Wild Magic

For #NationalWritingDay I am sharing two short stories I have written for the Dungeons & Dragons universe, Persalor’s Rainbow and Wild Magic.

Once upon a time in a village in Faerûn  lived an influential young nobleman, Torbin Meridow and his wife, Ursula. They held court in a grand castle and owned much of the land around the their charming alpine village, including lush vineyards and earthy mills, stables of fine, strong horses, and meadows of sweet smelling flowers that bloomed all year round. They had everything anyone could want but unfortunately, Lord and Lady Meridow were both very greedy and they both wanted more. Lady Meridow wanted more jewels, even though she already had so many tiaras and necklaces and rings that she could wear a different treasure every day for a year. And Lord Meridow wanted—well, Lord Meridow wanted what men have always wanted from time immemorial, and, as he was as handsome and charming as he was wealthy, he found plenty of favor from his wife’s ladies-in-waiting.

As time passed and Lord Meridow’s beard grew grayer, he found himself ruminating over the fact that he had no heirs to whom he could leave his grand estate and titles. Lady Meridow had never been interested in motherhood—sticky fingers on the silks, no thank you! And in any case, she had kept a very separate bedroom for years and his lordship was never offered a key to the door. However, one of Lady Meridow’s ladies-in-waiting, Cosette, was more than receptive to Lord Meridow’s overtures. Cosette was a changeling who used her native abilities to keep herself looking perpetually dewy and youthful, but in truth, she was rapidly approaching the end of her childbearing years, and she dreamed of a daughter with long silky hair that she could brush in the warm glow of the fire and read to on long midwinter nights. Cosette set herself to the task, and soon she and Lord Meridow were expecting a child.

As Cosette’s waist began to expand, court tongues began to wag, and it was not too long before the blessed news reached Lady Meridow’s displeased ears. The knowledge that Torbin and his mistress would soon have a bouncing babe upon their knees sent Ursula into a rage. That rage fertilized the seed of a plan and soon she began making discreet enquires around court. After a time, Lady Meridow was put in touch with a potion-brewing witch, Esme, who was known for her infallible poisons.  She summoned the witch to her private gardens and negotiated the purchase of a poisoned plum to be eaten by her husband’s beautiful courtesan. The poison, Lady Meridow demanded, must be strong enough to kill both Cosette and the child in her belly. The two women haggled quite a bit over price until Lady Meridow threatened to have Esme drowned for a witch if she did not accomplish the task for a small bag of gold. Angrily, Esme agreed. But in her anger at the rough treatment she received from Lady Meridow, the witch secretly devised another plan. She made a beautiful purple plum which she pricked with a fine needle and filled– not with poison, but with magic.

When a shiny silver tray of fruit was brought the next evening to the ladies’ apartments in the castle, Lady Meridow made sure that that Cosette took the deep purple plum. Her ladyship watched through her mink false eyelashes as Lord Meridow’s mistress ate the delicious fruit, macabre anticipation dancing in her cold heart. But when Cosette tasted the plum, she did not fall to the floor in agony and die, taking her unborn child with her. Quite the opposite! Cosette smiled at the sweetness and caught a rogue trickle of juice on her chin with a delicate finger. As she licked the nectar from her dainty hand, Cosette hiccupped a small ladylike chirp that set all the ladies tittering. Lady Meridow scowled, stormed from the room and was not seen at court for days. Three months later, a beautiful and healthy baby girl was born to Lord Meridow and the blissfully happy Cosette. Courtly etiquette required that the daughter, whom Cosette named Camille, be raised at a remove from the lord’s wife, and so she was sent to a charming brookside farm to be raised by Cosette’s mother, Claret, and her household, with all her expenses paid from his lordship’s ample coffers.

Young Camille, a changeling like her mother and her grandmother, delighted in transforming as fit her mood. Her tinkling laugh rang through the farmhouse and put everyone in good spirits. Her mother, Cosette, always wore the same visage at court, and no one suspected she was a changeling. People fear what they don’t understand and Cosette knew that she would never be accepted for who she was, even now that she was Lord Meridow’s official mistress. But whenever she visited her daughter’s household on the rolling hills near the brook, Cosette could let her guard down. She shifted shapes with her daughter and the two of them would laugh and laugh. Cosette made a game of showing Camille lots of picture books featuring all sorts of people in Faerun so Camille could easily change into a tiefling or gnome or even a petite dragonborn!

The changeling abilities that Camille received from her mother’s line were not a surprise but what was a mystery to her mother and grandmother was Camille’s seeming connection to the magical world. No one else in the family, to Cosette and Claret’s knowledge, was a magic-user, but Camille clearly had the gift. The girl did not seem able to control her magic, though, shooting random sparks from her fingers or turning teacups into pumpkins with no rhyme or reason. They decided to seek out a magical tutor to help train little Camille in the art of magic so that she could make the most of her gifts. Her tutor, an elderly sorceress named Rhiannon, worked with Camille and helped her learn some stable magic that Camille could use at will. She taught her how to learn Sorcerer spells and grow in her discipline, but she never could tame the wild magic that the child seemed to possess, nor could she explain to Camille or her family how the little girl had come by the Sorcerer’s gifts.

One day when Camille was about 10 years old, her father, Lord Meridow, paid an unexpected visit to her household. One of the maids let his lordship into the parlor and went in search of Cosette and Camille. As the maid searched for mother and daughter upstairs, laughter outside drew Meridow to the window. He walked across the room and drew back the gauzy curtain. What he saw shocked and disgusted him. In the back garden, Camille’s mother and grandmother were clapping for her as she danced like a ballerina, pink ribbons streaming from her hair. As she spun round she changed before Lord Meridow’s eyes into a blue-green creature with seaweed streaming from her head in place of pink satin. As he watched, Camille giggled and a silver fish flew from her mouth and into the sky.

Lord Meridow left the farm without a word to anyone and returned to his castle, devastated. He knew that Cosette had deceived him. Surely the child could not be a changeling and a magic user unless she inherited it from a parent. What hideous form was Cosette hiding under her rosy cheeks and red lips? Angrily, Lord Meridow dispatched a messenger to the farm telling Cosette that she and her daughter were no longer welcome at court.  He then withdrew to his library and drank whisky until he was quite properly drunk.

When the messenger brought news of Lord Meridow’s rejection, Cosette cried all day and all night. When a second messenger presented himself at the farmhouse the following day with word that his lordship had formally denounced his relationship with Cosette (and was withdrawing financial support,) she was desolate.  This declaration removed the protections Cosette and Camille enjoyed when Cosette was Meridow’s sanctioned mistress and essentially cast Camille out of court and society as illegitimate.

  At first, Cosette was sad and more than a little humiliated by this unfortunate turn of her fortunes.  As time passed, however, she found that she enjoyed her peaceful little world by the babbling brook without interference from pompous lords and other meddling men. She had her wonderful, magical daughter and that’s all she ever really wanted. And so Camille continued to be brought up in the farmhouse, though the household staff dwindled down to one maid so loyal that she stubbornly refused to leave. Camille’s tutor, Rhiannon, continued to be a guiding influence in her life as well, though as the years went on, she became too frail to come to the farmhouse every week.

The farm had a small vineyard, a very good garden, and a few chickens who roosted in the henhouse. The women fared quite well, actually, and found that they as long as they all worked together, they wanted for nothing.  Camille continued to develop her spells and learned to plan as well as she could for the random wild magic that sometimes erupted from her. She went to school and was (mostly) able to conceal her magical nature from the other children of the village, only sharing it with a few trusted friends. It wasn’t until years later that she learned that in many parts of Faerûn, magic is as common as breathing.

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