The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Four
"Darren!" Parlan cried, rushing over to the blue Ogrin crumpled on the stone floor. The Shoyru knelt down as Darren slowly pushed himself up into a sitting position.
"I hit my head," Darren groaned, rubbing at his scalp. His eyes were screwed up in pain. "What... happened? Did it not work?"
"Er..." Parlan mumbled, glancing around the dark basement. "No, it worked. I'm in the past. But... so are you."
Darren pressed his hand to his forehead, and finally opened his blue eyes. He took in his surroundings, first appraising the slate floor covered in chalk scribbles. Then his eyes trained upwards. His great ray gun was gone, replaced with lanterns hanging from the ceiling. And the air smelled as dank and as musty as it had the day he had purchased the mansion, before his extensive renovation.
"O-Okay," Darren said shakily, willing the pounding in his head to go away. He slowly stood up with the help of Parlan, still massaging his temples. "The radius of the spell must have been larger than I expected and dragged me along too..."
Parlan looked at Darren. Though the Ogrin looked shaken, he also didn't look too concerned. "Do you think you can get back to your time, Darren?"
Darren nodded his head firmly, then winced as pain shot through his skull. "Yes I do. It just may take a little more time without my equipment. Let's just make sure we're in the right time for you, and then I'll worry about getting back."
"Got it," Parlan said with a nod. "So let's get out of the basement."
Together they wandered around, trying to find a way upstairs. Though the basement floor was the same size as Darren's, there was a slightly different configuration. Darren had had a construction crew from the Neohome Planning Committee knock down several small walls so that he could create new rooms for a laboratory, storage closets, and new plumbing. But now everything was quite different. They passed what looked to be a dungeon with lines of cells—though the cells themselves were all empty—as well as a musty storeroom that appeared to be stocked with everything Darren typically could find in Matilda's shop.
Parlan grew excited when he saw the storeroom, and even more excited when they found a rickety set of stairs. They climbed their way out of the basement, and emerged into the main floor of Hartwick Hall.
Parlan's eyes widened as he took in the hall. It didn't look too different from the Hartwick Hall in Darren's time—the wood paneling, window drapes, and even furniture were still the same—but it all seemed vastly more alive. The furniture was newer, with rich upholstery untouched by age. The ceiling was lit by several dangling lanterns, and the walls were lined with paintings that must have vanished before Darren's time: in particular, images of grand sorcerers painted with such detail that Darren could almost imagine them leaping from the frames.
And, there were students.
There weren't a lot by any means, but as soon as they reached the main floor, Parlan saw at least three boys wearing long cloaks wandering through the halls. The apprentices stared at them funnily, but Parlan didn't mind. I made it, he thought. It was something he had feared would never happen, but he had done it. He had traveled across Neopia and through time twice, and he had reached Hartwick Hall.
One of the students, a red Nimmo is a parchment-colored cloak, approached Parlan and Darren warily. "Excuse me," he said, clutching a thick book to his chest. "May I ask who you are, and if you are lost?"
"We are a bit lost," Darren admitted. "My name is Darren, and this is—"
"Parlan Alexander Yielding," the silver Shoyru interrupted. "And we're looking to speak with Sir Hartwick."
The Nimmo nodded. "Sure, I'll take you to him." As he led them down the hall, the Nimmo looked between Darren and Parlan, as if debating whether or not to ask them something, but in the end he kept his mouth shut. Parlan meanwhile stared at the pewter pendant that hung from his throat. It was a circular medallion with the letter "H" indented into the metal.
The Nimmo brought them to the library and rapped on the door three times. "Come in," said a gravelly voice, and the Nimmo vanished, leaving Darren and Parlan to enter the library on their own.
The room, again, looked very similar yet distinctly different from the library in the future. Darren's favorite armchair sat in front of the same fireplace, looking new and soft, but all the Claude Bennet paintings and even the portrait of Sir Hartwick were gone. They must not have been done, yet, Darren thought.
Sitting in Darren's armchair was a grey Gelert with a beard that trailed down to his waist. His eyes were lined with wrinkles and the color of slate, and he wore long robes of deep purple. "Yes?" he asked.
"Sir Hartwick," Parlan said, dropping his head into a bow. "My name is Parlan Alexander Yielding, and I have traveled all across Neopia in the hopes that you would take me on as your apprentice."
Sir Hartwick appraised the silver Shoyru for a moment, his eyes sweeping from the boy's shoes to the tip of his head. And then he turned to look at Darren. "And who are you?"
"I'm Darren Rickshaw." The Ogrin shifted awkwardly under the sorcerer's gaze. Sir Hartwick reminded him of one of his old professors at Brightvale University, a grey Wocky who taught an advanced chemistry course. Darren had spent the entire year convinced the Wocky hated him. It was only after speaking with his classmates that he realized they all felt the same.
"Are you a sorcerer, or are you too looking to become an apprentice? Because you seem rather old to begin taking on the magical arts."
"He's an alchemist," Parlan filled in, and the boy shot Darren a look. The Ogrin understood it immediately: Don't tell him you're a scientist. He'll think you're crazy and you'll ruin my chances.
Darren nodded, though his stomach twisted as he lied. "Yes, I'm an alchemist."
"And you are here because...?" Hartwick looked at him expectantly, lacing his long grey fingers.
Again, Parlan answered for him. "I got a bit... lost on my way here." He was clearly taking Matilda's warning to heart, avoiding all mention of time travel; Darren was grateful for his tact. "I ran into Da... Sir Rickshaw, and he helped me get here."
"Well then," Hartwick said, "if he's finished helping you, then we should bid him farewell so we can get to the present matter of discussing whether or not you should be an apprentice here." He nodded his head. "Thank you, Sir Rickshaw, for helping Parlan. Have a good evening."
Darren's eyes widened, and he felt something like panic well up inside of him. It was a choking feeling that seemed to live in his throat. He had not imagined the conversation to end like this. He had thought that the sorcerer might invite him to at least stay a night; that way, he would have time to scout out the mansion and determine a way to get home. But Sir Hartwick's words were a clear dismissal, and Darren had nowhere to go, no one he knew in this time. And he had no means of getting home if he were to just wander the Haunted Woods on his own.
Darren looked over at Parlan, and the boy looked as startled as he was. "Sir Hartwick, please, Darren can't leave yet."
"Why not?" Hartwick asked, glancing between Parlan and Darren curiously. "You do understand, Parlan, that Hartwick Hall is an academy of sorts. You are here to learn the arts of sorcery and alchemy, and to do that, you must let go of your past for a time being. Do you wish to be my apprentice?"
"Then you must let Sir Rickshaw go on his way."
Sir Hartwick nodded curtly, and again Darren felt his chest tighten. But the blue Ogrin forced himself to smile. Don't let Parlan see you sweat, he thought to himself. You'll just ruin his chances. You can find a way to get back. You can do it on your own.
And yet his whole body had begun to shake. He did his best to keep still, but his muscles spasmed, and his stomach churned painfully. "Yes, I should go. Goodbye, Parlan," he said, making his way haltingly towards the door out of the library.
But then Parlan cried, "Stop!" and when Darren turned around, he saw that the boy's bow to Hartwick was so low that his head was nearly touching the floor. "Please Sir Hartwick, he can't leave because he has nowhere to go."
"Nowhere to go?" Hartwick repeated, his eyes narrowing. "But you said he helped you find his way here? I doubt he was living in the Woods."
Parlan looked up at him, his blue eyes wide. "That's because he's..." His voice was almost choked. "He's from the future."
The admission made Darren's stomach flip, and Sir Hartwick tilted his head, his long beard spiraling. "Time travel is impossible, Parlan," his said simply. And then his voice dropped, though Darren could still make it out. "How do you know that Sir Rickshaw has not deceived you?"
Parlan hesitated only a moment before pulling back his sleeve. "Because I've travelled to the future myself." In the firelight, the branching lines of his scar seem to grow and shrink, as if it were alive. "I got this when I was struck by lightning and transported to the future."
"Lightning?" Hartwick asked, his eyes tracing the scar. "That is really all it took? No spell? No runes? No ingredients?"
"I..." Parlan struggled to keep his story straight. "Perhaps. I don't know exactly how it happened."
"Then how did you get back? And how did he come with you?" Hartwick looked at Darren intently.
Matilda's warning was shouting in his head: You must never reveal the extent of this spell, to never list these ingredients together. He knew had to be very careful. Before him was one of the world's greatest sorcerers, and Darren did not know if his lies would be convincing enough.
"I... I didn't do anything to come back," Darren admitted. "I was just hanging out with Parlan when we were transported back here. I guess whatever had happened with the lightning was temporary, and it pulled me back with him?"
"Interesting," Hartwick mused, getting up from his chair. He was a tall man, even taller than Darren. And then, the Gelert smiled. "Well, let me just say that I am glad you both are safe! Time travel is supposedly impossible, and yet you both managed to survive it in one piece. It's absolutely remarkable." He clasped his fingers together. "Sir Rickshaw, I understand now that you do not have a place to stay, and I would be glad to give you shelter here in Hartwick Hall until you either magick back to your own time, or find yourself something suitable to do in ours."
"Th-Thank you," Darren said, and he could feel the relief wash over his entire body like a wave of cool water.
"And as for you, Parlan," the grey Gelert said, sweeping his longs robes so he could face the boy. "I cannot simply take you up to be an apprentice without a show of your power. Have you come prepared?"
Darren felt nervous for the Shoyru—he hadn't seen Parlan do a single magical thing in the whole week he knew him—but Parlan nodded his head determinedly. He held out his hand, closed his eyes, and muttered a string of harsh-sounding syllables. Suddenly there was a flame of fire dancing on the palm of his hand, similar to Matilda's spell to burn their shopping list. Only this time, the flame was a deep red.
"Hmm..." Hartwick said, appraising the flame. He reached for the back of Parlan's hand, molding it so it wasn't as cupped, and the flame doubled in size. "Good." Hartwick waved his hand over the flame and it suddenly went out, leaving nothing but a wisp of smoke lingering in the air. "And can you create ice as well?"
Parlan nodded, and began to mutter again. This time, Darren could feel the air around him grow cold, and a small ball of ice, the size of a marble, appeared on Shoyru's palm.
Hartwick nodded again, picking up the ice with his thumb and forefinger. With a gesture, the ice immediately melted, and the resulting water vanished before the drops could reach the floor. "There is definite potential here. With some tutelage, you could go far."
Parlan watched Hartwick, trying to keep his excitement contained as the sorcerer crossed the room to one of the bookshelves. On one of the shelves was a silver box, and when he lifted the heavy lid, Hartwick withdrew a necklace nearly identical to the one that the Nimmo had been wearing.
Hartwick held the pendant in front of Parlan, letting the medallion dangle in the air and refract the firelight. "Do you, Parlan Alexander Yielding, swear to uphold the rules of Hartwick Hall, as well as my own, as you continue your studies in the great magical arts of sorcery and alchemy? Do you swear to show me loyalty as one of the few apprentices of the hallowed Hartwick Hall?"
Parlan nodded. "I do."
Hartwick lowered the pendant around his neck, and Parlan felt the cool metal settle against his skin. It felt like it belonged there.
"Then welcome," Sir Hartwick said with a bow of his own. "Welcome to Hartwick Hall, and welcome to my apprenticeship."
To be continued...