Candles are How We Keep Fire as a Pet

The mage sat behind her desk, a notebook open while she scribbled notes down. Her partner was somewhere behind her, humming to himself while he worked on a dissection. She tilted her head to the side, catching the strains of the song. Recognizing it, she smiled to herself and picked up the tune. A candle sat on the desk opposite her but it was unlit. Extending one hand, she touched the wick and watched the flame spring to life. Fire was dangerous, unpredictable, beautiful, and magical. Maybe that was why she’d always been so good with fire. It was like her.

The humming behind her stopped and was exchanged for the sound of the taps turning on. Was that man singing the goddamn lab safety song they’d learned in junior high under his breath? She smothered her laugh and turned around to watch him. His instruments were all in the sanitizer and he was washing his hands. Gods, she loved him.

“All done, babe?”

“Yeah. You?”

She gestured towards her workspace and the diagrams spread out across it.

“I’ll be done for real sometime next millennium. But if you’re done, then I’m officially calling it lunch time.”

He chuckled quietly and swapped out his protective lab glasses for his normal ones before hanging up his smock on the peg by his workspace. She leaned forward to blow out her candle and stopped. Instead, she shaped a spell around it to keep the flames from spreading. She would have to watch it in case the flames decided to test her spellwork, but she wanted to keep this one for now.

“Ready?”

He had one hand on the light switch and was watching her with curiosity.

“Yeah, sure.”

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Playing Catch-Up

Marcy was starting to wonder if this guy’s scowl was a permanent feature or if she had just managed to piss him off that much.

“You have yet to explain how you came to this world, Weaver of Silken Words.”

That last part sounded more like an insult and she barely suppressed the urge to make a retort. Play by the rules. Play their game.

“Ah, but I did. As I said, I wove my way between the worlds.”

He took one step to close the distance between them, glaring emerald daggers down at her.

“I grant that you have the smell of the wild spirits about you, but you are mortal. Mortals do not walk the worlds unaided and you cannot lie to me. I am not some mewling whelp of a Faerie kitten, I am the Prince of Thorns and Knives. Now tell me who brought you here and why, in truth, before I decided to flay the flesh from your bones.”

She started to open her mouth and the air shimmered just to her side.

“If you touch my friend, blood-brother, I shall be so very vexed with you.”

The Prince turned, his dark curls bouncing just slightly.

“So do you claim this mortal, Cliff?” Then he paused. “You did not have her when you were here earlier. Is she your pet or have you forgotten my sister?”

Cliff’s voice was soft, tender even.

“I could never forget her. You know that.”

The Prince had the grace to look embarrassed.

“You have my apologies, my brother. But, how do you come to look so very different from when Mother’s servants went to your mortal world to fetch you?” He gestured at Cliff’s hair, shaved on the sides and let grow some on top. “Your hair was much longer and you have never been a one for frequent glamouring. There is too much of truth in you.”

Chewing his lower lip for a moment, Cliff made a rapid decision. Obviously the Prince had seen Kate and might know where she was.

“That wasn’t me. They took my twin sister.”

The Prince grabbed Cliff by the shoulders, Marcy entirely forgotten now. Alarms showed in his eyes.

“A pageboy took your sister to begin the quest meant for you. The quest given by the High Queen.”

“Oh shit.”

“My sentiments entirely, brother.”

“Tell me where to find her. You must know.”

The Prince nodded quickly.

“Come, both of you. We will need to travel quickly.”

The Past

The ink on the letter glistened ominously as she read the address at the top.
“Regina.”
No one called her that anymore…except for her father. Groaning, Reggie unrolled the letter, grumbling to herself.
“Email, Dad, it’s not hard. Seriously…” But then she began to actually process the words on the page.

“My darling Regina,
You must be aware by now that dark doings are afoot in our world. Your one-time classmates have been vanishing one by one, all save for Andarien, who I am certain you must remember. He has managed to secure for himself a position on the High Council and I fear that perhaps there is a connection between Andarien and these disappearances. For your own safety, watch the shadows.
I love you always,
Father”

With a sigh, she rolled the letter back up and jammed it into a drawer with the others. She didn’t have time for her dad’s crazy conspiracy theories, or for the magical world she’d left behind. Curtain call was at seven tonight and maybe if she impressed this crowd, she’d get a better gig next time. Pausing to lean against the counter, she closed her eyes. Yeah, she could remember Andarien alright. She would never forget him, or the look in his eyes when he’d held his wand with its tip pressed just under her chin and told her never to challenge him ever again. It wasn’t all that surprising he’d gone down the path of the dark arts and still managed to worm his way onto the Council. With a frustrated groan, she moved away from the counter. None of that mattered. She wasn’t going to be waving around a real wand anytime soon. And she had a magic show to put on.

Missing: The Wrong Twin

Marcella stood frozen in the doorway, hand still raised from knocking. She’d expected Kate, not her twin brother. But the one standing in front of her was undoubtedly Cliff, despite the very strong resemblance.

“Marcy… I was about to call you.”

“Where’s Kate? Not that it’s not great to see you, but…”

“But I live 2 hours away and this is my sister’s house. But she never lets anyone but her answer the door. Yeah, I know. I called her, no answer. Repeatedly. Tried her cell. Nada. So I drove down. She’s not here, Marcy.”

Marcy stepped inside as Cliff moved aside. He looked almost…defeated. Like he was assuming the worst and blaming himself.

“She might just…be out? You know Kate. Maybe she lost her phone again… Or…”

But it was just hopeful thinking. That sort of ‘if wishes were horses’ sort of thing. Right now, between the desperate hope and downright nightmarish self-blame, they were fit to open a stable. Taking a place on the couch, Marcy looked up at Cliff.

“Has anything weird happened lately? Anything at all.”

He shrugged noncommittally.

“It’s sort of hard to gauge weird with our bunch, Marcy. You know that.”

“Point.” She leaned back and looked up towards the ceiling. “Well, we’re in luck. Your sister decided to start listening to me.”

“What are you-? Oh… Oh no.”

Understanding dawned on Cliff’s face and he took a half-step back.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why you’re scared of them. They’re harmless and helpful. And this little fellow is barely full grown.”

Standing on the couch with a silent apology to Kate for putting her sneakers on the cushions, Marcy reached for the spider sitting in the corner where the wall meets the ceiling. The tiny creature eagerly moved to her hand, letting her move back to sitting. Cliff perched on the arm of one of the two matching plush armchairs, doing his level best not to panic entirely as he watched a sight which really should have been normal to him by now. Marcy raised the spider up so she could look directly into his eyes.

“I’m dreadfully sorry for bothering you, but I need to ask you some questions. My name is Marcy. What’s yours?”

Cliff could see the little legs moving as the spider danced back and forth and Marcy spoke softly to it.

“I’m…gonna go make a pot of coffee and grab my pack from the car. Lemme know if your friend there says anything interesting.”

Marcy nodded and waved Cliff away with her free hand. By the time he returned with two steaming mugs, she looked like she was either going to cry or murder someone and Cliff really hoped she was being particular about who she murdered. He set the mug down on a coaster, smiling slightly that it was one of the lunar phase set he’d gotten for his twin for their birthday a few years back. Marcy took the coffee and stared into it, the spider back up on his perch.

“Well?”

“They thought she was you.”

“They? They who? What?”

“The Midnight Court. They thought that… Well, alright. They didn’t think Kate was you so much as they thought that…um…”

“They thought Kate was Alycia.”

He said the name like it was a brand scorching his flesh, like even something so simple as uttering it would undo years, decades of training and adjusting and medical procedures and Faerie glamour. Cliff scrubbed at his face, looking very much like a man staring down his own death.

“But…why would they want… I mean, they knew! They helped me change!”

“And they never saw the end result. Or, at least, they never saw adult Cliff. Just awkward, gangly Cliff. You also said they never remember you don’t glamour yourself to look like that anymore.”

“And now they have my sister… Who is very not me. Did they say anything about where?”

“The little one, I named him Archie, by the way. Archie said they talked about their web. That’s basically spider-speak for home.”

Cliff sagged into the chair.

“My sister has been kidnapped by Faeries who think she’s pre-op me and you named her living room spider…Archie. Glad to know nothing around here ever changes. So…” He leaned forward, suddenly shifting gears. “How are we doing this? I’m pretty well kitted out for a rogue troll here and there, but you’re talking about storming the Moonless Palace.”

“Yeah…and they have our only real magic user. So frontal assault is out.”

“We could play it like that time in Boston.”

“The time you got drunk and forgot to round your ears and we had to convince people you were a Trekkie?”

“No! The time we charmed our way into the knitting show with your silk and then busted the goblins-”

“-Who were trading in unicorn tail hair. I remember now.” Marcy paused. “You want to impress your way into…a Fae stronghold…in the Otherworld…with silk?”

Cliff shrugged.

“It’s the best plan I’ve got. My other-other idea involves really thick gloves and you loading my clips.”

“We are NOT taking bog iron rounds into the Otherworld! Do you remember last time? You’re lucky you lived!”

The grin that crossed Cliff’s face was not nice, comforting or human.

“Well then, we’d best figure out how to charm our way in before they realize they didn’t get the right toy.”

Photon and Spark – Special #1 – Origins of a Team

Max Jackson didn’t much like bullies. Bullies made things complicated. Bullies that were harassing him and Terry made things doubly complicated. It wasn’t as if the pair didn’t have enough problems. It wasn’t as if they weren’t both already trying to deal with high school, parents, life, and concealing superpowers. That last part was the worst. Especially right now, with Daniel Tompkins grinning at him like the cat who’d got the cream. At least Terry wasn’t here, so there wasn’t that risk. Terry had a hard enough time masking his preternatural speed when he was on the track, hiding it in a fight would be almost impossible. 

“Well, Jackson?”

He could hear the laughter in Daniel’s voice and Max clenched his fists, wanting so badly to just activate his powers and make it obvious who exactly Daniel was messing with. Then he heard another voice, a new voice.

“Hey, Tompkins, why don’t you go bother someone who actually bothered you?”

Max looked up in time to see a girl walking towards them, and not just any girl. That was Jessica Morrow. That was Crusader’s daughter. She had her arms crossed over her chest and was glaring at Daniel Tompkins in a way that said she was going to take no nonsense from him. He glared back for a moment and then stormed off with one last passing shot.

“Guess you have to get saved by a girl, Jackson.”

Max sighed and stood.

“Thanks for bailing me out, Morrow.”

Jessica returned his smile and held her hand out to him.

“No problem. And it’s nice to finally meet you.”

Max raised an eyebrow at that and Jessica leaned in to whisper for his ears only.

“I’ve got access to Sanctum records, Jackal. And I’ve wanted to meet you and your partner for a while.”

First Born

Meredith smoothed her hands over the swell of her stomach and frowned, deep in thought. The closer they got to her due date, the more she was afraid. It had only been a dream, hadn’t it? So many years ago… It had to have been. That blithe childhood promise couldn’t have been real. Dennis put an arm around her shoulders, never knowing that his own thoughts intersected hers so well.
“Meri?”
“Hmmm?”
She leaned back into his grip and smiled.
“Everything alright?”
She looked down for a moment and then smiled.
“Of course it is.”
She ignored the lingering fear as she went and opened the window to try and bring the heat down some.

The leaves were falling as they came home together with their son in the backseat of the car. The little boy was fast asleep, tucked in with his little white blanket in his little tiny green onesie.
“He’s so quiet…”
Meredith glanced back and smiled.
“He’s sleeping, Dennis. Let him stay that way.”
When they got home, Meredith carried their son inside in her arms, a huge smile on her face…until she heard the voices arguing.
“Listen, you old hag, I was here first.”
“Old hag! Who are you calling an old hag, swamp thing.”
There were two old women standing together in the living room, glaring daggers at each other and periodically shooting glances at the ‘its a boy!’ banner over the fireplace.
“Oh good!”
They turned to face the terrified new parents with twin expressions of glee.
“You’re finally home. Time to settle up, dearie.”

Magic Lessons

“Hey! Songchaser!”

Thomas turned, a pen in his hand and a splotch of ink on his cheek. Charlie came jogging towards him across the school grounds, waving and laughing.

“I was hoping I’d find you out here. Working on the paper for Markov’s class?” The blond boy dropped dramatically to sit down and opened a notebook. When Thomas nodded, he grinned. “Think you could help me out? I really don’t get this whole…temporal injunctive thing.”

“Temporal injunction,” Thomas said immediately and then blushed. “Sorry.”

“No, no, do go on. This might explain my confusion. And anyway, I betcha I’ll learn way better from you, oh glorious teacher, than I ever have in class.”

“That’s only because you pay more attention to me.”

“I’d pay more attention to Markov if he was a handsome devil like you, Tom, but sad as it is the only professor on this entire campus worth ogling is Fenrirson and I’m not into tails.”

Thomas chucked an apple from his snack at the other boy. Charlie just caught it with a wry thanks and took a bite out of it.

“Anyway…the paper. Temporal Injunction is really simple-“

“…Simple…”

“It is!”

Thomas flushed, embarrassed.

“I’m sorry, Tommy-boy, but not all of us spent our entire lives studying at the knee of the most powerful mages in two dimensions…”

“Sorry…”

“No, no, do go on.”

Charlie scooted closer and leaned in to get a good look at Thomas’s notes. Thomas inhaled deeply, trying to get back on track with his explanation and entirely lost his focus. Had Charlie always smelled so…good? That thought stopped him entirely in his tracks. What was he even thinking? He needed to breathe, needed to focus. Temporal injunction. Explain it. Come on, idiot. Mouth in gear and expound on arcane theory. You do it all the time. Thomas looked up at Charlie and his heart nearly stopped. Slamming everything that felt odd down, Thomas started to explain the theory as in-depth as he could. He tried to focus on literally anything other than the pounding of his own heart and other such confusing physical symptoms.