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Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Arrival of Magic

Bethany faces a changing world.


Light escaped through a crack in the closed curtains. Bats hunted overhead. Strains of music carried on the crisp winter air. Occasional lyrics describing hazy, lazy days of summer seemed out of place beneath the canopy of stars.

Above, a clear sky offered a breathtaking display of the Milky Way. Bethany and Mark both peered into their own piece of precious equipment. Intense focus isolated them from the world. Beth’s camera clicked and her intake of breath drew a grunt from Mark. Hunched over the eye piece of a telescope he didn’t lift his head, but angled it slightly, as though waiting for her to elaborate.

“Fantastic.” Her warm breath formed into mist.

“You get a good image?” Mark muttered. “I have the most amazing view here, too.”

 Venus and Jupiter shone as a single entity. The clear night and distance from civilization enabled perfect viewing of the phenomena. Bethany turned her focus to Sirius, taking a long exposure of the dog star. It seemed fitting to include Orion’s dog in her night’s images. The Northern Hemisphere was enjoying their ‘dog days’, named after the bright star. Her internet contacts complained about the heat of their sultry summer, while she shivered through winter. 

“Thank goodness we could book the cabin. What a great idea. I can’t believe the others are more interested in keeping warm.” Bethany grinned. “They have no sense of adventure.”

“Wine, cards, the open fire. They just don’t understand the awesomeness of the moment.” Mark shifted the stool he perched on. “Their loss.”

“It makes such a difference not having the lights of town to interfere with my photos.”

“Ditto.”

Bethany changed the aperture setting and adjusted her tripod. Silence fell. Only the quiet strains of music disturbed the perfect night. Sharing a passion with Mark cemented their growing friendship.

Friendship, not relationship. Her initial disappointment faded as she discovered Mark’s interest in keeping her company came from his wanting to meet her colleague, Ethan. Mark though, proved to be a trusted friend and Bethany felt comfortable confiding in him.

A shower of bright lights flickered across her line of sight. Snapping the camera’s shutter, she scowled. What sort of shooting star, satellite, or UFO would cause such a display?

She glanced across to see if Mark noticed the strange event. His head remained low over the telescope. His shoulders appeared slumped, as though he had fallen asleep. 

Unlikely. Not when the stars provided such a magic display.
Background music slowed, as though running on failing batteries. The lower tones sounded like a whale song, gone wrong.

“Don’t panic.”

Bethany turned toward the voice. Normal speed. Normal tone. Sudden fear gripped her. The voice seemed to come from a cloud of soft light. A spiderweb of luminescence swirled slowly in the darkness beneath the cottage’s garden hedge. She breathed in. The scent of honeysuckle surprised her. Odd scent for winter. Terror filled her heart. Panic rose to choke her.

“Bethany, tonight you must make a choice.”

Bethany resisted the urge to scream, run, or laugh aloud. Wondering how she overcame her initial horror she remained standing, stock still. The whirling light took the shape of a human figure. No details, but obviously once human. Bethany bit her cheek. Did insanity ran in her family? What weird herbs did Stella mix into the stew she had consumed for dinner? Were they to blame for this hallucination? 

The figure seemed oblivious to her dismay.

“You have been tested.” The earnest voice continued. “You have proved your ability to withstand temptation, your soul is pure. You are exactly what we need.”

Bethany nearly choked.  “Need? Need for what?”

“Tonight magic is returning to this world. If you choose to accept your role in this momentous occasion, you will be one of the first diviners.”

“Whoa.” Bethany trembled. Not from the cold, though she became aware of the biting air entering her lungs. Fear didn’t make her shake, but the tone the voice used bordered on melodramatic. The cloudy figure shimmered. Bethany shook her head, trying to find a logical explaination for the voice and her vision. “Who are you? Better still, what are you? And why have you been testing me?”

“Fair enough. I suppose an explanation is warranted, though there isn’t much time for chit chat.”

“So, explain. I am all ears.” Trying to remain calm took most of her concentration. Above her the night sky stretched, clear and crisp. The cottage light still filtered through the cold air. Mark appeared unharmed, relaxed where he slumped over his telescope. No bats crossed the sky, and the strains of music still sounded strained and odd. The scent of blossom remained. Bethany steeled herself and focused on the voice and the words it spoke.

“You can call me Warlock." 

The voice paused, as though assessing the name. 

"Warlock is a title fitting my skills." The moment of introspection passed and the tone returned to businesslike and efficient.  "You have the ability to be a diviner. As magic spreads we need diviners who can assess souls to offer the gift of magic to. Your job will be finding and evaluating candidates, and allocating the types of skills each recipient will receive.”

“Magic? Skills?” Bethany's breathing returned to normal. Her pulse settled. Almost as though she fell under the spell of the warlock's words. 

“Healing, telepathy, energy conversion, seeing into the future and the past, controlling the elements. You know the sort of thing… what you don’t know, you will learn. If you accept the role of diviner you will be equipped with the power you need for your task.”

“I will be able to do magic?” Bethany grinned. If she was dreaming, she didn't want to wake, until she learnt more. Magic. Cool. “So, is there a downside?”

“Sadly, yes. You show wisdom asking this. Diviners have the ability to give the gift of magic, but where they choose a damaged soul or mis-assess a recipient, they also have the obligation to rescind the gift.”

“Fair enough.” She didn't really want to know. The  responsibility sounded pretty intense.

“Think about it, Bethany. Those who are chosen must be pure of spirit. Should a diviner’s assessment be clouded; by emotion or magic, the sorcerer with the damaged soul is not going to give up power willingly. Diviners need protection. There is no guarantee every witch or wizard they create will be perfect. The human race sadly has proven over the ages to be deceptive. Your task comes with a certain  amount of risk.”

“But I will have the skills necessary to perform it?" Doubt eroded her confidence. "You said as much.”

“Allowing for my choice being correct and you passing the tests… you didn’t fail the test of temptation with the cube. Your handling of a change in luck has shown your true colours. Forgive my clich├ęs, but we don’t have much time to elaborate. Your innate skills should suffice, with the added ability of perception you will receive. I will also leave you with a talisman.”

Around Bethany's wrist a delicate silver bracelet curled. It spread warmth and calm through her body. She caressed it. The surface tingled beneath her fingertips. Confidence returned.


“So my mission, should I accept it…is to find other people to share the magic. I get to give them power? But my choice could backfire if I choose the wrong person, with the wrong outlook. Good vs evil type thing?” 

The bracelet vibrated and Bethany could hear the warlock's voice in her mind, rather than through the chill night air. The smell of spring blossom filled her. Warmth spread through her body. Words flowed through her mind. “Basically, in a nutshell.”

“Right.” Bethany shivered and chewed her bottom lip. After a moment she continued. “How do I get training?”

“Training. Yes. Time is important. First thing to do is find a guide and a protector. These must be souls you trust… with your life. Give them a bracelet, you will know how, when the need arises. They can shape them to suit their taste. The bracelet will allow communication between you and your team.  You can’t waste time choosing your team, either. This task must be accomplished as soon as possible. Second, you should choose a familiar. You do know what they are?”

“I’ve read a few fantasies." Bethany frowned. "Where I live is not pet friendly.”

“Think outside the box then. Your choice. Your familiar will be vital to your growth, so choose well.”

“What about you?" Bethany lifted her hand to peer at the silver bracelet twinkling in the warlock's light. "Will you be around to answer questions? Can I contact you?”

If you need to contact me, each team member needs to be involved in the summoning." The vibrations paused. Bethany waited. After a heartbeat the warlock continued,  "Don't call unless you have dire need. It is my task to find and deliver magic to diviners. You are not alone. I doubt we will meet again, unless you make a mess of things. Trust yourself and the magic. I have done my research.” The figure shimmered. The scent of blossom grew stronger. Bethany struggled not to sneeze.

"Can I contact other diviners?" Bethany asked in an urgent breath. The thought of the warlock leaving left her feeling nervous and confidence eroded again.

"They will most likely be looking for you. You are the first to be given their gift, Bethany. At least in this region. Others will look to you for guidance."

"No stress then?" Bethany sagged beneath the perceived burden. 

"Don't doubt yourself. Or my choices. Trust the magic, be yourself and trust your instinct." The warlock seemed to gather his light form. 

 “Now, time is passing, even though I have slowed it down.” The warlock’s image tightened. Bethany could recognise human features within the light. For a moment he appeared dressed in a tailored coat, high collar, cravat, double breasted and ornate cuffs. His face appeared younger than Bethany expected. Almost handsome, bright friendly expression, a neat goatee. An even smile revealed crooked teeth. He raised a translucent hand to adjust the broad brimmed hat, complete with flourishing feather. His outfit could have been lifted from a picture book of the Musketeers. Warlock's smile evaporated. “You must consider well before sharing this new role with your friends. Do you trust any of them?" His expression matched his earnest tone. "Don’t let physical attraction overshadow common sense and gut instinct. Find your protector and guide as soon as you can. This is vital. You must be protected and guided. Is everything clear? You accept your role?”

Bethany nodded. “I do.” She grinned. “I can’t believe I am saying this. It will be disappointing when I wake tomorrow morning with just a headache and no talent.”

The figure of light swirled and the warlock’s illumination began to fade. “Sorry, Bethany, I must be on my way. Use your powers sparingly until you have mastered them. Trust your heart.”

Bethany shivered again. Despite the band of warmth around her wrist cold seeped into her bones. The night closed in around her, darker and less inspiring than previously. 

Mark roused, snuffled and coughed. “Well that’s odd,” he said scratching his forehead beneath his beanie. “I feel as though I have been asleep. My fingers are numb, I am freezing. I wasn’t cold a moment ago.”

“Yeah, me too.” Bethany closed the lens cap on her camera. “Wanna go inside and get warm?”

“Reckon. It’s been a brilliant night’s viewing, Beth.” Mark proceeded to disassemble his telescope. "Magic."


“Magic.” Bethany repeated the word, wondering how her life would change as the stars rolled through the heavens and magic became part of her world.
***

Rosalie Skinner resides on the east coast of Australia when not totally immersed in the fantasy world of her writing.
Rosalie’s love of the ocean, nature, history and horses has enabled her to give her books an authentic air. Her latest achievement has been to ride through the Australian Snowy mountains and see the wild brumbies run. When not watching the migrating whales pass her doorstep she has more humble pastimes.
Other than being a published author, her greatest thrill is being a grandmother. Born over fourteen weeks early her granddaughter’s perfect development and growth are a miracle and joy.

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