This week’s creative offering is another excerpt and it’s going to require a bit of setting up.
First of all, I must admit that this is from one of my older works that was abandoned. Someday I may resurrect it, but not in the foreseeable future.
Jessica was accidentally sent into an alternate reality by her friend Howard who was experimenting with magic. He’s been offering magical assistance through an amulet which has just been stolen. To make matters worse, Jessica inadvertently turned a man into a dog and they’ve been travelling towards a Well, a magical reservoir, so Howard could help her change him back.
* * * * * * * * * *
Bandit barked sharply at her. Jessica looked up. "You don't get it, do you? I can still light a fire and do minor magic, but that's not going to get me back home, or change you back into a man for that matter."
He barked again and went over to the saddlebags. Jessica looked up as he started to tug at one of them.
"That's the wrong one if you're looking for something to eat."
The dog ignored her and continued to drag the saddlebag over to her. He nosed it open and dropped a cloth wrapped packet in her lap.
"Sorry, that's healing herbs, not breakfast." Jessica picked the packet up. "Oh, I get it. I can use my herbal skills to pay my way. Money's not the problem. I need to work magic."
Bandit gave an impatient bark, then upended the saddlebag.
"Now what are you doing, besides making a mess?"
The dog grasped a heavy book in his jaws and dropped it in her lap. With a resigned sigh, Jessica looked at it.
"It's a spell book! But where ... oh, I remember. I found it in the wizard's tower at Ghren. Howard thought it might come in handy but I hadn't got around to looking at it." Her voice trailed off as she started to leaf through it. A sudden thought struck her. "How did you know this book was in there?"
Bandit contrived to look innocent.
"You better hope I don't find a mind reading spell," she muttered.
The book kept her attention for the remainder of the morning and most of the afternoon. Sometimes she would absently gesture with her hand, or sound out a particularly long word, but for the most part she studied absently. Bandit grew tired of waiting and wandered off into the forest. When he returned Jessica was staring intently into the pool. He sat down behind her and barked.
Jessica nearly dropped the spellbook into the water. "Damn! Did you have to do that? I almost had this scrying spell working."
She sat back with a sigh. "This is hard stuff, Bandit, real hard. I don't know if I'm up to it."
Bandit nudged his cold nose under her arm and she automatically started to scratch him behind the ear. Suddenly remembering he wasn’t really a dog, she stopped and glared at him.
"Will you stop that! Now look, the way I see it we have two choices. From what little I could learn from the scrying spell, the thief went back the way we came. I think we should follow while the trail's hot and get my link to Howard back. The other choice is to go on to the Well and hope I figure out the reversal spell by the time we get there."
She looked at him seriously. "We have six days before I have to work the reversal spell or you stay a dog. So I'm leaving it up to you. On the one hand, we might not catch the thief in time. On the other, I've never tried magic on my own, I don't know if I can do it. And we don't know for sure this book even has a reversal spell."
Bandit got up and started to pace to and fro. Jessica empathized with him, either way he could loose. She wondered what kind of man he'd been, and why he'd been stumbling around her campsite that night.
At last Bandit came and sat down in front of her. "Well?" Jessica asked. "Choice one or two?"
Bandit barked once, twice. Jessica sighed heavily. "I was afraid of that. Well," she rose to her feet, "we'd better make tracks for that Well."
Two days of steady riding brought Jessica within close enough range of the Well to feel its pull. Freed from the necessity of consulting maps and watching for landmarks, she was able to concentrate on the spell book.
"You know," she said as they finished supper one night, "this has opened up a whole new world for me. According to this book, the more magic you use, the more powerful your reserves become. Theoretically, one could advance beyond needing a Well simply by using Wells for a series of powerful spells."
Bandit gave a confused bark.
"I'm not sure I understand it either."
Jessica sighed and closed the book. "Even the simple spells are hard. There's one for causing rain that calls for sixteen different hand gestures -- and even that won't work if there's no clouds to start with."
The dog whuffed softly at her. She fidgited under his scrutiny. I know what you're wondering," she admitted. "No, I haven't found a transformation or reversal spell. But I'm sure I'm getting close, they're getting harder."
Another day's ride close to the Well made Jessica more confident in her ability. Some of the spells relied soley on power, but others required little power, relying on incantations and hand movements. One love spell required nothing but dance movements.
"No wonder wizards guard their spell books so jealously," she commented. "With enough power and physical dexterity you can do virtually anything."
When they stopped for the night Jessica pulled the book out instead of preparing supper.
"I'm tired of trying to cook," she announced. "There's a real easy spell to conjure up a five course meal." Her eyes sparkled with delight.
Bandit backed off a few paces to watch, rather dubiously, as Jessica prepared the spell. She sat cross-legged in front of the fire, spellbook spread across her lap. After reading the spell over serveral times she finally nodded to herself and straightened her back.
Hands waving madly, she started. "Ip reel fela, shidd yib jev -- jev -- jev --" the fire snapped and flared as she paused and looked at the book, "crelna, isit sin gallow!" With a flourish she gestured in the air.
The blast from the fire knocked her over backwards. She could hear Bandit's high pitched yelp over the roar of the flames. An indistinct but enormous creature towered over them.
Jessica levered herself up on her elbows, gaping in shock. Bandit circled round to stand beside her. The creature was gaining solidity and let loose and awful scream.
"It looks ..." Jessica sat up better and gulped. "Holy Saint Christopher! It looks like a giant, flaming chicken!"
Bandit barked urgently and nudged her arm.
"What?" He pawed the book in her lap. "Right, a banishing spell. Good idea."
The chicken let out another scream. Jessica edged away from it as she leafed rapidly through the book.
"Banishing, banishing ..." Jessica looked up quickly and felt the first stirrings of desparation. She had the feeling that if she didn't find the banishing spell before the creature finished takling shape they'd be in big trouble.
It was a rooster, not a chicken, that was forming in all its flaming glory. It flapped transparent wings sending waves of heat in Jessica's direction. She coughed and backed away again.
"Here it is!" she exclaimed.
The rooster crowed, gaining substance. It swept its head downwards. Bandit started to bark, distracting it away from Jessica. A shower of sparks sprayed upwards as it spread its wings and swept around, following the dog.
Jessica raised her hands and started to gesture again. The words she spoke were lost in the roar as the rooster crowed again. Jessica finished the spell. With a whuff of displaced air the bird, along with their fire, disappeared.
"Well," Jessica said, dusting her hands off with a nonchalance she didn't feel, "that wasn't so bad for a first try, was it?"
Bandit bared his teeth at her in a snarl.
"I'd watch my language if I were you. It wouldn't do to antagonize someone of my awesome powers," she said, trying unsuccessfully to hold back a grin.
Her smile faded suddenly and she sighed heavily. "Who am I kidding? You saw what happened, and that was a simple spell. I could end up making matters worse for you, a lot worse."
Bandit looked at her and whuffed softly.
"Your faith in me is admirable," Jessica said soberly. "I just hope it isn't misplaced."