The story so far: Tollon, apprentice to Court Magician Sarton, was ensorcelled and forced to act at the bidding of Lady Vorana. And he’s suffering flashbacks. (If you want to read all the previous chapters, go here.) Now read on . . .
It’s just after noon the next day that I stagger into Sarton’s workshop, feeling utterly defeated and beleaguered by devils. I make it to my desk, sit down in my chair, and try not to close my eyes. I’m bone tired, but I don’t need another dream or vision destroying my sanity again so soon.
Sarton must have heard me come in, because he appears only moments later, sits down in his chair facing me, and asks, “It’s bad?”
I shake my head. “I don’t think I can cope. Every so often, it’s as if my vision shifts, and every woman I see looks like Vorana or Mia. I can’t sleep for more than a little bit before I wake up out of a nightmare. I’m not even sure what’s a dream and what’s reality anymore.” I look up at Sarton. “Those dreams? I did those things? I felt that way?”
Sarton nods. “And how do you feel when you have these experiences?”
I struggle for words. “It’s like I’m overcome by my feelings.” I don’t want to talk about this, really, but I have to or I’ll die. “Lust. Rage. Cruelty. I can’t handle it.” I drop my head. I don’t even want to think of how I feel when these things happen to me.
I hear Sarton say, “That sounds about right. Vorana tends to bring out those feelings in people. And you couldn’t protect yourself.”
He is so calm, I look up and give him a hard stare as I lash out at him. “I’m supposed to be a magician’s apprentice. You’re supposed to be my master. You are supposed to protect me! Why haven’t you taught me how to protect myself against anything like this?”
“BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T BEEN WORTH IT, BOY!” Sarton’s voice is louder and harsher than I’ve ever heard it. We both recoil in our seats, probably equally shocked.
Sarton is the first to recover. He leans forward, a concerned look on his face. “Listen to me, Tollon, now if never before or ever again. I took you on because you were bright and resourceful. But I didn’t realize what it would be like for a young man to come from that wretched pasture you called home to a place like this. You’ve spent the entire year as my apprentice just trying to enjoy every delight the palace and city has to offer. Nothing’s meant anything to you, not your studies, not your pleasures, probably not even your girl.
“There was no point in teaching you more than a few spells while you’ve been like that. Magic shapes people who use it, Tollon. A magician has to be able to fight back, to shape magic before it shapes him into something he doesn’t want to be. But you didn’t seem to want to be anything, from moment to moment. I made the mistake of teaching magic to someone much like that, a long time ago. I vowed never to make that mistake again.”
Sarton stops talking, still looking intently at me. I figure I have to say something. “So I’m dismissed?”
That earns me a snort from Sarton. “Hardly. Why would I get rid of my apprentice when he’s finally shown he’s worth training?”
“I don’t understand.” And I don’t.
Sarton is dead serious. “Think of what’s happened to you. Vorana made you do things you normally wouldn’t do. For instance, she made you feel uncontrollable lust. That’s something many a young lad thinks he does want to feel. But you saw what it did to you, and you don’t want that. That’s why remembering what she did to you is giving you the horrors. You’re learning something important about yourself. There are things you could possibly be, feel, and do that you might enjoy at some level but which you do not want to do. There’s actually a core to you, boy, some bits of character and values you cherish, something that will fight back against the magic you’ll have to learn.” He leans back in his seat and relaxes a bit, before adding, “And that puts you above Vorana, now and forever, no matter what she did to you.”
I think about what Sarton has said. And I draw a conclusion. “Lady Vorana, was she the one you trained who let magic warp her?”
Sarton nods and offers me a big smile. “That’s the bright boy I took on. Yes, Vorana wanted to be taught, and I was in love. She was passionate and willful. Magic made her a slave to her passions, and unwilling to brook opposition. Mind you, she still has some scruples. She won’t take something unless she can offer something in return. That much of the old Vorana is left.” Sarton shrugs. “It’s not much.”
“So now what?” I ask.
“Now?” Sarton’s smile evaporates into a determined look. “Now it’s time to teach you some real magic.”
END PART ONE
(Part Two will begin tomorrow.)