ChoralysThe White did not own any chickens or roosters so nobody was up to greet the dawn of the new day. Both boys slept in much later than they were accustomed to. At home the custom was early to bed and early to rise every day except the Sabbath. When they all got up early anyway from force of habit.

But they were up much later than they were accustomed to the night before. When Shane opened his eyes and stretched his limbs to greet the new day, the sun was already high in the sky.

He sat up an nudged Tayvian; who mumbled something about iguanas then rolled over on his other side and began to snore rather loudly. Choralys was nowhere to be seen so Shane got up, washed his face and hands, and rinsed his mouth out in a basin of water that had been set out in front of the hearth. He dried himself on a homespun towel and then went in search of the wizard.

He wandered around the labyrinth of rooms, all of them filled with curiosities ranging from ancient books and scrolls to stuffed and mounted animals. In some rooms there were cages containing brightly colored songbirds and some held crows and other birds of prey. Remembering Choralys admonition to look but not touch anything, Shane kept his hands to himself and nothing bit him.

He found Choralys in his laboratory, hard at work on something, but what it was Shane could not have guessed. “Good evening my young friend, I trust you slept well?” Choralys said without looking up from his work.

“Like a bug in a rug” Shane admitted.

“Yes well I can certainly believe that because from my own bed I thought I heard one of you sawing on a log with a rusty saw blade.” The wizard snorted as he poured a small measure of a thick dark liquid into a large beaker and then set it on top of a low burner stand.

“Oh yeah, that was Tayvian that you heard sawing logs your Lordship because I know I don’t snore.” Shane said.

Choralys  looked up at him from under his bushy white eyebrows and studied him for a moment. “And how pray tell would you know that you don’t not snore?” he asked.

“I stayed awake all night once and listened.” Shane said simply. Choralys snorted and a tiny grin crept up the corners of his mouth

“Indeed.” He said as he bent back to his task.

“What are you making now, more bat wing soup? Or is this eye of newt soup? Shane asked as he watched the wizard at work.

“Eye of newt soup?” the ancient one said to himself. “Hmm, now that doesn’t sound bad at all. Perhaps I shall make a pot and you and Tayvian can take some for the walk home.”

“Don’t put yourself to any trouble on our account my lord wizard.” Shane said “We have more than enough food to see us safely back to Kilcairn even if it takes three days to get there.” Shane assured him, lest the wizard should actually whip up a batch of eye of newt soup.

“I could go for a bite of that delicious bat wing soup of yours though if I may?” He said, rubbing his belly for emphasis.

“So you liked my bat wing soup that smells like cod liver oil, did you?”  the ancient one chuckled.

“Yes sir, it tastes much better than it smells.” Shane told him.

“Aye lad ’tis the secret ingredient that gives it that savory flavor along with its rather distinctive  aroma.”

What’s the secret ingredient master?” Shane asked

“If I told you that it wouldn’t be a secret anymore would it?”

“No I suppose not.” Shane had to admit.

“The clean bowls are beside the pot waiting your convenience master Shane, help yourself.”

Shane was ladling soup from the pot when he drew out the batwing on the ladle. “Ew, gross!” he cried out in disgust. “What in heaven’s name is this?!!” From across the laboratory Choralys laughed and said “Well from over here it appears my secret ingredient has been discovered.”

Shane looked at the old wizard and then back at the large black bat wing, back to Choralys, back at the bats wing. “It tastes better than it looks too.” He said with a laugh. He put the bat wing back into the pot and shoved it down it where Tayvian would be sure to uncover it when he woke up and came in search of sustenance. As surely he was soon to do.

He grabbed a clean spoon and went over to the stone bench where Choralys was still fussing over his concoction. “What are you making? It’s not toad brain soup or something just as disgusting is it?” He asked the wizard as he sat down to eat.

“What I am making is the black dye that you came here for young man.” The wizard said as he crumbled up something from a vial and then stirred it into the heating beaker until it was all mixed in evenly.

“That?” Shane asked in disbelief.

“Yes, that.”

“But that is hardly enough to dye my undergarments much less the wool of an entire flock of grown sheep.” Shane said.

“Ah but, there you are wrong my young friend. This potion is more than it appears to be. As many thingsoften are” The wizard said.

“What do you mean? Is it a magic potion?”

“Aye it is at that but in the same way that all things are infused with a certain amount of magic. A magic that varies by degrees according to how the magician combines and applies their properties to his purposes.” The wizard explained, but his words missed Shane’s brain by a mile.

“I don’t understand your meaning, sir.” Shane admitted.

“Take for instance a common grape. You eat it and it tastes good on your tongue and it nourishes your body. Then take for example common yeast. From it we make bread and it sustains us. Then you take sugar. Its sweet and makes food a treat. Each one has that magic. You crush some grapes, sprinkle in a measure of yeast and  sugar, mix it all together and we get vinegar and wine from it which is an even more powerful magic still. It can make a man fall down upon his face in a ditch and in some cases it even takes control of his life and it can even kill him in some instances if it is abused.”

“But is it not true that magic like that is evil because it can kill the person who uses it?” Shane wondered.

“ That is a very astute observation.” the wizard said “But we know all things used for the purpose of ow then but from the magician himself and by how he applies that magic. For instance to give a fussing infant a rattle to amuse and quiet himself. That is a kind of white magic and it is good. But to give that same infant a rattle to quiet him when its still attached to a live rattlesnake is a kind of black magic. That kind of magic shall not be allowed to thrive in our world as long  as the Brotherhood stands in defiance of its spreading.”

“That I understand my lord. But what if I have more sheep?”

“It’s super concentrated, That means that just a tiny bit will be more than enough. I have prepared enough dye solution to allow you to dye the wool of a hundred sheep.” Choralys told the boy.

“I can dye a hundred sheep with just that little bit? You have got to be pulling my leg mister wizard.” Shane laughed .

“Mind thy manners young master lest thy face should break out in hairy warts to remind thee of thy place.’” Choralys warned.

“Sorry your worship.” Shane mumbled contritely and it was forgotten.

“What you do is mix this potion with water, at a rate of one dram per four buckets of water in a trough or a barrel and then you just dip the wool in it and let it dry on a rack.” Choralys  explained

“But won’t the dye turn my hands all black master?”  

“All you have to do is wash it off with lye soap and water. Be warned that until the dye is dried in the wool it will wash out again with plain water. So don’t leave it out in the rain or try washing it for at least five full days, after that the dye will be set in and will never fade or wash out again.” Choralys explained.

“Oh, okay, great!” Shane said with honest enthusiasm. “That’ll work perfectly, thank you, sir!”

They talked like two old friends, and like teacher and pupil until Tayvian finally woke up nearly 2 hours later. He came dragging into the laboratory in search of a hot meal and was directed to the bubbling pot of bats wing soup and a clean bowl. But when he poured the first ladle full of soup into his bowl the bat wing fell into it with a heavy wet plop.

That woke him up.

“What is this?” he cried dropping the bowl to the stone floor where it landed with a crash. Hot bat wing soup went flying everywhere. No pun intended.

”It’s the secret ingredient.” Shane laughed and Choralys joined him.

“ On second thought I think I’ll just have a grilled cheese sandwich .” Tayvian said and left in search of his rucksack and its ample supply of bread and cheese.

When the boys left the house of the ancient sorcerer just past noon, they carried with them extra cheese, a clearly drawn map that would take them back to Kilcairn, and of course the black wool dye. This last item, Shane carried in a stoppered bottle.

They offered the wizard their most gracious thanks for his help and hospitality and Choralys assured them that they could travel all nightunder the full moon without any fear of encountering Morloch again.

“But don’t forget about the calling and  do not fail to answer it whensoever it shall come.” He had warned, Shane.

“What will happen if he changes his mind and ignores this calling?” Tayvian asked out of curiosity.

Instead of a verbal answer to his question Choralys the White simply raised his ironwood staff a few inches and slammed he golden heel down on top of the big rock upon which he was standing. A brilliant flash of dazzling white light erupted from the Orleanstone mounted upon its head and with a sharp report like a peal of thunder the boulder split between his feet. “If you break your word then you do so at your own peril!” the old magician warned the two boys who had been knocked off of their feet by the concussion of the powerful blast, and were now cowering on the ground. When they looked up again the wizard was gone as though he had vanished into thin air.

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Shane looked at the cloven boulder for a few moments then looked at Tayvian. Tayvian looked at the split boulder and then at Shane. “I don’t know about you brother but I have got to get me one of those staffs.” Shane said with shock and awe in his voice.

“Yeah. ” Tayvian agreed. “Get me one too.”

They cleared the southern border of Mayrewood an hour before it got dark, just as Choralys had said, the light of the full moon was bright enough to light their way so they walked all night long and reached Tayvian’s house before first light. They agreed to meet up the next day to go fishing at Hag Creek and finalize their plans for the prank on old man Charney before they split up.

Shane finally got home a few minutes later and he crept inside and crawled into his own bed. He had just closed his eyes when the roostercrowed and the next thing he knew his mother was shaking him awake again and telling him to get up come to breakfast.

Having no choice, Shane got up to do his chores. After they were done he had to move the flock to the upper pasture. He knew that would take him the rest of the day to accomplish.

By the time he finished his chores that day and reached the fishing hole on Hag Creek he fell down in the tall grass on the bank neext to Tayvian and by the time his shadow caught up with him Shane was sound asleep and snoring like a buzz saw.

When two hours later he finally woke up again, the final plans for operation Black Sheep were in place and the plan was set in motion.

First they mixed up a measure of the dye just as Choralys had instructed.. The timing was crucial because they knew old Charney would be heading to for Callister in a few more days. They dyed a prime, white Merino ram coal black.

This was the same ram that old Charney would buy from the distraught young lad on the Kings Road just 6 days later. The dye was dried in the wool by then so there was no fear of it running or coming off before Old Charney returned on Monday to look at the flock. A problem which would expose their prank

Sunday morning right after church, Shane and Tayvian had to literally run all the way up to the high meadow where all of Randall’s sheep were grazing and filled up the deep hole that they had dug out the day before with water making sure to keep a tally of how many times they emptied four buckets full into it. Once the pool was filled up then Shane took the bottle of black dye potion and measured out 18 drams and poured it all into the hole as well.

A little bit of stirring with a long stick turned the pool of water as black as Satan’s heart. Then it was simply a matter of cutting out the sheep that Shane’s father had told him he could sell off and then trotting them through the dye pool. It was just deep enough so that the sheep would not be able to touch the bottom of it and so once the next sheep entered it and started swimming in the inky black water then Shane and Tayvian together would force it down completely under water so that not only its back got dyed but its face and head as well.

It took the two of them the remainder of the afternoon to dip all 32 of the sheep into the dye but when they were finished it was agreed that it was all worth it. There drip drying in the late evening sunshine stood 12 jet black Merino rams, 16 jet black Merino ewes and 4 jet black Merino lambs.

  The following morning Shane rose extra early and finished all of his chores in record time then he told Temperance  that he was going to go sell off the extra sheep. His mother figured that he was being silly and told  him to be sure and get a fair market value for them. “I will I’m sure” Shane hollered back as he scooted out the door.

Tayvian was waiting for Shane at the high pasture gate with a bundle of clothes that he had “sort of” borrowed from his cousin. It was the dress of an Italian shepherd that his parents had bought for him during a trip to Rome. It was quite an exotic costume for South Wales.

“He will never miss it .” Tayvian assured Shane as he got dressed. “He would not feign to be caught dead in this outfit.” 

“I can understand why.” Shane said, eyeing the outfit dubiously.

“I like it” Tayvian had said, defensively.

“You would” Shane told him “You would.”

Every last one of the sheep that Shane picked for Operation Black Sheep were all like old friends to him. They would follow him almost anywhere he would lead them. So it was no trouble at all to get the black flock down from high meadow to the side of Kings Highway at the spot that had been appointed for meeting with old man Charney and the black sheep.

Since you already know the rest of that story there’s no need to go any further with it except to say later that night at the dinner table Randall brought up the subject of  the sheep that he had told Temprence he was going to take to sell that morning.

“Oh, that. Yes I did that already father.” Shane said and for proof he pulled out a new purse and handed it to Randall who opened it to find it contained 9 gold crowns  which was exactly the price of 28 adults and 4 lambs according to the prices that Randall had set.

Of the three gold crowns that were left over, he gave Tayvian half and kept the other half for himself and socked it away in a safe place for a rainy day.

For the first 6 months or so after their journey to the wizards house in Mayrewood Shane kept watching for a sign of the calling that Choralys had spoken of. Whatever that might involve. To his great relief no one ever “called” him for anything but to come to supper, or to take his dreaded weekly bath on a Saturday night.

So the months slipped away into a year and then one year slipped into another until pretty soon the promise of service to the old wizard and even the journey to the Mayrewood itself was lost within the memory of both of the young men. In time they began to assume more and more of the duties and chores of grown men. Such as hunting, and cutting firewood, and stuff like that.

Pretty soon 4 ½ years had slipped past as unnoticed in the rush of time as is the lone tree that falls in the forest and then gradually melts back into he ground from which it once sprang up.

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Tayvian and Shane both grew into strapping young men of good reputation and character. Mysteriously all of the practical jokes that had plagued Kilcairn for the past six years ceased as suddenly as had begun to occur.

This of course caused rumors to abound that the hamlet who went off to join the kings army and to fight the French who were getting uppity again and need to be slapped back down once more by the steel gauntlet of King Richard IV.

Late in the month of April or perhaps towards the middle of May, word reached the village of Kilcairn that the venerable old wizard Choralys the White had died in his home in Mayrewood as the result, the town crier had come proclaiming the news, “Of a great catastrophe of unknown origin.”

Shane received the news with a heavy heart for he had kept a great affection for the wizened old magician. He had hoped he would someday have a chance to go back and visit him again, but now that time had passed them by.

From all the stories that were passed around town Shane and Tayvian were able to determine that apparently a huntsman stalking a deer very close to Choralys’ cottage was about to loose his arrow when a great noise like a booming roar tore through the air.

The huntsman said the explosion caused the ground to shake hard enough to knock him off of his feet. The deer he had been hunting all morning was in the next shire by the time he had gathered himself back together again so the curious gentleman set out to discover for himself the source of that terrific noise.

All he had to do as it turned out was to follow his nose and the rising column of thick black smoke that was rolling up from the ruins of the old wizard’s life high above the tree tops.

     When he arrived at the scene of the accident, the shredded and splintered remains of the wizard’s home were nothing more than smoking piles of black ash and soot.

Many now shattered and splintered beams littered the former door yard all the way to the tree line. The first few trees even had shards of glass imbedded in them and one ash even had one of the iron hinges from Choralys door, blown half way through its trunk as though it had been shot out of a cannon. Such was the force of the blast that had destroyed the the home and taken the life of the sorcerer known as Choralys the White.

Far and away the greatest force of the explosion was felt back in the ardent scientists laboratory where the blast had occurred.

On the last day of his long life, Choralys was in his lab experimenting with a new substance hat he had discovered which had the power to destroy a castle in the proper portions. He hadn’t given it a name yet but more than a thousand years after his death some modern day scientist would call it nitroglycerine and make a fortune off of it.

He already knew how volatile his new discovery was from spilling a single drop while he as pouring it from one beaker into another one for storage. That one tiny drop had blown a small hole in his stone floor. It had startled him so badly that he very nearly dropped both beakers which would have precipitated the impending cataclysm by two weeks but he managed to hold on to them and the disaster was averted, but not for long.

From then on Chorlays knew he had to be extra careful whenever he handled the stuff and so he was. Still he could not resist the temptation of trying to concentrate the new formula like he had done with the black dye he had given to Shane. Just like he had done with so many other potions before. He was successful too and he had managed to work the liquid down into a thick gelatinous consistency.

One that  would stick to almost anything. In an experiment Choralys took an arrow and dipped its head into the jell and then shot the arrow into a large beech tree. The resulting blast from the arrow impacting upon the hard wood blew the wizard off his feet head over heels into a creek. The trunk of the tree was shattered; the only thing left of the big the Beech tree was a billion assorted size toothpicks.

He was working on trying to further concentrate it and possibly break it down to a powder form that could be used in making fireworks and bombs on the last day of his life. Choralys was diligent in his careful handling of the nitroglycerine to a fault. Only an unforeseeable accident took him from this world.

We all know that he was a very powerful sorcerer. Some would even say one of the most powerful ever. And rightly so.

You have to wonder why if he could see the future of other people’s lives did he not see this coming in his own future? It certainly is true that a wizard can foresee the future. Even so a wizard is not given the power to foresee his own future. Just as a reader of tarot cards cannot read her own cards, a crystal gazer cannot gaze on her own fortune and a palmist would never read her own palm. Our future is not given to us to see so that we may approach it with hope and without fear. Still one cannot escape his fate no matter what he does.

Above his workbench on the roof high overhead hung a number of stalactites ranging from 2 to 4 feet in length that were formed over a period of more than 200,000 years by deposits of lime and other minerals contained within the water that seeped down from above the cave. That water then trickled down and eventually formed into tiny drops that would run down the stalactites.

Each and every drop added a minute micro-fraction more to the ever growing formations as the centuries passed. While those stalactites were every bit as solid as the stone upon which they grew, they were deceptively solid. In all honesty they are nothing more than a growth of rock upon another rock. In other words a stalactite was merely one rock on bottom of another that were kind of glued together.

Directly over the top of a large beaker full of the nitroglycerine gel that Choralys was slowly cooking down further hung a giant limestone icicle that weighed in at close to a thousand pounds. It had been hanging in the same place for nearly a quarter of a million years undisturbed. Or so it seemed to the casual observer anyway.

Because such was not the case as the earth is forever moving, shifting and changing and the area around Mayrewood was no exception to the rule. To our eyes the land never really changes, however; in the eyes of a geological time it does, but very slowly.

As the ground shifted around, settled, and compacted, and expanded again over the millenia, a minute gap began to open up between the stalactite and the rock to which it clung. The glue that had held it in place for so long was now giving way.

As the years went by and further settling and shifting took place that minute gap gradually widened. Imperceptibly, but still it got wider and deeper. As the stalactite continued to succumb the forces of change acting upon it, and it continued to get heavier. Over time gravity began to take its toll on the limestone icicle’s hold on the roof of the cave.

On the day Choralys died, gravity finally won the long-standing game of tug of war and the big rock came crashing down as silently as the whisper of a fluttering butterfly’s wing. It landed squarely on top of the beaker of gelled nitroglycerine. Choralys had only enough time to see the stalactite strike the workbench before it exploded into a million fragments in his face. He never knew what hit him or felt anything. His end was mercifully quick and painless.

The shock of the mighty blast was great enough to bring the entire ceiling of the big cave crashing down in a 100,000 ton shower of debris that sealed up the mouth of the cave and the tomb of Choralys The White for all of eternity. May he rest in peace.