The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Three
The next few days were a flurry of activity for Parlan.
The first thing he did, at the request of Darren, was explore a room known as the "bathroom." It was a small but sleek space adjacent to his bedchamber, with shining stone squares on the walls and a number of strange contraptions. One was a white porcelain chair with several odd seat options. Another was a mirror so pure that Parlan, for the first time ever, was able to see his reflection unhindered by the orange stain of copper or the ripples of pond water.
But the most fascinating contraption in the room was a large basin with several knobs and nozzles next to it protruding from the wall. When the knob was turned, water would spring forth from an overhead nozzle, first cold, then scalding hot. As Parlan took his first ever shower, he murmured under his breath, "And Sir Rickshaw says he doesn't practice sorcery."
After exploring the wonders of the bathroom, Parlan became acquainted with modern day clothing, which, lucky for him, was not too different from his own traveling attire. The only truly novel piece of clothing was a pair of blue trousers made of a rough material. Darren had called them "jeans." Parlan felt rather silly walking in them, but he didn't complain aloud.
Suitably dressed, Parlan spent most of his first full day in the future exploring the large mansion. Although he was in the future, the mansion looked similar enough to his time that he could almost forget that he had traveled through time at all. The wallpaper was old and regal, and there were chair rails on the wall and lanterns dangling from the ceiling. Every so often, he'd stumbled upon a new contraption—such as the electric stove in the kitchen, or a strange Virtupets gadget on a table—but for the most part, he could pretend, if just for a few moments, that he had actually arrived at Hartwick Hall at the right time, and that he truly was a sorcerer's apprentice.
He did get to be a scientist's apprentice, somewhat. Darren recruited him to work in the basement laboratory, helping him with his new science project of transporting Parlan back in time. Most of the time, Parlan was in charge of carting ice from the second floor of the eastern hall all the way down to the western basement. The ice would melt rather quickly upon arriving, but Darren didn't seem to mind too much. He was too busy calibrating a great machine in one of the several rooms in the basement. It kept overheating—thus the need for ice—but he worked at it tirelessly, running tests to make sure it would be up to speed on the day they needed it to.
They had decided that Parlan should be sent back in time on a Friday, the same day of the week he had arrived, giving them a week to calibrate the machine and stage things properly. During six of those days, Parlan spent all of his time indoors, roaming the mansion or helping Darren with his experiments. Until finally, on his second to last day in the future, Darren told him to meet him in the library.
The library was a grand space, with rolling ladders along the walls and books packed high into the tower spires. There also were a number of paintings on the walls, lit by magical—or so Parlan was convinced—glass contraptions that glowed without a flame.
Darren was standing in front of one painting, surveying it. It was a portrait of a grey Gelert with a long beard trailing to his waist.
The blue Ogrin turned when he heard Parlan enter the room, and then gestured to the painting. "Look who I've found. The real Sir Hartwick."
"That's him?" Parlan asked, drawing in closer. He had never seen an image of this man before—paintings and sketches of the great sorcerer were hard to come by. Some said it was because the old sorcerer believed that painters could capture your soul if they drew your likeness on a canvas. Others claimed that it was because he was particularly vain and disliked every image that had ever been done of him. And yet there was one here, displayed proudly on the walls in Hartwick Hall.
Darren looked as if he were trying not to chuckle. "You know, I never understood why in old... er, in your time, people always look so serious in paintings. And photographs, too."
"Photographs?" Parlan repeated confusedly.
Darren shook his head quickly. "Never mind. Past your time, I guess."
Parlan stared at the frame; Hartwick did look rather bit serious.
The silver Shoyru's eyes trailed away from the portrait and landed on another painting in the library, a landscape of a grand sea, with land far off in the distance. When he looked more carefully, he could see the sandy peaks of pyramids. "I much prefer this painting," Parlan said.
Darren leaned in to read the small plaque beneath the frame. "Well, you have good taste. This was painted by Claude Bennet. He's a rather famous artist from a long time..." Darren thought for a moment. "You know, he might have lived in your time. When you get back, you might want to try to find him. Maybe you can get a few cheap commissions off him, and then sell them off when he gets more famous."
"'When I get back,'" Parlan quoted with a grin. "I like the optimism. So then, what is the plan for today? More ice?"
"Actually," Darren said, pulling out a piece of paper that had been folded and unfolded several times in the past few days. "Today we're finally going to replace all the ingredients you lost in your cloak. Are you fine with venturing outside?"
Parlan's eyes widened. "I would love that, sir."
* * *
The Haunted Woods marketplace was an interesting sort of place to go shopping. After living there for several years, Darren was now used to the slightly creepy look of the vendors, with their hunched backs and crooked teeth, and he knew exactly where you should and shouldn't shop. You always had to be careful at the jewelry shops—you never knew if the piece they were trying to pawn to you had been cursed. And of course, food was also a hazard if you weren't particularly fond of eyeball custard or undead carrots. But for chemistry ingredients, it was one of the best places to buy. Apparently there was a lot of overlap in the field of chemistry and the field of potion-making, for Darren had become quite good friends with the local hedge witch who ran one of the several potion ingredient shops.
Darren led Parlan through the bazaar, and watched as the boy's eyes widened as he took in the surroundings. Darren wondered, suddenly, how different the bazaars of the past were. Or how the shops on the Angleton Isles looked. He expected that they probably didn't look as spooky.
"Okay, here we are," Darren said when they reached a corner shop. The creaking sign had the words "Matilda's Makings" carved into its rotted wood. He held the door open, and they both stepped inside.
The shop was small, and absolutely crammed with shelves. There were shelves against every wall, shelves that formed rows, and even a set of floating shelves that magically hovered in mid-air.
A green Zafara re-stocking one of the many shelves with bottles of swirling yellow gas turned around when she heard the front door open. "Darrrrrrren!" she cooed, rolling her r's deliciously as she rushed towards the front of her shop. She smiled a toothy grin and wiped her palms on the front of her grey smock. "What can I do for you?"
"We need to buy some ingredients, Matilda," the blue Ogrin said, handing her the list.
"'We?'" she quoted, and her eyes fell on Parlan for the first time. Though Darren's clothes didn't fit him too badly, the teen carried himself oddly, and she stared at him for a long moment.
"I'm Parlan," the silver Shoyru said eventually, holding out his hand to shake hers.
Matilda reached for his hand, but instead of shaking it, she turned it, palm side up. Her nail traced the lines etched in his palms, and then traveled up his wrist to follow the swirling design the lightning had left on his arm.
"You're not from around here," she said after a moment. "I sense... an old soul."
"That's one way to put it," Parlan said, taking back his hand.
Darren coughed. "Er... Matilda? The items, please?"
Her eyes, bright as a Mortog's skin, scanned the list quickly. "Not your usual, Darrrren," she rolled. "This looks more like my shopping list than any of yours."
"That's because it's my list," Parlan said.
Matilda peered at him. "Are you a practicing sorcerer?"
"Trying to be."
"Hmmm..." Matilda somehow managed to roll her m's this time, a sound not too unlike the buzzing of a Draphly. She turned away and started weaving her way through the aisles of shelves, her long fingers trailing along the old wood, pulling down bottles to cradle in the crook of her right arm. "Though I recognize these as common spell ingredients, I'm quite sure that I've never seen them used in conjunction for any particular spell..." She trailed off as she approached the front counter again, setting down the varied bottles in front of them.
"That's because it's a spell to sen—" Darren started, but Matilda's hand shot out and clamped over the Ogrin's mouth.
"Don't tell me!" the Zafara said, and suddenly her eyes were narrow and her voice a sharp whisper. "I know what this is, and it should not be said aloud, for this has never been done before, and probably shouldn't ever be done again. But..." Her eyes fell on Parlan, who was staring at her with a mix of fear and shock. "I see you are far from home, and so I will sell you these items. But when you are back home, you must never reveal the extent of this spell, never list these ingredients together. If anyone were to discover the truth, there could be desolation and despair. Small changes may become great."
As she said the last sentence, she snapped her fingers. A small green flame appeared in her hand out of nowhere, and Parlan stumbled backwards, nearly knocking over a shelf. Matilda then held the list over the flame, until it was consumed by magical green fire and dissolved into ash on her palm.
"Understand?" she hissed.
Darren and Parlan nodded dumbly.
"Good!" she said with a large smile, brushing the ash off her palm and into a garbage bin. "So Darrrrrrren, your total for today is 32,015 neopoints."
* * *
"Okay, are you ready for this?"
Parlan looked around the laboratory. Everything was in place for his trip home. The great machine was a sort of ray, capable of shooting a beam of electricity as strong as lightning, and it was aimed at a tall metal coatrack. Draped on the coatrack was his cloak, with each spell ingredient set in the proper pocket.
As for Parlan, he was standing just to the right of the machine. He eyed the grand metal ray warily. "Are you sure the lightning won't strike me?"
Darren nodded. "That's why we used a metal coatrack. It will act as a lightning rod and draw the electricity towards it, not you."
"And it'll send me back in time?"
"Hopefully," Darren said, for once not sounding quite as sure. "My hypothesis is that you don't need to be struck by lightning to go back in time, but the ingredients do. You just need to be standing close enough to the beam and the components. And," he added, "just in case you were worried about it, I reversed the magnetic spin of the electrons, so hopefully you'll travel backwards instead of forwards this time."
"Right," Parlan said, though he had no idea what Darren had just said. "And... if I end up in the wrong time?"
Darren stared at him for a moment, thinking. Finally, he said, "If you get back to your time, write me a letter and stick it somewhere in Hartwick Hall, somewhere hidden where no one will check for a hundred or so years, and let me know that you made it. If you end up back in time but not at the exact right time, still write the letter and I'll think of something to get you to the right place. And if you end up in the future... well, maybe by then they'll have a found a proper way to send you home."
Parlan nodded. "I'll put the letter behind the painting," he said. "The one of the sea. Check it as soon as I'm gone, okay?"
Darren smiled. "I promise." He checked his watch: 5:32. They had estimated that Parlan had been zapped at 5:33 a week earlier, which meant they only had a minute. "All right then, it's time." Darren stepped forward and held out his hand. Parlan shook it firmly. "Again, I'm sorry about the mix up. I hope you get to your time and get to be Sir Hartwick's apprentice. He would be lucky to have you."
"Thanks, Darren," Parlan said with a grin. "And thanks for helping me this week. I know you're busy with your own experiments, and I really appreciate that you took the time to help me with mine."
"Any time," Darren said. "Literally." He checked his watch again and his eyes widened. "All right, it's now or never! Let's do this."
Parlan watched as Darren stepped to the doorway of the room, where the switches that controlled the ray were located. He flipped them, one by one, and the great ray began to hum. The air smelled like sticky laundry for a moment, and Parlan closed his eyes. "Goodbye, Darren."
"Goodbye, Parlan. Safe travels."
The silver Shoyru heard the ray fire, and a loud bang filled the air, the sound of thunder. The glass bottles full of ingredients purchased from Matilda's shop shattered with a sharp ting and the pungent scent of herbs, spices, and sulfur filled the air. Parlan coughed, his stomach churning. For a moment he thought he was going to be sick, but then he realized that he didn't just feel dizzy: the world was actually spinning beneath him, the ground vanishing beneath his feet. Air rushed by his ears, and his mouth welled with saliva.
It all happened in just a few seconds, and just as quickly as it had started, it all ended. The ground reappeared beneath his feet, and Parlan stumbled, catching himself before he fell.
Very hesitantly, he opened his eyes.
Blinking, he saw that he was no longer in Darren's lab. Instead, he was in a dark basement. The ray gun was gone, and linoleum flooring was replaced with dark slate stone. And etched in chalk on the floor were markings.
Parlan threw his hand into the air in triumph. "I made it! Yes!"
However, his celebration was cut short when he heard a low groan.
Parlan wheeled around at the sound, spinning to see what was there, and then his stomach flipped.
Lying on the floor, rubbing his head, was Darren.
To be continued...