The wizard was having a very bad day.
What does, you ask, a wielder of occult magic’s bad day look like? Was he losing his touch?
No, he was as powerful as ever – lightning flew from his finger tips – blue fire danced in his eyes.
Had a spell gone wrong?
No, his spells were as firm, direct and effective as ever. His potions were potent and his predictions right on the mark. Still, it was not just a bad day it was a disaster of the direst sort.
It had begun as a bright and shiny, better than normal, morning. His prize rose garden was in splendid bloom. Delicious aromas wafted from the kitchen where his wife bustled about preparing a large breakfast.
In fact, the amount of eggs, bacon and hot buttered toast should have awakened a question in his mind. But it didn’t. He sat down and tucked in. His concentration upon his plate hardly waivered when the front door bell rang.
“Get that dear,” he mumbled through a mouthful of buttered toast.
“Oh, look,” his wife cried out cheerily, “It’s mum.”
“Ha…Ha…who?” he put down his fork and swallowed hard – the bad day had begun.
“Mum. Remember? I’m sure I told you last night, she’s come to stay for a fortnight or so.”
The wizard did not remember, but now that he looked about – fresh flowers on the table, double portions of comestibles and newly scoured floor – the signs were all too clear.
His appetite waned but he put on a smile, “Hallow mum. So-nice-to-see-you-Please-sit-down-and-have-breakfast,” he said.
The wizard’s mother-in-law frowned at the wizard, smiled at his wife and seated herself.
“So,” began the wizard with a weak smile, “how was your trip?”
The good lady paused, fork in hand and addressed his wife, “My dear, you look exhausted. I want you to go directly to bed. Mum is here. I will take this place in hand. I can see you need a good rest.”
The wizard found his appetite had fled. He took a last sip of tea and rose from the table, “I believe I’ll take a walk about the garden. I am expecting a messenger from the King this morning, please let me know when he arrives.”
“No worries dear, we come and get you immediately. “ His wife beamed at him then turned to her mother. “The King has commissioned an important potion from Poddy.”
Poddy! He hated that nickname. He was Wizard Poddrick or His Wizardly Eminence Poddrick III to everyone except his wife – to her he was ‘dear’, ‘sweetheart’ or, when she was annoyed, just ‘Poddrick’. The only time his wife ever referred to him as Poddy was when she was speaking to her mother – why this was so, he could not say.
The wizard paced about his garden trying to recover his good mood. He sat on a bench and embraced the warmth. In no time he had dozed off. He woke with a start. The sun was approaching its zenith and his stomach was reminding him that he had cut breakfast short.
He stood and stretched. It was strange that the King’s messenger had not called. The potion was a rush job. Things were not going so well for the King – which was no surprise. The King was impatient, nasty-tempered and despotic. But, he was the King and he paid well.
The wizard stepped into the house and found his wife and her mother having tea. “Hallow, dear. Have a nice nap?” His wife chirped brightly.
He looked about, “Lunch?” he inquired.
“In a bit, dear. Mum and I are having a chat. Mum’s been busy tidying up the whole morning and needs to put her feet up.”
Grumbling to himself the wizard retreated to his laboratory. He opened the door and stopped, gaping in horror. Normally, the wizard’s laboratory was a messy, smelly and, to the casual observer, disordered place. To the wizard, it was workplace, haven and refuge. It was ordered in his own cryptic system. He could put his hand instantly to any item in his inventory. But this, this place was shiny, sparkling clean, scrubbed, uncluttered and a disaster.
It was at that moment that the front door bell rang.
The burly knight standing on the wizard’s front step gazed contemptuously at the wizard, “Wot do ye mean, ye don’t ‘ave it?”
“Oh no, good knight, I most certainly do have the King’s potion. It’s just a tiny technical difficulty. If you could return in an hour or two?”
The knight shifted a battle ax from one meaty hand to the other, “The King is expectin’ that potion delivered by tea time. If he don’t get it, he’ll be in a right bad funk. Sooo wizard,” he paused and shook the ax, “I’m comin’ back in ‘alf an hour and that potion better be in me ‘and or it’s your ‘ead I’ll be takin’ back wid me.”
The wizard leaned against the door, his heart pounding and glared at his mother-in-law.
“Don’t be giving me any black looks,” the good lady declared, “It’s no wonder you’ve lost the King’s potion. That room of yours was a terrible mess. You couldn’t have found a thing in there.”
The wizard opened his mouth but no words came to him. He pointed a finger and a blaze of blinding red light shot in the direction of the woman. He heard a cry from his wife and as his vision returned he beheld – not his hated mother-in-law – a large black crow flapping its wings.
“Look what you’ve done to mum!” his wife cradled the bird in her arms. Its large sharp black beak stretched out toward the wizard. Its beady eyes were full of fury.
“I…I didn’t mean to,” stuttered the wizard. The impact of his deed dawned on him. His mother-in-law was the only person who might know where the King’s potion was located. He had often wished her speechless but this was not the time.
“Well then, put her back! Make her right!”
The wizard wished ardently that he could do so. Undoing spells was one of those things he had never really excelled at. His only hope was ‘The Wizard’s Guide to Creative Spells’ – a manual that contained among many handy and tricky spells – the universal spell reversal procedure.
He backed toward the door to his laboratory saying, “Immediately, my dear.” Under his breath he added: I hope.
Inside the sparkling clean room he cast about frantically, pulling out drawers, scanning his library selves – all to no avail. He found neither the King’s potion nor the “Wizard’s Guide”. “Where is that blasted book! That infernal woman has doomed us both. I’ll be minus a head and she’ll spend her life as a bird. Serves her right!”
He flopped down in a chair and put his head in his hands. All was lost. He could hear the front door bell ringing insistently – the king’s messenger no doubt. He could hear his wife’s voice, “He’s in his laboratory but if it’s that potion you want, I have it right here.”
The wizard’s heart jumped up into his mouth, could it be – he was saved. He crept to the door and peered out just in time to see his wife handing a small flask to the burly messenger. The wizard’s heart nearly stopped. The potion his wife was sending to the King was not the elixir he had ordered. It was a potion that the wizard had prepared for his neighbor to put his dog, who had developed a terminal case of mange, out of his misery. One drop inhaled or ingested by the king and the kingdom would need a new ruler.
The wizard burst out of his laboratory – just a moment too late. He watched as the King’s messenger rode away with the lethal potion in his pouch.
The wizard heaved a sigh. After all, now that he gave it some thought, the King’s heir was reported to be a good lad – intelligent and just. He would be a much better ruler. He might actually reward the wizard if things were presented to him in the right way.
“Did you find the book? What about mum?” his wife asked.
The wizard eyed his mother-in-law who was busily cleaning her feathers. She really made a very attractive bird.
The wizard turned to his wife and made a series of passes with his hand. His wife’s eyes glazed over and she released the bird. The crow flapped its wings and took off through the open window.
The wizard snapped his fingers and his wife smiled brightly at him, “You were looking for something. Did you find it?”
“No, but I don’t think it matters,” the wizard replied.