Passing through the woods one dark and dreary day, an old wizard found a shivering waif sitting dejectedly beneath a tree alongside the road.
“Child,” the old man said. “Where are your parents?”
“Gone, Sir,” replied the waif, who appeared to be no more than ten or eleven.
The youth shrugged. “They sent me to gather wood for our campfire, but when I came back they were gone. I don’t know where.”
“Well, perhaps we can find them,” the wizard said, though he did not really believe it likely. This forest was infamous as a place where unwanted children were abandoned.
The wizard held out his hand. “Come with me, Lad. I’ll help you.”
Without hesitation, the waif rose and took the man’s hand. His grip was strong, and he was smiling. The wizard smiled back.
Knowing it would be dark soon, the wizard did not lead the waif far before stopping to camp.
“Do you want me to get wood?” the boy asked in a frightened voice.
The wizard smiled again. “Not at all, lad. You merely need to sit and watch.”
And as the boy watched, the wizard conjured up a swirling emerald campfire out of nothing but some glittering dust scattered on the ground. The fake fire crackled and spat like true flame. It gave off needed heat. The boy scooted close and held his hands out gratefully.
“It’s wonderful,” he told the wizard.
“Yes,” the wizard replied as he took a bundle off his back and drew out a packet of dried meat. He offered some to the boy and ate a few bites himself. He’d elected to start his fire near where a large, square stone rose from the soil. With a few groans and the crick/crack of old bones, he seated himself with his back to this stone. When he was comfortable, he found the waif looking at him.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I…I was…wondering. I’ve heard…stories about this wood. People say bad things live here.”
The wizard chuckled. “No need to worry.” He lifted his hands and waved them about while murmuring strange words. The air around the little campsite began to glow a faint green. The color deepened until the two sat within a sphere of glittering light.
“There. Evil cannot cross that barrier. We’re perfectly safe in here.”
“No monsters?” the waif asked.
“Not even werewolves and vampires?”
“Not even them.”
The youth sighed and relaxed. He finished his dried meat, then shivered and scooted even closer to the fire.
“Cold, small one?” the Wizard asked.
The wizard smiled and patted the earth beside him. “Come sit close to me and we can share our warmth.”
The boy hesitated a long moment, but then rose and moved to sit next to the wizard. The old man put an arm around the boy’s shoulders and drew him close. The lad rested his head on the wizard’s chest.
As the old man idly rubbed the youth’s back, the lad looked up at him. “I just have one more question,” he said.
The waif smiled: “What if the evil is already inside the sphere?”
~ Charles Gramlich
© Copyright Charles Gramlich. All Rights Reserved.