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Pepper and Pixie Dust
Len sat back in his chair, staring at the picture of a castle in the mountains. To most humans, it would appear to be an abandoned castle with ivy growing all over it, but Len had seen magic before. He watched as a tiny pixie with blue hair entered the frame and flitted over to the castle. Another pixie with wide, gauzy wings flew out and made a face at Len before she left the frame.
Len picked up a pepper packet and tore it open. He made sure no one was looking before he flicked some of the pepper at the tiny pixie as she was darting out of the castle. She sneezed and glared at Len, shaking her fist before she left the frame again.
Len smirked and sat back. He checked his watch again. She was late. Of course, she was late. She had been last time. He suspected she would be late to future meetings as well. Maybe he should schedule their meetings a half an hour earlier to see if he could trick her into being on time.
A pixie identical to the tiny one in the picture stepped up to his table. She had pepper spilled all over her dress. She put her hands on her hips. “That wasn’t funny,” she snapped.
Len tilted his head and grinned. “Sorry?”
“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “Now are you going to order or should I kick you out? You’ve already overstayed your welcome.”
“Fine,” he said rolling his eyes. “I’ll have a hot cocoa with a bit of pixie dust sprinkled on top.”
“Pixie dust?” the pixie sputtered. “That’s not funny either.”
Len chuckled. “Normal magic is fine I guess. I don’t want to be floating the whole way home.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What’s the password?”
“Never trust a dragon?” he guessed.
She snorted. “Not even close, but it’s clear you already know magic.” She crossed her arms. “Be careful, boy. Whether you’re new to magic or not, you don’t want to mess with a pixie.” She turned and stalked off, her small wings fluttering behind her.
“She’s right, you know. A mad pixie is the last thing you want. Then again, a mad fairy is much more dangerous than a pixie as far as magic goes, so I guess that’s really the last thing you want.”
The voice behind Len made him jump a little. He gave Jade a smirk as she sat down next to him. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You know perfectly well what I’m talking about,” she said.
“You’re late,” Len said. “Again.”
“I wasn’t late,” Jade snapped. “I was watching to make sure you didn’t bring anyone with you.”
Len snorted. “Sure. What really happened? Did you get kidnapped by a dwarf? Mugged by a troll.”
“Close enough,” Jade muttered. “Did you get my entire message? I split it into three parts.”
Len nodded. “Yeah, I got them. I don’t get why you spies have to be so difficult.”
“I’ve learned to keep a low profile,” she said. “Better safe than sorry. I brought more money than I did last time. Do you have the spells I need?”
“Sure,” he said. He lifted a brown leather pouch. “Exactly what you asked for. For the sake of your reputation, and so that I can stay out of prison, I won’t show you what’s in there.” He raised his eyebrows and dangled the pouch out of reach. “I think this good work calls for a tip.”
Jade rolled her eyes. “A tip? Your price was already steep as it is.”
“True,” Len said. “But keep in mind, I’m at least twice as reliable as any other magician. Not a lot of people like me are willing to trade their magic.” He leaned closer. “And even fewer carry through, especially if they were attacked by a demon the first time they made an exchange with you.”
She sighed and pulled a small bag out of her pocket. “It’s a good thing I anticipated you asking for a tip.”
Len spilled the contents into his palm and sorted through them. Satisfied at the payment, he tossed his bag of spells at her. “So, Jade, how’s the spy business working out for you?” he said. “I haven’t seen you around for a few months.”
“There’s a reason for that,” she said. “It’s not easy. I won’t give you the specifics, but I think you can imagine the hazards that come from a job like this.” She pressed her lips together. “Let’s just say everything’s gotten worst since the attack on our first meeting. I hope you would remember such an eventful evening.”
Len chuckled. “I would have to have amnesia to forget it.” When Jade first came to him to purchase spells, they had been attacked by a demon named Medmun. Fortunately, he got out of it unscathed…mostly, but she had cheated him into giving her more of the spell than she paid for because she saved his life. During that time, she revealed herself to be a fairy secret agent, hence the life-saving. He crossed his arms. “Let’s just say that I’m still mad about how we left off.”
The waitress returned with a mug of cocoa for Len. She shot him a glare as she set it down in front of him. “Anything for you, Miss?” she said to Jade.
“No thanks,” Jade said. “I have to run soon.”
The pixie nodded and left. Jade smirked at Len’s cup. “No caffeine?”
Len shrugged. “Nah. It messes with my magic. I figured I would need to have some extra magic in case you get caught with me again.” He scowled. “Which is entirely likely.” He glanced around the room, pretending to search for demons. He was pretty confident in the defenses of the magic café, but Jade had a way of attracting enemies that could do near impossible things.
Jade snorted. “I don’t think that’ll happen again. Our last meeting was a complete accident.” She frowned. “Or at least, if you are attacked again, it won’t be my fault. It will probably be because someone else is targeting you. You might want to set that cup down.”
“Aw c’mon,” Len said. “Do you know how much a spike of magic costs in a drink?”
Jade lowered her voice. “Len, I can spot poison from a mile away. Believe me, you don’t want that drink.”
Len set the cup down. “Are you serious?”
Jade drew a dagger. “When I say run, run.”
Len scowled and reached for his own satchel filled with his best spells. Jade’s eyes flashed. “No magic,” she said. “Not this time. Whoever is trying to kill you can use your magic against you. Your best chance is to run when I tell you. They can’t know we make deals or your life will be in danger.”
Len nodded. “Got it.”
Jade closed her eyes. “The enemy is closing in,” she whispered so quietly that Len had to strain to hear. The café moved around like normal, but Len was starting to sense the danger as well. An elf typed furiously on her laptop. A dryad and satyr off to the side were sharing a sandwich and a milkshake. The pixie waitress stepped out from behind the counter, carrying a cup of coffee.
“Run,” Jade said. In one swift motion, she stood, grabbed the pixie waitress, and pressed her knife against her neck. Len got up, part of him wanting to leave, and part of him wanting to stay and see what happened.
“Put the poison down,” Jade hissed in the pixie’s ear. The café had gone silent. Len stood up and started to back away toward the door.
The pixie blinked and her irises turned red. Her skin took on a green appearance and her golden hair turned black with gray streaks. Her neat little dress turned into a black robe and the fake pixie wings fell off. One moment she was an attractive pixie. The next she was a witch.
“Do as I say,” Jade said. “Drop it.”
The snake woman threw her cup. It sailed through the air before hitting Len. The lid burst open, spilling steaming coffee all over him. He yelped and tried to brush it off, but the coffee burned his hand. His shirt was burning away. He took his satchel off before the poison could touch it and held it away from his body. He tried to run, but the coffee that had spilled onto the ground thickened into goop and held his feet to the ground.
The witch threw Jade off. She hit the table with the dryad and satyr. At once, the café burst into motion. Customers were screaming and running. Len tried to move, but the slime was crawling up his leg. The slime that was already on his chest had burned away most of his shirt. Some of the slime touched his chest and he felt a tingling, burning sensation. He tried to wipe it off again, but the goop burned his fingers. He closed his eyes, trying to summon a spell, but the words didn’t come. The slime was neutralizing his magic.
Jade jumped to her feet and charged the witch again. A broom materialized in the witch’s fingers and she hit Jade with it. Jade pulled back, brandishing her knife.
Len’s skin on his chest burned. He screamed. “Jade!”
Jade grabbed a table and threw it down in between her and the witch. She danced back and tossed something back at Len. “Catch!”
Len caught it. He frowned down at the little packet of pepper. “Really?” he said.
Jade was back at the fight. She got in close so that the witch couldn’t swing her broom at her. She tried to grab the witch again, holding out her dagger in a threatening pose. The witch flinched back and snapped her fingers. A raven swooped into the room and landed on Jade’s head.
The poisonous goop was really starting to hurt. Len tore the packet of pepper open and sprinkles a little on the slime on his chest, hoping it would at least do something. Maybe the slime was allergic to pepper. At first, nothing happened. The slime dug into his skin. He sprinkled more on. The slime started to melt. The burning sensation stopped and the melted slime fell to the ground. The goop around his ankles had burned through his sneakers and was working on his socks. He grabbed another pepper packet and dumped it onto the slime. The slime quivered and melted into a puddle.
Len looked back up. Jade was brandishing a chair and using it to hit the bird and the witch’s broom, which was now hovering above her, trying to smack her. The witch sat on the counter, laughing hysterically.
Len grabbed a pepper shaker and charged the witch. Her eyes widened as he drew near and she snapped her fingers again. The broom shot toward him. He ducked and dumped some of the pepper on the witch’s lap. She scowled and brushed it off. “What are you doing, boy?” she snarled.
Len unscrewed the pepper. The witch jumped up and her broom shot by, picking her up. Len paused. There was no way he could hit her with the pepper when she was up that high. He jumped up onto the counter.
There was a loud squawk behind him and the raven hit the wall beside him. Jade jumped onto a table. “Len, I told you to run,” she warned. “If you get hurt, you can’t sue me.”
“I know,” Len said. “I have an idea.”
She frowned. “You’re standing on a counter in a magical café armed with pepper against a witch. I’m kind of worried about your idea.”
“I’ll explain later,” Len said. “Just get her to come down.”
Jade shrugged. “All right.” She jumped off the counter and started to run toward the door.
“Coward,” the witch shrieked. She leaned forward and the broom shot toward her. Jade whirled around and threw her dagger. It missed, but the witch cackled and drew in closer. “Don’t leave dearie,” she said. “I can make you an excellent drink.” Her eyes flashed. “My cappuccinos are to die for.”
Len pounced. He grabbed onto the broom handle and dumped the pepper shaker onto the witch. The witch shrieked. Jade opened the door and they crashed outside.
“No,” the witch cried. She jumped up from the broken broom and looked at her hands. Pepper flecked her greenish skin, which was starting to take on a sandy texture. “You fools,” she cried.
Jade stood up. “Show’s over, witch,” she said. “I did tell you a mad fairy was the last thing you wanted.”
The witch’s eyes widened in recognition. “You,” she shrieked. “Blasted fairies, always going undercover.”
Jade smiled. “That’s right. I’ve been hunting you down for a while. Poisoning customers tends to make you stand out.”
The witch reached out to grab Jade, but her hand dissolved into sand. Furious, she spat at Jade. “This isn’t the last trouble you’ll have from me, Missy,” she said. “Witches don’t take kindly to fairies. My friends will have revenge.”
Jade laughed. “Let them come.”
The witch turned into a pile of sand. Jade turned to Len. “Seriously, what was with the pepper?” she said. “It was a great distraction, I’ll admit. We needed to get her outside anyway. Witches never last long outside their lairs.”
Len shrugged. “I don’t know. You’re the fairy who is such an expert at magic. You tell me.”
Jade frowned. “Pepper doesn’t do anything to witches. Unless that witch happened to be allergic to pepper, it wouldn’t do anything if you dumped it on her.”
Len snorted. “You threw pepper at me. When I sprinkled it on the poison, it neutralized. I thought it was some universal neutralizer for witch magic.”
Jade felt her pocket. She pulled up a white packet. “Oh,” she said. “I was supposed to give you this magic neutralizer. I guess I gave you the wrong packet.”
Len grinned. “It got her out of her lair, which turned her into sand, so my idea did work.”
Jade folded her arms. “Yeah, I guess it did in a weird, roundabout way.” She smirked and held out her hand. “You’ll keep in contact, right? Are you still okay with selling me magic? I don’t want to come to you if you aren’t.”
Len hesitated. It seemed that every time he met up with Jade to trade magic, something drastic happened. Last time it had been a demon, this time it was a witch. But she did pay good money and it was kind of exciting. Maybe next time he should bring popcorn to watch her fight the bad guys. He nodded. “As long as you keep paying, I will keep selling you magic.”
Jade smiled. “I was hoping you’d say that.”