Many years have passed since I first began writing fanfiction. I will always treasure those years spent learning and growing as a writer. When I finally completed Cauldrons Aflame, I promised myself I would try my hand at writing an original piece, something that could be published. I have finished my first book titled: The Potion-Maker's Apprentice. My love for Severus Snape has not weakened over time, and has continued to be my source of inspiration. I decided to make my first book based in the same genre and fantasy world, with my main character Uric Black driven by my passion for a brooding, ill-tempered leading man. The world and characters are all original; however, you will see a strong influence from my personal interpretation of Severus Snape and the world of Harry Potter. This book is written for fans who crave an adult fantasy laced with romance and adventure. I now write under the name Janette S. Wilson.
Below I have posted the first two chapters of "The Potion-Maker's Apprentice" for you to read. You can find a full copy available for Kindle on here: The-Potion-Makers-Apprentice-ebook/dp/B009Y7FMT4/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351476057&sr=1-1&keywords=the+potion-maker%27s+apprentice.
Or you can find a paperback copy on Amazon here: The-Potion-Makers-Apprentice-Janette-Wilson/dp/147766419X/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1351476057&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=the+potion-maker%27s+apprentice.
Here is the summary:
Almost ten years have passed since the dark wizard Demongore was defeated and imprisoned within the deep bowels of Eternal Mountain by the opposing Warlocks. Uric Black, a trained warrior and master potion-maker for the Warlocks, now finds himself trapped in the humdrum life of an Alchemy Professor at Spellbinder University for Magical Arts. That is, until the day he is made to take under his wing a young female apprentice named Rowan Blaze.
Rowan Blaze had no idea what she was in for when she received her acceptance letter from the elusive, quick-tempered Professor. He was determined to be rid of her from the moment she set foot in his classroom. What had begun as an ill-matched apprenticeship explodes into a world of danger, adventure and growing passion after Rowan discovers the Professor's secret life as a Warlock. When Demongore's followers unleash a devious plot to free the dark wizard from his confines, the Warlocks once again must unite to uphold the balance of magic. Rowan and the Professor find themselves entangled in the center of it all. Together they must brew an antidote to the danger which threatens the magical world.
The Professor sat beneath the golden hue of candlelight, trying to stir up interest in a small stack of parchments splayed across his desk. Next to them sat a half empty bottle of Dragon Spirit. Boredom was a cruel affliction. His fingers traced over a silver medallion that he kept beside his inkwell. Embossed on the surface was the depiction of a serpent impaled on the horn of a majestic unicorn. His life had not always been this mundane. He had once been a prestigious warrior in the thralls of war; a Warlock, a soldier of resistance who fought against the evil sorcerers that sought to upset the balance between all things magical and all things that were not. It had been a life of danger, secrecy and battle all mixed into one smoldering brew of adventure. But the war had been won. The powerful necromancer Demongore had been defeated and imprisoned in the bowels of Eternal Mountain, a hold kept by fierce guardians and enslaved dragons. The Professor felt that his usefulness had faded to memory and was smothered beneath the garb of teaching robes.
His gaze fell back upon the scrolls. He scowled at the adjacent pile of apprenticeship applications. He was indeed a master of potions, perhaps the greatest of his era, and he was often sought after for his services. However, over the years he had also earned a reputation for being an ill-tempered recluse. The fact that he had any applicants for the newly created post as his trainee potions assistant was astounding.
He, of course, saw no need for an assistant and even less desire to share the secrets and knowledge of his craft to the person who would work with him. Mimicking textbook rubbish to a classroom of lazy students was merely a way to earn a living. But, to reveal his life's work to a greedy neophyte, to expose his most intricate research and brews, was something he vowed never to do. That is, until the Chancellor of the University demanded it of him. He had been coerced into accepting a fledging else lose his job. At forty-five years of age, what had he become but a whisper of his glory days?
He brought the bottle of Dragon Spirit to his lips. His eyes closed as the liquid bled down his throat and doused his memories. After a few more swigs, he slapped his hand down upon the applications. He tousled them about. Sneering, he selected one at random and scrawled his approval. What did it matter to read them through? Whoever was chosen was bound to be a nuisance.
As the night wore on his thoughts became a blur. His eyelids drooped under the influence of drink. The last words he scratched with his frayed, vulture-feather quill on the letter of acceptance to the applicant were:
Professor of Alchemy, Spellbinder University of Magical Arts
Thunder roared, yet the night sky was as still and calm as a placid lake. It was not the sound of a weather storm brewing, but that of a great battle commencing just beyond the cusp of the ridge. Flashing lights colored the sky. Screams and war cries echoed the marsh like rain thrashing against a mountain. He had arrived late. Scrambling over the hill, he withdrew his wand of hawthorn. He gazed across the battlefield. Many of his fellow Warlocks had fallen. A thin fog crawled over their slain bodies. Magical curses were hurled through the air, felling both allies and foes. And then he saw it. Amidst the carnage he spotted the entrance to the abandoned mine shaft. Inside of it would be Demongore, searching for yet another powerful magical artifact that he could use for his evil plans of world domination. Reaching into his coat pocket, Uric's fingers clasped a tiny vial which he withdrew. He drank the contents in one swift gulp. The invisibility draught took instant effect.
He had to use caution on the battlefield, deflecting stray curses as he made his way to the entrance of the mine shaft. His plan was to catch Demongore off guard and kill him where he stood. What he sought was revenge for the death of his fiancé who was killed by the Silvermask, Demongore's followers, just days before. His heart still felt like a gaping wound. He had already taken the lives of the men who were involved, but it was Demongore who had sent them. It was he that would suffer the greatest.
Although his sight was set on the mine shaft, he helped where he could with the fighting, striking down foes that were overpowering his fellow Warlocks. When he reached the entrance, he ducked inside and followed the floating lanterns. To his luck, Demongore was on his way out, holding a small golden box in his muddy hands. His eyes glowed from a spell that granted him vision in the dark. He wore dark burgundy robes that hung from his tall, gangly stature. His dreadlocks spread over his shoulders like a cluster of snakes. He was without his usual arsenal of bodyguards.
Uric drew the magic from his breast and aimed at the necromancer, rage overpowering his previous strategy to map the tunnels before making an attack. In that moment all he could think of was Lydia. He could end it all now, all the pain and suffering, and all the countless deaths brought about by Demongore's deranged ambition.
However, before the curse could escape his lips, muddy water from the old wooden planks above that reinforced the roof of the mine shaft seeped down onto his shoulder. He could feel the magic dissipate around him. The invisibility potion had been dispelled, revealing his solidified body. A grin stretched Demongore's gaunt face.
Six masked men were suddenly upon him, shouting his name and hurling hexes at his chest. He shielded himself the best he could but, as skilled as he was, not even he could deflect them all. He hit the ground with a painful thud, unable to move his limbs. Warm blood spilled from his left temple down into his ear canal. They towered over him as his vision slipped away. He heard familiar cries in the distance. He felt his own cry swell in his throat, and expelled it in anger at his failure.
Whatever was nested in that golden box, however powerful or not, could not be allowed in the hands of the enemy. If Demongore was interested in it, then it must hold some magic that could be used as a weapon, for the evil necromancer only knew death and destruction. Malevolent laughter swarmed the marsh, a high pitched cackle that chilled even the fiercest heart. The fog stretched around his body like taut bands, squeezing the air out of his lungs. The laughter grew louder and louder as the darkness overtook him.
Uric awoke with a start. The battlefield had vanished, and in its place was his small dusky chamber lined with wooden bookshelves. Dark velvet curtains were drawn closed over the windows. A caged, sooty raven cawed merciless in the corner. Thin beams of sunlight peeked through the crevices hinting that it was morning.
Black liquid from his inkwell dripped from his temple onto his pillow of parchments. He swore at the mess while wiping his face clean with a handkerchief. Glaring at the hourglass, he stood from his desk and stumbled out of his study. He was in dire need of a headache remedy. Had the University been in term, he would have slept through his first lecture of the day.
In the days that followed, he could not ignore the irksome memory that he had selected his would-be assistant at random and in a state of irritable drunkenness. Therefore, he supposed it would be prudent to at least read through her application and qualifications before her arrival. His long, nimble fingers sifted through the applications he had deposited in the bottom drawer of his desk, until he spotted the name Rowan Blaze. He withdrew the attached parchments and read through what she had written.
When he finished, he rubbed his temples. In hindsight, he would have chosen a male apprentice. A female was a migraine waiting to happen, with her emotional baggage and delicate feelings. He had little patience for a woman's irrationalities. He tucked the application back inside the desk drawer.
Perhaps it would work in his favor. His short temper and knack for insults, which he had polished over the years, would have her fleeing back to the States soon enough.
As it was, two weeks remained before the students returned from summer holiday. That gave him two weeks to prepare for the arrival of his apprentice. Chancellor Grimbold may have ordered him to accept an applicant, but the Chancellor did not say that he had to keep that applicant. The old grey-bearded man was wise and cunning, but not as cunning as he. With any luck, and a little bit of help from himself, the neophyte would be running back home to mummy and daddy within the first week.
Scent of Cinder
The wheels of the bus began to slow as it neared a small, obscure station on the northern coast of Wales. Rowan pressed her aching forehead to the glass when it came to a rough, abrupt stop. It had been a long journey from the States, switching between various planes, trains and buses over the course of several days. Foresight was her friend as she downed her fourth vial of motion sickness remedy. She would have preferred to travel by magic; however her luggage had prevented her from doing so. She still had a few more years of training before she would be able to energy travel, or 'shimmer' as they called it, over a distance with the additional weight.
It was nightfall when she stepped out onto the timeworn station, located in a remote area of the Llyn Peninsula. A brisk, damp wind swept through her unkempt hair. Rowan pulled her coat tighter to stifle the cold. She splashed through small puddles to retrieve her luggage. Only a handful of passengers exited the bus, and even less waited to get on it.
Rowan soon found herself alone on the outskirt of the bus station. She stared out into the darkness, wondering when her escort to the University might arrive, hoping she had not been forgotten. It was her first visit to Wales, and she had not been given further instructions past the bus station. Rowan could hear invisible waves crashing against jagged cliffs somewhere nearby. Her life of late felt like those waves, splashing around in a restless sea. And everywhere she turned there was a wall of stone, blocking her from reaching the shore.
Her love for alchemy had been realized at an early age. She worked hard to be the best, graduating with top marks in the field of study. But in order for her to earn the title of master and make a career out of it, she had to serve an apprenticeship, for only a master alchemist could give her that master title. Oh how she wanted it. More than she had ever wanted anything. However, it was proving more difficult than she could have imagined. With three failed apprenticeships under her belt, Professor Black might just be her last hope.
A faint bell tolled in the distance. She counted nine chimes before it fell silent. Moments later, the distinct sound of hoof beats cantered up a winding, narrow road beside the station. She watched the light of a small lantern bob up and down, growing in radiance as it neared.
A large brown shire horse came into view beneath the lamppost, pulling an antiquated carriage. A portly man donning a dark raincoat sat coach, the slick reigns wrapped around his plump hands.
He tilted his hat toward her. "Miss Blaze, I assume?"
Rowan nodded her head.
He tapped on the door of the wagon with his wooden staff. The hinges creaked as it sprung open. Her luggage was pulled out of her hands by an unseen force and flew into the carriage.
"The name's Wallace Hobbs," he said, eyeing her from beneath the brim of his hat. "The Chancellor sent me to escort you to the University."
He held out his hand to help her climb into the wooden seat beside him.
Rowan hesitated before accepting his hand. She had not anticipated this mode of transportation. It was her first time on a carriage, and it might have been charming if not for the sudden jolt that set her insides churning when the wooden wheels began to roll over the rocky, uneven terrain.
"Is this how the students travel to the University at the start of term?" she wondered aloud.
The man laughed, "Nah, this here is the Chancellor's carriage. He and the misses like to tour the countryside from time to time."
"Is it far to the University," she asked, digging in her coat pocket for another vial of remedy.
"No, it's just over the ridge."
The carriage passed through a wooded field. Beyond the trees loomed the immense silhouette of the University, almost castle-like in appearance with its high stone walls and pointed turrets.
"How has the University managed to stay secret all this time? It's not exactly hidden is it?" Rowan observed.
The carriage passed over a short arched bridge.
"The land is surrounded by wards to keep the non-magic folk away. Deterrents, if you will. When any of them get too near, they suddenly forget why they had come and turn away. You know memory modifiers and the like? If any do come close enough, all they see is a rundown, abandoned church."
Rowan closed her eyes and indeed could feel the powerful enchantments encircling the University.
"So what is it that you do here, Mr. Hobbs?" she asked, as the carriage approached the main entrance.
"Oh I fix the broke and make sure the working keeps on working. Some call me the Tinker, but you can call me the maintenance specialist, if you prefer."
Her eyes fixed on a large marble fountain with the statue of a magnificent griffin perched on top, water spewing from its beak. Beyond it she could just make out the hedges of a garden.
"How do the students make it to the school?" she asked.
The carriage rolled to a stop in front of two massive wooden doors.
"They drive here in cars mostly," he grinned. "There is a parking lot around back. We are not as outdated as you might think. Of course the magic interferes with the electronics like mobile phones and laptops, but there is a hall in the west wing that is partitioned off for computer use. The internet is limited to research and is monitored at all times by our head of security. We can't have the students flapping their mouths about the place."
The doors to the University swung open and there stood a short, aged man dressed in brown trousers and an embroidered vest. He was balding on top, but his long, grey beard wagged in the breeze as he walked down the stone steps. He reminded her very much of the ceramic gnomes her mother kept in the garden back home. He waved at Rowan as she climbed down from the carriage. She reached back in for her luggage.
"No need, Miss. I'll see these to your room," Wallace assured her, clucking at the horse.
The carriage began to pull away.
Rowan waved him goodbye. "Thank you, Mr. Hobbs."
Wallace nodded, giving her another tip of his hat.
"Ah, Miss Blaze, glad you could make it." The old wizard welcomed her with an extended hand. "I am Chancellor Titus Grimbold, but you may call me Titus, or simply Chancellor, if you like."
Rowan took his hand. "It is nice to meet you, Chancellor. I appreciate all the arrangements you have made for my arrival. I feel very welcome here."
"Excellent," he smiled, giving her hand a tender squeeze. "It's always good to see a new face at the University. If you need anything at all, please do not hesitate to ask."
He led her into the University. The doors closed shut behind them with a soft clap. The view stretched out into an open lawn lined with hedges, sprinkled with shady trees and benches. Torches hung on the surrounding walls, casting a warm glow over the freshly mown grass. Tall white columns hugged the zigzagging walkways and spans. Rowan followed the Chancellor down one of them into an entrance hall.
An enormous fireplace lit the impressive hall, bouncing light off the multiple staircases and doors. She could tell the University was almost ancient, but had been modernized over the centuries with newer décor and refurbished floors. It still smelled of old books and musty linens.
"I believe Professor Black is waiting for you in his study." His voice echoed the hall. "I will introduce you to him before I retire for the night."
They took the staircase to the right. It spiraled upwards several floors. Rowan had to jog to keep up with the nimble old man, her legs aching by the time they reached a hallway that bridged another set of buildings.
At last they came to a knotted mahogany door with a long steel handle. The Chancellor tugged it open and ushered her inside. They stepped into a circular chamber with wooden tables and chairs that rose from the floor to the ceiling like a mini stadium. At the head of the room was a teaching desk, large swiveling blackboard, and a pedestal holding a large cauldron.
"Please wait here," the Chancellor told her in a soft voice.
He disappeared behind another door on the opposite side of the chamber. He reappeared a few moments later, looking grim.
"The Professor will be out to see you momentarily. He may seem a bit harsh at first. Please do not take offense. It is simply his nature." He stroked his beard, looking up at her with kind hazel eyes. "But I think he will warm up to you with time. I must now leave you in his care. Good night, Miss Blaze."
Rowan smiled. "Goodnight."
As he closed the door behind him, he said, "And, ah, good luck."
Rowan frowned after the door shut with a soft thud. She had hoped this one would be different from the other mentors she had studied under, or rather had attempted to study under. Professor Black would be her fourth alchemy master. With the other ones, well, there had been various complications and incompatibilities, as she liked to call them. Therefore, she had decided to part ways with all of them.
Several minutes passed with no sign of the Professor. She began to wonder if he was going to ignore her all night. Glancing around the chamber again, she walked over to a bookshelf and perused the various titles. Most of them were worn text books and alchemic study guides.
Her eyes drifted to an old, leather bound book that had been set down on top of the bookshelf rather than tucked inside with the others. Rowan lifted it carefully from the shelf. She gasped at the title "The Alchemist Theory: A Master's Guide to Theoretical Practices" by Theobald Laflamme.
She cracked open the book. Her hungry eyes scanned the pages, her heart fluttering at the handwritten script. Rowan could not believe she was holding such a priceless relic. Theobald Laflamme! He was perhaps the most accomplished alchemist in the world. His writings were sacred knowledge to the serious student of ancient theory.
"Good evening." Came a deep voice from behind her that sounded more like a soft rumble of thunder.
Rowan startled and fumbled the book, catching it just before it hit the ground.
As she spun around, her eyes caught on a pair of leather boots. They traveled up long, black trousers to a tower of square vest buttons that reached the hilt of his neck, and up even further to a pair of piercing green eyes.
She gaped at the height of him, easily towering over her by a foot. He was shrouded in black; even the thin, trimmed beard that hugged his lean face and curtain of hair that brushed his shoulders. His energy extruded power and self-awareness. He was an intimidating entity at first glance.
She looked away, her eyes settling on the book in her hands.
"Theobald Laflamme," she said, holding the book up for him to see. "There are only five copies of this title in the world and you happen to own one of them – which I almost dropped on the floor. Forgive me."
Her shoulders shrank as she turned to set it back down on top of the book shelf. "I am impressed that you allow your students to interact with it. I would love to borrow it some time."
"No, hand it here," he ordered, stretching out his hand. "It was not meant for display in the classroom. I had set it there earlier in the week. I'd almost forgotten about it."
She grudgingly passed it over to him, not wanting to part with it. Her gaze lingered on the book. "I'm Rowan by the way. Your new apprentice."
She held out her hand for him to shake.
"I assumed as much," he scowled, ignoring her gesture. "You are the only visitor that I have received this evening. It was rather obvious."
Rowan pursed her lips.
"Tell me," he said, tucking the book behind his back. "How is it that you have managed to flunk three apprenticeships within a single year? And all of those apprenticeships were with highly regarded names in the field. Professor Collier, for example?"
Rowan searched for the right words but before she could explain, he went on:
"I have done my research on you, Miss Blaze. Your credentials appear impressive on paper, and here you stand desperate for yet another willing mentor. Or perhaps you are simply not a people person? Please enlighten me."
Rowan took a deep, calming breath. "I was not discharged, if that is what you are implying. I simply acted on my best interest. Professor Collier's contributions to alchemy have always had my upmost respect, until I studied under him and discovered that his work was a concoction of plagiarisms. He was riding on the backs of his students' discoveries."
"That is a rather bold accusation," said the Professor in a dark tone. However his expression was not one of surprise, as she might have expected. "And Professor Drum?"
Rowan's lip curled. "I do not like people touching my notebook, especially people who think they have a right to copy it. It contains my personal works. I caught Professor Drum performing a duplicating spell on it one evening – and to save you the trouble of asking about Professor Hursting, he was more interested in my anatomy than sharing his knowledge of the craft."
He looked down at her from the end of his pointed nose. "Well, you may rest assured you won't encounter any of those particular problems under my tutelage."
Rowan was suddenly conscience of her tangled, frizzed hair. She had never taken interest or had felt the need for the goopy paste known as makeup, but in that moment she was uncomfortably aware of how the cold, damp weather might have affected her complexion.
She quickly dismissed the thoughts. Rowan was determined to see this apprenticeship through, and although their first meeting was not going as well as she had hoped, she was willing to make the effort. She would not be able to achieve master status without his endorsement. It was obvious that the man had an ill-tempered disposition, and he was certainly not the kindest man on the face of the planet, but perhaps he had something to offer her in the way of knowledge. Besides, she was there to learn not make friends.
Rowan straightened her shoulders. "Since my last apprenticeship, I have had time to do some research of my own. It was not easy finding your published works. But I did come across a few of your written articles in the Alchemist Journal. They were very impressive."
The Professor's expression remained unchanged. "I do not feel it necessary to plaster my private theories across the networking boards. It is my choice to keep my findings independent of public scrutiny, less the urge arises to correct an inconsistency in my field of study. Now, if you will excuse me, I have work to do before the start of term. I will show you to your room."
Rowan sighed as she followed him out the door. He led her down several winding corridors. She tried to remember the many turns from left to right, but soon lost count. They ended in front of an oak door. On it hung the number twenty-four carved in brass lettering.
"I expect you in my classroom tomorrow morning at seven-thirty for further instructions. My first lecture begins at eight sharp. I will not tolerate lateness. Should you fail to arrive on time you may spend the day elsewhere. Good evening."
Rowan spun around to reply but he had already slipped away into the shadows. She frowned entering her room. This was not going to be an enjoyable endeavor, she realized. It was her first night in a new country and an enchanting magical University, but already she wanted to leave. She had to steel herself. Alchemy was her passion and the only thing standing in her way from achieving her goals now was a grumpy, middle-aged professor.
Tucking her fingers into the inner pocket of her coat, she pulled out her apple wood wand and lit the fireplace with the wave of her hand.
The room was as she had anticipated, small and efficient. She had a cozy bed and night stand, a tall wardrobe, and a workbench. There was also an attached washroom with a porcelain sink and tub. A double-sided window gave a nice view of the garden when she opened it.
She stared out of it for a few moments, watching specks of light dance around the flowers, wondering if she might have just caught the Professor in a bad mood, and maybe he would be more agreeable in the morning. Her eyelids soon began to droop.
Her luggage had been set aside in the corner. On the nightstand she discovered a folded map of the school. She was relieved to have it. How else would she have found her way back to the Professor's crypt? Yes, he was just like Count Dracula, inhabiting some deep, dark place. She smiled, and wondered if perhaps humor might be her best ally to survive her stay at this University.