A Warlock’s Opinion of Love

Photo: J Hardy Carroll

 

This is an entry to Friday Fictioneers – where we write 100 word stories based on the picture prompt provided.

Most warlocks will tell you that magic cannot interfere with love. However, Arran’s 162 year experience has taught him that love can be far more fragile than many ascribe it to be.

20 minutes ago, he watched with disappointment as his young protégé disappeared into a $200-a-night hotel with his ill chosen minx. From that moment, this private tryst was doomed.

A simple incantation and smoke is billowing from just one window of the hotel. The lovers are probably oblivious to what’s happening outside, but it won’t be long before they have sudden, unexpected company.

Love rarely survives such indignities.

TBAM – Chapter 2: E

Read the rest of the novel here. Sorry about the week break, I was moving!

In the end, Levi was not given the option of opening the door. The stranger opened it for him.

She wasn’t one of the people in the photograph. She looked like she could be in her late forties, but was possibly older under the subtle make-up. Her blonde hair was streaked with grey and pulled back into a tight bun. Levi noticed that her clothes were somewhat formal and unusual. Her grey, asymmetrical dress was made of a stiff material and had long sleeves. She was carrying some clothes with her.

“Good morning, Levi! How are you feeling?” Her smile was very unthreatening, but Levi stepped back. He was almost tempted to just go along with what was happening, but he knew he wouldn’t be convincing.

“I’m sorry, do I… do I know you?” he asked, nervously. Her smile disappeared so quickly Levi wondered whether he’d insulted her. “I’m really sorry, I don’t seem to remember how I got here,” he added, hastily.

“You don’t remember?” The lady blinked. Levi could practically see thoughts running around in her mind. “That’s… that’s unfortunate.”

“Unfortunate?” There was a pause.

“You hit your head,” she said, suddenly. “You fell. When you got here. So we took you upstairs, to rest. That’s probably why you can’t remember. Oh dear.” She took a step forward. Then a step back. Then she sighed. “We’re going to have to explain everything again. I should tell Lekivan. You… You try on some of these clothes. You’ll need to change after sleeping. I’ll talk to Lekivan and then you can meet us in the dining room.”

She dropped the clothes on the desk and rushed out before Levi could ask her where the dining room was.

TBAM – Chapter Two: D

See the rest of the novel here.

Two streets down from Levi’s house was the kind of takeaway that did everything. Fried chicken, pizza, burgers, chips, kebab, anything you could possibly be craving when you were alone and lacking the motivation to cook. Despite its proximity, Levi ordered online rather than face the cold November air. He settled down onto his sofa downstairs, determined to forget about work.

The only thing he forgot was what happened after that.

Levi was acutely aware of the hours he had lost when he opened his eyes and found himself lying on an unfamiliar four poster bed. Bright light escaped from a gap between some intricately embroidered and expansive curtains to his left. Pain bit through his temples as he pulled himself up. When he blinked and the memories of how he got here weren’t flooding back, his gut started churning. He was still fully dressed, and his stale clothes felt very constraining as he moved towards the curtains and viciously pulled them back. The light stabbed his pupils, and he squinted at the view from the large window.

The building he was in seemed to be situated on a hill, and looked down on a city that he didn’t recognize. He stood and stared, disbelieving. How could he have gotten here? His only thought was that he’d started drinking for some reason last night, got smashed, and broke into someone’s house. This place looked far too swanky for him to be here legitimately.

There was a gothic style desk opposite the bed, carved out of wood that was almost black. On top of it was a photo frame which faced away from him. Levi walked towards it, hoping he’d see a picture of someone he knew, and that it would help him remember how he’d ended up here. His hands were numb with panic when he turned the frame around.

The room around him disappeared. It was just him and the photo, his brain short-circuiting as he tried to comprehend what he was seeing. There were four unfamiliar people in the photograph, but two others that he did recognize. The bride and groom. His parents.

The fact there was a photograph of them here at all was confusing, but of their wedding day? In the house, Levi hadn’t found any photographs of a time before he was born. His thoughts were interrupted by a knock on the door.

“Levi? Are you awake?”

It was a woman’s voice, not one that he recognized. The accent was odd, but he couldn’t place it. Levi’s throat constricted and he wasn’t sure he wanted to answer the door. He squeezed the photograph in his sweaty hands. He didn’t know if he was ready for this, the possibility had always seemed remote and now the circumstances were so strange…

Did this person know his parents? Could she even be family?

TBAM – Chapter Two: C

See the rest of the novel here.

In Helena, Litia’s capital city, there was a morgue reserved for those whose deaths were unusual. Ordinary murder victims did not qualify. Police workers who had their suspicions consulted Dr. Kine, who was the sole person to work in this section of the police department. He was paid very well for this job, mainly because there were not many people who were capable of doing what he did while being willing to complete so much paperwork.

It takes a magician to recognize a magical death, and Dr. Kine had been very persuasive when negotiating his salary. Trained as a healer, he’d hated hospital work from the moment he began, and considered dropping out on numerous occasions. Graduating with passable exam results had been a struggle, but now he had no regrets.

There was only one part of this job he considered unsavoury.

When Keats teleported into the morgue, corpse in tow, Dr. Kine didn’t even look up from the notes on his desk.

“So, which poor soul inspired your wrath today?”

“I missed your sense of humour, this was just an excuse.” Keats replied, deadpan.

He finally glanced at her, only to convey his expression of non-amusement. He noticed that she was bleeding from a wound on her upper arm. He could help her, but he didn’t quite feel like doing so. Besides, she didn’t look especially bothered by it.

“Sonya promised me that I would be seeing less of you from now on. Have you any idea how difficult it is to put the bodies you bring here through the system? Especially when you never fill out the paperwork?”

“Hey, it’s not my fault there isn’t a box you can check which says ‘Got what they deserved.’”

“And remind me why this guy deserved to be killed? Actually, don’t. Write it down on the correct forms instead.”

“Sorry, no can do. I need to find Sonya and inform her about what’s happened,” Keats lied. What she really needed was some rest before Sonya found her. Keats teleported out of the morgue, leaving Rappel’s body on the floor behind her.

Dr. Kine regarded the corpse from behind his desk with exasperation before he continued with his notes. It could wait there a few more minutes while he finished this report.

TBAM – Chapter Two: B

See the rest of the novel here.

Two hours later and Keats’ energy had faded. She stared at the door, willing it to open so that she could finally take Rappel Calizo down, give him to the police, then go to bed. Opposite the apartment’s entrance was a stained table, barely large enough for two people to dine at. Keats sat on it, ready to spring into action when the moment came. She was idly playing with a ball of azura in her left hand, feeling its warmth and connection to the magic in her own blood.

Azura was a kind of concentrated magic that could be summoned by most magicians. It was slightly more solid than light and had very few uses other than as a weapon. Skilled magicians could control how concentrated and physical the azura was, but nobody could make it as strong as Keats’ family did. Your common, garden-variety magician could hope to stun somebody with it. Keats had used azura to kill more times than she cared to remember.

Of course, killing was not the objective today. Sonya, possibly the most formidable Queen Litia had ever had, was breathing down everyone’s necks as they tried to pin members of the Desert Freedom group. Minister Trewick was only the second politician to have been targeted. The first victim, Katheu Matri, had been decapitated using magic. Her blood had been used to paint the red sun on the Desert Freedom flag. Before this incident, a large proportion of Litia’s government had been strongly opposed to lifting restrictions on the deserts to the East. Those voices suddenly became quieter.

If Keats did not deliver this man to an interrogation room, Sonya would most definitely not be pleased. In fact, she might even get angry. Few things ever caused Sonya to openly display anger in a form other than a very unnerving glare, but her true wrath was something most people would be wise to miss. It was nothing to worry about, Keats thought. Taking this amateur down would be child’s play.

When Keats finally heard a key being placed in the door’s lock, she narrowed her eyes and charged some azura. Rappel’s face came into view and Keats leapt off the table with the intention of grabbing and restraining him. His unexpectedly fast reflexes caught her off guard, and she found herself barrelling into the door as he dodged past her, with the azura leaving a scorch mark on the flaking paint. Keats spun around and saw that Rappel now had a dagger in his hand, probably one that he kept on his person. She snorted and charged at him again, this time with more focus on aim. There was a short tussle before Keats managed to thrust a ball of azura into the side of his head. Rappel crumpled.

Keats felt a sharp pain just below her right shoulder. The bastard had managed to inflict a deep wound while she’d been focussed on bringing him down. When she looked at Rappel’s body on the floor, she knew that something was wrong. Keats kneeled and checked his pulse.

“Fuck.”

He was dead. Sonya was going to be so pissed.

TBAM – Chapter Two: A

Read the rest of the novel here.

 

Keats knew very little about the geography of the United States of America. She could recall one of her childhood tutors showing her a map, but Keats had never considered knowledge of Earth to be an important part of her education. It was, after all, in a world she’d rather avoid. It was one of those places where those performing magic were required to be subtle about it, and subtlety was not Keats’ strong point. She had her memory control powers, and in her opinion, that was all she needed.

Despite the fact that Keats would not be able to point to West Virginia on her tutor’s map, she’d managed to teleport there. Specifically, she’d teleported to a pizza parlour in Charleston. She made an educated guess that it was 8PM here. It wasn’t the pizza place that Keats was interested in but the apartment above it, whose address was linked to the mobile phone found in Minister Trewick’s house.

Keats used her magic to scan the apartment and check it was empty. There was a good chance the owner of the phone had used a random address rather than one he lived at, but Keats knew it sometimes paid not to underestimate people’s stupidity. She broke in without hesitating.

After searching the 2 room apartment, Keats was positive this was the hideout of Desert Freedom’s hired assassin. She found some wads of cash, some American dollars, some Litian querts. If this was his advance, then whoever paid him was probably regretting their generosity. There were a couple of identification documents. She could tell that the American passport had been forged with magic. She could feel it through her fingertips. As far as she could tell, the Litian ID was genuine.

“Rappel Calizo.” Keats read the name out loud. He’d definitely come back for the money. If he’d used this address to register the phone, he probably hadn’t realised the police could hack into the systems of foreign network companies. Even if he thought there was a risk coming back here, he wouldn’t want to lose so much money, not after everything he’d already done.

He’d be back, and Keats would be waiting for him.

TBAM – Chapter 1: B

See the full novel so far here.

Levi still had dreams about Keats. Once conscious he had to rinse out his mind as you’d rinse out your mouth after vomiting. He used more soap in the shower on the mornings after those dreams than he did on others. At around the same time that Keats had her run in with Terran Sultus, Levi was aggressively straightening his bed sheets, hair still dripping from the shower, and contemplating distractions. Maybe he would call one of his old friends from university, or take on a lodger. The extra money might lead to more distractions, but something to fill the house other than silence would be payment enough.

In his car, Levi crawled amongst the city’s morning traffic, looking at the grey skyline and numbing himself up for what he predicted to be another unsatisfying day at work. When he finally arrived at the ugly office building, he took a small amount of satisfaction in being able to park slightly closer to the entrance than he usually would. If the last four years of his working life was anything to go by, this would be the highlight of his day.

Ignored by the secretary, he turned left when he entered the reception and approached the stairwell. When he saw which two females he would have to walk past to get to his office, he attempted to look unfazed.

“Good morning, Levi.” Chrissie Walker smiled politely. Her companion looked down into the mug of coffee she was holding, the sheet of dark hair not quite hiding the grimace on her face.

“Morning, Chrissie.” Levi paused and nodded. “Laura.”

Laura’s head jerked up. She looked almost startled, like she hadn’t noticed he was there. Or at least that she was pretending very hard that he wasn’t there.

“Hi,” she eventually replied. Her expression betrayed a kind of uncomfortable annoyance, as if Levi had broken a non-verbal agreement that he would never try to speak to her. To be fair to her, she hadn’t pulled the “we’ll still be friends” line when their relationship took its last breath.

Chrissie pressed herself against the metal bannister so that Levi could sidle past and continue up the stairs. He fought off the urge to take them two at a time, and even kept his composure when he heard Laura mutter something that caused Chrissie’s laugh to echo up the stairwell.

Sometime after the break-up, Levi realized that the worst thing about Laura’s cold shoulder was that he still wasn’t sure what he’d done to deserve it. Had he been the most attentive, thoughtful boyfriend? Probably not. Had he refused to go to the majority of the social engagements Laura had asked him to? Maybe. But was she really resorting to these tactics because he hadn’t been perfect? Well, screw her, he thought, as he walked to his desk.

When they were dating, things had been nice enough. He’d even considered telling her. About the Keats thing. He wouldn’t say that it had actually happened of course. Laura, like any other rational person, would have thought he was crazy. He’d describe it as if it was just a dream he’d had. A very vivid dream. The closest he had come was the night they’d just got back from a restaurant. They were sitting on his couch, drinking wine, and they were in the middle of a long silence. He was about to mention it, as if it had just come to his mind, when Laura stood up.

“Levi, this isn’t working.”

TBAM – Prologue: B

See the first part here.

Over the next five years, that remark would gnaw on Levi’s mind with the jaws of irony. Despite her promise, neither his bizarre encounter with sinister men who fell from tall buildings, his time in the café, nor the conversation on the way home was ever erased from his brain. The only thing he couldn’t remember was what had happened when he had entered his home.

Before that magic step through his front door, where the memory cut into darkness as suddenly as the end of the film reel, the smallest details of that night would return to him. The way hot coffee had splashed on his hand when she had dropped her spoon in her full mug and declared that they were leaving. The way he almost felt like he was following her to his own house. Her replies when she finally gave in to Levi’s exasperating questions.

Her name was Keats. She was gifted. It was kind of hereditary.

When she wasn’t irritated by Levi’s pitiful attempt at an interrogation, her tone was infuriatingly blasé. It made him wonder how many times Keats had done this kind of thing before. Perhaps she wasn’t as practised as she seemed, and that was why her attempt to erase his memory had failed. That or he had actually imagined the whole thing. Levi would have liked to believe the latter, because Keats had been completely correct.

After finding out that someone like her existed, life just wasn’t the same.

TBAM – Prologue: A

So, I’m finally posting the novel that gave this blog its name. I’m (doing a lot of) editing as I go. I’m thinking of updating this every Friday. Might increase the frequency when exams are over.

“Are you a vampire?” The question had been burning in Levi’s mind for the past half hour, since he’d seen a man fall from a four storey building, land face-down with a sickening thump, and jump to his feet as if nothing had happened. He glanced at the porcelain coloured face of the woman who had dragged him into this grubby café after he had witnessed that incident, not daring to inspect it too closely. He did not want or need any further confirmation that there was something very unnatural about this lady.

“I think someone has been reading too many Twilight novels,” she said, smirking. “I’m not a vampire, no.”

“And the guys you were chasing? The ones who fell from the roof? They weren’t vampires either?”
“No.”

“Who were they?”

“Just bad guys. You really don’t need to know the details. You won’t remember them, anyway.”

Daring to steal another glimpse of her face, Levi saw that she looked severely bored. He did not know whether that was good or bad.

“I don’t think I’m going to forget anything that you tell me, not after… what I’ve seen.” Levi paused in the sentence after realising that it might be a dangerous thing to say. Amusement seemed to play around the corners of her mouth.

“I didn’t say you were going to forget.”

The waitress came within earshot and Levi fumbled for the drinks menu, which stuck to his fingers as he picked it up. Staring hard at the printed letters, Levi tried to grab at some of the questions that were dancing around his brain. Which one would she be most likely to answer? He couldn’t trust himself to look at the teenage girl who had come to ask for their order. She gave a small cough to break the nervous silence which had settled over their table.

“Two black coffees, please,” Levi heard his companion say. He never drank coffee at this time, but he wasn’t about to disagree with her.

He guessed that it was between six and seven at night, but it felt later than that. Levi looked out of the grotty windows at the dark street outside and saw the orange glow of the street lamp illuminating the litter on the pavement. Inside the café, there was only one other customer, a woman with thick make up and peroxide blonde hair. She had been too absorbed by her phone to even notice them come in.

When the coffee arrived in grimy mugs, Levi ignored his and stared at the graffiti on their greasy table. Keats covered it with her elbow.

“What was I saying before?” She paused. “Ah, yes. I’m going to erase your memories. Tomorrow morning you’re going to wake up like this never happened.” She smiled as if this was something Levi had been waiting for.

“What if I don’t want my memories erased?” Levi eventually replied. Her expression changed to one of pity.

“Okay. So if I don’t erase your memories, you’d be perfectly okay with living the rest of your life knowing that people like me exist, that stuff like the things you just saw can happen, and you’d be fine with that? No. You’d go insane. Trust me on this one.”

Levi didn’t really know how to respond to that.

Friday Fictioneers – Parenting Troubles

Copyright - Douglas M. MacIlroy

Copyright – Douglas M. MacIlroy

This rather hilarious photo was put up by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for the Friday Fictioneers challenge.

Our oldest daughter has an unfortunate habit.

It’s not picking her nose, or wetting the bed, or even the insistence on wearing those rather horrendous pink striped tights.

Oh no. She likes to curse people.

Little Beth down the road lost her hair. Next door’s Jimmy now has a twitch which no therapy in the world will cure. We won’t get into what happened to the poor girl who came to babysit. (I just hope she develops some strong neck muscles. Quickly.)

She’s really more vindictive than little girls ought to be.

I think she gets it from her mother.