“Look at that bitch.”
My godfather Scott (he’s a vampire, but not one of the creepy ones, he’s just a moocher who lives in our basement) pointed accusingly at the woman on the television - Ann Creedy, news anchor/journalist, who has the dubious honor of sporting the worst platinum-bleached news-cut this reality has ever seen. I can’t even describe it properly because words fail me every time I look at it. Scott and I were sitting on the couch avidly watching the news, which is codeword for being lazy. He was the one who was actually watching it; I was just sitting there. A report by Ann about a protest in Alabama for something had gotten me in a weirdly pensive mood, thinking about life, the world, the nature of magic, and the stupidity of it all.
Sometimes, I worry that I think too much.
“Look at her! Augh!” Scott made a guttural noise at the back of his throat in disgust. He winced and looked away from Ann Creedy’s face. “It’s the crap of nightmares.”
“But, you don’t have nightmares,” I pointed out. “You don’t even sleep.” Most vamps slip into a comatose state during the daytime, where they basically just lay there meditating like nerds in a coffin while they wait for the sun to go down so they can avoid being crispy-fried. Scott, he, well. He just plays MMOs.
“I do sleep,” he defended.
“You mean you nod off out of boredom, when you’re not playing that stupid game.”
“It counts. I just don’t dream. And don’t call my game stupid! It took hard work to gear up my four level-eighty PCs, and now I kick supreme ass, and I deserve to be proud of that. Quit yer bitchin’, Friday. I meant to say, if I had nightmares,” he corrected, “I’d have them about her. She is a demon. A blonde news-demon.”
I remembered something relevant. “I heard that she’s on the waiting list for court possession.”
Scott’s face scrunched up in disgust. “What? Who’d wanna possess that?”
“I dunno,” I shrugged, “a demon of bad haircuts?”
“I see what you did there,” Scott conceded, and we shared a celebratory fist bump.
Scott slurped noisily from his Big Gulp cup - I glanced inside to see what was in it, but looked away quickly. Something slushy and dark red. Vamptastic. “Seriously though,” he eventually continued, raising the remote and muting the TV so we wouldn’t have to listen to more of Creedy’s dreary droning, “they should just fire her. Why do they keep that wig around? I don’t get it. Where’d you hear she signed on for possession?”
I shrugged. “Um, the Internet.”
“Ah. You know, that’s almost believable.”
I grinned. “Isn’t it though? Can you imagine her being interrogated by a fucking Goo-rat, then twisting her head around going all,” I screwed up my face, raised my raptor claws, rolled my eyes up into the back of the head and rasped out, “Nomen mihi Legio est, quia multi sumus!”
He gave my performance a thumbs-up. “Nice. Yeah, that seems like something that bitch would do. Who signs up for demonic possession anyway? Other than lonely newscasters with horrible hair,” he added.
“Demon worshipers, the categorically insane, door-to-door vacuum salesmen looking to get rich,” I ticked off my fingers, “girl scouts looking to up their cookie sales, satanists . . .”
Scott looked up thoughtfully at the den’s coffered blue ceiling, red eyes flashing in the din. “I bet politicians do it,” he finally said after a while. “State senators. Maybe not Congressmen, since they have more to live for, but a State senator would be totally believable. Like, if Randy Lowe - you know that guy who has all those tacky picket signs all over Main? If I heard he was scheduled for possession, I wouldn’t even bat an eye. State senators seem like the kind of shit-heads who would get possessed because they got fuck-all to live for and think it’s some kind of fucked-up public service. But if you told me some, I dunno, one of the Congressmen was getting the ol’ Linda Blair? I’d be like, no. No way. That’s how come there’s so many skeletons out there, running around outside of closets, man.”
I raised an eyebrow in confusion. “Uh, what?”
Scott blinked. “That got away from me a little. What was I saying?”
I shrugged. “State senators signing up for court possession. It makes sense, I’d buy that.”
Scott rubbed his pale chin in thought, then snapped his fingers. “I bet Rob Schneider would do it.”
Insert derisive snort. “If he hasn’t already.”
“Andy Dick, too.”
“There’s no other explanation!”
“Dude, I agree.” His eyes flashed in the light when his pupils dilated, and he turned on the couch to look at me more intently, like he was about to get serious. “Speaking as a vampire, by the way, I disavow that man from my species. He’s gotta be some kind of ghoul by this point. He has to be faking everyone out. It’s like the eighth time people have thought he was dead, and then the next day, someone calls the news, and there’s some idiot on his phone catching Andy Dick, wandering around high outside of a Quiznos, not even remembering that he’s supposed to be fucking dead!” At this point, he sounded pissed off at something, and snorted derisively, falling back to his original sitting position on the tufted navy sofa. “I don’t buy it. He’s either a demon, or a secret zombie.”
I slouched back into the couch we were sitting on to get more comfortable, and felt like I was melting into the plush blue suede. “I had a dream two nights ago that he, that Andy Dick, he was an alien, right? And I got beamed up onto a starship and he told me I was the Chosen One or something, who was supposed to save his race? And that I had to go on this quest for this, uh, this amulet. No wait, it was a magic scarf.”
“Magic scarf,” Scott scoffed, taking a big, noisy slurp from his cup.
“Yeah. But in the dream,” I emphasized, because for some reason I felt the need to emphasize this point, and even threw in an emphatic hand movement, so it wouldn’t be misconstrued.
“In the dream.”
“My dream about Andy Dick being an alien.”
He nodded, and I honestly couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic or not. “Right.”
I continued: “So he beams me up to this starship, reveals that he’s an alien, which I was not surprised about, at all, because if anyone is secretly an alien it’s definitely Andy Dick. But anyway, he tells me I’m supposed to go on this quest, and I told him to screw off, and then all the aliens pulled out these lasers and threatened to shoot me with them, and I walked off all badass-like because I knew they knew that they couldn’t do shit, since I was their Reluctant Messiah, and then I woke up just as their home planet exploded and the magic scarf was strangling me to death, only when I woke up, I was tangled in my sheets.”
Scott blinked. “Lasers?”
“In my dream, they looked more like Next-Gen phasers, but yeah,” I nodded.
“I’ve always thought that those looked more like electric shavers than what a phaser should look like,” he criticized with a frown.
“Well how would you know what a phaser should look like? They don’t exist!”
Scott slammed his giant cup down. “I know enough to know they aren’t supposed to look like space-age vibrators, Friday!” He roared. “Weapons shouldn’t look like marital aids!”
There was a moment of awkward silence, broken only by Scott’s noisy slurping. Gradually he reached the bottom of his bloody slushy, to which I was grateful for. One of my pet peeves is noisy slurping. Scott knew this, and did it specifically to irritate me. I didn’t get too mad since it was kind of our thing - we’d go out of our way to piss off the other and push each other’s buttons, just for the sake of picking fights. None of it was really heartfelt, we just have fun passing the time by being irritating dicks to each other.
“What were we talking about again? I forget,” Scott confessed after several seconds of silence. I opened my mouth to respond, but realized that I had forgotten too, and let out a vague ‘bleuh.’ Same thing we always talk about, Scott. Virtually nothing. In some ways, Scott was more like an annoying vampire brother than a godfather. To be honest, as much as I love my dad, Scott had been there for me more than Marcus Colville. Though I loved my parents, I hadn’t often found myself sitting comfortably in silence with either of them in years. To me, real love is silence.
We sat there in the den for two hours, doing everything between jack and shit. Most of my evenings went like this, when I wasn’t hanging out with Ness. Scott and I let a rich, fulfilling life, as you can see. It was a nice change of pace from what everyone in the family was doing after Dad’s fiasco with the mafia years ago, when all the death threats came in. I had been a different kid back then, all precocious and rosy-cheeked, but now I go out of my way to find new and inventive ways to butcher time, whether that’s sitting around pretending to watch the news, playing pranks on Aunt Lil, exploding garden gnomes, or midnight hijinks around Blackwood.
Besides, it was a Tuesday evening, and there was nothing to do but watch TV and talk about nothing. Could be worse. Something dramatic could be happening. Almost as that thought occurred to me, Erik burst into the room.
Now, Erik’s a pint-sized piece of jerky. He’s nine years old, turning ten this year, and is smarter than I am, which isn’t fair goddamn it. It was all over the news when we found out about his alternate personality-slash-past-life Vladislaus, since having a split personality with one of your past lives was an almost unheard-of condition; the fact that it just had to be the scion of the Colville line didn’t help our positive publicity. There is a cult somewhere in San Diego that thinks my brother is the herald of the End Times, and that when he’s older, he’ll user in the destruction of the world. It’s cute.
Seeing Erik burst into the den and start shrieking about butchering Turks in a heavy Transylvanian accent, hoisting an ego the size of a man three times Erik’s body weight and throwing paraphernalia around the room in a temper tantrum, was a pretty normal, although annoying, event. Vlad wasn’t so bad most days, but every now and then he’d pop out, take over, and throw a fit. It must suck, being an ancient dead conqueror, trapped in a nine-year-old’s body. I feel for Vlad, I really do, but I saw no reason for him to be so nasty about it.
Anyway, Erik burst into the room, snatched the remote out of Scott’s hand and hurled it across the floor and started shrieking. When he gets into his ‘Vlad’ mode he gets this eerie, layered, choral voice - you can hear Erik’s normal voice beneath it, the voice of the nine-year-old nerd who is my little brother, but over it is the echo of the deep and menacing voice of Vladislaus, Voivoide of Wallachia. I don’t remember when I got used to hearing it.
Scott took Vlad’s entrance as his cue to leave and vamp-sped out the room, leaving only the trail of a red baseball-capped blur, which I thought was incredibly unfair. “You filthy traitor!” I yelled after him.
I debated whether or not it was worth it to try and calm Vlad down, or just leave. He shrieked something at me in his native language that I didn’t understand, and I wished that our Dad was there, since Dad spoke fluent Romanian. I valiantly resisted the urge to just jet and hide up in my room until Erik’s episode was over and done with; sighed, and went to work.
“Hey! Hey!” I projected myself from the couch and slid in my woolen socks across the hardwood floor, nearly slipping to a halt in front of my little brother. I bent over, raising my arms to placate the chief turd. “Hey, you! Chill! Alright? Just relax!”
He stopped in his fit briefly to look at me, scowled darkly, and began to pace and mutter to himself.
I inched my way closer, but he stopped in his pacing to glare at me even more darkly when he saw what I was trying to do. I held up my hands palm-outward and twisted my face into the best innocent expression I could manage. “Hey, no! Whoa. It’s okay. There’s nothing to be upset about, uh, that I know of. So just calm down, okay? There’s no good reason to go into a fit and throw shit. Around the room,” I gesticulated in a circular motion for emphasis, “Alright? Alright. Are we good? No? We’re not? We’re still an angry Slav? We’re not good? We more time to calm down? That’s alright too . . .” I gave Vlad what I thought was an encouraging thumbs-up.
“Idi vilo!” Vlad jumped back from me, spitting in disgust.
I racked my brain, trying to remember what Dad told me about Slavic language. I’d never bothered to learn because most of the time, Erik was just plain Erik. Vlad was just a nuisance we had to deal with maybe twice a week for a few hours and—
“Hey, I’m not a witch!” I snapped, then mentally slapped myself. I had just then remembered what ‘vilo’ meant. I couldn’t cast a cantrip to save my life. It’s been that way ever since I was little - all magic has a tendency to just roll off of me like water. It’s a point of embarrassment, actually - everyone in my family, along with both of my Uncles on my Dad’s side and my mom’s two younger sisters can all do magic. I come from a long and storied line of pretty powerful magic-users. If my dud-status ever makes its way to dinner table conversation, it’s always hush-hush. We don’t talk about it in public, either, but what can I do? I just don’t think about it. The hardcore stuff is all innate, and runs hot in the blood of old families with long and storied magical histories - like mine. I’m a black sheep twice over.
The umbra of Vlad’s soul overshadowing my brother’s own gazed back at me from Erik’s green eyes, staining his irises yellow and black. I involuntarily shivered. “Stricată vrajitoarea,” he growled. “Coprnjice! Beng tasser tute. Un copil este un nenorocitule dar nu are constiinta de ea . . . Prosti, toate de tine!”
I groaned, bored of this already. “I don’t know what you’re saying exactly, but I bet it wasn’t nice! Unless it was nice, in which case thank you for the compliment, you Slavic jacka—”
“The understatement of my century,” Vlad spat out, this time in English, thank the Gods. I glared back at him and stuck out my tongue. “And they call dis Erik a child.” I’d always found it funny, they way Vlad referred to himself - as Erik, my brother. They were technically the same person, but Vlad always talked about Erik as someone else, since they shared different memories. He always said it real funny too, because of his thick accent. ‘Err-eek.’ It made me giggle.
My giggling set Vlad off again though, and he started throwing another tantrum. I’d often wondered what the guy had been like in his previous life, and if he really threw tantrums this often. It was probably just a condition of being the ghostly stick stuck up Erik’s pasty, prepubescent butt.
Somewhere amidst tiny Count Dracula’s stomping and screaming, I heard a ghostly shrill from upstairs, and promptly gave up. Great going Vlad, I thought, you woke up Aunt Lil. At that point, I stopped trying to calm Vlad down and fled from the living room, running up the stairs and towards my room in the east wing, closing and locking the door behind me.
The historical Colville manor was a lot smaller than its current incarnation, but it had always been dark and gloomy, like its residents. You wouldn’t find a scrap of lace or frill in this place. I don’t think anything like that would last here for more a minute. If it’d ever looked differently, Aunt Lilith would’ve raised a hissy fit; she was a spirit who liked her doom and gloom.
My room is the first door in the upstairs east wing of the manor. It was originally supposed to be a sitting parlor, if the chandelier hanging over the foot of my bed and showy furniture is any indicator. My ‘closet’ is less of a closet and was modified from an adjoining room, which actually enters out into the main hallway and is accessible by a door that blends into the wall. It’s too big for half of what I actually own, but I think it’s kinda neat - it’s always been my secret spy room. My room has been mine my whole life, and it’s gone through a lot of phases - my childhood ballerina phase, my short-lived bohemian phase, and now my final phase which seems to be less of a ‘phase’ and more like hallmark of the end of all phases, which I like to refer to as “blah.” “Blah” is a state of being one enters when one can’t be bothered with anything stupid anymore. “Blah”-ness is my nirvana.
A lunatic with a sniper rifle tried to kill my little brother and I when we were at Jorgensen Park when I was fourteen. My Dad - the world-class warlock, who used to instruct other professionals like himself on the keener points of ley-magic - stopped the bullet in the air and shot it back at the sniper with his mind. It hit the perpetrator in the knee and blew the man’s leg off. He survived the experience only to die in the hospital. I like to fault the penny I threw down our wishing well for that one. I think if anyone is entitled to become “blah”-like before their time, it’s me. I’ve earned that.
So, when I say that my room is pretty blah, you can understand what I really mean. One whole side of my room is covered in books, and over half of them are irreplaceable antiques. I keep the expensive ones shelved behind glass, and the other ones are stacked as tightly together as I could possibly put them. Not all of them fit on the shelves, so they get stacked on the floor in corners. I have more books than I do anything else, and I’ve read all of them at least twice. The other side of the room contains a writing desk, two carved walnut host chairs that are amazingly uncomfortable to sit in, and an enormous medieval tapestry that covers the wall. It wasn’t my choice, but I don’t have the heart to get rid of it - also I literally can’t get rid of it. It hides the secret door that opens to the closet-room. It’s probably actually worth something, and isn’t totally aesthetically displeasing; the detailed tapestry depicts a colorful bearded king and a bunch of dirty serfs all cowering before some winged, human-like archangels, who are pointing accusatory fingers and scowling at a bunch of bat-winged blue and black demons made of starry shadow lurking at the bottom of the tapestry, underneath the Earth’s crust; who look suitably pissed off at all the finger-pointing going on and seem to be extending their forked tongues as a form of protest. If I had to guess, it was an Angelican thing. I don’t understand it at all. Seems to me that medieval artists wasted a lot of time trying to humanize big concepts like devas, never once considering the fact that comparing such vast beings to us is like comparing us to algae. I have no idea where the tapestry came from or who put it there, but I hate it to freaking death. It’s been there my entire life. I’ve asked my parents to remove it time and time again, but they keep forgetting, and I’ve now just accepted the creepy tapestry. It’s what I must live with. Don’t ask me how many times I’ve tried to tear the ugly thing down. I’ve set it on fire and it put itself out. It’s stuck to my wall with magic or something.
My other wall, facing my bed, is a giant window bisected by a French door, which opens up to a balcony that overlooks the southern half of the Colville property. It has a lovely view of our ancestral graveyard and statuary. There’s no other decor, beyond a painting of a snowy scene near the door, a table lamp on the desk, and a giant black shag rug that I stuck on the floor near the bed because it doesn’t match anything, it makes me laugh, and it’s groovy.
All in all, I think my room suits me. It’s a pretty good reflection of who I am. I didn’t run away from Vlad’s tirade and Aunt Lil’s ghastly wrath to find solace in my room, however.
I have a secret. A special secret that, in a way, ran in the family - a secret I’ve kept under two floorboards underneath the left side of my bed, now beneath the rug, ever since I was precocious young lass.
When I was eleven, and ongoing until I turned thirteen, our family had a bullseye painted on our heads by the vampire mafia. This isn’t news. It was all because of my father’s involvement in the Scipio Trials, which took place during that time; the aftermath, which involved the final death of the vampire lord Scipio, resulted in the entire Colville family becoming a delicious, saucy feast for vampires to fancy. I was taken out of private school and given even more exclusive private tutoring for those short years, which wasn’t all that special even though it sounds like it is. All school is as boring as dirt. Those few years, I spent more than half of my time running around the house with Scott raising hell, pestering Aunt Lil, riling up Vlad, playing pranks on the locals, and gnome-hunting. The rest of the time (when I wasn’t being schooled), before Scott would rise, I would spend my time exploring. That’s how I found a way into the east attic.
The eastern attic is, by the way, utterly forbidden for everyone. Totally verboten. It’s been blocked off ever since my serial-killer black-witch great-grandmother, Sandra Colville, and her creepy dark magic cabal committed all their crimes and did their dirty deeds up in it. It’s especially forbidden to eleven-year-old girls who do not know anything about magic. There isn’t even an official door that opens up into the attic anymore - the winding black iron stairs that used to lead up to it lead to nowhere. Where once there was a door, there is a seamless ceiling, which I have to assume was Dad’s doing. I never asked, because I was worried if I did ask they’d ask why I was asking, and I can not lie to my father. (It’s impossible, I’ve tried. Not only is he my Dad, but he’s actually a really talented lawyer. Imagine being cross-examined by the Devil’s Advocate, but you’re six, and you are actually guilty of stealing some cookies, but it’s too late because you already tried to cover your ass by blaming your brother, but Dad sees right through you and catches you, and you go down hard, and have to serve twenty years without probation because being a child in my household was like being in a kangaroo court where you have no rights but you’re only guilty if you lie in the first place.)
For anyone curious enough, there’s a secret entrance to be found in the east wing. The room juxtaposed to the east attic’s black-iron stairwell is nothing more than an extra-large hall-closet, along with an old fashioned laundry chute. Except the laundry chute doesn’t lead down to the laundry room, it leads up to the attic. Don’t ask me why. My guess is, Great-Grandma Colville installed it. Not for any practical reason, but as a prank, so she could dump condoms filled with expired cottage cheese on unsuspecting someones down the chute on the bottom floor, and get a giggle out of their stinky misfortunes. It’s what I would do. If I had a chute. That led out of my secret black magic room into a random room down below.
Anyway, the chute was just small enough for a skinny, lanky preteen to wriggle into and climb around in, and that’s just what eleven-year-old-me did. I clambered up that chute all the way to the attic, and boy howdy did I have a good time doing it. I liked to explore back then - by age five I’d learned every nook, cranny, and crevice of the property. Every corner, every artifact, every statue, every inscribed rune on every post, every name in the graveyard, and every laundry chute . . . Except for that one in the closet, which I had yet to investigate. When I found out what room I was in once I was out of the chute, I freaked. The expressly-forbidden-by-Dad room, Erik and I had called it. The Bad-room.
Turns out, the room wasn’t so bad. A little dusty, but not too shabby. Dark and gloomy, like most things in our home. Quiet, and more than a little creepy, with some I-don’t-want-to-know-what-the stains soaked into the wood. There was only one window, a big ol’ round one, which overlooked the dense forest surrounding the grounds. (When I was still young enough to not be jaded by my own imagination, I used to pretend the forest was full of the lost Entwives; Tolkien was the first thing I learned how to read, when I was about three or four. Throwing some trivia about the Fry your way.)
Sandra’s attic was bare but for one thing: there was a big ol’ nifty chest propped up against the wall covered by a plaid blanket, likewise coated in dust, but not as much dust. I wasn’t stupid enough not to notice that. Someone had put it there on purpose. Eleven-year-old-me pretended that whoever put it there did just for me, and I marched right on over to that dusty chest and opened it up (didn’t even have a lock, poorly guarded), and found a very interesting, very forbidden treasure waiting inside, just for me to discover.
Sandra Colville was renowned for her spell inventions. She never recorded them down, they were all locked away in her mental vault. She was a prodigy. She was also insanely evil, emphasis on the insane. Moreover, the Goo confiscated all of her spellwork materials upon her burning. Her grimoires and writings were all given to her ashes.
Except, they actually didn’t confiscate all of her goodies. I made a fib.
They confiscated all but one book. The book I found in that chest - as an eleven-year-old-girl intrigued by secrets, who found a secret entrance into the expressly-forbidden-by-Dad-room and found another secret, which she kept for the last seven years underneath two special floorboards in her bedroom.
It’s common but never outright stated knowledge that I, the Cheese Fry, am a dud. Magic runs thick in the blood of my family, but I didn’t make the cut. Erik is pretty proficient with cantrips and basic summoning spells - like nonverbally levitating a pen into the air, or a conjuring a cool breeze on a hot day. He can make a ley-shield without giving himself a nosebleed, which is cool. It’s mostly little things. He’s great at those, and I’m really proud of him. One day he’ll be a magnificent warlock like our father. My father Marcus can summon entire thunderstorms if he wants to, stop bullets in mid-air, and bring buildings crashing down with mere thoughts. He also has a really neat fireball trick that he likes to show off at parties. He’s a licensed warlock, which means that he isn’t supposed to summon thunderstorms and strike his enemies down with lightning at all, except for in self-defense. He’s phenomenally powerful, but his licensing paperwork had an oh-wait-it’s-against-the-law-to-use-except-for-self-defense clause. Abuse magic, and you get the special honor of being labeled ‘reckless user’ and then the rest of your life becomes a sad, repetitive marathon of Jailhouse Rock, sans Rock. The Goo ruins everything that’s fun. Mom, well, she’s not as prominent a figure in my life since I became a teeanger, but is pretty skilled at Earth magic. She seems to have a little talent for every branch, like a magical jack of all trades, though I think her focus is herbalism and divining. I gather it was always only a hobby for her, since it doesn’t tie into her career. My best friend Vanessa is into hoodoo. Her mother is a genuine witch doctor, and is easily the coolest person I’ve ever met.
I’m not so awesome. I can’t do any form of magic except for some one-liners. One-liner spells are simple incantation words, like the aqua one. Useful if you’re thirsty in the desert, or you feel like flinging some water droplets in your enemy’s face in the off chance that it’ll annoy them so much they’ll give up attacking you. Those types of spells don’t get any more advanced than that, and casting them repetitively is mentally draining, so they’re not all that practical. Some normies can do one-liners if they concentrate hard enough. Being able to cast a one-liner is just . . . It’s the most basic thing in the world. No one is allowed to be proud of it.
The upside to my being a dud is that magic also really has no effect on me - it bounces off of me completely, most of the time. One of the idiot kids in my sixth-grade class was illegally playing around with a flame he’d floated onto his fingers from a candle, and sent the flame from it flying right at my head - didn’t even singe my hair. It just bounced off me like a bouncy ball, and fizzled in the dirt. Everyone during recess got quiet after that. I thought it was the greatest thing, but the teacher thought that I’d done something, or that I was wearing a protective charm, and she upset when I wouldn’t tell her my secret. Unlike most kids who grow up in witchy families, my Mom never had to douse me in holy water before heading off to school, or whatever it is magic-savvy parents are supposed to do (I don’t know). My parents know that magic hates me too much to affect me in any way. It hates me so much that it wants nothing to do with me, and all magic will literally go out of its way to avoid me. That fireball would have rather died in the dirt than singe me, that’s how icky I am to it.
The thing is, if you don’t have magic, and you’re part of the magical world, you’re useless. Licensed magicians are a minority, but they’re not uncommon. One out of every twenty or so people has the talent for magic, but not every single one of those people are licensed; hedge witches and other statistical outliers are what comes of the ten to fifteen percent of magic-users not shackled and bound by the Goo. Magic is a common everyday staple; it’s too useful to ignore. Tracking a criminal down with a tracking spell is a lot quicker than endless hours of internet searching, so law enforcement hires independent casters all the time. One is required in most stations to be present at all times. Wards against damage or danger are essential, but a lot of them don’t work as well as they’re advertised. Actual working protective wards, good luck, and ‘love’ charms are prized and sold to the highest bidders. The multinational NiLo now mass-manufactures every enchanted object, ceremonial wand, dried herb, specialty chalk, working home security ward, or spell tool that you lay your eyes on - and they train magicians for exorbitant tuition on their international campuses, where Ethics in Magic is a required subject for every freshman.
Being useless is something I’ve gotten used to. I’m actually kind of fond of being useless now. If you’re useless, people don’t ask you to do stuff.
Anyway, the grimoire of Sandra’s that I discovered wasn’t full of your everyday magic. No hokey eco-friendly magic in this house. I memorized the entire book frontwards and back; I took notes of every disgusting, dirty, profane ritual she detailed in there. I copied down all the drawings she did of ritualistic dismemberments and disembowelments into my margins. I put the notes all in the most indecipherable code I could invent at that age (took forever), and stuffed them in a hollowed-out encyclopedia which I keep on one of my bookshelves. I have an actual journal that I keep, but I don’t ever write in it unless I hear a joke that I want to remember. I don’t let anybody read that thing and I write it all down in a different code, anyway. I mean, it’s useless information - you can’t learn anything personal about me from any of the crap I write down, but I was always told by Mother that a girl should always have her secrets. Even if those secrets are, as in my case, totally stupid.
A little-known fact about Sandra Colville, though, is that she wasn’t just infamous - she was brilliant. The dark rituals that Sandra practiced were empowering to her blood - the Colville blood. She literally infused the family blood with her magic. I don’t know why, or what she was aiming at by doing this - but it seems to have worked, in my Dad’s case. Everyone who came after Sandra was pretty powerful in their own right, ’specially the first-borns, minus yours truly. Why she did all of this is anyone’s guess; she didn’t write down her master plan in the margins of the book I found. (“Oh, here is a good spot to write down all my plans for world-domination! I’ll start by kidnapping the Prime Minister of India, and work up from there . . .”) I mean . . . just . . . that’s something I’d do.
In addition to that, she wrote down entire lists in her grimoire of simple Latinized one-liner spells that she invented, which isn’t done. Ever. Sandra was the exception to every rule except the natural one. One-liner spells, like the one she was most infamous for, which exploded an entire squad of police with one word, and destroyed the entire attic. She didn’t write that one down, unfortunately, but there were hundreds of other little useful ones, which I’ll hoard for myself and use for my own benefit, thank you, seeing as I’m the only one alive who now knows them and I’d probably get arrested if I shared any of my knowledge with anyone. Scott doesn’t even know about the grimoire of secrets, and he knows everything there is to know about me.
I’ve certainly never applied any of this knowledge, except for in using her one-liners. One of them, prohibeo clamosa, turns wherever you are in into a soundless room - ironically, you have to kinda yell the word and clap. Adcaligo causes the area around you to become blurry and distorted. Obsfusco completes adcaligo’s job and completely eliminates all surrounding light, engulfing a targeted area in total darkness. You have to be careful not to cast them around electrical appliances, though, because they tend to short out electronics. Magic and technology historically don’t mix so well except when done by professionals. That last one will make light bulbs explode if I do it in a room with lights on.
So, yeah, I know black magic. Don’t tell anyone. It’s kind of a big deal, but only if anyone finds out about it, and no one has to know so long as your keep your fat mouth shut!
Who am I talking to?