Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wizard and Wing - Hatchling

Note: This story is an entry into this week's Friday Challenge, which can be found here. The challenge: Get the fifth chapter out of the way--after your world has been defined, your major characters introduced, the basics of the general plot laid out--you know, all that stuff that gets rewritten and thrown out sixteen times before you actually get on with the actual story. So, we join our plotline, already in progress...

Trage settled into his new home.

He had no idea if he was doing the same thing that other wizard's apprentices did. His duties mostly involved cleaning up after the wizard and his friends. He cleaned up after the animals, swept out the house, and cleaned and dusted the entire place, every day. Most days, the wizard sat in his room, poring over books and carrying on odd and mysterious experiments. There were strange-shaped boxes and other things stacked in one corner, and every time he dusted them, he noticed Midge was right there watching.

The wizard had caught him trying to steal something, so obviously this was a trial period to see if he really could be trusted or not. He set out to prove himself by doing the best he could, without a complaint.

His days settled into a kind of routine.

In the morning, breakfast. Eggs for the humans, fruit and vegetables for the lizard, and whatever animal the bird brought back for herself. Sometimes she only ate a little bit of a large rabbit, and Trage would take the rest to put in stew for the evening. Dishes, dusting, then lunch, which seemed to be more of an "eat if you're hungry" break than an actual meal. After lunch, sweeping, and any specific projects the wizard set him to do. After dinner, the wizard went back to study his books by candle light, and Trage was left to himself.

One evening, the wizard walked out of his study, and heard Trage halfway through a lesson. "Mack..."

"Silent 'E'," Midge said.

"Oh," Trage answered. "Make?" That got him a nod of approval from Beck.

"You're teaching him to read?" Steve asked.

"Why not?" Beck answered. "You're sure not teaching him very much." He stammered, stumbled his way through an apology, and went back to his study.

No, Trage did not understand the wizard and his friends.

The argument came out of nowhere.

Trage had been there for nearly four tendays. He seemed to be reading the wizard's language quite well, though many of the words they gave him to read didn't seem to translate. He was seated in the big comfortable chair with Midge nearby when Steve walked past Beck's room--and froze. He didn't say a word, he just stood there, and his mouth slowly opened. Beck looked up at him.

"Something you want to say?" she said.

"That's...that's an EGG," he said.

"Well, duh," she answered.

"...I thought you were MY girlfriend...?" he said quietly.

She made a rude noise. "Do you have feathers?" She stood up, so he could get a good look at the egg; it was mostly white, mottled with some darker brown spots, about twice the size of the hen's eggs they had for breakfast every morning.

His mouth moved a few times, but no sound came out.

"Or have you figured out how to change me back? Or how to get us back HOME?" she said sharply.

"Becka, I..."

"Don't 'Becka' ME!" she said. "I want my life back. I want my make-up and jewelry and shopping malls!" Her wings were out, and the feathers on her neck were sticking out. "I want a spa treatment, manicure, pedicure, mud mask, and a massage. And most of all, I want an apartment that doesn't smell like the cows up the street!"

Trage looked over at Midge. "Malls, Midge?"

He blinked a few times, and then said "Church. Women go there to worship gold, silver, and furs."

"Ah," Trage said, still confused.

"And it's 'Mitch,' not 'Midge,'" he added. "Short for 'Mitchell.'"

"Midge-elle?" Trage said, fighting the unusual syllables.

"Never mind."

Becka was just getting warmed up. "So, if you can't figure out a way to undo what you screwed up, I figure I'm on my own here. There's this hunk of a condor two mountains over. Totally useless for conversation, of course, but that's not really what I was looking for."

"Hey!" They both paused, and turned to look at Mitch. "Does that condor know any female Komodo Dragons, maybe an iguana...?"

He shrank away from the dual glare of sheer fury, and stepped away mumbling. "...aren't any other lizards on this freaking planet..."

"I'm TRYING to figure it out!" Steve shouted. "I can't get anyone to teach me, and I don't know how to make it work. Nothing I try actually does anything!"

She completely ignored him. "Did you even notice when I started building my nest?"

He blinked in confusion. "You're a bird. Birds build nests. What was I supposed to think?"

"Hello! Birds only build nests for one reason!"

He closed his eyes, and made a very visible effort to calm down. She straightened her ruffled feathers, and settled down on the egg.

"Beck," he said finally, "you're not a bird. You're a human who's been changed into one. I have no idea what that means for your DNA. What's inside that egg could..."

"Could what?" she said.

"Could be something you don't expect. We have no idea how magical cross-breeding is going to work out."

"So, if there's something wrong with it, you'd want to get rid of it? What if it had Down's Syndrome, like your cousin?"

"No, not like that," he said. "I mean, it could be human with a bird head, or..."

"Or, whatever. Doesn't matter. Something wrong with it, we deal with it. Or I deal with it, since it's my egg." She turned her back and started preening herself; it was obvious to everyone that the conversation was over.

The wizard stood there, silent, for a long moment, and then strode back to his library. He closed the door behind him.

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