Jasper Chapter One
Author: W. K. Hayes
Jasper: Chapter One
Small bricks houses adorning a cul-de-sac driveway offer no safety for the hapless teen who prays each day that he makes it home safely as he avoids the bullies in his neighborhood. Still, Jasper Hornsby is more special than he realizes as fate is about to show him a world he never knew existed.
It started out as the usual dash for the security of his home, the awkward teen with the taped glasses quickly found himself, being pursued up the street by several larger boys and a girl with, a terrible attitude. With all his might, he ran as fast as he could only to trip and fall near an open manhole. Quickly, the bullies caught up to him.
One of them, a chubby red-headed boy named, Phil, told Jasper, “We finally have you right where we want you”.
The chubby brunette girl, named Linda, was too busy trying to catch her breath to say anything as she kicked Jasper where he lay. Jasper curled up in a knot as he felt them grab him and shove him down in the manhole. When he hit the bottom, he quickly tried to climb back out but it was too late. The girl waved goodbye to him right before the manhole cover was slid back into place.
“Ah, great”, Jasper complained. He tried climbing up the metal rungs to the cover but soon realized he wasn’t strong enough to move it by himself. “Now what do I do”, he questioned to himself. Jasper climbed back down the rungs and stood in the inch thick water that trickled slowly around his shoes. “There’s got to be a way out of here”, he mused as he tried looking around. Everything was dark in either direction and if it wasn’t for the lighted bulb dangling from a wire by the manhole, Jasper would have been in the dark too. He tried reaching for his backpack where he always kept a flashlight handy and realized his bag was up on the street, somewhere. “Dang-it”, he cursed. Panic was setting in as Jasper climbed back up the rungs and tried hitting the manhole cover as he screamed for help. In that instant, presumably, a heavy moving truck ran over the cover causing it to rumble. The jolt startled Jasper as he screamed a real scream and fell back into the water and hitting his head.
The light started flickering as the water began rising up around Jasper’s ear causing him to wake up. “Ugh, where am I”, he asked himself. Just as soon as he went to sit up, he remembered what had happened. He also noticed that the water was getting higher and the light was barely lit, anymore. “Oh no…this can’t good”, he exclaimed. He also noticed that the draft in the tunnel was freezing the back of soaked clothes. “Could it get any better”, he grumbled as he tried to ring out the back of his shirt which offered no help at all. In a flash, the light died out and Jasper quickly found himself in the pitch dark. “I just had to ask, didn’t I”, he sarcastically mused aloud.
The breeze blowing in the tunnel seemed stronger to jasper as he turned his wet-backside, away from the air and grabbed a wall. “Where is this air coming from…maybe it’s a way out”?
Jasper began moving towards the air when he heard little squeaking sounds running towards him. ‘Rats’, he thought himself. “I didn’t think we had rats in this neighborhood”.
Still, his faith in the wind being the key to finding his way out carried him forward with the occasional squealing and jumping whenever one of the rats would dart across his foot. Jasper tried his best to pretend they weren’t there but with each time they came past him, his nerves would tighten causing him to gasp for air.
“This is so, beyond ridiculous”, he whined as he forced himself to move on in the rising water that was above his ankles by this point. It was then that he noticed that as the water rose, the wind seemed to increase. Jasper couldn’t help it; he loved solving riddles and mysteries and he was relying heavily on what he learned from reading such books: to analyze and dissect the situation in order to determine the cause by looking for clues.
Jasper stopped and made an assessment of his situation. “Let’s see, the water is rising and pouring in from behind me but the air is flowing in the opposite direction when it should be coming from the same way. So, what’s causing the wind”, he asked himself.
Moving onward, Jasper kept tracing his hand along the wall until it seemingly disappeared. He still couldn’t see a thing around him but he was certain the squeaking sounds had left him behind, although, he wasn’t sure why the rats would run towards rising water, either. All of sudden, the wind simply stopped and when it did, the water started filling up quickly until Jasper heard a rumbling sound behind him. “This can’t be good”, he said as he turned to run around the corner. He tried his best to keep one hand on the wall for guidance as the as the water quickly rose up to his knees making it harder for him to move with each step he took until a flood over water overcame him from behind and knocking him down. Jasper fought against the power and weight of the water as he desperately swam for the surface only to have wave after wave of rushing water knock him back under.
Even under water, Jake saw a light and tried swimming towards it in hoped of finding something to grab onto. What he didn’t realize is that the water was bleeding off into a cavern pool with a twenty-foot, drop as the rushing water carried him over the side causing him to holler until he hit the pool at the bottom. With every ounce of being he had left, he fought his way to cavern floor where he lay and wondered what he could have possibly done to deserve this.
“Boy, are you going to lie there all day”, an older man’s voice called to him.
“Yea”, Jasper replied as he was just enjoying being able to breathe again. Then, he realized he wasn’t alone anymore. Quickly he looked up to see a tall old man in a cloak walking away from him. “Hey, I was just kidding”, Jasper called out.
“Then get up from there and come on”, the old man replied within stopping to look back.
Jasper forced himself to his feet and soon realized how much he had strained every muscle in his body. “Okay, this hurts”, he whined.
“You’ll live against much worse”, the old man said as he entered a hole in the cave wall.
Jasper started to run just to catch up with the old man when he reached the opening. Inside, was a white brick wall that was part of a hallway leading off in either direction at a distance that seemed to see, no end. Jasper looked off in the direction of the old man but he didn’t see the guy anywhere.
“Hey, wait up”, Jasper yelled out as he took off running in the direction he saw the man go until he finally gave up and collapsed to the floor. “This is crazy”, he complained.
“No, it’s not”, the old man said as he appeared not a few feet away from Jasper.
Jasper scrunched against the wall and asked, “How did you do that”?
“You ran past me”, the old man replied with a smile
“There was nothing but wall and hallway”, Jasper argued.
“Really, is that what you see”, the old man replied as he waved his hand across the wall and the whole area changed to a field of flowers and tall grass.
“Whoa”, Jasper exclaimed. “How’d you do that”?
“Why, the same way I brought you her, young man. My name is Marcum Amaethon. I brought you here”, the old man said in way of introduction as he helped Jasper up off the floor.
“I’m Jasper Hornsby…why did you bring me here and how”, Jasper asked, again.
“Will, all of your sentences, end with, ‘How’, Jasper”, Marcum asked him.
“Sorry, I’m overly curious by nature”, jasper explained.
“Curiosity, in truth, is why I brought you here”, Marcum replied. “Jasper, each year, the sewer offers me one new child to teach. This year, it chose you”.
“The sewer”, Jasper questioned while adding, “It’s just a bunch of concrete”.
“True, but with the right spell, anything is possible”, Marcum replied.
“Spells? As in, magic and that sort of nonsense”, Jasper said as he flatly stated his opinion on the subject. Obviously, Jasper believed in cold hard facts.
“So, you don’t believe in magic”, Marcum asked.
“Not really, I mean, card tricks are cool and all but…no, not really”, Jasper replied.
The old man rubbed at his beard as he resisted the urge to get Jasper past this notion, and with quickness. Instead, Marcum stuck to the low road and told Jasper, “Nevertheless, you are here”.
“I’d rather be home”, Jasper confessed.
“You live in foster home”, Marcum replied.
“Yea…and it sucks royally but…hey, are you some kind of freak stalker”, Jasper asked as he took a few steps back.
“Okay, hard way it is”, Marcum replied as he waved his hand and they reappeared in the cavern by the pool.
“Climb your way up to the opening of the water drain. The water has subsided by now and you may, or may not, eventually get to help”, Marcum said and disappeared.
“I must have hit my head harder than I thought”, Jasper joked as he rubbed the knot on his head only to make it hurt worse. “Ouch, not a good idea”, he told himself as he lowered his hand back to his side.
Still, something didn’t seem right to him. Yea, he would eventually make it back up and find help, but who was the old man, really? Jasper looked back at the cavern wall that was sealed up where the opening had been before.
Jasper stood back and looked around the cavern room just to be sure he was looking at where the opening was once before. “Ok, now you’ve got my interest up”, Jasper said as he accepted the challenge.
He walked back over to the wall and felt it. “Yep, solid rock…nothing out of the ordinary so, where’s the switch”, he asked himself, figuring the wall was a hidden passageway. He felt around and poked at everything that might have been a switch to open the wall back up when he found two holes several inches apart.
He stuck his finger in the left hole and felt around until the wall sneezed and came to life. “Hey, get your finger out of my nose”, it grumbled.
Jasper fell back against the ground before he scrambled to his feet and took off running for the pool of water.
“Where are you going, kid”, the wall called out to him.
Jasper looked back and saw the face of the wall with its two big crystalline eyes and human like features of a mouth and nose that seemed to have grown out of the face.
“Okay, the wall is talking…I’ve done lost my mind”, Jasper told himself.
“I’d say so since you’re talking to yourself”, the wall joked.
“That’s it”, Jasper exclaimed. “I’m still unconscious from hitting my head and this is all just a dream”.
“When you’re done talking to yourself, would you like to talk to me”, the wall sarcastically remarked.
“Mom always said, ‘don’t talk to strangers’, and it doesn’t get any stranger than talking to a rock wall”, Jasper replied as he stepped backwards into the pool of water causing him to fall in. “Aww, flippin’ great! I was just starting to dry out”, he exclaimed as he stood back up. The wall started laughing hysterically at Jasper. Out of sheer frustration, Jasper snapped and said, “That’s it…it’s just a dream so I’ll play along”.
“Oh, so you think you are asleep. Now, that’s nothing new I’ve heard”, the wall replied as it rolled its eyes.
“What do you mean”, Jasper asked as he sloshed his way back over to stand about ten feet from the wall.
“Every year, a new child is accepted and brought here by the sewers. Only, this year, it picked an unbeliever of magic”, the wall sighed.
“Why should I believe in magic? Magic didn’t stop my parents from dying and it never brought me a single Christmas present that I wanted. No, I’ll stick to what I know exists”, Jasper argued.
“Wow, you have lost your mind”, the door noted.
“Anyway, so how do I get back inside”, Jasper asked.
“Well, how did you get inside the first time”, the wall asked him.
“You were open so, I walked on in”, Jasper replied.
“Funny, I don’t remember being able to, ‘open’, before. Are you certain about that”?
“Yea, me and some old guy named, Marcum…something-or-another, did”, Jasper replied as he rung out the back of his shirt, for the second time.
The look of the door turned serious as it corrected Jasper by saying, “Oh, you mean, Professor Marcum Amaethon, the master of Alchemy”?
“Alchemy, as in chemistry”, Jasper asked.
“No, my dear child, chemistry simply works with chemicals while Alchemy combines chemistry with magic”, the wall corrected him.
“So, what does he want with me”, Jasper asked, as he vaguely dismissed the idea of magic.
“You’re also hard of hearing, I suspect. Each year, a child is brought here by the sewer’s magic. When the child arrives, one of the Professor’s gets a new student. This year, you were assigned to Professor Amaethon”, the wall explained.
“Yea, but won’t they worry about me back in the real world if I go”, Jasper asked him while still avoiding any notion of believing this to be more than just a dream.
The wall sighed as it considered how to reply and ended up choosing bluntness over kindness. “Kid, if they cared about you in the slightest, you wouldn’t be here as it stands”.
Jasper dropped his head and stared at the ground. “You’ve got a good point, wall”.
“Oh, how silly of me, my name is, Obsidious. What is your name, young man”?
“Jasper”, the boy replied as he looked back up at the wall. “So, how do I find Professor Amaethon”?
“Well, considering you don’t believe in magic, you’ve probably ticked him off as being a waste of time. So, you’ll have to prove you believe in magic before he’ll change his mind”.
“Why was I picked by the sewer”, Jasper asked as he played along.
“I’m afraid I don’t know. I’m also afraid I can’t let you in until you learn to believe”, Obsidious replied.
“When I think about it, I do have an interest in chemistry and I’ve always wanted a chemistry set to learn with”, Jasper admitted.
“Alchemy is like chemistry in that you mix various ingredients together until you find the right effect. Only, with Alchemy, you mix the ingredients together with the idea of creating a potion to be used for…other purposes”, the wall explained.
“Like what? Love spells”, Jasper asked as he sat down on the cavern floor with his legs crossed.
“No, you should never force someone to love you…that would be anything but real love and you’ll never feel truly wanted. Instead, potions are used for healing and curing and many, many other more practical applications”, the wall replied.
“If it’s simply mixing chemicals together, then where does magic come into to play”, Jasper asked.
“Imagine making a Dragon Potion, Jasper”, the wall replied. “You simply pour the potion on the ground, unlock the Potion Seal with just the right words and poof, you’ve got a dragon ready to do your bidding”, Obsidious explained.
“What’s a Potion Seal”, Jasper asked, as he dropped his face on his hands with his elbows on his knees.
“Well, you never want to make a powerful potion, like that one, without putting a safe guard against your enemy using it. Think of Potion Seals as being a kind of lock. Without the right key words, anyone could use your potion but the Potion Seal keeps it from being used except by the maker”, it explained to him.
“How does it work, though”, the boy questioned.
“Well, each spell uses a spirit. All you do is, pay the spirit, its required fee and in return, it does as you ask until the job is finished. So, basically, you pay a spirit to keep it safe until you tell it otherwise. In the case of Potion Seals, the spirit will guard the potion until the contents are emptied from the potion, freeing it from the deal made. That’s why you always see a puff of smoke rise off of the potions when they are used”, Obsidious explained.
“I can’t say I’ve seen a potion being used before”, Jasper admitted sarcastically.
“No, I guess you haven’t”, the wall admitted. “Still, if you’ll get past your non-belief, you will get to see many Potion Spirits”.
“Isn’t invoking spirits a sin or something to that affect”, Jasper questioned from what little he had learned the few times he was made to go to Sunday school.
“Not at all, Jasper. Just because people die doesn’t mean they’re not still useful, and I like to think of it as a bartering system, if you will. The spirit gets something it longs for and in return, you get the job done, always”.
“So, it’s okay to dabble in the unknown like that”?
“Well, if you believed in such then yea, it wouldn’t be an, unknown, to you”.
“Still, I don’t believe in any of that”, Jasper replied.
“Yea, because then you would have to believe that your parents were in a better place and that would not be good, now would it”, the wall sarcastically remarked.
“I believe my life would have been a lot better with them still around and the idea of them selling themselves to watch over bottles isn’t right”, Jasper argued as he got up.
“The Potion Spirits are not selling themselves short, I promise you. The more powerful the potion the higher the fee all the way up to sacrifices”.
Jasper turned around and told the wall flatly, “I’m not interested in witchcraft by a long shot”.
“And, that…sums up why you’re here, Jasper”, the wall replied. Jasper looked at Obsidious with a puzzled look as the wall went on to explain, “Witchcraft is considered to be a Dark Art and enemies to the Professors of Light. Each year, another child is picked in the creation of an army to battle against the Wytches of Malaforn”.
“Witches of whom”, Jasper asked.
“Wytches of Malaforn, a dark group of evil that seek to destroy the Professor of Lyght”, Obsidious answered.
“I’ll admit I’m interested in learning Alchemy, just out of sheer curiosity and you make a good point about my non-existent life at the foster home but, I was tossed in the sewer by the neighborhood bullies, what could I possibly do against witches”?
“For starters, you could a lot with the proper training and, a lot more belief than what you have right now”, the wall replied.
“Obsidious is there a potion to give me my parents back”, Jasper asked.
“There is a Life Potion; however, it can only be used in the event of an untimely death and at the moment of death. Unfortunately, your parents died when they were supposed to”.
“I kind of figured as much. So, what do I have to do to prove that I believe in magic”, Jasper asked as he sat back down on the ground.
“You have to create a potion and bind a Spirit Seal to it”, the wall replied.
Jasper looked around and remarked, “Out of rock and water…because that’s all I’ve got on hand”. Jasper paused for effect but the wall didn’t say anything. “Okay, so I’ll pull that chemistry set out of thin air and get to mixing, I guess”, he sarcastically, added before he got up and walked over to the pool of water where he stood thinking about what was possible, from a scientific point of view.
Reaching around in his pockets, he found two paperclips, a nine-volt battery, some gum, a pen and a sharpened pencil. “Of course”, he exclaimed. Quickly, he removed the cap off the pen and pulled the pen apart. Then, he straightened out the two paperclips and ran back over to the wall that watched him, curiously.
At first, Jasper looked around for something to dig with as he felt around on the ground for a soft spot, finding one. Quickly, he dug out a hole the size of a bowl and took out the two straightened paperclips. Using the pen for leverage, he curved both ends, of each paper clip, around the pen to form little hoops. The he attached an end of each clip to the nine-volt battery and placed the pencil in the pencil next to the hole with a paperclip on either side. Jumping back to his feet, Jasper ran over to the water and scooped up as much as he could carry in his hands to the hole, making several trips, before he had the hole filled up. Then, he popped the bubblegum in his mouth. Carefully, he placed the pencil in the water before he added the two, charged, paperclips. Little bubbles began forming around the pencil lead and that’s where jasper stopped.
“Umm, don’t know how to call a spirit to guard this, ‘Hydrogen Potion’…any ideas”, he asked the door.
“That…is science and not a potion…however creative, Jasper”, the wall told him.
Jasper knocked the stuff out of the water as the battery died and asked, “I don’t have anything to work with, here and I don’t know the first thing about spirits”.
“That’s funny because everything you need is always around you”, the wall replied.
Jasper shook his head in disbelief and asked, “I’m just a kid…how am I supposed to do anything besides go to school and play video games? I can’t turn on believing in something like a light switch and I’ll be first in line to say I don’t know the first thing about chemistry but I do want to learn”.
The wall crumbled to the ground as it transformed into Professor Marcum Amaethon. “Now, you’re ready to make a fine student, Jasper”.
“It was you all along”, Jasper asked.
“Of course, I simply refuse to take on another student who’s afraid to try and with your unbelief, I wasn’t sure if you would try, or not. Still, I think you’ll do just fine and if seeing is, believing then, I have a whole world that will make you a believer. Welcome to Alchemy, Jasper”.
With Jasper finally agreeing to learn Alchemy, he figured Professor Amaethon was taking him to some kind of regal university. Instead, the professor took him to an old wood school like they had in the late eighteen hundreds.
“I suppose you were expecting more”, the professor said as they appeared outside the school. “At one time, we had a beautiful and magnificent university in the largest city of my world, Althaeon. However, during the Great Mystics War, our university was destroyed and so; we’re making do as best we can”.
“Well, considering I don’t know the first thing about mixing chemicals, for any reason, this might prove safer anyway”, Jasper nervously joked.
“There is that to consider, also”, the professor teased him. “And, that is why this is actually, your classroom, alone”. The professor ushered Jasper on into the classroom which closely resembled a huge laboratory.
Jasper looked back outside and wondered how a lab of such size with its tall wood beams and archaic architecture could possible fit into the building he had seen from the outside.
“All this is my workshop, classroom”, Jasper asked as he stared around in a daze.
“Yes, of course”, Marcum replied. “Still, you are never allowed to use anything you see here until I’ve told you otherwise”.
“I won’t”, Jasper replied, absentmindedly.
Marcum gently grabbed Jasper by the chin and turned Jasper’s face to look at him. “Jasper, I’m dead serious. Everything you need to make even the most powerful potions can be found in this room. For that reason alone, you are never allowed to mix anything unless I’m present to oversee your work”.
“What about trial and error”, Jasper argued.
“It is the, ‘error’, which will kill you”, Marcum replied, coldly.
“So, where do I eat, sleep and all that good stuff”, Jasper asked, while really leaning towards the eating part.
Professor Marcum smiled and answered, “Follow me”.
They walked to the front of the classroom where a wooden door stood closed but as they drew near, the door opened itself. Jasper remarked, “Cool, a door opening spell”.
Marcum chuckled and replied, “We’re not technologically impaired”. He pointed at a sensor above the door and added, “It works like the doors at a grocery store”.
“Oh”, was all Jasper could think to say in his embarrassment. It was then that he saw something else he found amazing; the doorway led into building where several kids, near his age, greeted the professor.
Professor Marcum greeted them equally with a smile before saying, “Children, this is my newest pupil, Jasper Hornsby”. Marcum pointed to two boys and three girls that were roughly the same age as Jasper.
The first one was a girl named, Anya. Jasper actually thought she was cute with her dark hair and matching eyes although her complexion seemed pale. The next girl was a bit taller with blonde hair and was introduced as being, Inga. The two boys looked like, brown-headed, brothers and that assumption would have been correct.
“Mark and John are brothers and the most unlikely of students. The sewer chose them both in the same year. To this day, I’m not sure why”, Marcum replied.
“Is it the sewer, or fate, that chose them”, Jasper asked.
“Good question, Jasper. People often think that believing in fate as being a waste of time. Hence, we call it the sewer”, Professor Marcum replied.
“So, if fate chooses a child once a year, why do they look like they’re my age”, Jasper asked posing an interesting question.
“That’s easy enough”, Anya replied and answered, “Fate doesn’t chose us by age…it’s just time and circumstance”.
“So, if its fate then you guys didn’t come here through the sewers, like me”, Jasper asked.
“Actually, that’s the other reason we say the sewer picked you”, Professor Amaethon replied. “Everyone here came the exact same way as you”.
“Oh”, Jasper simply replied as the feeling of being overwhelmed was starting to sink in.
“Don’t sweat the details”, Mark told him. “You can sort it all out later”.
“Speaking of which, it is dinner time, children”, Marcum told the kids. “Why don’t all of you show Jasper where he can get something to eat and I’ll stop by to assign his quarters in a little bit”.
“Sure thing, professor”, Anya replied as she grabbed Jasper by the arm.
As they walked down the hallway, Jasper asked Anya, “How can you guys stand living like this”?
“Like what”, Anya asked with a look of surprise.
“I mean, you go through one door and you’re in a whole different place entirely. I can’t tell which way is up, anymore”, Jasper complained.
John, who seemed to be of a more serious nature replied, “If you’re going to make it here, you better through your concept of reality right out the window”.
“Yea, Professor Amaethon said I needed to work on my faith but as it stands, I’m still concerned for my sanity”, Jasper replied nervously.
Inga giggles as she tossed her long, blond hair up into a braided style using magic versus actually working for it. “You’ll get used to it and we’ll help”, she promised.
“If my hair ever did that…I would be hunting some scissors and a shaver”, Jasper remarked jokingly.
“You can’t stay afraid, forever”, John dryly remarked and walked away with Mark closely following. Inga simply smiled as she followed the boys on up the hallway of stained glass windows and old European type wood housing.
“John’s not the friendliest guy but he has a good heart in”, Anya told Jasper. “Look, I remember how it was when I first came here. I was really scared, nervous and I felt really isolated as if I was stuck in a dream or a come. Still, in time, I got used to seeing some really strange and wondrous things. Ironically, the more I saw the stronger my belief became in magic until it’s nothing short of second nature to me”.
“I appreciate you saying that”, Jasper quickly replied to mask his stomach growling.
“I guess you are hungry, huh”, Anya replied with a smile. “Come on”, she said as she tugged at his arm nearly dragging him down the hall.
“I’m coming”, Jasper remarked as he tried to catch his balance. “I do have one question for you…Professor Amaethon mentioned you guys are war with the Wytches of Malaforn…doesn’t that worry you”?
“Since the Great War, the Professors of Lyght have held us in the Age of Calm. Still, fate brings us here learn to protect the calm”, Anya replied.
Jasper started to ask another question but even he was getting burned out on trying to sort everything out. Instead, he stuck to the basics and asked, “What about clothes…I only have what I have on and they’re still wet”.
“Oh”, Anya replied as she looked at his back and saw that he was still pretty wet. “Hold still”, she replied as she ran her hand down behind him causing his clothes to dry instantly.
“Hey, thanks”, Jasper replied. “Still, what about clothing”?
In an instant everything around him disappeared as water splashed across his face. When Jasper came to, he was laying in the sewer floor with the back of his head hurting. “What…what happened”, he said as he tried to sit up.
“Hold still”, a man’s voice told him.
“Where am I”?
“You fell down in the sewer while we were gone on dinner break”, the man replied. Jasper opened his eyes and saw a middle-aged street-worker kneeling down beside him. “What were you doing playing here, anyway”?
“Some kids threw me down here”, Jasper replied bitterly. “I can think of much better places to be playing”.
“Well, you seem okay so maybe you should go home”, the man told him.
Jasper got on his feet good and started climbing up the rungs when he remembered the professor and everyone else. “Wow, it was just a dream”.
Jasper: The Alchemist
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