It was late at night when Storm Wizard heard a scratching rustling noise at his door. Throwing off his blanket he climbed down out of the soft mossy bed and quietly opened the large wooden door. There before him, barely visible in the moonlight, was a black aphid, horrible to behold, just about as high at its shoulder as Storm Wizard was tall, which is to say, rather large. It bustled it’s way into the room making whirring clicking noises that Storm Wizard now knew was the aphid language, although he could not understand a word of it. The aphid went directly to the night table and deposited on it a sheet of paper, and then without further ado, turned and bustled it’s way back out the door, across the colonnade, over the lip of the archway, and then crawled downward and out of site just as fast as that. Beyond the archway Storm Wizard could see the swaying tops of the pine trees of Black Wood Forest in the moonlight.
Going to the table, he read the note which said, very simply;
Meet me beyond the double doors
A man of action, Storm Wizard stole out of his room and down the long colonnade toward the double doors at the far end. Earlier that evening there had been two aphids what stood on either side of them in a guard like fashion, but now they were nowhere to be seen, and the doors were slightly ajar. Opening them quietly Storm Wizard stared into the darkness of a long windowless corridor. He returned to find a torch, which he obtained from the provisions that Laraby had so thoughtfully insisted they acquire what seemed now a very long time ago. Brian, who had been porting the provisions, woke up briefly at Storm Wizard’s insistence, and pointed to where the bag lay, and without further questions or comment fell promptly back to sleep. Armed with a torch, Storm Wizard returned to the black corridor. Lighting it he found the corridor was about thirty feet long and ended in another set of double doors. Opening them he entered onto an even more lovely and wider colonnade than the one he left behind. The doors that lined this colonnade were taller, wider, and engraved with elaborate and beautiful designs, as were the pillars that separated the archways that looked out over the forest below. Before the first of the doors along the right hand wall there paced a young girl wearing a red scarf with black poke dots. She was a darling looking girl with large eyes, black hair, and adorable little dimples. When she saw Storm Wizard come through the doors she ran up to him with an anxious expression and insisted he put out the torch.
“A torch!” she exclaimed, “I pray no one saw you!”
Storm Wizard promptly put out the torch and indicated that he didn’t think anyone had. But of course, who could know who might have been watching from the forest? In any event, the young girl said that she was Lady Isabella’s handmaiden and that he should wait briefly while she went to let her Lady know that the Wizard had arrived. She slipped through the elaborately engraved door and Storm Wizard waited pensively outside. In a few moments the girl poked her head out and said that Lady Isabella was ready to see him now.
Entering the suite Storm Wizard was immediately impressed with its size and luxury, which he expected from the quality of the door, but was still nevertheless surprised at the opulence before him. Golden goblets adorned a silver inlaid table, on which were bowls of fruits and carafes of wine. The chamber was lit by glowing orbs that looked like translucent shells in which candles where burning, and was scented by honey and spices. There at the table sat Isabella in her gorgeous red and black dotted dress, and next to her sat the dark haired warrior in his crisp blue uniform. They both stood and bowed, as Storm Wizard returned the graceful gesture.
“Welcome, and thank you for coming,” said Lady Isabella.
“May I ask why you have asked for me?”, inquired the blunt Wizard.
“Why, yes, indeed, but first, allow us to offer you refreshments. Please be seated”, she said, giving a sideway glance to her man who immediately poured wine into the goblets.
“No thank you, my Lady, I am not thirsty at the moment. But I am curious”, he said cautiously.
“Very well then, young man, I shall come to the point directly since you insist. I am a representative of the LadyBug Kingdom, a part of a vast and sprawling Empire. We have noticed you, and have come to the conclusion that you are far more intelligent than your peers.”
“Well, I always thought that was so,” he replied. “But may I ask how you came to this conclusion?”
“Indeed, it is quite true. As for how, you may not remember but when I first saw you it was on the top of the tower as you were about to engage in combat with the wolves who you so gallantly defended yourself against.”
“You were there?” he asked increadulously.
“As I said, you probably don’t remember, but yes, I was. In fact, I landed briefly on your face, and you swatted me away.” She said with a certain subtle yet noticeable trace of indignant intonation. “But I forgive you for that”, she concluded after a slight pause.
“I’m relieved”, he said.
“In any event, I witnessed your powers, and took note of your commanding presence and the innate power of your mentality. We quickly surmised that you may be of great use to us, and so I contacted you shortly afterwards in Lady Weeleena’s Tea House. And I requested an audience with you tonight because we have … need of you, if you will help us.”
“I should be happy to help you, I think, but what could I do for you?”
“We have word that very soon there will come a grave threat to our Kingdom, and we would like you to help us against it.”
“I see”, said Storm Wizard with all due gravity. “And what is the nature of this threat?”
“We do not know for certain, but it shall arrive shortly, perhaps within a day. What we need is for you to take our side and support our cause in the event it should become necessary. In exchange for this we are willing to vastly increase your already prodigious powers.”
“Really. That’s a remarkable offer. And how would you do so?”, asked the young Wizard intrigued.
“You recall that I showed you earlier a certain red pearl? That is an item of power. It will greatly enhance your capabilities. I would be willing to give it to you in exchange for your support.”
“Very interesting”, said Storm Wizard.
“So I can count on you then?”
After brief pause while he mulled the offer over in his vastly prodigious mind, he agreed.
“Excellent”, she said with a bright smile, and pulled a box out from a drawer in the table. In the box was a wax tablet, upon which she placed her right hand.
“Please place your right hand next to mine”, she said. Storm Wizard did so, and as he did their pinky fingers touched lightly, giving him a strangely happy feeling, though all too brief and fleeting.
“I hereby swear that we two shall unite in purpose from this day forward and if either of us fail in our obligation to the other, we shall both fail. Do you agree?”
“I agree” said Storm Wizard, and at that moment the wax seemed to glow briefly, and melt slightly, taking an imprint of their two hands. She quickly handed the wax tablet to her dark haired warrior, and he put it inside a box which he locked with a small key, and slid it into a satchel. As he did this Lady Isabella brought forth a square wooden box and opening the lid she withdrew the red pearl she had shown him earlier. She handed it to him.
“I give this to you as an advance payment. It will help you. When you hold it, the pearl will increase your mystical energy substantially. It has powers of it’s own that you may be able to tap into later on, as you learn how to use it. It is not infinite in power, however, and when it is fully drained of power you must place it between a granite stone, two candles, and recite this invocation”, which she spoke to him. “After eight hours it will be filled with power again. Use it wisely.”
Storm Wizard thanked her, and took the red pearl and placed it into an inner pocket in his vest. Then the dark haired warrior took out a chain upon which hung a small triangular amulet.
“Take this as well. It will protect you from a variety of physical attacks. Do not let anyone see it or know of it”, he said.
“Thank you again,” said Storm Wizard as he slid the chain over his neck and the amulet into his shirt. “No one shall know of it.”
“We must leave on urgent business now, Jonathan Bellowick. Remember your agreement and the vow you have made. We are depending on you.” And with that Lady Isabella and her man stood and bowed to Storm Wizard. He returned the bow, and without a further word followed the young handmaiden to the door, and returned to his room. He was filled with deep thoughts, but quickly fell into a deep dreamless slumber until morning.
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