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A thundering crack sounded from the laboratory I'd been about to enter. Bile rose into my throat as a noxious smell filled my nose, making me wonder if it was safe to be breathing the gut-churning odor. Shoving my paranoia aside, I squared my shoulders and pushed the heavy oak door open.

"Hello?" With the fragrant odor was smoke, limiting my field of vision. A shadow moved inside the haze, and I tried again, "Hello, Mister Malachite. I'm your new apprentice, B—"

"Get down!" A warning rang out.

I threw myself to the ground with such gusto it was worthy of a stuntman and covered my head for any falling debris.

"Will the wonders of Merlin never cease?" A set of wrinkly, sandaled feet with yellowed toenails stepped in front of my face. "You are great at following my instructions." Laughter filled the air, and I felt myself bristle at his joyful cackling.

Shoving myself to my feet, I hovered over the grey and white-bearded wizard who looked to be at least a hundred years old. His face was contorted into a smile that creeped me out within his tree-bark looking face and opaque eyes that eerily twinkled as he continued laughing.

I wondered if the fumes in the room were partly to blame for his peculiar behavior, but only time would tell. I stuck my hand out and smiled. "I'm—"

"An apprentice, I don't bother with real names, I wouldn't remember it in a minute anyway." He tapped the side of his head.

I nodded in understanding... I think.

"For today, I need you to make food."

"Food?" I tried to keep the disappointment from my tone, but this old-fart couldn't possibly be serious. I'm no chef; I barely know how to turn on a stovetop, let alone prepare something edible. "I'm here to learn metal charming and eventually take over your business since you claimed to be retiring next spring. It's why I applied here, not to feed people."

He crossed his arms. "I will only teach you once I'm fed."

I sighed. "Fine, where's the kitchen?"

I spent the rest of the day completing menial jobs around the laboratory, such as cleaning his workbench, walking Ginger—his dog named after her coloring— and, of course, making lunch for him.

Needless to say, I didn't care much for this situation. As I was collecting my things to leave for the day, he waved me to his side.

"Watch now," he instructed as he swished his wand at the blazing blacksmithing fire.

Tiny bits of metal flew into the flames, returning red hot to coalesce into small lines that layered back and forth, each cascading over the next until an egg shape formed. Within minutes, the meticulous crafting of the heated metal was soon finished and floated down to rest on the bench.

"Tomorrow, I'll teach you how to craft and charm snitches." He patted my head and walked away.

With a smile, I started counting the minutes until my return.

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