Friday, March 4, 2011

"Desire of the Apprentice" by: C. William Russette

"Desire of the Apprentice"
by: C. William Russette
as published in
Fantasy & Fear #3 


     A country of mages and sorceresses do not thrive in their craft by practicing on sticks and stones or even rats and lizards. To understand change one must understand that which you wish to change. The mortal form is a complex thing, the same as fixing ones sight on the future. Often one doesn’t get the result sought on the first try and then its just back to the dungeon in hopes of a more successful second try.
     Those blessed with the sight and the natural dexterity of mind to learn the craft won’t even think on Blakkrfell and head straight to the Vanir or Aesir schools to learn their craft. To plant their lips upon Odin’s backside! Those with brass and an eye for challenge come to Rikr Keep. My students may be fewer in number but I’ll put any three of Odin’s whelps against one my witches, Kjalvör thought, laying languidly amidst her vast bed’s many pillows.
     The emissary from Skogrheim lay next to her, naked and exposed. Completely vulnerable and drained almost unto death from his exertions. He did finally please the queen but only just. The seduction was tedious and without challenge.

     Still, there is something to be said for youthful enthusiasm, she mused. Should I finished him off or allow him to live to return to Skogrheim with my reply to King Faddi‘s ludicrous demands? As if I would have anything to do with the training of one of his daughters in the craft. I already have a student. She is more than a handful as it is. It has been five years since Freia arrived begging on my front step with but a few simple illusions and tinctures to her name. No, let King Faddi’s daughter attend the academy with all the other tiresome applicants that will only take what Blakkrfell has taught them and become a royal vizier or the town seer making love potions for the ugly and gold the slow of wit. I believe, as I did when I first saw her, that Freia will be something special. She has that mercurial glow to her. It’s maddeningly indecipherable.
     She cast her fierce gaze over both students.    
     The young blond emissary groaned next the queen. I really should attend to her extracurricular lesson for the day, she supposed. The young man stretched the stiffness from his body. But then, what’s the point of being an immortal queen if one can’t take one’s time…
     Never silent and rarely unoccupied was the alchemy laboratory of Rikr Keep. Young Freia, how she hated it when Queen Kjalvör called her that, looked into the scrying mirror that hung on the wall over the empty altar. Her waist-length golden hair, partially braided and subtly glowed thanks one of her concocted enchantments. The scent of which would draw a man’s nose and the rest of him shortly thereafter. Calling her young made her sound like a child and not the woman that she surely was.
     Her body pleased any man that saw it. Males were so obvious in their covetousness. Unlike some sorceresses, Freia didn’t bother magically enhancing her facial appearance. Why alter what the Fates created perfect? Her appearance, combined with her perfume, was enough to make men who favored their own gender take notice.
     Her prey this evening would have no chance.
     She entered the hall of tincture hoping it was unoccupied for the night’s work. It appeared that various experiments were going on. Long term concoctions and gelling agents burned, bubbled and coalesced on the various tables and shelves in the huge, circular room. There wasn’t anything that one might return to immediately. But one _would_ come, shortly. He was likely panting with anticipation at this very moment as he trundled down the hall.
     “Greetings, Freia,” a voice said from the far side of the chamber.
     His passion is greater than I had hoped!
     “Greetings, Chief Apprentice Biornolf,” Freia cooed, smiling.
     Biornolf was the lead apprentice of Queen Kjalvör’s private tutelage. None had studied under the queen longer in recent memory. Rumor had it that no man had shown the capacity or patience to suffer the queen for so long. Biornolf had however, and his skill in spell-craft was unique because of it.
     “Must you be so formal, Freia? We are equals here, now. The queen is occupied and will be for some time, I think,” Biornolf said, passing tables alive with activity.
     Freia turned from the mirror but said nothing and made no move towards him. Biornolf would come to her. She raised her eyes from the floor and met his gaze. She could almost feel the electricity of lust flowing from him. He desired her, she had no doubt. If she were to let him he would no doubt tear her clothes off that very instant and take her on a bed of mismatched enchantments. He plans to do just that, I warrant, she thought.
     Aye, I must be careful. This man is no fool, he is learned. But in the end, he is just a man and as such, a toy. To be played with so long as I find him amusing.
     “Nay, but I enjoy taxing you, Chief.”
     “You wish to tax me? Mayhap that would please me more than you.” Biornolf stepped into the row that would lead him straight to her.
     “Perhaps. I’ve not yet decided whether or not I shall let you know my pleasures. Queen Kjalvör has made her ruling on such things very plain.”
     Biornolf frowned and his years manifested on his face. He was middle aged and stout enough of frame. His beady eyes and small mouth reminded Freia of a rodent. A new breed, the largest ever for certain, but no less foul. As if she would let him touch her had he not what she desired.
     “The rule of reciprocal action is outdated, unnecessary for such as we. It’s more of a guideline than a rule, I find.”
     “The punishment gives thee no pause, Biornolf?” Freia bore her most innocent expression.
     “None, fair maid. I fear the queen not. We go back many years.” Biornolf stood before Freia, enjoying his height advantage.
     Freia watched his nostrils take in her perfume and hid her delight. “Will you honor thy word? Share with me the formulae for the enchanted kiss?”
     Biornolf paused then smiled. Freia knew he was wrestling with which witticism to delight her young, impressionable ears with. His eyes dragged their touch across her body leaving Freia feeling as though a slug had tracked over her. She risked a glance at his lips.
     He wore the balm.
     “There is likely a reason that the queen has deemed you unworthy as yet for this lesson.”      Biornolf inched closer to Freia. His cologne offended in its mixing with his unwashed flesh.
     “She thinks me a child. Do you find me to be a child... or a woman?? Freia asked, unmoving, despite his closeness.
     “You are certainly mature for your age, Freia,” he almost choked on his words.
     “You will share with me the formulae then, Chief Apprentice“?
     “Yes.” Biornolf said and pressed his lips to hers.
     The fire began at her lips and spread throughout her body like she was made of dry, ancient wood. Every hair on her body stood, her mouth watered and her hands involuntarily became claws at her side. For the first time she felt that Biornolf was the perfect male.
     No one else had ever held her fancy as this man now did. He was god-like in appearance, the epitome of masculinity and fertility for certain. Freia had to be with this man, she would do anything that he asked until the end of all things or die trying. Nothing he asked of her would be too base or humiliating. If he were to ever stop touching her or, Fates forbid, leave her, then she would have no choice but to take her own li-
     “Biornolf! What is the meaning of this?” A woman’s voice thundered throughout the chamber.
The chief apprentice pulled away from Freia and took her breath with him. Queen Kjalvör stood at the entrance to the alchemy laboratory in a gown that would cost a peasant family years to afford. Her cross expression stole Biornolf‘s bravado in a single turn. He couldn‘t find any words. Kjalvör took a moment to drink in the scene before her unbelieving eyes.
     How could such a thing have happened? There were rumors that Biornolf had a fancy for younger women. But here in my own laboratory?

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