The Fourth Apprentice
Melessandru’s first two apprentices simply disappeared. After some questioning of the locals I learned the third now lived in a hole in the riverbank because he believes he’s an otter. It wasn’t hard to find the hole.
“Peter Littleton. Come out and talk to me.”
I heard a scuffling and splattering somewhere back in the muddy darkness. Soon an equally muddy face appeared, blinking in the sunlight. “I’m a humble river otter. I don’t know this ‘Peter Littleton’ you refer to.”
“River otters keep their fur clean and their dens dry. That one’s going to become terribly uncomfortable come winter.”
“I rather thought so,” Peter the River Otter said. “Still, I haven’t been a river otter that long, so I’m hardly to blame if I haven’t got it sorted yet.”
“Did Melessandru make you a river otter?” I asked.
“Not exactly. I just said that I hated being his apprentice, and I’d rather be anything else.”
“And he said, ‘How about a river otter?’”
Peter frowned. “How did you know?”
“Lucky guess. I’m going to see him now.”
“Tell him I’m doing my best, won’t you?”
“What did you do to the first two? Turn them into bees?”
Mellesandru looked defensive. “Those louts? They just ran away. I have no idea what happened to them after that.”
“So rather than return to their homes they just kept running to be as far from you as possible. That, I can believe. But what about Mr. Littleton?”
“Well, it’s not as if I didn’t give him a choice. Be fair.”
I glowered at him, and I do a pretty convincing glower, if I do say so myself. “Take it off. I mean now.”
He looked away. “Oh, all right. The humor had gone out of it, anyway.” He picked up a small bundle of twigs tied with blue thread and snapped it in two. “He’ll have one more muddy night. In the morning, he’ll remember that he’s not an otter. Served him right, though. He broke my favorite alembic.”
I rubbed my eyes, probably looking as weary as I felt. “Sandy, you know how the Council feels about friction in the ranks of apprentices, and as Arch-mage it’s my responsibility to enforce the rules. And it’s your duty as a magician to pass on your skills, and you especially. You’re the best magician of the twelve.”
He looked at me. “Second best of the thirteen, though.”
“Flatterer. Honestly, Sandy, what am I going to do with you?”
“Umm, give me a stern warning?”
“I take that as given. But it’s not all I’m going to do.”
He looked a little worried. Good.
“What are you going to do?”
“I’m going to choose your next apprentice personally. I already have someone in mind. And I promise if you try that ‘otter’ nonsense with her, you will regret it.”
“No buts. Get changed. We’re meeting your parents for dinner.”
Mellesandru called “The Grim” just sighed again. “Yes, dear.”
©2018 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.