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The Universe of Verbina

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"Return What You Borrow"

He looked very impressive with his long dark hair slicked back and the deep purple robes flowing about his form. The sign in front of his booth at the Jiboree proclaimed him to be Wizard Apprentice Cal and he had the appearance of one. He was tall and straight of form in a world of people bent with years of labor. His face looked as if it had been carved from stone by a master artist. He sat in the booth, watching the people milling about the various booths of wares, idly paging through a book. If the people knew the truth, they would have run him out of town. He wasnt a wizard. The closest he ever got to one was when he broke into a wizards house and stole some items, including the very book he was looking at. That had been a year ago and he was living well, using a few simple spells from the book that any person could use to make people believe that he was a wizards apprentice.

When he had first brought the book home, he was furious that there werent any spells to transform lead into gold. He had glowered sullenly at the book as he searched. That was when he got a wonderful idea. He could still make money from the book. He found a few short and simple spells, just enough to deceive the wary. The majority of his business was pure deception. And it worked! He was living very well from his plan. But he could use a few new spells. An old witch woman had appeared at the last festival he had attended and challenged his magical ability. Thankfully, the woman was seen by the other villagers as crazy and had chased her away. But it made him nervous to have someone come so close to exposing him. That was why he was looking in the book. In all that time, he had never looked in the back of the book and had never seen Darlee. Until today.

He plopped the book down on the table and it flipped open to the last page of the book. He glanced at it and stopped, staring. On it was a startlingly realistic drawing of a beautiful woman with piercing blue eyes. Cal shuddered slightly, feeling as if he were being watched. He peered at the picture, amazed. It was a truly incredible color drawing and very life like.

"Are you truly an apprentice wizard?" a scratchy voice asked.

Cal looked up into a large glaring eye belonging to an ancient hag. She was so badly stooped that she needed to twist her head upward to look at him. Her left eye was normal but the right eye was glazed and bulging. Pushing away his feelings of disgust, he smiled. "Of course I am."

"Can you make me young and beautiful?" the hag asked wistfully.

Cal grinned and produced a packet of sugar. "This is the powdered bone of the magical Tilla bird," he lied. " Add this to water and drink it tonight before you go to bed. In the morning, you shall be young and beautiful." He smiled wider thinking about the fact that he would be gone as well. "It is a bargain at only two gold coins."

The woman stared at him a moment then left clutching the packet close to her. Cal chuckled as he pocketed the gold coins. It was so very easy . He turned to the book and stared in amazement. The face seemed different somehow. It was as if the eyes were angry now. He leaned closer to look.

"Can you give me a love potion?" a weak voice mumbled.

Cal jumped slightly and looked at a painfully thin young man with the plainest face he had ever seen. "I have the powdered bone of the Tilla bird. If you feel you need such a potion, I shall let you have it for five gold coins."

The young man soon left holding the precious powder, reciting the instructions Cal had given to him as he went.

"You cannot do that," a voice hissed.

Cal whirled and glared about the booth but he was totally alone. "Who said that?"

"You cannot sell that worthless junk," the voice said.

Cals eyes were wide with fright as he looked around the booth. Who was saying that? Where was it coming from? Then his eyes fell on the picture in the open book. The image of the woman was definitely different this time. The solemn face was now sneering. The eyes blazed with rage. "What is with this book?" he murmured as he leaned close to look.

Suddenly, two hands darted out from the page and grasped his shoulders. Fear chilled his blood as he stared into the face of the enraged woman. Slowly, she rose from the picture until she towered over him.

Cal closed his eyes and shook his head slightly. "This cant be happening!" he stammered. "How can a picture in a book become real?"

"Where did you get the book?" the woman whispered, her eyes flashing.

"I got it frfrom a wizards house." Cal whispered back, daring to open his eyes. The woman was glaring at him, the anger vivid on her beautiful face.

"You stupid fool! Did you not even know whose house you robbed? It was mine! I am the sorceress Darlee!!"

Cal stared at her a moment, his thought abruptly shaken away from the pure beauty of the woman. "That cant be. I mean, Ive heard of the sorceress. Who hasnt heard of Darlee, the famous sorceress. But she disappeared."

"A year ago." Darlee added. Cals eyes widened with alarm as he realized that he had stolen the book a year before. The sorceress sneered. "Do you honestly think that I would leave my things unprotected? Night after night, I kept watch from within the book. And each time someone would steal from me, I would rise from the pages when they read the book. No one ever escaped me. But you? Youre such an imbecile that you didnt even read it. So I have waited for a year for you to reach this page!!!!"

"I didnt think" Cal stammered.

"I believe that your punishment should fit the crime." Darlee hissed.

A blinding light flashed from the booth and several people gaped as a cloud of smoke faded. If anyone had noticed that the sign had changed, they never mentioned it. Several passers by did notice that where the young dark haired man had stood there was now a tall, regal woman with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She nodded to the people and looked about her, silently sending out tendrils of magic to the old woman and the young man, turning the sugar into the true potions that would work.

She sat down and picked up the book which was open to a life-like picture of a very frightened young man. She leaned close and whispered, "Didnt your mother ever tell you to return things that do not belong to you?"

THE END



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