Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: The Cure

A knock came from the two massive solid oak doors that blocked everyone from entering Master Gaza’s private workshop. It reverberated through the stone chamber, a hollow kind of noise that one felt more than heard. Gaza sat up from his work bench and glared at the door, as if he could will the person on the other side to burst into flame. He could, of course, being a master wizard, but sometimes, burning other people for no other reason that they knocked at your door was seen as bad manners. He sighed, and waved his hand almost dismissively. The doors swung outwards on their own, creaking as they did so.

“Master Gaza?” came a timid voice.

Gaza sighed again. The voice belonged to Dimon, a skinny young man who always seemed on the verge of falling over from fright. Gaza had agreed to take him on as a student, as the University of White Magic would only agree to give him this workshop if he actually taught someone. Dimon was the first applicant at his door, and thus the first accepted. He was also the only one accepted, as Gaza was not about to teach a whole class.

“What is it, Dimon?” Gaza said, pulling up his glasses and squinting at his quavering apprentice.

“Well, M-master,” the younger man stuttered, “It’s time.. er.. for my… lesson. Master.”

Gaza blinked. Then, he looked at the fairy clock that lay on his desk. It was all crystals and rocks with, but a shadow cast by an invisible sun showed the time. A gift from Titania, from a younger, more passionate, time in his life. Sure enough, his apprentice was correct. Damnation. He was in the middle of some important research. He spared a regretful look at the book he was reading, and sighed again. Then, he picked up his short, thick pipe and rummaged around for his tobacco. After a few seconds of fruitless searching, he snapped his fingers and a small silver box flew across the room into his hand.

“Ah,” he said, stuffing his pipe and lighting it with a small burst of flame on his index finger. After a few long, slow drags, he reclined in his chair and studied young Dimon.

“You were working on an alchemy project, as I recall,” he said.

“Y-yes, Master,” the young man said. “Y-you said to f-find a cure for s-some common a-ailment.”

“And,” Gaza grumbled, “it is due today.”

“Yes, M-master,” Dimon said.

“Well, let’s go see what you have,” Gaza said, and stood, waving the boy towards the alchemy table.

The table was covered in tubes and glass bottles. Small magical flames burned under some, causing the liquid inside to bubble without burning the table it rested on. Boxes of herbs, roots and crystals lay scattered about, and in the small work bench next to it was a little leather covered book, quill and inkwell. The boy had been taking notes as we went along. Gaza nodded. He had taught the lad one thing, it seemed.

Dimon sat at the table and opened the book. Then, he pulled out several small vials and showed them to Gaza.

“T-these,” he said. “uh… these a-are the s-steps I took to r-reach the final product.”

Gaza stared at the vials. He would have to do something to stop the young man from stuttering if he was to continue to be his apprentice. Looking carefully, he saw some unusual looking combinations of herbs in there. He pulled the boy’s book of the table and examined it, then looked back at the vials.

“Those are some interesting mixtures you have there,” Gaza said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever seen some of these herbs used together before.”

“N-no, Master,” Dimon said. “I had to d-do a lot of re-research to figure out which ones to use.”

Gaza noted that the more the boy warmed up to his subject, the less he stuttered. It’s possible that Dimon’s fear of him was actually causing the issue.

“Go on,” Gaza said, not wanting to stop this progress.

“W-well, Master,” Dimon said, excitedly pointing to the book. “These notes indicate where I got my research, and these here indicate my initial tests. That’s these two vials here. This last vial is the one that succeeded in my tests. At least, on a dog.”

Gaza looked down again at the vials, specifically the last one. It was some kind of paste, a pale green in color, and had the smell of charcoal and sweet lemon leaf.

“A poultice?” he asked, and Dimon nodded.

“And where does one apply it?” he asked.

“To the scalp, Master,” Dimon said, pointing to his own cap covered head.

“The scalp?” Gaza said. “Exactly what ailment have you cured with a poultice that is placed on the scalp?”

“I think it’s best if you see it in action,” Dimon said. He stood up and started to reach for Gaza’s own long blue hat. “If I may, Master?”

Gaza glared at him, and the young man started to tremble slightly again. He sighed. He really did need to work on that.

“Very well,” he said.

Dimon took the cap of his master’s head and placed it on the table. Then, he grabbed the vial with the poultice in it, put a liberal amount in his hand, and started to rub it into the older man’s bald head. Gaza grimaced at the scrubbing, but after his apprentice was done admitted his head did feel better.

“I am not ill,” Gaza said. “Exactly what am I supposed to be feeling now.”

Dimon did not answer, but instead stared at Gaza’s head. The older man glowered. Apprentice’s should answer right away. What was he looking at anyway?

“Well?” he growled, but still Dimon did not answer.

Gaza had just decided to slap some since into Dimon when the boy’s eyes went wide, and then a smile crossed his face.

“Master, feel your head,” he said.

“What?” Gaza said, but put his hands up to feel his scalp. His own eyes flew wide open when he felt… hair. Actual hair. Not much, maybe a few inches growth, but his entire scalp, wherever the boy had rubbed that tonic, now had hair. Gaza quickly snapped his fingers, and a mirror flew across the room. Looking into it, he saw short, stiff white hair all over his head. He smiled. Then, he laughed.

“My boy,” he said, clasping Dimon on the shoulder. “I have seriously underestimated you. With work such as this, you will one day be a famous wizard.”

“Yes, Master,” Dimon said, his own smile getting bigger.

“Tell me, lad, “Gaza said, still looking into the mirror. “What made you think of baldness as an ailment in need of a cure?”

“Well,” Dimon said, then removed his cap to reveal a shiny scalp underneath.

Gaza laughed even harder.

The End

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