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My Son, the Wizard

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My Son, the Wizard

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Author: Christopher Stasheff
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1997
Series: A Wizard in Rhyme: Book 5
Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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Matt Mantrell--Her Majesty's Wizard--conjured himself from magical Merovence to Jersey City for a long-delayed visit to his parents. Back in his hometown vicious, drug-dealing gangs had reduced Matt's old neighborhood to a wasteland, driven his father out of business, and forced his parents to the brink of destitution and homelessness. The only answer was for Matt to transport them--permanently--to Merovence.

But once back in that realm with his parents in tow, Matt found that Merovence and the neighboring Kingdom of Ibile faced imminent subjugation by the conquest-hungry Moors. As Queen Alisande led her army to engage the enemy head-on, Matt launched his own campaign--with the aid of his fledgling wizard father, the faithful dragon Stegoman, and a hapless tag-along thief. Grappling with djinnis, matching wits with a Moorish military genius, and trading spells with sinister sorcerers, they sought to root out the real enemy behind the mayhem: a cunning and deadly wizard who served the most evil master of all...

Don't lose any time! Join Christopher Stasheff and return to the wondrous, adventure-filled world of A Wizard in Rhyme!


The air over the broad table shimmered and thickened, coalescing into a pint-sized gryphon who took one look at the man who had conjured it up, screamed, and shot toward him with talons reaching out.

"'But the haunch and the hump and the hide of the law is: Obey!'" Saul intoned. "Land on my shoulder--and don't pinch!"

The gryphon changed course on the instant, wheeling about Saul's head to land on his shoulder--gently. It furled its wings and glowered at Saul resentfully, but it obeyed.

"Amazing," Matt said, staring. "And it'll work on any kind of monster you conjure up?"

"Any kind I conjure up, yes," Saul said. "How it will work on something an enemy calls up, I don't know." He snapped out a quick verse, and the gryphon disappeared.

"Very impressive," Matt said.

Saul shrugged irritably. "I don't do magic just to show off."

"No, you do it to share your research with an ally who might need it--and I very easily might. Thanks a lot." Matt smiled. "I thought you didn't do magic at all--or do you still think this is all one massive hallucination?"

"No, I've admitted to myself that it's real, at least in this fantasy universe, " Saul sighed, "and that I can actually make strange things happen by reciting poetry. I still don't buy that idea about the magical power coming from either God or the Devil, though, with no gray source in between."

"How do you explain the difference between white and black, then?"

"How do you explain the difference between white and black on an old-fashioned TV screen?" Saul countered.

Matt shrugged. "White is where there're a lot of electrons hitting the back of the screen, black is where there are none--if you absolutely have to call it 'black'; it's all really shades of blue."

Saul nodded. "Same thing. Whether it's good magic or bad magic depends on what it's used for--which is to say, it depends on the person who does the using."

"You think it's a talent, then? Not something everybody can learn to do, like physics and chemistry?"

"I'm not all that sure that everybody can learn physics and chemistry," Saul countered. "I think there's definitely a matter of talent involved in being a good engineer. And I know it takes talent to be a good magician--we've both seen people try, reciting enough poetry to burn down a forest but only lighting a campfire."

"So everybody can do it, but not everybody can do it well." Matt nodded. "Yeah, I'd have to agree. But how come a poet like Frisson just happens to have such vast power?"

"Because the same talent that makes a poet, also makes a magician--at least, in this universe," Saul said. "I'm not sure yet, but I think there really isn't any distinction between them."

"So I'm a powerful wizard because I have enough of the poet's talent to love literature, and get a body-rush from it--but not enough to make up any real poetry."

Saul nodded. "But Frisson, who makes up good verses the way he breathes--sheer instinct, can't help himself ..."

"And emits great poetry at least once a week, without realizing it." Matt felt the bite of envy.

"Right. He also happens to be such a powerful magician that he was a walking hazard, until I taught him how to write down the poetry instead of chanting it aloud whenever the Muse hit him."

"Like lightning to a lightning rod." Matt nodded with a wry smile. "Yeah, I'd have to say it's a matter of talent."

"Sure." Saul shrugged. "Otherwise, every peasant would be memorizing spells from birth, and everybody would be shooting magic around so often that a whole village would burn down every time somebody got a little irritated with somebody else."

Matt stared. "You mean magical talent could be a countersurvival trait?"

"Unless it happens to be linked to genes for unusually good judgment and amazingly good self-restraint, yes." Saul gave Matt a bitter smile. "Now do you see why I don't like to work magic if I don't
have to?"

"Yeah." Privately, Matt didn't--he thought Saul was one of the most levelheaded people he knew, and his massive self-restraint was only partially disguised by the hippie ways that he tried so hard to live out.

Matt turned and looked out the window. "There's the other reason why you don't like to work magic."

Saul came to stand at the tall clerestory window, looking down into Queen Alisande's private garden, where the queen and Lady Angelique were comparing babies. "Oh, how right you are," Saul said softly. "You never know when a spell might backfire and hurt them. That's why, when I do have to do some chanting, I go off by myself, at least a hundred yards from the house--and I'm very careful."

He always had been, actually, where other people were concerned, though he tried to seem indifferent. "Glad you could come visit," Matt said. "There aren't too many women that Alisande can relax and gossip with."

"Well, our ladies aren't god-sibs, but I get the point," Saul replied. "Sir Guy and Lady Yverne don't stop by too often, then?"

"Christmas and Easter. Other than that, Sir Guy only shows up when there's trouble. We'd like to invite them to dinner, but we don't know where they live."

"You mean he doesn't even tell you?"

Matt shook his head. "Security nut. Mind you, I probably would be, too, if I had a wife and babies and was heir to a broken-up empire--especially if I didn't want to be emperor, and thought the individual kingdoms were doing just fine the way they were."

"Well, when you put it that way, it does sound like justified paranoia," Saul admitted. "It would kind of make him liable to be a political pawn."

"Yes, and with people he loves as hostages, he could be very vulnerable indeed," Matt agreed. "Easier to stay hidden--and safer for everybody concerned."

"Suppose so," Saul allowed. "Does kind of make me feel sorry for Yverne, though."

"She knew it going in," Matt sighed, "and knew she could have been queen of Ibile, too. She doesn't seem to have any regrets, but I notice she does a lot of talking whenever she's here."

"High energy level, no doubt," Saul agreed. "One more who thinks of this castle as a home away from home."

"Yeah ... home." Uneasiness prickled Matt's conscience. "Be nice to be able to visit the folks again."

"No it wouldn't." Saul's voice had an edge to it. "Me, I had a pompous autocrat for a father and a phony pill-popper for a mother. I like your world just fine, Matt."

"My world, yes." Matt felt a glow as he looked out over the wall of the private garden to the courtyard, and the castle towers beyond. "My world, my home ..." He glanced down at his wife and son again and felt the glow spread. "Be nice if the kid could meet his grandparents, though."

"Yeah," Saul answered with a mirthless smile. "How do you think they'll feel about having a prince for a grandson?"

"Fine, considering who the queen is." But conscience pricked harder. "Kind of too bad we had to get married without their blessing, though ..."

"What were you going to do? Send a limo to bring them to the church?"

Matt looked up with a sudden glint in his eye. "Maybe. Just maybe I could have!"

Saul stared at his face and shuddered. "I know that look. The last time you had it, you got hung up on translating an indecipherable parchment, and look where that got you!"

"Yeah, with the perfect wife, a prince for a baby, and the highest position in the land next to hers! If all my ideas work out that well--"

"If," Saul said, interrupting. "You have a knack of developing dangerous projects, lad."

"Dangerous? Me, A.B.D. in comparative literature? How dangerous can poetry be?"

"Plenty, in a universe in which magic works by rhyme, and literary criticism is equivalent to theoretical physics. What bomb are you planning to explode this time?"

"Hey, if I could travel here, I should be able to travel back, shouldn't I?"

"Forgive him, St. Moncaire," Saul called toward the heavens.

"Wouldn't the saint want me to pay attention to my mother and father? I mean, Saul, five years! Five years since they heard any-thing from me! They'll be frantic!" This time conscience stabbed, and deeply.

"Not so long as that," Saul reminded him. "Remember, you'd only been gone a few days when I started hunting you, but it was two years here."

"Time moves faster in this universe, huh? But that means it's been a week there!"

"Yeah, a week, and you a hundred miles away in college! Tell me they're worried sick."

"Yeah, there is that." Matt turned to watch Alisande again, calming a little. "Probably not worried at all."

"Didn't sound like it, when I talked to them. Your mother just told me to look for you on campus. Hey, you never told me she was an immigrant."

"Yeah, came from Cuba when Castro--" Matt's head snapped up. "You talked to her!"

"I wouldn't say that. My Spanish is only a little worse than her English, and--"

"You phoned them!"

"Sure." Saul frowned. "You'd disappeared without leaving any word. Of course I thought of trying you at home!"

"But you got them worried! Now they know... --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Copyright © 1997 by Christopher Stasheff


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