Chapter One – A Wizard Did It
Everyone always told young Kevin O’Brien, several times over, that each and every person is unique and that life is special. That confused him. Day in and day out, all those around him had the same routine. Their lives seemed dull to him, and he was no escapee from this repetitive prison. He got up, ate breakfast, left for school, tried to pay attention, and eventually found his way to sleep, only to do it all again the next day.
It was shortly after sunset one evening when Kevin was on his way home from campus. There he studied various things such as writing, mathematics, and breasts—as any student may. No part of his mind could decide what he wanted to do with his life. How could he choose, when any option would continue himself down a path of endless monotony? That’s what it felt like, anyway.
The only light came coldly from the nearly full moon above his head. Street lights hummed a faded orange, though many of them hardly functioned at all, and a few were darker than the hearts of the city officials who ignored them.
What might as well have been another source of light was his pale ginger complexion beneath hair the colour of discarded orange peels.
He whipped his hair back and forth as his paranoid gaze continuously searched for trouble, though the streets of Grande Prairie, Alberta were deserted. As any Albertan knows, when the first nip of winter comes, it’s time for the lands to be only rivalled by the Arctic in terms of frigidness. Everyone was snug in their homes, but it didn’t matter to Kevin anyhow. The temperature hardly slowed down his trot.
It was roughly at the half-way point of his walk when he nearly bumped into a group of three burly men. He had been lost completely in his own mind, so he apologized immediately.
“Ya better be careful,” grunted the tallest and thickest man. The top of his head was as barren as the moon above them.
“Yeah. Hehe,” uttered the second and snickered in a creepy manner. His hair was stringy and long, and he never seemed to be without a putrid yet excited grin drawn across his face. The type of body he had would best be compared to a water noodle.
The third said nothing at all. The tall mohawk on his head nearly made up for his short stature. His face was blank, and expressionless, and his eyes simply stared forwards like a house cat ready to pounce on any of the several items one has in their household that they would definitely not want to get pounced on.
“I really am sorry. Please, just let me go. I don’t want any trouble,” Kevin stuttered.
“No trouble, eh?” snorted the largest thug. “Then ya wouldn’t mind handin’ over that backpack ya got there.”
The boy gasped as he squeezed the straps of his backpack, filled rather heavily with various school gubbins. It was likely not made with the most skillful hands before he purchased it, but even as they spoke it was covered in patches, and there was a picture on the back of a popular copyright-protected cartoon character.
“Please, no,” he trailed off, darting his eyes back and forth for some way to escape the situation.
“Then we’ll take it from ya,” he said with a grin.
“Hehe. Yeah! Take it from you,” added the man beside him. The third remained quiet still, though the fire behind his eyes was menacing as the rest.
Hands reached towards poor Kevin. He started to stumble backwards, and landed painfully on his rear end. Panic started to set in as he heavily breathed, and nearly screamed before something odd caught his eye.
The thugs must have noticed it as well, as their attention suddenly changed to the grass beside the sidewalk they stood on.
It was a door. Not any special kind of door, but a simple mahogany door. It wasn’t at all a bad looking door either. Anyone would be proud to have one in their home, but this was nobody’s home. It stood where they all swear it didn’t before.
Then, there were three slow consecutive knocks. With a click the knob turned, and the door was pushed open. A male figure stepped out dressed in a fancy black suit with a top hat to match. However, his face was concealed by an expressionless white mask.
Looking through the frame was like looking into another world. It looked as if the doorway was a portal to somewhere completely different. The land through the door flickered with the appearance of fire, but he closed it behind him as he stepped to look between the folk staring in awe.
“Hello!” he said enthusiastically, though it was greeted with only silence.
He cleared his throat and started again. “Hello.”
Kevin felt as if he knew the voice from somewhere, but he couldn’t quite place his finger on it.
“Is the circus in town?” muttered the tallest man.
“Hehe,” snorted the skinny one. “What a weirdo. Hehe.”
Piercing the heavens came the high-pitched furious scream of the shorter thief. “I’m going to rip your god damn anus out through your mouth!” His speed was like nothing Kevin had seen before. For such short legs, he immediately arrived before the masked man, and lunged a fist straight towards his face.
The punch connected perfectly with his nose. It would have anyway, if it wasn’t for the fact that his arm went straight through as if he tried to strike a ghost. The phantom of a man disappeared a moment after.
The short man spun around at the gasping sounds of his comrades. For reasons unknown to him, this stranger was now standing with arms around the other thugs as if they were the closest friends.
“I was over here the entire time! Are you impressed?” asked the masked man, sounding more like a child having too much fun. “It won’t be the most shocking thing you see today.”
Suddenly, the two thugs erupted into a strobe light of flashes as their bodies were electrocuted. They were released from his grasp, but all they could do was stumble into one another before passing out against the concrete.
Below his mohawk was terror as he watched his friends drop in a moment’s time. He blinked, and the masked man was no longer there, but instead directly behind him.
“They’ll be fine,” he said with no regards to the likely surprise he would cause. “That was hardly a zap… I think.”
His speed was as impressive as before, though now he took off in the complete opposite direction. The screaming eventually grew distant enough where Kevin no longer heard it, though he was so baffled and panicked that all he could do was remain sitting on the ground.
Two ethereal rings formed quickly around the masked man’s torso, and moved gradually apart. As they moved, his suit and other attire changed completely. When they were finished and disappeared he was no longer wearing a suit, but instead a regular t-shirt and pair of trousers. His shirt portrayed a character from a copyright-protected Japanese animation.
It was then that Kevin recognized the face of a friend. They grew up together, but years ago this friend moved halfway across the country. The two of them still spoke online, but Kevin missed him more than anything.
“Eldrian?” he muttered in near denial.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?” he said, taking a deep breath as his eyes began to wander. Upon his head was a short-cut light brown hairstyle.
They embraced tightly and a smile came to Kevin’s face. “I’ve really missed you, friend.”
“I’ve missed you too.”
“We have a lot of catching up to do. Let’s go get terrible fast food together tomorrow morning.”
Eldrian patted him on the back and laughed once again. “All right, but also, I’m a wizard.”
“How did I completely forget what just happened?!” shouted Kevin as his eyes grew wide.
After looking down at the pair of unconscious men, Eldrian gestured with his head the direction Kevin was initially heading. “Let’s walk and talk. It’s only going to get later, and clearly these streets are dangerous. I see I have a lot of explaining to do.”
The wizard’s palm remained outstretched as they walked down the block. Coming up from the center of his hand was the shape of a man crafted entirely of flames. It moved to his will, doing such things as wave, jump, and the dance known as The Sprinkler.
“Some are born with the gift,” said Eldrian as he extinguished the miniature figure into a poof of smoke. “I’m sorry I never told you, but wizards are supposed to stay in hiding.”
“Hiding from what? You could be famous!”
“Consider this for a second. If you ran a country, and heard of a man capable of bending reality to his will, what would you do? Probably send people after him, and use him for your own wicked deeds… or just kill him.”
“Are you saying you’re being hunted?”
“I would be, if I was found out. The governments of the world have ways of dealing with wizards. They have their own, but also have a legion of spellbreakers. The latter is the most deadly. They have magic eyes to see through illusions and things, as do we, but they have every tool to counteract anything a wizard can do. They’re sort of like our mortal enemies.”
As they came to a crossing, Eldrian darted his gaze back and forth—not to check for cars, but instead for people listening to watching. “I should probably not even have done what I did, or be saying any of this,” he said more softly than before.
“If you can do all that, then why are you scared?”
“Magic is difficult. It requires a complete connection to your own imagination. What you saw today was actually pretty basic stuff. If you had magic eyes, you’d see right through it all.”
“Does this mean you’re going to get in trouble for helping me?” he muttered with a hint of guilt.
“… I’m about eighty percent sure that nobody saw anything, besides those criminals who nobody will believe.”
“Look, let’s change the subject. You seemed really protective of your backpack. Do you have something valuable in there, or did you really not want to lose your textbooks?”
“It’s almost my dad’s birthday, you see… and I got a present.”
The boy was about to respond as they stepped up onto the curb, though his attention was distracted by what appeared to be a large cardboard cut-out of a boulder beside them. Kevin squinted his eyes, and it suddenly wiggled.
“I walk this way every day,” whispered Kevin. “But I’ve never seen this before. Are you performing more magic tricks or something?”
Wham! The cardboard fell forwards to reveal the man with the mohawk standing beside a shirtless, well-built man with exactly three hairs protruding from his otherwise bald head. His muscles had muscles. Even his eyebrows seemed bulky, making it difficult to spot his eyes.
“Surprise! I’m back, and our boss is here to rip you a new one!” screamed the shorter man.
It was like staring at an on-coming train. The hulk of a man bolted towards Kevin as Eldrian leapt swiftly out of the way. A fist like a wrecking ball soared past Kevin’s head with the strength to gust a breeze past his cheek.
He could barely keep outrunning the thug—panting and gasping for air. Through breaths he shouted. “Eldrian! Do something magical!”
“One more time, and we’re getting the hell out of here,” sighed the wizard.
Two fingers raised up, and two shifted beside him as he moved his hands systematically. The tips of his nails sparked and a glowing white stake materialized between his enclosing hands. With a single thrust, he launched the short lighting bolt from his person and rapidly towards its target. Lighting Lance!
It met with the thug’s back like a glowing spear, causing him to yell out as his body shook in a display of flashing lights.
Eldrian gripped his friend’s hand and dragged him behind his sudden sprint down the street. Once they gained some distance, the two of them disappeared behind a large concrete fence to catch their breath.
A moment passed before Kevin spoke up, sighing. “You can will a top hat on but you can’t fly or something?”
“Oh! I didn’t know you were such an expert on magic all of the sudden. Do you know how hard it is being a wizard?”
Kevin stumbled back as his friend’s face moved incredibly close to his own. “Uhm. Sorry.”
“… No. I’m sorry. I know I’m not the best wizard. That’s what I’m trying to become though. The best wizard in the world. I’ll be a master at all types of magic. An archmage.”
“Well, I think that’s all the action I need today. You move away, and then come back saying you’re some kind of wizard in training. My brain is starting to melt.”
“That happened to someone I knew once.”
“When the time came for you to visit, I thought maybe we’d play some Little Monkey Racing, or something like that.”
“To be technical, I’m not training to be a wizard. You need to be born that way. I’m just… still learning a lot of things. Not to break the conversation here, but what did you say was in the box again?”
“Oh. Right. Well, I got my dad this.”
Kevin pulled out the aforementioned box and lifted the lid. Inside was a carved wooden moose head. Not to be cruel, but it was far from masterwork. One of its eyes was lower than the other, and the antlers weren’t quite right.
With a smile, Kevin put the box away again. “Mhm. Heartfelt and practical.”
“Practical?” Eldrian looked to his friend’s joyous expression for a moment longer before changing the subject once more. “Listen. I’ll take you home, and then tomorrow we’ll hang out. I’ll let you decide what we do. We can watch wizard battles, sword fight people, almost die to demons, or find sexy ladies.”
“I kind of like that last one…”
“Sexy demons it is!”
Meanwhile, the two boys had no idea they were being watched. Partly because of the chaos, but also because the creature lurking in the darkness was quite small. His stature was no taller than small dog’s. But his flesh was black as the night itself and his head twisted into demonic horns. The teeth in his mouth were sharp, like daggers, and his eyes were cat-like, but somehow even more terrifying.
The tiny, shadowy creature was peeking around from behind the corner as Eldrian and Kevin departed. His mouth curled up into a toothy grin and he couldn’t help but quietly snicker.
“The wizard and his friend?” he thought to himself. “I was getting hungry. I’ll rend their flesh with my claws. I’ll pierce their bones with my teeth.”
He licked his lips. Suddenly he raised his hands to the sky. Each finger outstretched a gigantic claw, as sharp as a knife.
“I’ll finally be respected! I’ll return to the Demon World and everyone will praise me as murder machine that killed Eldrian! Hehehe. I know some who’d pay me for this, and here I am doing it for fun! Uh oh. Am I thinking out loud again?”
The creature looked around himself. Nobody was there. He breathed a sigh of relief and wrapped his claws around the corner. Even the two boys had departed, but he was glad they didn’t hear his outburst. He began to mumble.
“Across the land of elves, demons, humans, and more. I will kill them all. Never again will I be trapped. All will fear… Rend Devilclaw!”
He cackled, but shut his mouth suddenly.
“Damn it. I need to stop doing that.”
Stay tuned for Chapter Two – Black Magic Woman!