Chapter 6
The Hedge Wizard's Apprentice

Vigau, Arielle, Bonaventure

Gally could not help but feel a little on the shabby side dressed in her workclothes for her first trip outside the cottage. Giger's apprentice Yugo had bought her some nicer clothes that first day they met, but Giger insisted that she was on the clock and needed to dress the part if the people in town were going to accept her as his housekeeper. When she thought of it as going undercover, that added a little excitement to it.
Vigau was a small town of about five thousand bisected by the Antoinette River. Vigau was supposedly built on the spot where the woman the river was named after drowned. It was some sort of romantic tragedy that had all the marks of a complete fabrication.
Before the Mage Ban, the Phoenix Mages' Guild and the mages it trained were one of the main drivers of the local economy, but now nearly all of the factories had been shuttered and the magic-driven technology that provided most of the convenience to the average citizen's life had fallen into disuse. Apparently the transition to magic-free technology was a difficult and ongoing process. What little remained in use was tightly regulated and restricted. It all seemed like a lot of trouble.
There was a market district on the riverside several blocks from Giger's cottage. You had to get up close to dawn to get the freshest food from the fishmongers and greengrocers. Giger gave her the money and had her do the shopping, as was appropriate for a housekeeper. Most of the items were familiar, but some things she had never seen before. She had to remind herself that it was twelve deniers to the sou and twenty sous to the livre. Handling the wad of notes and purse full of copper and silver coins seemed strange to her, as if buying and selling was once a far simpler affair.
If there had not been more bags than she could carry, it was entirely likely that Giger would have made her carry everything back to house herself. Sure, part of it was to maintain the illusion that she was his employee, but part of her felt that he was milking it a bit. He probably enjoyed having a servant do his work for him. It was annoying, but Gally owed everything to him and so long as his demands were not too unreasonable, she had a hard time finding much justification to complain.
There were some things that she wanted for herself, like shoes that were more comfortable and underwear that was more substantial than the slip she woke up in, but that would have to wait for another time. The groceries had to get back home first.
During the outing, she noticed a couple of the bronze statues, apparently like the one she used to be. She did not make a point of it or ask Giger any questions. She just looked at them and wondered if those statues held people trapped inside like she was. If they were brought back, might they know something about the world they left behind?
She thought about the whole way back and while she was putting away the groceries back at the cottage. Apparently Giger took a great risk bringing her back, so doing it again was pretty well out of the question. That one Witch-hunter had not came back, but it was possible that they were watching Giger more intently now. If he tried the same trick a second time, he would most likely be caught, and where would that leave her?
Lunch was simple, just sandwiches and a salad, but Giger said he was expecting something more for supper. Gally had yet to make a meal that properly satisfied him. That was a concern for later, though.
She had to quickly go through the house after they ate because Yugo was coming back. Giger did not tell her much about Yugo, only that he was the son of one of the wealthier families in town. He had the potential to be a mage and so his father wanted him trained regardless of the Mage Ban. Giger was paid well for his trouble. Apparently Yugo's lessons alone accounted for nearly half of his income.
Speaking of Yugo, his knocking at the door prompted Gally to set aside what she was doing and go let him in. Ever the gentleman, Yugo tipped his hat to her, saying, "Hello, Miss Gally."
"Hello, Mr. Duchamp," Gally replied.
"Please, call me Yugo."
"How about I compromise and call you 'Mr. Yugo'?"
"If you must, Miss Gally," Yugo sighed. "I, ah, I was hoping we might speak on more intimate terms." He blushed. "If, if you don't think I'm being too forward, that is."
Gally found herself blushing as well. Awkward though he was, he was still fairly charming and handsome if a bit younger than she preferred. He was terribly kind to her, a complete stranger, and while she would like to take the high road, she would be lying to herself if she refused to admit that his wealth added to the attraction.
She was no gold digger, but even if she were, it would be a dangerous game to play and the last thing she needed to do was invite any more danger into her life.
"N, no," she stammered, trying to deflect without directly rejecting or accepting his advances, "it's just that... I, I'm the housekeeper. Yes. I'm just the housekeeper and you're a rich kid, I mean, you're more well-to-do and all..."
Yugo suddenly found the courage to step forward and take up Gally's hand in his own.
"Miss Gally, you needn't think like that," he said. "Our, our stations in life may be different, but... but..."
Gally had to quickly disengage or she would completely forget herself. She slipped her hand out of his and slidled around beside him.
"Ah, let me get your hat and coat for you."
Embarrassed and just a little crestfallen, Yugo doffed his hat and offered it to her, mumbling, "Oh, yes. Yes, of course."
While Gally was helping Yugo out of his coat, a hissing sort of chuckle directed their attention to Prissy perched on the arm of the couch.
"I could watch you two all day," she said with a cruel feline grin. "It's just like one of my stories." She then dropped her voice an octave as she play acted the scene. "'Miss Gally, let me take you away from all this.' 'Aah, Mr. Yugo!'"
Her voice became even squeakier than usual when she switched roles, mocking a swoon and writhing around on her back making kissy noises.
"P-Prissy!" an aghast Yugo--red as a beet--exclaimed.
All the horseplay was swiftly cut off by the sound of Giger's voice.
"That'll be enough of that," he said. Eyeing Gally and Yugo, he added, "You two can carry on your dime novel romance on your own time."
"Master Taus!"
Completely missing the point, Prissy sat up straight and asked him, "Giger, what's a dime novel?"
"A novel that costs a dime, obviously," Giger replied.
"What's a dime?"
Giger shrugged.
"I have no idea. Some long-lost bit of currency. Maybe worth a couple sous, which'll be coming out of your pay if you don't stop flirting with my apprentice and get back to work."
"I, I wasn't flirting with him!"
Yugo stepped in, hastily saying, "Master, if anyone was being untoward, it was me. Please don't--"
Giger prompt cut them off.
"Enough, enough, enough! Both of you, shut it."
Everyone went quiet. After a few moments of standing there in awkward silence, Giger looked to Gally and asked her, "Why are you still here?"
"I, I was thinking I might watch."
Giger did not seem too receptive to the idea.
"Do you think I'm some clown here to put on a show for your amusement?"
Forgetting appearances, Gally mumbled, "You sure dress like one."
Yugo had to stifle a chuckle.
"Miss Gally..."
Giger simply gave her a dirty look, but Prissy took greater offense and gave Gally a clawed swipe at her hand.
"Ow!"
"Prissy, down," Giger said sternly.
"You can't let the help talk to you like that, Giger," Prissy replied, her ears still pinned back in agitation.
Yugo attempted to mediate, saying, "Master, if it's alright with you, I don't mind if Miss Gally watches our lesson. She might learn something."
"I'm afraid of that," Giger replied, but he quickly relented. "Fine. Sit down and be quiet. One peep out of you and I'll have you scrub the tub again."
"Fine," Gally said, perhaps a little too surlily for a housekeeper who wants to remain employed. She corrected herself and recast her response. "Yes, Mr. Taus." As she sat down on the couch, she took note of the listless python and said, "Excuse me, Happy."
"I thought the clown bit was kinda funny," Happy said lazily.
"You shut up, scalybutt."
"Be nice, Prissy," Gally said.
Prissy pinned her ears back again and gave her a mighty glare.
"I don't take orders from you."
"Prissy, stop agitating or I'll have you scrubbing the tub," Giger warned her.
"Boo."
Prissy hopped off the couch and went to go sulk on top of one of the bookcases.
Looking annoyed as ever with all the disturbances, Giger said, "If we can get started, let's review. Tell me three advantages of the Agrippina Set."
"It's simpler," Yugo said, "so that makes it easier to remember and quicker to etch."
"That's one."
"But, Master, that was two things."
Giger held up two fingers and then lowered one as he said, "You gave me two sub-items of the first advantage, the Agrippina Set's simplicity. Two more."
Yugo had to struggle for an answer.
"Uh, the simplicity of the etching means less ring chalk is needed to craft the magic circles."
Giger stroked his chin and mused, "I don't know if I shouldn't count that as another sub-item of its simplicity."
"Please, Master, have some sympathy."
"Sympathy?" Giger balked. "If you want sympathy, go home and curl up on Mommy's lap. If you want to be a mage, you're going to learn the material. Give me three disadvantages of the Agrippina Set."
Curiously, the more irritable Giger became, the the quicker Yugo was able to answer him.
"The simpler runes mean there is more ambiguity that can lead to miscasts, but then, it's easier to check for errors."
"Well, whaddya know?" Giger said mockingly. "You found your third advantage, but you're still two disadvantages short."
Now that Yugo was answering, he did not get tripped up so easily by Giger pressing him.
"Yes, Master," he said dutifully. "The Agrippina Set can't be used for spells above the Fourth Circle and its use is barred from any competitive wizardry."
"Good," Giger said with only the faintest hint of praise. "Prod that brain of yours and the goodies come out. Now for a practical exercise." He picked up a candle off the reading desk and handed it to Yugo. "Use the Agrippina Set to etch a magic circle to light this candle." He then pulled out a pocketwatch out from within his robes. "You have one minute."
Yugo knelt down and quickly went to work, first drawing three concentric circles, overlaying it with a pentacle and several other auxiliary lines, then the runes. When that was done, he placed the candle in the center of the magic circle and stood up. Extending his hand toward the candle, he whispered a few words and a little tongue of flame suddenly appear on the wick. Gally politely clapped at the feat, which earned a derisive sniff from Giger.
"Don't be so impressed," he said. "That's a first year spell. Baby stuff."
"You always have a way of boosting my confidence, Master," Yugo said with a sigh.
"If you actually manage to impress me, I'll let you know."
"Was your master like this?" Gally asked.
"We don't talk about my master," Giger said brusquely. "But I'm a doting ol' grandma compared to him. And you just broke the 'not a peep' rule, so get to scrubbing."
Rather starting an argument, Gally simply gave Giger an annoyed look before leaving for the bathroom. As she was going, she could hear Yugo say, "Master, you really are too hard on her."
"It's for her own good," Giger replied. "Now let's get back to your lesson."