His pupil was gazing outside not focusing at all on the lesson at hand. Leaning over his shoulder, he looked through the window only to notice the boisterous noise of birds frolicking in the branches or foliage of the nearby tree. As he breathed down the young man’s neck, the latter startled.
“I’m sorry Master François.”
“What were you sinking about?”
The young man shrugged.
“I was wondering if there was a spell that could make people mutable?”
Mutable? Oh yes of course. François’ English remained a bit rusty. He’d only come back after 2 centuries away and well, when one didn’t use language one lost it a bit, even a magician such as he.
“Not in the book you’re studying now. But maybe.”
“Truly? Oh it’d be wonderful.”
“I shall search for it. But you… you must focus on your studies. Your parents were adamant.”
“Yes of course.”
The newly found enthusiasm was endearing. Well if it motivated his pupil, he would try and do something even though he didn’t understand the request.
It took him the whole part of a month to figure it out. There were no such spell in any of the books he possessed but he’d been practicing magic for long enough to build his own spells if he ever needed to. Some of the tomes he had were actually updated with his own work but he wasn’t one to brag about it. So he did exactly that with his pupil’s request. It would be a good reward: the boy had worked really hard on his magic and he was progressing faster than François had a right to expect considering how far behind he’d been when he took over his magical education. At his age, François was much more advanced.
In fairness, there were more schools of magic when he was a kid. Today people tended to deny it existed so for gifted children it was hard to take ownership of their powers. And John growing up in Salem was even less likely to take a chance; everyone knew the bloody history of the city. It was sheer luck that his parents were opened to the idea. New age people might yet save the magic world for all their curious ideas.
When he told John that he had the spell and he intended for the young man to test it himself, John was ecstatic.
“Really? You trust me with such a spell? It must be complicated.”
Mage François raised an eyebrow; no not really. Unless one wanted to make it permanent, which wasn’t the purpose. At least not for now.
“But could we make it permanent?”
“Yes. But that requires a higher level of mastery than you have now.”
Disappointment resounded in his voice.
“The lines are there but we’re not to use them for now.”
A flash of happiness appeared in the young man’s eyes.
“Shall we try it?”
“Sure. I brought a bird to experiment.”
He unveiled the cage he kept in the room, usually empty but now for a small nightingale he’d caught the night before. The creature was chirping happily.
He handed the spell to the young man and stood a bit apart watching. John’s eyes scanned the spell and his eyes widened in surprise. He turned around apparently with a question, which he didn’t phrase before looking back at the bird. He started the incantation and stopped.
“Master François, is it the right spell?”
“Yes of course my boy.”
He focused again… Suddenly he whipped around and directing his fingers towards him the incantation flew at François. And the boy at pronounced it all. He didn’t have a moment to raise a protection; it was too late. He collapsed with the force of the spell. How could John have hidden such powers? The boy looked at him with a smirk.
“You can’t speak now can you ‘Master’?”
François looked up at his pupil in confusion.
“Funny spell you worked out. That’s not at all what I meant. Mutable you French idiot. Not mutable as in “mute”, mutable as in “transformation”. Well it works just as well.”
François didn’t understand. Without voice his powers were diminished. A chanted spell always held more power than one not spoken out loud.
“I was looking forward to turning you into a puppy or something. But mute you’re just as useless a magician as my dad.”
François tried to say ‘why?’ but the sound wouldn’t come out.
“Because you’re the only one who could have stood in my way. I’ve got plans. And you would have prevented it. But now… you can’t do much, can you?”
What did he want to do?
“You know I think I understand how you worked the spell. I should be able to turn you into a mute bird soon. You’ll look perfect in that gilded cage. Until then…”
Ropes appeared out of thin air and wrapped themselves around François. He was doomed.
In answer to Deviant Art Flash fiction month July 3 prompt
Theme: communication. What happens when misunderstanding occurs?
Dictionary Prompt: mutable (adj.) – liable or subject to change or alteration.