A Mage, His Daughter, and Two Apprentices
Mud squelched under foot while Amarynthe plodded through the marshy ground, eyes peeled for the particular plant she was searching for. The walking stick in her hand helped make sure she didn’t get mired anywhere as the basket over her other arm swung with each labored step. Blowing a strand of black bangs out of the way, she paused long enough to scratch at her grey bandana covered head and then grinned as she finally spotted the desired item.
It was a pain in the arse to find and dig free, but it was a necessary component for her father’s studies. And goodness knew he’d never make it out and back if she let him try. The man was a magical genius, to be sure, but he was hopeless when it came to actually obtaining his own reagents. Granted, his apprentices could have handled it but this at least gave Amarynthe something to do while they were working with their mysterious magic and stuff.
“Okay,” she nodded, squishing through the mud with her leak proof leather boots. She hiked her light blue dress up and tied it between her legs so it wouldn’t get too dirty, giving the appearance of awkward pants. Drawing the small sickle out of the basket, she hooked the braided handle over the slight lip of the walking stick impaled in the ground and squatted in the marshy area.
After doggedly cutting through two roots, Amarynthe’s hands were already covered in mud and she had splatters all over her. Wiping at her itchy face with the back of her wrist, she stood up and stretched, hearing several pops in her spine. The soggy marshes – also called Grey’s Marsh – were a drab and dreary place. If she’d believed in the undead, she might have been more worried about the flesh-eating creatures that such a location would obviously spawn. But really, the worst thing she needed to worry about here were rodents showing up to steal her food, insects looking for a quick meal from her, and those good for nothing apprentices.
At ten and two years, she’d more than learned how to fend off the rodents. Her skill with the insects depended on the ointments she brought for the day. And as for the latter… She was still figuring that one out. “Stupid boys,” she rolled her eyes before glancing around the dead and mossy tree covered terrain where wispy bits of mist rose up from the watery ground.
Wrinkling her nose at the unpleasant scent of festering foliage, Amarynthe’s expression lightened again as she spotted another sprout of mudroot. The hard tuber grew up through the muck to unfurl with a small patch of dark green sprouts that set it apart from the rest. Snatching the walking stick with the basket atop, she trudged closer and set the staff back in the ground. But just as she was about to set to work on it, a blob of heavy wetness hit her from behind.
“Yah!” she yelped, her balance offset and her feet somewhat stuck so that she couldn’t recover in time. Quickly, she dropped the sickle so that she wouldn’t accidently cut something off and landed in mud that reached to her elbows. She didn’t even need to hear the laugh to know who it was and as the high-pitched tones bounced over the dreary place, Amarynthe looked over her shoulder with a displeased expression. “Jerich!” she snapped, catching sight of the taller of her father’s two apprentices.
Even at the age of ten and three, he was pretty by all accounts, albeit in the process of growing into his height and limbs, so the grace was still lacking. His delicately angular face broke out into a beautiful smile that only served to annoy Amarynthe more. “Gotcha, Ryn,” he winked from under the fall of his black bangs that teased his dark brown eyes.
“You aggravating arse!” Amarynthe grumbled, hauling herself into a standing position so she could appraise the damage. Her sickle was gone somewhere in the marsh and now she was liberally covered in mud. Looking at Jerich, he was untouched save the hem of his brown apprentice robes and similarly water-resistant boots.
“You should have been paying attention,” he chided with a finger shake in her direction, proving himself to be the more insufferable of the two apprentices yet again.
“I was! Just not to you,” she wrinkled her nose and started looking for the sickle. It had to be nearby.
“Aw. You hurt me with your words,” he lamented, squelching her direction with relative ease, his longer legs making it simpler for him to step around the worst patches.
“Aren’t you supposed to be working with my father?” Amarynthe sighed, combing through decaying plants and mud carefully. It was still early in his apprenticeship and usually, they were stuck in the study rooms or under her father’s watchful eye for most of the day. Which suited her just fine, to be honest.
“I was. But then he sent us to come get you since it was getting late,” Jerich shrugged with a glance at the partially cloudy sky. He stopped a couple feet away as he looked down at her with a fond smile.
Looking at the gangly boy out of the corner of her eyes, Amarynthe shook her head and rolled her eyes. It was just like her father to forget how long it would take to find mudroot in the first place. Well, her mother had always been the one taking care of it before though so… “Where’s Zachariah then?” she asked curiously, knowing the other apprentice couldn’t be that far behind.
For a moment, Jerich’s silence was golden, but then he scratched his head and shrugged, “I’m not actually sure. He was right behind me when we left,” he admitted, partially turning to get a better look around.
Distracted as he was, Amarynthe grinned slyly and opted to take her chance. She hadn’t found the sickle yet but she did have a handful of mud. Straightening up, she lobbed it at him from close range. With a sickening splat, the muck plastered the front of his chest and Jerich flinched as it started to trail down in clumpy strands.
“Amarynthe!” he yelled in affront.
“Should have been paying attention,” she nodded back at him, her hands on her already dirty hips.
“You little…” he gasped, mouth dropping open as he realized she was repeating the very words he’d said a moment before.
She noticed the annoyed gleam in his eye before she started to back away with her finger pointing at him. “Jerich,” she warned, feet sticking in the muck and part of her dress dragging through it in turn, the edge having come free from her tie. Her own irritation rose when she noticed his lips moving and his fingers gesturing in the beginnings of magic. “Don’t you dare!” she commanded, balling her hands into fists at her side.
It was all for naught. Globs of mud like ghost- driven projectiles rose up from the muck and flew straight at Amarynthe. She yelped and ducked her head behind her arms, trying to protect herself from the worst of the stuff but it was no use. Jerich’s spell had liberally coated her in the rank-smelling sludge. Filthier than ever, she growled under her breath and reached to retaliate, launching another glob at him with her hand.
“Oh, you filthy cheater!” she scowled when it hit an invisible wall in front of him. And the jerk had the gall enough to smirk at her behind it. His expression only made her want to try again. Despite knowing it wouldn’t do anything, she picked up another handful and hurled it at him.
Jerich laughed. At least until the first glob simply fell from the air. His protective barrier gone, he jerked in surprise when the second handful of mud smacked him in the face. Unprepared, he gave a high-pitched yelp and fell over backwards, flailing awkwardly as he hit the muck. “Zachariah!” he scowled, missing Amarynthe’s amazed expression.
“That’s what you get for not playing fair,” a warm, amused voice laughed to Amarynthe’s right.
Still wide-eyed, she turned to see a similarly dressed young man wearing dark brown apprentice robes, apparently untouched by the muck for the time being. Stockier and shorter than Jerich by a couple finger-widths even though they were nearly the same age, Zachariah was also broader in the shoulders. Contrasting with Jerich’s black locks, Zachariah had dark, blondish hair, brown eyes, and a more masculine face, even if it was still clinging to the last bits of baby fat. Grinning like a child just then, his expression invited laughter so Amarynthe did. “Nice!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands in excitement at the unexpected assistance.
“Hey Amarynthe,” he waved at her, eyes crinkling in delight upon taking in her mud-stained form.
“It’s about time you showed up!” she grinned, shaking her hands to rid them of the worst of the muck.
“Ugh. This stuff is disgusting,” Jerich groaned, trying to pick himself up without getting more of it on him. It didn’t help it was around his eyes and he kept trying to spit bits of it out of his mouth.
“It’s just mud,” Zachariah shook his head as he trudged over to give Jerich a hand up.
“You obviously haven’t tasted it,” he spat, accepting Zachariah’s hand easily enough. The truce was short lived though. His other hand held a palmful of mud which he slapped on Zachariah’s dark blonde hair with a gleeful laugh.
Amarynthe cringed at the betrayal and then winced harder when Zachariah promptly pushed Jerich back into the mud before crossing his arms over his chest with a frown. “Here they go again,” she murmured to herself with a sigh as they immediately started pelting each other with the muck, using magic and their hands alike.
She finally gave up on the sickle, resigning herself to getting a new one instead, and slogged over to retrieve her walking stick and basket. The two apprentices continued to mud fight, ducking and dodging comically while errant projectiles arced through the air or veered off course. Amarynthe watched them for a moment before she took another breath, shook her head, and started walking.
“See you boys when you get back,” she waved without looking over her shoulder, threading a long, black strand of hair behind her ear from where it had worked free of the bandana.
“Amarynthe!” they cried in tandem, the confrontation stalling for a moment.
“You can’t just leave us!” Jerich wailed plaintively.
“Wait up!” Zachariah called out instead.
The sound of them attempting to run through the muck made Amarynthe turn around and she had to laugh at their ungainly appearances. Utterly covered in muck, their robes weighed down by the stuff while it plastered their hair and faces, they waddle-hopped her direction, alternately pulling on each other to try and take the lead. Hopeless. And these were the boys her father had agreed to teach to be mages himself…
Their noisy squishing and sloshing got louder as she finally made it to more solid ground. She didn’t spare a moment to look back either. But they insisted upon catching up and she yelped when one of them tugged on the basket over her arm. “Here. I can carry that for you,” Jerich grinned, attempting to redeem himself.
“I can get it,” she snapped, yanking back on the carrying container with a challenging expression, lips pressed together and one brow raised.
He jumped back with a surprised look. “But…”
“No,” she pointed her finger at him with an intimidating glare. Despite the fact that she was much shorter than both of them, and completely magicless to boot, it was almost laughable how easily she could cow either boy when she wanted to. “If you wanted to help, you should have helped me with harvesting mudroot instead of making me lose my sickle in the first place!”
“He was just playing, Amarynthe,” Zachariah tried to defend the other boy, gesturing with his hands in a placating motion.
“And you’re no better,” she huffed, stamping the walking stick on the ground as she turned her pointing finger to him instead.
“But I helped you,” he practically pouted, shoulders drawing up as if to protect him.
Frustrated, Amarynthe exhaled loudly and placed her fingers to her temples as if to ward off a headache. “Which I wouldn’t have needed if you guys hadn’t shown up in the first place.”
“But your father…” Zachariah trailed off, wringing his hands until she interrupted him too.
“Knows I can take care of myself!” Amarynthe stomped, wheeling around with her dirty dress flaring behind her as she started to walk away again. After a moment, she paused once more when she didn’t hear them behind her. Her irritation flared when she saw they were using magic, their dirty faces drawn in concentration as they otherwise ignored her. She was tempted to interrupt them but that would have been petty. Just because she didn’t have magic didn’t mean she needed to take it out on those who did.
She couldn’t help but watch, her irritation fading further as their combined efforts brought something into view between them. Amarynthe frowned thoughtfully when she realized it was her sickle Jerich finished the casting with a flurry of small motions from his fingertips and Zachariah reached out to catch the falling tool carefully. Torn between annoyance and gratitude, Amarynthe stood with her hand hovering in front of her mouth, unsure of what to say.
“Here you go,” Zachariah smiled wanly, the effects of casting obviously taxing. He hobbled close and offered the filthy tool to her while Jerich shuffled over with a similarly worn expression on his face.
“Thank you,” Amarynthe mumbled as she accepted the tool. “I didn’t know you knew how to do that yet.”
Jerich laughed with a forced sound and clapped her on the shoulder, briefly using her as a steadying post. “We only just learned it actually.”
Zachariah nodded in agreement with a weary but bright smile. “Looks like it came in handy too.”
While she wanted to hold onto her irritation with them, she couldn’t help but appreciate their belated efforts. Shuffling in place, she shrugged and glanced up between them. “Yeah well, you shouldn’t be practicing that without my father around.”
“We know,” Jerich chuckled under his breath, giving her shoulder a squeeze.
It was enough to conjure the ghost of an amused snort from Amarynthe and she rolled her eyes at the outcome. “And now you’re both useless, aren’t you?” she appraised with a quick look over them.
“I wouldn’t say useless,” Zachariah tried to salvage himself with an awkward gesture.
Amarynthe barked a laugh and extended her walking stick out to them instead. She knew casting wasn’t easy, especially with new spells. Time spent around her father was proof enough of that. “Take it,” she urged with a determined expression, waiting for one of them to do so.
Jerich did, after a glance at Zachariah who motioned for him to take it. “Thanks,” he sighed with a laugh, knowing how foolish he looked.
“Yeah, yeah,” Amarynthe shook her head, gesturing for them to follow along. Yep. Hopeless. “I don’t suppose you can get rid of the mud by chance?”
“Uh…” Zachariah hummed, shuffling along on her right side while Jerich hobbled on her left. “We do know how but we can’t.”
“Not right now,” Jerich clarified with both hands wrapped around the walking stick as he used it for support with each step.
Amarynthe had to laugh and she placed a hand on her head with an amused smile tugging at her lips. “You drained yourselves, didn’t you?”
“Not really,” Jerich started to defend while Zachariah simply admitted, “Yeah…”
“Dummies,” she snorted, slowing her steps to keep pace with them better, her anger already long gone.
In subdued voices, the trio spoke amongst themselves as they made their way into the village of Karith. Amarynthe’s hometown was small but quaint and the people all knew her and the two apprentices her father had taken on two years ago. She smiled and waved at the villagers in the waning light of day and they returned the gestures easily enough. Most of them liked her, even if they weren’t quite sure how to handle her father. Especially after her mother had died…
But no one troubled them on their way and the thatch-covered wooden houses fell away as they wandered through the town to the tower that appeared on the outskirts. Her father had a house situated right next to it, but he spent the majority of his time in the tower – much to Amarynthe’s annoyance. Surprisingly, he was wandering around in front of the house as they got closer. He seemed to be looking for something…
When he noticed the trio coming up, his dark brown eyes lit up and he started running in their direction. Dark blue robes – the color of a master mage – flounced with each step and his fuzzy black hair fluttered in every direction. “They found you!” he exclaimed as he got close enough to grab Amarynthe up in a stifling bear hug that trapped her arms to her sides, heedless of the muck on her.
“Father,” Amarynthe groaned, struggling weakly in his hold.
“Mage Scrivener,” the pair murmured softly, exchanging cringing looks.
The elder mage set her down quickly, holding Amarynthe at arm’s length as he looked her over with a critical eye. “Are you alright? Where were you? What took you so long!”
“You sent me to gather mudroot today,” she interjected before he could get too long winded, relieved when the response stalled him in his fervor.
“I did?” he frowned, tapping his upper lip with a long index finger while he looked away, obviously confused. “Oh right!” he snapped in revelation, pointing the same finger at her with a grin. “That would explain the mud,” he nodded, reaching out to tap the top of Amarynthe’s lip just under her nose.
“Ugh!” It was so annoying when he did that. “Father!” she rolled her eyes, holding out the basket to him.
“Oh!” he grinned, taking it without qualm while his eyes finally drifted to the pair at his daughter’s side. “And what happened to you two?”
“Uh…” they trailed off, looking at each other as they attempted to think of a decent reason for being covered in muck that didn’t include having a mud fight with the mage’s daughter.
Brushing crusting bits off herself, Amarynthe took reluctant pity on them and finally grabbed her father by the elbow as she started to lead him inside. “They fell in the mud while helping me.” Not entirely untrue and close enough to the truth that she didn’t have to feel bad about it. “And now we need to get cleaned up so I can start supper because goodness knows you’ll burn the house down if you try,” she chided with a smile, glancing over her shoulder at the relieved apprentices.
“Eh, you’re probably right,” Madeus nodded in agreement, peering into the basket for the promised mudroot in the bottom. “I’ll just take this up to the lab to start drying and will be down soon. Don’t wait for me,” he smiled, pausing at the doorway to kiss Amarynthe on the forehead, but wrinkling his nose when he hit a patch of crusty mud.
“Alright, father,” Amarynthe smiled, standing on her tiptoes to give him a quick kiss on the cheek before she stepped inside. The boys would follow soon enough and she wanted to make sure she got to wash up first. If they went into the washroom before her, she’d likely be waiting for goodness knew how long and supper would be much later than anyone wanted. She could always use the scullery but she never really felt clean when she had to wash herself off there.
Washed and clean with her hair back in a tidy braid, supper was easy enough to prepare by herself. She’d always helped her mother growing up, so it was second nature at this point, even if the boys had the appetites of horses. With a shake of her head, she added another portion of diced potatoes to the simmering stew and shifted to check on the bread rolls baking at the edge of the cooking fire.
At her back, she could hear them bickering about something after they’d both emerged from washing up, but they’d learned well enough to stay out of her way when she was cooking. Their attempts to be helpful were nice on occasion but they had a knack for making things more complicated. Like this afternoon. But according to her father, they were good students and adept in the tower, if still learning.
Before supper was finished, Amarynthe told the pair to let her father know they’d be eating soon. One of them left and she wasn’t sure who until the door opened to readmit them. A glance back showed that Zachariah was following her father in and that Jerich was seated at the dining table, ready to eat. That was about right. She honestly struggled with Jerich a bit since he was from a well-off family, while Zachariah was a farmer’s son, but he’d adapted to living with them quite well overall, despite his upbringing.
Supper was a lively affair seated around the dining room table with the boys chattering avidly about magic and casting and spells and reagents. Amarynthe ate quietly, watching their excited faces shift from moment to moment. All of it was familiar to her but she couldn’t do magic like they did. Only a few people were born with the ability and though her father was a mage, her mother had not been and she hadn’t inherited his gift.
That didn’t stop her from listening and learning. After all, she was the one that did most of the reagent runs while the apprentices were studying – she couldn’t very well leave it to her father. He’d just get cheated or forget what he was going for. Maybe tomorrow she’d head into town for some more supplies, but for now, Amarynthe simply enjoyed their lively chatter.
When they were done eating, the apprentices were the ones to clean up. With another kiss on her father’s cheek and a quick wave at the pair, Amarynthe retreated to her bedroom, shut the door of her haven, and fell on the soft bed wearily. On the nightstand to her left, there was a picture her father had magicked for her. In it, she could see her mother before she passed away and her father right beside her. He’d always been quirky but had gotten worse after her death.
Their situation had started to get better again when Zachariah had been brought for training. An untrained mage was dangerous for everyone and it had given her father something to focus on again. Then, a couple months later, Jerich had arrived. Her father wasn’t going to accept him at first but the money they’d been offered had been much needed and it remained true that a burgeoning mage needed a teacher. So now there were two of them and Amarynthe.
“Things have certainly gotten interesting, mother,” she whispered, fingertips tracing the edge of the photo frame before she turned onto her side and went to sleep.
Go To Chapter Two –>