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"How are things going for you at school, Paul?" D asked gently.
"Really good. I can't believe all the things that I'm learning. All the teachers have been really great so far." Paul said happily.
"So, no problems?"
"Nothing I can't handle."
"You know how I've told you what a pain Carla can be? She went after Paul today." G told his father regretfully.
"Went after, as in, trying to get a ring on his finger?" D asked curiously.
"I wasn't there, but it wouldn't surprise me. Her entire existence seems to be based on the hope that she'll be able to find a man to take care of her so that she can eventually blame him for every little thing that's wrong in her life, real or imagined." G said frankly.
"Maybe she see's what her mother is going through and doesn't want to end up the same way, in her mid forties and desperate." D said thoughtfully.
"Actually, I think she wants to end up exactly the same way. That's why she's making all the same choices." G said simply.
"Either way, I think that Paul might need a little protection from magical manipulation." D said thoughtfully.
"I've already got a pretty hefty protection spell on me. If she tries anything, it'll rebound on her." Paul assured his new father.
"Alright then, I'll trust you to handle this yourself, but if I hear about you making wedding plans, I reserve the right to intervene." D said warmly.
"The only wedding plans are going to be happening in Carla's delusional little mind." Paul assured him.
* * * * *
As nice as it was to lay in bed and relax, Paul felt the weight of the obligations that he had taken on.
"G and I have a project that we have to work on tonight. We need to have our parts ready before Nazzy and Vinda come over tomorrow." Paul said regretfully.
"Paul, you need to relax for a little while. You've just been through a major trauma." D said gently.
"My part of the spell is done and besides, I'm only using the most basic spells. It takes, like, no magic. All I really need to do is set it up so that G can work on his part." Paul slowly explained.
"I can work on my sorcery project right now if you're not up to it. We can do this later." G quietly offered.
"I have something else that I have to work on later. It would really be best if we got this done right now." Paul explained.
"Just don't overdo it." D said decisively.
Paul sat up in bed and looked at the floor a few feet away.
Out of nothing, a stone pillar rose up from the floor.
"Dad, come look at this. It's really amazing." G said excitedly as he hurried to examine Paul's creation.
D stared with wide eyes at what Paul had accomplished with seemingly no effort.
D slowly got to his feet and walked to stand beside G. When D was finally able to find his voice, he turned and quietly asked, "How were you able to make something like this in less than a week of using magic?"
"That's not the best part. Touch it. It's solid." G said with a smile of pride for Paul's accomplishment.
"Touch? Do you mean that he created something real out of nothing?" D asked as he experimentally let his fingers drag across the tiny landscape.
"It's just a really simple spell to temporarily change the properties of matter. It's basic alchemy. No biggie." Paul explained.
"There's got to be a lot more to it than that or everyone who ever took alchemy would be doing the same thing." D said reasonably.
"All I can figure is that they must not have thought about doing it because it's such a simple spell that anyone could probably cast it."
"If it's really that simple then prove it by showing me how to do the same thing that you've just done." D said calmly.
"Okay." Paul said with a smile, happily accepting D's challenge.
"What do I do first?" D asked as he looked at the 'construct' more closely.
"I don't really have a 'first', there's kind of a lot of things going on at once, but they're all little things; really basic spells." Paul tried to explain.
"Okay. Just get me started." D said determinedly.
"I guess the first thing would have to be the basic 3D plotter spell from the numerology workbook." Paul said thoughtfully.
"While I'm probably familiar with the spell you're talking about, I can't be sure that it's exactly the same one and I certainly haven't memorized it."
"No problem." Paul said as he looked around.
"What are you looking for?" G asked when he noticed.
"Paper to write down the spell."
"I'll go get you some."
"No. Don't bother. I've got it covered." Paul said and looked beside the bed just as a large dark stone wall emerged from the ground.
"Oookay." G said slowly.
Paul got off the bed, then reached out and placed one finger on the smooth sheet of stone. As he did, glowing words began to appear.
"Here it is, but I'm leaving enough room for some of the other spells that we'll be using." Paul said simply.
D skimmed over the spell before looking at Paul and asking, "Where did you say that you got this spell from?"
"My numerology workbook. It was enchanted into the page to plot the 3D display of one of the spells." Paul said simply.
"When you say 'enchanted', does that mean that the spell itself wasn't printed on the page?" D asked carefully.
"No. But it took, like, a second to see through the enchantment to the spell. I guess from what Mrs. Cualla said that not everyone can see through enchantments like that." Paul said honestly.
"Okay. I'm familiar enough with the plotting spell to be able to use it, but to make it work, you have to give it coordinates to plot. Where did you come up with that?" D asked curiously.
"I made them up." Paul said simply.
"I just imagined what I wanted it to look like when I was done, then put in the coordinates that I imagined would make that happen." Paul said simply.
"I have a feeling that the entire landscape is going to be too much for me to create, so why don't you just give me the coordinates for the pillar. I want to see if I can recreate it." D said slowly.
"Yeah. Okay. But before you do that... well, I guess it's more like 'at the same time' you do that, you need to weave the Wizard's Light spell into the display properties. If you don't do that, all you're going to end up with are smooth looking geometric shapes."
"But the pillar looks real, it doesn't look like it's lighted." D said slowly.
"Oh, that! All I did was switch the luminosity properties to their reciprocal values so that instead of producing light they reflect it."
"To get this result, I'm guessing that you must have modified the Wizard's Light spell quite a bit."
"Well, I did a lot of stretching and skewing for the spell diagrams, so I had to do some heavy duty modifications for that. But for this, I just dumped most of the basic spell into the output properties of the 3D plotter. Here, I'll show you." Paul said as he touched his finger to the stone wall again and another portion of the wall began to fill with text.
After a moment to read it over, D slowly said, "So you established the plotter and modified the display to be made of wizards lights. Is that it?"
"Well, after that... okay, at the same time as that I also added an alchemy component into the Wizard's Light spell so that whatever was created would have substance, or at least seem to, because the air where anything was plotted would become solid." Paul said carefully.
"And did you say that they taught you this in Alchemy class?" D asked slowly.
"Not exactly. The teacher gave me a book to read and it mentioned that Alchemy can be used to magically alter the states of matter. I don't think it had the exact spells to do it written down, but there was enough in the description that I was able to put things together and make it work." Paul said frankly.
"Show me that." D said as he looked back to the stone wall.
Paul touched a finger to the wall and yet another enormous patch of text came into being.
"And you say that you intuitively deduced this from reading the first pages of your alchemy textbook?" D asked curiously.
"No, it wasn't the standard textbook. Mr. Hind gave me a more basic book to start off with so that I'll be well grounded in the concepts that I need to know when I finally am ready to start using the textbook." Paul said thoughtfully.
"So you were able to come up with this from a basic beginners book?" D asked dubiously.
Paul rolled his eyes, then slowly said, "All I'm doing is magically turning the gas in a plotted area into a solid. Or, in the case of the blue areas of the construct, a liquid. It's gotta be, like, the easiest first step thing in Alchemy."
"G, can you turn air solid?" D asked his son.
"I don't know. I never tried. I could probably do it using this spell." G said as he looked at the written out text.
"Go ahead." D challenged.
"I can't do it right now. I'd have to go through it a few times to get the balances right and make it all work together." G said slowly.
"Is that all? You're simultaneously doing the plotting, Wizard's Light and alchemy spells. Is that everything?" D asked cautiously.
"For the pillar, yeah. When you get into the display on top, then you have to add in some more coordinates for the plot and figure in all the different colors." Paul said frankly.
"So all that's left is the coordinates for the pillar, right?"
"Yes." Paul said, then touched the stone wall and the coordinates appeared.
"So now I have everything I need to perform the spell."
"Yeah. I think that's it."
"If I'm understanding you right, the alchemy is embedded in the Wizard's Light, which is embedded in the 3D plotting spell. Is that right?"
"I guess. I kinda do them all at once, but if you were going to do them all in a row, that'd be the way to do it."
"Can you reorganize the spell that you have written down to show everything in its proper place?" D asked hopefully.
Paul nodded, then glanced at the large stone wall. Portions of the text vanished and reformed, embedding themselves in the proper places. D made note that Paul wasn't even touching the stone wall at this point, he was doing every bit of his text manipulation internally.
"I think that should work." Paul finally said.
"Okay. I'm going to try it." D said, then raised his hands and began to do the gestures that accompanied the spell.
As he did so, he started the invocation, giving the spell parameters.
Paul and G watched as D went on and on, gesturing and speaking in a tightly controlled voice.
Occasionally, G would look at the stone wall and follow along with what his father was doing.
Although D had never been one to shy away from performing magic in front of his son, he had also never gone out of his way to make a point of it.
G knew that his father was powerful, but it seemed strange to him to watch his father casting a difficult spell.
Paul slowly nodded as D finished with the alchemy elements of the spell which led into the Wizard's Light.
G turned his attention downward, where the spell was focused, but had yet to see any indication of anything taking shape.
D continued on and on, accustomed to keeping a particular pace when spellcasting.
G looked over at the other stone pillar that Paul had created and was just beginning to realize how much of an accomplishment that it really was.
A change in his father's tone of voice made G look back to what he was doing.
There was still nothing manifested, but he recognized that his father was beginning to add the positioning coordinates to the plotting spell, thereby nearing the end.
G watched and waited for what was going to happen.
In a sudden sucking ::whoosh:: of air, a stone pillar started to rise from the floor.
G noticed that it wasn't exactly the same as the stone pillar that Paul had created. The 'stone' was significantly less detailed, although made with the same general pattern and color.
When D was finally done with his spellcasting, G could tell that his father had put forth a genuine effort. D looked drained.
"Easy peasy, huh?" Paul said reluctantly, obviously knowing that D had proven his point.
"I'll agree with you that you're using the lowest of low level spells... except perhaps the alchemy. But the way that you're combining them is not only ingenious, but also increases their complexity to a measurable degree. Doing that simple stone pillar was challenging for me and it was nowhere near as complex as the manifestation you're doing for your project." D said seriously.
"Okay. It's complex, but it isn't because of magic. I mean, the spells being combined like they are take almost no magic at all. What makes them difficult is all the technical stuff." Paul explained.
"Yes. I'll agree with that." D conceded.
"I guess from the summoning that I saw my mom do, that I must have a talent for doing a lot of technical stuff, all at once. It's in my blood. So it seems to me like I should play to my strengths and even though I haven't figured out how to do any really challenging spells yet, I can still do these flashy things to get good grades."
"As long as you don't rest on your laurels and try to coast on the talent that you've inherited, I have no problem with that." D said slowly, then added, "But don't get the idea that because you can do multiple low-level spells simultaneously that you don't need to learn the more challenging spells. Your growth as a witch depends on it."
"I think I'm ready." G said, interrupting their conversation.
"For what?" Paul asked curiously.
"I've come up with a skin. Do you want to see it?" G asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I bet it's going to be great." Paul said with a smile.
D nodded at his son then turned his attention to Paul's original construct.
"Remember, I've still got to do a lot of detail work. This is just my first try." G warned.
"Go ahead. We don't expect it to be perfect." D assured him.
G nodded anxiously, then made a dramatic lifting gesture.
As he did, Paul's 'construct' transformed, ever so slightly. The little cubist landscape scene took on a feel of reality as colors blended and corners smoothed out.
"G! That's fantastic!" Paul enthused.
"Using your ability in concert with your brother's seems to be a perfect pairing." D said as he stepped closer to admire the tranquil scene of beauty.
"Well, this is really just kind of a 'sleeve' that uses the coordinates that Paul established. I haven't really done much of anything to it. Right now it's all smoothing and blending."
"Before you do anything else, remember that you're going to have to do all of this in its long form when we present it. The more complicated you make it, the longer it's going to take." Paul warned.
"To be honest, I wouldn't change a thing." D said frankly.
"I don't know. It just feels like a cheat to only do this much. It feels like I'm going to be riding on the coattails of the rest of the team." G said anxiously.
"If you can think of some improvements to make, by all means, make them. Just be sure that whatever detail you add doesn't detract from the overall image. I'm certain that what you've done here will be sufficient for you to get the grade." D said firmly.
"Okay. I have a few ideas of things that I might be able to do to improve the overall appearance, but if it's going to take too long or take away from everything else, I'll drop it." G said decisively.
"Can I come in?" Beth asked from the doorway.
"Sure. We're just showing Dad what we've been working on in school." G said happily as he gestured toward their project.
"That's beautiful!" Beth gasped as she approached.
"Paul and I did it." G said proudly, then quickly added, "It's not finished yet."
"It's like one perfect moment, frozen in time." Beth whispered.
G looked at her curiously, then slowly said, "Maybe that's what I can do to make it more 'real'."
"What do you mean?" Paul asked curiously.
"Give me a second." G said as he closed his eyes.
After a long silent moment, Beth turned to Paul and quietly said, "About before... I never intended for you to be hurt."
"I know." Paul assured her.
"I just thought that if I were to introduce you to a heavenly realm, then you could see if you had any negative reaction to it, so you'd know what you needed to watch out for in the future." Beth tried to explain.
"Yeah. I think we've got that answer." Paul said frankly.
"Do you think that Paul might also be susceptible to holy objects?" D asked curiously.
"No. At least, not the typical ones. I suppose that if someone had a physical artifact from the divine realm that it would probably harm Paul. Then again, such a thing would probably degrade to nothing within a matter of days. Divine matter can't exist in this world." Beth said thoughtfully.
"I'll have to take your word for it." D said frankly, then explained, "I've never had much cause to deal with the divine or the demonic, so I don't really know much about it."
"Yes. I've noticed that most people who don't have an ability that forces them to take notice would prefer to pretend that such things don't exist." Beth said thoughtfully.
"Okay, I think I'm ready." G said, causing the others in the room to look at him.
"With what?" D asked cautiously.
"Something that I can do to really contribute to the project. Smoothing it out is nice and everything, but... just watch." G finished determinedly, then made a grand lifting gesture toward the construct.
As everyone looked at the tiny landscape scene, they saw it shimmer slightly, but the change was so subtle that none of them could pinpoint exactly what it was.
Paul leaned in closer and once again appreciated the look of the construct, both his work and G's.
As he was watching, he saw the tiniest motion and his eyes tracked to the movement.
The thing was so small that it took a moment for Paul to be able to identify it, but finally he realized that what he was seeing was a single leaf falling off one of the trees.
Once he realized that, he backed away slightly to take in the entire spectacle at once.
He hadn't originally noticed the slightest little waves on the lake or the miniscule movement of imaginary wind in the trees.
"I see it." Beth whispered.
"G, remember what I said about not getting too detailed?" D asked seriously.
"Yeah." G said cautiously.
"Forget it. This is amazing. Don't just do enough to get the grade. Make it right." D said firmly.
"Okay Dad." G said happily.
"The baby has informed me that it's time for us to eat. The rest of you are invited." Beth said as she reluctantly turned her attention away from Paul and G's project.
"I think baby will enjoy his or her meal more if big brother is there to share it." G said decisively.
"Brothers." Paul corrected.
"Daddy should be there too." D said with a loving smile at his wife.
"Do you need to put all of this away before we leave?" Beth asked as she looked around.
Paul glanced at the project, then asked, "Do you want to undo your part first?"
"Yeah." G said as the beautiful scene before them suddenly became pixelated.
"I don't remember it looking this bad before." Paul said honestly.
"At least there's no doubt that G is actually contributing something of value to your group project." D said reasonably.
"Yeah. He made my 8-bit masterpiece into something that you might actually want to look at." Paul said frankly.
"Baby... Hungry... Remember?" Beth asked impatiently.
"Right." Paul said with a grin, then withdrew his magical flow to both the 'project' and the stone wall that he had been using as a chalkboard.
In the blink of an eye, they both evaporated into nothing.
Beth looked at the remaining pillar, then at Paul expectantly.
"I didn't make that one." Paul stated simply.
When Beth glanced at G, he shook his head.
"After all I went through to create it, I kind of hate to let it go." D said frankly.
"We can make another one together, whenever you want." Paul promised.
"I think I'd like that." D said with a smile.
"So would I." Paul said honestly.
After one last look at his accomplishment, D withdrew his power and let his magical construct release in a puff of air.
"Let's go feed baby." D said as he walked to Beth's side and gently put an arm around her.
Paul and G followed along, wearing matching smiles.
* * * * *
"Ham and eggs for dinner?" Paul asked with surprise.
"Would you rather have something else?" D asked as he settled into his place at the table.
"No! This is great! I just never thought that someone as rich as you would have breakfast for dinner." Paul rushed to explain.
"We probably wouldn't be having a meal like this if we were having company over. But part of being rich means that you can have the things you want when you want them." D finished with a smile.
"As long as you're not a brat about it when you have to eat something that you're not in the mood for." G added helpfully.
"That's right." D said with a loving smile at G. "We've had a few discussions about that over the years."
"When you're used to getting your own way, it can be hard to understand that you aren't automatically entitled to everything you want... at least, it was for me. I still have times when I assume that the world will bend to my will, no matter how childish it happens to be." G said regretfully.
"It's a rich kid thing. I think you've done pretty well at getting past it, especially in comparison to some of your peers." D said frankly.
"Yeah. Seeing how spoiled and snotty other people can be helped to wake me up and realize that I didn't want to be that way." G admitted.
"I haven't noticed a problem, so you must be doing alright." Paul interjected.
"So Paul, you mentioned earlier that you had another project that you needed to work on. Is it something big?" D asked curiously.
"I just have to do a little alchemy research for a project in Basic Magic. We're making a charm."
"Your teacher has you making a charm on your first week in class?" D asked with surprise.
"Yeah. Since I can see through the enchantments, Mrs. Cualla wants me to learn how the charms work... from the inside out, I guess."
"It sounds like quite a leap, but as long as you're comfortable with it, I suppose that I can trust that your instructor knows what she's doing." D said thoughtfully.
"Yeah. I'm just glad that she's not forcing me to learn a bunch of stuff that I can know just by looking. I think the class is going to be interesting."
"It sounds like you had a pretty good day." Beth said with a smile at her son.
"That's not even the best! When I got to Wizardry class, I got to do a summoning!" Paul said happily.
"They had you do a summoning on your second day?" D asked cautiously.
"Yeah. Since I'd already shown that I could make a decent spell diagram, Mr. Gilbert said that it would be okay if I tried to do an actual summoning."
"And you were able to manage to do that today?" Beth asked cautiously.
"Yeah. I mean, it's not like it was a hard one. Everything was written down for me. All I had to do was follow along with the book." Paul said earnestly.
"Paul, there are Wizards who prepare for a summoning for weeks before attempting it." Beth slowly explained.
"Yeah. I understand that, but this was a really simple summoning spell. It was nothing compared to the spell that you used."
"Still, it does seem a bit fast." Beth said honestly.
"I tell you what, if you want, I can show you the spell after dinner. It's really super simple." Paul said reasonably.
"Yes. I'd be interested to see what you can do." Beth said slowly.
"So would I." D said honestly.
"Okay." Paul said, committing himself to the endeavor.
"This potato dish is great! We should have it more often. What's it called?" G asked, interrupting the conversation.
After a long moment of silence, Beth looked down at her plate, then up at G and finally responded, "Fried."
* * * * *
When the meal was finished, the family moved into the parlor, prepared to see Paul's demonstration.
"I have all my supplies in here if you need anything." Beth said gently.
"No. I've got it." Paul said simply as he waited for the others to be seated.
Once he was sure that everyone was settled, Paul decided that since he was at home with his family he didn't need to go through the motions of putting on a show.
The floor in front of Paul began to glow with a pentagram surrounded by a circle.
Text began to appear in the different sections of the diagram and five balls of fire sprang into being.
"Ginh Zah, Mah Zah. I summon you. Come forth." Paul said aloud in a clear firm voice.
Two furry little creatures with the sweetest tiny faces and the biggest most soulful eyes appeared in the middle of Paul's summoning circle.
"See? Simple." Paul said frankly.
The kitten and the puppy both started raising a ruckus with yipping, yapping, hissing and spitting.
"I didn't mean you. I meant the spell I used to summon you." Paul said with playful aggravation.
The puppy and kitten quieted at his words.
"Wait. I thought you summoned demons, not puppies and kitties." G said slowly.
"They are demons. I just asked them to shapeshift into these forms when they're on our plane of existence." Paul explained as he made a sweeping gesture and the spell diagram disappeared.
"You asked them to shapeshift?" Beth asked suspiciously.
"Yeah. They're my familiars." Paul said calmly.
Beth shook her head, then said, "Paul, summoning familiars requires a lot more than a summoning diagram. You have to earn trust and make a pact. There's absolutely no way you could have done that in the past twenty-four hours."
"Mom, if you had a familiar and wanted it to become mine and take care of me, the pact you made would transfer to me. That's what happened here. Ginh Zah and Mah Zah have sworn their loyalty to a demon, whose name they've told me but asked me not to repeat. That demon instructed them to be my familiars. We have a magical pact that binds us together from this point forward. Their former master can no longer command them."
"Paul. You can't possibly realize how dangerous this is." Beth warned him.
"Um, it's magic. From what I've seen so far, all of it's dangerous." Paul said frankly.
"For what is given, something is taken. That's how magic works. Look at what you've just been given." Beth said soberly.
"Or was it what was taken from me the past fifteen years?" Paul asked defensively.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Beth asked warily.
"I don't know. Okay? Maybe it's because of my dad. Maybe it's because of your dad. Maybe it's because of someone I don't even know about who wants to help me out and get me on the right track now that I know about the witch stuff. But what was taken was fifteen years of my life that I could have known about who and what I was."
"Paul, whatever you were given or denied is entirely my fault. No one else owes you anything. I am responsible; one hundred percent. This 'gift' may have some very nasty strings attached."
"Or it may not." Paul countered.
"I know that this is, like, none of my business, but if Paul didn't accept them, would they still be his familiars?" G asked cautiously.
"Yes. Under the terms of the pact, they would be, but Paul would be within his rights not to summon them." Beth said firmly.
"So, by your logic, if Paul didn't summon them, he'd still have the same 'gift' and the same obligation, right?"
"I suppose that's one way of looking at it." Beth grudgingly agreed.
"Is there another way?" G asked curiously.
"At some future time, Paul's gratitude for this 'gift' might cause him to assume motives that aren't real and open himself to being manipulated."
"Like that couldn't happen anyway. When the nice man in the van offers you some free candy, you've got to be smart enough to do what's right. With or without the familiars, Paul's going to face the same decisions." G said thoughtfully.
The puppy started yipping and barking, drawing all attention to him.
"Yes. This is G. He's my alpha." Paul responded to the puppy with a smile.
The puppy gave an excited little 'yip', then ran across the floor, ending up at G's foot.
"What's that all about?" G asked curiously.
"Mah Zah likes you. She's still my familiar, but she's decided that since you're my mate and you'll fight to defend me, that she would like to focus her attention on protecting you while Ginh Zah protects me." Paul said tenderly.
"What should I do?" G asked as he looked at the puppy trying to climb his leg.
"Try scratching her behind the ear." Paul said with a smile.
"Just remember what I've told you. This 'gift' could be used as leverage at some future time. Don't accept that this is what it appears to be on the surface." Beth warned.
"Got it, Mom." Paul said simply.
A tiny pitiful 'meow' sounded and Paul couldn't help but smile.
"Come on up here, Ginh Zah. Tell me about how things went with your friend." Paul said as he scooped up the little kitten and held her to his chest.
* * * * *
Paul sat with Gihn Zah and talked with her quietly while G enjoyed petting and cuddling Mah Zah.
Beth and D sat together enjoying a peaceful moment, watching the scene with matching contented smiles.
"Mom, I was wondering about something." Paul said quietly as he looked up from petting the kitten.
"What was that?"
"At the wedding, you were able to summon demon imps without a summoning diagram. How'd you do that?"
"That was sort of an emergency."
"I know. That's why I'm asking. Someday, I might have an emergency too."
"Listen, the technique that I used was something that I had prepared for years ago but never really intended to use. Now that I've used it, trust me when I tell you that this is one of those things that is a lot better in theory than in practice."
"But when things went wrong, you were able to use it when it really mattered. If you hadn't been able to summon demons at the wedding, things might have gone a whole lot worse."
"I don't have those spells anymore, so I can't give you any details anyway. But basically, many years ago I placed reverse summoning diagrams on each of the imps so that I could activate them and call upon them in an emergency."
"Like an enchantment?"
"More like a tattoo."
"But how would that even work? Doesn't the summoning diagram have to be big enough for the demons to pass through?"
"Yes and no. Having an adequate sized portal is the humane way of summoning." Beth said gravely.
"So you sucked the imps through a pinhole from their realm into ours?"
"More of a keyhole, but yes. The pain that it must have caused them had to have been beyond description." Beth said grimly.
"But when they got here, they fought for you." Paul said slowly.
"I'm a demon summoner, no matter how injured they were, they were still bound to follow my commands."
Gihn Zah looked up at Paul and meowed sternly.
Paul looked at her for a moment, then softly responded, "Yeah. If you were in danger, I'd want to be able to help you too."
"Leaving that aside, the magic needed to perform that type of summoning is... problematic. Basically, if I hadn't been afraid for all our lives, I wouldn't have been able to activate the reverse summoning spells."
"But I still don't understand how you could do that at all. I mean, how could you breach their realm to activate their reverse summoning spells without your own summoning diagram in this realm?"
"When I cast the 'tattoo' spell on the imps, I cast a similar spell on myself. I have a spell diagram embedded in my flesh. I can open enough of a doorway into their realm to call on them, activate their reverse summonings and draw them through to me."
"Can I see it?"
"It's magical. It isn't visible to the naked eye."
"I can see the spells embedded in my numerology book and the spells on charms. I can probably see your diagram too."
Beth held her left hand out to her son, so that he could examine the back of it.
Paul looked at her hand for a moment, then slowly asked, "Vrezixus?"
"You can see it?" Beth asked with surprise.
"Yeah. When you were done with your imps, did you send them back there?" Paul asked curiously, remembering that he had been otherwise occupied at that time.
"Later that night, I did. But, of course, I returned them with a full sized diagram."
Gihn Zah meowed, then continued with a long murmuring growl as Paul listened carefully.
Finally, Paul looked away from the kitten and asked, "What about 'lending' magic? Do you know anything about that?"
"That's a very dangerous technique. Not only does it have the capacity of being misused, but it also leaves you completely vulnerable, since your own magic is tied into the spell and completely out of your control."
Paul slowly nodded as he considered his mother's answer.
"As much as I would love to stay in here with all of you, the fact of the matter is that I still have quite a bit of work to do." D said regretfully.
"Thanks for coming to help me when you did. It really means a lot to me." Paul said quietly.
"I may not be around you every minute of the day, but I'll try to always be there when you need me." D said as he got up from the couch.
"If you ever need me, I'll be there for you too." Paul said earnestly.
"Don't forget, we've got our own stuff to do." G reluctantly whispered.
"Yeah. I have the feeling that if we let ourselves get behind, we'll never get caught up." Paul agreed.
"What do you want to do about..." G trailed off as he looked down at Mah Zah, curled into a ball in his open palms.
"We'll take them with us. I'll send them home before we go to bed."
"Paul, I can tell that you're thinking about the reverse summoning tattoo spell. There's no way that I'll be able to stop you if you're determined to do it. But before you take that step, keep in mind that if you decide to go through with it and ever have to use it, you'll hate yourself for it. I can promise you that."
"Okay Mom. I'm listening to you."
"Good." Beth said seriously, then gently added, "In case I don't see you again tonight, have a good sleep."
"You too, Mom." Paul said with a smile at her.
After the somewhat tense back-and-forth, it pleased him to know that they were still on good terms.
* * * * *
"What are you working on next?" G asked as they walked back to G's room.
"I've got to do some alchemy research to see if we can convert potential energy the same way we convert manifested energy, like fire. If I can find a way to make that work, then I have to dig into the basic magic book and see if I can get any clues on binding the energy and the spell to the charm."
"It sounds like you're not sure if you can do it."
"From the little bit I've learned about how things work, it seems like there should be a way, but I can't be sure that I'll find it." Paul said frankly.
"Remember that if you get stuck really bad, you can always ask our parents. Even if they don't know the answers, they might have some different ideas of where to look for them."
"I probably wouldn't have thought to ask them for help, but if I can't find what I'm looking for, it might come down to that." Paul said thoughtfully, then asked, "Are you going to be working on Lex tonight?"
"Yeah. I've only got until Friday and I've still got a long way to go before he's ready."
"I may need to get into the online library later. If you're going to be busy, maybe you could set me up now."
"Sure. Do you want it on my computer or the laptop?"
"The laptop. I don't think I'll be using it for anything else, so that leaves your computer free for whatever else either of us might need it for."
"What about these guys?" G asked as he indicated the puppy that he was still holding.
"You can keep holding her or put her down. Whatever works best for you."
"I think I'll try holding her. Maybe she'll inspire me."
Gihn Zah meowed and Paul immediately responded, "I'll tell you all about what I'm doing as soon as the computer's set up."
* * * * *
"You know how you were asking your mom those questions about her summoning."
"Yeah. Maybe I coulda been nicer to her."
"I think you were fine, but you asking those questions got me to thinking, how did you summon a demon at the wedding without a spell or a summoning circle?"
"I don't know." Paul answered honestly.
"But now that you're learning what a demon summoner does and how things work, can't you look back on that, at what you did, and see something more now?"
"Not really." Paul said slowly, then explained, "Doing the diagrams and weaving the spells is nothing like what I did at the wedding. The magic that I used... it felt like I magically punched a hole in reality and broke through to a hell dimension and I'm not talking about one of the nicer ones either, like where Gihn Zah and Mah Zah come from."
"So there are a lot of different hells. I kinda always thought that there was just the one."
"I learned a little bit about that while I was looking for Gihn Zah and Mah Zah's realm, but I don't know everything. From what I could make of it, there are a bunch of different layers of reality. Some are flooded with bright energy, some are flooded with dark and just a few are like this plane, with only slight occasional influences of either type of energy. The dark realms are collectively called hell and the bright realms are heaven."
"And when your mom opened that portal tonight, you found out that you can never go to heaven. How do you feel about that?" G asked cautiously.
"I think you're looking at it like 'good and evil'. They're just two different realms with competing and incompatible types of energy. My dad was a demon so I guess it's no surprise that I have demonic energy in me. When I tried to enter a celestial plane, my flesh and blood was incompatible with the energy of that realm and... you saw what happened. I guess the same thing would probably happen if someone from a heavenly realm tried to enter a hell dimension." Paul said thoughtfully.
"Are there any half-angels running around?" G asked curiously.
"They're called Nephilim, but I don't know if any exist today. I don't see any reason why there wouldn't be." Paul said honestly.
"How's your project going?"
"I'm not sure. I've come up with a few things, and they seem like they should work but I really don't have any way of trying them out. You don't happen to know any thaumaturgy binding spells, do you?"
"No. I don't have any talent for that, so I never learned any of their spells."
"Well, whether I have talent or not, I need to find a way to regulate the flow of magical energy to fuel the spell or this will burn out about two seconds after I cast it."
"That's not something I've ever had to worry about. Although from what I've heard there are some advanced sorcery spells that can be made permanent, so that the illusion stays even after you leave, I've never had to power any of my spells with anything but my own magic."
"Does that mean that you could make it so that Lex could hang around here while we're at school and stuff?"
"Maybe. I'm not sure what you have to do to make an illusion permanent. Something like that's a long way away from where I am right now."
"Yeah. Just about everything is like that for me." Paul said frankly, then asked, "Are you ready to give it a try?"
"Yeah." G said reluctantly, then took a long slow inhale to brace himself before adding, "Well, here it goes."
Paul watched as 'Lex' came into being.
This time, Lex looked quite a bit more human.
He wasn't an exact duplicate of G. In fact, no one with eyes would ever mistake one for the other. But much to G's credit, Lex looked quite a bit more real than he had the day before. If Paul were to run into Lex while walking down the street, he wouldn't give him a second look as being anything other than an ordinary person.
"There's still a long way to go." G said as he walked around Lex and looked at him critically.
"He looks good." Paul said gently.
"He looks generic." G countered.
Paul thought about that as he looked at Lex, then said, "Okay. Maybe he does look generic. But he looks like a real live human being. He doesn't look like he's a gargoyle or even a mannequin. Even though he's not completely finished, he's a lot better than he was yesterday."
"Okay. I'll agree with that." G slowly conceded, then asked, "Do you have anything to show from all the work you've been doing?"
"No. This is for a project in my Basic Magic class. It's something that I'm working on with a partner so I won't be able to try any of this out until we get together again on Thursday." Paul said frankly.
"What classes do you have tomorrow?"
"Let me see." Paul said as he took out his schedule. "Tech, Myth, Gym and Astro... After the classes I've had so far, I don't want to even guess at what they're actually going to be teaching." Paul said honestly.
"Are you scheduled for Tech 1 or Tech 2?"
"Then that probably means that you have little or no talent for technological magic. Tech 1 is to teach you how to use the high-tech magic tools that the techno-mages come up with."
"Oh. I really would have liked to have learned to combine magic with electronics and stuff. But I guess that I can't be good at everything."
"From what I hear, there aren't many people who make it to Tech 2. There probably aren't more than five in any given school year."
"I bet they must get paid all kinds of crazy money if they're that rare."
"I guess so. I know that Dad depends on the tech guys a lot and he bends over backward not to waste their time." G said frankly, then thought to add, "If you have Gym, you're going to need gym clothes."
"I thought that going to witch school would be different from the hell of regular school."
"I've never been to a regular school, so I don't know what your gym class there was like. But I can't imagine any way that it could be anything like our gym class." G said frankly.
"I guess I'll just have to wait and see." Paul relented, then asked, "Do you have some stuff I can borrow?"
"Yeah. Are you done studying for the night?"
"No, there's still another chapter that I need to go through in my basic magic book before I call it a night. So I'd better get back to it."
"Yeah. Remind me and I'll get you some gym clothes when we stop for the night. Right now, Lex looks like he still needs more attention."
"Has Mah Zah been any help?"
"Yeah. Actually, I think she was a good source of inspiration for me."
"Gihn Zah has been helping to keep me on task." Paul said seriously, then added in a conspiratorial whisper, "She's kind of a hard ass."
The kitten meowed in offense at his words.
Paul turned to her and said, "Well, you are."
* * * * *
Paul couldn't get over the sense of tranquility that he received from something as simple as having a morning routine to follow. Fortunately, G had remembered their conversation the night before and prepared a gym bag.
The ride in the school van cuddled beside G was just what Paul needed to give him a sense of security about the coming day. Knowing that he had G's support allowed Paul to face each new challenge confidently.
As they entered the magical hallway, they realized that their first classes were in opposite directions.
Paul walked to his locker, then performed the reverse of the lock spell to release the locker from its magical protection. Next he performed the 'foreign' spell to pop the physical lock.
As he was stacking his excess books and gym bag in the locker, he thought about how he might be able to modify the locking spell to be more convenient.
As he was about to close the locker door, he changed his mind. He scooted everything away from the back wall, then he stopped for a moment to touch one finger to the back of the locker.
The text of a spell along with an eight pointed diagram appeared on the back of the locker. Paul didn't have time to linger. He closed the locker door, then enacted his newly modified version of the locking spell.
Confident that he had everything that he needed, he hurried away to his next new class.
* * * * *
"Hello. My name is Paul Darroch and I'm starting in this class today." Paul said to the youngish looking teacher at the front of the room.
"It's nice to meet you Paul. My name is Nedrick Plaven. Please feel free to call me Ned, but you can call me Mr. Plaven if you absolutely can't force yourself to see me as a person."
"It's nice to meet you, Ned." Paul said sincerely.
"Good." Mr. Plaven said with satisfaction, then turned to look at his computer.
Paul waited as Mr. Plaven seemed to be absorbed in whatever he was reading.
"So, can I assume from your recent change in status that you've just learned about magic?"
"Yes sir... Ned."
"According to the testing, it seems that you don't show any tell-tale signs of a techno-mage ability. Tell me, what is it that you hope to get out of this class?"
"A passing grade." Paul said weakly.
"Well, that's not encouraging, but I suppose that it's honest."
"I really don't know exactly what it is that you do in here, so I don't have any idea of what I should be working toward."
"Better." Mr. Plaven said with a smile, then continued, "Techno-mages work to combine the benefits of magic and technology. In this class, we try to familiarize students with the magical tools available to them in the twenty-first century."
"That sounds really great. I've been working on a report for the past couple days and it felt like, with magic, that there should be a lot easier way to do things."
"Really? Tell me about it."
"Well, since I can use magic to write as fast as I can think, it seemed like typing was the long, slow way."
"How so? Come around here and show me on my computer." Mr. Plaven said as he stood from his chair.
"Um, okay. But do you have a piece of paper I can use to show you the difference?"
Mr. Plaven took one step and pressed a button. The printer beside his desk immediately ejected a single sheet of paper.
After placing the paper on the desk, Paul slowly said, "Okay. Here's a simple alchemy spell."
He touched one finger to the edge of the paper and it filled with writing.
"If you really want me to, I can start typing that in on the computer, but it's probably going to take me at least five minutes. Do you see my problem?" Paul asked seriously.
"So you're using some sort of thought transference spell in lieu of writing?" Mr. Plaven asked cautiously.
"It's a standard spell from the numerology workbook. I just modified it a little so I could use it wherever I wanted to." Paul said honestly.
"Do you happen to have the spell where you can get to it? I'd like to see it."
Paul touched his finger to the piece of paper again. The page of writing cleared and an entirely different spell took its place.
"Like I said, it's just a really simple spell. But it's a whole lot easier to use than writing everything out longhand or typing it."
"Yes. I can see what you're saying."
"So, are there any techno-mage things like that for typing things into the computer? Or is it just my wishful thinking?" Paul asked cautiously.
"Paul, have you discussed this idea of yours with anyone else?"
"You mean using the spell from the numerology textbook? Yeah, I talked to a few people about it."
"Not that. I mean the idea of modifying this spell to work as an input method on a computer."
"No. I didn't think about it until I was talking to you."
"Give me just a moment..." Mr. Plaven said as he sat down at his computer and began typing.
Paul waited, not knowing what Mr. Plaven seemed to be so excited about.
He glanced over his shoulder at the classroom and found that everyone seemed to be engrossed in working on their own projects and didn't seem to take any notice of him at all.
"You probably don't know this, but one of the things that techno-mages do is create new magical technological tools to make people's lives easier. When one of us comes up with an original idea, we have a registry, something like the patent office, where we catalogue those ideas. If a new idea results in a new technology, then the person who came up with it will be compensated for it. Basically, that person holds the patent."
"Yeah." Paul said slowly, not seeing how that had anything to do with anything.
"I've just submitted your idea... under your name, of course. It may take a few days for the people at the bureau to determine if your idea is truly original, but if they determine that it is, then you'll reap the reward if your idea is ever developed."
"Okay. So I don't have to do anything?"
"Well, I suppose that since you've come up with such an interesting idea that you might decide to develop it yourself. If you can come up with a practical way to make it work, then that would make it that much more likely that you will see some financial reward from it."
"But you said that I don't have any techno-mage ability."
"You have a brain. Use it. If you need to incorporate magic into a mundane piece of technology, just ask and I'll be happy to help you with it. This is actually what this class is all about; learning to use magic and technology to its best advantage."
Paul slowly nodded.
"I'll let you in on a little secret, if you promise not to spread it around." Mr. Plaven said quietly as he leaned closer.
"The people in the second tier of the techno-mage class may have magical talent for working with technology, but they couldn't come up with an original idea to save their lives."
"So they're not better than us?"
"No. They have a talent. You have a different talent. That's all."
"Okay. What do I need to do?"
"I assume that you're familiar with computers and their peripherals."
"I'm no guru or anything. I'm about average, I guess."
"That should be all you need for a while. Try a few things and see what you can make happen."
"But don't I get a textbook or something?" Paul asked cautiously.
"This isn't that kind of class. In here, if you come to me with an idea for a project and I judge it to be of merit, then I'll encourage you to work on it. Of course, if you come to me without any ideas, then I'll pick a project for you, like creating a sentient toaster or some other harmless thing."
"But what about grades and testing?"
"You're graded on the work you do. Every day is its own test." Mr. Plaven said seriously, then added, "Unless you have an even better idea, this is going to be your project for this class for the entire year. Whether or not you're able to bring it to fruition doesn't matter. What you're learning is how to take an idea and develop it."
"But the numerology spell is someone else's. I can't take credit for their work."
"Each of us stands on the shoulders of those who came before us. Credit will be given where credit is due, but don't let that hold you back from taking the magic and technology to the next level."
"Okay. I'll do it... except that I don't know what I'm supposed to do now."
"Do you see that workbench over there? Gather what you need from the supply room and start working on ways to make your magically altered input device. If you need my help, whether it be magical or just to brainstorm, all you have to do is ask."
"And I've got all year to work on this?"
"I've had one student complete eight projects in the course of a year. I've had others who haven't been able to finish one. You're here to learn how to develop your ideas. As long as you're doing that, you'll get the appropriate grade."
"Thank you, Ned. I understand."
* * * * *
When the class bell rang, Paul checked his schedule to see where his next class was located.
As luck would have it, the next class was practically across the hall.
He was one of the first to walk into the classroom and saw the teacher sitting behind his desk, reading.
"My name is Paul Darroch. I'm starting this class today." Paul said quietly, hesitant to interrupt.
The teacher slowly looked up from his book and asked, "Has anyone warned you about my class yet?"
"No sir. I haven't heard a thing about it." Paul said honestly.
The fiftyish pot-bellied man chuckled, then said, "I must be slipping."
Paul waited, not knowing what, if anything, he should say in response.
The man slowly stood, then offered his hand as he said, "It's nice to meet you Paul. I'm Franklin Cox. This class is called Mythology Studies, but it could just as well be called Ancient Religions or Historical Belief Systems. Whatever you call it, in this class we study what people have believed and speculate as to why that is."
"Do you just study this plane of existence or do you also cover the belief systems of other realms?" Paul asked curiously.
"What do you know about other realms?" Mr. Cox asked curiously.
"That they exist, mostly. I've heard that there's one of the hell dimensions that has a church... that's kind of a freaky concept." Paul said frankly.
"I tend to focus more on the historical belief systems of this realm. That alone is a topic so vast that it's hard to do it justice in a single school year."
"Yeah. It sounds really interesting. But I'd like to learn about the other realms too. Do you know of a website or a book or anything where I could find more information about that?"
"I think I can do you one better. Every six weeks I require a report to be submitted detailing the historical practices and belief structures of a different civilization." Mr. Cox said as he handed Paul a piece of paper.
Paul glanced at the paper and saw that it was a list of requirements for the report that Mr. Cox was talking about.
"If you would like, you may study the belief system of any civilization in any realm you choose and once you've decided on the realm, I will provide you references to appropriate resources."
"Thank you Mr. Cox. I'd really like that."
"Well, before you get too excited, there is also a lecture portion of the class. If you'll have a seat, I'm going to tell you a little story about the Aboriginal people and the development of their belief systems over time."
* * * * *
When the bell rang, Paul quickly looked at his schedule to confirm what he already knew. The location of his locker was exactly opposite the location of the gym, where his next class was being held.
Most of the other students had already left the room, and the last few still in the room were in the process of gathering their things to leave.
Paul flashed back on Nazzy's advice, 'Sometimes it's better to ask forgiveness than permission.'
In the air before him, Paul manifested an eight-pointed summoning diagram, which contained a reverse summoning diagram inside it. He knew that there was no way he could use the diagram to reach another realm since the spell for that was insanely complicated. But he was confident that he could use it to reach a few hallways over, creating a fully traversable portal to his locker."
As soon as the blurry gray distortion appeared, Paul reached through and grabbed his gym bag and replaced it with his backpack.
He dispelled the portal, then noticed that Mr. Cox was watching him.
"Sorry." Paul muttered shyly before dashing out of the room.
* * * * *
Although Paul wasn't sure exactly what they were going to be doing, he had been to enough gym classes to know that things would go best if he simply suited up before even checking in with the teacher.
When Paul walked into the locker room, he found everyone in various states of dress, changing into their gym clothes. Paul followed suit and no one seemed to take notice of him.
As everyone finished changing, they left the locker room, mostly as a group, and walked onto the basketball court.
Paul spotted the teacher and hurried over to introduce himself.
"Excuse me, sir. My name is Paul Darroch and I'm starting this class today." Paul said as he approached.
"Have they warned you about it yet?" The man asked with an evil grin.
"No. No one's warned me about anything." Paul said cautiously.
"Okay. First of all, my name is Spencer Tran. You can call me Spence or Coach, but please don't call me Coach Tran. It just sounds weird to me. Anyway... warnings. Let's see. Are you sure that no one's told you anything?"
"Not a word."
"Since you're starting in the middle of the school year, I'm guessing that you just found out about the whole magical world thing."
"Okay. Have you ever played dodgeball before?"
"Yeah. A few times. Until they outlawed it or something like that."
"Well, that's what we're playing today."
"Really? I kinda thought that witches... I don't know what I thought... I just didn't expect you to be playing dodgeball."
"The rules have been slightly modified and we do insist on common sense and good sportsmanship. You can't magically attack another player or destroy the ball. No spells that alter time or dimensions or warp reality outside the boundaries of the playing field are allowed. Besides that, have fun."
"So we can use our magic?" Paul asked in surprise.
"Yes. Use it to defend yourself, but also use it cleverly to overcome your opponents." The coach said with a sly smile.
"And besides all that, it's just the regular dodgeball rules?" Paul asked cautiously.
"Yes. Oh, and the boundaries of the playing field extend fifteen feet above ground and fifteen feet below... just in case that comes into play."
"Okay. I think I'm ready." Paul said as he looked around.
"Everyone! Take the court! We're about to begin."
To Be Continued...
Editor's Notes (1):
I love kittens and puppies.
Back in the 1970s there were a lot of 800 phone numbers, some of them had cute jokes and others had some serious things. There was an ad on the radio telling you to help kittens who needed a home. The Number was 1-800 Kittens. Well, with me being a curious soul, I wondered, since there was one for kittens, could there be one for puppies? I tried it, and boy did I get a surprise, since the numbers on the dial could be used with different letters. The number 7 can stand for p as in puppies r, q or s. Guess what was on the other end of that phone number.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
Editor's Notes (2):
I haven't even thought about dodge Ball in years, much like thinking about getting a tetanus shot, over and over for a whole class period,not something I would want to have repeat, ever.
I really liked the concept of combining tech and magic to be able to use both systems to improve the lives of everyone.
One of the few things I have found fault with the HP Universe as well as other fantasy stories is that the magic wielders either were completely unaware of how tech worked or the concept didn't exist there.
Ignoring tech in fantasy is as bad as "The Beverly Hillbillies never learning what modern life has to offer.
OK, soapbox mode ended.
Darryl AKA The Radio Ranch