The Sorcerer's Crucible Has Arrived

Published on by Francesca Quarto

" No one can deny the truth of it; there is a Sorcerer among us!"

So spoke the old Minister.

A wizened old man of indeterminate years, that the locals of the village put down as nearing a century.

He had already out-lived all of their grandparents and parents and, still, drew breath enough to deliver fiery sermons every Church day.

These were not always held on the predictable Sundays. They were set around the planting and harvesting seasons, the health of the general village folk and the mood of their ancient pastor, Mr. Gideon Freeman.

Mr. Freeman was not only a fixture in the lives of all the villagers, but a permanent thorn in the side of their landlord, Calvin Hazelworth. Better known to the locals as "Cold Cal" and to the Royal Scribes as Lord Hazelworth.

The Lord's position as landlord was well-established as he too, was beyond belief in natural years it seemed. No one could remember a time when he wasn't present in their lives. Lives of hardship, paucity, hunger and death breathing hotly down each and every sun-burnt neck of the villagers.

They had all come to expect their decrepit pastor to speak to them of demons and witches and things from the dark night. But this day, a cloudy, threatening day, he seemed more riled up than was usual.

"I say it again and you must heed me! The Sorcerer, even now as I stand before you, is readying himself to strike at our homes and hearts!"

While he wasn't actually standing, but bent over nearly in half, he did make his point and each of the smattering of attendees cocked their head to try to look into his rheumy eyes.

"I have given out this warning before, endless times before...and none have listened. But I ask you...what has been disturbing our graveyard? Where have our loved ones bodies been taken...why are your cows giving sour milk and sickening your children...and why is the Lord Calvin Hazelworth still sucking the meat off the bones of the lambs you have raised and dining on the food that should fill your own larders and empty stomachs?

"He's an unholy Witch I tell you! A Sorcerer of great power who has outlived generations because of his reach into the Dark cauldron of curses and spells."

At this pronouncement, one of the women dropped the thin piece of wood she'd been using to fan herself in the closeness of the small room. It made a thunderous noise in the complete silence that had fallen over the group. Yet, none moved or blinked or turned to see the source. They set as if spell-bound.

The preacher, Gideon Freeman, looked out over the dozen or so faces and saw only one look; terror.

"Let us not fool our selves into a false security, believing this noble, sitting in his dark and foreboding castle is a patron to this village.

I remember him, when as a small boy of perhaps four years upon this earth, I watched the Lord Hazelworth ride up and down these narrow lanes on a great black stallion.

Tied to the horn of his silver studded saddle, a long rope that was bound fast round the body of the village blacksmith.

He'd been accused, tried and executed by Lord Hazelworth of marrying his sweetheart without his given permission.

The great body of the burly smithy was reduced to shreds of skin flapping on shattered bones before his Lordship was bored with the towing. What wasn't decorating the dirt and grasses was dumped into a pit for rats to gnaw at their leisure.

And the lovely new bride?...she disappeared after the Lord summoned her to his castle. She left dressed in her new widows black and never returned.

Look at me my friends. Who among you don't wonder at my great age? But I say this to you...I am a child next to the ageless Lord Hazelworth. I am here these many years among you, to find a way to protect you and yours from the Sorcerer who would feed upon your souls and feast on your miseries."

The stifling silence pervaded the tiny church where even the floors didn't creak under restless feet. Each villager sitting as if carved from the wooden benches they sat upon.

Finally, someone spoke.

"Who be ye to protect us, old man?" asked a rough looking man in his forties.

"How kin sech as ye, find strength enuff to save us from yon demon sech as 'is Lorship's like?

There was much bobbing of heads and low mutterings that sounded like the lowing of the dairy cows when the dawn comes creeping up on them.

The preacher somehow was able to pull himself straighter and looked two feet taller. Before their wide eyes, he was bathed in a strange golden light where there was only sour gray clouds scudding about the skies.

The small congregation was fascinated into numbness as they witnessed the remarkable transformation of Mr. Gideon Freeman.

His age seemed to fall away from him like snow melting off a thatched roof. His back was straight, his face became as taut was as a seventeen year old, his frame filled out with muscles and bulged his thin black frock.

Standing like an apparition of an angel, Gideon looked down from his small pulpit at the awe struck faces.

'My name is Michael; and I am come to slay your Dragon."

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