The Last Magus

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An old enemy stirs...

It took a few days for Natalie to settle into her new space, to get it all just the way she wanted, but eventually it was just right. Her first few nights felt a little strange to her, it was her bed, with her mattress and her sheets and covers, but somehow it felt alien. The sun rose each morning bringing light into her room but she also kept wondering whether the room might suddenly change or even disappear itself without her wanting it.

Natalie asked for a soft pastel rose wash on the walls while the woodwork was stained a dark earth colour. She found she could colour the carpet separately too as she split the room into two with a temporary partition, the sort that could be folded back out of the way when and if she felt like it. With the one part she then set up a living room area with a soft beige coloured warm shag pile carpet and the other became her bedroom which she coloured with a soft pastel blue. It was curious how the house almost seemed to know what she wanted, in a couple of cases even before she’d asked for it!

Joe over those first few evenings was almost constantly popping in and out to check if she was alright or needed anything. She spent time with him in the other rooms of course but it was nice to curl up in her own space, so to have him popping in on the off chance she might have missed him over the thirty seconds they’d been apart got a little testing. But Nat knew that Joe cared for her, she sensed he cared for her very deeply and just didn’t know exactly how to show it. Joe was so good for doing all of this for her, she was going to be able to save so much money now that she could easily afford the college course in September, she had a feeling that if she had any shortfall Joe would happily make it up. However on Joe’s tenth or was it his eleventh, “Hey Nat how’s it going?” Natalie just smiled at him, kissed him sweetly and said “I’m fine Joe, go practise your spells or something. I think I’ll read a book before bed.”

“You know I’m so glad you decided to move in. Even if you and I don’t become like…an item Nat, it’s good to have someone else here. It got so lonely on my own, I can’t tell you how much.”

“Well you’re not alone any more Joe…so go practise some spells and leave me in peace OK?” Nat smiled as she gently pushed him out the door.

“I could come and fluff your pillows or cushions for you if you like?” He said with a cheeky grin.

“I think my pillows are fine Joe, thanks for the offer.”

“Or turn down your covers?”

Nat put her hands on her hips and rolled her eyes, “Listen if you’re trying to see if I’ll sleep with you why not just ask me?”

“I didn’t want to push you.” Joe hung his head sheepishly.

“Joe! You can be infuriating at times, but I really like you. I like the fact you are letting this thing happen at my speed but sometimes you know a girl likes to be…well chased after!”

“Oh!” Joe looked at her slyly, “OK I’ll give you a count of three then try to catch you…if I do you’ll have to pay me with a kiss or two!”

“I didn’t mean like that…”

“One…”

“Joe!” Nat held up a finger in warning.

“Two…”

“Joe be serious will you?”

“Three…better run Nat!”

“Oh heck why not?” Natalie took off with a squeal of delight bolting into her living room. Joe followed close behind her. It wasn’t much of a chase to be honest as Natalie felt she wanted to be caught, but each time Joe got close enough to get a fingertip to touch her Nat would squeal again and dodge. Finally with both of them laughing hysterically Joe cornered her as she bolted into her bedroom. With a deft diving lunge Joe managed to grab her with both arms as they both collapsed onto the bed. For a few seconds he lay on top of her, they were both breathing hard.

“Caught you Nat, now what was that about being chased?”

“You are such a mad idiot Joe Winstanton…” She smacked his chest with an open palm, “but I love you for it all the same. I think you said a kiss or two, so come on lover boy…To the victor the spoils!”

For the next minute or more they embraced in a deep hug as they kissed, long and deep. Joe pulled back a little and looked into Natalie’s eyes. She looked back at him so trusting, “I don’t ever want to hurt you Nat” he said quietly, “I’d die before I ever will.” Then he smiled, “You mean that about you love me?”

“Of course, I don’t do this sort of thing with just anyone. What kind of a girl do you take me for?”

“My kind obviously, but that’s good.” He rolled off onto her bed, “Would you sleep with me if I asked then?”

“Depends how you ask hero. But probably, give me a bit more time to settle in and we’ll see alright? Don’t try and rush things.”

“When have I rushed things? God it’s what over three months now, nearly four we’ve known each other. But sure...” Joe sat up and looked around the room, “you did a good job with this room.”

“Wasn’t me...I chose the colours, I think you’re right the house likes me…I feel so strange saying that.”

“Well I tried to tell you didn’t I? You’re right I really should go practise my spells, call me if you need anything.”

“Err Joe?”

Joe turned back, “Yeah?”

“I need something…”

“Anything name it…”

“How about another of those long kisses, feels really nice when you’re pressed up close like that.”

“Anytime you want my lady.” Joe lay back down on the bed and kissed Natalie again. When he pulled away this time she had her eyes closed and was smiling like Alice’s Cheshire cat.

“Ooh that’s the way lover boy, many more like that and I’m not going to be needing this bedroom.”

“You’ll keep it all the same Nat, I promised you your own space and I meant every word. Now I can feel the magic calling, if I don’t practise it’ll build up in my head so I’ll see you a bit later OK?” Joe rolled onto his back and sat up again before standing, he did it fluidly and without much effort. Nat just lay on her covers contentedly smiling to herself. “Call me if you need anything OK?”

“Go and chuck some fireballs already!” Nat grabbed a pillow and threw it at Joe’s back as he walked out of the room.

Joe left with a smile and Nat lay on her bed for a minute or more savouring the feeling, she had to admit that yes, maybe she was falling in love with the idiot!

Joe made his way along the landing to the furthest door, “Practise room” he said and opened the door. He stepped through and closed the door behind him with a click that he barely heard, he’d set up the lock on this door so that in normal circumstances once locked it could only be opened from this side, that would prevent someone interrupting him with one of his dangerous spells being conjured. In front of him stretched his practise room with cold stone and clay walls, barely discernible in the distance two hundred metres away he could see the targets he had set up, now battered and abused. He’d found the plate metal targets were OK for fireball practise but he needed something more solid where lightning was concerned. Soot coloured his targets black from his numerous fireballs and magic arrow strikes, while one suit of armour showed holes where his acid arrows had struck repeatedly. Scorch marks covered the entire rear wall of the room from lightning bolts that had missed their mark or leapt from one target to another as they slipped his control. Joe pulled out his spell book from a shelf he’d added. He kept a copy of the most dangerous spells here just in case anything unexpected should happen. He crackled his fingers like a pianist, summoning his mana he peered down the room, then with a very cautious left hand stuck it into a tank containing his electric eel. As soon as his fingers touched the eel he felt the electricity surge through him. According to his spell book he needed a crystal rod and a cloth, but Draco had told him that using the tail of a creature known as a volt would improve the bolt. The problem was there was no such creature, maybe there had been once but now...no trace! Draco’s description didn’t match anything in the world, anywhere; a flying creature that had a tail that could project bolts of electricity...that could literally shoot lightning! Joe had therefore managed to acquire an electric eel, not quite the same, you were supposed to take the volt’s tail and whip crack it…an eel was kind of too slippery to do that, plus Joe wondered how he’d ever use this bolt lightning having to lug a tank containing a live electric eel around. So Joe just kept the eel in the tank and touched it. The eel reacted naturally by shocking him, four, five, six shocks the eel gave him. Like charging a battery Joe could feel the energy, thousands of volts surging through him.

Electra Chanis” he said in a clear voice with his right hand clenched into a fist. His fist began to glow a pale blue which rapidly grew to a vivid blue white. Then with a simple movement he pointed his index finger and there was a loud crackling as the electrical energy spurted out from his extended finger. A brilliant white bolt of pure lightning, fully six feet in length, leapt from the tip of his finger and sped down the length of the room. With a concussive boom it struck the first target, burning a hole right through the metal. Joe pointed to the target next to it and the bolt arced across the gap, fizzing and crackling.

“Two…” Joe thought quietly, another point and the third target was struck with a violent cascade of electrical sparks. He pointed again and the bolt leapt to a fourth target. Joe’s forehead broke out in beads of sweat, the effort was a little strenuous. He tried to hold himself as he pointed again, the fifth target suffered a burning fizzing impact. Joe felt mildly dizzy so he lowered his hand and pulled his left from the tank. The lightning bolt faded and died as his right finger smoked and he breathed hard. “Five!” he said triumphantly, “but boy is that fifth one a bastard!” Suddenly almost inexplicably Joe felt incredibly dizzy and fell forward only stopping himself by gripping the edge of his workbench.

“What the hell?” He looked around himself in confusion. A voice sounded in his mind, little louder than a whisper, it was a voice Joe had never heard before and it didn’t sound pleasant. The voice said one word. “Magus!” The tone it possessed was contemptuous and filled with a vitriolic hatred, Joe wondered how so much hatred could be put into a single word…but then again most of his spells required only a single word.

Joe felt weak and drained, “Think I need to sit down for a moment, that fifth target may have taken more out of me than I thought…” Joe sat down on a stool and tried to collect his thoughts. If he had been a Jedi knight from the Star Wars films like Obi Wan Kenobi he’d have said he felt a disturbance in the force. Instead Joe just sat for a minute or more breathing and trying to recover his composure, trying to recover his concentration. He thumbed through his spell book to a different page, then another. After a minute without any further dizzy sensations he stood again rather cautiously.

“I think I’ll stick to fireballs this evening they don’t take quite so much out of you as that chained lightning. I do need the practise with the lightning but it can wait…”

Joe turned to face the targets again, he took out a small ball of bat guano and rolled it in his open palm onto which he’d sprinkled sulphur powder. The small dark brown ball changed to a vivid yellow. Joe began summoning the mana energy again with the ball completely covered in yellow he balanced it on the nail of his bent thumb and with a drawn in breath and a silent count to three deftly flicked his thumb upward. “Ignatio Avis” he said clearly. The ball flew up and blossomed into fire, the little ball of guano had been only an inch in diameter, it now hovered in the air growing to three inches in diameter as the ball flashed into orange fire. Joe pointed again down the length of the room, the ball flew forwards, howling as it flew, growing all the time. By the time it reached his target dummies the ball was fully six feet across, bigger than Joe was in height, a veritable fiery boulder, hissing and crackling with raw white hot fire. It struck the target as the ball exploded into a fiery wall of flame and heat, blasting the target, blackening and heating the metal of the dummy.

“MAGUS!” Joe stumbled and collapsed forward again, the voice had sounded again in his mind, this time more forceful, more insistent and much more deeply menacing. Joe panted looking around desperately.

“What the hell is wrong with me? I feel weak as a kitten this evening. I should be able to do this stuff easily by now, I’ve not had any problems before.” Joe’s knees started to buckle and he squawked in alarm as he clung onto the workbench like a drowning man clinging to a life preserver. With some effort he clawed his way back to the stool before, with a huge sigh, he felt his knees give and he collapsed onto the stool. He felt sick, he wanted to vomit, there was a taste in his mouth, a taste he’d never had before…it was sickeningly bad, foul. He turned his head and spat onto the floor, his eyes bulged, his spit had gone black, it oozed like thick tar or oil while giving off a pungent aroma of rotten eggs! Joe tried to control himself, the sight of that black spittle made him want to vomit even more. Instead he sat still and hoped that this whatever it was may be just a passing thing.

“I wonder if there’s any magic based diseases out there I could have contracted. The NHS would have a hard time dealing with something like that.” After ten minutes of deep breathing and repeated spitting to rid himself of the foul taste, he spat again, he could still taste that foul stuff though it was far fainter now. He was deeply relieved to see his spit come out colourless.

“I think Joe boy you had better give it a rest tonight, something isn’t right here. I don’t want to do myself an injury…” Joe very cautiously got to his feet, sinking back down to the stool again, his head swam and he felt the dizzying effect of the room appearing to spin wildly. He waited, breathing patiently. He even tried his meditative trance for a couple of minutes trying to find the peaceful centre. Finally he tried again, this time he stood, though he felt wobbly, weak but he was up…that was a start. He turned to the door and grasped the handle. The door didn’t budge.

“Idiot!”, he scolded himself, “you lock the stupid thing so you won’t be disturbed...burning Nat’s hair off wouldn’t be very wise either.” He reached down to the key, his vision was blurring, fading in and out so he got it on his second attempt and turned it before opening the door. Another wave of intense weakness grabbed him as he stepped onto the landing. His insides felt like they were being twisted together and so cold! His knees gave out again as he called “Nat…help me!” in a despairing voice. His vision darkened alarmingly and he fell forwards with a thud as he hit the floorboards of the landing, face down, darkness stole over him as he slipped into unconsciousness.

A few seconds later Nat stood at her door, puzzled by her name being called. Her face fell in shock as she saw Joe face down, half in and half out of the doorway, he wasn’t moving or from her viewpoint even appear to be breathing.

“JOE!” she screamed, she ran forwards to him. She rolled him over onto his back, he groaned aloud…he was alive. “Joe speak to me are you alright?”

“Oh-h-h-h!” he groaned again. His eyelids flickered and jumped. In the brief flashes that his eyes were visible Natalie could only see the whites.

“What is it Joe? What’s wrong?” Joe’s eyes flickered open, little more than slits. He tried to focus on her face.

“Don’t know…feel weak…Bad taste…Oh-h-h-h-h!” he turned his head and choked. Nat shrieked at the sight of the thick oozing black liquid he coughed up.

“Don’t worry Joe, I’ll help you! I don’t know how or if I can but whatever it takes…I’ll help.” Gently she lifted him and carried him back to her bedroom before putting him into her bed. Joe groaned a couple of times more as she did but his eyes didn’t open again until morning.

“Draco!” Natalie screamed, “something’s wrong with Joe, come quick!”

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