Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sandra Costello and the Spirit King, Chapter One

Sandra blearily opened her eyes, staring up at the raining dust from the wooden boards of the stairs she slept under, her masters cane tapping causing a horrid echo that only seemed to intensify her headache.

“Wake up, whelp! The store opens in an hour and I need my breakfast!” Master Shylock called down, his nasally voice heavy with bile this morning. “You have five minutes to make yourself presentable!”
Sandra rolled out of bed, leaving the warmth of her cot and padding across the cold basement floor over to the well in the far corner. Pulling up a bucket of water, she rinsed out her mouth and spat, before murmuring a spell to freshen her breath. Waving a hand over herself, she wove a simple spell to cleanse the nights grime and sweat from her body, before shucking off her sleeping gown and reaching for her tunic and breeches.
“Minew?” Came a confuse and sleepy chirp from her cot, causing Sandra to giggle as she looked at her familiar sprawled out on his back, staring at her upside down.
“And what, Chiyue, should we do today?” Sandra asked as she pulled the shirt over her bare chest, adjusting a bit so her breasts were not being pinched by the hand-me-downs she’d received from her whip-thin master. “Should we finally leave the Great City and see what is in store for us in the wilds of Albuan?”
The long-tailed panda, some ten pounds of red fuzzy fur and fat, chewed on his left hind foot for a moment before looking up, tilting his head to the side.
“No? Then I guess we’ll spend another day as slaves to the cruelest wizard in all of Shing, lambasting underneath his proverbial whip.” She sighed dramatically, pulling up her breeches and tying off the belt. “I just hope he keeps his stinging spells to himself… those welts hurt!”
Chiyue growled low in his throat at the thought before resuming his toe nibbling, earning a chuckle from his master. “You are so simple sometimes Chiyue. But then again, all men are.”
She stared in her cracked full length mirror, admiring herself for a moment. At sixteen, she was quite the beauty, with long brown locks that curled down to her lower back, and rich mocha skin that seemed to shine with its own luster. Running a hand through her hair, she murmured a spell that had it weaving itself into a long braid, until only a small tuft of hair remained at the end. Lifting the heavy braid, she laid it over her shoulder so that it trailed down her chest before unbuttoning the top two buttons of her shirt, revealing a healthy amount of cleavage.
“Got to sell, got to sell!” She muttered before grabbing her white apprentice robes, frumpy and shapeless, and pulling them around herself so that she would be “dressed” for work. She didn’t tie the sash of the heavy woolen robes, just tucked it into one of the larger pockets before reaching for her jewelry.
Sliding on a silver ring from her boyfriend of five months, she smiled at the sketch an artist had done of them at one of the local festivals. Cloud was a stout boy, with skin as pale as fresh milk and short, straw colored hair. He always wore a sword at his side, as he was one of many squires to a local knight. He’d been dressed in a simple sleeveless tunic that day, the symbol of his Lord’s order emblazoned across his broad chest. She sighed and put the simple portrait down, adjusting her robes so that they suited her figure just fine.
“Come on Chi, come here!” Sandra said, patting her thigh.
The red-tailed panda opened its eyes and rolled over, delicious foot forgotten in favor of running to his master’s side. Reaching the back of her robes, he began clawing up the heavy wool until he reached the hood, the perfect nest for the little creature to sleep in until his master needed him.
Sandra smiled as she felt Chiyue climb into the hood of her robe, rustling around in there until he was curled into a tight ball. Chuckling, she moved to the stairs and began ascending the only wooden fixture in the stone basement up to the door, opening it slowly and stepping out into the kitchen.
“Sandra!” Her master called through the echoing halls of his home. “I will be taking my breakfast in the study. Prepare it then leave for the shop immediately!”
“Right away sir!” She called back, shaking her head ruefully. How was she ever going to get to see what lay beyond the walls of the city if she was stuck working for an aged old wizard her whole life.
Don’t get me wrong, Sandra thought as she opened the chill box, noting she would have to have more ice brought in soon while retrieving three eggs. I appreciate that Master Shylock took me in when I was eight and taught me all about sorcery. But he’s grown so cold and distant in his old age, it’s like he isn’t the same person anymore.
Snapping her fingers, the stove crackled to life, flames stirring in the iron chamber below. Walking over to a small stack of neatly cleaned logs in the corner of the kitchen, she selected one and brought it and the eggs over to the stovetop. Sliding the wood into the furnace below to add more fuel for the fire, she reached above the stove to where the pans hung from hooks, dried herbs hanging around them from the rafters of the squat room. Taking a skillet, she slid it onto the stovetop and cracked the three eggs open one by one, dropping the gooey yolk inside the pan, where they began to sizzle and bubble from the rising heat.
Casually stirring the eggs slowly, Sandra thought of the work orders she had due soon. She had to enchant that spear for the man from the Mung, as well as deal with those Hadron merchants’ coin purses. The spear would be easy as all he wanted on it was to keep it clean and sharp. When asked how it was used, he said he would usually throw it.
“For five extra crowns I’ll add something that’ll make it create more of an impact.” She’d offered, to which he’d agreed.
So now, as she stirred the eggs, the strengthening solution was bubbling down stairs in the basement, where her brushes and chisels sat just waiting to be used. The solution was being added over the steel spearhead, making it stronger and more capable of piercing hides than it normally would be.
“Five crowns for me,” she chuckled, moving the skillet from the fire and scooping the eggs onto a waiting plate on the counter next to the stove. Waving her hands over the eggs, she stirred them around a bit more magically, knowing how sensitive Shylock’s teeth had become as of late. Once the eggs were good and sluiced, she lifted the plate. Along with two forks, and wandered through the open doorway into a hallway which, at the end of, was the doorway leading to the streets.
“To be free…” she smiled at the though, smiling even wider as Chiyue snuggled within her hood.
Walking up the dark rosewood stairs over the plush carpet, she made her way to the study, a large room that was built like a small moon, a dome jutting out of the building with wide bay windows, allowing the morning light in. A smaller set of windows, near Master Shylock’s desk, were open, and as Sandra entered, she saw a small bird perched on the windowsill, a dove. Looking around the high-backed chair she smiled at it, and made some gentle cooing noises at it.
“I will not have you making such gestures at my experiments Sandra,” Master Shylock’s voice came from behind the chair, which turned to reveal the sneering older man. With a long nose and a white goatee, he would look like a goat should he ever develop horns, though his bald head would be a dead giveaway. Face lined and heavy with age, the man grasped a cane of warped wood as if he needed it to stay upright in his seated position.
“Oh, I’m sorry Master. I didn’t know you were experimenting on… birds?” She finished lamely; setting the plate and two forks down for the man to get to once the eggs had gotten cold. He seemed to prefer them that way.
“How would you know? I’ve only taught you how to detect the delicate strings of magic that rest around us, and tell when they’re being pulled and twisted to someone’s design.” He replied snidely. Turning, he regarded the eggs for a moment before waving a hand over them, causing a foul spell of black to radiate out from them. “Hmmm… no poison.”
“You say that every morning Master,” Sandra said, rolling her eyes as she walked across the study and set bookmarks in the opened tomes on the wide circular table before closing them, stacking them up in her arms. She brought the nine heavy tomes over and nudged them onto the edge of the desk where her Master had taught her to leave open projects.
“I just figure that one morning you might try and end me before my days, you covetous wench.” He said around a mouthful of egg, chewing with yellowed teeth and blackened gum. “I know how you offer extra deals and pocket the money yourself. I know you want my shop for your own!”
Sandra laughed nervously. “Master, I only wish to live here and learn from you. When I come of age next year, I will be out to venture the world.”
“Oh? And what will you do if I don’t pay for your Journeyman’s papers, hmm?” The old man hummed.
She fell short at that. The Journeyman’s papers were three hundred crowns, something the master would pay to say their apprentice was ready to serve in society as a member of their registered order. If she were to go out on her own and never get her Journeyman papers, she would owe three hundred crowns to the United Kingdoms of Albuan. If she couldn’t pay, she couldn’t openly practice magic. To do so would send her to prison…
“I-I have some savings, I’ll just pay for my own papers.” She said, trying to put up a brave front.
Master Shylock smiled widely at that, his eyes narrow slits. “That would be most impressive, seeing as Apprentices aren’t allowed to gather money like that. If you have more than fifty crowns, I’ll be confiscating that. Otherwise, who knows what you’ll be spending it on?”
Sandra deflated at that statement, knowing it to be true. She’d walked right into the little trap Shylock had set for her. Now he knew she had savings… he might try and find it while she was at work today!
“I see you realize the weight of your concerns with me girl. Your spell work is by far up to par, but your attitude, especially to your betters, needs to be worked on. Keep your measly crowns child, I’ll be paying what I owe. Just remember who’s in charge around here.”
“Yes Master Shylock,” Sandra droned, shaking beneath her robes.
“Now go open the shop, and don’t lollygag with your little boyfriend on my time!” Shylock ordered, egg sliding from the side of his mouth. “And for the love of decency, cover yourself! I’m not running a brothel down there, am I?”
“No sir,” Sandra said, closing her robes and pulling the sash from her pocket, tying it off around her waist to hold them closed.
“That’s better. Now go, and try not to mess anything up today,” he said with disdain. “If I have to leave my research, then I’ll tan your hide myself!”
Sandra bowed her head and left the room, ignoring the slight stirring of Chiyue in her hood. She stalked down the stairs, stopping briefly in the entryway to slip her feet into her well-worn sandals, before opening the heavy oak door and grabbing the key ring hanging from the wall. Slamming the door, she made her way towards the shop.

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