Monday, August 25, 2014

Sandra Costello and the Spirit King, Chapter Two

The bustling, narrow streets of Albuan were shaded by the enormous walls that encircled the inner ring of the city known as the Marketplace, where all the shops and taverns rested for the weary traveler to partake in. Merchants took to empty stalls lining the streets, hawking their wares to any who passed by while knights and squires, the royalty’s police, marched up and down the lanes, keeping a careful eye out for any sign of trouble. Sandra nodded to them, her robe proudly displaying her master’s crest upon it, marking her as a member of the Wizard’s Circle. She waved to a woman in a pink dress selling flowers, stopping to buy one for Chiyue to eat, before ending her chilly trek across the Marketplace at the doorsteps of “The Inner Eye Emporium”, her master’s shop for any seeking magical solvents.

Not that he lifted a crooked finger to make any magical tonics for the shelves or weapons for the cases; that was all Sandra’s work. All he’d done the last four years was work on some mysterious ritual that he claimed would solve “all of his problems”. Sandra snorted as she slid the key into the lock, turning the tumblers and unlocking the dark ash door.
“The answer to his problems… I think we’d all like that answer, wouldn’t we Chiyue?” Sandra said, pushing the door open, taking a moment to stomp off the slush that had accumulated on her slippers. Last night’s light snowfall was already melting, but the cold was ever-present in the city, making it impossible to avoid frigid fingers and toes when going about your business.
Waving a hand, black candles lit up, lighting the dark stores interior. Black wall hangings of silk absorbed light and made it appear as if you were on some transcendental plane as the fluttered of their own accord about. Fine ash shelves held bottled Hope and stoppered Fear, along with salves that could close wounds and spherical orbs that contained a potent organic acid pulled from the stomach of a Fog Drake, which were apparently common creatures outside the City of Seven Walls. Moving behind the counter, Sandra undid her sash and allowed herself a chance to cool down in the cold room from her trek in the heavy wool. Enchanted to radiate heat, her robes made her sweat if she was in them for too long, an early project in her life that she’d messed up on, as she had no method of turning the Heating Charm off.
Master Shylock had laughed before throwing the robes back at her, dubbing them a “success in mediocrity”. At the time she’d been excited as it was the dead of winter. Come summer, with the annual heat waves, she’d grown somewhat distressed over the hot robes, casting Cooling spells over herself in an attempt to overwhelm her first major project. She smiled at the memory, chuckling at how silly a girl she’d been those years ago.
“Ah well,” she said as Chiyue snuggled deeper into her hood. “At least it keeps you happy Chi.”
Sandra set about her daily routine of sweeping out the shop, polishing the weapons and armor, feeding and playing with Chiyue and of course going over the spellwork that Master Shylock had demonstrated to her nearly three weeks ago.
“Once you’ve mastered the first step of drawing moisture from the air, then I’ll show you what you can do with it,” his voice rang in her ear.
Weaving her hands back and forth, she concentrated on a specific point ahead of her, smiling softly as rivulets and droplets of water drifted from the very air around her, slowly funneling into a growing sphere. As it grew, it first began to quiver. Then shake.
“Skreee!” Chiyue howled as the sphere of water above him burst, raining down on him.
Sighing, she stood still as her angry familiar clambered up her leg and into her hood, when she noticed that someone was entering the shop. Adopting a smile to her face she rushed from her spot tucked away in a corner to the counter.
“Welcome to the Inner Eye, how may I help you?” She said by memory, folding her hands in front of her as she bowed slightly forward from the waist.
Smirking, the young man who had wandered in merely stomped his leather boots a few times, shaking loose the slush. “I came to see the shopkeep, if she isn’t too busy?”
Looking through the darkened room towards the bright storefront, Sandra gasped with joy. “Cloud, you came to visit me?” She exclaimed, running from behind the counter up to him.
He let out a grunt when she threw herself hard onto him, wrapping her arms around his neck as she hugged him. He snaked an arm around her waist, picking her up and setting her down with a grin.
“Yes and no. The Master wants his blade cleaned and sharpened, so I came here to see if you could help me. That way we could spend more time together, and I’m doing my job.”
She narrowed her eyes at him. “You mean I’m doing your job while you sit around and watch.”
Cloud smiled, rubbing the back of his head with a gloved hand. His tunic covered a set of banded mail armor, four broad bands covering his torso, held over his shoulders by strops of leather. His tunic was the same from the one in the sketch, bearing a great lion with an eagles head. His hair, the color of freshly harvested wheat, was damp from the cold outside and his face was pale and smooth, almost as pale as the snow sitting on the awning of the cobbler across the street.
“If you don’t want to do it, I understand. I can always bring it to the blacksmith and have him take care of it.” Cloud said innocently, making Sandra see red.
The blacksmith was a stout older man that was slowly passing his workshop and forge down to his apprentices, one of which was a young girl who flirted with Cloud incessantly. Marissa Gould was a girl with fiery red and orange hair that she kept in a short bob cut, her thin frame wiry from her work with the hammer and tongs at the forge. Despite her being a mere seventeen, and a girl, she was the one who would most likely be inheriting the business from the blacksmith, if rumor could be trusted.
Which would be a shame too, as Sandra refused to work on anything Marissa had made or worked upon, citing that her professional integrity would not allow her to sully her magical art on trash.
This of course didn’t go over well with Marissa, nor the blacksmith. The portly older man had stopped by Master Shylock’s home who, over a glass of port, informed him that he didn’t like the idea that a blacksmith would dare approach a wizard of his stature demanding anything save for rigorous punishment and an untimely demise.
“The girls are the future, as much as I’m loathing to admitting it,” Shylock had said, sipping his port. “Let them deal with it themselves. If it hurts your business, then find out what your apprentice has done to mine, and fix it.”
Sandra had made certain to make extra sweet ice-cream for her master for a whole week following that meeting.
“Cloud! How could you say you would go to that… that… girl when I’ve told you how I feel about her?” Sandra growled, earning an annoyed cluck from her familiar, who thumped her in the back of the head with a paw for being so loud.
“Hey, if she’s willing to put out and help me with my problem, why shouldn’t I go to her?” Cloud countered, holding up the sheathed broadsword bearing the griffons crest. “I’m asking to spend a little time with you and watch you work, is that a crime now?”
“You are such an insensitive pig!” Sandra exclaimed, throwing her hands up in an-all-too-familiar weaving motion, gathering moisture quickly in the air.
Seeing her casting a spell, Cloud quickly pulled the circular shield from his back, eyes just over the metal as he watched her weave her arcane energies.
Fueled by anger, she forced enough energy into the spell to bloat it to the size of a small melon. Hovering between her hands, she launched it at Cloud with all her rage, the orb of water quickly closing the distance between the two. The melon sized spell smashed against the shield, exploding in a shower of water spattering the shop as a whole, leaving a fist sized dent in Cloud’s shield.
Looking up, Cloud blanched as he saw Sandra preparing another water bolt. “Now Sandra, you know it’s illegal to cast spells at citizens like that…”
“You’re not a citizen Cloud, you’re an apprentice!” Sandra shouted, hurling her second bolt at him, once again pounding his shield with the force of a warhammer.
“If you keep this up, you could really hurt me Sandra!” Cloud exclaimed, backing slowly away from the enraged sorceress. “I was just joking! I wouldn’t go over to see Marissa! I swear!”
“Get out of my shop! And get out of my life, Cloud we are threw! I don’t want to see your face again, or so help me I might just be forced to hex it off!” Sandra grunted, hurling another water bolt, this time striking him in the shoulder, spinning him around. Dropping his shield and sheathed sword, Cloud turned and ran for the door, flinging it open so that he could run out into the street. Sandra chased after him, sticking her head out of her doorway.
“And you can just go cry in Marissa’s arms, you two-timing son of a gnoll!” She screamed, causing many of those passing by to laugh uproariously at the poor boys apparent luck with women.
Mr. Callaway, the cobbler, stepped out beneath his awning and whistled. “Mighty loud out here this morning Sandra.”
She blushed, looking away. “Sorry Mr. Callaway… just dealing with some trash.”
“Young men can be that way sometimes, dearie.” Mrs. Calloway, a thin woman with greying temples, stated. She stepped from behind her husband and crossed the street to give Sandra a reassuring hug. “What did you catch him doing? Cheating on you?”
“Going to Marissa Gould for help in doing his duties.” Sandra growled, looking down the street to where Cloud had run, past a small cafĂ© that served exotic hot drinks.
“Ouch,” Mr. Calloway said wincing at the thought. “Still have a thing against her, do you?”
“Of course I do! She’s been after Cloud since before we started dating!” Sandra exclaimed, drawing stares from those passing by. She looked at Mrs. Calloway and smiled. “I suppose I should just let her have him, eh?”
“You two seem so good together though,” Mrs. Calloway said, rubbing Sandra’s shoulders as she moved behind her. “Oh my! Hello Chiyue!”
“Oh yeah, Chi is back there.” Sandra idly commented before looking down at the ground. She did like Cloud, but there were a lot of girls that did. He had more admirers than almost anyone else in the apprentice-world of Albuan. Hell, he even had Journeyman-level women hitting on him at bars. How could she ever compare to a an actual woman?
“No Mrs. Calloway, I think it’s over and done with.” Sandra said, tears misting at the corner of her eyes. “And I think it’s for the best.”
“That’s all good and everything,” a rich, cultured voice interrupted, forcing Sandra to look up at an older man in heavy armor, shiny from the melting ice and snow around them. “But are you open?”

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