The Wizard’s Family

Further Than the Lash

Kit folded his arms on the table. He rested his head on his hands. He was tired. The candles burned low, and Kit had slaved his way through nothing but lessons, lessons, lessons all day. He gazed at the crystal ball that Master had cradled in a steel stand. Inside a black fluid swirled like wine in a noble lord’s glass, even though no one held it.

Kit shook his head. “I’m tired. I want to eat. Then I want to play.”

Lady caressed Kit’s hair. She put her hand on his shoulder. “Do what the Master says, little one. One last test. Then you can eat and play. I’ll give you some sugared apples with your food.”

“What if I don’t want to?”

“What if I pinch your cheeks again instead?”

Kit winced. Inside, his power turned dark. Kit didn’t like how it felt when she did that. It felt strong, but not nice. Like stepping on spiders.

He sighed. “All right,” he said. Smoked twisted from Kit’s fingertips. It ran across the table, faster once it started, and corkscrewed its way up the candle until it reached the wick. The smoke rushed in. Kit felt the spark inside his mind, then it really happened and the candle lit with an audible pop. Kit smiled. He almost laughed, but Master didn’t like laughing.

The flame hung inside his mind as well as sitting on the candle. Kit felt a connection between him and it, like a thread of gold spun by an angel. He breathed. The fire grew hotter than the wick ever should have absorbed. All the candle’s heat came out in matter of moments. As Kit breathed, the candle burned, until the liquid inside the crystal ball began to boil.

Lady clapped quietly. “Good! Very good. Run downstairs and tell Morgrim you’re ready for supper.”

Kit did as he was told. Lady turned to face the corner of the room, where Master Vrajitor had stood watching. She folded her arms and smiled at him. She dipped her head, and her long, silver-white hair played on the edges of her face. Her little black wings became visible. “You see? A kind touch goes further than the lash.”

“It worked once. I need to control him.”

“Give it to him, then take it away. He’ll need it. He’ll love you and beg for it back.”

Vrajitor stepped forward into the light. The corner of his mouth curled upward. He nodded.

Lady chuckled. As she did, saw the edge of Kit’s hair from where he stood watching them. Kit ducked back. She smiled again, and gave him a little wave from behind her back, where Vrajitor couldn’t see.

The Goblin in the Kitchen

goblin cook

“Goblin Cook” by Alain Renaud, Elfwood.com

Kit snuck downstairs. The long, curving staircase was lit by lanterns that held glowing, trapped fairies. The fairies pounded their fists against the glass. Kit ignored them. Kit fed the fairies honeyed water by spoonfuls as part of his daily chores. Sometimes they bit his fingers. He passed the door to his room, then reached the kitchen on the ground floor.

Hunched, wrinkled, gray-skinned Morgrim smiled a toothy smile at Kit. “Done with our lessons, young master?” the goblin asked.

“Done. I’m ready for supper.”

“Good.” He gestured at the table. “Sit down, then. Morgrim will get it for you.”

“Lady said I could have sugared apples with dinner.”

“Master would not lie to Morgrim, would he?” Morgrim’s smile was jagged, but genuine.

“No, Morgim.”

“Then Master gets sugared apples.”

Kit sat down at the table. Morgrim shuffled as he worked. Kit guessed his leg had been broken or injured a long time ago. His hands were quick and nimble. He prepared meals that Kit thought would make a lord pat his belly from being stuffed.

Morgrim set down a bowl with rolls of dark bread. Supper tonight was a thick slice of pork roasted with rosemary, along with colored potatoes and beans. Kit’s mouth watered. Morgrim had already cut his food for him.

Kit bowed his head to give thanks. He’d dreamed about it once, and thought it was a good idea. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Morgrim bow his head, too. When Kit raised his head, Morgrim went back to work slicing the apples.

Kit took his fork and started to eat. Lady had taught him how to use it. A mouthful of pork was halfway to Kit’s mouth when he thought of something. He asked Morgrim, “Why do you bow your head, when I do, Morgrim? Do you pray?” Kit asked.

The goblin stopped cutting. He thought for a moment. “Goblins give respects too, young master. I know respects when I see them. We pray to different gods but I give respects so I don’t offend the master.”

“You would never offend me!”

“The young master is kind.” Morgrim was about to go on, then turned back to the apples, quickly.

Kit ate supper without bothering Morgrim. He was ugly, scary when the lights were low, and Kit had been afraid of him when he’d first come to the tower. Now Kit liked him. Morgrim was nice to him without asking for anything in return.

The Master Mustn’t Know

"Demon Eye" by darkstar797 at deviantART

“Demon Eye” by darkstar797 at deviantART

Lady came downstairs. Kit never heard her walking. She was like a beautiful shadow, her white hair and skin floating in space wrapped by her dress. Her black eyes showed nothing, and her dress always seemed to fade into the dark so that you couldn’t see where it ended. She smiled at Kit. Kit bowed slightly. He tried to swallow a mouthful of green beans.

Morgrim stopped halfway between the cooking table and eating table, holding a plate of sliced apples with brown sugar. He bowed low. Lady’s smiled faded as she looked at the goblin. Her hand flicked up. Morgrim gave a quick nod and put down the tray near Kit.

“Thank you, Morgrim,” Kit said.

The goblin smiled. The room got darker – no, it felt darker. Kit knew the feeling from Lady’s pinches. Morgrim gulped. “Young master,” he said quickly, and shuffled over to his pile of hay in the far corner of the room.

The room lightened again. Lady ruffled his hair again. She sat down at the table. Before she could speak, Kit said, “I did well today, didn’t I?”

Pause. “Yes, you did. You haven’t been studying long, There aren’t many wizards who could do what you did so soon.”

“Could a boy do it?”

A longer pause. “No. Why do you ask?”

Kit wasn’t sure how to ask her. “Where did I come from, Lady?”

The pause lasted a long time. Kit couldn’t keep looking at her. He looked at the table, a forkful of potatoes held over the plate like it was frozen in time. Past the table, across the room, he could see Morgrim watching, pressed as far into the shadows as he could get. The light reflected on Morgrim’s eyes trembled.

Lady touched his hair again. Kit stiffened. He still didn’t look at her. He wanted to slap her hand away. He had to hear her answer first, though. Her soft voice said, “You remember the story. Master saved you from a fire when you were a baby. He brought you hear and we’ve raised you ever since.”

Kit looked at her. He shook his head.

“What?”

Kit put down his fork. He tapped his chest – where it felt like the power came from. “I know you’re lying,” he whispered.

Morgrim made a whimpering sound. Quick like a whip, Lady looked at him, hissed, and snapped her fingers. Morgrim covered his head. Lady looked at Kit again. It was her turn to whisper. “How long have you known?”

Kit sat up. She always treated him like he was little. This was different. More like how adults talked. “Aren’t you mad?”

Her eyes flicked to her left. Where the stairs were. She held Kit’s left hand before he could pull it away. She surprised him again when she held it gently. “No, I’m not mad. Kit, tell me. How long?”

“I… I don’t know. A while.” Lady’s mouth hung open. Her fingers went limp around Kit’s hand. “Where did I come from?” he asked again.

She shook her head. Lady pressed Kit’s hand in both of hers. “Kit. Listen to me. You mustn’t tell Master that you know.”

“Where did I come from?” Kit asked again, starting to raise his voice.

Lady stood up and backed away from him. She held up her palm in forceful gesture, arm rigid. The entire room went black except for the candle lights, and what seemed to be light around Kit’s face, Morgrim’s, and Lady’s. Kit heard a rustling sound. He knew it was her wings.

The room lightened again. Black. Shadows. Dark. Dim. Light. Lady held the finger of her left hand to her lips, while her right palm stayed up. She nodded. She nodded again, and sat back down. “I’ll take you there tomorrow,” Lady said. “You have to be more careful, Kit. Master mustn’t know. Do you hear?”

Kit looked at Morgrim. Morgrim nodded yes. Kit said, “Okay. Tomorrow.”

Where Did He Come From?

moon through a windowKit spent the next day in lessons, as he always did. This time Master and Lady took turns feeding him tales to spin additional stories from. Master would start, giving him the beginning of a story. Kit added the next part. Lady continued the story. Kit continued it further. The game continued until Kit’s power filled up with a world of strange possibilities, names and places and things that he had to keep straight. When he made a mistake, Lady would pinch him. When he did well, Master gave him a sweet. Kit was starting to hate sweets.

When lessons were finished, he shared a look with Lady as he left to have supper. He formed the words “you promised.” Lady smiled with her face but not her eyes, as she always did. Stiff fingers caressed his hair.

Morgrim was quiet tonight, too. For supper Kit ate more pork and potatoes. Maybe tomorrow night they would eat something else. Morgrim treated Kit with a bowl of berries that he gathered from the forest. He wasn’t allowed to go far, so Kit knew this was something special that Morgrim had done for him.

“Thank you, Morgrim,” Kit said. The goblin only bowed.

Lady didn’t come downstairs this time. On some nights, she and the Master would talk awhile, about today’s lessons, tomorrow’s lessons, or other things. It was all magic lingo and much of it still didn’t make sense to Kit. On some nights they would disappear into the Master’s chamber. Then Kit wouldn’t see either of them until morning.

Without Morgrim or Lady to talk to, Kit’s mind filled with thoughts about tonight. He wished he knew more about where Lady would take him. He thought of every lesson he’d ever been taught, and others he’d learned on his own. Could he run away? Could he stop her, if she tried to hurt him? Kit imagined running through the woods with Lady chasing after him. He knew how to hide and how to tell branches and things to grab people. They both had their own powers. Were his strong enough?

After Kit finished, he brought his plate to Morgrim, and Morgrim only bowed again. Kit smiled. As he turned to go to his room, Morgrim said, “Be careful tonight, young master.”

“I will.”

Kit went to bed fully clothed, including his shoes. He lay with his sheet drawn up, facing the window.

Where did he come from?

Kit counted stars and made new constellations. He hummed, and watched star shine moving between the points of light in the sky. He changed the tone, and felt the power vibrate to the music. He kept thinking about the door to his room. He wished Lady would get here.

A Cabin in Wild Country

The moon had moved part of the way across the sky when he heard his door slide open. Kit sat up in bed. Lady was halfway between the door and his bedside when he looked up at her. “Are you ready?”

“Yes. You took a long time.”

“I had to make sure Master Vrajitor was asleep. Are you ready?”

“Yes.” He hadn’t thought about Master Vrajitor. Kit realized he would have to think farther ahead as a real wizard. “How did you make sure?”

“A very special spell. He’ll never know he was enchanted.” She reached out to him. “Take my hand.” Kit did. The two of them lifted up into the air. “This is your last chance, Kit. You may not like what you find tonight.”

“I want to go.”

They flew out the window. The moonlight held them up, a current of pale blue streaming across the earth. Lady seemed in her element. Kit could hear her singing to herself. When her voice lifted, they rose. When it deepened, they dove. When she singsonged, they wove between trees and rocks and things in the night that Kit couldn’t see. She became ethereal, part of the night.

They flew over a village some miles from the tower. Most people were asleep. Here and there Kit saw fire light coming from windows. He smelled chimney smoke. Kit tried to look in the windows to see other people. He rarely spoke to anyone besides Morgrim, Lady and the Master and the idea excited him.

“Not here. Soon,” Lady said.

They continued on. They flew deeper into the country, into wilder regions. The ground rose and fell in rough, rocky hills. Kit heard wolves howling in the distance. One pack howled; another answered. He even saw a witch flying on a broomstick. At first he thought it was a trick of the moonlight, but when he focused his attention there, she shot away, giving them a wide berth.

He smelled smoke again. Lady slowed down. They settled in the air, hanging on invisible threads of her singing mixed with moonlight. Kit looked around. They were over light woods in hilly country. It wasn’t good land for farming or cutting wood. He could hear a creek nearby. A hunter might live here, or someone who just wanted to be alone. “Are we here?” Kit asked.

“Yes. This is where we found you.” She pointed through the trees. Kit saw a humble cabin. A small garden was staked in the back and a pen for small animals. The window shutters were open to let in the air from the hot summer night. His heart leaped as he saw someone walk by one of them.

Don’t Be Gone Too Long

fireflies-in-a-jarKit ran closer. As he got neared the cabin, he could smell the musty smell of their thatched roof. Crickets sang all around him. He saw fireflies hovering around the woods. Kit saw wood spirits and fairies watching him, made visible by the moon beams and his own power. Magic filled these woods. He wondered if his parents were wizards, too.

He slowed down as he got close to the cabin. He didn’t even know his parents. What were they like? How would they react to him?

Lady caught up. Kit looked up at her. “Master needed an apprentice,” she said. “We searched a hundred villages looking for a boy like you. Someone who was strong in the power. A baby… someone young.”

“Why young?”

“The power’s stronger in the young. A child’s imagination is boundless. You can reach out your arms and touch the edges of the universe. You can click your heels three times and fly to the moon. Isn’t that right?”

Kit nodded. He felt like he could do anything if he just wished hard enough for it.

“It was a night like tonight. I saw you in the moon beams, a light shining up out of the forest. It was like a star had fallen. You were new born.”

Kit walked towards the cabin, slowly. He tried to hear the conversation inside. “Who are they?” he asked.

“A trapper and his wife.”

“I can’t wait to meet them!”

“Kit—”

The front door opened. A child ran outside holding a glass jar. He ran to the first firefly he could see. He tried to catch it. It flew away at the last second. He laughed, and chased it again. He chased it again and finally caught it. “That’s one!” the child said. It was a boy. Kit heard a deep voice from inside the cabin laughing, and a sweeter voice call, “Be careful! Watch the stones and roots!”

The boy watched his first firefly light up. Kit and Lady stood in shadows under a maple tree, and he didn’t see them yet. He laughed and ran after another firefly. Kit stared at him. The boy looked like he was about ten years old. He had wavy, chestnut-brown hair, dimples when he smiled, and a round face with high cheek bones, just like his.

Kit’s heart pounded. He trembled. “He looks just like…”

Sadly, Lady said, “Yes, he does.”

From inside the house, they heard the father call, “Kit, don’t be gone too long!”

Changeling

changelingKit started toward the boy, then stopped. He didn’t know what to do. He felt angry. Then he felt confused. He felt furious! Lady put her hand on his shoulder, but he slapped it away and ran over to the boy.

The boy had just finished capturing another firefly. He turned quickly when he heard the footsteps running up behind him. The boy took a step back, completely forgetting about the jar. Fireflies started to escape. The other boy became very still. “It’s you,” he said.

“Who are you?” Kit asked.

“I’m Kit. I took your place after Lady and the Master came for you.”

Kit looked back at the maple tree. Lady was gone. He looked around, trying to see whether she hid somewhere else or had flown away, but she was nowhere to be seen.

“You have to go before my parents see you.”

“They’re my parents! I want to meet them.”

Kit started toward the house. The other boy grabbed at his arm. Kit spun and pushed him so hard he fell to the ground.

He felt the power rising up inside him. Kit breathed. He didn’t want to start throwing things or breaking things. Lady and Master would be angry… but it didn’t matter. He didn’t care. He wanted to go home.

“What’s going on? Kit? Who are you talking to?” His father and mother came running outside. His father held a carving knife. He was tall – really tall, towering over him, with arms of ropy muscle. His hair was curly and brown.

His mother stood at his side, with alert, bright eyes. She saw Kit, the false Kit laying on the ground, and gasped. “Get away from my boy!” she cried. She scooped up the false Kit and backed up toward the house.

His father stood between them, holding up the knife. “What’s going on?

“It’s a changeling. They want to take our baby!”

The changeling wrapped its arms around his mother’s neck and started crying. “Help me, mommy!” it wailed, diving into the role.

Kit cried, “I’m not a changeling! He’s a changeling!” Hot tears ran down his face. His own family was hugging another boy. Kit’s heart tore open like a living wound. Like blood, he could feel the power spilling out all around him and he couldn’t do anything to stop it.

His father looked confused. He couldn’t seem to bear to attack him. He waved the knife but didn’t come closer. “Go away! Leave us alone!”

Kit pointed, and kept yelling, “He’s a changeling! He’s a changeling!”

Kit felt an insubstantial something spring from his hand to the changeling. In the moonlight he saw it pour like a stream of hot air, splashing all over the changeling’s body. It squealed in terror, writhing. Kit’s mother almost dropped the boy, then wished she had, as it changed from chestnut hair to hairless, and fair-skinned to gray. It’s ears pointed. The changeling’s glamour was gone.

Kit’s mother screamed a bloodcurdling sound that made the night shudder. The changeling broke free and ran, crying, “Not my fault, master! Not my fault!” Kit’s father started toward Kit. Desperate light shone in his eyes.

Kit backed up fast. “I’m your son! Father, they took me!”

“Where’s our baby?” his mother yelled at him.

“I’m your baby!”

His father seized him by the arm and twisted it so hard he almost broke it. He cried, “Give us back our son!”

“We’ll cook him on our fire until it gives him back! That kills changelings!” his mother said.

No. This couldn’t be. This couldn’t be.

Kit just reacted. He threw his father a dozen feet. He landed hard on his back, coughing and moaning. His mother ran at him.

Kit ran into the darkness, crying so hard he could barely see. He wished for trees and branches to get in his mother way. He didn’t want to. He had to. He knew what would happen if he didn’t. He heard them tangling behind him. Trees skittered out of his way. Kit might as well have had his own path to run through.

“Where is our son?” his mother screamed. “Give us back our son, you demon!”

Kit ran forever.

Far in the shadows away from the cabin, Lady sniffed back tears, her hands clenched in fists, as she watched Kit run off. He would be easy enough to find, especially under tonight’s moon. She had hated taking him as a baby, years ago. It could only have ended this way. It didn’t make it better.

Master Vrajitor stood next to her. Lady’s stifled a tremble in her voice. “It worked. Now we’re his family. He has no one else to turn to. He’ll need us more than ever.”

“You did well, Lady. This was an excellent plan. Bring him back to the tower by morning.”

“Yes, master Vrajitor. What about the family?”

“They are nothing. The boy is all that matters.”

Lady said nothing. The Master took her hand to kiss it. It took every ounce of strength Lady had not to snatch it back, as well as memories of pain at this man’s hands. She bowed her head, and summoned a sweet smile.

The Master flew away. When he flew out of sight, she shuddered. Lady wrung her hands over and over, trying to scrub off the feeling of his touch.

Strange Kindness

Kit ran until he couldn’t run any farther. He sat on the ground. He rubbed the heels of his hands into his eyes. The tears wouldn’t stop coming. This was supposed to be the happiest moment of his life. It felt like he died. He could never go home. His parents thought he was a monster. He wished he was; then he could kill the changeling, kill Master Vrajitor and Lady, and go far away.

He felt the power turn black inside him, like tar. He could do it. It would be simple, too. Master was afraid of him. So was Lady. If he felt afraid enough, or angry enough, he was sure he could wipe them away like the tears he tried to rub out of his eyes. He sat with his arms on his knees, his face on his arms. The tears kept coming for a long time, broken only by sobs.

When Lady arrived, Kit was too tired to resist. She carried him all the way home. He couldn’t help hugging her. He was just a boy and he needed to feel better. Lady’s skin felt cold. He buried his face on her shoulder so that he wouldn’t feel it so much. The closeness would have to do.

Home. The word made him feel sick.

The next morning, Kit didn’t get out bed. He rolled away from the door so that he didn’t have to look at Lady or Morgrim when they came for him. He heard the door open. Kit’s eyes opened wide when he heard Master’s voice. “Are you feeling well, Kit?”

Kit sat up. Master stood just inside the room. Lady stood next to him, hands at her sides. Master usually looked like a pool of darkness brewed inside him. This expression was patient, the way that Morgrim would sometimes just sit and listen to him, even when he didn’t understand.

“Yes. My stomach.” He didn’t want Master to change his mood. “Maybe if I rest, I can do lessons later?”

Master held up his hand. “Rest now. You’ve been working hard for the past few days. We’ll come back later. Do you want Lady or Morgrim to keep you company?”

“I….” Kit didn’t know what to say. “Just some food for now, I suppose.”

“Very well,” Master said.

“Thank you,” Kit said.

The Master cracked a smile. They were rare, but Kit had seen them before. The Master and Lady left the room.

Kit sat back against his bed. A pool of something brewed inside him, too. Happy or sad, healthy or sick, Kit had never known a day without lessons. Only his sickest days had kept them from him.

Morgrim brought him a bowl of porridge with apples. He brought the food up on a tray that he put on the end of Kit’s bed. “I hope you feel better, young master,” he said, and bowed. Kit ate hungrily. It made him feel better.

The Creature in the Jar

Kit rested a while. He read some of the numbers and letters that Master and Lady taught him. He practiced some magic, too. It was the last thing he wanted to do, but what else did he have?

He thought of the changeling catching fireflies. Kit walked into the stairway outside his room. The fairies were asleep inside their lanterns. Their glow was barely visible. Kit put his hand on the wall of the tower and looked around, from the wall, as far up as he could see, down the side and down to his feet. This was his own cell. Was it that different? Outside, he remembered his mother screaming and the awful twist his father gave to his arm.

Kit went upstairs. Master and Lady casting a spell. Sparkles and red streams of light floated between them. It looked like a web for trapping fairies. Easy magic, something Kit had mastered last year.

Master noticed him first. The cloud of light vanished. “Hello, Kit. Are you feeling better?”

“Yes. I wanted to practice.” He hesitated. “Maybe… maybe not as hard as we sometimes do.”

Master and Lady looked at each other. Master nodded. Lady gestured for him to come in. In the far corner of the room, inside a glass jar, Master had imprisoned the changeling that he’d seen last night. Kit couldn’t forget its face, the ears and its huge eyes. It shrank back against the far side of the jar when it saw him.

Kit’s heart pounded. He felt enraged at the changeling, and afraid that he’d been caught. “I’m sorry,” he blurted out.

“No matter, young one. Wizards follow no rules but their own. I was, however, most displeased with this one.” Master said ‘this one’ as if he wanted to spit on the changeling. “It should have appeared to die the following morning, so that your family would have forgotten you. Last night never should have happened.”

The power inside Kit’s chest thrummed like a guitar string. Master lied. Kit looked at Lady. Her face might as well have been an expressionless, porcelain mask.

“Why did you take me? Why did you lie to me?”

“If I’d told you the truth, you would have gone, and never learned magic. It’s part of you. Your parents fear magic. They would fear you.”

The power twisted inside him. Some of it was true, but it felt strange. Kit didn’t know what to believe. He tried to find his way. The only pure thought that he had was pure anger, at the changeling.

A Lesson in Judgment

“Today’s lesson is judgment,” Master said. He walked over to Kit. He wore the red robe today, threaded with shadows and fear. Kit trembled. Master knelt down so that he was eye to eye with Kit. His eyes felt like they looked into Kit’s soul. “You’re old enough to leave the tower. I believe you’re also old enough to pass judgment on someone who’s wronged you.” He gestured at the changeling. “Were it not for this creature, you could have spoken to your family last night. Told them you were safe. Lady, what happens when we do something wrong?”

“We’re punished,” Lady said.

Master nodded. He continued, “That’s right. Kit, you have the power within you. Judgment is issued from the powerful against those who do wrong.”

Kit’s magic swirled. Master wasn’t lying. Still, this didn’t feel right.

Lady started to say something. Master held up his hand and she quieted. He continued, “The changeling is a thief. It stole your reunion with your family. Punish him.”

The changeling and Kit stared at each other. “I don’t know how. What would I do?”

“Did you know, some punish thieves by cutting off their hands?”

Kit’s heart screamed. That felt wrong, in the worst possible way. “I don’t want to cut off his hand!”

The changeling couldn’t hear what was happening, but it could sense that something awful was happening. It started screaming. It pounded on the glass like the fairies in the hall.

Master looked at Lady. Lady asked, “What do you do to spiders?”

“I kill them.” This wasn’t right.

Kit grabbed fistfuls of his hair. He squinted his eyes shut. He had walked upstairs wanting to do something that felt normal. Now it felt like his life was going out of control again.

“Leave him alone,” he heard Lady whisper. The words died at the end. Kit opened his eyes. The scene hadn’t changed, except Master was giving her a look far less gentle than the one he’d given Kit this morning.

He let go of his hair. Kit knew exactly what he had to do. He reached toward the jar, closed a fist, and broke the glass. It rained to the floor in bits the size of sand grains.

“What is this?” Vrajitor roared.

“Mastery,” Kit said. He waved his hands. The changeling vanished. Kit had imagined, “Somewhere far away,” and “back where you came from.” He didn’t know what that looked like, but magic would know.

You Have Much to Learn

angry wizard“I’ve had enough of this charade. You’re nothing but a wellspring to me, child. I’ll show you true—”

He was going to say “mastery” but Kit didn’t give him the chance. He reached out his hand, clenched his fist, and thrust his hand upward. Like a god had grabbed him, Vrajitor flew straight up into the ceiling. He hit it hard enough to crack the stone. Pebbles and chunks landed with him as he hit the ground.

Lady covered her mouth. She was so shocked all her glamour disappeared. Kit saw her as she really appeared. From the waist up, she was a young girl, dressed in delicate black cloth that faded to vapor on the edges. Her pure white skin was covered in tiny scales. Little horns peeked through her hair on her forehead. She faded into smoke from the waist down. She was some kind of demon.

“What have you done?” she asked.

Kit felt Vrajitor’s rage. He knew it wouldn’t be this easy. Kit crossed his arms in front of himself. Vrajitor roared. A shockwave that came out of his body blew everything that wasn’t nailed down across the room. Kit staggered. He’d been trying to protect himself and Lady, and hadn’t been able to keep either of them safe.

Vrajitor lifted his hand up. Streams of darkness flew out of his eyes and surrounded Kit. They wrapped around his eyes, arms and legs. Kit felt afraid, like being afraid of the dark. He felt like he was falling.

Lady slashed her hands backwards. She spun like a dancer. The streams pulled off Kit and wrapped around her, layering the cloth of her dress. Kit flung his arms out. Every window in the room opened. Some of the bricks flew out of the wall. Light poured into the room. The darkness melted away from Vrajitor’s eyes.

Kit clapped his hands. A boom of thunder went off with Vrajitor at its center. He covered his ears but laughed as he did so. “Is that all? You have much to learn, boy!” he cried. Kit tried to grab him again but Vrajitor swept it aside with a wave of his hand.

Pustules and growths sprouted all over Kit’s body. He screamed, then the sound choked under his swollen lips and tongue. He was turning into a bent creature of diseased flesh.

Instinct saved him. With the stubbornness of a child, a part of him shouted, “No!” and banished the enchantment. Pieces of rot splattered the room, then sizzled and disappeared into foul-smelling smoke. Vrajitor looked dazed.

Wizard’s Web

Kit was dazed, too. He scratched at his face, rubbed his body and squeezed his skin, trying to get the feeling of awfulness out of his body. He knew he should be doing something about Vrajitor but he couldn’t help it. He’d never known such a horrible feeling in his young life.

“Kit!” Lady yelled.

He tried to get up. He fell.

Lady turned into a jet of black smoke. She threw herself at Vrajitor. The smoke struck him full in the chest like a sling stone. Vrajitor was knocked back. She turned back into herself, raking him with claws and snapping at him with razor-sharp fangs.

Vrajitor reached his left hand towards Kit. Kit felt weaker. The life drained out of him. He imagined the thread of gold light that was his power being pulled into Vrajitor. Vrajitor’s right hand formed a claw. Lady grabbed her throat. She looked like she was choking.

Kit could feel his life going inside Vrajitor. He felt the wizard’s greed and hate. Vrajitor disdained everything except for himself. Kit tried to pull his life back but Vrajitor’s will was too strong. Kit did see that pulling on the thread of gold light caused Vrajitor’s hold on Lady to buckle.

Kit wished as hard as he could for Lady to live. He wished for more life than he had ever known. He took the thread of gold light that was being pulled into Vrajitor and wrapped it around his hands like a cat’s cradle, with Vrajitor at the center.

Vrajitor lost his hold on Lady. She dropped to the ground, gasping for air. He tried to disentangle himself. The more he tried, the worse it got. It was the same spell Kit had used to trap fairies, only more inspired.

Once Vrajitor was hopelessly enmeshed, Kit severed the thread from his own body. It didn’t matter. Vrajitor’s magic fed the spell now.

Kit had an idea. As the Master had said, earlier Kit needed to pass judgment on the one who had wronged him.

Vrajitor shrank to the size of a fairy. The pieces of the glass jar that held the changeling came back together and closed around him. It wobbled slightly, then shivered and came to rest. Vrajitor looked at himself. They couldn’t hear him scream. Vrajitor waved his hands. A blinding flash of light made him disappear. He was still inside the jar. Another, and another. Finally, Vrajitor pounded on the glass with his fists.

cat's cradle

A giant cat’s cradle at Burning Man

The Wizard’s Family

broken lanternKit sat down and wept. Crying, two days in a row, for very different reasons. Kit had never been so sad and so afraid in such a short period of time. He hoped the rest of his life would be easier.

Lady came over and hugged him. Kit didn’t know how long they sat there like that, but a long while later, Morgrim came upstairs. He had never been allowed to go upstairs higher than Kit’s room, but his curiosity got the better of him. Awkwardly, he hugged the two of them, too.

Finally, Kit said, “Thank you. Morgrim, please clean the room. Lady, would you help me find the tool box?” Kit looked around the room. He didn’t see it. “I think it got knocked around from its spot.”

It took them a while. The room looked like a giant, angry child had turned it upside down and shaken it. Everyone stayed away from the jar except Kit. He was the only one who seemed confident that Vrajitor wouldn’t smash his way out. At one point, from across the room, Lady reached toward the jar, then pulled her hand back. She didn’t even want to imagine touching it. Inside, the fairy-sized Vrajitor raged at her.

“How long will that hold him?” Lady asked.

“Forever. I used his own magic to make the jar. As long as he’s alive, it’ll hold its shape. The more magic he throws at it, the stronger it’ll get.”

“Are you sure?”

Kit tapped his chest. “I’ve been checking. It’s already twice as strong as it was an hour ago.”

“If I may, young master, how will we feed him?” Morgrim asked.

“Magic honey. The same as we feed the fairies.” It was dropped into his mouth from the top of the jar. With the fairies, Kit had been bitten getting them into the lanterns in the first place.

“Here it is,” Lady said. She found the box laying on its side against the far wall, under a stack of books. They were a set of tools for delicate work, and a small hammer. Fine carvings decorated the sides. Kit took the hammer. “Come on. I know what I want to do first,” he said.

He started downstairs. Lady turned back toward the jar. “Is it safe to leave him here alone?”

“It is. Would you feel better to watch him, while I do this?” She nodded. “Okay. I’ll be back soon.”

Kit went into the staircase. He pulled open the curtains of the nearest window. It was a beautiful, sunlit day outside.

Kit walked up to the first lantern. Inside, a fairy stood with its hands on the lantern glass. It had watched him come down from the laboratory. Kit held up the hammer. The fairy looked at him. Its wings flicked intently. Even with eyes the size of pinheads, Kit could tell it was sizing him up. It wasn’t time for food, and the only time he’d walked up to the lanterns other than feeding time, Vrajitor or lady had been with him.

Kit held pointed at it, and made a gently waving gesture with his hand. He mimed hitting the lantern glass. He pointed at the fairy again, then pointed at the window. The fairy stared at him. Kit repeated his gestures. The fairy moved back.

With just the right touch, Kit rapped the glass and shattered it. Kit stood back. The fairy buzzed up to about Kit’s height, wings beating fast enough to buzz like a bee. Kit gave it plenty of room, and stayed ready. Fairies were like squirrels. He could kill it easily, but they could be nasty buggers if they wanted.

It flew out the window. Kit went to the next lantern, and repeated the process. By the time Kit broke the third lantern, the fairies were cheering. The fourth one sat on his shoulder to watch. The fifth sat on his head. “You’re welcome to stay,” Kit said for them all to hear. “There’s plenty of honey.” And plenty of room in the tower, for his new, adopted family.

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