Mercator hovered over the floor. He tilted his head closer to Lindy so his great great granddaughter could explore more of his ancient hair, and she gratefully accepted as she moved her little hands deeper into his silken beard.
“That boy needs a vowel in his name,” Mercator grumbled. “Even that gray fellow with the pointy hat had vowels. Two of them if I recall correctly. That fellow from…”
He looked at Lindy as she lay on her back, and he half expected her to answer, She offered no response except a smile as she continued her fascination with his beard.
“That middle place,” Mercator continued. “Mirth? Girth? It’s on the tip of my tongue. What was that place?”
“Laughing at your senile great grandfather, I see.” Mercator laughed and softly clapped his hands together. A small cloud in the shape of a horse sprang from his fingertips. Lindy’s green eyes and puffy hands disconnected from her great great grandfather’s beard and followed the horse as it crossed her bed and then disappeared under her blanket.
“MckWffth,” he said. “That’s the boy’s actual name. He’s the one who wants my job. Bad name. Good magic. Very good.”
Lindy stared up her great grandfather and cooed.
Mercator nodded his head. “Yes, he’s that good. It’s like every spell I learned when I was ten, he knew it at age five. And he does them better than anyone I’ve ever seen. An amazing boy.”
Mercator slowly lowered his feet to the floor. He summoned his favorite chair and placed it beside Lindy’s bed. The chair, maybe hundreds of years old, accepted Mercator’s old frame with a sigh while its cushions happily molded themselves to his shape.
“When he challenged me, I confess I didn’t know what to do. No one’s challenged me for a century.” He produced a pipe from his cloak, and with a snap of his finger, he produced tobacco and a flame. The smell reminded him of winter and the crackle of wood burning in the fireplace. The smoke reminded him of something, but he couldn’t think of what it was.
“Mercator the Spellinator. That’s what they once called me. I made the crops grow. I kept the evil away. I once…” he said, beginning to laugh, “I once did something that was so amazing. I was maybe, maybe, twenty or thirty, and there I was… there was this darkness that did…it did something. I remember everyone looking at me and wondering,” his voice deepened, “’Has that kid got the tools? Are we doomed? Will we ever…’ Something like that, and I remember raising my arms like this and…”
Lindy’s eyes were wide.
“And I don’t remember.” He lowered his arms and took a draw from his pipe.
It was important to remember, he thought as he exhaled the smoke.
“And now I can’t remember what it was,” he said as he reached out to caress her cheek. “And sometimes I can’t even remember your…”
He felt the emotion again, the frustration welling up behind his eyes. He began to rock back and forth in his chair. The chair happily sighed.
“I was a boy once, just like this boy with a vowel deficiency. I challenged a wizard when I was ten, I think. I lost, of course. But I knew even at that young age, his time was through. Done. He was an old wizard, his name escapes me now, but I do remember he was old. Maybe ancient.”
Lindy cooed again.
“I know, ancient like me. But you see…”
I don’t want to go, he thought. His two centuries had flown by, and he sensed the times ahead held more fascinating things for him. More quests. More magic. More memories…
“But you see,” he sighed “I still don’t want to leave, but I know…I know I need to.”
He lifted himself out of the chair and then he lifted Lindy to his chest. She smelled sweet like flowers. Sweet, sweet flowers.
“I need to go, my sweet girl,” he said. His frustration returned, but he knew how to respond to it. The tears came quickly and vanished beneath his beard.
“I need to go,” he said again and placed Lindy back on her bed. He waved his palm over her curious eyes, and her eyes yielded to sleep.
Then he straightened himself, crossed his arms, and gently faded away.