The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Two
Darren Rickshaw blinked several times as he stared at the silver Shoyru in front of him. Eventually, the blue Ogrin cleared his throat and slipped his hands into his pockets. "Um... I'm sorry, Parlan. I think I may have misheard you. I thought... you called me... a, uh... a sorcerer?"
"That's what I said." The teenager stared up at Darren with a frown on his face. "Did I... say something wrong, sir?"
Darren shook his head, unsure of what to say. "Listen, Parlan... I'm sorry to break the news to you, but I'm not a sorcerer. I'm just a scientist."
Parlan's eyebrows furrowed, and then his eyes swept across the laboratory set-up in the basement. "But you have alchemy tubes..."
"All of this glassware is for science experiments, not magic," Darren explained. "I... I don't know how you thought I was a sorcerer, but I'm very sorry for the confusion. I know you came all this way..."
But the boy was shaking his head vehemently, and for the first time, Darren thought he saw a bit of a stubborn streak behind the Shoyru's silver exterior.
"This building is Hartwick Hall, correct?" Parlan asked.
"Yes it is."
"Then this is the place I'm supposed to be. Everyone knows that Hartwick Hall is an academy for young sorcerers," Parlan explained. "It's run by Sir Hartwick." He emphasized the name with a gesture of his hand. "The greatest sorcerer of our time!"
"Of our time?" Darren repeated in disbelief. "Parlan, Hartwick Hall is the name of the building, but it's an old, old name. No one named Hartwick has lived here in a while, as far as I know. When I bought the place, it had been abandoned for years. At one point it was an old dance studio but that was..." Darren trailed off, staring at Parlan, the boy with the strange accent from the Angleton Isles, dressed in a muddy cloak and smelling like he hadn't bathed in months. Suddenly, his mind began to piece the puzzle together.
"Parlan," he said carefully. "What year is it?"
Parlan frowned, as if it were a stupid question. "It's the 121st Year of the Great Peace. Why do you ask?"
Darren's eyes widened. "Parlan, this is Year 16."
Parlan took a step back. "Year 16 of the Great Peace? What are you... Do you mean... I traveled to the past?"
"No," Darren said, leaning on the lab bench for support. "You traveled to the future."
The blue Ogrin had learned about the era of the Great Peace in a Brightvale University course, the single class he had to take to fulfill a history distribution requirement. He hadn't remembered much from the class—he had used most of the lecture period sketching laboratory set-ups in his notebook—but he did remember that the era of the Great Peace had occurred over 200 years ago. And now he was face to face with a neopet who claimed to be from that time.
Scientifically, it was impossible. But magically...
As if sensing his thoughts, Parlan shook his head even more firmly. "That can't be true," the silver Shoyru said. "Time travel is impossible. There are no spells in existence that can make someone travel in time. It's been documented in several books."
"Well, perhaps you're the first," Darren suggested. He pulled out two lab benches and gestured for the boy to sit. When they both were settled, Darren leaned in. "What were you doing before you got here? Did anything strange happen?"
"I was just traveling," Parlan said indignantly. "It took me a few weeks to get here. I took a boat from the isles to the shore near Brightvale, then took a path through the plains, and finally entered the Haunted Woods. And then..." He frowned suddenly. "Just yesterday, it was storming pretty badly."
Darren cocked his head. The day before had been exceptionally beautiful weather, bright and clear without a single whisper of a cloud in the sky. "Go on," he prodded.
Parlan's frown only deepened. "There was a lot of rain, and thick clouds and... lightning. Lots of lightning. And at one point, I... I don't know. The next thing I know, I was on the ground, as if waking from a nap. And the sky was bright and clear." He shook his head. "I didn't do anything."
"The storm has to have been the catalyst," Darren murmured partially to himself. He had been jotting down notes as the boy had spoken in his lab book. "Anything else happen? Or did you notice anything when you awoke from your nap that was out of the usual?"
"I... I did notice that most of my supplies were gone."
Darren frowned. "Supplies?"
Parlan nodded. "I had been traveling with several spell components, bottled herbs and stuff." He worked the front clasp of his cloak until it was free and held it open. Darren saw that there was a series of pockets sewn inside of the cape, and though there were a few bottles and various plants stuffed in some of the pockets, others were empty and scorched.
And then Darren noticed something on Parlan's arm, something that had been hidden by the long cloak.
"Roll up your sleeve!" he commanded suddenly, and when the boy obeyed, Darren saw that the Shoyru's arm bore a strange mark, a large design that looked a bit like a tree with branching lines that traveled up his arm.
"What is that?" Parlan asked, panicked. He ran his finger over the skin, prodding at the design.
"Parlan," Darren said in shock. "You were struck by lightning." His eyes scanned the marks, a telltale design of those who had encountered lightning and had lived to tell the tale. "If my deductions are correct, you were struck by lighting during that storm yesterday... well, yesterday minus a few hundred years. The lightning must have acted as a catalyst, activating properties in some of the materials you were carrying to propel you forward in time. And so, when you awoke from the lightning blast, you were in the future."
Parlan seemed at a loss for words. His eyes were latched onto a flask set on the table. "I'm in the future," he said numbly, his words thick as if his tongue had swelled. "I was struck by lightning, and now... I'm in... the... future..."
And then he fainted, his body tumbling off the bench and onto the linoleum floor.
* * *
When Parlan awoke, he was inclined to think that the whole thing had been a dream, that he had merely imagined an incident where he had traveled in time to meet a strange man living in Hartwick Hall hundreds of years into the future. It was a reasonable nightmare, he tried to tell himself. He had been traveling towards Hartwick Hall for weeks, and his greatest fear was that he would be denied the apprenticeship. This nightmare had just gone a single step further, telling him that he had gotten the apprenticeship, only for him to realize that it was, in fact, not with Hartwick at all.
And yet, when he opened his eyes, he was not on the ground, curled up against the roots of a tree or under a bush. Instead, he was in a large bed, wrapped up in the softest sheets he had ever felt. He jolted upright, his heart racing, as he tried to place his surroundings. He had never seen this room before, and he had no recollection of arriving there. "I must be dreaming still," he said, turning to pinch himself, but he winced when he noticed the latticework design scarring his arm.
It had not been a dream after all.
He had arrived at Hartwick Hall after weeks of travel. Unfortunately, he had arrived two hundred years too late.
With a groan, Parlan buried his head into the pillow.
"Good morning!" A chipper voice floated through the doorway, followed by a blue Ogrin carrying a tray.
"Good morning, sir," Parlan said, propping himself back up slowly. His body felt exhausted. He wasn't sure if it was from the time travel or the shock. "I... How did I get here?"
"Well." Darren sat on the edge of the bed. "You took a bit of a... fall, last night. After hearing the news about... your predicament. Do you still remember what we discussed?"
Parlan could feel his cheeks rouge. "Yes. The lightning, the herbs, the time travel. I remember it. Though I wish it were a dream."
Darren actually chuckled. "You know, I had always thought it would be amazing to travel to the future, to see how things turned out. Does that not interest you?"
"It would if I had a guaranteed return trip," Parlan admitted.
Darren nodded, and held out the tray. Parlan noticed finally there was an assortment of breakfast foods, all set out on porcelain plates. But although he was famished, Parlan could not bring himself to eat. Each item only seemed to remind him that he was further from home in more ways than one. There was a bowl of sliced unfamiliar purple and pink striped fruit, a tall glass of frothing red juice, and blobby toast plastered with black goop. The only thing he recognized was the plate of scrambled eggs.
"Sir Rickshaw..." Parlan started, but he was quickly cut off.
"Please, call me Darren."
Parlan nodded. "Darren," he corrected. "I hope you don't think it rude but... I believe I've lost my appetite. Perhaps time travel does that."
Darren stared at him with skepticism. "Or you're homesick."
Parlan chuckled darkly. "How can I be homesick if my home doesn't exist anymore?" He pressed his face into his pillow again. He knew it was childish to do so, and yet he couldn't help himself. "What am I going to do?"
"Well," Darren said, eating a slice of fruit from the bowl, "since you fainted, I had some time to think about things. And I think I have a solution."
The Shoyru's ears immediately piqued, and he sat up in bed. "A solution?"
"A possible solution," Darren amended. "Remember, I'm not a... sorcerer." He seemed to have trouble saying the word. "But I am a scientist. And as a scientist, I think that we should try to recreate the reaction that brought you here. Or, as you'd probably call it, the... uh, the spell." Again he stumbled over the word. "And maybe by recreating it, we can send you back home."
"You really think so?" Parlan asked, feeling something like hope well up in his chest.
"I do," Darren said, and there was a determined glint in his eye. Darren's old roommate had seen it often enough; it was the look of a man ready to descend into a scientific frenzy. "Now come on," he said, pressing the tray forward. "I need you to eat up. You won't be much of an apprentice if you're wasting away. And then, after you eat, I need you to give me the precise list of what was missing from your cloak's inner pockets."
To be continued...