My severely neglected lawn greeted me as I got home Anna staunchly refused to mow it, and I insisted that was the only reason I kept her around. So far I caved twice, she reigned supreme queen of not mowing.
After grabbing a breakfast burrito and a smoothie from an aggressively hippy establishment, I felt good enough to be annoyed by it. I gave Anna a mental kick unable to do the real thing since she had ditched me at the supermarket.
She seemed to need some space, a depressingly hard to find commodity since we lived inside each other’s heads. Talking about the Lamias left her in a low key pissed mood on a slow boil. The timing was all right with her out of the way I could do some rituals without accidentally borrowing her power.
Despite the number of bags the groceries only took me one trip, my pride demanded nothing else. Though it did kind of wish, I didn’t have to feed a growing girl who wasn’t growing. I wouldn’t have minded if she needed the food.
There was a package on the doorstep which I ignored until the ice cream was in the freezer. It was a sixty-year-old bottle of scotch from the headless horseman distillery. There was no note, but the headless horseman and horse on the label were a pretty big hint.
“When the devil will I have an excuse good enough to even open this thing,” I grumbled heading to what once was the third bedroom. Now it was modified into a workshop.
The window covered over with paint, and I had put a little thing at the bottom of the door to block any light that way. The center of the room was empty and painted white. A square was formed with a laser along each edge the corners had standing strips that had another twelve. It was finished with a circle of twelve on the ceiling.
I had gotten the good ones which could switch filters at the press of a button, that along with the motors they were attached to were all hooked up to a Raspberry Pi. I could set the positions and colors with precision from my computer, or just select a preset from my phone.
Materials had oddly enough only taken me three days thanks to the logistical capabilities of Amazon. Building it had taken a week as it was relatively straightforward if repetitive going. The software was a horrible cannibalization of three open source light control projects I had mashed together and was still buggy as hell.
That aside I had it working for about a week, a system capable of creating a ritual circle with perfect precision every time. It allowed me to create close enough to an infinite number of circles, but still tying them together with a common theme.
In essence, I had created a new branch of magic unique to me; no one else would know what to expect from it. It couldn’t be stolen since all of my spells were stored on encrypted drives, I couldn’t lose it due to the sheer number of backups. It was also weak as hell since it only had one practitioner.
My laser pointers followed the same concept but were present for each spell and were useless for anything else.
As things stood now, a diagnosis spell cost almost as much as a trip to the afterlife. That would change with time repeated use of my magic would empower it, and make it more efficient. First, I threw my leather coat into the center of the circle and selected the enchantment circle for it.
Turning off the lights, so only the multicolored grid was visible I got to work. My coat was my first and only enchanted object.
I circled the pattern three times counter clockwise before reversing direction and doing it again. “My death travels unseen, undisturbed, unmolested, so must I walk unseen, undisturbed, unmolested. Become my shadow, my cloak, my visage. I empower you to function as laid out in the contract.”
I knew it worked when it felt like I got kicked in the teeth. Not for the first time I wished I had just taken up one of the more common branches of magic.
Concealment enchantments weren’t uncommon the foxes probably had dozens of them; Matilda had shown me hers. Most people didn’t invoke Death if you’re going to invoke a god it’s better to invoke a minor one.
The big three didn’t like being called upon even by their chosen, so developing a branch of magic that invoked two of them was borderline stupid.
My affinity for death thanks to Anna made it easier, and less lethal. My healing spells worked on the theory that I had some minor affinity for life, due to the fact I was alive. It’s stupid reasoning, but they haven’t killed me yet.
Others know to invoke gods were the Vatican who called upon capital G God. According to Triss, he was a lot more minor than he claimed and aloof. The Prometheans called upon Prometheus, who according to Triss was both great in bed and still chained to a rock in hell.
Shamans and the like apparently had decent success rates in getting spirits to show up, getting them to help wasn’t usually worth the effort according to most books I had read. The only surefire way to gather more power for spells was to get it yourself and store it away. The enchantresses gathered sexual energy, and the old families fell back on the strength of their carefully guarded spells.
Independents like myself had to use the less guarded stuff and accept it wasn’t as good, or try and make their own. I had opted for the second relying on my affinities, so I didn’t have to start from scratch and accepting that I wouldn’t be able to throw anything together with as much oomph as what the old families could do.
The lack of painkillers in the house might not have been Anna’s fault I figured as I took more than the recommended dose. I needed them every time I redid my coat, which was daily, it could probably last for two or three, but I didn’t want to chance it.
Hydrating I headed to my computer to figure out what other spells I could develop, “all the power in the world and I don’t know what to buy.”
My laser pointers covered combat and healing in the field; my coat kept me safeish. I got back up and paced a bit before growling and sitting back down.
“This is going to be stupid,” I called V.
“What’s up?” She asked.
“I’m looking for advice, you free?” I answered.
“Give me thirty seconds.” What sounded like sustained gunfire started up for thirty-second before ending. “I am now.”
“What kind of spells will I need in the field?”
“All the power in the world and you can’t figure out what to buy? I assume you’ve got some basic shields and attack; your coat is good, but it can be blocked by a door so an opening spell. Shields are only good if you see them coming, create a life detector derived from your diagnosis spell.”
“I should derive a constant use spell from my most power intensive one?”
“Yeah, I should go the flaming bastards are back, and they’re about to shell my position.” She said.
“Be safe,” I say.
“Fuck no,” the line went dead.
She had a good point, so I bought a silver skeleton key off of a novelty site. By skeleton I mean it was old style and looked to be made of bones. It was also small enough to be worn around my neck.
My books said no materials were inherently magical, but if they were used enough for magical purposes, they would get better at it. Gold and lead were considered extremely potent for that reason, but they couldn’t hold a candle to Silver.
Along with its connotations of killing monsters, and the shape of the key with luck I would take to it like a fish to water. Designing the pattern just needed a RND, some shitty poetry, and a contract. I left the poetry for later, moving onto the contract.
Contract spells had become the norm for complex work, write what you want the spell to do include identifiers, and stick a seal on it. You didn’t even have to add a reference to the contract in the ritual if you didn’t want to, although some schools preferred it. An unlock spell contract was simple; the life sense spells not so much.
I pulled up a standard derivative contract and the contract for my diagnosis spell. The templates for which I had gotten off the internet. Despite portrayals in popular culture, magic users could be damn tech savvy.
The site I got it from even came with its version of the eye catch for amulets easy to find for magic users, completely unimportant to everyone else.
While trying to decide if I should have the spell implant information into my head, or do a HUD with a pair of glasses I felt a twinge of emotion from Anna that she probably shouldn’t be feeling.
“Damn it, what the hell does she have to be all fatalistic about?” My empty house didn’t answer not even the lurking ghosts Anna repeatedly assured me were there.
Finding her was annoying not difficult, I knew where she was as the crow flies not as a car drives. A very common problem I had been told with locator spells, there was an open source group working on a magic programming language. They were stuck on the emotional aspect, and the spells were oddly hardware specific.
I was forced to drive in circles trying to find her, or a parking space. It wasn’t too busy, but I never could figure out the signs, and I hadn’t yet risked enchanting my car like V’s.
As I passed by the hospital I deliberately looked away not fast enough; there was a reaper at the entrance, a winged thing on the roof, and something with a lot of arms and heads in the parking lot. Psychopomps one, and all the reaper was the hardest to look at the armed person the easiest. The winged thing on the roof couldn’t seem to decide if it wanted to be 2D or 3D.
Also, on the hospital were cobwebs covering most of the building. I figured they were death related, but they were on my list of things not to ask about. The webs just felt like they shouldn’t be there.
Distracted as I was, I almost hit an Irish wolfhound crossing the road. Putting the on the breaks it made it unmolested to the sidewalk. It looked at me with burning red eyes, I though it was a psychopomp too until a toddler tried to pet it.
I eventually tracked her down across the street from a middle school. A club or team with a mixed group of kids was playing basketball. I recognized the coach as one of the Lamias from the council meeting; her name escaped me.
Two of the children playing were tall enough that I assumed they were Prometheans. I didn’t recognize the clans of the others until the boy with the ball teleported past a Promethean. It was either a legal move, or none of the others noticed.
I don’t pay much attention to kids or teenagers, not even when I was one. I couldn’t estimate ages beyond toddler, kid, and teen which was another word for the kid.
If I had to guess, they were all about Anna’s age, and if she hadn’t died four weeks ago she’d be playing with them right now.
“Damn it,” I muttered, driving up to her. “I’m still hungry, lets so get pancakes.”
“Can’t a girl brood in peace?”
“Not in my head.”