Always clean your cauldron…

An excerpt from my July Camp NaNo story…

**

I read through to the end of the chapter and then then I read the chapter a second time.  I also took notes.  It was something that Master Teagan had always taught me to do.  Reading the chapter once for the content and a second time to make sure I understood everything correctly.  Then, I turned the page and found the potion that I was supposed to make.

“Grissom’s Soothing Solution,” I read out loud.  It was a potion that wwas meant to make you sleep, but it could also be used to heal minor burns and bruises.  I grabbed the cauldron that the book told me to use.  It was a wet potion, so the first ingredient was water.

I added it to the cauldron and turned on the flame.  As the water began to simmer, I glanced at the instructions.  “Fisswyrms,” I said, frowning.  I looked around until I found a bottle that had that on the label and opened it.  The fisswyrms were slimy green things that didn’t look the least bit soothing.  However, I dutifully added them to the boiling water.

“Ew,” I said, as the slime from the worms spread into the water.  I glanced at the book and then grabbed a jar labeled “Wakanut powder.”  I measured out a teaspoon and dumped it into the bubbling brew.  I blinked in surprise when the potion turned a bright, angry red.  A moment later, a hand reached up out of the cauldron.

I screamed and slammed the lid down on it.  Squeezing my eyes closed as I held the lid down, I reached out with my magic.  I could feel the spell that was at the heart of the potion. I pulled on several threads and then the thing in the cauldron seemed to vanish.  Trembling, I eased the lid off the cauldron.  Inside, there was boiling water with slimy green worms and powdered wakanut floating in it.

Heaving a sigh, I tried to figure out what I had done wrong.  That was definitely not supposed to happen, after all.

Books and Roses

A sweet little vignette featuring Keenan, set after the story I’ve just finished… perhaps before the epilogue, however.  It was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

I came into my office and paused.  I could already sense that someone had been in the room since I’d been there last.  I glanced around, searching for anything that might have been taken or moved.  Finally, my gaze fell on the windowsill.

8fa67ac64b31de9fa405b9ba52904816Blinking, I stepped over to the window.  Someone had set only of my jars there with roses and other plants in water.  Beside the jar of flowers was a bound pile of books.

I smiled and tilted my head at the pile, reading off the title of the top book.  That was all I needed to see to know who had been there in my absence.

Sniffing the rose closest to me, I smiled.  “Happy Anniversary, Sera,” I murmured.  She knew me well enough to know that memory wasn’t my greatest attribute.  With the roses and the books, I wasn’t going to forget the special day.

Shaking my head slightly, I began gathering the ingredients that I needed.  Now that I had been reminded of the significance of the day, I realized that I needed to have a gift for my wife.  One of the benefits of being a potions master was that I didn’t need to buy perfumes or fancy lotions.  I had the skills to make them.

My Escape

This is a little scene that actually goes at the end of my Camp NaNo piece… it’s the end of Keenan’s story, at least one chapter of it. It was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

21e12a6a67e83844f17fdb58533ffb75I looked across the work table at Elayne and shook my head. “You know,” I said, lifting a book of the smooth wooden surface, “this was never what I wanted. I never meant to hurt you, Elayne.”

Elayne’s brows furrowed. “I do know that,” she said, nodding. Then, she moved away from the door, advancing on me. “The fact remains, Keenan, that you betrayed me from the start.”

“Awful hard to betray someone when you never really agreed with them,” I pointed out. Her brows twitched and I set my thumbs against the pages, prying them opened exactly where I wanted.

“You can’t teleport out of here, Keenan,” she said. “You’ll just end up in the cell I’ve prepared for you.”

I gave a weak chuckle and shook my head. Light was escaping the pages of the book. It was clear that something was happening – that magic was involved. The key was: I wasn’t the one doing it. “I’m not going to teleport, Elayne,” I said.

She bolted forward, reaching for me or the book – who could say which – just as I opened the binding completely. There was a swirling feeling, like I’d been tossed through the air. In fact, I landed on the ground, hard.

“Rather a rough landing,” a soft, familiar voice said.

I looked up at Phillip and shrugged. I got to my feet slowly and rubbed at my backside. “Any one you can walk away from,” I said, grimacing. I stooped to lift the book and held it out to him.

“Pemberton’s Escape Manuel,” he said, smirking at the front cover. “Wytha stole this from the Vault months ago.”

“Borrowed it,” I corrected, shrugging. “He wanted to research the spell on it. He’s finished with it and… he figured that I’d be the most suited to return it to you.”

“So,” Phillip said, tucking the book under his arm. “That’s a chapter of your life you’ve cheerfully closed. What now?”

“Now?” I said, arching my brows. I chuckled softly and shook my head. “I figured I’d mix things up a bit. I’ve been doing my own thing for years. It’s time for me to go home and follow the path my parents set out for me when I was a boy.”

“I’d say,” Phillip murmured, “that you’re making choices for yourself for the first time in your life, Keenan.”

I couldn’t help but duck my head. In a way, he was right. I’d been pushed into one situation or another since my master had been killed. Nodding without lifting my gaze, I said, “You may be right, Phillip. You may be right.”

The Balance of Power

This is actually the last section of my story with Keenan… it was inspired a phrase prompt (the Real Art of Conversation) from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**

Nicolae nearly knocked me flying, he came into my laboratory with such force. I arched an eyebrow at him and smirked. “There’s this thing called knocking, Nicolae,” I said, “you could try it some time. It’s when you rap your knuckles against a door and then wait for the person inside to answer.”

His brows furrowed. Releasing a sigh, he looked at me. “You don’t need to school me in manners, Keenan,” he said, shutting the door and then leaning back against it for extra security. “You are about to have problems, my friend: big ones!”

I arched my eyebrows at him. “As much as I love to practice the Real Art of Conversation,” I said, “let’s cut to the chase and get down to business.” He gave me a pained look and I frowned. “What do you mean by problems, Nicolae?”

He heaved a sigh. “Elayne,” he said, his voice barely loud enough to carry even the small distance between us. “She is fine with certain of us being little more than paid employees for her organization, you, however, are too powerful in her estimation to be allowed that freedom.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked, scowling.

He sighed again and shook his head. “For some reason, she doubts your loyalty to her cause,” he said. He smirked. “If I was her, you would be the least of my worries. Then again… I’m more loyal to you than I am to her, as evidenced by this warning. Rusty and Jakob feel the same way.”

I crossed my arms over my chest. “You saying she means to act against me?” I asked.

“I’m saying that she’s going to find some way to make sure that you can’t act against her,” Nicolae said. There was a rap on the door and he ducked behind it, while I peered out into the corridor.

Jakob was standing there, looking flustered. “Elayne’s coming,” he said, sweeping into the room. He grabbed Nicolae by the arm and then looked at me. As I shut the door, he said, “If you’re going to make a run for it, I’ll help you.”

I smiled at him and then shook my head. “Touched as I am by this show of support,” I said, “I can’t leave. Truth is: I’m not loyal to Elayne’s organization. I’m spying on it for the High Council of Mages and I can’t keep doing that, if I run.”

For a moment, neither of them spoke. Finally, Jakob said, “Explains a lot.” His brows furrowed. “What are you going to do, Boss? What’s the plan?”

I nearly laughed, but I knew Elayne would be there in moments and I need a plan. “Get Nicolae out of my tower,” I said. “We’ll regroup in Rusty’s forest at midnight. Bring Raanan, Nicolae. He’ll need to be read in, too.”

There was a knock at my door and I turned away. Behind me, I heard Jakob open the window. There was the sound of flapping wings and they were gone. “Shut the window, Bartholomew,” I said, “do it now.” As soon as the window was closed, I opened the door. It was time to face the music. It was a lucky thing that I was a good dancer.

Lessons Learned

This is a little scene that was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  Keenan’s rather frustrated with his boss by the end of this…

**

845d2a06d446ae7ec43e71f5e66097c9Keenan stood in the little sitting room outside of Lady Carissa’s sleeping chamber and watched as she swept around the room, gathering paper and pen and ink.  It was a sunny little room decorated with flowers.

The wallpaper had daisy designs.  Art prints of other flowers hung on one wall.  Apothecary bottles holding live blooms lined the shelves.  It gave him the impression of a garden, brought inside to enjoy all year round.

“Tristan is such a silly fool,” she said, as she sat down at the writing desk near the window.  “I can’t believe he actually sent you to kidnap me.”

Keenan frowned at her words.  “My lady?”

She sighed and looked up at Keenan, meeting his gaze.  “We’re married, Master Keenan,” she said, her voice soft.  “We married in secret, because he knew that my father wouldn’t approve.  At the same time, I sincerely doubted that his parents would approve of me as his bride.”

I blinked at her, as the entire puzzle fell into place.  “It was all… just subterfuge?” I said, my voice soft.  “He didn’t really want to kidnap you as a member of the High Council at all.  He just… wanted to spend some time with his wife?”

Nodding, she handed me the page that she had been writing on.  “I’ll trust you to deliver that to Tristan, Master Keenan,” she said.  A smirk touched her lips.  “The others who came with you are already back at the Dark Castle.”

“I’ll see that he receives your note, my lady,” Keenan said, bowing.  He was suddenly very glad that he hadn’t mentioned where his true allegiances were.  He doubted that Lady Carissa would intentionally give away his status, but there was always the chance that she’d let the truth slip by accident.  A secret between two is God’s secret, a secret between three is known to all, as they say.

Truth and Consequences

This little scene for Keenan’s story was inspired by a picture prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.

**
It was nice to be out in the field with Sera once again.  The last few months, since she and Amy had moved to the school, meant that they spent far less time with each other than they once had.  Keenan looked around at the thick foliage and wondered if they’d find the herbs they were searching for in such a darkened forest.

“Keenan,” Sera called.  He looked up to see her holding a bundle of leaves.  She smiled at him.  “Are these what we’re looking for?”

He stepped over to her and nodded.  “That’s them,” he confirmed.  He glanced around and spotted more of the plants growing in a gully.  This may just be easier than he’d expected.

No sooner had the thought crossed his mind but he sensed magic being used in the area.  “Get down,” he said, pushing Sera into the gully.

Before he could join her, a vine shot out of the brush to grab him around the waist.  He bit his lip to keep from screaming as he was lifted into the air.

“Keenan Meadows,” a low voice said.  “What a… pleasant surprise.”

Keenan looked towards the voice and noticed a tall, muscular man in dark robes standing not far away.  He was pale, with piercing dark eyes.  His ears had the delicate shape that was common among elves.  “Lord Xanthos,” Keenan breathed.  “I hadn’t realized… Is this your forest, then?”

Xanthos hummed and glanced around.  “No,” he admitted.  Waving vaguely towards trees over a rise, he said, “My forest lies in that direction, but… when I sensed you nearby, I had to come and find you.”  He frowned then, locking his gaze on Keenan.  “There’s the little matter of a phial you stole.”4182d112425a770be7d7cfb753319d82

“Right,” Keenan breathed.  That was almost a year ago, but elves had notoriously long memories and the reputation of being rather slow to forgive.  He shot a glance at Sera, silently telling her to stay out of sight for the moment.  He had no doubt that she’d rescue him, but trying to do so in front of Xanthos would have been folly.

Lord Xanthos spun away and headed back towards his own forest, with the vine carrying Keenan close behind him.  As they journeyed up the rise, Keenan saw an old castle on a hill.  It wasn’t the sort of place he’d expect to find Lord Xanthos calling home.  However, that made him wonder: Just who did call the castle home?

The Difference?

Another little scene from Keenan’s story inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (vanity and pride).  James is Elayne’s little brother…

**

Keenan looked up the street at the sound of some kind of commotion.  Then, he noticed James and Rusty hurrying towards him.  He grimaced when he saw what was following them: a horde of writhing, grasping vines.

Thrusting out both hands, Keenan said, “Bartholomew, shield!”  The vines bounced harmlessly off the shield, pooling on other side of the street like rain in puddles.  They lay there, momentarily stunned.

Keenan looked at James and Rusty, arching his brow.  “Fancy meeting you here,” he said.  They both gave him rather sheepish grins.

“I expect you’re rather proud of yourself,” a new voice said.  Keenan glanced over one shoulder to see that the owner of the plants had arrived on the scene and was scowling darkly at him.  Alaric smirked.  “Pride’s a sin, Keenan.”

Keenan spun to face the man and mirrored his expression perfectly.  “Actually vanity is the sin.  The two words are really similar, but there’s a tiny difference.  Tiny, but important.”  Then, he turned away again and strode away.  Without glancing back, he said, “You two coming?”

Rusty immediately fell into step behind him.  James followed a moment later, looking rather flushed.  “We’re just… going to walk away?” he breathed.

Rolling his eyes, Keenan spun back to the pair and said, “Only until we’re out of sight.”  Then, he caught their hands in his and said, “Join hands.”  Once they’d done so, he said, “Bartholomew, home!  Now!”

Going Nowhere Fast

Here is another part of the story that I’m working on with Keenan.  It was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (a waste of time).  It was also fun to write…

**

Keenan moved silently through the corridor.  That wasn’t hard since the cloak he wore made him undetectable to the senses.  He could be stomping down the stones in heavy boots and no one would hear him.  Rusty and Arthur trailed behind him, similarly concealed.

He reached the door at the end of the corridor and eased it opened.  He glanced at the two with him.  Then, he peered through the doorway into the corridor beyond.  He gasped when he saw two cloaked men at the end of that hall.  He closed the door, glancing back over his shoulder at his companions.  At that same moment, he saw the door they’d entered the corridor through close quickly.

“Shit,” he breathed.

Rusty scowled.  “What?” he said, his voice no louder than a murmur.  Keeping his voice soft, he asked, “What’s wrong, Keenan?”

Keenan looked at him sharply.  “Why are you whispering?” he asked, speaking in a normal tone of voice.  “I keep telling you: no one can hear us unless they’ve got cloaks dosed with potion from the same batch and that’s… yeah, impossible?”

Rusty sighed.  “What’s wrong, Keenan?” he repeated, crossing his arms over his chest.

Grimacing, Keenan said, “Wait here.  I need to check something.”  He strode through the door and came up behind Rusty and Arthur.  “Just what I thought,” he said, smirking when both men jumped and whirled to face him.  Rusty’s mouth dropped open and Arthur proceeded to point at the door and then at Keenan.  He repeated the action several times, while he tried to puzzle out just what had happened.

“Modius Loop Spell,” Keenan said, motioning in a circle.  He shook his head.  “We’re wasting our time trying to get to Carissa through this corridor.  We’ll need to find another route… as soon as we figure out how to get out of the loop.”

“What do you mean, out of the loop?” Arthur asked, shaking his head.  “Can’t we just go back the way we came?”

Keenan smirked and strode back towards the door he’d just entered through.  He flung it open and passed through it, coming out right behind Arthur and in front of Rusty, who had turned to face the door.  “No, Arthur,” he said.  “It’s a Modius Loop Spell.”

“I hate wizardry,” Rusty grumbled.

Little Strokes

Another scene from Keenan’s story, this time inspired by a word prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth (epigram).  I used an epigram from Benjamin Franklin as a stepping off point for the story.

**

“There’s just no way,” Hollis said, his voice strained.  He shook his head firmly as he and Keenan moved through the tunnel.  “Even if you can make it out of here, you will have to find a way to pass through his forest unnoticed.”

Keenan chewed at his lip thoughtful.  “One thing at a time, my friend,” he said, his voice soft.  He glanced over at his companion.  “Focus on getting from here to there unnoticed,” he added, pointing to the door that led out of the specific tunnel they were walking through.  “Looking at the whole problem is daunting, but if you break it down piece by piece, it’s a lot less worrisome.”

As they reached the door, he smiled.  “See,” he said, “one piece of the puzzle is done.  Now, on to the next.”  He eased the door opened and peered into the corridor beyond.  Seeing no one, he beckoned to Hollis and slipped out into the open.

Hollis eased the door closed in their wake and followed closely beside Keenan.  “Where do you get this… confidence from?” he breathed.

“Little strokes, fell great oaks, a wise man once said,” Keenan murmured back.  He shook his head.  “You can’t expect to chop down a giant tree with one swing of an axe, but, if you take it a bit at a time…” he trailed off.

Nodding, Hollis paused while Keenan listened at the entrance to the next passage.  As they passed that obstacle, Hollis realized that Keenan was right.  It was all in how you looked at the problem.  He couldn’t look at it as escaping the forest.  He had to see it as getting from one point to the next.  That made it far less disheartening.

In a faint voice, he said, “You may just manage it.”

Keenan gave him a playful wink.  “That’s the spirit, Hollis,” he said, nodding in approval.

Queen of the Prairie

This is another scene from Keenan’s story.  It was inspired by a phrase prompt from the WriYe DreamWidth.  A bit of research showed me that the phrase was the name of a particular flower.

**

Rusty was not surprised when he found Keenan in the garden of one of the castle courtyards.  He wasn’t even surprised to see that he was digging up some sort of plant.  He was the potions crafter for the organization, after all.  He often gathered roots or leaves or berries or even flowers for one potion or another.  However, this particular plant was really pretty, with showy rose-pink flowers.

“What are you going to do with that?” Rusty asked, stepping up behind him.

Keenan glanced over his shoulder and then tucked the roots he’d gathered into his bag.  “Tristan wants a love potion,” he said, shrugging.  “This type of meadowsweet is one of the ingredients that I need.”  He looked at the plants that he’d been harvesting from and shook his head.  “I was surprised to find it growing here, actually, since they like calcareous fens.”

“Meadowsweet?” Rusty said, frowning.

Nodding, Keenan said, “Queen of the Prairie.”  Then, he spun away and headed off towards the entrance of the castle.  He was humming a tune that Rusty didn’t recognize, but at least he seemed to be in fairly good spirits.

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