Annoyance flashed in eyes the color of a dark lake. The emotion spread over tanned cheeks that still sported minor scratches and down to a pointed jaw. His aggravation was ignored by the two people seated on high benches; which further angered the young man.

"I drove the dragon off," he said petulantly.

"You brought about a centralized blizzard into your territory’s most prominent farming community a week before their harvesting and greatly diminished their chief source of food." The male Councilor gently corrected, his white Robe of State rustling unnaturally loud in the Grand Office.

"Not to mention killing over three-fourths of the domesticated animals and untold numbers of wildlife in the area!" The other Councilor shrieked. The red sleeve of her own Robe of State muffled the pounding of her fist on wood. At a quiet cough from her counterpart, she added as a careless afterthought, "And maybe half the families and a lot of peoples’ homes too."

Hamandus, a wizard so fresh out of his apprenticeship that the ink was still damp on his graduation parchment, refused to bow in apology as was expected. Instead, he folded his arms sullenly.

I don’t even know why I’m here . . . it’s the peasants’ own stupid fault for not getting out of the way. When there’s a dragon around, you run. Any intelligent person knows that. I shouldn’t have wasted my valuable time with those fools. He fought to keep a straight face at the next thought. I shouldn’t waste my time with these fools. Neutered Thomas and his psychotic love-slave Miranda. I should be getting honored, not listening to another lecture.

"Now, let’s review the facts." If possible, Thomas’ voice grew even more serious. "Hamandus, in your time as an apprentice in Our field . . ."

Never ‘our’, oh, no . . . he just has to use capitalization. It’s going to take even longer than I thought if he’s going to talk like that. Finish up already; I’m hungry! Hamandus thought to himself. He listened with half an ear as Thomas went over the lengthy list of recorded infractions.

All right, so maybe letting that giant eat the whole group of goats before turning him into sand made a few people have to skip their nightly glass of milk. How pessimistic can you get? It was just an entry level trial exercise, and these two crones act like it’s going to affect the whole world. So I have a few more complaints than the average wizard. I’m allowed to since I’m above average. Those peasant people are just jealous of my abilities in magic and painting. They probably couldn’t draw the sun if I dragged it out of the sky and put it in front of their ugly, sweaty noses. His stomach growled. Talk, talk, talk. That’s all these ancient ones do. I know what’s going to happen—just like all the other times I was dragged in here as a student. A choice between a demerit or copying lines alongside apprentices who don’t even know the spell to tie their bootlaces. And, just like the other thirty times, I’ll take the lines because I can look outside while I’m doing it and it’s better than a mark on my permanent record any day. Oh, better act as though I’ve been paying attention, here comes the "punishment."

" . . . and in conclusion it is our joint decision," Thomas gave Miranda a quick glance, "that you be punished by blinding."

"Yes, yes, I know where the library is," Hamandus said, still not paying attention.

Two pairs of raised eyebrows made him pause.


"A blind man doesn’t need a room full of books," Thomas said.

Hamandus stared at the elder man, sure that he wasn’t hearing correctly.


"Yes, you daft little bratling. Blind. As in ‘no more sight’." Miranda went on, clearly enjoying herself. "As in ‘lack of vision’. As in…‘no more paintings’."


Take away his paintings? His pride and joy . . .not to mention main source of income when monsters weren’t around . . . this was a trick . . . had to be a trick!

"I don’t deserve this!" Hamandus was ranting, but he was beyond caring. "I’ve saved people from all sorts of disaster and this is the thanks I get?" His voice rose. "You should be worshipping me! I am the greatest wizard ever!"

"Then why are you down there and we are up here?" Thomas questioned mildly. "You will be blinded, Hamandus. This is a fact."

A painful explosion took place in Hamandus’ stomach. Deep inside, he knew he wasn’t a match for both Councilors. No . . .this isn’t how it’s supposed to be . . .

As if she could read his mind, Miranda smiled heartlessly. "You didn’t think you would get away with an apprentice’s punishment, did you, Master Hamandus?"

True horror finally gripped Hamandus.

"My Lady . . .my Lord, please. . ."

"No." For the first time there was a note of anger in Thomas’ voice.

"There will be no easy punishment this time. This will be the punishment of a true wizard."

A last burst of anger. "You can’t!"

"We can." Miranda smirked.

To Hamandus, it seemed as though someone had suddenly extinguished all of the torches in the room.

"We have." Thomas finished.

Hamandus screamed.

Rachel Bari l-- 2004