Visitation and Daymares…
Joe still laughing, and feeling perhaps a little better than he had when he walked through the front door, made his way to his library and pulled down the spell book containing his illusion spells. For about two and a half hours he sat quietly reading and re-reading the spells he wanted. He had a list but a big part of the process of using his magic was engraving the spells into his mind. The process was slow and with spells it had to be meticulous, and that made it exceedingly tiresome. Joe knew the dangers though, get even one section the tiniest bit wrong, one mispronounced syllable, one wrongly inflected sound, then at best the spell wouldn’t work…at worst, he shuddered at the thought! Miscasting was almost an occupational hazard of magic and the more powerful the spell the more complicated the spell was to remember. It was a sort of safeguard to keep the inexperienced away. You had to have the powers of mental concentration in your mind to be able recall the incantations correctly, some of which stretched across pages of his spell book. However Joe had learned from his experience with magic so far a sort of shortcut, if he memorised a spell the day before then he only had to refresh that memory the next day, a much quicker and easier process, particularly where the biggest most powerful spells he possessed were concerned..
However, sitting in that quiet contemplative atmosphere of his library, watching the dust motes out of the corner of his eye float in the air, did tend to have a rather inevitable effect on him. With nothing other to occupy his mind than the repetition of the same incantations over and over again he felt tired. He was feeling emotionally drained from his stint at the hospital, he hadn’t told Natalie but seeing little Amy, so small and so very still on her bed had almost broken him. Therefore just after two thirty he slipped into a sound sleep, not even stirring when the spell book slid from his lap to the floor with a dull thud.
Joe snored loudly and shook himself awake, he never snored! He felt like he awoke anyway. It was one of those odd moments, the feeling of being between awake and sleep kind of astride the gulf, simultaneously sure he was asleep while feeling conscious and awake. The room he noted was in a dull twilight, a half darkness that meant it felt claustrophobically small. Must be late? Why hadn’t Natalie woken him? It must be gone six, maybe she had changed her mind about going out after all? Joe gulped, maybe she’d decided to go without him? He looked around moving his head slowly from side to side, his neck felt stiff, probably from falling asleep in the position he was. For a long moment he was unable to connect what his eyes were seeing to what his brain said should be there, the room looked different in the darkness. It was still his library, he could make out the shelves and the books, in the corner was the computer with his electronic spell book stored carefully on it. Everything was dark and quiet though. Somehow though the room looked different. Joe’s library itself was a partitioned section of the front room, fixed. Joe had considered that maybe storing magic spell books in a room inside a magic based section of his house might just be tempting fate. Joe tried to lift his hand to his face, he found he couldn’t, it was as if he were paralysed in his seat. That meant he was asleep right? He stared at his hand pulling it but there wasn’t anything stopping it.
“Am I dreaming?” He said to himself out loud, “I can’t move…why can’t I move? What the hell is going on?” He tried again to move, pulling with every ounce of his effort, just trying to lift his right hand. He seemed able to only sit in this position and twist his head about thirty degrees to either side. “I must be dreaming!” Although a horrific thought flashed through his mind, maybe the spinal damage he’d hoped was done had actually progressed and snapped his cord at last. Joe swallowed in another gulp, he was scaring himself. As he brought his face back to the front his eyes started to widen. There was something forming in front of him. It looked like smoke being sucked back to a point in space, pale grey, almost white with glistening flecks of light in it like firebugs dancing. The smoke didn’t rise up to the ceiling like smoke normally would or try to dissipate, it just stayed there rotating slowly clockwise level with his eyes. Joe felt now that he wouldn’t be able to turn away. The smoke thickened as more and more grey mist vapours drew in. was the house on fire? Perhaps it was his imagination, the cloud looked to be pulsing with light as the firebugs appeared to have multiplied three of four fold. The really strange thing was the total lack of sound. Joe expected to hear a hissing or a fizzing but everything was utterly silent, quieter than he’d ever heard the house be. After thirty seconds more the smoke started to shrink forming a denser middle that deepened in colour. It then started to coalesce into a darker centre shape, initially the shape was formless just a vague dark blob, oddly spinning counter-clockwise, but gradually it grew absorbing the grey of the smoke as it formed into a more recognisable human silhouette.
“What the hell is going on?” Joe whispered in awe, he felt now that trying to turn from the smoke cloud would be impossible. The silhouette started to lighten, it took on colour, leeching it from the colour around the room. Joe started to see dark brown hair, a fair complexion with a Caucasian skin tone. From the curves of the body it was a female and Joe guessed somewhere in her mid thirties. The eyes were shut, but not tightly, as the face formed and the rest of the body solidified from the grey smoke. Suddenly with a sharp intake of breath Joe gasped.
“Mum?” He strained to push forwards but he couldn’t move, “mum is that you?”
Another sharp hiss intake of breath escaped his mouth as the eyes of the face flicked open. The gaze was cold, no human emotion whatsoever. “Hello Joseph.” The voice was his mother’s, and yet was not his mother’s, it had the same general quality but there was something deeply sepulchral about it. Her words were clipped and concise, almost unnaturally formal. She would only call him Joseph when he’d been naughty. Now those two words felt ominous. For what felt like a long minute Joe stared unable to speak.
“Mum? But how?” he whispered
His mother’s face broke into a curious half sneer, half smile, “You’re dreaming Joseph! You will wake in a few minutes but I have to talk to you about something very important. I can only talk to you like this now.”
“But mum…I mean…” The figure finally completed its solidification, it was Joe’s mother, but not as he had last seen her ravaged by the cancer. This woman was as he had seen her in the old photo as a boy. She wore her military nursing sister’s uniform, from the pale blue flash around the top of her cap he knew that was Royal Air Force. To actually see his mother this way was simply breathtaking.
“I have something really important to tell you Joseph and I don’t have much time, so just shut up and listen!” Joe nodded as best he could, his mouth had dropped open, “Close your mouth, that’s a good boy! You’ve found you can do something really special haven’t you?” Joe looked puzzled. His mother’s tenseness relaxed slightly, “I mean your magic Joe. I am very proud of you! I always was and always always will be, you are my son and have always been special to me. You’ve awoken something that hasn’t been seen in over six thousand years…But Joe I have to tell you this magic, it is dangerous…very dangerous!”
“I know mum…”
“You know?” His mother’s face hardened like a steel shutter had just covered it. Her voice echoed faintly but Joe felt her scorn, it stabbed him like a million ice picks. “You know? You know about the danger to yourself Joseph! A bad spell, a mispronunciation or a mistimed action. You know about it backfiring on you…But you know nothing about what I mean!” Again her words echoed in the room, Joe felt like he was being pistol whipped by her voice, “It is you who is becoming the danger here…Joseph” She spat his name as if in contempt then his mother suddenly looked sideways for a moment as if she was trying to look out for someone.
“To?” Joe said quietly hushing his voice to a whisper.
“To everything Joe!” She looked to the side again and her face looked deeply worried, it was as if she were doing something she shouldn’t be doing and someone was going to prevent her as a result. When she turned back her face was a mix of relaxed and concerned, like the mother he knew so well, “I have to go Joe…Be a good boy for mummy!” was all she said.
Before Joe could mouth a single word of protest or ask for more information the figure of his mother evaporated back into faint wisps of grey smoke that rapidly disappeared, as if blown on an invisible wind. Finally Joe, with a choking gargle, managed to find his voice as the last wisps trailed away, “MUM!” he screamed, over and over again.
Joe woke with a start, his eyes snapped open and he convulsed. For the first minute he was still in that strange half dream place and didn’t know where he was, he stared around himself blankly, uncomprehending. After his dream paralysis he tried to move, pushing with all his might his hand rose up so violently that he almost smacked Natalie across the face with a flailing right fist. “What? Where? Who?”
“Joe are you alright?” Joe looked around himself again, he was back in the library, light from the afternoon sun streamed in through the window, he turned his head from left to right trying to force his eyes to focus. Slowly he saw the clock face, it was only three thirty. “Joe did you hear me? Are you alright?” The voice spoke and sounded familiar. Joe’s brain ticked and clicked slowly before showing him the name ‘Natalie’.
“Nat?” Joe blinked several times, his eyes still had an effort to focus properly. He turned back to face the shape in front of him.
“I heard you crying out and came in here to find you asleep in your chair. You were shouting and shouting and moving, writhing as if you were in some sort of seizure, you were calling out the word mum.”
Joe felt as if his blood froze in his veins, “I…” he coughed loudly, doubling over and hawked a mouthful of spit on the floor, he expected to see that foul black tar but his spit was normal, “I saw her Nat! I saw my mother. I don’t know if it was a dream or she somehow visited me but I saw her…”
“But you said she was dead Joe.”
“She was…I mean she is! But I swear I saw her. Not as I saw her at the end, all eaten up with cancer and doolally. I saw her in her prime Nat, an RAF nursing sister, before she gave it up to marry my dad.”
“Oh my God Joe!” Natalie’s hands clasped over her mouth.
“She said she had something to tell me…”
“And I think it’s bad! She had to cut and run before she could tell me anything. I need to talk to you and Draco…right now!”
Natalie naturally looked concerned but to placate Joe and calm him down she just said a meek “OK Joe” and went to the door, she called Draco to come in, he rose from his basket and trotted to the door of the library.
“Draco I need to know everything about that battle between the Great Magus and the demon, everything you can remember. I need to know what the hell this thing has dropped me into the middle of...” Joe looked shaken and pale, he felt as if his nerves were fraying at the edges, his eyes flicked around the room nervously as he spoke. He tasted a faint copper taste in his mouth, he spat again there was a trace of blood in his spit. Pain spiked through his tongue.
“I have told you all of it already magus, all that I know of the battle, I was not present so what I know and have told you is.”
“Third hand, OK I get that…but I need to know everything!”
“There would not be very much else to tell.”
“Did you know anything of this spell he used as his last gasp?”
“Only that he hoped it would put the demon to sleep forever, I was told he used the somnambus incantation you used but attached perpetua onto it.”
“As in sleep forever?” Natalie volunteered.
“Yes.” Draco nodded thoughtfully.
“Any idea how he planned to make it last forever? I mean he could have only used a finite amount of mana at one time right?”
“Yes but remember he bound his life force to it too, that is a powerful source of energy.”
“And would that make it perpetual?” Natalie asked.
“It would make it a very powerful spell certainly and one of prolonged duration.”
“But not perpetual…” Joe looked grim, an idea was forming in his mind based on what his mother’s spirit had said to him and his experience over the past few days.
“Joe?” Natalie turned to face him, “why the interest? what are you getting at?”
“I’m not sure Nat but it’s what my mother said. She told me that she was proud of me and that the magic was dangerous, I said I knew, I hope she got the idea that I would be careful.”
“So she got cold Nat, I mean I’ve felt hotter blast freezers! She poured scorn on me and said I knew about me but I didn’t know the real danger…”
“Nat she said the real danger was me!” Joe pointed the index finger of his right hand towards his own chest then he heaved a sigh, “She said I was becoming the danger to everything. The only thing I can think of that would endanger everything is that demon!”
“But that demon isn’t you Joe…he…it is the danger not you!”
“I know but maybe me becoming good with magic is endangering everything because of him?”
“I don’t understand Joe!”
“Neither do I Nat…I’m beginning to think that the Great Magus may have done something a bit more funky with that last spell than bind all of his energy and life force into it.”
“Well, Draco...” Joe turned to face the slightly upturned face of the golden dog Draco was currently shaped as. “Tell me would it be possible to not just bind all my mana and life force now…but also all future mana into one spell?”
“Future mana magus?”
“I think he found a way to feed all the future mana energy into that spell…”
“Why would he want to Joe? You’ve lost me!” Natalie stepped closer and put a gentle hand on his shoulder. Joe smiled up at her and mouthed the word thanks, he covered her hand with his, Natalie’s presence was reassuring. He felt inside himself that he was twanging like an overstretched guitar string. Natalie could feel Joe shaking like a leaf blowing in a gusting April wind.
Joe sat quietly for a minute or more just enjoying the secure feeling. Then, after heaving another sigh, “Why…because I think he set up the spell to effectively self recharge.” Both of the others looked blank, “Think of this, you are playing music on a battery powered MP3 player…as you use it the battery runs down until it runs out and needs recharging right?”
Natalie nodded, “or you replace the batteries.” Draco looked lost, “Trust me Draco I know what I mean. But take that same MP3 player and plug it into a mains adapter supply and what happens?”
“It doesn’t use battery charge at all or the batteries charge so it…Oh my God yes!” Natalie’s eyes widened with her sudden understanding, “My God Joe…you’re saying he fed the mana of his future, our past, into his spell; like plugging the spell into the mains so it would never run down! That guy must have been a genius to work that out all that time ago.”
“Exactly Nat, now suppose, at some point in the future, he can’t predict when, along comes another magus who starts getting powerful, really powerful, and starts drawing on that mana in huge amounts…”
“Yes go on.”
“Then to use your electricity analogy you’d blow the fuses, too much power drawn at one time. While if there was only a finite amount of mana available at any one time it can’t be in two places at once.” Natalie looked across at Draco for reassurance. “So while you, or whoever are using mana for magic, you are also drawing it away from the magus’ spell on the demon…” Natalie’s eyes widened further this time in alarm, “Oh my God Joe, wouldn’t that weaken his spell?”
“That’s my Nat pure cold logic…and in weakening the spell it would let the demon awaken to continue his plan for the universe.” Natalie raised a hand to her mouth with a sharp in drawing of breath. “So I think the stronger I become as a magus the more energy I draw away from the spell…and the more likely it is that that bastard thing, he, it, whatever will wake.”
“Oh Joe is there anything you can do?”
“I don’t know Nat, I think I need to try and speak to my mother again but that won’t be easy. If I try to summon her spirit that will be a big spell which will draw lots of energy.”
“Well maybe she could come visit you again?”
“But I can’t predict when and from the look on her face at the end I think she wasn’t supposed to be doing what she was doing by talking to me. I hope she doesn’t get into any trouble for it.”
“You’re speaking like she’s alive somewhere.”
“In the ethereal plane...” Draco mused with a cough, “there are certain rules regarding the way one interacts with the material plane miss Natalie. The magus may be correct, her visitation may have breached those rules. If you are correct magus then this is a very serious situation indeed.”
“Yes Draco I know…but for the life of me I can’t think what to do about it.”
“Well…” Natalie squeezed Joe’s shoulder, “speaking as the only non magic using person here, and using my cold logic…and if you want to hear my opinion Joe…”
“Of course Nat why wouldn’t I?”
“Well thinking about this logically, magic aside, I’d say you had a choice of three options, three roads in front of you.”
“First choice, give up the magic, stop using it completely. Cold turkey, just quit! You thus leave ALL the mana to charge that spell. Hopefully it will be enough to recharge the spell’s batteries back to full and let it keep the demon down and out for the foreseeable future.”
“That’s easier said than done Nat, you don’t know what it’s like, I feel a hunger to perform spells now. It’s like being on a drug that you get hooked on, the more I do, the more I want to do…the world’s first magic junkie!” Joe sneered ruefully at the mental image of him calling up his firelight spell with the words I can handle it like the old TV public service adverts against drug addiction. “Cold turkey withdrawal will not be a nice experience honey and now I’ve turned this thing on how can I shut it off? I don’t even know how I turned it on in the first place, it’s not like I smoked a joint…it just happened!”
“Yes, OK, I get it! So then the second choice is to cut back. Not cold turkey withdrawal but more Methadone withdrawal. Only use the small spells, don’t use the big stuff! That way you draw off only small amounts of mana, enough mana to feed your habit, your addiction…but it’s only a little at a time which should have a minimal effect. Leaving the vast majority of the mana still around to charge the spell keeping old horny out for the count!”
“Yes…that might be possible I suppose.” Joe shuddered it sounded almost as bad as going cold turkey, restricting himself to the meagre and small spells, limiting or throttling his mana use. “No one said the demon had horns though Nat.”
“I know but just calling him the demon sounds so weak.”
“Yeah, OK I suppose, we can’t use his name so I guess old horny is as good as any name. That’s choices one and two…what’s choice three? Or don’t I want to know?”
“Choice three…” Natalie smiled a little weakly, she gripped and squeezed Joe’s hand reassuringly, “choice three is probably the hardest road! Certainly the chanciest and probably the most dangerous…”
“Go on tell me the worst…”
“You keep going, keep growing, keep doing whatever you are doing getting more and more powerful.”
Joe’s mouth dropped open, had Natalie not listened to anything he had said? “How will that help Nat? Surely it will only make the problem worse? I’ll use more and more mana until old horny finally really does wake up.”
“Yes but follow my thinking Joe…darling.” Joe blushed slightly was that the first time she’d called him darling? “The Great Magus, according to Draco,” Natalie nodded in Draco’s direction, “put this all powerful demon to sleep, in the hope that a great-er magus than himself would be able to face it and beat it.”
Joe nodded slowly, “That was his general idea yes.”
“Then ask yourself Joseph Winstanton...” Natalie again squeezed his hand and rubbed her thumb across the back of his knuckles, “are you that magus? You’re the first magic user, the first wizard in six thousand years. So how long until the next one? Another six thousand? I believe in you Joe, you’re the most wonderful guy I have ever met and had the pleasure of knowing, you are such a gentleman to me too. You can do things that leave me speechless and wondering how or even why you do them. You’ve also got Draco, an ancient gold dragon must be worth something right? But with enough practise and above all time, could you become powerful enough to beat that demon’s ass once and for all?” Natalie smiled triumphantly.
Joe looked completely stunned, he shut his mouth with a snap and looked around himself as if taking stock. His mouth fell open again, he shut it again. He had not expected this sort of idea from Natalie, she was the logical, practical one. The idea of being that powerful though…not just able to face the demon…but face him with a possibility, however faint, of winning was certainly tempting. Magic was like a craving to Joe he had found himself something that only he could do, it made him feel important, it made him feel powerful. But facing and above all beating the demon...why he’d be the ultimate hero, saving not just the world but the entire universe from oblivion…that was very tempting indeed! Joe was not the sort plagued by ego but he had endured a life of ridicule and torment, maybe now this was his time at last! Joe had never in his whole existence to date amounted to anything…but to become the ultimate hero? Certainly one in the eye for all those people who had considered him a loser over the years. He suddenly shivered, it felt like all the heat in the room had left or was it just a dawning excitement. “Beat the demon?” he mouthed quietly.
“Joseph Winstanton the Greatest Magus...ever!” Natalie smiled broadly as she said the words, “you’ll be Great to me regardless of what you do Joe.”
“If I may make a suggestion magus…” Draco interrupted Joe’s daydream, “your powers are indeed significant, that force wall spell you set up is not a spell for the novice. I have seen practised mages try and fail to inscribe wards with even half the power. However I believe your powers could be greatly enhanced.”
“If you could find the Great Magus’ tower and retrieve his staff. Miss Natalie is also correct, I see in you much of the Great Magus’ abilities. I would not have expected you to be this advanced as quickly as you are, but whether you could match or exceed the Great Magus’ skills, I don’t know he was a very mighty magic user.”
“Well err, I don’t know what to say thanks for the vote of confidence Draco, and you Nat.” Joe half smiled, it was indeed a very tempting proposal. The reasoning side of his brain however decided to lodge an objection. “The problem is…” he started hesitantly, “we don’t know where any of the towers are…let alone that particular one. That particular one that only seven people knew the location of…The Great Magus himself and the masters of the other six towers. As I said before it is also a little hard to ask any of them, the Great Magus is entombed in the tower itself and the others have been dust and bones for the better part of six thousand years.” Joe paused as if considering his next words carefully, “Besides that we don’t know how much time I may have to improve my powers. If that attack I had is any guide and that voice I heard was the demon then he could be waking even now. So if that demon was to wake tomorrow…frankly I think we’re all screwed! I couldn’t face him…not yet! I’d be a pile of ash in the blink of an eye.”
“Well then looks like my little project has just taken on some urgency doesn’t it Joe? That is assuming you want to take this third road.” Natalie beamed a smile of pride, she could really help Joe out now.
“I’ll need to think about it Nat…maybe for some time. Let me know if you get anywhere with your search, because if it looks like it’s going to be fruitless I’m going to have to consider one of the other two options,” Joe shuddered as he grimaced, he’d understated the addictive effect that magic had on him by several orders of magnitude. He was hooked on a drug called mana that try as hard as he might he doubted he would ever wean himself from, even if he did, he seriously considered the constant urge to revisit it, tempting him, pulling him until he cast some spell and the demon awoke. If drug addiction were considered as having a monkey on your back then Joe’s magic was carting King Kong around!
“OK well I’ve started on my Draco’s world version of the globe it’s just a matter of piecing it all together really. Any way hero it’s three forty now do you still want to stay in here and read until five?”
“No…” Joe shuddered, he felt a sense of fear. He was afraid that his mother might try another visit if he stayed. “I’ve got the spells memorised and thanks to this visitation I’ve now got a lot to think about…So if it’s OK with both of you I’m just going to go for a quiet walk so I can think.”
“I’ll get my coat.”
“No Nat! I think I’d prefer to be alone, I need to think and nice as your company is it would be a distraction.”
“Well OK, be that way! Be back by five though, I’m really looking forward to some good Italian pasta. I rang the restaurant and we have a table booked for six thirty, that way we should have time enough to get ready.”
“OK…” Joe looked lost in thought already, “I’ll be honest Nat I thought for a moment in that day dream that you had changed your mind without telling me, everything was in a sort of twilight so I figured it was early evening.”
“Joe…really you should know me by now.” Natalie looked shocked, then she smiled and kissed his cheek, “I wouldn’t change my mind without letting you know. Enjoy your walk and don’t stress too much OK?”
“It’s a lot to think about Nat. Quit the magic, but I think there would be a constant craving to use it again, like a junkie always wants a hit. Cut back, but I think that might be just more of the same, a craving to always do something bigger and better. Or I can say go for it, become Joe Winstanton the Great Magus that is yet to be.”
“Well you’ll never know if you don’t try Joe…”
“Yes, but wielding magic is dangerous Nat and magic that powerful could get me killed! Even the practise will be deadly, if that demon stirs I’m going to be choking up great gobs of sulphurous tar, like last time, or maybe something worse! If that happens in the middle of a spell it could backfire big time! And then if, by some miracle or fluke of luck, I make it all the way to facing him properly…facing a demon the world hasn’t seen for six thousand years, he could snuff me out without even thinking about it. I have no idea what the hell I’ll be meeting so what can I do to prepare for it? Assuming I can stop him flattening me to toilet tissue I get to try and beat him…Nat believe me, I can think of better ways to commit suicide.”
“Has anyone ever told you you are very pessimistic Joe?”
“No but then being a pessimist means never being disappointed…or is it always being disappointed, I forget which.”
“Look on the positive side, you might knock one out of the park Joe! Become the greatest wizard that has ever existed and beat that demon into a cocked hat!”
“I might yes…and pigs might grow wings and fly, which will make bacon a rarity I can tell you! Anyway look this is all moot if you can’t find the towers. I’ll see you later...” Joe pushed himself up from his chair, his legs felt stiff and he groaned as he stood. He went out of the library into the front room and slipped on his favourite leather jacket. Natalie came and stood at the library door.
“Don’t forget back by five otherwise it will be only one of us having the pasta this evening...namely me! Have a good walk and a good think. I’ll have another crack at that globe.”
“All I can think about at the moment is my mother. You should have seen her Nat, that photo I saw didn’t do her justice. She might not have been beautiful but I could see what dad saw in her. I’ll see you at five…” With those words Joe stepped into the porch, he briefly checked the force wall sigils, they were glowing with an unnatural colour, it was a reddish-orange that seemed to shift and waver before his eyes never remaining one colour for more than a heartbeat, as he watched in quiet awe it cycled through the full spectrum. “So is that what Octarine looks like?” Joe said with a wry smile, satisfied his security spell was still eminently functional he opened the outer door and stepped outside. A brief look to either side and he trudged off in the direction of the alleyway that served as a route to the shops. He drew up to the gate at the foot of the alley and passed it by without even noticing it was there. Joe trudged along the road a little dejectedly, head down as if paying inordinate attention to his feet, all he truly wanted at the moment was some peace and space to think.
Natalie stood at the window of the library watching Joe depart, she sighed. From his whole demeanour Joe was deeply troubled. She wished sometimes that he didn’t keep things quite so close and would just once open up to her properly. But then again maybe he had his reasons…emotions backfiring on him? And anyway who was she to talk about secrets, she had a big one!
Natalie was a sensible girl, indeed she’d often wondered what sort of IQ score she would have had. All of her teachers had described her as devastatingly intelligent she had always been the academic brain box type, at the same time she had been graced with jaw dropping beautiful looks. As a little girl she had been angelic but as she had grown older that inner beauty had grown and blossomed out…Natalie was no plain Jane! At the tender age of fifteen she had been offered highly lucrative modelling contracts, her first boyfriend had submitted some bikini pictures of her to a newspaper without telling her. Natalie had always thought he understood how she felt but that one act had killed that relationship pretty fast. Natalie had rapidly realised his idea was centred around the fact he’d be dating a model! Nothing to do with her mind solely how she looked in a swimsuit. But then the offers of modelling work had started to arrive in bundles, agency after agency trying to recruit her, figures were attached to cheques that would leave her breathless. She was sixteen years old and being offered five and six figure contracts. But Natalie had had other plans, her mother would have said “looks were a fleeting commodity, a good solid brain was a lifelong gift!” So Natalie had written out thank you letters with firm but polite denials, returning each and every cheque. Natalie had both the brains and the looks, so of course that also gave her enemies.
At school it had for the most part been the other girls, some she’d even thought of as friends. Treating her like a pariah…all because as they got boyfriends it would be the same story. She remembered Alisha, her best friend of the time. Alisha had been going out with some boy for about a week, she was obviously smitten with him and all of the other girls in the group could see it. Natalie couldn’t remember his name, which probably showed how much of an impression he’d made on her. But Alisha had been using his name in practically every sentence even toying with changing her surname to his to see if she liked the sound. Alisha was only sixteen, Natalie thought her besotted that she would be considering marriage so young. Then, by pure chance one Saturday morning, Alisha and Natalie had met in town on the High Street. Nothing contrived or pre-arranged. Natalie remembered she had been going to check on the availability of a book she had been asking for in the library. Alisha of course had had her new boyfriend in tow with her, literally covering him like a coat of cheap paint! One look at Natalie however and that boyfriend’s eyes had lit up like a pair of halogen headlights! He had not taken his eyes from her for the whole time they’d talked; he had even been desperate for Natalie to join them. Natalie had politely declined, she wanted to get to the library. Natalie had therefore left the two of them and walked to the library thinking nothing more of the encounter. Alisha however had had different ideas, she had seen the way her boyfriend had practically dropped his jaw open and drooled. They had had a blazing row, right there on the street. Alisha was not the most reserved of people and, after smacking her boyfriend hard enough in the face with a punch that sent him off his feet, he had taken the accusations of “What do you think you were looking at?” and the blows and had broken things off with Alisha. She of course had howled and screamed and cursed, running home in tears.
Two days later that same boyfriend was practically camping on Natalie’s doorstep! Alisha of course tried to accuse Natalie of poaching her boyfriend from her. It wasn’t after all his fault, it was that former friend of hers who had revealed herself as such a cheap tart! According to Alisha Natalie had practically thrown herself at the boy. So that had triggered an almighty feud between them. The truth was Natalie couldn’t give a stuff about the boy, she couldn’t even remember the colour of his hair. Alisha was frankly welcome to him! Natalie had said as much, repeatedly, which got her a venom filled reply of “What he not good enough for you then miss high and bloody mighty?” There was no reasoning with Alisha, Natalie knew she was hurt but she was acting like that boy had been the one for her.
After a verbal fight in the school playground, a lot of screaming and name calling that had come very close to involving physical blows. Alisha had broken off her friendship with Natalie. They’d felt like they had been friends since birth. But suddenly one boy and all of that had vanished. Alisha hadn’t stopped there however, Alisha was the sort to pour salt into wounds. She drew her claws and had started spreading foundation less and scurrilous rumours about how no other girl should trust Natalie either; Natalie was “a boyfriend stealing whore” or words to that effect!
Luckily Natalie had left school that year but it had meant a few weeks of loneliness and deep sadness. She had tried a course at a sixth form college, but things hadn’t fared much better for her there either. Constantly in demand for parties, getting chatted up by almost every male who crossed her path, envious and hateful looks from the other females and to crown it all even a few of her male teachers had tried it on with her. It was like none of them could appreciate the quality of her mind. The situation had even got to a point with rumours that became accusations that she had been actually having an affair with one tutor. The tutor in question was easily old enough to be her grandfather! The Dean of the college had wanted to see her as a result. The stress of everything had affected her studies, which of course affected her exam results and she’d finally had to reluctantly quit, dropping out. Natalie felt cheated that she had been denied that education just because she was good looking, even though good looking was a massive understatement.
Now, she desperately wanted to go back and complete her course, maybe go further and maybe, just maybe with Joe behind her in the background…at last she could fend off all but the most amorous types with “Sorry I’ve got a boyfriend thank you!” Joe was so wonderful to her too. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in a physical relationship it was more a case of finding out just how good her mind could be…there was time for all the other nonsense afterwards, and the fact that Joe didn’t pressure her was to her a God send.
With a faint wry smile Natalie walked out of the library into the front room, Draco had resumed his position by the fire and looked to be asleep.
Another wry smile and Natalie gave a small cough, “Draco, do you actually do anything around here other than eat and sleep?”
Draco raised his head, “Miss Natalie, I am, as you well know, the magus’ tutor and magical backup. So yes I do do other things than eat and sleep…”
“I was only joking Draco. Forgive me! It’s just all I’ve ever seen you do is lie in front of that fire.”
“I am a dragon miss Natalie! Dragon’s are essentially lizards. Reptiles are cold bloodied so the cold affects us more acutely we go into a torpor, but with a dragon that effect is multiplied several fold. I appreciate the warmth of the fire...but I am always here for you or the magus if you ever need me.”
“I know that, and it is deeply appreciated, having a dragon at your back does give one a sense of authority. While Joe wouldn’t be anything without you would he? So do you want to come into the office with me until Joe gets back? I could do with the company and I want to have a go at something that I think might find those towers of magic?”
Draco raised his head with a quizzical look on his face, “What have you got in mind?”
“Well when I got the computer to wind the globe back six thousand years you didn’t recognise any of it did you?”
“No that is true.”
“I figured I could build a globe instead that you did remember. Then with that globe and the towers marked we could sort of overlay that one on the one the computer created.”
“Why would we do that?”
“The way I see it there must have been at least some common points, mountains that didn’t change or other landmarks. It was Earth after all not like the Great Magus did his stuff on Mars. So if we can find those common points, then based on the tower locations in relation to those points I could translate the tower locations onto the computer’s globe and then maybe wind it forward again to now.”
“Ah…and thus get the locations of the towers as they would be now. Yes of course!”
“That’s it, so I wondered if you’d like to give me a hand creating the globe.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start with your computers miss Natalie. It is an entirely different world to me.”
“No need. I’ll do all the computer wizardry, you just tell me if I’m getting it right. You can tutor me for a change.” Natalie beamed Draco a warm smile.
“And that will find the magus the towers?”
“Well…maybe close enough…at least close enough to get a good idea of where they actually are, assuming they survived. At the moment they could all be on the dark side of the moon!” Natalie beamed another smile before moving to the door that took her onto the landing, Draco got up from his cushion and followed behind her.
“If it helps the magus then I am more than willing to help…”
“That’s a good err…dragon of you Draco.”