The Sorcerer: Part Three
Lisha was quick to discover that Lockwood was indeed every ounce as talented as his friend the sorcerer had supposed him to be; in fact, she was inclined to believe that his friend had been quite unable to appreciate his full potential. This gave her no satisfaction, except perhaps in a purely academic sense. She had never seen magic quite like his before, although in perfect truth she had rarely found a great deal of time to examine the magic of others. Now that she had the chance, Lisha was caught in a sad paradox, doomed to continual delight over the complexities of the sorcery and continual despair over the character of the man.
Mr. Lockwood was perfectly pleased and perfectly able to conjure up dozens of his icy carnations; he was also capable of making real flowers wilt, tying curtains into knots, and - predictably - coating nearly anything with a thick layer of ice. The shadow Gelert was always impeccably well-dressed and generally late, for which he could offer only the languid excuses of having been dancing; or chatting; or perhaps, when seized with a rare fit of academic fervor, reading a book.
At the moment they were both in Lisha's workshop, and she was explaining to him the exact nature of conjuring fire. "The most important thing with any sort of magic is to have a very clear vision of what you're trying to do," she informed him. "That's why it's so important to learn the foundations of what you're doing. Otherwise spells can go wrong or not work at all... for example, if you were to conjure some real fire right now, into your hand, you would be burned. Once you know that, it's really a very easy thing to do."
The Aisha snapped her fingers and golden fire sprang up in her paw. Performing magic - even in such small amounts as this - always gave her a certain feeling of contentment; it would have been a disservice to its simplicity to call it pride, but there was certainly some degree of satisfaction in possessing this talent that so few others did. She imagined it was rather similar to what Jeran felt when he jousted or fought, or perhaps to what an author felt when he wrote. It was a peculiar fact that Lisha was almost certain Lockwood felt nothing of the sort when he did his conjuring tricks. He was interested in public acclaim and trifling amusements; that was all. He was talented at sorcery without being a sorcerer.
Conjuring fire was an elementary skill, but Lisha was rather curious to see whether Mr. Lockwood would find it as easy as most - because, of course, it did not take a wizard to understand the diametric opposition of fire and ice; and ice, very appropriately in her mind, certainly seemed to be Lockwood's element of choice.
She let the little golden fire melt back into her paw. Lockwood lazily observed, much as he generally did; Lisha could not detect any particular doubt or undue interest in his manner.
"Why don't you try?" she suggested.
"I should like nothing better," he replied, holding out one elegantly gloved paw. He was distracted for a moment when he noted a speck of dust on his sleeve, which he neatly brushed off as Lisha waited in irritation. Then, without warning, a perfectly ordinary-looking flame fizzed into being out of thin air. It was, indeed, so very realistic as to cost the Aisha a few shudders of unease, but it certainly did not seem able to burn him, and when the Aisha experimentally passed a hand over it, she felt an odd chill radiating from the fire.
"What... did you do, exactly?" Lisha asked finally.
"I am entirely at a loss to explain," yawned Lockwood, letting the magic die.
Lisha blinked. "Mr. Lockwood... do you have any idea why I should ask you that?"
"I cannot possibly imagine," he said courteously, without much real interest.
"It is because," retorted Lisha, warming up - "It is because I need to know. I can't teach you anything if I don't know what you can do and how your own particular streak of magic works."
"That does strike me as a singularly disagreeable state of affairs," agreed Lockwood complacently, adjusting his lovely dove-grey collar in the mirror.
"And would you stop looking in that mirror!" she screeched; before she could stop herself, the glass rippled and went dark.
For once in a way, Lockwood looked rather annoyed. "As you like," he replied coldly, apparently expecting that Lisha's fit of anger would now subside.
The Aisha, however, was only just beginning her tirade. She was generally quiet, considerate, and difficult to rouse; once her temper was provoked, however, it was explosive. And she found Mr. Lockwood sorely provoking. "Is that so? Oddly enough, I've often received the impression that you care very little for what I like or for that matter what anybody likes - except possibly Mr. Lockwood."
"He and I do share an excellent understanding," conceded Lockwood lazily.
"You don't care about Meridell or the King or your family or anything else except yourself!" she hissed, slamming her fist down on her desk and sending a cloud of dust fluttering up from a stack of extremely ancient tomes.
"I must put in a good word for my wardrobe," he interjected with another yawn.
It was a singularly odd thing, but behind all of Lockwood's idle vanity there was a certain touch of malevolence; Lisha could not help but suspect that he was laughing at her. Despite her conviction that what she was saying and doing was absolutely in the right, the handsome Gelert had a way of making her feel rather small and childish.
She hated it.
"I am sick and tired," she said coldly, "of wasting my time on you. If you want to be a conceited idiot, I won't stand in your way." Regarding him rather hopelessly, she felt her rage evaporate as quickly as it had come. In its place was a dull, permanent, nagging sort of hatred. Lisha was in control of her temper once again; she still knew irrevocably, however, that she could not possibly teach Lockwood any longer, if "teaching" it could ever have been called.
Lockwood gave a slightly forced smile, and Lisha was pleasantly surprised to note that he was in fact rather ruffled, though he affected unconcern. "I would be extraordinarily sorry to learn that I had done anything to offend you," he replied, sounding more irritated than apologetic.
"Then you can start being sorry now," she snapped. "It may take you a while to learn how." And with that she swept out of the room, fingers clasped meditatively around her wand.
The astute reader will not be surprised to learn that King Skarl was extremely vexed about the state of affairs, nor that the Knight Jeran found himself glum and despairing over his sister's antics.
"Why does she always have to be the odd one out?" the blue Lupe moaned to Skarl. "Not that it isn't useful once in a while - that incident with the Court Dancer, for example. But really, she would find life much simpler if she could only learn to get along with people."
"And tell me this, Jeran," the King demanded, taking a bite out of his chicken leg, "tell me who is going to train this sorcerer if Lisha refuses. They're all away doing other things! They're busy, for Fyora's sake!"
"Two weeks," Jeran wailed. "It took her two weeks. Unbelievable. Skarl, I'm sorry - I just don't know what to do about her!"
"I'll bet you don't," growled Skarl. "Everybody else is raving about the man. The nobles love him..."
Jeran seated himself upon a stool to consider the quandary at hand. Lisha was absolutely good-natured to the core, but she was also stubborn, idealistic, and hot-tempered; there was no use trying to force her into doing anything. He did not particularly relish the idea of intervening somehow by having a chat with Mr. Lockwood. That left only the plan which they had discussed some time ago. Jeran had never intended to follow through with his proposition; it had been an excellent way to calm Lisha down at the time, nothing more. But could it, perhaps, possibly work? It might be at least mildly effective, and surely it could not be harmful! - Jeran got up and strode back and forth across the room until the irritated Skarl sent him out.
Since he could not seem to get his thoughts off the topic, Jeran wisely decided to seek his sister. He found her in her workshop, nose buried in the enormous Meerca Encyclopedia.
"Do you intend to stay here all day?" he asked, sitting down. The peculiar dark mirror on the other side of the room caught his attention for several seconds, but he managed with some difficulty to tear his eyes away and turn his reproachful gaze upon his sister.
"What else would you suggest that I do?" Lisha retorted testily. "I'm studying."
Jeran smiled. Lisha's first refuge in times of trouble was always a large and strictly academic book. "Perhaps you might consider turning your attention to the issue at hand. Now Lisha, if Lockwood is really a dangerous evil villain, we're going to need to do something about it. If he's not, then maybe we can make him see the error of his ways."
Lisha gave a bitter laugh. "Make him see the error of his ways? Have you even seen him yet? He's incapable of believing that there is an error to his ways!"
"Lisha," began Jeran tentatively, "do you remember what we discussed when the last... ah... when you were upset with him before?"
The Aisha rubbed her chin thoughtfully, putting her book down for the first time. "You mean..."
"Taking him to pay Darigan a visit, yes."
"Do you really think Darigan will be willing to help us?" she asked doubtfully.
"He owes me a favor after that incident with the herd of mutant Babaas, and let's face it - if Lord Darigan can't deal with our dear Mr. Lockwood, no one can!"
"Darigan struck me as very kind when I saw him last -"
"Oh, yes," Jeran assured her. "Very kind. But also rather formidable, in his way. Don't you think it's worth a shot? You could even take a few impromptu lessons while we were there - I've heard Lord Darigan is quite a sorcerer himself."
Lisha pondered this scheme for several moments. It was dishonest, yes; it was preposterous, certainly; it could even be risky. Then she imagined Lockwood trekking in his perfect suits through the woodland trails to the Citadel, and she smiled. "Why not?"
To be continued...