The night had turned cold as an icy wind blew strongly from the north. The heavy clouds that had been threatening rain finally released their burden and the rain was steady and cold. I continued through the night, I was late returning to my studies, my Master probably would not be pleased at my late arrival. The assignment he sent me on should not it taken as long as it did, but there is always one more person that required assistance.
The eerie scream that I heard chill me more than the rain and the wind. It was too short to get anything more than the general direction from where it came. I began heading in that direction facing directly into the wind when a softer cry come to me. The second more muffled, but it spurred me quickly onward.
My Master hated the fact that I would charge toward danger. He said it made me look like a hero, and heroes normally died horribly. I never thought of myself as a hero, but I was no coward and run from the danger either, especially if they were someone my assistance may save.
From the sound, it could not be much further even though I know the wind can carry a softer sound much further than normal. As I crossed the tree line stepping into the wide clearing I saw what had made the scream and why. Face down in the mud was a man about fifty paces from me, a beast, a werewolf ripping at his flesh, from my position I can see another small figure trying to hide but still could not fully muffle her crying.
Anger boiled in me as my magic sore to new heights; instinctually my first attack knocked the werewolf away from the victim. As the beast struggled to regain his footing, a lightning bolt flashed across the distance separating us. The beast howls as lightning burns its flesh for a few seconds. It finally drops to the ground as smoke rises from its body.
I approach the body on the ground and it lies unmoving, even from a few feet away I know he will never rise. I turn and find the girl to check and see that she is hopefully unharmed, even a scratch from the beast could be very bad. My footsteps flushed the crying girl from her hiding spot, and I have to sprint to catch her. Once I do we come to a sliding halt, and I had to step back quickly to avoid her small dagger, I finally brought light into existence and the girl’s eyes widened realizing I was no threat to her. Her hood is down and I cannot truly see her face, but from the way she stands, I can tell she is calm now.
She returned her dagger to its sheath. I bowed to her, rising I say, “I am Julius, apprenticed to the Master Wizard Justin of Benton.”
She takes a deep breath and says, “I am Isabel. Is my manservant alive?”
I shake my head no before I ask, “Are you uninjured Lady Isabel?” Not many people nowadays could afford a manservant so it stood to my reason that this young woman was the child of a noble.
Even in the dim light of my fading spell, I could see her smile. Isabel says, “I am uninjured young wizard, I am also no lady my father is a merchant of some renown. I am Isabel daughter of Jeremiah from the house Morgan.”
I knew Isabel, and of her father Jeremiah Morgan a very wealthy merchant, Jeremiah was leader of clan Morgan. I remember Isabel, a young girl maybe four years younger than I am; she just sprung up over the last few years since last I saw her. Although, his household usually did not remain in any one city for a great deal of time, they have traveled through this area many times. I had always look forward to their passing. For the last few years, I seem to have missed them for one reason or another. That did not explain why she was here by herself with only a single manservant. I ask, “What brings you out in such a dangerous place Isabel?”
Isabel explains, “Julius if you would be so kind to take me to your Master. I bring goods for your Master. He has a long-standing order for rare spices. We did not expect any trouble or father would have sent me with a larger escort.”
To set Isabel’s mind at ease I explain, “I can very well understand that, we had never had problems with werewolves before. They are usually solitary and seldom hunt this close to civilization. I must see to the bodies before we can leave.”
I began a summoning spell and it drawn dead wood from the woods and pine groves it formed into a large block as it gathered in the center of the clearing. I split the block into half then caused each the block to double in size creating openings for which air could enter the wood. I pull forth turpentine from stumps in the pine groves coding each block, finally clearing the area around each large block of all the flammable grass. I brought the bodies to the top of each block. I spoke the three words that ignited the funeral fires.
In the light of the fire, even though the wind and rain keeps Isabel’s cloak pull tight I can see how much her body has changed over the last years. The last time I saw her I cast a light spell above her head, I told her it was her halo, because she looks so much like a young angel. Isabel was the oldest child born to Jeremiah Morgan, and her younger brother and sisters teased her about me.
The flames leapt high quickly, and before long, nothing but ash remained. Now certain that the werewolf truly was dead and his victim would not return I led Isabel away.
We had retrieved the small pack that held the spices wrapped tightly in a waterproof layer of skins. I carried it along with my normal pack. We were not far from our journeys end although much delayed by the events earlier. It was very late as I reach my Master’s door. I spoke the words that communicated to my Master that I have arrived. We waited at his door until he finally poked his head out.
Once he sees Isabel, Justin’s sour disposition changes instantly. Throwing the door open wide, he takes Isabel into his arms. They hug briefly until he pulls back to look at the beautiful girl, probably only fourteen or possibly fifteen years old. Black hair so dark yet glistens in the lowlight coming for my Master’s home, her eyes are so deep blue, and they remind me of the deep ocean at night. She stands tall for a girl the top of her head reaches my shoulder. Her cloak hides most of her figure, and all I get is a few glimpses in the fire light. However, from the sway of her hips as she walked with me I could tell her body was lean and fit.
Justin orders, “Julius build up the fire.” I bowed and slip past him.
I am beginning my work as I hear Isabel say, “Uncle Justin, Julius save my life tonight. A werewolf had attacked and killed Remus as he stood to defend me. I was too scared to run, and only hid a short distance away. Once the werewolf had finished poor Remus, I am sure the beast would have killed me. Julius arrived just in time to rescue me.”
My wise Master has a smile that plays a crossed his face as he turns to me. The smile vanishes as he begins to speak, “Young Julius how often have I cautioned you, now you will suffer a fate far worse than any you can imagine. By the laws of our clan, Isabel now belongs to you. You are to be considered betrothed until such time as a wedding ceremony is performed.”
Isabel and I are both shocked, now in the light for the first time we get a good look at each other. I say addressing my Master, “My Master is this a jest? Isabel is a very beautiful girl, surely I am not worthy.”
Isabel giggles and questions, “Young wizard Julius, did you just say I am beautiful?”
Turning to her in getting a better look at her beauty before I reply, with a smile I say, “Most beautiful girl I have ever met, I would say the most beautiful girl in the whole world.”
Isabel is well traveled, bright with a quick wit about her she asks, “Julius have you met every girl in the world?”
My eyes taking her face, how the smile plays a crossed her lips her eyes glow with merriment. Her beauty has caught my breath and I must break free of it before I answer. Turning back to the fire momentarily I begin before my gazes pulled back to her, “I could not imagine, a girl who could be more beautiful. Angels weep when they see you, because your beauty outshines them.”
Her beautiful eyes shine even brighter, but her smile does not waver. My Master Justin does not control his laughter before he says, “Isabel I am sorry, but my apprentice has truly been captured by you. Apparently, he ran to protect his heart’s desire.”
Isabel turns to her uncle and asks, “Please check Uncle, I feel it but I wish to know for certain.”
Justin shakes his head, but finally looking into Isabel’s face, he begins the spell of loves discovery. Isabel and I move quickly together unable to do anything but find a comfort of each other’s arms. Once there I never wished to leave, and judging from how tightly Isabel holds to me she must feel the same. My Master stops his chanting, but Isabel and I will not release each other. My Master Justin chuckles and says, “Your bond is stronger than most I have ever seen. Now back to the fire young men you must warm your betrothed.”
Isabel giggles looking into my face she says, “I found a warm place my uncle, which I am reluctant to leave.” I would be very reluctant to give up the comfort I feel holding this beautiful girl against me.
Justin chuckles and says, “You two stand there then, I will stoked the fire. I would probably have to break your arms to pull your part right now anyway.” He turns to the fire, and Isabel steps upon her tiptoes and our lips meet. The feeling is magical, and I should know. Justin turns quickly catching our kiss, he gasps at the site of us. Isabel and I both have our eyes closed. However, Justin notices the bright glow that surrounds the two of us.
Justin finally shakes his head and turned back to the fire, we are lost in our kiss until my Master finally shakes us. We break our kiss only to find that a meal has been prepared during our long kiss.
Justin points to the table and says, “Come and eat you will need your strength, we must return to my brother-in-law tomorrow.”
Isabel says as she pulls me to the table, “It will be a four-day journey, they are in Camarillo.”
Justin says, “That cannot be helped, my brother-in-law must approve the betrothal without delay, the spell has consequences. Unless you are married before the next full moon, your bond is so strong that it would kill you. So you need not worry, he must approve. Julius needs only to worry about the dowry he will offer for your hand.”
The two of us look at each other, Isabel bites her bottom lip and it makes her look even more desirable. I say, “I know I cannot live without you now and forever.”
Isabel smiles and says, “I feel the same way my love.”
Justin chuckles and says, “No truer words have ever been spoken. The two of you are bond together as strongly as any I have ever seen. You will not be able to part for whatever the reason and survive more than a day.”
Isabel’s hand squeezes my hand, not out of fear but love. Justin warns, “You must not consummate your bonding before the ceremony, to do so would be and insult to Aphrodite. I fear no sacrifice you can make would appease her. Now eat, we have much to do and a very long journey to begin in the morning.”
Isabel and I feed each other, as Justin shakes his head chuckling softly at us. Between mouthfuls Isabel and I chat, I want to know everything about her and apparently, she feels the same way about me. She informed me she was on her way here not only to deliver the spices, but she needs an examination by her uncle to determine if she has magic.
Her Uncle Justin shakes his head yes, and says, “Yes you do, I told your father that three years ago. If you did not the two of you would not bond so strongly. Moreover, in the morning before we leave I need to test one other thing.”
When it comes time for us to go to sleep Isabel looked at her uncle and says, “Uncle I know we cannot consummate our union this night. Nevertheless, that does not mean I cannot enjoy the warmth of his arms around me. We will leave our clothing on, and sleep above the blankets. I know I will be warm enough in his embrace.”
The look Justin gave me told me Aphrodite would be the least of my worries if I did anything more than hold Isabel tonight. On top of my bed we spooned together with my arms wrapped around her waist, her hands atop mine, and our bodies pressed tightly together. I smell the slight scent of roses in her hair. Once we were comfortable, I heard the beginnings of the spell from the hallway and we both dropped to sleep until awakened by Justin in the morning.
Justin begin the testing of his niece, it was a simple casting, a light spell easy and useful. As Isabel studied the spell Justin sent me to the stream for fresh water, normally we would use the well but I did not question my Master. Justin seldom did anything that he did not have a reason for doing, and I have long since learned to trust him. When I reached the stream, I heard Justin’s mental command to travel further upstream for the water.
Mental communication is by a spell that enchanted a small locket that I wear around my neck. Justin wears a similar one that allows him to give me mental commands. The lockets are very helpful, in everyday situations and when teaching new spells. Some spells can be very dangerous, and the locket is very useful in directing the apprentice.
After going a quarter of a mile upstream, I gently tip the bucket into the water not to disturb the sandy bottom. It is then that I noticed the black sand in the bottom of the stream. The water was moving quickly, so I moved a few rocks and found small nuggets of gold.
I chuckle to myself, and make a mental note to thank my Master. Here is the gold needed for my dowry. After getting a bucket of clean water, I speak the gathering spell that pulls the dust, small flakes, nuggets and even larger chunks of gold from the streambed and banks. The gold melts in midair, dropping the impurities back into the stream. I continue the spell, until a block of solid gold forms to match the weight of Isabel. By that time, the stream runs muddy from the disturbances.
I think of Isabel, and her weight in gold seems like a petty price for her hand. I hear the thunder of a far off volcano. It lies in a part of the country far from everything. Molten rock often spews from it, and no one will live near it because how dangerous it is. Although some people do venture near it when it is quiet, precious gems are found on the surface and washed downstream from some of the torrential rains that fall on its slopes. I would not deny those brave enough their opportunity to find what Mother Nature has already given.
I think of the spell and alter it, I reached deep into the earth under the Volcano, and within the molten rock, and I move gems quickly to the surface wrapping them in a layer of lava. I caused the gems to fly across the distance and drop into the stream to cool. They sizzle in the rock breaks free of the diamond. Before long a third of Isabel’s weight in gems, sparkles at the bottom of the streambed. The total will be a dowry few could ever match.
I stretch the gold cube into an ornate box roses of solid gold grow then flatten themselves against the edge of the box. I had created an opening large enough for the gems a lid forms as the uncut diamonds float into the box. The stones are of all colors, most shaped in an eight-sided crystal. Some crystals are as large as your fist a few even larger than that.
The gold chest seems to be too audacious, so I gather hard wood and spider web, the spider web become silk the color of Isabel’s eyes. The wood a seamless box that holds the gold chest within, the silk forming panels around the box. I draw forth just a little more gold and imprint the silk panels with a golden rose on each panel, which hides the treasure within it, the last touch I create the image of Isabel’s face in a circular panel on top the box. A magical lock keeps the box lid securely in place, only Isabel or someone who loves Isabel could open the box.
A simple spell causes the box to rise into the air and follow along behind me as I get the mental message from Justin that I should return now. It does not take me so long to walk back; joy is in my step as I returned to Isabel.
Walking in I placed the bucket of clear cold water where my Master points. Justin asks Isabel to perform the light incantation, as he directs me to stand beside her. Her spell, is far brighter than most beginning apprentices, and Justin chuckles, even Isabel is a little surprised at how bright her spell is.
Justin says, “It is just as I had believed, the reason your spell is so much brighter is because Julius being here, he need not do anything but his mere presence adds to your power. Julius please perform the same spell as dimly as you can.”
I concentrate as I performed the incantation. I only want the light of a candle to come into existence. Surprisingly, what I get is quite a bit brighter, only slightly dimmer than the light Isabel has created. I am a little more than confused; I have done this spell thousands of times. I can make it is bright as a candle or a torch or even the noonday sun. An incantation we practiced repeatedly; it is easy to judge and is an exercise in control, something I had believed I had mastered.
The light is easily as bright as four candles. Justin looks on grinning, he says, “The two of you make each other more powerful. You will have to learn to know exactly how close each of you are at all times, because it will make a very big difference in combat, especially if you only want to stun your opponent. You are both easily twice as powerful in the presence of the other.”
That gives me an idea, and enchantment never has worked for me before, I know I lack the power previously. However, with Isabel at my side I am confident that the enchantment will work.
Justin seems to have the same idea, he has a rolled up rug ready. He smiles and asks, “Are you ready to try it again?” I shake my head as I release my spell and the light fades.
Isabel giggles seeing her uncle with the rug. In a bright voice she says, “I have seen a few wizards do that before, it will sure beat walking.”
I smile as I take her hand. I say to her, “My love, I have gathered my dowry. With your help, this spell will have us in Camarillo by this evening. You can have your supper with your family.”
Isabel laughs, “Perhaps we should eat at inn I know. Today is one of my younger sister’s turn to cook.”
Justin unfurls the silk rug, it is at least five paces wide and eight long, quite expensive and richly designed. I have retrieved the book that holds the enchantment spell, I read it once more to freshen it in my mind. I explain to Isabel, “I will direct the magic, hold my hand and let it flow, do not try to push or pull the magic just release it so I may direct how it works.” Isabel smiles and takes my hand gives her head a nod. I begin the enchantment I feel power flowing through her hand into mine, and the rug begins to unravel and reform, gold threads from my fingertips are weaved into the rug as it reforms. It seems like only seconds passed until the spell is completed, and the new rug floats waist high off the ground.
Master Justin grins touches the rug and his eyes open widely, once recovered from his mild shock he says, “That was amazing, even a powerful wizard seldom gets the results you just got. The spell is as permanent as the two of you; it will last as long as you live.”
I gestured to the three packs by the door, and they float over and land on top of the carpet. I gestured to the box and it too floats and lands in the center of the carpet beside the packs.
Isabel’s eyes had widened for a moment, giggling she says, “It looks like you can be handy.” I lift Isabel by her hips, set her on the edge of the carpet, lean in, and give her a passionate kiss before we leave.
Justin chuckles then says, “They will be plenty of time for that when we are in the air.”
Isabel stands steps across the carpet lightly, and I jump onto the carpet. Landing on my butt, I wish I remembered that the carpet could feel like it sets upon a stone floor. Only gentle pressure will cause it to move, something heavy or a footstep will not affect the carpet. Isabel comes down gracefully setting at pace in front of the large box. She grins at my face, and says, “That is an interesting chest you have.”
I resist the urge to tease, smiling I say, “It holds my dowry, although I do not think it nearly equal to what you are worth.” Justin rolls his eyes.
Isabel giggles and asks, “May I please look upon what you think is less than my worth.”
I tell her, “Look about you. Everything that is, is not as precious to me as you.”
Justin can no longer contain his merriment, his laughter burst forth as the rug lifts and we began our journey. When standing on the rug you do not feel its movements, it is as if you were in a room, with glass walls that only let a gentle breeze passed through.
Isabel pouts which I cannot resist, I walk to Isabel and lift her to her feet, we walked to the box and I caress the face that appears to look at us. I move a strand of hair back behind the carvings ear, only then is the seam for the lid visible. Then it lifts slightly slides back, and tilts up. Inside is what looks like a rose covered block of gold that brilliantly reflects the sun. I run my hand across the edge, the lid then lifts revealing the uncut diamonds sparkling and millions of rainbows has the gold reflects the bright light through them.
Justin chuckles, “I think my brother-in-law will be very impressed. You know you are going to have to do many good deeds to repay the gods for all that.”
“Master why you think it is always that I run to danger. I have been working at repaying the gods already for a very long time. I will think them every day that I hold Isabel, and continue to do whatever good I may.”
Isabel has tears running down her cheeks, and I have no idea why, pulling her to my chest I kiss her tears away. “What sorrows you my love? What brings tears to your eyes?”
There is no true sadness in her eyes when she looks at me. With a sniffle Isabel replies, “It is your fault, your beautiful words, and a treasure more than I have ever seen and you say it’s less than what I am worth to you. How can I measure up to this?”
Smiling I say, “You have already my love. To me this is nothing more than a little metal and some crystals. It means nothing without you. You are the mother of my children yet to be born. My friend, my lover the one person I will and can always count on.”
Isabel buries her face into my chest and holds me tight. Justin chuckles, “I think the girl already loves you, you do not need the work so hard to try to win her.”
With a smile, I turn to him, “My Master I only said what is in my heart.”
Isabel lifts her face to me tears still flow, although her eyes glow with happiness now. Isabel says, “I love you. My uncle is right you need to do no more to win me. However, if you stop saying those beautiful words, I am going to hit you. You keep saying whatever my love is in your heart.”
I wave my hand in the box lids close. At speed we are traveling we near the edge of the dragons hold, he allows a safe passage for a price. We carry twenty gold pieces and dropped them in a certain spot he collects them later. The carpet seems to read our minds and brings us down to that spot. Justin drops the small pouch holding our fee, and we lift and away we fly. That would normally take us two days and mark half of our journey, it is been less than an hour at this pace we will reach our journeys end in time for lunch.
On this rare occasion, we actually see the Dragon. He flies behind us and we outpace him he is quickly but a small dot in the sky. I am sure he only come to see what shared his sky, not much would dare unless he grant safe passage.
Most people would avoid crossing his domain, but wizards and dragons have a treaty, we do not try to kill each other on this world. We are probably only two powerful beings here capable of killing the other. A wizard vulnerable to certain attacks, a dagger through the heart always works, but so does dragons’ fire. When it comes down to a duel between the Dragon and a wizard only the Gods know who will win. However, one thing is always true; they are going to be a lot of damage done before there is a victor, if one at all.
Justin chuckles, “The Dragon says thanks for the gold, and it gives him something to trade for the cows he likes. He was down to just a few gold coins, since he normally does not keep them. Preferring to melt the gold and added to the floor of his cave for his bed.”
I chuckle, “We should start just bringing cattle, and cut out the middleman. I think the Dragon usually pays too much for his food.”
Isabel gives me an angry look that causes me to wilt. She says, “Not on the new carpet, no cattle crapping all over the rug. We will give the Dragon extra gold if we have to.”
Justin chuckles, and I say, “My apologies my love, I forgot cattle do that, whenever and wherever they are in the mood.”
Isabel giggles and pulls me into a kiss, and again we lose ourselves to our passion. It is not until we run into a cold rain that we break. I lift my hand and gesture a screen forms acting as an umbrella keeping the rain away. We have already started to descend to land at Camarillo’s outer gate. The bazaar is just inside that gate. We can already see the tent tops for house Morgan.
We could easily land within the city walls, but that would just be rude to the guard whose job it is to protect the city. Camarillo is a friendly enough city, the guards usually righteous, and justice normally prevails. Trade is usually good, it has a large harbor on the North West side of the city, and good roads help the trade locally. The outskirts have some estates, giving way to farmland and many ranches.
The bazaar will have everything one could desire or pay for, except for a slave. At least slavery abolished here for nearly ten years, which is where Master Justin found me. I was the son of a farmer, until Raiders came killing my father and mother. They took me for a slave.
Master Justin did not purchase me he freed me. He brought the images out of my mind of that terrible night. The population here demanded an end to it. They can no longer stand the injustice done to many for the comfort of a few.
Now they use a different system, criminals placed up for sale; even they are not truly slaves they merely serve out their sentence as such. Once their time served, they are free again. They are bondservants, I feel it is a better solution than many kingdoms, were criminals are merely put to death, or starved in dungeons and left to rot.
Even bondservants receive fair treatment, an adequate diet provided for them. In addition, they are never to be beaten, or you may find yourself up for bond if you miss treat them. Of course, the system does have a flaw, if you have enough money you can buy yourself.
My Master is actually my teacher; master refers to his rank as a mage, nothing more. In truth, he is more of a father to me than anything. He is cared for me since that day. It was more than a year before he discovered I had magic and strong magic at that.
My training as a mage began the day he discovered my magic just, by coincidence it was a day that the Morgan clan was passing through, I could not been more than nine at the time. When Justin complaint I needed to light more candles, I performed a light spell as I started to light candles. It was a spell I seen him do often, and I simply copied what he had done.
Isabel could not been more than five years old at the time, and I did not notice her until later. Well to be more accurate she noticed me first she could not have been more than eight, when the clan stayed overnight. I was twelve, and Isabel followed me around like a puppy. I guess I was too young to notice at the time, but thinking back, I enjoyed her being with me.
I think she was eleven on the last trip that I had seen her, she was all elbows and long skinny legs that last time I saw her. Her face was beautiful, that is why are called her a young Angel. To see that smile on her face when I said that warmed my heart. Seeing that smile maybe forget all the pain I had endured before Master Justin took me into his life. That is far more than enough of the past.
Now as the carpet descends I hold Isabel, my future wife. I cannot believe how lucky I am seeing the love in her beautiful face.
I cannot help but notice the slight tremor in her body as I hold her close. Perhaps it is just nerves, now that we need to face her father. I am not that concerned, after all I am sure I got more than her weight in gold, and more than a third of her weight in diamonds.
Only a few kings have gotten a dowry that is so richly laden for the hand of the daughters, a treasure most greedy man would love to possess. However, what I remember of Jeremiah he was not all about the money. Now is my turn to be nervous, after all, I am only a journeyman wizard, apprenticed to his brother-in-law, and a former slave, once for sell at this market, with no name of my own.
The storm had already past here, and the sun is to our backs as we cast a large shadow across the ground. Many in the city notice our arrival. We can already see children running towards the gate; some adults follow their own children at a slower pace.