"Ingredients" is a story about a wizard's apprentice gathering the ingredients for a spell. It was first published in a limited-edition hardcover anthology called Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds. The book was edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Rachel E. Holmen, and limited to 300 signed and numbered copies published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, ISBN 0-9665958-0-7.
It's set in the World of Ethshar. The Ethshar series consists so far of eleven novels and nine shorter works.
"Ingredients" is copyright 1998 by Lawrence Watt Evans.
|Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds, demonstrating how difficult it is to scan gold foil on green cloth.|
by Lawrence Watt-Evans
thtallion waved a bony hand at the cluttered shelves of his workshop. "You've seen me use some of these," he said, "but did you ever stop to think where they all come from?"
Irillon looked at the jumbled jars, bottles, and boxes.
"Some of them, Master," she said. She pointed at a jar of gray powder. "I helped collect the spiders."
"That's true, you did," Ethtallion agreed. "And you've caught raindrops for Tracel's Levitation, and collected the ash from the hearth, and dug tannis root. But what about some of the others?"
"We bought the rooster's toes at the farmers' market," Irillon pointed out, wondering what Ethtallion was on about this time.
"Ah! Now you're beginning to approach my point. Wizardry requires a wide variety of ingredients. Some are readily found in any household -- common ash, for instance. Others can be bought cheaply and easily. Some we obtain fresh as they're needed -- for example, the Sanguine Deception requires the blood of the spell's subject, and it makes no sense to do anything but draw a little on the spot. But what about the dragon's tooth required for Gillad's Blemish Removal? The carved ivory rod? You won't find those at the village market!"
"I don't know," Irillon admitted.
"Of course you don't! You're just a halfwitted fumble-fingered apprentice I should never have taken on in the first place; I'm surprised you know anything at all."
This was hardly fair, but Irillon did not protest. She was used to it. Ethtallion was not the kindest master an apprentice could have. On the other hand, he was teaching her a great deal, when he wasn't making condescending speeches -- she had already mastered at least half a dozen spells, as well as learning all the basics of the wizardly trade -- and he kept her well-fed and comfortably housed. She suspected that he had decided taking on an apprentice in the first place was a mistake, and he was in a hurry to see her complete her apprenticeship just so he could get her out of his house.
"You don't know where we get these things -- well, I'll tell you, child. We have two choices -- we can buy them, or we can prepare them for ourselves. Some of them aren't worth fetching or making ourselves -- why should I risk my life to hunt down a dragon when I can just buy dragons' blood and dragons' teeth from traveling peddlers, or the merchants up in Ethshar of the Rocks? There are professional dragon-hunters who can fetch these things far more easily than I can, and sell them to me, or the peddlers and merchants, at a reasonable price -- or maybe it's not reasonable, but I can charge enough for the spells to cover the cost. People are impressed by the mere mention of dragons' blood."
Irillon nodded. She had already learned that while wizardry was certainly real magic, a good portion of what wizards did was as much showmanship as wizardry. Real magic could be dangerous and expensive, as Ethtallion never tired of telling her -- even the simplest spell could go wrong on occasion -- and if there was a way to pry money out of a customer without using magic, then that was what she should do.
"But there are some ingredients that we fetch for ourselves. Why should we pay good money for, say, virgin's blood, when you have it in your own scrawny little veins? Or powdered spider -- they spin their confounded webs everywhere anyway, so what could be easier than to collect a few, dry them out, and grind them up?"
Irillon nodded again, and shifted on her stool. She had gathered every spider in sight ever since arriving at Ethtallion's cottage; he had insisted on it. Squashing one, leaving a mess on the floor instead of a captive in a jar, was good for a ten-minute lecture on clumsiness and waste.
"And there are some ingredients where we need to consider carefully. If they happen into our hands, we'll gather our own, but sometimes we must resort to the merchants. Whenever possible, girl, we get our own -- it saves money! I carved that ivory rod myself, years ago, and it's served me ever since, and that's four bits of silver that didn't go to some Ethsharitic merchant."
Irillon thought it would be interesting to meet an Ethsharitic merchant sometime. Ethtallion talked about them often enough, but Irillon had never seen one; since beginning her apprenticeship neither she nor her master had left the immediate vicinity of the cottage. She supposed he really did make the long and hazardous trip to Ethshar of the Rocks sometimes, but it certainly wasn't a frequent event.
"So if you're going to be a wizard, child, you need to learn to gather ingredients when you have the chance -- and there's an opportunity almost upon us."
Irillon's gaze had begun to drift, but now it snapped back to her master's face.
Ethtallion reached down and slid his book of spells across the worktable to her. She was not allowed to touch it without his express permission, but she could look at it when it was open, as it was now.
It was opened to a page she had never seen before, describing a spell she had never attempted -- the Iridescent Amusement. She read over it quickly.
It didn't look like a very useful spell, but it was a new spell, and she wasn't about to refuse to learn anything in the way of magic. The incantation was fairly brief and very simple, the gestures even simpler.
But then she came to the ingredients. There were three.
A hair from the head of an executed criminal, a drop of his blood, and a piece, however small, of the gallows he died on. The gallows fragment could be re-used indefinitely; the hair and blood would be consumed in the working of the spell.
"Do we have these?" she asked, waving at the shelves just as Ethtallion had a moment before.
Ethtallion snorted. "Of course not. Weren't you listening? This is your chance to gather the ingredients!"
Ethtallion threw up his hands in exasperation. "There's going to be an execution! Sella told me the news when I was out in the garden this morning. The King of the Coast has sentenced a man named Therindallo to be beheaded for treason on the twenty-fifth of this month."
"Three days from now? Um... where, Master?"
"Where else would the King of the Coast stage a beheading? Tintallion of the Coast, of course."
"But that's thirty miles!" Irillon protested. "And it's enemy territory!"
Ethtallion frowned. "We are Tintallionese, you and I. That's in Tintallion."
"But my family is sworn to the Island King, Master!"
"Well, even you aren't stupid enough to tell anyone that, are you?"
Irillon stared hopelessly at him for a moment...
[That's where I stopped, having realized I should start with the actual execution.]
I received an invitation to submit a story to Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds, and decided it was time to write another Ethshar story -- I'd recently finished "Night Flight" and had greatly enjoyed being back in Ethshar, and the fantasy world I'm most associated with is Ethshar, so it seemed natural.
Problem was, the editor wanted a short story, and I didn't have any good story ideas that looked short enough. I began rummaging through my old files, hoping to find inspiration, and came across stuff from back in the period 1979-1983, when I was running a sort of play-by-mail game based on Ethshar. There I found an incident in one player's file that caught my fancy.
I reworked it considerably, dropping out lots of extraneous stuff and giving it a much happier outcome, and there it was.
"Ingredients" was first published in a limited-edition hardcover anthology called Marion Zimmer Bradley's Fantasy Worlds. The book is edited by Marion Zimmer Bradley and Rachel E. Holmen, and limited to 300 signed and numbered copies published by the Marion Zimmer Bradley Literary Works Trust, ISBN 0-9665958-0-7.
The story is reprinted in the back of the March 2001 Wildside Press edition of The Unwilling Warlord, ISBN 1-58715-286-X, with cover art by Dalmazio Frau . It was chosen to accompany that story at random -- I had two stories and one novel I hadn't yet paired up, and which I chose was purely arbitrary.
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