Episode 4: The Young Blacksmith

      I met Appoleon for the first time when I was eleven years old.

      I remember that day because it was special for two reasons…

      By that time in my life, Lady Sonea had teased me out of my small room and was treating me more like a young boy than a scared animal. She gave me chores to do and awarded my efforts with enough money to walk down to the nearby treat shop so I could pick up some candy.

      When I wandered too far from the small section of town where the young mage students were kept secure, Lady Sonea would send a chaperone with me to make sure I wasn’t kidnapped by some evil force. I didn’t believe that there was such an evil person in all of Dalaran, but my chaperone was usually a young woman named Evanor, so I didn’t complain much.

      She was Sonea’s apprentice, but she almost looked like a younger version of her teacher, with matching long black hair and bright blue eyes. At the awkward age of ten I was crossing the threshold between thinking that girls were evil and that they were the sweetest creation in all of Azeroth. Whenever I bought my candy from the small store in Dalaran, I made sure to share with Evanor so that she would want to come with me again the next time.

      Of course, Evanor was at least five years older than me and deep in her studies to be an arcane mage, so she had little time to hang out with me.

      It was on one such day that I was sitting in the candy store trying to find my favorite treat when Evanor expressed the most dreadful sigh. I looked back at her and saw she was tapping her foot while staring me down.

      “You don’t have to stay here,” I said casually. “I don’t know what I want yet.”

      “Right,” she said as she rolled her eyes. “I’m not going to leave you here just to have Lady Sonea rip me apart back at the Citadel. Hurry it up.”

      “I’m fine, Evanor,” I assured her. “I know the way and I’m a fast runner. The streets are crowded. I’m not in any danger. Go on home.”

      Evanor squinted at me. “Fine,” she said. “I’ll trust you to keep this between us?”

      “Oh certainly,” I answered.

      “Fine. Please don’t get lost or killed or kidnapped. Okay?”

      I laughed. “Go on!”

      Despite her clear internal conflict, Evanor turned and left the candy shop, leaving me all alone too look behind the display case at all the candy I could afford. I remember looking over the enchanted candies on the top shelf of the display case. They were spinning or jumping or sparking; delicious toys that doubled as treats. I would have liked to eat one of them, but it would have cost me an entire week of Sonea’s reward money. I was far too impatient for that, so I found myself constantly limited to the sweet cinnamon ribbon candies or green apple taffy.

      I was concentrating on the sugary treats so deeply that I didn’t even notice when another boy entered the store. My first clue that someone else was in the room with me was the dirty hand that came to rest on the display glass near where I was trying not to press my face. I looked to my left to make a comment that the boy needed a wash, but I bit my tongue when I saw just how filthy he was. From top to bottom he was covered in grime and soot.

      “Haylow!” he said to me with a big smile that revealed brilliantly white teeth. “You one of the new recruits in from Lordaeron?”

      “Uh, no, I’ve been here awhile,” I replied. “My name is Sionis.”

      “Appoleon!” he said loudly, extending his gritty hand. “Nice to meet you, Sionis.”

      As much as I didn’t want to dirty my hands, I wasn’t one to offend others for no reason. I took his hand and shook it, reminding myself I’d need to scrub it extra hard before I ate my candy back at the Citadel. When he gripped my hand tightly, the first thing I noticed as how squishy my skin felt compared to the callous-hardened fingers that held mine.

      “The pleasure is all mine,” I said politely. “Are you here to buy some candy?”

      “Oh yeah,” Appoleon said proudly. “I’m here for the spinning candy snapper.”

      The candy store owner swept in at Appoleon’s words. The spinning candy snapper was one of the most expensive treats in the store. He quickly stepped over, but looked less than excited once he got a look at Appoleon.

      “Do you have the coin?” the shop owner asked.

      “How much is it again?” Appoleon asked.

      “Two silver,” the owner said firmly.

      “Ohhhh,” Appoleon said, sounding deflated for a moment. “I guess I can only buy two then.”

      With that, the boy snapped his dirty fingers and four shining pieces of silver were pinched between his fingers.

      I nearly gasped.

      That was a lot of money for a young boy to be walking around with. I would have had to clean the whole citadel library just to get a silver piece out of Lady Sonea. The store owner obviously felt as skeptical as I did, taking the four coins and giving them a closer look before bothering to open the display case to retrieve the treats.

      As he handed the candy to Appoleon the boy looked to me with a sly grin. “Well, I can’t very well eat both of these. You want one?”

      After that display of kindness, Appoleon was my best friend. We spent the rest of the afternoon walking the streets of Dalaran and talking about what we would do if we could make our own magical snacks. I learned that Appoleon was a Blacksmith apprentice who worked outside of Dalaran during the day and returned to the city in the afternoon because his family lived here. Blacksmithing wasn’t his only goal in life, however. He wanted to someday join the holy Paladins in their crusade against evil. He told me that his father was a well-known alchemist and he did well for the family, but that his skill with chemicals must have skipped a generation. At only eleven years old, Appoleon seemed so very mature and relaxed. He knew the names of the nearby towns and he told me stories of the Second War that he had heard from travelers who came to his father’s shop.

      By now, Azeroth was entering the longest period of peace it would go through since I had been born, but survivors of the Second War had plenty of things to say about the orcs that had finally been pushed back through the mysterious dark portal.

      It wasn’t until it was too dark to see much behind the magical street lamps that I remembered I was supposed to be back home hours before. I thanked Appoleon for the fun and asked him if I’d run into him again. He assured me we’d meet soon enough and I rushed back home as fast as I could.

      I reached the front entrance of the Inn to see the keeper sweeping the front stoop as she did whenever the children’s curfew had passed. The popular opinion was that she was a failed mage dropout and got pleasure from trying to ruin other students who stayed out too late. I doubt that was the case, but an eleven year old believes a lot of silly things. I stopped short of the doorway and desperately wished that I could just be back in my room. I thought about my bed and my toys and in my mind I was able to generate a picture of the location in my head. The sudden visual image felt real, like it was right in front of me, so I reached for it. I’m not sure if I physically lifted my arms, but I took one step forward and stepped from the street outside into my well lit room on the second floor of the back hallway inside the Inn.

      I had just performed my first magic.

      I felt like the most powerful wizard in the universe. I had accidentally just teleported myself across time and space to slip past any danger. If I could do that…

      “Hello, Sionis,” Sonea’s voice ripped the feelings of ecstasy away without hesitation. I slowly turned to see her sitting on my bed with a frown on her face. “Out late?”

      “Yes,” I admitted. “I’m sorry, but did you see what I just did?”

      She seemed to hesitate. “I did. That was magic, Sionis, there’s no doubt about that.”

      “I was outside and then I was in here,” I explained. “I didn’t do it on purpose. I just didn’t want to get caught and then I kind of like… imagined myself here and I was here!”

      “That’s very impressive,” she said. “I’m very proud of you, Sionis.”

      “Does this mean I can be a mage?” I asked.

      Sonea grinned. “Well now, that’s the real question, isn’t it? Let me ask you something, little mage, do you think you can come home when you’re supposed to?”

      She hadn’t shrugged that little thing aside, despite my marvelous magical performance.

      “I can,” I said slowly.

      “Do you think that you can honor the wishes of those who have authority over you?”

      “I can,” I said again.

      “So if you decide you want to dismiss young Evanor instead of coming home with her, I suspect you’ll suppress your desires and do what you’re told instead?”

      I nodded firmly. “I am sorry. I meant to come back sooner. I met another boy. His name is Appoleon and his father is-”

      “Oh, I know the boy’s father,” Sonea interrupted. “I doubt he wanted his boy out this late either.”

      “You can’t tell!” I practically yelled. “I just met him and I want to be friends. If he gets in trouble he’ll think I told on him and then we won’t want to be my friend at all.”

      Sonea frowned but her face eased and she rested a hand atop my head. “I suppose I can let it slide just this once. Now, go to bed, young one. We can talk more about your little demonstration when we’re both rested.”

      “Thank you, Sonea,” l said, feeling overwhelmed.

      She gave me a pat and stood from my bed so that I could scramble under the sheets. She shook her head and stepped toward the doorway, taking one more look back at me with a gentle smile. “Sleep tight, Sionis.”

      “Goodnight,” I said, already closing my eyes to dream of my magical prowess. “I love you.”

      I said it without thinking about it. It had been ages since I had slipped into bed with the comfort of a loving figure there to give me warm wishes. I didn’t speak the words with a level of attraction, but instead as a child would say to his parents. I loved her as I had loved them. She had given me happiness.

      I rolled over on my side and tried to force myself into the dream world where I could escape the embarrassment of my words.

      There was silence for a long moment, but I remember as the door groaned with its closing swing, she said in a near whisper, “I love you too, little mage.”

      That night, I had dreams of unending power and magical dragons.


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