Back at Castle Elenor, Percy, Barrish, and Darius were still arguing. The archers on the battlements and the soldiers in the court were still standing idle. And the stable boys were yawning.
Suddenly a loud boom caught all of their attention. It was the same boom as when the mirror landed in the court, but more distant. Barrish called to his archers on the battlements to tell him what it was, and it was indeed, the mirror. The three looked at each other, not knowing what to expect, but expecting something bad. Barrish called to his men to prepare themselves for whatever might happen, but that was pointless.
The mirror landed one-hundred yards from the western wall of the castle. Once the dust settled, it began to spin, first slowly, then getting faster and faster, grinding a circle into the ground and turning into a blob of motion. The blob began to pull apart until, with a bloop, they became two spinning mirrors. The spinning slowed, then stopped, leaving them facing each other. With the countless reflections afforded by the mirrors, two more mirrors appeared behind the first two, with two bloops. Then bloop, bloop, bloop, more mirrors appeared, one after the other, in both directions, into a chain of mirrors that began to encircle the castle. Once they met on the other side they turned toward the castle in unison. The glass on all of them began filling with a light, white wood smoke, filling up more and more, turning into a roiling mass. When it seemed they could hold no more, they expelled outward into snake like tendrils that raced towards the castle, moving back and forth as they weaved their way along the ground. All of this was reported to the king.
“What’s going on, Darius?” asked the king with a tremor. “You said he was dead. You said could handle him.”
“Your Highness,” replied Darius, “no harm can come of this. As this is magik, my vines will absorb it all. There is no reason to fear.”
“Even so, Your Highness” said Barrish with concern in his voice, “stay behind me. I will protect you even when this charlatan cannot.”
“Charlatan you say”, retorted Darius. “You will see who is a charlatan when this is over. Then I will expect more than just an apology.”
To this Barrish said nothing. He was too focused on what was about to happen, whatever that was.
The tendrils of smoke finally reached the castle walls, where they shot straight up and over them. The soldiers on the battlements ducked and stepped back, covering their heads for whatever was to happen next. One of the archers stepped back too far and stepped right off the wall, landing in the court with a thud. The King and Barrish blanched from the sight of the tendrils that surrounded them from so high up. They took a few more steps away from the balcony wall, one with fear, the other with caution.
The tendrils reached fifty yards high, casting a lightly darkened shadow in the court, before dipping back down and into it. But as Darius expected, just before they reached the ground, they were drawn to the vines, bending towards them as if called. The vines absorbed it all, and grew with the magikal nourishment. Darius looked back at Barrish, and with a smirk, said “See? What did I tell you?”
Darius continued to look smug as his vines sucked up all the magik. But it kept coming. The tendrils from the mirrors didn’t stop, didn’t even look like they were letting up. And the vines kept absorbing it, every little bit. And they kept growing. Stalks that were as thick as a pinky finger were now as thick as a thumb, and then two fingers, and then a arm. Their length increased too, they were a yard long, then two, then four. The pods that were as big as peas then became the size of walnuts, then apples. The more they absorbed the bigger they got, and their size and length was growing rapidly. They clung to the walls of the castle, but as their length increased they began to reach out to other surfaces. And when they couldn’t find one they fell to the ground, reaching for something to grab on to.
The vines crawled to the barracks. By then the stalks were as thick as small trees, and getting heavier. They tried to climb the building but kept falling on the walls, through windows and doors, and anything else in there path. On the other side they reached the castle wall and found a grip. There they climbed the wall, then over and through the battlements, forcing the archers back. The vines wound through every crevice, which wasn’t good because the stalks were getting thicker.
The smoky magik continued to pour into the castle, and the vines sucked up every little bit. They began to grind away at every grip it had on the walls, the castle, and the ground. The walls began to buckle, the barracks were being squeezed, and the now reached stables were showing signs of stress due to the weight of the stalks, which were now as thick as pine trees. This made the horses more and more nervous, which had the stable boys looking for some way of either calming them or getting them out, but as the vines also crept across the court, there weren’t too many places to go.
As the stalks got thicker, so did the roots. They began to undermine the ground beneath them, pushing their way through the dirt and under the castle. The stalks had climbed the wall to the balcony, finding a grip on any little crack, and had crested it. This made Darius more nervous, and as Barrish felt the wall lifting up he tried to move the king deeper into the castle, but he wasn’t having it. By then the stalks were getting as thick as a grown man, the leaves were as wide as a cart and the pods were the size of melons. The king called out to Darius to do something, but all he could do was watch.
The soldiers on the ground were using their swords to cut through the vines, but soon that became impossible as the vines thickened. In short order they became trapped either in the vines or under it’s leaves, as did the horses, the stable boys, the archers, and anything else in the court. Carts were being smashed, buildings came down, and the grinding on the walls intensified. The wall to the front of the castle finally came down from all the grinding and lifting, sending Darius, Barrish and Percy tumbling down with nothing but the vines to catch them. The archers were trying to step over them from the battlements, but soon they either tumbled down or became trapped. The court was filling up with vines, with no where for them to go.
Then, as the capacity of the court had overreached it’s capacity to hold these now impressive vines, stalks as thick as columns, leaves the size of horses, and pods the size of barrels, the outer walls buckled, and then fell with a loud rumbling. The front gate crumbled outward, spilling it’s door and portcullis onto the road, the former broken to pieces, the latter twisted into a new shape. The stones for the walls tumbled down, leaving huge dents in the ground where they struck. The castle now had a huge gaping maw of a hole where the great door and balcony had been.
And as if on cue, the vines had also reached it’s capacity to feed on magik. They began to split, sounding like trees being felled. Everywhere they split with a loud creaking, cracking sound, dropping it’s pods on anyone or anything that was beneath them, which then splattered their innards in a thick viscous soup. The leaves wilted, the vines settled, and the magik stopped pouring in. It was over.
King Percy and Captain Barrish, who only escaped disaster by falling on the very vines that had destroyed the court, slowly made their way to their feet. Barrish, who first gave the harshest of glares towards Darius, began organizing the men who weren’t trapped to help the ones that were. Percy looked around at the destruction, murmuring to himself, “My castle, my castle”. Darius just sat there in amazement, not knowing what to do next.
While they were involved in their misery, the mirrors had faced each other again, rejoining to become one mirror again, bloop, bloop bloop. The one mirror then shot into the air, tumbling towards the castle, to land on a vine, with a resounding squish which made everyone jump. Jarond once again stepped out, and with his hands on his hips, looked around to take in his handy work. “Very nice, very nice”, he said to no one in particular. Then his eyes settled on Darius. “There you are. It’s time we had a little meet.” He stepped carefully over the vines, hopping every here and there, trying to make a bee line to him. “King Percy”, he said. “You may want to step away from him. He’s been bad and now I have to punish him.”
As Percy scrambled away and as Barrish drew his sword, Darius scrambled to his knees, footing not being too good with all the vines. He drove his hands into his robe and pulled out a small bottle. “Take this!” he yelled, and upon opening it brimstone poured out into the air as if being shot out, a brutal, sulfuric, liquid lava-like heat. Jarond took a deep breath and blew on it with great force, cooling and extinguishing it. Taken aback for a second, Darius searched again into his robe as Jarond got closer. He pulled out a scroll, breathed on it, and flung it at Jarond. The paper burned into a great fire, and a three-headed dog leapt out. Jarond clapped his hands in front of it and it poofed out of existence with a sparkle of dust. Taken aback again, Darius then reached for another scroll, read the words on it, and bees flew from it, covering Jarond instantly. He raised his arm and swirled it in the air, gathering the bees around his hand. He whipped his hand towards a wooden door and the bees hit it like darts, stingers sticking tight.
Stunned, and with Jarond now standing before him, Darius couldn’t think of anything else. Everyone watched silently as Jarond took the thumb of his left hand and placed it upside-down in the center of Darius’ forehead, who was instantly frozen in place with his eyes wide open. Jarond placed the palm of his left hand on the top of Darius’ head and tilted it back, while he raised his other hand and pointed two fingers directly in front of his eyes. He peered deeply into them, seemingly looking for something.
“Wha…what are you doing to me” moaned Darius, not being able to look anywhere else or move.
“Well”, said Jarond in a quiet, off-handed way, “you have a small talent for magik, just enough to get you into trouble. I’m just going to…There it is! Snip”, he said as he brought the two fingers together. This made Darius wince from a sudden sharp pain. He fell back out of Jarond’s grasp and brought his hand to his head. The pain was gone as quickly as it appeared, leaving Darius with a quizzical look on his face.
“What have you done to me”, he demanded.
“Oh a little thing, I assure you”, replied Jarond. “You see, you have, had, a small talent for magik. Not enough to do anything significant, but enough to get you, and others, into trouble, as you can see.” He gestured around the court, indicating the carnage that ensued. “So you know how the eyes are the window to the soul? I looked into yours and found that little bit of talent and cut it off, snip snip.” He gestured with his fingers, moving them in a scissor-like fashion. “Now you won’t be any trouble to anyone.”
He leaned closer to Darius to again look him in the eyes. “I’m guessing you did all of this to get to my library, right? Well you can enter my library and read all of the books you want. None of them will make any sense to you. You are bereft of any magik, magikal thoughts or magikal means. You are now an ordinary man, in an ordinary world.” Jarond straightened up, dusted off his hands, and said “Good luck with that.” And with that he turned away, said “Well, my work here is done”, and headed back to his mirror, carefully stepping over the vines, sometimes hopping.
Darius pulled bottles and scrolls from his robe. He knew what the items were, but he had no idea how to make them work. The futility was slowly beginning to seep in as he pulled one potion, powder, and spell from his robe one after another, desperately trying to make them work, failing at every turn.
As Jarond made his way back to his mirror a voice called out to him. “Pardon me, wizard?” It was King Percy who was trying to get his attention. “I would like you to know that we here in Elenor had no idea what Darius was up to. We hold no ill will towards you.”
Jarond stopped and looked back. “Yes, I know.” Then he turned back and continued on his way.
The king began to follow him, stumbling over the vines as he went. “Kind sir, is Darius truly powerless?”
Jarond stopped again, looked back and said “Yes.” Then he continued on his way.
“Please sir, we truly didn’t mean any harm. In fact, I would like to formally invite you to the castle for dinner, in your honor!”
“No, really, that’s not necessary”, this time not stopping.
“No, I insist. You may not know this but you did my kingdom a great service. You exposed a saboteur, a charlatan, a power monger, who was not working in the interests of the kingdom. We can see now that you had no plans on taking Elenor for yourself, or plans against our people. So we would like to honor you in the grandest manner we can!”
By then Darius’ cries began to fill the air.
“Ummm, if you think that’s necessary, but I don’t want to be a bother.”
“No bother at all!” Percy struggled to keep up. He was focusing half his time on talking to Jarond and the other half trying not to fall. “Well, we will have to clean up this mess, and then do a bit of rebuilding. My, if I knew this would happen I would have had that man executed. We don’t normally go about picking fights with anyone, we were seduced into believing the worse.”
“Really, you don’t owe me anything. It wasn’t your fault. It’s ok.” Darius’ cries turned into moans, filling the air along with the distressed horses and the men shouting to each other. Jarond had stopped to think, then turned back to the king. “Well you do owe me something. Tell me, what is your town known for?”
Percy came to a stop in front of Jarond and blinked. “Known for?”
“What does your town have to offer? Furniture, tapestries, knick knacks, art, glass, pottery…?”
“Fabrics!” Percy exclaimed.
“Fabrics?” Jarond asked.
“Yes, fabrics. Just look at my attire”, and the king grabbed his cloak edges and gave them a flutter. Then he tried to do a spin, but the vine’s uncertain footing made that impossible. If anything it was funny to watch.
“Ok, ok, ok I get it. Maybe the girls can get some nice dresses. I’ll be back in a week, you can give us a tour.”
“Why yes, Percy replied with aplomb. “I can do that. Maybe not in a week. After all, we do have a large mess to clean up. And then there’s the rebuilding, we have to collect our horses, make sure everyone’s ok…”
“Ok, send a messenger when you’re ready.” And with that Jarond continued to the mirror.
“It’s just”, continued the king, acting as if he hadn’t heard Jarond, “There is so much to do here. We didn’t know what to expect, so we couldn’t prepare. That Darius certainly had us fooled. I think the only one who wasn’t fooled was my captain, that man, over there.” Percy pointed out Barrish who was caught by surprise. He had been drawing closer, to make sure the king was safe, and to let him work. He’s seen this before, the way the king manipulated people. Now that his position was compromised he had no reason not to approach. To this Jarond stopped, waiting for him to get closer.
“You sent four men to my castle to do me harm”, said Jarond.
“Uh, castle?” was all he could say.
“Your horses, I’m keeping them.”
“Uh, of course. Consider them a gift from the kingdom of Elenor.” He affected a half bow to express his generosity.
“They’re not a gift, I’m taking them”, came the sharp reply. “Don’t think that just because you got some bad advice that excuses you. Next time you send men to do me in I will take more than horses. Take, not gifted.”
Being reprimanded was something Barrish hadn’t experienced in a long time. As such, he was at a loss as to what to do next. He looked to the king, who was silently but urgently pushing him on, with head nods and eye direction. Stumbling through his words he got out, “Uh, yes, uh, sir…sir Wizard, it…it will never happen again.”
“Bah”, said Jarond, waving his hand at him. He then continued to the mirror, with the king following him and Barrish helping the king.
“As you can see”, said Percy, “this was just a huge misunderstanding. Now we would like to celebrate you properly. It’s just that with this mess we don’t know how long it’ll be to treat you with all the respect you deserve. If I had a worthy wizard this would be cleaned up in a day. But as it is we may need to call in some masons from the neighboring towns, and just getting them here may take days.”
Jarond had reached the mirror and prepared to step inside once again.
“…and then there’s all of these vines that have to be reduced and carted out. I hope they haven’t hurt anyone. My men seem to be ok, but now I guess I have to hire lumberjacks to chop all of this up. And the carts, the countless wagons that have to be replaced? As you can see I have a lot of chores to accomplish before I can do any kind of entertaining. But don’t you worry, I will, as soon as it’s fitting.”
Jarond placed a hand on the mirror frame and dropped his head. He could see where the kings monologue was going. If anything, you could say that Percy was a quick thinker. And manipulative.
“After all, you have shown us what true power is, and we want to show our respect. We will have a grand feast, with troubadours and dancers, and you as our honored guest will get your fill of all that we have to offer. Ooh, Barrish, perhaps you can get the archers to put on a demonstration. And our equestrian arts are the pride of the castle. Barrish, you will of course have to replace those four those horses. And the next day we can go into town and find any material you can think of and fashion it into anything you desire. Capes, gowns, trousers, tunics, all you have to do is ask. I think I shall have a special garment tailored just for you. It will be as resplendent as my clothing, if not more. I will see to it that nothing is held back, no garment off limits, no request not honored, no desire not fulfilled…”
Jarond listened to the king go on and on. He also heard the wailing of Darius, the soldiers cries of discovering more men beneath the vines, the horses that didn’t make it out neighing like mad, the archers crying about their broken bows. He had indeed heard enough.
“Alright, alright, you want me to fix your castle, I get it. Let’s just get this done, alright?”
“Er, well, if you think that’s best”, came Percy’s meek reply.
“Yeah, yeah, stand right here” directed Jarond, as he pointed his finger at a piece of vine that was laying directly in front of the mirror.
“Right here?” said Percy, stumbling into position.
“Yes, right there” Jarond replied. “Now look into the mirror, or more precisely, look over your shoulder through the mirror. What do you see?”
“Well, I see a mess of a castle, with vines everywhere and the walls crumbling. And my balcony. I could look down from there and see everything in the court. Now it’s just a big hole in the wall.” As he spoke smoke began to pour out of the bottom of the mirror, crawling along the vines like the fog from a moor in the early morning. “Wait where’s the standard? Oh, there it is on the ground looking like a used rag.” The fog had had begun to fill the court, becoming deeper as it went. “Father would be furious if he saw that…”
“Alright, alright, now tell me what you should be seeing.” Jarond said this quietly, not wanting to break the spell the king was under.
“Well”, started the king, “First there weren’t any of these vines in the court.” Just like that the vines began to shrink in size, like deflated balloons. This of course sent everyone scrambling to keep their footing again, but the process did relieve and release the soldiers as well as the horses. Soon they were all gone as the king continued.
“And the standard hung right above the door, above the balcony, which wasn’t just a hole but a grand stand, with banners and pikes…”
As he spoke, the mirror showed him what he described, and behind him where ever the fog touched began to tremble and move. The stones that had been reduced to rubble began to roll back to the walls, resuming there place from where they fell. The gaping hole began to fill and the balcony was soon back to it’s original shape. And the standard took flight to attach itself once more to the wall, pulling the fog with it in a swirl as it went.
“Walk to your left and tell me what else you see” said Jarond, turning the mirror with ease in a clockwise direction. The king didn’t notice. He was transfixed on the mirror and simply followed Jarond’s instructions as he began his circular walk.
“The barracks weren’t the mess you see now, they were stately, long, and had two floors, made from the strongest timbers. And the stables were just as stately, the best stables in all the land.”
He continued to describe the court, and as he did the pieces that had fallen or broken rolled back to where they were supposed to be and re-assembled themselves. It was quite a sight, as if the rubble had taken on a life of their own as they rolled across the ground and became walls again. The soldiers had to duck and dodge to avoid being hit or rolled over by them. This continued as Jarond turned the mirror and the king described everything, from the outer walls to the main gate and finally back to the main doors of the castle.
The circle completed, Jarond said to the king, “Turn around.”
The king, no longer in the thrall of the mirror, blinked his eyes and did just that, to see that the fog was fading away and his castle had been restored to it’s former glory, like nothing had happened at all.
Overjoyed, the king turned to Jarond. “Thank you so much. you have restored everything. How can I ever repay you?”
Jarond looked at him and said, “We’ll see in a weeks time. Bye!” And with a hop and a bloop, he was back inside the mirror, which began to shake left and right again. Suddenly it flew into the air and out of sight.
The king went back to looking at his castle, happy that all the damage was repaired. Barrish approached him to get his attention.
“Your Highness, what shall we do with him” he asked, motioning towards Darius who was still sitting on the ground as he watched true power rebuild the castle. He watched with awe, and now that it was done, wailed aloud even more, fully realizing that that was something he would never be able to attain.
The king looked at him through narrow eyes. “Do what you want with him, he is no longer important.”
“Thank you, Your Highness”. Barrish tried to quell a grin as he motioned to two of his men to grab Darius. He didn’t notice, and was still crying about what he had lost as he was dragged away.
And the king, happy with the way things turned out, pranced back into his castle.