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Dashtek arrived back at the fire just as the boys were finishing their fourth story. He didn’t catch what it was about because it ended the same way as most of the others. One of the brothers would point to some part of his body and say “and that’s how I got this scar” and then all of them would laugh so hard they’d nearly forget to breathe.
Alamus told an ancient tale about a master musician who came to live at the edge of a wood. It was a pleasant story and as Alamus introduced the characters and told of their deeds, the tiny flames that were licking the coals of the fire seemed to create the faces and act out the tale he was narrating. It was a beautiful story with just enough sadness to help the listener appreciate a happy ending.
Kilewal grunted, twice.
Everyone agreed that the end of that story was a good note to go to sleep on. The boys, the knight, the hunter, and their guide all bedded down in spots they had picked out earlier. Dashtek went toward the horses and grabbed a saddle blanket, laid down on the ground, and tried to sleep. Only the wizard remained next to what was left of the fire. From across the remaining coals Alamus watched as the late summer night crew considerably cooler. Dashtek began to shiver. There are few things a wizard doesn’t notice. After all, someone who learns to talk to smoke like a cat and clouds as garden hoses. It didn’t go without notice that Alamus had observed the young man during the evening offer both his coat and blanket to the ungrateful princess. He also took particular note of the princess’ response. Now he watched as the reward for Dashtek’s kindness was a cold night under an itchy blanket barely large enough to cover a small ewe.
Alamus had seen this type of magic before. Even those least likely to ever cast a spell in their lifetime knew its name. With all the words in a magician’s toolbox none was more powerful than the five-letter word we still use today, love. Alamus sensed that though the cold air on his skin made him shiver, Dashtek was warmed by his affection toward the princess.
For the boys who are listening and grossed out that this book is talking about love, deal with it. Someday you wont mind so much. The type of love that Dashtek had for the princess wasn’t the I want to kiss you type of love, but rather the I want to do stuff for you to show you that I love you. Most movies take every type of love out there and water it down to two people kissing, but life doesn’t really work that way. People who love each other like moms and dads show it by doing things for one another. You’ll know you’ve got the love bug when you think less about yourself and more about wanting to do something for someone else. This is the way Dashtek felt for the princess. He was warm that night because he felt good inside that he was able to do something for the someone he cared about, not because of a spoken oath, but because of something deeper than any oath. Something he felt from deep inside of him.
About this time, Lady Arable emerged from the tent carrying her blanket in her arms. When she spotted the wizard she was startled to find someone still awake and felt she had to explain herself.
“I was going to give him my blanket tonight. After all, I at least have a tent to shield me from the wind.”
“No need for that, my Lady. I have cast a spell to keep him as warm on the outside as he feels on the inside. He’ll sleep well tonight.”
She felt the chill of the air as she stood there and imagined he must have felt it as well. She placed her blanket folded on the log next to the wizard for a moment while she sat down next to him. Then she continued to talk as she unfolded the blanket over their legs. She spoke in a very matter-of-factly sort of tone.
“I should have known a wizard would see how he treats her. I admit there are days I’m only polite because it is my duty. Otherwise, I feel I would tear her apart like a lion tearing through a flock of sheep.”
She breathed a heavy sigh, and both looked where the fire had been roaring just a few hours ago. For a few moments they said nothing, hypnotized by the remaining coals. Then Alamus spoke.
“Where did you hear the tale of the north star? You realize it’s a legend only wizards know.”
Arable’s first reaction was to blush thinking of the earlier days and her younger self when she had first heard the tale. Those memories were wrapped with pretty bows inside her mind so untying them was like opening a present.
“Alamus, you’re not the first wizard I’ve met. A long time ago a young man came to seek my hand, and he would tell the most delightful stories, but that one was my favorite.” Behind her eyes her mind raced through the past like a delightful storybook and her faced beamed with the light of a youthful woman in love. Every older woman is just a young woman trapped inside of someone else’s body. Then in her memories the adventure through her life’s story came to the end of a sad chapter. She sighed.
“This young man never revealed his occupation to me, nor my father, and because he appeared to be nothing more than a vagabond with no future my father refused to let us marry. At the time I was heartbroken and felt my life would end. After the young man left I asked myself many times why he wouldn’t tell us what he did. It was years later before I concluded he must have been a wizard.”
In her mind she turned the page on her memories and continued. “As time passed I remembered more of the way I felt from his stories and being near him, and less of the heartbreak from when he left.”
Alamus felt obligated to explain on behalf of all wizardom.
“It was wise of your father to refuse the marriage and wise of the young wizard to not tell you his occupation. A father has a duty to ensure his daughters will survive in another’s home. If he allows her to marry someone that cannot provide food or shelter, then he is in error for approving the marriage. On the other hand a wizard has a responsibility not to reveal his trade and occupation. If they do, a father will oftentimes think the wizard has placed his daughter under a spell. Even worse is if the daughter finds out she may believe that once married her cares will be over and she’ll never have to work again because she’ll expect her new husband to wave his wand and grant her every wish.”
“My lady, I have learned the hard way that there is no good scenario for a young wizard who falls in love. If the wizard choses to marry without the father’s consent he gives up his powers in the process.”
“Alamus, on the subject of love, tell me what can you see of the princess? I have often looked into her eyes to see if she feels anything for him, or for anyone. At times I think there may be something, but then she’ll open her mouth. Ugh! Then I think that I have been imagining it. With your powers can you see to her heart?”
There was a pause. He breathed towards the fire reinvigorating the coals.
“She is not past feeling, and yes there is something I can do to help. But the power to be a better person lies only in the individual and no one else. Becoming better requires a choice and a choice can only made by an individual. There is no magic that can change who a person is on the inside if they do not want to change themselves.”
He might have continued but something else caught his attention. In an excited whisper he said, “look.”
He then pointed Arable’s attention to Sir James, whose breathing had slowed, and then stopped. The old wizard pointed his wand upward and suddenly a hole appeared through the trees in the west.
“There, do you see that star? That is the hole from the great King Arthur. Now, watch just to the right.”
As they gazed up a new star appeared. “Now Sir James Leavelle rests near Arthur for it was by Arthur’s side he felt his greatest worth.” The whole scene seemed so natural that even though they had just lost a member of their party and a friend, neither felt sad at his passing because they knew where he had gone.
A moment later the lady sighed. “He took such pride in telling that story of his, it was just a pity he only had one story he felt was worth sharing.”
Alamus smiled in agreement. His tone changed and he spoke to her with an air of loving familiarity from his younger days. “My dear, I have a plan for the princess, and feel it will create a series of events worthy of a story many generations may share.”
From this point he proceeded to lay out his plan. Once he had finished explaining it to the good lady he looked over his shoulder and said, “Kilewal, you can grunt now. I know you have been listening because I heard you breathing soften as you were trying to hear our conversation. If you’ve been listening then you’ve heard your part. I expect you’ll be glad to do it.”
At that point Kilewal grunted.
The Lady Arable, exited about the prospects of tomorrow, began to get up to leave. “I’m afraid I’m only to get a little sleep as it is, we’ve been talking for quite a while, but somehow the time passed quickly. If you’ll excuse me I believe I must be off to bed.”
Then in the very next word everything in Lady Arable’s life changed. “Please,” said Alamus with a pleading in his voice. “Would you tell me the story of the North Star?”
Something about the way he asked made Arable stop. The tone in the way he said please was familiar. The words of the story became clearer in her mind than they had been in years. She sat next to the old wizard and placed her blanket once again across their legs.
She started at the beginning with a master musician living at the edge of a wood and told it through to the end. It was one of those stories that finished by pulling the audience equally at sadness and joy. In those moments of life when one’s emotions are equally opposite it is common for gravity to pull two people together. And so with the words of the story floating through the air, the wizard leaned toward the lady, and the lady leaned toward the wizard. The touch was warm in the cold night air and wonderfully recognizable. Lady Arable realized that she had just told the story to the same person who had told it to her long ago. Aged though they both were, here was the same couple, once young, reunited after all these years.
“After dawn” explained Alamus “there will be one less wizard in the world. For it is my intent to marry the friend I have missed these many years.” Once again he proposed to the woman he loved.
At this Arable put her hand, palm upward, on his knee. He reached over and filled it with his. It was her way of saying yes, without having to say anything at all.
“I have learned in all these years that the greatest magic in the world is love—unrestricted selflessness for others. Few who know its name know its powers. I have seen love do more things to make people better and want to be better than my wand could ever hope to do. We were told once by Merlin that mankind would one day live without all other types of magic. That only this one would remain. This is the only magic I wish now to study. It is the same magic I believe will break the spell I will place on the princess at dawn. Once I choose to give up my powers there will be no other way to turn the spell around.”
Arable whispered in his ear, “I have faith it will work” and followed it with a kiss on Alamus’ bearded cheek. The old wizard blushed.
Kilewal grunted. He was still listening.
About The Illustrator
Liz Erickson has always enjoyed using her talents to create. Those who know her will not be surprised that she took on the project of drawing the illustrations for this work. Liz worked with ease to adapt her style and provide the author with the specifically desired drawings for this book adjusting quickly from her experience in fashion and painting.
It seems safe to predict that this will not be the last time Liz’s name appears as the illustrator of a printed work. She is just as much a magician with her talents as Alamus with his wand.