Desiree’ set her picnic basket onto Bragi’s lap as she gathered her skirts and found a pleasantly lush spot on which to wriggle her behind.
“And what test have you created for nephew Morden on this fine day my liege? He was flailing through the night, half consciously muttering so many incantacious words I feared a chasm might open below our house and swallow us whole.”
The bard laughed. “Perhaps I should never have warned him beforehand that this might be his most important conjuring to date. I may think him more matured than he truly is lass, he may not be ready to take his place in the king’s service.”
“I’ve more than once told you that I am the bard’s wizard, and should be at your beck should you fight upon the sordid ground of Tornach. Whilst Morden may have the family’s raw power, he has none of my seasoning; not to mention my stunning appearance and randy wit!”
Bragi took her hands in his own and tenderly stroked them both while choosing his words. “I should have you by my side were you not with child my sweet witch.”
A protest was lodged by hurled expletive, but Bragi squeezed his friend’s fingers slightly to ward her from excess drama, and to gain her entire attentions. “This will be the last time I will say this Desiree’. You will always be my favored purveyor of magik, as you are of my soul, of my closest companions. But the child you carry may well be more important to Galtee’s future than either of us, and I will not risk one wrinkle on it’s brow, nor one drop of it’s mother’s milk to make my part in this war easier. It may not be our preference, but these events have taken our choices from us. Please lass, accept this temporary parting of our paths and help me prepare the novice to act in your stead, or I fear we shall both suffer the results.”
After a long moment’s silence Des lifted the coot’s hands to her lips and lightly kissed his Chancellor’s ring; then turned and looked east where her nephew Morden was just now climbing the steep hill. “I may still pout sir, you shant ask me to pretend happiness in my disappointment or… if that proves your will I shall turn you both into frogs and keep you trapped within my scrying pool, and feed you sweet scones with huckleberry jam.”
“You know I can’t resist your jam madam, I’d allow my occasional amphibious transmogrification so long as I knew there were a plate of scones and sugared goo in the bargain.” Braiding his callused fingers into the girl’s frosty hair, Bragi whispered, “you may stomp, curse, spit and caterwaul m’lady, or announce your displeasure as you choose so long as you never again ask me to change my mind. For if you do, I truly fear that I will once relent, and hence come to rue my weakness on one aft’s bloody battlefield.”
Des called out and waved to the boy who’d nearly reached their position, and then turned again toward her benefactor. “I do understand sir, and I apologize for making you fret so. I will do what I can to prepare this whelp to protect you and yours, though I fear it’s a hopeless task in the main. He has a smallness about him that I’ve yet to move upward. His vision is muted, a product of his lengthy imprisonment no doubt. His scale needs adjustment, he thinks in miniature.”
“Patience lass, I’ve weeks to make a fire from this spark; you were a bit raw as well when first we met.”
The wizardess laughed. “Aye, I was a bit raw sir; but this boy is still struggling to escape the womb!”
“Shush now,” Bragi snorted; “he’s arrived.”
“Hail my friends” Morden exclaimed; “I am here at last and ready to do magic for my share of the afternoon repast. What sort of amazing sorcery would suit you both? How might I gain my titular advancement on this most lovely day?”
“Well lad;” Bragi stood and with his hands directed the boy to a bare spot in the grass some distance from the picnic basket, “we shall sometimes have need for added forces to strengthen a collapsing line or to charge through a gap and attack a rear position. What say you conjure a pack of wolves that you might direct to our advantage in battle. And if you might, not that I have doubts of your abilities mind you… conjure these beasts well to the east of our current placement; in case the calling goes poorly for some unexplainable reason.”
Bowing deeply Morden said “My captain”, and began his incantation, facing toward the late morning sun as asked. His speech seemed confident, his pronunciations crisp, and only twice did Desiree’ chaff at the arrangement of his spell’s words.
“Wait!” she shouted, but it was too late. The very air near the magician began to take on a swirling, yet solid form; it’s color twisting through the greens of the forest and then through the browns of soil and stone. With a great clap of thunder the illusory rift shattered and what remained was a pack of four legged animals in fact; but not exactly the wolves promised.
“They seem quite angry at least” Bragi noted “though attacking each other wasn’t exactly what I had in mind”
The fist sized domestic dogs swarmed as if bees to a virgin queen, spitefully raging amongst themselves, ripping flesh, fur and family jewels from one another until at last they were a great mass of bloody, unmoving corpses.
“Perhaps the boy’s never seen a wolf?” Bragi motioned to Desiree’ that she might conjure one of her own making, that the boy would know his target creation. Without so much as leaving her seat the girl flipflopped her hands while tossing out a few unintelligible phrases and a great gray wolf appeared, which then strode quickly to the carnage where it feasted on the pile of sodden whoops.
“It’s golputen not golfortish Mordie, one is an intelligent great beast awaiting instructions and the other is vindictive, psychotic, Yorkshire birddog looking for the closest living thing to kill” Des scolded. “I thought we’d gone over this a hundred times already.”
“I can do better Auntie” Morden said while trying to not look in Bragi’s direction. “I slipped I admit and for that I am sorry, but I do know what a wolf looks like and can bring a pack to bear if you allow me another chance.”
Bragi placed two fingers on Desiree’s lips to silence her.
“Do so lad, at your leisure, and this time do so correctly. Take your time, save your flourishes for the carnival side shows, concentrate boy, focus your energies. You will not have a third chance.”
The air crackled as Morden began again. His voice had changed, his tone was deeper, his pace slower. He moved his hands only slightly, gracefully, far from the whipping and whooping that was his trademark. And with his final shout a second swirling rift opened and within it were a half dozen silver wolves, nearly the size of wargs, all standing completely still and watching for their master’s next command.
Bragi smiled to himself and bent to raise the lid of the picnic basket. “Let’s have lunch lass, I think the boy might be hungry after that performance.”