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The air was crisp and cool as it swept across Dragon Lake and floated into Cadieux Village. I started to walk along the shore just thinking to myself and not really paying attention to the village behind me in the distance. When I finally stopped to pick up a crescent-shaped rock at my foot and toss it into the lake I noticed the torches from the village were no longer visible.

Should I go back?, I questioned myself.

“No,” I answered aloud and tossed the rock into the lake. “They’ll never notice I’m gone.”

So I continued to walk along the shore. Dragon Lake was the calmest water anywhere in Mistasia. It looked like it was frozen as the moonlight reflected from the top of the steady water.  In the distance I could make out the treetops of Wolverine Forest.

Why is he so mean to me? Images of my father’s disappointed expression haunted me all night long. The farther I got from the castle, the more I realized I could never go back. There was no reason for me to return.

I should just keep walking, I thought to myself. Behind me I heard a snort. When I turned, I gasped.

Staring at me was a very large wolverine. The beast growled. Its fangs hung down from its upper lip. The Wolverine had snuck up on me. I could hear my father’s voice, “You will never learn!”

Suddenly, I realized I had my wand in my paw and pointed it at the beast. The Wolverine grunted loudly and bent down to attack.

“No, don’t do it!” I yelled in my deepest voice, which sounded more like a whimpering child.

The wolverine charged. I fired the first spell I could think of in a panic. It completely missed because my hand was shaking so badly. The spell hit a small tree causing it to drop all its leaves and acorns, leaving it naked. I ducked to avoid the wolverine, but it still grabbed me. Now, I was dangling in the air by my ankles. I dropped my wand, which the beast quickly snapped up from the grass. It pushed its big, ugly face into mine. Its warm, smelly breath burned my nostrils.

I’m in so much trouble. I cried in my head. I hoped this hungry beast wasn’t going to eat me for a snack. I closed my eyes. Then, we were moving again. When I opened them I realized the wolverine was running back toward the forest. Where there were more wolverines!

I hit the ground with a thud, rubbing my neck as it throbbed with pain. Then, I heard a voice that would change my life.

“What brings a Whizzenmog to the Wolverine Forest?” The crass voice challenged me.

I hesitated to look up and see who was speaking.

“Answer me, fox!” He yelled.

I shuddered at the anger in his voice. It reminded me of my father. I tried to answer his question, but when I moved my lips nothing came out.

“Stubborn…just like his father!” The voice replied.

“No!” I suddenly found my voice. For the first time I looked away from the dirt-covered forest floor and saw the elven man that sat before me.  He was old and thin. He had short white hair, and a long braided white beard.  The elf glared at me. “I mean…I am not like my father.” I clarified.

The man smiled and sat upright in his throne. It was a beautifully carved wooden throne made from the root of a massive tree. Two wolverines stood at his sides like guards.

“Who are you?” I mustered up the courage to ask.

The elf scoffed as though he was offended that I didn’t know.

“My name is Pierre LaCroiux, and I ask you again young Whizzenmog. What brings you to my forest?”

“Well…I…well,” I stammered as I tried to figure out how to explain my situation.

Then LaCroiux stood from his throne and walked toward me. My heart skipped a beat, and I had to remind myself to breathe. My paws trembled as I began to recoil. The elder elf put out his hand and placed it on my shoulder. Then he knelt before me. Our eyes met and a strange sensation overcame me. It was calm. My paws no longer trembled, my heartbeat returned to normal.

“You can tell me…Ethan,” Pierre LaCroiux spoke in a friendly voice.

“How…how did you know my name?” I didn’t know if I should be fearful or honored by his knowledge.

“I make it my business to know the names of the King’s wizard guardians,” he smiled. “Word has come to my ear that you and your father are…not seeing eye to eye.” He suddenly stopped. He appeared to be awaiting my answer.

“Ah…yes Lord LaCroiux,” I responded.

“Sorcerer,” He corrected. “You have yet to explain why you have come to my forest, young Whizzenmog?”

“I was walking along Dragon Lake when I ran into one of your guards,” I replied feeling silly. The guardian of the king would always be on his guard and not so easily captured by his foe.

“So you are my prisoner then?” LaCroiux chuckled. “A Whizzenmog wizard as my prisoner? Now that is something.” His laughter became a roar as the Wolverines around him began to laugh with a raspy voice.

I felt a pit in my stomach.

“Do you really want to be my prisoner, Ethan?” The elven sorcerer questioned as he again knelt before me.

I shook my head no. I most definitely didn’t want to be a sorcerer’s prisoner.

“But you don’t want to go back home either?”

“My father doesn’t want me anyway. My family is better off without me.” I replied in disgrace.

“Then you are welcome to stay here…in Wolverine Forest. I can teach you the way of a sorcerer. You will never again feel the shame your father has created in you. I can lead you to a greater purpose. You will become stronger than you ever dreamed possible.”

I began to smile. I wanted so badly to be important. To be strong and powerful. Maybe sorcery was the way that I can be great?

“Yes.” I responded. It was the quickest decision I had come to in my lifetime.

I remained in Wolverine Forest and became Sorcerer LaCroiux’s apprentice. He showed me things that I never even dreamed possible. As a wizard your powers are limited to what you can do by your wand; however, as a sorcerer there seems to be no limitations. Whatever my mind can imagine I can conjure into reality…both beautiful and frightening.

I never felt so alive, and so powerful. Sorcery definitely had its advantages over wizardry. LaCroiux brought a twenty-foot tall tree to life. It pulled its roots from the ground and began walking around. The tree snatched up a wolverine and tossed it like a pebble. Another time, LaCroiux showed me how to control fire. He set fire to a small bush and then made the flames dance and stretch on his command, even making shapes out of the flames. He grabbed a sword right from the powerful grip of a Wolverine Soldier with the arm of a flame creature.

For the first time in my life I believed I could challenge my brother. He would be no match for my sorcery.

One windy night, I walked at the edge of the forest staring across Dragon Lake. I couldn’t see Cadieux Castle, but I knew where it was in the distance. The moon was full this night and it reflected off the lake the same way it had the first night I arrived here. For a brief moment, I wondered if my father had even noticed that I was gone.

He has Rainer. My mind answered in a rage. It didn’t matter whether I was there or not. A surge of anger overtook me and I snapped the branch from a nearby tree and flung it far across the lake. Dragon Lake swallowed it quickly with almost no wake in the water. A slight ripple rolled outward. I followed it with my eyes until it landed along the narrow sandy beach at my paws.

A noise came from behind me. I figured it was another wolverine. When I turned around there was no one.

I furrowed my brow. I knew that I had heard something. I reentered the forest and searched for what could have made the noise.

Footprints?  In the dirt was a trail of footprints most definitely not wolverine in origin. I followed the prints through the winding and sometimes narrow spaces between the trees until they vanished at the base of a very wide tree trunk.  I folded my arms across my chest.

Where did they go? Footprints don’t just stop. There had to be an explanation. This forest was full of surprises. What happened next shouldn’t have been so shocking. After walking around the tree a couple of times in frustration I again stopped next to the last set of footprints just in front of the tree. I stepped inside them, placing my paws exactly. The footprints were larger than mine. I stared at my paws for a few moments and exhaled deeply. Then I glanced up at the tree and noticed something new, a unique shape in the bark of the tree’s trunk. It appeared to be a handle. I reached out and grabbed hold.  Then the front of the tree swung open revealing a staircase leading up.

I moved inside and the door shut behind me. It was extremely dark. I used my paws along the wall to guide myself up the winding staircase. I worried that if I used my wand to light my way whoever had made those tracks would know that I had figured out my way inside. Finally, I reached another door. Light peeked out from around its frame. I could hear voices. One was very familiar…my teacher, Sorcerer LaCroiux, and the other sounded like someone I knew. I tried to place the voice.

“Do you believe that this is the way you want to resolve your issues with your brother?” I heard LaCroiux ask harshly.

Brother? I wondered. It couldn’t be. Rainer?

The second voice responded, “My brother has held his position for too long. Together we can rid this kingdom of his ignorance.”

Prince Cragon Cadieux? I was shocked.

“And when King Steven is gone, you will assume the throne?” Sorcerer LaCroiux crassly questioned. “I don’t see how that is worth the trouble for me. What do I gain from this, Prince Cragon?”

“You would become my advisor. Live in the castle,” the evil prince responded hoping to persuade the sorcerer to join his side. “You would no longer have to live in the wild with these animals,” he said, referring to the wolverines.

“I want control over everything outside Cadieux Village,” LaCroiux demanded.

“Everything? But…” Cragon sounded stunned at the request. “That sounds like a hefty request, friend.”

The sinister sorcerer responded with a snicker, “So does asking me to eliminate the King and Queen.”

Their conversation frightened me, so I quickly escaped from the hideout and dashed back into the forest toward my makeshift home in the base of a large hollow tree.

It wasn’t long before Sorcerer LaCroiux returned. He glided across the forest floor like a ghost. His robe dragged along the dirt making it appear he had no feet.

“Ethan!” LaCroiux anxiously called. “Where are you? I have something to share with you.”

I took a deep breath and stuck my head out from my home.

“Oh, there you are. Come here, Ethan.” The sorcerer carried a wide smile upon his normally weary face.

That sent a shiver of fear down my spine. If the thought of eliminating the King and Queen made him happy, I wanted no part of making him unhappy.

“Ethan, we have a proposal from the Prince of Cadieux.” LaCroiux twirled his braided beard in his fingers. His smile had increased.

My throat was so dry it hurt to swallow. I rubbed my paw across my wet nose nervously. “What is it?” I asked, careful not to reveal that I already knew the plan.

“How would you like to test your newly learned skills?” The sorcerer goaded.

“My skills?” I asked. The dryness in my throat had wiggled its way all the way down into my stomach, which now ached with each breath.

The elven sorcerer’s eyes were piercing. It was like he could see straight through me, and knew just how to control me.

“Ethan.” He softly whispered. Sorcerer LaCroiux looked around before he continued, as if he thought someone else would overhear, but the only other beasts in this forest were the Wolverines and they didn’t speak so who would they tell what they heard?  

“You were destined for this moment. The day you arrived at my throne crying for a purpose, wishing you were more than the son of a wizard. That was the day I gave you a purpose…power and sorcery. You can do so much more than your lowly brother. Ethan Whizzenmog, today is the day you make the choice to remain a meager wizard from the family that serves a weak King, or claim your place as a powerful and majestic sorcerer that stands by the side of the true and mighty ruler of Mistasia.” Pierre LaCroiux reached out and placed his large, skeletal hand on my paw.

I felt the adrenaline surging through my fur. It reached the ends of my body. I inhaled sharply.

“Imagine it, Ethan. You’re standing beside the throne of Cadieux, as your family bows at your feet.”

A smirk invaded my once fear-driven face. The worries of the meeting between LaCroiux and Cragon Cadieux had vanished. A feeling of clarity had overcome me. It was my choice. I was here for a reason. I could have gone home at any time in the past, but I choose to stay here in Wolverine Forest with Sorcerer LaCroiux to teach me the dark powers of sorcery. I wasn’t going back to a family that hated me…that thought I was inferior.

“I’ll show them,” I finally spoke.

LaCroiux stood tall at the opening to my new home in this secluded forest.

“So I guess that means you’re looking to demonstrate your skills, apprentice?”

I quickly sprung into action. I heard the snap of a twig behind me and spun around. My arm swung out and across my body like a swinging sword. I felt it crash to a stop against the chest of a Wolverine. Lifting him up, I flung the heavy and muscular beast into the air and over my head with ease. It crashed to the forest floor with a sickening thud.

Sorcerer LaCroiux had an approving smile on this elderly face when I again met his glance.

“We need to begin to prepare!”

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