Setting up the master bedroom took a few hours, but Samuel stood back to admire his work. Black curtains and black walls with black furniture… he even managed to go shopping and find black bed sheets and pillow covers, which were now occupied by Imogen and his very-huggable stuffed bear Baron Schadenfreude von Angst, the small black bear covered in patches of dark silk to hide his years of wear and tear.
Sitting on his nightstand (black, naturally) was his crystal ball, the Lens of Elena, a mystical object of unknown worth/handy paperweight. He often used the lens to look into the ethereal for tips on where to look for ghosts and ghouls, as well as regular events that mortal men were not equipped to handle. Not that he was able to handle them any better, just with less screaming and all around panic as he usually knew the name of the nameless horror trying to devour him. Having unpacked the bowling ball sized orb, he’d set it on its four-pronged stand and cast a minor spell into it to peer into the immediate future, to see if any threats to the very universe were at stake.
Like so very often, nothing out of the ordinary… just him painting. Which turned out to be true. So far he hadn’t figured out if what the orb saw was forced to come true or the orb saw what might come true… the thing was tricky, and not that easy to operate. Seeing as it was, y’know, an orb. The Chinese merchant he’d purchased it from hadn’t the slightest idea what it was and the damn thing didn’t come with an instruction manual. All he knew about it was what he found on the internet, which was less than helpful. Emotionally broken boys and girls with dyed black hair and bad make-up jobs clogged the message boards of site for the mystical, pleading for powers they rightfully should not have. Giving the power of flight to an emotionally unstable teen might seem funny at the time, but after he’s lifted and dropped a few people to their deaths you have something to deal with.
Samuel had learned the hard way in New Orleans.
“Never again…” he muttered so as not to awaken Imogen.
Walking over to his charcoal colored desk, he turned on a light and sat down, flipping through the pages of his Grimoire in search of something to mask his presence from people. He had school the following day and had no desire to spend it being pointed at and ridiculed. This Tiffany person may seem nice (if a bit pushy) over the phone, but the moment she laid eyes on his gaunt appearance she’d change her tune.
They always did.
Flipping to a page depicting a man slurping up his own intestines, Samuel stopped for a moment and read the section aloud.
“In rare instances of possession from an outside source, the host will commit acts of violence upon himself so grievous that it will force the invading spirit out, and allow the host to die. This is usually after weeks, sometimes months of possession, when the human’s mind has been broken from the constant array of horrific images it’s been forced to witness.”
“Yeah,” Imogen said sleepily from her spot next to the Baron on the bed, “some people aren’t meant to know how we operate.”
“I’ve known you for four years and I still don’t like knowing how you think, despite the link in our heads.” Samuel smiled, holding out his arm. Imogen flapped awkwardly for a moment before taking off and landing on his outstretched arm, the long sleeves serving as good footholds for her cat-like claws.
“So whatcha reading?” She asked, climbing up his arm to curl up on his shoulder.
“Right now? A basic exorcism spell. I’m really looking for a subtle masking spell that’ll make people not notice me as I walk around at school tomorrow unless they are specifically looking for me.”
“Yeah, that sounds subtle,” Imogen replied. “Is this why you had me go catch frogs today?”
“A major part of it, yes. Frog skin is required for the spell and I’m fresh out.” Samuel answered, flipping through the pages of heavily illustrated depictions of horrific acts. “If you wouldn’t mind skinning them, you can have everything but the eyes. Just leave the eyes unpopped in a small jar for me in the fridge.”
“Like that’ll be easy to explain should you get some company over,” Imogen sniffed as she took off from his shoulder, flying out of the room.
“Like I will ever have company over,” Samuel replied, flipping through his section on conjuring spirits. “Huh? Never tried this… to protect your home, only to be used in a home where misery has taken place.”
Looking around the room as if he were expecting someone to be looking over his shoulder, he earmarked the page and continued moving through the book in search of his agoraphobic spell.
“Come on, I know you’re in here… where are you?” He said, getting frustrated. Stopping in a section on how best to conjure and work with the elements. Skimming through the spells attributed to air, he smiled as he found it.
“Claire’s Cloak of Concealment, a temporary veil to allow the caster into the most secret of locales without being seen.” He read aloud, looking over the material components that he would require for a daily casting. From the six frogs that that Imo had caught, that would supply eighteen days’ worth of skins that should hold him over. With each successive casting, the spell should last longer until it became ingrained in his magical core for a brief period of time.
Flipping a page, he came across a description of how to measure a magical core that always left him confused.
“The magical heartbeat of every Witch, Wizard and Warlock is what fuels their spells and powers their enchantments. Certain magical cores are similar to others, passed down from generation to generation, but others are spontaneously generated upon the birth of a child through unknown means. More often than not the child lives a normal, if not a tad bit luckier, life than his mundane peers. But for those that gain access to a Grimoire, they are able to become fully-fledged Witches or Warlocks. It often takes extensive training to for the new practitioner to learn their abilities and the extent of their power, much of which can last years, even decades if a suitable teacher is not found.”
“So you’re essentially screwed then?” Imogen said as she fluttered back into the room, landing on the bed and waddling back and forth as she wiped muck from her limbs.
“Hey, not on my bed Imo, come on!”
“Don’t try the sweet voice with me damn you, you have me skinning frogs out there. If I want to come in and calm myself before I have to actually touch the slimy things you can just deal with it!”
“If you haven’t touched them, where did you get the muck from?” He asked, looking at her muddy frame.
“Fetching your Weekly Wiccan for you, it was on the front porch in a scroll case. Those people need to get with the twenty-first century and switch to the internet already.” She groused, wiping off her arms of the drying mud. “Ugh, I’m just gonna take a bath in the sink. Is it okay if I use the bubble stuff?”
“Yeah, go ahead… where did you put my paper?” Samuel said, getting up from the desk and closing his Grimoire.
“I left it downstairs on the table, in its case. I know the last one had that runic puzzle trap for readers to try and decipher, figured I’d let you fumble through that. Where did you put my bubbly stuff?”
“Next to the sink in the bathroom, no more than a scoop of it, okay? I have to use that sink too.”
“Yeah, yeah… you use a little too much one time and you get to hear about it every time you take a bath.”
“And make sure you wash away the bubbles when you’re done, okay?” Samuel said as he walked out of his bedroom and towards the stairs. “Otherwise, they just sit there and stain the marble with soap scum.”
“Got it!” Imogen called out from the bathroom, her voice high pitched and cheery.
Walking down the stairs, Samuel looking in each of the two entry rooms, cursing his forgetful familiar’s habit of just dumping things that didn’t interest her off anywhere she liked. Catching sight of a circular poster case with tiny muddy handprints on it resting against one of the high-backed chairs in the den, he smiled; judging by the width of the container they may have even included a spell in this week’s edition.
Walking over to the foot and a half long cardboard case, Samuel wiped a bit of mud away from the container before picking it up. Sunken eyes lit up with joy as he analyzed the glyph that guarded the sealed top of the case. Smiling, he tapped it twice and laughed as ribbons shot up out of it, glitter sprinkling merrily around him.
“Some trap Imo, you cowardly little bug.” Samuel chuckled, waving away the glitter that was raining down on his face. “Gotta admit that’s annoying if anything, but hardly dangerous.”
Walking out of the cloud of glitter and spiraling ribbons, he popped the top to the cardboard container and tapped the end, shaking the magazine loose to fall into his waiting hand. Lying across the cover in a provocative pose was Hannah the Blue, a Witch that was famous for her specialty in wards and defensive spells. The fact that she was a blonde with more curves than a roller coaster didn’t hurt either.
“Oh, this one’s a swimsuit issue I see…” Samuel noted as he opened the magazine to the table of contents. Scanning over the “Wet Witches in the Summer Sun” section, he flipped to the center where he could find this week’s central focus. A page with runic letters going down the sides revealed that this issue had a spell after all.
“Let’s see, it’s in ancient Greek… not my strong suit.” Samuel groused, walking up the stairs slowly. Turning the corner to head into the bedroom, he looked up from the puzzling spell page to see Imogen fluttering around his suitcases, probing the pouches in search of something. Smiling, Samuel reached into his back pocket and pulled a wrapped up brown paper bag.
“Looking for this?” He asked Imogen, who turned and gave an elated shout upon seeing the wrapped up package.
“You kept it on you? How come I didn’t smell them? The bags reek like ‘em.” Imogen said, flapping up to perch on Samuel’s shoulder, crawling down his arm like a predatory cat as she eyed the bag.
He switched it to his other hand. “I did a simple charm that makes this bag hold in scents is all… as to why the suitcases reek of it, that’s because I stored them there while you were sleeping away on the ride over here.”
“Lemme have one!” She begged, looking at the bag with obvious longing.
“Are you going to skin those frogs and pluck out their eyes for me by the end of the night?” Samuel asked in a sing-song fashion.
“Yes, of course, just let me have one!” She said, her claws extending out to allow her to grip onto his forearm harder.
“Alright, if you promise to get to them after your bath then I suppose I could let you have one,” Samuel said, unrolling the bag and dipping his hand in, pulling out a dark, crinkled looking pod by the stem. “I got you Habanero, this time because I know you like them so much.”
Imogen leaped from his arm, snagging the pepper with her teeth as she soared around Samuel, giggling madly as she flapped her way into the bathroom, where a loud splash was heard.
“You better make sure the bathroom is clean as well!” Samuel called out as he sat down on the bed and undid his heavy boots.
The only response he heard was giggling combined with a crunching noise that could only be described as frantic.