A young thief named Ladomas begins his adventures by betraying his master for the more powerful ancient guild mistress Winifred.
Ladomas sprang down a narrow, unpaved street lined by drab, wattle-and-daub row-houses that leaned over him suspiciously, as if they knew the apprentice was up to no good. The hempen bag he clutched in one hand was full of flowers, plants, berries, and fungi painstakingly gathered from the Lakewood for his master: a task not reckoned safe for a well-armed knight, let alone a small unarmed lad of seventeen. But the life expectancy of an apprentice was not a wizard’s chief concern. The items in Ladomas’ bag were far more valuable.
One item in particular would fetch Ladomas a good price: a poisonous mushroom called trollstooth—so deadly it would liquefy a man’s innards in less than an hour, though it would take many more for him to die. Trollstooth was sought after by assassins and wizards, and Ladomas was nothing if not enterprising. A child sold into indentured servitude to Neyhün—a brilliant, yet demanding, master—Ladomas needed cash to buy his freedom.
The boy ducked down a dark, trash-filled alley and emerged onto the town’s only paved street, where he encountered a throng of warriors and townsfolk haggling with the many vendors lining the narrow road. A town at the edge of civilization tended to attract thrill-seekers, treasure hunters and adventurers chasing fast coin and faster living.
Ladomas skirted a mercenary using her spear to vigorously punctuate how she dispatched a troublesome goblin, then the apprentice scurried around some barrels as a fight broke out between two burly men, one head-butting the other into the clustered containers, which spilled apples into the cobbled street. The crowd began to snatch up apples before they rolled into the gutter seeping with human waste, while the unfortunate farmer ran about like a nervous dog pulling its puppies from the hands of prospective buyers. Ladomas slipped into a clothiers on the other side of the street and shut its door on the stench and pandemonium outside.
He breathed a sigh of relief in the quiet shop, its air permeated by the spicy scent of mothballs, then began to browse the shelves, walls and countertops chockablock with masks, the garb and Armour of goblins and other creatures, and outfits for barbarians, nobles, wizards and peasants.
“Clothiers? Costume shop, more like!” Ladomas said aloud.
“Tools of the trade!” an old woman said behind him.
“Bah!” Ladomas cried with a start.
An ancient, shrunken woman cackled at him, flashing her toothless gums. “Wizards may alter their form, as may I, but with artifice more mundane. ‘The clothes make the man’, they say, which is true: people see what they wish. Now why are you late—were you followed?!”
“No, my master kept me—I only just got away, Winifred.”
“Neyhün keeping you on the hop, is he? The old goat is still vexed by my becoming guild mistress and living so long. Perhaps he knew of your errand after all,” she cackled as she reclined on a nearby sofa.
“Did he intend this for you, then?” Ladomas said with a grin as he tossed about, then presented, the deadly mushroom.
Winifred lit a long wooden pipe and exhaled smoke through her nostrils, regarding the proffered fungus with her piercing green eyes. Ladomas thought a dragon might regard a fat steer or glimmering treasure trove in much the same manner.
“My master also desires this but, as guild-mistress, protocol demands that you have right of first refusal!” Ladomas said innocently.
Winifred harrumphed smoke from her mouth.
“And at a very fair price!” Ladomas continued with a flash of straight, white teeth. “Though there was the ogre I had to dodge, and the brigands—which the ogre ate—but those details are inconsequential. I am certain you will double, no, triple, your previous offer for such a fine specimen!”
Winifred glared at the boy and snatched the trollstooth from his hand with surprising swiftness, then prodded Ladomas in the chest with the stem of her pipe. “I like you, boy,” she said, though her compliment somehow sounded like a threat.
She sat back and examined the dun-coloured mushroom with its depressed cap, paying particular attention to the underside and its spore-bearing teeth. “It is a fine specimen, but you will receive what we agreed upon.” She tossed him a small, velvet purse that jangled with coin. “Now, you have kept me too long: I must depart!”
“A pleasure, Guild-mistress!” Ladomas said, making an elaborate bow.
Ladomas looked around the shop as Winifred opened the door onto the noisy street.
“The clothes make the man, do they?” he said as he regarded himself in a tall mirror: a small youth dressed in a plain tunic.
Ladomas saw a splash of bright green reflected behind him, which turned out to be a set of extravagant robes. He pulled them on, shoved a conical green hat onto his wavy locks and struck a dramatic pose.
“Ladomas the Green!” he cried, switching poses with each successive shout.
“Ladomas the Prestidigitator!”
“The Green Wizard!”
“Ladomas the Bold!”
He frowned at himself in the glass, then grinned, assuming a solid stance and weaving signs with his hands. He deftly cut a ‘J’ in the air with his right forefinger and thumb as he pulled a pinch of saltpeter from his sleeve. It was simple magic, but still infused his belly with cold fire, and for a moment he comprehended the infinite complexity of reality, could almost see the strings connecting the universe. It was intoxicating.
“Ladomas the Thaumaturge!” he cried as he drew his hands upward, the air around him exploding with green smoke.
Winifred chuckled as she spied on the awkward boy from a dark corner of the shop: the apprentice’s robes were a style that was old when she was young. But he was bright and determined. Winifred stifled a laugh as the irate shopkeeper ran into the room and beat Ladomas from her store as she yanked off the old costume.
Ladomas might go far. If the ridiculous young fool lived.
Born on a Wednesday with the sun in the house of Saturn, you will not find a person more hilariously saturnine than Jeremy. He spent his childhood and youth being shipped from town to town which, while terribly angst-inducing, did have the benefit of exposing him to a rich tapestry of people and places. Jeremy was lucky enough to find his Good and True Wife, Jen, early in life at the University of Guelph, where he studied history and she practiced the fine arts (*cough www.jenkershaw.ca cough*). Jeremy and Jen live together in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with their three goldfish, Dr. Gerhardt VonFisch, Regulus Black Moor and Hugo the Chonkmaster General.
Twitter & Instagram @jeremymitchellwriter