The Sorcerer's Apprentice: A Variation On The Theme
Abramalin the wise stayed within the shadows of his mountain cave for many years. In commune with spirits and the divine presence of the living universe, he sang a song of joy in harmony with the tones of creation. The kindly old man had gathered knowledge of the hermetic and esoteric arts from all corners of the world. His cave held a bounty of treasured books on it's hewn shelves. Grimoires of ancient occult lore from Egypt, Quabbalistic secrets from Israel and Persia, and Astrological and Alchemical wisdom from the Zoroastrian magi. He was powerful in himself and in what he knew - but more importantly, he was wise with how he used it and who he shared the knowledge with. He understood the dark possibilities that his knowledge contained. Only an enlightened one should be entrusted with such power.
So it was then that the years past, and Abramalin watched over the city below the mountain pass where his cave resided. Every now and again he would go down into the city and walk amongst the city folk, listening to their worries and healing their ills. Finally though, a year came when Abramalin found the city changed beyond recognition.
Great gleaming towers of glass and steel rose into the sky. Metal carts that roared and exhaled choking fumes sped violently up and down roads now covered in hard black stone such as he had never seen. Abramalin wept in fear that such a change had been wrought. The people in their fine clothes stepped around him in his hermit's garb - lips turned in disgust at his appearance.
"What has become of the world?" he pleaded of the passing strangers, but they scorned him and laughed at his threadbare robes and ragged beard.
Abramalin wandered disconsolately through the busy streets, listening to the chatter of the common folk. He came to realise as time went on, that a full three hundred years had past since his last visit to the streets of the town. The shock of this revelation fair knocked the wind from Abramalin's lungs and he rushed to the nearest open green space and collapsed there on the grass to feel the earth beneath him breathing.
"I have found the philosopher's stone and not even known it!" he said to the air. "I have lived some five centuries and scarcely noted the passing of the years!" The discovery of this unwitting longevity was too much for Abramalin's tired mind. Darkness and sleep came upon him.
When Abramalin awoke, he found a young woman in the dirt-smudged rags of a begger sat watching him with a pleasant smile on her face. She was strikingly beautiful beneath the grime, with dark hair and piercing blue eyes. She was humming a tune and playing with the ends of her unkempt hair as she watched him. Abramalin sat up and brushed his beard with embarrassment.
"Hi" said the young lady brightly, "My name is Fey - you're new around here, huh?"
Abramalin cleared his throat uncertainly. She really was quite beautiful!
"I am called Abramalin" he intoned carefully, "I am a learned man and a healer"
"You mean, like, a doctor?" quizzed the curious teenager suspiciously Abramalin nodded, he knew of this word.
"I don't know about all of that" said Fey starting to walk. Abramalin walked with her. He couldn't think of anything else to do. "
"Some Doctor was supposed to help my mom get better after she had trouble with her stomach when I was little..." chattered Fey to Abramalin, "she didn't get better though." Clearly the poor girl thought him destitute like herself.
Abramalin's heart was filled with sympathy for the young woman's plight. He put his hand on her shoulder and the warmth of her skin through the simple summer dress she wore quite took him by surprise. She smiled at him with innocent pleasure at this simple human contact. How long had it been since he'd felt another's skin against his own?
"What of your father, child?" asked the kindly old man. Being practiced in ascetic ways of life, Abramalin ignored the temptations of flesh.
"He died in a fight with some thieves" sighed the girl, her big eyes glistening with tears, "He would not give them the money he had saved to pay the Doctors with."
Abramalin looked up to discover they had walked away from the city and almost the whole way up the mountain path to his cave already. He glanced behind him at the distant buildings in surprise. It was a relief to be away from the noise and the smell of that place which had become so foreign to him now. How strange that time had become like a thief in the night to him. The minutes seemed to pass without his notice. He shook his head and glanced at the girl. She was looking towards the cave with clear interest.
"This is my home" said Abramalin quietly. He was perturbed by the hunger in her eyes. What secret motive hid there? Then he shook himself. It was merely the word 'home' that put that lust in her eye. How long since the poor young thing had had one?
"Can I stay the night?" she asked and Abramalin shuffled his feet uncertainly. He was afraid of what might happen if she stayed, but even more he feared the loneliness he felt would descend on him should she now go. He had been alone for centuries! Why did this terror strike him now?
"Do you have letters?" the old magician asked and Fey frowned quizzically, "Can you read, child?" He repeated.
"Oh!" said Fey and blushed in embarrassment "Well actually no" she admitted, "I can say my ABCs but poppa took me out of school when momma got real sick."
"That is well" sighed the sorcerer, "There are things written in my books that can change a person's soul, their fortunes... words that can summon angels and demons alike!"
Fey gasped and performed a genuflection that reassured the old man as to her purity. Clearly this young woman was a follower of Christ and could do him no harm.
“I can cook” said the young woman hopefully. Abramalin sighed – he had been without company so long. He yearned for a little simple companionship. He knew it unwise of him, but he felt himself nodding. He instructed that she build a fire and make ready their supper from the supplies that hung in the cave's modest pantry.
“Just for a few days” he agreed.
Fey beamed with pleasure and immediately set to work cooking some of the food he had stored and cleaning the sorcerer’s simple abode. Abramalin took down a copy of le Clavicule de Solomon and fingered through dry pages idly. From the corner of his eye, he watched the young woman bustle industriously about his cave, leaving cleanliness and order in her wake. He found himself for the first time in a hundred years, regretting his vow of celibacy.
Over the days and nights that followed, Abramalin’s fondness for his beautiful foundling girl grew. Each morning when he rose, he would perform his regime of sun salutations and stretches as per the methods learned during his time with the yogis. On the third morning, Fey joined him silently, copying his movements at first clumsily, then with growing confidence. After this, he would sit in the lotus position facing the sun and meditate deeply. This Fey found more difficult, and though he was not sure he should be doing so… he found himself giving her quiet lessons in the focussing of the mind, and mental preparation for deep thought. He reasoned to himself that as she had no knowledge of the rites and esoteric secrets held within his grimoires then the passing on of these skills posed no threat.
Each night he watched the lovely young woman sleep on a palette of dry bracken with blankets of fur wrapped about her. Her skin was pale and smooth, untarnished by care and age. He shook his head and smiled at the lie of her worry-free brow. She had seen death and loss in her young life… but she wore it so lightly. If he had been uncontaminated by desire perhaps that semblance of innocence would have been warning enough to him.
Each night as old Abramalin lit a lantern and crept into the depths of the cave, Fey would open her eyes and stealthily creep after. She watched with wide eyes and active mind as the old sorcerer drew pentacles and angelic symbols on a smooth platform of obsidian. Candles flickered and their flames trembled to the sound of Abramalin’s sonorous voice. He sang his invocations and muttered harsh conjurations. Fey witnessed Demons, Angels, spirits and sprites all coming to bend their knees within the old man’s circle of influence. Each would fight his control, and each would fall to his unbeatable will and focus of thought.
Whether this was the first time Fey’s heart had been touched with greed for power, it cannot be said but she was breathless with it now. Every night she followed him in his routine. She watched him perform his rituals, memorising each aspect. When his back was turned she would leaf through the books that filled his cave (for she had, of course, lied about her ability to read). The works of Heinrich Agrippa were absorbed rapidly. The occult studies of Trismegistus she learned by heart, of the Enochian keys… she memorised the lot. Even the darker workings of le Pape Honorious and other items that dealt with spells of death and the gathering of wealth were absorbed into her expanding repertoire of arcane knowledge.
In her sleeping hours, short as they were Fey began to use her burgeoning skills to leave her body and explore the etheric realms. She wandered the shores of Sheol and communed with the multitudes of the wandering dead. She exchanged news of the world for further secrets that allowed her to bamboozle demons who, attracted by the warmth of her living spirit, would hunt for her in the murk and try to trick her with illusions and false promises. In the world of Dream she used her powers of visualisation (honed by the focusing meditations Abramalin had taught her) to create cities and vast beautiful mindscapes populated with fabulous animals and imagined plants that flew and sung hymns to her through jasmine and candy scented air.
She crept close to the gates of Hades where Cerberus guards on the other side of the Styx. She wiled away hours swapping stories with the ferryman who rarely saw a soul pass these days as the ways of the dead are not what they once were. At Heaven’s gate Fey hid low and gazed in awe at the bright figures of angels who hovered there. Few approached those gates. The joy of that place seemed strangely melancholy.
There were many many realms. Some so old and disused as to be naught but a vague memory of a shadow. The halls of the Viking kings were deserted. Fey reasoned that the Nordic warriors had gone back to be reborn many times over by now – they would be coming back as Christians, and Buddhists and the like. Odin sat on his dias alone in the cold above long empty tables. His one eye stared blankly into nothingness.
Fey awoke one morning to find the old man staring at her with that sad longing in his eyes. Fey didn’t understand his ascetic ways. She felt the desire inside him like an a physical ache inside her. She was more sensitive than she had once been. Less naïve to the frailties of the flesh. Abramalin had seemed so wise when first he had saved her from a life on the streets. Now, despite his age and power… he was just a man again. An old man who was no stronger than the weak shell he inhabited. His refusal to admit it angered her.
Abramalin’s smile of morning greeting faltered at the spark in the beautiful young woman’s eye.
“Fey?” he asked querulously, “What is the matter, my child?”
“I won’t have it!” exclaimed Fey standing and casting her sleeping furs aside. Abramalin gasped and averted his eyes. She was wearing nothing beneath the furs. The spring nights had become warm and she often slept naked inbetween her furs. She could sense the burning need inside him as he pointedly stared everywhere but at her. He didn’t have to see her as she stood there boldly and proudly. The burning image of her smooth pale skin and feminine curves was indelibly burned into his mind’s eye. She could sense every twitching thought in his head, every dilating vein in his wiry body, every rushing blood cell.
“I feel your desire!” she hissed, “I know that you want me!”
“I have foresworn the flesh!” he choked, staggering blindly away from her. Fey smiled wickedly, feeling her power over him swelling even as his manhood swelled between his thighs.
“Sate your desire, old man” she cooed, padding after him across the bare rocks, “Give in to your need!”
Abramalin’s mind was in turmoil. Why had he returned to the city? Why had he left the peace of his cave and ventured down. He had all that he needed. But did he? Came the voice in the back of his mind. Her voice. Did he have love? The warmth of human affection? The touch of a lover?
Fey’s fingers touched him lightly on his shoulder and he could feel the heat of her standing close behind him. He turned slowly, willpower crumbling as he looked down into the deep blue of her wide beautiful eyes. She said nothing, but pulled his face down to hers and kissed him on the lips. Her tongue was hot and sweet.
He fell before her, a slave to his human weakness. She took him there on the mountainside. His passion was nothing but a spark beside the blistering heat of her will to dominate, to own. She possessed him utterly.
When Abramalin released his seed within the young witch, his paramour, his apprentice... the last barrier between them was broken. She drained him of his potency and power and took it all within her young body.
Fey clambered to her feet with a crow of triumph. Her bare skin usually so pale, was flushed with vigor and slicked with sweat. The power of the old sorcerer’s life force coursed through her trembling frame as she staggered back from the husk that once had been a man. She looked at his small frame as his last breaths left him. The wind robbed what little heat he had left away. With a sneer for his weakness, Fey took his robes and donned them. They fit her, strangely. She remembered her dead mother in that moment, weak and frail between the doctors’ ministrations. She was not going to be weak like her mother and father. She would not be a slave to the whims of the gods. She was mistress of her world – and everyone was going to know it.
Links to other short stories by me
- The Door (a short story using an ordinarily inanimate object as a character - written on a whim)
In this eerie short story, a woman is followed throughout her life by a red door.