Several Moments of Truth
I could tell when Master Eli handed me the bottle imp that used to be my friend Kack, that Kack was no longer trapped in a severed head. He was now a free-floating intelligent smoke trapped in a bottle made of some Slow-One’s special substance. It was not real magic because it did not make my magic-sense tingle. It was some kind of trick with Slow-One chemicals.
“So, Miss Derfentwinkle, tell us about yourself. And keep in mind your “Horrible Poop” friend will now tell us instantly if you are telling a lie.” Master Eli was looking at me with one eye opened wider than the other.
“Yeah, um… I am Derfentwinkle. I am the servant of an evil necromancer.”
“Do you like working for a necromancer?” Bob, the quiet boy, said.
“I hate it. I hate Kronomarke. He’s cruel, and he sent me on a suicide mission to get me killed intentionally.”
I swirled Kack around in his bottle.
“That is perfectly true… every word,” said Kack.
“Do you like me?” asked the weird mouse-boy.
“I find you mildly disgusting, but it was entertaining when Bob knocked you out.”
The quiet boy chuckled softly when I said that. I am not sure, but I think Master Eli did too.
“Would you be willing to betray your former master?” Master Eli asked.
“I would do so quickly and efficiently and deeply enjoy it.”
Master Eli grinned at me at that answer.
“So, is that true too, Kackenfurchtbar?” asked Bob.
“Derfie almost never tells a lie, but, sadly… this is not entirely honest.”
“What? You won’t really betray him?”
“She can’t. People she loves have their lives in his evil hands. But her heart is set against the necromancer, and she would betray him happily if she could.”
“Ah, I expected as much from old Bluebottom,” said Master Eli.
“So, are you going to kill me, then?” I asked, feeling doomed.
“Oh, no. Of course not. But I am not going to let you go either. You belong to me now. I expect I will hang onto you for a few years now.”
“As a sex slave?” asked the mouse-boy with an ugly smirk on his mouse-face.
“No. She’s free to fall in love with you, Mickey. But she’s also allowed to hate you if that’s how she really feels.”
The mouse-boy hung his stupid mouse head in shame at that reproach.
“Tell me, young lady, do know any of the spells used by your former master?”
“I don’t think I have any magical skills, and I know I don’t know any spells.”
“Not completely true,” blurted Kack.
I gave the bottle a violent shake. His floating eyeballs bounced off each other in the smoke.
“You probably know a lot more than you realize,” said Master Eli. “I heard those two crows claim to be your familiars. Not fairy-sized birds, but normal-sized crows. That takes a lot more real magic than you should be capable of.” He was grinning at me even more now.
“Does your evil master know about the crow familiars?” asked quiet Bob.
“I just found out myself. I don’t think he knows. But I’m sure Kack will tell you I’m lying about that too.”
“She is not lying about any of that,” Kack said. So, I gave him another violent shake.
“Wait a minute,” said the mouse-boy. “Why does she get a familiar when you, me, and Bob don’t, Master Eli?”
“Well, Mickey, a wizard is different than a sorcerer.”
I immediately thought a lecture was coming on. Something about wizards, warlocks, and sorcerers makes them want to explain every little detail in one long-winded speech.
“Wizards, you see, are different than we are. They get their magic from books and scrolls and head-knowledge. They have to study to get their magic working. They have evolved the ability to have so much head-knowledge that they eventually need another head to put it in. Thus, their minds invade and meld with an animal familiar, usually a fairy cat, fairy bird, spider, or some other fsairy-sized creature. I have never known a fairy wizard to have a full-sized animal familiar that was bigger than they were.”
I totally nailed it about the lecture thing. This guy was just as boring as old Kronomarke. Except he wore bright red smart-guy robes which were much more interesting than Kronomarke’s usual black robes.
“So, why don’t sorcerers have familiars?” genius mouse-boy just had to ask.
“Because our magic is different. Our magic is not head-knowledge. It is more from the gut. Intuition over intelligence. We pull magic out of our passions, our feelings, our natural insights…”
“Our sexual abilities?” mouse-boy attempted to add.
“No, Mickey. And that kind of thinking can get you killed around a necromancer. Derfentwinkle’s magic comes from a wizarding-way that draws on life and death. She may know Succubus spells that can drain the lifeforce out of you and leave you a withered husk.”
Dang! There went any chance to use that trick! Mouse-boy might not get it, but Bob just learned what to look out for, and he didn’t seem to miss anything that was said.
“So, you still haven’t said why we don’t have no familiars?”
“Ah, Mickey. Such a stupid child. At least you were bright enough to put on pants this morning.”
“He is right, though, Master. You still haven’t explained why…” Bob said.
“Ah, yes. Although you would be smarter with pants on, Bob, you are right. Sorcerers don’t need familiars. They draw spell energy directly from the ether, and don’t pass it through the brain of any creature. Not even their own brain. They apply it directly to the target. That’s why we use wands and staves and such rather than saying a lot of spell words and wiggling our fingers.”
“Oh. Thank you master. That was a very useful lesson,” Bob said with a cute little smile.
“So, Derfentwinkle, has your master shown you any spells, or made you read any books?” Master Eli asked me.
“No. Of course not. All the magic he gave me was inside Kack’s stupid little demon head.”
“She’s not telling you the whole truth. She has seen the Evil Master cast spells and heard the words he used to do them. And she read some of the books over the Evil Master’s shoulder.”
“Thank you, Kack. I wanted them to know that, but I couldn’t tell them because of one of Kronomarke’s spells.”
“She is telling the truth about that.”
Master Eli’s face split with a huge grin. “Very good, then. I think it is about time I employed the Magic Hat.”
I had no idea what that meant. But I knew it might be dreadful.