The Sorcerer: Part One
It was discovered that Lockwood had an astonishing talent for magic shortly after his coming of age in the Month of Eating; and he was dispatched with due haste to the abode of the court wizard Lisha in order to cultivate his natural ability.
"Where do you suppose my necktie for tomorrow has gone, Cecilia?" he inquired of his sister, who was employed in scurrying around to ready his bags as Lockwood perfected his appearance for tonight's dinner. His vanity was, perhaps, not altogether ill-founded, as he was a remarkably handsome shadow Gelert whose taste in dress had frequently been praised as flawless. Fortunately his sister seemed little inclined to resent his self-preoccupation. Lockwood had convinced her as thoroughly as he had convinced himself that his presence was its own reward; to expect anything further, such as the briefest instance of productive activity, would be sheer madness.
"I suppose that would depend on where you put it, my dear," the white Ixi replied. "Do you remember?"
"Oh, really," Lockwood replied with a derisive laugh. "As though I can possibly be expected to remember a thing like that."
"Could you not wear another one?" Cecilia wondered.
"I would be extraordinarily vexed if I were obliged to wear anything but the particular white silk cravat that I am looking for."
"Oh dear," sighed his sister. "I'll have the maid search for it, if you'll just let me finish packing the rest of your things."
"Thank you," he replied, smiling affectionately at her. "You are the most agreeable of sisters. When am I supposed to leave?"
"Noon tomorrow, if at all possible - the drive is quite long, you know. Well - that is - King Skarl's coachman requested that you be ready to leave by ten o'clock, but I told him that was quite impossible, and that as a habit you never rose before eleven."
Cecilia knew how to go about making such a taxing demand on her brother's idle habits; she guessed that he would be made somewhat repentant by the delays already arranged in his honor, and was proved correct.
"I am puzzled," he remarked placidly, "as to how, if I rise at my customary time, I am to be ready in less than an hour? - have no fear, however; I would not wish to cause trouble. The solution is simple. I will get out of bed no later than ten o'clock."
"I am glad that you are so agreeable about it, brother. Things might be made very difficult otherwise."
It might have been considered surprising by some that Lockwood was so little fazed by the idea of going to the Royal Castle and meeting Meridell's King. It must be understood, however, that Lockwood's own opinion of himself was so great as to preclude any awkwardness or discomfort in front of even the most awesome figures. In the way of excuse, he had only the defense that his virtues had been extolled all his life, while very little had ever been made of his vices. Additionally, his temper could hardly be criticized: he was almost never angry and in general he did his best to be a loving brother and a charming gentleman. He was blessed with that innate, indefinable quality of being excellent company; therefore nearly everybody who knew him liked him very much.
One such acquaintance, as a matter of fact, was at this very moment sitting in the parlor as a maid went up to inform Miss Cecilia that Miss Erica Florence had arrived. "She said she'd be very grateful for your company, Miss Cecilia," the maid explained. "And Mr. Lockwood's as well, if he is not too busy."
"I am afraid Lockwood's coming down is entirely out of the question," said Cecilia, who knew that Miss Florence was rather fonder of Lockwood than he was of her. "You may tell Erica, however, that I would be more than happy to receive her in a moment or two. Oh - Sally - would you mind looking for Lockwood's white silk cravat? He seems to have misplaced it, and he is quite wild to find it before he leaves."
"My dear Cecilia, but how exciting! The honor of going to live at the Royal Court! Not that it is anything less than dear Lockwood's talents merit, naturally; although as a matter of fact I have been rather curious as to exactly what those talents are. You simply must tell me how all of this came about."
It was in Miss Florence's nature to be curious, and it was in her interest to be inquiring, as precise knowledge of the entire affair would guarantee the undivided attention of the town for several weeks. The yellow Usul leaned forward in her seat as though physical proximity would ensure the most complete absorption of the information.
"It's all very complicated," Cecilia said, rather unwillingly; she did not quite know where to begin.
"You must at least explain what is meant by magic - do you really and truly mean magic? - sorcery?"
"Why, yes; the gift as I understand is not so uncommon in Meridell, although our particular part of the country seems to have rather a deficiency."
"But how in the world was such a thing discovered?" persisted Miss Florence.
"Well, I suppose - that is, my knowledge is actually imperfect, but as I understand - he met a friend of one of his own friends, who happened to be a sorcerer and quickly discovered that Lockwood was extraordinarily talented. Judging from what I have been told, a small amount of magical capability is not rare, but in any great quantity - and so you see the sorcerer wrote to one of the nobles at Skarl's court who spoke to the famous Lisha, and everything was settled."
"Upon my word, what an unlikely chain of events! But what is it that the charming Mr. Lockwood can do? Is he a conjurer? Does he concoct potions?"
"As to that, I really cannot say; I have had no occasion of knowing."
"Ah, well, I am sure we will know soon enough... King Skarl must be quite old by now, bless his soul," mused Erica. "Dear me - he was not young even during the Darigan wars."
Cecilia could devise no way of replying to this without being impolite either to the King or to Miss Florence. "I am very much afraid that I had better return to the preparations. There is still a great deal to do, and I would prefer to finish today."
"Quite," said Erica good-humoredly, who had fulfilled the purpose of her visit. "Do tell your dear brother to write. You know everybody will be wild to learn how he gets on."
"Of course," answered Cecilia, who sincerely believed that he would. She did not think to reflect that Lockwood would be much more likely to write upon his own motivation than for the purpose of pleasing anybody else.
The following morning the carriage sent by King Skarl left an hour or so past noon.
Meanwhile, the person and character of Mr. Lockwood was a point of much interest at the Castle, where in all truth there was very little else to think about or discuss. It was an especially rewarding subject between Lisha, who was to interact with him more closely than anybody else, and Jeran, who interacted more closely with Lisha than anybody else. Jeran's hopes for Mr. Lockwood in particular were very high, for the Royal Castle could boast only four sorcerers and two potion-makers in total.
"He will be very useful if Mr. Elliot was right," said Jeran.
"And if he wasn't?" was Lisha's rejoinder. "Besides, I haven't the faintest idea how to teach somebody magic properly. It's not as though I was ever really taught myself."
"I'm sure you'll manage," Jeran replied fondly. He had great faith in his sister's good sense and magical ability, which was well-judged. He was in fact familiar with a fair number of magical concepts himself, for, although he had very little talent for sorcery himself, over the years spent fighting magical adversaries he had developed quite a knack for identifying it.
"Well, Skarl is certainly eager about the whole thing," Lisha said a little despondently. She was a conscientious, practical young lady who was more stricken with her impending responsibilities than pleased with the flattery of being asked to train a new sorcerer.
"Lockwood has a wonderful reputation," Jeran put in optimistically.
"Ah yes," said Lisha. In truth, a great deal of her worry might have been spared if she had known very much about Lockwood's character. Her concerns were of being inadequate as a teacher; she did not know that she was more likely to find him inadequate as a student.
Although Mr. Lockwood was received gladly by the ladies and gentlemen of the court, it was rumored that - for some inexplicable reason - Lisha was not quite pleased with him. Two days after his arrival, she went to King Skarl to complain of her most vehement dislike and disapproval.
To be continued...