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Leslie Blackwell Leslie Blackwell
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Ring Bark and Remus - Chapter One


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Any comments would be appreciated. It is a true story as far as I know with the information provided to me at the time


Chapter One


The Gales of Sprutum


Long ago, there was a powerful Sorcerer named Ringbark de Elm. He lived in a small wooden cabin with a thatched roof on a hilltop over-looking the Enchanted Forest of Secret Wishes.


Ringbark tutored a young apprentice named Remus; a proper little scallywag, full of mischief and boundless curiosity, but nonetheless quite a skilful magician for his age.


The Sorcerer also had a pet wolf to keep him company, which he called Sandstorm. It was a loyal and affectionate type of animal; far removed from the Big Bad Wolves you may have read or heard about in other stories.


His cabin was surrounded by a large stone wall with a squeaky metal gate. A hedge maze grew in the backyard, whilst gnarly Elm Trees and a fountain adorned the front.


Placed around this fountain were statues of winged cupids, gargoyles and other mystical creatures borrowed from ancient legends of times long forgotten.  Often ducks and geese would bathe in the water whilst Lorikeets perched on the top, serenading their sweethearts.


There was an old wooden bench directly opposite, where Ringbark would often sit and daydream, and it was upon this very bench the Sorcerer was seated the day our story opens…


Springtime had come to the Enchanted Forest of Secret Wishes. The snow was thawed; moisture dried, and all around were promises of new growth. It was a time that Ringbark looked forward to most, a quiet period when demand for his magical services eased off.


He closed his tired eyes and listened to the sound of the splashing waters. It reminded him of the waterfall in Cadwallader’s Castle where he first started out as a sorcerer’s apprentice.  


Enchanted Wishes had delayed the greying of his long chestnut hair, and his ruddy skin was free of wrinkles. However, nothing seemed to prevent his weary bones from becoming more and more brittle every year. Next month he was going to be Seventy three.  


Ringbark opened his eyes again and drew a heavy sigh, then shifted his attention to Remus and Sandstorm, who were playfully chasing one another around the lush green lawn.    


Remus was lean and slightly short for his age, giving strangers the impression that he might be even younger than he really was. The neat crop of sandy hair he had worn when he first arrived now hung almost to his shoulders, and several of his teeth were missing, thanks to some careless antics in and around the cabin.


Most days he reluctantly wore a magician’s outfit, but this particular day he was dressed in ragamuffin clothing. His orange hooded sweat-top was smeared in grass stains, as was the seat of his dusty grey trousers, which had several tears in the near threadbare left knee.


“Ow!” wailed Remus all of a sudden, coming to an abrupt halt and tearfully gripping his left foot.


“What’s wrong lad?” asked Ringbark with genuine concern.


“I stood on a prickle, or something, or whatever and it really hurt.”


“Well, this is what comes of not wearing shoes…come over here and let me have a look.”


Ringbark waited patiently as the boy winced and hobbled awkwardly to him, and then raised his leg slightly. He placed his hand gently on the foot and mumbled an ancient incantation. Seconds later the prickle popped out and started falling, but disappeared before it had a chance to reach the ground.


“Thank you Master Ringbark” said Remus.


“Grrrr,” added Sandstorm.


Soon the boy and the wolf were playing again as though nothing had happened.


Ringbark smiled at his two companions. It was not usually his custom to tutor apprentices of any age and he had only agreed to take-in Remus, as favour to his youngest sister, Pretzelia.

Sandstorm arrived a few months later as an injured wolverine, but that’s a whole other story unto itself.


Above came an all-too familiar shrill cry. He looked up and watched Ashcroft, a local hawk, gracefully circling the cabin, as it did so every day around this time. Why it chose to do so was one of those great mysteries in life.


Remus seemed convinced that a wizard, for some strange reason, had once cast a spell on the bird to fly to the cabin and shrill at a particular time of the day. The wizard apparently died before the spell could be lifted; so the poor bird was cursed for the rest of its existence, to repeat this daily ritual.


Ringbark had caught Remus more than once trying to kill the bird in order to free it of its obligation. It was only by the grace of the wizard’s intersession and the boy’s kind-love of all creatures great and small, that the hawk was still alive.


Pretezlia had cautioned Ringbark about Remus’s mischief; that he could at times try the patience of a saint. He was told the boy was lazy, immature and lacked proper manners, but was gifted with magic powers far greater than any other child in her village.


“Don’t you go sparing the rod with him” she advised “If he thinks you’re soft, he’ll walk all over you. Mark my words.”


Despite her warnings, Ringbark had spared Remus from the pain of such rods, yet was still free of the boy’s footprints. He had found the threat of extra chores, timeouts and the occasional stern lecture just as effective. Often guilt seemed the harshest of all punishers.


Ashcroft shrilled again, snapping Ringbark out of his thoughts. It was starting to descend, getting lower and lower with each revolution of the cabin. Finally it landed upon of one of the Gargoyles on the fountain, and gazed ominously at the Sorcerer with moistened eyes.


“What news from afar do you bring me?” asked Ringbark, for him alone, in the Enchanted Forest, understood the language of such birds of prey.


You may well ask, if you had been paying attention to the story, if Ringbark could talk “Hawkish”, then why didn’t he simply ask Ashcroft about the reason for his daily shilling visits? Well, he had. But the Hawk always managed to change the subject or refused to discuss it.

“Bad-bad news! Oh my! Oh my!” fretted Ashcroft “so bad so sad, oh so terribly terrible. Sick-sick-sick are they…oh so sick…oh, bad news, oh-woe, such bad news.”


“Who are they?” asked Ringbark in a calming tone.


“The Gales of Sprutum. Eldemira, she laced their grain with a vial potion…oh horrible wicked witch that she is. Oh my! Oh my! Too sick for singing, they are…such bad news, woe to us all. Bad-bad news.”


“So, you want me to brew up a potion that will make them well again? I would first have to know what exactly she laced the grain with.”


“I have bought some of the grain with me.”


Ashcroft checked his surroundings briefly then flew down to the ground and shook his left wing rigorously for. A small package fell out and landed beside Ringbark’s feet. It been fashioned with Zebra-flax; a black and white variety of flax-bush, that only grew in the western regions of the Enchanted Forest of Secret Wishes.


“I can’t make any promises,” affirmed Ringbark, retrieving the package and placing it in the top pocket of his cloak. “But my apprentice and I will try our best to work out some sort of antidote. Please come back here tomorrow and I’ll tell you how we got on.”


“Twenty four hours, okay, okay. I’ll tell the Gales of Sprutum you will help, yes-yes-yes. I come back same time tomorrow. Must always come back, same time and place and thank Ringbark for his skill and magic, and thank boy… and wolf too, yes-yes-yes.”


Ringbark watched on as Ashcroft flew up into the air and disappeared westward toward the horizon. He then drew a disgruntled sigh, for the Hawk had laid a heavy burden to on him. The very future of the forest now rested in his hands. But such things would have to wait for now.

“Come on Remus, time for lunch,” he called out, but the boy continued playing; either not hearing or choosing not to listen “Remus!”


“Just five more minutes, Master Ringbark!” answered Remus then added “Please,”


“I’m putting lunch on the table now. The longer you take coming in, the colder it will be when you eat it.”


      ***


“Gales of Spasm?” asked Remus as he sat eating his lukewarm stew.


“Gales of Sprutum,” corrected Ringbark. “In another time, and another country, there was a music composer named Itzach Vivaldi. Outside his house lived a large colony of Nightingales. Their serenades inspired him to compose some famous pieces of music in honour of each of the four seasons.


“He also composed a fifth, on the theory that one day there would be a fifth season.”


“We still only have four seasons that I know of, Master Ringbark.”


“Yes, it was a season that never came and he struggled to get any orchestra to play it. Finally he gave up trying. The sheet music somehow vanished shortly after he died but the nightingales still serenaded it from time to time.


“To make a long story short, the nightingales eventually moved on after a series of unexpected twists and turns of fate, ended up settling down in the Western Sector of The Enchanted Forest of Secret Wishes.”


“And that horrid old witch is trying to silence them, then?”


“Yes, you see the forest’s enchantment, like everything does not last forever. Once, every ten years, in the second week of springtime; certain rituals must be performed to renew its magic.”  


“And the birdies are part of that rigmarole?”


“Without the enchantment of wishes the forest would lose its appeal to a great many inhalants; Elves, Pixies, Gnomes and unicorns to name but a few. More than likely it would then become a haven to all manner of evil dwellers. Our services here would no longer be needed and even if it were I’d rather die than become a witchdoctor for the wicked.”


“And I would have to go back home, as I have no interest in being a witchdoctor’s apprentice.”


“So you can see how important it is that we do everything possible to help save the Gales of Sprutum.”


“What can I do to help, Master Regis?”


“Ashcroft has managed to bring us some of the grain that the wicked witch Eldemira has laced with poison. We have to brew up a special “Potion Revealing Potion” in order to find out what type of poison it is…for this, I need  the help of a reliable apprentice.”


“I am reliable and will help you any way you want, and so will Sandstorm.”


“Grrrrrr,” said Sandstorm; chewing away at a dish of baby dragon bones in the far right corner of the room.  


“Very well, straight after lunch I want you to go down into the basement, fetch the Urartian Cauldron that Empress Thalassa gifted us last summer, then bring it up here and clean it out thoroughly.”


Ringbark smiled inwardly as Remus’ enthusiastic expression changed to that of a crestfallen apprentice. He knew that cleaning cauldrons was not on the list of the child’s top ten activities during a sunny day; especially ones as filthy and neglected as   Thalassa’s.        


“Will do, Master Ringbark,” replied Remus, feigning enthusiasm. “I’ll make it so clean you will be able to see you face in it.”


“That would be splendid. I could do with an extra mirror, lad…and Sandstorm too.”


“Grrrr,” added sandstorm and continued chewing on the bones.  




Next: Chapter Two


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