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The Green Wizard

by J.D. Mitchell

 

            Ladomas sprang down a narrow, unpaved street, its drab rowhouses leaning over him suspiciously as if they knew he was up to no good. A hempen bag clutched in his hand was filled with flowers, berries and fungi gathered from the nearby Lakewood--a task not reckoned safe for an armoured knight, let alone a small unarmed wizard’s apprentice. One item in that bag was trollstooth: a poisonous mushroom that would liquify a man's innards in less than an hour, though it would take much longer for him to die. It was a fungus sought after by assassins and wizards, and Ladomas was nothing if not enterprising.

            The apprentice ducked down a dark alley and emerged onto Bordertown’s only cobbled street, which was filled with warriors and townsfolk haggling with vendors lining the narrow road. Ladomas skirted a mercenary using her spear to vigorously punctuate how she dispatched a troublesome goblin, then he scurried around some barrels as a fight broke out between two burly men. One of the men head-butted the other into the barrels, which spilled apples into the street. The crowd began to snatch up the fruit before they rolled into the gutter seeping with human waste. The unfortunate farmer ran about, grabbing apples like a nervous dog pulling its pups from the hands of prospective buyers.

            Ladomas slipped into a clothiers across the street and shut its door on the stench and pandemonium outside. He breathed a sigh of relief in the quiet shop, its air permeated with the spicy scent of mothballs. He began to browse shelves, walls and countertops that were chockablock with the garb of goblins and dwarves, barbarians and nobles, wizards and thieves.

            “Clothiers? Costume shop, more like!” he muttered to himself.

            “Tools of the trade!” an old woman said behind him.

            “Gah!” Ladomas cried with a start.

            An ancient and shrunken lady clad in dark leather armour cackled at the boy. “Wizards may alter their form, as may I, but with artifice more mundane. ‘The clothes make the man’, they say, which is true: people see what they wish. Now, why are you late--were you followed?”

            “No, Winifred, my master kept me--I only just got away.”

            “Neyhün keeping you on the hop, is he? The old goat is still vexed by my becoming guildmistress and living so long. Perhaps he knew of your errand after all,” she chuckled as she sat and reclined on a nearby sofa.

            “Did he intend this for you?” Ladomas jibed as he tossed about then presented the deadly mushroom.

            Winifred lit a long wooden pipe and exhaled smoke through her nostrils, regarding the proffered fungus with her piercing green eyes. Ladomas thought a dragon might regard a fat steer or glimmering treasure trove in much the same manner.

            “It is the only specimen I could find but, as guildmistress, protocol demands that you have right of first refusal!” Ladomas said innocently.

            Winifred harrumphed smoke from her mouth.

            “And at a very fair price!” Ladomas continued with a flash of straight, white teeth. “Though there was the ogre I had to dodge, and the brigands--which the ogre ate--but those details are inconsequential. I am certain you will double, no, triple, your previous offer for such a fine specimen obtained at such peril!”

            Winifred glared at the boy and snatched the trollstooth from his hand with surprising swiftness. She prodded Ladomas in the chest with the stem of her pipe. “I like you, boy,” she said, though her compliment somehow sounded like a threat. She sat back and examined the fungus’ dun-coloured, depressed cap, paying particular attention to the spore-bearing teeth for which it was named. “It is a fine specimen, but you will receive what we agreed upon.” She tossed him a velvet purse that jangled with coin.

            Ladomas opened the bulging purse. Never in his life had he held so much money. The gold and silver in his hands would feed fifty families for a month yet was only a fraction of what he needed to pay his bond and emancipate himself from his master.

            Winifred eyed the boy with a knowing gleam in her eye. “What will you do with such wealth, young one?” she asked.

            Ladomas cinched the purse closed and tied it off his belt. “A penny saved, Guildmistress!”

            “Wise lad: save your coin. Neyhün is a brilliant wizard but fickle--you do well to pursue your freedom. But you have kept me too long: I must depart!”

            “A pleasure, Guildmistress!” he said with an elaborate bow as Winifred left the shop.

            Ladomas looked around at the many costumes, then regarded himself in a tall mirror: a small youth dressed in a plain tunic, his future dim so long as it was tied to a disinterested master. Ladomas spotted a splash of bright green reflected behind him, which turned out to be a set of extravagant robes. He pulled them on, shoved a conical green hat onto his wavy locks and struck a dramatic pose.

            “Ladomas the Green!” he cried, taking up a new pose with each successive shout.

            “Ladomas the Prestidigitator!”

            “The Green Wizard!”

            “Ladomas the Bold!”

            He frowned at himself in the glass then grinned. Assuming a solid stance, he wove signs with his hands, deftly cutting a ‘J’ in the air with his right forefinger and thumb as he pulled a pinch of saltpeter from his sleeve. It was basic magic but still infused his belly with cold fire. For a moment he comprehended the infinite complexity of reality, could almost see the strings connecting the universe. It was intoxicating.

            “Ladomas the Thaumaturge!” he cried as he drew his hands upward, the air around him exploding with green smoke. He coughed and fell away from the astringent, choking cloud.

            A rotund, red-faced seamstress, proprietress of the shop, stomped from the back, her anger more terrifying than any Lakewood monster. She tugged at the oversized robe with one hand and beat Ladomas about the head with the other. “Out, out, ye hooligan!” she cried as she drove him toward the door.

            “G . . . good . . . lady--I have gold!” Ladomas exclaimed as he warded off blows.

            The woman paused mid-swing, her demeanour changing faster than her hand: “Why didn’t ye say so?” she said, letting go the robe, which hung off Ladomas’ raised arm and pooled on the floor. “Tsk, tsk, that’ll never do--that needs takin’ in,” she said.

            “. . . Indeed,” the apprentice said, wrongfooted by her sudden transformation.

            The seamstress helped Ladomas back into the green robe and began to roughly push and turn him about, her knees popping as she crouched to gather and pin the fabric. In under a minute, Ladomas’ fingers were twinkling below his sleeves and the pointed tips of his shoes peeking out from under the robe.

            “It’s a bit long, but you’ll grow into it,” the seamstress said somewhat defensively. “What do you think?”

            Ladomas gripped his lapels and flashed a toothy grin: “I think, Madam, that the clothes make the man!”