Eli had always found his family’s toadstool quite adequate. Arched door at the base. Circular stairway, opening into the great room. A cook stove, a table, a couple of sleeping palettes.
That is until he fell in love with Miaska.
Miaska came from drier ground. Her people lived in hollow trees. Their furnishings were not limited to what would make it up the stairs. They had separate rooms for cooking and individual shuttered sleeping hutches. Why Miaska’s hutch even had a knothole window!
How could he, a simple wizards apprentice ever compete with that?
No matter how many times Miaska assured him she would be happy living under a broad leaf if it meant they could be together, Eli just couldn’t shake the feeling that he would be doing her a great disservice by taking her as his wife, only to subject her to living out her days in a damp, windowless toadstool with not even a small room to call her own.
Eli lay awake for nights on end wrestling with his own thoughts, trying to decide whether or not to propose to Miaska. He became distracted in his work. One afternoon when he mistakenly used a newt’s eye when the spell clearly called for a gnat’s eye and nearly caught the Master’s wand on fire, the Great Master sat him down.
“My Son,” the Great Master always addressed him as Son when he was preparing to enlighten him. “It is not necessary for me to employ any great feat of magic to ascertain the root of your distraction. For I was once young myself. Yes. Young and very much in love.”
Eli’s eyes widened as the intensity of his interest increased. He had never heard the Master speak of his own youth, let alone admit to any frailty of emotion such as love.
Sensing that he had garnered the interest of his young apprentice, the old man settled his walking stick between his knees, grasped the crowning crystal with both his age gnarled hands and rocked gently as if deep in the clutches of a beloved memory before continuing.
“Yes. Love. Her name was Adeline.” The Master paused reflectively and Eli saw the shimmer of a twinkle come to life in the old mans eyes. “Oh, she was beautiful. Tresses of gold. Eyes like the summer sky. Skin.. Well, suffice it to say she was a rare beauty. She came from the north. From the Winterlands with her father, whom I might add was a viable wizard in his own right, but I digress.”
“They came in search of Hollyhock. Quite common in these parts, but virtually unattainable in the frozen north from whence they came. In those days, Hollyhock was widely used by practitioners of necromancy. Although her father was not a particularly skilled necromancer, he had been called upon by an ancient tribe of Natives, humans that is, who’s own medicine man failed miserably when it came to conjuring the dead, and they found themselves in more or less an immediate need to seek direction from their ancestors as their young people were abandoning the old ways in vast numbers, which was wreaking havoc during the summer hunting season as there were no longer enough strong young braves to bring down the number of bison required to feed the ever growing population of their tribe. It seems they had taken to procreating in great numbers in order to make up for the number of able bodied men that saw fit to..”
“Master! Please!” Eli boisterously interrupted, his voice wavering with both fear and frustration. “Adeline! I must know what ever became of your great love for the beautiful Adeline!”
Bolts of lightening quickly erased any twinkle that may have ever shimmered in the Grand Master’s eyes as he leveraged his bent frame against his walking stick, and pulled himself into an erect position.
“Hollyhock. Poppycock. The woman was a tramp. Threw me over for some sorcerer from Schenectady.”