The Subtle Mage

Three things I knew for certain:

First, that my captors had gone to great lengths to make me comfortable.
Second, that my stay was going to be a long one.
Third, that I may possibly have some superpowers.

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1. The Crooked Wand

Part One: Premonitions.

 

I don’t really sleep, but when I do, I have the weirdest dreams.

I was stood in some sort of underground amphitheatre, with three others. Their faces were blurry; I couldn’t make them out. Did I know these people? There was panic in the air, people were screaming, frantically. I heard a muffled noise behind me, and as I turned I was overcome by the sensation of being pulled from deep water to the surface, and back into consciousness.

“Aaron! Drag your lazy arse down here and help out!” called a broad Scottish accent from somewhere below me.

“Yeah, coming.” I hollered down at the floor, my voice cracked from disuse. I rolled out of bed and hopped over to the bathroom; the panelled floor chilled my feet. Carelessly slapping the light switch on, I leaned against the porcelain sink and stared into the mirror. Fifteen years of insomnia and cynicism stared back at me. My stark black hair was ruffled from tossing and turning, and my eyes - a shade of slate so deep they were almost black - glared back at me. My thin lips were pursed in dissatisfaction, no surprise there. I brushed my teeth, dressed in some black jeans and a blue button down shirt. I turned to go downstairs without a second look, or an attempt to flatten my hair. I don’t bother these days; it never stays down no matter how hard I try.

If I had to describe our house in one word: Small. Or rickety. One or the other. The staircase to downstairs was dwindling, lit by bare bulbs and painted a ‘lovely’ shade of aquamarine. My hand rested on the banister, trailing a path through the slight dust. The whole house smelled a little musty, but this early in the morning it was mingled with the smell of toast and coffee: The breakfast I’d missed. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I nudged open the flimsy wooden door that separates our house from the shop. I forgot to mention that: we live above our shop.

The shop is, once again, narrow. Double shelves line the walls, with a central island down the middle. The whole thing is painted with runes, moons and stars, it’s also lit by great fluorescent bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

The change of lighting was so dramatic (dim bulbs to strip lights) that I shielded my face, waiting for my eyes to adjust. When the light stopped trying to blind me, I lowered my hand and was greeted by none other than Fabian McGregor, my foster-father. My parents had died when I was very young and I don’t remember them. He was leaning stiffly against the counter at the front of the shop, a green apron above an orange plaid shirt, rolled up to the elbows. He had a craggy face, his eyes alight with childish joy. His sandy blonde hair was swept across his forehead, and his face was unshaven, probably one of his attempts to grow a beard. One hand was in the pocket of his jeans, the other was drumming impatiently on the counter-top. The corner of his mouth lifted in a slight smile.

“I was wondering when you’d decide to drag yourself from the pit.” He exclaimed, putting on a demonic voice for the last two words.

“Rejoice, for I have risen.” I proclaimed, plucking my apron from the back of the door: Simple green fabric with our logo on it: A stereotypical wizard - pointed hat, midnight blue cloak with stars and moons on, silvery beard - grasping a magic wand in his wrinkled hand. And the words ‘The Crooked Wand’ written in bubble-writing. Yes. It’s a magic shop. We sell anything from decks of tarot cards to herbs and spices to crystal balls. Do I believe they work? No I don’t. It’s a stable business, but I often wonder why Fabian decided to start the shop a shop in the middle of London. Fabian strolled over to the glass door and flipped the ‘closed’ sign to ‘open’ and sighed.

“I hate Saturdays.” He grumbled in a rough approximation of a certain ginger cat’s voice.

“Mondays. Mondays, Fabian.” I muttered.

“Less of your cheek, mister.” He laughed, straightening a jar of herbs on the shelf. I rolled my eyes and walked over to the radio, flicking it on. ‘Can’t Stop’ by the Chili Peppers was playing, in the middle of the chorus.

“I love this song!”

 

*** *** ***

 

The early autumn sunshine played upon the windows, glimmering and making the whole shop seem a little cheerier. The occasional gust of wind that drifted through the street brought with it a coronation of beautiful orange and amber leaves: A bitter reminder of summer’s last days.

Business was slow, the odd teenager, some creepy looking guys, one nutter in a cloak, of all things. For the most part, Fabian deals with the customers, I just make sure the shelves are neat; I’m not so proficient in my people skills. I imagined I must look a little unwelcoming, sullen and sulky, lurking in the back of the shop, Fabian always told me I needed to interact with the customers, make them feel welcome. He doesn’t seem to recognize that when it comes to interaction and making people feel welcome, neither are my forte.

We had a few more customers, and then it was time for our lunch break. We ate at the counter, as was our tradition. Lunch today was cheese toasties from our little kitchen upstairs. One good thing about a quiet business is, well, the quiet, it leaves plenty of time to chill, or for me to chat to Fabian. Although, there’s not much to talk about.

“So how’s school been?” He asked, sorting out the cash drawer.

“Same old, same old.” I lied easily. I didn’t tell him of my recent troubles. I won’t bore you with the details; let’s just say I’m not easily likable. So, understandably, I tend to make enemies quickly. One dude had been picking on me, which was odd, because most people just stay out of my way. One day he pushed me too far. Like I said, I won’t go into detail, let’s just say his nose became the teensiest bit more squashed and bloody. Look, I know it was bad. I’ve been kicked out of plenty of schools, and this time Fabian made me promise to either play nice or just stay out of sight. The latter I can do well, for the most part, I seem to be able to just disappear in the crowds. I wear nondescript clothes and I don’t speak much at school. I don’t really have any friends at that place, I’ve always remained detached; we move a lot. I know I’m introverted. I can’t help it. Whenever people speak to me I’m unsure of what to say, how to act.

Sure, I have a handful of close friends, but none of them go to my school, instead they go to one of the ones I moved from. I acted normal, played it cool, and I thought things were going smoothly, but of course, we just had to move. I can’t risk being kicked out again, or Fabian will probably kill me. He hasn’t in the fourteen years I’ve known him, though. He refuses tell me anything about my parents. He always tells me that I’m too young.

“I’m impressed.” He said. “No fights? You’ve managed to stay out of trouble for a whole year?” I nodded. Fabian clapped his hand to my back. “Good job, lad. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure you had it in you.” He chuckled. It’s kinda hard not to be angry or upset around Fabian, he’s just one of those people. So naturally, I tried a weak smile.

I finished lunch before him, and as the last morsel on his plate disappeared, he stacked the plates and ran them upstairs. When he came down, he rubbed his hands together.

“Right. Back to work.”

 

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