Monthly Short Story Winner: Magic
Welcome back to our monthly writing contest winner’s post. This month our contest participants wrote stories about one of the most common themes in fantasy: magic. There were a lot of great entries, but before we look at the winner, here is the write up for the contest.
This month we’re going to head back into the realm of fantasy with something that is at the core of every good fantasy story: Magic.
Specifically I want you to flex your writing muscles and give us a creative use of magic – be that a brand new magic system, the story of a conjurer of classic illusions, or even just a wand-slinging bad-ass wizard story. Let’s have some fun with one of the major reasons we’re all here on Fantasy-Faction!
Your challenge this month is to write a story, in whatever combination of fantasy subgenre you like – but it must include magic as a core element. (Fan fiction is not allowed.) Once again, I’m going to open the contest to both prose and poetry as I’m excited to see what you guys can do!
1. This can be prose or a poem. Be creative.
2. “Magic” must be a core element in your piece.
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-500 words long.
You can see all the contest entries here. And our winner this month is Charlemagne! Congratulations!
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I live in a bookstore. I grew up here, work here, and live here. I have at least skimmed nearly every book in my family’s store, and I know characters like Valjean, Candide, and Frodo almost as well as I know my own friends. I have lived many lives, seen through the eyes of thousands, and imagined things even crazier than the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. So perhaps it should not have been quite so surprising that I found Master Tomas Peshell III, Court Warlock to his Majesty the Great Gavin Shonisha, singularly unimpressive.
“Really?” I asked, vaguely disappointed. “Is that all?”
Peshell managed to look both miffed and condescending simultaneously, a look he must have practiced in the mirror. I had no idea who he was, or how he got there, but I was just going to roll with it. Funny things happen in bookstores.
“Look, my boy,” he began. Bad start. At 19, I am well past the age where I consider the title “boy” an appropriate form of address. “Magic is an immensely complex subject. Even the simplest spell is—”
“Look, I get that and all,” I interrupted, exasperated. “But look!” I pulled my lighter from my pocket, and clicked it. “Magic!”
To be fair to Peshell, he kept control of his emotions well. “I see…that…” He was visibly struggling for words, and considering his attitude, I imagined it was not a common occurrence.
“Listen, I know magic is difficult, and heck, this isn’t even magic.” I clicked the lighter again. “It’s just science. Pretty simple stuff, really. After all,” I added innocently, “it’s not your fault if magic isn’t quite as grand as we’ve been led to believe it was.” Okay, so maybe it wasn’t pity that made me talk.
“You arrogant Borshok!” Peshell fumed. I had no idea what a Borshok was, but I gathered it wasn’t entirely complimentary. “Magic? Not grand? I assure you, young sir, that even the lowliest of acolytes at the Grand Academy of Sorcerers would have no trouble—nor any qualms—in teaching you a lesson otherwise. At great personal cost to you,” he added, as if I was too stupid to understand the not-at-all veiled threat he had just hurled at me.
“As it is,” Peshell continued, the smug look reappearing on his face. “I, as Chief Court Warlock to His Majesty Gavin Shonisha, am weighed down by considerably more responsibility, and,” he looked at me meaningfully, “a commitment to acting decently and reasonably at all times.”
I had to stifle a chortle. He seemed to take my silent shaking as some sort of apology, however, and continued.
“Yes. And I would counsel against trying my patience again. You may find that it has run thin.” He drew his purple robes up around himself in what he clearly thought was a mystical and dramatic pose.
I couldn’t help it. I burst out laughing. I laughed so hard I had to sit down, leaning against the L-R section of the Romance shelf. All the while, Peshell stood there, incredulous. I assumed laughing at wizards was something that, where he came from, was simply not done.
When I was done laughing, Peshell stood stock still, incredulity radiating off of him. It was as though all the pomposity had been momentarily drained out of him, leaving behind only a sad, embarrassed old man. I almost felt a little regret for doing that to him. Almost.
However, I do live in a bookstore, and if there’s one thing I love, it’s a good story. I saw a story blossoming in Peshell’s sad demeanor, and in the way he held himself. I saw potential to tell a great story, about a wizard who ventured to a far away land, only to find himself in a place where all his miracles and powers were regarded as no more than commonplace, mundane tricks, hardly worthy of recognition. I saw potential in—
“You infernal boy!” Peshell exploded, disgust twisting his face. Clearly it had been my turn to misjudge his facial expressions. “You arrogant, falconeering menace! You clearly cannot fathom the depths of the power that well-handled magic provides its owner! You cannot comprehend the forces that even the basest sorcerer must deal with every day, just to stay alive. You do not know the measure of self-control required to cast even the most basic spell! And so,” he went on, breathing deeply in an attempt to regain his self-control. “It appears I am wasting my valuable time in conversing with such an ignorant boor. Cease wasting my time, and instead make yourself useful. Take me to your king.” Once again he flourished his robes in a way he thought was suitably dramatic.
“Our king?” I asked, my surprise entirely genuine.
“Yes, yes,” he waved his hand nonchalantly. “Or queen, duke, baron… anyone in a suitably noble position to recognize my talents and merits.”
Misinterpreting my delay, Peshell frowned. “Is there some problem?” his eyes lit up. “Is your king sick, or injured? As Chief Court warlock, I am often called upon to treat members of the royal family for wounds or illnesses. My proficiency in the field of healing arts is among the greatest in recorded history!”
He continued to ramble about his fabulousness, but I had stopped listening. A wonderful, insane idea was forming in my mind.
“Excuse me, Master Warlock?” I interrupted him, but I was counting on my ego-stroking to counteract any bad feelings that might cause. “Are you really…,” my voice dropped to a dramatic whisper, “a true master in the art of healing?”
“Well, I wouldn’t go quite that far, my boy,” Peshell said in what had to be the least convincing show of modesty I have ever seen. “But yes, I am somewhat proficient.”
“Excellent,” I gushed, preparing to cast my web of lies. “As I’m sure you have known for some time, I myself am not of nobility.”
Peshell nodded in a knowing, paternal way. “I know the feeling, my boy. I was born several levels short of silver dishes myself. But remember that if you wish to reach higher than your allotted place in life, all you must do is reach up and grab. Though some will try to tear you down again, you must hold on with all your might. Eventually, they may allow you to stand up.”
“Wise words,” I said, humoring him. “And well-taken.”
Peshell nodded sagely and opened his mouth as if to speak again.
I cut him off before he could embark on another tangent, “As I was saying, though not of noble birth, I have recently reached a high level through nothing more than sheer luck.” I had his attention now.
“His Austere Majesty, the great George Baker,” I began, my heart quickening at the sound of my father’s name, sure he would see through the lie, “is ill. Very ill.”
Peshell’s eyes lit up.
“He has hidden himself away in my family’s bookshop,”—I gestured vaguely around myself at the shelves—“for he fears what would happen should his subjects learn of the terrible illness that racks his body. He has a condition called cancer,” I confided. “It means there are lumps of flesh inside his body where there should not be, and these are making him quite ill. Do you understand? Would you be able to heal him?”
For the first time since I’d met him, Peshell’s expression was completely serious. Then he began to nod. “Yes, I believe I would. It would be extremely difficult, mind you,” he added. “And success is far from guaranteed. But yes, it is certainly possible.”
“Is there anything you require?” I asked, hoping to keep the process moving, and my father better soon.
“Oh, yes,” he bobbed his head affirmatively. “For as complex a spell as this, I shall require many materials, ingredients, plenty of time, and, most importantly, patience.” He stared at me. “I will not tolerate any interruptions. Is that perfectly clear?”
It was my turn to nod.
“Good. Now, I will require a decent sized pot, or a small cauldron, two candles, or an equivalent amount of wax, three quarts of clean water, seven figs…”
The list went on and on. I just kept nodding and jotting it down, though I was inwardly shaking my head. What on Earth would he need a wheel of hard, aged cheese for? How about the turtle? Whatever. I had a chance to save my father, and if I had to listen to the demands of a kooky old wizard, then so be it.
“And a box of cookies,” Peshell finished. When I looked up quizzically, he clarified, “In case I get hungry. Just because I’m a sorcerer doesn’t mean I don’t have to eat!”
I nodded sagely, as if it suddenly all made sense, which, clearly, it did not.
It took me almost two hours to locate everything, and just over two hundred dollars to purchase it. At least the cheese smelled nice.
When I got back, Peshell was leaning against the New Releases shelf, scanning for titles that interested him, I suppose.
“Are you ready to meet him?” I asked. “His Majesty?”
Peshell started, then stood up straighter. He brushed off his robes, and cleared his throat. “Yes,” he replied, “I am ready.”
I led him to the break room, where I knew my father would be relaxing on a small cot.
“Your Majesty? I poked my head into the room. “You have a visitor.”
My father did not even bat an eye at being addressed in this manner, remaining completely still. “I thought I left orders that I was not to be disturbed,” he said, his tone menacing.
“Yes, sir. But this is a very important visitor. He is the great warlock Tomas Peshell, and he claims to be able to cure your disease.”
At this, my father looked up. “Truly?”
Peshell pushed past me and into the room, then went down on one knee. “Your Majesty, I am your servant. On behalf of my lord, the great Gavin Shonisha, I believe it is my duty to perform any services you may request, and I will do them to the utmost of my abilities, without deception or misleading.”
My father coughed. “Very good,” he said. “I have heard of you, Tomas Peshell. Your reputation precedes you.”
Peshell puffed up, but seriousness returned quickly. “With your leave, Your Majesty, I would like to begin now. The spell is long and complex.”
My father nodded. “Of course. You may proceed.”
I was shooed out of the room, and was unable to see what happened after that.
Well, it’s the weirdest thing. The spell worked. Peshell invited me back into a room reeking of cheese a day and a half later, to reveal a man I had not seen since my father had been diagnosed 14 months ago.
Even in the face of this miracle, my father managed to seem less than impressed, maintaining an air of regal detachment. “Thank you, Lord Peshell. Your help has been invaluable in disposing of this illness. In return for your aid, I will grant you one boon, if it is within my power.”
Peshell bowed deeply. “My lord, it is my greatest wish to be returned to my master’s court in Shonosu. I would ask that you provide me with the means to return home.”
My father smiled benevolently. “Lord Peshell, now that you have dazzled us with your magic, I believe it is time for me to dazzle you with ours.”
He padded over to a box of books. I recognized the box, as I was the one who had carried it into the room two days before. It was the first shipment of a book that would be released three days hence. My father popped open the crate and pulled out one copy.
I caught a glimpse of a purple-robed figure on the cover before my father cracked the book open and intoned words I’m sure he was making up right on the spot. Peshell was sucked inside the book without a sound, leaving only a purple mark on the inside cover. My father flipped the book over, and handed it to me.
“No one’s supposed to read this book until Friday,” he said, smiling. “But I think we can make an exception.” I flipped open the cover, and watched the purple mark form itself into an elaborate signature. Tomas Peshell, it read.
“Dad?” I asked, and he looked up. “How?…Why?” Really, no question seemed to be quite right.
He gave me a smile I had not seen on his face in more than a year. “The books are testing you, son. It happens to all of us. This was your first encounter with the denizens of the literary world, but it will not be your last.” He seemed delighted.
I still don’t truly have an explanation for what happened. But I do know one thing. It makes for one fine story.
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Congratulations again to Charlemagne! If you’d like to enter our monthly writing contest, check out our forum for more information. Happy Writing!