( Prologue – Chapter 1 )
Five years later….
Matt sat in the metal chair, fairly certain he had been dead recently.
It was green, and the table his elbows were on matched it. A cool breeze flowed through rattling the little trees that lined the road. A beer, cold enough the bottle dripped condensation, and two asian-fusion tacos on a paper plate before him. A couple of people at the next table over. He was on Ash street, a few taco trucks around him. They used the parking lot like a shared dining area, a dozen little tables between the trucks.
He glanced back at the tacos, and then at the beer. Neither were his favorite, and there was too much weirdness in this situation to allow him to eat anyway. Besides that the tacos were covered in red sauce, Matt could almost feel the heat from them, a red dwarf staining the paper plate.
Instead he occupied his time trying to focus his magics. First the mage pulled enough power together to wipe a bit off the condensation off his beer. A streak, as wide as a finger, slowly appeared pushing the moisture off the bottle in one clean line. Next he pulled together a bit more power, banishing the cilantro on his taco into another realm. Or burning it off, he was not actually sure, but either way the tacos were now clear of the herb.
Patience was actually not Matt’s strongest virtue, so after about five minutes he was ready to ditch the table. He attempted to occupy himself by staring at his now ghostly pale arms, but after the initial annoyance faded, it really was not that interesting. Pulling a lock of his once dark brown hair down to his eyes, he discovered it was now a mild cream color. Nothing shiny enough to see his eyes in nearby, but he was betting on solid white. Even his jacket was a washed out gray.
Arm tattoos were properly colored, and in place. He pulled up his shirt to check for his tribute to Nice, ignoring the looks on the faces of the couple a table over. The ink was still half-inch above his waistband, and it looked better than he remembered. The only other really important one was his other piece for her. The rose on his neck, same one as all the Path, except the words. People got whatever words they wanted. Matt had chosen to match Nice’s tattoo, to match their dreams, and he had placed it over the first wound she stitched up for him.
“I was giving you time to eat.” A voice to his right said. Matt sighed, not recognizing the voice, but knowing the trick. He would look up, and there would be no one there. After he would glance back, and viola, a god in the empty seat. Knowing better than to attempt to just leave, and being out of other options he glanced up, then quickly cut his eyes to the now occupied seat.
“Not a fan of pork,” Matt said. He had expected the old woman, but a male sat in her place. The new god, or whatever was now giving him orders seemed comfortable on earthly territory, not something that could be said for all the deities he had known. Gray haired, and carrying an aged appearance, the being had light blue eyes, and was dressed as a mortal. Casual jacket, white shirt, and blue jeans.
“Well that’s a sad fucking story. Eat the tacos kid.” Removing a pouch of tobacco with a bright yellow label the man began rolling a cigarette, apparently his full concentration on the task. No scars on his hands, so Matt could at least tell he was not any sort of combat god, or if he was, he was powerful enough to never have felt a blades touch. Nothing particularly ethnic in his appearance, not enough to give away what pantheon he hailed from.
He looked mild mannered, and friendly. The mage distrusted him immediately, and deeply. The over-spiced food in front of him showed what type of god he was. Petty. Testing.
Matt picked up one of the tacos, and shoved half in his mouth at once, the spiced sweet pork filling blazing across his tongue, heat from the sugary red-pepper sauce causing his eyes to water. The god watched him close. Matt’s eyes were on his food, but he could feel judgement, a burn not unlike the heat from the food.
The mage finished the food fast as he could, letting the burn become him. After they were both gone he gave it a long moment before he took a sip of the light beer the being had provided.
“Washer usually has something a bit more celebratory,” Matt said. “Not judging, just saying.”
“Well that’s fantastic to hear. Good tacos here? Enough Kimchi, and sweet chili sauce for you?”
“Barely tasted it,” Matt said, eyes still watery. “Do they have an adult menu?”
The god had a pleasant laugh. Easy, and long, thrown into the air as if he meant to spread it around. “Cute, kid. Cute.”
“So you picking me up, or we got some business, gramps?”
“Irenail. Names Irenail. Not the family type.”
“Harry Anderson,” Matt said holding his hand out to the god.
“I just brought you back to life Matt.” His hand was ignored, probably a good move, as Matt would not have hesitated to put a mental whammy on him.
“Worth a shot,” he replied with a shrug. “Bring anyone else back lately?”
“Me? No, just you,” Irenail replied smiling. “Not the being who brings people back though, Matty.”
“My mom’s the only one who calls me that. Naughtwood, to sheisty gods, Matt to friends.”
“Not a god, Matt. Just a concerned citizen of the cosmos,” he said. Overusing his name. An attempt to breed trust, the mage knew.
“Naughtwood,” Matt said, as he stood. “I’m out, but you probably know how to get in touch with me.” He turned to leave, and made it all the way to the corner walking at a fast pace, before Irenail appeared in front of him. The god lit his cigarette as they walked, and offered Matt a drag. The mage declined, resisting the urge to explode the cigarette in the man’s face, and fly off.
“I can find you, if I need to,” Irenail continued the conversation, as if Matt had not just walked off. “Just a minutes sitting after a meal can be good you know. Relax, aid digestion.”
“I back for a reason?”
“There are no coincidences this big.” The god, or whatever he was, produced a newspaper from nowhere. He handed the paper to Matt, who stopped to look through it without a word.
The paper was the World, and he had seen a few issues in the past. At a certain library, in a small town. Local news on display. He was pretty certain of what he was going to find, and he was shocked it had garnered any sort of media attention. Stolen library books rarely made headlines. As it turned out, it was not the book, but the accompanying murders that had pulled the attention. Two staff members of the library, no actual position given, were killed after hours on Saturday. Nothing taken, no cause of death listed.
“And you just let it happen?” Matt asked.
“Not my job to intervene, in these sort of things,” Irenail said, his bored tone reflecting his words. “Not allowed to really.”
“But you’re allowed to drop me on earth, and send me out to do it?”
“Figured you had a vested interest,” the god said, as his face split into a smile. “You’re allowed to do what you want, no skin off my back. I was just answering an old prayer.”
“You’re sure it’s him?”
“Not sure of anything.” Irenail said then nodded at the wall behind Matt. “Just if you need it.” The mage stared at the god, refusing to turn, not giving him a chance to just -poof- away. Minutes passed, until a short blond women in a tan dress bumped into him. Just a blink of time, a mere flash to be sure she was human, and not stealing his wallet, then Irenail was gone.
“Fucking one side, albino fucking roadblock,” the blond muttered.
“Excuse me,” Matt said to her receding back.
As he glanced after her, he saw what Irenail had tried to distract him with. A 6-foot tall staff, straight as an arrow, and dark wood, leaned against the wall. One round amber jewel set in the crown.
Wrapping one hand around the staff he felt the power flowing through the weapon. Bouncing a little of his own into it, he felt the resonance pouring back into him. He pulled some power from the air, and combined it with his own. Stronger return than he expected. A buzz in the air, as he let the energy go without forming a spell. Another pull, and he pushed all the energy into the staff, feeling the creak under his hand as he fed the power into the wood.
Tearing a hole big enough for a mage of Matt’s power was fairly simple, he just swung his staff at the air in front of him. Enough power, and focus, just a hint of a controlled spell. It tore with the sound of a Universe ripping, which is a bit like when you’re on the other end of a cell phone being dropped down a flight of stairs, and then he jumped.
Landing on the outskirts of the Aerie, near Fryhel College, he promised himself some things. One, he would see Nice as soon as he was finished, tonight preferably. Two, he was done being the pawn.
“King me,” he said, then realized that was checkers. He had never been much for chess, or metaphors, so he just walked into the night. Not really a plan, but the start of one, playing in his head.
To be continued.
Well Chapter One posted. I’d really love to hear what you think.