Leon, the Mighty Gale Chapter 1
By Samara Secor
“Hey, Leon! Get down from there! What would I tell me sister if, not only did her darling, landlubbing son not make it inta Vane, but he didn’t even make it ta the Cave of Trials because he took it inta his head ta go flying with the gulls?”
A blond headed boy peered down at the ship’s captain from his vantage point in the crow’s nest. “But uncle! You let your crewmen do it all the time,” he said, a trace of disappointment creeping into his voice.
“That’s because me crew knows better than ta stay up there when a storm’s heading this way!” he yelled, pointing towards the clouds that were gathering in the distance. “Now, get down here and go ta yer cabin before it hits! There’ll be chaos enough up here without me having ta keep an eye on ya, too!”
Without further argument, Leon climbed carefully down the mast and headed toward the stairs. He had gotten halfway to his room when he heard the sound of someone moaning. ‘Hey, that sounds like it’s coming from the cargo hold. I know my uncle told all the passengers to stay out of there,’ Leon shook his head. ‘I guess I should go warn whoever it is about the storm.’
Leon walked quickly between the rows of crates, most of which had been fastened down in anticipation of the coming squall. He kept going until it sounded as if the moaning was coming from right next to him. He looked around, but he could see nothing but more crates and a few wine barrels. When he saw that one of the seals had been broken, he winced. ‘Looks like some of the sailors decided to take part of their pay early. My uncle isn’t going to be too happy about this.....’
Leon moved closer to the barrel, expecting to find the drunken sailor who had opened it nearby. Instead, he saw a dirty, scroungy looking kid huddled against the side of the barrel, shaking like a leaf. The kid was facing the other direction, and since Leon’s approach had been fairly quiet, he knew he hadn’t been seen yet. Leon leaned closer until he was just behind the kid’s ear and whispered, “Don’t you think you’re a little too young to be drinking wine just yet?”
A startled yelp escaped the kid’s throat and Leon found himself being pushed out of the way with surprising force as the kid reached frantically for for the barrel’s lid. The lid fell to the floor with a clatter as the sounds of retching filled the air. The kid collapsed to the floor with a shaky sigh and mumbled, “I didn’t drink any of your stinkin’ wine.”
“Then, how do you explain the empty barrel, boy?” Leon asked, one eyebrow raised.
A strange expression appeared briefly on the kid’s face before disappearing again, and he looked away before saying, “When I saw all this stuff piled outside the ship, I knew that it was heading somewhere big. No one was guarding the barrels, so I figured that this was my chance to get out of this smelly rathole. I opened this barrel and dumped the wine out into the ocean. Then, I climbed inside it and pulled the lid after me. I was worried that one of the sailors might notice the seal and find me, but they didn’t even check them. I thought I could stay inside the barrel until this ship got wherever it was going and sneak out. I didn’t count on getting seasick, though. So, now that you found me, what are you going to do? Make me walk the plank?”
“Oh, please!” Leon snorted. “What do you think we are? Pirates? Still, my uncle might get pretty ticked about losing the wine...... Anyway, you won’t have to worry about anything for a while yet. He’s too busy getting the ship ready for the coming storm to deal with a stowaway.”
“A storm? You mean this bouncing up and down is going to get worse?”
“I’m afraid so. For the time being, why don’t you come with me to my cabin? The cargo hold isn’t exactly the safest place to be right now,” Leon said, holding out his hand.
With Leon’s help, the boy climbed unsteadily to his feet and they made their way to the cabin. Once inside, Leon pulled all the blankets off the bed and tossed the pillows after them. Noticing the boy’s inquiring look, Leon explained, “I don’t feel like rolling off the bed when the ship starts pitching, so I’m going to make a nest out of these blankets on the floor.”
The boy seemed satisfied with that answer and continued to look around the room. It didn’t take very long, because there wasn’t much to look at. Other than the bed, the room was bare of furniture. At the foot of the bed was a wooden staff with a red crystal embedded in the top, a backpack large enough to hold a couple changes of clothing, and a fairly large book. “Gee, you don’t have much in the way of equipment here, do you? You must not be going very far,” he commented.
“It does look that way, doesn’t it?” Leon grinned. “Actually, I’m going to the city of Vane. Since you have to go through the Cave of Trials first, it doesn’t make much sense to take more than the absolute minimum. I mean, if you brought a whole bunch of stuff along, you’d just have to drop everything each time you saw a monster and then stop to pick it all up again when you’re done.”
“Makes sense. So, what made you decide to be a magician, uh....”
“Leon. My name’s Leon. And you?”
“Well, Raven, I never really decided anything. When my uncle brought that magic book over there home on one of his voyages a few months ago, my mother had me try doing some of the basic spells in it. I learned them pretty quickly, so she decided to send me to Vane for further training. At first, I didn’t really like the idea too much. I mean, the few magicians that usually come out this way seem like a bunch of arrogant snobs. After a while, though, I started thinking about how cool it would be to live on a city floating in the sky. I’ve always liked high places. In fact, my uncle was yelling a me earlier for being in the crow’s nest when I should have been below deck, running for cover.”
“Well, you certainly can’t get much higher than that. So, what kind of spells have you learned with this thing?” Raven asked, nudging the corner of the book with one foot.
Leon grimaced, “Well, most of what I’ve learned is just a bunch of cheap tricks. Some of them are useful, like making one of your hands glow so you can see without a torch. A lot of it seems pretty pointless. It makes you wonder what magician wasted his time coming up with this stuff. For example, take a look at this one.”
Leon picked the book up and flipped to a page about the quarter of the way through. “How to make your breath smell like you’ve eaten several pounds of garlic? Yuck, that sounds nasty,” Raven said, wrinkling his nose.
“Believe me. It is. I made the mistake of casting that one a couple of hours before a party. I thought it would wear off before the party started, but it didn’t. I finally had to down a cup of this awful tasting tea that my mom sometimes makes me drink when she thinks I might be catching a cold. Ugh, the stuff’s so strong, that it almost makes your hair stand on end. I have to admit, the foul brew took the smell right out. My mom made me learn how to make the tea even though I told her I’d never cast that particular spell anymore. So, among my meager possessions, I’ve got a pouch of tea leaves, along with all the other ingredients for fixing the noxious stuff.”
“Well, maybe if you cast that spell when you go in the Cave of Trials, the monsters will keel over from the stench, and you can finish them off with a few blows from your staff.”
They both doubled over with laughter. When Leon finally regained control of himself, he shrugged, “Why not? It certainly couldn’t make things any worse.”
The ship tilted alarmingly beneath their feet and Raven clung to the bedpost in an effort to stay upright. “I guess the storm’s finally upon us. Why don’t you sit down here and cushion yourself with some of the blankets? There’s plenty of room,” Leon said, waving his hand toward the spot beside him.
“Aren’t you afraid that I’m going to puke all over them or something?”
“They’ll wash. Besides, it won’t be the first time my uncle had to get something washed because a person got seasick on his ship.”
To Chapter 2