Lions, and tigers, and bears. Oh, my! That’s pretty much how I felt grocery shopping yesterday. You know how people sometimes describe busy, crowded places as “a zoo”? Yeah, that’s what it was like. I have no idea why it was so busy. The store was crowded more than I can remember seeing it recently, and the parking lot a little fuller. Even traffic on the streets seemed a bit busier than usual (granted, it was “rush hour” heading out there, but by the time I left the store, “rush hour” was over and it was still busy).
If it had been Wal-mart, I could have understood it. That place always seems to be a zoo. But this was Kroger – and a Kroger Marketplace, at that, and not a regular, full grocery store. And the weekly sale ad as pretty good, but not really outstandingly great. The only thing I can think is that maybe it had something to do with it being the last Friday of the month (and maybe a military payday, I’m not sure). I don’t know.
So, I found out a couple of days ago that today is Tell A Story Day. I had been playing around with the idea for a story the last few days, so I decided to use it for Tell A Story Day and share it here and treat you all to a BRAND NEW story featuring my mercenary sorceress character, Marissa Cobalt (star of Kismet and Tell and Chronicles of Riss)! Enjoy!
In The Beginning:
An Early Adventure in Sorcery
Sunlight glinted on the blue water of the Incara Ocean. The day was beautiful, bright and sunny. There was a light warm breeze that blew my long blue hair into my face, but I didn’t mind. I just stood at the railing of the ship and stared out at the water. I’d never seen the ocean before, and my fourteen-year-old self couldn’t get enough of the sight.
Sailors and other passengers came and went along the deck behind me, but they wisely didn’t bother me. We’d only be at sea a few days, but everyone had already learned not to anger me.
As I stared out at the ocean, my excitement at being at sea and at the prospect of finally being on my own and making my way in the world waned as my mind drifted back to that fateful day a few years ago…
* * *
“Are you ready to go, Marissa?” my teacher, the sorcerer Althor, asked from beside the front door of the tower we called home.
“Almost!” I called back from the kitchen. “I’m just finishing up!”
I was about to take the last bite of my sandwich when a silver tabby kitten jumped up onto the table next to me. He purred and pawed at my hand, and I giggled and pinched a piece of ham off the bread and gave it to him. He gobbled it up and I gave him a quick pat on the head. “Don’t worry, Aster. I’ll only be gone a few days. I’ll be back before you know it. So be a good boy, ok?”
“Marissa!” Althor called again.
“Coming!” I crammed the last bite of sandwich into my mouth, picked up my travel bag from the floor, and hurried out of the kitchen as Aster gave a small mew from the table.
“It’s about time,” Althor said with a frown on his darkly bearded face. “Honestly, we’ll be there in just a few moments. You couldn’t have waited until you got there to eat?”
I craned my neck to look up at him. I was only a child, after all, and he was a rather tall man. His height, his dark brown hair and beard, and red sorcerer’s robes made him seem a rather imposing figure to any person, let alone an eight-year-old girl. Despite that, I gave him a rather obstinate reply. “I was hungry! I didn’t want to wait!”
He’d been expecting that response and gave me a wry smile in return. “And here I thought you were so eager to get home and see your parents.”
“I am!” I paused and frowned slightly as a thought struck me. “What do you think they’ll say about my hair?” I asked him, worried. “It wasn’t blue the last time they saw me. You don’t think they’ll be angry, do you?”
Althor knelt down, smiled kindly, and placed a hand atop my head. “Don’t worry, Marissa. I’m sure they’ll love it.”
I gave him a small smile. “Thank you, sir.”
He stood back up and grabbed his staff from beside the door. “Alright. Time to go.” He opened the front door and we stepped out. We stood on the top step and Althor turned around and pulled the door closed, then pushed back the sleeves of his robe, place a hand on the door, and whispered a few arcane words. A light blue light glowed briefly around his hand. When it faded away, he turned back to me, took my hand, and called out “Teleport!”
There was bright flash of white light, and then the tower was gone and we found ourselves standing in front of a small house at the edge of a little village.
A pretty middle-aged woman with long brown hair ran out of the house, followed closely by a tall, middle-aged man with shaggy black hair.
“Marissa!”the lady called as she ran up to me. She knelt and gave me a tight hug. The man stood behind her and stared down at me with a big smile on his face.
My mother finally released me, then took a closer look at me. “What did you do to your hair?” she asked in surprise.
“I..uh…I had a little accident,” I said sheepishly.
“An accident?” my father asked.
“Something went wrong with a spell,” Althor said. “She was supposed to turn a flower blue, but something happened and her hair changed instead. We’ve tried to change it back to black, but for some strange reason, it won’t change.”
“Well, I like it,” my mother said with a smile. “It suits you, Marissa. Doesn’t it, dear?”
“It looks very nice,” my father said, though I didn’t think he really meant it.
“Come along inside, now, dear,” my mother said, taking my hand. “Althor, would you like to come inside for a drink?” she said with a bright smile. “It’s the least we can do to thank you for teaching our daughter.”
“Uh, well, maybe just a quick drink,” he said, trying to hide his embarrassment.
* * *
Althor didn’t stay long. He only had one drink with my parents before excusing himself. He was not a very sociable person, after all, and listening to my parents talk about how pleased they were with my progress in studying magic seemed to embarrass him, which he tried to hide with a gruffer than normal attitude. When he left, he made sure to remind me to return to him promptly in a week, after checking that I knew how to do the Teleport spell correctly.
The next few days at home with my parents went by quickly. I had a fun time visiting. I enjoyed catching up with my friends in the village. Well, the few I had managed to make, anyway. Even as a child, I was known to be a bit…temperamental. It was also Solstice Fest time, so the village was decorated for the festival with colorful streamers strung from building to building across the village center, and wreaths hanging on all the doors. Even the tree at the center of the village had been brightly decorated. There was a chilly nip in the air as everyone gathered at the village center to celebrate and exchange gifts, but there was no snow this time. My parents gave me a beautiful blond doll as my Solstice Fest gift, which I loved.
As the end of my visit drew near, things took a turn for the worst.
It was a couple of days after Solstice Fest, and the evening before I was to return to Althor. I had finished packing my travel bag and had gone to bed when it happened.
I was just about to doze off into sleep when I heard yelling and screaming from outside the house. I sat up in bed, called for my mother and father, and tried to make sense of what I was hearing outside.
Getting no response, I slid out of bed and crept to the front of the house. The door was open and there was no sign of my parents inside, so I peered out the door into the growing darkness of evening. What I saw rooted me to the spot.
A least a dozen bandits filled the street, laughing madly as they rounded up the families from the houses next to mine and from across the street. Some bandits held the villagers at weapon-point while a few other bandits went into the houses.
My parents were standing at the edge of the street, facing a couple of bandits who pointed swords at them and were trying to make them kneel, but my parents were refusing to back down and let them into our home.
One of the bandits frowned and said something I couldn’t make out. The next thing I knew, their swords seemed to move in a flash, and then my parents dropped to the ground.
Something snapped inside me at the sight. I didn’t think. I just acted. A growl sounded from my little throat as I stepped out the door. I stalked across the yard towards the bandits, my hands held in front of me, and chanted, “Infinite Earth, mother of all, grant me the purifying power of fire. Burning fire of justice, gather in my hand.”
As I drew near the bandits, a large swirling ball of flame appeared in the palm of my hand. I raised my hand, readying to throw it, just as the bandits realized I was there. They grinned evilly at me, then noticed the ball of fire I held. The grins melted off their faces, and I tossed the fire at them as I called out, “Fireball!”
In my anger, I had made a mistake. I was so angry, I hadn’t focused my energy correctly with the spell. Plus, I had only just recently begun to learn the spell and so I hadn’t perfected it yet. So, I sort of made the Fireball a little too powerful. The Fireball also overshot its target and ended up landing in the middle of the street before it exploded.
The resulting explosion wiped out the bandits…along with the villagers who were in the street with them, and destroyed all the houses at that end of the village. The explosion also sent me flying, backwards and away from the unintended destruction.
Needless to say, the rest of the village wasn’t too happy with me. Sure, they were glad to have been spared being raided by bandits, but losing part of the village didn’t sit too well with them. So they exiled me, even though I apologized profusely and even offered to help rebuild. They just didn’t want to take a chance on me losing my temper like that again.
Heartbroken at the loss of my parents and my hometown, I used the Teleport spell to return to Althor.
I stood staring at the front door of the tower for a while after the spell dropped me off there. I didn’t know what to say to Althor. How was I going to tell him what had happened? How could I face him? He would be upset with me for using a spell I hadn’t perfected yet like I had. Would he understand my anger at the bandits, and would he accept that I was sorry for what had happened as a result of my wayward spell? Would he continue to keep me on as his student? Because I really did want to keep learning magic. I wanted to learn all I could, in honor of my parents, who had been so proud of me. And I also wanted to learn more so I could eventually strike out on my own and fight the evils of the world, like those bandits.
Taking a deep breath, I finally reached out and placed my palm against the door. A pale blue light surrounded my hand briefly as the wards on the door lowered. Then I grasped the door handle and pushed the door open. I stepped inside to learn my fate with Althor.
* * *
The sound of a throat clearing behind me snapped me out of my reverie. I turned from the ship’s railings and the sight of the blue ocean to see a sailor standing at attention. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Miss Marissa,” the young man said. “The captain ordered me to inform you that dinner will be served shortly.”
I gave him a short nod of acknowledgment. “Thank you, Jeen. Tell the captain I will be there shortly.”
As he left, I turned back to take another look at the ocean. A lot had happened in the six years since that incident. But I had learned all I could from Althor, and now I was finally on my own and ready to make my own way in the world. Evildoers, beware! Marissa Cobalt is coming for you!
I turned from the ocean and headed back to my room to get ready for dinner.
Allie stood over the stove, grating some lemon zest over the dinner she was fixing, and listened to her teenage daughter in the other room chatting enthusiastically on the phone with her best friend about her plans for summer vacation. As she did, Allie idly wondered where her daughter got such a zest for life from and how she could get some.
This post is part of the Tuesday Use It In A Sentence prompt:
Here we go again. Another music icon has been lost. I may not have been a huge fan of Prince, but I did enjoy some of his songs, and I know what a tremendous artist he was and how much of an influence on the music world he was. He will be sorely missed 😦
As Michael stood beside the table and watched the nurse lead his grandparents into the room and over to him, he recalled all the times as a child that he’d watch his grandmother knit while he listened to his grandfather spin one yarn after another about things that had happened in his youth.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he watched them sit down at the table and look at him with smiles on their faces but not really knowing who he was. He wished again that he could go back and be a kid again with them.
He sat down across from them, reached into a bag, and pulled out a ball of red yarn and some knitting needles. “Grandma,” he said, “knit something for me, please.” He turned to his grandfather. “Grandpa, tell me again about that time you went fishing and caught that huge catfish.”
His grandparents grinned, and he saw a spark of recognition in their eyes at last. “Michael,” they said happily.