of the room he shuffled over to the cellar’s double doors and heaved them open. Cold air belched forth from the darkness below. Retrieving the ham he cautiously crept his way down the cellar’s stone steps into its cool depths. In the faint light at the bottom he could make out shelves laden with food. Scanning the area for a place to set the ham his eyes rested upon a delicious cake. His mouth watered at the thought of giving it even the tiniest of nibbles. But he resisted the urge to do this, or run over and bury his face within it. Instead he spotted a clear shelf-space past the cake and waddled over.

Placing the ham down a breeze unexpectedly whipped up around him, causing his brown cloak to flap round his shoulders. Then from above the cellar doors squeaked on their hinges with the help of the breeze and slammed shut with and loud bang. Apprentice Brown was left in complete darkness.

With his ears left ringing from the loud noise he was about to feel his way back along the shelf to the bottom of the staircase when he again felt a breeze. It was coming from the opposite direction, where the cellar wall should be. Puzzled he reached out to feel the moving air and his hands came upon the stone wall of the cellar. But after further inspection with his hands Apprentice Brown realised he was actually touching a large stone slab laid against the cellar wall. It was huge, rising higher than he could reach or wider than he could stretch both arms. But taking purchase of one edge he found it slid aside as easily as brushing past a thin lace curtain, thanks to the power of his gloves. Behind the stone was a small space with a faint glimmer of light. Apprentice Brown stepped forward and looked upwards to where the light was coming from. Above him spiralled a stone staircase up to daylight. Having come this far he decided to investigate further and ascended the steps.

At the top it became obvious that he was within one of the Sorcerer’s towers. Through the small window he could see the winding road leading into town. However the most puzzling aspect to the tower was the old wooden door that existed. Apprentice Brown could not recall seeing a door on any of the towers when he had gazed up at them from the outside. Yet here was one before him now. Slowly he stepped up to the door and turned its iron handle. Even with his gloves on he knew it was stiff, probably having not been used for a very long time. With a tug the door shuddered open, raining down a cloud of dust upon him. But through squinted vision he peered beyond to see a small wooden hut on the other side. Now this was even stranger still. Surely he should be able to see outside the tower into the Sorcerer’s garden. Where had this hut come from?

At the other side of the small hut was yet another door. Demanding an explanation for the strange circumstances being faced Apprentice Brown took a few steps forward and opened the door to the hut. In streamed a golden flood of sunlight over a view of a green meadow dotted with wildflowers to give splashes of colour. With a frown Apprentice Brown glanced back. He could still see the window of the tower behind him grey clouds covering the sky. Where was this strange land which lay before him? Keen for more answers he took a bold step into the sunshine.

 

What Doesn’t Hurt You Will Only Try and Eat You

 

The fragrant air of the sweet meadow filled Apprentice Brown’s lungs as he stepped through the gently swaying grass and flowers, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin. At the edge of the meadow were trees. It seemed he was in a clearing within a large forest. Above the trees in the distance could be seen a huge but solitary mountain rising up to reach the sky.

He reached the edge of the meadow and stared into the forest, which grew thicker and darker the further his eyes travelled. The idea of venturing forward didn’t appeal in the slightest so he decided to turn back. He would just have to ask the Sorcerer about the tower and the strange land beyond it. But spinning round there crouched a giant, towering over the hut and peering in through the open doorway. The giant then raised its head and sniffed the air. Apprentice Brown got the nasty suspicion that he was being smelled out. Quickly he darted behind the nearest tree and peered out at the giant. He gave a sharp intake of breath upon noticing that it only had one eye.

Unexpectedly the giant swiftly turned its head directly towards Apprentice Brown, staring directly at him. With a squeal Apprentice Brown shot into the forest not daring to look back. He could hear a thunderous thumping in his ears, believing it to be the footsteps of the pursuing giant. Faster he pumped his short legs to escape but as the trees and undergrowth grew thicker his foot snagged on a root and he fell to a mossy ground. Rolling over he gave a cry, expecting to see a giant leaping towards him. But there was nothing. The thumping in his ears was his own heartbeat, racing with fear.

Somewhat relieved he picked himself up and dusted down his clothing. Choosing a nearby pile of bounders to rest awhile he began to think of the next best course of action. He would have to wait for the giant to leave before he could return to the hut. But what if the giant was coming this way, led by its nose? He couldn’t risk going back the way he had come. He would have to circle round the clearing instead and approach the hut from behind.

A falling rock interrupted his plans causing him to glance over his shoulder. Rearing up behind him was a huge plant. It was enormous and didn’t look like any plant he had seen before. But even worse were the rows of spiked teeth that lined what seemed to be a giant mouth. Diving forward he narrowly missed being snapped up for lunch by the mysterious plant. Not wanting to see if it had legs as well as a mouth and teeth Apprentice Brown fled further into the forest.

Breathless, he finally came to a stop upon deciding he definitely wasn’t being followed. But now he so desperately wanted to return home. What had seemed like such a pleasant place to begin with had quickly turned into a land of nothing but monsters where he was the main meal. However now he realised he was somewhat lost. Trying to stay calm he thought of the best way back to the clearing. He could return the way he had just come, being careful to avoid the plant, but what if the giant was following his tracks? Looking around for any sign of help he noticed a light patch where the sun was brighter. Was that the meadow?

Having no other options he turned and headed towards the sunlight. But upon arrival he could see it was just a clearing made from a few fallen trees. Wanting to rest his weary legs he decided to sit for a moment, but that was when he noticed a pair of hungry, glassy eyes staring right at him. About to turn and flee his brain register who the eyes belonged to. It was a large brown bear. But even more importantly the bear was trapped under the branch of a fallen tree. Suddenly the bear’s gaze seemed one of helplessness than of hunger.

Deciding to do the right thing Apprentice Brown strode up the tree. The bear gave a weak growl of defiance showing its large teeth, but then stopped, too tired to continue. So bending his legs Apprentice Brown took hold of the tree’s trunk and gave it a heave. It lifted with no problem thanks to his gloves and the bear scrambled out from under its prison. Before Apprentice Brown had time to let go of the tree and flee the bear was upon him. But instead of sinking its large teeth into him it licked his face with happiness. Apprentice Brown gave a short laugh at the bear’s tickling tongue.

Unfortunately the moment of joy was short-lived. A flapping of birds started up in the trees above, as if spooked by some danger. The bear gave a grunt and looked around warily. Apprentice Brown expected to see some other nasty creature come charging towards then. But instead the ground began to shake beneath him.

Trees swayed and loose branches and leaves fell. Apprentice Brown didn’t know what to do now. He couldn’t run away this time, and there was nothing to hold on to as everything else was shaking just as much. The ground wasn’t supposed to move like this.

Fortunately it wasn’t long before the ground stopped moving. But from the air above came an ear-piercing screech. Looking skyward Apprentice Brown saw a huge shadow, like a bird. But this was like no bird Apprentice Brown had seen before. It had a long pointed tail and there seemed to be no feathers on its body at all. Instead it appeared to be covered in scaly skin making it appear more akin to a giant flying lizard than a bird. And then the creature sent forth a burst of fire from its mouth.

Did that creature cause the ground to shake? Apprentice Brown wondered. Or had it taken to the air to escape just as the birds had done?

It didn’t seem to be looking their way, but the bear decided it wasn’t hanging around the clearing to be spotted and fled into the trees. Apprentice Brown thought it best to follow.

 

Lost

 

Apprentice Brown couldn’t keep up with the bear and was soon left behind, alone. He trampled around the forest for what could have been hours trying to find the hut. However he was utterly lost. Every nearby root and branch seemed to purposefully shift into his path to either block his progress or trip him up. Eventually losing all hope he sat down upon a fallen log and began to cry. Through tear-filled eyes he spied a little blue bird hopping towards him. It came all the way to his feet and then curiously tilted its tiny head up at him.

‘Oh Mr. Bird,’ Apprentice Brown sobbed. ‘I can’t find my way home. I don’t know where I am, but I need to find that silly wooden hut to get back.’

The little bird hopped onto his knee and began to lightly tug at his brown cloak with its beak.

‘Are you trying to eat me as well, Mr. Bird?’ Apprentice Brown asked.

The bird took flight for a short distance ahead, stopped and looked back. Apprentice Brown had the funny feeling it wanted him to follow. So drying his tears with his sleeve he stood up. The bird instantly flew a bit further away and waited. Apprentice Brown was now sure it had understood his words and was trying to show him the way home. Breaking into a jog after it, he stumbled through the undergrowth. And the kind little bird always kept nearby so Apprentice Brown could follow. Therefore slowly but steadily they made their way through the trees, which gradually began to thin out. And as more sunlight found its way through the canopy Apprentice Brown was sure they were heading in the right direction. But pushing back a branch that blocked his way, the sight he beheld brought him to an abrupt stop. Standing only several paces in front of him was the one-eyed giant.

The little blue bird bravely flapped at the giant as a distraction, but the giant easily swotted it aside like a fly and turned to Apprentice Brown. It took a step towards him, licking its fat lips and rubbing its greedy hands together. Apprentice Brown stood frozen stiff with terror.

At that moment there was a crashing of branches to the side and both Apprentice Brown and the giant looked over. A bear came charging through. It was the same one Apprentice Brown had helped earlier. It took a huge leap and skidded in between Apprentice Brown and the one eyed-giant. Then raising itself up on its hind legs it gave a warning growl, showing its large front teeth to the giant.

Apprentice Brown was glad of his new friend’s help, but could see that the giant was still much bigger. If only it was the other way round, or if only they could be as scary as that huge winged-lizard creature he saw earlier. With that lingering thought Apprentice Brown’s face lit up at having sparked off a fantastic idea. It was time to use some magic.

The only spell he knew was the Art of Illusion. Every time he had tried using it the outcome had always been the same. So unless the giant was scared of grumpy old men then maybe there wasn’t much hope. But Apprentice Brown knew he had to believe in himself. It was the only way, or they were all doomed to be this giant’s next meal.

Concentrating hard, he closed his eyes and began to clear his mind, just like he had been taught. Breathe In. Breathe Out. Relax.

Apprentice Brown imagined the beast he had seen in the sky earlier. He imagined himself appearing as that monster this very second. And he imagined himself filling the air with flames, belching forth from his mouth.

Daring at last to open his eyes he stared ahead. A look of pure terror had seized the giant and it took a few steps back. His magic had worked!

Apprentice Brown then imagined himself roaring, and this time took a bold step forwards. It was his turn to lick his lips as if to say ‘I’m going to eat you Mr. Giant.’ His spell had the desired effect and the giant turned and fled as fast as it could.

With immense relief, Apprentice Brown undid his spell. He found himself grinning from ear to ear at what he had achieved; he had successfully performed the Art of Illusion. And he hadn’t only looked like the scary monster, he had actually roared and breathed fire also.

This moment of happiness didn’t last long however. With an earth-shattering explosion the ground began to shake once again. Apprentice Brown looked up through the trees, expecting to see the awful creature come swooping down upon him, having been drawn here by his illusion. But instead he saw that the huge mountain in the distance was on fire. Then pretty soon large flaming rocks were crashing all around him, setting the trees alight. What kind of terrible place was this, where even the ground and mountains grew angry? His friend the bear ran away again in a panic.

Alone for the second time Apprentice Brown didn’t know which way to go. Then upon his cheek he felt a tickling of feathers. His friend, the blue-bird, was sat upon his shoulder. It took to the air and flew ahead, stopping after a short distance. Apprentice Brown followed once again, as he had done previously.

The air was soon filled with smoke and it was proving hard to see or breathe. But with a spluttering cough Apprentice Brown stumbled into a clearing allowing him to take breaths more freely. There he spied the small wooden hut. He rushed over and flung its door wide open.

‘Get in!’ he cried to his new friend. But the bird hesitated. It clearly didn’t like the look of the gloomy hut. All its instincts seemed to be warning it to stay away from the small, cramped space.

‘Trust me!’ Apprentice Brown shouted above the roar of fire.

Another almighty boom echoed from the mountain behind them. It was enough to finally persuade the little bird. It darted into the dark hut and Apprentice Brown followed with the door slamming shut behind them. Inside there was a sudden utter silence. Gone was any sound of the calamity outside but Apprentice Brown’s ears were still ringing. It was so eerily quiet he almost lost his balance as he moved within the dim light, but stumbled through the next door and back into the tower. The little blue bird was nowhere to be seen.

Where has it gone? Apprentice Brown wondered. But he had no wish to go back and check. He was just glad to be back home.

Rushing down the winding staircase of the tower he found himself back within the Sorcerer’s cellar. He pushed the stone slab back into place; afraid that something would attempt and follow him from that beastly place. Then racing up the cellar’s steps he pushed but they were locked.

‘Please let me out!’ he cried, banging loudly upon them, glancing back over his shoulder as if expecting to see something creeping towards him.

To his relief Ethel the cook was there to help and she opened the cellar doors.

‘I’ve just come from the most awful of places,’ he panted, stepping from the gloom. ‘There were monsters everywhere trying to eat me.’

Ethel looked at him suspiciously with a tilt of her head.

‘There’s nothing down there but a few small spiders you silly boy. Did you bump your head down there? I bet you dreamt it all. Now leave me in peace, I have work to do.’

Whisked from the kitchen before he had the chance to explain, Apprentice Brown climbed the stairs to his bedroom extremely puzzled. He was so sure it had all been real and not just a dream. Entering his room he sat upon his bed, still uncertain. A small tapping sound started from over by his window. Looking up he saw a bright blue bird staring back at him.

Mischief Five – The Art of Potions

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. Encompassing this most curious of houses there was a large and luscious garden with plants that grew both short and tall. The flowers in the garden were the likes of which people had never seen before. They came in all sorts of shapes and colours. Some said there were flowers whose scent could cure any illness. Others said there were monstrous plants that could gobble a man up whole for lunch.

Within the garden there was also a delicate white tree. The tree grew twisted and rather low to the ground, with tiny silver leaves growing upon its thin branches. It was said that the tree was magical and could grow anything that the wise old Sorcerer who lived within the house desired.

Today, one of the Sorcerer’s Apprentices was tending to the garden. He was known as Apprentice Brown. Upon his shoulder perched a little bird with the brightest blue feathers anyone ever did see. Apprentice Brown had called this friend Topaz, named after the sparkling blue gemstone his grandpa had given him.

This spring the rainfall had been minimal so Apprentice Brown had to water the thirsty flowers each day, drawing crystal cold water from the Sorcerer’s never-drying well. As he tipped the watering-can first one way and then the other, the flowers seemed to follow his movements in the hope of gathering a few extra drops of precious water. After tending the garden Apprentice Brown and his bird made their way into the Sorcerer’s house for a magic lesson. Within the magic room he found his Master and Apprentice Orange.

‘Today we will be looking at potions,’ the Sorcerer said. ‘Until now you have been more familiar with magic performed by thoughts or by saying words. Some people find it difficult to control such magic. However potions can help.

Some learn potions by being taught the ingredients. Others have a special inner gift and instantly know what is needed to create a potion for a specific purpose.’

The Sorcerer then turned to the cupboard at the back of the room. Inside were shelves laden with potions. Some of them swirled and shimmered with a mystical light. Others simply looked like fruit juice.

‘Just because a potion looks pretty does not mean it is safe to drink,’ The Sorcerer explained. ‘Potions are dangerous and need to be understood before they are used.’

The Sorcerer reached inside the cupboard and took out a jar containing a sparkling blue potion. ‘I have shown you this potion before,’ he said. ‘It is a blend for both growth and aging. So if I drop it onto an egg it grows into a chicken instantly.’

Apprentice Brown knew all about this potion. One day he had been dishonest and used it on a plant. After the plant had died he had invented a story that the Sorcerer had easily seen through. It had been a valuable lesson in honesty.

‘Some of the ingredients needed for my potions are found within my garden,’ the Sorcerer said, and led his two Apprentices outside. ‘Today we will be making two potions. One potion is used to help cure an upset tummy. The other is a special wine that fizzes. We require some for the wedding of Daisy the Blacksmith’s daughter and Ben the Baker’s son.’

Apprentice Brown had heard rumours about this wine from the people in town. It was famous all around for being so deliciously sweet and yet so sharply tangy to the taste. But even more amazingly, the wine had bubbles rising within it, which tickled your nose as you drank.

‘Truly this is magic,’ people would say, ‘to capture the very air itself, and trap it within a bottle. Look at how it then tries to escape.’

To make the wine the Apprentices gathered berries from the strange, twisted tree within the centre of the Sorcerer’s garden. The berries were like soft, golden pearls and were bottled up with the cold water from the Sorcerer’s well.

‘Over the next few days the berries will soak up the pure water and swell until they finally burst, releasing their fizzy juice,’ the Sorcerer told his Apprentices.

Then in order to make the medicine, the Apprentices gathered some large and white daisy-like flowers that Apprentice Brown had not seen before. These were ground down with water and this mixture was also bottled up.

‘This potion works best if left for a few days,’ the Sorcerer told them. ‘But it could be used immediately if needed urgently.’

So the wine and the potion were taken down into the Sorcerer’s cellar to mature over the coming days.

 

#

 

Apprentice Brown awoke upon the day of the wedding where a beautiful morning was beginning to dawn. As he opened the Sorcerer’s large, wooden door with his friend Topaz sat upon his shoulder, he gazed out across the fresh morning.

Looking over to the meadow, which lay opposite the Sorcerer’s house, the morning dew glistened like diamonds in the rays of the rising sun. Within this field of jewels stood a large, white tent where the wedding ceremony would take place. The Sorcerer was standing in his garden also looking at the tent. He turned upon hearing the door to his house open.

‘Ah, Apprentice Brown,’ he said. ‘Would you mind getting the bottles of wine from the cellar? Your potion should also be ready. Have a little taste. If it’s too bitter just add a tiny bit more water to it. I think after today’s celebrations there will be quite a few people who might need it.’

Apprentice Brown did as he was told. Making his way down the cellar stairs he looked across the cool room. In the dim surroundings he could just about make out a large stone which blocked the entrance to a strange tower leading to a dangerous land of monsters. Apprentice Brown shivered at the thought. He didn’t want to go back there one little bit.

Looking along the shelves in front of him he found his bottle of potion. The bottles of wine for the wedding were by his feet. He crouched down and peered through the glass of the nearest bottle. He could see small bubbles stuck to the bottle’s inner edge, ready to burst for freedom upon opening.

Standing once again he found a small cup and tipped a little of his medicine in to try. It tasted a bit like grass he thought, slightly disappointed that it didn’t have some special flavour. But at least it wasn’t bitter. His stomach growled as the potion went down. Apprentice Brown frowned, looking down at his belly and giving it a poke. He knew the Sorcerer wouldn’t have let him drink if it wasn’t safe.

Then without warning he let out a loud burp which echoed around the cavernous cellar as if there were a dozen little rude boys all burping away. It took Topaz by surprise, which until then had been sat peacefully upon his shoulder. The startled bird hopped into flight, flapping its little wings. Apprentice Brown stepped aside at the flutter of feathers across his face. But by doing so he accidentally knocked one of the wine bottles by his feet. With a chink of glass the bottles tumbled over, each one knocking into another until they had scattered like skittles. Some of the bottles lost their caps, spilling fizzing pools of their precious contents over the cold cellar floor.

In a panic Apprentice Brown set down his bottle of medicine and went to pick up the fallen bottles before all their wine poured away. But as he crouched a loud trumpet came from his bottom. He stood up sharply at the noise, his eyes wide with surprise. In haste he set the fallen bottles upright once again and then had to rush upstairs to the little boy’s room.

Returning to the cellar several minutes later he could tell that some of the bottles had lost a noticeable amount of their wine from the accident. But Apprentice Brown had a clever idea. Picking up one of the bottles, he carefully poured it into the other ones. That way they all looked full once again except one empty bottle which he hid at the back of a shelf .He then spent the rest of the morning moving between the cellar and the tent, carefully taking over two bottles at a time.

 

#

 

The wedding went as planned and Daisy and Ben were married happily by early afternoon. Almost the whole town sat down within the huge tent, billowing gently in the breeze, and ate a wonderful feast at round tables adorned with floral centrepieces of Mr. Cobble the Shoemaker’s lilies, much to the annoyance of Mrs. Mallory the Major’s wife. ‘Anyone would think we were going to a funeral,’ she had been heard to complain. ‘Why not have my husband’s beautiful roses?’

Afterwards Ben stood up to propose a toast to his beautiful new wife. Meanwhile the Sorcerer leaned towards Apprentice Brown. ‘Forgive me Apprentice Brown, but I completely forgot to ask if your potion was ready this morning?’

Apprentice Brown nodded. However he now wondered what became of it. The last thing he could remember was tripping over. He had then placed the medicine down with all the wine bottles.

But then that means my bottle of potion is here,’ he thought to himself. Nervously he glanced around. All the bottles looked exactly the same.

Oh no, who is going to drink it?’ he thought, remembering the consequences of his earlier tasting.

At that moment there was a tiny squeak from in front. Everybody’s attention turned to the bride whose face had turned bright red in colour. She apologised for her rude interruption and the groom continued his speech with a nervous laugh. But no sooner had he uttered several more words when an almighty rumbling burp exploded from the bride’s mouth so almost everyone could see her tonsils. The crowd gasped at how such a dainty young lady could make such a tremendously booming noise. Then without warning the groom let out a loud ripple from his behind. Immediately after someone else from across the room did the same, and then someone else. The children present thought this was all hilarious and began to giggle uncontrollably. Mrs. Mallory the Mayor’s wife looked around with utter disgust at the noises. But then even she let one out.

Apprentice Brown now knew what had become of his potion. It must have been the bottle he had used to top up the spilled ones.

As a chorus vibrated though the tent of burps and bottom-burps, sounding as though an out-of-tune band of musicians had come to town, the Sorcerer looked down at his Apprentice.

‘Tell me Apprentice Brown,’ he asked with a chuckle, ‘what became of your potion?’

 

Mischief Six – The Tower at the Edge of the World

The Endless Ocean

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses had five towers sprouting from it in all directions. Some said that if you climbed up the winding staircase of a tower you were magically taken to a far away land.

One of the towers was known as The Tower at the Edge of the World. It was said to take you to a quiet and lonely place where people went for their final days, before moving to the next life.

Inside the special house there lived a famous Sorcerer. The wise old man had five dedicated Apprentices learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown. Today he had been allowed to play with his friend Oxana rather than learn magic. They had spent their day exploring the woods at the edge of town. Then as darkness had crept over the land for the end of another day, Apprentice Brown had made his way back to the Sorcerer’s house. Following a dinner of chicken and dumplings the Sorcerer led Apprentice Brown into the room where magic was taught.

‘Today’s magic lesson is actually beginning quite late today,’ the Sorcerer confessed. ‘I am going to teach you something new, and if able you will need the energy of a full meal.’

As with all new magic spells, Apprentice Brown grew very excited.

‘This new piece of magic is quite strange, and very difficult to perform,’ his Master told him. ‘Not a lot of people know how to use it, including myself. In fact, I have only met one person who was ever able to use this ability. It is known as the Art of Translocation. By using it you can move from one place to another in the blink of an eye.’

Apprentice Brown really liked the sound of this. His mind drifted with thoughts that maybe this was his special ability.

‘It was one of my first Apprentices who had the gift,’ his Master continued. ‘He helped me build the five towers that are now part of my house. The towers are special because they are actually gateways to distant lands.’

Upon hearing this Apprentice Brown stopped daydreaming and paid extra attention. He had already been up one of the towers and visited one of these lands, though he hadn’t told anyone. The tower’s entrance had been hidden away behind a large stone slab in the Sorcerer’s cellar, so for some reason Apprentice Brown had kept his little trip a secret.

‘I use the towers to keep an eye on what is happening across our world of Tellus,’ his Master explained. ‘I also trade items and sell my potions. Today I need some ingredients for a potion, so we will be taking a trip through one of my towers. But first however, it would be useful to know if you can actually use the Art of Translocation. Therefore I want you to imagine you are over in that corner.’

His Master pointed to the other side of the room as he said these words.

‘Imagine you are standing over there, looking back at me. Think about what else you would see whilst being over there.’

Apprentice Brown glanced around and tried to picture what he would see being at the other side of the room. Behind him was a cupboard full of potions. He imagined he was looking at the cupboard, with all the different coloured potions swirling in front of him. But nothing happened. He gave a sigh of disappointment.

‘Remember, not even I can control the Art of Translocation,’ the Sorcerer reassured, seeing how glum Apprentice Brown appeared.

His Master led him out of the magic room and into the hallway. Under the staircase was fixed a small wooden door. The Sorcerer slowly opened it with a creak. Behind the door lay complete darkness. But taking a candle from a shelf fixed to the wall the Sorcerer muttered a word under his breath and the candle sprung into flame. Apprentice Brown’s eyes sparkled at the neat trick, but he was annoyed at not having heard the magical spell.

Along a tight, stone corridor he was led and up some steps. He shivered and kept remembering the awful place he had visited the last time he went up a tower. There had been so many monsters trying to eat him and even an exploding mountain of fire.

The Sorcerer turned to see Apprentice Brown had slowed down.

‘No need to worry,’ was all he said and continued up the stairs.

At the top of the tower was a door. Behind it led to another tower, rather than the wooden hut in the other tower. This new tower appeared like a mirror image of the one they had just come from. Apprentice Brown rushed over to the small window of the tower and peered out. Stretching away into the distance for as far as the eye could see was flat, dusty land with not much growing. He could just about make out tiny animals that looked like rabbits which were darting around from one burrow to another.

‘You are looking out onto The Waste,’ the Sorcerer told him. ‘It stretches away for hundreds of miles. Not many people come this way because it is a dangerous trek with little food or water.’

They climbed down the stairs of the new tower and out its front door. To one side Apprentice Brown could see The Waste. To the other side was a large hill of sand. Apprentice Brown wondered if he was in a desert. He had read of places filled with sand where very little grew. A strange rumbling sound also filled the air. It reminded him of the exploding mountain he had seen. He now knew such a mountain was called a volcano, having researched this from a book in the Sorcerer’s library.

The Sorcerer led him up the hill of sand, but it proved difficult to climb. The sand kept giving way below his feet. However eventually they made it to the top and Apprentice Brown gasped at what lay beyond. He had seen large lakes before, but the amount of water he now found himself staring at was breathtaking. It stretched all the way to the edge of the world. He stood and watched as the water came crashing into the land, then falling back again, as if it couldn’t keep hold.

‘Is this Lake Tellus?’ he asked.

‘This is no lake,’ the Sorcerer replied. ‘This is the Endless Ocean.’

‘What’s on the other side?’ Apprentice Brown asked, still mesmerised by the view in front of him.

‘Nobody knows,’ was the Sorcerer’s reply. ‘Many have attempted to cross it. Many have never returned. Those that do come back were the ones too afraid to continue so they turned around. Nobody knows what happened to the others.’

Apprentice Brown stared at the Endless Ocean some more. It filled him with a strange sense of fear. But he wasn’t scared in the way that he was afraid of monsters. It was more because he felt so small, and it was so large and wild. He watched as the sun began to set over the water, looking as though it was going to fall in and drown.

‘It was already dark back home,’ Apprentice Brown frowned and looked up at his Master.

‘Yes,’ the Sorcerer agreed with a small nod of his head. ‘We are so far away from home now that the sun appears in a different place.’

Apprentice Brown turned back to gaze at the horizon a bit longer, and then looking along the edge of the land he spied a little village.

‘We need to get to that village before dark,’ the Sorcerer said.

His words were immediately followed by a howl in the distance behind them. Looking back they both saw some animals far away along the ridge of sand they were stood upon.

‘Quick, follow me!’ the Sorcerer urged. ‘The wolves are on the move.’

 

The Wolves of the Waste

 

Apprentice Brown and the Sorcerer hurried their way towards the village, treading carefully down the other side of the soft mountain of sand. As they approached safety Apprentice Brown shot a glance back. He could see a few wolves near the tower now, sniffing the ground where they had once stood. Then they raised their heads looking towards him and he shuddered at the idea of being the supper of wolves.

Upon safely reaching their destination the Sorcerer went to see the Village Elder who welcomed the pair with a smile. He was a small old man with a hunched back, and bald but for thin wisps of long grey hair round the edges of his head. He reminded Apprentice Brown of his grandpa, but even older. Together they all sat round the fire in the centre of his wooden hut and talked.

‘Life is growing more and more difficult,’ the old man complained to the Sorcerer. ‘Just as you told us, the rain has almost stopped. The fishing has been so poor this year. The ocean’s waters are too cold. We need the fish to live.’

The Sorcerer listened to all he was told, but said nothing, allowing the Elder to continue his complaints.

‘If you hadn’t warned us of the adverse change in the weather we would surely have starved by now.’

‘It will get better soon,’ the Sorcerer eventually reassured him.

‘It will have to, or soon we shall be eating each other!’ The Elder raised his arms to the air for emphasis. ‘The Wolves of The Waste would certainly like to take a bite from us. They are growing bolder with each passing day. In the past they never really bothered us. Now they even dare to raid the village at night. We must keep a constant guard, which is tiring for our men, who try to scare the wolves off with fire. But it can only be a matter of time before someone gets hurt, or worse.’

‘Things will get better again soon,’ repeated the Sorcerer to try and calm the old man.

That evening the villagers met within the Great Hall. They played joyous music and sang for their two guests. And there wasn’t much food to go around, but everyone danced with cheerful spirit. Afterwards Apprentice Brown and the Sorcerer were led to a small stone hut to sleep within. Apprentice Brown stared out into the dark but couldn’t see anything. He half expected a wolf to rush out of the shadows at any moment. But all was eerily quiet.

After an hour of lying in bed turning one way and then another Apprentice Brown abandoned any idea of sleep. He kept thinking of the wolves and the poor villagers. And every noise he heard made him uneasy. So rising from his bed he tip-toed over to the small window, not wanting to wake his Master. He peered out into the pitch black of the night, but there was still nothing to see.

Then as he was about to turn away his eye caught sight of movement; a figure in the distance. Squinting his eyes to focus he was able to make out two small yellow lights. They were the eyes of a wolf. Apprentice Brown froze, as if moving would alert the wolf to his presence, even though he was safely indoors.

The wolf kept sniffing the ground. Apprentice Brown watched as it cautiously ambled up to a hut opposite. It stopped by some garbage, gave a sniff and then began rummaging through the pile of waste. A shout came from another direction and the wolf raised its head to stare at the noise before running away. In pursuit came two men with flaming torches to chase the wolf away.

Apprentice Brown went back to bed. After having watched the wolf they didn’t seem so scary after all. If anything the poor thing appeared to be hungry, just like the villagers. As he laid his head upon his soft pillow an idea was forming that might just help both the villagers and the wolves. And with that he fell asleep.

In the early morning Apprentice Brown requested an audience with the Elder.

‘I saw a wolf last night,’ he told the old man. ‘I think they are coming into the village to look for food.’

‘Yes, they are trying to eat us,’ the Elder nodded his shiny, hairless head in agreement.

‘I watched as one poked through a pile of garbage,’ Apprentice Brown explained. ‘I don’t think they mean to cause any harm. Back home my grandpa told me that wolves hunt for food. But the only other animals I have seen are the little rabbits that run around the dirt. And the wolves can’t hunt them because there is nowhere to creep up from. Any grass that seems to grow here is too short for them to hide behind.

‘Rabbits?’ the Elder asked, looking puzzled. ‘Ah, you mean the pika; yes, they look like rabbits. The short grass is due to the dry weather. But how does any of this help with our troubles with the wolves?’

‘Well, I was wondering if you were to catch these rabbit-like creatures to eat and leave some for the wolves, I’m sure they would be more likely to leave the village alone, as they wouldn’t be hungry any more.’

The Elder tilted his head and looked at Apprentice Brown with his good eye.

‘We are about as helpless as those wolves when it comes to catching pika,’ he explained. ‘We are fishermen, and only know how to catch fish.’

‘I can show you how,’ Apprentice Brown said with a smile.

That morning he showed the villagers how to make a trap, just as his grandpa had taught him in the past.

‘If you put traps near the pika burrows you will easily catch a few,’ he explained. ‘Just don’t take too many or you may end up with none left.’

Following a hope-filled lunch the Sorcerer and Apprentice Brown waved goodbye to the villagers and returned home through the tower. A week later Apprentice Brown returned to the little fishing village with this Master. The Elder was there to greet them as they approached, along with what looked like everyone else in the village.

‘You were right!’ the old man cried, dancing a little jig of delight before rushing over and dropping his walking stick in the excitement. He then threw his skinny arms around a somewhat startled Apprentice Brown.

‘Almost overnight the wolves simply left us alone,’ the Elder eventually told them breathlessly.

‘Who needs magic?’ the Sorcerer chuckled. ‘Look what can be achieved without it.’

 

Mischief Seven – The Art of Elements

Let the Wind Blow

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. One of the windows of this most curious of houses was special. It was a large, stained glass window of many colours. Every day the picture that appeared within the window would change. One day there might be a little boy and his dog playing in the sunshine. On other days there could be large grey clouds and a woman with an umbrella. The people of the town said the Sorcerer who lived within the house used the window to control the weather.

Within the special house were five dedicated Apprentices learning from the wise, old Sorcerer. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown. Today he had woken up and looked out of his window with a sigh. Outside the world was grey and miserable. Perched upon his shoulder was his pet bird, Topaz. Everyone in town knew Topaz now, and they always waved hello as they went by.

‘What a beautiful bird,’ they would say. Even Mrs. Mallory the Mayor’s wife always had a kind word to say, whereas usually she would just snap at Apprentice Brown for the smallest of reasons. In response to any praise, Topaz would loop through the air and chirp with happiness. Apprentice Brown knew his friend was just showing off, but he was still proud of his little bird.

‘Isn’t summer supposed to be warm and sunny?’ Apprentice Brown said to Topaz on this particularly miserable morning. The bird tweeted in response. It didn’t like the cold weather at all.

Together they made their way to the magic room for Apprentice Brown’s magic lesson. Passing by the large stained glass window in the hallway of the Sorcerer’s house Apprentice Brown saw that today it showed a small man sitting upon a cloud pouring a large jug of water down below.

Within the magic room Apprentice Brown found the Sorcerer and Apprentice Orange.

‘Today we are going to learn some different magic,’ the Sorcerer said.

Apprentice Brown’s face lit up when he heard this. He always got excited about new spells.

‘I am going to show you the Art of Elements,’ his Master explained. Even just the name sounded difficult to Apprentice Brown. He made sure to concentrate hard upon what the Sorcerer had to say, so that he could understand as fully as possible.

‘The air, the earth, the water, and fire around us are the elements that help shape the world we live in. Therefore by mastering the Art of Elements you can master the very weather itself.’

Apprentice Brown cast his gaze out of the window. Right now it would be much more pleasant if it was a gloriously sunny day.

‘Of course, simply making the sun shine all the time would only lead to drought,’ his Master explained, looking at Apprentice Brown with a smile, as if guessing his thoughts. ‘The plants and the animals around us, and even we ourselves, couldn’t live without the rain.’

On second thoughts Apprentice Brown decided the rain wasn’t so bad after all, just not too much of it, and especially not when he wanted to play.

‘The easiest element to control is the air,’ the Sorcerer told them. He then made his way to the window and opened it. The wind from the stormy weather outside blew around the room setting the bottles of potion in the cupboards that lines the room’s walls rattling.

‘Be still!’ the Sorcerer commanded and at once everything in the room calmed down again even though outside the trees were still swaying in the wind.

Turning to Apprentice Brown, the Sorcerer said, ‘I want you to imagine the wind is blowing across the room once again. And if just thinking about it doesn’t help then actually tell the wind to blow. Let it know you are in control.’

Apprentice Brown thought about how the room had been before. He screwed up his face as he concentrated on his task. But nothing happened.

‘Please blow again,’ Apprentice Brown pleaded to the wind. However still nothing happened, much to his disappointment.

The Sorcerer placed his hand upon Apprentice Brown’s shoulder. ‘Patience,’ he said. Then turning to Apprentice Orange, ‘You try.’

Apprentice Orange thought hard, so that the wrinkles around her old eyes looked even deeper. However nothing happened.

‘Blow!’ she commanded, which such a strong voice that it actually made Apprentice Brown jump. Then a faint stirring lifted through Apprentice Orange’s long, grey hair. Slowly it grew in strength, until the Sorcerer had to close the window before everything blew away.

‘Very good,’ he said with a smile. ‘Now, imagine it’s not raining outside and tell the rain to go away.’

Apprentice Brown tried first, but he had as much luck in making the rain stop as he had in making the wind blow. Apprentice Orange couldn’t make the rain stop either, which made Apprentice Brown feel a bit better. But when their Master commanded the rain to stop, they watched excitedly as the sky brightened and the rain fell less heavily, until it finally stopped.

For the next part of their lesson the Sorcerer led his two Apprentices from the room. In the hallway Apprentice Brown noticed that the stained glass window was now showing a beautiful woman with long blonde hair. The woman was lifting a glowing golden orb above her head.

The small class gathered around the large fireplace that was located at the edge of the hall. It was bare until the Sorcerer threw on a few small logs from a basket nearby.

‘I want you to try and start a fire here,’ the Sorcerer said to Apprentice Brown. ‘Think hard about the logs bursting into flame. Tell them to burn if you need to.’

Apprentice Brown stared at the fireplace. This time he remembered what he had been taught.

Breathe In. Breathe Out. Relax.

He imagined the logs setting alight, but nothing happened.

‘Burn!’ he shouted, but again nothing happened and he grew annoyed.

‘Patience,’ his Master told him.

Apprentice Orange tried next. After commanding a fire to ignite there was first a small waft of smoke, and then a small flame licked around the edges of a log.

‘Well done, the Sorcerer said to her. ‘Now put out the flames please.’

Apprentice Orange concentrated but could not manage to undo what she had done.

‘Patience,’ the Sorcerer said as Apprentice Brown looked on. He had been standing in a sulky silence. He was frustrated at being so useless all the time. He stared at the growing fire with anger. He so wished for the silly thing to go out.

To his utter surprise that is exactly what happened. The flames flickered like a candle in the breeze, and then extinguished with a small puff of smoke.

Both the Sorcerer and Apprentice Orange saw the fire disappear and turned in surprise to Apprentice Brown.

‘Well done,’ his Master told him. Apprentice Brown gave a big grin. At last, something had worked.

A stream of light cut its way through the window and the Sorcerer glanced outside.

‘I think that is enough for one day,’ he said. ‘Now that the weather is clear you may have the rest of the day to do with as you wish.’

Apprentice Orange left first, but Apprentice Brown hung back.

‘Do you think I have found my natural ability?’ he asked hopefully.

His Master shook his head, giving a thoughtful, almost worried frown. ‘I don’t think so, but you show great promise with this Art. Great promise indeed.’

 

Summer Snow

 

The next morning the sun was still shining. Apprentice Brown was glad because today he was going fishing with his friend Oxana and her father. Hopping his way downstairs he noticed the stained-glass window in the hallway was glowing a pure white across its entire surface. This was most peculiar. He had never seen that before. However he was far too excited by his fishing trip to worry about the strange window. So heading out from the Sorcerer’s house with Topaz upon his shoulder and a smile upon his face, the pair whistled and chirped their way down the hill and along the winding road into town all the way to Oxana’s house.

Oxana’s father was an expert fisherman. The fish seemed to almost fling their slippery, glistening bodies from the river into his waiting net, as if being caught by him was a great honour. Apprentice Brown wondered if he used magic at all.

The fishing was fun for a while, but the children had to stay quiet otherwise they risked scaring off the fish. Remaining silent proved a big challenge for the excitable pair of friends. So for a bit of a change, and to stop them from getting bored, Oxana’s father rowed them to a small island in the middle of the wide river.

‘This is a much better fishing spot,’ he announced, which seemed to suggest that it would keep them from disturbing the fish. So the children played on the island and watched as Topaz pecked at the grass or danced through the air, while Oxana’s father waded out into the river to catch more fish.

‘How are your magic lesson’s going?’ Oxana asked.

‘Good,’ Apprentice Brown answered. ‘Yesterday I managed to put out a fire just by thinking about it.’

Oxana looked mightily impressed. ‘What else can you do?’ she asked.

‘Well, I was trying to learn how to control the weather, but I didn’t quite manage it,’ he replied glumly.

‘Well, why not try again?’ Oxana said with an encouraging smile.

So Apprentice Brown picked himself up and lifted his head up to the sky. He also raised his arms to the air in order to appear more impressive, even though he knew he didn’t really need to. It seemed to have the desired affect however, as Oxana’s mouth turned from a smile into a gape of wonder. In fact she almost looked like one of the fish they had caught, with her mouth now wide open.

‘Let the wind blow!’ he commanded.

Nothing happened.

‘Let the rain fall!’ he uttered.

Still nothing.

Disappointed he lowered his arms and looked down at his friend.

‘Who wants it to rain anyway?’ he huffed. ‘Some snow would be a lot more fun anyway.’

‘Never mind,’ Oxana said softly to try and cheer him up. ‘You’ll get the hang of it with practice.’

He sat back down with Oxana and she quizzed him some more about his lessons. But within only a few minutes dark clouds had come rolling over and the air began to unexpectedly chill.

And then it began to snow.

A quiet calmness filled the air and both children rose to their feet and blinked up at the sky, enchanted by the soft flakes delicately falling all around them. This was great fun. It was the height of summer and yet here they were enjoying some snow.

Soon however the snow swiftly grew thicker and the wind howled stronger and louder. The river water also started to churn white so Oxana’s father had to rush ashore.

‘Get into the boat!’ he urged.

Apprentice Brown looked around for Topaz. His bird was nowhere to be seen. Oxana spotted the poor thing lying on the ground, looking weak. Apprentice Brown carefully picked up his little friend and gently tucked it under his shirt for safety. Then they all jumped into the boat and Oxana’s father started to row back to shore.

The river grew ever wilder as they crossed. Soon big lumps of ice were floating past their boat, which was rocking in a very unsafe manner. And then, with an almighty gust of wind, a large wave hit the edge of the boat and they were all thrown to one side. With a scream, Oxana lost her balance and fell into the icy water.

Oxana’s father instantly dived in after her. Apprentice Brown could see they were in danger of being swept away, or from being struck by a large chunk of ice. He needed to do something. He had been the one wanting some snow, and now look what had happened.

Was it my fault? he wondered. Then it’s up to me to stop it.

Standing up and getting his balance, he tried to focus his mind.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

‘Go away you horrible snow!’ he tried to shout. But the wind seemed to take the words from his mouth and he could barely even hear what he had said. He was then forced to quickly sit down to stop himself from falling into the water and had to cling to the side of the boat.

But much to his amazement his spell actually worked. Almost instantly the wind died away and the snow stopped falling. The river soon returned to its usual calm flow. Peering over the edge of the boat, Apprentice Brown watched with relief as Oxana’s father grabbed hold of his daughter and swam to shore. With difficulty Apprentice Brown managed to paddle the boat back also.

Oxana and her father stood shivering on the riverbank as he reached them. They both seemed okay, just wet. Apprentice Brown knew it was his stupid fault. Oxana could see her friend was upset.

‘Don’t worry,’ she whispered, with a shiver. ‘How is poor little Topaz?’

Apprentice Brown checked under his shirt. His bird still wasn’t moving and looked weak.

‘Take him to the Sorcerer,’ Oxana suggested.

Making their way home they could see a heavy dusting of snow across the whole town, even though the storm had only lasted a short while. Children were kicking up white and powdery clouds with squeals of delight, whilst grown-ups stood scratching their heads at the strange turn of weather.

Once at his Master’s house Apprentice Brown told of all that had happened. The old man was quiet for some time, deep in thought. He even looked afraid. Finally, he spoke.

‘I have seen a wild, elemental power like this before, Apprentice Brown. It came from the Apprentice I had to banish. What is even more frightening is the Art of Elements isn’t your natural ability. However telling you not to use your magic would be wrong. It would simply leave it to lie in wait, becoming ever fiercer. However I did tell you to only use magic as a last resort. It is not a toy.’

Having spoken his worries the Sorcerer then looked down at the little bird within Apprentice Brown’s hands.

‘It just needs a bit of warmth,’ he said. ‘It will have to fly south in the autumn, before the cold winter comes.’

Apprentice Brown was relieved to hear this. And as he made his way to leave his Master spoke again.

‘You have been lucky today, Apprentice Brown. But from now on you should only use magic within the safety of this house.’

Apprentice Brown wholeheartedly agreed.

Mischief Eight – The Tower of the Mountain Meadow

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses had five towers growing from it in all directions. Some said that if you climbed up the winding staircase of a tower you were magically taken to a far away land.

One of the towers was known as The Tower of the Mountain Meadow. It was said to take you to a beautiful and peaceful grassland of endless sunshine, with the occasional light shower to water the magical flowers that grew there.

Inside the special house there lived a famous Sorcerer. The wise, old Sorcerer had five dedicated Apprentices learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown.

Today Apprentice Brown was sitting meditating. He was trying to clear his mind of bad thoughts. But all he could think about was an accident his good friend Oxana had suffered because of his careless use of magic. She had fallen into an icy cold river and almost drowned; a cold his own magic had summoned. He couldn’t seem to get comfortable as he sat upon the hard wooden floor, and squirmed first one way and then the other.

‘Open our eyes, Apprentice Brown,’ he heard his Master say. Obeying the command, he saw the Sorcerer sitting in front of him.

‘Mistakes are to be learned from,’ the old man said. ‘Try not to let it take over your thoughts. No harm was done, that is the main thing.’

But even as those words left the Sorcerer’s mouth, several loud thumping sounds echoed through the house. Someone was furiously banging upon the front door.

Jumping to his feet, Apprentice Brown rushed to the entrance of the house where Apprentice Orange had just answered the door. Oxana’s father was standing outside. In his arms lay Oxana, appearing to be fast asleep. But Apprentice Brown knew something was wrong. He rushed forward with the Sorcerer appearing behind him.

‘Is she all right?’ he cried, knowing it wasn’t so. ‘It’s all my fault!’

‘Remain calm Apprentice Brown!’ he heard his Master’s stern command drawing closer. Apprentice Brown tried to settle himself, but tears streamed from his eyes and down his red cheeks at the sight of poor Oxana.

Upon seeing the Sorcerer, Oxana’s father brought her forward.

‘Please help my daughter, oh wise one,’ he pleaded. ‘She has a raging fever from falling into the icy river yesterday.’

The Sorcerer looked down at Oxana. She was struggling to breathe and her face was a deep scarlet in colour. The other Apprentices had also arrived now, after hearing the commotion.

The Sorcerer frowned. ‘This requires the Art of Healing beyond my power,’ he said. Quickly, he spun round and spotted Apprentice Blue, who along with the other Apprentices had also been drawn to the hallway by the commotion. ‘Please take a look at this girl, Apprentice Blue,’ the Sorcerer asked. ‘Can your power uncover the potion we need to help her?’

Apprentice Blue stepped forward with all eyes upon her. A hush descended upon the hallway. Biting her bottom lip she looked down at Oxana for a long time, while everyone else held their breath in hope.

‘We need some honey from the Minooka bees,’ she eventually said. ‘And a plant known as Sandfire. But it is found only by the sea.’

‘I will get the plant,’ the Sorcerer said to her. ‘Please take Apprentice Brown with you to The Meadow and get the honey.’

Apprentice Blue nodded. ‘Come with me,’ she beckoned Apprentice Brown. He was reluctant to leave Oxana, however if it meant helping then he had to follow. But before leaving he rushed over and lightly kissed Oxana upon the forehead.

‘I won’t be long,’ he promised. A mumble came from her lips in reply. It was enough to cause a stab of pain to shoot through Apprentice’s Brown’s heart.

Apprentice Blue swiftly led him up to her room. He tried to avoid tripping upon her cloak, a deep blue in colour. On their way Topaz, Apprentice Brown’s pet bird, joined them, taking its usual spot on Apprentice Brown’s shoulder.

At one side of Apprentice Blue’s room was a small door. Upon opening it a winding staircase was revealed. Apprentice Brown knew it led to one of the towers of the house.

‘Where will it take us?’ he asked.

‘You’ll see,’ she replied and climbed up the tower with Apprentice Brown not far behind.

At the top of the stairs was a familiar wooden door. And on the other side of the door was a dark wooden hut. Apprentice Brown wondered if it was the same hut he had visited before. He didn’t want to go there again, because there had been a land full of nasty creatures on the other side that had wanted to eat him.

Apprentice Blue fearlessly led him outside. In front of them stretched a huge, flat meadow with an amazing variety of small and different coloured flowers. In the distance was a large, crystal-clear lake. And beyond that, far, far away, stretched a long range of purple mountains. The place was so peaceful and there was such a sweet, fresh smell to the warm air that Apprentice Brown soon forgot his worries.

Surrounding him was a faint buzzing noise. Taking some time to look around he could see bees bumbling around, as they flew here and there trying to find the tastiest flowers. They were the largest bees he had ever seen. And unlike ordinary bees which were striped, these ones were yellow with black spots.

I wouldn’t want to get stung by one of those, he thought.

Apprentice Blue noticed him staring at the bees.

‘The bees here are magic,’ she told him. ‘We need to find one of their hives. There we can get some of the special honey they make, which will help to heal Oxana. However their hives are hidden underground.’

Apprentice Brown felt guilty for having forgotten about Oxana so easily in this tranquil place. He then wondered how they could quickly locate a hive. Suddenly a brilliant idea came to him and he turned to Topaz.

‘Can you please help us find a bee-hive?’ he asked.

Topaz was a clever little bird. It responded with a chirp and took flight with a loop through the air. The bright, blue bird flew up high, carefully watching the movement of bees below. Then it darted off. Both Apprentices followed. They soon came to a small clearing in the flowers. The bees could be seen flying to and fro from a small hole in the ground.

‘I will create an illusion to hide us from the bees,’ Apprentice Blue explained. ‘I will also make them think there is a bear trying to get their honey. The bear will then run away and the bees will chase it. We won’t have long to dig out a honeycomb before my magic fails and they return.’

Apprentice Blue produced a jar and a small spade from under her blue cloak. Then she slowly edged towards the hole in the ground. From the opposite direction Apprentice Brown saw a small brown bear strolling over towards them. Although he knew it wasn’t real he was still a bit afraid.

Apprentice Blue heavily stamped her foot at the ground near the entrance to disturb the bees, and then she jumped back. Out flew a large and rather cross bee, then another, and another. They circled several times to see who was disturbing their hive, before darting at the bear. With a short grunt the bear turned and ran away with a cloud of angry bees after it.

As soon as the trail of bees had stopped coming from the hive, Apprentice Blue crouched down and began digging. Apprentice Brown came over to help.

‘Hold the jar,’ she ordered. Then, plunging her hand into the earth, she felt around under the ground for a moment. Pulling it back out her hand was all golden and sticky, and within her grasp was a clump of hexagon-shapes that formed the life-saving honeycomb.

‘This will be enough,’ she said and dropped the honeycomb into the jar.

At that moment there was a loud buzzing, which filled the air all around. Looking up, they both gasped as they saw the large cloud of bees returning to their hive.

‘Run!’ shouted Apprentice Blue. She then darted across the meadow in the opposite direction to the bees. Unfortunately this was also in the opposite direction to the wooden hut they needed to get back to in order to return home. Apprentice Brown followed as Apprentice Blue headed for the lake.

‘Leave the jar by the lakeside and follow me,’ she called to him, flinging off her blue cape, before wading into the water. Then she pulled up some reeds by the water’s edge and waded in further still. Apprentice Brown did as he was told and plunged in after her. The water was a lot cooler than he had expected and he gasped as the cold water hit him.

‘You can breathe through this,’ she told him, handing over one of the reeds she had grabbed. Then she sunk herself under the water with one end of a reed in her mouth and the other end sticking out above the water’s surface.

Apprentice Brown heard a buzz pass his ear and quickly did the same. He wasn’t a moment too soon. Opening his eyes under the water he could see a blurry cloud of angry bees. But they soon got tired of waiting and went back to their hive.

Apprentice Blue was the first to surface and Apprentice Brown followed her, breathing in a large mouthful of air. Apprentice Blue started to laugh. She had such a happy and tuneful laugh, with her smile spreading across her whole face that Apprentice Brown found himself laughing also.

‘That always happens,’ she declared with a grin.

Soaking wet, they made their way back to the hut, down the tower and into the Sorcerer’s house. Their Master was already back with the required plant which he immediately handed Apprentice Blue’s way. She took it and didn’t even change out of her wet clothes, but got to work immediately. Down to the kitchen she went and stripped the plant to its stem, then boiled it and its leaves in a shallow pan of water, mixing in the honey bit by bit. Soon she had a brown syrup bubbling away, and smiled at last.

The Sorcerer cast a cooling spell upon the syrup so it wouldn’t burn poor Oxana’s mouth. Then they fed her little spoonfuls at a time. Almost immediately her breathing regained a sense of normality, and the hot redness to her face seemed to cool down. Still she remained asleep, but seemed much better thanks to the magical potion.

‘She will be okay now,’ Apprentice Blue said.

‘Thank you, all of you,’ Oxana’s father cried looking at each of them in turn with the utmost gratitude. ‘What can I ever do to repay you?’

The Sorcerer shook his head to explain that no payment was needed.

Oxana slept on, but gave a peaceful whimper.

‘Arek,’ she murmured in her dreams, and Arek, or rather Apprentice Brown as he was now known, looked down at her and smiled.

 

Mischief Nine – Words

The Book of Dragons

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. One of the rooms of this most curious of houses was a large and dusty library packed from floor to ceiling with books collected from across the whole world, each one full to bursting with spells. Some said that at night the books came alive and danced mischievously across the shelves.

Inside this special house there lived a famous Sorcerer. The wise, old Sorcerer had five dedicated Apprentices, all learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown.

It was a wet and windy autumnal day, not the sort of weather anyone would care to spend any prolonged time exposed to. But unfortunately Apprentice Brown had to venture outside to deliver fruit to the people of his town. As he left the Sorcerer’s house for the first time of many that day he eyed the ornate stained-glass window set near the front door. It showed a picture of two clouds, both with faces. One rather mean-looking cloud was blowing at the other cloud, which was crying. Having opened the front door and received a blast of wind and rain Apprentice Brown knew how the second cloud felt. Still, there was work to be done, so he wrapped himself up warm and marched on into the miserable weather.

As he trudged through his morning’s work his thoughts turned to his pet bird, Topaz. It had flown south before all this horrible weather had arrived. Apprentice Brown missed his friend and wondered if he would ever see the bright blue bird again. Spring was a long time to have to wait.

In the afternoon Apprentice Brown had to dust down books in the Sorcerer’s library. One by one he called them from the shelves. However the naughty books liked to play tricks on him and often hopped around the room out of his reach. He would be left to chase after them, and soon start sneezing from all the dust that filled the air.

‘Pick a book each day and read from it,’ his Master had told him. ‘This will help you learn about the world and about different kinds of magic, and it will also improve your reading skills.’

Apprentice Brown had read many things already, from large cities where magic contests were held, to tales about magical pigs that had wings and could fly, to mythical creatures of the forest that looked human-like but were made of wood.

‘Not all the things that you read may be true,’ the Sorcerer had told him. ‘Someone could have made the whole thing up, meaning it to be no more than a tale to please others. Or there may be some parts of a story that are true and other parts that are made up. There may even be notes of extreme importance that have been completely left out by the book’s author.’

What Apprentice Brown really loved was reading about all the fascinating places of Tellus. He could spend hours just pouring over maps of the world, trying to pronounce all the exotic place names and imagining what they were like. Most of all however he liked to read books about places by the Sea. Several times now he had visited a fishing village, which was nestled beside a huge ocean that nobody had ever crossed. Every time he arrived there the villagers were always friendly and always made him feel very much at home.

Choosing a book for today, Apprentice Brown scanned the shelves and slid off a large brown book. The book was entitled ‘How to Hunt a Wizard’. Apprentice Brown frowned as he read this. He had been told by his Master about places where magic was banned. Opening the book he read the first few lines.

‘Those who use magic are evil. Even if that someone is your son, or your daughter, or just a good friend, they cannot be trusted. They will only end up hurting you.’

Apprentice Brown lowered the book for a moment in thought, reminded of how he had accidentally made it snow once in the middle of summer. This in turn had led to his friend Oxana falling very ill with fever. He hadn’t meant to cause her harm though. But he knew how dangerous magic could be. Thankfully Oxana had recovered and afterwards Apprentice Brown had promised his Master that he would only ever use magic inside the house, as its special stone walls wouldn’t allow any bad magic within them.

Apprentice Brown raised the book again and read on.

‘Rainbows are a way of knowing that someone nearby is using magic. If you see a rainbow you can be sure there is evil at work.’

For the rest of the afternoon Apprentice Brown read more of the book. He knew that a lot of what he read was incorrect. But he began to understand the fear that the author of the book must have felt.

Once he had finished for the day, he went to place the book back where he had found it, so as not to mix up the Sorcerer’s orderly system. Doing so caused several other books further along the same shelf to tumble over. Not wanting to leave anything untidy he set the books upright once again. The last book he repositioned was dark green in colour and also had a rather strange texture to its cover. It was slightly uneven to the touch and felt like the skin of a snake. Turning the book over to see its front cover Apprentice Brown saw the picture of a fierce black and white creature with a long neck, a thin pointed tail and large wings.

‘I’m sure I’ve seen something like this before,’ he muttered to himself.

Searching the depths of his memory it suddenly came to him. It was in the land where he had found Topaz. Whilst there he had spotted a creature flying high up in the air. It had looked almost exactly like the creature on the front of this book. And even more incredibly, the creature he had witnessed had been able to breathe fire.

Curiously he opened the book. The words within were scribed in unusual letters that he had never seen before. But this was nothing unusual. There were many books in the library in other languages that Apprentice Brown had no idea how to read. But to his astonishment with this one he instinctively knew what the title’s words read.

‘The Book of Dragons,’ it said.

 

Voices

 

‘I shall go nameless, but I want it to be told that I spent my life studying dragons and their ways. I ventured far into the Realm of Dragons and consider myself well and truly blessed to still be alive to tell my tales.

Dragons are ancient creatures. It is believed that upon the creation of Tellus it was a black and white dragon responsible for shaping the mountains, the rivers, the deserts and all the other landscapes of our world. This dragon then gave birth to all other dragons. It is even said that it breathed life into our very own race and bestowed upon us the gift of magic.

Dragons are highly sensitive to the use of magic within the world. When the balance of power is tipped in favour of dark magic, dragons become crueller and wilder.

I travelled far in my quest and heard many stories of dragons, including tales of the One; the original black and white dragon. All told of an age long gone by, but even after all this time I still think the One may be alive, somewhere.

I came to understand that the lives of dragons are strongly tied to the ground beneath us and the weather. I now know this to be called the Art of Elements by those who practice magic. Dragons have the power to control an element, some in a highly specialised way, the most common being the fire-breathing dragon.’

Apprentice Brown came back religiously most days to read from the Book of Dragons, as the nights grew longer and the wet autumn turned into a raw winter. He would snuggle himself into a corner of the library, wrapping his brown cloak around his body and tucking it under his feet, before addictively absorbing all the fascinating stories contained within the book’s mysterious pages. He felt close to the dragons because of his skill with the Art of Elements. Enchanted by the tales he read, he soon learnt about many dragons. Each could be very different depending upon what element they used and how they controlled it, from terrifying, electrifying fiends, to those with bone-shaking, ground-quaking power.

He also became learned in dragon behaviour.

‘Never be impolite to a dragon. If they honour your pathetic existence by allowing you live, they will surely gobble you up whole if you are rude to them.’

On some occasions, the odd page seemed missing from the book, much to Apprentice Brown’s annoyance as now he would never discover the secrets inscribed upon their hallowed pages. But finally one day Apprentice Brown reached a section near the end of the book covering the language of dragons.

‘Some people use words to help them focus their magic. But there are also special words that can actually perform magic without the power of thought behind them. People have long since lost the ability to create new words that hold such power. But the language of dragons still has this gift.

I have put together a list of such words and what they mean. Unfortunately, as I am not able to control the Art of Elements, their meaning is useless to me.’

Apprentice Brown quickly scanned down the list. He wanted to find anything to do with snow or storms. This would perfectly match his own magical ability. With a cry of delight he found what he was searching for. The explanation next to the word simply described it as ‘being used for controlling the cold’.

‘Smetaye,’ Apprentice Brown whispered.

Within seconds the temperature of the room had plummeted. Apprentice Brown breathed out to see his warm breath mist right in front of his face in the freezing air. And then an icy chill overtook hold of his heart. Instinctively one of his hands clutched at his chest in terror. And looking down he saw his hand was changing form, turning green and scaly. His fingernails were also blackening and growing sharper, like claws. Apprentice Brown gave out a scream of terror and dropped the book. His world went blank and his body fell limp to the floor.

He awoke in his bed. Startled, he sat bolt-upright. At first he imagined at having suffered a terrible nightmare. Immediately he raised his hand from under the bedclothes. It appeared to be normal, much to his relief. But turning his head his eyes met the sight of the Sorcerer sat within a chair in the corner of his room and he knew the events that had happened had most certainly not been a dream.

‘You gave us quite a scare, Apprentice Brown,’ his Master said calmly. ‘Can you remember what happened in the library?’

‘I was reading a book,’ he answered meekly.

From under his silver cloak the Sorcerer produced the scaly, green book. ‘You were reading this book?’ he asked, surprise taking over his face.

Apprentice Brown nodded.

‘Well, this is surely an oddity indeed, for not even I can read this book,’ his Master admitted. ‘It is written in an ancient language that only dragons use. Please, kindly inform me what the book is about, and more importantly, what caused you to fall ill.’

Apprentice Brown told his Master all about the book and how it described dragons and their magic. When he had finished his Master sat, meditating in thought for a while.

‘I don’t know who this book was written by,’ the Sorcerer finally said. ‘But I don’t believe what they say about themselves. To wander into the Realm of Dragons is to face death itself. Even to know their language and to write a book with it is unbelievable enough.’

He then smiled, which helped to put Apprentice Brown at ease.

‘No harm has been done,’ he said. ‘I knew I had chosen my latest Apprentice well. However you should be careful about what you read aloud from now on.’

He then got up to leave.

‘Get some more rest for now, he said. ‘One thing I’m now certain of though is that the enchanted walls of my house are no match for the magic of dragons.’

Apprentice Brown wriggled back under his sheets and curled up to attempt more sleep. He opened his eyes again and was surprised to see that darkness reigned. The house was completely silent. It didn’t feel like he had even been asleep since speaking with his Master. Yet he must have fallen into a deep slumber. But something just now had awoken him. He sat up in bed and listened with intent but only the usual creaks of the old house answered his expectations.

Deciding it was nothing he went to lay back down. Then there it was; the faintest of whispers.

Apprentice Brown slid from his sheets and crept to his bedroom door, tentatively pulling it open on creaking hinges. Poking his head from the room he stared down the darkened corridor. There was nobody around, but again he heard a slight whisper. Out of the room he stole, turning his head for any further signs, his gaze constantly being drawn down the main staircase, so his body obeyed.

Descending into the main hallway the voice seemed to be growing clearer. So reaching the bottom step he stood to listened once again. Another whisper caused him to turn sharply. Across the hallway, directly in front of him, was the door of the library. The Book of Dragons was calling to him.

He cautiously stepped into the library, drawn there by some unnamed force. Strangely he didn’t feel afraid, just curious. He spied the book sitting on the same shelf it was meant to live upon. His ears could make out that there were actually several voices trying to speak at once. He tried to concentrate, to help make sense of what they were saying.

‘Set us free,’ whispered one.

‘Share our secret,’ hissed another.

Apprentice Brown replied to the voices, ‘I can’t. Your magic is too strong. Go away!’

‘Set us free,’ one dragon repeated.

‘Our time is near,’ said another menacingly.

Apprentice Brown sat upon the floor and crossed his legs. He just wanted to be left alone but the voices continued even when he clamped his hands firmly over his ears. It was as if they were inside his head.

‘Breathe in; breathe out; relax,’ he told himself. ‘Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.’

Repeating the chant over and over again he tried to focus upon his own breathing rather than the spiteful voices calling to him. His meditating seemed to offer solitude and the taunting voices of the dragons soon faded away.

It was sat in this position that Apprentice Brown fell into a deep but peaceful sleep. He awoke the next morning still sit on the floor of the library and gave a jump when he noticed the Sorcerer sat calmly beside him also.

‘They were calling to me,’ Apprentice Brown cried. ‘I told them to go away, but they wouldn’t listen. So I cleared my mind, as you taught me, and they left me alone.’

The Sorcerer gave a warm smile. ‘You did well, Apprentice Brown,’ he said. ‘I don’t know why, but I feel as though you have passed some test set by the dragons. For what reason though, I do not know.’

Mischief Ten – The Art of Melody

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. Every so often peculiar sounds could be heard coming from this most curious of houses. Sometimes there would be a high pitched squeak as if a giant mouse was on the loose. Other times there would come a low rumble which sounded like the hungry belly of a nearby giant.

At times music would play from the house. Sometimes there would be merry and uplifting sounds, making the whole town feel happy to be alive. At other times there would be a slow haunting beat that sounded so full of sorrow the townspeople would feel like crying. After hearing a particularly strange sound the townspeople would sometimes stop what they were doing. Looking up at the house they would shake their heads, but still have a smile upon their faces.

‘What is the Sorcerer up to now?’ they would laugh. ‘Or maybe Apprentice Brown is making potions for an upset tummy again.’

Today was the first day of spring, and Apprentice Brown was being given a new lesson.

‘I want you to learn how to play this instrument,’ the Sorcerer told him, holding out a thin tube carved from a piece wood. There were several small holes along its edge.

‘This is a piccolo,’ the Sorcerer explained. ‘It is a simple little instrument for playing a sweet tune. You blow through the top and cover up the other holes with you fingers to make different sounds.’

Apprentice Brown took the piccolo and tapped it with his finger. It was hollow. He tried blowing into it, but not much sound came out.

‘You will get better with practice,’ his Master told him. ‘Music can be a way to use magic. There are some people whose songs can send a whole army to sleep. For others it can be a helpful way of communicating with animals so they won’t be afraid if you are trying to help them.’

Apprentice Brown practiced playing his piccolo every day. Soon he could deliver quite a tuneful melody from it. Then one day his Master taught him a spell to play.

‘This will help animals trust you,’ his Master explained and showed him how to play a short but uplifting tune.

Apprentice Brown practiced all day, and the next, until he could play the tune without any mistakes.

So again his Master came to him and taught him a new melody.

‘This music helps with sleep,’ he said. The sound was slow and Apprentice Brown found himself yawning as he heard it. Still he practiced till he could play without making an error.

Then one day Apprentice Brown was looking out of his bedroom window when he spied a small, reddish-brown deer step from the safety of the woods. It began to nibble on the tender grass at the fringes of the Sorcerer’s garden. This was the perfect opportunity to try out his new skill.

Creeping ever so carefully out the front door of the large house, he began playing the melody to help soothe animals. The deer raised its head at first, wondering what the unusual sound was. Then it fearlessly trotted over to the house.

Apprentice Brown wanted to both laugh and cry with joy but he kept playing the piccolo. Soon there was not only the deer, a rabbit had also bounded over. Then a small robin came hopping around his feet, and lastly a pair of small, red squirrels appeared. All the animals sat obediently before him, enchanted by his music.

He stopped playing and finally allowed himself a smile, expecting the animals clustered around him to all come to their senses and take flight. But instead they just sat there and silently watched him, wanting more music. He turned to go into the house and each of his new friends tried to follow him inside.

‘You can’t come in,’ he said, but the animals didn’t understand.

Apprentice Brown decided not to go inside as the animals would make such a mess of the Sorcerer’s plush rugs. So instead he went to the orchard. He needed to deliver apples to the people in town today anyway.

‘I might as well do this until you all leave,’ he said to the animals surrounding him, waving his arms to try and scare them away. However the animals did not leave. In fact even more turned up, and as Apprentice Brown trudged through town delivering the apples he soon had a farmyard-full of creatures following him around. Even insects such as butterflies had decided to join in the fun. Everyone in town stopped what they were doing to stare at the curious sight. They couldn’t help but laugh at poor Apprentice Brown’s misfortune. All except Mrs. Mallory the Mayor’s wife, as a goat started nibbling at the shoots of her prize roses. She tried to shoo it away with a dishcloth but it grabbed a hold and started nibbling that instead.

Apprentice Brown cried several times to his newfound followers to leave him be but instead they just stepped forward to lick his hand, or make a chirp, or a grunt, or a snort, as if to say, ‘No we won’t! Play us some more music.’

This gave him an idea. He decided to play the other melody he knew. If he could send the creatures to sleep he would be able to escape. So taking out the piccolo from under his cloak he began to play. Sure enough, as the melody filled the air, one by one they settled to the ground and gradually closed their eyes. Soon they were all fast asleep. Apprentice Brown took his chance and scurried off back to the Sorcerer’s house and didn’t dare step outside for the rest of the day.

Waking up with a yawn the following morning Apprentice Brown opened his eyes only to be surprised by a furry red face with a pair of brown eyes staring right at him. He jumped out of bed to see a squirrel sat upon his pillow.

‘How did you get in here?’ he asked it, very cross at having woken up with such a scare.

Gazing out of his bedroom window he could see the Sorcerer’s garden and the meadow opposite were packed full of creatures waiting for him to appear. It was as if a circus had come to town. Unhappily he made his way downstairs for breakfast, with his squirrel friend following behind. The other Apprentices found it all very entertaining.

‘How can I get them to go away?’ he asked his Master, who also seemed to find Apprentice Brown’s present situation rather amusing.

‘Sometimes the best way to reverse the Art of Melody is to play the tune backwards,’ the Sorcerer advised.

Apprentice Brown jumped up without finishing his breakfast and went to fetch his piccolo. Then all day long he practiced his tune the wrong way round. He didn’t feel like going outside until he could play it all the way through without any mistakes.

Finally he was ready. He departed the house and all his new friends stepped closer, pressing him against the door.

‘I’m not your mother!’ Apprentice Brown argued. ‘I think I would prefer it if you just ate me.’ But they all just blinked at his words and tried to snuggle closer.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax,’ Apprentice Brown told himself.

He then raised his piccolo. A nearby goat tried to take a bite of it, so he had to turn around to get some space and began playing his latest melody. Almost immediately the creatures started to slowly wander away as if they were no longer interested. Apprentice Brown glanced over his shoulder and watched with relief as they departed. However he still repeated the tune for a second time just to make sure.

Finishing the final notes he lowered the piccolo and smiled at his success. He then heard a creature sing back the last few notes of his melody. But turning one way then the other he couldn’t see anything and wondered if he had just imagined it. Therefore he played the last few notes again. Sure enough, there was a reply. It sounded like a bird. Looking up he spotted something sitting on the ledge of his bedroom window. It was a beautiful bird with bright blue feathers. Apprentice Brown’s eyes widened with excitement.

‘Topaz!’ he shouted with glee. It was his good friend. It had come back after migrating for the cold winter. Topaz swooped down and took its usual place upon Apprentice Brown’s shoulder, who was as happy as could be at his friend’s return.

Mischief Eleven – The Citadel Tower

The Golden City

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses had five towers growing from it in all directions. Some said that if you climbed up the winding staircase of a tower you were magically taken to a far away land. One of the towers was known as The Citadel Tower. It was said to take you to a huge fortress made of pure gold.

Inside the special house there lived a famous Sorcerer. The wise, old Sorcerer had five dedicated Apprentices all learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown.

For today’s magic lesson Apprentice Brown had been told to bring his piccolo, a small musical instrument made of wood. Apprentice Brown guessed he was going to continue with the Art of Melody and learn a new magical song.

‘Today you will be going through another of my towers,’ his Master announced. ‘It might be a little frightening for you at first,’ he added.

Apprentice Brown immediately thought of the awful place with scary monsters. He didn’t want to return through the tower that led there.

‘There is a great city on the other side of the tower,’ the Sorcerer explained. ‘It is a fortress against armies that try to march over our peaceful land. There will be a lot of people; more than you have ever seen before. And it will be very noisy. In this city Apprentice Green was born. He will take you there and be your guide. Stay close to him as you will easily get lost. I will teach you a simple melody to play on your piccolo in case you should lose your way. It will help Apprentice Green find you.’

The Sorcerer then showed him how to play just a few notes on his little piccolo. Topaz, Apprentice Brown’s pet bird, mimicked the tune with several chirps also.

‘It looks like you don’t need your piccolo after all,’ his Master chuckled.

Apprentice Green led Apprentice Brown outside and round to the back of the house. There was a door with a staircase behind it which led up to a tower. Apprentice Brown tingled with excitement at the thought of seeing the city.

Stepping from the Sorcerer’s tower they were magically transported to another, almost identical tower. Apprentice Brown walked over to one of the new tower’s windows and gazed out across the city. It was huge. Everything was made of a shiny stone that reflected the sun’s rays making the whole place look a beautiful golden colour. He could see a large building rising up from the centre of the city.

That must surely be a castle, he thought. He had read about them in books.

Rushing to the window on the other side of the tower he could see a high wall enclosing the city. Beyond that was a lake and endless fields of grassland.

‘The Lord of the City lives in the castle,’ Apprentice Green told him. ‘Some people call him the King, but he would never call himself that. He is a very kind and honest man who just desires freedom and peace for all. His grandfather built this fortress as a barrier against the Warlords. My father is a soldier in the City’s army. But one day I want to come back home as a Sorcerer and serve my Lord so that none of our people, including my father, have to risk their lives any more against the Warlords.’

Apprentice Brown looked upon his friend who seemed different somehow. He sounded very brave. Apprentice Brown didn’t like the sound of these Warlords. He would see if there was a book in the Sorcerer’s library about them when they returned home.

The pair of Apprentices descended the winding stairs of the tower and came out onto a marketplace. Even the ground at their feet was lined with blocks of stone here. It was all very different from the dirt-tracks back home.

A few people noticed Apprentice Green appear from the tower and came racing over.

‘Our Wizard has returned,’ they said with smiles.

‘I am no Wizard yet,’ Apprentice Green laughed back but cast his eyes down, disheartened by this thought. ‘Someday soon,’ he added and looked back up at his admirers.

Apprentice Green had been an Apprentice for ten years now. It was already past his time to leave, and people had been gathering in the meadow opposite the Sorcerer’s house to be named the new Apprentice. But for some reason the Sorcerer had not given Apprentice Green his title yet.

Apprentice Green quickly led Apprentice Brown away through the wide streets and small alleyways, and everything in between. Apprentice Brown’s neck soon began to hurt just from looking up so much. But there was so much to see, hear and even smell, that he kept gazing around, trying to ignore the growing ache.

Turning down a small street of houses, which Apprentice Brown was sure they had been down before, Apprentice Green stopped at a house. It had a dark green door. Apprentice Green gave a small knock before entering. From inside the house came a high-pitched squeal as a short, plump woman came rushing over and wrapped her squat little arms around Apprentice Green.

‘My little baby!’ she announced and gave him a big kiss on his cheek.

‘Mum!’ he complained, embarrassed at his mother’s behaviour. Apprentice Brown grinned.

‘Is my little Apprentice finally a Sorcerer?’ she eagerly asked of her son.

Apprentice Green gave a small shake of his head, then hung it down as if there was suddenly something very interesting about the cold stone floor.

‘Oh well,’ his mother replied. ‘It can’t be long now.’

‘My Master still doesn’t think I’m ready,’ was Apprentice Green’s short response. He looked annoyed now. ‘I’m here to show Apprentice Brown around,’ he said to change the subject. ‘He’s never seen a city before.’

Apprentice Green’s mother stepped over and bent down, taking Apprentice Brown’s hand.

‘Well hello my little treasure,’ she said. ‘Call me Maggie. And who’s this on your shoulder? Such a pretty bird.’

Apprentice Brown smiled and Topaz gave a chirp. They both liked Apprentice Green’s mother already.

Apprentice Green raised his arm, lifting up the small linen bag he had been carrying.

‘Some apples for you from the Sorcerer,’ he said.

A long, sleepy yawn came from the corner of the room, distracting everyone’s attention. Both Apprentices glanced over to see a rather odd looking little boy waking up, having been curled up silently in the corner. He had large, bright yellow eyes and there was a faint tinge of green to his chubby, round cheeks. The strange boy sniffed the air and looked up hungrily at the bag Apprentice Green was holding.

‘Who’s this?’ Apprentice Green asked his mother with a tilt of his head.

‘I found the poor little mite scraping round in the garbage a few weeks back, looking as thin as a rake,’ she answered. ‘Says his name is Nutbeam, though doesn’t say much else mind, which suits me fine. Better than having someone argue back, like you used to do far too often.’

Maggie sat them all round the kitchen table and had the two Apprentices tell her all the adventures they had been experiencing. Nutbeam sat there, more absorbed in the food before him, crunching his way through the entire stock of red apples that had been brought.

‘Your sister is doing well in school,’ Maggie told her son. ‘She likes reading ever so much. Always has her head stuck in a book. Lord knows where you two get your curiosity from.’

Maggie took a breath to say more but was left with her mouth ajar by a thunderous crash vibrating from outside. Nutbeam, who had just ran out of apples and was rotating his head around the room to see what else there was to eat, jumped out of his chair with a squeak and in one extraordinary leap for someone so small was stuck fast to the back wall of the room. He then scurried upwards and clung to the ceiling shaking uncontrollably, looking down with his large fright-filled eyes glowing yellow from above, like two lanterns.

Those left on the floor didn’t know what to be more alarmed by, the loud noise or Nutbeam’s ability to effortlessly sail up the wall and hang upside down. They chose to leave the startled boy to calm down and see what was happening outside. Across the rooftops smoke could be seen rising in the distance and the screams of people could be heard. Another exploding sound boomed through the air, echoing around the city walls. Everybody looked up to the sky.

Apprentice Brown saw a creature familiar to him, though he had never seen one so close up. It was enormous. The sound of its huge leathery wings could be heard beating, causing the air to pulse. It was snaking its long neck to and fro surveying the damage it had caused, whipping its tail around in delight. And being this close even its thick and scaled green armour that it wore as skin could be seen. Apprentice Brown knew that above the city there flew a dragon.

 

Apprentice Green Versus the Dragon

 

In next to no time a crowd had gathered around the house of Apprentice Green.

‘Help us,’ several of them begged. They seemed to view their Sorcerer-to-be as their only hope. He had no choice but to rise to their expectation. Striding out into a deserted market square he began to focus.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

Almost instantly the dragon snapped its head round, mid-flight. It seemed to sense the use of magic from somewhere nearby. Circling round the rooftops it scanned the ground below to see where the magical presence was radiating from.

Apprentice Green conjured up an illusion. He imagined a large giant, bigger than the dragon even, dressed in a shiny suit of armour, and with a large, sharp sword to cleave the dragon’s head clean off its neck. Nobody else could see the giant except the two Apprentices and the dragon, as Apprentice Green didn’t want to scare the people of the city even more.

The Dragon seemed to give out a laugh, and even smile, showing all its sharp teeth. Its eyes burned brightly, turning a deep red in colour for only a short moment, and to both Apprentices’ surprise the illusion simply vanished.

Apprentice Green stood shocked at having his spell undone so readily, but he tried to remain calm. From the corner of the marketplace Apprentice Brown could see him mouth the words he was familiar with.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

Apprentice Green looked up once again with renewed strength. The dragon had spotted him now, but rather than attack it simply landed upon a wall nearby to watch, waiting to see what would come next. Rising wisps of steam trailed from the two flared nostrils atop its grinning snout. It didn’t seem frightened one little bit.

This time Apprentice Green summoned the Art of Change. The walls surrounding the marketplace gave a shudder. Then, slowly at first, blocks of stone began to rise from the buildings. The process sped up and the blocks drifted together until eventually there was a large giant standing there again, this time made of stone. The stone giant clenched a fist and raised its arm to pound the dragon. Everyone could see the magic at work this time, knowing Apprentice Green had created their newest warrior. They all cheered, ready to watch the battle that was about to ensue.

But the dragon remained calm, looking up with contempt at the stone giant that towered overhead. Once again its eyes glowed red for only a second. Then before the eyes of all, blocks of stone began to fall from the giant’s body, crashing to the ground. Soon the city’s only hope had crumbled away to a pile of rubble and the effect of having his magic undone with such ease hit poor Apprentice Green heavily.

‘I…I can’t do it,’ he stammered and stepped back several paces.

This time it was the dragon’s turn. After a grin it inhaled deeply and held its breath. Everybody watching could see an unusual glow building deep from within its long neck. Then, as the glow turned from red to white, as quick as lightning the dragon shot its head forward and spat open its mouth. A huge, smouldering ball of fire burst from deep within the beast, directed right towards Apprentice Green.

The stunned Apprentice lifted his arms out in front and shouted words which were lost amongst the roar that the flaming ball of destruction was making. The fire continued to streak towards Apprentice Green and the crowd cried at what seemed like his final moment. But as it reached him the ball of flames came to a stop mid-air, hitting some invisible barrier that the clever Apprentice had constructed. A bright light glowed from the protective field and curved round Apprentice Green, who kept his arms raised, straining against the force.

The onslaught of flames gradually diminished in size as its power weakened. Then, as a last gasp, the fire exploded in all directions. People had to leap aside as bursts of spark and flame flew their way. Apprentice Green was flung back by the sudden release of energy. His green cloak whipped around his body as he rolled across the hard stone floor like a rag-doll. He ended up face down to the ground, completely overcome with exhaustion.

All eyes returned to the dragon. It seemed to be enjoying this. It watched at Apprentice Green tried to get back to his feet, but all he could manage was to push his cloak away and roll over to sit upright. There were long red scrapes down his face from having been flung across the floor and he was breathing heavily, too weary to continue the battle.

However the dragon wasn’t finished. Raising its head it breathed in deeply once again, preparing for another burst of flames to finish off the defenceless Apprentice Green.

‘Help me Apprentice Brown!’ Apprentice Green cried. His voice seemed so weak and frightened. It sounded like that of a lost child.

 

Fire Versus Ice

 

Apprentice Brown snapped out of the fear that had gripped him upon hearing his friend’s call for help. He needed to think of something fast, before it was too late. Already the warm glow was building within the dragon’s throat.

He had read about these creatures from the Book of Dragons. Thinking hard he tried to recall what the book had said about fire dragons. They disliked the cold, as with anything else that could control the element of fire. Apprentice Brown knew he had the ability to create a snow storm. He had achieved such a feat before. But the Sorcerer had told him not to use his magic outside of the house. However his Master had also said that magic should be used as a last resort, and things appeared pretty desperate right now. He decided to take the risk.

Tucking Topaz under his shirt, as last time the poor bird has fallen ill from the cold, he then raised his arms to the sky and began to focus.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

The dragon paused as it sensed a further presence of magic building from somewhere, just like it had done for Apprentice Green. It set its sharp, fierce eyes upon Apprentice Brown, who felt the gaze like a blow to his chest.

‘Snow!’ he shouted as loud as he could, trying not to be intimidated by the beast. The dragon glared at Apprentice Brown. It had heard the word and didn’t appear too happy about it.

A chill wind stirred, catching Apprentice Brown’s cloak and lifting it around his body. Growing in strength the wind soon blew with an increasingly icy bite. The dragon knew what was coming. Already threatening clouds could be seen rolling in from the west. It stamped one of its claws in anger, dislodging several blocks of stone from the wall it was perched upon. They crashed to the ground creating yet more destruction to some market stalls below, which crunched with the sound of splintering wood. The beast then let out a loud and angry screech and spread its mighty wings across the sky like the sails of a great ship, blocking out the sun. Flapping them it slowly rose into the air, circling round to glare at Apprentice Brown one last time before heading away from the oncoming storm.

Everyone fell silent over Apprentice Brown’s achievement, not quite understanding how he had managed to scare off the ferocious creature. They looked at him with a slight fear filling their hearts, at the colossal power he must hold to defeat a dragon with the mere shout of his voice. Whispers went round asking exactly what it was that he had cried to tame the beast. But soon each one of them began to shiver as the clouds arrived and a light snow began to fall. Then the people of the city knew what Apprentice Brown had achieved. Their fear left them and they rushed over to congratulate him at last.

‘Stand back,’ he told them. ‘I need to stop the storm or it may never end.’

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

He could feel his whole body trembling at the experience and began to worry his spell wouldn’t undo. But with a calm certainty he commanded the storm to retreat without much effort. Then the people rushed forwards once more and hoisted him upon their shoulders. Little Topaz just managed to escape from under Apprentice Brown’s shirt, before being almost squashed by the people’s kindness.

Apprentice Brown was carried through the city and up to the castle, with Apprentice Green left behind alone. The people whisked their new hero straight to the halls of their Lord where he would surely receive a huge reward for defeating the dragon. The Lord of the City welcomed Apprentice Brown without delay and praised his fine show of bravery.

‘Our City would surely have fallen under the power of that dragon. We had no warning and very little to fight against such a foe. Name anything you wish and it shall be yours.’

Apprentice Brown was a little scared under the gaze of this strong and noble man. In some ways it would have been preferable to face the dragon again.

‘I need nothing, Sir,’ he eventually said with a small squeak. ‘It was just by chance that I knew that spell. I am nothing compared to Apprentice Green. He hopes to serve you when he is made a Sorcerer, to help defend the city and our land.’

The Lord looked at Apprentice Brown for a moment, and then a smile spread across his face.

‘You are a true friend,’ he eventually said. ‘I met Apprentice Green when he was first chosen by the Sorcerer. I am honoured that he wishes to serve me. I will ask to speak with him soon. It seems we have a lot to discuss.’

The Lord summoned one of his soldiers to escort Apprentice Brown back to Apprentice Green’s house. The soldier was none other than Apprentice Green’s father who had many questions to ask. Upon arriving back home they found Apprentice Green with Topaz awaiting their return.

‘You did well, Apprentice Brown,’ Apprentice Green praised, though he seemed strangely distant. So saying a quick goodbye the pair of Apprentices made their way back to the tower, to the Sorcerer’s house. Upon seeing them, the Sorcerer sensed that something was amiss.

‘How was the city?’ he asked Apprentice Brown, but he was actually looking at the troubled face of Apprentice Green. So Apprentice Green answered and told their Master what befallen them.

‘A dragon!’ the Sorcerer said, shocked at hearing such news. ‘This is highly unusual. Something isn’t right. Dragon’s usually avoid any dealings with people, and only attack with good reason. I fear the world is changing, and not for the better.’

Apprentice Green went on to describe his efforts to protect his city.

‘I was powerless against the beast!’ he cried. ‘I am such a fool. I don’t deserve to be an Apprentice. The dragon saw right through my magic. I had to ask Apprentice Brown for help. It was he who saved the day. He is a true hero.’

Apprentice Green was almost in tears now. He avoided eye contact with his Master, such was his shame.

‘Lift your head up high, Apprentice Green,’ the Sorcerer commanded. ‘There are hundreds of magicians who would have turned and fled from such an encounter. You stayed to face life-threatening danger head on.’

The Sorcerer was smiling with pride at his Apprentice.

‘And relying upon the help of your friends is nothing to be ashamed of. There is great strength in working together. You have learned your biggest lesson of all today. In fact that is the final lesson you will ever learn as Apprentice Green; as from this day forward you shall be known as Sorcerer Brave.’

 

 

 

Mischief Twelve – The Art of Soul

The Statue

 

‘What’s happening?’ a small worried voice asked.

Apprentice Brown searched around the Sorcerer’s garden, but there was nobody about. Then he heard a faint sobbing. Someone nearby was upset. Slowly tilting his head in the direction of the noise, he ended up facing the stone statue of the young woman which stood in the middle of the garden. The sound seemed to be coming from there.

Cautiously Apprentice Brown crept over, and the crying grew clearer.

‘It is the statue! said Apprentice Brown in a whisper.

‘What’s happening to my hand?’ he heard it say, though every part of it, including its lips, remained motionless. The voice sounded young. It was just how someone might imagine the stone statue to sound like if it was a real person.

‘What have I done?’ the voice said. ‘I didn’t get to warn him.’

Apprentice Brown didn’t feel as though it was actually talking to him. Rather it seemed to talking to itself.

‘Help me!’ the statue then cried and Apprentice Brown grew uneasy, even a little frightened. But he also felt like he wanted to help if he could. Slowly he found himself reaching out towards the statue. He lighted touched one of its statue’s hands and with a flash before his eyes he was suddenly seeing images in his head.

In his vision there was a young woman in the Sorcerer’s garden. It was the statue, but she was a real person. And she was chanting.

‘Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax,’ she said. Then she opened her eyes and looked down at her hand. It was turning grey in colour. The girl gave a sharp intake of breath.

‘What’s happening to my hand?’ she cried.

Within seconds the greyness spread up her arm and her other hand also started to turned grey.

‘What have I done?’ she said as the greyness climbed its way up her slender neck. . ‘I didn’t get to warn him. Help Me!’ But Apprentice Brown could only watch in horror as the girl’s face and body hardened into stone.

All fell quiet and the vision ended. Apprentice Brown was left in the garden with the statue once again. He took a few steps back. His heart was racing, though he wasn’t sure what had just happened. It was like a dream, but he had been awake. And he felt so tired now.

 

Apprentice Red

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. Within the garden of this most curious of houses was a grey stone statue of a beautiful young maiden; no longer a girl, not yet a woman. But rather than looking happy, the statue had such a sad and lonely appearance. Some said that if you stared into the statue’s eyes she would peer deep within your soul and answer the question you desired a reply to most of all.

It so happened to have been a very special and busy time for the town recently. Following ten years of studying Apprentice Green had officially been given the new title of Sorcerer Brave and had returned home to serve the Lord of the Citadel. Afterwards people had arrived from far and wide in the hope of being named the next Apprentice. Two years ago, the last Apprentice chosen had been given the title of Apprentice Brown. He had been selected for showing great kindness. This story was now well known by the new arrivals. Therefore all around people could be heard being extra polite, and offering to help each other in any way possible.

At last the new Apprentice was chosen. He was a proud, young man and had been given the title of Apprentice Red.

‘Why did you choose Apprentice Red?’ Apprentice Brown asked his Master. ‘He hadn’t been particularly nice to anyone.’

Apprentice Brown was actually thinking of Apprentice Red’s behaviour after he had been chosen by the Sorcerer. He hadn’t been allowed to keep his servant whilst being an Apprentice.

‘It’s not fair!’ Apprentice Red had complained with a stamp of his foot, but he had reluctantly sent his servant back to his father’s mansion.

‘Every Apprentice is chosen for a different reason,’ came the Sorcerer’s cryptic response.

Apprentice Red was given the task of cleaning the Sorcerer’s magical roof tiles, as well as delivering fruit from the Sorcerer’s orchard to the people in town, just as Apprentice Brown had done. Apprentice Brown still dusted down the library but now had more time to spend studying magic, playing his piccolo and mediating.

One rather pleasant day Apprentice Brown decided to take a trip into town to see his grandpa. Making his way through the Sorcerer’s garden he passed the stone statue which stood there. The statue made him nervous. He had strange memories of it having never been there at all. And yet at the same time he also had memories of it having always being there. It was hard for him to explain but he knew something about the statue wasn’t right. All the other Apprentices, and even his friend Oxana, swore that the statue had always been there, so he had to trust them.

He looked up at the face of the poor girl of stone who gazed lifelessly back down at him. She looked frightened. He gave an uncontrollable shiver under the statue’s gaze. Then spying Apprentice Red, who was struggling with a full basket from the orchard, Apprentice Brown sped after him if only to get away from the eerie statue.

‘My house is much bigger than the Sorcerer’s,’ Apprentice Red boasted as they made their way into town. ‘And I have people to clean it for me, and do my cooking, and deliver fruit.’ He looked down at the heavy basket he was being forced to carry in disgust.

Apprentice Brown knew that delivering fruit, and cleaning tiles, and any other task the Sorcerer asked was all about self-control. But he didn’t say anything. It was up to Apprentice Red to learn this for himself.

A loud sneeze came from his companion as they neared Mr. Bumblebelly the Baker’s shop.

‘Drats. I have an infernal cold as well. I could do with having a servant to help pick my nose. But that wicked Sorcerer made me send my servant away.’

Apprentice Red gave Apprentice Brown a sideways look as if expecting him to help, so he scurried off to see his grandpa.

Afterwards he made his way back to the Sorcerer’s house. There in the garden was his Master giving a lesson to Apprentice Blue. She was the most experienced Apprentice, now that Apprentice Green had departed.

‘Today I will tell you about the Art of Soul,’ the Sorcerer said. ‘Just like The Art of Melody, the Art of Soul can be used to control the behaviour of people and animals. However you will also be able to hear their thoughts, and even place thoughts into their mind. For this reason The Art of Soul is a dark and dangerous Art if used unwisely.’

Apprentice Brown was mesmerised by the sound of this new Art. He stopped to hear more. His Master noticed, but didn’t seem to mind.

‘Now, imagine you can hear my thoughts,’ the Sorcerer said to Apprentice Blue. ‘Try to focus upon what I am thinking, as if the words were coming from my lips.’

Apprentice Blue concentrated hard. Apprentice Brown could almost hear her meditating. He had done it countless times himself whilst trying to master a spell.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

However Apprentice Blue couldn’t perform any magic. Instead her forehead had broken out into a cold sweat with the effort of trying. She looked thoroughly exhausted.

‘Patience,’ the Sorcerer told her. ‘The Art of Soul is difficult to control. Do not overstretch yourself.’

Apprentice Brown walked up and took Apprentice Blue’s hand to show his support. He knew what it was like to be unable to cast a spell. It happened to him all the time. Apprentice Blue smiled down and gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

‘I think that will be all for today, their Master said, so Apprentice Brown and Apprentice Blue went inside.

Entering the house they noticed the large frame of Apprentice Yellow come thumping down the staircase. He seemed lost in thought and hadn’t seen them.

‘Would you like to go for a walk, Apprentice Blue?’ said Apprentice Yellow. But to Apprentice Brown’s astonishment he noticed Apprentice Yellow hadn’t even moved his lips.

Apprentice Yellow repeated the phrase yet again without actually speaking. It was only then that he spotted actually Apprentices Blue and Brown at the bottom of the stairs and slowed down. Apprentice Blue and Yellow smiled shyly at each other.

‘Apprentice Yellow is so sweet,’ Apprentice Blue thought. Apprentice Brown heard this also. He stumbled back outside in shock at what had just happened. He hadn’t meant to perform any magic. It had just happened, but he seemed to be using the Art of Soul. He needed to inform the Sorcerer, but his Master was nowhere to be seen.

Then the sound of another voice came to him. Looking up he saw Apprentice Red returning to collect some more peaches. He sounded angry.

‘Why should I have to deliver all this fruit like a common servant?’

Apprentice Brown noticed that Apprentice Red hadn’t moved his lips either. He stood watching as Apprentice Red left and his head felt dizzy from such a strange experience. Closing his eyes he started to breathe slowly to regain his balance. It was then that he heard a whisper.

‘What’s happening?’

Reopened his eyes he gazed upon the statue in the middle of the Sorcerer’s garden.

 

Trading Places

 

Apprentice Brown hurried back inside the Sorcerer’s house and up to his room as a means of escape from the unspoken voices. But even sitting on his bed there came a faint whisper. He turned to the door almost expecting to see the statue had followed him up from the garden, but it was only Topaz hopping into the room.

‘Did you just say something?’ he asked his friend. What if he had the ability to read the thoughts of animals? He seemed perfectly able to hear statues, so why not birds? It would be nice to know what Topaz wanted at times, and also why it wasn’t flying south for the coming winter.

Carefully he set Topaz down upon his bed and looked at his friend with intent. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax.

He imagined he could hear Topaz’s thoughts in the same way he had heard what the other Apprentices were thinking. For a split second the image of a man shot through his mind and his head jerked back, startled. The magic seemed to be working. Therefore once again he looked down upon Topaz and concentrated. The vision of the man appeared once more. The man was laughing, but he didn’t look happy. He looked like someone who was cackling at the suffering of another.

Apprentice Brown felt a trembling against his hand and noticed his little friend was shaking.

‘Did that man try to harm you?’ he asked Topaz. ‘Is that why you want to stay for the winter?’ He picked up his little friend and carefully brought it closer until its nerves had calmed once more.

‘You never have to leave if you don’t want to,’ Apprentice Brown promised. ‘I won’t let anybody hurt you.’

At that moment he heard a shout from the garden. Gently placing Topaz back upon the bed he looked out of his window. Outside he could see Apprentice Red and the Sorcerer. Apprentice Red looked angry. Apprentice Brown turned and hurried from his room, down the stairs and into the garden to see what was wrong.

‘I am sick of being treated like a common servant,’ he heard Apprentice Red shout at their Master. He dropped the basket of apples he was holding and stamped his foot like a small, spoilt child.

‘Please be patient?’ the Sorcerer begged him.

‘But I came here to learn magic!’ Apprentice Red argued back, waving his dainty hands through the air angrily. ‘I have the talent. Watch me.’

‘No, Apprentice Red!’ the Sorcerer said, uncommonly raising his voice. But Apprentice Red paid no attention.

‘Undo!’ Apprentice Red shouted. A silence followed.

Then from not too far away a voice was heard. Everyone looked and saw that the face of the statue from the middle of the garden had turned a pink, flesh-like colour. It was coming alive. Gradually, the grey stone disappeared as the statue turned human. At the same time Apprentice Red gave a shout.

‘My hand!’ he cried. Looking at his hand, everyone saw it was turning grey and cracked, as if turning to stone. They greyness spread, so that while the statue was being fed with life, Apprentice Red was taking its place. Soon there stood a new living, breathing young woman in the garden where a statue had once been. But now a statue stood in the space Apprentice Red had occupied.

Apprentice Brown heard his Master whisper under his breath. ‘You foolish young man. You should have listened to me. This is what happens when you cannot control your magic. There is nothing I can do for you now.’

Mischief Thirteen – The Tower of the Tropical Forest

A Shadow from the Forbidden Realm

 

At the edge of a town far, far away, along a winding road, past a mossy meadow and up a gently rolling hill, there stood a large and somewhat angular house. This most curious of houses had five towers growing from it in all directions. Some said that if you climbed up the winding staircase of a tower you were magically taken to a far-away land. One of the towers was known as The Tower of the Tropical Forest. It was said to take you to a wild jungle where the trees here grew so large they blocked out the sun so that even in the daylight it seemed like night.

Inside the special house there lived a famous Sorcerer. The wise, old Sorcerer had five dedicated Apprentices learning the Art of using magic for good deeds. One of these Apprentices was known as Apprentice Brown.

Apprentice Brown was sat in his room miserably gazing outside at the rotten weather. It was raining and cold. It had been this way for weeks. He had hoped for at least a bit of snow to go out and play in, but instead the grey winter had been one long and boring torrent of rain.

Sat beside him was his pet bird Topaz. It hadn’t flown south when the miserable weather had arrived. Apprentice Brown was sure the reason was because wherever his friend had flown last year, some cruel man had been there who had scared his bird.

The sound of the front door opening, then closing could be heard. Through his window Apprentice Grey could be seen heading out to complete her daily work. For twelve years she had been trapped as a statue within the Sorcerer’s garden. Back then she had been a new Apprentice. And just like Apprentice Red, the most recent Apprentice to have been chosen, she had grown impatient and foolishly used her magic. Paying no attention to the Sorcerer’s guidance had been met with disastrous results. Apprentice Grey had used the Art of Change and turned herself into a statue. Then after twelve years Apprentice Red had come along and used the Art of Undoing, reversing her spell. Unfortunately for Apprentice Red, he had transferred Apprentice Grey’s spell to himself, and now it was he who was stood in the garden as cold as stone.

Apprentice Brown looked down into the garden now. There stood the lonely statue of poor Apprentice Red getting soaked in the rain.

‘Can’t you undo the spell?’ he had asked his Master, who had only shaken his head in reply.

‘The spell is too strong,’ the Sorcerer had said. ‘It is often the case with those discovering magic for the first time and using it uncontrollably. I hope that Apprentice Grey will one day be able to undo her own spell and save the foolish Apprentice Red. However after such an experience she is now too scared of her magic. In fact she might never be ready.’

As Apprentice Brown recalled these recent events he considered himself lucky. If he had known any magic after being made an Apprentice maybe he could have come to a sticky end. Now he had been with the Sorcerer for over two and a half years. There had been several dangerous moments but fortunately things had turned out well for him.

He decided to head down to the library to occupy his time. As he reached the hallway at the bottom of the stairs his Master and Apprentice Blue were in discussion.

‘I think we should have a day out, the Sorcerer said, knowing Apprentice Brown was listening. ‘You need some plants for your potions and the rest of us need to escape this miserable weather. When Apprentice Grey returns from delivering apples we shall all head to the Tropical Forest.’

Apprentice Brown’s face lit up at the prospect of a new place to visit. It would surely be through the last of the Sorcerer’s towers that he had yet to visit. He skipped to the library to discover more about this forest.

‘Could I please have a book about the Tropical Forest?’ he politely asked the books within the library. Several books shuffled their pages, before one flew from the shelf. Apprentice Brown had grown accustomed to their naughty ways now and ducked before the book could hit his head. Then pouncing upon the book before it could rush away he turned it over to see its title. The Fairy Forest, the book was called. That wasn’t what he was after.

He let go of the book with a sulk. It floated back to the shelf with a wiggle as if laughing at having fooled him. The books were in the mood for playing tricks today, so Apprentice Brown turned to leave, not wanting to give them the satisfaction of annoying him any more. But before exiting the room he spun round and stuck his tongue out at all the mean books, then slammed the door behind him in case they flew his way. He would just have to wait to see what the forest was like when he got there.

After what seemed like an eternity of waiting Apprentice Grey finally returned and the Sorcerer gathered his students for their outing. Apprentice Brown brought along Topaz. More than any of them it wanted to go outside to stretch its wings. Together they all made their way upstairs and to the back of the house, stopping at a small wooden door. Behind the door was a familiar stone staircase winding its way upwards, as with all the Sorcerer’s towers.

The door at the top of the tower opened out directly onto a dense forest. A waft of warm, sticky air hit them all. It was so full of moisture it almost felt like being underwater, and even breathing proved difficult.

‘You might want to leave your cloaks here,’ the Sorcerer chuckled and then stepped forward. His eager Apprentices followed.

Today it wasn’t the Sorcerer giving a lesson but Apprentice Blue.

‘There are leaves, and flowers, and berries, and roots, and seeds, and all the other parts of the plants and trees around us, that can help to make potions for all sorts of ailments,’ Apprentice Blue explained. She showed a real passion for making potions. There was really no hiding her special ability. The group was asked to keep their eyes open for leaves of a certain shape and colour; or for the slow ooze of sap from a tree; or even to smell the air for a large, red plant which had a rather nasty pong.

‘Be careful of falling branches,’ she warned them all, before they spread out. But they didn’t travel too far so that they lost sight of each other, as the level of light was low in places where the trees grew especially close together.

Occasionally an Apprentice would find a particularly unusual flower and call to Apprentice Blue who would enthusiastically spring over to take a peek at their discovery.

‘The scent of that is good to help clear a blocked nose,’ she would reply, or ‘that will help those who have smelly feet.’

Almost every plant seemed to have some use in her eyes. Apprentice Yellow seemed to be paying particular attention to everything she said, and he was eager to find the things she wanted most of all.

It was hot and sweaty work as they made their way through the undergrowth, but everyone was enjoying the warmth and the chance to occasionally glimpse the sun through the odd clearing in the trees.

Apprentice Brown was trampling along looking for a particular plant Apprentice Blue had described. It was shaped like a vase and actually ate flies. The thought sounded so disgusting and unusual for a plant that he really wanted to find one munching away on flies. And pushing back a low branch he spied a strange bell-shaped plant growing from the fork in a tree trunk. Bending forward to peer inside, to his delight he could see a few dead flies. However the plant didn’t seem to be chewing them up. In fact it didn’t even have any teeth to chew with.

A sudden crack of branches came from above forcing Apprentice Brown to dive out of the way as a branch fell right by him. As he picked himself up others rushed over to make sure he remained unhurt.

‘I’m fine,’ he said as they arrived, but then noticed a few blue feathers scattered upon the floor.

‘Topaz!’ he cried. His bird was laid upon the ground, not moving. As Apprentice Brown crouched, his friend managed to sit up and hop into his cupped hands. It didn’t seem too hurt, but he noticed one of its wings wasn’t tucked under properly.

‘You poor thing, you’ve hurt your wing,’ he said. Instinctively Apprentice Brown turned to his Master for help.

‘Let me have a look,’ his Master said, holding out his hands.

As Topaz was handed over to the Sorcerer a blinding flash dazzled the sight of everyone forcing them to shield their eyes. Following this they all felt their bodies tighten, as if being bound in ropes or squeezed by a giant snake, until none of them could move an inch. And standing before them was a man with flecks of grey running through his thick, dark hair. He had a wicked grin set upon his face.

‘At last!’ the man cried. ‘How long has it been?’ He said this to his frozen audience who could do nothing but stand and stare, and listen to his mad raving.

‘Forty three years!’ he answered his own question. Then turning to the Sorcerer the man pushed his face up close.

‘Forty one miserable years trapped in the Forbidden Realm, and then another two years for you to finally touch that stupid bird so that my spell would work!’ The Sorcerer could only blink his eyes in return, but everyone could see they were filled with fear.

 

Summoning Dragons

 

Apprentice Brown looked at the man. His face seemed familiar. Then a memory came back to him. Stood before him was the man who had appeared in a vision when he had tried to communicate with Topaz using the Art of Soul.

The man turned Apprentice Brown’s way and smirked.

‘Thank you, Apprentice Brown,’ the man said. ‘I waited so long for someone to come through that door, after I was trapped there by this fool!’ he pointed at the Sorcerer but kept talking to Apprentice Brown.

‘I was given plenty of time to plan the spell I was going to use once the chance arrived. I knew it had to be strong and clever enough to fool that house and its protective walls. I ended up having to become a bird in body and mind. It was nearly the one flaw in my plan, because when we were escaping from the Forbidden Realm the stupid bird wouldn’t fly into the dark hut. It was too afraid. Only with your help and trust did it acquire the strength needed.’

The man gave out a sinister laugh. Apprentice Brown couldn’t believe that all this time his friend had been this nasty man in disguise. Who was he? Apprentice Brown recalled his Master mentioning something about one of his first Apprentices, and how he had grown powerful and greedy and had to be banished to the Forbidden Realm. So that is where the tower led to.

‘As a gesture of good will I can offer you one last request before you all die,’ the mad man said to Apprentice Brown. Feeling his jaw loosen Apprentice Brown found he could move his head. But instead of doing anything to help he just began to cry.

‘Come on, you haven’t got all day, the man snapped impatiently. ‘If it’s any comfort, I really do think that the bird liked you. Now tell me, is there anyone back home you want to make super rich? Or maybe you want me to turn someone into a toad? That would be far more fun. Unfortunately I’m not going to be able to set any of you free.’

The man seemed to be enjoying his game. Apprentice Brown looked at his wicked face and felt angry. He had never met anyone so horrible before, not even Mrs. Mallory was this mean. And Topaz had been such a kind, little bird. It had cheered him up when he was ever down, and he had nursed it back to health when it had fallen ill from the cold.

Like a lightning bolt an idea struck him. Topaz had been afraid of the cold. He also remembered his Master telling him that the Apprentice he had banished had been able to control fire. Could it be that just like fire-dragons, those who used the Art of Fire could also be defeated by the cold.

A faint whisper came to his ears, rustling through the leaves, carried on the breeze. He had heard a whisper like it before, from within the Sorcerer’s library. The dragons were calling to him once again. Clenching his jaw, he knew what he had to do, even if it meant endangering himself. With determination filling his heart he called for the aid of the bitter cold using the language of dragons.

‘Smetaye!’ he hissed. The voice didn’t sound like his own at all.

With a puzzled expression the evil man looked down at Apprentice Brown.

‘What did you say?’ he asked, angrily staring directly at the little boy. But then the man’s gaze fell to the pendant round Apprentice Brown’s neck. ‘That necklace. It belonged to her. How did you come by it?’

But Apprentice Brown didn’t reply. He was wrapped deep within the magic of dragons now. Everyone watched on as his eyes shone with a deep blue light. Then the cold came upon them. The surroundings crisped over silvery white, as tiny ice crystals spread across every surface to fill the air with soft crunching sounds. The man also watched this happen through wide, disbelieving eyes, then suddenly he clasped at his heart and let out a shriek of pain.

‘No!’ he cried and quickly fell to his knees. All he could do was stiffly raise his head and glare up at Apprentice Brown. His whole body was beginning to freeze over now, turning a ghostly grey-blue, just as if turning to stone like poor Apprentice Red had done.

‘Curse you,’ he managed to whisper before his lips turned a dark purple and froze solid. Then the rest of his face, his head, and his body hardened to ice. It was shortly followed by a loud crack and down the centre of the ice statue’s forehead a fracture grew. Smaller cracks also appeared, spreading across the surface of the man before growing deeper. Soon the statue was crumbling to the ground as a pile of glittering, frozen dust.

With the magic at an end Apprentice Brown let out a gasp and fell to the floor. The paralysis spell which had held everyone else motionless also came to an end. The Sorcerer rushed over to Apprentice Brown’s aid.

‘I’m okay,’ Apprentice Brown wheezed. He just felt so tired, as if he hadn’t eaten or sleep for days. His Master went to raise him and the world spun underneath him, and all went blank.

 

Apprentice Violet

 

Apprentice Brown awoke. He was lying in his soft bed his memory unsure of how he had come to be here. This was becoming a familiar situation; the last time also being when he had succumbed to the magic of the dragons. Glancing across the room there was his Master once again waiting for him to awaken. This time the Sorcerer was standing speaking to an old woman with long, grey hair, sat in a chair. Stopping their conversation, they both seemed to sense Apprentice Brown’s awakening and cast their warm but concerned eyes over to him.

‘How do you feel, Apprentice Brown?’ his Master asked.

Apprentice Brown just nodded, still feeling very tired; too tired to even speak. Though his eyes were drawn to the old woman.

‘I’d like you to meet Apprentice Violet,’ his Master said.

There was a silence as Apprentice Brown stared at her for a moment. He looked into her cool green eyes and then instantly recognised who she was.

‘Tabitha,’ he croaked with a weak voice, and managed a small smile.

She smiled in return and rose from her chair and walked over. Taking a seat upon the edge his bed she took one of his fragile little hands in her own.

‘Thank you for freeing me, Apprentice Brown,’ she said. ‘It was that evil man who turned me into a cat. That was a very long time ago.’

She fell silent for a while thinking back through all the years that had gone by. Finally she broke her silence.

‘At one time that man had been a kind person,’ she explained. ‘His name was Gonzalez, and he had been my friend. A group of us came here to learn from the Sorcerer.’

Tabitha stopped and brought a hand up to her mouth, choking back a sob. It was clearly a struggle for her to relive what had happened; maybe even a relief because at last it was all over. A single, lonely tear escaped from the corner of her left eye and travelled its way down her cheek. The Sorcerer placed his hand upon Tabitha’s shoulder for comfort as she continued her story.

‘Unknown to me or the rest of my friends, or even the Sorcerer, was that Gonzalez had an unquenchable thirst for more and more power. Gonzalez was also aware that I could control the cold with as much flair as his wielding of heat, and that it was the key threat standing against his fire. So when he finally decided to challenge our Master, he used an extremely strong spell of change upon me. Being a cat meant I was powerless to use my magic. But luckily his spell weakened him enough for one of my other friends to use his magical gift. He could control the Art of Translocation, and he summoned a rift to banish Gonzalez as far as his power would allow him. But the rift couldn’t be sealed, so a tower was built to keep it under control. However with Gonzalez undefeated I remained as a cat. Though it wasn’t such a bad life.’

She let out a laugh at last, and turned her head up to look at the Sorcerer.

Apprentice Brown thought of Gonzalez. He was reminded of a book he had read. In it someone had described that those using magic were all evil. Now, after having experienced Gonzalez’s rage, he could share more of what the book spoke about. Most of all though he was afraid. It had been by his very own hands that Gonzalez’s life had ended. It seemed wrong, no matter how evil he had been. Even though he would have killed them all. Yet at the time it was almost as if something else had taken over, and the spell he had cast hadn’t really been his own doing. Even his voice had sounded different. That thought terrified him yet more. Maybe he had some dark side to him waiting to surface, just as it had done with Gonzalez.

Apprentice Brown looked up at his Master who seemed to guess his thoughts. The Sorcerer gave a reassuring smile.

‘You did what was right, Apprentice Brown, the Sorcerer said. ‘You always do and you always will.’

 

#

 

Apprentice Brown awoke with a contented stretch. It had been a week since his encounter with Gonzalez and he still felt delicate from the ordeal. Stiffly he raised himself from his bed and hobbled over to the window, pushing it open for some fresh air. It was a mild winter’s day with a light shower of rain outside, but the sky appeared bright in places. Hearing a sob he peered down to the garden below and caught sight of Apprentice Grey standing in the rain without her cloak. Beside her was a basket of apples which she was meant to deliver to the townspeople. But her attention was fixed upon the statue which had once been Apprentice Red. She was absorbed so much in her own grief she didn’t even appear to notice the rain beginning to soak her clothes.

Making his way down to the garden Apprentice Brown grabbed his own cloak from the hallway and wrapped it around his shoulders with a shiver. He also took the grey cloak of Apprentice Grey. She would surely get ill from standing in the rain without it.

As Apprentice Brown approached Apprentice Grey he wondered if it was a good idea to disturb her. What if she accidentally turned him into a statue? Her head was tilted to the floor, lost in her own sadness. Carefully Apprentice Brown reached out for her hand. It felt cold to the touch. Awakening from her thoughts Apprentice Grey looked his way, her eyes red with sorrow.

‘Look at what a monster I am,’ she said with a broken voice, gesturing to the statue of poor Apprentice Red.

‘It wasn’t your fault,’ Apprentice Brown replied softly. ‘He played his part as well. He tried to use his magic before he could control it. He took your spell. You aren’t to blame.’

Saying this he was reminded of Gonzalez. It was Gonzalez’s own choice to abuse his magical ability and hurt others. Apprentice Brown knew he had to stop blaming himself for instinctively trying to help his friends, but also ending Gonzalez’s life.

Apprentice Grey raised a slow smile at his kind words. She leaned forward and gave him a hug. The light rain had stopped but Apprentice Grey gave a shiver and Apprentice Brown held out her cloak.

‘Thank you,’ she said, taking he cloak and wrapping it around her cold body.

A thin beam of winter’s sunlight burst from behind a cloud. The greyness soon parted to reveal a bright blue sky. So with a lighter heart both Apprentice Brown and Apprentice Grey made their way together down the gently rolling hill and along the winding road into town to deliver the apples.

 

The End

 

About the Author

David Petrey is an online author. His day job revolves around more mundane tasks of making digital maps where he dreams of being a full-time author. When not writing he is most likely reading, gardening or sighing at the growing pile of videogames he finds no time to entertain. See more of his work at http://www.DestinyIsWaiting.com

 

 

Other books by this author

Please visit your favorite ebook retailer to discover other books by David Petrey:

 

The quoQuantum Saga

Quantum

 

The TimeSunder Histories

The Mischief of Apprentice Brown

Forging Amber (Coming July 2017)

 

 

 

Connect with David Petrey

I hope you enjoyed visiting Tellus

 

Visit my website: http://www.DestinyIsWaiting.com

 

 


The Mischief of Apprentice Brown

Apprentice Brown is a novice Apprentice to the most famous Sorcerer across the Land of Tellus. His impatience and inquisitiveness often leads to unexpected outcomes, sometimes with humorous results, sometimes fraught with darkness and danger. The Sorcerer and his unusual house play a key role in defining each of the books chapters. Features of the house have been built by previous Apprentices who have infused their unique magical ability, known as an Art, into the house; including towers that whisk those ascending them away to far off lands. Apprentice Brown must overcome encounters with one-eyed giants, man-eating plants, even dragons, as well as those using dark magic to take over the world. But most of all, with the help of the friends he makes along the way, he must overcome his own self-doubt on the long road to becoming a Sorcerer.

  • Author: David Petrey
  • Published: 2017-04-25 21:50:14
  • Words: 39753
The Mischief of Apprentice Brown The Mischief of Apprentice Brown