I won't keep you from the story, but just a quick intro... thank you for being here.
This is a Story I submitted for a competition recently. My first ever submission, so I wasn't expecting for it to get anywhere, but what I got for doing it was far more valuable. I learned so much about the process and I now have a whole new perspective of the editing process.
Genre - Comedy
Subject - A strict diet
Character - An apprentice
'Twas a joy writing this, and I hope you enjoy reading this. If you do, feel free to share x
I can hear my name bouncing off the tower walls as I walk up the long, spiralling, stone steps up to the tower. I pick up my pace and my mind starts racing. I’m in trouble again and this time I think it’s serious…
Hopefully not too serious. I count my lucky stars every night for bringing me here. Well, the stars didn’t bring me, Master Mugwart did, but I’m sure my stars had something to do with it. That was four years ago and if it weren’t for Skittles...
A sharp, squeaky voice interrupts my thoughts.
"Stop reminiscing and get up there!"
I follow Skittles’ advice and quicken my pace. Skittles has been by my side ever since I’ve been an apprentice in the castle and even though he’s a chameleon we’re thick as thieves! I better thank my stars for him too. I found Skittles on the second day I was here. I had a sleepless night while trying to block out a weak little voice that kept calling for help. Finally, I got up and decided to find the source.
I wondered. ‘Now, where are you?’ To my utter surprise a response popped into my head!
"I’m stuck in a pipe somewhere."
I found myself picking up the conversation as if it were completely normal.
"Could you be more specific?"
Eventually, I managed to find him. He was completely wedged in a pipe that I really wouldn’t want to be caught in, so he’s been by my side ever since.
"You’re doing it again! Come on. Mug will be so angry with you!" Skittles admonished.
Picking up my pace again I soon find myself facing the door to my master’s chambers in the upper spire. The loud squeak announces my presence as I open the door. I can feel Skittles’ tail tightening around my neck in apprehension. Master Mug is sitting with his back to me and absently gestures for me to sit on a stool by the roaring fire. As I stare into the dancing flames I still can’t think of a reason for being in trouble. I’d been ever so good lately. In fact, I’ve been enjoying myself so much in the library that I try to find any moment possible to read the ancient books filled with wondrous spells. At first, copying them was intended for improving my scribing skills, but it turned into a fascinating adventure leaving me wanting more and more. For now, my chores are mostly cleaning and fetching things, but I live for the time I can spend in the library. I get totally lost in the…. ‘Oh!’ It hits me. ‘Yes, I know exactly what this is about.’
Finally, Master Mugwart peels himself away from his book. As he approaches me, I sense two sets of tiny fingers tightening their grip on my shoulder.
“Meekin. How long have you been here? Long enough to learn the rules I suspect! Did you pack the books away last night? No! They’re all over the place! I know you’re eager to learn, but this is NOT the way to do it. You are so hungry for magic that you forget everything else. Your voracious appetite does not bode well and it’s time we do something about it.”
I can feel my eyes widening in fear. I’m going to be cast out!
“Of course not, silly! He won’t cast you out just because of that. Calm down!”
The voice of reason echoes in my mind.
“You’re on a magic diet for two weeks! No. More. Books! You hear me? I see great potential in you, but this is to ensure that you don’t develop an addictive hunger for power.”
He turns and saunters back to his desk.
Having been wordlessly dismissed, I slink out of the chamber with a dark cloud brewing over my head.
“How am I going to cope…? “Skittles?”
‘Hmmm?’ His reply lazily seeps into my mind, as I pull his attention away from a juicy fly with a bullseye on its back.
I give up on an answer.
While doing my chores, admittedly with half a heart, my mind keeps envisioning stacks of books and imagining the scent of musty old leather. Soon, another thought starts creeping into my consciousness. I can find a way! Mages, including my master, prefer their self-contained bubbles of solitude, so they rarely go there. It’s ‘magic hour’ and the shadows are far deeper than they should be. Now is the perfect time to go! Thankfully the library is in a large hall, so I don’t have any traitorous doors to contend with.
On my head, Skittles is keeping a sharp lookout for me with his disjointed panoramic vision as I creep along the wall. Seeming ridiculously easy, I finally find an intruder-proof nook. I reach up to grab the nearest book and settle down to read. Skittles shimmies back down onto my shoulder to get a better look. My fingers glide over the rich, soft leather as I reach for the corner to open the book.
I’m instantly covered by a puff of soot! I hear Skittles spluttering close to my ear and out of the corner of my eye, I can see his crimson tail twitching wildly in agitation. The rest of him is pitch black! In defeat I put the book back and leave the hall without even attempting to hide, making my way to the old tub room to take the soot off. Reaching for the grubby sponge - ‘Which is about to become much grubbier!’ - I start to scrub. “Oh no! The soot doesn’t come off! No matter how hard I scrub it sticks to my skin as if… by magic. Ah, yes. There’s no way this is going to come off, is there?
Skittles picks up on this thought and stops licking himself.
“I, have no words.” He stares at me disapprovingly, then pulls himself back up into my hair tugging harder than usual.
The next morning, my first thought is that I have no choice but to face Master Mug wearing the soot-like a badge of shame. Skittles isn’t speaking to me at the moment. As I enter the chamber with the kettle of boiling water to make my master’s tea, he looks up and jumps with fright as he sees a black apparition walking towards him. He then realises it’s me and bursts into a laughing fit.
‘Oh, my dear boy! Been at the books have you? I guess I forgot to mention that the library has been spelled. A rather ingenious spell if I may say so myself.” He gleams with pride as he says this. “I call it the ‘Bad R.A.P’ spell, as in ‘Random Acts of Punishment’ and I have to say, it’s pretty inventive. I never know what it’ll do next.” The spells last up to fifteen hours, so I dare say you’ll be de-pitched soon. I have warned the other mages about it, though I probably needn’t have bothered. It’s up to you to find the strength to resist.”
He eyes me thoughtfully over his small crescent moon reading glasses and asks:
“Have you learned anything from this experience?”
Without really thinking, I blurt out the words: “To obey the rules.”
Mugwart shakes his head softly and says: “No. You have to look deeper. Think about it and get back to me.”
During the day I could see the soot getting lighter and as dusk fell, it finally faded. Sitting at the table in the dining hall, Skittles clambers down on to the table with his eyes going in all directions looking for his dinner. He seems to have gotten over the ordeal and has decided to celebrate by donning multiple colours.
“So, what next?” He asks, with one eye looking at me and the other keeping tabs on a beetle heading our way.
“What?! You want to try again? Do you think we can outsmart Mug’s spell?”
“I’m up for trying” Skittles replies, grinning as far as chameleons are able, which is quite a bit.
“Well, last time we tried stealth and that didn’t work. It happened when I touched the book right? What if I don’t touch it physically?”
“Hmmm, that might work. It’s worth a try. How do you propose we read a book without touching it?”
Having sourced the gloves, I find myself in the library again. This time, Skittles decides to nestle within my robes… just in case. I slide on the gloves and approach the books on the table where a particularly large tome has caught my eye.
I reach out to bring it closer, but as soon as I touch it…
A puff of smoke surrounds me and I feel my skin prickling rather peculiarly as warts of all shapes and sizes start popping up all over my skin.
“Oh no! We’ve triggered the spell!”
“Well, no kidding! Look at me!!”
I quickly remove the gloves and gingerly open the front of my robes, only to find a splodge of flesh looking like a porcupine with blunt fleshy quills, and Skittles’ puffy eyes looking up at me with ‘I knew it!’ written all over his bumpy face.
“That went well,” Skittles mutters mentally. “I was wrong about this being exciting.”
The next few hours ended up being very uncomfortable for us and as the end of the first week approached my mood plummeted progressively. When my master asked me the question again, my answer was still not good enough.
On the eighth day, I couldn’t contain myself any longer.
“Skittles! My fingers are itching again and it’s much stronger!”
Skittles - who’s by now thoroughly grumpy, walking around in shades of grey - says:
“Whatever you do, I want no part in it! My sense of adventure has quite evaporated, thank you!!”
Leaving it at that, I tried to restrict my thoughts, but on the twelfth day I could feel my resolve melting away with the rising sun.
“I’m going to try again.”
Skittles promptly rolls his crooked eyes at me. “Here we go again!”
“The question is… how do I fool the spell. I remember seeing a book in the far corner that’s lying open. Maybe I can read what’s in there without touching it at all!”
“Now you’re pushing it,” Skittles replies. “Are you so hungry for a spell that you’d risk it for just two pages?
I was already dashing out the door with Skittles clinging on to me. Entering the library Skittles ‘shouted’: “Put me down this instant! I’m out!!”
“OK then, here you go.” I gently place him on a plant close to where the book is.
“Back in a bit.”
A few paces shy of the book, I pause and take a deep breath. My heart is pounding with anticipation and trepidation as I step forward and look down at the pages.
Suddenly the whole world shoots up to gigantic proportions around me.
“Skittles! I have shrunk! Help!”
Feeling the emotion welling up within me I sink to the floor in resignation. How can I be so weak! The tears start flowing and I bury my face in my arms. After a while, I could feel a slight rhythmic breeze ruffling my hair. I look up to see two black dots staring at me intently.
Without thinking I throw my arms around his scaly - now mottled pink - neck. “Thank you so much! What would I do without you?”
“Without me, you’d have a very long way to walk, my friend. Hop on, we better get going.”
About ten hours later, my limbs start tingling. So I quickly hop off Skittles’ back, just in time before popping back up to full size, and Skittles carefully starts climbing up to his rightful place on my shoulder. Looking around, I’m astounded to find that in all that time we’d only managed to reach the entrance to the hall.
‘What an adventure though!’
“Right! You’re back in charge of transport. That was exhausting!”
Then, the next thing I hear is snoring.
‘Skittles has certainly earned his rest today!’
I couldn’t help but think how dangerous this could have been if there were more people about. My lucky stars have been working overtime lately. Without much further thought, my feet decided to walk me to bed.
The next thing I know, I’m waking up, greeting a new day and feeling much lighter somehow.
“Wow, it feels like… like I’ve lost something that I didn’t realise I needed to lose!”
With my newfound energy I jump out of bed, grab my robe and head out the door. Making it up to the tower in record time, I couldn’t work out why Master Mugwart is glaring at me. ‘Oops! The Kettle!’
“My, my, you’re full of energy this morning! Put it to good use and bring me my boiling water like you’re supposed to! Off you go!”
The rest of the week followed in the same footsteps until the fourteenth day finally arrived.
Last night, Master Mug instructed me to meet him in the library at dawn. As I enter the hall, I expect to feel the old unnatural pull, but instead, I just feel the joy of being in the presence of magic. Feelings of accomplishment and pride surge through me like nectar.
Upon my arrival, Master Mugwart makes a sweeping gesture at the space surrounding us and says: “Welcome to your first day as an apprentice.”
“I know you feel like you’ve been an apprentice all along, but in truth, you need to prove yourself before you can officially step over that threshold towards being a mage. I’ve been keeping my eye on you and I know that the spell has been triggered… often. It may feel like you have failed the task, yet it’s in that failing that you’ve learned the real lesson.
“Finally, I ask again. What have you learned from this experience?”
Without hesitation my words flow out of me unhindered.
“Magic is volatile and loves chaos. If you lose control, that chaos consumes you. Seeking the wonder of magic isn’t wrong but it needs to be respected at all times. There are always consequences, and there is always a cost.”
As I utter these words, I feel like a powerful person, not a mage.