The Sorcerer: Part Two
Lisha had never expected perfection, but it did not take her long to realize that Mr. Lockwood was vain, idle, charming, and altogether worthless. They had first met as he was breakfasting - at an hour, in her eyes, exorbitantly late - and he had had the consideration to look up from his Neopian Times and greet her, but not quite the self-sacrifice to exert himself in any other way. She was, however, struck by his pleasing appearance and manner. Besides, she was accepting by nature and preferred to think the best of everyone until they gave her reason to feel otherwise. "Mr. Lockwood, isn't it?" she remarked by way of greeting.
He looked up in some surprise to see a yellow Aisha who, if not precisely beautiful, had a kind, intelligent and distinctive face. Had Lockwood had any grounds for comparison, he would surely have marveled at the way she had blossomed out of awkward youth and into self-assured young adulthood. As it was, he had not the slightest idea of her identity but was favorably impressed by her presence. "You have it exactly," he replied. "Ghastly weather, isn't it?" Then he went back to his newspaper.
Although Meridell was, naturally, the finest land in Neopia, the day was admittedly rather glum. Rain poured down the castle's windowpanes and it was difficult to see more than a few feet through the fog. This was all very well, but it did not leave Lisha with much to say in the way of furthering their conversation.
"Are you - adjusting well to the castle?" she inquired, feeling rather foolish.
Lockwood looked perplexed, as though he had not in the least expected her to disturb his breakfast once again. (In all probability, he had not.) "Perfectly, thank you. May I request the honor of your name?"
Lisha was somewhat relieved to discover that he had not known who she was, but it made the current situation significantly more awkward. "Lisha," she replied rather bluntly.
Lockwood looked at her incredulously for a moment, then smiled. "What a fool you must think me," he said, pleasantly conscious that she thought nothing of the sort. "Well, so you are to be my teacher. I do not envy you, but of course I am extraordinarily grateful."
Lisha was baffled and more or less nonplussed by Mr. Lockwood. She could not recall ever having met anyone quite like him, and she very much hoped that his careless arrogance was no great indicator of his true character. She could hardly help reflecting that in his place she would have been nervously respectful and extremely eager to please; his self-confessed anticipation of being difficult - or could she possibly have misunderstood him? - was altogether quite astonishing. At present she decided that the best thing would be to schedule a meeting. "It's my pleasure to teach anyone - I'm only worried that I won't be any good at it. Shall we meet, say, tonight after dinner?"
"As it suits you," Lockwood replied airily.
"Anybody in the castle should be able to direct you - just ask them where Lisha's workshop is," she informed him, and, receiving only a good-humored nod in reply, rose to leave.
Lockwood had not bothered to mention that dinner, for him, was a rather later and lengthier affair than for most people; and so by the time he finally condescended to grace Lisha's workshop with his presence, she had been waiting for nearly an hour. Fortunately Mr. Lockwood had been engaged in the useful occupation of chatting with the ladies of the court; all the same, Lisha found herself rather annoyed, particularly as he showed no remorse whatever for his tardiness.
"I do apologize if I've kept you waiting," he remarked, seating himself comfortably in a chair. "I was having such an interesting conversation with Lady Wentworth that I was quite unable to tear myself away."
The Aisha discovered that she was beginning to lose her patience with him, and she briefly considered magically disarranging his suit or splattering him with mud; but that would be childish and unnecessary, and she was still most unfortunately - and despite her best efforts - slightly in awe of him. Therefore she merely said, "I suppose it's my own fault for giving you such an ambiguous meeting time... Anyway, let's get started, shall we? The first thing we will have to do, as you may guess, is find out just how much you already know about magic."
Lisha began to brighten as she considered that this teaching business would give her hours on end to talk about the subtleties and arts of magic to someone who - presumably - was nearly as interested as she was.
"I don't know how much experience you've had, but every wizard, witch, sorcerer, enchanter and whatever else you want to call them has a very particular style. For example, I'm most comfortable using a wand, but you don't - do you?" she added quickly.
"No," he replied languidly.
"Anyway, it gets easier to identify sorcerers' particular signatures over time, a little like becoming an expert in handwriting... So if you don't mind, I'd like to see yours."
"Certainly," Lockwood said affably, presumably pleased at the idea of showing off his abilities. "What would you like me to do?"
"Oh - do whatever comes most naturally to you. Is there anything that requires almost no effort at all, something you could practically do in your sleep?"
"Hmm," said Lockwood in a lazy, considering sort of way; he picked up a very ordinary lead pencil from the desk next to him (whether or not it had anything to do with her more modern origins, Lisha had no patience with quills) and within a second he was holding out a beautiful red carnation to her.
Lisha frowned. She had barely felt anything at all except a sort of shiver down her spine; she would have to make him use a little more magic next time in order to get a more complete sense of it. It was clear that Lockwood was indeed unusually talented.
It seemed only common courtesy to take the carnation from his gloved hand - but when it touched her she made an exclamation and dropped it; the flower shattered on the floor. It took Lisha several moments to understand that the lovely carnation was, in fact, made entirely of ice. There was something highly unnatural about it, and she could not help wondering if he had done it deliberately to startle her. Something about the upward curve at one corner of his mouth made her suspect that he had.
"I've never quite... seen anything like it," she said rather unwillingly - she wished nothing less than to excite Lockwood's vanity. "Can you explain to me exactly what you did?"
"As to that," he answered with a careless laugh. "I really cannot say."
"Well - what are you most interesting in learning? What appeals to you most?" Perhaps if she could not decipher the magic she could at least learn something of the man - although it was beginning to strike her as more and more unlikely that she had any desire to.
Lockwood adjusted his exquisite silk necktie and looked at Lisha rather quizzically, as though he considered the question a silly one. "What does any student of magic wish to learn? Anything great, grand or amusing; but preferably something that will keep all my friends fascinated and all my enemies in awe."
"Have you ever given a thought to the morality of magic, Mr. Lockwood?" she asked rather sharply. "Or to what you will do with this great power if and when you attain it?"
"Oh... I dare say something useful will present itself. I must admit the idea of unlimited power sounds very appealing in general."
Lisha stared at him, aghast. Every fiber of her being objected violently to teaching this man anything about magic - and yet how dangerous he might turn out if nobody taught him anything!
"Have you - have you ever considered doing something in the service of Meridell and the King?" she asked rather hoarsely.
"Why, I suppose if it suited me, it might be quite a bit of fun," shrugged Lockwood, regarding his reflection with complacency in the mirror across the room.
Lisha shook her head, appalled, but her speechlessness was apparently lost on Lockwood; he, indeed, showed no signs of awareness that he had put himself in danger of being hated forever by what he had just said. But Lisha's feelings, once roused, were powerful and rather formidable. "I think today's meeting is over," she said shortly.
"Very well," agreed Mr. Lockwood, preparing to leave. "Should you have further need of me, I am sure you will know where to look."
Lisha watched him go. She no longer felt any desire to ruin his suit; she much preferred the notion of strangling him with his cravat.
The icy rose had all but melted on the floor, leaving a puddle that looked almost exactly like ordinary water, except that it was clouded with red and green. "Ice," she muttered. "How perfectly suitable."
"I will not teach him!" declared Lisha hotly. "Skarl, you know that I have always done everything to serve you and Meridell, but this is asking too much. He is vain and lazy and worse! Oh, much worse. I've never met such a selfish, conceited being in my entire life."
Skarl frowned, tearing at his leg of meat with displeased ferocity. A king was always at the service of his country, but it was a bit much to be approached with this sort of nightmare during breakfast. "Lisha," he said, his mouth not yet quite empty, "we need more sorcerers."
"I can't help that!" she snapped. "It isn't my fault he's the most despicable man in Neopia!"
Jeran was doing his rather desperate best to mediate. "Now, Lisha, surely he can't be all that bad. Everybody else seems to like him, you know. At -" He put up a paw, seeing that his sister was about to produce a violent outburst. "At the very least there must be something we can do about it. And at the very, very least you could perhaps try to be a little less infuriated about it."
"What's wrong with the man?" Skarl demanded. "Good-looking fellow, isn't he? Nice manners?"
"Oh, you don't understand! He isn't just despicable, he's downright dangerous! Do you really want a powerful sorcerer you can't trust in your court? I will not teach him anything!" Lisha announced with an air of finality. "I refuse absolutely."
"Oh dear," sighed Jeran as she flew out of the hall like a whirlwind. "Just a moment, if you please, Skarl. I think I can make her see reason."
He raced after her and found himself just in time to catch her arm as she attempted to disappear into her chambers. "Now please, Lisha, let's at least just discuss this."
She said something muffled from behind Jeran's arm that might have been "I'll bite you".
"You will do nothing of the sort," the knight told her firmly. "Just listen. I have an idea, if you can call it that. You have to teach Lockwood magic - there's no way around it. But what's to say we can't teach him a little something else as well?"
Lisha's ears stiffened as though this might be agreeable.
Jeran smiled. Then he said, "How about this..."
To be continued...