A young wizard apprentice idly listens and creates mental commentary as the elder wizards discuss what to do about his magical inability.

            Thias lay on the stairs. Rather, he was above the stairs, on top of one of the bookcases that surrounded the circular tower room. The bookcase he had chosen fit against the back of the next flight of stairs, filled with books so old and dusty it was possible they had never been moved. A little niche existed between the stairs and the top of the bookcase, which few people knew about. Of those few people, Thias was the only one who took advantage of it. It was a good place for thinking, and at the moment, he was thinking hard.

            From the room on the other side of the stair, voices drifted over to him.

            “I just don’t know what to do with him anymore,” sighed a gruff, irritated voice that sounded distinctly like Reuken. “What with his complete lack of motivation, and sarcasm, and all the like…”

            Tie him up and beat the sarcasm out of him, Thias recommended silently, twisting a silver chain around his thumb.

            “Aye,” agreed Dian with a sage nod. Thias couldn’t see it, of course, but everything Dian said was accompanied by a sage nod, so he reasoned that this, though not exceptionally wise, would be as well.

            “Erm…” another voice started, but it was interrupted by Reuken.

            “He’s got no respect! Do you know what he said when I asked him to levitate that mirror? ‘Yes, sir, and would you like the house moved to the mountain tops while I’m at it?’ The nerve! No respect!”

            Absolutely none, agreed Thias solemnly.

            “I’ve sworn I’d teach him to be a proper magician, and hang me if he isn’t, whether or not he wants to be!”

            Good for you.

            Dian’s voice sounded dubious. She hadn’t ever had much faith in him. “It’s his lack of any real motivation that worries me,” she said.

            “That is trying,” admitted Reuken. “He can’t even conjure fire yet.”

            An absolute disgrace. Thias watched fire dance across his thumbnail and shook his head sadly.

            “Ah-hem.” A younger man cleared his throat. “Don’t mind me, but have either of you considered the idea that maybe he wants to be a disappointment?”

            Reuken scoffed, “Only you would be stupid enough to try that, Seath. Quiet, can’t you. This is serious. I’m really beginning to worry about the boy.”

            A shame Seath wasn’t cut out for disappointment. Thias sighed and blew out his fire before someone sensed it.

            There was a pause while the three conspirators thought quite solemnly about their problem.

            “He’s at that blasted trying age,” Reuken said suddenly, both wearily and hopefully. “Perhaps he’ll come out alright in the end?”

            Doubtful, thought Thias carelessly. He chewed solemnly on a hangnail.

            “I did,” pointed out Seath.

            “It doesn’t matter,” Dian said firmly. “In the end, whether or not he comes out right, no one will be able to say you didn’t do your duty by the youth. Keep in mind, Reuken, that some lads just aren’t cut out to be wizards, and that’s no fault of yours.”

            “Nonsense!” roared Reuken stubbornly. “It’s those sorts of lies he loves to hear, because then he has an excuse not to apply himself. That boy could be just as powerful a magician as you, Seath, if he’d just stop being so stupidly pig-headed!”

            Excellent point. Now if I were you, I’d make him apply himself. Show the lad a little force. He needs a stern hand. Beat him into submission, and don’t take any of that smart lip he’s always showing you, either.

            “We should all be firmer with the boy,” Dian was saying, and Thias could see her head bobbing wisely in his mind. “He’s not a child anymore. He’s going to be a man any day, and if we don’t take measures, there’s no knowing how he’ll turn out.”

            “Can’t I talk to him?” interceded Seath once more. Thias heard a loud huff from Reuken and grinned. “Remember how hard I fought against being a magician? I thought it was boring. I’ll bet he’s just the same way.”

            Seath, one of the four most powerful magicians in the world, hadn’t wanted to be a wizard? Thias had to fight back a laugh. He could almost see Seath trying to be a disappointment. Too bad you failed with Seath, he thought to Reuken. But don’t worry. I won’t disappoint you by falling back on my decision.

            “Hm. Yes.” Reuken’s voice suggested bristling eyebrows and his cold, solemn scowl. “As I seem to recall, there was some nonsense about you being a blasted athlete or something.”

            “Well, yes.” Seath almost sounded wistful. “What does Thias want to be?”

            “I’ll be hanged if I know. The only thing I can guess for certain is he doesn’t want to be a magician.”

            Well, a certain guess is better than nothing, I suppose. Try locking that brat up for a few days in his room without food. I bet he’d tell you what he wants to do then. Leave him there for a good week and maybe you could even convince him to be a magician after all.

            “By the way,” Seath asked suddenly, and Thias could hear his knees bang on the coffee table as he stood up. “Where’s Thias now?”

            Reuken sighed heavily. “How should I know? Off being a disappointment somewhere, I suppose.”

            Now, now, Reuken, didn’t we just discuss this? You’re supposed to be firmer with the boy. Encouragement is out of the question. Thias shook his head. We can’t have him knowing he’s any good at this disappointment thing, now can we?

            “I don’t suppose you’ve ever told him that I was an even worse disappointment than him?”

            “And encourage the boy? Good grief, Seath, sit down!” Dian heaved the sort of sigh that was accompanied by her shaking her head.

            Reuken snorted. “Really, Seath, you know how he admires you. He’d probably be even worse at magic than he is now if he knew you were the same way.”

            Precisely my point. Why, he might actually try being awful on purpose. And we can’t have that, now can we?

            “I was just thinking,” Seath said miserably, “that he might see that being a magician isn’t all that bad, even if it does take a bloody long time getting used to it.”

            “No, Seath.” Reuken sighed. “I don’t think that’s quite the way to deal with him. If I had told you that, would it have made you any more anxious to become a wizard? Of course not. We’ll just have to take strict measures before he gets completely out of hand.” He paused and sighed again helplessly. “What sort of measures is the question.”

            Beat him, recommended Thias sagely. Lock him in the stocks with nothing but moldy bread and rainwater to drink for a month. Work him to the bone by day and whip him if he complains. Chain him to a post in the attic at night.

            “I don’t know,” Dian admitted. “But one thing is for sure: if he doesn’t start learning to behave himself now, he’s never going to be anything, much less any sort of magician!”

            “I’m still going to talk to him, no matter what you say. And if he doesn’t listen, I’ll hang him out his window by his toes until he does!” vowed Seath fiercely.

            “That might be the sort of measures we need at this point,” Dian sighed.

            Reuken agreed with a hearty sort of noise that Thias could only describe as a gruff. His mentor gruffed a lot, and every time he did, Thias rolled his eyes.

            Then agreement is unanimous, Thias concluded, and the meeting was dismissed.

The End

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