Judging from the looks of things, Danner really must take a long look at her apprenticeship to the wizard Cloudraft... and whatever else is going on in his castle laboratory.
" 'Dannie' is what Cloudraft called you, I heard him with both my own ears. Now how do you want to explain that little slippie-wippie of the tonguey-wungy?" I asked my relative and friend Danner, who was seated in front of the inn's fire with her injured leg propped up on a bucket with a cushion on top. "Seems to me that if anyone else had omitted the honorific in favor of a cutesy-ism, you'd have leveled him first and said 'Did I hear you correctly' later."
"If you hadn't brought me a beer, I'd be ready to level you. You're mistaken." Danner took a long drink from her cold mug and followed it with a piece of redolent sharp cheese.
"Tell the truth," I commanded. In response she shut her eyes like an annoyed cat and turned her face toward the fire. "Hah! I knew there was a reason Lady Seaguard had it in for you! She's jealous! She had her eye on Cloudraft for more than just the prestige of having a wizard living in the castle, didn't she? Ah, but along there comes Dan Ur-Jennan and suddenly, Cloudraft the Great is Cloudraft the Ga-ga over the shaman who is now his apprentice."
"I think I'd rather hear you find a different topic of conversation. As in, how are the baboons and raccoons and you faring out in the barn?" From the way Danner was rubbing her temples with one hand, another subject was a good idea. I had no intention of leaving the conversation alone long, however.
"The baboons think that being dry and warm with vegetables from the marketplace to be a kind of heaven. I'd tend to agree with them. I myself hadn't slept in a hay barn for so long I'd forgotten how nice the scent and insulation can be. The raccoons are happy with the fish we got them, but Marjorie is starting to get cranky about finding a den or apartment of their own before she has those kits. Her language has taken a turn for the worse along with her temper." I moved away from the hearth as some cold travelers came to stretch their hands out to the warmth. "Does Cloudraft have any idea how to undo the spell that made them all talk?"
Danner pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. "I don't know; I haven't talked to him."
"Maybe you should," I offered, moving again to get away from her reach.
She pointed a finger at me. "I'm telling you, Aser, I am pretty damn sick and tired of hearing his name mentioned in every discussion we have."
"Listen, Miz Apprentice and Junior Shaman, don't point your magical finger at me unless you want a whole lot more trouble than you have now."
She tucked her hands under her armpits. "Leave me alone about Cloudraft."
I stood up. "You know, you and Mr. Unmentionable Wizard need to sort out your difficulties. I'm going to sneak a beer out to the barn and share it with Narsai. That should tell you something about your mood; if a friend would rather drink and talk with a baboon, you may want to reassess your state of mind." I pretended what she said after me was unintelligible, otherwise I might have been insulted or offended.
Danner should have written me a letter asking for advice. "Dear Aser," the letter should have said, "My master and I have got the giddies for each other. But we had an argument and he said I was stupid and I said he was dull, and now we're both mad at each other. I'm more angry than he is, but he's still a jerk. I know I'm not stupid, and I wish there was some way to patch things up. Any suggestions?"
"Yes," I would have written in reply, "I do have a few.
"First of all, as master and apprentice, you have a professional relationship to consider. He is responsible for everything his apprentice does, and you are bound to listen to him and learn the things he decides to teach, be the subject how to grind up bats' wings or conjure a spell to give your enemy hemorrhoids. As his apprentice, you can approach him and say, "As your apprentice, I believe I have much to learn." He will then either continue your education (in which case your task is to learn) or revile you (in which case your position requires you to keep your mouth shut and accept your punishment) or he will kick your stubborn ass out of his chambers, although that will entail him finding you another master to study from lest he be blamed and sued for your resulting escapades.
"Secondly, as regards the little hearts and bubbles floating above your heads, you've got to get a grip. There is a time and a place for romance, but it is not in the laboratory. If you can't surmount the amorous feelings while you're learning, at least find a place other than the incantation room for holding hands and making daisy crowns. If you can't leave the cootchies behind at the door of the classroom, then you should make other arrangements for learning.
"Thirdly, go to your wizard-master and talk. Tell him what you've told me. If he understands, then go on from there. If he is truly an idiot, then ask him to find you another placement.
"Fourthly, if you can't bring yourself to be humble, and you're still too angry to talk, you may seek recourse in mediation. Have an upright, honest official act as referee in the matter, and listen to the mediator's advice."
Yes, that's what she should have asked, and I would have answered.
I collected a beer from the bar and stepped out on the porch. Cloudraft held a small book in his hand, but he was staring at the pouring rain.
"Why don't you whip up some magic and make it stop raining?" I said to him.
"Nature knows what it needs," he replied. "One can suggest, but not control."
"I think you ought to keep that thought in mind while dealing with Danner, too -- that is, if you want to keep her as your apprentice."
"Apprentice," he mused. "Yes, I must re-evaluate our arrangements."
"Yes," I told him, "because I may not want to sleep indoors, either."
That got his full attention.
"Oh, did I forget to mention? I'm coming with you to Oceanwind. And just off-hand, it may be time your Lady Seaguard had a course of instruction on how to leave a shaman alone."
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