Standing in front of the full-length mirror in his bathroom, Samuel was already feeling silly, and he’d only put on the under-tunic of the robes he had been ordered to wear. A deep royal purple, the tunic came up to form a choker, replete with a large single red garnet that would in other cases be a tie. The stitching on the tunic, while wonderful and soft was something that drove Samuel crazy. He hated the heat this outfit caused, and the automatic temperature control enchantments were sewn into it.
“It’s like getting blasted with freezing air ever fifteen minutes. Men should not have to dress in layers!” Samuel growled as he pulled up his pants, buckling them. The simple black silk trousers went well with his high-heeled boots that he usually wore whenever he wore his robes. Nothing too flashy, but yet not subtle.
Imogen approved at least.
Looking at the robes, he scowled. The dreadful crimson robe was heavy and cuffed with fur, with a ying-yang symbol sewn into the chest of the outfit, the buttons leading up the front made of colored ivory and inscribed with runes of power, a Wizards dream; each button was a renewable source of ectoplasm that could be tapped into for spell work. Not enough to sell, but enough to power simple spellwork.
A pair of silver dragon cufflinks, enchanted to prevent the wearer from succumbing to poisons, snapped onto his fur-lined cuffs, ending the outfit with a flair that allowed him, he liked to think, a modicum of dignity. Looking in the mirror, he sighed.
“I look like a Taoist pimp…” Samuel said, grousing over the overly long cloak he still had to buckle around his neck.
A handy cloak to have, seeing as it was a Cloak of Levitation, made in the late eighteenth century in France. It was just that the thing was made from a thick shaggy red coat of some long-extinct monster, and trailed on for an easy three feet behind him. It had obviously been designed for someone far larger than he was, but Samuel had purchased the cloak as more of a collector’s item than a piece of fashion.
The buckle itself was an enchanted item that grew warm to the touch when spirits were around, growing hotter the more dangerous the entity was. The circular ying-yang symbol hooked the Cloak of Levitation together. Bringing his arms to his sides, the velvety red cloak closed around him like a warm blanket. Inside were several pockets that were enchanted to have extra space and provide a weightless state. Samuel usually kept several Energy Tonics, Peddler’s Pain Potions in case he was hurt, as well as his father’s fountain pen and a bottle of Midnight Black ink. One pocket held a vial of Imogen’s venom, along with a pack of Sobranie cigarettes, straight from Moscow. He’d recently had to replace several keys that were set to public magical areas, seeing as he used to keep them a keyring until that wound up disappearing.
Somewhere in New York was a key ring that could create portals, probably in a trash heap.
Sighing, Samuel walked downstairs, stopping by Imogen in her cat form to give her a few pats on the head. “Now be good for Belle, alright?”
Imogen just meowed. She had a very bemused expression on her feline face that just made Samuel shake his head.
Walking into the kitchen, he gave Belle a dour look when she whistled from where she was leaning over the table, a Weekly Wiccan open in front of her. “Looking sharp Sammy!”
“First of all, don’t call me Sammy; my name is Samuel and I’m proud of it. Second of all, thank you. When necessity calls for it I do care how I look.” Samuel said, closing his eyes as he adjusted his cufflinks. His cloak buckle was warm against his throat; the house ghost must be observing them. Looking pointedly at Belle, Samuel cleared his throat.
“Belle, just so you know I do have a poltergeist here in the house,” Samuel announced as he finished with his cufflinks. “He’s fairly harmless as we’ve come to an understanding. He shouldn’t be a problem but if he is, merely tell Imogen and she can contact me.”
“Why don’t you just give me your cell number?” Belle inquired, smiling.
“Yeah, no. I’d rather not share my personal information with you as long as I can avoid it,” Samuel said with a flat voice. “I’ll be introducing you to the magical world and helping you with assembling your first Grimoire.”
“I heard that Mia girl mention that with you, said she would take me shopping. What’s a Grimoire Sammy?”
Growling at the nickname, Samuel merely heaved a sigh and waved his hand, pulling the bottle of ’08 Cupcake Vineyards Moscato d'Asti, one of Mia’s favorite wines from the rack atop the refrigerator. Belle smiled at the display of magic while Imogen hopped up on the table, her long fluffy tail trailing behind her. “Your Grimoire will be your personal spellbook, some spells fairly common, others ones that you’ve researched and created in your spare time. I’ll share with you a few spells I have that I think every Witch should have in exchange for your services as a brewer.”
“Brewer?” Belle repeated.
“Yes, Witches can infuse liquids with magical properties. Foodstuffs too, but that’s a little harder to do so not many bothers learning how. Wizards draw magic from around them while Warlocks absorb and steal magic from magical beings and the undead, creating Ectoplasm which we sell to Witches and Wizards for their own use.”
“I know you said a Witch would use Ectoplasm for potions, but what would a Wizard use it for?” Belle asked, petting Imogen.
“Oh, many things. Powering rituals, creating staffs that aid them in drawing magical energy; you’ll never see a Wizard without a staff or cane, I can tell you that much.” Samuel said with a smile. “That orb I gave you earlier today should cover your expenses as needed when Mia and I take you shopping. Should have some left over, but we’ll spend that on getting extra ingredients for some potions I’d like you to practice making.”
Hearing a knocking from his pantry door, Samuel raised an eyebrow. He wasn’t expecting anyone. In fact, he’d made certain he’d warded the house from the public eye. Shaking the concerns away he strode over to the door and opened it, revealing a busy market of Witches and Wizards hawking wares to those passing by. A young boy with a cane stood in front of his door, a bowler cap on to match his vest and pants, with simple black shoes.
“Yes?” Samuel asked, looking at the boy with as withering a glare as he could.
“Oh, um… yeah, you see I was told I could find you here sir. May I come in?” The young Wizard asked.
“I’m running on a schedule at the moment so I will have to decline. Is this a matter of business or pleasure?” Samuel asked in a bored tone.
“Oh! Business sir! You see, there’s a Banshee near the village where I live, and me and my family are the only magical’s around so the Mundy's are getting lured into the forest and killed off one-by-one.”
“A Banshee you say? Has any of your family members seen her? Does she know there are Magical people in the village?” Samuel asked before pulling out his cell phone to check the time. “On second thought, what time is it there for you?”
“In my village it’s around four thirty in the afternoon,” the boy answered.
“Knock on my door in three hours and I’ll come and handle the Banshee, in exchange for the key that led you to me and all rights to any treasure or Ectoplasm I retrieve from said Banshee.”
“O-of course, that would be perfectly fine! I’ll see you in three hours!” The boy said, bowing once before Samuel closed the door.
Turning he looked over to Belle. “Feel like making a hundred dollars and getting a jump start on your education?”
“Sure!” Belle said while fiddling with her labret.
“Imogen!” Samuel exclaimed, watching as his familiar exploded outward, fur flying everywhere before fading away into nothingness to reveal the Imp in her emerald glory.
“Yes, Master?” She answered, recognizing his tone.
“Show Belle to the box that should contain my book on specters. I know you packed it for me, and I’m running late as it is,” Samuel ordered before looking at Belle. “You can study the section on Banshee’s and speak with Imogen about them. You’ll join me tonight for my hunt after my dinner with Mia.”
“What if your date goes well?” Belle asked a hint of something in her voice.
“It’s not a date; it’s just two friends having dinner together. Now if you’ll excuse me I must be going.” Samuel said, fishing out the key to Mia’s apartment. Sticking the key in the lock of his pantry, he twisted it three times around to the right and once to the left before knocking loudly.
The door opened to reveal a room bathed in a red glow, the smell of cinnamon spilling out. Red wax candles sat on a golden candelabrum that gave off a warm glow. Mia was standing in the doorway in a slinky dress that showed her bare shoulders, her frizzy hair done up in a bun with her bangs hanging down over one eye. Her glasses were gone, replaced by contacts that Samuel knew she hated.
He gulped as she gave him a smile and grabbed the front of his robes, pulling him into the house. Belle might have a point. Maybe this is a date?
“Mia?” Samuel said, slightly shocked at her behavior.
“Yes?” She asked as she let go of his robes, grabbing the bottle of wine with a smile before turning to walk towards a bucket of ice on a stool next to her small dining room table. Two plates were set out with a healthy bounty of roast beef, mashed potatoes and a loaf of bread with jelly on the side.
“What is tonight to you?” Samuel asked, dreading the answer.
She paused before giving a coy look over her shoulder. “Why, we’re just catching up aren’t we?”
“Ah,” Samuel said, relieved. “Good. And I have another gift for you if you promise not to go nuts about it.”
“What is it?” She waved him over to his seat, which he happily took. She sat down across from him and doled herself a few cuts of roast beef before allowing Samuel to dig in.
“A boy came to my pantry door with a key to my new home,” Samuel said with a somewhat dark expression. “I’ve agreed to hunt down a Banshee near his village near a market. I was thinking you might want to help me for a bit of spare change?”
“You could always let me write up a story about it and grant me an interview,” she said, delicately cutting into her dinner. “That’d get me a lot more than ‘some spare change’”.
“Mia…” Samuel said.
She held up her hands in mock surrender. “I know, I know… but you have to give an interview sometime, why not give it to me? It’d be painless…”
“I somehow doubt that,” Samuel smiled as he poured himself a glass of wine. “But the offer stands for the next two hours and forty-five minutes. That’s when I’m going out on the hunt.”
Mia gave Samuel and unreadable look before pouring herself a glass of wine. “Cutting our evening short, aren’t we?”
“Just this one time, I promise to make it up to you,” Samuel said.
Mia swirled her wine in her glass before taking a sip. “I’ll hold you to that promise.”