Friday, January 6, 2017

Chapter 1 – The Assignment

 There is nothing like the feeling of graduating from a top witchcraft academy with top grades and getting your first – and possibly last – position as resident witch. You walk down the gloomy corridors of the Office, marveling at your reflection in the polished wooden panels, perhaps observing some particular detail of the skull-shaped engravings that decorate the ceiling, until you find yourself in front of a massive slab of black marble with a large star in the middle of it, and carvings of ancient runes surrounding it. Your mind quickly races over your lessons on ancient runes, lessons which you once thought utterly useless, since all the old sorcery books have already been conveniently translated into perfectly readable English – and over a hundred other modern languages – by generations and generations of bored students looking for extra credit. With great difficulty, you decipher the message “Portal. Stand here.” As you step onto the star in the middle of the marble slab, your eyes meet that same translation etched into the walls in plain English, French, German, Latin, ancient Greek, traditional Chinese, something that looks like Arabic, and a few dozen other languages that you can't quite place. Then your vision blurs, steam rises from the edges of the slab for extra effect, and when your vision clears again, you are in a dark room, with walled in gothic windows and only two candle holders framing a large and rather uncomfortable-looking throne, upon which the Giver is seated.
The Giver does not need to hear your name, or the paltry list of qualifications and work experience that you have scrupulously brought for her. The Giver knows all, sees all, and most importantly, the Giver is seated on a very uncomfortable iron contraption and cannot possibly be persuaded to sit there long enough to listen to you blabbering on about your degree in potions and your six-month internship at your local Witch's Hut. The Giver gives a rat's hinder part about all that, and she will not tolerate your insolent remarks about the remarkable potions that rat hinder parts are an essential ingredient to, thus making said hinder parts actually invaluable to the advancement of potion-making research. The Giver will set you in your place, for her only job is to give places of employment to promising young witches, or, in bleak times, to less promising, less young witches, who are likely to accept half the pay for doing a third of the work that a top witch could do.
And so the Giver gives you your assigned place, and at once when hearing of it your face lights up with delight and gratitude. Unless you are Miss Toadmila Wartly, eighteen years old, top of her class, and extraordinarily gifted in all subjects, apart from Obedience to the Elders. Her face did not light up, and when she opened her mouth to give thanks, as was the custom, her words were not overflowing with gratitude.
“The Dilapidated Hut in Grimwood Forest!? Really! With my grades, you should station me as adviser to some emperor. Or at least a king.”
“Miss Wartly, with your penchant for diplomacy, you'd be beheaded in less than a week. I'm giving you a position where you wouldn't risk losing your head.”
“Where I'd be out of the way.”
“Where the Seers predict great things for your future.”
Toadmila snorted and crossed her arms.
“Well I'm not leaving here until I get a good assignment,” she said menacingly.
“You did get a good assignment,” the Giver retorted. She raised her left arm, snapped her fingers and shouted “Next!” and Toadmila found herself somewhere else entirely.

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