“Ellise! Clean out the pigpen!” my mother called, without the slightest hint of gratitude for my willingness to act like a slave for her own nefarious-seeming purposes. She always had me doing something for her pigs.
“I’m on it!” I yelled back to my mother. I mumbled to myself about how my mother was always obsessed with the cleanliness and well-being of her precious porcine pets. I was almost beginning to think that my mother liked her pigs more than she liked me.
Before I set upon my task, I looked into my bedside mirror, admiring my some-what good looks that barely resembled my mother’s (mule-like) face. I had a thin face and body, probably due to small food rations, and straight, brown hair that ran down to my shoulders. I looked quite mature for a sixteen-winter old girl. For some strange reason, now and then I saw my blue eyes flicker to a neon purple shade, perhaps a side effect of working in the sun all day. I didn’t think about it much.
I always believed in the Gods, and felt as if my life had some greater purpose, waiting for me to become something great. My chance was waiting for me just as my pigpen duties were. But all this labor and boredom was a buildup. I believed that with all my heart.
I’m curious and mischievous, not the smartest girl, but not stuck up like the other girls in my kingdom, blinded with lust and men. But for me, I had never had a relationship. In fact, I only ever got of this wretched hut for trips to the marketplace.
Despite the endless rain of insults spewing from my mother, I think I’m a pretty nice young lady. But in this kingdom, you won’t go anywhere by being “kind” or “down-to-earth.” The only women with a reasonable income were the maidens and princesses, two things that I despise.
Again I distracted myself from the task at hand by gazing into the foggy hillside that lay in front of me. I was always stunned by those distant structures crafted by men before my time, with no detail missed, no effort spared. I figured magic was used, although my mother always taught that magic was a myth. But I knew better.
The fortress of the spirit sages loomed in the background along with the other imaginative buildings. It was the home of the greatest wizards in the world who had been around longer than anyone can remember. They were sworn to protect ancient wizard scrolls and artifacts and spells known only by the oldest members. I hoped to someday join them. But now, as much as I wished to be casting spells with the Great Spirit sages, I should be cleaning the pigpen.
I was currently training myself in magic, and I had snuck a spellbook from the house of an amateur sorcerer. I knew that, since I had no trainer, I had to take small steps. I smiled deviously, and decided to spare myself the torturous grease and grime of washing, feeding, and pampering the pigs and cleaning their pen. I knew that if anything happened to those pigs, than my mother would probably make my life even worse than it already was somehow.
I leafed through my (sort of) book of spells and found one that caught my attention. It seemed simple enough. But, of course, it would be hard to execute, as with all spells. The pronunciation of a spell was the key, since all spells are written in a language long lost to the ages. I figured not even the spirit sages knew how to speak it.
The spell called for me to recite these words- “Incantum enchantum, eefle schmeigner dornaws zacrunos, beyt ze prew hao pwex dar!”
I almost stumbled over the words but after some practice I thought I had it figured out. I conjured up a grey raincloud to clean the pigpen and the pigs, figuring the rain would quench the pig’s thirst and bathe them. This cloud was small enough that it covered only the area the pigs were in, and slowly it worked. The mud and grime and unspeakable substances on the pigs washed away, leaving me to watch without a care in the world.
I stood admiring my work, listening to the steady pitter-patter of the rain. But my ears detected something wrong: the beat of the rain became harder and faster. The pigs were clean by now, but the rain cloud did not fade and vanish as planned.
The water began to pool around my feet, and I could tell something was wrong. While I stood there helplessly, the rain continued to accelerate. The walls of the pigpen were filling with water gradually. The pigs moaned and grunted. When the water got high enough, the pigs flailed their legs in an attempt to swim. I heard one last groan before they sunk under, unable to support their body weight. It was a terrible thing to see. I fled the scene. If I didn’t get out of there fast, I would drown too.
I ran to my room and dried myself with a piece of torn cloth. My mother didn’t know that I could control (term used very loosely) magic, and had been using it on many occasions to help with my chores. But worse than her finding out about my magic was her finding out about the pigs. She made sure to give them more than she gave me, and always kissed them goodnight. I knew she would rather sacrifice me than her beloved pigs.
“Ellise!” my mother called. “What happened here?” I figured that she had noticed the trail of water leading up to my room. “Uh, nothing!” I replied. “And how are my piggy dears doing?”
I hesitated. “Why? Are you going to check on them?” I said in my best non-suspicious voice. “Well,” my mother replied, “now I am! I’m onto you Ellise!”
I ran down to the pigpen to find my mother soaking wet and crying, with a pig’s lifeless body at her feet. The pigpen walls had burst with water, flooding our backyard. Luckily, the cloud had disappeared. But the cloud was the least of my worries.
“ELLISE! YOU KILLED MY PIGS!” she screamed, her eyes bulging and face turning red. “I can’t even BEGIN to think of a punishment fitting of such a horrible deed! And to think all this time you had been toying with magic like it was a child’s rattle!”
I looked down, small droplets of water moistening my eyes. I drowned out my mother’s words and almost considered removing my spellbook from my pocket, but thought better of it.
Later that week, I sat in my cot, weeping, looking at my bald head in the mirror and the branding mark on my cheek. Were pigs really worth this much?
*** ONE YEAR LATER***
I almost smiled the first time in months in spite of myself. My mom had invited two guests over for dinner, and she had drunk enough wine to be reasonably nice to me.
“Ellise, be a dear and go fetch us a turkey dinner,” said my mother in a sweet voice as she enjoyed another glass of wine. “Alright mother.” I walked into the kitchen, and after thinking about it and the time I killed the pigs, I took out my spellbook. I sighed and muttered “Ignayo alrech gorvilious desando,” and a purple fire lit from under the turkey on a spit. “This better work,” I thought to myself. I walked away to the dining room, hid my spellbook, and sat down in an oaken chair.
I chatted with my intoxicated mother about all sorts of topics she would have never discussed in front of me. Suddenly, after I had finally relaxed, I heard a crackling behind me. “What’s that?” cried one of my mother’s guests.
“I’ll be right back,” I said hurriedly and ran to the kitchen. The fire had brutally burnt the turkey and was spreading to the rest of the kitchen.
The fire engulfed the drawer I had hid my spellbook in and with a small bang, it exploded in a puff of smoke. By now the fire was spreading throughout the house faster than any natural flame, and much too fast for me to stop it. I fled the house as part of the roof collapsed, nearly crushing me. There was nothing I could do about it. I tried to recall the rain spell, but I couldn’t remember. I watched from a hill as the house slowly burned, my mother and her friends perishing with it.
I sobbed as I heard the shrieks of the three women inside the house. The house crumbled until only its core structure and ashes remained. I sobbed and cursed the day I decided to steal the spellbook from that sorcerer. I called my feeble attempts at magic every name under the sun.
Then, in front of me, the air began to shimmer, and a djinn appeared. I had only heard of djinns in a book my father had read to me before he was killed fighting King Mlezzis’ men. The djinn was a green, wispy, muscular man with only a torso, arms, and a head. He floated towards me as I wiped my eyes with my sleeve. He spoke only four words. “Find the last sage.” Then, he disappeared.
Where are we?My coauthor and I are currently writing chapter thirty-three, and we’re on page 141. We’re almost done with the first draft, and expect the book to be out by Christmas. I’ve never needed to predict finishing dates, so do not expect me to be right. It could be out long before then, and it could be out in the middle of next year. I’m aiming for Christmas.
ps. Maybe I should blog more often. I'll thing about trying to blog daily instead of weekly.