Table of Contents
Chapter 2 appears
in this issue.
Lynda, a college freshman, passes her last test to earn the title of junior wizard by casting a complicated spell on an unsuspecting victim: Jason. She expects to turn him into a servant, but the spell backfires and they fall in love.
Lynda discovers that another junior wizard has designs on capturing the Mayor’s office. Lynda fears he will try to take over the city and thereby cause extensive problems for the other wizards. The master wizards tell her that they can’t help her stop him unless he sets foot on their property. With only the assistance of the man who was first her victim and now her lover, she sets out to confront the evil wizard.
I first saw the terrarium sitting in the display window of World Imports. It was perched on a pedestal on one side, sharing the space with wicker baskets, brass spittoons and other collectibles. It was a heavy glass cube about eight inches square, containing some potting soil and a dwarf ivy, with a removable stained glass lid that looked like a gabled roof. Wooden dowels at each corner held it together and served as legs and a space an eighth of an inch wide at either end of the roof let in some air for the ivy. A miniature hothouse, just the perfect size for my kitchen table. I bought it and took it home to an ugly, run-down apartment in the gutter section of the city.
The place was a real dump, with paint flaking off the walls, ceiling tiles which might have been white at one time and something that used to call itself carpet. Not where I wanted to live, but it was all I could afford. I put the terrarium on the kitchen table and watched the ivy grow while I spent my evenings studying for some upcoming exams. It seemed happy, because it put out several new leaves.
The exams took place six weeks from the day I brought the terrarium home. It was a long, grueling and unpleasant eight hours. If you’ve ever been locked in a stagnant room full of sweating freshmen, you’ve got a fair idea of the smell. Add to that the incessant droning of the test monitors and the scrape of pencils over paper.
I hate math, I detest science and I can do without the finer points of language. I forced myself to concentrate and left the exam room the second I was finished, hopped in my car and headed uptown to take a much more important test.
I dropped the car off in the parking garage of a boring, gray, four-storey building and jogged across the street to a small corner cafe packed with college kids. The doors were open, as they usually are on a Friday night, music blaring out onto the sidewalk and the smell of fresh coffee floating on the breeze. I walked in, glanced around and allowed a slow smile to creep up one corner of my mouth.
He was sitting in a booth in the back, staring at a menu and looking very out of place. Kathy grinned at me from behind the counter where she was busy taking orders and snickered, giving me the thumbs up. I grinned back, straightened my jacket and sauntered to the rear of the cafe. I can always count on Kathy to round up a mark when I need one and this time she’d outdone herself. He didn’t look a day over eighteen.
“This seat taken?”
I slid onto the empty bench and looked across the table at the kid. He stared at me, as if the world had just tilted sideways and left him hanging onto an edge by one finger. I grinned at him and drummed my fingers on the table. “First time?”
The kid’s eyes darted to the side and roamed the cafe, seeking an escape. I chuckled and leaned my chin on my hand. “They didn’t tell you patrons have to share tables when it gets busy?” I extracted a second menu behind the napkin holder and flipped it open.
“Err... no.” His voice was husky, as if the surprise had gotten stuck part way down his throat and refused to let go. “Nobody told me that. S... so you, uh...”
I lowered the menu far enough to peek over it and fluttered my lashes at him. He blushed. I enjoyed his discomfort and smirked behind the menu. “I’m Lynda.” I set the menu down and floated a smile across the table, accompanied by a slow lick of my lips with the tip of my tongue. “I haven’t seen you around here before... you just start school?”
His blond hair contrasted nicely with the flush which deepened in his cheeks. His blue eyes widened and he ran his fingers through his hair. “Not yet. Next week. Summer semester.”
I let my smile turn sultry. “You have a name?”
He blinked at me and remembered he was supposed to have manners. “Jason. Jason Colters.” He managed a lopsided smile.
I gave him a slow one as an example of how it’s done. “So what’s your major?”
“I don’t have one.”
I glanced at my watch and put my menu behind the napkin holder. “Too many people here tonight.” I gave him a sensuous wink and slid toward the edge of the booth. “I’m tired of waiting. I’m gonna go get a burger, care to come along?”
His face ran through several expressions and he stared around the cafe then slid out of the booth. “Sure, I’m tired of waiting too.”
I rose to my feet and tried not to seem impatient while he got to his then smiled at him again and giggled. I always giggle. It makes guys like me for some reason. Not that I cared if he liked me, just as long as he followed me. He grinned and did the expected, right out the door behind me like a puppy.
“Where’s the burger joint?”
“Up there.” I pointed toward the top of the building by the parking garage. “A little hole in the wall dive that used to be a penthouse apartment. Best burgers in town. Kinda spendy, but worth it. Great view of the city, too. They put the tables out on the roof and on clear nights, it looks like stars above and below.”
Jason squinted up at the building and wrinkled his nose like he didn’t quite believe me. I turned up the sex-appeal and handed him a come-hither look. His cheeks caught fire and his pants developed a bulge in the right place. “Okay, I’m game. Lead on.”
I giggled again, twirled a strand of hair around one finger and started for the alley. I could feel his eyebrows shoot up to his hairline without bothering to glance at his face, so I added a bit more swing to my hips as bait. His footsteps sounded behind me a second later and I grinned. Just like taking candy from a baby.
I strolled into the alley and knocked on a battered door. It opened and two eyes peeked out. “Gino’s. Me and a guest.” I jerked my thumb over my shoulder. The eyes blinked several times and the door swung open to reveal a long, empty hallway. “Come on, the elevator’s this way. Wish the maintenance guy would put a brighter bulb down here.”
Jason shuffled into the hall behind me and looked around. His eyes couldn’t find anything to land on. They darted from side to side, skittering up the walls and searching for something that didn’t exist. “Over here.” I stopped next to the elevator and punched a button. “Unless you wanna walk up four flights of stairs.”
He shot a glance over his shoulder at the door which was no longer open and hesitated. “I dunno. You sure the burgers are good?”
“Best burgers in town.” I smiled, licked my lips with the tip of my tongue and punched the button again. I hate waiting for mechanical conveyances. He hesitated a little longer. The door opened and I stepped through then blocked it from closing with my hand. “You coming or not?”
The kid had brains and they were trying to warn him. I watched the sweat bead on his forehead and leaned against the wall, doing my best not to look like I cared. I did though. I needed him far worse than I needed a burger. I really hate some of the restrictions, but that’s how it is. He had to come on his own or not at all. I gave a sigh of boredom and tried to look hungry. “Come on or don’t.”
He frowned, squared his shoulders and stepped in beside me. Big man, trying to impress the girl and not let on he was scared spitless. My faith in the lack of common sense of the average college kid was restored. I smiled and let the door slide shut.
The elevator was one of those ancient jobs that should have been replaced before the building was erected and it creaked as it crawled up the shaft. The lights flickered, it swayed and Jason began to turn green. He swallowed and his face got that haunted expression normally seen in bad Hollywood slasher flicks. The door slid open not too many seconds later and I stepped out. He didn’t need coaxing this time; he almost beat me into the hall.
“Gino’s is down here.” I shoved my hands into my jacket pockets and started down the hall. Jason hesitated again. This time, I wasn’t worried. He was either going to follow me, or get back in the elevator by himself. I counted to three and smiled. The sound of footsteps hurrying after me usually gets that reaction.
We walked together to the end of the hall to a door with a large sign bearing the name ‘Gino’s’ in fancy script. I knocked and waited. The door ignored me so I knocked again. This time, it opened and the heavenly smell of frying hamburger drifted through the crack. Jason’s eyes lit up brighter than the hall bulbs. I snickered, pushed the door open and walked into what had once been a living room.
Jason followed me, stopped just inside the door and stared at the mystic symbols etched into the walls, his jaw hanging almost to his knees. I took my jacket off, tossed it to one side then cracked my knuckles and turned around. “Welcome to Gino’s.” I grinned again, only this time not so nicely. His face turned the shade of French vanilla ice cream and he backed up. Right into the waiting arms of Gino himself. I smirked. “You shoulda run when you had the chance.”
I’ll spare you the details. Gino’s a big man and Jason wasn’t. I left the situation in Gino’s capable hands and went into his bedroom to change clothes. I’m not real fond of dark robes and black candles, but this was my final so I went all out. About half the grade is for showmanship after all. It took me almost thirty minutes to get dressed and set everything up.
I must admit, the room did look impressive when I was done. A cloth covered altar in the middle of the floor, candles burning at each end, with blue flames mind you. I was rather proud of that. Jason was draped over the altar on his back, hands and feet tied to the base rings, and he played the part of the victim well. Struggling, screaming, begging. I noticed his shirt was bunched up on one side and his pants legs weren’t straight but decided to let it go. Too bad Gino hadn’t seen to the finer details. It wouldn’t matter to the spell anyway, but I’m a perfectionist.
I stood waiting while they entered and took their seats - all six of them - high wizards. I hate having teachers look over my shoulder while taking a test. No help for it though. After years of coming here every Saturday, this was my final exam. Either I passed, or I started all over. I had no intention of starting over. I bowed to each of them in turn and stepped into the pentagram.
Jason looked up at me, tears streaming down the sides of his face and shook his head. “No...please....” His voice wasn’t even audible but I can read lips pretty well. He was terrified and I felt bad, but he’d had his chance to walk away before we got here. I shoved feelings of guilt to the back of my mind and told myself his wants didn’t matter. “Sorry. You shouldn’t be so trusting.” I picked up the ceremonial dagger, held it over his chest and began the chant.
It was flawless. The candles flared like they were supposed to and the air crackled with just the right amount of power. The special effects I’d practiced went off without a hitch. I was pleased. So were my masters. In fact, when I finished, they gave me a standing ovation. A thrill of elation swept through me as they handed me a diploma and the keys to my own place in the basement.
I waited for them to leave, read the diploma over several times while savoring my new title of Junior Wizard, pocketed the keys and went to change. Gino was blowing out candles when I walked back into the main room. I helped him clean up the mess then stepped to the altar and snapped my fingers. Jason opened his eyes, took one look at me and fainted. I picked him up from the altar, dropped him in my shirt pocket and headed out the door.
The streets were packed with college students out hunting a good time and I crawled through traffic, my nerves on edge. The last thing I needed was some idiot running a red light and slamming into my car but I made it home without incident. The second I could get a moving company on the phone, I’d be out of the slums and into the basement apartment that I’d just earned.
I tossed my backpack on the couch, walked into the kitchen and took the lid off the terrarium. The pungent smell of damp potting soil hit my nose and I sneezed then took Jason out of my pocket and put him down next to the ivy, replaced the lid and snapped my fingers. He groaned and opened his eyes, pushed himself up on one elbow and stared around with his mouth agape. I grinned at him through the glass then went to start supper. He plastered himself against the inside of the terrarium and stared at me.
I ate at the table and watched Jason come to grips with his new situation. His feet sank up to the ankles in the potting soil with every step he took. He stretched his arms over his head and tried unsuccessfully to reach the lip of the cube, then flopped down beside the ivy and dropped his head in his hands. He wiped his eyes after a bit and deliberately turned his back to me.
I frowned but decided to leave him alone. I don’t enjoy being a cold hearted-creep, even when necessary. The binding spell would ensure he would come back if he tried to run off, and force him to obey my commands, but I wanted his willing obedience. I figured by the end of a couple weeks he’d be desperate to get out of his cage. It was hot in there...and wet...and it stank.
He dropped his head in his hands again and his shoulders started shaking. I forced myself not to feel bad as I watched him cry and decided he would probably be ready to do anything I asked after four or five weeks, in exchange for his normal size and limited freedom. I took another bite of food and spent a few minutes debating the best way to feed him for the next month and a half.
I had no idea what I’d just gotten myself into, but at the time I didn’t care. He wasn’t a wizard, just a normal kid with no powers, and that made him fair game for anything I wanted to do. Or so I thought. I found out later just how wrong I was, but by then, it was way too late.
Copyright © 2008 by Crystalwizard