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Friday, June 07, 2013

The Staff-Stealers (#FridayFlash)

This one runs a little long, I hope I’m forgiven…

Once, in the time of Camac That Was, before the Makers departed Termag for the City of Refuge, Thurun was the First Protector. Now Thurun was also a Maker, the most powerful of all mages—and among Makers, Thurun was the strongest. Some call him the greatest mage ever. But even the greatest mages have duties, and they do not forget how to laugh.

At times, one Protector or another might travel to grand Camac, to seek Thurun’s advice and wisdom on certain matters. Weather permitting, he would take such guests to a favorite tea garden, where they could enjoy the quiet and speak freely. It was on one such occasion that Jira and Pyanya, two young and mischievous girls, were walking in the garden. Seeing the First Protector in deep conversation with a colleague, they crouched behind a hedge to watch, whispering quietly and straining to catch an occasional word. After some time, the two sorcerers stood and walked away, perhaps to attend to necessities.

“Look,” said Jira, pointing. “Thurun left his staff. Let’s take it.”

“What would we do with his staff?” asked Pyanya.

“Whatever we wish!” Jira giggled. “We’ll have anything we want!”

So they burst from their hiding place, and snatched Thurun’s staff. They ran away, laughing and shrieking, as Thurun and the other Protector were returning to their table.

“Foolish children,” the visiting Protector sighed, watching the girls disappear. “Such impertinence cannot be tolerated! Go, and we’ll complete this matter after you have taught them a lesson.”

Thurun smiled. “It is only a stick of wood,” he said. “I will find it, and I will indeed teach them a lesson, and many more besides. But for now, your problem is more important.” So the two great mages returned to their discussion.

Any sorcerer worth the name can locate a missing item, especially a possession that he or she carries often. So Thurun found his staff, as easily as if it were calling to him. The girls had taken it to Jira’s house, in a scruffy district of the great city, and Thurun understood that they only wished to improve their lot in life. Hidden in a quiet corner outside, he sent his vision and hearing through the walls of the house. He saw the girls standing at a table. The family cat watched them from a cabinet, and a dog lay at their feet.

“Let me try now!” Pyanya insisted. “You’ve been at it for an hour, with nothing to show!”

“Take it, then!” Jira snapped, and thrust the staff at her friend.

Thurun smiled. They do not realize, it is only a stick, he thought. He prepared his lesson.

Pyanya waved the staff over the table. “Staff, I command thee,” she intoned, “bring us a stack of gold octagons!”

Thurun snickered and extended his Making magic.

“Look!” Pyanya gasped.

“Only three coins,” Jira sneered. “That’s not much of a stack.”

“It’s better than you managed!”

“But look at them!” Jira picked up one of the coins, and laughed. “That’s not the Queen’s face—it’s yours!”

Pyanya gasped and dropped the staff, snatching the coin to take a closer look. “That’s not me!” she protested. “Look, there’s a mole on her chin!”

Jira picked up the staff before Pyanya could recover. “It’s you in every other wise, though! Now stand back. I’m going to try again. Maybe it took a while to awaken the staff.” She waved the staff, and spoke in a booming voice, as Pyanya had. “Staff, I command thee: bring us a stack of gold octagons!”

Again, Thurun Made three more coins.

Pyanya looked at the new coins and giggled. “Now it’s your face. But there’s a mole on the end of your nose!”

Jira scowled at the visage. “Nobody would notice the face,” she said. “Three octagons each? We can buy anything we like with that kind of wealth!”

“But if we can make the staff work,” said Pyanya, wide-eyed, “we won’t need money! Let me try again.” Jira handed her the staff, this time without protest. “Now… staff, I command thee. Make me a beautiful dinner dress!”

Jira laughed at the shimmering blue dress that Thurun Made for them. “That dress wouldn’t fit a baby! It might fit your rag doll, though!”

“Here, you do better!” Pyanya snarled and pushed the staff into her friends hands.

“Maybe we need to be very specific,” said Jira, becoming thoughtful for the first time. “Staff, I command thee: make a beautiful dinner dress, that will fit us!”

Thurun thought a moment, then grinned and Made what they had commanded. The girls squealed at the dress, then moaned when they picked it up. “It fits us!” Pyanya pointed to the four sleeves.

Now, Thurun decided it was time to finish the lesson. “Silly girls.” The girls gasped and looked up at the cat, as Thurun spoke through it. “What do you know about working magic?”

Jira sniffed. “Well, we made you talk,” she said, trying to sound brave. “That’s something.”

“I’m hungry,” the dog said.

“You’re always hungry,” Jira protested.

“And he’ll let you know, now and forever,” said the cat. Jira gave the cat a horrified look. “Unless, of course, you do the right thing.”

“What is that?” Pyanya asked, nearly frantic.

“He whose staff you have stolen is even now walking up your street,” said the cat. “Return it to him, apologize, and offer to do whatever penance he demands of you.”

“I will!” Pyanya snatched the staff. “Jira, you too!” Jira nodded, and the girls dashed into the street, almost bowling Thurun over in their haste.

“Here, take this, it’s yours!” Pyanya gasped. “We’re very sorry!” Jira added. “We’ll do anything to make it up to you!”

Thurun took back his staff, and tried to give the girls a very serious look. “This is your penance,” he intoned. “You will become my apprentices, or my attendants if you have not the Talent for magic.”

The girls looked at each other. “Apprentices?” Jira squeaked.

“Indeed. You will work hard, and learn all that I can teach you.”

“We’ll—we’ll have to ask our parents,” Pyanya stammered.

“I will ask them for you,” said Thurun. “But I am sure they will be happy to know you will begin to make something of yourselves in life.”

It was so: the girls’ parents were elated to see them apprenticed to the great Thurun. In time, Jira and Pyanya learned that Thurun had tricked them, and the three of them often played merry pranks on each other. The girls grew into sturdy women, and strong sorcerers. Pyanya became a Protector, some years after Thurun departed Termag with many other Makers. They bore children, who were worthy sorcerers themselves, and their bloodlines continue to this day.


  1. I enjoyed this so much, Larry. It didn't feel over long at all. In fact, if anything, that last paragraph - while tying the story up nicely - made it feel rushed at the end. I wanted to carry on reading.

    You set up the world really well and I liked how laid back Thurun was and how he went about teaching the girls a lesson, and had a bit of fun at the same time!

  2. I love how the stick was indeed only a stick! Somehow it improved the plausibility and showed Thurun's character better.

  3. I agree with Katherine. Much cooler that it was a normal stick. I also agree with Kath that it didn't feel long at all. A credit to the writing of course!

  4. Excellent story. As mentioned, the ending seemed rushed, but it didn't take away from the overall story. You could easily mold this into something much bigger.

  5. Couldn't help reading this is the voice of the narrator from the original Conan movie. Especially with the "time of the ___" intro, it has that feel.

  6. Thanks, Kath! This is the same world as Accidental Sorcerers, but in a distant past. I rather expect sorcerers use this as a bedtime story for their own children.

    Katherine, most mages have a stick. In Bailar's case, it helps with his balance. Thurun's is likely a prop—the folk expect him to have a staff, so he has a staff. ;-)

    Thanks, Peter!

    Eric, I probably did rush the ending. I was surprised to realize that Pyanya is a legendary character, more popularly known as the Lady of Isenbund. She gets a mention in the fourth Accidental Sorcerers story (WIP). She and Thurun himself are two of the (very) few people from that time who are known by name.

  7. John, that's pretty funny! In this world, "Once, in the time of Camac That Was" is a common opening for a fairy tale or bedtime story.

  8. Sort of like a fairy tale wasn't it with a happy ending nice!

  9. Great stuff, Larry. Although, I must admit I had to read the opening "Once, in the time of Camac That Was, before the Makers departed Termag for the City of Refuge, Thurun was the First Protector." line a couple of times! There's a lot there!

  10. Really enjoyable and I agree that it doesn't seem overly long.

    If you'll allow me to be picky about one little thing, does the pronoun "they" in the very last sentence refer to Jira and Pyanya? I think that's what you meant, but the preceding sentence refers to Pyanya, Thurun, and many other Makers. Maybe use "both women" instead of "they"?

    Again, nice work.

  11. Ah yes, the perils of being not specific enough, or being TOO specific!

  12. It didn't feel long. It must be if it is over a thousand words, but it read fairly quickly. I enjoyed it.

  13. Helen, think of it as a bedtime story that sorcerers tell their kids…

    Jack, I have to agree. I'll have to think about how to unpack that one a little.

    Thanks, Tim! You're right, it was Jira and Pyanya.

    Icy, sometime's it's just fun to be over-literal!

    Thanks, Sonia!


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