Samuel left Belle and Imogen in the den, both of them poring over worn copies of Weekly Wiccans together, the imp explaining the basic difference between the magical world and the mundane world while Samuel just needed a cold soda to cool his throbbing headache. Standing in the kitchen, he sipped from the glass bottle while leaning against the counter before hearing a soft knocking coming from his pantry. Smiling around the bottle, he smacked his lips in satisfaction and girded his will to the intolerable before calling out.
“Come on in,” he called, looking down at the floor.
The door creaked open, before Mia’s shapely rear end bumped the door open, the young girl backing up into the kitchen while holding two brown paper bags worth of supplies. Her hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail, held back by a pair of jade brushes he’d given her last Christmas. Her dark red outfit radiated a faint odor of cinnamon as she moved into the kitchen, setting the bags down on the wide wooden table.
“I brought you a full potioneers kit worth of ingredients, along with some powdered mushrooms that you could use for growth potions that would just do wonders for you,” Mia said, waving away his motion to help her unload her groceries. She pulled out a plastic bowl with a sealed lid, a small black cuttlefish swimming back and forth in the brine it was soaked in.
“You got me a Sunken Corpse Cuttlefish? Why on earth would I want one of those?” Samuel asked, moving to look at the small black cephalopod as it jetted around within the water.
“I remember you mentioning you had a potion recipe that involved one of these little guys that would give the drinker the stamina of five men. I could use the will to drive on some times if you catch my drift.”
“Good lord, I am not making you a potion for sex!” Samuel cried, slapping his forehead.
“I’ll pay you, three spells from my Grimoire,” She said quickly, holding her hands up to calm the Warlock down.
He looked thru his hands, eyes alight with curiosity. “Three spells? How about you help me with a new pet project of mine instead?”
“What kind of project?” Mia asked cautiously.
“I discovered a Witch today, she’d just Awoken,” He explained. Awakening was the term that was slung around for when a person discovered the magical world, becoming a Witch, a Wizard or a Warlock.
“What triggered it?” Mia asked, now interested.
“About the biggest Cloaker, you’ll ever see engorged with ectoplasm, attacking a Mundy.”
“It was attacking a Mundy? Cloakers never do that…” Mia said.
Samuel nodded. “I know, but Mia you should have seen the size of this thing. Ten feet long, not counting the tail. And fat. I think I can bleed an easy four hundred bucks worth of ectoplasm from it.”
Mia whistled, crossing her arms. “That would be a haul. I know right now the Wizards have been clamoring for ectoplasm, going on and on about their rituals. By the way, I have a haunted house on my street here in town that you can catch a Class II Poltergeist in. It’s out of my league, but I figure you could give me half for pointing you in the right direction…”
“I’ll give you a quarter finder’s fee, just like I give everyone else,” Samuel said with a smile, his glacial eyes glittering.
Mia harrumphed, looking away. “I suppose… you should treat me better than the others, though, I’m gonna be your publicist once you go public and all.”
“If I go public, I’ll pay you an agreed upon fee then and there. For now, you’ll just have to take in the fact that your spiritual warfare problems that require outsourcing to me will cost you.” Samuel said with a smile. “The kid has to eat too you know, and the money Mom and Dad send only cover the basics.”
“So you have a fresh Witch, I imagine she needs a Grimoire, along with some basic supplies. That’ll cost you, at least, eighty dollars, more if you feel like getting her an advanced Grimoire.” Mia said, leaning back against the counter. “And she’ll need a key to the Spire.”
“Those go for about ten bucks each, and I have a spare that I never use.” Samuel shook his head. “She can take my old one and be happy with it, even if it is a three knocker.”
“Oh god, a three knocker?” Mia said, groaning. The keys were tuned to how many times you would have to lock a door, knock on it then unlock it and open it, before repeating the action.
“Like I said, I rarely use it anymore,” Samuel said.
“Where’s it keyed to?” Mia asked.
Samuel shrugged. “Where all my keys are keyed to. Jo’s Bar’s bathroom.”
“You going to leave it like that for her?” Mia smiled.
“I figure Jo’s is as friendly a place as any, so I don’t see why not. Jo deals in enough Mundy goods that you can trust him with a heavy ectoplasm sale. Plus no Wizards go to Jo’s, which is a bonus.”
“I don’t see why you have had such a tiff with the Wizards…”
“I went down Arcane Alley for some ritual supplies and they tried to upsell me on every transaction. I had to show I was a Wizard proper with Imogen in order to get fair service.” Samuel exclaimed. “I mean they wanted to charge me ten dollars for a chisel. A chisel!”
“That is a little steep…” Mia said, scratching her cheek.
“That’s robbery. When I brought it up, after proving I was a ‘Wizard’, the owner explained they were trying to keep the other arcanists from gaining access to their branches of magic. The guy, in particular, didn’t like the Black Warlock.”
“Good thing you didn’t bump into an Aura Reader.”
“I slipped in and out in less than half an hour last night when all the respectable Wizards were off asleep. The shop keeps mistook me for a wayward apprentice doing some last minute shopping.”
“Nice save,” Mia said before looking at the entryway of the kitchen, where Belle stood, clutching a philosophy text to her chest, Imogen perched on her shoulder. “Speaking of nice… this the newbie Witch?”
“Yeah, Belle, meet Mia. Mia, meet Belle. Both of you are Witches, so Mia will be helping me guide you on the route that you’ll take in discovering your talents.”
“Oh… nice to meet you, Mia,” Belle said, moving up and holding a handout. Imogen flapped from her perch on Belle over to the table, where she walked on all fours towards the two paper bags.
“Imo, no! Stay out of there!” Samuel chided, moving to snatch his jade-skinned familiar away. She leaped up and glided to Mia’s shoulder, where she curled around Mia’s neck like a lazy kitten, laying back to look at him upside down.
“Sammy, you really need to learn to get along with your familiar,” Mia said, picking Imogen up off of her shoulders and cuddling her like an infant. “How are you, Imogen?”
Imogen giggled. “Hungry! I want some jalapenos!”
“Well, I may have gotten some peppers for you while I was out. If you wait like a good girl, then you can have them, alright?” Mia playfully asked, tickling Imogen’s nose with her own tail.
“Okay!” She chirped, allowing herself to be carried over to where she could be set down gently on the ground. Imogen walked on all fours, shifting into her cat form, and stealthily removed herself from the kitchen.
“I still don’t see why you baby her,” Samuel said, shaking his head.
“Familiars are like children, they need to be nurtured to get good attitudes from them,” Mia said, turning to a nodding Belle who smiled.
“Sounds good to me, I was just playing with Imogen in the den when we heard you guys talking.”
“We’re discussing your shopping trip, and who to get you to learn from. I’m trying to convince Mia to train you, actually.”
“Really?” Mia asked, cocking her head at Samuel. “And what would I get in return?”
“A sense that you’ve helped out the world by helping a fellow Witch?” He said, his eyes twinkling brightly.
Mia blushed a little before clearing her throat. “No, that won’t do. I want to take a look at your Grimoire and see what kind of spells the Black Warlock is packing.”
“Nuh-uh, Grimoire is off limits!” Samuel exclaimed, shaking his head.
“Then we’ll discuss it over dinner, in say, an hour?” Mia said, checking a watch dangling from her wrist. “You pick me up… and leave the girl, so we can discuss things more… openly.”
“Openly?” Samuel repeated a questioning tone in his voice.
“We’ll be eating at my abode tonight, so be sure to bring by some of that sublime wine you offered me last time,” Mia said, pulling a Key from her pocket while walking up to the door. She looked Samuel over before frowning. “And wear something a little more upscale.”
“Those robes you got at the estate sale last year, the ones that bring out those delicious eyes of yours? Wear those.” She twisted the Key, opening the door to a quiet, and chilly, city street. Belle looked on, amazed at what she was looking at as people walked by, chatting amongst themselves.
“You know I loathe those robes,” Samuel whined, looking at Mia with hope in his eyes.
“Wear them,” she ordered, before turning and moving through the door, closing it behind her with a small click. Belle ran over and opened the door, revealing Samuel’s Ramen filled the pantry, earning a look of confusion from the girl.
“Yeah, it doesn’t always make sense,” Samuel said, heaving a sigh.
“That key did that? Opening a path to some other place?” Belle asked, looking over from the pantry at Samuel.
“Yes, she has a top-of-the-line Key that doesn’t require knocking or a lot of energy to manage.”
“So there are keys that open to anywhere in the world, or only to certain places?” Belle asked, hopping up onto the table next to the two paper bags.
“Both actually, though Mia uses the former. She used to work at a reputable magazine before her boss hit on her one too many times and she burned him. Not only did she get a fine for attacking another Arcanist, she got fired. Right now she’s between jobs and has been helping me settle into my new home.”
“She seems like she’s into ya,” Belle said, waggling her eyebrows. “Just how much has she been helping you?”
“Oh, we’re just friends. We attended a school in Moscow together for a few years and learned we were Arcane together. Stuck to each other through Key travel ever since.” Samuel said. “Speaking of which, if I order pizza will you stay and watch Imogen, maybe clean a little? I’ll pay you another twenty bucks if you chase away the dust.”
“Anything to stay away from my place,” Belle muttered darkly.
“Everything okay at home?” Samuel asked, suddenly concerned.
She shook her head but remained silent. He just moved past her and towards the hall. “If you ever, you know, need a couch to crash on or a shoulder to cry on, let me know.”
She looked back at him, surprised. “Really? You barely know me!”
“I have a habit of making friends fast,” Samuel said with a smile. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and get ready for whatever evil plot Mia is scheming right now.”
“Don’t forget the robes!” Belle called to his retreating back, causing him to wince at the very thought.