Monday, June 04, 2012

#TuesdaySerial: On the Wide River #4 (Accidental Sorcerers, Season 3)

Why didn’t Bailar want to go into town? He begins to explain.


Season 1 • Season 2
Season 3: Episode 1 • Episode 2 • Episode 3



Accidental Sorcerers
Season 3, Episode 4
On the Wide River

Enzid indeed arranged for a porter to carry their purchases down-bluff, on very favorable terms, and accepted Bailar’s money with some protest. With their provisions delivered and stowed away, and the captain occupied with his own cargo, Bailar invited his apprentices into the cabin he shared with the captain. He poured tea for them and smiled.

“You did well,” he said. “Mind you, though: many merchants will try to overcharge you, not give away their goods. Something to remember next time.”

“Enzid said you saved Mosvil,” said Mik, “but he was busy and I never had a chance to ask him about that. What did you do?”

“And he spoke so highly of you,” said Sura. “I can understand you not wanting to walk that muddy path, but why not ride up in that basket?”

Mik nodded. “Or—I don’t know—couldn’t you stop the rain? Isn’t that Water magic?”

To Mik’s surprise, Bailar gave him a horrified look. His mentor quickly recovered, sipping his tea. “I was expecting this. He gave us much better tea than I’d ordered.” The sorcerer sighed. “Mik, weather magic is—it’s one reason I’m not that fond of Mosvil. Especially in the rain. It happened when I was much younger, just out of my apprenticeship.” He drained his cup, sighed again, and began.

The Royal Highway follows the Wide River, along its west bank, from Queensport to the Captain Rietha Bridge. That was the bridge we passed under yesterday. From there, it follows the east bank on past Exidy. Perhaps at one time it ended at the ruin that was once Vlis, but it still reaches the Deep Forest. There it leaves behind the headwaters of the Wide and fades away. Where the river bends away from the road, the road continues straightaway.

East bank or west, once away from Queensport, maintenance is haphazard at best. Each town keeps up its own stretch—or not. In those days, Mosvil left such matters to the Queen, which meant broken or stolen paving stones were not replaced quickly if ever. If not for the monument markers along the way, the road’s very path might sometimes be in doubt.

Thus, when it rains, the way can soon become mud. And this particular rain was… unnatural. It had—well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I left Queensport under somewhat of a cloud myself. Gilsen the White, the former Sorcerer of Exidy, was my mentor. He did the best he could with the poor student I was, and it was barely enough. We had traveled by road to the Conclave that year, the year of my testing. I earned my sash, but it was a close thing. Then Gilsen died before we had a chance to return home. Knowing his time had come, his last act was to write two letters, one to me and one to the Conclave. Among other things, he left me excellent advice along with all his worldly goods, and specifically requested that I be installed as Sorcerer of Exidy in his place.

The Protectors were reluctant—one openly questioned whether I’d poisoned my own mentor—but the only way they could deny such a request was either by my failing the test or their proving foul play on my part. While my passing score was the lowest possible, I had indeed passed, and it was soon established that Gilsen had died of old age. Natural causes. To be honest, I shared their reluctance about my taking the position so quickly, but like them I would not deny my mentor’s last request.

A proper funeral for a sorcerer takes time, as do the arrangements for installing a successor. Thus, it was several more weeks before I took up the reins of what was now my wagon and set my face north for home. Things began to go badly soon after: bandits stole my ox and wagon one night, so I continued on foot. Travelers coming south began to warn of incessant rains around Mosvil, and how the road was near impassable.

I found the rain—or it found me—a day’s walk from Mosvil. Of course, conditions being what they were, that day’s walk took three days. Meals were cold, when I ate at all. My cloak stopped shedding rain, so I left it behind. Soon I rolled up my clothes and walked in a loincloth, as mobility was more important than modesty. No one else was about anyway. It was summer, and the rain was warm.

So imagine this: incessant rain above, incessant mud beneath. The bandits had only done sooner what the mud would have done later. Other wagons stood abandoned along the way, and I took shelter beneath them to rest. And just as I thought how lucky I’d been to not fall in the mud…

Sura clapped her hand over her mouth. “You tripped.”

“I did. And after I spit out a mouthful of mud, I lifted my face and fist to the sky and swore an oath that even Captain Chelinn might have been proud of. I cursed the mud, and those who shirked their responsibility to keep up the road. I cursed the rain, and the sky that dropped it. And the rain stopped. Only then did I realize I stood inside the Mosvil gates, near-naked and covered in mud.”

continued…

5 comments:

  1. Oh don't stop there, I want to know what's next, I do I do! ^_^

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  2. Great back story! And the set-up to it has been handled nicely. But yeah, like Helen said, now we poor readers have a cliff-hanger to deal with!

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  3. Not 100% sure about the way it's presented, but I really like the 'story within a story' you've got going here. I'm looking forward to both stories continuing next week. =)

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  4. Helen, Katherine, thanks much — I'm glad the cliffhanger worked. ;-)

    JohnX, any suggestions on the presentation? There will be some dialog in it next week, and I was trying to avoid those layers (or at least abstract the top layer). Thanks!

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  5. I think John has a point. I think your readers can handle the extra layer :)

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Comments are welcome, and they don't have to be complimentary. I delete spam on sight, but that's pretty much it for moderation. Long off-topic rants or unconstructive flamage are also candidates for deletion but I haven’t seen any of that so far.

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