Friday, November 11, 2016

The Pack Rat Mage

This is another one of the folks who won in the raffle I posted for a story with me. Bob wanted to see what would happen if Farloft's hoard disappeared and Clearair was left to guard the remainder as Farloft went off to search for the missing pieces. He had no idea how it would play out once my scribe got hold of the idea. *grins*

The Pack Rat Mage

“Have you seen that pearl necklace I received from Queen Sophia?” Farloft asked, as he came into the main part of the cave.

Clearair waded out of the thermal pool in their lair. “It was in the top of the silver caldron with the other jewels in your hoard last time I saw it.”

Farloft sat down on his haunches and gazed lovingly at his beautiful blue dragoness. “You always shine so when you are wet from the pool.” He shook his head. He needed to keep his mind on the task at hand, not his lovely mate. “Have the younglings been playing in the hoard again?”

“No,” Clearair responded with a frown. She sat down close to one of the volcanic cones and placed her paws above it to dry from the heat off the lava far below. “And, you shouldn’t blame our offspring for your misplacing something from your hoard.” She clicked her tongue at him accusingly.

“I wasn’t blaming them. I was just asking.” Farloft ruffled his wings in agitation. “I want to give that necklace to Theresa for her hatchling day gift.”

“Theresa is not a dragon…she has a name day, not a hatchling day,” Clearair corrected the old green dragon. “In any case, you, Adrian and Sarah have already planned the party with the entertainment. I am sure that is enough without a pearl necklace she would never wear. You know she is not into finery. She rarely gets out of those trousers and boots. I swear she is as tough as I was as a dragon hunter in my time.”

“I suppose you are right.” Farloft came up beside his mate and nuzzled her neck. “I do wonder where it went though.”

“Well, don’t be badging the younglings. They have been at James’ lair the last two days and I am pretty sure I saw it yesterday when I was tidying up.”

Clearair was always ‘tidying up’ as she called it. Farloft thought it was a habit from her days as a human. She moved the items in the hoard pile almost daily, arranging, rearranging, by color, metal, size, type of item, whatever her fancy was that day.

“Very well, but if you run across it next time you are ‘tidying up,’ please set it to one side for me.” Farloft shifted his position at her side so he could drape a wing lovingly over his mate.

“She won’t wear it,” Clearair pronounced flatly. “It will be a waste of a good dazzler. She will just put it in a box somewhere. Better to give her a pouch of dried feverfew or lungwort for her medicinal stock. She would get more use out of it.”

Farloft nuzzled Clearair again, behind the ear this time, and huffed softly.

She grinned and chuckled. “We will have to hurry…I expect the younglings home soon.”


The pearl necklace was not the last thing to disappear from the hoard. Farloft knew his treasure like a miser knew the number of coins in his purse. The old dragon could recall all he had in his hoard, who gave it to him and for performing what duty or feat of parous. The next thing to come up missing was a brooch he thought to substitute as a gift for Theresa on her name day. He reasoned she could wear it to keep her cape closed during the fall rains. When he found that missing he started to take inventory and realized there was a ruby goblet missing from the treasure he was given by the Queen of Nigleen. By the time he discovered the missing Shield of Shaldon he was stomping and grumbling around the cave so loudly that Clearair had hustled the younglings off to James’ lair for the day and was doing her best to calm her mate down.

“Farloft, we will get to the bottom of this,” she assured him. He was so upset he was turning color around his jaws. She was worried for his health. He was not a young dragon.

“They have to be here somewhere,” Farloft grumbled. “No one has been in here.” He turned on Clearair. “You don’t think James is playing a trick on me? Do you?” He didn’t give Clearair time to answer. “He better not be! It’s not funny!” He huffed and smoke rose from his nostrils.

“Calm down, dear.” Clearair reached out and patted his paw with hers. “It won’t do you any good to get so upset.”

“I will sleep in here tonight,” Farloft declaring. “I will find out who is doing this.”

It was at that moment that his sensitive hearing caught the sound of a hurried, soft, two-footed tread in the tunnel outside the entrance to the hoard area of the cave.

He raised his paw to his muzzle and indicated for Clearair to remain silent. He rose quickly, but quietly, and slid back up against the wall, positioning himself to pounce on the person about to enter the cave. The moment they came around the corner he leaped from his hiding place and in the process knocked Theresa down to plop butt first on the hard rock floor of the cave.

“Ohh…” she exclaimed, the moment she hit the floor.

“Theresa!” Farloft and Clearair gasped in the same breath.

“I am so sorry,” Farloft apologized. He nudged her with his nose. “Are you hurt? Here, let me help you up.” He sat back on his haunches and lifted her back to her feet with his front paws.

“Was that an accident? It seemed like you were just waiting to pounce on me?” Theresa asked, as she dusted herself off.

“Farloft thought you might be our thief,” Clearair started to explain.

“Things have been disappearing from my hoard,” Farloft went on.

Theresa stopped dusting and looked up at the two dragons with a questioning look in her large blue eyes. “Well now… that is interesting… that is precisely why I came to see you,” she exclaimed.

“You found my missing treasure?” Farloft asked hopefully.

“Nope.” Theresa placed her hands on her hips. “The queen asked me to fetch you because she wants you to help her men find something… her missing crown!”


When Farloft left two days ago, Clearair promised him she would watch over the remainder of his hoard. She swore she would not let another piece escape from the cave. But, it had been over 48 hours and even a dragon had to sleep on occasion. She curled up with her body blocking the entrance to the hoard cave as much as possible. She rested her head on her paws. Her eyelids began to droop and before she knew it, she was in a sound sleep.

The thief was small and quiet. Even though it was at great risk to his safety, he tiptoed past the sleeping dragon. He couldn’t help himself. He was drawn to the treasure trove like a thirsty dog to water. He successfully navigated the edge of the pile, missing tipping over a metal tray, by a hair’s breath. It would have clattered to the floor and the dragon would have woken up and killed him for sure.

He picked up the tray and polished it with the edge of his ragged cloak. It shined so he could see his face in it. The face that looked back at him had seen better days. Today there was a scraggly beard with patches of grey, where once he had been clean shaven. His hair was overly long, matted and most likely filled with lice. In fact, his whole body felt like it might be infested with the tiny vermin. He itched all over. What had become of the man he once was? Who would even recognize William Mageson today? He was not the same optimistic young man he had been years ago when he entered service and instruction under the tutorage of Paltic the Wise and his attendants.

William looked beyond the tray in his hand, out over Farloft’s massive hoard. He hardly knew what to take next. There was so much here to covet. He spied a large diamond and imagined what it would feel like in his hand, cool, smooth, the weight of it in his pocket. He picked it up and it was just as he thought. He could almost taste the feel of it.

He went on to pick up a necklace of gems, which he draped over his head for easy carrying, a gold signet ring and a dagger with a jewel encrusted handle, which slipped easily into the frayed rope he used for a belt at his waist.

Still carrying the tray, he stopped at the edge of a neatly piled group of mirrors with fancy gold and silver frames. In their reflection he saw Clearair silently rise behind him, her ocean blue/green eyes fixed on him like a cat’s on a mouse. He turned so quickly he stumbled over a line of goblets at his feet and he went down in a heap of shattered mirrors and clanking metal goblets.

He held the tray up in front of him for what little protection is would give him against the dragon’s fire.


Clearair had awakened to Williams’ quiet tread as he made his way through the treasure room. She watched him through slitted eyes as he fingered and pocketed item after item, but there was something in his manner that delayed her from striking. Why was he in such a tattered and worn state of dress? Why was he so unkempt if he had been stealing items for days, maybe weeks? Why hadn’t he sold or traded them to his good? Her need to know grew faster than her desire to roast him.

He was startled when he spotted her in the mirrors. He stumbled when he turned and now sat against the wall with the tray held before him in shaking, grimy hands.

“Who are you?” she demanded with a roar.

The little man peered up over the edge of the tray. “I am William Mageson,” he answered in a shaky voice.

“A mage’s son… and you think to steal from dragons?” Clearair’s voice rang throughout the cave. It made some of the goblets on the floor vibrate and sing softly.

“I would tell you I am sorry, because I am, but it will not stop me from doing it again,” William confessed, as he let the tray droop further toward his lap.

His face revealed a man of years, but worn even further beyond his actual age – a man with years of hard living behind him.

“Why would you risk your life?” Clearair asked with interest.

A human was no match for a dragon. Especially not this human. He looked like he had not eaten in days, perhaps not had a good meal in months. A good stiff breeze would have blown him over.

“I cannot help myself.” He shook his head in dismay. “It is a long story.”

“I am a dragon. I have a very long life to lead. I am willing to listen.” Clearair settled her bulk between the man and the exit to the cave. She wanted to get to the bottom of this before Farloft returned. “Talk…” she encouraged. “Tell me how a mage’s son falls so low.”


Clearair hung on every word of William’s story as it unfolded.

“My father was one of the attendants to Paltic the Wise. From the time I was born it was evident that all my father’s magical talent had been passed on to me, as well as his father’s and his father’s before him. Paltic schooled wizards in magic, sorcerers in potions, and mages in how to pull the energy from the natural environment around them to work their spells. I was very adept, but also very shy. I was not one to lord over the fact that I knew more than others, or had more talent in one hand than they had in their entire bodies. I think I was shy because my father was not as talented as I, and I so loved my father that I did not want to show I was the better mage.”

William adjusted his seat on the cold, hard rock of the hoard cave. The dragon seemed genuinely interested. He continued with his story.

“I kept to myself. In a castle full of talented wizards, sorcerers and mages, I was overlooked and even ridiculed. I was often the sources of jokes and the brunt of pranks. I became even more reclusive.

“I found a pet. A tiny pack rat and I named him Packit. During the day he would ride, curled comfortably, in a pouch at my waist. I would slip him tidbits from the table at mealtimes. At night, being nocturnal, he would come out to roam about my desk as I studied by candlelight. He would often scurry off to investigate the castle, and I let him. After all, I was not his captor, I was his caretaker.

“Many times I would awaken the next day to check on Packit and find that he had picked something up on his adventures the night before, a signet ring, an earring, a necklace, those were his favorites. He could easily pick them up and bring them back to his ‘portable nest.’

“I would listen to the conversation during the meals the next day. My ears became very attuned to the works, ‘lost,’ ‘disappeared,’ ‘missing.’ I would take note, and that night, I would return the items Packit had pilfered.” William smiled in spite of himself. “I became very light footed.”

“I noticed.” Clearair huffed and a thin tendril of smoke curled up from her left nostril. “Go on.”

William put down the tray and pulled his knees up to wrap his arms around them. He settled into his storytelling. “Packit’s and my nightly excursions went on for over two years totally undetected, on my part at least. At the same time, I was becoming more sure of myself as a mage. I was learning the intricacies of controlling the natural forces of nature. The other students, wizards, sorcerers and mages were beginning to take notice of me for my talents. Rather than ridicule, some were now growing jealous of my abilities.

“One night long ago, Packit lifted the signet ring of one of the young wizards. The man was pompous and felt himself above all studying in the school. I had returned all the other items from the night before of Packit’s collection, but I knew when I awoke early and found this among his new treasures that it could not wait until that evening to be returned. Over the years, the man he stole it from had pointed fingers at numerous people when the topic of the ‘castle thief’ came up, but most often he had pointed them at me. His jealousy of my growing power had only increased those accusations. I feared he might find the ring on me. I had always kept the nightly items safe in the pouch at my waist with Packit rather than hiding them in my room. There had been many room searches over the last two years in an endeavor to find the thief.

“I decided to try and return the ring early that morning once I knew everyone was safely at the morning meal. I feigned illness and left the table. I snuck back to the rooms. I easily broke past the ward the student had put on his room and was placing the ring on his bedside table when he appeared and caught me. We had words and he threatened to call an attendant to turn me in. I told him once I was out of the room, it was only his word against mine. We both knew there would be no action taken. Though quiet, I was one of the favored students by the attendants and Master Paltic.

“The young wizard could not leave it. He had to do something. We all had been practicing morphing spells and the deflecting spells that went with them. We had all changed apples into pears, frogs into puppies… The young wizard raised his wand and cast a spell. I cast a deflecting spell. It did not appear as though anything had happened. I smiled triumphantly and walked out the door. To keep my story in place, I went to my room to lay down for a time.

“When I got to my room I opened Packit’s pouch. My intention was to chastise him for stealing the ring and warn him against such an action again. I knew it would do me no good, after all, he was just a pack rat, but I was surprised to find he was not in his pouch. I was sure he had been there when I left the room for the morning meal. I searched… I didn’t go to classes or the mid-day meal, or afternoon practice, or the evening meal.

“However, when darkness fell that night and I became restless, as though it were the breaking of dawn, I knew where Packit had gone. Whether it was the wizard’s ill spoken casing, or my hurriedly responding deflecting spell… I will never know, but Packit had been sucked into my being. He, and his desire to take shiny things, were now a part of my soul.

Clearair studied William with eyes that told him she accepted his story. Perhaps even understood it. It felt so good to tell someone - to confess his kleptomaniac behavior after all these years of denial to all who accused him. He let out a big sigh and chose to finish his story.

“As a human, I had always admired Master Paltic’s wand. It was very rare…crystal, the handle embedded with precious gems. That first night, I snuck into his chambers to steal the wand. I cannot tell you how much I fought the urge – what I did in order to try and keep my hand from lifting it from its holder on the mantle. Just to have it in my hand brought me such joy – such inner pleasure. I could almost feel Packit doing flip-flops of delight inside me. He never could have taken anything so large.

“As you might guess, being a magically creature yourself, Master Paltic knew immediately when I touched his wand. He rose and caught me before I even had time to turn it in my hand to admire it further. I gave it over without a denial or explanation. I was stunned at what I had done. Though I knew in my heart it was Packit who tried to take the wand, it was me standing there. I was expelled and dismissed from the premises without a chance to explain even though I do not know if they would have believed me. My father did not even defend me.”

“Surely being purveyors of magic the Master and his attendants should have understood your story,” Clearair offered. “Perhaps they could have reversed the ill-cast spell.”

“Perhaps, but my mind was jumbled and by morning when I was pushed out the main gate with my bag I was tired and wanted only to find a place to curl up and sleep. When I awoke the following night, I was so driven by my desire to find and procure shinny items of any kind, that thoughts of redemption and returning to explain to my father and Master Paltic was the furthest thing from my mind.

“I, like Packit, established a standard mode of operation. I slept during the day in progressively more destitute locations. At first I had some funds and slept at inns. But now I was not awake during the day to return the items. When I awoke with them the second night, I felt I might be caught and I hurried to move on to the next town. In some cases, I was caught. I would be thrown into a dungeon or jail to eat slop and commune with rats. But I did not learn my lesson. I would continue to pilfer when released. The desire to possess the items was ingrained in me. It kept me moving constantly. I became worn and little more than the pack rat inside me. A thief without a home.

“Eventually, I was caught in Tellishire. The city guards there were less than kind. They could see I was, as they put it, a repeat offender, and needed to be taught a lesson - a good, costly lesson. They intended to take my right hand off. Some of Packit’s digging instincts surfaced that night and I dug myself out with the metal bowl they delivered my slop in that day. I bet the guards were surprised to find me missing.” A sly smiled lifted Williams lips. “I think it was the threat of being mutilated that kicked my human-self back into my mind. I got to thinking and dreaming about the person responsible for my plight. I wanted to find the wizard. I wanted revenge!”

“And did you find him?” Clearair asked with true interest.

“No, he was dead. You had already killed him!”

“I?” Clearair raised her brows indignantly. “I have never killed a wizard!”

William hastened to apologize, “But the people in Brownbrair said Farloft killed Laval.”

Recognition appeared on Clearair’s face. “I am not Farloft. I am Clearair, his mate.”

Oh Gods, William thought, I have offended not one dragon, but two!

“So, it was Laval who caused all this trouble.” Clearair shook her wedged head. “Trouble followed him all his life.”

“You knew him?”

“No… but Farloft has recounted his story to me.” Clearair rose to her feet. “It will be dawn soon. I have an idea on how to fix this.”

“Really?” William leaned forward expectantly. It was too much to hope for.


William lay curled up, sleeping in the corner as Sarah flipped through the books on her desk. Clearair sat on the battlement outside the sorceress’ window peering in.

“He said it was a combination of a morphing spell and his deflecting spell that made him this way?” Sarah asked for clarification from the dragoness.

“Indeed, he did.” The large dragon adjusted her stance on the battlement so she could see better. “Don’t you have to remove a spell with a spell, like you did with me?”

Sarah had been digging through Laval’s old journals for over an hour. “Here it is!” She stepped back and gripped her staff. “I can even see where a young Laval would go wrong. The syntax is very subtle. I just need some help here.”

“What can I do?” Clearair offered.

“Oh no,” Sarah shook her head. “I am not going to experiment on you.” She reached in the aquarium and captured a toad. She took it to the dove’s cage and placed it inside with the bird. “First I will do the incantation wrong, as I think Laval did. The frog should disappear into the dove. Then if that works, I can reverse the spell easy enough by doing a separation spell with a tweak or two.”

Sarah held out her staff and spoke the incantation. The frog disappeared.

“Well?” Clearair asked.

The dove opened it mouth and croaked like a frog. Both dragon and sorcerous grinned.

“Now for the test.” Sarah raised her staff yet again and spoke a different spell while tapping the dove softly on the head three times.

The dove ruffled its feathers and the frog reappeared beside it in the bottom of the cage.

“You are going to be a great sorcerous one day,” Clearair complimented from her perch outside.

“Someday?” Sarah questioned with a smile. “Shall we change him back now, while he is sleeping?”

“Let’s not.” Clearair lay her head on the windowsill. “I want to see his face when he realizes he is finally free.”


William stood before Sarah in the cool of the evening breeze through the window. Clearair had taken time to go back to Farloft’s and her lair to put the hoard in order. William had told her where he was stashing the items he pilfered, including the queen’s crown and several shiny tools from the local folks. The dragoness now sat on her perch outside the window and watched as Sarah prepared to separate William from his long time hitchhiker.

“Just close your eyes and think of something pleasant,” the sorcerous instructed. “The dove gave no indication it will be painful, but when I changed Clearair it surprised us both of how she reacted.”

William pressed his eyes closed. “Go ahead. Even if it kills me, it will be better than living as I have.”

Sarah raised her staff and spoke softly. The moment she spoke the last word and tapped him on the head, Williams’ eyes flew open and he gasped for air. He clutched his abdomen and then rolled forward to collapse to his knees before her.

Sarah knelt before him, placing her hands gently on his shoulders. “Are you all right, William?”

He didn’t answer and she squeezed his shoulder.

“William?” Clearair said, as she poked her head further into the room.

His head came up slowly. There was a broad smile on his face. “Let me introduce you both to Packit.” He said. He opened folded hands at his waist to reveal the tiny creature.

Art by Elizabeth Babizc - William Mageson

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