What happens when a wizard gets a hold of a cuckoo clock
Drake sat on the rickety stool near a table. Ticking filled the air like a swarm of angry bees. He stared at one of the hundreds of cuckoo clocks that hung above him on the wall. Unlike the more traditional clocks, this one looked like a castle, complete with turrets, gargoyles, a trebuchet and little knights that would come out every hour, chasing a dragon.
Or was the dragon chasing them?
Drake could never tell.
His favorite part was when one of the towers caught on fire and burned.
His master had enchanted the clock when he had come of age. Now it was Drake’s turn.
The scratchy red robe—the formal attire for wizard testing—made his skin crawl, and the black cape pulled at his skinny shoulders, making him feel like he was going to topple off of his perch.
But the hat was the worst. Could they have nice, pointy hats where he could store his wand? No. They had to have big, bulbous things that looked like a turtle had camped on his head. And despite all of the room in them, he was not allowed to store anything there. Not even a snack.
Drake fingered his wand—a long, thin piece of hardwood that he’d pulled from a tree when he was six. That had been seven years ago. His time for parlor tricks had ended, and now his master expected him to enchant his own clock.
It sounded easy on the surface, but to do it properly, he had to change the structure of the thing while keeping the gears aligned so it would still tell time. Also, he needed to understand how to alter the characters. Which again sounded easy, but trying to talk a tiny wooden goat into becoming a much larger and more ferocious troll was going to be difficult. Not to mention twisting the house—a safe and warming place—into a stone bridge that the troll could live under.
Drake pictured the clock as it was now with its friendly house, a family and their animals along with the weights, and then went through each step for the transformation in his mind.
The really tricky part was going to be making the front porch into a flowing river.
As far as Drake knew, no one had tried it before. He would be the first. His name would go down in wizard history, just as his master’s had for the tower that burst into flames each time the clock struck twelve, and then rebuilt itself an hour later.
No one had shown Drake how to do any of this. Not directly. Magic was a mystery, and while they guild provided young apprentices with a Master, often the secrets had to be learned through trial and error.
It would be easier if their world had hard and fast rules for anything, but it didn’t. One day the sun would rise in the east, then in the west the next. Sometimes clouds would bring rain and other times they would rain down fire.
But magic, that was different. Once you made your own rules, you had to stick with them. Drake’s master could not do water magic. He’d used fire magic on his clock, and now that’s how his magic worked. No one knew what would happen when a young wizard enchanted a clock.
Once in a while an apprentice would disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.
Drake didn’t want that, but he also didn’t want to perform lesser changes on the clock and get stuck doing menial tasks for the guild for the rest of his life.
One of his friends, just two years older, had simply changed every color on their clock. Drake’s eyes darted to it. Now his friend sat in a clothing shop, adjusting colors of dresses, scarves and hats for women.
Drake wanted to shine. He wanted to be able to move along the rivers, which were deemed too dangerous for travel. With water magic, he would be able to do that.
The swish of robes sounded as the Elders entered the room.
Drake sat up straight and turned to look at them.
Six wizards—men and women—entered. His master followed them, holding Drake’s clock.
Drake had been waiting for this moment for years. He expected a big speech about magic and how it would change him and about all the good he could do. He was prepared for several minutes of rather dull exposition before they would get to the matter at hand.
None of this happened. Instead, the elder Elder dipped his head, his mustache brushing his knees, and spoke. “Are you ready?”
Drake blinked. “Uh, yes.”
The elder Elder motioned to Drake’s Master, who brought the clock forward, and set it on the table.
“Then proceed,” the elder Elder said.
It took a moment for Drake to catch up. The wizards stared at him. He slid off the stool and went to the table. He closed his eyes, picturing everything he wanted to do, and then willed the changes into the wand.
He spoke to the goat, assuring the animal that being a troll would be much more fun than being a goat. He sent cold into the house and twisted it into the bridge. Each character saw reason and transformed into its new form.
Then Drake concentrated on the stones. Movement. Water. Cool. Pure. Bubbling.
A light gurgle sounded. Drake put one last push into it, and then opened his eyes.
A smile spread his lips. He’d done it. He looked at his Master, and then the Elders.
They looked mildly impressed.
I opened my mouth to speak, but a bubble came out.
The elder Elder nodded. “Water wizard. Very rare. Very volatile.” He looked at Drake’s master. “Get him to the river before he dries out.”
Drake felt his eyes wide.
“Not to worry,” the elder Elder said, “maybe you can fix the tides.”