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SilasCrane t1_je65atw wrote

"Is that...dirt?" the Castellan asked, as he nervously watched the grubby old conjurer flinging dust from a sack about the Duke's wine cellar with abandon.

The old man cackled. "Naw! Powdered stone, this is. I get it cheap from smithies and the like -- comes off the grindstones, you see. There's some metal filings mixed in, of course, but that don't do no harm. Metal's just fancy stone, when you think about it."

"I see." the Castellan said, uncertainly, as he continued watching the hedge mage's curious display. His lordship had insisted the cellar be made free of vermin, after his son the Ducal heir was badly frightened by a rat scuttling across his legs he was reclined on a pile of old sacks in a far corner of the cellar, "perusing" some of the fine vintages that had been laid up beneath the Ducal keep. Unfortunately, his grace had also been very firm about reducing household expenditures, leaving the Castellan with little choice but to consider less conventional -- and less costly -- means to remediate the cellar's rat problem.

After several minutes watching Bartholomew the Budget Mage work his alleged magic, however, he was beginning to think he might have been better off paying for a proper wizard out of his own pocket. The man may have come highly recommended from artisans and workmen about the town, but common folk were rather easily impressed, after all.

After a few more generous handfuls of dust had been flung about, Bartholomew stepped back.

"You'll want to back up a fair bit, squire," the mage advised, making a shoo-ing motion in the Castellan's direction. He frowned, but did as the conjurer bade him, retreating to the bottom of the stairs that led into the cellar, where Bartholomew soon joined him.

The mage rolled up his grimy sleeves, and made a series of arcane gestures as he
muttered an incantation. An almost imperceptible draft stirred the gray dust strewn about the stone floor, but the spell had no other visible effect.

"Well?" the Castellan prompted.

"Done and dusted, mate," the mage responded confidently, clapping the stone dust from his hands with an air of finality.

"But nothing happened!" the Castellan protested.

Bartholomew snorted. "The hell you say!"

The mage shuffled over to a corner, bending down and mumbling to himself as he nosed around some empty barrels that had collected a layer of dust even before his arrival. The Castellan reminded himself to have the cellar thoroughly cleaned. That would probably do more lasting good than this old fool's "magic," in any case.

After a few more moments, however, the mage straightened with a triumphant "Ha!"

He turned to the Castellan who momentarily recoiled as he saw the huge rat the man held up like a trophy.

Bartholomew laughed. "Don't worry squire, this'n won't be bothering you no more." He tapped the stiff, motionless rat against the wall, making an unexpectedly sharp clattering sound.

"'s turned to stone!" the Castellan exclaimed, his horror fading away to wonder.

The old mage grinned. "Yep! You can poke about the place and pick 'em up at your leisure, they're not going anywhere. Far better than poison, if you ask me, since stone don't rot and start to smell after a day or two."

"Brilliant, sir!" the Castellan cried. "I must say, I fear I have misjudged you, master wizard -- you work wonders at a bargain price!"

Bartholomew waved away the praise. "Naw, I ain't no wizard, squire! I reckon I'm good at what I do, true enough, but I only know the one spell, after all."

The Castellan frowned. "Only one? But, I was told that it was you who cured the miller's boy."

The mage stroked his chin, thoughtfully. "Who, Tom? Oh, yeah, I remember him. Good lad. Glad I could help."

"But I heard the boy was dying of consumption!" the Castellan exclaimed. "Surely you didn't just turn him into stone and call that a cure?"

Bartholomew laughed again. "Naw, 'course not!" He shook his head ruefully, "What people forget, squire, is that magic is based on words, and words can mean more than one thing. I didn't turn him into stone, I turned his consumption into stone. A kidney stone, to be precise. Mind you, the poor lad wasn't happy for a few weeks after, but eventually he passed the stone and recovered, which is better than what would have happened otherwise."

"Amazing....and Rolfe the guardsman told me you alleviated his brother's madness. Did you turn that into a kidney stone, as well?" the Castellan inquired, curiously.

The mage shook his head. "That was a disease of the mind, I couldn't turn it into a disease of the body. I had to stretch some definitions there, to be honest: he was mad before, but now he's just stoned, instead. 'Fraid he's still not going to be going back to work any time soon, but he's also not likely to hurt himself or no one else. And you should hear 'im play that lute of his, now!"

The Castellan laughed. "Extraordinary! You know, even with that limitation, I'm surprised you're not someone's court wizard -- I mean to say, what lord wouldn't want a wizard in his employ who can turn anything into stone? The military applications alone!"

Bartholomew tilted his hand from side-to-side noncommittally. "It's both more and less useful than you'd think, squire. Turning things like consumption and madness into stone is easy. The bits of a man's brains that make him go mad are tiny, and the little buggers -- 'animalcules' the scholars call 'em -- what cause consumption are even tinier still. I don't have the power to turn nothing big into stone. That requires more knowledge than what I've got, and more expensive materials than just stone dust, besides."

"But what about the rats?" the Castellan asked, gesturing around the cellar.

"Well, this cellar's ancient, squire. The keep above has been rebuilt a few times, but this cellar has been here since the Duke's first ancestor. A well-defined space that's been around for ages? Places like that concentrate and amplify magic. I reckon that's why you find so many wizards in old ruins, and so few in brand-new houses." Bartholomew explained. "But even here, I couldn't control the magic very well. That's why I made sure to get you to stand back -- any living thing in the cellar would have been turned to stone, not just rats."

"Ah, I see..." the Castellan said, nodding slowly. Then he froze. "Oh Divine..."

Bartholomew blinked. "Squire?"

The Castellan ignored him. He sprinted down the rows of wine racks to the far end of the old cellar, then rounded the three huge barrels of common wine at the end. His eyes widened in horror. There, behind the massive wine barrels on a pile of old sacks, lay the Duke's son, along with several empty wine bottles, a half-full bottle still tucked into the crook of one arm that, like the rest of the Ducal heir's body, was now made of dark gray granite.

As the Castellan stared in mute disbelief, Bartholomew plodded up beside him. When he saw the Duke's son, he let out a long low whistle.

"Huh. Well, this one's gonna be tricky..." the budget mage muttered.


VibesInTheSubstrate t1_je67aar wrote

Very entertaining read and a fun interpretation of magic. Just mad I didn't guess the mishap at the end.


bopperbopper t1_je6yegk wrote

I thought the yeasties in the wine were going to die


MechisX t1_je863zz wrote

How does one "un-stone" something? :/


Yvels t1_je8phs7 wrote

Makes dust out of stone. No body no crime.


daareer t1_jea8dnp wrote

maybe trying to turn the stone to stone cancels the effects out?


DishOutTheFish t1_jebxzi6 wrote

Turn the stone into a kidney stone, mayhapses! oh wait, stone kidneys....


PresumedSapient t1_je8vw0c wrote

The revealI expected was the stock of yogurt and all the seeds in dried fruits to have been turned into stone (since those are 'alive'), maybe the cat.
Killing off the duke's son... that's a harsh lesson on prepping your work area for Bartholomew.


Urgettingfat t1_je8rvmo wrote

Well this was nice. I don't stop by here as often as I used to, but this made me feel like I was in writingprompts from years ago. Old man sounds like he has some great stories!


Modo44 t1_je9daez wrote

Nice Terry Pratchett vibes here. Rincewind would just nod in appreciation.