This story is by Taylor Deziel and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
There was once a man of great knowledge and reverence. He was gifted in the arts of both magic and alchemy, capable of what many believed to be inconceivable, whether it was to make things vanish, toy with elements or cure near all ailments. He spent most of his time travelling about and putting on shows in random towns. As amazing as this man was, he did not have a heart to match it.
His name was Roderick, although he was known well as The Wizard by some, or The Sorcerer by others. Roderick was often accompanied by his assistant, a lovely woman who went by the name of Raja. Her natural beauty was an attraction to the show all on its own.
With an incredible greed, and arrogance to match, these two accomplices cared for nothing more than their unfairly acquired riches. During their shows, one or the other stole from members of their audience. Rich or poor, that never mattered. They didn’t care whether or not the coin was someone’s bread the next day, or if another’s bracelet was a gift from their late grandmother.
It was remarkable just how well a disappearing act worked with some distracting true magic on stage. How enraptured people were to see something so simple as a floating light, or an emerging fireball. So fascinated, in fact, that they couldn’t even feel the hands in their very pockets.
One morning of the early spring, the pair had come across a rather quaint little town. They made their setup, and readied their plan for the coming audience. The two of them laughed in the meantime, mocking the misfortune and stupidity of their future onlookers.
Without question, their display was astonishing. The fireworks that came popping out of thin air, the gravity-defying orbs of floating water, the lightning that appeared to shoot from Roderick’s fingertips, but what may have been the most spectacular part of the show was Raja’s sudden vanishing. There was no puff of smoke, nor even a curtain hiding her from the sight of the audience. The woman had simply done a twirl and disappeared that instant, and without a trace.
Raja had teleported to an inconspicuous area behind the clustered crowd, but was now wearing a hooded cloak. The woman set to work almost immediately, picking pockets and skillfully removing the occasional piece of jewellery. She was quick, but every motion she made was deft; it was clear that she had been at this for a very long time.
The complete and utter lack of shame or conscience always seemed to pay off. By the time the show had finished they had an impressive haul, even if many of the people about had been on the poorer side of life. When the crowds dispersed the two retired into their cart and began to count or appraise their spoils. As it turned out though, not quite everyone had left, as there was a light tapping at the door of their wagon followed by a quiet, short fit of coughing. With a deeply set scowl, Roderick answered.
“What do you want?” he snapped, his eyes now fixed on the small girl on his doorstep.
After a step back in surprise, the child only smiled up at the scowling man. “I’m sorry to bother you sir, but I just had to tell you how much I enjoyed your magic. I’ve never seen anything like it before!”
Roderick couldn’t help but notice how raggedy her dress was. Dirty, her blonde hair unruly and her face had a smudge of dirt on one cheek. He crinkled his nose momentarily in disgust. “Well of course you’ve never seen anything like it before,” he retorted.
The lass didn’t seem to mind how harsh the tone of voice had been, and only continued to smile. “It was absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for coming here and showing us such amazing things,” she said cheerfully, even doing her best attempt at a curtsy. The girl then promptly ran off in the direction Roderick assumed her home was in.
“Odd little girl,” Raja had muttered to herself. Roderick, on the other hand, found his scowl softening as his eyes trailed after the child. It was the first time he had actually been thanked by anybody in a span of years, let alone by someone who had nothing save for the clothes on her back.
The following day, Roderick and Raja put on a second performance. This one was even more brilliant than the previous day’s, drawing in double the people. Roderick found himself scanning the crowd for a particular face, and managed to locate it quicker than he’d expected. The kid from the day before had come back again for the show, and was clearly delighted to be there. Occasionally she would stop to cough, but her grin always came right back again.
Roderick couldn’t help but smirk a little — a real smirk, not the showman’s facade he typically plastered on his face. As a part of his act, he had a sparkling dust cloud float over to hover above her head. A rose suddenly took its place, and fell into the girl’s hands. The girl squealed in a joy only the most genuine of children were capable of.
Once their second show was over, the two performers were planning their third and final appearance for the next day while going over their loot. It was during this time that they heard another tapping at their door, causing both Roderick and Raja to frown a little. This time both of them answered the door, and this time found themselves glowering down at a young boy.
“Please sir, my sister, she’s very sick. We’ve tried everything. With your magic, maybe you can help her?” the little boy pleaded.
Raja laughed it off and headed back into the wagon. Roderick only continued to scowl down at the boy, clearly annoyed. “What makes you think I would help your sister?”
“Because you can do anything! I’ve seen it, she’s seen it!” The child had the beginnings of tears in his eyes. “We believe in you!”
Roderick knew he was highly capable of curing near anything, sure. But did he care about some random little girl’s sickness? Not really.
“She’ll get over it. Go home, kid,” he said, closing the door behind him. He only just barely heard the boy saying something else, but the closed door muffled it all.
For the third and final show, their act was absolutely magnificent. Almost the entire town had arrived — but after some speculation, Roderick noticed that there was a face missing. One face that he almost felt that he had been looking forward to seeing.
The little girl was missing.
At first Roderick found himself disappointed — disgruntled, even — but carried on with the show as normal. By the end of it he felt rather tired, and didn’t assist Raja with the counts that day.
Another knock. Roderick was opening the door before the little boy could finish knocking. His red-ringed eyes only stared at Roderick for a moment at first before he continued his light crying. He held up the rose Roderick had given the little girl.
“You could have saved Sari,” he stated with a deep, saddened grimace. “You could have saved my sister.”
Roderick’s heart sank. This wasn’t supposed to happen. It wasn’t supposed to be that little girl. He snatched the rose away from the boy and inspected it only for a moment before he ordered, “Take me to her.”
The boy obeyed Roderick, but once they got there the man saw the truth. It was too late. There was nothing Roderick could do to save Sari now. The one he had been looking for that day, the little smiling face in the crowd, was gone. For the first time in years upon years, Roderick began to weep. There was nothing he could do to bring her back, and all because he disregarded that little boy’s pleas for help.
With more heart than he had used in years, Roderick worked his magic and put on a funeral that would have suited even a princess. Despite the lifestyle Sari had come from, Roderick made sure the entire town had arrived to pay their respects. Sari’s innocence and purity only deserved the best possible send-off he could manage. As his final goodbye, he placed the rose back into her tiny, enclosed hands.
Roderick had a change of heart after that day. He began to help people rather than shoo them away, or to use his magic for good rather than a distraction. Very slowly, Roderick also lead Raja into the light.
Sometimes, even a little good in the world can help mend some of the bad.