his master was set to punish him.
But knowledge can be a beautiful thing!
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It was dark in the old man's library sanctum, but then, it always was when the young man did his secret research. He had waited until the old man had taken to his bed chamber, and then waited some more for the drugged wine to take effect. The last thing he wanted was for the old man to catch him poring over the ancient tomes in the old man's library - tomes that had been old when Atlantis had sunk beneath the bright blue waters of the Mediterranean.
What the young man was doing was dangerous, for at least two reasons. The first, and the one he gave the most credence to, was that the old man was a member of the Circle. The Circle was a loosely allied group of practitioners of the mystic arts who "circled" the basins of the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean Seas. They were men and women of incredible power, and their alliance was one of mutual distrust. Before the peace had finally come, petty jealousies among these, the greatest magicians, sorcerers and wizards of their time, had threatened them all. One never knew when some thoughtless or imagined slight might bring the full fury of a powerful spell down upon one of them.
Finally, they realized that they all had better things to do with their time and power than squander it on one another. The Circle had formed to provide communication and mediation between feuding parties. If necessary, it also provided a means to accumulate sufficient power that the will of the majority could be forced upon one or two individuals in the group if they resisted more peaceable methods of resolving their differences.
In fact, the old man had, as little as three years ago, been under the Circle's interdict, deprived of his powers and his place, for attempting the murder of one of his rivals. For an entire year, he had been forced to live as a drudge in his rival's house, as the lowest of the lowly. He had been quiet since his release, immersed in his studies, and the Circle thought that he had learned his lesson, and would spend his remaining days in peace.
They were as wrong about that as the young man was in his belief that the old man was his greatest threat. The greatest threat to both the young man and to the Circle was contained in the writings and researches that the old man, the Wizard Talachus.
The young man was Talachus' apprentice, Circutus. He had been brought into the wizard's household shortly after the old man's release from slavery. Supposedly, Circutus had talent and the wizard had promised to teach him, but to date, all Circutus had learned from Talachus was drudgery. He cleaned the house, prepared meals, cared for the animals and tended the small herb garden of strange plants that never went into the cook pot, but he had not been taught even the simplest parlor trick. Not in over three years.
At least, he had not been taught by the Wizard.
After two years of frustration, he began his midnight trips into the Master's library. He had already learned to read the symbols because he was responsible for collecting materials and for putting them away for Talachus. Now he read the ancient books voraciously, and he found out something else about himself. Circutus had an eidetic memory, and could remember everything he read. More than that, he discovered that he could apply what he had learned.
He unraveled the secrets of the herb garden, learning what plants cured, what plants were useful in magic and what plants killed. He learned to "see" beyond his body, to send his spirit forth on the world while his corporeal self remained apparently asleep. He learned to use some unseen force to destroy and to shield. He learned many things.
Over the past year, his power had grown, but still he wanted to learn more. He needed to learn more, because he "knew" that although the old man did not intend to teach him as he'd promised, he did have plans for Circutus. The young man would need to become infinitely stronger if he was going to be able to protect himself. It had taken nearly the entire combined power of the Circle to restrain Talachus, and the old man's power had not dimmed in the intervening years.
A shaft of moonlight caught his attention as it shown on the old man's desk. On the desk, was a book the young man had never seen before. Quickly, he read through it, and realized that this was the journal in which Talachus kept his researches. The book was ponderous, with many pages filled with the old man's cramped script. Rapidly, he read the last few pages again, wondering at what he saw. It was a transformation spell - of that Circutus was fairly sure. What purpose the old man had for it, the apprentice could not tell, but he committed it to memory before going on. There was something about this spell that did not quite make sense to him and so he re-read several of the symbols again.
Without warning, the all light fled the room, and the air became icy cold. Spinning from the desk, the young man searched for the windows, but they were gone. He took another look, and then realized - he was no longer in the library. His eyes adjusted to the Stygian blackness and he saw a small lessening of the darkness. Carefully, he made his way toward the light.
As he was about to reach out to touch the strange gray portal, a shimmering light appeared in front of him that coalesced into Talachus. The old man's visage was crimson in his fury.
"You have trespassed where you were told not to, boy!" The words thundered in Circutus' head as well as in his ears. "If I did not need you as a test subject, I would kill you now - slowly, agonizingly, over the course of days." His voice was a hissing whisper. Circutus tried to move, to attack, but his body would not obey him.
Suddenly, the wizard's face brightened into a smile, one that was infinitely more frightening than his anger. "Perhaps, this will work out even better. I still have you and will still use you when I am ready, only now, I don't have to restrain myself with you anymore."
Talachus gestured and fiery pain licked at every nerve in the boy's body. He screamed, and the wizard's smile grew wider. Then he stepped back and through the portal of gray. The pain receded. "That was a warning. The portal will let you pass, but what you just felt will be a pale thing beside what you will feel if you try to follow me outside. My servants will see that you are fed - the portal will stop only you. Now, you will rest. I promise that you will need it."
The hold on his free movement ended with the Talachus' exit. Still jittery from the pain, he sank to the floor and fell instantly to sleep.
He awoke when one of the guards entered the blackness with bread and water which he threw at Circutus before turning on heel to scurry back out into the light. So, the wizard was not lying - others could pass. The question was whether or not he had lied about whether Circutus could pass. The previous night's demonstration had left him leery of trying. Still tired, he felt around the darkness and found the bread and began to eat. That Talachus had something planned for him, something horrible, Circutus did not doubt. The enhanced sensory perceptions he had developed in his clandestine studies all pointed to something like that.
He could call the Wizard's bluff and just try to leave. That was too simple. Even if the wizard was lying, there would be guards. It might even force Talachus to implement his plan sooner than later. Besides, Circutus did not think it was a bluff. What the wizard had described was something described in one of the tomes the apprentice had read.
Those damnable tomes. If he had not read the one tonight, he would not be in this mess. Then, inspiration hit. The spell he had read tonight. If he understood it correctly, he could change himself into someone else, someone who was not held in place by that wall.
Elation flared, then died. He'd still just run into the guards and be taken to Talachus in his new guise. The discovery of his rapidly growing powers might be the final factor that forced the wizard's hand. As strong as he had become in so short a time, he knew he was no where near as powerful as Talachus. Too bad he was not stronger. . .
A cold chill crawled up the boy's back. Inspiration buoyed him again. If he could transform himself, why not into a powerful sorcerer in his own right? At least that would give him a fighting chance, which he would not have otherwise. Surely, it would be better to die fighting than to wait for whatever fate Talachus had planned for him.
The decision made, he relaxed his entire body, and focused all of his being on remembering those pages and the symbols on them. He mentally practiced the gestures of power and spell song over and over in his head, modifying the words for the change he wanted. Finally, he felt he had it right.
Swallowing his fear, he stood, faced the gray portal, raised his hands and began to sing. The world seemed to go white instead of black, and still he could not see.
He continued his song.
Pressure squeezed at his guts and pulled at his chest, forcing him to fight with grim determination for every breath.
He continued his song.
Raw, cutting agony burned through his groin, nearly bringing him to his knees, but he fought back and staying erect, continued his gestures of power.
He continued his song.
And then, it was over. Drained, he crumpled to the ground, and fell asleep.
He awoke again when another loaf of bread bounced off his head. He crawled towards where he heard it fall. His body felt wrong. For one thing, he was much shorter than he had been, much lighter. He found the bread and sat to eat it. As he lifted the bread towards his head, the loaf brushed against his chest. It felt . . . .odd.
He set the bread on his lap and moved his hands up and found breasts. He could not see them in the lightless black, but he knew what they were. His hands flew to his groin, flipping the bread off into some corner of the cell in his haste. But he did not find what he sought. His manhood was gone, replaced by what his fingers told him was a down-covered cleft.
He was a woman. Was that what those symbols had meant? That the spell turned men into women? If so, what about the other part? Was he now a sorcerer, or rather a sorceress?
How could he tell? A niggling thought in the back of his head said, yes, he was. He looked at the gray portal, and suddenly, understood it - somehow. He, no, she knew how it was created.
More importantly, she knew how it was destroyed. Thought became deed, and the blackness melted around her. Light accosted her eyes and she blinked to clear them. As her vision cleared, she realized - she was back in the old man's library. She had never left, but rather had been imprisoned in a corner of his sanctum.
She turned towards the desk, her heightened senses already telling her what, or rather who she would find there. Talachus writing in his book.
Without warning, almost without conscious thought, she struck. Her thrust paralyzed the old man's body, robbed him of speech, and thus deprived him of most of his power. What power he could wield without speaking or hand movements was not a threat to her. Once again, she did not know how she knew that, but she did.
She slowly walked around the desk to face her former Master. His eyes followed her, as she seated herself on the stool she had used before . . .before she had become she instead of he.
- - Who ARE you?? - - The thought was imperiously inserted into her mind, but she detected a quaver.
"I am, or rather was, Circutus." she answered aloud and enjoyed the look of abject shock and disbelief on the wizard's face. "I used your spell to change myself into a powerful sorcerer. I did not realize that the symbol I could not translate would change me into a female sorcerer." Her voice became coldly menacing. "You will tell me how to change back and I might let you live."
She sensed fear, tinged with triumph well up in the wizard's mind. Then, a cackling mental laugh. -- I can't change you, you fool, and neither can you. Only a male can work the counter spell, and only on themselves. Thus, you can only be a man again if you are a man. I was working on an unbreakable curse and using that self-transformation spell as a starting point. I was going to revenge myself on those fools who humiliated me by turning them into pleasure slaves. - -
She looked deep into the wizard's mind. He fought her with all his considerable mental power, but she was just too strong. He was telling the truth. There was no counter spell. Moreover, the spell's effects grew with time. She would remain powerful, but the feminine aspects of her personality would grow, until finally, it would be as if Circutus had never lived. Ultimately, her life would become as if she had been born female and had lived as a female all her days.
Even now, she realized, her mental picture of herself was that of a young woman. She even thought of herself in the feminine tense. She was momentarily dismayed, but that emotion quickly fell before the power of the enchantment. She smiled to herself, and thought aloud, "This has some real possibilities."
- - You think so, slut? Well, let me tell you the whole of it. You are going to want men - many men, and soon. Very soon. Your female drives will become strong and you will need men to ease your needs. - -
Actually, she decided, that did not sound all that bad to her, but the exultation she sensed in his thought annoyed her. She would have to do something about him. Besides, she did not want to have to watch her back for the rest of her life.
She sighed, resigned to having to kill him. The last thing she needed was that swine looking for any and every opportunity to do her harm.
"That is it!" she crowed, before her eyes narrowed on the old wizard, her smooth brow furrowing in concentration.
Suddenly, his arms rose up, and his hands began to make a series of complicated gestures. His mouth opened and he began to sing. . . .
She felt confusion, then recognition and finally terror roil up in his isolated mind. - - STOP. . . Please STOP . . Nooooooooiiiiiiiiiiii. . . .- - and then, there was nothing at all there.
With victory came the spoils. Talachus' entire library and laboratory was now hers, and she consumed every bit of knowledge she could find there, her power seeming to grow with each word. Nor was it all that difficult for her to gain control of Talachus' island after that. What she had done to the old wizard had spread among the guards, and she could do that to any of them, without the need to use the trick she used on him. That she had done so only he could break the spell. Only she had made certain he couldn't break it - ever. Besides, she had the power gleaned from one of the ancient scrolls to "adjust" their thinking, just a bit - making them loyal to her.
It was a lovely day a few weeks later. She was out walking her pet on the beach when one of her favorite guards came towards her, leading a tall, bearded warrior. Her burgeoning feminine instincts responded strongly to the mere sight of him. He was really quite magnificent. She stopped and waited for them to catch up with her.
The guard stood to one side, ready to protect his Mistress, but the handsome stranger bowed deeply, taking her proffered hand to his lips. "Milady." he said in a deep, rich baritone that made her toes curl. "I am Odysseus, King of Ithaca. I am trying to get home from the great war, but my men and I need food, water and rest."
A dark smile creased her lips, as she acknowledged his greeting. "And I am Circe, Lady of this Island. You are most welcome here."
A loud, squealing "OOINNK!!" broke the pair's eye contact. Circe giggled, and leaned down to pet the large, very fat pig on the other end of her leash. "This is Talachia, milord. She is just a little cranky because she is going to have babies in a few weeks. Strange, but when we bred her, we couldn't keep her away from the boar. Talachia wanted him so badly." Circe offered with a sexy little giggle. "Still, it is her first time."
The large sow squealed again, but settled immediately when her Mistress gestured at her. "Now, Milord, Odysseus," Circe said, taking his arm, "come and let us see what we can do for you and for your brave men." With a flirtatious smile to her guest, she handed the leash over to the guard who took it very reluctantly. "I am *sure* I have a perfectly lovely place for them to stay. You, of course, will be my personal guest in my house."
And she led him up to her home, Talachia trotting docilely along behind them.
End of Before Homer © 1997, 2017 Tigger
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