The Magician

Once there was a magician who traveled extensively throughout the Great Land of Castles. It was said he had dwelled in one of the great Castles and performed as a court jester there. But those were only stories now that he had become an illusionist. He knew many of the second hand miracles that the wizards of the day performed. He also had an understanding of real magic. Only able to perform illusions, he would often wonder at that which was considered magical. Were not his illusion’s someone else’s miracles? As much as he wanted to believe in what he did, he knew they were just tricks – not very mystical at all. Among his tricks were juggling, playing the lute and pipe, and a very simple sleight of hand (technically called lying).

On a journey through the forest near the Great Mountain, a caravan happened to cross his path. The members of the caravan were amiable enough so he traveled with them for a while. The caravan seemed to be made up of a dozen or so families. The old men and women rode in ox drawn carts. They also carried the youngest of children. Younger men and women walked along side the carts. And then there were the energetic children. Some laughed, some cried. Some sang, some shouted. Some walked quietly by what must have been their parents while others raced and hooted running wild around the carts.

He also noticed a very lovely young woman who did her best to keep the children moving. She didn’t try to control their laughter or tears. She just tried to keep them moving: sometimes kissing a scrape and turning the tears to laughter; other times putting a tired child into a wagon to rest; just doing what needed to be done as well as making her own way. But she was just one of the many who seemed to make the caravan a place where all belonged.

The Magician at one point asked one of the leaders where they were headed. The reply: they were searching for a place to start their own community. They didn’t mind paying their tithes to a monarch who would protect them from the savage rigors of war and famine. Only a great king could do that and they had their hearts set to find and petition him for lands to tend and make productive. The Magician didn’t have the heart to tell that Kings were the sort of men who’d send the fathers and sons (as well as the mothers and daughters provided they were sturdy enough) into battle ahead of their royal selves. Nor did he have the heart to say that they King’s taxes usually became greedy in times of famine when they would have even less than usual. So on they went – questing for something that by definition could not exist.

At the end of one afternoon the caravan halted its journey and pitched camp. The Magician saw his path diverging from the path the others were following, he knew the time of separation had come. When all the fires had started, the evening meal cooked, and the work of settling down for the night had been finished, the Magician announced he would be happy to entertain them. The caravan assembled around him and he began.

“You are all good people. So good that one day you will certainly find the Kingdom you are looking for. But in the meantime…” With a wave of his hand, a dazzling blue light jumped from his finger tips, “In the meantime, laugh and enjoy the gifts, food, and clothing you have.” And so he started his routine of jokes and juggling knives and scarves. Next, he played a very fast tune on his lute. The people clapped and several started to dance. The Magician was glad to see the members of the caravan so full of life. And then he played a very melancholy tune on his pipe. It sounded as if the Magician had lost something very dear… a loved one perhaps.And the sound of the pipe carried the sound of his pain. Many of the husbands and wives held each other closer and several of the children and grandparents couldn’t help but shed some tears. And then all was very quiet. And everyone looked at the Magician wondering how could they let this man influence their mood so much… what spell was he working that allowed him to tie their hearts to his.

The Magician reached into his cloak and tossed something out of it. But nothing happened. Everyone watched to see what would happen. Nothing did.

Very patiently the Magician picked up his lute and started to strum the dancing tune he had first played. And then he paused the sky opposite the setting sun was filled with a terrific flash of blue sparks and there was a terrible boom. The caravan sighed, “Ahh.”

The Magician waited, and then started to strum another tune that started with the first tune and bridged subtly to the second sad one he played on the pipe. And then he stopped and a flash of yellow filled the sky followed by a very loud thunder-clap. And all the caravan breath, “Ooh.”

The Magician waited poised to play again. He started very slowly going from the sad theme to a newer theme – made up of elements of both songs. And there were pauses in the song where there were flashes of green sparks that filled the entire night sky. The playing went along with the thunder. The thunder went along with the playing. Somehow it appeared the fireworks and thunder were working with the Magician. Neither controlled any; all worked together. And in the final unwindings of the song, a brilliant flash of red sparks filled the sky. The entire audience was surprised by the new color. And the particular chord the Magician played was sad and painful but true. As the red sparks fell, they turned blue. Finally, the descending sparks turned green as the Magician very slowly strummed the last chord of the evening… one full of happiness. The Magician smiled and stood looking at the audience, hoping they liked what he had done.

 A wave of applause broke through the caravan. The Magician smiled back, held out his hand, and bowed to the audience. His pose indicated thanks to them for he could not have done any of it without them. Some children ran up and put some coins and food in front of him. After a respectful amount of applause, the people started to drift away. One young woman waited behind, the one he had noticied that had been helping the children. He felt her gaze and felt she knew how he had accomplished his tricks. Casting his eyes down, he also noticed the coins at his feet were golden.

After asking her to stay for a moment, the Magician confessed he was a master of illusion and not sorcery. The audience must have thought him to be a great wizard to have given him so much gold so freely. The young woman laughed and agreed. But she said she had not seen his tricks as illusions but as miracles. And she walked away.

The Magician was not quite sure what had just happened. the last time he admitted to being an illusionist and not a wizard, he had created a riot. but this time everything was unusually calm.

Traveling along scared him little. He could deal with the robbers and wolves. Yet the words of the woman had the strangest effect on him. He felt certain that she must have been looking through him all the while as he performed. But he hadn’t felt her penetrating gaze till she had wanted him to know about it. Eventually, he would meet her again… wouldn’t he?

He decided not to make camp with the caravan in case news that he wasn’t a wizard was made known. So he traveled long and hard into the night thinking about how well the pyrotechnics had gone off, and how he just played through the explosions… it only seemed like he had stopped. Most times the explosions nearly caused him to drop the lute. And he thought about the young woman that had looked through him. Maybe she had seen him set up the pyrotechnic tube? Maybe she hadn’t.

Finally he made his own camp near a stream. The clouds separated to reveal the stars. The laughter and words of the young woman came back to him just as he was falling asleep: his tricks as miracles…

1981
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