The Scientist's Apprentice: Part Seven
"So, what do you think of Hartwick Hall now that you've been here a few days?"
Parlan glanced over at Bennie. The brown Poogle was digging through the supply cabinet in the basement as Parlan swept the slate floor, clearing up any sign that they had been practicing magic down there.
"It's been... a lot of sweeping," Parlan admitted. Whenever Hartwick did a demonstration, the students were in charge of cleaning up. And whenever the boys in the Lunar Dorm wanted to cast something on their own time, Parlan was also in charge of sweeping. "It's part of your initiation!" Thomas had said with a large grin. Parlan could not wait for his first week of apprenticeship to be over.
Parlan glanced over at Bennie who was still digging through the back recesses of the supply cabinet. The brown Poogle had suggested they practice casting the latest spell they learned in class—a spell to summon a giant spout of water—in the basement rather than their dorm room. "Sometimes it's just better to cast things down here," he'd said. "Otherwise, we'd destroy everything in our room." But Parlan was still on edge. They had cast an alarm spell near the basement door, so they'd be warned if someone came down. Still, he was terrified about what he would do if it were triggered.
"Should you be... digging around in there?" Parlan asked, somewhat concerned as Bennie rearranged bottles and jars in the cabinet, digging deeper into its depths.
"Nope," the brown Poogle said. "But I need to find... aha! There we go!"
From the very back of the closet, he drew out a small canvas.
Parlan put the broom back in the closet and stared at the canvas. "Are you going to cast a spell with that?"
Bennie stared at him like he was crazy. "No. Who would cast a spell with a piece of canvas?"
Parlan shrugged. "I don't know. I've heard rumors that you can..."
"Trap someone in a portrait?" Bennie grinned. "Yeah, that's the rumor that floats around here. But it's completely untrue." He patted the canvas, wiping the dust off. "Nah, I'm just going to use this to do some painting later. I found Hartwick's stash in here last year, and every so often I 'borrow' one. He hasn't noticed yet. I'm planning on replacing them next month when it's our turn to go supply shopping in the marketplace."
"That's cool that you have a hobby," Parlan said as Bennie tucked the canvas under his robe. It stuck out a bit, but Bennie didn't seem to mind as they trudged up the stairs. "I guess sorcery was kind of my hobby back home but... now I guess it's my life. It's all I ever do."
"You should find something else to keep you occupied," Bennie said as they emerged into the hallway lined with portraits of famed sorcerers. "If you just focus on sorcery, you'll go nuts like Marlo."
Bennie laughed. "Nah, I'm just giving him a hard time. He studies the most out of all of us, always reading spell books and books on magic theory and history. It's why he's so good at magic." He shrugged. "But yeah. There's a piano on one of the upper floors and Thomas is always there when he has some free time, playing music. He's probably there now. Sunday is kind of our hobby day. Can you play music?"
"No," Parlan said, feeling a little despondent.
"Well," Bennie said, "I'm sure you'll find something to keep yourself occupied with. Actually, I keep a deck of cards under my bed. I'm going to go paint in one of the upper rooms—it's kind of my private place that no one knows about—but if you want, you can use the deck while I'm gone. Maybe we can play some card games later. Do you know Cheat?"
Bennie clapped a hand on his shoulder. "I'll teach you later. It's loads of fun." They had reached the main hall with its grand staircase, this one leading to the upper floors. Bennie saluted Parlan for a moment, and then disappeared up the steps.
Parlan sighed, slipping his hands into his pockets. Sunday is our hobby day.
Bennie was right that Parlan needed to find a hobby; he was beginning to feel a sort of antsy-ness as he roamed the mansion. He had been fairly busy that week, learning the daily schedule, working on new spells, and getting to know the other apprentices. But it seemed like today, everyone went their own ways. He didn't pass a single other person in the hall; they all seemed to be holed up somewhere, working on personal projects. It was nice to have the opportunity to do that, but Parlan hadn't figured out exactly what he wanted to do with the free time.
Part of him wanted to talk with Darren and see how he was doing, but he hadn't seen the blue Ogrin since his "alchemy" demonstration a few days earlier. Parlan assumed it was because Darren was busy figuring out a way back to the future, which had to be difficult considering they had lied to Hartwick about how time travel worked. And Parlan had never found out exactly where in the mansion he was staying, so there was no way he could even drop by to say hello.
So instead, the silver Shoyru trudged his way to the Lunar Dorm, thinking that he would take Bennie up on his offer to teach him Cheat when he finished painting. Maybe I can play a little Sakhmet Solitaire in the meantime, Parlan thought, trying to remain upbeat as he opened the dormitory door.
When the door swung open, he saw Marlo lounging on his bed, reading a spell book. But as soon as the orange Wocky made eye contact with Parlan, he realized that something was very different about the Wocky.
In a half of a second, Marlo leapt off the bed and made a quick gesture with his hand. Parlan immediately felt as if someone had kicked him from behind; he stumbled his way in the room, and the door swung shut behind him, locking with a click.
Parlan's eyes widened as he stared at the Wocky. Marlo's blond hair, which was normally cut short, was long, flowing down to the small of his back. "You're...!"
"I'm what?" Marlo asked sharply. His eyes were narrowed.
"You're... you're a girl!" Parlan exclaimed.
Marlo cursed and ran a hair through his/her hair. "I should have locked that door."
"So you are a girl!" Parlan exclaimed.
Marlo glared at him. "Yes," came the mumble, and Parlan noticed how Marlo's voice was higher than his peers. He had thought it was because the boy was younger than the rest of them, but he had been wrong.
"But..." Parlan was trying to make sense of it all. "But... women cannot be sorcerers!"
Suddenly Parlan felt a sharp jolt of electricity sting his arm. He yelped and looked up to see that Marlo was holding out her pointer finger in a sorcerer's fighting stance. "Says who? You?"
"No matter my gender, I am clearly the better sorcerer," she said, her finger still trained on his face. "And if you tell anyone about this, I will blast you to smithereens, sweep up the soot, and dump it into the river."
Parlan's eyes widened, and he nodded dumbly. She was right. She was the better sorcerer, and it would be foolish to tell anyone the truth.
Still, Marlo did not look appeased. She dropped her finger and clenched her hair with a groan. "I'm such an idiot!" she muttered to the floor. "I didn't think... I thought no one would be back until later since today is hobby day and Thomas and Bennie are always out."
"Marlo," Parlan started hesitatingly, and he froze when Marlo whipped her head up and glared at him.
"What?" she spat.
"Well..." Parlan didn't know how to proceed. "May I ask... is Marlo your real name?"
Marlo stared at him for a moment, and then shook her head. "No, it's not."
"May I ask what your actual name is?"
"No, you may not," Marlo said pointedly. "Because if I tell you, and it slips out in front of the others..." She shook her head solidly. "No."
"So I'm the only one who knows about this."
"Yes," Marlo said, and Parlan could hear the crackle of electricity in the air as her magic flared. "And it will stay that way, got it?"
"Got it, got it!" Parlan said, holding up his hands in surrender. His back was pressed against the door; he was too terrified to move. And yet, he was also curious. A female sorcerer. He had never heard of the thing. Probably because it wasn't allowed.
"So," Parlan asked hesitantly, "how did you... get into sorcery?"
Marlo stared at him, and then glanced back at the spell book she had left on her bed. "Probably the same way as everyone else does. I heard about it, thought it sounded interesting, and purchased a spell book. Though... I had my brother buy it for me," she admitted. "Shopkeepers won't sell spell books to little girls." Her voice had upped several octaves on the last two words; she grimaced in disgust. "And when I found out I could actually do stuff... well, I decided I wanted to come here and be an apprentice." She crossed her arms over her chest.
"And your family let you?"
Marlo's mouth was a thin line. "Of course not. My family sent me to finishing school. Unfortunately for them, I took a detour and ended up here." She touched a strand of her long hair, glaring at it. "I would have just chopped it all off, but we have those holiday breaks, and my family would never believe I've been at finishing school if my hair's cut short. So I just glamor it while I'm here. But..." She looked annoyed. "Keeping a glamor running all the time is draining, so on Sundays, I take it off." She stared at Parlan, her eyes changing from anger to sadness. "I now realize that was a mistake."
"I... I won't tell anyone," Parlan promised.
Marlo's eyes narrowed. "You better not," she said darkly. She twisted her wrist, and suddenly there was a small replica of a silver Shoyru in her palm. With a sharp mutter, the figurine disintegrated into a pile of ash, and Parlan watched as she turned her hand over and the ash fell down to the floor like grey confetti. "Got it?"
Parlan got the picture loud and clear. He swallowed nervously. "Got it."
To be continued...