The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Twelve
It was slightly awkward trying to explain to thirty formerly brainwashed apprentices how they had all woken up from a dark spell in the basement of Hartwick Hall dressed in their pajamas.
It was even more awkward to explain that their former master was now trapped in a painting.
“Well,” Darren mumbled as the apprentices all dazedly filed upstairs. “I think that went… well.”
“I heard some of them talking,” Thomas said. “A few of them want to leave.” The red Nimmo stared at his hand, and the broken Hartwick Hall apprentice pendant resting on his palm. Parlan wondered if he was thinking about how just a few short minutes ago he too had been controlled by the pendant’s magic. Parlan knew that he himself was most definitely thinking the same thing.
“I don’t blame them,” Marlo said, sliding her hands into her cloak pockets as they climbed up the basement steps. “They just found out that the man they pledged loyalty to, the greatest sorcerer of our time, is a complete maniac.” She glanced over at Bennie. The brown Poogle was holding the portrait of Sir Hartwick awkwardly, as if afraid it was going to attack him.
They emerged from the stairs and entered the main hallway where the walls were lined with several paintings of various sorcerers Parlan had never heard of. The silver Shoyru paused for a moment to examine one up close, and saw that there was a golden scribble on the side of the frame. He then glanced back at the portrait of Sir Hartwick in Bennie’s hands.
“So…” Parlan started, drawing everyone’s attention. “What if Sir Hartwick kept those canvases in his supply closet because he had a habit of trapping other sorcerers in portraits?” He gestured to the wall, and the long line of paintings.
Thomas’ jaw dropped, and Marlo smacked her head. “I guess that means we have a lot of work to do this week.”
* * *
There was a lot of work to do that week, more than anyone had expected.
The apprentices spent a lot time in the library, researching the varied sorcerers that were possibly trapped on the walls. “We can’t just let them out without doing a bit of research!” Marlo emphasized, trying to drum up morale on the third day of poring over old, wrinkled texts. “You never know if Hartwick locked one of them away for a good reason!”
Marlo and Parlan had somehow become in charge of the mansion in Hartwick’s absence, which meant that people were suddenly approaching them all the time, asking them questions and offering suggestions. And, of course, every few days someone would approach the pair and announce their intention to leave.
“I want to see my family again,” a short Mynci said only four days after they had trapped Sir Hartwick in the painting. He fiddled with the sleeves of his robes. “Now more than ever.”
And although Parlan and Marlo would exchange glances and ask “Are you sure?” they were powerless to stop them from leaving.
While some apprentices left and others spent their time in the library, Darren spent most of his time trying to figure out a way back to the future.
“It doesn’t look too different, I suppose,” the blue Ogrin said to Parlan as they walked through the marketplace together one day. Parlan had been extremely grateful when Darren had suggested they go shopping together; the dim lighting in the library had started to hurt his eyes, and he was thrilled to see some sunlight—even if it was only the weird misty light that permeated the Haunted Woods.
Parlan turned his head and watched the throngs of people press through the narrow dirt roads lined with stalls and stands selling various wares. Darren was right; it didn’t look too different from the future, save for the clothing. Parlan was happy to see that the people here wore cloaks and trousers like respectable Neopians, and not the dreaded denim jeans he had been forced to wear in the future.
“Do you remember everything we need to get?” Parlan asked.
Darren nodded mutely, his eyes scanning the stands. “Sadly, I do. For a while, I wish I had actually forgotten. Then maybe Hartwick wouldn’t have attacked us like he did.”
The blue Ogrin suddenly stopped in the middle of the street, his eyes glued to a hanging sign of the shop to their left. Parlan followed his gaze, and nearly did a double take. “Matilda’s Makings,” he read aloud, staring at the crooked sign. “You don’t think…?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” Darren said, and he pushed through the shop door.
The layout of the shop looked the same as it was in the future, but it was not as cluttered. There were only a few shelves, and the jars of ingredients were neat and orderly, stacked one next to the other on sparkling display.
And standing behind the counter with a sweet grin was a green Zafara. “Helllooo.” The woman rolled her l’s, letting the letter linger on her tongue. “How may I help you?”
Darren stared at the hedge witch in shock. She looked exactly like the Matilda he knew, if just a touch younger; she even sounded like her. But that would make her… Fyora knows how old! he thought, blinking in astonishment.
“Umm, hi,” Parlan said, the first to get his wits about him. “We need to buy some ingredients.” The silver Shoyru pulled a piece of parchment out from his cloak, wrote down the ingredients with a quill, and passed the list to her. He had been too afraid to write the ingredients out earlier, worried that he would lose the parchment and it would fall into the wrong hands.
“I have most of them,” Matilda said, spinning away into the aisles and plucking off bottles. “I don’t have any of these ‘wires’ and ‘bolts’ that you mention, though.”
“I’m building something,” Darren said, sliding his hands into the pockets of his chocolate brown trousers—Parlan had forced him to wear them today instead of his jeans. “I can find those elsewhere.”
The witch nodded and finished plucking the last ingredient from the shelf behind the counter. “That will be 9,324 neopoints.”
Darren, impressed by how cheap things were in the past, easily handed her several coins; they had been taken from Hartwick’s stash in his bedroom, a place littered with odd objects and a couple diaries documenting his strange obsession with trapping his competitors as paintings.
Matilda slid the neopoints into her pocket, pushed the bottles towards them, and then glanced back down at the ingredient list before passing that to Parlan as well.
“You know,” she said, “I’m quite sure that I’ve never seen these ingredients used in conjunction for any particular spell…” She leaned forward, an eyebrow raised in question.
Parlan and Darren exchanged looks.
Darren cleared his throat. “Well, some things should not be mentioned aloud.”
Parlan nodded quickly. Then, looking Matilda straight in the eye, he summoned a small red flame and incinerated the list. The flakes of ash fell to the shop floor.
Matilda raised her other eyebrow, and then smiled. “I like your style. I do hope we meet again.”
“Don’t worry,” Darren said, sliding the ingredients into a bag. “I highly suspect that we will.”
* * *
It took Darren two weeks, with the help of Parlan, to build a new ray gun that would have enough energy to simulate a lightning bolt.
“I’m sorry I’ve stolen you to help me build this,” Darren said as they finished the final adjustments in the basement. The device kept overheating, but Parlan had found a cooling spell in one of Marlo’s personal spell books. It worked a lot better than the bowls of ice that always melted as soon as he stepped foot in the basement.
“It’s all right,” Parlan said, passing him a wrench. The silver Shoyru stared at the giant machine. “I can’t believe you’re leaving today.”
Darren turned back to him and grinned. “Only if this works properly.” He twisted the last bolt one final time, and then set the wrench down. “Let’s test it!”
They took a few steps away from the device, and Darren pressed a button on a small remote. The device made a loud whirring sound, and then a thin bolt of electricity shot from the nozzle towards the ground.
“Success!” Parlan grinned.
Darren nodded. “So it seems like I will be heading back today.” He slid his hands into the pocket of his lab coat. “You’re going to have to disassemble this machine when I leave. The technology is too advanced for this time and—”
“I know, I know. Time paradoxes and such.” Parlan surveyed the giant metal structure. “Can I ask Mary-Anne to help me disassemble it?”
The blue Ogrin blinked. “Mary-Anne? Who’s Mary-Anne?”
“Marlo,” Parlan corrected. “She finally told me her real name. We had a conversation yesterday, when we were finalizing the spell for freeing the sorcerers. She said she could finally trust me now.” He was grinning broadly. “Plus, she’s the only one who knows you’re from the future, so I figured she could help me disassemble it. And I want to disassemble this thing as soon as possible. I think we’re planning on freeing the sorcerers on Tuesday, and it’s best if this thing is gone before then.”
“I agree. That sounds like a good course of action,” Darren said. “Now, should we set up my return trip?”
He and Parlan spent a few minutes arranging the time travel set-up. They propped a fire poker on top of an old table and Darren draped his lab coat over the blackened point. Finally, they stuffed the pockets of the coat with the ingredients they had bought from Matilda.
When everything was done, they both stared at the set-up for a moment in silence.
“Well,” Darren said, looking over at the silver Shoyru. “I guess this is goodbye.”
“Goodbye for now,” Parlan amended. “You never know if something could go terribly wrong.”
Darren grinned. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”
They hugged, and Darren did his best to stop himself from tearing up. When they pulled apart, he saw that Parlan’s eyes were glossy as well.
“Okay,” Darren said, trying to regain his composure, “let’s do this.”
He passed Parlan the remote control, and he stood next to the poker set up, his hands inside his jeans.
Parlan stood several feet away, making sure he wasn’t in range of the spell. His hands clasped the remote. “Have a good trip, Darren.”
“Thanks,” the blue Ogrin said. “You too, Parlan.”
And with that, Parlan pressed the button.
The ray gun hummed to life, and a bolt of electricity shot out of the machine, hitting the fire poker. Glass shattered, ingredients mixed together, and Darren was whisked away in a puff of white smoke.
* * *
The mansion felt strangely empty when Darren returned; he had forgotten how lonely he could feel in the giant empty space. He spent a few hours just wandering the halls, touching the weathered chair rails and marveling at the thought that he had just traveled through time.
And missing Parlan terribly.
He ended his tour in the library. The portrait of Sir Hartwick still hung on the wall, and Darren shivered, knowing now that it wasn’t just a portrait. The grey Gelert looked so stern in the painting, his eyes dark and stormy. Darren could almost hear his voice in his head, threatening him again, demanding to know the ingredients.
“Sorry, Hartwick,” Darren murmured, turning away from the portrait. “I guess you’ll never find out.”
His eyes skimmed the final few paintings in the library, the artwork of Claude Bennet that Parlan had liked so much. He spent a few minutes staring at Parlan’s favorite piece, a beautiful painting of the sea with what looked like the Lost Desert in the far distance.
Suddenly, Parlan’s voice floated through his head, a memory from when Darren had first attempted to send him to the past a few weeks ago. I’ll put the letter behind the painting, Parlan had said. The one of the sea. Check it as soon as I’m gone, okay?
He couldn’t have remembered that, Darren thought rationally, and yet he placed his hands on either side of the frame and pulled the painting off the wall. Immediately, a slip of parchment fell onto the floor.
Darren knelt down in shock, staring down at the folded piece of parchment. It was crinkled and yellowed from age. Carefully, he picked up the rough paper and unfolded the page. It was covered in spindly, familiar handwriting: Parlan’s.
With shaking hands, the blue Ogrin walked over to his favorite armchair by the fire, sat in it, and began to read.
First and foremost, I hope you are reading this in your own time!
It’s been a year since you left, and I figured I should write you a letter to let you know how things are. You’ve probably noticed that the Hartwick portrait is still in the library. I would have gotten rid of it, but I figured that might mess up the timeline somehow. Plus, we’re all a little afraid of it. So I’m sorry it’s still there. Maybe you have more guts to dispose of it than us.
A few days after you left, we freed the sorcerers from the paintings. They were all very grateful for the assistance, and after a few days, they left the mansion. And sadly, more apprentices left as well to be with their families. The remaining few—me, Mary-Anne, Bennie, Thomas, and a couple others—spent a few weeks writing neomails to other sorcerers, hoping to find someone to take over the mansion so we could continue our studies. We got an interested reply from Sir Ferris, a sorcerer from Terror Mountain, and he moved in a month later. We’ve enjoyed working with him—he is leading the field of alchemy in the north, and he spends his spare time penning spell books—and we’ve all been learning a lot from him. Unfortunately, he much prefers the terrain of the mountains, and now he wants to move back.
We’ve all debated whether or not to stay at the mansion and find another master, or to go along with him, and unanimously we’ve decided to leave Hartwick Hall. Sir Ferris is a great master, and we feel that it is better to be in good company than to cling to the mansion. Mary-Anne found a dance troupe that wants to purchase the building, and I think that deal will go through (to be honest, I vaguely remember you mentioning that the building was a dance studio at one point, so I think this is the right way to go).
So before I leave, I figured I’d write to you, to let you know how we all are doing.
Thomas has been trying to undo the residual side effects of that unwieldy Fyre spell for a while now—Mary-Anne and I are fairly certain that’s the reason why ice always melts in your laboratory—but we’re not having much luck. Even Sir Ferris, a resident of a land made almost entirely of ice, can’t seem to help. So unfortunately, it seems you’re going to be iceless for a bit.
Also, I need to let you know about Bennie! Apparently “Bennie” isn’t his real name. His birth name is Claude Bennet. Aka, soon-to-be famous artist! He finally showed me around his secret art studio on the third floor, and I found that one painting of the sea that I remembered seeing in your time. I asked if he could leave some of his paintings in the building—in particular, the landscape that I’m planning to put this letter behind—and he agreed!
As for Mary-Anne, she finally admitted to her family that she has been practicing sorcery. They were not too happy when they heard about it, but then she scared them with a crazy spell. Since then, they’ve been rather okay with the whole thing. And she is very excited to go to Terror Mountain. I am too! I’ve never seen snow before, and I’m curious to see what it’s like.
Mary-Anne and I have been talking and we’ve been thinking that in the far future, we’d like to open up a school for sorcerers. It probably won’t be in Hartwick Hall—I think that building has seen enough magic for now—but perhaps on the Angleton Isles, or in Brightvale? We think it would be a grand adventure. But for now, we’re content to head off to Terror Mountain and see what the world has in store for us there.
I think that is everything I need to say, so I will end this letter with a thank you. Thank you, Darren, Sir Rickshaw, for helping me find my way back to the past and battling an evil sorcerer with me. And thank you for letting me be your very first apprentice.
Parlan Alexander Yielding