The hype is real! Go check out Logan's Carrot Top-centric fic reviews!
Over here, on the other hand, we'll be doing something a bit different from usual. While helping my parents move some boxes, I came across a book I wrote in fourth grade. I give you... The Magician's Apprentice!
As you can see, my art skills were "on fleek" from an early age
See, at my elementary school, there was this big thing every year where the fourth- and fifth-graders got to write a "real book." The teachers would spend the better part of a month helping us plan and write drafts (at least four, IIRC--like I said, it was a big deal!) and stuff, and at the end of it, you got an actual blank hardcover book--sixteen 8x11 pages--on which to write your text and draw some art. We spent time studying how real books looked, put in the dedications and "about the author" pages, all that jazz. I was just getting on the D&D train at the tender age of ten, which probably explains the my story's fantasy bent.
Now, I didn't have more than a vague recollection of what I'd actually written. So, for your reading pleasure, I've typed up the complete text of The Magician's Apprentice, presented with page-by page commentary as I read it for the first time in... oh, at least two decades. Now, although the art is really... really something, I'm not going to take pictures of every page--you'll have to make do with the words. Even at that age, I was a verbally-oriented person, so you aren't going to miss anything important anyway. So without further adieu, enjoy a glimpse at what an overambitious young boy thought a quality fantasy story might look like, below.
This opening is what we in the reviewing biz call "exposition-heavy." I also love the idea that "sometime in your mid-twenties" was young me's idea of an unattainably long way away.
"Are you sure I'm ready for this, master?" 12 year old Riley asked Judiah, who was training him as a magician."
You must have confidence to achieve your goals," came the reply. Judiah placed a rock at one end of the room, while Riley sat at the other end. "Concentrate," said Judiah "all your power on the rock."
"Concentrate," Riley muttered under his breath.
The minutes ticked away. Then after a half an hour, the rock began to stir. Very slowly it began to move upward. After several hours, when the rock had nearly reached the top of the roof, Judiah said, "Loosen your grip. Carefully put it down."
Gradually the rock moved downward until it had safely reached the ground. "You have done well, Riley," said Judiah, "but much more work is required before you become a true sorcerer."
Riley sighed. "How much more?" he inquired.
"I would imagine you would be done sometime in your mid-twenties," Judiah replied bluntly.
Riley was about to protest when he heard hoofbeats. "Who is that?" he asked getting up from his seat.
Spoiler alert: if I am remembering any of this right, Riley's gonna power up from "takes half an hour to pick up a rock" really, really fast.
This is much better edited than I thought it'd be, even considering the attention that teachers (and parents!) gave to helping us make these things not terrible. The vocab's almost certainly all me, though; I didn't get nicknamed "dictionary" for nothing.
"Know not I," replied Judiah.Holy perspective shift, Batman!
As the rider approached, he saw a small cottage that seemed as if it would not hold such a great wizard, but he decided to check anyway. He knocked.
"Who approaches the house of Judiah?" boomed a voice from within.
Swallowing his fear, the messenger replied, "Falor of Nazoris bids you see him immediately."
"Very well. Now leave!" came the voice again. The messenger stood for a moment, transfixed. Then he jumped on his horse and galloped away at full speed. "Start packing, Riley." Judiah said. "We shall leave immediately."
Man, that messenger was just doing his job. Judiah's kind of a jerk. Comes with being a powerful wizard, I suppose. As does the need to Yoda-up your lines--except, just that one line, actually.
I should probably be more ashamed of a name as silly as "Falor of Nazoris," but... I mean, is it really that much sillier than some of the names you see in some actual fantasy novels?
The road to Nazoris was normally very calm, as it was now. Only one storm approached them, which was quickly ended with a wave of Judiah's hand. Things were quite different in Nazoris, however. There was a riot in town, mainly because of a public hanging about to begin. Riley and Judiah got through the mob with only a few bruises, mostly because of a shielding spell they both knew. Then came the challenge of finding Falor's house. The instructions given were too vague to follow and everyone they asked was too busy to say more than, "A big brown house," which was quite worthless for all the houses looked the same. But at last they met someone who had time to say, "Go three blocks let, five blocks south, and it should be the third house on your right." Judiah thanked him and they left for Falor's house.Here you can see one trait which young Chris and present-day Chris share: way too many useless modifiers. We don't need all those "mainly"s and "quite"s, buddy!
By page three, Riley's already progressed to shield spells sufficient to see him through a riot. The boy learns quick!
I take it back, Judah's actually not any more of a jerk than the average person in this world, since there idea of a good time is to passive-aggressively frustrate lost visitors.
I don't know if I'd quite grasped the concept of "pacing" yet, seeing as I thought that directions to a nondescript house were far more worthy of verbiage than a riot which leaves our heroes battered and bruised.
As they drew near, Riley felt a surge of power flowing through his body. Judiah felt it too. "Come," he said, his spirits lifting. "I think he's trying to tell us we're going the right way." When they reached to door, they saw a small slave. When he saw them he rushed inside, slamming the door behind him. A few moments later the door opened a crack. Then it opened wide. A thin, bony hand reached over and grabbed them, forcing them into the house.In a lot of ways, this world doesn't seem like a very pleasant one to live in, with the public hangings, and riots, and slavery... but at least they have easy chairs! It's the little things.
"(Cough. Cough.) What is the (Cough.) meaning of this?" wheezed Judiah, looking up at Falor from the dusty floor.
"Sit down and I will explain," Falor said solemnly. Judiah and Riley sat down in the easy chairs, then Falor began his tale...
There are several ways to indicate that a character is coughing. I'm pretty sure this isn't one of them.
I'm unironically loving the idea that wizards use an electrocution-based version of "hotter, colder" to help guide their friends. That's such a wizard thing to do, I think. WIZARDS, amiright?
"Lord Dreward was once one of the most powerful people in the world. Some people even went so far as to think of him as a god. But then the Sexans came. His army was defeated, his power abolished." Here he paused. "This you already know. What I tell you next will change your life forever." Another pause. "Since then, Dreward has collected all his followers. They are enslaving... all the magicians."Not one, but two "as you already know"s in a single page! Man, I'm glad I eventually figured out not to do that. Throw in the "change your life forever" and the dramatic ellipses, and we're really checking the cliche boxes here.
"What?!" cried Judiah. "How can they do that?"
"As you know," continued Falor, "only some people can learn magic. One sign of their abilities is that we have an unusually high temperature. Dreward's followers will 'accidentally' bump into anyone whom they are suspicious of."
"This is serious indeed," agreed Judiah.
"What can be done?" asked Riley.
"Let us sleep on it," suggested Judiah.
Maybe it's just me, but my first question after finding out that magicians are being enslaved wouldn't be "but how do they know who can do magic?"
I've done a complete 180, Judiah is my favorite character now. Anyone whose response to the threat of mass enslavement is "whatever, I'm tired," is worth reading about.
Everyone agreed with that. Next day the first thing done was to give the ideas that had been considered. It was the same all around. "Very well," said Judiah. "We'll leave to our kingdom; you stay here."I love how everyone took a nap, then decided to go home and do nothing about the news that would "change their lives forever." WIZARDS.
This time travel was much more perilous. Hundreds of storms battered them. Judiah halted them, but as soon as one stopped, another started. Eventually he gave up and the two walked home in the worst typhoon ever known to man.
Once they got home, Judiah took a magic book from his sack and placed it in a secret compartment under the oven.
Judiah turned to Riley and said in a low whisper, "Storms that number don't just happen. I suspect that Dreward is behind all this. Listen. From now on you will stay inside at all times. If you hear anything that might symbolize someone approaching, hide immediately, and do not come out until they have left. Understand?"
"I understand," replied Riley.
"If you hear anything that might symbolize someone approaching" is a phrase which perfectly encapsulates the difference between knowing what a word means, and being able to use it in a sentence.
A few nights later, Riley awoke to the sound of hoof beats. Heeding his master's warming, he dashed under the coffee table. At the door came a knock.Surely, nobody who searches the house will think to check under the coffee table! I like to imagine that Judiah assumed his apprentice would be smart enough to just stay in his room, and when Riley spergs out and tries to hide in the middle of the living room, he just sort of rolls his eyes and tries to make the best of it.
"Who is it?" called Judiah, throwing a blanket over the coffee table.
"Just some peddlers hoping to sell you our goods," the reply came.
"Just a minute," said Judiah going to open the door. He opened it.
Three men stood at the door. The first man shook Judiah's hand. When he felt Judiah's unusual warmth, he turned to the other two. "Grab him, boys!"
Judiah gave up without a struggle. "Why did he do that?" thought Riley. After all, he was perfectly able to beam them with hot acid or something equally destructive.
You know, there's really no reason why a fantasy world with a tech level that's, while not explicitly stated, clearly at the "horses are the main mode of transport" level of development, wouldn't have easy chairs and coffee tables, but those are still throwing me off more than I would have expected.
What do you suppose the ratio of actual wizards to sick people who were running a fever is among Dreward's slaves? 1-10? 1-50?
Hot acid: for when you want your foe to burn while he burns!
Nearly an hour after Judiah's captors had left, Riley came out of his hiding place. He knew he had to do something, but what? Then he remembered the magic book was under the oven. He went over and got it out. He decided it would be best to practice on simpler things before he tried to get Judiah out of the fix he was in. Going through the book, he found a spell to make a flower out of dirt. Unfortunately, the first time he did not get quite the right tone and he turned the flower into dirt. The second time he was successful in making a flower from dirt.Some of you may recognize this passage as the opposite of "showing." That's okay; who'd want to read a book about someone learning magic, anyway?
After several dozen other spells, all of which were more-or-less successful, he decided to practice teleportation before using it on Judiah. He first attempted to teleport himself to the other end of the room. Instead, he accidentally zapped a man from China into his cottage. He quickly undid the spell by saying it backwards. The second time he zapped himself onto the roof of his house which quickly gave in under his weight. The third time he finally managed to teleport himself to the other end of the room. He tried teleporting to several other locations just to make sure he fully understood the concept of teleporting. Next he tried teleporting other animals, mainly the badgers. This was easier because he already understood the concept of teleporting and he only needed to work it on someone else.Reminder that Riley needed half an hour to make a rock twitch just a few pages ago.
Apparently this story takes place on earth proper, unless "China" is just coincidentally the name of a completely unrelated distant land in this setting. Maybe it's post-apocalyptic? That would explain the easy chairs. Relics from a forgotten past--truly, the most suitable of chairs for a wizard.
"Mainly the badgers." This begs so many questions, and I wish young me was here, because I'm sure there's some way that that passage made perfect sense to me at the time, and I really want to know what it was.
This story is rapidly turning into an interminable list of "and then this. And then this. And then this." Peeking ahead a bit, that eases off soon... but not on the next page!
Then came the challenge. Carefully saying every word, making sure he did not say even the smallest mistake, he prepared to teleport Judiah back to the cottage. It was successful; however he also teleported one of the guards. As a sword was about to come down on his head, he froze the guard in place using a spell he had earlier found in the book. Judiah then teleported him back, erasing any memories of what had happened.This all begs the question: how the hell is Dreward keeping these wizards enslaved? If anyone's apprentice can pop them out with a few hours practice--well, look, we don't need to go through all the details. Suffice to say, I doubt we're getting a good explanation.
"I see you've been using my book, said Judiah, glancing at the hole in the roof. "My instructions from Falor," he continued, "were to find all magicians not already sought out by Dreward and with them return to Nazoris. While I do that, I want you to stay here. I shall be back before the sun sets, and then, after I've collected all the remaining magicians, we can leave for Nazoris."Gotta love all this exposition. I hope we get to find out exactly how many wizards each of Falor's other flunkies brings with him.
A few days later Judiah, Riley, and the four magicians Judiah had found left for Nazoris. On this third journey the waters were calm and few storms approached them.
Things were also calm in Nazoris, mainly because it was early morning and few people were up. Judiah remembered where Falor lived and, knocking on the door again, was dragged in. However he was ready for this and he warned the other magicians of this, so nobody was hurt.
"I see that you have found four other magicians," Falor said. "I have found four, two. I have instructed several other magicians each from other kingdoms to do the same. I estimate we will have roughly sixty magicians. I have also found about 200 warriors who are willing to fight for us. Unfortunately I am afraid they may not be enough to defeat Dreward."
"What about the elves?" suggested Riley. "They are creatures of good and would not join Dreward in his reign of terror."
"But of course!" said Falor. "Why didn't I think of that?"
I'm going to sum up the "finding all the mages in the kindom in one day, suddenly we're going to Nazoris by boat instead of road, etc." by saying, "I have major questions about the geography in play, here."
Here we see young Chris resort to one of present-day Chris's least favorite writer's crutches: in an attempt to make Riley seem smart, he makes everyone else an idiot. We don't have enough men to win a battle? Only a genius like Riley would think to go get more men (elves)!
Fun fact! You can date Chris fantasy writing and D&D reference materials by how he feels about elves. Here's the handy chart:
Age 10-14: Elves are cool! They're smart and live a long time!
Age 15-19: Elves suck! They're arrogant and pretentious!
Age 20-28: Elves are great tools! Any time I need to peeve a party, I can use a holier-than-thou elf who's not technically a bad guy, so they'll get in trouble if they try to murder him out of hand!
Age 29+: ...I mean, Princess Celestia is basically an elf, so...
Judiah left the rest so he could mind touch. (It's hard to use mind touch in a noisy room.)Oh, I'm sorry, did you think we were going to get some sort of negotiation, or something else that might add dramatic tension? NOPE! Instead, we're writing the equivalent of "I know a guy, let me make a phone call."
After about a half hour, Judiah returned with news that lifted everybody's spirits.
"The elves have 300 warriors and magicians ready, and they're trying to contact the halflings," Judiah announced.
Everybody became tense waiting to see what the halflings would say.
"Quiet everybody! I'm getting something!" Judiah cried. After several minutes Judiah said, "The halflings have 58 magicians on their way here now."
Why halfling wizards? Knowing young Chris, I have two theories. First, since halfings can't be magic-users in AD&D, I might have thought I was being super original by giving my halflings magic. It's totally something nobody's ever though of before, right? Alternatively, since halflings have long been my favorite race to play, my thought process might have been more along the lines of "I don't care what the game says, halflings should be able to be magic-users!"
Certainly with that we can beat Dreward! cried Falor. He turned to Judiah. "Tell the elves and halflings to teleport here at once. From here we can march to Dreward's castle." "The elves and halflings are doing so now," Judiah reported. After a few moments the elves and halflings arrived, as did the magicians with their spell books, and warriors with their arrows, spears, and shields. Falor said, "I already have the human infantry waiting for us just out of sight from Dreward's castle. We can teleport to them, and from there lead our offensive."So, I guess when the elves said they had 300 warriors, they literally meant that they had 300 warriors just sitting around in a circle with their armor donned and weapons at hand, waiting for someone to call and ask if they wanted to go to battle right this very second. Cool.
Teleportation being this common would seem to change... just about everything about how we fight, communicate, live our daily lives, and everything else. None of which will be addressed in this story, of course! No, this is a story where a pair of wizards walked and/or sailed to or from Nazoris three separate times, despite apparently being able to just pop back and forth whenever they wanted.
But hey, at least young Chris isn't stringing the reader along. We're going to war! Right freaking now!
"What do you mean we're under attack?" Dreward cried to one of his aids.Note that subtle bit of characterization when Dreward gives an "evil" grin? That's a very clever, totally effective way to remind your readers that the wizard-enslaver is, in fact, the bad guy.
"The elves, halflings, and humans opposed to you have united to destroy us."
"Well, call on the dragons and trolls. We shall crush the enemy!" Dreward said, an evil grin going over his face.
As the invading army approached, they were unexpectedly hit by a blast of hot air. Looking up, they saw an enormous dragon which had just teleported, followed by two slightly smaller dragons, a rush of trolls, and the humans on the side of Dreward. The soldiers sent a broadside of arrows towards the foremost dragon. Unfortunately, dragons are well protected by a thick coating of scales. The only places you can hit them are its nose, mouth, or on the eye. Soon, seeing that brute force could not overcome these monsters, they left the magicians with the dragons, and attacked the trolls. The men fought bravely, none more so than the famous Denyor, the "Original Hercules." Killing anyone in his path, he mindlessly ran through the mob, until he came face-to-face with none other than Dreward. "So," said Dreward, smirking, "we meet again." Then lunging forward, he cried, "This time you shall not be so lucky!"
If nothing else, I guess I'm glad that the bad guys can also teleport as much as they want, pretty much whenever. Fair's fair.
If I was a fighter in this situation, I too would respond to nearly-invincible dragons with a hearty, "forget that, I'mma go over here and fight something that bleeds when I hit it."
So wait, if Denyor is the "Original Hercules," does that mean that he predates Herc? Is this story set thousands of years ago? Explain the damn easy chairs, then!
Also, why did this story suddenly become about Denyor the murder machine and his mystery-shrouded backstory with Dreward? I don't know that I object to this change, but it does kind of make you wonder what the last 13 pages were for if we're suddenly supposed to be all about these guys.
Meanwhile, the magicians and dragons were matching their strength. As the dragons spewed fire balls, the sorcerers halted each one with magic missiles. Then Riley had an idea! Running to the battle ground, he grabbed a sword from a fallen soldier and teleported away, barely escaping a troll's clutches. "Where did the human go?" the troll said to himself, glancing around. Then he saw him on the dragon's head! At that moment, the troll was struck down by an elven warrior. Meanwhile, Riley stood on the back of the dragon's nose. Then, without any warning, he plunged the sword deep into the dragon's eye. The dragon reared up, roaring with pain, and flung Riley to the ground. Riley lay, unaware of what happened next. The dragon glared down at the creature that had given him so much pain.How does a magic missile stop a fireball? Your guess is as good as mine.
A moment of silence for the troll, whose perspective we randomly shifted to just long enough for it to get killed on our watch. RIP ;_;
Another offender in the "everyone needs to be stupid so Riley looks smart" category: so, it's just never occurred to any of these teleport-happy folk that, when fighting a dragon, your best bet is to teleport to where you can actually hurt it? Also, reminder that it took this kid half an hour to pick up a rock.
Kind of curious what sort of warning one would usually give when stabbing a dragon in the eye. "Excuse me, sir! This is going to hurt, but that's the intention, so, whatever!"
Suddenly Armin, a human magician known for his magic weaponry, grabbed his magic sword and went towards the dragon which was focussing its attention mainly on Riley. It is a fact of nature that all dragons have a weak spot in their scales somewhere or other; however, Armin was unsure where it was on this particular dragon. Using his common sense, he first began looking under the dragon, knowing that the dragon would probably notice him if he crawled on top of it. At last he found the spot, directly under the dragon's heart. The dragon was about to bring its left front leg down on Riley. Taking a deep breath, Armin plunged his sword into the hole between the scales. Steaming blood spurted from the wound. Jumping out of the path of the blood, Armin ran towards Riley. The dragon began to waver. Grabbing Riley, Armin rushed toward the other magicians who had been frying trolls, some of which had begun to attack them. The dragon fell, crushing many fighting trolls and warriors from both sides. The smaller two dragons fled, fearing for their lives.Between Aramin and Denyor (what happened to him, anyway?), we're adding focus characters at a prodigious rate as we near the end of the story. But hey, if Riley's just gonna lie down and sleep, I guess this story needs a real hero or two.
"Using his common sense... the dragon would probably notice him if he crawled on top of it." Can confirm, this is common sense.
If I was a dragon, I might be a little bummed that it was a "rule of nature" that my scales have a weak spot, but whatever--I'm still a powerful engine of death and destruction, right? That said, I would be peeved if my one vulnerable spot was right under my heart. Like, of all the spots on my body, it had to be right there? It couldn't be on my ankle or something?
I'm glad young Chris specified that Riley was about to get crushed by the dragon's left front leg. Really helps me visualize the scene, that.
The trolls continued to fight for fear of what Druward would do to them if they stopped, though their line was beginning to waver. The remaining humans, filled with new hope because of the dragon's death, fought more fiercely than ever. Soon the trolls were defeated. The bodies of every warrior were found after a thorough inspection, except those of Druward and Denyor. Celebrating their success with some of the finest wine in the castle that had just been captured, the magicians made merry. Nobody noticed Riley sneaking away to get another look at the dragon.If Riley doesn't find Dr(e/u)ard and/or Denyor out there, I'm gonna be mad. You can't leave that hanging, young Chris!
Also, I don't know why the bad guy's name suddenly changed spelling on this page, but I did it twice, so I guess it wasn't just a typo? Maybe I changed his name in one of the final revisions, but didn't fix every instance?
Also, I just generally love the idea that Riley would rather stare at a dead dragon than do some underage drinking. WIZARDS.
Still shocked by the monster's amazing size, Riley stared at the dragon in awe. Then he heard a noise like the clanging of metal. At first he ignored it, but it persisted until he decided he must have a look whether it was his imagination or reality. The sounds seemed to be coming from the northern end of the woods, so that's where Riley first looked. The sound became increasingly louder as he approached until he finally found the source of the noise. There were Druward and Denyor still engaged in hand-to-hand combat. As the enraged Denyor struck at Druward, Druward ducked and delivered a blow to Denyor's sword arm. Exhausted, Denyor dropped to his knees. Rushing over, Riley grabbed Denyor's sword and struck at Druward. It hit Druward in his back, fracturing his spinal column. Druward managed to stand but had power for little else. Forcing himself up, Denyor took the sword from Riley and plunged it through Druward's heart. Druward fell, blood gushing from his chest. He made no movement. The battle was at its end.So... nobody noticed these two still going at it while we were counting up the bodies, rounding up surrenderees, etc.? Okay, just checking. Somehow, this delivered both Dr(e/u)ward and Denyor, without satisfying any of the expectations I had for either. What the heck is their backstory? I already care more about these two than I do about anything else in this story, with the possible exception of Judiah's naps. Remember Judiah? We haven't seen him since page 13, it's been a while.
"It hit Druward in his back, fracturing his spinal column." Truly, a powerful line :P
Returning to the castle with Denyor, Riley was received with great admiration. "You have done well," said Judiah, "but you still have much to learn. You cannot be a real magician until your mid-twenties."NOT UNTIL HIS MID-TWENTIES? I laughed out loud that that was the line I decided to call back to.
Riley was too tired to protest. He left the hall where everyone was gathered and fell asleep on a pile of blankets in an empty room. It had been a tiring day and it was going to be a long time before he became a magician.
But hey, Riley has already learned the most important lesson from Judiah: that whenever there's something important going on, you should ignore it and take a nap. WIZARDS.
And then the story just sort of... ends. Like, the battle was over, and young Chris decided there was nothing else interesting to write, so he just goes to bed and that's that. Okay.
...And that's it! Man, that was longer than I thought; I wrote a lot of words for a fourth-grader. Anyway, feel free to compare this to something I've written in the last few years (Logan just reviewed one of my stories in that CT-themed review post I mentioned up above, if you're looking for a rec!), and see what a difference a couple of decades can make.