Here is a story continuing the tale of Plum, the apprentice wizard, his evil master Archmage Cyan the Elder, and a new character, his fellow apprentice Hot Pink. It’s based in the same setting as my previous stories with these characters, but is quite a bit darker. The truth is, I have a lot of stories about these characters after they’re done being apprentices, but in order to understand what they become, you have to understand what they went through before. And so, I give you this.
There were 16 members of the ruling council that governed all wizards. They were called the Archmages. And of the Archmages, three men were the clear leaders when Plum was an apprentice: Archmage Alabaster, Archmage Magenta, and Archmage Cyan. They were the most powerful, the most charismatic, and the most influential of the group. All other wizards (well, almost all other wizards) looked up to them.
But, in private, they were really very cruel people. Cyan, of course, had an apprentice named Plum. And Magenta had his own apprentice, a young woman whose wizard name was Hot Pink. In order to be an apprentice, they had to live under their master’s roofs and serve them in any ways they required during their terms as apprentices. What this should have meant was help around the house, doing some chores, in payment for room, board, and magical instruction. But Plum’s and Pink’s masters went well beyond that. They saw their apprentices first and foremost as toys, and maybe second as students. In short, old Cyan and old Magenta were physically, sexually, and psychologically abusive, and cared about their apprentices’ education only in how it made them look, as teachers.
It would be too awful to recall all of the times Cyan and Magenta mistreated their apprentices. But here is one example.
It was late in Plum’s apprenticeship. He’d learnt pretty much all the spells he’d need in order to pass his Examination and become a fully qualified wizard. One of the few topics that remained for him to cover was Metamagic. Metamagic, you see, is the art of changing a spell around on the fly, in order to make it suit your needs better. For example, taking a spell that usually needs some magic words, and casting it completely non-verbally. It’s quite a tricky business.
On the day I’m talking about, Plum was sitting out on the front porch of his master’s house, making small explosions in midair without saying a word. It was a cool autumn day, and he was dressed in a plum-colored polo shirt and dark pants – the least casual clothing his master would tolerate. As far as the young man knew, he had the day off, and yes, making ka-booms in the quiet autumn air was how this young man chose to spend his time.
Suddenly, two people appeared out of thin air right in front of him. Wizards did that all the time, but it still took Plum by surprise. And when the smoke cleared from his latest explosion, he could actually see who they were.
Hot Pink wore a hot pink dress, as she usually did when they went out. She hated it. Not only wasn’t it her color, but it was specifically designed to show a lot of skin, as per the wishes of Archmage Magenta, her master. She was a young twenty-something, same as Plum, the two apprentices having started out as teenagers at almost exactly the same time. The two of them started to become friends, but ever since their masters noticed it, the two Archmages delighted in forcing them to torture and humiliate each other. So now, their meetings were… awkward. Pink touched the back of her curly brown hair and gave Plum a weak smile. Her master grinned evilly. Uh-oh, thought Plum.
“Hello, Magenta, my friend,” said Archmage Cyan, stepping out of the house and brushing past Plum. The two Archmages wore almost identical grins, and almost identical suits. The only difference was that Cyan had a cyan necktie, and Magenta had, you guessed it, a magenta necktie. Magenta was also almost bald, whereas Cyan had a full head of graying hair. Otherwise, the two really did look a lot alike. They also had apparently the same attitude towards Magenta’s apprentice, because as Cyan shook Magenta’s hand, he acknowledged Pink and her skimpy dress with an approving leer. Then Cyan turned back to his own student. “Get over here. How are those silent spells coming along?”
“Just fine, master,” said Plum, tensely.
“Good, good. Did you know that Hot Pink is learning the art of Metamagic as well?”
“I didn’t,” said Plum. He looked at Pink, who just stared down at the ground. She hated her adopted name as much as her clothes. But after the years of abuse at Archmage Magenta’s hands, Plum guessed, she must have given up trying to fight him.
“Well, she is,” said Archmage Cyan. “So, Archmage Magenta and I thought you two could play a little game.”
“What do I have to do?”
“It’s simple,” said the Archmage, and his eyes gleamed, like a man waiting to spring a practical joke. “Pink is going to attack you, and you have to defend yourself.”
“What kind–” Plum began, but he saw Magenta whisper something into Pink’s ear. She looked at her master, scared, but she backed down almost immediately under his gaze.
“I’m sorry,” Pink muttered glumly to her friend. Plum opened his mouth to ask what for, and gagged. He clutched his throat. It was like an invisible hand was choking him! His watery eyes turned to Pink. Though miserable, she had cast a Strangulation spell at him, and out of fear, was casting it at full strength. So that’s how their masters’ “game” worked.
Plum glared at his master, but Cyan just glared back. “Fight back, dummy,” he said. Plum had no breath to speak, let alone argue. He looked at Pink desperately, but she still maintained her choking spell, her master standing a foot behind her. The woods outside Cyan’s house were starting to swim before Plum’s eyes. He had no other choice. He focused all his magic, and remembering his amusement from before, made another explosion, this one right in front of her face. Hot Pink cried out in pain and fell backwards onto the grass. The Strangulation spell ended.
“This is sick,” gasped Plum, soothing his throat and gulping down air. Cyan just sneered.
“How else will you learn?” he said. “Your turn, apprentice of mine. Choke her.”
Plum saw Pink pick herself up off the grass, see Plum, and in fear. He’d been abused too, but somehow, in the look she gave him, he found the courage to fight. “No,” Plum said, turning back to his master defiantly.
“You will do it,” insisted Cyan.
Suddenly, the apprentice felt his master in his mind. Archmage Cyan wanted to compel him to play this “game”. And Archmage Cyan held the title of Grandmaster of compulsion magic. But Plum had studied under him. He knew compulsion magic too, and knew how to resist it. He erected every mental defense he could. He was strong. He would not let his master’s power into his mind. He would not be influenced. Plum tried to focus. Soon he would be a fully qualified wizard. He would not be influenced by his master’s control. Not any more! He’d do whatever it took to fight! He’d… he’d beat Cyan to the punch, and choke Pink before his master could make him! That’s what he’d do! Plum wheeled on Pink and cast the Strangulation spell, and watched with satisfaction as Pink’s hands went to her windpipe.
Only Archmage Cyan’s laughter shook Plum into realizing that he’d lost the mental battle. Hot Pink was starting to turn blue. Plum couldn’t make himself stop choking her, either. It had been a stupid fight. He was still just an apprentice, still helpless.
A large round rock flew out of nowhere to smack Plum in the back, sending him sprawling forwards onto the grass. He heard Pink gasping for breath. She must have non-verbally conjured the rock, he realized. He picked up his head and shared a glance with his friend. Pink fell forward onto her hands and knees, she’d gotten that close to passing out. The two apprentices shared a glance. When they had first met, they got along like brother and sister, they’d done everything together. But now the only thing they shared was despair.
“Get up, both of you,” snapped Archmage Magenta. They wearily complied, too empty to fight any more. “Now, Pink, dear. Choke Plum again. Now.”
TO BE CONTINUED!