The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Five
Parlan was still in shock as he left Hartwick's library and began walking down the hallway.
I'm an apprentice. Sir Hartwick's apprentice. The thought sent delightful shivers down his spine, and the Shoyru touched the pendant around his neck with a smile. The pewter metal had the letter "H" engraved in it, and it buzzed slightly, as if infused with magic.
Sir Hartwick had dismissed him after giving him the amulet, but not before telling him where he would be staying. "It's the Lunar Dormitory," the old grey Gelert had said. "Look for the doorway with the carved moon above it, and there you will find your new roommates."
And so Parlan excitedly wandered the halls, his eyes trained the to wooden molding framing each door he passed. When the silver Shoyru finally reached the door carved with the image of a moon, he was so excited that he forgot to knock. Instead, he just swung open the door.
In the split second that it took three pairs of eyes to turn and look at him, Parlan realized that he had just interrupted something. A rug on the floor had been pushed to the side, and all three of the room's occupants held chalk in their hands, looking like guilty children who had been caught stealing chocolate biscuits from their mother's jar.
Parlan recognized one of the boys—the red Nimmo who had escorted him and Darren to Sir Hartwick's library—and it was that boy who seemed to snap alive first. "Shut the door!" he hissed with a rapid gesture of his hand. "Quick! Quick!"
Startled, Parlan obeyed, slamming the door shut behind him.
The Nimmo stood up and pressed the palms of his hands to his eyes. "Thyora, that was close. I thought you were Hartwick for a second."
"Er... no, I'm not. I'm Parlan." The silver Shoyru looked around the room. "And... um, I'm your new roommate."
"Figures we'd get someone new," a brown Poogle said, glancing over at the four small beds lined up on the other side of the room. "I knew we couldn't always be this lucky just having three in here." He sighed wistfully. "It was nice to have the extra space once Gregory left."
Parlan couldn't help but ask, "Why'd he leave?"
"His fingers were bitten off by a rogue turnip in the garden," the third boy said, a small orange Wocky with messy blond hair.
Parlan's eyes widened—he hadn't heard anything about animated turnips—but all the boys laughed. "Marlo's kidding," the red Nimmo said. "Greg just wasn't very good at all this magic stuff. Realized it wasn't for him, and he left." The Nimmo took a step forward and held out his hand. "I'm Thomas, by the way. The orange Wocky is Marlo. And that over there is—"
"Call me Bennie," the brown Poogle interrupted quickly, pointing his piece of chalk at Parlan. "If you ever call me by my real name, I'll curse you."
Parlan couldn't tell if he was joking or being serious, so he just nodded his head. "Bennie. Got it."
Now that Parlan had finally gotten everyone's names, his eyes swept down to the floor. A giant design was drawn on the wood in chalk. It was vaguely circular with crisscrossed lines and symbols running along the circumference. "What are you doing?"
"Working on a levitating rune," Marlo said. Parlan assumed he was the youngest in the group; besides being a few inches shorter than everyone else, his voice was just a touch higher.
"We learned about them today, but we're not supposed to cast anything outside of class," Thomas said, slipping his hands into the pockets of his robes. "That doesn't stop nearly everyone from doing it though."
Bennie knelt onto the floor and inscribed a few more symbols. He had nice handwriting, and he finished with a flourish of his wrist. "I think it's done," the brown Poogle said, tossing his chalk to the floor. "Let's do this."
"Hold on," Thomas said, and Parlan watched as the oldest boy rummaged through his pockets. Parlan could hear the tinkling of glass and finally, the Nimmo withdrew a bottle with green flakes inside. Parlan assumed it was some sort of herb.
Thomas uncorked the bottle and sprinkled its contents onto the chalk drawing. Meanwhile, Marlo picked a book off one of the beds; it was thick and old, bound in crinkled brown leather. "I'll read the incantation," the orange Wocky said.
Parlan nearly took a step back in surprise. "Shouldn't this be... a group effort?" He had never cast anything that needed a chalk rune before, and the thought of the youngest boy doing it on his own was shocking.
Marlo sent Parlan a look, and Bennie just laughed. "Marlo's the best caster in the building. Don't worry about it."
"Um... alright," Parlan said, slipping his hands into his pocket and watching as Marlo flipped to the correct page.
The orange Wocky took a few deep breaths before he began to read. It was a short incantation—maybe sixteen syllables all together—but then the rune glowed, and the sprinkled herb turned into wisps of green smoke—
--and then Parlan's entire body was lifted off the ground.
"Whoa!" he shouted as he was thrown into the air. He flailed his limbs, but he couldn't propel himself anywhere. The spell held him in place eight feet off the ground and several feet away from the arched stone ceilings.
"Shh!" Thomas said. "Be quiet or they'll come check on us!"
But Parlan found it hard to be silent. It was an unsettling feeling to dangle in the air, unable to do anything but stare down at his three new roommates. Bennie was laughing, and Marlo had a grin on his face.
"Sorry, bud," Bennie said, looking up at him with a salute. "It's our tradition. The newbie gets experimented on for a week. If it makes you feel any better, after that, we all take turns."
"C-Can I c-come down please?" In that moment, Parlan realized he had a rather debilitating fear of heights.
Marlo flipped through the spell book and murmured a few more words. Parlan expected to tumble down to the floor, but the boy had more control than that. Instead, the silver Shoyru was lowered gently to the ground. When he landed, he had to force his shaking legs to support his weight.
"Well I think that was a success!" Thomas said, clamping a hand on Parlan's shoulder. "Welcome to Sir Hartwick's! And welcome to the Lunar Dormitory, clearly the best dorm in the whole mansion."
Parlan's heart was pounding, but he could tell from the faces around him that the teasing was not malicious. As they all clapped him on the shoulder, he said, "Thanks for the... warm welcome?"
Bennie laughed. "Warm welcome?" the brown Poogle repeated. "I'm the one who got a real warm welcome. When I was new, those two practiced a fire spell on me."
* * *
"I hope you don't mind the décor," Sir Hartwick said he escorted Darren into a spare bedroom on the second floor of the mansion. "I'm assuming things look a lot different in the future."
Darren shook his head. "Really, it's perfect." The bedroom had a large oak bed, a small writing desk, and a giant wardrobe—not that he had brought any spare clothes with him from the future. His white lab coat and jeans would have to do for now. "It looks not so different from my time, to be honest."
The grey Gelert nodded. "What year are you from, may I ask?"
"Er... the year naming system has changed since then," Darren said, fiddling with his sleeve, "so it's a little complicated. We simply call it Year 16. But uh... Sir Hartwick, I need to say that... I don't think we should really... er, be discussing the future very much. You know, time paradoxes... dire consequences, and the like."
The grey Gelert nodded and spread his arms. The long sleeves of his robe almost touched the wooden floors. "Well of course, I'd be a bit of a fool to spread that around. The students will be kept in the dark. But we are colleagues, and I must admit, I can't help but be intrigued. A little chatter shouldn't matter too much. After all, you must have spoken to Parlan about the here and now when he first arrived in your time, am I correct?"
"Er... yes, I guess," the blue Ogrin said. "Though still, I'd rather we kept the inquiries to a minimum?" It came out as more of a question than a statement; Darren was finding it hard to give the sorcerer a straight answer. Probably because he knew Sir Hartwick could blast him to smithereens at any given moment. His only hope was that the sorcerer had not yet discovered that Darren himself was a fraud.
"A minimum. Yes, that is reasonable," Sir Hartwick said, lacing his fingers. "I understand. So let me ask, then, is sorcery much different in the future? How has it all changed? What about alchemy, your field?"
"Oh it's quite different," Darren said. Mostly because I don't use magic at all. But he kept his thoughts to himself.
"Well," Sir Hartwick continued, gesturing to the bedroom, "I shouldn't keep you up too long. Why don't you get settled in for the night?"
Darren smiled. Time travel had actually exhausted him more than he had thought. "Thank you, Sir Hartwick," he said, sitting down on the edge of the bed.
Sir Hartwick grinned back at him from the doorway. "Now, I just have one last thing to discuss with you, before I depart. Since you are staying here for a few days at least, I was wondering if you would be willing to do a demonstration for the students, as a sort of payment for your room and board."
"Demonstration?" Darren blinked. "A demonstration on what exactly?"
"Some alchemy from the future, of course." Sir Hartwick said. "I'm sure you have quite a different take on it, being from the future. And the apprentices always benefit from alternative perspectives; I may be a leader in my field, but I'm sure that you have insight that I can never dream of having."
"Umm..." Darren found himself grasping for words. Hartwick was looking at him eagerly. "I would love to... do a demonstration of... alchemy," he stammered, "but I'm worried about the proper... ingredients. I didn't have any on me from the... journey."
Hartwick batted his concern away with a flick of his hand. "Don't worry about that. We have a fully-stocked supply pantry in the basement, filled with everything you could ever need to cast any sort of spell. Have a look down there tonight, and if we're missing anything you need, I can send an apprentice to get it from the marketplace at dawn. And then we can get to your demonstration at noon."
"Noon?" Darren repeated. "You mean, tomorrow?"
"Yes, of course. You should be ready by then, right?"
Darren struggled to say anything. Instead, he moved his head. He distinctively thought he had shaken it from side to side, an expression of "no," but Hartwick clasped his hands together and smiled.
"Wonderful! Thank you, Sir Rickshaw." The Gelert held out his hands, twisted his wrists, and suddenly a blank scroll appeared in one palm, and a quill and ink in the other. He set the writing implements down on the small desk. "Now I will leave you to your work. As I said before, if you need anything, just jot it down and send it to me. A simple courier spell should suffice."
Courier spell? Darren thought in panic. He had never heard of such a thing. His skin felt clammy of all of a sudden, and his forehead beaded with sweat.
"Now," Sir Hartwick said with a bow of his head, "have a good evening, and I shall see you in the morning for breakfast!"
And with that, the sorcerer disappeared down the hall, leaving Darren to fret over how he was going to learn alchemy over night.
To be continued...