"REGINA, FETCH MY RETORT, the one with the green liquid."
The girl looked among the shelves until she located the required glass container. She picked it up and handed it to Wychol.
"Here it is sir."
He grabbed it from her.
"Now watch this, girl!"
He poured several drops of a concoction into the green liquid; it turned bright red. He stirred it with a glass rod and gazed at the results for a couple of minutes. He then rummaged in a small box, pulled out a ring. Regina saw that it had a dull green stone.
Wychol held it up. "An ordinary cheap ring you say? Yes indeed, it is now. But not for long. Behold!"
He dropped the ring into his liquid. There was a brief fizzing, then all was still. Regina knew the wizard liked to dramatize his magic. Sometimes there'd be no result at all: Wychol would act as though that were his intention. This time there was a reaction. After a few minutes the wizard fished the ring out; the stone was now a beautiful deep red.
The girl was impressed. "It's beautiful sir."
"Beautiful! Harummph. It's much more than beautiful. When this ring is worn, it enables the wearer to become invisible. Tonight I'll give it another treatment that'll add truth-seeing and the ability to travel through solid materials to its powers. How's that for one ring?"
"That's wonderful. Will you demonstrate when it's ready?"
"You wish to be overwhelmed with my magic? Of course I'll demonstrate!" He looked around. "Gina, find Gorchack for me; I need him for my next magical achievement. Where is that crow?"
Regina walked around the wizard's house. "Chacki, where are you? Pretty boy, come to Reggie!" She found him on a ceiling beam in the dining area. "Oh, there you are. Chacki, come to Reggie. C'mere boy!"
The bird landed on her shoulder. "For you I'll come, you're always nice. Rak! How about a tidbit?" She handed him a small piece of meat.
Gorchack continued, "I suppose old beardy-face wants me for some of his fascinating magic marvels! Oh well, it's my lot in life. Lead on Pretty One! Craak!"
She returned to the laboratory. "I found him, sir."
The wizard held out his arm and Gorchack hopped onto it, then onto his shoulder. Wychol was creating another concoction. The crow watched the proceedings with interest.
Wychol turned to the girl. "What I'm doing now takes concentration; don't need you here anymore. Go fix some food or sweep the floor or something."
Regina took a basket and went outside to the small vegetable garden she tended. Most of the area was given over to the wizard's herbs and stuff. She'd set off a small plot of her own and guarded it jealously. You'd think she was stealing from him, for the fuss Wychol made.
She picked a few items that were ready. Though it was still summer, she tried to plant at various times so she'd have ripening goodies for as long as possible. While she worked she wondered about herself for the hundredth time.
Reggie'd worked for the wizard for as long as she could remember. She knew she wasn't his daughter. She had a dim memory of a warm fire and a waiting lap. There was a dog, she remembered hugging him. She thought perhaps there was another little person like herself, but she wasn't sure.
Regina was fourteen now, that memory must've been a long time ago. She pushed some stray hair out of her face and continued to examine the garden. She had the blackest hair; Gorchack told her once it was the same colour he was. She kept it tied in a braid; it went halfway down her back, and she always had a few hairs that un-braided themselves. She rarely had the opportunity to look in the mirror, if she had she would have appreciated how the colour in her cheeks lit up her dark eyes.
Gina finished her harvesting; she had some ingredients for a salad and some enhancements for the main dish. She was pleased with her garden. She'd rescued the area as it was becoming totally overgrown, collected the seeds and re-cultivated.
She'd learned to cook on her own; they'd had some barely digestible meals as she experimented. Now she fancied the meals were pretty good. Very often she ate by herself or only with Gorchack; sometimes Wychol ate much later. She knew he'd eaten because she'd find the dirty dishes in the sink or on the table when she arose the next morning.
Regina started to prepare dinner. She'd found an old cookbook, it had helped tremendously teaching her to cook. Recently she'd learned to make stew, which she was fixing that tonight. It was a good opportunity to use her harvested vegetables. She didn't know what Wychol thought of her cooking; he rarely came out of his magical thoughts to pay attention. She knew Gorchack appreciated the meat and vegetables she gave him.
Tonight the wizard joined her for dinner, it was the first time in many weeks. His eyes were shining, his thoughts on something he was doing in his laboratory. That wasn't unusual, but he was so excited this evening he was just short of chuckling and rubbing his hands together.
At first the wizard didn't eat much, but the stew was good. Without seeming to show any enjoyment, his plate emptied and was filled twice. Regina took that as a compliment to her cooking. After the stew there was a plate of cookies she'd baked. Wychol ate several, so did Gorchack. That crow had the most unusual tastes for a bird! Regina tried to imagine Gorchack eating worms, and shook her head with the failure of it.
After dinner Wychol got up and left, leaving his dirty dishes for Regina to clean up. He didn't call Gorchack, so the crow stayed with the girl, plying her with comments as she cleaned up. He also begged for a few more cookies. Gorchack perched on her shoulder, ready for anything she might hand him. He spoke into her ear. "Something big's going on. 'Spect it'll happen tonight. Think he's going to take on Kino."
Kino was another wizard. He probably lived far away, Regina had never seen him. Wychol and Kino were rivals, always trying to outdo each other.
By the time she finished with the kitchen Regina was tired. She went to her little room, escorted by Gorchack. The bird flew to play among the ceiling beams while the girl got ready. Once she was in bed he sat next to her. She knew he wanted to be stroked, he seemed to love to feel her hand caressing him. After a while he sat on her headboard.
"Goodnight Gorchack," she said.
"Goodnight Pretty One."