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Parvenu 3:

Otherland

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Chapter 2

The first thing to catch Paul's attention was that the deeper Nicholas got into his spellcasting, the bluer his skin tone seemed to become. There were also some minor ridges formed framing Nicholas' face, like the first buds of slowly emerging horns, but they weren't enough to obfuscate his identity.

Paul was mostly able to follow along with the spell that Nicholas was casting on the diagram drawn on the floor. There were a few misspoken words and one entire passage that was self-contradictory and therefore completely useless. But in the end, Nicholas was able to set his power free on the diagram and a small opening seemed to appear in the floor, although Paul could sense that it wasn't a hole in the floor so much as a hole in reality.

As soon as the hole was open, Nicholas began chanting an entirely different spell which was harder for Paul to understand. The language wasn't a problem so much as the convoluted grammar and strange inflections that Nicholas used. Paul could tell that he was 'summoning' something, but the details of what he was seeking were vague, at best.

Finally, after some minutes of Nicholas repeating his demand for whatever it was 'to come forth and serve his will', a small reptilian creature emerged from the hole in the center of the diagram.

The little creature might be a foot tall, if fully standing, but it tended to stay in a crouched position, hissing and spitting. It's tiny horns, teeth and claws looked as though they might be dangerous, although not necessarily deadly.

A part of Paul looked upon the demon imp with disgust, which held a desire to just stomp on the putrid little thing and be done with it. Another part looked on warily, reluctantly waiting to see what was going to happen next.

"This is Frederick, my servant." Nicholas announced to Paul triumphantly.

"Amelia, now that Nicholas has opened the doorway, would you like to work on it for a while?" Mr. Gilbert asked seriously.

Rather than answer, she sprang into action, reading an incantation aloud from a book.

"What's she going to do?" Paul asked curiously.

"For the past week or so, Amelia has been trying to determine exactly what realm Frederick comes from. Being able to trace an open doorway to it's source can be a valuable skill." Mr. Gilbert explained.

"Can't you just decypher the spell and find out that way?"

"In many cases you can, but the spell that Nicholas uses is written in such a way that it doesn't give specific coordinates or any real clue as to where it's being directed. Besides, since you aren't always present to witness a doorway being opened, this is a good skill to develop." Mr. Gilbert said as he watched her work.

"Yeah. I noticed that when Nicholas was opening the passage, that he said things like 'Realm of Dark Desire' and 'Cavern of Fetid Fear'. If you don't already know where he's talking about, it doesn't really tell you much."

"I'd like to get you tested for your language comprehension. So far you've demonstrated an understanding of Sumerian and Gaelic."

"Is there some use for that?" Paul asked curiously.

"Actually, that's not a subject that I'm well versed in. I imagine that there are probably some lucrative job possibilities. I'll do some investigation and get back with you on that."

"Thank you. All of this is so new to me, it's all I can do to deal with what's in front of me. I haven't even thought about what I'm going to do years from now."

"In just a few minutes you've demonstrated a great aptitude for spellcasting and an understanding of ancient and dead languages. I believe that the future will be what you decide to make of it." Mr. Gilbert said honestly.

"Well, maybe. But I'm going to need help to get caught up to everyone else. A lot of the people that I've talked to have known about witches all their lives. I don't even know the basics."

"With the talents that you've already demonstrated, I feel confident in saying that you'll be able to catch up faster than you might imagine possible."

Paul glanced at Amelia, sitting cross-legged in front of Nicholas' spell diagram, and did a classic double-take. The rather average looking girl that had entered the room with them was now bright yellow in color and seemed to have grown a few extra arms.

"Does everyone transform when they use their magic?" Paul asked in wonder as he stared at her.

"Most, yes. Although, with some practice, you can usually resist the change. In Amelia's case, I think that it's more a matter of her not wanting to be distracted by resisting the transformation so that she can completely focus on her scrying."

Paul looked carefully at Amelia, something niggling at the back of his mind. While it was true that she had six arms and her skin was now buttercup yellow, none of that seemed to bother him.

It took a moment for him to realize what else was out of place.

"Her clothes changed." Paul finally said in realization.

"Yes. It's a basic spell that causes clothing to adapt to your magical form." Mr. Gilbert said simply.

"Can you teach it to me?" Paul asked hopefully, then explained, "Everytime I change I have to undress to keep from ruining my clothes."

"Yes. Of course. Give me a minute and I'll find a written version of the spell for you." Mr. Gilbert said as he stepped away.

Paul looked toward Nicholas and saw him talking to his little demonic imp.

Amelia seemed to be deep in concentration, totally focused on the misty vortex in the center of the spell diagram.

* * * * *

When Mr. Gilbert returned, he took a moment to turn to the proper page, then handed a book to Paul.

"This describes the spell gestures and gives you the incantation. Most witches can use this spell, but if for some reason you aren't able to, it's also possible to make a charm that you can wear to achieve the same result." Mr. Gilbert said seriously.

"Thanks." Paul said as he began to read the spell.

"Have you tried to use any basic magic yet?" Mr. Gilbert asked curiously.

"No. I haven't intentionally used any magic at all, so far. The most I've done is change into my magical form when someone asked me to." Paul said absently as he continued to read.

"Most people want to try things out as soon as they discover that magic is real." Mr. Gilbert said frankly.

"This time yesterday I was on a plane, crossing the Atlantic ocean. I just haven't had the chance." Paul said honestly.

"Well, if you want, you can try this spell out now to see if you have an aptitude for it." Mr. Gilbert said slowly.

"Yeah. I really want to learn this one." Paul said decisively, then looked to Mr. Gilbert and slowly asked, "But can you read the words of the spell aloud for me? I think that if I can hear it that I'll be able to remember it a lot better than if I read it."

"Yes. Of course. Just let me know when you're ready." Mr. Gilbert said quietly.

"Let me try the gesture first." Paul said as he returned the book.

Mr. Gilbert watched as Paul performed the gesture.

"That should work." Mr. Gilbert said with a nod.

"Okay. Then can you tell me the words?"

Mr. Gilbert carefully recited the spell, making sure to enunciate every word precisely.

Paul slowly nodded, then made the gesture as he recited the English translation of the ancient spell in his mind.

After a moment, Paul looked down at himself, then quietly asked, "Did it work?"

"The only way to know for sure is if you change."

"But if it doesn't work, then my clothes will be torn up." Paul said anxiously.

"I know a few spells that can deal with that. Go ahead and change. If your clothes are damaged in the process, just change back to your human form and I'll do my best to restore them." Mr. Gilbert assured him.

"Okay." Paul said reluctantly, then gave the internal push to begin to change himself.

"Good. It seems to be working." Mr. Gilbert quietly encouraged.

Paul could feel himself growing taller and his different physical attributes forcing their way into being.

"What are you doing?" Nicholas gasped from across the room.

"This is my magical form." Paul answered as he felt his transformation concluding. As expected, his voice was octaves lower than his 'normal' voice.

"Come back here!" Nicholas barked as Frederick broke away from him and scrambled in Paul's direction.

When the little imp finally reached Paul, it climbed up one of his hooves and hugged his ankle.

"Don't worry, he's not hurting anything." Paul said as he reached down with one of his clawed hands and plucked the demonic imp from his leg.

"He's MINE! Give him back!" Nicholas demanded.

"Take it easy on him. He's probably just scared being around people who are so different from him." Paul said as he held the tiny imp to his chest and petted it gently.

"If you want a demon, summon your own! This one's mine!" Nicholas snarled as he tried to snatch the demon imp from Paul's arms.

"Back off!" Paul bellowed in his booming voice as vortices erupted in flame around the room.

"Paul! You need to stop! You're opening doorways!" Mr. Gilbert shouted.

"Back. Off." Paul said in a lower voice as he looked directly at Nicholas.

After an indecisive moment, Nicholas finally took a step back.

Paul looked around the room and all the flaming vortices immediately vanished.

He looked down at the demon imp in his arms and quietly said, "I'm here if you need me. But for now, you have to return to the one who summoned you. Those are the rules."

The imp gave an agonized little whine in response.

"I know. I know." Paul chuckled, then took the imp from his chest and held it out to Nicholas.

After a long distrusting moment, Nicholas accepted it from him.

"Is everything alright now, or do we still have a problem?" Paul asked Nicholas seriously.

"No problem." Nicholas responded warily.

Paul looked down at himself, then at Mr. Gilbert and said, "It looks like the spell worked, except that I think that Frederick peed on me."

Mr. Gilbert seemed to be dazed, but finally responded, "Change back and I'll see what I can do about it."

Without betraying the slightest effort, Paul changed from his demon form back to looking fully human.

"What are you?" Mr. Gilbert asked suspiciously.

"Can't you guess?" Paul asked in return.

After a long silent moment, Mr. Gilbert irritably said, "They should have told me that I'd be teaching a cambion."

"Is it a problem?" Paul asked curiously.

"No. Of course not. I just might have approached things differently if I had known in advance."

"Can we do something about this demon pee? It really stinks." Paul asked hopefully.

"Yes. It will take me a moment to find the proper spell. I think it was his way of marking you, so there is likely a mystical component at play. It might take a bit more than soap and water to be completely rid of it." Mr. Gilbert said before hurrying away.

* * * * *

"You're a cambion?" Amelia asked cautiously.

"Yeah. But if you have any questions about that, I probably can't answer them. I only found out a few days ago." Paul said honestly.

"From what I've read, demons don't use spell books. They have an instinctive knowledge of magic." Nicholas said in a leading tone.

"I have no idea about that." Paul said honestly.

"But if you have that, I mean, inside you, then maybe there's a way to use that to find out how to navigate the portals and pull up demons from different realms." Nicholas urged him to understand.

"Again, I have no idea." Paul repeated.

"But would you be willing to try something like that?" Nicholas asked hopefully.

"Maybe. It depends on what you're asking me to do." Paul said cautiously.

"Frederick is the only demon that I've been able to summon. With your help, we might be able to tap into a realm that hasn't been touched before."

"Nicholas, before I say 'yes', would you do me a little favor?" Paul asked hopefully.

"What?" Nicholas asked cautiously.

"Would you try treating Frederick like your teammate instead of like your slave?"

"What's the difference?"

Paul looked to Amelia for her support.

"Trust me. He doesn't know." She confirmed.

Paul looked back to Nicholas and said, "Try looking at it this way. Asking is just polite demanding. You can still control your demon without looking like a complete dick while you're doing it."

"Are you ready?" Mr. Gilbert asked cautiously as he returned.

"Yeah. This really stinks."

* * * * *

When Mr. Gilbert finished casting his spell, Paul wasn't sure if it had worked or not. Although there was no sign of a stain on his shirt, Paul continued to be plagued by the aroma.

"Nicholas, you've repeatedly demonstrated your ability to summon and control Frederick but for the remainder of our class time, I'd like for you to work on summoning another demon. Something just a little bit bigger."

"I've summoned a demon and sent it back. Isn't that enough to get me a passing grade?" Nicholas asked angrily.

"Actually, no. It isn't." Mr. Gilbert said frankly, then continued, "In this class, you're graded on your improvement more than your achievement."

"That's not fair!" Nicholas whined.

"Sometimes life isn't. But if you think about it, this makes sense. Rather than graduating groups of students who've managed to achieve the minimum requirement, we graduate students who have been encouraged to do their best and challenge their limits, over and over again." Mr. Gilbert said reasonably.

"Do you mean that Paul is going to get a better grade than me even though he can't summon anything?"

"If the grades were being finalized today, he might very well surpass you. He may not have cast many spells, but so far, all of the ones that he has attempted, have been performed flawlessly and each has been of increasing difficulty." Mr. Gilbert said calmly.

"This sucks!" Nicholas declared.

"Perhaps, but it is still a requirement of the class." Mr. Gilbert said frankly.

Nicholas gave one last, rather impressive, sneer before stomping away like a petulant child.

"What now?" Paul asked cautiously.

Mr. Gilbert opened the spellbook that he was still holding, then leafed through to a particular page.

"This is a basic spell that falls both into the 'basic' and 'fire' magical categories, so it should be within your ability. It's a standard spell for wizard light. I'd like for you to read this through and then attempt the spell on your own. Modify the spell if you wish and come to me when you've reached a place where you're happy with the result that you've been able to achieve." Mr. Gilbert said seriously.

"I thought you were going to jump on me about opening doorways or acting threatening toward Nicholas or something." Paul said honestly.

"Demons follow the rule of dominance or submission. It's all they understand. Those who are learning the craft must also understand this. Today, within the first hours of meeting your classmates, you have established your dominance over them. I believe that it was a necessary development that will allow us to proceed productively."

"So you're not mad?" Paul asked to be sure.

"No." Mr. Gilbert said simply, then added, "Although I wouldn't have planned for things to develop in this way, it may end up being beneficial for all involved."

Paul looked at him inquisitively, silently prompting for more of an explanation.

"Study your light spell. If you're not finished with it before the end of class, make sure to show me what progress you've been able to make with it. I believe that I will be spending the majority of my time trying to guide Nicholas in a more productive direction."

Paul couldn't restrain a smile as he quietly said, "Good luck with that."

Mr. Gilbert gave an almost imperceptible nod before crossing the room.

* * * * *

Paul carefully read through the spell and sounded out the incantation before attempting to cast it for real.

The manifestation of the spell was to create a little floating dot of light, which could be adjusted to be barely visible or bright enough to light one's path at night.

After successfully manifesting the Wizard's Light, Paul began to leaf through the book that Mr. Gilbert had given him, in an effort to find a way to modify the spell to make it his own.

Near the back of the book he came across a spell that caught his interest.

               'Am I just a glutton for punishment?'

               'When will I ever learn my lesson?'

               'When I really try and do my best work, it always comes back to bite me on the ass.'

               'As the saying goes, 'No good deed goes unpunished'.'

               'If I were smart at all, I'd just magic up a little wizard light and get the passing grade.'

               'I'm new here. No one's expecting anything more from me.'

               'And if I hold myself back, they never will.'

               'They'll never expect anything from me but the bare minimum.'

               'I can live with that...'

               '...can't I?'

               '...'

               'I'm such an idiot dumbass loser.'

               'I guess that I'm just incapable of learning from my mistakes.'

               'I wonder if Nicholas and Amelia are secretly a jock and a cheerleader.'

               'It wouldn't surprise me. My life is littered with such ironies.'

               'Well, I guess if I'm going to do this, despite knowing better, that I'm going to pull out all the stops!'

With renewed dedication, Paul enthusiastically began trying different things to see if his plans were even possible.

* * * * *

After trying a few different methods of altering the initial spell, Paul was convinced that his idea could work. The only problem was that he didn't have the knowledge that he needed to perform the entire spell on his own.

He would need help.

Mr. Gilbert spent a great deal of time working with Nicholas, apparently trying to inspire him to attempt more advanced projects.

Paul busied himself and was nearly ready to abandon his plan when Mr. Gilbert finally finished 'encouraging' Nicholas and left the room.

"Nicholas, I need your help." Paul said as he rushed to where Nicholas and Frederick were.

"Why should I do anything to help you?" Nicholas sneered.

"Hear me out. If this works, it might help you too."

"I don't like you." Nicholas said bluntly.

"I don't care." Paul said simply, then added, "But if we can pull this off, it will end up being a good thing."

"What do you want from me?" Nicholas asked warily.

Paul held out the spell book, opened to the proper page.

After a moment of reading, Nicholas said, "I can't do this diagram. It's 'next level' stuff using symbols that I've never studied." Nicholas said frankly.

"What about the incantation? Can you handle that part?"

"I'd have to go through it a few times to be sure, but I think I could probably manage it." Nicholas said slowly as he read through the details of the spell.

"So, what do you think? If I can make the diagram and you can do the incantation, do you think that we could summon a demon?" Paul asked hopefully.

"There's also a big blank in the summoning equation. Nothing's going to happen if we try to cast the spell without a locus. We're going to need that filled in if we're going to have any chance of this working."

"I think I've got that covered." Paul assured him.

There was a long silent moment as Nicholas considered his options.

"If this works, it'll make you look good and might even get Mr. Gilbert off your back for a while. If it goes wrong, it's all on me. You really can't lose." Paul explained.

Finally Nicholas grudgingly said, "Yeah. I guess we can try it."

"Good. You can keep the book and study your part. I need to double check a few things so that I'll be able to pull it all together when I need to." Paul said determinedly.

"I still don't like you."

"I still don't care." Paul responded with a smile before hurrying away.

* * * * *

Paul was careful to hide his progress from Mr. Gilbert. He manifested a few wizard lights when he had to, just to confirm that they would do what he was expecting, but for the most part, he did most of his work internally.

Much to Paul's surprise, about twenty minutes before the final bell was to sound, Professor Ortega walked into the room.

After walking around and looking at what Amelia and Nicholas were doing, he stopped beside Paul and said, "Mr. Gilbert has mentioned that he's impressed with the progress that you've made on your first day. Would you, perhaps, like to avail yourself of the opportunity to demonstrate what you've been able to accomplish thus far?"

"Yes sir. But to show you I'm going to need Nicholas' help." Paul said uncomfortably.

In a louder voice, to be heard across the room, Professor Ortega asked, "Mr. Spencer, would you be willing to assist Mr. Darroch with his demonstration?"

"Yes sir." Nicholas said as he stood, then perched Frederick on his shoulder.

"Why would you need help to demonstrate wizard lights?" Mr. Gilbert asked cautiously.

"Hold on for a minute and you'll see." Paul assured him, then waited for Nicholas to cross the room.

"You said that you were going to do the diagram." Nicholas said as he approached.

"Yeah. I am. Stand back a little. I'm going to do it right here." Paul said as he pointed at the floor in front of him.

Once everyone was out of the way, Paul began an intense internal chant. The original spell was a simple one, but the way that he modified it made it more complex by an order of magnitude.

As small specks of light started forming on the floor, Paul extended his arms and began to make the gestures of the fire spell with both hands.

In unison, seven balls of fire came into being at the seven points of the diagram that was taking form on the floor.

"What are you..." Mr. Gilbert began to ask when Professor Ortega shushed him.

Paul looked over his fully formed diagram glowing on the floor one last time, making a conscious effort to seal any breaches in the binding circle that surrounded it.

"Nicholas, it's your turn." Paul said with effort, betraying the amount of concentration that he was using to maintain the diagram.

Although Paul was completely focused on his magic, he was still able to notice that Nicholas was reciting his incantation without reading it from the book. Once again, Nicholas appeared to be turning blue, but since Paul had determined that that was Nicholas' magical form, he wasn't concerned by it.

Paul listened carefully, hoping beyond hope that Nicholas wouldn't mispronounce or otherwise butcher the spell.

By this time, Amelia had joined them and was looking on in wonder at the glowing spell diagram. Paul wasn't sure if she were using her own power to try and divine what they were doing, but he didn't sense her presence making any difference in the balance of forces at work.

After long minutes of calling out the incantation in a long dead language, Nicholas switched to English and said, "In the land held by Circe, where the disgraced have been exiled, I call upon the Yan-gant-y-tan to bring one forth to do my bidding. Come without odor and be bound by my word. I hereby summon! I hereby command! Come forth!"

There was a long moment of silence in the room as everyone watched and waited for something to happen. Although nothing appeared visually before them at first, Paul could sense the boiling and swirling powers at work. He didn't know if the others could sense it or not, but everyone remained still and silent.

Finally, a gray blur appeared just above the spell diagram.

Paul watched intently as a mostly humanoid demonic being took shape. It had the classic horns and pointy ears that one might expect. It's furry body seemed to be somewhat misshapen, with the limbs appearing to be spindly in comparison to the barrel shaped torso. Also notable was the fact that the demon's hands and feet seemed to be disproportionately large.

In actuality, the demon was only three feet tall, at most. But the fierce look it wore made Paul feel that it was plenty big enough.

"What is your name?" Nicholas asked firmly.

The demon made a gargling sound of defiance.

"Your master commands it! Tell me your name!" Nicholas demanded.

"Xaphan." The demon grudgingly hissed with disgust then held up his oversized hands. Before Paul could determine if the gesture were one of surrender or attack, the fingertips of each hand burst into flame.

"As I release you to return to your realm, know that I am still your master and you are subject to my command. When I call upon you, when I call your name, you are commanded to return." Nicholas nearly shouted and Paul noticed that Nicholas had rivulets of sweat running down his blue skinned face.

After a long tense moment, Xaphan finally said, "I come."

"I return you to your plane, to your realm, to continue as you will." Nicholas ground out in a hoarse voice.

After hearing those words, the demon dissolved back into a gray blur before disappearing completely.

"What has been opened, I now close. What has been closed, I now seal." Nicholas said as he held out his open palms to the glowing spell diagram.

Paul could sense that what Nicholas had said was actually invoked. The passage that had been created between realms was now bound by new magic.

Once he was sure that Nicholas wasn't going to do anything more, Paul withdrew his power from the flames and wizard lights, causing the spell diagram to fade into nothingness.

"That was..." Mr. Gilbert began to say, but didn't seem to be able to find the words to express what he was feeling.

"You have both done very well." Professor Ortega said simply.

Paul was surprised that such a simple, innocuous comment sounded like the highest praise ringing in his ears.

"I would like for both of you to submit reports to me detailing what you've accomplished here today. Remember to include the spells used, modifications made and cite any reference materials you might have accessed." Professor Ortega said calmly.

"Do you mean that after we were able to get a spell as hard as that one to work you're going to punish us by making us write reports?" Nicholas whined.

"You misunderstand, Mr. Spencer. What I am saying is that your achievement is of such merit that I would like to see that it is properly documented, so that others who are less talented might be able to look upon your work and be inspired by it." Professor Ortega said to Nicholas, then turned to Paul and continued, "And so that new students might know what may be achieved with the most basic spells combined with a little ingenuity."

"Yes sir." Paul said as he tried to restrain his smile of pride.

"Good afternoon." Professor Ortega said calmly to the group, then withdrew from the room.

* * * * *

"How were you able to create a spell diagram using only wizard lights?" Mr. Gilbert asked slowly.

"I just did what you said and modified the spell that you gave me to work with."

"Yes. But the amount of detail that you incorporated was astounding."

"I just copied the diagram from the back of the book. The hard part was getting the wizard lights to stretch and warp the way that I wanted them to."

"But if you were able to do all of that, why did you need Nicholas to help you?" Amelia asked timidly.

"Because he knows what he's doing. I don't have any experience summoning. Drawing the diagram was the easy part. Any non-magical person could do that with a piece of chalk, but what Nicholas did took skill. If I tried to do it all myself, the best that I could hope for would be that the spell would totally fail. I can't even imagine the worst." Paul said honestly.

"So, am I off the hook now?" Nicholas asked Mr. Gilbert seriously.

"How's that?" Mr. Gilbert asked cautiously.

"You've been hounding me about trying bigger and better spells. Now that I've done one, will you back off?"

"Although an argument could be made that you didn't achieve this entirely on your own, I'm willing to� accept your successful summoning as evidence of your academic progress. In other words, I'll back off for a week or two, but if you don't take steps to best today's performance within that time, I may be inclined to remind you that you are expected to progress in your training."

"Well, it's not as good as getting a free pass, but I'll take what I can get." Nicholas grumbled.

"Paul, your spell diagram was really amazing. Can you show me how you did it?" Amelia asked hopefully.

"It would probably take a lot to explain that. Since I'm going to have to write a report about it anyway, how about I email you a copy when I'm finished? That way you can just ask about whatever I didn't explain well enough."

"Yeah. That sounds good. From the way your spell diagram worked, I think that I'd like to have a written copy to refer back to."

"Amelia, were you able to make any progress on your scrying today?" Mr. Gilbert asked curiously.

"Yes. I didn't trace the portal all the way back to Frederick's realm of origin, but I was able to map another venule before my scrying spell got dislodged. One minute I'm following the portal, the next I'm looking at Camden, New Jersey."

"That often happens when scrying for locations in the bowels of hell. I'm not quite sure why that is." Mr. Gilbert finished absently.

"Anyway, I made good progress today, so I'm ready to try again tomorrow if you want me to keep going." Amelia said eagerly.

"Yes. I believe that this project of yours is well worth the time."

"Is it okay for me to close the portal now?" Nicholas asked uncertainly.

"Yes. I've done all that I can for one day." Amelia confirmed.

Nicholas walked to the spell diagram drawn on the floor, then took Frederick down off his shoulder.

"Frederick, return to your realm. I command it." Nicholas said firmly.

The little demon paused to look at Paul for a moment, then continued on to the center of the heptagram. There seemed to be the slightest blur surrounding Frederick, then the spell diagram was empty, looking mundane and harmless on the floor.

"What has been opened, I now close." Nicholas said as he made a simple gesture.

"The final bell will be ringing soon. Make sure to clear your diagram so that other students won't be tempted to try and reopen your portal." Mr. Gilbert said seriously.

Nicholas and Amelia sprang into action, stowing the candles and other pieces of gear in the cabinets along the wall.

As they did so, Mr. Gilbert approached Paul and asked, "I'm curious to know, how were you able to remain in your human form throughout your rather impressive spellcasting?"

"I don't know. I guess it's because I didn't really use all that much magic. I made a few wizard lights and tiny little fireballs. The biggest thing I did was figure out how to make the spell diagram turn out right." Paul said honestly.

"So you used your organizational skills coupled with intense visualization to achieve a result that is likely beyond the ability of most of your peers." Mr. Gilbert said speculatively.

"I just did what you told me to." Paul said frankly.

"I might be more worried about that if you hadn't exhibited such good judgement in requesting Nicholas' help. Sometimes the greater feat isn't knowing how to use magic, but when."

"Shouldn't I be helping them to clean up?" Paul asked uncomfortably as he watched his classmates, hard at work.

"They have established something of a routine. Although I'm sure that they would appreciate the offer, it's most likely that you would end up being in their way, making their clean-up effort take that much longer."

Paul nodded his understanding and acceptance of the assessment of the situation.

"I'm sure that in a short time that you will have your own equipment to store when class is coming to a close." Mr. Gilbert assured him.

Paul glanced at the third cabinet in a row and realized that when he had his own equipment, that it would be his.

"I'm not sure if anyone has told you, but on Fridays we typically set aside a portion of our class time to allow the students to demonstrate what they've been able to accomplish in the course of a week; a chance to 'show off', for lack of a better term." Mr. Gilbert said frankly.

"No. No one's mentioned it." Paul said slowly.

"It's completely voluntary, and to be honest, quite entertaining. The students in this class are specialized in a variety of disciplines which makes for an interesting production. You should consider demonstrating the unique variation of Wizard Lights that you've come up with. I'm sure that everyone else would be interested to see it." Mr. Gilbert said enthusiastically.

Before he agreed to anything, Paul thought to ask, "Do Nicholas and Amelia usually do anything on Fridays?"

"Amelia's skills don't lend themselves well to demonstration. Nicholas... well... he's kind of..."

"Yeah. I noticed." Paul assured him.

"While Nicholas is only too happy to show off Frederick at the meeting, he adamantly refuses to do an actual summoning in front of others." Mr. Gilbert explained, then hurriedly added, "But your method of creating a spell diagram doesn't depend on Nicholas using it. It's an achievement in its own right."

"I'll think about it. Okay?" Paul cautiously asked.

"That's all I'm asking." Mr. Gilbert said with satisfaction.

* * * * *

After their talk, Mr. Gilbert stepped out of the room while Paul watched Amelia and Nicholas store the last few stray items.

When they were done, Paul noticed that Nicholas was looking at him speculatively.

"So, do you like me yet?" Paul asked with an irritating grin.

"No!" Nicholas immediately responded, sounding offended by the suggestion.

"Good. Otherwise things might get weird between us."

"I still don't like you but... thanks for what you said about me having, like, experience and skills and stuff. I mean, thanks for saying it to Mr. Gilbert. He doesn't seem to understand that summoning and controlling a demon isn't easy, it's not fun. Him pushing me and riding me to work harder and do more doesn't do anything but make me want to give up and stop doing it at all. No matter what I do, he just wants more and more. He keeps moving the goalpost. It's never enough." Nicholas finished irritably.

Paul was astonished by the admission. What Nicholas said struck a chord within him. He had experienced the same feeling several times in his life, in relation to a variety of different subjects.

After a moment to consider, Paul hesitantly said, "It may not be enough, but what you did today seemed to be enough for now. You summoned a 'Yan-gant-y-tan'. That's a big deal, isn't it?"

"Yeah. I guess so." Nicholas grudgingly admitted, then continued, "As far as I know, no one else in our year has been able to summon anything that big... or summon the same thing twice."

"So you're a rock star." Paul said with a grin.

"Yeah." Nicholas said quietly, then added, "And you know what usually happens to rock stars, don't you? How they end up?"

The smile fell away as Paul realized what Nicholas was saying.

"I think I can understand why." Nicholas said simply before turning away and walking toward the table at the other side of the room.

When he glanced in Amelia's direction, he could see that she had been listening.

She gave a slight dismissive shrug before walking to join Nicholas at the table.

* * * * *

"So how was it?" Nazzy asked as Paul walked into the main classroom.

"Okay, I guess." Paul said distractedly.

"Oh? That doesn't sound good."

"It wasn't bad. I'll be fine."

"No. Tell me what's bothering you. Maybe I can help."

"It's nothing. I guess that I'm just going to have to come to terms with the idea of working with amoral monsters."

"You're a demon summoner. I think that's part of the job description."

Paul looked at him curiously for a moment, then realized Nazzy's mistake, "I'm talking about my classmates."

"You got stuck with Nicholas, huh?"

"Yeah."

"I haven't had to be around him much, but he always struck me as being a real douchebag."

"He is, but that's not the problem."

"Thanks for waiting!" Vinda said as she emerged from another of the side rooms.

Nazzy's eyes lighted with delight when he saw her.

Paul looked on as they shared a quick kiss and thought about how 'right' that seemed.

"Paul was just saying that he was having a problem with Nicholas." Nazzy said as he put an arm around Vinda's shoulders.

"No. It's not like it sounds." Paul hurried to assure them.

"What is it, then?" Nazzy asked as he indicated for Paul to walk with them toward the door.

"You know how Nicholas is kind of mean and... self-centered?" Paul asked slowly.

"Yeah." Nazzy easily agreed.

"The thing that's bothering me is that I can sort of see why he's that way. I mean, not all of it, but when I look at Nicholas, I can sort of get where he's coming from and that bothers me." Paul said thoughtfully.

After a moment of walking, Vinda turned to Nazzy and asked, "Translation?"

"Paul's freaking out because he can see some of himself in someone who's a total asshole." Nazzy said simply.

Vinda considered for a moment, then seemed to accept Nazzy's assessment.

"I've never had to face something like this before. Do you have any ideas about how I can deal with it?" Paul asked cautiously.

"Just spend some time with G. That should sort you out." Nazzy said with a smile.

"How will that help?" Paul asked slowly.

"Because what you're seeing is just a mind-fuck. I have no doubt that when you look at yourself reflected in G's eyes that you won't see anything remotely resembling Nicholas." Vinda said so confidently that Paul couldn't help but believe her.

"Besides that, was your class alright? Did you get to do anything?" Nazzy asked as they walked.

"Wizard lights, fireballs and I learned a spell to make my clothes adapt to my body when I change form." Paul said simply.

"Were you able to do all the spells? I mean, did they work for you?" Nazzy asked curiously.

"Yeah. I got the feeling that the teacher was surprised at how well I did." Paul said honestly.

"Then I think we can count this as a good day." Nazzy declared.

"How did it go? Are you alright?" G asked as he rushed down the hall.

"Yeah. I'm fine." Paul immediately assured him.

Before Paul knew what was happening, G scooped him into a hug and gave him a quick, firm kiss.

Paul's first instinct was to worry about who might see, but that only lasted an instant as he enjoyed the feeling of being adored.

Once the kiss had finally ended, G kept one arm around Paul as he asked, "Did you have any problems? Is the work too hard? Do you think that you're going to need a tutor?"

Paul chuckled at the barrage of questions and finally answered, "No. No. And not yet."

G had to pause for a moment to associate each answer with the questions he had asked.

"I really only had one class today. Before lunch I had the lecture class that was related to the practical class that I had after lunch. I didn't understand everything, but I think I got a lot out of it. I won't know about the math and science classes until I've started them." Paul said honestly.

"Since you've just changed status, they might put you in pre-numerology. But it's early enough in the year that if they put you in regular numerology, you'll probably be able to catch up to the class. They usually don't start into the difficult stuff until after the Solstice break." Vinda said thoughtfully as they began walking again.

"You might need some help catching up in Alchemy, since each lesson kind of builds on the one before it, but I can help you with that if you need it. None of it's hard, but there's kind of a lot to remember." Nazzy added.

"You mean that I don't have to take math and science?" Paul asked slowly.

"No. You take classes that show you how to magically manipulate math and science. That stuff makes a whole lot more sense when you take a step back and look at the meta-view." Vinda cheerfully explained.

"Real world." Nazzy chirped.

"What's that?" Paul asked curiously.

"We're crossing into the main part of the school. No magic talk from here on out." Nazzy said seriously.

"Oh. Okay." Paul said as he understood what Nazzy was warning him about.

As they walked, Paul thought to ask, "Is this okay? I mean, us hugging and kissing. Is anyone going to freak out on that?"

"This is fine. They don't want us making out in the halls and stuff like that. But no one has a problem with us holding hands or greeting each other with a kiss. As long as you don't go overboard, no one has a problem with it." Vinda explained.

"We had to be really careful about that when it was the three of us. I think that people were looking for things to find wrong with what we were doing." G added seriously.

"They got through it. We got through it. Hopefully, we made it easier for the next threesome." Nazzy said comfortably.

"Are you guys going to catch a van?" Curtis asked as he hurried up to the group.

"Yes. Nazzy and Vinda's is probably waiting for them. Paul's and mine should be here in a few minutes." G answered for the group.

"Mine will be here in a couple minutes too. Do you mind if I wait with you?" Curtis asked hopefully.

"No problem." G said with an easygoing smile.

"So how was your day, Paul? Are you doing better in the easier classes?" Curtis asked as he walked with the group.

"I think it's too early to tell for sure. But I haven't had any problems so far." Paul said honestly.

"That's good. I'm glad that they were willing to move you into an easier class. A lot of schools don't care and just keep hammering at you to 'get it' even if you just can't." Curtis said frankly.

"I've been in schools like that." Paul agreed, then added, "From what I've seen here so far, they want to make sure that you understand, but after that, they want to be sure that you keep building and growing and learning more. I haven't seen much of that in the other schools that I've been to."

"From what I've heard, I think public schools have different priorities, many of which don't really contribute to education." G said thoughtfully.

"I don't know much about that side of things, I just know that a lot of them were more concerned with the grade you received than if you learned anything." Paul said as they walked out the front doors of the school.

"There's our van, we've got to go." Vinda immediately announced.

"Call us if you want to go out and do anything later." G called after her.

"All I want to do is sleep off my jet lag." Vinda chuckled before hurrying away.

At Curtis' puzzled look, Paul explained, "The four of us were on our way back from Scotland yesterday. We're really tired from all the traveling."

"You were in Scotland... yesterday?" Curtis slowly asked.

"Yeah. I know how amazing it sounds, but it's not like we do something like that every weekend. We went to Scotland for our parents' wedding. It was a really big deal." Paul said as they walked out to the curb were several busses and vans were waiting.

"Our family is from there." G interjected.

"It sounds incredible." Curtis said simply.

"It really was." Paul admitted.

"Well, if something comes up like that again, maybe you can go with us. My dad was okay with inviting Nazzy and Vinda along. He even paid for their airfare." G said happily.

"Really?" Curtis asked with surprise.

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens. If it's strictly a family thing, then we won't be able to invite you. But if it's something just for fun... why not?" G said easily.

"I hope your family decides to do something really soon." Curtis said with a grin.

"I think we're going to need a few days to rest up from this last trip before we start planning any more." G said frankly.

Paul nodded his agreement.

"There's my van. I've got to go." Curtis said abruptly.

"We'll see you tomorrow." Paul called after him as he hurried away.

               'I don't know how D and Mom would feel about it.'

               'But considering how things were before the wedding, I get the feeling that they wouldn't be too bothered by it.'

               'As long as everyone knows what's going on in advance, having Curtis along with us might be nice.'

               'I could remember what it feels like to be normal again.'

               'Or, at least what I grew up thinking of as normal.'

               'What is normal?'

               'Am I still me?'

* * * * *

"That one's ours, isn't it?" Paul asked when he spotted their van.

"Yeah, but hold on for a minute." G said as he took out his cellphone.

"What's wrong?" Paul asked cautiously.

"I don't know that driver. Tony might be out sick or something, but we need to be sure of what's going on before we get into the van."

"Why?" Paul asked cautiously as he waited at G's side.

"Because Dad's rich. There's always the chance that some nutjob's going to try to kidnap us." G said as he held the phone to his ear.

"If something like that happened, don't you think that we could do something to get out of it?"

"Maybe. But maybe not. I know that this is all still new to you, but you've got to understand that we can still be threatened, hurt, knocked out or killed. Besides, if we were to do something we'd run the risk of exposing ourselves. And if we were exposed, none of the witnesses would be allowed to survive. That includes other hostages, good samaritans and innocent bystanders."

Before Paul could respond, G turned his attention to his phone. "This is Gwayne Darroch. The driver of our school van isn't familiar to me. I was just calling to see if there's been a change of drivers logged."

Paul waited anxiously, unnerved by the fact that G was taking the situation so seriously.

"Yeah. I'll wait." G said, then said to Paul in a quieter voice, "Try to act casual and look around and see if anyone looks out of place."

               'Yeah. Act casual.'

               'While my heart's beating like a drum and I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins.'

               'Just, 'Act casual'.'

               'No prob.'

Regardless of how freaked out Paul was, he did his best to scan the crowd of students to see if anyone appeared to not belong there.

"Got it. Thanks." G said into the phone before turning it off.

"Is everything okay?" Paul asked nervously.

"Yeah. The driver is named Joseph Willis and according to the security company he's had a full background check. Mrs. Bright told me to be sure to ask to see his ID, but beyond that, everything should be business as usual."

"How often do things like this come up, where you have to be worried about being kidnapped?" Paul asked anxiously.

"Not too often. I mean, it's not like we live like we're prisoners or anything. Just the other day we walked home. But there are certain times and certain situations where we have to be extra careful." G said as he motioned for Paul to walk with him to the van.

"Are there any other downsides of being a rich kid that I should know about?" Paul asked cautiously.

"I can't think of any right now. It's usually pretty great." G said with a grin, then as he approached the van, he made a rolling gesture to the driver, signalling him to roll down his window.

"I'm sorry to ask, but can I see your ID?" G asked, seeming to be careful to stand at least a foot away from the open window.

"I didn't believe it when they told me, but they said that you'd ask." The man said as he unclipped his security company identification card from his shirt pocket and handed it to G.

"License, too." G said as he accepted the security company ID badge.

"Seriously?" The man asked, however his disbelief didn't prevent him from taking out his wallet.

"I could print up a security ID like this one in about four minutes on my computer... in fact, I think I'd have to downgrade some of my software to match this quality." G said as he examined the ID in detail.

"I guess I can see your point." The driver relented as he waited for G to finish his examination.

"What happened to Tony?" G asked as he handed the ID and license back.

"Dunno. Boss just told me to run this route, didn't say why." The driver said frankly.

G motioned to Paul to get into the van.

"Most days I work on the armored car. The funny thing is, I don't think that any of the businesses that I've visited have checked me out as thoroughly as you just did."

"Maybe if it was their lives at stake instead of their money, they'd be a little more motivated." G said as he followed Paul into the back of the van.

"You might be right about that." The driver chuckled.

"Thanks for waiting! I thought I was going to miss you." A Chinese girl said as she rushed to get into the van. Of course Paul had seen her in the van before, but much like on any public transportation, they didn't introduce themselves.

"I keep telling you, you don't have to hurry. They'll wait for you." A boy's voice said from outside.

Paul watched as the ginger boy took his own sweet time climbing into the van, taking the seat in front of G.

"Before we leave, I need your names." The driver said into the back.

"Wait. You're not our regular driver!" The girl said accusingly.

               'Observant, aren't we?'

"My name is Joseph Willis, you can call me Joe if you like. Would you please tell me your names so that I can be sure that I've got the right people?"

"My name is Sandy and this is Dex. You'll have to ask the others who they are, we don't associate with them." Sandy said primly.

"I'm G and this is Paul. He's my brother... and my lover." G said before leaning in to give Paul a very deep and passionate kiss.

"Ewww! Make them stop!" Sandy shrieked.

"Does anyone know if someone named Catherine Cook is going to be joining us?" Joe asked professionally.

"Cathy's in my class. She wasn't in school today." G said simply.

"Thank you, Mr. Darroch." Joe said respectfully, then said to the group, "If no one has anything else, we'll be leaving now."

"Aren't you going to do something about them making out, right here in front of everybody?!" Sandy demanded.

"Of course." Joe told her, then looked further back into the van and said, "If you get anything on the seats, there's going to be an extra charge."

"It'll be totally worth it." G said with a grin back at him.

Joe nodded once, then started the van.

* * * * *

Although Paul was slightly embarrassed by the makeout session in the back seat, listening to Sandy's overly dramatic cries of disgust made the whole thing worth it.

When the van pulled up to their house, G and Paul got out, then waved at Sandy as the van pulled away.

"Sorry about that. I know that what we do together isn't for everyone else to see, but I just couldn't help myself." G said repentantly.

"I probably wouldn't have done that, but I've got no problem." Paul said honestly.

"Good. I just didn't want you to be worried that we'd be putting on a show like that for everyone we meet. It's just that Sandy's so..." G trailed off, looking for the right word.

"Is she a witch?" Paul asked curiously as they walked around the front of the house.

"You missed it by one letter." G said with a grin.

"Okay. That's good. I wouldn't want to have to watch out for her magical retribution on us." Paul said frankly.

"Actually, I wouldn't relax just yet. Dex is a witch." G said frankly.

"Sandy was making such a stink about us, I didn't really notice how Dex was reacting." Paul said slowly.

"I think Dex is a 'live and let live' kind of a guy most of the time. But if he were forced to pick sides, he'd probably side with Sandy. I don't think he's irredeemably evil, but he seems to be hungry for acceptance so he hangs on the fringes of a group of really nasty 'fluffy bunnies'." G said as he unlocked the front door of his little house.

"I've met the type." Paul said with a nod.

"I don't think he'll do anything unless the hive mind makes him think that he'll get some crumbs of their attention if he does something horrible to us." G said frankly.

"I kind of figured that 'witch school' would be different from regular school somehow." Paul said honestly.

"Nope. We've got the same freaks and geeks, assholes and losers as any other school." G said simply.

Paul let out a long sigh, then looked at G curiously before asking, "Are you hungry?"

G shrugged.

"I'm hungry. Let's raid the fridge before we get started on homework." Paul said decisively.

"Okay." G said easily as he set his backpack beside the couch.

* * * * *

Walking into the kitchen, Paul was surprised to find a platter of nachos made on wedges of pita bread, sitting on the counter, hot and waiting for them.

"Is this for us?" Paul asked uncertainly.

"Who else would it be for?"

"Wait. I've been wondering about this since we moved here. Who's been cooking all the food? I know it's not my mom because she never cooked anything like this." Paul asked before taking a bite of one of the nachos.

"Do you want the truth?"

"No. Lie to me. I like it."

The reply caught G off guard and he nearly choked on his nacho.

"Come on, who's been cooking the food?" Paul asked with a smile.

"Grandma... sort of."

"Not Grandma Gruit?"

"No. Grandma B."

Paul went to the refrigerator and took out a bottle of apple juice, then walked to the cabinet and took down a juice glass. He looked at G with question and received a nod in response.

After filling glasses for them both, Paul asked, "So how is your grandmother cooking our food all the way from Scotland?"

"Our grandmother came to visit right after this house was built and enchanted most of the kitchen and dining room. To be honest, I don't know how it all works. Grandma's specialty is basic magic, sometimes called household magic. Don't be fooled by her, she's scary powerful."

"So the kitchen kind of just knows when we want something and makes it for us?"

"Yeah. I don't know how it does it, but it even knows that Vinda doesn't like meat very much, so it makes vegetarian dishes for her when she stops by." G said casually between bites of nachos.

"Well, I guess it beats having to cook for yourself all the time."

"Yeah. And if I had to count on Dad to cook for me when I was growing up, I probably wouldn't even know what a vegetable looks like. It would've been steaks on the grill every night."

"If your dad likes to cook steaks on the grill, I think I'd really like to try that. I mean, it wasn't my mom's fault, she was always really busy. But I've always heard about dads cooking steaks on the grill and I felt like I missed out on something."

"Believe it or not, Dad actually has a job that he has to do. I doubt that he'll have time to cook out on the grill during the week, but I bet if we asked him, he'd do a cookout for us next weekend."

"No. It's just a silly daydream of mine. I wouldn't want to put him to a lot of trouble."

"Trust me, he'll love doing it."

Paul nodded, since his mouth was full of nachos.

"Do you have a lot of homework?"

"I have to write a report."

"On your first day? That's kind of harsh!"

"Not really. It's actually kind of a compliment."

"How's that?"

"Today in class, I did this spell and I'm not sure, because I haven't been around magic that much, but I guess it was really good or special or something because Professor Ortega asked me to write a report telling how I did it."

"Professor Ortega? The Senior Professor of Wizardry personally asked you to write a report about one of your spells?"

"Yeah."

"What kind of spell was it?"

"Stand back and I'll show you."

"You aren't going to be summoning any demons in here are you? Because I don't want the sulfur smell getting into the food."

"No. I'm not summoning anything. Just take a step back and look."

G took a single step back, then watched as Paul held his hands out in front of him.

A glowing diagram began to appear, along with symbols in a language that G didn't recognize.

A movement drew G's attention and he watched as Paul made the same gesture with both hands, then looked down when seven little balls of fire appeared, one on each of the points of the heptagram.

"I created this, then Nicholas used my spell diagram to summon a demon, a Yan-gant-y-tan." Paul said carefully, maintaining his concentration.

"The detail is amazing!" G said as he knelt down to look at the diagram more closely.

"Well, it's not like I came up with the diagram on my own or anything. I just copied it from the back of the book."

"What are you...?" A voice began to ask, then silenced.

Paul glanced toward the door and saw his mother frozen in place.

"Hi Mom. I was just showing G what I did at school today." Paul said as he turned the majority of his attention back to maintaining his spell diagram.

"I haven't seen a diagram like that in years." Beth said as she walked slowly to her son's side.

"I still can't do anything with it, but the Professor seemed to be really impressed that I was able to make it."

"Paul, I've never seen anyone create a spell diagram like that. I've heard stories about the most elite demon summoners being able to cast a circle at will, but I've never personally witnessed it."

"Do you think that when you have some time that you might be able to show me some demon summoning things? I'm way behind everyone else in my class and it'd probably help."

"Yes. But we're going to have to do it quickly. Sometime within the next month, I'll probably lose all access to my summoning abilities. The baby will need to infuse all my magic until it can sustain its own."

"You don't have to show me a bunch of magic, I can see that at school. What I need is to know how things work; the do's and don'ts, the stuff that all the other demon summoners already know by the time that they're my age."

"That sounds like a good idea. And you're right, I won't need to give you a magical demonstration to illustrate what I'm talking about, but there is one thing that I will need to demonstrate before I lose my ability to do so."

"What's that?"

"We are descended from a long line of demon summoners. Even though the rest of our family have turned their backs on us, this knowledge is your rightful legacy. This distinct method of summoning isn't possible for witches not of our bloodline. It's only right that I pass it on to you."

"The Senior Professor of Wizardry at our school asked Paul to write a report on how he was able to make that spell diagram." G said proudly.

"I can understand why. Not only is that seen to be a high-level technique, but it serves one of the most basic functions in summoning." Beth said simply.

"Okay. It's special. It's great." Paul said flatly, then looked G in the eyes and asked, "But couldn't you do exactly the same thing with one of your illusions?"

"No. Not even close." G said honestly.

Paul looked at him dubiously.

G rolled his eyes, then made a grand gesture with both hands toward the floor beside Paul's diagram. Another septagram appeared, perhaps not quite as bright or sharp as the original. The fireballs at the points looked nice, but the symbols written throughout the diagram were sloppy gibberish at best.

"If I knew what the symbols meant or how to read that language, I might be able to do it, but the level of detail is just way too much for me to recreate at this point."

"You'll run into that quite a bit with summoning diagrams. They're very detailed and one little mistake can cause them to fail to summon, or even worse, fail to contain what has been summoned."

"I noticed that our teacher is really careful to check over the diagram before he lets Nicholas summon anything." Paul said thoughtfully.

"So you created this diagram so that someone else could use it?" Beth asked to confirm.

"Yeah. It was my first day. This is as much as I could do."

"If you want to help other witches with their summoning, that's fine. As long as it's of your own free will, I have no problem with it. But if you're creating spell diagrams for other witches because you can't summon a demon for yourself... that is not okay."

"Whats wrong?"

"The strong dominate the weak."

"Yeah. Dominance and submission. The rule of the demon world."

"I'm talking about the rule of the summoner's world. If you aren't one of the more powerful summoners, then you end up working for one of them, doing their dirty work, doing the things that are 'beneath them'."

"What if I don't want to be a summoner at all?"

"I could accept that as long as it's your honest choice and not a lack of training that makes you face that decision."

"Okay. If you want to teach me stuff, I've got no problem with that. Just as long as you're not disappointed if I don't want to become the biggest best demon summoner that ever was."

"It may take me a few days to get everything together that I'll need. But before I lose my witchcraft, I'll make sure that you've been given the Hiller family legacy."

"Want some nachos?" G asked as he pointed to the last few pita chips on the platter.

"No... you boys are going to spoil your... grrr... okay. The baby wants one." Beth finally grudgingly said before taking one of the pita nachos.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes (1):

I sure know the feeling of never being good enough for someone.
When I was in highschool, I did my work well, and got mostly As and Bs with maybe a C, and My mom kept telling me that if I tried harder I could get all As. so I decided to try harder, and I came home that semester with a report card that contained all As and one A+, I handed her the card, figuring for once she would tell me I did a good job. But, you know what she said?
"See, I told you if you put your mind to it you could do it. So I expect you to do even better next time." That did it for me, I realized that I could never please her, so I just stopped trying at all. I didn't get any worse than a had before, but I simply no longer held any hope of satisfying her, so I saw no reason to do any better than I had always done.
Much later in life, my mother told me that the reason she didn't compliment me was that since she "knew" I wasn't doing my best, that when I did my best, I was only doing what I was supposed to do, so it didn't deserve any praise. At some other time, she told me she didn't want me to get a swelled head, as she so kindly put it. I'm pretty sure I was still getting a 3.5 average, so I wasn't worried, and I lost all interest in pleasing her. She was always issuing left handed complements. "That's nice, but you could have done�" There was always a but.
Now you know why I am so cynical.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Editor's Notes (2):

I know babies can be pretty demanding, but most of them tend to wait till they are born to be that successful at it. I am totally fascinated to learn the various rules and regs within the various kinds of witches' families.
I think Paul is going to cause some real inspirational things to come into being. He has some interesting talents, some of which are completely unrelated to his magical gifts.
As always, I am eagerly waiting for more.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher