The first installment can be read HERE.
The Third Installment can be read HERE.
By E. J. D’Alise (Disperser)
Kurt tried logging onto the Caster Database, wanting to read about Lena, but she had the house wrapped up tight . . . no internet connection, no phone, and even the stove had no gas. Electricity came through, as electric appliances still worked.
The noises of every appliance and electrical device appeared amplified in the unnatural silence. Noises which would otherwise blend into the background.
Carefully , so as to not wake her, he got up, grabbing his glass as he did so. Heading to the fridge, something caught his eye. The edges of one of the windows had a soft orange glow, as did the corner s of the wall at both the floor and ceiling.
He looked at it, but it had faded. For a moment he thought he might have imagined it, but then the whole side of the room flashed bright orange.
“Lena!” Kurt did not quite yell, but was emphatic.
“I see it.” Lena responded.
He tore his eyes from the glowing wall to look at her. Lena was sitting still, eyes closed, hands resting on her legs. He noticed her lips move, and looked back at the wall . . . bright orange color was slowly giving way to dark red, and within seconds it was black.
Beginning at the center top and bottom, the lines split, and began to recede to the side.
“Come.” Lena spoke, opening her eyes, and standing to face the wall.
A slight shimmer formed in the air in front of them, and a figure began to appear. Kurt was impressed; remote projections were difficult for small objects, and the projection taking shape was human-sized.
It snapped into focus, and Kurt recognized the leader of the local Casters Guild. He could not remember the man’s name, but the projection looked a lot less friendly than Kurt remembered.
“Lena. I might have known.” As it spoke, the figure made to move, but Lena said a word, and it stopped in mid-stride, as if frozen.
The voice, however, continued. “Are we to gather Elder Roberts is dead?”
The projection of the body might not have been able to move, but the eye shifted constantly; the man was trying to take measure of his surroundings.
“You’re spreading yourself thin Lena; this one will be a burden to care for. Are you sure you are . . . “ Kurt knew exactly when the projection noticed the black lines on the corners of the wall. Obviously, they meant more to him than they did to Kurt.
And in that instant, Lena made a motion as if flinging a scarf over her shoulder. The black lines rejoined, snapping shut in eery silence. “There should have been a noise.” thought Kurt.
The projection had started to fade, but snapped back into focus when the lines rejoined. Kurt was not sure, but it was as if Lena had captured the old man’s projection. How was that even possible?
The figure no longer had a voice, but the mouth silently formed the word “Please”.
Lena now stood but a few inches from it, looking into its eyes as she spoke.
“Mercy? You want mercy?” as she spoke, her fist slowly crossed the boundary of the projection, and reached the approximate location of the heart. “Like Jordan got? Like Hank and Sal?”
She closed her eyes, and after a few seconds, she slowly opened her fist, still inside the apparition. It was like bursting a water balloon. The cohesiveness of the shape disintegrated into wispy strands, glowing orange. At the same time, all the barriers dropped, and he could once again hear the noises of the neighborhood.
“We are leaving. Don’t take anything, or they will track us by it.” Lena went to the porch door, and stepped outside. She looked around, and then motioned for him to follow. His back yard was private, and led to a drainage area; a one hundred foot easement between him and his neighbor. They made it to the woods, and she turned, holding up her hand to stop Kurt.
“Take off your clothes.” She said
“You cannot take anything from the house. Take off your clothes.” she repeated.
“Look,” Kurt answered, “I’m not about to walk around . . . “
“I don’t have time for this.” Llena signed a circle, and Kurt’s clothes began to glow orange.
“OWW!” he yelped, clutching at his side. He lifted his shirt, and grabbed at the rubber handle of his carry revolver. He pulled both it and the holster from the belt, and let it drop. The gun had gotten hot quick.
Meanwhile Lena had signed a circle in the opposite direction, and his clothes began to disintegrate.
“That could be handy in a bar!” His unbidden thought made him smile, even as the heat of the disintegrating clothes became uncomfortable.
Kurt was not particularly modest, but still, he was standing naked in front of a young female, and sporting a grin; what would she think?
Lena looked away, walked a few steps to a nearby tree, and retrieved a package from the base of it. Walking back to him, she looked straight into his eyes as she said “You should smile more often; it suits you.”
Then, turning away, she continued. “Also, you should work out more. Put those on; we have a ways to travel.”
Kurt found clothes and shoes inside the package.
“Wait,” he took a step toward her, but immediately regretted it. There were lots of small dried twigs underfoot, and some of them sharp. “ I need my gun.”
“Those we fight are immune to conventional weapons; you know that.” Lena answered without looking back at him, affording him a small amount of privacy as he dressed.
“No, you don’t understand; that’s my Focus.” Inexperienced casters used a Focus object to concentrate and direct their casts. Elders eventually learned to cast without a Focus. From what he had seen, Lena was in a class by herself.
She came back where he stood, and bent down to pick up the holster and gun.
“All synthetic; no organics.” Her economy of words was, however terse, accurate. She continued. “I can wipe these so they cannot be traced.” She hefted the gun. “No bullets.” she said, looking up at him.
“It’s not for shooting.” Kurt replied. “Strictly for Focus.”
“It doesn’t seem practical, and seems slow.” Lena’s tone was dubious.
“Here.” Kurt grabbed the holster and gun from the girl, and put it back on his belt. Standing with his hands at his side, Kurt asked Lena to throw something. She picked up a rock, and threw it over his head and behind him.
Kurt drew as he turned, acquired his target at mid draw, and by the time his arm was extended and the rock was held motionless a foot off the ground, less than a half a second had elapsed. He rose from his half-crouch, and as he holstered his gun, the rock dropped.
“Impressive. Definitely not slow.” She bent down to pick up another rock as she spoke, and threw it underhand at Kurt. “Here, catch.”
Kurt did so instinctively.
“Throw it at me, hard.” She did not change her stance, or get ready in any way.
“What?” He was less than ten feet away from Lena.
“Throw it as hard as you can.” Lena repeated her instructions.
“I can’t do that. I might hurt you.” Kurt pleaded, but inside he wondered just how good she was.
“Consider this part of your training.” Lena flicked her forefinger, and Kurt felt as if he had been hit on the chest. Hit by a big guy. He staggered back, and without hesitation, he threw the rock straight at her head.
Lena closed her eyes. The rock stopped, then came right back at him. He did not have time to draw, but the rock stopped an inch or so from his eye. Then it dropped. He looked back at Lena; she was just opening her eyes.
“End of lesson one. We wasted enough time, we must move.” Lena turned and headed off in the direction of the road.
Kurt hesitated, then ran to catch up. “What did I learn in lesson one?” He asked.
“You learned to listen to what I tell you to do. And you learned you need to lose your dependency on Focus.” She continued on, with Kurt struggling to keep up.
The End (well, not really, but The End for now)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ o o o o o o ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.