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Author Topic: [FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread  (Read 431 times)

Online ScarletBea

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[FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread
« on: February 02, 2021, 08:09:27 AM »
FEBRUARY: HISTORICAL EVENT + FANTASY



1912 - Truth or Myth by Ashravan

In February we want you to write about a historical event but things didn't happen as we believe or were told. No, the outcome (be it good or bad) was heavily influenced by magic or something magical. Time period or significance on a world wide scale are irrelevant, but of course a story gains by choosing something your readers recognize.

Rules:

1. This must be prose or poetry.
2. The story must be set in a supernatural Wild West
3. Prose must be 500-2000 words long.
4. Poetry must be 100-750 words long.
5. One story per person or writing team (not per account).
6. You will be disqualified if you exceed the limits, full stop. That's why they're called limits.
7. Your entry can't be published somewhere else before.
8. This is a writing contest, not a "I have written something like this ten years ago" contest. So if you happen to have a story that fits one of the themes, I'd like it to have a mayor overhaul/edit. Work for it. ;)
9. Please add your story's word count and, if you have, your twitter handle.
10. Please put your story in [ spoiler ] tags to make the thread easier to handle. :) You can find them above the smileys under the B.
Bonus rule: We consider voting in a contest you're taking part in a given. Others take time and effort to read the stories - you should do the same. A small community like ours lives from reciprocity and this contest needs stories as much as votes. 


If you want so submit your story anonymously you can do so by sending it in a personal message to @xiagan.

Entry will close around March 1st, 2021 and voting will begin somewhere around the same time too.

All members are eligible to join. If you are not a member you can join here. Sign up is free and all are welcome! :)

The winner will have their piece displayed on the main Fantasy Faction website sometime in the next months.
Submitting a story counts as published. The author retains all rights to their work.

Remember that this thread is only for entries. Discussion or questions can be posted here
« Last Edit: February 02, 2021, 08:11:56 AM by ScarletBea »
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Offline Nora

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Re: [FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2021, 10:36:07 PM »
The Witch  - 1193 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
'Oh My fucking god!!' Sara yelled, grasping on for dear life.

'Relax! The more you struggle the harder it is to carry you, you know!'

There was no way in hell Sara was going to relax with the ground zipping hundreds of meters below her feet. She clutched desperately at her– what? Carrier? Kidnapper? What did you call a teenage girl in a purple crop top who grabbed you by the shoulders and shot you through the sky?

'Put me down! Oh my god! I don't wanna die!'

'Chillax! I'm not putting you down until we're out of town.'

'Please, please! Oh my god, I don't– I can't–'

The teenager sighed, as if this situation were some great imposition on her.

'Look,' she said, 'you're not going anywhere, even if I let you go.'

And with these words she did just that, letting go of her shoulders and batting away Sara's desperate hands. Sara screamed until her throat was raw, panic seizing her to her deepest core. And then–

'Are you done?'

Sara looked around herself, panting. The ground was still moving fast, but they weren't falling. Yet no one, nothing was holding her. She contorted and found herself exactly in the position she'd wanted, facing her abductor. It was as if she were flying on an invisible seat, in an invisible plane.

'What's going on? I'm not dreaming am I?'

'Just doing my job. or I guess it's more like a volunteer thing? I'm taking you out of town and you're up for a nice hike back when we land, nothing to worry about.'

Sara looked at the teenager properly for the first time, taking in the funky clothes, the dyed hair parted in three large braids and ribboned, the sunglasses and the lollipop, the orange lipstick and the large band of tattoos that covered her entire neck. She looked like some beach-side DJ, like someone who worked three jobs and drank six espressos a day and used two neologisms a sentence. Sara wouldn't have looked at her twice in Miami, but now, giving her a sardonic smile while lounging against thin air, well...

'Who are you?'

'Mia, at your service. I'm not local, you don't know me. I've got my office in Boston, believe it or not.'

'What office?' Sara asked, feeling her grip on reality slip a little further.

'Witchcraft, mostly. I do divination as well. Runs in the blood. I'll give you my card when we land if you want.'

'So this is–' 

'Magic.' Mia says with a nod.

'But-'

'No buts.'

Sara bit down on her next question. When not flung in the air at high speed, she was down to earth and liked to think of herself as a pretty smart and rational individual. She could put two and two together.
There were no rational explanations for her current predicament. Magic was as good an excuse as anything. It was actually a great one. Her windswept hair, her painful throat, the shiver of terror still running through her limbs... It wasn't a dream, which would have been the simplest explanation.

'Wow, you calmed down fast, I'm impressed.'

'Why are you doing this to me?'

Mia frowned, took her lollipop out and gave it a thoughtful look before turning her attention back on Sara.

'I don't usually tell people. It's easier. Helps them chalk the whole thing down to a bad acid trip or whatever they tell themselves. But you're a smart one so maybe I'll tell you.'

'Please. Mia. I would... I would appreciate it.'

Sara could feel a brittle smile stretch on her face, one twitch away from collapsing into a grimace.

'You're important. You have to live.'

'I– I beg your pardon but– what?'

'You're some flavour of scientist, aren't you? Recently published something on... What was it? Quantum computation?'

Sara blinked, surprised. 'Yes. It was published yesterday.'

'Yes well. In the future I will meet a handsome man. Apparently it'll be a complicated relationship, but we'll have a girl.'

'Okay?' Sara said, ready to nod and acquiesce to about anything at that point.

'Girls born to a witch's line are always witches themselves, miss scientist, it's genetic, actually. I have a knack for divination but my daughter... She's something else. She can feel rifts in time happening. She'll witness an event that doesn't seem to be "resolved", because I can still influence the outcome during my own life. She can communicate forward and backwards, so she does the same with her own daughter! I'll be a grandma! Isn't that some quantum level stuff? Sometimes magic gets real close to science. Anyway! She told me to save you.'

'Save me? From what?' Sara asked, and with a nervous laugh and a look at the ground, 'from high falls?'

Mia cocked her head. 'You... Didn't notice?'

She took her lollipop out and used it to point back towards the city centre.
Sara shifted to see and gasped, finding in herself, somehow, more room for horror and dismay. A large plume of dark smoke rose lazily into the sky. She recognised the buildings at the column's base. One was the museum... The one she'd been sat outside off, munching on a sandwich when some nightmarish creature–Mia, it turned out–had plucked her off like some giant seagull getting away with a stolen chip.
She'd been too panicked to notice the explosion, or whatever this was.

'I-'

'You're welcome.'

'You knew this would happen?'

'Yes.'

'Couldn't you stop it?'

'No. It's an event. A historical event. It already came to pass. It's in textbooks in the future. But my daughter found a "flicker", in a paper. One that alternated between commemorating your untimely death, the day after publishing such a promising and revolutionary paper, and one celebrating your achievements. I think if you keep working hard you might get a Nobel prize. Isn't that cool?'

'A... Nobel...'

The whirlwind slowed, and Mia took them down gently, landing in a large garden, or maybe small field, with a spooked horse observing them frightfully from one corner.
Sara took a couple of wobbly steps, trying to regain her balance, mentally as well as physically.

'Well, I'll be off then. Here's my card as promised, hold on to it. Come visit some time, don't be shy. Maybe you can talk quantum to my kid.'

'You realise the implications of what you've told me?' Sara blurts out, reaching out to Mia before she can float away again. The young woman is just hovering in the air. No broom, no wand... Unless that's what the lollipop is all about?

She laughed, tossing her head back. Sara noticed the tattoos on her throat shifting, swirling... Magic.

'You're the one who has a lot of realising to do, sis. Alright, stay safe!'

Mia rose through the air, braids moving with a will of their own around her.

'Wait!' Sara called out, waving her hand.

'What?' Mia asked, looking down at her. 'There's a bus stop that way.'

'No, I just wanted to say, you know... Thank you?'

The witch laughed, and in an instant she was gone, as abruptly as she'd come.
"She will need coffee soon, or molecular degeneration will set in. Her French phrasing will take over even more strongly, and soon she will dissolve into a puddle of alienation and Kierkegaardian despair."  ~ Jmack

Wishy washy lyricism and maudlin unrequited love are my specialty - so said Lady_Ty

Offline wakarimasen

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Re: [FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread
« Reply #2 on: February 12, 2021, 01:34:55 PM »
Easier to Believe

(1992 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:

The muffled sobs had given away his granddaughter’s hiding place. She was curled as tight as a woodlouse against a tea chest, hidden from the attic entrance by the room’s odd centerpiece.

“What on Earth are you doing girl?” He asked in a far gentler tone than he normally used on trespassers in his gloomy sanctum. Uncurling enough to wipe her face on her sleeve, the child looked up but didn’t reply. The old man reached out.“Come on. I won’t tell anyone you’re up here, but at least sit round here in the light.”

He tried not to wince as a snotty hand grasped his and the child allowed herself to be guided to a low chest. He surreptitiously wiped his hand and dropped into a throne opposite her. No doubt the high backed chair had been built to impress, festooned as it was with beasts howling and clawed, but it was now less imposing thanks to the battered floral cushion that made it comfortable. The old man regarded his granddaughter, who in return looked anywhere but at him as she tugged her sleeves down over her hands. The girl’s gaze rested on a fat jar with a narrow neck, only slightly smaller than she was. Within that jar was another, and another within that and so on, shrinking in an impossible nest. It was hard to tell how many there were in total, but you could clearly see that at its centre it was empty.

“It’s not you know.” The old man said. “Empty, that is. That there is one of my most prized artifacts. One to which I owe my freedom, if not my very life. Do you know what it contains?”

The girl leaned toward it with a frown, red eyes narrowing. She shook her head.
“Secrets.” The old man told her. “It holds secrets so that no one else can know them.”

The girl wiped her face again, her shuddering had stopped but her distress was evident. The old man ground his teeth but then asked in a steady voice.

“Do you have anything you’d like to put in there?” He ventured. The girl tried to pull her sleeves even further down and shook her head, eyes locking to the floor. Her grandfather coughed.
“Well, how about I tell you about one of mine that is in there? Something hardly anyone knows. Something so utterly unbelievable that even if most people did know it they would say it was not true.” He leaned forward with a conspiratorial whisper. “Something about the door.”
The girl’s eyes tracked up to the worn oak archway that stood in the middle of the room. The strangest of the strange things in her adopted hiding place. She looked at the old man’s cocked eyebrow.

“Yes please Grandsha.” She managed. The old man smiled.

“To know about that door, my girl, you have to know what I was doing some fifty years or so ago. Ahhh. The 1960s.” A warm smile of remembrance split his lined face. “I was a wild spirit, lass. A wild spirit. I had been privileged to have the best education, studying the classics, and my family had a fine future mapped out for me. But such dull, fixed, paths are not for wild spirits and I broke with my family, taking off to study archaeology with an equally wild set of friends. Now, you may think that archeology is the dusty study of Egyptian tombs, but no lass, not for a foppish band of adventurers like us. Ours was the study of the mysterious and the occult, of witchcraft and legends from the mist. We lived in tents and wandered the star-lit fields, sometimes with nothing on at all!” He made a scandalous face at the girl, who almost smiled. “Well. It was sometime in 1965 that we found our way to studying the Autharian myths. You know about King Arthur do you lass? And Merlin?”

The girl nodded. Satisfied, her grandfather continued. “Well, we fancied ourselves the great wizard’s heirs, the inheritors of his gifts. We toiled in barrows and caverns, deciphering scrolls that had been long hidden. We walked in the land of man and in the kingdom of our minds using potions ancient and modern… but..” He coughed. “... that bit is probably more appropriate for when you are older.”

The girl eyed his reddening face with suspicion and it was his turn to look away.

“Point is… it was during these investigations that we came to find the Island of Avalon. Most people will say that it does not exist of course, the resting place of Arthur the once and future king! They, however, do not know that it is simply unreachable without the portal that Merlin himself enchanted.”

He waited for the girl to examine the door afresh. A humble oak doar, held upright in its frame by lumps of stone. She shuffled a little further away from it.

“Oh don’t worry. Its power is almost spent. You see, Avalon was intended to be unreachable to man, so Merlin placed it in an airless world of cold, a place so familiar and yet so unknown none would think to look there for his King.”

“Where was it?” The girl asked, her attention taken.

“Ah… well there’s the thing. This tale does not just involve kings of old but the warriors of the present. To be more exact, the American army. I’m not sure how much you know about that time but there were two great nations locked in a race to prove themselves better than each other. One was the United States, who were mildly less worrying than the other which was the Soviet Union. There were several amongst my wild brethren who wished one or the other triumph. I myself was ambivalent, utterly obsessed as I was with unlocking the mysteries of the portal. I had mastered the mind magics needed to open the door to Avalon when we came to the attention of the C.I.A… which is a sort of secret police for America. They raided our little commune of wigwams in the dead of night, carting us off to the arid deserts of Arizona without so much as thankyouverymuch.”

The girl looked at him, her fear apparent.

“Oh yes, lass. I know what it is to be torn from my slumber and dragged against my will to a place of fear.”
The girl pulled her legs quickly to her chest and he cursed his ham-fisted fumbling. Quickly, he held out his open palm and summoned a green flame. A simple cantrip, but enough to pull the child out of her retreat. He smiled, snuffed the flame, and continued.

“They weren’t too bad really, they were just scared. They were locked in this race and so terrified that the Soviets would win, that their enemy would achieve a great milestone and prove to the world that their ways were superior. The CIA were seeking any advantage they could, even chasing bands of hippy wizards across Somerset on the rumour that they held a great secret. When they discovered the truth of my work with the portal I think they were almost as scared of me as they were the Russians!”

His granddaughter twisted her face in disbelief as she eyed up his floppy, slightly grubby, clothes.

“I know, right? But that is how it was, and still is. If men find something they don’t understand, like sorcery, their first instinct is to push it away. If they cannot avoid it then they threaten it, hoping to control what they do not comprehend. Eventually though, when their need to beat the Soviets outweighed their fear of us, we were brought into the fold. We were not only part of their plan, we were their plan. We were to help them put American men on the moon.”

He waited for the realisation to sink in and nodded happily as the girl’s head snapped back and forth between him and the door.

“It goes to the moon?” She asked, gaping.

“A cold and airless world.” Her grandfather repeated. “Yes. The moon. The two nations were neck and neck in a frantic race to reach a place that Merlin had conquered almost a thousand years before. Their scientists worked ceaselessly to create the rockets that would one day cross the void and land in the selenium realm! But… it was too close. The Americans were not ready and when they found that I had divined the means to cross the gulf of space, they chose deception over revelation. No one, they reasoned, would believe that a wizard could part the veil of existence and step to our satellite as easily as to the next room! No. It is far easier to believe a fiery column of metal could be crafted to cross there over weeks. So that’s what they told everyone. Whilst a world watched scratchy, black and white images of a mighty Saturn rocket powering skyward I was meeting a team of three men that would be sent through the Portal of Avalon to stand on the moon.”

“Did they make you do it?”

He considered the girl for a second. “No. Not exactly. I wanted to do it. You see, mighty though my powers had become I could no more survive on the moon than a kitten can survive a volcano. The spacesuits and rovers which were being constructed offered a way for me to finally send people across, people who might tell me more about Arthur’s fate. I had little alternative anyway, and as long as I committed to the great lie I was allowed to continue my researches. Studies that led, to among other things, that secret reliquary that you were admiring.” He nodded back to the glass jars. “And so it was, on July the twentieth, 1969. The world once again watched those shaky, monochrome pictures. The Americans had won the race. They had put a man on the moon. The signals came from the moon, the environment could not be faked. Well, later people thought they had, but the detritus of the missions is up there still. The proof. Proof of a thing that happened in a way that was easier to believe than the truth.”

“Can we go there?”

“What? Heavens no. We wouldn’t last ten seconds. Besides, all power has its limits and by the time everyone had lost interest and the race had turned to more atomic matters, I had all but expended the power of the portal. There is perhaps a single, one way, trip left in her timbers. Only one.” He reached out to pat the doorframe.

His granddaughter leant forward to emulate him. Her sleeves rode far enough up her arms to reveal lurid purple bruises. The old man looked to the vaulted ceiling, hiding his pain. Then got to his feet with a clap of his hands.

“Well, now you know a truth which I have hidden in those bottles for half a century. A secret that even those people who were involved have forgotten because I hid it so. Keep it to yourself, won’t you?”

“Yes grandsha. I can keep a secret.”

The old man nodded with unhappy agreement. Then stretched. “Now, run along to your mother will you, and send that hulking step father of yours up here. Tell him I need his help moving something.”

The girl shrank into herself.  “Do I have to grandsha?”

The old man let his mask fall away, let the gravity and fire that was still his to command show in his bearing and expression.

“Be brave, young wild spirit. Send him to me.” He placed a hand on the door at their side. “He is but one step from your freedom.”

The girl finally looked him in the eye, hope and pain mixed together. Then she nodded and ran for the stairs.

Online Alex Hormann

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Re: [FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2021, 07:02:57 PM »
The Triumvirs

(174 words)

Spoiler for Hiden:

It was in the time of Caesar
That the fell sorceress came
Along the road the gloried Rome
Called upon by triumvir’s fame
This storied beautiful, viper queen
Conducted herself without shame
From across the seas, from Egypt,
And Cleopatra was her name

Pompey the fat and bloated fool
Sought to control those arcane ways
And dabbled in the mysteries
Of long forgotten divine plays
From Greece, the rites of Athena
Arcane queen of the ancient days
But magic uncontrollable
Led to the end of the Pomepeys

Given all opportunities
Consul Crassus squandered his chance
He led his troops into a trap
Crushed by Parthian advance
No triumph this, but cold defeat
Another victim of dark arts
Crassus died, bleeding out and shamed
As Caesar turned his gaze to France

Here Anthony enters our tale
With Brutus the unwitting tool
With whispered ear and honeyed tongue
Spreads rumours of a tyrant's rule
Twenty-three daggers in his back
Before tempers have chance to cool
With Marc Anthony by her side
Cleopatra rules over all

Blog: https://atboundarysedge.com

Twitter: @HormannAlex

Offline Kindly

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Re: [FEB 2021] - Historical Event + Magic - Submission Thread
« Reply #4 on: March 01, 2021, 12:34:55 PM »
The Fire - 1854 words

Spoiler for Hiden:
Thomas Abery had always been a restless boy. Before his tenth birthday, he had been convinced that he would become in turn a knight, a magistrate and a member of the King’s council. Alas, as his family was not wealthy, a baker’s apprenticeship would have to do. His career progressed from baker’s boy to baker’s assistant and would surely have continued on that path for the rest of his life, if it hadn’t been for a particular adventure that transpired in the fall of the year 1666.

It was the early days of September, and in the Pudding Lane Bakery in the City of London, Thomas had just been sent into the cellar to fetch walnuts for the deluxe barley loaves. He’d squeezed past sacks of flour and was busy rummaging through a stack of dried fruit when he stopped still – what was that noise? It might have been a whisper, or a sigh, or simply the quiet rasp of cloth sliding across a wooden floor, but whatever it was he paused, nuts forgotten. The cellar was dark, the only light coming from the room above, but he saw something behind a stack of crates – a person?

A person it was, sitting on the floor in the far corner of the cellar. She was small, the size of a twelve-year-old, but Thomas knew at once that this was no child. Her hair was fair, almost iridescent, but it was her face that made his breath catch. Her nose was sharp, her eyes far apart, her whole face somehow disproportional. She was beautiful, and she was certainly not human.

At this moment, Thomas experienced a clarity few of us ever achieve: that of recognising a life-changing moment as it happened. Afraid to blink in case this magical girl would disappear, he reached out a hand to her, but she hissed and drew back, her eyes welling up with a strange kind of fire. She had kept her hands folded in her lap but she lifted them now, showing pink palms burnt raw. Power filled the air around her, shivering with potential, and it made the back of his neck tingle. “No, wait! I... I could help you!” He fell to his knees in front of her, and she hesitated, then relaxed. The fire left her eyes, leaving only pale blue beauty.

Thomas had never been known for his politeness, but decided that this situation warranted his best effort. “What’s your name, my lady?” The girl seemed to grow even smaller, bowing her head and gazing up at him through long, thick eyelashes. Was her skin actually glowing?
“Thomas Abery, that’s me”, he said, moving incrementally closer. She was shivering, but whether from cold or from fear he couldn’t tell.
“Alva.” She had a voice like the chimes his grandmother hung outside their window every summer, tinkling and playful.
“Your name is... Alva?”
“Yes, sir.” She only met his eye for an instant, but Thomas knew he would remember the inhuman depth they held for as long as he should live.
“Did you say you’d help me? My hands... I’ve burnt my hands, you see.”

He took her offered hands and studied her palms with trepidation – whatever flame she had held had singed her flesh thoroughly, and left her hands red and gleaming. The injury was in all likelihood too much for any simple ointment to handle, and yet...
“Wait a moment, lady Alva.” He clambered to his feet, found the nuts the baker had sent him to fetch and ran upstairs. He returned, jar of ointment in hand.
“Alva? I have a salve, here.”
“A salve? I’m not sure it will... These are special burns, you understand.”
Nevertheless, she held her hands up for him to bind.

As Thomas’ fingers touched the ointment to her injured palms, he knew that it was now or never. If he didn’t speak to her at this moment, she would disappear from his life, never to return. So he asked her where she was from, and she told him of chrystal palaces, of laughter and dancing neverending, of a time when the world was full of magic. Then, with a sigh that would have broken a thousand stout hearts, she told him how that was all long gone. He asked her to show him her magic, to teach him, but he must have spoken too quickly. She thanked him and bid him farewell, and try as he might, he could think of no pretext to make her stay.

In the following week, Thomas lived as he always had, but he knew nothing could ever be the same. The world had awakened, or he had awakened to the world, and if he could only find her again... But how, he had no idea.

And then, quite suddenly, she reappeared. He was stocking up the cellar, piling boxes of ingredients, when she stepped out of the shadow of the corner of the room. He released a breath he hadn’t known he’d been holding and smiled. The world was aligned once more.
“Lady Alva.”
Her hands wore new bandages, carefully wrapped like tight-fitting mittens.
“Thomas, can we speak?” Her voice had lost some of its chill, but an icy core remained.
They sat down in the back of the cellar, and Thomas’ dream came true – the fairy girl told him of her struggle, and asked for his help.

She told him how the Fair Folk had long known that magic was seeping out of the world, bit by bit. How each year, another miracle was lost, another wonder consigned to history. And she told him of a book she had in her possession, an ancient text of powerful rituals. With the power hidden away in this tome, she could rekindle the fire of the world.
There were those among the fairies who didn’t wish her to succeed – fairies who lacked vision, who had grown complacent in this ever-diminishing world. So, she couldn’t ask for help from one of her own, but since Thomas had shown an interest in learning some magic himself...
Thomas didn’t hesitate for a second – of course he would help her.

A doorway appeared at her gesture, opening unto darkness. The tunnel was cramped and cold, dripping with moisture, but the floor was even enough.
Alva spoke as they walked. “I tried performing the ritual to release the magic just before meeting you, but I was... interrupted. The results where quite catastrophic, and with my burnt hands, there is now no chance of me performing the ritual myself.”

Alva’s head didn’t even reach his shoulder, and yet he had to hurry to keep up with her through the twists and turns of the tunnels.
“These tunnels are shielded,” Alva continued, “magical auras can’t be detected here. Here, the book is safe, or should be... Yet they could find me, before. I suspect that when the ritual commenses, the magic may be strong enough to break through.”

They had been walking for what felt like hours when Alva chose a chamber and stopped. From her bag she withdrew chalk and candles, and used the chalk to draw symbols on the chamber floor. They finally sat opposite one another, the book between them. The chill seeped from the floor into Thomas’ legs, but his hands felt clammy and his heart was beating rapidly. 
“Open the book, Thomas.” He did as she asked. The pages seemed smoother than they should be, as if they were made of cloth.
“Now place your hands on the pages, and tell me what you feel.”
Thomas felt nothing but the book under his hands, and then... there was something there.

Power from Alva seeped into the tome, careful tendrils of potential that awakened the innate sorcery in the book. Thomas could feel it notice him, feel its curious attention. The book answered Alva’s call, one moment soft and billowing like grass under his fingers only to turn as coarse as pine bark the next. And always, always the potential grew, humming through the air in invisible threads.

Alva’s eyes were closed and she was breathing heavily, but as of now, she had the ritual under control. When the pages became as oily as wet tar, Thomas sensed the creature captured between the pages – there was an awareness there, and it longed for freedom.

They were connected now, himself, the elven girl and the creature. As the power made the pages hot under his fingers, he saw how Alva saught to control this being. Her magic, amplified by the ritual, attempted to twist the very purpose of the book – to imprison the creature, not between the pages, but in her own body and mind. The creature instead sought to break free of its confines, and was not willing to exchange one prison for another. Between them was Thomas with his palms fixed to the book, a conduit for their struggle. The power surged through him and he wanted to shout out, but couldn’t find enough air. If this went wrong... It could be terrible, and yet his heart beat in excitement, not fear. The creature saw into his soul and he could sense its amusement at what it found.

Alva threw her head back and screamed as she bound the creature to her soul. Its silent wail of despair echoed through Thomas’ hands, but still the consiousness seeped out of the book, bit by bit.
Until a woman entered the chamber. She was no more human than Alva; her face had the same strange proportions, her eyes wide apart, her nose small and narrow. She shouted out, and the creature broke free.

The ritual fell apart, tendrils of power slipping through Thomas’ fingers. He tried to retain it, but it was like holding water. Alva collapsed on the stone floor when she lost her grip on the magic.

Meanwhile, the creature became corporeal, a flaming fire demon rising to the chamber roof, howling with mirth. Already, the walls were catching fire, although how damp stone could ignite so quickly, Thomas had no idea. The other fairy wielded magic in waves through the air, but it had little effect.

The creature spread its fire, and huddling in a corner was Alva, shaking and unable to stand. She stretched out her hand in a plea, but Thomas hesitated. As her eyes became yet more lovely, he realised something he should have known from the beginning – she would never share her power with him. He grabbed the book and left the chamber as the female fairy was joined by two others. He did not look back.

For three days and three nights, fire raged through the City of London. Weeks after the flames had died smoke still rose from cellars where ashes were smoldering.
Thomas felt he carried the embers in his heart. People who met him thought he was different; perhaps he’d lost someone in the fire. In a way they were right, but he had also found a purpose – there was magic in the world. With this book, he would find it. And he would make it his.