Basil & Fabian - A Wizard & His Man

Chapter 8“That’s Cows for You”

20 July 2014 — In which the consequences of Fabian's youthful foolishness are revealed, and Fabian learns the true significance of his father's saying. 5014 words. 17 minutes.

It was her. Definitely, unforgettably her. To Fabian, it was like being splashed suddenly with cold water. Shocking. Breath-stopping. He drank in the sight of her.

Anathema Anathema

He drank in the sight of her

She’d aged, he realized, and not particularly well. Almost as startling as finding her here was discovering hints of gray in her long, dark hair, which she wore in a single pony tail that reached to the middle of her back. Spidery lines whispered from the corners of her smoldering eyes, and her fingers—like her smock—were paint-stained. There was a purple smudge on the tip of her nose that Fabian found inexplicably endearing.

But, wait…

There had been screaming. He looked around, confused. He remembered Monsanto locking the door.

“What…what’s going on?” he stammered, looking back and forth between them.

Anathema laughed. “It’s a trap, Fabian. Not so hard to understand. And you walked right into it.” She stood up and smoothed her smock easily, comfortably. Her voice was level, a velvety contralto that still sent chills down Fabian’s spine, but her eyes… He realized that, for some reason, she really and truly despised him. Had his prank really hurt her so badly?

He held out his hands. “Why, Anathema? Was it the letter? I’m sorry, I really am. I had no idea—I wanted to explain, but Fergus—”

“You ruined everything, Fabian.” Her voice burned. “Somehow, you knew exactly the wrong thing to do. Your brother insisted it was just dumb luck, but I’ve always wondered.”

“I…don’t understand.”

“It doesn’t matter. All that matters now is vengeance, but your brother refuses to do anything. He has you in the dungeon! You escape twice, and he still sits on his hands! He refuses to act! His heart is too soft for what must be done.”

“Fergus?” Fabian asked, eyes widening. “Too soft? You think Fergus' heart is soft? I’m sorry, Anathema, but you don’t know him like I do.”

“Know him?” she shrieked. “I don’t know him? I’m his wife!”

Fabian felt his legs give way and he sat down—hard—on the cold stone floor. “His wife?” he asked. He was sure he’d misunderstood.

She laughed incredulously. “You really didn’t know? Unbelievable.”

“But, when?”

“It doesn’t matter. You’re here now. You will die, and everyone will think you simply escaped, and got away. My life will still be miserable, but at least I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you aren’t in it anymore.”

Fabian yelped. “Die? Wait! Can’t we talk about this?”

She withdrew a long paintbrush from one of the pockets of her smock, and caressed it. The handle was iridescent, opalescent. “Ummm…” She pursed her lips a moment before grinning wickedly. “No.” Raising the brush, she gestured and it began to glow.

Fabian groaned. “What? You’re a wizard, too?”

“I am my father’s daughter.”

She gestured again, sharply, and a bolt of light shot from her paintbrush—her wand. Fabian dodged out of the way and watched in horror as the bolt struck a partially sculpted cow. The stone turned to sand, spilling to the floor in an untidy mess.

Fabian scrabbled for cover, seeing with some distant satisfaction that Monsanto seemed to be doing the same thing. He had so many questions! Ridiculously, his mind latched onto the least significant of them all.

“But, I thought your father was an herbalist!”

Anathema tsked at the mess of sand and turned to follow Fabian with her wand. “He was. He was also a low wizard. Self-taught, of course, and not a patch on your Doctor Smockwhitener, but powerful in his own way. Now, hold still. This isn’t as easy as I make it look.”

Another bolt shot from the wand, narrowly missing Fabian. He yelped again and dodged behind a bare canvas. An easel beside him burst into sand, hissing as it fell to the ground in a heap.

Anathema stomped her foot angrily. “Will you hold still? I’d rather not demolish my studio in order to kill you. It would be difficult to explain to Fergus, and I do so hate lying to him.”

“What are you doing?” Fabian ran from easel to easel, moving farther back into the studio, his mind reeling with this new state of affairs. Anathema? Fergus' wife? It made no sense. “I don’t understand!” he cried. “I don’t understand anything!”

“Oh, poor baby,” Anathema cooed. “He doesn’t understand anything.” Her voice firmed. “Well, allow me to explain. And feel free to ask questions. That will make things easier for all of us.”

He found a statue of a small calf—remarkably life-like—and crouched down behind it. He was terrified, suddenly afraid even of speaking. Anything he said would lead her right to him. He wondered if he could somehow make it back to the door…and then realized that it was locked, anyway. Monsanto had the key.

He glanced around, trying to find Monsanto, but his former friend wasn’t visible. Probably hiding. Anathema was moving back among the easels and blocks of stone, and Fabian listened to the swish of her smock, trying to gauge her position.

“We were engaged the entire time,” she said. “Fergus and I. We had been for about a year, but my father was absolutely opposed to it. We had to keep it secret. I don’t know what he had against the Curmudgeons, but there were some bitter feelings there.”

Fabian couldn’t help it. “You and Fergus?” he asked. “What about us?”

He heard Anathema pause as she tried to triangulate Fabian’s position by his voice. “You and I?” she finally asked. “Oh, I liked you, I guess. You were like a little brother to me. Endearing. Funny. That dance of yours!” Fabian blushed as she laughed. “And you made a good cover for my engagement to Fergus, since my father could tell that I didn’t really take you seriously. But that note…”

Fabian dancing Fabian dancing

“That dance of yours!”

Fabian huddled behind the calf, trying to pretend his heart wasn’t breaking all over again.

“I—” his throat was dry, and he had to swallow several times to move the lump he felt there. “I’m sorry, Anathema. The note was stupid. I wanted to sign it with my own name, but I…I was afraid.”

She started moving again, and Fabian realized he’d given away his hiding place. In a panic, he looked around, trying to find another one.

“You were afraid?” Anathema asked as she came closer. “Well. I hope you’re afraid now, too, Fabian, because ‘I was afraid’ doesn’t give me near the same level of satisfaction.”

He darted from behind the calf, running in a half-crouch toward another large block of stone. A burst of light crashed into an easel behind him and he threw himself behind the block, already searching desperately for another place to hide. The sound of sand hissing to the floor spurred him on. There. He followed the wall, ducking behind a row of easels before crouching—gasping and out of breath—behind another in-progress statue. Another cow, curiously enough.

He heard Anathema stomp her foot again and curse. “That painting was a gift for Fergus, you idiot!” He heard the soft crunch of her slippered feet on sand as she resumed searching for him.

“Your note,” she said, continuing the story, “arrived at my house while I was away doing a commission for one of the village aldermen. My father read it.” She paused a moment. “He was…upset. At first, when I got home, I thought he had somehow figured out about the engagement, but then he showed me the letter. I realized what had happened.”

She was moving away from him, toward the far wall, and Fabian breathed a sigh of relief. He looked around, wondering if he would be able to find his way to Monsanto…and…and somehow wrestle the key from him. He fought a rising despair.

“I ran all the way to the castle, Fabian,” she said, “hating you more with every step I took. I could see all my plans, all my dreams, dissolving beneath me. All because of your stupid, childish prank. When I got to the castle I insisted that Fergus throw you in the dungeon until we could figure out something more…appropriate.”

She was still moving along the far side of the room. Fabian wanted to ask so many questions, but didn’t dare. He hunkered down, holding his knees tightly to his chest, and barely daring to breathe.

“Ahh!” He heard Monsanto shout from the other side of the room. “Don’t shoot! It’s just me!”

Anathema sighed loudly. “Wonderful. So where is Fabian, then?”

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen him over here.”

“Hm. Fine. You stay here. Actually, no. Go stay by the door. He’ll be trying to escape.”

“Yes, M'lady.”

Fabian could hear her moving toward the center of the room, her smock making a distinctive swish swish with each step. He held himself as still as he could and tried desperately to think of what to do next.

“We knew my father would be coming,” she said, speaking loudly. “He wouldn’t have known I was at the castle, though he would eventually figure it out. We needed to buy some time, long enough for us to win him over.”

Realization washed over Fabian like cold water. “The mazes,” he said, and immediately cursed himself.

She laughed. “Very good!” She paused a moment, probably trying to decide where his voice had come from. “Very good, indeed. Yes, Fergus installed the mazes. It took longer than we had hoped, but the Walkers finished pacing them out just a couple hours before my father arrived.

“For all the good they did.” She bit off the words bitterly, and Fabian could hear her moving again. Closer. He cursed silently and looked around for another hiding spot. Should he try summoning Nigel? He decided against it—the homunculus was not good at silent entrances, and Fabian wasn’t even sure he’d be any use in this situation. What else could he try?

An illusion?

“We learned to our sorrow the folly of using hedges as a barrier against an herbalist wizard.” She laughed softly. “My father literally walked right through them. We watched him from the battlements, walking blithely across the mazes that Fergus had so painstakingly built. And do you know what my father did next?”

She paused a moment, obviously hoping Fabian would reply. He didn’t.

“Come now, Fabian, surely you’re a little curious?”

He bit his lip, refusing to be baited.

She sighed loudly. “Dull, as ever. Very well, I’ll tell you anyway. My father died, Fabian. He hated your family so much that he walked up to the wall of the castle, stabbed himself, and with his dying breath pronounced a curse.”

She paused again. Fabian looked around desperately, trying to decide whether to make for the front or the back of the room. Monsanto was apparently guarding the front, but maybe he could overpower him?

“It was a deathcurse, Fabian. Surely even you know what that means.”

Fabian did, though he wouldn’t say it. He’d heard the stories told to children, about wizards who spent their last living breath on a curse. According to the tales, such magic was dearly bought, but devastatingly powerful. He began to feel ill, imagining what the curse may have wrought on his home.

Anathema’s steps were drawing inexorably closer. He had to move. With a groan he heaved himself out of his hiding place and ran for the front of the room, dodging around easels. Light blasted behind him, flash, and again, flash, with the hissing sound of falling sand filling the emptiness behind him.

She yelled in frustration and stamped her foot again. Twice. “Hold still!”

He caught a glimpse of Monsanto up ahead, looking around wildly to see where the shots were being fired. Fabian ducked down behind another statue, but the cover was sparser near the door. He hoped Monsanto hadn’t seen him. He really hoped Anathema hadn’t, either.

“Your family’s herds all died, Fabian,” she continued, loudly. “That was the curse. No more cattle. Fergus saw the implications immediately—the dairy business was doomed. The Curmudgeon fortunes were shattered. The contracts with the other houses and villages would come due, and there would be no milk, no butter, nothing. The estates were finished.

“But Monsanto had a suggestion.” She paused. “Why don’t you tell him about it, Monsanto?”

Fabian perked up, confused. Monsanto?

“Ah, yes, certainly, M'lady.” Monsanto sounded surprised, but cleared his throat. “After you were thrown in the dungeon, Fabian, I hid. What else could I do? I had nowhere else to go, you see. My own family has nothing, you know that, and I had a good thing going with the Curmudgeons. I wanted—needed—to make it work. So I waited for an opportunity.”

Fabian silently cursed Monsanto, and not just for abandoning him in the dungeons. His voice was masking Anathema’s slippered footfalls. He couldn’t tell where she was—which was, no doubt, exactly why she had suggested that Monsanto tell his story.

“I overheard Master Fergus and Lady Anathema talking one evening,” he continued. “They were trying to find a way out of what appeared to be a hopeless situation, but thanks to certain—ah—skills I’ve cultivated since childhood, I realized that I might have a solution, one that most would find distasteful, but they were willing to give me a chance. Desperate circumstances, they said, call for desperate actions.

“I’m an alchemist, you see.”

Monstanto with beaker Monstanto with beaker

“I am an alchemist.”

You?” The word burst from Fabian unbidden. He immediately cringed, but too late. Anathema leaped around the statue and pointed her wand at him.

“Ha!” she yelled.

Fabian gasped and tried to dodge, but too late. A bolt of light shot from her wand and struck him square in the center of the chest. A searing heat enveloped him and the whole world turned white.

He held his breath. A moment later, he realized he was still holding his breath, and exhaled, looking around. Anathema stood over him, looking dumbfounded.

He sat up, and a thin sheet of tiny pebbles streamed off him. His shirt, he realized, had been turned to sand.

“That…was unexpected,” Anathema said, looking confused. She lifted her wand and eyed it skeptically. “I’ve never used this on a person before. Hm!” Shaking her head, she levelled the wand at Fabian again. “Live and learn! Let’s try that again.”

Fabian yelped and rolled out of the way. A blast of light made a shallow crater of sand in the flagstones just where he’d been. Not waiting to give her another chance—and certainly not wanting to see how proof his bare skin was against her magic—he scrambled to his feet and ran, shirtless, across the room, diving behind a screen of easels.

“So!” Anathema shouted after him. “Your dear friend is an alchemist! Does that surprise you? It certainly surprised us. But his solution was compelling, even if his means were unsavory.” Fabian could hear the crunch of her slippers on sand as she made her way across the rapidly-disintegrating studio. “You see, Monsanto had found a way to turn images of animals, into real animals. Dead ones, certainly, but still flesh-and-bone. His proposal was that while perhaps the dairy business was dead, perhaps a case could be made for meat processing.”

Suddenly, things began making sense. The paintings devoid of cattle. The odd statues. They’d been…transformed.

“And so here we are!” Anathema continued. “For five miserable years I’ve been stuck making statues and paintings, dioramas, papier-mâché, one project after another, day in and day out, slaving to make it as realistic as possible so that Monsanto’s filthy methods can do their work on them. I’ve watched as project after project disappeared, turned into…into meat.” She soaked the word in disgust. “I hate it, Fabian. I hate it! My life, my passion, dies every single day. Every single day! And it’s all your fault.”

A banging on the door interrupted Anathema. An indistinct voice from the other side shouted something interrogatory. She cursed. “This is taking too long. Monsanto! I need you to help me corner him. We have to get rid of him before anyone knows he’s in here.”

Fabian’s mind was whirling with all he’d learned. He needed time to talk, time to help her find another way, but any word he spoke would give him away. He needed a distraction…

There was a bucket nearby full of stone-cutting tools, chisels and mallets and the like. He grabbed a smallish chisel and glanced around, finally tossing it underhand beneath the easels and letting it scoot along the floor toward the far wall.

It worked. Monsanto shouted, and Anathema followed him as he ran to follow the sound. Fabian held his breath until he could hear them shuffling among the mess at the back, looking for him.

Which meant…

The way to the door was clear. Taking a deep breath, he ran as quietly as he could toward it.

“I’ve tried other projects,” Anathema said loudly as she searched among the easels at the back of the room. “These paintings on the walls here, all these mazes, for instance. I make them for Fergus. He finds them inspiring, but what’s to love about them? All angles, colorless. You can’t make a maze lovely.”

Just as Fabian reached the door another knocking came from it, and again a questioning voice spoke, sounding more urgent. Fabian banged back at whoever it was. “Help!” he shouted. “I’m in here! Help me!”

He heard Monsanto shout, and Anathema curse, and he spun around quickly. He watched helplessly as they approached, Anathema with her wand out.

Her wand…

Reaching into his pocket Fabian quickly drew his own wand—that decidedly forlorn-looking little twig—and held it up defensively. “Stay back,” he said. “Don’t make me—”

A flash of light, and the twig dissolved into sand.

“Nice,” Fabian said, shaking the sand from his hand and looking desperately to either side. Between Monsanto and Anathema, and the door behind him, he had nowhere to run. They had him truly cornered.

Anathema raised her wand.

Fabian closed his eyes.

There was a click behind him, and the large door swung slowly outward. Anathema and Monsanto both looked beyond Fabian in surprise. Nervously, he glanced over his shoulder.

Jasper Chuckleworthy stood peering in, eyes innocently wide, holding up his master key as if in explanation. His large barrel was behind him, filled with his mops and brooms.

“Everything okay?” he asked. “I heard some shouting…”

Anathema sighed. “Great.”

Fabian shouted a warning and dodged aside just as Anathema flicked her wand. Jasper yelped and dove behind the door, the light hitting his barrel instead. Mops and brooms and other tools all fell clattering to the floor as the barrel turned to sand.

Anathema followed Fabian as he dodged behind Monsanto and made for the easels again, though the shelter there was definitely thinning. Piles of sand littered the studio, making the footing uncertain. He scrabbled about for something, anything, to defend himself with.

“Jasper!” he shouted. “Toss me a broom or something!”

He had to think of a way to convince Anathema, some way to help her see that her situation could be changed. Some way to help her find a glimmer of light in what, to her, was an utterly dark situation.

Heck, just finding some way to make her not want to kill him would be progress.

“Master Fabian!” Jasper shouted. “Here! Catch!”

Fabian turned in time to see Jasper toss it in the air, something black, and as long as his arm. It took Fabian a moment to realize what it was: the squeegee, that beautiful, ebony-handled, breath-taking squeegee. Time seemed to slow down as it sailed through the air, passing gracefully over the startled heads of Anathema and Monsanto. Jasper had thrown it expertly: straight, and true, not tumbling at all.

Flying squeegee Flying squeegee

Over the heads of Anathema and Monsanto

Almost without thinking, Fabian reached out his hand. Palm up, fingers out, muscles relaxed. Beckoning.

The squeegee fell.

Fabian caught it.

He marvelled. The squeegee felt right. The heft of it, the texture. The shape. It was masterfully balanced, solid in his hand. He felt…he felt…

He felt powerful.

Anathema laughed, shattering the moment. “A squeegee?” she crowed. “Good luck with that!” She turned to the door and pointed her wand at Jasper. He yelped, running off down the hall, and she shook her head. “Gah, that’s a coward for you. Now, you see what you’ve done? I’m going to have a lot of explaining to do. Let’s get this over with.”

That’s a coward for you. Jasper running. Running, but not…

Fabian stood frozen in epiphany.

Jasper had run, but he’d looked determined, not scared.

That’s a coward for you.

Anathema raised her wand.

Instinctively, Fabian raised the squeegee. In his mind, something fell into place, or started to. For one brief moment, he felt like he could…see…something. It was as if a sliver of sunlight had just peeked over the horizon.

Understanding began illuminating the nooks and crannies of Fabian’s mind.

Fabian gestured with the squeegee, trying in desperation to form an illusion to distract Anathema, but nothing happened. Anathema’s wand flicked, and Fabian dodged out of the way, barely avoiding oblivion.

Nothing had happened. The illusion hadn’t worked, but…Fabian realized that wasn’t entirely true. It almost had. There had been something

“Not a coward,” Fabian said, holding his squeegee up and facing Anathema.

“What are you talking about?” she asked peevishly, raising her own wand.

“Not a coward,” Fabian said again, more strongly. “It all comes back to cows. ‘That’s cows for you.’”

Anathema fired another shot, but it went wide and Fabian dodged it easily.

“Grrr!” she growled, frustrated. “Yes, yes, yes! Cows! Always cows! It’s always about cows. You’re just like your brother!”

“No,” Fabian said, feeling remarkably calm. “No, it’s a saying of my father’s. When stuck or frustrated, he always said, ‘that’s cow’s for you.’ I never understood it.”

“That makes two of us, then.” A lock of hair had fallen in Anathema’s face, and she paused to brush it out of the way. She was breathing hard, and red in the face from exertion. She began walking slowly toward Fabian.

“I never understood it,” Fabian continued, walking carefully backward, away from her. He held the squeegee defensively. “Now, I think I’m beginning to. Don’t you see? It was always when he was in a hard place. I thought, at first, that maybe he was comparing cows to that difficult situation, suggesting that cattle are difficult or frustrating, but that’s not it at all. He loved his cows.” Fabian grew animated as understanding thundered through him. “No, the saying was his way of reminding himself of the good qualities of cattle. Determination, steadiness.” He laughed. “Cleverness, even.”

Anathema snorted. “Stubbornness, more like.” She shook her head. “And yes, you are stubborn, so maybe your father was on to something. Whatever. We’re done. I don’t care what I have to tell Fergus. I love that man, but aside from him there is nothing lovely here. Nothing to inspire me. All of my work is meat.” She stopped walking, raising her wand. “And all because of you.”

Fabian bumped into something and realized she’d backed him into the wall. Looking to the side, he saw Monsanto there, wielding one of Jasper’s fallen brooms like a sword.

He was cornered, again.

“Goodbye, Fabian.” Anathema flicked her wand.

Fabian didn’t even think. He just acted.

That’s cow’s for you.

Loyalty. Intelligence.


Determination. Steadiness.


He squeezed the handle of the squeegee and saw—in his mind—a cow.

And there was a cow. Briefly, for just a moment, there was a glorious, black-and-white Holstein floating large-as-life in the air between Fabian and Anathema. Then the blast from Anathema’s wand struck it, and it disappeared in millions of colored motes of light.

Fabian was, frankly, every bit as surprised as Anathema.

“I wondered,” Anathema finally said, “if Basil was teaching you.”

Fabian nodded dumbly, but recovered. “Er, yes,” he said. “He’s been trying to. But—ha!” He laughed for joy. “I made an illusion! I did it!”

Anathema shook her head in disgust and raised her wand again, but Fabian held up a hand. “No, wait! I want to show you something! You said that mazes can’t be lovely, but look at this.”

He saw a maze in his mind, and—focusing on the squeegee in his hands—willed it into existence. He thrilled to see it appear, just as he’d intended.

Anathema scoffed. “Really? You want to show me a maze?” But her sneer slowly disappeared as Fabian began to color the maze has Nigel had shown him earlier. It blossomed in the air, exploding with rich colors before fading away. He created another one, and another. Maze after maze, each blossoming to life in rich, vibrant shades of purple, red, green, and yellow.

Anathema lowered her wand slightly. “How…how are you doing this?”

“It’s an algorithm,” he said, “called Dijkstra’s. A…friend…taught it to me—”

“M'lady,” Monsanto said, interrupting. “You must finish him! We’re running out of time!” He sounded scared. Fabian turned to eye him and was startled to discover that he had discarded the broom in favor of a knife—and a rather sharp-looking one, at that.

“A moment, Monsanto.” Then, grudgingly, she nodded to Fabian. “I’ll admit, these have potential. You…may have a point, about mazes being lovely.”

Fabian began to smile, relief flooding him. Monsanto made to object, but Anathema cut him off.

“But!” she said loudly, and Fabian’s smile faltered. “A few pretty pictures cannot erase five years of misery. They can’t undo the heartache of disappointing my father, and watching him die. And they certainly don’t change our need for meat art.” She fumed a moment. “In fact, I don’t know that they change my situation materially, at all.”

Fabian hurried to reassure her. “You know better than I do, of course, but maybe there’s a way to turn this into income somehow?” He gestured at the latest maze, still hanging colorfully in the air. “Maybe…I dunno. An art gallery or something? Home decor? Knitting patterns? Or tattoos? When Basil and I were last at the Conclave, they had this remarkable room—”

“M'lady!” Monsanto’s voice sounded desperate. “Please! Don’t listen to him! He’s trying to confuse you!”

But Fabian could see that Anathema was taken by the idea. She desperately wanted a way out of making dead cattle. “Hmmm,” she said, tapping her brush to her lips. “An art gallery… Yes, perhaps.”

“And those mazes outside,” Fabian added quickly. “What if you let people explore them? For fun. You could maybe charge admission, set up contests. It could be like a—a carnival.”

She barked a laugh. “Oh, wouldn’t that be ironic! The mazes that were supposed to keep people out, instead become the main attraction!” She tapped her foot and frowned fiercely at the floor, thinking. Behind her, Monsanto wrung his hands nervously.

The sound of running feet echoed into the room. The three turned in time to see Basil and Fergus arrive puffing and sweating at the door, with Jasper close behind.

Fergus was again wearing a kilt and jacket, but had swapped his tam o' shanter for a Glengarry. He was also lugging a set of bagpipes tucked under his left arm. Straightening his cap, he peered inside in confusion. “What…what’s going on? Jasper says—”

Anathema waved a hand at Fabian. “A misunderstanding, Dearest. Your brother has been trying to make amends.” She glanced sourly at Fabian. “Poorly. Still, I think he’s raised some interesting points. We might actually be able to wean ourselves off of meat processing.”

Fergus eyed Fabian warily, confused. “That’s…that’s wonderful, but—”

“No!” Monsanto shouted. He stepped up close behind Anathema, knocking the paintbrush from her hand and holding the knife to her throat. “No, no, no! I’ve worked too hard to leave this all behind. Make no move!” he shouted to Basil and Fergus, both of whom had moved instinctively to produce their own wands. “Make no move, or she dies.”

Monsanto attacks Monsanto attacks

“No, no, no!”

Anathema whimpered, hands clenched in fists at her sides.

Fergus eyed Monsanto carefully. “Why, Monsanto? What are you doing?”

“My alchemy,” he said. “I’ve worked too hard to perfect the transformations you’ve been profiting from. I’ve spent years…even trying to eliminate my dependency on the Lady Curmudgeon by learning to draw myself…and now M'lady wants to go and throw it all away? No! I have no resources of my own. My own skill at art is far from sufficient. I’m so close to being ready to publish what I’ve done here, and I won’t see it thrown away! I’ll…I’ll kill her first!”

Basil and Fergus hesitated, uncertain what to do. Fergus cleared his throat. “So, what do you want, Monsanto?”

“My lab,” he replied. “You will allow me to go to my lab—with M'lady, here—and finish my research. She stays with me as a hostage until I’m done, working under my direction.”

Basil stepped forward. “Monsanto—”

“Stop!” he shrieked, pressing the knife harder against Anathema’s throat. A thin trickle of red ran down.

Basil held up his hands and backed away again.

“Go!” Monsanto shouted. “I’m serious! I’ll—”


There was a flash of blue light, and the knife fell clattering to the floor. Monsanto was gone. In his place, frozen in shock like all the rest of them, was a small orange newt.

All eyes turned to Fabian, who stood clutching the squeegee.

“I wasn’t sure I could still remember that one,” he said.

comments powered by Disqus
Creative Commons License
Basil & Fabian - A Wizard & His Man by Jamis Buck is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.