Chapter 1


     “This really bites!”  Andrew thought as he leaned down close to the massive tome that lay open on the desk before him, squinting his eyes in the dim light as he struggled to make out the words on the aged and discolored pages. He finally shook his head in disgust and stood, taking the lamp up from the center of the desk and crossing over to the fire that burned in the massive fireplace across the room. Taking down a thin splinter of wood from those that stood in a small container on the hearth, he knelt down and lit it from the fire. He touched it to the wick of his lamp, and when that was burning satisfactorily, he tossed the splinter into the fire and returned to his studies.

     Now that he had finally gotten off of his lazy buttocks and fetched a light, he was able to easily read the pages that lie open in front of him. He raised an eyebrow in wonderment, since what he thought he had read just a few moments before wasn’t, in fact, what the words now spelled out. “That certainly wouldn’t have been good!” he grimaced, as he realized that if he had indeed cast the Knowing with the phrases that he thought he had read, he would have probably ended up with a very disgruntled Demon materializing before him!

     Sighing, he closed the book and shoved it none too gently to the side.  He leaned his elbows on the desk, and once more began to wonder just why it was that he was here at Gozem Citadel years before he should have been.

    It wasn’t his fault that his Powers had manifested earlier than usual and stronger as well. He had planned on keeping them secret until his older brother, Brandon, had shown signs of receiving his own Gift, then the two of them could have gone to school at the same time. But circumstances had forced him out into the open much earlier than expected, despite his efforts to not show anyone.

     But it had all been very necessary, given the circumstances. At the time they had been pursuing a demon that had kidnapped his younger sister, Heather, and Briana’s daughter Caitlan. If it had not been for Andrew’s power, it may have gone very badly for them, and all of mankind as a result. His powers were such that Robin had felt that it was best for Andrew to begin his studies at the Citadel immediately in order to harness them to their utmost potential.

     Which brought Andrew to the gigantic book that lay on the desk, now closed and forgotten. Books and scrolls held no attraction for him; those dusty old records of what happened a hundred, two hundred years ago. He wanted to use his powers, to learn what he could do by adventure, by excitement, much as he did during the journey the previous summer.

     Young and headstrong, he didn’t want to pay attention to the Masters of the Citadel and their warnings of uncontrolled Magic. He felt invincible when he was using it, like there was nothing that he couldn’t do with it. Hadn’t he just used it to literally spin the entire world through a whole night in just a few seconds? Of course there had been some repercussions of his acts. A massive wave had struck the southern end of the continent, flooding inland for many miles before its fury was spent. Earthquakes had rocked many parts of the world off an on for a few months afterwards, many places still in a state of upheaval.

     But everyone accepted the fact that if he hadn’t done it, there wouldn’t be a world at all for any of them or at least one that wasn’t ruled by Demons! For that had been the Demon Asmodeus’ plan; to join the Worlds of Hell and Man together by destroying the world Between, all that separates the two.

     He sat and picked at the spine of the worn leather book, fiddling with a scrap of the binding that had come loose. He pulled at it, the aged material giving way and coming off in his hand, a strip of leather about six inches long and about the size of his quill, with a scrap of wood through the middle of it. It was hard and stiff, a part of the reinforcing meant to keep the book protected for eons, if need be.

     He idly poked about amongst the things on his desk with the stick, shoving things around with it, utterly bored out of his mind. His eye lit on the cage that sat on the back shelf of the desk. Reaching up, he lifted it down and set it on the wood before him. Focusing a bit of his power into the makeshift wand, he slid it in between the wooden bars of the cage and towards the large lump that he could see there in the center.

     As the tip of the wand drew close to the form that lay there, its hair began to bristle up and stand on end. Andrew poked the wand quickly up against the posterior of the sleeping creature, a spark jumping from the tip of the wand over to the animal. It struck with a slight “zap!” and immediately the recumbent form sprang up, straight up, smacking the top of the cage in it’s journey, spinning around and bouncing several times before coming to rest in the wood shavings that littered the floor of its domicile.

     Andrew leaned back in his chair in a fit of laughter at the animal’s frantic reaction to the shock from the wand, beating his leg with his hand in his glee. His laughter slowly wound down to a chuckle, tears beginning to form at the corners of his eyes as he envisioned the little creature’s flight once again.

     What he failed to notice was that the animal had taken hold of the piece of binding and drawn it partially into the cage from where Andrew had dropped it when he had begun his fit of laughter. He now leaned forward and went to take hold of the wand and pull it back out. The furry rodent had lifted the stick up, and held it there before him, pointed out through the bars.

     As Andrew’s fingers closed on the end of it, a spark of mage-fire sprang from the end of it, blasting into the tip of Andrew’s fingers and knocking him head over heels backwards. His chair tumbled over with him, tangling in his legs and keeping him from getting back up.

     He finally managed to untangle his legs and set the chair upright, his eyes wide as he looked over towards the cage on the table. The wand stuck out from between the bars as it had a moment before, but the creature had let it drop from his grasp. Each time that Andrew went to retrieve it, however, the animal would immediately take hold of it once again.

     “Hey rat! Give me that!” Andrew told the rodent, as a matter of habit. Many times he had talked at the animal as he sat there at his desk studying. He had found the creature in the kitchen late one night as he had snuck in for a midnight snack. It had fallen into a basin of wash water from the evening meals’ dishes, and was unable to climb the slippery sides to get out.

     Andrew had confined the dripping rodent to a large pot until he had been able to fashion the cage that now held the animal, and then had moved it into his room. No one that he had asked had ever seen anything like it, so Andrew really had no idea what it truly was. He just called it “Rat”, because it faintly resembled the ones that ran through the sewers of the castle.

     Andrew once again reached for the wand, and this time succeeded in pulling it out of the cage. He examined it closely for any sign that might explain what had just happened, but could find nothing that would tell him how the rat had been able to do what he had done.

    He bent down toward the cage, the wand pointed at the animal once again. It looked up at Andrew from where it sat in its food dish, a large kernel of corn held between its front paws. Andrew would swear that it almost looked like the rat was glaring at him! He went to poke the wand back in through the bars again. As he did, the rodent jumped back away from it, drew back its paw and hurled the kernel of corn between the bars and pegged Andrew right between the eyes with it!

     Andrew jumped back in surprise, the wand falling unheeded to the desk before him as he fell back into his chair. He sat there watching the rat, who turned back to the food dish and picked up another kernel of corn and began munching it unconcernedly. Andrew cautiously picked up the wand and began to poke it in between the bars once again.

     The rodent stopped chewing and looked up at Andrew. “I wouldn’t do that, you know?” the rat said, waving his corn in the air as he spoke. “It just ain’t right to wake someones’ up like that, no, it surely ain’t!”

     Andrew’s mouth opened and shut then opened and shut again, but no words came out. His eyes widened in amazement as he tried to take in what had just happened. Finally he was able to speak.

     “Did you just talk, rat?” he asked

     “No, I dint.” The rat replied. “And, I ain’t no rat!”

     Andrew sat there. He thought of any way that this might be a trick that someone was playing on him, perhaps one of the older students that resented him for his Power and his age. He muttered a quick casting, checking for the residue of a spell on the rat. He found nothing at all, either on the rat or on the cage. He sat back in the chair, dumbfounded.

     He leaned back forwards and toward the rat. “If you aren’t a rat, then what are you?” he asked.

     “I ain’t talkin to you, rude boy!” the rat chattered at him. “Burn my butt with fire whilst I was asleep without even a “May I please? Huh uh!” And he turned away from Andrew and back towards his food. “Not till I gets an apologies!”

     “An apology? To a rat?” Andrew scoffed. “ I hardly think so!” He barely ducked in time as yet another kernel of corn came flying out of the cage at his head. “All right, already! I apologize!”

    “Much better.” the rat said as he turned back towards that side of the cage. “But I still ain’t no rat!”

     “What are you then, pray tell?” Andrew asked. “No one had ever seen anything like you before, you know.”

     The rodent stood up on his hind legs before the bars of the cage and puffed his chest out. “I would have yea know, that I am a Cazacian meadow mouse from the mountains of Caza.” It grabbed hold of the bars and leaned its head through. “I just got a bit lost, is all.”

     “You think?” Andrew asked him. “You are about as lost as you can get, since I never even heard of Caza before. Why did you leave there?”

     “Have you ever seen a female Cazacian meadow mouse?” the mouse asked Andrew, who shook his head. “You don’t want to, believe me!” The mouse gave a shudder as he evidently recalled something that he wasn’t particularly fond of.

     “So you left, but how did you get here?” asked Andrew.

     “Well, I ‘xactly don’t know where ‘here’ is, actually.” the mouse replied. “I was just traveling in amongst a cart loaded with bags of red wheat, fell asleep, then woke up on a ship out in the water. At the first port I managed to get off of the ship, and just started eating my way down the road till I ended up here.”

    The mouse cocked his head to one side as he looked up at Andrew. “You folks have some pretty fine mice around these parts, I tell you that!” He nodded his head. “Nice things to drink, too.”

     Andrew had to ignore the part about “fine mice”, but the drinking part peaked his interest. “Just what is it that you like to drink, may I ask? I always just gave you water.”

     The mouse snorted. “You mean when you remembered it, don’t you? Many was the time that I was tempted to give you a piece of my mind when I spent days with no food nor water!”

     “Well, if you didn’t, it was your own fault anyway!” Andrew retorted. “If I had known you could talk, I wouldn’t have even kept you in the cage, you know?”

     “Sounds good to me!” the mouse said, moving over to where the little door was tied shut on the cage. Andrew undid the thong that held it shut, holding it open until the mouse was out.

    “Do you have a name that I might call you by?” Andrew asked, once the mouse was settled on the desktop.

    “A name?” the mouse asked. “We don’t have names, usually. We just go by smell.”

    “No thanks!” Andrew told him. “If you are going to be around here for awhile, I need to be able to call you something!” He thought for a moment. “What if I called you Percy?”

     “Fine, if you want me to hurl all over you!” the mouse replied.

     “All right then! What about Alferd?” Andrew asked.

     “Who are you kidding?” the mouse asked. “Is there anybody who really has that name? If so, he must get thrashed a lot!”

     “Then you come up with one, or I will just call you Rat.” Andrew told him.

     The mouse sat there for a few moments, then nodded. “Call me… Ishmael!”

     “No! Get serious!” Andrew told him, becoming a bit exasperated at the rodent.

     “Geez, get a grip already!” He thought for a few more moments. “I got one. If you don’t like it, tough turkey legs!” He shuffled around towards Andrew a bit more and stood up on his back legs. “My name is now Jerrame. But you can call me anything you want, as long as it ain’t late for dinner!”

     Andrew snorted at the feeble humor. “Fine with me, Jerrame. It is better than ‘Rat’, I guess.” He leaned back in his chair. “But I think we need to talk to the Masters about you before you go venturing around the school, especially in the kitchens.”

     “Kitchens can wait, I want the cellars!” Jerrame exclaimed. “I needs me something to wash all this corn out of my throat, and water ain’t it!”

     “Cellars?” Andrew asked. “What is in the cellars to drink?”

     “Well, I don’t know what it is, exactly, since I am a mouse, remember.” Jerrame said. “But it is in big wooden things, and there are always a few leaks. It really helps me to sleep, too!”

     Andrew began to laugh heartily as he realized what Jerrame was talking about. “That is ale, you crazy mouse! No wonder it helps you sleep, you were probably drunk as a sailor!”

     “Whatever that is, I just know I like it!” Jerrame scoffed at him. “Lets go see these ‘Masters’ of whatever, so I can go get some good food!”

     “That might be a problem, actually.” Andrew told him. “They are all retired for the night, and no one dares to disturb them once they are done for the day.”

     “Wanna bet?” Jerrame asked. “I will!”

     “Yes, I think that you rather would, and get me in serious trouble to boot.” Andrew admonished him. “I will go see about some food and drink, if you will just stay here the night. We can go to the Masters in the morning before classes start.”

     Jerrame was clearly not entirely happy with this arrangement, but had to agree with him for the moment. He settled in to wait until Andrew returned from the kitchens. Once he was back, Jerrame quickly munched the pastry that he had brought for him and drank the little bit of ale that Andrew had managed to find. He then curled up on a pillow that Andrew had put on the floor from his bed and quickly fell asleep. It was only a few moments after that when Andrew fell sound asleep as well.


Make a Free Website with Yola.