Hey guys, here’s a little something to tide you over while I finish going over the final edit for Succession of Witches. Let the speculation begin…NOW!! :)
Sam had been staying at Bob’s Motel on the outskirts of the city for almost seven months, which was a record even for him. He’d lived in cheap motels before, but usually he found an apartment before the three month marker. However, his first few attempts to find an apartment in Sterling had been fairly nightmarish, and at some point procrastinating on further apartment hunting became living at Bob’s for the forseeable future.
It wasn’t all bad. The place was cheap, but the maids did a serviceable job cleaning the place, saving him the effort of cleaning up after himself. There was a free continental breakfast of all the stale cereal you could eat, which might not be very appetizing but would do in a pinch. Most importantly, the room did have one really comfy reading chair, the importance of which was not to be underestimated.
While it could get noisy at night, at 5:30 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon the place was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Or a bunch of library books, which was what Sam was currently trying to levitate. Taking on a familiar had done what no amount of nagging from Dr. Serenus Zeitbloom and his mother could accomplish: motivated him to practice his magic. He had realized that if he wanted to get Cassie to stop being scared of him, it would probably help if he was a little less scared of himself.
There was a painfully loud thunk as the Sterling Public Library’s copy of War and Peace banged into the ceiling. Sam winced; he shouldn’t be using the works of Russian authors for levitation practice. The book stuck to the ceiling for a moment before falling, and Sam managed to get his hands under it before it hit the carpeting. A banging on the ceiling from the room above made it clear that the hotel wasn’t entirely empty; someone up there wasn’t keen on the noise he was making. Sam knocked gently on the ceiling, hoping the guest above him would take it for the nonverbal apology it was.
After he knocked, he heard a soft thumping noise coming from the wall behind him, from behind the bed. Sam raised an eyebrow; no one was staying in that room. Maybe one of the maids was in there.
He ran his fingers over the worn cover of Tolstoy’s masterpiece, wondering what he was doing wrong. For some reason, it was easier to move the book in big, sweeping movements. Trying to get it to hover just a few inches above the table was what had led to smacking the book into the ceiling. With the big movements, it was just a general release of energy that he didn’t have to think about much, but getting the book to hover required summoning flows of air to manipulate it, and that just didn’t seem to work.
Though some magic could work around the laws of physics, in general it was much easier to work within them. That’s why he knew he must be summoning some kind of wind to power the book’s flight, but he couldn’t see it. In theory, he should be able to see the threads of air energy keeping the book aloft, but he barely saw anything. He could feel that they were there, but when he tried to concentrate on them, it all became a blur.
If he had tapped into Cassie’s magic anytime recently, he’d probably be able to see every single serpentine thread. As far as he knew, familiars were just supposed to provide fuel for spells, not make you significantly better at them. It was one of many ways in which his familiar was atypical, and while he wanted to know why, now was not the time to worry about it.
He put War and Peace back on the table and picked up a much lighter book, actually a children’s book; he’d picked it up because the mermaid on the cover reminded him of Cassie for some reason. Concentrating on lifting the book ever so slightly, he managed to levitate it above his palms for a few seconds before he had to release it and let it fall back onto the table. It was either that, or give in to the temptation to throw it really hard again.
Sam rubbed his eyes, trying not to give in to frustration. He’d all but ignored his magic for close to a decade; it wasn’t exactly a shock that his attempts to attain more precise control over it weren’t going well. The problem was that he didn’t know what he needed to do to improve. Should he just try to levitate his library books over and over again and hope to see improvement, or was it a total waste of time?
On a whim, he turned and squatted to retrieve the room’s copy of the Bible from the lowest drawer of the night table next to his bed. Maybe working with something heavier would be easier, and the motel’s copy of the Holy Scripture was one of those large, annotated versions that was actually bigger than War and Peace. Feeling the weight of it in his hands, he threw it towards the table.
“Stop!” he yelled, managing to summon enough air pressure to stop the book before it fell. For a second, Sam could see the currents: funnels of translucent gold and silver that danced in strange patterns, leaving shimmering dust in their wake….
For some reason, the Holy Bible then exploded in a shower of sparks and singed paper. The force of the explosion pushed Sam down on his backside as smoke enveloped his part of the room. Coughing, he rose to his feet to see his motel room decorated with ribbons of paper from the destroyed tome—and worse, his other library books. When the bible had gone, it had taken all the other books with it, though the table was mysteriously unharmed.
He muttered a made-up word quickly, his marker for time reversal, and the pieces of the destroyed books flew back to the table and began reassembling themselves, paper and leather spines twisting together in a display that was strangely intimate. Within a moment, the books were intact.
That was his life in a nutshell: fail at a task from Magic 101 that a small half-demon child could do, then reverse time to fix his mistake, something only a handful of living demons would even attempt. He’d done a local time reversal, only affecting the room he was in, but he could do much more. He knew from last fall’s adventures that his effective range was miles.
He heard more thumping from the wall next to his bed. Whatever the maid was doing in there, he hoped she would be done soon.
At this rate, he wasn’t going to be a good master for any witch, let alone Cassie. He went to take a look at the mermaid book again, trying to figure out what it was about the female on the cover that reminded him of his familiar (since aside from her dark hair, the drawing of the fishtailed woman looked nothing like the girl he knew), and stopped in his tracks when he realized the book had changed. In fact, all the books had: they were covered with some kind of soot, and once he saw it he could smell subtle, but noxious fumes as well.
“Dammit!” he yelled, not even caring that he had cursed. This happened at random times. Sometimes using magic on an object would do nothing, sometimes it would change the mass or weight, and rarely everything would be covered by this disgusting substance, the residue of black magic. Levitating a book wasn’t a black spell by any stretch of the imagination, but apparently all of Sam’s magic was black by definition; even when he was doing something white magic could easily do, he still ran the risk of dark aftereffects.
He tried to brush the powder off the cover of the mermaid book before it could eat through the paper like acid and destroy it, but pulled his hand away quickly; the stuff was burning to the touch. Not only had he cursed his library books by accident, but the stuff was unusually potent. He wouldn’t have risked the books, but he hadn’t seen the residue in years and he’d honestly forgotten it was a possibility. Or maybe he’d just fervently hoped he’d outgrown it.
Suddenly he felt a chill; he knew he should count his blessings. Imagine if the spell he’d use to freeze time in the city last October had triggered a rare aftereffect…the possibilities were too terrible to even contemplate. Did he avoid an aftereffect that time because his magic was more suited to bigger spells than little ones? Or did he just plain get lucky?
Shielding his hand with an old undershirt, he knocked the books off the table to save its clean wooden surface. The threadbare carpeting below was probably beyond help anyway— let the magical soot eat it up like candy.
As Sam made his way toward the bathroom to get a towel to wipe off the table, two sharp bangs from behind the headboard of his bed startled him. He turned towards the far wall, tense. He no longer harbored any illusions that it was the maid.
He considered casting a spell so he could see through the wall, but given how working magic had gone tonight so far, he decided to quit while he was ahead. It was getting late, and it was almost time to go find that godforsaken club downtown where Dwight’s band was supposed to perform.
Still, Sam thought as he changed into a clean pair of jeans and a T-shirt, he could be sure of two things:
1. He wasn’t going to be able to take out books from the Sterling Public Library anymore.
2. Something was trapped in his wall, and it wanted out. Badly.