First, I apologize to those of you who might already have read this story on my website. I'm not quite ready to post another snippet about Nikky and Tasha yet, so I mined some material I have posted on my site. I had submitted this short-short to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword and Sorceress anthology while she was still alive. She held it until the final cut, and made some favorable comments on it. Next week, I'll snippet material from my WIP (working title Nikky the Merchant.)
Copyrighted material. Please don't quote or repost anywhere. Thanks!
AT FIRST SIGHT
The sorcerer had been alone on his island for many years and had grown to think of it as solely his. Markin was inclined to be fretful when he noticed the squatter on his southern coast. He watched the woman for several days in his best scrying glass. Her figure was indistinct (the sorcerer had bad eyesight and wouldn’t admit it), but when he saw she wasn’t going to bother him or mess up his island, he decided to ignore her.
That is, he ignored her until he surprised a young girl in the heart of his fortress flipping through the pages of one of his magic books. Astonishment held him until she ripped out a page. His angry roar caused the walls to vibrate. The girl disappeared. Markin blinked, then heard a door slam in the hallway.
Grunting in bewilderment and anger, the short, stumpy little sorcerer ran through the hall and out of the fortress in time to see a flash of movement among the trees. He followed that glimpsed movement with single-minded determination, and it led him right to the door step of the thatched cottage the squatter had erected.
Seeing a female figure standing outside the cottage, Markin bawled, “Witch! Give me back the page you have stolen!”
A small dumpy woman with a pugnacious nose and flashing eyes swam into his limited field of vision. “If it’s me you’re addressing so disrespectfully, man, know this. I’ve stolen nothing of yours.”
Markin blinked in confusion as several things impinged upon his consciousness at once. The woman looked nothing like the girl he’d seen in his fortress, her eyes were the soft gray of the sea during a rain, and she was as short as he was. He’d met few women who did not tower over him. As a matter of fact, he’d met few women.
“Well, some girl was stealing a page out of my Lesser Spell Book and she came right to this place. Your daughter, perhaps?” he said in a milder voice.
“I have no children, sorcerer. Only a cat who chooses to make her home with me.”
At her words, a slender, tawny cat came around the corner of the cottage and dropped a much-chewed page at their feet.
“My page!” the sorcerer squawked, and picked up the limp piece of paper.
“I’m terribly sorry—what is your name? Markin? Leesha has never done anything like this before. What did the page have on it? Perhaps we could transfer whatever it says to a fresh piece of paper?”
The sorcerer squinted at the crumpled page and mumbled, “But I’m sure I saw a girl.”
“You don’t see well, do you?” the woman said in a sympathetic voice. “You know, I have just the thing for those eyes.”
“You do?” Markin said in a hopeful voice. “Spells have been getting smaller of print lately.”
“An old concoction good for all kinds of vision problems passed down from my grandmother. Suppose you just step into my cottage and I’ll whip it up for you. My name is Clella, by the way….”
Clella led the unresisting sorcerer toward her front door. She turned her head and one gray eye winked over her shoulder at the cat.
A girl with tawny hair stood where the cat had been. She winked back at Clella. Leesha smiled. Everyone was satisfied this way. Markin and Clella were no longer two lonely people and she—well, she had what she wanted, too.
She assumed her four-footed form again to run back to the sorcerer’s fortress. While the sorceress kept the sorcerer entertained, Leesha had many more spells to learn.