A jet of blinding light flashed across the room, ricocheted off the window frame and disappeared up the chimney.
A rumble under Gerald’s feet steadily increased in strength until the floor beneath him rolled like a ship in a storm.
This can’t be good.
Gerald staggered to the window at the front of his weather-beaten cottage. The small hill, and new village landmark, supposed to be forming outside –to improve the view– failed to materialize. But the cotton ball clouds, normally drifting on the warm summer breeze, whizzed by. Panic surged through Gerald as he caught sight of villagers clinging to structures for dear life. His knees weakened when the village herbalist flew past his window, as he followed her progress across the green, he spotted Lord Moleheart hanging onto a tree like a flag in a gale.
‘Kack!’ said Gerald.
The bedroom door flew open. ‘Gerald! What have you done?’ Colin dodged flying crockery as he made his way across the room.
‘Hmm?’ The point of Gerald’s tall and illegally obtained wizard’s hat twitched, as he blinked rapidly at the devastation occurring outside.
Colin, who had recently been posted to Molehaven as Gerald’s assistant –a position where roles seemed to change with alarming regularity–, very rarely shouted. If he could get away with it he whispered his spells. Shouting indicated Gerald had been especially naughty and confirmation came when he shrank one inch before Colin’s eyes.
At this rate Gerald wouldn’t be a wizard much longer. Four feet eight was the statuary minimum for all wizards. Anything less, and Gerald would be back working in the fields, or shoveling horse poop until he reached the minimum height again.
‘Have you been buying words again to strengthen your spells?’ asked Colin.
‘I really wanted a small hill, to brighten our view. It always looked so flat outside and you know there’s this tikitonic plate thingy just outside the village? Well the word I know can move it a bit but… the guy I know, who knows a guy, guaranteed this other word will move two of them together to make a hill.’
‘Well, you’ve managed to cause the earthquake that should create it.’
‘But the guy who sold me the word said…’
‘And you believed him? Tell me exactly what you did.’
‘Umm… okay… first I pictured the plate thingies. Next, I pictured them moving towards each other so one overlaps the other. Then I said the first word. Then I pictured them moving more and the hill forming. I said the last word to add power to the first… Finally, I stamped my wizard’s staff on the ground to really give it some oomph…’
‘But you don’t have a staff. You’re not tall enough to own one yet.’
‘Yes I have… look,’ Gerald showed him the gnarled, white, wooden staff.
‘You do know that’s just a replica don’t you?’
‘Well, yes, but it adds to the overall image of wizardry doesn’t it?’
‘Is that all you did?’
‘Yeh… I think so anyway.’
‘Well I was hungry and this image just popped into my head’
‘A slice of pie…’
‘So let me know if I have this correct,’ said Colin. ‘You attempted to create a hill using a word above your skill level whilst banging a replica staff on the ground and thinking of a slice of pie…’
‘That about covers it,’ said Gerald.
The rolling had settled to a steady rumble. Outside, a crowd had gathered on the village green, now that they were not hanging on to buildings, trees and each other for dear life. A stab of fear shot through him as all eyes turned in his direction. A tall figure, wearing an expensive flowing cape, broke away heading in the direction of his cottage.
Backing away, he glanced up at Colin. Up! Normally they stood the same height. ‘Err… I think I may be in a spot of bother here.’
‘I think you’re probably right,’ said Colin.
‘Do you think he’ll believe me if I tell him I don’t know what’s happening?’
‘I wouldn’t get your hopes up.’
‘Right, I suppose I’d better go and meet him, eh?’
Gerald opened the heavy oak door, covered in stickers of runes and other miscellaneous wizarding symbols, to greet Lord Moleheart. He hadn’t seen the village leader since that unfortunate incident with copious amounts of custard. It cost him a couple of inches, rather unfairly thought Gerald. How could he know creating a feast for his Lordship’s birthday would involve juggling so many words?
He stepped onto the weather-worn step and the rumbling stopped. Not in a nice gentle way like a sigh of relief. This was more like a runaway cart hitting a brick wall. One minute Gerald stood on the doorstep, drawn up to his full and important height. And the next he was flying through the air, his voluminous robes expanding around him like the wings of an eagle. He hit Lord Moleheart squarely in the chest, and as the entangled pair landed on the ground, Gerald’s robes rode up, surrounding them in a Persian blue shroud.
‘Gerald, get that thing out of my ear!’
‘I’m trying.’ Gerald struggled to untangle his staff from within the folds of his robes.
Finally, with much swearing and energetic arm swinging, the two combatants separated. Gerald bent down, picked up his hat and tried to straighten the tip, now at ninety degrees from its original vertical position.
Lord Moleheart’s puce face shoved into Gerald’s and growled. ‘What have you done this time, you adolescent, pigmy wizard?’
‘Err… nothing, my Lord,’ Gerald placed his hat over the, fiery red, spiky covering on his head. Gerald’s eyes flitted about in a desperate attempt to avoid the glare of the Lord of the manor. This was unavoidable once he was lifted off his feet by the front of his robes and Lord Moleheart’s nose thrust against his. Gerald’s little legs ran for all they were worth in an effort to escape the wrath of the village leader.
‘What have you done?’
‘N…n…nothing… I was as surprised as you when the ground moved.’
‘Well something’s going on and it’s not natural. An earthquake is possible, although I’ve never heard of one occurring here. But the hurricane winds accompanying it point to a naughty wizard up to no good again.’
Gerald breathed a sigh of relief as he was lowered to the ground, and the vice-like grip released. It didn’t take him long to recover. After smoothing his robes, setting his hat straight and readjusting the slightly wedged boxer shorts he cleared his throat in a self-important manner.
He raised his staff in the way he assumed an important wizard would. ‘I, my Lord, will seek out the reason for this chaos forthwith and notwithstanding ….’
‘Yes, my Lord.’
‘With your track record, I don’t believe a word that comes out of your mouth. You are hereby banished from Molehaven. Don’t come back until you’ve sorted out this mess!’
‘What did you say?’
‘Nothing, my Lord.’
Lord Moleheart sighed. ‘Get out of here, and take your peasant servant with you.’
‘Yes, you know, the little guy on the doorstep dressed in peasant clothes?’
‘He’s a wizard too,’ said Gerald.
‘Are you sure? He looks a lot like a peasant to me.’
‘He’s my apprentice.’
‘Ahhh. Anyway, you and your little apprentice have until sunset to leave the village.’ Lord Moleheart turned and headed towards the crowd.
‘Ooooh, you liar!’ said Colin.
‘Shhh…’ Gerald ducked into the doorway. ‘Seems like we’re taking a little trip, eh?’
‘Apprentice, pfft… I’m taller than you now so really it’s the other way around.’
‘Only by an inch and I’ll get that back in no time.’
Gerald walked to the desk, a list of essential items growing in his head. He picked up a blank scroll, a quill and bottle of ink and wrote.
List Of Essential Items For Very Important Trip:
Book of Spells no wizard should go on a very important trip without.
Top of the range wand (only slightly used, small crack at tip).
Wizard’s Staff, carried by important wizards at all times.
Spare set of robes, Red with silver stars and crescent moons (in case I have to attend very important meeting).
Latest Wizarding Market brochure in case there are any must-have items for sale.
Bag of Gold taken from bank yesterday (only very slightly overdrawn).
That about covers it. Gerald packed his replica ancient wizard’s chest. ‘Have you packed yet?’
‘Yup,’ Colin held up a small knapsack.
‘Is that all you’re taking?’
‘All I need is a change of clothes and a book or two. What have you got in there?’
‘Just the essentials.’ Gerald grunted as he struggled to carry the chest out through the back door.
With Colin’s assistance, he managed to place it into the back of the rickety, two-wheeled cart beside Colin’s knapsack. ‘Do you think we’ve forgotten anything?’ Gerald climbed into the cart and grasped the reins.
‘We’ll pick that up on the way out of the village.’
‘Kack…’ Gerald climbed down from the cart. Nonplussed, he entered the stable and brought out their secondhand looking pony. Even though it possessed quite a few bald patches and one bent ear, he was very proud of the fact he owned one. Not many people in the village could afford a pony or horse. Actually, Gerald couldn’t afford one and Rebel, as he’d named him, was acquired after a small mistake involving a gardening job, a scythe and an explosion which converted Rebel from a breeding stallion to a patchwork gelding. The owner refused to pay Gerald and as he was about to dispose of the pony Gerald kindly agreed to take it in payment for his services. The farmer was so happy with this bargain, he followed Gerald all the way down the track waving his scythe above his head with joy. Gerald couldn’t actually catch the words coming from the chap’s mouth but he was sure they were filled with praise for his professional wizardry.
He hitched Rebel to the cart, and moved onto the main thoroughfare of the village, waving to the villagers on the village green. The friendly inhabitants waved back, using clenched fists or, one or two, fingers in response to the Gerald’s gesture of farewell.
‘You see how sad they are to see us go?’ asked Gerald.
‘I’m sure they’re really sad we’re leaving, Gerald.’
Gerald stopped outside the general merchant store and waited while Colin went in to fetch supplies for the next few days. He came out and handed the rations to Gerald.
Gerald peeked inside. ‘These look a bit beaten up, I’ll just pop back in and have a quiet word with the shop-keep. Explain that people such as us, on a mission as important as ours, should have only the best quality items, not these battered things.’
‘I wouldn’t if I were you, Gerald.’
‘He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that these items were in perfect condition prior to the quake this morning. And the value of his stock had halved because most of it flew off the shelves. He also stated that if he got his hands around the neck of the little wizard he assumed was responsible, he would squeeze until the little wizard’s head popped off.’
‘Ahhhh, well I think we should just carry on our way then. I haven’t got time to chat.’ They set off down the road, the sun warming their back. As the cart bumped along, a little plaque hanging from the rear swung merrily back and forth with the words I HEART WIZARDS branded on it.