“Then Grandfather faded from view and was gone,” Fyodor said. “The tower, all of its riches also vanished and I was left in an empty field holding this pencil and an old book.”
“Wow, that’s one heck of a tale,” Ruslan, Fyodor’s oldest friend, said. “I bet if you told that at the festival you’d win the storyteller award again.”
“Didn’t you listen, Russ? I can’t tell that tale. It reveals a weakness of wizards and that would put them at risk. I don’t think a wizard would thank me if he found out I was spreading tales of their one weakness.”
“Yeah, that would probably be bad. So, did you try it yet?”
“The pencil, dummy, did you try using it?”
“No. After I returned Father’s horse yesterday I came right home and I’ve been trying to figure out what to do ever since.”
“What did your father say about all this?”
“Are you kidding? I didn’t tell him. He’d either think I was lying or try to take the pencil for himself. He never liked the fact that I was so close to Grandfather and he wasn’t. You’re the only person who knows.”
“Well, Fyodor my friend, you have to try it out. Draw something; make some magic.”
“Come on Russ, I’m not a wizard. I’ve never made anything better than this shack and it leaks like a sieve. I think Grandfather was mistaken. He was really old and dying after all.”
Ruslan’s hand snapped forward as fast as a lightning bolt and he slapped Fyodor on the head.
“Idiot. Pyotor the Wise was the most powerful wizard in the land, maybe in the world; do you honestly think he’d be mistaken about something like that. Try it; draw something.”
Fyodor rubbed at the sore spot which Ruslan’s calloused hand had left on his head and opened the book.
“OK already, no more hitting. What should I draw?”
“Do I need to smack more sense into that thick head? We’re both dirt poor Fyodor, try drawing money. It’s something simple and if it works, you’ll be rich.”
Fyodor nodded and flipped to the back of the book to one of the few remaining blank pages. He gripped the pencil tightly and held it just above the paper. He was always better with words then art. His father could draw as well as Grandfather but Fyodor had never been pulled toward the graphic arts, he was a storyteller. He could weave beautiful words which made his audience feel like they were living the scenes he described. Words couldn’t help him here. Should he draw piles of money? No, just a single coin was probably the best choice. He would draw a single gold coin and see if he really had the power.
He jabbed the pencil at the page and began to draw with a shaking hand. The perfect circle of gold he could see in his mind became more of a lopsided oval with jagged edges. The beginning and end of the circle completely missed each other and he was forced to draw a short line between them to complete the circle. The king’s profile held more resemblance to a bovine than the regal image which graced actual coins. He scratched the pencil back and forth attempting to shade the coin in a way that mimicked how light actually danced across the surface. As an afterthought he added small lines to indicate reflected light. Grandfather had said that intent mattered as much as the drawing, so in his mind Fyodor chanted “gold coin” over and over hoping that his intent could replace his horrendous skills with the pencil.
When the final flourish was added to his drawing he felt a rush move through him. It was like the tingle one feels in the middle of a violent storm when the lightning strikes close by.
On the ground between Fyodor’s feet a glow appeared. It grew in brightness until Fyodor and Ruslan were forced to look away. There was a slight popping sound and the light was gone. In its place was a coin, it was not the gold coin which Fyodor had imagined in fact it was like no coin he had ever seen. The coin was misshapen and made of some dull red-brown metal. It was covered with strange writing and an image which might have been a face if you squinted just right.
“What the hell is that?”
“Who cares,” Ruslan was almost shouting. “You did it Fyodor; you did magic.”
“But that’s nothing like what I wanted.”
“You just need to practice. I have an idea, let me show you some tricks to draw it better.”
Ruslan snatched the book from Fyodor’s lap and held out his hand for the pencil. Fyodor hesitated, but only for a moment; Ruslan was his oldest friend and confidant, he could trust him. Fyodor passed the magic pencil to his friend. No sooner had Ruslan seated the pencil in his hand than he screamed and flung the pencil away.
“What the hell, Russ?”
“It burned me. Oh God Fyodor, it hurts.”
Fyodor looked at Ruslan’s right hand and saw that the fingers and palm where the pencil had rested were charred and blistered as if he had held an iron hot from a fire.
Fyodor ran into his hut and brought a bucket of water, bandages, and a soothing salve. Ruslan’s hand soon looked like a mummy encased in thick cloth. The salve eased his pain but it would be a long time before he could use his hand properly again. Once his friend was tended to, Fyodor went in search of the magic pencil. He found it several yards away and hesitated before picking it up. He steeled himself and only used his fingertips to retrieve the pencil. It was cool and dry to the touch; there was no sign of the heat which had burned Ruslan.
“It’s not hot now,” he said.
“Nice defense mechanism,” Ruslan said. “The damn thing will maim anyone except the wizard who owns it.”
“So what do I do now?”
“Practice, Fyodor. Practice. Try drawing something else, maybe you’ll do better with a different subject.”
Fyodor had always wanted a horse. He hated borrowing his father’s mare. The old man always berated him for his lack of money to purchase his own horse and made Fyodor feel like he was stealing the food from his father’s mouth by borrowing it.
Fyodor began to draw. A tubular body and pipe stem legs soon appeared on the page. His tongue protruded from his lips as he concentrated on how a horse should look. A jagged line traced a vaguely horse shaped head and a sheaf of scribbles made a mane and then a tail.
“Something’s happening,” Ruslan said.
Fyodor could see the glow beginning to the side but kept his attention on his drawing. He added more scratches to indicate fur and small triangles became the hoofs of his drawing. The attendant popping sound of something coming into being brought his head up just as Ruslan began to scream.
A creature of some sort stood between the young men, but calling it a horse would have been generous. It was vaguely horse shaped but its body was too immense for its twig-like legs to support. It collapsed to the ground almost immediately. The creature’s ribs appeared to be on the outside of its body and spiny growths covered it in patches. The tail and mane looked more like barbed wire than hair and the things face was the stuff of nightmares. It had a single eye and a gaping crooked mouth, entirely devoid of teeth and lacking a throat. The beast possessed no nostrils and the men could hear the creature struggling to breathe.
“Kill it,” Ruslan shouted.
Fyodor rushed to the hut and returned with an axe. He swung it with all his might and split the creature’s skull in half. The monster convulsed and then lay still.
“I can’t do this. I’m not an artist.”
Ruslan’s face changed, it was as if a light had been kindled inside and the glow could be seen through the skin.
“Fyodor, what if we’re approaching this the wrong way? It’s a pencil, right? Just because your grandfather drew his desire it doesn’t mean you have to. A pencil can draw or it can write words. You’re a storyteller; describe what you want in words.”
Fyodor looked at the monstrous corpse cooling at his feet and then at the alien coin; he couldn’t do worse than he already had.
He sat on a log and began to write.
“The house was a thing of beauty. Its walls rose a dozen feet from the ground. The stones used to form the walls were square and true and fit together with nary a space between. Round windows graced the front of the home, set skillfully in the stone. The door, hewn of oak and bound with heavy steel straps, provided protection but was welcoming to guests. The roof rose to a high peak; its slate shimmered in the afternoon sun. Far above the ground a golden weather vane slowly turned above the peak of the roof.”
As Fyodor wrote a glow encompassed his hut. As he wrote and the image grew in his mind the glow intensified. Fyodor was so engrossed in his description that he didn’t notice the glow but Ruslan was entranced. He shielded his eyes as the glow became as bright as the sun. A pop, as loud as a cannon shot startled both men. Ruslan stumbled backward and Fyodor jerked his head up from his writing. The mouths of both men fell open in wonder; where Fyodor’s humble shack had once stood a beautiful stone home now rose. It was as beautiful as any home either man had ever seen; it appeared fit for a noble.
“You did it,” Ruslan whispered, awestruck.
He turned and clasped Fyodor in a powerful hug.
“All hail Fyodor the Wizard.”
“Fyodor the Wizard,” Fyodor said in a distant voice.
He sat on his log once more and drew the book onto his lap; he had much to write about.
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