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The Magician

We stood outside the large hotel, the lobby lights bathing us in bright yellow, almost comforting, light through the glass doors. We shook the small drops of rain that had collected on our sweaters (and for the kid, hair). Then, after sharing a glance, we pushed open the double doors and walked up to the clerk’s desk, passing between large sofas, bright paintings and extravagant floral arrangements.

“Yes, may I help you?” the clerk said in a flat tone. He had a face like a goblin, though not exactly as ugly as Ordo. The kid didn’t answer until we reached the desk, and mot till after a pause (for mature suspense, I guess).

“Yes, we’re here to see a gentleman who’s been staying here for-” he looked at me, and I tried to remember when the oracle’s paper said the sighting was, but couldn’t remember. I shrugged and shook my head “-these past few days.”

The ugly clerk stared at the kid blankly. “Important looking man.” I suggested. The clerk simply turned to place his blank stare on me. I turned away, he was making me uncomfortable.

“With big, pale body-guard types?” the kid said. The clerk, again, only switched his attention. The kid, however, kept his gaze. For minutes (or did it only seem like minutes?) nothing happened. Then:

“You mean Mr. Robertson in room 1403?” the kid kicked my ankle. I didn’t turn to him, he just wanted me to remember the room number. 1403, yeah, I’d remember easy.

“He’s the one.” The clerk picked up the telephone, and announced that he was just going to check it would be okay with Mr. Robertson. This time I kicked the kid’s ankle and hissed a quick spell to paralyze. The clerk stopped with the telephone at his ear and a finger pressing the number five. Five, I thought. Now why would he be pressing number five?

“Let’s go,” the kid said. We entered the elevator and I pressed the thirteenth button and it lit up. The ascent was painfully slow, and when finally stopped I jumped out of the elevator just to do something speedily. We followed the signs and increasing and decreasing room numbers until we found room 1403. The golems that the magician used as body guards were no where in sight, nor were their any forms of defense against… anything.

“Try it,” prompted the kid, “Just in case.” I pulled down on the handle, I pushed, and it swung in to show the darkness within the room. I took a step forward, but the kid’s hand fell on my shoulder and pulled back slightly. I looked up to see him staring into the doorway, face hard and a little paled in apprehension.

“What?” I asked, truly worried now that I saw the look on the kid’s face. We both went by intuition, and if he felt something was wrong, we wouldn’t press on.

“It’s a trap.” he looked down at me, “Hotel room doors don’t just open like that. C’mon.” We walked back to the elevator, and stood in silence for a long time after the elevator doors slid closed. I sighed and looked at the buttons, I reached out to press the button back to the lobby, but stopped and stared at the button I had pressed to get here. The thirteenth, not the fourteenth, but the numbers had been 14-something. Now why had the clerk pressed five?

I drew breath in as the truth hit me, and my finger jammed in the fourteenth button, the light blazed and we lurched up the few feet to the “fifteenth” level. The doors hissed open and I leaped out like before, this time the kid was right behind me. We rounded the corner that would show room 1503 when we stopped short. Standing before room 1503 were three golems. I kicked the kid’s ankle, and nodded at him. At the same time we repeated the spell I had used on the desk clerk. Though, instead of staying as they stood they surged forward. Damn! I saw the kid take the knife he liked out and I dropped my guise and growled at the two oncoming golems. Unfazed, they closed the distance in a few large thundering strides and the kid and I jumped in to fight.

It felt useless, the clay that made up most of the golem was marked and marred by scratches and teeth marks (from the few bites I took before being completely repulsed by the feel and taste). Behind me I heard the kid curse and I turned to see him standing a meter from the golem, staring his empty hands. I was hit by what felt like a wall and then hit the floor hard. In the seconds it took me to grasp my consciousness as it tried to slip away, the kid fell next to me. I saw that he was trying to stay conscious also, so I grasped his arm hard and my claws dug into his skin. His eyes cleared and he yelped in pain.

“This isn’t working,” he slurred. He looked at the golems, I could hear them approaching.

“Agreed,” I said, slurring also. “Let’s focus on one first, destroy the enchantment, and then repeat on the other two.” He nodded and we worked to get back on our feet. The golems blurred as my conscious threatened to slip again. When they came clear again they were both only a meter or two away. I murmured quickly the first spell that came to mind and a jet of water burst through the wall and blasted the first golem’s legs off. It fell with a ground shaking thud, and began dragging itself toward us.

The kid and I converged on the golem that was still standing and practically on top of us. We dodged under the ponderous swings of the golem’s arms and legs, feet splashing in the quickly soaked carpet. The kid was mostly distracting it as I ducked in close and dug with my claws into the clay that would be it’s mouth. Large chunks of clay fell of to expose a layer of rocks, which, when I knocked them out, revealed the parchment that would have the enchantment on it. I pulled it out and tore it to shreds, and the golem collapsed with a splash into a heap of clay and rocks.

I turned to the golem that had been reduced to dragging itself. It was now nothing more than a moving blob with the piece of parchment already sticking out and darkened by water. I reached out, took the parchment into my hands, and shredded it, too. There was not visible effect other than a cease in motion. Which would have been humorous under any other circumstances. The kid came up next to me.

“Two down, one to go.” I nodded. We walked back to room 1503, adrenaline making the pattern on the rug and the wall paper vivid and surreal. The last golem stood before the room door in the exact position it had been in before. The kid and I waited until we were close before we leaped at it and employed the same technique we used on the other golem. This time the process seemed shorter, and before long I was standing over another pile of golem materials.

I looked up at the door and couldn’t help but chuckle.

“What?” the kid asked.

“Iron nails. There’s iron nails on the door. Ironic, since iron doesn’t effect me like most other fays.” I smiled at the kid. He was looking at me with a puzzled expression. “Nice perk specifically for mutts like me.” I turned to the door and tried it, it was locked.

The kid took me by the shoulder and took me to the wall opposite the door. Then began to count down from three. Luckily, I caught his intention at one, and we rushed at the door at “Go!” The door swung open and exposed another dark room. Empty. There was nothing other than the magician’s things and what has been traditional for hotel rooms for decades.

“Damn it!” I yelled and walked to the widow, which was wide open and allowing a dismal breeze to blow in. He’d gotten away, probably right before we bashed the door. The kid walked up next to me.

“C’mon,” he said in a whisper, “He’s a necromancer…he’s going to the cemetery.” With that he turned and walked out the door. I slammed the window closed, hard enough to crack it, and followed the kid.

He retrieved his knife from one of the two clay heaps then ran to the stairs. I followed him, not complaining, because from what I had experienced on the way up, I knew the stairs would be faster, especially running. We were out on the street in no time, and our feet were slapping the pavement at the rhythm of our pounding hearts. We pushed past few people, and were breathing too heavily to apologize. The closest cemetery was at least a mile way and we sprinted it.

When we got to the cemetery there were already revived corpses walking about the cemetery grounds. And not far in the distance we could see the figure of the magician crouched over another grave.

We climbed the fence, which brought the magician’s attention to us.

“Attack!” the magician barked as we dropped to the ground. I, in turn, barked an enchantment that caused the nearest corpses to burst in flame. A one-armed corpse in a marines’ uniform pushed aside some smoldering bones and swung a rusted saber. I dodged it, not that I had to; the saber hit a grave stone and shattered into red-brown flakes of rust. I laughed and took its head off with a swipe of my clawed hand.

I looked around for the magician and spotted him standing below the branches of an oak tree surrounded by reanimated corpses. I turned to the kid in time to see him utilize the enchantment I had used seconds before. I caught his eye and he dispatched one last corpse before coming up next no me. Together we made our way over and around grave stones to the magician.

As we neared, the undead tightened the circle around the magician and faced us. When we got close enough to smell their decaying flesh, the kid and I simultaneously spoke the spell for paralyzing and the incantation to ignite flesh. The magician said a counter-spell, and none of the corpses burst into flames; but when we drew nearer, and the magician gave the order that they attack, the corpses didn’t move. The magician grimaced and hissed a spell. The corpses dropped. The magician whispered another spell that caused the branches of the oak tree overhead to drop their leaves in a dark green flurry. We lost sight of the magician and the falling leaves caused a maddening caress all over. Irritated, I screamed the paralyzing spell. The showering stopped as the stiff leaves clogged in the tree’s branches.

The magician was running to a gap in the cemetery fence. We gave chase but he had had a good enough head start that there was no way we would catch up to him before he made it to the hole in the fence. We ran regardless, powered now only by the adrenaline in our veins. The magician stopped right as he reached the gap in the fence, he turned and stared at us. The kid took his knife from his pocket and threw it at the magician, who turned and began to run away, Then arched his back and fell forward.

We ran up next to the sprawled magician, he had the kid’s knife right in the middle of his back and was breathing heavily. I looked at the kid, eyebrows raised. He smiled weakly and pulled his knife free from the magician’s back, knelt by his shoulders, and put the knife to his throat.

I caught his wrist. “No,” he looked up at me, “ I’ll do it.” After a pause he nodded and stood. I knelt where the kid had and wrapped my hand around the magician’s neck. The magician’s ragged breathing quickened, and I loosened my grip on his neck. What I told the kid on more than one occasion sounded in my head, “always finish”; I closed my eyes, turned away, and pulled my hand towards me. Wet warmth flowed through my fingers and the breathing slowed to nothing. I wiped my hands on the magician’s shirt before opening my eyes, and looked up at the kid, his face was like stone.

He picked me up by the armpits and together we walked to the park to sleep off the excitement of the day. Tomorrow we would return to the oracle, tell her the deed was done, and receive money we had initially refused; but tonight we would sleep and toss about as we dreamed in darkness.





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