‘I am the Wizard of the Valley,’ she said. ‘I congratulate you on reaching your destination. It must have been a troublesome trip.’
I could have hardly believed it if she did not tell me so. It was a long journey, but what stunned me the most was that some travellers told me the Wizard of the Valley was a man. Could they have been mistaken?
She was wearing a cloak covering her from head to toe, and I could barely see the glimmer of her eyes through the cloak’s shadow.
‘Yes,’ I replied. ‘I came with a request.’
‘Sure. Go ahead.’
‘My friend is suffering from an incurable disease, and I wanted you to give me the antidote.’
She fell silent for a few seconds. ‘Normally, people don’t come for a sorceress to ask for an antidote. Do you know why?’
‘There are two reasons, one being that I might ask you for a rather extravagant prize.’
My eyes widened with surprise. Of course! What did I expect? I sighed at my ignorance and raised my eyes to hers.
‘The other reason stems from the wizards’ rather poor reputation of fooling people. In other words, I might mix a little poison in the antidote and give it to you, looking so generous, and you wouldn’t suspect a thing.’
I shuddered. ‘I don’t have a problem fetching you anything you want, but please don’t poison the antidote.’
‘I was just explaining why others don’t ask wizards for requests.’
‘You are my last hope. I beg of you—‘
‘It’s okay. I shall drink a portion of the antidote in front of you before giving it to you.’ She looked around. ‘This place doesn’t seem suitable for a conversation like this. Why don’t we walk over to my humble place of dwelling,’ she added before turning around.
‘Thank you very much for your kindness,’ I said before following her along the valley.
‘Did you know that wizards have a bad reputation for fooling people?’ she asked abruptly as soon as we entered her run-down hut. The floor panels bent outwards and creaked whenever others stepped on them. The rotting walls were covered partially with vines growing along their length to the roof. The crooked shutter creaked as the wind blew.
‘Yes, you told me about it before,’ I replied.
She sighed, shaking her head.
I raised an eyebrow.
She pulled a chair from its place and sat. ‘Sit down,’ she said, gesturing to the chair in front of her.
I followed her and sat in front of her. I looked at her eyes through the croak she was still wearing.
‘What makes you think I am the Wizard of the Valley?’
My eyes widened as I looked at her in disbelief. ‘You told me you were.’
‘Wizards have a reputation of fooling people.’
‘But what?’ she asked when I did not continue.
‘But nobody lives in this valley except you.’
‘How do you know? There could always be people living in blindspots that you could not see, don’t you think?’
That left me speechless.
‘I am not the Wizard of the Valley.’
My eyes widened even further. ‘But you said—‘
‘Wizards have a reputation of fooling people,’ she repeated, this time sounding more intently.
‘I don’t get it,’ I was frowning, ‘Are you lying or not?’
‘Am I lying or not?’
‘I don’t know.’
‘Figure it out.’
My gaze drifted to the counter behind her. It was crowded with various apparatus to grind and mix material and purify them. There was a big jug stuffed with all kinds of herbs and weeds. The counter was old, and the metal rusty. One of the legs was already gone, and in its place was a piece of wood to balance the counter.
‘If you weren’t a wizard,’ I started, ‘then you wouldn’t have all these ingredients and materials on your counter, and you wouldn’t be living in a place like that.’ I felt the urge to smirk, but I swallowed it.
‘This is a friend’s place.’
‘He told me to keep watch over his house since he was away.’
‘Then your friend is the wizard?’
I fell silent for another few moments. ‘There is no way he would have asked you for that. The place looks so run-down that nobody would even think of trying to steal it—’ I took a breath—‘plus, you could be lying about the friend too.
She stayed silent for a few moments. ‘I am not the wizard; this is the truth. And this place is not mine,’ she said as she got up and walked over to the counter. ‘This stuff is the wizard’s. He told me to stay here to look after this place in his absence.’
I got up, pushing the chair backwards as I did so. ‘When will the wizard be back?’
‘I thought you were him at first.’
‘Every time he comes back, he changes his appearance. Every time I see him, he looks different from before. Once, he was a wanderer, another a lost traveller, other times, a helpless child, and an old man wanting shelter.’ She turned around. ‘I am not going to get tricked again. You are him, aren’t you?’
‘Of course not!’ I almost shouted. ‘I want the medicine for my friend, please. If you know how to make the antidote, help me.’
‘What am I?’ she abruptly asked.
‘What am I? Tell me what you think, and I will give you the antidote.’
A few silent moments went by. The only noise we could hear was the bird’s tweeting. I opened my mouth and said the first thing that came to mind: ‘I think you are the wizard’s apprentice.’
‘I am not, but yes. I might appear so.’
‘Then will you—‘
‘When he comes back.’
‘But you said—‘
‘If I am his apprentice, I would do my best to lie as wizards do, right?’
She was under no obligation to give a truthful answer to my questions, nor did she have a problem breaking her promises. I shot her a look that surprised even myself with its intensity. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could, but she was my only hope then.
‘Please,’ I swallowed my pride and bowed my head. ‘Help me save my friend.’
‘And what will I get in return?’
I swallowed, feeling rocks settling in my stomach. ‘I will help you find the wizard.’
She smiled. ‘Are you sure?’ she said with a deep voice that did not sound like hers, but I did not let that change my expression and blamed it on my imagination.
‘I don’t think you need to.’
I raised my head, eyes widening. She was talking again with that same deep and hoarse voice. When I looked at her, the clock was already down, and beneath it, I could see her—no, his short hair and manly features.
He was smiling as he said, ‘You have already found me. Thank you for the little chat, and sorry if I made you feel uneasy. Now let’s talk about the antidote, shall we?’
Read more below 👇
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- Wintry Eyes
- A Blood-stained Key
- Until Dawn
- Through eyes of Amber and Gold (A Flash Fiction Story)
- The Wizard’s Lies
- The Princess’ Curse
- And There was Silence
- Shards of Light hidden in the Darkness
- Never Forest
- The Witch of Evergreen Forest
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