Fan fiction:A Moldy Tome/Chapter Two: The Talk


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A Moldy Tome is a fan fiction piece by Indefatigable, originally posted in the Fan Fiction Forum. You can find more information on the A Moldy Tome article.


Chapter Two: The Talk[edit]

“Why don’t you use magic?” said the boy, through chattering teeth.

The old man stopped swearing at the fireplace full of damp wood, put down the tinder-box, and looked at him.

“I know you can. You used it on me once.” Now that he had said it, there was no turning back. He took a deep breath and blurted, “I can too.”

“Can you light a fire with it?”

“Uh -- no.”

“It’s not the right kind of magic, is it?”

“Mine’s not. Wait, is mine the same as -- is it -- ”

“Same as mine, I should think.” He picked up the tinderbox again.

The boy grabbed the kettle and darted back out into the dusk to fill it with snow. When he returned, the old man was carefully replacing the grate before a small but promising flame.

- - - - -

They sat on opposite sides of the fireplace, wrapped in woolen blankets, the old man privately wishing he was still young enough to curl up and sit on his feet like that.

The boy looked at him through the rising steam over his wooden teacup. “So you already knew that I was -- that I’m a -- ?”

“From the first time I laid eyes on you. You’re only the third one I’ve ever met, not including myself.”

“The third...” He struggled to find the right word. “W-witch? Mage?”

“Oh, I’ve met more assorted mages than you can carry in one basket. Necromancers, though... they’re a little harder to find.”

The boy half-mouthed the word and said aloud, “I don’t know what that is.”

The old man jerked a thumb at his own chest, and then pointed a long finger at the boy. “You do now.”

He took a sip from his teacup and sloshed the last few mouthfuls around in the bottom of it, idly peering at the leaves, and waiting for the boy to say something. When he got no response, he raised his eyes again. The boy was staring back at him with his fingers clenched around his own cup.

“Good thing I gave you that cup. You'd have broken this one. Can you read?”

“Can I -- yes, I can read.” The boy's voice cracked in surprise.

“Good! That’ll make things easier. My books are all quite recent translations, except for the scrolls I picked up from that rug merchant in Ureh. Though it’s not as if modern Kehjistani is terribly different from what it was when these were originally -- ”

“To learn how to be a -- necromancer?”

Faintly amused by the interruption, but aware of the taint of panic in the boy’s voice, the old man spoke gently. “To learn how to use the powers you were born with. Yes.”

“I don’t want to use them!”

The walls of the cottage had never before heard a voice raised to that volume.

"Not again," the boy rasped into the silence after. "Not anymore."

“I’m going to hazard a guess,” said the old man, very quietly, “that you wish you’d known something about them sooner.”

The boy seemed like a feral animal again, frozen with terror and ready to bolt for the wilderness. But he looked the old man in the eye and nodded once, quickly.

“Then wouldn’t you agree that the responsible thing, right now, would be to learn more?”