The Wrong Wizards Chapters 1 & 2
(Before we get started hopefully you read I'm going to be serializing the book I'm writing for NaNoWriMo, if not that's what I'm doing.
You can follow my word count progress here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/neila/projects/the-wrong-wizards Below are the first two chapters of The Wrong Wizards as well as some quick character art for Rhys, the writer. I should be posting more chapters as I write them. Please remember they are part of a NaNoWriMo story so this stuff is gonna be rough and barely edited. Enjoy!)
The Wrong Wizards
(A NaNoWriMo Novel)
by: Sarah "Neila" Elkins
Chapter 1: A Good Day
I am determined to have a good day. It's going to happen. I've got everything ready in my backpack, and even packed enough food in my smaller ice chest to last me the whole day. The weather is finally bright and sunny without being too hot. Butterflies are migrating through town in calming waves as they flutter without a care in the world. The park near my apartment isn't very busy and from the looks of it as I approach the picnic table I plan to use is not only unoccupied but miraculously free of duck poop.
"This is going to be a good day," I say to myself as I watch another wave of butterflies waft by ahead of me.
I've got a long sleeve shirt on over my tank top to keep my nearly twenty five pound bag full of writing gear from chaffing my shoulders. Once I'm settled in my seat, with my laptop, solar charger, lunch and whatnot laid out I plan to doff the long sleeve shirt so I can get some much needed vitamin-d. I'll also take my Covid mask and sunglasses off so my face can get a little sun as well.
I grip my cane, which is really too long and more of a walking stick, and start toward the picnic table. My lunch box hangs from my other hand. My boots crunch through leaf litter and over rocks, a sound I've missed since I've been staying inside as much as possible.
One moment I'm in the park, the next I am surrounded by swirling smoke and mist, no longer treading across autumn leaves my feet are planted squarely on hard glossy stone tile.
"Behold, my lord! We have finally summoned a mighty wizard!" A voice from beyond the mist says excitedly. "Lo the wizard has a massive crooked hunched back! A wondrous staff...that is...admittedly rather short...uh..."
I'm a bit dizzy from whatever's happened and can't seem to focus, but the mist around me starts to clear as the voice continues though less confidently than at first.
"My lord, see the white hair? Surely this wizard is aged, wise, and powerful," the voice says.
"What?" I ask. "My hair went white from stress. I'm only thirty four," I reply to the person beyond the mist.
"Is...is that a woman?" A gruff voice asks accusingly.
"My lord, there could be some curse upon the wizard," the first voice replies. "Let me clear this mist."
A wind kicks up and the fog surrounding me is blown away. I square my feet and stand my ground, leaning forward. There are gasps from a ring of people who surround me. Each person wears finely tailored clothing that looks like they're from a high class Renaissance fair. Given I've never actually heard of a high class Ren fair existing and my own familiarity with isekai stories I quickly realize what has happened. I've been summoned to another world...at least I didn't get hit by a truck first. 2020 continues to hold dreadful surprises.
"Your Highness, behold! The wizard has a mask, likely obscuring a hideously decaying jaw, and dark lenses to protect the eyes from the light of day. Surely, this is a necromancer of the highest order," a woman wearing a spectacular purple robe with silver embroidery explains while gesturing at me. Her eyes are silver like the embroidery standing out against her dark skin. Her long pointed ears, partially hidden by beautiful black hair wiggle a little. She looks far more nervous than me, to be honest.
The big man with the gruff voice approaches me. He's older, has a big beard and wiry eyebrows. If not for the golden crown that rests on his head I would say he looks more like the wizard the first person had been describing but he's some sort of king.
"You, wizard from another world," the king begins. "What manner of magic do you possess?"
I don't have any magic, I think but am not foolish enough to say it out loud. Instead I square my shoulders and take a deep breath.
"My lord, I am a writer."
He narrows his eyes before looking back at the woman behind him. "What is a 'writer?" She shakes her head and shrugs. The king looks back to me. "What is a 'writer?' What do you do?"
"I tell stories," I explain. "Mostly science fiction and horror but sometimes I like to dabble in fantasy..." My stomach sinks. I'm in another world and left my own world during a pandemic. I don't know if I'm asymptomatic or not. "I have to be honest with you, there's a pandemic in my world," I say quickly. "I don't know if I have the disease or not but-"
The woman who spoke before holds up an elegant dark hand and shakes her head. "Fear not, wizard. The summoning ritual cleanses transmittable illnesses from those summoned. It can not cure curses or other afflictions, however. It will not heal a wounded leg, but it will prevent one from spreading any manner of plagues."
I breathe a sigh of relief. "That's wonderful."
The king stares at me. "Test this wizard. See if there's any magic at all. Even a bard can be useful if they can wield magic."
Several of the robed people move forward as the king steps back.
"Wait, 'bard?'" I ask. "I'm a writer."
"You said you are a story teller," the king replies. "A bard."
While that's not exactly correct it's also not entirely wrong so I stand as still as possible as the robed people wave small glowing crystals around me as if they're checking me with metal detectors for hidden knives. I do have several knives on me but none of the people seem to react when they wave a crystal near where I have a knife. After a few moments of being scanned everyone backs away and looks to the king and the woman who stands next to him again. They shake their heads and retreat to their previous positions.
"No magic, Sire," the woman finally says while hanging her head. "This person has no propensity for magic at all."
A frown cracks the king's face which then begins to turn beet red. His eyelid twitches. He glares at me a moment more before grabbing his cape and spinning around to leave the great stone chamber we're standing it. He holds up a fist as he leaves.
"Dispose of the failure," the king says. "As with the last ones."
My stomach sinks again.
"As you wish, your Highness," the woman replies.
I stand as still as possible. No one in the room moves until a large door down the hall closes heavily. A few moments later everyone lets out a collective sigh of relief. The woman in purple races over to me, her face nothing but concern and guilt.
"Are you alright, traveler?" She asks. "Do you have pain anywhere?"
"I'm fine," I say. "I'm just...uh...he just ordered you to kill me, didn't he?"
She bobbles her head a little as she tries to squirm away from the question. "'Dispose' can mean many things," she finally says with a wince. "Rest assured you will not be killed on this day, you have my word on that as a Mage of the Kingdom."
"You can send me home, then?"
She looks even more guilty. "Sadly no, we can not." The woman takes a step back in surprise. "You know what is happening here?"
"I'm a writer," I reply. "I can figure things out."
"I see," she says. "Unfortunately you can not wield magic, however. So we must make an effort to...dispose of you." She wraps an arm around me but mostly around my large back pack. "Please, come with me. Glossary, please, bring the items from their hiding place, please. We must hurry."
Hurry we do. It doesn't take the mages long to whisk me down a winding flight of stone stairs then take me to a large wooden gate built into a huge stone wall somewhere outside. I'm guessing it's the back of the castle because I figure these mages were in fact supposed to murder me.
"Take these," the mage in purple instructs me. "May they guide you."
She shoves an auto wringing mop I've seen on TV into my hand along with a 3 by 5 floppy disk I'm pretty sure no one makes anymore.
"Do the wise thing, Writer, and leave this place as quickly as you can," the mage says.
"You mean go back to my own world, right?" I ask.
She shrugs and pushes me backward. I didn't even hear the gate opening and suspect the sound may have been dampened somehow. Either way I stumble backwards out of the castle grounds onto a well traveled cobblestone street that runs the length of the massive wall. The gate I was pushed through closes swiftly leaving me alone, with my writing gear, lunch, and newly acquired mop and disk.
Chapter 2: Gridiron Wizard
The town I've been shoved into is alive with people busing about their day as if a stranger from another world wasn't just ejected from the castle. People pass by following a cart being pulled by...it's not quite a horse but it looks sort of like one maybe mixed with a rabbit, but in an adorable yet strong way. I have no idea what to call it so I simply watch it go past. The town itself is like something out of a medieval fantasy drama. Like things filmed in some eastern European town. The clothing the citizens of the town also looks like something I've seen in a hundred different fantasy shows.
"Great," I mutter to myself.
"Hey! Hey you!" Someone calls from a narrow side street. "You with the backpack! Stay right there, I'm coming!"
I can't see who's shouting because there are some large wooden crates blocking my view of the side street. The kinds of boxes you'd be expected to smash in a fantasy video game. I have nothing to smash them with and think about running but realize I have a twenty five pound backpack on and if someone intended me harm they probably wouldn't be shouting so frantically for me to stay put. After another minute a football player, complete with shoulder pads and helmet, emerges from behind one of the boxes. The uniform is white with red lettering and trim and the helmet is red with an ax logo and on the side.
"I take it football isn't a thing on this world?" I ask.
"Nope," the football player replies before extending a hand. "Merlin Kapule, Senior quarterback at Rosemount High. Also, I'm a girl."
I nod and take her hand. "Rhys Elder, science fiction writer. My pronouns are she and her."
Merlin nods. "Come with me, let's get away from the gate. I'll give you the playbook."
"Sure," I say as I move to follow her. She's pretty big, taller than me and a lot of muscle. The football gear only serves to make her seem bigger.
"So, you've been summoned to some kind of giant ren fair by magical elves," Merlin explains as we walk down hill into the town. "I was summoned a few days ago and have been waiting ever since for them to do it again. The last two days no one showed up at the gate so I assumed they had gotten what they wanted, a real wizard."
"My screen name is '@WordWiseWizard' online," I say. "I wonder if that's what did it? You're named after a wizard and all."
Merlin stops for a moment and looks down at me. "They call me 'Gridiron Wizard' at school. First female quarterback ever at my school. Some colleges were even thinking of changing their recruiting rules to scout me..." She loses her enthusiasm. "At least...they were...before..."
I reach up and pat her shoulder pad. "We'll find a way home."
Merlin looks at me hopefully and I hand her the mop much to her surprise. "What is this?"
"It's a Sham-Wizard Auto Mop," I say. "As seen on TV."
Merlin is puzzled for a moment before her eyes widen. "Oh! This is why no one showed up at the gate the last two days!"
"It is?" I ask.
She waves the mop a bit. "Okay, so before I was kicked out of the castle I overheard the lead magical elf lady telling the king that they could summon a wizard only once each day for six days. There's me, this mop, you and..."
I hold up the three by five inch floppy disc and read the label out loud, "Assassin's Mead Install Wizard."
Merlin gasps. "Someone 3D printed a save icon?"
"No, it's an old disc...the mages summoned you, then a mop and old floppy disc then me. You said there's six summons?"
She nods. "Two left."
"Was this about the same time you got kicked out?" I ask.
Again she nods. "Yup."
I slip the disk into the outer pocket on my lunch bag. My stomach is starting to hurt from not eating when I hear Merlin's stomach make a noise.
"Sorry," she says. "I've been helping a merchant out for some bread but it wasn't much."
I hold up my cooler. "I have food. We can share."
"Oh my god I think I love you," Merlin declares before giving me a hug. "Come with me. I will show you the absolute best alley to sleep in in the whole city."
"Whoa, you've been sleeping in an alley?" I ask.
"Yeah," she replies. "I don't have any money. People leave me alone because they think I'm some kinda knight."
"We need to find an inn," I say. "Let's eat first then do that."
Merlin guides me to her alley, which is narrow but relatively clean. We each perch on a step, Merlin sets her helmet at her feet, her short black hair is slick with sweat against her tan skin. we share some of the food I made for lunch. I'm not a great cook but it's pretty easy to steam rice and vegetables in a rice cooker and roll some sausages around a skillet.
The sun starts to get lower in the sky and I don't particularly want to sleep on the street, especially with my bag. Someone could try to rob us. Granted, Merlin might be able to scare them off but magic exists in this world even if neither of us can use it.
"I haven't been able to read any of the signs," Merlin explains. "I only found the market by accident."
We enter a square area that surrounds a large fountain. Merchant booths are laid out around the fountain selling everything from fabric to clothing to food and weapons. Some have sandwich board signs set up in front of them. I've noticed a few other signs hanging in front of buildings along the way, none of them were in English but they still looked familiar.
I stare at the sign in front of a bread seller for a whole minute before I realize it does in fact read 'BREAD' but not in English letters. The spelling is English but the letters themselves are futhark runes.
"It's in runes," I say.
Merlin taps her shoulder with the mop. "It's not the newest thing but I wouldn't say it's in ruins."
"No," I shake my head. "The letters. It's futhark runes. Like, old Viking writing. I mean it's spelled in English so it's pretty lazy world building but I recognize the letters."
"I can read it," I say. Then I set my bag down quickly, pull out a piece of paper and a pen and write the word 'INN' down using runes. I hand the paper to Merlin. "This. We need to find a sign that has that on it to find an inn."
"Oh! I have seen this before. Follow me!"
We race across town as the sun continues to set eventually finding an inn. Merlin is excited but quickly loses her steam.
"We don't have any money," Merlin points out.
I smile. "We have trade."
She raises an eyebrow.
"The mop," I say. "It's probably the only one in existence. Let's see if we can get a room."
A little while later I'm negotiating with the innkeeper, a woman by the name of "New Look." She's impressed by the mop when I demonstrate how to use it and agrees to give us a private room for the span of a week. Merlin and I head upstairs to our room. She's excited to see a bed. There's only one and I let her have it. I don't plan on sleeping right away. We share some more of the food I have with me as I type notes on my laptop about what's happened.
"Tomorrow," Merlin says. "I'm going to help out at the market in the morning, get us some bread. Then in the afternoon we can head over to the gate to see who they kick out next."
"Sounds like a plan." I look up from my laptop. "Why were you hiding like that? Behind the crates? Looked like it was hard to get out of there and all."
Merlin bites her lip a bit. "I didn't want anyone to see me. Like, if they summoned some Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard guy? I'd rather he not see me."
"Good idea," I say. "If that happens let's stay hidden. Maybe he'll get eaten by one of those rabbit horses or a dragon. Are there dragons here?"
"The horse bunnies are called 'oryctuines' and they eat plants. There are totally dragons here. I saw Ultra, the bread seller, talking to a dragon egg merchant yesterday. I haven't seen a dragon yet but they totally exist in this place."
"Good to know," I say adding that to my notes.
"What are you going to do when your battery dies?" Merlin asks from the bed.
"I have a solar charger," I say. "And a large back-up battery in my bag I'm running this off of right now. I'll set that up to charge in the morning through the window but I don't want to leave the stuff in the room long. I'd rather take it with me in case someone gets nosy."
"You're a bit paranoid, aren't you?" Merlin asks.
"It has been a rough couple years," I say before saving my files and powering down my laptop. "Try to get some sleep, okay? And thank you, Merlin. I'm glad we met."
"No, thank you Rhys. I was starving," Merlin says with a grin.