Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology

  Only a Gentle Breeze - A Short Story

I'll tell you a tale about weather. I know a bit about the subject, ye ken, me being a wizard. Of course, wizards aren't supposed to dabble with weather - all this fuss about the butterfly wing in China and the storm in the US, I'm sure you've heard that one. And a wizard can do considerably more than flap a butterfly wing.

To be honest, I'm not much of a wizard. I failed the examinations twice, and they let me pass the third time only because they were tired of seeing me dragging my sorry carcass along the corridors of the Faculty of Wizardry.

It was the language, ye ken. Spells are in Latin, and this is a language I doubt even the Romans were able to speak correctly. But well, I passed, Latin or no.

So, I went out of the University Main Building with this yellowish piece of paper, signed by the Chancellor, and looked for a job. Wizards aren't exactly the most sought-after specialists to begin with, and a wizard whose spells come awry more often than not, doesn't stand a chance.

I tried to transfer myself to New York, it being the largest city and all, but instead, I landed down in the south, in Tampa. It's a nice place, but they didn't need any wizards. Well, I finally found work in a rather shabby pub in East Tampa. But it wasn't bad, I got the beer and whisky free, and I had a room upstairs. I spent most of the days on the beach - when I didn't sleep, that is.

I went on like this for a year or so, when one evening a dragon entered the pub. Believe me, I had got used to some strange customers during my time, vampires and gnomes, and the odd orc, but a dragon had never frequented the pub before. It was not large as dragons go, only seven feet, its scales of a nice emerald shade, with a thick tail and folded wings at its back. It asked for a beer and emptied the mug quite neatly, considering the crocodile-like head; it spilled less than half.

"My name is Fenice," the dragon said, "and I'm looking for a wizard. Do you perchance know whereabouts I might find one?"

"Why would you need a wizard?" I asked.

"Mmmm," Fenice muttered, "that is not a matter to be discussed in a pub."

I nodded. "We can meet upstairs in my room when my shift is over." I felt just a wee bit curious, I admit.

So it came, we sat on my bed a few hours later, Fenice and I. No, don't you have any funny thoughts about the arrangement, it was only that both the chairs in my room suffered from broken legs and I was too lazy to mend them. I never needed chairs, I only needed the bed and the TV. And the fridge, but that's a different story. You want to know? Well, I love ginger ice-cream. It is hot in Florida.

So we sat on the bed, and Fenice told me his story. A sad story it was. There had never been many dragons, and now their number was diminishing even more. "People don't care about us," Fenice said, "Hell, most of them don't even believe in us any more."

"I never thought Enlightenment was a good thing," I agreed, "no more need of magical stones since they've invented electricity, and most wizards are out of work because of these blasted computers."

It turned out dragons were dependent on people to believe in their existence, else they would fade away. Getting smaller and smaller, and finally vanish. "There is no dragon taller than eight or nine feet any longer," Fenice said. "Imagine, we were once the mightiest species in the world! Hey, you know some of us came out the size of a ten-storey house some seventy million years ago."

I didn't know. In fact, I had no idea dragons were the descendants of giant dinos. But then, I always had some suspicions they did not teach us everything at school. State control and such, ye ken, keep people ignorant and they'll vote for you. Because they can't think.

But back to dragons, it is.

What about the weather, you ask.

I'll come to that, too, I promise. Just have a bit of patience, and have another wee dram. It is my story, after all.

Fenice and his kin wanted to emigrate to China where dragons were still treated with respect. And they wanted me to create a wind to take them there.

I know I should have told Fenice I wasn't supposed to dabble with the weather. But then, a little wind - this couldn't be so dangerous, could it? Just to get the dragons up into the jet stream which would carry them directly to China.

I must have looked a bit doubtful, I guess, because Fenice brought out this bag of gold - and that settled my doubts. I bet it would have settled yours, too.

Next morning, I took the bus to Fort Desoto where the dragons were hiding. Fenice flew above us, but no one cared to look up. He was right, people no longer acknowledge the existence of dragons. I had never seen a dragon flying before and it was a sight to behold. They are beautiful creatures, flashes of rainbow colours against an azure sky.

They would really need only a gentle breeze, I told myself, fingering the gold in my pocket.

I had looked into my spell-books last night, for the first time since I left the University. I now murmured the spell to myself several times.

I should not have done that.

I began to confuse the words, and the harder I tried to remember the sentences, the more messed up they got. Finally, I gave up. The moment I needed the spell, I would remember it - hopefully. Yes, ye're right, I'm an optimist.

There were a dozen or so dragons gathering at the Ladley Battery in Fort Desoto, a lot of flapping wings and big swishing tails all around me. Two or three of them blew a bit of fire and smoke, just for fun. I got a cigarette out of my pocket and lit it, inhaling deeply and blowing rings.

The dragons first stared, then laughed. They tried to imitate the smoke ring trick.

"You must indeed be a wizard," one of them said.

"Well, I know a spell or two," I replied. This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration. "Are you ready?"

They nodded their crocodile heads and formed a circle.

I tell ye, one thing I had been good at during my studies was performance. I stood up, donning the midnight blue cape I had brought with me, swirling it dramatically, extending my arms. I felt like d'Artagnan, "en garde."

Then, I began to invoke the spell.

A few minutes later I tried to figure out what the Hell had gone wrong.

Menacing dark clouds came flying from all directions. The temperature dropped at least thirty degrees within seconds. The sea got choppy and turned from turquoise to grey, soon high waves were building up and crashed ashore, and some of the sun-dried brushwood played tumbleweeds. The wind tore at my cloak. I knew there was a reason why even wizards had adopted blue jeans.

The dragons spread their wings, nimbly lifting of the ground. With the wind increasing the way it did, they would reach the jet stream in a few minutes.

I let my cloak go and hovered on the broken concrete floor in the shelter of the mortar battery. The storm howled like a score of demons escaped from Hell. A funnel formed out of the clouds, reaching down into the sea, drawing up water, mussels, seaweed and jellyfish. And of course, the whole wet and slippery mess dropped exactly on me.

Have you ever been buried in jellyfish, mussels and seaweed? No? Be glad. It feels really ewww. But it cleared my head right away, and I did remember what went wrong. I had confused paulum with pallor and invoked a wind of fear instead of a gentle breeze.

I shook the smelly things off me. Some of the damned jellyfish had burned my skin. I wanted to go home, but the storm was so strong now I couldn't keep on my feet. I used my girdle to tie myself to one of the cannons; I didn't want to play dragon and fly. I would never make it to China, not to mention I bet Chinese is as difficult as Latin.

Waves splashed at the boat ramp down by the Fort, creating havoc with the boats moored there. The owner of the pub would be furious, one of the yachts was his. Serves him right, showy bastard that he was, always impressing the girls with his boat and his Mercedes. You wonder how the owner of a shabby East Tampa pub can afford a Mercedes? Sex, drugs, and rock'n roll, that's how. Some of the vampires are very ... lusty, if you get my meaning, and most of the orcs loved special pipeweed Gandalf likely never heard of. Not my thing, though. Whisky yes, drugs no. That's why I don't have a yacht.

Poverty can be an advantage, I thought when I saw all the boats crushing and sinking. Or would you have liked to see your yacht going bubble bubble and disappear?

Rain began to pour, or rather, it whipped through the air horizontally. The tornado continued its path of destruction, surging into houses and trailers like a giant vacuum cleaner, spitting them out in pieces some hundred metres further.

The sky turned from dark gray into black. Thunder rumbled. Fine, I thought, that's just what was missing so far, a thunderstorm. And albeit the spell was wrong, its result was amazing. The thunderstorm turned out to be the best I've ever seen. Too bad I was outside, crouching as close to the ground as possible. It might have been nice to watch it from the security of a warm room with a window where the water would not leak in through the frame. Well, I had no such room anyhow.

Must I describe a thunderstorm to you? The lightning zigzagging across the sky, the deafening thunder, the hail? I bet you've seen one or two of these. Only, you've never seen the likes of the one I was in the middle of. I really wanted to go home.

It took two more hours until I could do that. I called a taxi with my cell phone - wizards do make use of advanced technologies sometimes, especially if they can't trust in their spells. Fortunately, the tornado had gone off into another direction, and there was not much damage in Tampa itself. The taxi driver gave me a strange look when I paid with nuggets instead of dollars. But he took them and zigzaged his car around the debris. Don't ye wonder about that, they were worth much more than some crumpled green notes.

I got a whole bottle of Whisky from the tap room and went upstairs. I changed into dry clothes and threw myself onto the bed, switching on the TV.

Weather forecast had it, the tornado, which totally unexpected had formed over Tampa, was moving north and would hit a number of counties. The reporter pointed at a map with a lot of blue and green lines and yellow dots, speaking about low pressure systems, cumulus clouds, vortices and such.

I hope they will never find out.

People gave me suspicious looks the following weeks. Makes you wonder how fast the gossip grapevine proceeds in a town like Tampa. I had no idea anyone but the owner of the pub and that one elderly lady I once helped with her car did even know I was a wizard. Well, business was going fine for some time. There were some customers who wanted to see the Wizard of Tampa, snobs who would else frequent fashionable downtown places like the Chartreuse. I invented a new drink called Tornado - and believe me, I didn't use any spell with this one, only vodka (lots of), whisky (also lots of), tomatoe juice, jalapenos, chilies and a bit grenadine syrup. It left people breathless, I tell ye. Even the vampires liked it.

It was less fun when a reporter team from CNN came down to investigate. But I mixed them several Tornados, and when they left the next morning, they didn't even remember their names.

After some time, the town got back to normal. The rich snobs bought new - and larger - yachts, and again spent the nights at the Chartreuse. I continued to tap beer in the pub and go swimming on sunny days. I still slept a lot.

Then, one day, this large parcel arrived, with a warning written on it, "keep frozen". Do you want to know what it contained? Ice-cream. Lots of ginger ice-cream. And a postcard with greetings from Fenice, "They believe in dragons here in China. Thank you."

Did I mention I love ginger ice-cream?

Baltic Sea near Warnemünde
Not Tampa Bay but we do get some nasty storms, too.
Comments copied from my other blog:

Joely Sue Burkhart said...
"Well, I know a spell or two," I replied. This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration.

Priceless! What a great short story1
3/06/2008 8:07 PM

Bernita said...
Awww! Sweet!
3/07/2008 4:05 AM

IanT said...
That's great fun. :-)
3/07/2008 5:01 AM

Carla said...
Hasn't this been on your website? I'm sure I read it and loved it there, ages ago. It's my favourite of the short stories you had posted there. He sounds a little like Rincewind....
3/07/2008 6:34 AM

Ann said...
That was fun. And let me just add, I've been to Tampa Bay, I've seen some of their storms, and this explains quite a bit. :)
3/07/2008 7:45 AM

Sam said...
Very fun -
I love ginger ice cream too - I got very hungry there at the end!
3/07/2008 7:51 AM

Gabriele C. said...
Thank you, Joely, Bernita, and Ian.

Carla, that must have been before I started my blog, I think. I had no idea anyone knew about my website then. :)

Thanks Ann, I wasn't sure if I got the atmosphere right since I've never been there. Glad it works.

Lol Sam. *evil grin*
3/07/2008 9:54 AM

Tim King said...
Hi, Gabriele. I really enjoyed this, more than anything else of yours that I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Great beginning, great middle-- Loved the ending. Thank you so much for sharing it and not keeping it buried in some nondescript pile of "maybe I'll sell this one day" shorts. I've been feeling a little Sylvia Plath this week, and this story really made my day.


P.S. Did I mention how much I loved this story? I did.
3/07/2008 10:16 AM

Meghan said...
I agree with Joely Sue. I like the whole "This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration" line!
3/07/2008 1:38 PM

Jen said...
That is so cool! I was squeaking with laughter, and Mom looked over and asked me if I was crying. Lol! Nope, just Gabriele.

3/08/2008 6:47 AM

Gabriele C. said...
Thank you, Tim. I'm glad I was to get you out of your funk for a bit.

Thanks, Meghan and Jen. It's such a nice compliment to hear I could make people laugh. Laughing is balm for the soul. :)
3/08/2008 11:30 AM

cherylp said...
"Well, I know a spell or two," I replied. This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration.

Laughed out loud over that line! Cute story, and I liked the ending.
3/08/2008 12:09 PM

Constance said...
Hey, I like this!!
3/08/2008 6:51 PM

Gabriele C. said...
Thank you, Cheryl and Constance.
3/08/2008 9:15 PM

Kirsten Campbell said...
"Well, I know a spell or two," I replied. This was not modesty, it was an exaggeration.

I giggled. A lot. :)

That was a fun story, no torture and betrayal in sight! The ending was lovely.
3/10/2008 5:36 PM

Gabriele C. said...
Lol, thanks Kirsten. Sometimes a writer needs a break from all that torture and betrayal. :)
3/10/2008 6:45 PM
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The Lost Fort is a blog based on my travels in Germany, the UK and other places, with essays on Roman and Mediaeval history illustrated with lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes. You may also find the odd essay about geology or Mediaeval literature.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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Location: Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History which doesn't pay my bills, so I use it to research blogposts instead. I'm interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who hasn't yet gotten an Instagram account. :-)