Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

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Chapter 15: Forge and Fire

"Tara? Do you mind if we come in?" Lisa quietly asked from the doorway.

"Lisa? What are you doing here? Is everything alright?" Tara asked with immediate concern.

"Everything's fine. Do you mind if we come in and ask you something?" Lisa asked more urgently.

"Yes, of course. Please come in." Tara said softly as she held a baby in her arms.

"Who are you?" A young teen girl asked breathlessly.

"My name is Lisa. What's yours?"

"I'm Clarissa and these are my friends Artie and Janine." Clarissa said in an awestruck voice, then added in a whisper, "You're really pretty."

"Thank you." Lisa said shyly.

Beau smiled at the interaction, then decided to take it upon himself to complete their mission.

"Lisa brought me here so that we could ask you something, but she seems to have suddenly developed a following." Beau quietly explained as he approached.

"What can I help you with?" Tara asked pleasantly.

"Lisa thought that you might be able to help me find some... supplies for a project that I'm going to be doing. A, um... witchcraft project." Beau finished reluctantly.

"What exactly are you needing?" Tara asked hesitantly.

"I don't have anything with me, so to start with, I'm going to need the basics. I'll need a cauldron, at least two braziers, most of the standard herbs and maybe some extra mandrake root, if you can get it." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Would you like for that mandrake root to be harvested by dogs under the light of a full moon?" Tara asked professionally.

"That's nearly impossible to come by." Beau asked happily.

"I know someone I can ask." Tara said pleasantly.

"What about the more... religiously sensitive ingredients?" Beau cautiously asked.

"Before we go any further, I need to tell you that If you're going to be demon summoning, I'm afraid I won't be able to help you."

"No. No demons, but I will be using some of the same supplies." Beau said hesitantly.

"When will you be needing these things?" Tara asked cautiously.

"There isn't any emergency, but we'd like to do it as soon as we can. There's a lot of other stuff we won't be able to do until this gets done." Beau carefully explained.

"Stay right here. If you'll hold Thomas, I can get you the person who can speed all of this along." Tara said as she stood. After a moment of apparent indecision, Beau accepted the baby that Tara had been holding into his arms.

"This will just take a minute." Tara assured him before hurrying away.

Beau looked across the room to where a group of children and young teenagers surrounded Lisa and seemed to be hanging on her every word.

When she noticed, she quietly mouthed, "Sorry." to him.

Beau broke into a wide smile as he said, "Don't even worry about it. I got this."

The baby in Beau's arms looked up curiously at the sound, but didn't fuss.

Beau was immediately transfixed by the interested gaze of the tiny person that he was holding.

* * * * *

"Andrew said that he can take you now if you're ready to go." Tara said as she returned.

"Now? Right now?" Beau asked in astonishment as he awkwardly transferred the baby into her waiting arms.

"Yes. That's the 'now' I was talking about." Tara said with a timid, teasing grin, then she added, "He said that he's at a good breaking point but he can't be away too long, so you'd better be ready to go when he gets here."

"Ready to go where?" Beau asked in confusion.

"Mizrith." Andrew's voice said from behind Beau, causing him to jump.

"Mizrith? Isn't that a demonic realm?" Beau asked cautiously.

"Yeah. We can talk along the way. I don't want to leave Icheb in charge of the class for too long. Those kids will eat him alive." Andrew explained as a hole in reality opened in front of them.

"If you don't need for me to go with you, I can wait for you here." Lisa said from amongst her teen and pre-teen admirers.

"Yeah. Sounds good." Beau said before being whisked away in a blur of mist and movement.

* * * * *

"Where are we?" Beau asked as he tried to make sense of what little he was able to see in the meager light cast by slightly glowing crystals all around them.

"Mizrith, The Wizard's Cove... well, their ante-room. We'd better get inside before someone teleports in on top of us." Andrew said as he guided Beau to walk through a crack in the wall, which turned out to be a hallway.

"Are you saying that this is a magic shop located within a demonic realm?" Beau asked anxiously.

"Yeah. From what Tara was saying, you need some legitimate magic supplies. This is one of the best sources that I know of. You can get things here that don't even exist in our world." Andrew said as he led the way into a large crystal cavern littered with boxes, barrels and bags.

"BAA-JAA!" A dark-red being with a mane and long beard joyfully bayed.

"Jo-va Na'balim!" Andrew called back as he made a gesture in the being's direction.

"Baa-Jaa!" The being called less forcefully, but directed his attention entirely on Beau.

As Andrew leaned in to quietly instruct Beau in the proper protocol, Beau confidently responded, "Na-bleet!"

"Zhash-hu clenn?" The red being asked intently.

"Ga-zhash tu." Beau responded simply.

The shopkeeper seemed to be satisfied with the answer and went about his business.

"You're a Gypsy?" Andrew asked in surprise.

"The woman who taught me magic was." Beau said simply.

"You knowing her magic would have you counted as part of her clan." Andrew observed as they began walking around the shop, then thought to ask, "Did she also teach you Ottoman Z'nor?"

"She called it 'gutter Z'nor', but yeah, she's the one who taught me." Beau confirmed.

"Tara was saying that you basically needed an entire workshop of supplies." Andrew said frankly.

"Mostly, yeah. I don't have anything with me and the spell that I'm planning on doing is fairly complex." Beau said honestly.

"If you wouldn't mind me making some assumptions, I'm guessing that you don't want to ask for help or to get other people involved, but you won't be able to do what you need to do all on your own. So, as much as you'd rather not, you've decided to suck it up and ask anyway. How close am I?"

"Pretty close."

"Well, here's what I was thinking. There are a couple witches around Xavier's who would benefit from having a dedicated workshop. If you wouldn't be totally against the idea, we could pool our equipment, you could get the things you need for your spelling and when it's done we'd still have our workshop available for whoever of us needs it."

"From what Tara said, I'm guessing that you aren't going to have any demon summoners in your workshop." Beau said in a leading tone.

"No. I seriously doubt it. So far we've had basic elemental practitioners and we once had an astral witch helping us." Andrew said, then pointed at a bunch of dried herbs hanging off the railings.

"How would you feel about a necromancer?" Beau asked cautiously.

"Okay, I guess. It's not the power you have, as much as how you use it." Andrew said sagely.

"That's where we might have a problem. What if I want to cast a spell that you don't agree with?"

"I think I'm enough of an adult to at least listen to your reasoning before making any judgements about something like that." Andrew said frankly.

"I've run across the spirit of someone who is earthbound. He's completely separated from his body. He committed suicide, so that automatically means no assention for him. He wasn't evil enough to be damned, so what's left for him is to slowly dissipate on the earthly plane and eventually fade into nothingness." Beau carefully explained.

"It's Peter, isn't it?" Andrew asked regretfully.

"He introduced himself as Piotr, but that's probably him." Beau confirmed, then continued, "He made a mistake. I think I can help him."

"Are you going to try to resurrect him?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"No. I'm a necromancer, not a god. He's long past the point where I could restore him to his own body, even if I could gain access to it." Beau said firmly, leaving no room for misunderstanding.

"So what are you wanting to do for him?" Andrew quietly asked.

"It may be possible for me to embody him within a physical object. That should keep him from dissipating." Beau said carefully.

"How is that any better than letting him fade away?" Andrew asked with genuine interest.

"It's because he's offered to help Lisa learn to use her strength. If I can pull it all together, Piotr and Lisa can develop a partnership that will not only help her to hold her own in a fight, but allow him to make a contribution and share his unique experience with someone who really needs it."

"If what you're describing were actually that easy, I imagine that there would be soul-possessed items everywhere you looked. What aren't you telling me?" Andrew asked as he stopped to look Beau in the eyes.

"It only works on earthbound spirits not wanted by either heaven or hell. The spirit has to be willing. In the case of the suicidal, they've already made that choice, so that usually makes them ineligible. And the final hurdle is that the magical cost is extremely high. Most witches, even dedicated necromancers, simply can't do it." Beau explained.

"But you can?" Andrew cautiously asked.

"I can." Beau said simply and confidently.

After a moment to ponder the response, Andrew seemed to snap out of it and asked, "So, what did you need?"

"A cauldron..." Beau began to say, but was interrupted.

"Got it." Andrew chirped.

"Two braziers..."

"Got it." Andrew said again.

"How about I tell you about the rarest items that I'm going to be needing and just assume that you already have most of the common ingredients?" Beau cautiously asked.

"We could do it that way. It'll probably be a lot faster." Andrew admitted.

"I'm pretty sure they're not going to want to take my American Express here. I don't know how I'm going to pay for it." Beau worried aloud.

"Mastercard only, I think. At least I've heard that it's from hell. But either way, you don't have to worry about it. Religious artifacts from Earth are extremely rare and valuable here. We've banked quite a few items that have been sold on consignment for us, so get what you need and don't worry about it."

"From what I see here, I could use some of that needle wood and a few of those enchanted bog bladders for the embodiment ceremony, but most of the rest of this is standard spellcasting supplies. What I'm looking for is more specialized." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Pardon me for asking, but don't these types of spells usually require a sacrifice?" Andrew asked cautiously.

Beau stopped for a moment and seemed to be debating within himself before carefully responding, "I suppose that's true for a novice or for someone not born to the craft."

"Born to the craft?" Andrew asked cautiously.

"Some people, like me, are born with a certain talent and capacity. The whole reason that my uncle saw to it that I learned necromancy was because it would have been too dangerous to leave me untrained. Let's just say that I'm at a level where I can use my own magic to fuel a spell like this."

"But something like that would have to severely impact your life force." Andrew said speculatively.

"You brought us to a magic store hidden within a hell dimension. Did that severely impact your life force?" Beau asked firmly.

"Of course not. But my portal ability isn't magical. It's a mutant ability." Andrew said seriously.

"Who's to say what's magic and what isn't. You were born with your capacity and I was born with mine." Beau said simply.

"Okay. Then how about you get the non-standard things so we can get back to our own realm?" Andrew asked hopefully.

"Sounds good. Do you know where they would keep something like bone chips?" Beau asked as he looked around.

"There's a whole graveyard section through the doorway on the other side of that mystic orb display." Andrew said as he pointed.

"Those don't really do anything, do they?"

"They sparkle. That's enough for some people."

* * * * *

"Do you need to go in there?" Andrew asked as he pointed to a dark hallway at the far side of the room.

"Is that where they keep the really dark stuff?" Beau asked cautiously.

"That's what the shopkeeper told me. I've never had a reason to go in there. I'm a fire mage. Most of the graveyard stuff has nothing to do with me."

"Well, it does have something to do with me. Even though I would rather not have to, I'll probably need one or two things from in there." Beau said uneasily.

"Go ahead. I'll be over looking at the minerals. I've been meaning to replenish my supplies for a while now and haven't gotten around to it." Andrew said as he pointed in the direction of where he would be going.

"Are these baskets for us to use?" Beau asked uncertainly.

"I'm pretty sure they'd sell you one if you wanted it, but I think they provide them so that you'll buy more." Andrew said before walking away, toward the mineral section.

"I'll just be a few minutes." Beau said as he picked up a basket and placed his needle wood and bog bladders in it before heading toward the nondescript doorway at the side of the room.

* * * * *

After checking the mineral section, Beau found Andrew near the sales clerk, looking at a display.

"What do you think of this?" Andrew asked as he held up a thick leather strap with clear glass globes attached to it with metal, claw-like clasps spaced about six inches apart.

"What is it?" Beau asked slowly.

"The orbs can be empowered with several different spells that you will be able to call up with a touch and a few words." Andrew explained.

"What do you want me to do with that?" Beau asked hesitantly.

"I just thought that you might be able to use something like this when your team is called into action." Andrew said simply.

"It sounds great, but if it does all that, why doesn't everyone have one of those things?"

"Once you set them, they'll only work for you. It uses your own magic to fuel it and each one is one use only. Once you've used it, you have to reinstall the base spell and recharge the orb."

"So why would I want something like that?" Beau asked slowly.

"In a tight situation you'd be able to call up a complex spell in less than a second." Andrew said frankly.

After a moment to consider, Beau quietly said, "I'll take two."

* * * * *

The basket that Beau had been working to fill ended up not being nearly as full as he had expected.

When he and Andrew stepped up to the counter, Beau was amazed. Andrew stood toe-to-toe with the Manticore shopkeeper without so much as flinching as he bartered over the final total of the purchase and the value of the payment. Beau was able to follow along with about half of their negotiations.

In the end, a price was agreed upon. Andrew shook Na'balim's claw, then goodnaturedly clapped him on the shoulder.

Andrew asked Na'balim a question that Beau couldn't quite understand.

Upon receiving a favorable response, Andrew made a motion and their stack of purchases vanished.

Andrew noticed his surprise and said, "I delivered the stuff to my bedroom at home. Once we've had a chance to talk to the professor, we'll know where we'll be setting up to perform your ritual."

"You don't have to bother with that." Beau said anxiously.

"Listen. Like it or not, I'm involved. Until we know each other a little better, I'm going to include myself in your ritual spelling. That way I can point it out if you're making a mistake or back you up if you fall short in some regard." Andrew said seriously.

"I guess since I'll be using your supplies, we'll do it your way." Beau reluctantly responded.

"Try thinking of it this way, when we're done, we'll have a place where any of us can go to cast a spell, dedicated to that singular purpose." Andrew said pleasantly.

"I don't really cast all that much. That's part of why I didn't bring anything with me." Beau quietly explained.

"None of us really cast very often, I guess that's why we haven't set up a workshop before this."

The shopkeeper growled a long complicated phrase which Beau loosely interpreted to mean 'we're done'.

"Ready?" Andrew asked cheerily.

"Where are we going next?" Beau asked cautiously.

"We'll see if the professor is available to talk to us." Andrew answered simply as he led the way to their arrival point.

"If he has a place for us, are we going to go there next?" Beau asked curiously.

"We'll go to look at it for a minute, but then I'll have to get back to my class." Andrew said as he entered the hallway.

Beau noticed when Andrew moved tightly to one side of the hallway to allow an oncoming person to pass.

Beau fought to hide his surprise as he met the man's eyes.

"Reverend Lin." Beau said in icy acknowledgement.

"Beau. How is your lovely mother doing?" The man responded equally coldly.

"She's fine. I'll be sure to tell her that you asked." Beau said in a tightly controlled voice.

Reverend Lin nodded, then continued on at a deliberate pace.

"A friend of yours?" Andrew quietly asked as they resumed their way down the hallway.

"My family has dealt with him a few times over the years." Beau said darkly.

"Are you surprised to see him here?"

"I'm surprised to see me here." Beau said frankly.

"I don't know much about your type of magic, so I don't know if there's a way for you to get here on your own. If not, there's a possibility that Seth might eventually be able to create a portal here for you." Andrew said thoughtfully.

"I don't know how that would work. But I guess we'll all figure it out together."

"Ready?" Andrew asked as they stopped.


* * * * *

"Professor, I'm here with Beau Collins to speak with you, if you have a moment." Andrew said aloud so that Beau would be aware of what was being said.

//I'm not in a position to receive visitors just now, but please feel free to ask what you will of me.// Professor Xavier said into their minds.

"Beau has a project that he would like to work on and I was wondering if it might be possible to take over one of the out-buildings to use as a workshop for the magic practitioners." Andrew asked seriously.

//There is a maintenance shed to the south and west of the main building that isn't being used, but has been preserved, since it is an original construction. It's rather small, but may be adequate for your needs.//

"We'll port over and I'll let you know." Andrew said into the air.

//Be sure to bring the young lady, Lisa, up-to-date on the situation as soon as possible so as to spare her undue concern.// Professor Xavier cautioned.

"Yes. We'll do that now. Thank you Professor." Andrew said as he made a gesture toward a portal forming before them.

"That looks like a really handy talent to have. I know that there are some portal spells within necromancy, but I've never really looked into them." Beau said as he followed Andrew through the rupture in space.

* * * * *

"Did you get what you needed?" Lisa asked when she saw Andrew and Beau walk into the room through a seemingly solid wall.

"I actually got more than I expected to. I had planned on having to 'make do' for some of the harder to find items, but Andrew knows this really great shop that has just about anything you could want." Beau said happily.

"Actually, to someone not involved in the craft, it's probably an uninteresting place." Andrew told Beau quietly.

"I bet that's why they have those mystic orbs." Beau said with a grin.

"Probably." Andrew conceded, then turned to Lisa and continued, "We're going to go check on a building to see if it's in good enough shape for us to use it for a workshop. Would you like to come along?"

Lisa looked at her young entourage and debated for a moment before finally saying, "Yes. Since you're doing this to help me, I want to help out as much as I can."

"Great." Andrew responded happily, then turned to Tara and said, "Thanks for getting me. I think this is going to end up being great for all of us."

"I think it serves the natural order." Tara said contentedly.

Andrew made a motion as he led the way through a seemingly solid wall.

Beau and Lisa exchanged a look before hesitantly following.

* * * * *

"It's dusty in here." Lisa choked out while her eyes adjusted to the much dimmer light.

"The professor said that no one's used it for a long time." Andrew said as he walked to the nearest window and moved the stiff drapery aside.

There was a long moment of silence, until Beau finally said, "It's wonderful."

"This is really nice. We have a couple of sturdy tables and several racks of shelving..." Andrew trailed off as he looked around.

"If we move those crates, we'd have plenty of room to cast a circle. What do you think the ventilation is like? Would we have to worry about burning braziers or smudge pots in here?" Beau asked speculatively.

"There are windows that you can open in the eves. That should provide all the ventilation that you'll be needing." Andrew said consideringly.

"It's just the one room, isn't it? It looks like there isn't any plumbing or heat in here." Lisa said slowly as she looked around.

"There's no water, but look at this." Beau said as he folded back a heavy sheet of canvas.

"I think I saw one of those in a book before. Isn't that a pot-bellied stove?" Lisa asked curiously.

"Back in Texas we had one of these in a hunting cabin where me and my dad went. Dad showed me what to do and let me take care of the fire the whole time we were there." Beau said with a smile at the memory.

"So, do you think it's good enough?" Andrew finally asked.

"The only way it could be more perfect is if it were made of gingerbread!" Beau said with a smile.

"Not helping the rep." Andrew said sternly, then added, "Just sayin."

Beau laughed aloud at Andrew's expression.

"I have a class that needs my attention right now and I doubt that Tara or Dawn are going to be available before lunch either. I'll do my best to fill both of them in on what's going on so that they can be thinking about what they'd each like to contribute to the cause." Andrew said seriously as he made a sweeping gesture toward the nearest wall.

Lisa and Beau followed as Andrew led the way.

* * * * *

"Do you expect to be here or where can I find you when I have some free time this afternoon?" Andrew asked seriously as he indicated the nursery door they were standing beside.

"There was a gas leak or something at the Wagner school, so they cancelled classes today. Since no one's told us where we have to go, our team has gone to a place called the 'Danger Room' to work on their attacks and defences. I guess unless someone comes and gets us and tells us to go somewhere else, that's where we'll be." Beau said frankly.

"There or in MedLab." Lisa timidly added.

"Isn't Matt or my dad with your group?" Andrew asked with concern.

"No. But that's because Matt was trying to give us space so that we could have a team meeting on our own. It was really good of him to do that and we really appreciate the thought." Beau hurried to explain.

"Even so, it sounds to me like you're at a point where it might be really good for your group to receive some instruction. I agree that coming together and forming your team is an important thing that you need to work out on your own. But past a certain point, it's best if you have someone with experience present to help guide you, in the most productive direction." Andrew said seriously.

"Um, sure. Okay. We've had our meeting and I'm pretty sure that the guys have had enough time to try out their abilities. It's probably time for us to get started." Beau said thoughtfully.

"I'll find Matt and send him your way." Andrew said simply.

"Thanks." Beau said sincerely as he met Andrew's gaze.

"I'll see you this afternoon. The Danger Room's right there." Andrew said as he pointed to a misty vortex hanging in space beside them.

"If you don't mind, we'll go downstairs the old-fashioned way." Beau hesitantly suggested.

"Whatever you like." Andrew said easily, then vanished in a blur, right before their eyes.

"Things used to be so simple." Beau said as he started walking toward the main entry hall at a casual pace.

"Do you miss it?" Lisa asked curiously.

"No. I guess simple isn't as nice as it sounds. It's probably better for us to be challenged." Beau said unenthusiastically.

"Yeah. It sounds like one of those things that's supposed to be 'good for you'." Lisa said sourly.

"'Builds character'." Beau added with a slight nod.

"Sounds awful." Lisa quietly admitted.

"I don't know. We seem to be with some good people. It could end up being fun." Beau said honestly.

"But what are we left with when the fun ends? What are we learning that we're going to need to know?" Lisa asked anxiously.

"I don't know. Maybe how to be part of a team. That's probably a good 'real world' skill to have." Beau said speculatively.

"I don't know if that's the same." Lisa said uncertainly.

"Sure it is. Learning how to listen to other people, how to make yourself be heard, how to follow instructions, how to be a leader... it's all good stuff to know, no matter what kind of job you end up doing."

"I guess that's true." Lisa reluctantly admitted as the elevator opened at their approach.

* * * * *

After getting aboard the elevator, Beau cautiously added, "Because of my necromancy, I've always planned on being a doctor. That way, if I can't save their life, I can at least see to it that they end up going to the right place. So, I guess going through all of this might give me a few more choices than I had before."

"That's definitely true in my case. I've been living in my mom's basement since my mutation got so bad that it couldn't be ignored anymore. If it wasn't for Marc, I'd probably still be there. I'd given up any hope of ever doing anything with my life."

"And now?" Beau asked as the elevator door opened.

"I don't know. I mean, I know I'm going to do something and it might even be something great, but I don't have a plan." Lisa fought to explain.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Beau asked curiously.

"Good, I think. You see, I had a plan before..."

Beau nodded to encourage her to continue.

"It sucked." Lisa curtly added.

Beau broke into a smile, then asked, "So no plan is better than a plan that leads you straight into defeat?"

"At least this way I have a chance to succeed... even if it's totally by accident." Lisa said as they slowly ambled down the hallway.

"I'm not sure that everyone would agree with your logic, but it works for me. Just let me know if there's anything I can do to help you."

"I'm not a very brave person. I'll let everybody know." Lisa chuckled as they arrived at the Danger Room door.

* * * * *

"So, what have we missed?" Beau asked as he led the way into the room.

"Louie and Jesus have been working on their Vile Kricket transformation. It's looking more and more like something 'on purpose'. Brian's been on his own doing his dice and cards." Seth explained, then happily added, "Slash and I have been working on... it's not an attack, but... just look."

"Ready?" Slash asked Seth cautiously.

"Yeah. Do it!" Seth said happily.

As Lisa and Beau watched, a large black cloud seemed to erupt out of nowhere and completely engulf Slash and Seth.

It hung in the air for a moment and when it began to dissipate, there was nothing and no one there.

"I know it's not a big trick, but it masks our escape. If someone doesn't already know what our powers are, that will give them one less hint." Seth said happily from behind the pair, slightly startling them.

"I think that's a really good idea. For right now if we get into any trouble at all, the smartest thing we can do is run away. Until we've been able to develop some fighting moves, we should come up with as many escape moves as we can." Beau said seriously.

"Thanks Beau. I was afraid you'd think it was stupid and didn't really help." Slash said honestly.

"It's just like Seth said, making a blackout cloud gives our enemies one more thing to have to deal with and hides what we're really doing. Right now we can use it to hide our escape, but later on we'll probably use it to hide us coordinating an attack." Beau said seriously.

"How did your things go? Did you get what you needed to help 'Piotr'?" Brian asked as he approached the group.

"I got some of the things, but even better than that, it looks like we've got a place where we can do the ritual." Beau happily announced.

"I didn't know that was a problem." Slash said honestly.

"It's not a big problem. But sometimes the cleanup can take some time. Some of the herbs really stink, sometimes there's burn marks on the table or the floor and chalk never wants to come completely up. It's really better if you can have a place that you use just for your ritual magic." Beau said honestly.

"You're a lot more comfortable talking about this stuff now, aren't you?" Slash asked cautiously.

"I guess so. I'm used to hiding it, but I don't feel like I have to do that around you guys." Beau said honestly.

"Because we're all freaks, too?" Louie asked simply.

Beau was stunned by the question, but finally answered, "I prefer to think of us as 'unboring'."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I love the term 'unboring'.

I really like Beau. It is so cute how all of his worries he has been holding onto, are being dissipated into the nether regions. It seems that the whole team is making progress into fitting in with the entire group.

I can't help but wonder if some of the folks in a few of MM's other series could show up here and help out, or maybe be helped out by some of these folks.

Just sayin'.

Love this story or saga.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher!