The Sorcerer's Apprentice
Another story written in response to a prompt from Black Ship Books. Hope you enjoy!
Power crackled from the tips of Gregor’s fingers. He looked around at the state of the yard. He was actually rather proud of himself for waiting until he was outside before giving full vent to his frustration. There was a good chance that the hens would be put off laying for a couple of days. Maybe a week… But otherwise, the damage was restricted to things that could be replaced (a couple of buckets one of the maids had just filled from the well) or were due to be thrown out anyway (in six months he had never seen anyone use that handcart, he would swear his life to it!).
The quiet, calm voice of his mentor intruded on his thoughts. He balled his fists and squared his shoulders. There was no anger in the voice but there was disappointment, which was infinitely worse. But what did the old man expect? For half a year, he had done nothing but menial tasks! Fetching and carrying, sweeping (actually sweeping!) the yard, washing windows… And all by hand. Not once had Duncan allowed him to use magic. He had not even allowed him into the library where all the books of magic were kept!
Gregor had come here full of hopes, full of expectations. Here, at last, he thought that he would find out how to channel his energies with purpose, to use his powers for good. The gods knew he had used them enough for evil…
Instead, he had not used them at all. He was up at the crack of dawn and worked without stopping until the sun finally sank behind the horizon. Every night, he collapsed into bed, tireder than he would ever have believed possible. But whilst his body was working hard, his mind was wandering. He asked himself over and over again how much longer he could go on like this. His anger and frustration grew and grew until he felt that he would go mad from holding them in.
Every morning he determined that he would ask Duncan to finally teach him something about magic but the endless round of chores meant that he never had time. But today was different. Today he had abandoned the half-mucked out stable and gone marching up to Duncan’s study. He had knocked on the door and gone in when the gentle voice invited him to do so.
“Ah, Gregor!” said the old sorcerer, blinking his rheumy eyes. “Surely you have not completed your task on that stable, already? Well, if you need something else to do to fill your time…”
“The stable may rot in Hell for all the concern it gives me!” the apprentice shouted in response. “I wish to do some real magic, Duncan! Some small exercise of my power. Surely, I have done enough menial work by now? When will you teach me something real? Tomorrow, the next day?”
“I do not understand you, Gregor. What can be more satisfying to a young man than making use of his muscles through useful work?”
“Useful? What is useful about sweeping the yard or washing windows… At least, what use are they to men like you and me? We are sorcerers! We could make them far cleaner with a simple gesture. But instead of teaching me how to use my magic, you make me perform the most menial of tasks by hand.”
“Magic is not an easy tool to wield, as you already know. When you are ready…”
“When I am ready!” Gregor laughed out loud at this. “I am ready! I am ready right now. Please, master…”
But Duncan had merely shaken his head. “No, my boy, you are not ready.”
That had been the final straw and Gregor had stormed out of the house, to unleash his pent up feelings on the inanimate objects of the yard. If nothing else proved that he had made progress, the very fact that he had limited himself to turning a couple of buckets into matchwood rather than turning Duncan inside out should do!
“Gregor, please turn around.” That gentle voice again. He had never heard Duncan speak louder than a whisper in all the time he had lived here.
There was nothing for it; he had to obey. The old sorcerer stood before him, hunched over his staff, the hem of his old, worn robe trailing in the dust of the yard. Nobody had swept it this morning. Well, he had been busy in the stable! He could not be expected to be in two places at once, surely?
“Thank you, Gregor. Now, would you do me the honour of sitting with me?” He waved an arm towards a wooden bench set against the wall that had somehow escaped Gregor’s wrath.
He nodded and obediently followed the older man to the bench. They sat and Duncan closed his eyes and tipped his head back so that his face was bathed in sunlight. He sat like this for so long that Gregor began to worry that he had fallen asleep. At length, however, he gave a deep sigh and opened his eyes to look at his apprentice.
“How long have you been here?” he asked.
“Six months, Duncan.”
“And how much have you accomplished in that time?”
“Nothing! Nothing at all. That is what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
“Who has kept my yard and my windows so clean in all that time, then?”
“I have. But that wasn’t…”
“And who planted the spring cabbage that we ate for dinner last night?”
“Me! I could have made a better meal with a click…”
“And who has left the stables only half done?”
“I.. I’m sorry about that Duncan. I will go and finish it, I promise. But I don’t see how working my fingers…”
“You think that the tingling in the ends of your fingers is magic but you are wrong. What is more magical than sunlight falling through a clean window? Or the power of nature to turn a little seed into wholesome food? Or the good we do our fellow creatures when we take care of them?”
“Yes, they are all worthy things, I understand. But why not use magic to do them?”
“You have used magic.”
“I… do not understand…”
“Come back to me when you do. Now, please go and finish the stable.”
With a heavy sigh, Gregor got to his feet and shuffled off to the stable.