The Black Wizard: Ist Ullman

If you haven’t yet, read this first. It might make the stuff below more sensible. No promises.
If this is your first time reading The Black Wizard, the story begins here.


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The wizard in black fled across the desert, and his company followed.

Strictly speaking, the wizard was wearing blue jeans and a white tunic. However, if you take the wizard to be the stuff under the mortal coil that is his skin, which in this case is black, then Martin was literally the wizard in black.

Regardless of your views on what makes a wizard, Martin was fleeing across the desert, followed by his company of Sil, Rin (sometimes still known as Flinch), and Harold, the former knight turned nurse.

They had been traveling for nearly two months since leaving The Order of the Knights Suspended in D’orcahst, and by Sil’s best estimate they only had a few days left of travel. By her worst estimate, they would all die in a week.

“What?” Martin stopped short and faced Sil, her carefree countenance mostly visible by the moon’s light. “What do you mean die in a week?”

“It’s just the worst estimate, Martin” she replied without stopping, a sly smirk tugging at her right cheek, “dying is almost always the worst estimate – that should encourage you!”

“But you said you knew this desert!”

“Yes, but can anyone truly know such a gargantuan thing?”

They bickered a little longer, but after the first few weeks of their mostly isolated travel, they had all become accustomed to one another well enough for these squabbles to ebb out quickly. There was sparse more conversation until dawn when they set up camp at the base of a dune, and slept.

The next night followed the same routine: wake up, ration food, ask of the desert to provide water, rest, walk, and walk, and walk.

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“Ist Ullman, the new Head of the Order, is persecuting black professionals.” Sil had said as they were sneaking out of D’orcahst, “And until we’re at least three days out of here, not another word on this. She could have listeners anywhere, and we need her to believe you’ve escaped of your own volition, not run away with us from the Order.”

The Order of the Knights Suspended, Martin thought to himself with the mental equivalent of spitting words, more like the order of the knights suspended. Bastards don’t deserve upper cases. He stared blankly at the small fire they had set up in the middle of a cramped forest clearing, waiting for Sil to make good on her three day promise. When she sat, he took no measures in being subtle. “The Head of your Order is persecuting black professionals?”

“Yes, Martin.” Sil began, “Black Wizards, Black Knights, even Blacksmiths. Ullman is an Old Superstitionist who twists the meanings of these professions to turn the masses against them. She’s the kind that still believes in the Den of the Dead and Black Magicks. She spreads her superstitionist fears to towns and cities across the kingdom through brainwashed knight errants -” she lowered her head and exhaled through her nose, “like me; when I came to Melrah.”

Sil’s eyes went blank for a moment, then she pressed forward. “On the face of it, Ullman’s plan is to redeem the entire Order’s stature by imprisoning or destroying all of you. And she believes it will, but her old fears have twisted her thoughts -” she paused, “and I helped her. I turned a whole town against you, Martin.”

Martin took a breath and put his hand on Sil’s shoulder. “Come, Sil. It’s fine. The people of Melrah know me. Simple folk as some of them are, they have good hearts.”

“Think of how it looked to them, Martin,” Sil interjected, “a knight in full armor comes hollering into town about a Black Wizard, and she gallops off towards your home. A few hours later, I leave the town with you behind me. That night, and I am certain they noticed, a wild forest fire blazes in the direction we left. Simple folk as some of them may be, Martin, but what else could they have possibly deduced?”

“The hearts of folk are not so easily turned – ” Martin started feebly.

“I’ve seen them turn for less,” Harold spoke for the first time that night as he stirred some stew over the fire. “I once met a black knight who lost all his limbs defending the Monthon Forest bridge. This bridge was entrusted to him by the City of Typy, by no less than the magistrate himself. A valiant knight who glared into the eyes of defeat and refused it.”

Harold set his jaw and continued, “And when he returned to the city, waddling limblessly back, did a parade of thanks await him?” His voice started rising, filled with pent up shame. “It would have, had a knight of the Order not arrived just days before, preaching about the dangers of Black Knights and their fealty to the Den of the Dead.

“Instead of a thanks, he was wrapped up in little more than a burlap sack by the Order’s knight, and hauled back to us barely alive.” Having said this, Harold shut his eyes as the painful memory splayed across his face. “I spent days healing him, Martin, regrowing his limbs with roots and the help of a life wizard. But when the treatment was done, no healing I could offer was potent enough to mend his broken faith.”

A tear crept down Harold’s face and dropped into the stew with a soft plop. He looked at the small ripples the tear made and exhaled a tiny chortle, “Anyone else? This could use more salt.”

They all chuckled softly, and each took a small sigh. After the stew was passed around in wooden bowls, Sil explained that it was Flinch who realized what was going on first.

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During their stay at the Order, Rin made sure that the only other pages he interacted with would be those in the library’s books. Partly because he never got along too well with the other knights’ assistants, but also – if he was being honest – because the pun was too good to forgo.

To his misfortune, the Order’s library was small and mostly stocked with every original, translated, and spin-off edition of Tales of True Knights, from the first volume dating back some two hundred years, to the most recent Tales of True Knights: Coelho to Ullman.

Excepting the odd case, Rin had read all of the Tales’ volumes. He skipped the likes of such volumes as Katz to Arim, which were more of a pamphlet than a book. These short titles generally read to the tune of:

To celebrate his ascension to Head of the Order, Katz led a party of twelve of his finest knights to hunt the ogres in the south. When a week had passed sans word from the hunt, Katz was presumed dead and Arim ascended in his stead.

As the main section of the library held no interest to Rin, he moved to the Legals section which kept ongoing records of all the Order’s accounts: quest orders, decrees, hangings, etc. These documents would later be used as bases for the next volume of Tales (undoubtedly titled Ullman to Whoever Succeeds Her), with no embellishment save for the flare of linguistic styling.

But as Rin perused through Legals, he noticed something strange. All the recent decrees for arrests and eliminations signed off by Ullman had the same word when describing each person’s profession: Black, with a capital B. Rin went back to Coelho to Ullman to see if there was a similar pattern, but found – to his basic understanding of statistics – nothing significant.

He jotted down a summary of his findings and rushed off to Sil, who was visiting Martin at the infirmary. As he stitched together an explanation through his tumbling cascade of words, Harold happened to have overheard enough for a thought to occur.

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“Without a single exception in the past half dozen moons,” Harold said after Sil queued him in with her spoon, “every time a knight returned to the Order with a prisoner, the prisoner was black – lower case B, Martin.”

“How could it have taken you so long to notice?” Martin interrupted. “Surely you saw them all in plain sight as they came!”

“Knights do not return from quests every day.” Harold replied and looked to Sil for confirmation, “They trickle in and out every few weeks – it is only by chance that Melrah is so close to the Order’s base in D’orcahst. But one thing became very clear.” He paused, prodded at their fire with a stick, then locked eyes with Martin. “Ullman was not arresting criminals. She was starting a purge.”

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They spoke a little longer of Ullman’s family and her dubious ascension to Head of the Order, until Sil turned the conversation back to their current predicament.

Three days prior, when Martin had woken up from his comma in the Order’s infirmary, Sil explained, she and Harold went to work to put an end to Ullman’s Superstitionist ploy. Legal documents only had text and so could not constitute as valid proof, but each warrant was always accompanied by a visual rendition of the target. The drawings were meant to help the knight with identification, and they were all kept in Ullman’s office.

When Ullman went to visit Martin after he woke up, Sil and Flinch snuck in and gathered enough documents to make a case against the Head of the Order.

“Just like that?” Martin interrupted in mock jest, holding his spoon up and motioning it in a slow arch towards his now empty bowl “No launching yourself from a catapult, lance at hand crashing in through her window?”

Martin’s question drew a stern face from Sil and a chuckle from Rin, his first audible contribution that evening. When all eyes turned to him, he stopped suddenly and stammered: “You see, uhm, Martin sir, in the Order – well, that is, for the knights there, what with them redeeming themselves – of course, not that you could know seeing as you aren’t a knight, but it’s unthinkable to s-s-steal. And from Ist Ullman,” he let another nervous chuckle slip, then scrunched his face in seriousness again, “or steal at all, really, sir. Even if, that is, if someone even saw us, we’d say Ullman asked us to fetch her some documents, sir, if we had to say anything at all, that is, what with the trust and the, the –” he trailed off and looked expectantly at Sil.

“The boy is right: it was no task.” Sil filled in for Rin, “Say what you will about Ullman and her archaic fears, she does believe in the Order and its tenets. Even if only two stones and half a twig serve as the anchor to her common sense.”

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Dawn was just rising again as they ended an uphill trek of a deceptively high dune, when Martin came up to Sil, panting. “So then, Sil. What do your best estimates tell us about our expected demise today?”

Sil put her hand on Martin’s shoulder and gestured for him to look forward with a nod. “My best estimate – and I am fairly certain of this one –” She grinned, “is that we made it a day earlier than I expected.” Sil extended her arm, palm up, and presented the city of Arlot, half covered in the orange blanket of morning light, home to the Order of Orders.

“The Order to which all others must give deference and fealty. The most prestigious and sought after by any self-respecting knight.” She took a deep breath from her nose, and let it out slowly between pursed lips. “The Order that renounced my rank, titles, and knighthood five years ago.”

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The Black Wizard: The Garden of True Knights

If you haven’t yet, read this first. It might make the stuff below more sensible. No promises.
If this is your first time reading The Black Wizard, the story begins here.


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“Hello Martin, it’s been a long time.”

“W – what?”

“One month, three weeks, and two days to be exact.” The voice replied, “We were worried you wouldn’t come back.”

“What do you – ” Martin cleared his throat and swallowed spit, suddenly aware of the viscous dryness in his mouth. “What do you mean? Where am I? Who are you?” He tried pushing himself up to a sitting position but his arms gave out at the effort.

“Slowly,” The voice began with experienced patience, “you lost consciousness after fighting a fire, and you’ve just woken up for the first time. You are in the infirmary of the Knights Suspended. I am Harold, the nurse that’s been assigned to treat you. Alright? Here, drink this.” He handed him a wooden cup.

“What is it?”

“Water.” Harold answered as he helped Martin sit up. “And let me note how nice it is to not have to coax it down your throat anymore.”

Martin took a tentative sip, then nearly swallowed the cup in his parched haste as the rejuvenation hit him. He finished drinking and released the mutant offspring of a gasp, a sigh, and a burp, then reached his hand out for more.

After a few rounds of water accompanied by a crass respiratory symphony, Martin sat with his legs over the side of his bed, panting lightly. He noticed that the only thing he was wearing was a long white gown. He rubbed at his eyes and felt a pang in his stomach.

“How are you feeling?” Harold asked, “Can I get you anything?”

“Yes,” Martin replied and placed a hand on his abdomen, “It appears I’m hungry.”

“As you should be. Here, let me help you out of your be-”

“Wait,” Martin interrupted, “I’ll need my jeans.”

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Martin and Harold walked towards the kitchens, taking the long path through the gardens to let Martin stretch his legs. There were several hedges trimmed to resemble knights, but not in the valorous poses Martin had come to expect from the cities he had visited.

These figures showed a more honest side of the profession: a knight bent over with his arms and legs flung outwards, seemingly flying back from a hit to the chest. Another hedge was in the form of a knight with her head in the ground and her wrists bound behind her back by an ivy vine, which Martin took to represent a rope.

When he asked about the decidedly unheroic scenes in the hedges, Harold explained that they were in the Garden of True Knights, and that the figures served as a reminder.

“As you know, the Order of the Knights Suspended aims to restore the honor and ranks of its members.” He looked to Martin for understanding and continued. “But before that, we reflect. Perhaps we were outcast because being a knight was not our true calling. Perhaps we were not fulfilling our own personal legend, as the former head of our Order would say.

And so we create these hedges to remind us that being a knight is not all chivalry and glamor. It’s also,” he gestured to a figure of a knight hanging upside-down, dangling from the branch of a tree, “this.”

“Wait,” Martin said and looked him over, “you were a knight?”

“Yes,” he paused, “once. I was exiled by the Baron Shepp when I returned from one too many skirmishes with more healed allies than slain enemies. The Baron said he had no use for knights who used their bandages more than their swords.

“When I joined the Knights Suspended, Coelho – the head of the Order at the time – helped me realize I wasn’t saddened because I was outcast, but because of the reason I was outcast and what it spoke of our world.

Times have changed since then – the Order is not what it was since Coelho left, but I’ve been healing people to this day.” His eyes swept over the garden and he smirked, “I don’t mind telling you, there’s no shortage of work here.”

“Ha, right. I can imagi- hey! That’s Sil!” Martin pointed and began the halfhearted run of the recently comatose. “They made a hedge of her hanging in midair by her sword?”

“Ah, yes.” Harold nodded as he caught up to Martin. “There was some debate about that. It was truly an excellent moment, and I thank you on behalf of the Order for your participation, but some claimed the pose could be misleading, as if she were leaping into a strike rather than grasping not to fall down.”

“What made them agree, then?”

“The plaque.” Harold gestured to the base of the figure, where a small bronze plaque hung, its black letters etched out neatly:

FLAILING.

“Ba-ha,” Martin chuckled, “poor thing. Maybe I was too hard on her.”

“She speaks fondly of you.” Harold smiled and turned back towards the kitchens, “Come, let’s get on. She’ll be wanting to see you.”

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“Martin!”

“Sil!”

Sil leapt from her chair and ran over to hug him. “Heavens, you’re back!” She released the hug but kept her hands on his arms. Her smile expanded and she let out a loud ha! “Black Wizard or no, you’re back from the dead and I’m glad for it.” A few heads turned at the mention of a Black Wizard, and the general din of the room became noticeably quieter.

“Haha, I haven’t quite died yet, Sil. But I’m glad to see you too. What in the stones happe-” His eyes went wide, “wait, where’s Rin?”

“Who?”

“Rin! The boy, Flinch!”

“Oh, he’s buried-”

“What!”

“- in his books.”

“What? Oh. He’s alright?”

“Yes, Martin, the boy is fine. You don’t remember?”

“The last thing I recall is seeing our camp and a dozen pines on fi-”

“Martin,” Harold cut in, “you should sit. I’ll get you some food. Hello Sil.” He smiled curtly and escorted Martin to a nearby table with a bread basket and some butter. Sil greeted Harold, then joined Martin and sat down.

“So what happened?” Martin asked as he took a piece of bread and coated it in butter. “Sweet rivers but this smells good.”

“Ah, what happened – indeed!” Sil stood and said loud enough for everyone within several tables to hear. “Come, gather ye hungry eaters, and I will tell you the tale of how Martin the Black Wizard vanquished the Pine Fire of Cauldine Forest.” Heads turned, chairs made scraping sounds as they shifted, Martin’s left eyebrow went up, and Sil began:

There stood Martin, Black and bold against the roaring flames of ten dozen massive pines. The heat of it alone would have burned the flesh off of a normal man, but not off Martin. At first he gazed at the fire, willing it to cease – but even his wizardry prowess was no match for the awesome red energy. 

So he ordered the trees to bend, and one by one they bent over; moaning as their trunks strained and their bark bent, helpless against Martin’s demands. With this feat accomplished, all of the burning trees were huddled inwards, and so Martin had cleverly quelled the spread of the flames.

Yet the fire still raged and its smoke alone could have devastated several villages for horizons over, and Martin knew the wind would soon pick up and set the fire flaring again. So he bent down, right on his knees – right in front of the roaring inferno – and he performed his magics on the earth itself!

He pounded his fist on the ground and roared “RISE, EARTH, AND DEVOUR THESE TREES,” and it did. Wave after wave of earth climbed atop the trunks and branches of the trees like a thick winter blanket engulfing a fiery demon. With each wave of earth Martin spoke in twenty mystic tongues, commanding the ground to be ceaseless in its enterprise. 

For an eternal hour, Martin cast his magics on the ground. He cast until he began to sweat, until his whole body shook, until blood gushed from his nose, and still he would not stop. When the earth covered the trees Martin spat blood and beat his chest, challenging the fire to rise again – but nothing more than a few heaps of dying embers answered his call. 

But Martin knew that fires such as these had a deeper power within them, so he chased the fire into the Den of the Dead and left his corporeal body in our care. For fifty days and fifty nights he did battle with the fire, until he cast it into oblivion for eternity.

“And so, after a three day journey back from the Den, Martin is among us, victorious!” Sil finished with such a flourish of tone and body language that everyone in the kitchen burst unanimously into awed applause.

Everyone, of course, except Martin, who by the end was sitting slack-jawed with a spoonful of soup hanging idly half way to his mouth.

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“I didn’t journey to the Den of the Dead, Sil,” Martin said when they left the kitchen, “the Den is a children’s story – I was in a coma!”

“Yes I know, hush hush, don’t speak of this now.” She picked up her pace as they got out of sight from the kitchens.

“And I don’t speak in mystic tongues to do magic, and fire has no deeper power, it’s just heat and light!” He looked sideways and saw her stoic countenance. “What in ten stones is going on, Sil?!”

Sil turned a corner and grabbed Martin to a sudden stop. “I know, Martin. But we needed to make sure no one thought you were weak.”

“What, why?”

“There’s no time now.” She spoke in short bursts, eyes darting to every direction and back at Martin. “You must trust me, Martin. Go back to the infirmary. The head of the Order will come to you. She will want a hearing. Say you require the night to make sure nothing followed you from the Den of the Dead. Go to bed, but do not sleep. Harold will come in the night, Flinch will be with him. Keep your wits fastened.”

And without another word, she left.

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If you gotta know what happens next, head over here.

The Black Wizard: The Knights Suspended

If you haven’t yet, read this first. It might make the stuff below more sensible. No promises.


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Martin watched Flinch as he arranged Sil’s various armaments. The boy stopped when he looked up at the spear still stuck in the wizard’s window. Martin saw him hesitate briefly, then heard him call out, “Martin, sir.”

“Fret not lad, I have to go upstairs and make some arrangements anyway.” Martin patted the boy’s shoulder once as he walked towards the house, “Help Sil finish up and we’ll be off soon.”

As Martin headed upstairs, he thought of what he would need for a fortnight’s worth of traveling. As he ran through the list in his mind, he asked each item in turn if it wouldn’t mind packing itself in his leather satchel. No not that one, the traveling one.

Once he was packed, Martin picked up a broom and swept the room briefly, then sat down in front of his ledger to finish his log:

Conclusion of event:  Roughly two hours, including potato stew. Sil (Knight) confirmed amicable, if short-fused. She 

Martin lifted his pen, realized he couldn’t surmise the event in the log’s usual terseness, and skipped a line.

Sil is a good knight, of The Knights Suspended. They are a peculiar order, an outcast band from a motley of baronies, dukedoms, and some lesser fiefs. Each knight has their own reason for ending up in the order, though Sil would not share hers.

The order aims to restore the honor and ranks of their members through acts of gallantry and selflessness, though few have been able to rebuild even a semblance of their former lives. Still, their unity gives them hope, and in turn they do (or try to do) good for the land.

And so I am compelled to help Sil save face when she returns to The Knights, and assure them that her quest for my beheading was not in vain, despite having been, as it were, veinless. 

Martin set the pen down, placed a piece of twine as a marker on the page, and closed the ledger. He walked to the door – oh. Spear, would you mind unlodging yourself from my window? Thanks – and headed downstairs.

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As they walked towards the main road out of Melrah, Sil spotted the gas station but pointedly looked away. Martin noticed the sharp motion and raised his finger, “Aha! You reminded me.” He veered off the path towards the station and returned a short while later carrying a faint scent of horse and a few cans of beans.

“What are those?” Sil asked once they started walking again.

“Beans,” he answered as he put them in his satchel, “in a metallic container. The folk here are still too afraid to eat them, but they’re fresh enough and I haven’t gotten a spoiled lot yet, so I reckon this must be some special alloy.”

“Oh.” Sil replied, “The road back to D’orcahst is plenty with game,” she motioned at the bow jutting out from the pack on her horse’s back, “I doubt we’ll be short for food.”

“True enough, but we won’t be hunting for a day at least.” Martin kicked a rock and sent it rolling several feet ahead of them.

“And why is that?” Sil asked, kicking the same rock farther down the path.

“I know the animals in these parts, healed some of them.” Kick. “Wouldn’t feel right.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she replied and kicked the rock again, “they’re just animals.”

“Maybe. But if you try shooting anything around here,” he grinned, “I guarantee you’ll miss your mark.” He went to kick the rock again but fell short, then grunted as they kept walking, “Ah stones, that was fun.”

“Go back for it then.” Sil retorted flatly.

“That would defeat the purpose.”

“What purpose?”

“Serendipity.”

Martin hadn’t walked another four steps when he saw the rock roll in front of him from behind. He kicked it forward instinctively, then looked back to see Flinch quickly lower his gaze.

“Sorry sir,” Flinch rushed, “the rock was just there in the way I was happening, and I thought you might’ve been wanting to keep kicking.”

“Good on you Flinch,” Martin grinned again, “our derrière-garde.”

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The rest of the day passed mostly uneventfully. The road was well-kept and wound parallel to the Cauldine Forest, such that getting lost would have required a determined effort.

Martin prompted Sil to tell of her days from before the Knights Suspended, trying to coax the reason for her suspension out of her. Instead he spent a long afternoon listening to stories of day-long duels, clandestine rescue missions to return captured princes, and generally mind-numbing knight tales that he had read in ten dozen children’s books.

He almost asked if she had ever slain a dragon, but realized she would probably plow right through his sarcasm and into another story. Knights, he thought, they find trouble like piss finds the ground, then go on about it like drunk magpies.

They stopped to eat once the Saga of the Odorless Blacksmith was done, and again at dusk to make camp closer to the forest. An evening wind had picked up by then, but they were sheltered by the worst of it when they settled down on the leeward side of a big pine. Still, even the trees couldn’t help but groan against the wind’s fitful battering.

Flinch unloaded the pack from the horse and tied him up to a nearby shrub, then started gathering kindle to make a fire at Martin’s request. Meanwhile, Sil walked around the camp peering through the trees and into the branches.

“Do you like being called Flinch, lad?” Martin asked as Flinch fed the fire.

He shrugged, “Can’t say I mind much either way, sir, name that’s answered’s a good a name as any,” he replied while haphazardly throwing more sticks into the flames. “Why I used’ter call a rose a reddin’ flar cause my da’ ne’r knew what’was called, but it still smelled as pretty when I’d pick’n’whiff it.”

“Hmm,” Martin nodded, “true enough. All the same, what’s your real name lad?”

“Rin, sir.”

Martin nodded again. He started showing Rin a more efficient way to feed the fire when Sil clamped her hand over his mouth. “Quiet,” she whispered, “look.” She pointed to the top of a hill behind a few rows of trees. “Giant.”

Martin squinted his eyes but could only see trees. “Wheh?” he tried to ask, muffled by Sil’s hand. A strong wind rushed by and made several branches moan.

“He’s coming for us!” Sil yelled and dashed to her horse, “Flinch, my lance. Martin, stay here.” Sil untied the horse and jumped on its back as Flinch sifted through the pack and fished out the lance.

“Sil stop!” Martin stood up and cried, “There are no giants in these parts – we’re barely a day out of Melrah!”

“Stand back, Martin,” she replied and took the lance from Flinch, “this is no business for wizards.” Sil set her horse to a hard gallop towards the hill, lance forward, and was out of earshot before Martin could do anything else.

“Idiot!” Martin gasped at Sil’s disappearing figure.

“Martin, sir,” Flinch started after a few moments, “shouldn’t we be going to help her, what with the giant and all, she could get a real hurtin’.”

Martin turned to look at the boy, “There’s no giant, Fl- Rin. She’ll see it’s just a tree and come back in a minute.”

“I don’t mean to be rude, sir, and I reckon yer right about there not bein’ giants in these parts, but you see, Lady Sil isn’t so right in her eyes when she gets in ‘er mood, if you ken me.” He spoke quickly as if afraid that Sil might hear him. “Why, she’ll charge straight into a tree, thinkin’ it’s a giant, sir, but I’ve seen ‘er do it.”

“She’s not going to charge into a – ”

Crash.

Martin and Rin snapped their heads towards the sound and recognized it as the uncommon but unmistakable cacophony of iron-on-timber followed by body-on-ground. Blackened stones, Martin thought, “Come with me” he said, and started running towards Sil.

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Martin looked the floored knight over and determined she was fine. “Spread your fingers in front of your eyes.”

“Why?” Sil asked dazed.

“Test of consciousness.” He replied curtly. When she lifted her hand in front of her face, Martin shoved it forward, sending it smacking against her nose.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“Yes, seems like the crash hasn’t displaced anything in there,” Martin replied as he helped her up, “still sharp as grape. In any case,” he brushed his hands against his jeans, “that’s what you get for charging off at a tree like that.”

Sil rubbed her nose and scowled, “It was a giant, black damn you; must’ve gotten away. And grapes aren’t sharp you ninnyhammer.”

“Right.”

They took a while finding Sil’s lance which had rolled a little ways off the hill, but eventually started walking back towards their camp. A camp uncannily well-lit. A camp whose brightness should not have been seen from behind all those trees. A camp that definitely shouldn’t have been orange. A camp on fire.

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If you gotta know what happens next, head over here.

The Black Wizard: The Pit

If you haven’t yet, read this first. It might make the stuff below more sensible. No promises.


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Martin sighed. He stuck his head out of the window, looked down at the knight standing just beyond his fence, and spoke softly: “Good morning. Wait there.”

It was not an incantation or a clever trick of the mind, just a request, but Sil lowered her javelin all the same. She was surprised to see that the Black Wizard was – by chance, no doubt – also just black. A black, Black Wizard. She wondered if – but no, she shook her head, planted the base of her javelin on the floor, and waited.

Martin closed the window doors and asked the pierced wood to repair itself if it didn’t mind. As he walked towards his desk he rubbed his eyes, trying to massage the sleep out of them. He donned his jeans and white tunic, looked around at his barren room and yawned, grateful that at least this one was not as barbaric as some of the others. He sat down, opened his ledger, and filled in the lines of his log.

Time:                 Morning of the fifth day
Party of:           Knight and young page
Disturbance:   Spears, javelins, etc against window

He lifted his pen and briefly looked over the last several entries. No one had battered his door down in nearly half a year. That’s nice, he thought, and started writing again.

Notes: Babble of darkness. Knights Suspended. Appears amicable.
Conclusion of event:  _____________

Martin placed the pen in the middle of the ledger and headed downstairs.

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“Martin the Black Wizard,” Sil began when she saw him open the door and, to her discouragement, lean lethargically against its frame. She held her javelin in both hands and stood ready in a charging pose. “I have come to -” she stopped, losing some of her rigidity as she noticed his legs. “What are you wearing?”

“These are jeans. I believe a man named Denim owned them, but since appearing on my rug, they are now mine. They’re quite nice.”

Sil looked at her page, slightly at a loss for words, then shook her head and started again. “Martin the Black Wizard, I have come to -”

“Stop.” He cut her off, “Listen to me. My name is Martin, and I am black, and I am a wizard. These are separate notions. I understand that the combination of my skin color and profession has a misleading connotation, but I assure you I am not some performer of foul magics, out to cause havoc and bring blight to the land. My parents were also black, they were scholars, and after I consumed their souls to gain my powers I swore to never harm another human.” He paused expectantly, and when he saw Sil’s face fill with horror he quickly added “That was a joke. I was joking.”

But Sil was no longer listening. She had abandoned thinking and reverted to her base charge first, revel in glory later instincts. Martin rolled his eyes, straightened his stance, and grabbed the staff leaning on the door frame. Before Sil could make even half way to him, Martin asked the ground to please cause the charging knight to fall.

It was not an arduous demand. A stone formed, limbs flailed, and at the accompaniment of her chainmail’s metallic rhapsody, Sil fell.

Still blinded by adrenaline, horror, and a generally misguided motive, she grabbed her javelin as she got up and started running again. Martin asked the spear to set itself down on the floor, and when it didn’t he tensed up for a second, but then corrected himself. Sorry, javelin – please be on the floor. And it was. And like a fish caught on a hook, Sil went soaring down after it.

Though she grunted and jerked to tug her javelin free, it would not budge. Eventually she gave up, unsheathed a sword, and began walking towards Martin, each step fiercely determined to avoid falling again.

“Oh stones and birchwood, enough!” Martin said. Sword, rise. Please. And even as the sword floated upwards, Sil refused to lose another weapon and clung on, tugging at it while her legs kicked emptily in the air. By the time Sil’s rage leveled, she was hanging fully in midair and realized she had lost the choice to let go. Her page started running towards her but stopped when Martin stared at him.

“If you disturb me I will drop the sword and your Lady will be unwell for it.” Martin turned right and started walking. “You may follow.” And with that, he led the page and the sword-Sil around to the back of his house.

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Generally, knights came to Martin’s house, their heads full of their own asses and their asses full of their heads, Martin thought. But not only knights. Sometimes rogue soldiers looking for redemption, or proper assassins on a job, even fledgling wizards with no formal education who actually believed in soul consumption. But generally it was knights.

Most knights were downright good people, and Martin had no particular urge to harm them. Still, he also had no particular urge to be roused out of bed against his will. To counter this inconvenience, Martin had kindly asked a patch of ground behind his house to make a large pit. Any knight that came by since then ended up in the pit.

Now, Martin was a black wizard, but he was not a Black Wizard, and he had no intention of amassing rotting bodies in the pit. Every knight was free to leave, but Martin had asked the pit to hold on to any piece of metal that came in.

“But I assure you, my Lady Sil,” Martin enunciated as he lowered her to the bottom of the pit, “that if you come for me again I will ask the bones of your little toes to rid themselves of your wretched foot,” he paused, “and it will not be pleasant for you.”

Sil lay amongst a heap of abandoned armor pieces and dirt covered weapons, her chainmail stuck firm to the ground. “Martin!” she yelled, “Even now you use your black magic to hold me captive, but I will end your evilry, mark my words.” Martin groaned, but before he could reply Sil’s page spoke up.

“Mmm, m’Lady Sil, if I may,” he began.

“Flinch?” Sil asked, not being able to see the page as he had kept his distance.

“Yes, m’Lady.”

“What is it boy?”

“Well it’s only that, you see, I reckon Martin’s – ”

“Martin the Black Wizard,” she snapped.

“Yes m’Lady,” he approached the pit and continued, “I reckon he’s not really using black magic, you see, on account of black magic being to do with the dead generally, and, well, what with you still being alive and all, and him only making natural and physical magics, so far’s I could tell, what with the stone that made you trip and -”

“Quiet! Stop jabbering. I’m thinking.” As Sil struggled against her chainmail, Martin tapped his fingers on his staff and watched the page curiously. “Martin,” Sil said after giving up on getting out with her armor on. “Are you a Black Wizard?”

Martin looked back at Sil. “Yes,” he replied shortly.

“I mean, do you perform black magics?”

“No.”

“What about the stories of the town of Trebon burning during the night?”

“Never been, heard it was a dragon.”

“And the plague that wiped out thousands across the land?”

“Rats.”

“Right. Well. Do you, um, make, uh,” she hesitated, drawing on the only other story she could think of, “do you really make potatoes come out of your, um, arse?”

Martin blinked. He had answered questions about the burning town, the plague, folks disappearing, and other fancies more times than he could count, but this one was entirely unexpected. Without meaning to, his lips spread into a wide grin, and he burst out laughing.

“What?!” he choked out as he dropped his staff and clenched his stomach, his laugh rolling freely. “Potatoes? Out of my a-ha ha ha, oh sweet rivers, right, yes.” He wiped a few laughtears from his eyes while catching his breath. “Ha, good morning indeed! Flinch, help her out. I’ll be back.” Martin turned and went back to his house, muttering and laughing to himself.

Flinch climbed down into the pit and helped Sil out of her chainmail. When Martin came back he had an iron pot full of water and a burlap sack. He was still grinning.

“Good, you got out.” He gestured at a small circle of stumps surrounding a smaller pit, fit for a fireplace. “Please, sit down.” The three of them sat, and Martin set the pot in the middle of the pit, indicating for the boy to start a fire. He pulled a potato out of the sack and handed it to Sil.

“Um,” she began, wary to take it from him.

“I assure you,” he chuckled, “this potato did not come out of anywhere less savory than the ground on which we walk.” He took out another potato and a small knife, and began to peel. Sil, still unsure what to think of Martin, pulled out a small bone dagger from her boot and got to peeling as well.

“So,” Sil started after Flinch had finished making the fire, “would you really, um, tear the bones out of my toes?”

Martin grinned widely, “I haven’t the faintest idea how.”

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If you gotta know what happens next, head over here.

The Black Wizard

Martin was a black wizard. That is to say, he was black, and a wizard – none of that black magic nonsense. But of course, word of mouth travels much farther than sight of eye. As it were, even though Martin had never so much as spared a fly’s life (never mind resurrecting one), folks from several horizons away had heard dark stories of The Black Wizard of Melrah.

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Melrah was a small town with the usual establishments you would expect to find at the time: an inn, a town-hall, a couple of mills, and a gas station the people used in lieu of the now abandoned stable.

When the gas station first appeared, Melrah’s townsfolk were – justifiably so – taken aback, and inexplicably nauseous. Once Martin explained it was nothing more than a fluke of an irreproducible bit of chronological warping caused by his inebriated attempt at streamlining the passing of his head aches, however, the older Melrahns nodded gravely; stroking their beards and mumbling about “logics” and “streams”. By the time the older folk had grunted enough to assert approval, the other townspeople came around as well.

After a few days and the odor had passed, the folk found the gas station to be much more conveniently located than the stable, and its material much more sturdy, until it became an odd thought to leave your horse at the stable at all.

Though Martin had gone under the drink again since, and even tried in earnest sobriety to recreate his accidental time magic, he never managed. Once, though, a pair of loose, sapphire blue jeans appeared on his rug. After deciding definitively that they were, in fact, meant for wearing, he found them much more comfortable than his plain brown pants. When folk saw his new attire, they fixated instead on his altogether more familiar white tunic, and mumbled some more about “blue streams” and such.

Not long after the gas station incident – certainly not long enough for word to have spread – a knight fully clad in chainmail arrived at Melrah looking for Martin. She rode atop a massive grey horse, and was attended by a page on a small pony carrying a far too varied assortment of weapons.

“Martin! Martin the Black Wizard of Melrah, I have come for your head in order to end your reign of black sorcery which sullies this lan -”

“Oh shut it,” one of the nearby townsfolk cut in, “Martin’s ‘ardly ever out. If ‘ees awake at all ‘eel be in ‘is ‘ouse makin’ ‘taters come out ‘is arse.”

Though the knight was startled by the old woman’s crass interruption, she shifted her horse to face her and pressed on.

“Good madame,” the knight began again, “I am on an urgent quest to rid us of Martin the Black Wizard, before any more devastation befalls this land.”

“Devastation?!” the old woman began with exaggerated incredulity, “well it’s right good you came then. We ‘adn’t even noticed all the devastating s’been goin’ on!” The woman threw her thumb over her back as she began to walk away, vaguely pointing at a large house at the outskirt of the village. “You make sure to get good and rid of that devastatin’ now, y’hear?”

The knight stared at the old lady for a while as she walked off, leaving confusion and determination to wage a little skirmish in her mind.

“Uhh, umm, uhh, mmm, m’Lady Sil?” stuttered the page.

“Out with it, lad” she replied as she noticed the gas station for the first time.

“Well it’s only that, you see, it seemed as if the lady wasn’t terribly bothered,” he started rapidly, as if each word were racing the other, “that is, she didn’t understand the gravity, by which I mean, um, it’s just that perhaps what we heard on our way over about Martin not bein-”

“Martin the Black Wizard”, Sil cut him off, pulling her glance back to the page, “and you best remember that, lest he enchant you to believe otherwise.”

The page lowered his head and spoke to the ground, “Yes m’lady.”

Sil put an abrupt stop to her thinking, which seemed to have become a bigger nuisance of late, and led the way down the road towards Martin’s house and, she misguidedly hoped, glory.

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ThumptwangKlankThump, thud.

Martin woke grudgingly to the sounds of something battering at his window and outer wall. He climbed – that is to say, made a half-hearted roll – out of bed and dragged his feet to the window with the jaw-clenching resolution of a man resoundingly aching to go back to sleep.

Martin reached the window and began opening its left door just as the tip of a spear skewered the right one. He peered tepidly out the window and saw a boy handing a halberd to a knight wearing full chainmail. Martin rubbed his eyes hoping he had mis-seen, but the klank of steel on stone suggested otherwise.

“Martin the Black Wizard!” bellowed the knight, “I am Lady Sil of the Knights Suspended, and I have come to rid this land of your meddling with the darkness!”

Oh stones, Martin thought numbly with limp exasperation, not again.

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If you gotta know what happens next, head over here.

The Topless 25 y.o Pokemon Trainer in Tel Aviv

 

krabby-palm
I call him Mr. Krabs. Jk, I don’t nickname my pokemon.

Today I became a Pokemon Gym Leader.

I think. I’m not exactly sure how the mechanics work yet, but I’m pretty sure that’s what happened. Anyway.

Pokemon Go is out! Yesterday I literally left the house to go catch pokemon. If you know me well, you’ll know I’m generally opposed to using the L word, but this time it’s legit.

Now, when I was watching the hype videos and reading the beta reviews, I thought – probably like you – that this whole Pokemon Go thing would be wholly underwhelming.

I mean, your pokemon don’t even have XP or levels, the only way to evolve them is by catching more of the same, or of the same lineage, and you catch them by throwing a pokeball and basically hoping for the best. It feels as weird as trying to cha-cha to Mozart (I assume).

Not to mention the fact that the battle system is out of whack, the servers are as of yet unreliable, and the app seems to crash about as often as Gary’s Blastoise would use withdraw at the end of the Pokemon League in Gen. 1 – just enough to make you think “really.. really?”

But for all that, damn was I excited yesterday. And today. And I’ll probably be excited tonight as well. Let me reiterate something I said earlier: I literally left the house to go catch pokemon.

I mean come on, that is a dream come true. Sure they’re virtual, sure the Augmented Reality is not perfect, sure Trump might win the presidency – but I can still honestly say that I left my house to Go. Catch. Pokemon.

Ok, now that the excitement level has been set, let’s proceed:

It is hot here in Tel Aviv. Uncomfortably hot. Shirts become optional at times like these, so when I donned my blue cargo shorts and brown hiking boots I consciously decided that, in the real world, Pokemon Trainers don’t have to wear shirts.

So I’m out of the house, meandering around my neighborhood and checking my phone every now and again to see if – hey, rustling leaves! The nostalgia in me bursts out as my heart rate rises a little, but I’m a grown-ass man so I walk towards the leaves at only a slightly elevated pace. I broke three sweats.

My little avatar gets to the indicated location, and to my great dismay nothing happens. Having read more than a fair share of complaints about server issues, I thought maybe something was glitching, but I trekked on anyway and stumbled across this guy:

pidgeotto
Pidgeotto as a first find – not bad eh?

Instinct took over, I flicked my little pokeball, and wham, caught my first pokemon (I don’t count the starter; hardly had to try very hard for that).

Rationally, I knew I should have been disappointed. No battle, no real effort, no use for the Charmender sitting in my Pokemon Bag (?) – but rationality failed me as a stupid grin spread across my face with the automaticness of a wound up toy car.

I had caught a Pidgeotto because I left my house, found one, and threw a pokeball at it. Ahh!

After that excitement wore off I was sure I’d be let down by the following rigmarole of Voltorbs and Magnemites I found loitering around my street, but instead I went back home, grabbed my bike (no voucher, had to buy this one), and ventured onwards and outwards.

Once I hit level 5 I rushed to the nearest gym and handily got my ass kicked, only to realize there was no such thing as a Pokemon Center where I could heal my wounded Goldeen. I stayed away from gyms thereafter, until I found an empty one where I dropped off my Dratini and wondered what the ramifications of that would be.

This morning I read something about collecting stardust and coins for every pokemon you have in a gym, but when I went to claim my dues I found my Dratini beat down to 1 HP without the little gym icon over it, so I guess someone had ousted it.

Despite my short-lived glory, I was so psyched about adventuring again that I went out today too, this time with my younger brother.

At one point I gasped when I saw a Psyduck and stopped dead in my tracks to catch it. As I failed repeatedly to flick the pokeball properly, that looming sense of being watched crept over me.

I peaked up and saw a little girl in a sea-foam green dress in the middle of a photo shoot, and her mother behind the cameraman looking at me with an expression as confused as the duck I was trying to catch; I had stopped on the peak of an iconic bridge near the port, without having so much as noticed an entire family dressed up to boot and taking photos.

Meanwhile there I was, topless and coated in a sheen of sweat with a limp Psyduck in my hand and a chortling brother pretending not to know me.

Aside from that, and a sunburned back, going outside at the behest of Professor Willow has been great, especially when you go with someone else and take awesome shots like these:

So if you’re in Tel Aviv and you see a topless biker (possibly with a younger sidekick) roaming around seemingly aimlessly, don’t fret; I’m just trying to catch ’em all.

p.s, on our way back today I found a friendly gym with three pokemon whom my Magneton with 345 CP handily laid to waste, allowing me to stake my claim as reigning Gym Leader – for now.

 

Is Facebook Making Shit up on Your Behalf?

lies
true screenshot

I met a girl the other day, and I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t care one wit what my Facebook Timeline has to say regarding my living area.

To be certain, I gathered up the sum of my testicular fortitude and straight up sent her a screenshot of the FB notification with a big red question mark. Her reply: “I have no idea what that is haha” (original reply: “אין לי מושג מה זה חחח”).

Little backstory to this conundrum: I was at an open stage night where (pseudonym) Bella was performing. We spoke briefly after the show, and the following day I felt so compelled to laud her performance that I sent her a message via messenger.

Her first reply was to add me as a friend – legit, why not? All performers are brothers of a feather after all. Shortly after I accepted, Facebook notified me that “Bella said you live in the Ramat Gan area. To add this to your timeline, go to Timeline Review” (image at top of article).

My first reaction was “why would she give half a rat’s a—” and before that thought came to fruition, I thought “is Facebook really that eager for me to have a filled out and updated profile?”

Frankly, I’m no investigative journalist and to me this was just an elbow-jabbing ah Facebook, you dog, trying to squeeze verifiable information out of me for whatever avarice ruse your henchmen are brewing.

But hey, maybe someone out there will connect some wild dots and prove we’re all living in a matrix, we have no friends on Facebook, and they’re just creating this whole social network thing because it’s a cool coding project.

So far, Facebook has not made any official comment regarding this bizarre occurrence. Possibly because I haven’t reached out to them and have no idea how I would go about that anyway. Also, I live in Tel Aviv.