There was a knock on the door.
The wooden door produced an irritating shrill of a noise as it opened to a young man in a close fitting dark leather like long coat. He was soaked with water as the rain had continued to pour for the third straight day, his collar turned up to the wind. The young man with his long hair pulled back into a tail, save for a few loose strands flapping in the wind, didn’t seem to mind the weather, only holding up a bag to the patron of the house.
The bag was in the shape of a shield that can be seen in the bigger cities museums dedicate to the past, trimmed on the outside with gold and a wide spanning “W” in the middle, which denoted the class of Spellcaster he was.
“Morrin Caedmon, Arcane Defense Agency. You called?” said the tall man.
“Yes, yes, please come in from that weather.” said the man at the door.
“No worries, I’m quite fond of the rain…” said Morrin as a set of hands went to the top of his head as if to wipe something, perhaps the rain, off of himself but instead went down his whole body, never touching his body. The water that rested on him was silently drawn to the space in between his hands and body, collecting into a orb shape that grew in size the further his hands went down his body. Coming away from his body, his hands had two liquid orbs in each, hovering an inch over the palms. “And it’s not like I have to stay wet if I don’t want to.”
The man starred at the Spellcaster as he took the two orbs of water and threw them out the door with the rest of the rain. In the irontown of Alexis where magic wasn’t prevalent, even in the distant country side where his family lived, he wasn’t use to seeing it used so casually. Nor did he want anything to do with magic. It’s the reason he moved away from his home town where magic was used everyday and seemed to cause so much trouble for the people, but it seems no matter how far he goes or where it still manages to cause problems for him.
As the Spellcaster came away from his action walking further into the man’s home, he closed the door and turned to his guest. “Thank you for coming, Mr. Caedmon,” the uneasiness could be seen in the man’s posture. “I’m Michael and I assume they told you of the situation?”
“I’m aware,” responded the young wizard.
“And you’re aware of my… hesitance in asking your help on this. If it weren’t for the city authorities recommending someone like you for this, you wouldn’t be here.” Michael didn’t veil his dismay at the Spellcaster’s presence in his home, nor could he veil his desperation. The situation was a dire one.
“I could care less of you personal opinions of me and what I can do. I’m here to help,” said Morrin directly. This was not the first person he had come across with the predigest against magic and those who wield it. “Care to show me where it happen?”
Michael said nothing for a second or two, as if questioning whether he should, but signaled Morrin to follow up the stairs that where placed ahead of the door. Micheal lead Morrin up the stairs to the second story and down a hall into a room decorated as a little girl would have it. Pinks, purples, and violets. Kittens, puppies, and teddy bears. This was a little girl’s ideal room. The room hadn’t been touched in a while save for the middle aged woman sitting on the end of the kid sized bed clutching a stuffed unicorn tightly to her chest. She showed desperate signs of tired eyes needing sleep, but no tears. Perhaps see had run out and was holding on out of sheer nerve. Perhaps. The other thing that caught Morrin’s attention was the stuffed unicorn she was holding. In a room of mythical-less animals and devoid of magic thanks to a father distaste for magic, it stood out to him.
“This is my wife, Norra,” said Michael, holding a hand toward the woman. She raised her tired eyes toward Morrin.
“Are you going to find my little girl?” said Norra.
“I’m going to try,” said Morrin, not wanting to lead them into a false hope. Experience has taught him that much. He looked down at the dresser to his side sized to accommodate the little girl whose picture was framed on top. She was in the range of eight years old, long black hair, a rosy cheeks ballooned on her face as she smiled to the camera as he lovingly held onto the newer version of the unicorn her mother was now holding. There little girl was going to be a looker when she grew up. “This is her?”, confirming Morrin to the parents of the little girl.
“Sara,” said the father, nodding as he answered.
“And there was no sign of anyone coming in and taking her? You didn’t see or hear anything, the day of or leading to it?”
“No, NO! I’ve went through this with the other constables from Alexis. She just vanished, no break in, she didn’t run away, we didn’t lose her. She’s just gone.” The father’s agitation was growing into anger. The presence of a seemingly competent magic wielder, regardless of their intentions, was getting to Michael.
Morrin let the moment linger before he spoke. “I have to double check their work, make sure they did their job right. But to correct the record, no one simply vanishes.” He spoke in a calm, direct, monotone, much like he did downstairs. Not trying to win over or insult the parents, simply giving them the truth.
“But magic could do it?” asked the mother in more of a confirming nature to validate whatever rumors she might have heard.
Morrin shook his head, ignoring the ignorance of people assuming what they didn’t know. “Magic doesn’t allow for the impossible to happen. You’d need to open a link inside your home, which wouldn’t have gone unnoticed even if a stranger got in here. I can’t sense any residual connection, if there was, I’d be able to use it to go directly to the other end of the link if that’s where she was being kept. Something else happened here, something that got her to go out into the night on her own.”
“What could do that?” asked the father, unknowing of anything being able to do such a thing.
“Sirens lure sailors to their deaths, but you’re nowhere near the open ocean. It would have to be specific, because it only affected your daughter and not you or you’d all be missing.”
“Could that really happen?” asked the father, the anger had finally come forth and raised its ugly head. “Gods, I tried to get away from this stuff!”
“It’s been known to happen, someone coercing another, persuading them, mesmerizing them. But that’s why we’re here, Spellcasters fix the problems when something steps out of line.” Morrin turned to leave through the door frame. “Stay inside till I come back, I’m going to ask around.”
“Ask around?” questioned the father. “There’s no one here for miles!”
Morrin disappeared down the hallway as the two parents stayed inside their missing girl’s room. “Is there now….”
Outside the house it rain continued to beat down coldly and straight as Morrin walked some distance away from the warm two story to the edge of a tree line. The night had made a black void of the forest with branches on the edge reaching out from the darkness. Morrin approached, head drenched from the downpour in the short time it took him to walk the distance, his breath trailing from his nose and mouth in the cold night sky. His long purple coat of leather held back the water’s barrage but slid down his neck from his head as it invaded inside the form fitting outwear. His leather boots sloshed in the puddles he stepped in, protecting his feet from the numbing cold of the water. The standard issue uniform of a Spellcaster of the ADA was made complete with two metal plate folded around the top and side of the shoulder on each side and a line of pliable metal coming over the shoulder line across the the top of the chest and back to the other side, along with two spaced lines coming from the side to incline down the front of the uniform waist to go back up and go to the opposite side in the same position.
It was a very symmetric uniform to say the least, but that was the furthest thing from his mind as he reached inside his coat from the back to remove a concealed dagger. Bending his knees, Morrin came closer to the wet ground and started carving into a muddy patch of earth in front of him. After a few minutes, he straighten his legs as they ached from the drawn out awkward posture he had kept, looking down at the work he had completed as her cleaned the mud off the dagger’s metal with the end of his long coat.
The muddy carving was of a circle that four lines in the corresponding directions of North ,South, East, and West, but before the lines connected to the circle the ends formed different shapes that would have look like scribbles to any who didn’t know any better. Satisfied with his work, Morrin brought the freshly cleaned and wet blade to his left palm and tightly closed it to bring the dagger’s sharp edge into his palm leaving a deep cut that drew blood. A small wince streaked along his face and was gone as he held his still closed fist over the circle he had made and squeezed, drawing blood out from clenched finger to collect at the bottom of his hand until the weight could no longer be held. The drops of blood fell like the rain around him onto the center of the circle as Morrin spoke in a language few humans have heard. A tremble radiated outward from the circle calling out to those he needed to speak to in the forest.
More time passed, Morrin waited politely but hated to wait due to the current situation. He continued to listen and thought he had heard something from within the abyss of the woods but the rain made it difficult to determine anything distinguishable. There, he heard it! A small cackle, small, high toned, and faint, from the direction of his left, then a baritone purr came from the right. Glimpses of shapes coming from the darkness as the flashed by, an elbow, part of the side of a little head with things coming from the tops that looked like twigs. More laughter, and not the kind that brought a smile to your face but the chill up your spine, Morrin reminded himself to be weary here.
“I invoke the right to peaceful conference by three. Do you promise the same?” Invoking the word of peaceful congress with these creatures was something that could not be broken, as is true with them, if they gave it that is. “I only seek information.”
More laughter comes from the dark as it becomes more pronounced. “A wizard calls on us and he talks of peace,” said another high toned disembodied voice.
“Meddle, meddle, meddle, that is the way of the Crafters, the Weavers, the Meddlers.”
“Kill him before he has the chance,” said an almost feminine voice.
“Do you promise the same,” called out the Wizard more sternly than before.
“He invokes the Thriceswear.” A deep voice closer to the edge of the trees.
“He will do no harm here, less we take his fingers, never to cast again.”
Drawn out seconds felt like hours until shapes of shadowed faces, barely discernible in the dark pressed against the little light there was. One showed, then two, the more, scattered all along the tree line. Sunken eye sockets, too big to be human or too small were deep caverns of the same black surrounding them. Weird protrusion came from the bodies of some, other had elongated parts of their bodies, noses and ears and foreheads.
One showed in front of Morrin, basked in shadow but with enough dim light to see the twig like growths coming from behind the torso and the back of the head. Its long arms reached toward the ground as it silently came ever so closer than his companions.
“I invoke the thrice promise of peace,” said the tree-like creature, sending the hairs on the back of Morrin’s neck on end as it spoke it’s native tongue. That was as close as you can get to a guarantee with these creatures, as sure as you knew the sun would rise, a Faye making a thrice promise was gold. He couldn’t let his guard down, these were Wyldlings and he didn’t know how wild and ruthless their nature was but Morrin knew cunning was the nature of all Faye.
“I’ve come to for information,” said Morrin loudly over the rain so as to be heard clearly. He held to he calm demeanor forged through countless situations.
“Knowledge from us is not free ,” called out one of the little wyldlings.
“Knowledge is power, power has a price,” called another, making fun of the code of the Spellcaster, Knowledge is power, power with responsibility, and twisting it to serve their own desires.
“Offerings must be made, to take without giving is not balance,” said the Tree Faye. “Nothing earned, nothing important.”
Morrin hated this part. He reached for the pouch at his belt under his long coat and pulled it out, holding it up for all to see. Morrin pulled the leather string loose and poured out gems and rubies that glowed dimly in the darkness.
“Sunstones, for your services,” called out Morrin in reasonable tone of voice. Simply making a business deal.
“Shinnies!” Squeaked one Faye.
“Taketaketake!” called another.
“No!” cried out the gangly Tree Fray raising its head as lighting streaked across the sky, silencing the crowd with the deafening of the thunderous boom. A moment passed and none moved of dared speak. “We have no need of the light stones, we of the dark. A favor I ask of you, when it is my choice to say. Nothing less.”
A favor of a wizard to a group of Wyld Faye, Morrin didn’t get the impression that they needed help moving their couch out of their old apartment. This wasn’t the deal he wanted, but what he’s got, trading a little girl freedom for a bad situation down the road.
There was no getting around this. “I agree,” said Morrin through gritted teeth.
“Thriceswear,” called out the Tree Faye.
“I promise you one boon for knowledge gained. My word, by three,” called out Morrin unhappy of the turn of events but if it got him to the little girl then he would stomach it. Of course the cheery cackling of the other Faye as branches rustled didn’t help, either.
“Speak your query.”
“A little girl was living in this house….” started Morrin.
“Little girl with hair of hay, little girl gone astray,” interrupted the Faye with the womanly voice that got another laugh from it’s ilk. Morrin controlled the urge to burn the forest down with them in it, releasing the idea in big exhaling breath of air jetting through his nostrils.
“Yes, that little girl, but she’s gone. Did you happen to see her leave her home, did someone take her?”
Another round of laughter. “Sweet song on the threads of the winds.”
“Calls the little one from her bed.”
“Someone persuaded her out of her home?” said Morrin, interrupting the Faye’s riddles. “Show me where she was taken.”
The low chattering of sneering died out as the haunting faces melted back into the darkness, the Tree Faye turned to walk back into the darkness. “You follow.”
Morrin hesitated. The the logical side of his mind knew the Faye had sworn to not harm him every instinct inside him screamed danger walking into the blackness. An instinct as old as humanity has been around, an instinct to be afraid of the danger and the things that reside inside it. Though they have given their solid vow that they would not bring harm toward him, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t find a way around it and it caused him concern that they hadn’t tried yet. The payment was simply them getting the best deal they could, but could it be the favor they’re going to ask at some point was the end of the underhandedness? Morrin knew the answer, that he was more valuable alive, and tricking him into live long servitude would be than a simple one time favor. Morrin steeled himself readying for what malicious trickery laid before him and walked into the darkness.
Walking in a dark unknown forest during a rain storm did little to hasten his journey. Following little creatures that would constantly blend back into the darkness once you got a flash of them moving around ahead of you didn’t help either. Aside from the odd lightning strike in the sky there was little to light the way in front of him, at one point, Morrin brought forth a source of white light through magic to help him navigate the forest but was met with hissing and snapping.
“NO LIGHT!” cried out the Tree Faye angrily. Morrin killed the light, hesitantly. Unknowing how long it had been walking, Morrin caught sight of a pinpoint of light ahead of him, peeking through the foliage. The light grew as he was lead closer to it, coming to an open meadow area where a small wooden hut resided in the center on the middle of an inclining hill.
“This is where she was taken to?” said Morrin to the blackness.
“This is where the little one rests,” responded the disembodied voice of the Tree Faye.
The realization came to Morrin as he heard the chattering laughter of the other unseen Faye. “She was taken here! What are you playing at!” said Morrin, his tone noting his anger.
“You asked where, it is here,” said the unseen Faye. “A favor… for favor. An easy bargain for us.” More laughter rang out from the forest’s nothingness and faded. This was there trick, this is the plan all along, the little girl wasn’t taken off to parts unknown far away from here, she had been taken to a spot in her own backyard, that could’ve been found had he simply looked for her. Though the constables of Ven, where he’s from, make it a standard practice to scry for the location of a person before calling a Spellcaster, the ones in the irontown of Alexis may not have thought to do it or would have condoned it, and he didn’t think to do it himself because of being so used to working inside of Ven instead of out.
He cursed his own stupidity, having practically given a favor to an unruly pack of Wyld Faye for something he could’ve handled himself. A future concern for a later date, the present dilemma was getting the little girl, Sara, back to her parents.
He wasn’t taking any chances, as the recent underhanded ploy had reminded him, and tested the area for any traps or alarms, magical or otherwise. Honing his mystical senses, Morrin tested the grounds, the air, looking for a hint of magic that would help to identify a signature of another’s magic that wouldn’t hold the feel of natural magic. Though his senses were attuned to magical energies they were not at the level to detect everything, and a highly advanced mystic with the right technique and knowledge could leave little to no hint to a deadly trap. But he felt nothing, and no physical traps either, through his connection to the earth around the hut. No security whatsoever, made Morrin even more nervous than if there were defenses, because that could mean the person who took Sara was powerful enough to take care of whomever came calling, or could mean the person was stupid and didn’t think anyone would check in the general area for her. Either way, smart or stupid, was dangerous.
Morrin crept up to the hit as silent as the grave, carefully choosing where he stepped to avoid the proverbial twig that would announce his presence. Once her got to the hut, he went to the side where the rain did not obstruct his ability to view inside. Sara was inside, along the wall of the circular hut, looking at a mass of tattering and worn patchwork material, whether they were robes of blankets, he couldn’t tell nor could he tell whatever was under there looked like because the patchwork cover came cover her head like a hood. What it was doing alarmed Morrin even more, that of a blanketed hand stirring a cauldron of some strange liquid in a fireplace lit by hot coils of a wood fire underneath it. The “person” underneath the patchwork threw another log on with a pop loud enough to make Sara jump, showing her fear as inaudible words came from the collection of patchwork. Morrin knew there were dark mystics out in this large world and darker magic that called for a great deal of energy to be achieve, as with all magic in the world, and the great bigger the action the more energy, the more power that person will need. Add on to the fact that some require specific “ingredients” in order to work, and you have a price few would sacrifice in order to obtain what they’re after, but if another were to pay the price then you could obtain what your after. It was looking like Sara was going to pay that price for the “Patchwork” person.
Morrin readied himself for the coming conflict, powerful or not, the best thing he has is his element of surprise, taking Patchwork out quickly will avoid any unnecessary dueling of magic that might hurt Sara. A binding spell to contain Patchwork and get her away from here, back to her parents. No sooner had he decided to act Morrin say Patchwork reach up to a sharp knife hanging from a rack near her spot at the fire. It was making it’s move, it was going to sacrifice Sara! Rushing to the makeshift wooden door at the front of the hut, Morrin expelled his force of will and the energy inside him responded by throwing the wood door whole off its hinges and in the direct of Patchwork. Before it would slam into her, shooting her back along with the door, the door took a ninety degree turn to the left and broke apart against the far wall. A little girl’s scream rang out as Morrin kept his eyes ahead of him seeing that Patchwork had acted quickly to redirect the projectile door he had sent toward it. Patchwork returned in kind with a set of iron fireplace pokers from beside the fireplace flying blunt point first toward him. More than a significant number of battles had honed his combative skills, responding with a wide circular motion of his arms scooped up the pokers in a spinning ring parallel in front of him. His hands came together in the center of the spinning circle of iron pokes, palm facing palm, looking to clasp nothing inside as a burning light came from within. The pokers, too, burned red hot and melted together in one to form a bright burning string of molten iron, all happening in a manner of seconds. The iron then shot forth at Patchwork as it began to cool, snaking around and confining it as the iron cooled and contracted around waist height, binding it’s arms to the side.
“STOP!” cried a little voice from behind him as Patchwork twisted its body testing it bonds. Morrin saw a little person come rushing by, making him bend down quickly to catch the kidnapped girl, Sara.
“Easy, you’re save. It can’t hurt you,” said Morrin trying to hold back the little girl that was trying to fight her way past him.
“You’re hurting her, let her go!” screamed Sara.
“ ‘Her’!? What’s going on here,” said Morrin confusingly to Patchwork. He walked over to the cowled creature. “Who are you?”
Pulling back the material showed a woman of aged beauty that left Morrin taken aback as a necklaced pendant feel on her clothed chest along with her lock of dark brunette hair that fell below the unseen neck line.
“That’s my granddaughter!” said the attractive woman in the tatter garments. “We were about to sit down for some of my famous stew, of which, you may have none.”
Morrin probed for answers. Apparently Patchwork, her real name Diana, comes from a long line of mystics, their talents passed down the female bloodline of the family. Of course, her son-in-law, “disapproving” of anything to do with magic would not allow her daughter to do any such thing. Seems little Sara didn’t know the terms of the long-term arrangement her grandmother had set up for her and appeared to be torn between the choices.
“You go to all this over a domestic dispute that doesn’t even involve you?” calmed Morrin.
“You don’t understand, you can’t,” said Diana. “Our blood goes back centuries, I can’t have it stop simply because my shrew of a daughter and her fearful husband says so. Now is the time she starts to develop, the longer the wait the harder it is to connect to the power within her, or lose it altogether if nothing is done.”
“It’s not your decision,” said Morrin, authoritatively. Some long standing families can get in a controlling nature when it comes to their bloodties and highbrow breed. “You kidnapper your granddaughter.”
Diana eyes shot daggers at Morrin as her stunning face turned an unattractive, stern, appearance. She finally spoke after seconds of silence, “Seems I must take matters into my own hands, once again.”
Fire erupted from the fireplace as Sara screamed. The fire encircle along the wall of the hut as Morrin wrapped up Sara in his arms. He watched Diana’s eyes light up as coals in her sockets, the iron seemingly unhindered her ability to manipulate the element of fire but her control was tied to her enraged emotions, running out of control. Morrin looked back at the open doorway to see the path out blocked by fire but beyond it the rain still fell. Drawing upon the energy inside him, he extended his will out to the water halting it in mid air, collecting. Over his shoulder he saw Diana, a burning heat radiating from her, burning the iron to red hot as she yelled out. Feeling the weight of the collected water, Morrin deemed it enough and drew a thin, snaking, line of water to come in washing the path out free of fire and hosing down Diana with enough force to shoot her back up against the space above her fireplace with a nice CRACK. She limply fell forward , unconsciously to the floor, as Morrin doused the fire with the rest of the rain water he had magical gathered. Apparently, the bloodline wasn’t all it was hyped up to be.
The Michael couldn’t get his arms around his little girl fast enough after he opened his front to door to the knocking her heard. Norra was on the stairs in the middle of coming down the stairs when she saw her daughter appear at her doorway, oddly enough she didn’t run towards the two. Morrin’s eye read her closely.
“You’re home, poppet,” said Sara’s father as he pulled back enough to touch his forehead to hers as he held his hands to Sara’s face. Michael turned back to his wife after a few more seconds. “Norra, she’s back!”
Having never taken his eyes off her, Norra’s face contorted to a distraught version of the beauty she had obviously inherited.
’Norra?” questioned Michael, as Sara looked up at her mother.
“I wouldn’t,” said Morrin as he put a hand on Michael’s shoulder.
“What are you talking about?” said Michael defensively.
“That’s a nice pendant you have there, Norra,” said Morrin confidently. “And you have your mothers looks.” She continued to stay silent. “This is the part where you deny your involvement in this whole thing.”
“What!? She wasn’t involved in this, and what’s my crazy mother-in-law have to do with any of this?’
“She’s the one who took Sara, so she could train her in her inherited mystic abilities. I’m guessing she used Sara’s blood ties to her to draw her out. That’s why I couldn’t find any evidence of magic being used.” Norra’s eyes looked down and away in shame. “The question then becomes, how didn’t you know, but then, you knew, didn’t you?”
Norra shook her head softly and closed her eyes, causing the water that had collected at her eyelid to drop down her cheek.
“Norra…?” said Michael, his tone begged for what he was hearing not to be believable. He put a confused Sara behind his legs.
Morrin stepped in between the two and the bottom of the stairs where Norra still resided in the middle steps. “Tied by blood anyone with the same blood would have heard any magical call you mother used, but you didn’t obey, why?”
“She swore me to secrecy,” started Norra.
“Secrecy?” questioned Morrin.
“Said I couldn’t stop her, she was going to uphold the family name, she was going to take her…” continued Norra, it all came flooding out now that the dame had broken. “Said my disappointment wasn’t going to follow her granddaughter…”
“STOP! Stop talking! If she swore you to secrecy by three you can’t speak…,” shouted Morrin, trying to interrupt her, make her stop talking, before she said too much. But it was too late, Norra had said enough too quickly, invoking the thrice curse. She stopped talking, as it looked like she was getting short of breath, bring a hand to her chest. She gasped as pain struck her heart and tried to cry out but came out as an “ACK” due to her lack of breath. Morrin raced to her, catching her in his arms as she was leaning to fall forward, down the stair. She looked up at Morrin with pain and hope for help from the Spellcaster, but there was nothing he could do. He knew the symptoms well enough, a promise by three tied to her blood, her own blood was attacking her due to her breaking the vow she gave to her mother to keep quiet about her plans for her granddaughter. With her still alive, unconscious in the back seat of his Steamer transport, the terms were still binding.
Norra died painfully in his arms, unable to do anything to help her or even ease her pain. Sara peered out from behind her shell shocked father’s legs, doe-eyed and confused.
“Mommy?” The look in her eyes showed the sadness coming forth as she began to understand what was happening.
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