Why yes, I am a Jim Butcher Fan
January 14, 2012
This is some urban fantasy I’ve been toying with. I’m not really proud of it but it’s something.
Hope someone does enjoy it, though.
“TEN thousand years ago, Our Leader, the First among us, sometimes called the Magus Mundi, sometimes called Tosaigh Drui, was our Founder. She gave us Nine Laws, in Three Understandings, to Guide our Arts.
The First Understanding – Those who work Against our Purpose are to be Slain before they may cause harm.
The First of the First Laws – Those who Strikes Down with our Wisdom are to Die.
The Second of the First Laws – Those who Destroys our Charge with our Wisdom are to Die.
The Third of the First Laws – Those who Destroys our Body with our Wisdom are to Die.
The Second Understanding – Those who violate our Charge but not our Purpose are to be Imprisoned but Guided.
The First of the Second Laws – Those who Warp the minds of our Charge are to be Shackled.
The Second of the Second Laws – Those who Warp the Being of our Charge are to be Shackled.
The Third of the Second Laws – Those who Sacrifice our Charge in service of Good are to be Shackled.
The Third Understanding – Those who violate our Wisdom are to be Stripped of the mantle of the Wise.
The First of the Third Laws – Those who Consume the Wisdom of the Wise are to be Stripped of their mantle.
The Second of the Third Laws – Those who Consume the Lifeforces of our Charges or the Wise are to be Stripped of their mantle.
The Third of the Third Laws – Those who Traffic in the Ancient Powers are to be Stripped of their mantle.
These are the Laws of the Society, This is the Wisdom that we have been set to.
SO MOTE IT BE.”
The matron of the Council of the Wise walked down from her podium, surveying the crowd with a warm smile, “Together we are here again, the wise council of Los Angeles, here to recognize two new members of the Art, two new wizards in our presence. Stand and be counted, Daniel August Lehrer! Stand and be counted, Vincent Janus Aaronson!”
This was my first night seeing the Council of the Wise, the wizards, witches, sorcerers (etcetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum) that governed my little area of the world. While I can understand the whole reading of the law thing at our initiation, it is kind of harrowing to hear first thing that you might die for breaking a few rules. Glad they explained what our Charge is before hand.
Oh, introductions! Hello reader, this is the mystical journal of Daniel August Lehrer, a wizard in the Orange County area of California. I record my thoughts through this journal (and, if Fairlock has made any copies, those as well). I hope you will excuse interrupted thoughts and the like, as I cannot rightly control which thoughts are recorded and which are not.
So, as I was saying. Before this meeting, Vincent and I were explained the larger role of the Wise, the secret society of magicians in the world who seek to protect humanity from those things that lurk in the dark corners of the world. While a few of these dark things (creatures, monsters, fae, what have you) are allies with the Council, most are dangerous to humanity. To that end, we defend them. This is our Charge. In the rules I just heard, “undermining the Charge” or “sacrificing the Charge” and similar things are, essentially, killing or harming normal, non-gifted mortals. The first among us, the oldest of the Druids if the legend’s to be believed, promised that we’d defend humanity and so far we have. It’s all very, very important.
I stood with Vincent and looked around the room, smiling a little in giddy excitement. There were, maybe, thirty people in the little room with us, a banquet hall at a Radisson in Santa Monica, and they were all watching us as Miranda Rosenthal read out our initiation, starting with how the Society found us, the tests we had to go through, and our Apprenticeships. Kyla Masters, my Master Magus, squeezed my hand as mine was read out, and then finally, “Our favorite part of our initiation. Young Wizards! Come before us and show us your mantle, the physical representation of your power!”
Vincent stood first, smooth and confident as he stepped infront of the collected magi. He closed his eyes and the air seemed to settle around him. Fire erupted from his shoulders, crawling around his neck and encircling his arms, a long bishop-style mantle of roiling red magma settled over his shoulders. It displayed raw power, strength, with a bit of refinement. A mantle that displayed majesty and strength. Finally complete, it took on a dark red color, the color of molten rock, and solidified into rich velvet to contrast his simple white robe.
While I wasn’t as smooth as Vincent alighting the stage, I stepped up carefully with my cane in one hand and my eyes closed. Soft whispers of power crawled out of my shoulders in much the same was a Vincent, but a snake of color – a shifting rainbow pattern of blues, golds, reds, purples, greens, and oranges – spread out over my shoulders rather than the fire Vincent created. It slowly wrapped around my neck and looped nine times, draping itself over my chest. Slowly the snake stopped shifting, solidifying into bands of twisted silk in a long, elaborate scarf.
Vincent shook my hand vigorously and stepped off stage with me as we were cheered. Miranda beamed brightly as she guided us to meet each of the important wizards in the two counties, and a party was quickly underway. First up, champa-
I sighed and collapsed against a chair, staring at the ceiling. “I think the journal still doesn’t work well with alcohol.”
Shane chuckled and tossed an iron loop into a box, “Yeah, I can see that. Also, your inner monologue is really, well, sparkly. Kind of weird, dude.”
I scowled and picked up my cane, balancing between it and my left ankle to stand at his workbench, “So, what is in the new wizard kit that the Society payed for anyway?”
Shane tossed me a small black box, “Y’know, wizarding tools. Magic stuff. The kind of stuff I make regularly. Including a few tailored pieces. I made Vincent’s too, but he never came by for his consultation so it’s not well tuned. Also – dude’s a dick, way more of a dick than you think he is.”
A frowned slightly as I opened the box, looking at the contents. Glasses, a spyglass, a small wand, a lighter, and a cigarette case. “Hey, I know he’s kind of a jerk sometimes but he doesn’t deserve that. What’s the deal on some of this?”
Shane lit a cigarette as he sat back from the workbench into a leather chair on wheels, “Well standard stuff – the glasses let you see with your Third Eye without having to actually open it, saving you the concentration and the horror of it stealing your vision. The spyglass is a storage system for light of any kind, or darkness if you can work the right spell. The wand is your standard issue Society focus – pointy, well made, and engraved with a kind of Welcome to the Family spell. The other two are a gift from me. Inside the case is a smoke of each of your favorite types and the lighter is a Perfected zippo. Both have Everlasting enchantments I pulled off of some philters that aren’t going to be used anymore. Happy birthmas.”
I nodded slowly and slipped each article into an easily accessable pocket, with the last two in an inside pocket of my coat. “Why, thank you. The last two are really thoughtful actually – though I thought you didn’t approve of the habit.”
“Well, you’ve shown me often enough that it works just fine for you, so who’m I to argue? Now, let me see if I have something straight. I’m a Mortal human, which means part of your Charge, yeah?”
I leaned on my cane and cracked my knuckles, suspicious, “Yeah…that’s right…”
Shane turned his hands over, looking at his rings and his fingernails, “And now that you’re a recognized member of the Society of the Wise, a full-fledged Wizard, that means that when I have a grievance of the supernatural variety, yes?”
“Generally, yes…are you having some kind of…”
Shane sat up quickly, “Great. I’ve got this delivery I’d rather not make and I hear you need a couch again for a while. Take it to the recipient and I’ll get you a place to crash for a week or two, meals included. What do you think?”
I sighed, once again my homelessness used as a token for work, “Sure. What is it and where does it go?”
He tossed me a small box, yew wood through and through, with coins of some kind inside.
“It goes to Horatio Vargus, he lives in Newport Beach, 112 Balboa. Now go, wizard! Save us from the horrors of driving on the peninsula!”
It didn’t take long for me to get down the peninsula – a little bit of slick windriding and a glamour here and there let me slip by undetected while ‘walking’ a quick pace. So it wasn’t too late into the evening when I got to the apartment of Horatio, a nicely sized flat overlooking the beach just south of Newport Pier. It took a little while for me to navigate up the stairs (phenomenal wizarding power, still stuck with a limp. It’s fantastic), so it wasn’t that impressive when the door swung open before I could knock. However, what I was greeted with is an entirely different matter.
Horatio is a mountain of a man. Well, no, that’s not strictly accurate. He’s a man made out of mountain. He hails from what must be a rich ogre tradition, clearly cleaving to the dark, granite hued skin of his forebears, and the nearly ten foot tall, three foot wide frame attested to enough muscle to summarily crumple a modern car. This isn’t all that strange to me, however. What really put the nail in the coffin for the oddity of presentation was the fine grey suit and metallic evening shirt (almost a silver color, which really did light up his eyes and complexion), large black bunny slippers, rich cigar, and tasteful Gay Pride pin. Ogres I can handle, but a civilized, even gay, ogre? This, my friends, is the least of my expectations. Even on Balboa.
“I…hello…Horatio? I’m Daniel Lehrer, Shane sent me by to drop off your…”
He clapped me on the back and brought me in with a thick guffaw, a noise that made me think of keystones crumpling out of stone archways. “Come in, small one! Come in. Tell Horatio what he may give to you to make you feel as if at home. Ah, yes, they are rings. Very special rings, for me and my husband. Set them on the table, yes?”
I set the small wooden box down and scanned the room, now not having the affectionate Ogre looming in my field of vision. It was an amazing fusion of modernism and classic European art, the clear influence of his Romanian heritage in the decorations on the wall juxtaposed with large, black furniture devoid of all but the cleanest lines. While still absorbing the spaciousness and design of the room, Horatio pressed a cocktail into my had and led me to a small chair (guests, I presumed, given the large format of most of the furniture) and helped me sit down. “Ah, wizard, I know it is odd to find one of my kind here, especially on Balboa of all places, but I assure you it is no trick nor worry. I am Seelie, I do work for the conferences of Fae and other creatures of the type that happen here in the County of Oranges. While it pains me that I cannot introduce you to my husband at these times, he does send his warmest wishes. Now drink! That is home made vodka and pressed cranberry juice, delicious together. Then we shall discuss the rags you come to me in!”
Horatio led me to a large leather chair, plush but not terribly on the ogre-sized end of things.
Horatio inhaled softly, letting the cigar flare up and catch properly. He grumbled softly as a cloud of sweet, heady smoke filled the room around him. He then settled his eyes on the young man sitting across from him, in one of Horatio’s large leather chairs, and inhaled slowly. “So, you come into my home with a gift for us from a mutual friend, and I have heard you have a price. What is this price you need?”
I shifted uncomfortably in the leather chair he’d seated me in, moving my mostly non-operating left leg onto an ottoman. “Well, I need a place to lay my head at night, a warm shower, and maybe breakfast.”
Horatio chuckled, a sound reminiscent of concrete smashed between marble, “Prost, you are but a copil, a boy. The Ancient Ways see through your eyes, but your skin…no more than thirty, yeah?”
I smiled, “Twenty-five actually, newly acquired full right in the Society.”
The massive ogre grunted a short, amused laugh, drawing on the cigar again, “De iluminat si de foc! A boy who plays at the games of old men! You amuse me, little one. So, first, introductions. I am the master of this House.”
A wave of unseen energy rolled out of his last word, the first of an ancient ritual of hospitality. Introduction was a way of trading business cards…and ensuring survival. The magic was written into the very ways of home and hearth.
I stood up carefully, wobbling until I got my cane under my weight, and bowed slightly, “Daniel Lehrer, Magus of the Thirty-First Rank in the Society of the Wise. I come before you as Friend and Company, for reasons both Professional and Personal. Before me stands the Will of my Fathers, the Love of my Mothers, and the Legacy of the Order of the Fallen Star.”
The Ogre grew to his full height, ten feet and half again, his suit ruffling softly in the still air. “I am Horatio Vladimirescu, of the Transylvanian Court of the Seelie Fae, Unmarked and Unwed to the Solstice Queens or Equinox Kings. On behalf of my House, my Home, and my Honor, I welcome you to this place and make you my brother by lore and by right.”
There was a soft snap in the air around us and I inhaled it deeply, feeling the soft scents of pine and the feeling of quiet stone fill my mind – the comforts of the mountain fae. I sat down slowly and relaxed, “As well, if you need anything else of me, I will be happy to provide.”
Horatio grinned and exhaled a cloud of smoke, settling into his chair again, “Many thanks, little one. If you see him, somehow, my husband is Karl Nacthluft. He…has a peculiar disorder that makes it difficult for him to socialize. If you feel the air shift at night, that is him. Now, as I said before, let us talk about those terrible clothes you arrived in…”