The flames danced wildly. Gold, red, blue. They were hypnotizing, even at their small size. She could watch them forever if life would let her.
But the banging that snapped her from her stupor made her realize reality was still very present, and still demanded her attention. Standing, the old wooden rocking chair complained almost as much as her old bones did. She huffed, annoyed age was having an effect on her again. A quick spell would fix it if she could just get the money to buy the ingredients. Such was her luck lately.
The banging echoed through the small home again, and she let out an annoyed, “I’m coming!” Opening the door, she looked out into the rainy night, the cold air rushing in to compete with the warmth of her fire. A lone man stood beyond the door, his gaze on the bleak landscape, his long raincoat protecting him from the downpour. His face was partially hidden in the shadows, making it hard to tell if she recognized him.
He turned to her. “I need a tracking spell,” he requested.
Noticing the man shared her slit-pupil eyes, she replied, “You’re a warlock, are you not? Make your own.” She moved to close the door, finished with the conversation.
Quicker than she could follow, he stuck his foot in the doorway, preventing her from shutting it. “Wait. I can’t make my own,” he told her, his voice rough with frustration.
Opening the door again, she smirked slightly and asked, “Magic all dried up?” It was a common fraise used amongst warlocks, meaning they had lost their ability to use magic for one reason or another—a common factor was always their own stupidity, it seemed.
“No. Magic can be traced. I can’t let it lead back to me,” he replied, glancing over his shoulder almost as if he was worried someone was listening.
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Something nefarious connected to this spell? If I make it for you, they’ll track it back to me, and I’ll take the fall for it.”
“You and I both know you’re powerful enough to deflect unwanted attention,” he pressed. “I need this spell. I’ll pay you double for it.”
Pausing for a second, she contemplated her options. The money did sound attractive, but even though she had to admit he was right, she was powerful enough to protect herself, it still would mean a lot of trouble. She’d lived long enough to know the humans didn’t like them meddling in their business, and any of the other races would simply kill first and ask questions later. “What is it you need to track?” She wondered, deciding that was a good spot to start as any.
He stayed silent for a long time, making her think this was information she wouldn’t want to hear. “A ranger,” he finally replied, meeting her gaze.
She cackled, slapping a hand against her knee. Finally sobering, she told him, “Boy, you now rangers are impervious to our magic. A tracking spell after one of them will simply lead you in circles.”
“I may have a way around that. Will you give me the tracking spell or not?” he demanded, his patience obviously running thin.
She paused again. There was only one thing she could think of that a warlock would be wanting from a ranger. Meeting his gaze, she asked softly, “What’s your interest in the pendant?”
His narrowed a fraction. “How did you know?”
“Come now. You don’t live hundreds of years without becoming at least a little perceptive,” she joked, a sly smile playing at the corner of her lips. “We all know who the rangers really are, despite what they claim.”
“Most people think it only legend that the pendant exists, much less the rangers guard it,” he muttered. After a pause, he leveled her with a challenging stare, and told her, “I want the pendant for my own. For my people.”
Staying silent, she met his gaze, studying his expression. There was a dark passion in the depths of his eyes, something she could not deny that she had once shared when she was younger and full of ambition. “The humans will be angered if you hunt after it,” she warned him.
“Let them come. The humans are beneath me. The rangers are all that stand between me and the pendant. That is why I ask for the spell,” he told her.
“A tracking spell simply won’t do the job. But, with triple the price, and an…added benefit—for security purposes, say—I will give you something even better. Something that won’t fail you,” she offered.
“What’s the added benefit?” he inquired warily.
“You will free me from the pendant’s curse,” she told him.
He blinked in surprise. “That would give you full immortality, and unlimited power, a power to rival even the pendant’s.”
She shrugged nonchalantly. “We really don’t know what releasing me from its curse will do. I simply don’t want anyone in control of my destiny again. I’ve lived under that curse for too long,” she told him, the weariness in her voice audible even to herself.
“But you could undermine everything I’m doing. How do I know I can trust you?” he wondered.
She smiled a small, bittersweet smile. “I’ve seen powers rise and fall over an innumerable amount of years. I have no interest in the politics of this feeble world anymore. I would not intervene. I simply wish to live without these aching bones, and when I’m ready, to finally learn if there is an afterlife for warlocks. I cannot do that as long as I’m still under the pendant’s power.”
He considered this, and then let out an annoyed huff. “Fine. Only if you swear not to meddle in my affairs,” he requested.
Her smile never wavering, she stated, “I swear to leave your dealings with the pendant alone.” Feeling the binding effect of her words, she hoped she wouldn’t regret it—a warlock cannot break a promise. “You’re turn.”
“I swear to release you of the pendant’s power, as long as you complete your end of the bargain,” he replied, his tone devoid of emotion.
“Perfect! Come with me,” she told him, motioning him forward. He followed her into the shaggy home, through the main room, and into a smaller side room. A long table lined the far wall, and cabinets, boxes, and shelves were overflowing with the ingredients to several different spells. A toxic, nauseating smell hung in the air, but she was so used to the smell it was almost sweet to her.
She lit a couple candles with a snap of her fingers, and then she hurried to the cabinet on the right. Laying a hand on the smooth wooden surface, she muttered a few words under her breath in their native tongue, making a mental note to change the password now that he knew it. The doors swung open, revealing a collection of items that were just as odd as the contents of the room, but far more valuable. Searching through them for a moment, she finally found a simple black stone.
“Ah, here we are,” she muttered, pulling it from the cabinet. Motioning for him to take a few steps back, she gathered a few items from the table quickly and then began to chant, the dark words of her spell echoing around them. She shuttered, and then the stone glowed with a harsh golden light for a few brief seconds.
Turning to him, she presented him with the stone. “What is it?” he wondered, a hint of confusion and disbelief in his voice.
“One of the oldest items of power in this world. It’s a seeing stone of sorts, to guide you to what you want most in this life. I’ve changed it to react to whoever holds it, so it will guide you straight,” she explained.
“So it will lead me to the rangers?” he asked as he took the stone in his hand, studying it carefully.
“If that is truly where you need to go to find your pendant, it will lead you there. You have my word,” she promised, knowing she could trust in the magic of the stone.
He nodded, then a pouch appeared in his free hand and he presented her with them. Immediately, she knew what they were, sensing their value. Accepting them gladly, she opened one bag and studied the coins within. “These aren’t conjured coins, are they?” she wondered.
He shrugged lightly, his gaze still on the stone. “If they are, they’ll still spend. But I’m pretty sure I picked them all out,” he replied.
She nodded. “Thank you for your business,” she purred, holding the bag close.
Without a word in response, he disappeared into the dark night, gone as quickly as he had come. She watched him go, and then returned to her fire, briefly wondering what she had just released on the world.