Here is part of the first chapter of the wizard story I shared a couple of posts ago. I hope you enjoy.
Naicik hated gathering mushrooms in the forest. The dead, silent trees were creepy and the mushrooms hard to find. His grandfather kept telling him how lucky they were. Most people would give anything to have mushrooms fill their bellies. Naicik hated the foul tasting things. He much preferred the large scaly kallum. Meat was rare and thus of great value. This time of year the kallum were holed up deep in the mountains for warmth. In three days he would be sixteen and then, come summer he would be allowed to hunt them. They were extremely dangerous, but would feed their family and many others for months. Naicik’s family was known for their success in hunting the scaly creatures.
Although it had come at a cost. Naicik’s two uncles and one of his older brothers had died hunting the creatures. His father believed it was better to die by their three inch claws and large teeth than from hunger. Naicik couldn’t wait. “I’ll be the best kallum hunter in the family,” he thought.
After filling his basket Naicik headed home. His entire family lived in a one bedroom cottage at the very edge of an even smaller town. His grandfather told him that a long time ago their ancestors lived in the capital city of Admikal. They had a large estate but men had come at night and killed everyone but his great great grandfather Trist and his sister Amyt. They were starving when they reached a small village on the outskirts of the Admikal. The people in the village took pity on the two youth and nursed them back to health and gave them the cottage that Naicik still lived in.
His grandfather told him he should be grateful for the blessings of a home but all Naicik could think about was the large estate that used to be theirs. He dreamed of taking it back someday.
“What took you so long?! You weren’t daydreaming again were you?”
“No Runok, I wasn’t daydreaming. It just happens to take awhile to find the mushrooms. Maybe tomorrow you should gather them if you think you can do it faster.”
“Nah, I need to reserve my strength and energy for the upcoming summer hunts.”
“Well then so do I, since I’ll be hunting this summer as well.”
“Actually . . .grandfather is trying to convince dad that he should make you wait until your eighteen.” Yetin said, as he walked up behind him.
Naicik whirled to face his brother. “No way! The rule has always been sixteen!”
Yetin just shrugged, “I’m only telling you what I heard.”
Naicik opened the door and stormed in. He dropped the mushrooms on the ground and faced his grandfather. “Is it true?! Are you telling dad that he shouldn’t let me hunt the kallum?!”
“I have given your father the same counsel I gave when your older brothers turned 16, that he should wait till they’re a bit older. He hasn’t listened to me before, I doubt he will this time either.”
Naicik heard laughing behind him. He turned to see both of his older brothers laughing at him. He grabbed the stool at his feet and threw it at them. They dodged it easily enough which only made him angrier. Having older brothers was such a pain. They treated him like he was just a kid but he was only three days from being a man.
His parents arrived home shortly after. His father raised his eyebrows at the broken stool. It wasn’t hard to miss things in such a small place. Naicik felt a sliver of guilt at his fathers look. He knew he shouldn’t have been so careless.
“Runok and Yetin were taunting me. I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have thrown the stool. I’ll fix it tomorrow.”
His dad nodded and went outside to chop wood. Naicik knew his father meant for him to follow. All private conversations had to happen outside of the cottage. There was just no way to whisper quietly enough to avoid eavesdropping.
“Naicik, your brothers are always trying to get a reaction from you and you typically manage to stay in control. So what made tonight different?” His dad asked, picking up the axe.
“They suggested that you might not let me hunt the kallum this summer. They said that grandpa had convinced you to wait until I was older. When I confronted grandpa he said that he had tried to convince you before with my older brothers but to no avail. Then they started laughing at me. I am just so tired of being treated like a little kid. In three days I’m going to be a man. Why can’t Runok and Yetin see that.”
His dad began chopping wood without a word in response. Naicik started stacking the wood. His dad always took his time when responding. While they were working Naicik thought about the dead forest and all the wood waiting to be chopped. That’s one thing we always have enough of, he thought, laughing. His father stopped chopping and waited for an explanation. “We may always be on the brink of starvation but we will always be warm.”
“You’ve always been unique Naicik,” his dad said, putting down his axe “You see things in such a different way. Your brothers don’t understand that. They see it only as fuel to ridicule. You’ll make a great man and I think an amazing kallum hunter. We’ll start your training the day after your birthday. I want to make sure you’re trained and ready for when the kallum leave their caves. Come on lets bring in some wood for the fire.
Naicik stacked the wood next to the fireplace and then went and helped his sister Amyt and his grandmother wash and prepare the mushrooms for dinner. His grandmother was born with Qusan magic. Her gift was in cooking. There were many magical gifts from Qusan. His mother was also Qusan blessed. Her gift was as a healer. To have two gifted in a family was extremely rare.
Naicik had only tasted mushrooms that were cooked by someone other than his grandmother and had run outside to spit it out. So, as much as he hated the mushrooms he was glad his grandmother’s magic made it possible to eat them.
He wished he had been given the magical gift of the hunter. Then his brothers would have been jealous of him from birth. Oh well, I’ll just have to work so hard that I will be the best non-gifted hunter there is and then my brothers will have nothing to tease me about, the thought made him smile.
The next three days crept by. He marveled at how slow time could actually move. The day of his birthday arrived. He woke to a mouthwatering smell. His grandmother smiled at him. “We’ve been saving our money so that your day would be filled with great food. For breakfast I’ve made bread. It’ll be done soon.”
It had been months since Naicik had been fortunate enough to eat bread. Naicik tried to climb out of bed without waking his siblings. Which was difficult since they were all sandwiched in the same small bed. He went and warmed himself by the fire. Today was the day! It was unfortunate that he would have to wait until tonight for the celebration to begin. It was tradition to wait until the time of day in which you were born, before you celebrated your right to manhood. Naicik had been born during the lucky hour of twilight. His good friend, Sunder, however had the misfortune to be born in the early morning. A very unlucky time of day.
Fortune had smiled on his family in that aspect as well, none had been born during the dark hours of morning. Any other time of day was fine and was neither lucky nor unlucky. Except for twilight that is.
“Aww, the bread is finished!” his grandmother exclaimed.
“Shh!” Naicik said.
It was too late. His brothers had heard and were quickly scrambling out of bed. They all gathered around the bread in anticipation.
“We will wait for everyone.” His grandmother said
“Mom, dad, grandpa quick the bread is hot and ready to eat!” Naicik said.
“I think I will sleep a little longer.” His grandfather said rolling over in bed.
“Grandpa, please now is no time for your jokes. My mouth is watering at the smell and my stomach is grumbling in anticipation!”
“Alright, Naicik I suppose bread is worth getting up for.”
Everyone was quiet as they slowly ate the bread and savored every bite. When Naicik finished he gave his grandmother a big hug. “That was the best present you could have given me.”
“Now that we have full bellies lets get to work.” His dad said. “The villagers will be coming for the celebration and since granny is the only gifted cook in the village I’m sure we will have many guests. Runok and Yetin I want you both to gather the wood for the bonfire. Naicik and Amyt, I need the two of you to gather as many mushrooms as you can find. I would also like you to try and gather as many smolong as you can. You have four hours to collect so that your grandmother has time to cook them.”
“Come on Amyt.” Normally Naicik would have thrown a fit about having to gather the mushrooms and more especially the smolong but today he didn’t mind. Not when it was in preparation of his birthday celebration.
Naicik waited until they were deep into the dead forest. He had already gathered most of the mushrooms closer to the cottage. “Amyt you gather the mushrooms and I’ll collect the smolong.”
Amyt eagerly agreed. The smolong were hard to collect. They burrowed into the dead wood and the only way to grab them was to use a small tool that would reach into the hole and pinch their butts and then you had to pull them out. Naicik started inspecting the nearest tree. He only managed to find one.
Naicik was pleased with what he and his sister had managed to do in four hours. They had collected several bags of mushrooms and three buckets of smolong. They hurried home and presented their bounty to their grandmother. “Oh! Well done you two. We will have a feast tonight. Now go help get things cleaned and ready and make sure you leave time to wash up before everyone arrives.
Naicik helped his brothers finish the preparations for the bonfire and then helped his mother and father with the other outdoor preparations. Houses weren’t big enough to hold anything other then small family affairs so whenever there was a get together it was always held outside. His father had felled several small trees the last couple of weeks and Naicik helped roll them into place so that people would have places to sit. He also helped his mother put some boards over some stumps so that they would have someplace to set the food. When he finished the only thing that was left was the food preparation and his sister and mother were helping granny with that so he decided it was time to go clean up.
Water was a scarcity so it was reused. Dirty water was poured into a large container that had thick spongy moss that sat on top of tightly packed sand. The bottom layer consisted of a layer of carbon. The clean water was stored in a bigger container that sat on four-foot poles. It was there that Naicik went to get a bucket of water to clean himself. After ducking his head in the water and scrubbing with a bar of soap he then used a rag to scrub off the dirt and grime. By the time he finished his brothers were waiting to do the same. He went inside to put on some clean clothes and then wait the few remaining moments for his friends to arrive. I can’t wait, he thought, in a few minutes everyone will know me as Naicik the man. I will no longer be treated as a boy.
Naicik’s grandmother was still in the cottage finishing the last of the meal preparations. She turned and grinned at Naicik. “You’re not getting nervous are you?”
“No way! I can’t wait.” His granny chuckled and then went back to cooking. He knew his granny could see right through him. He wasn’t real fond of being the center of attention and that was what this celebration was all about. Half of what I said was the truth, he thought, I can’t wait to be recognized as a man.
Naicik absently rubbed the back of his hands while he wondered how many people would show up. I know all my friends will be here, he thought, they promised me they would. I don’t know about the rest of the village though. I hope dad’s wrong and there won’t be as many people from the village coming, which would just make me more embarrassed. Naicik realized he was rubbing the back of his hands and thought it odd that they felt warm almost hot. Now that he was thinking about it he felt really warm all over. “Granny?”
“What is it Naicik?” She asked without turning around.
“Can you get mom. . . I don’t feel very good.”
Granny turned and looked at him and then yelled for his mother and came to his side. His mother entered just seconds later. She felt his head and announced to his gathering family that he had a fever.
Naicik suddenly cried out and cradled his hands to his chest. “The back of my hands burn!”
“No! It can’t be.” He heard his grandfather say. “Quick Amyt, pack a bag with as much food as you can. . . Runok, Yetin get everything he will need for a long journey. Now! We haven’t a moment to lose.”
“Grandad! What is this all about?” His mother demanded
“Naicik is a wizard. In a matter of minutes he will permanently wear the mark of a wizard on his hands.”
His mother started crying and his dad quickly left his side to help with the preparations for his urgent trip. This isn’t happening, he thought. Being a wizard is a death sentence.
Then just as quickly as the heat and pain began it stopped and two beams of energy rose from the back of his hands towards the roof.
“Now! You must go now!” His grandfather shoved his pack into his hands and looked him intently in the eyes. “Those beams of energy will last for one hour. The king’s guards and anyone else in the area including the villagers and your friends are likely to find you within that time. If you’re caught . . . you will be killed, do you understand? Naicik numbly nodded his head.
“You must run deep into the woods. Don’t stop. Even after the beams stop they’ll be hunting you. They’ll never stop. I knew a man years ago that boasted about knowing a way to leave this world, yet not by death. You must find him or die. His name is Seltyd. Last I heard he lived far south. Now go! There is no time to say good bye.” His grandfather practically shoved him out the door.
With fear now raging inside him he ran. This can’t be happening. This was supposed to be my moment of joy. Becoming a man was supposed to be something wonderful. Now I’m being hunted . . . by who . . . the very people that were coming to celebrate with me.