A Tale of the Failed Summoner
"Second chances don't come cheap at Summoner's Green, but then no-one wants a failed summoner, so you've got to try."
Kallorn reached down and plucked a flower from amongst the green grass, popping it into his mouth and grimacing at the bitter taste.
"Forty-seven," came a screech from above, followed by a long cackle.
"I can count, thank you, Harow," he glared at the scruffy raven perched above his head. "Why don't you make yourself useful and start hunting for the cowsfoot?"
"Three more to go, then the cowsfoot," the bird squawked, flapping it wings before disappearing into the surrounding trees.
"Damn bird," he cursed, scanning the sunlit glade for more of the purple petals. There were none, which meant another journey into the cold dark of the forest, searching for yet another clearing where the sun could peer in and gift life to his prize.
Pulling the cloak tighter about him, he pushed his way through the creeping vines and vicious briar, determined to complete at least one of his tasks before night fell.
It wasn't the caw of Harow that snatched his attention as he stumbled into the next clearing, nor the ramshackle hut that leaned against an untidy pile of boulders, it was the small, green goblin balancing on a tree stump, aiming a crude catapult into the nearby treeline. He released the stone as Kallorn fought to free himself from a particular thorny piece of bramble, the tear from his trouser leg echoed by an angry chirp as Harow took flight and the stone ricocheted harmlessly from the branch he'd been sat on.
"Bah! Hold still bird, Zorq needs to eat," the goblin jumped down from the stump and picked through the stones on the ground.
"Errr, are you trying to shoot my bird?" Kallorn winced as he picked a thorn from his leg.
Zorq spun around and levelled the empty catapult at him. "He's my bird, I saw him first."
Kallorn tucked a stray lock behind his ear and straightened his leafy cloak. "Actually he's my bird, and he has a name. Harow and I, have been together since the academy at Summoner's Green, so I'd be obliged if you stopped trying to shoot him."
The goblin peered at him, adjusting the red nightcap on his head before scratching at an angry looking wart halfway along his nose. "You better move on before I zap ya with prickly fire."
"Well that's not very welcoming," Kallorn declared, spotting a purple flower nearby and reaching down to pick it. He chewed the petals to a pulp and swallowed it, his face twisting at the sharp tang.
"Forty-eight!" Harow squawked, swooping down over Zorq's head and making him dive for cover.
"Leave my flowers alone and call your bird off, you've got no business here," Zorq's yellow eyes sparkled with anger, his bony knuckles clenched tightly into fists.
"Just two more if I may, and then I'll be off," Kallorn gingerly reached down, whisking two more from the forest floor and gulping them both down.
"Stop taking my flowers!" Zorq tugged at his ears, jumping up and down on the spot, his gangly legs looking like he'd stolen them from a frog.
"Fifty," Harow landed on the roof of the hut.
"That's it, I'm done," Kallorn held his hands up in surrender, "we're going now."
"Cowsfoot, cowsfoot. In the hut, in the hut," Harow screeched, looking pleased with himself.
"Don't you dare touch my fungus," Zorq pointed a finger at Harow and a purple glow began to manifest at the tip.
Harow flapped his wings and managed to take off just before a jagged bolt of crisp violet cut across the clearing and exploded in the air where he'd been sat moments before. Charred feathers floated to the ground as Harow disappeared back into the forest with a defiant squawk.
"Now wait just one minute, there's no need for that," Kallorn stormed forward, shaking his fist.
Zorq turned on him, purple fire spitting and sizzling between his hands as it coalesced, growing bigger by the second.
He stopped and gave a nervous chuckle. "We can avoid any nastiness, maybe if you'd care to trade some of your cowsfoot? We could come to an agreement that benefits us both, I've got a copper coin if that would do?"
"Go away!" Zorq yelled, flinging the ball of energy at him.
Kallorn tried to dive to the side but the missile followed him, striking his body and rebounding off into the side of the hut. The sorry looking shack exploded into a shower of rotten wood that fell about the glade in a shower of splinters.
Zorq looked on in dismay, the smoke coaxed away by a gentle breeze leaving nothing in it's wake but a generous pile of cowsfoot and the odd charred piece of wood. He grabbed the tattered red pantaloons he was wearing and yanked them high above his waist, pulling the brown woollen waistcoat back over his shoulders.
"You break Zorq's house, Zorq breaks you!"
"I think there's been enough breaking don't you," Kallorn said, brushing himself off as he stood. "I really wouldn't advise any more pyrotechnics, I don't want you to get hurt."
"Me get hurt," Zorq sneered. "I don't think so."
The energy grew again, a swirling vortex of blue and purple that crackled at the air around it.
"I really must insist you put that down right this minute, I don't want to be responsible for another accident," Kallorn said.
But Zorq ignored him, spinning his gnarly hands into a frenzy. The energy continued to grow until Kallorn could feel it prickling at his face. Even the trees around the edge of the grove seemed to lean back into the safety of the forest. When it reached its final apex, Kallorn could feel his hair being whipped about his face and his tattered shirt almost being ripped from his body. Through the thunderous whirlwind of power he could just about make out the goblin's nightcap curling about one of his ears, desperately holding on.
Then in a moment of high-pitched wailing, it all came to an abrupt end. Kallorn saw the magic rush towards him, felt it strike his body and ripple across his skin. The sickness grew in his stomach and his vision blurred. He could feel the energy trying to crawl into him, desperate to find a way through his skin. Then, moments later, it was gone.
He didn't actually see it strike the goblin but he could recall the wide eyed look of shock that quickly turned to terror as the ball reflected back onto its owner before he was completely consumed and vaporised.
When Kallorn wandered over to where the creature had been all that remained was a perfect circle of burnt grass on the ground, and the most excruciating headache he'd had in an age.
"Stupid Gobo," Harow called, circling above and looking for a safe place to land.
Kallorn touched a hand to his forehead and closed his eyes. "Well, you can't say I didn't warn him."
The village was quiet when Kallorn broke through the wood line, the moon high in the night sky casting a pale glow across the makeshift huts and animal pens. He shifted his grip on the cloak, swapping shoulders and feeling the weight of the cowsfoot shift across his back.
Pausing, he blew a strand of hair out of his eyes and looked across at Harow perched on a nearby fence post.
"Lots of cowsfoot, plenty of cowsfoot," the bird cawed, cocking its head to one side and staring at him with beady eyes.
Kallorn let the load drop to the ground and rolled his aching shoulders. "Precisely. If this doesn't get me back into the academy, then nothing will."
I hope you liked my first short story set in the Splinterverse, I'd love to hear your comments. Also, if you're interested in hearing another tale then let me know.
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