Frugal Wizard | Chapter One
I came alert, fists raised, an electric jolt of adrenaline surging through me. I spun, light on my feet, looking for someone to punch, sweat streaming down the sides of my face.
I was in a field.
A sunny field, with a forest nearby.
What the hell?
What the ever-loving hell?
Heart thumping like a bass beat, I tried to make sense of things. Something sounded behind me and I spun, hands back up at guard.
It was only a bird. This was just a field. Ridged and furrowed, with undulating lines in the earth. There was a burned-out section around me, marked by charred stalks of grain and smoldering ash. I searched my memory for clues and found it blank, like a white room ready for paint.
Empty. I was empty. Except for . . . a vague dislike of swimming?
At the moment, that was the sum total of what I could remember about myself. No name. No background. Just a latent fear of large bodies of water.
I raised a hand to my head and glanced around, trying to make sense of my emptiness. The plants growing outside the burnt area were a few inches tall. My inability to distinguish the variety indicated I probably wasn’t a farmer.
The strange burn marks made a circle, maybe ten feet in diameter, with me in the center. Looking closer, I noticed that the plants under my feet hadn’t been burned. I glanced behind me, and found an unburned portion in a distinct human shape. My shape. A person stencil.
Maybe I was fireproof? Perhaps I had augments to that effect. I appeared to be male, of average height and muscular build. I wore a pair of sturdy laced boots, a long shirt, a brown tunic on top of that, and a vibrant cloak over that. So I probably wasn’t going to get cold any time soon. Under the tunic . . .
With a tunic and cloak? That was odd.
Oh hell. Was I a cosplayer? And why could I remember that word, but not my own name?
Right, so I’d gone out into a field to take pictures for the local Renaissance faire or whatever. I’d brought along pyrotechnics to make for a cooler shot, and I’d accidentally blown myself up. That seemed plausible enough.
So where was my camera? My phone? My car keys?
My pockets turned out to be empty except for a ballpoint pen. I stepped away from the me-stencil, my feet crunching on the crispy remains of the former plants. The air smelled of smoke and sulfur.
I quickly searched the area, but I didn’t find anything of note. Dirt, vegetation. No pile of belongings; I was beginning to doubt my photoshoot theory. Maybe I was simply a weirdo who liked to dress in old-timey clothing to . . . go explode in fields?
You know, as one does.
In the distance, I saw a dirt road leading to a cluster of antiquated wooden buildings with thatched roofs and few windows, with a taller structure beyond them. They were partially obscured by a hill, so I couldn’t tell much else about them. I shook my head and let out a lengthy sigh. I had to—
Wait. What was that on the ground?
I rushed over and plucked a fluttering piece of paper from between two larger plant stalks. How had I missed this? The edge was burned, and it had only a few lines of text on it.
The Frugal Wizard’s Handbook for Surviving Medieval England
By Cecil G. Bagsworth III
I read the words three times, then glanced at the old-timey buildings again. I wasn’t a cosplayer. I was visiting some kind of theme park. Was that more or less nerdy?
Now that I knew what to look for, I spotted another loose piece of paper over near the woods. Maybe it would have a map on it—or at least list where I could find a first aid station. I’d obviously hit my head or something.
This page was burned worse than the other one. Two chunks of the text were legible: one on the front side, one on the back.
can be traumatic, though don’t worry! As part of your package, a suitable location will be chosen for you to recuperate upon arrival. In addition, it is suggested that you use the handy notation page at the back of the book to record pertinent information about your life.
The transfer process can leave the mind muddied—a few facts about one’s life can jog loose other details. Don’t stress the initial disorientation. It is a common side effect, and all you need to do is
What a perfectly awful place to cut off. I flipped the page over.
seem that the offerings of more expensive packages, sold by so-called premium companies, might be more useful in helping you recuperate. Servants, a luxury manor, and medical staff. Though we can accommodate such requests, don’t fear if you can’t afford them! The Frugal Wizard™ doesn’t need to be so extravagant. Indeed, such services might make things too easy! (See the study done by Bagsworth et al., page 87.)
Yes, the Frugal Wizard™ is capable and confident on their own, and does not need coddling. Read on to learn all the tips and secrets you will need for
All right, so I’d bought some kind of travel package. One that was . . . really hard on the body, for some reason? A thought flickered at the edge of my consciousness.
I’d chosen this. I wanted to be here.
For a moment, I felt close to answering the more important questions. Then it was gone. I was back to staring at a white room inside my brain.
Regardless, I hadn’t arrived at a “suitable location” to recuperate. I’d woken up in the middle of a burning field. The review almost wrote itself. An ideal experience, if you happen to be a pyromaniac cow. One star.
Voices in the distance.
My body moved before I registered the sounds. In seconds I’d slipped into the forest and put my back to a tree trunk. I reached to my side by reflex for . . .
Hell. Was I reaching for a gun? I wore nothing of the sort, and was also uncomfortable at how quickly—and silently—I’d dodged for cover.
It didn’t necessarily mean anything nefarious. Maybe I was a champion hide-and-seek player. Paintball hide-and-seek?
I’d been thinking about finding help, so I should have been happy to be noticed. But some instinct kept me hidden behind the tree, my breathing slow and deliberate. Whoever I was, I had experience with this sort of thing.
I was close enough to hear when the people arrived.
“What is it, Ealstan?” a timid man’s voice said—speaking perfect, modern English, albeit with a vaguely European accent. “Landswight?”
“This was no act of a wight,” a stronger male voice said.
“Logna’s flames, maybe?” a woman’s voice said. “Look at the outline of that figure. And there were all those incantations scattered about . . .”
“It looks like someone was burned alive,” the first voice said. “That clap of thunder on a bright, sunny day . . . maybe fire from heaven consumed him.”
The deeper voice grunted. I resisted the urge to peek. Not yet, my instincts whispered.
“Call everyone together,” the firm voice eventually said. “We’ll put out sacrifices tonight. Hild . . . that skop. Did she leave yet?”
“Earlier today, I think,” the woman said.
“Send a boy to chase her down and beg her return. We may need a binding. Or worse, a loosening.”
“She’s going to like that,” the woman said.
Another grunt. The crops rustled as the people retreated. I finally peeked around the side of the tree and picked out the three people walking toward the distant buildings. Two men and a woman in archaic clothing. Tunics and loose, baggy trousers on the men—weren’t they supposed to wear hose? I could swear I’d seen that in a museum. Their clothing was dyed in faded earth tones, though the taller of the two men wore an orange cloak—a color so vibrant, I had trouble believing it was period authentic.
The woman had on a sleeveless brown dress over a slightly longer white dress with long sleeves. Other than the colorful cloak, they looked the part of old-school peasants—at least, better than I did, with my jeans. Another point in favor of this being a theme park?
Yet, wouldn’t workers in a theme park speak with old-timey British affectations? “Thees” and “thous” and “mi’lords” and the like. But would they keep up the act when nobody was around?
I needed more information. I noted another person running up to them, carrying something. Scraps of burned paper. Most of the pages of my book must have blown toward the town, and someone had gathered them up.
All right. Mission accepted.
I needed those pages.