Old World Magic Ch. 02byrhev©
Chapter 2 -- istruzione
"I could use magic like that?" I narrowed my eyes sensing there was a catch, there was always a catch. "What would I have to do?"
"Well," Adam said slowly, "You'd have to die." I didn't respond, just sat there, certainly I must have misunderstood him.
"You will have to die." he repeated. "Make no mistake, I mean exactly what I said. If you're going to do this," he pointed a finger at my chest, "Will die. Your wife will weep, your siblings will mourn your passing, and the world will know that Michael Gray is dead."
I paused and had no response. Not right away. What can you say at a point like that? I wasn't even sure what Adam was suggesting. But then he clarified as he retrieved his jeans and pulled them back up. "If you're going to become a magic user, you're going to have to become my apprentice. I'll need several months of your time, maybe a year. You're going to have to leave this ..." He paused and then finished straightening his clothing, something I started doing as well. Then making the 'air quotes' with his fingers, he continued, "LIFE of yours behind. So Michael Gray has to die."
"You mean..." I reasoned out what he was saying, over the shock of the initial words. "You want me to fake my death?" Adam smiled and nodded.
"Yes, it's the only way. Not only will we fake your death, but you're going to move out of this area. Out of the state. You need a break from the life you're living now, completely. Do you understand?"
I nodded numbly. I was simply stunned by all of the things that had happened in the last hour or two. Hell, I would be 39 in just over two weeks. It was the summertime, the sixth of June, 2009. My birthday was on the 22nd. A day that held less and less meaning in my life, but meant I was almost forty. I could understand what Adam was telling me. He wanted to pluck me out of my currently mundane and mildly miserable life and take me away. He wanted to make me a wizard like him. I had so many questions. "But what..." I began.
Adam cut me off with a wave of his hand. Even though this man looked like he was half my age, he had a commanding personality and for some reason I felt like one of my students and he was the teacher cutting me short. "Look," he said as he stood up and stretched. I followed his gaze across the field at where Maria, our recent conquest, was emerging from the woman's bathroom, now fully clothed and cleaned up, as if nothing had happened. "I know you have a million questions, and I can answer some of them, but not here. You are going to come back with me to my hotel in the city. We will have room service send up coffee, and I'll explain as much as I'm ready too at this point."
Now I had to cut in. "Renee and I live in a different part of the state. She and I drove here and I'm sure she's expecting to leave soon for home. I can't go with you to the city. It's an hour in the opposite direction from my home. My wife wouldn't go for that kind of thing."
Adam chuckled softly, "Don't you remember Mike? You and your wife already talked about this. She's going to drive home by herself and you're going to come with me. I promised I'd have you home by Sunday night."
I shook my head and stood up pacing away from Adam. No, I hadn't talked to my wife about that at all. That conversation never happened. Then I felt that strange fog settle on my brain again. My vision blurred for a fraction of a second. Again it wasn't a feeling I could describe, but the best I could do is when you look at an optical illusion and suddenly the view changes from one thing to another, the vase became two faces. I put a hand out on the edge of the dugout to steady myself.
Oh, yes, I had spoken with my wife about that exact thing, how had I forgotten that? I turned to say something to Adam, but he was grinning. "You remember now don't you?"
I nodded but then my cell phone chirped. I pulled it out and it was a text message from my wife. "Since you're getting home yourself tomorrow, I'm heading out tonight. See you when you get home."
"Ok dear, see you tomorrow, love you." I texted back. She didn't respond. I looked up at Adam. "Wait a second," I said, "When did I tell Renee that? I only just found out that you have answers for me. When would I have had a chance to talk to her?"
His grin widened and he tapped the side of his head, "Mentalist remember?" He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I sort of 'pushed' that thought into your head and your wife's. Saves us both time."
"Is that what that strange feeling was? You were controlling my mind? Is that why I felt so strange a moment ago?" I wasn't sure if I was angry or not, I felt like I should be, but I didn't think I was.
Adam seemed interested, "You felt it? Now that is interesting. People shouldn't be able to feel my suggestions. It should seem natural as if it's their own thoughts." He rubbed his chin for a moment and then muttered, "It must be because you're a latent mage. Interesting..."
I wasn't sure what he was talking about but I climbed out of the dugout of the baseball field into the dim evening light. I squinted into the dim, post sunset light trying to see clearly between the haze of the sodium parking lights and the purple sky. I saw my wife, Renee, loading some things into my SUV, then watched as she pulled out of the parking lot
Adam had followed me out of the dugout and he put a hand on my shoulder, "Let's go Mike, we've a lot to discuss."
- - -
The car ride and subsequent conversation in the hotel room was a whirlwind of fantastic information being fed to me by Adam. For the most part he talked, and I listened. I asked questions and he answered. Then he went into much greater detail about the answers. Sometimes the answers made no sense to me, being too mystical in nature. But I could tell that he was trying to keep them as simple as possible.
Adam and I had driven back to the city and then to a five star hotel. He drove a sleek, year old 2008 Jaguar XJ. The silver luxury automobile had sleek lines and smooth curves, but he mentioned how the 2009 model was much 'sleeker' looking. I'd never ridden in a car this nice and decided not to comment on it, fearing I'd say the wrong thing.
He parked his car in a long term storage garage, and handed the keys to an armed security guard that was working the entrance booth on our way out. From there we caught a cab to the hotel he was staying at. His hotel was a well known chain, five stars, some place fancier then I'd ever stayed. His room was a suite, and I suppose he planned it out, because there was a second bedroom off the main lounge in his suite. He informed me that it was for me, and that there was a few sets of clothing in shopping bags on the bed. I didn't know the names of the stores the bags came from, but something about their logo and the quality of the clothing told me that it was probably quite expensive.
I had changed into a pair of silk pajamas, but kept my cotton boxers on under them. I wasn't really a fan of silk, especially against my nethers. He'd ordered a late supper and two carafes of coffee, then excused himself to his bedroom to make a phone call in private.
We spent the next few hours talking about magic. Magic had always been a part of our world. Our ancestors knew about it, knew the power of magic, of faith, of the gods. But as our world 'evolved' the practice of magic became more and more deviant. Now most people thought of magic as slight of hand and Las Vegas performers. But magic and it's practitioners still existed in this world, they just had to hide.
"There are two types of magic that we can use," Adam explained to me, "There's obvious magic and subtle magic. Subtle magic is what I prefer, it's the kind of thing that you can't see, that doesn't fly in the face of reality. It's the kind of thing where people would easily dismiss it as their own thoughts or ideas, or chalk the effects up to luck or happenstance. The other type of magic is obvious, and I steer clear of it. Obvious magic is things like making fire out of thin air, or making something levitate."
He demonstrated briefly and held his hand out. A coffee carafe lifted off the serving cart and floated through the air to his open hand. He closed his hand around the handle and refreshed his coffee. He winced slightly and said, "That's obvious magic. But there's a problem with obvious magic. It creates a bigger backlash than subtle magic."
He explained how each magical spell that was cast flew in the face of 'reality' and that the more spells you cast, or the more obvious the spell was, the more 'backlash' the wizard created. He wasn't very clear on what this backlash could do, but it was obvious it wasn't good.
"See," he gestured to the coffee pot, "It wasn't too much backlash to suffer for me to levitate the coffee pot in front of you, because you already accepted that I'm a wizard. You expected me to do something like that. But if I had done that in front of a total stranger out of the blue, it would have hurt."
'Hurt' apparently was a subjective term and also hard for him to quantify, it could have been something as simple as a little muscle cramp, to something worse like a migraine or nose bleed. It got worse too, the more innocent people that witnessed obvious magic, the worse that reality would backlash against the wizard. That's why Adam's magic focused on subtle spells. His easiest and most effective spell, one he used quite a bit, was mind reading.
"It's a lot harder than you might think," he said, "It takes a lot of practice to figure out what the thoughts in a person's head might mean. But the upshot is that it generates almost no backlash. I can read people's thoughts all day long with little to no problems. Likewise if I give gentle 'pushes' to people, it's pretty safe. Subtle suggestions that they could think of as their own thoughts are very easy. For example Maria from earlier, remember?"
I nodded, it had been only a few hours ago since Adam had fucked the muscular hottie while she blew me. Adam explained, "She wasn't related to either of us. She was there with her boyfriend. But he had cheated on her a few months ago and she's been carrying it around ever since. She doesn't want to break up with him, but she has been holding it against him silently. She's been looking for an excuse to fuck around on him. So it was a very simple suggestion that I put in her head, 'come to the dugout with this guy and chat.' Then once we were alone, another simple suggestion, 'I want to suck this guy's dick.' Bam, these were things that she might have thought on her own anyways. I just gave her a slight push in that direction."
He explained that giving everyone else around a reason to look away from our table, or stay away from the dugout, were much tougher. But that he was well trained and prepared for those things. Likewise implanting memories in both my wife and my head were a bit difficult, but still manageable. I asked if there were limits to his magic, and it drew a huge laugh from him.
"Let me ask you this Mike," he said. "Can you drive a car?" I nodded, wondering where he was going. "Can you drive a motorcycle?" Again I answered in the affirmative. "So then you must be able to drive a semi, right? You must be able to operate a bulldozer, fly a helicopter, pilot a space ship?"
I laughed, noticing how late the evening had gotten, but answered, "No of course not. I can't even drive a stick shift. What's that got to do with magic though?"
"Because magic is a skill like driving. I can read minds, implant suggestions, I can even do a few other things. But I can't do everything that you might think because I don't have the skill to do so. I know a man that can turn lead into gold, but I don't have the slightest clue how to do it. Nor, to be honest, do I have any interest in that sort of thing. My talents lay elsewhere. Some mages prefer to learn a lot of varied talents, I choose to hone a few specific craft to a razor's edge of perfection."
"Other mages you say?" I asked stifling a yawn as it dawned on me how late into the night it had gotten. "There's more like you out there?" It seemed a silly question, but I was getting tired.
Adam nodded, "Yes hundreds if not thousands of mages across the globe. Some very weak, some far more skilled and powerful then I am. Some languish in obscurity, using their ability only to mildly enhance their mundane lives, others use their power to craft vast fortunes or power. I've had quite a bit of financial success in Nevada."
I must have made a face that warranted further explanation because he smiled, "I own one of the larger more successful brothels there. It's my... home base... as it were. Brings in quite a bit of profit too let me tell you. Over the last twenty years I've amassed a fortune greater than almost any other point in my life, and almost all of it with no magic use. Money, in this country at least, seems to be the greatest form of magic."
"Wait a second," I said pointing at him, "Over the last twenty years? You don't look like you're a day over twenty five. How old are you?"
He ran a hand over his mouth and paused. "I knew that you'd get to that question eventually. Your mother's father's mother, you know her maiden name?"
I nodded, of course I did. We just came from a family gathering with hundreds and hundreds of distant relations who all traced their lineage back a few generations. Most people didn't have the last name Sacchetti anymore. My great grandmother was the last in my personal history to have it, but then she married a man named Gespechii. Later, my mother married my father and took his last name, Gray. "Why?" I asked narrowing my eyes.
Because my full name, with title, the name I held before I had to fake my death, is Conte Adamo Franchiso Sacchetti di'Tuscana. I was born almost a hundred and forty years ago, in 1869. Then when my mage powers erupted in 1890, I faked my death for the first time. I left behind four sons and two daughters. One of my sons had a son who came to America. That man, my grandson, had several children of his own. One of which was your great grandmother, Antonia Sacchetti, before she married Paulo Gespechii.
I squinted my eyes, this young man was telling me that he was not just a distant relation? He held out his hand and counted off on his fingers as he said, "Yes Mike, I'm actually your great great great great grandfather."
"I suppose it would be ridiculous of me to disbelieve you after everything else that I've swallowed so far today?" I asked. This time it was his turn to nod silently. "So," I said after a pause, "Why do you look so young? You don't look a day over a hundred and twenty five." I tried to joke, and bless him, he laughed.
"Well one of the other mage powers that is quite useful is the ability to hmmmm... how would you say this... craft flesh I suppose? It's not one of my personal talents. But I have a trusted friend who I've known for many years who's an artist at it. She can shave years off a person's body, roll back the clock, and what we're going to do for you... give that person a whole new face and body if they need it."
I was impressed. I also figured that was part of how I'd have to start a new life after I faked my death. But I still wasn't 100% sold on the idea. As I pondered it I let out another huge yawn. He smiled and held out the coffee carafe to me and I held out my cup as he poured. "How are you not tired?" I asked looking at the clock, "It's after three in the morning."
Adam's eyes lit up. "Ahh, an excellent question Mike," he leaned forwards in his chair to answer. "I explained how reality is going to fight you and that part of magic is learning how to avoid the backlash that comes from changing reality. But there's two other components to magic; mana and balance. I'll explain balance to you later, but mana is of vital import for any mage."
He poured some more coffee in his own mug then continued, "Mana is what I call it, though some people call it Chi, primal energy, or even that Lucas fellow was close when he talked about the 'force' in his movies. See, mana is the mystical energy that allows a mage to alter reality. He draws this mana into himself and shapes it, thereby reshaping this world. The more powerful a spell is, and the more obvious it is, the more mana it takes to use. As a mage, we can draw in and store a certain amount of mana for our own use at any given time. The more powerful the mage, the more mana he can store."
"What do you mean by store?" I asked as I sipped my black coffee, blowing on it to cool it so it didn't burn my tongue.
Adam pondered for a moment, his lips pursing as he thought of an analogy. "Imagine that you have a garden full of flowers and vegetables. So do all of your neighbors up and down your block. Now, if you never water that garden, and only trust in faith that enough rain will fall to keep your garden wet enough, what will your garden look like at the end of the season?"
"Probably not the greatest," I admitted.
He nodded and gestured to the coffee carafe, "Now say that your neighbor has this coffee carafe, and leaves it out every time it rains. Once it's full, he can use that water in the carafe to water his plants on days when there is no rain, right?" I nodded and he continued, "But now say that you've got another neighbor who has not just a carafe, but also a fifty five gallon drum. When it rains it fills his drum, and from that he can take water to quench his plants whenever he likes, with little worry that he'll run out. Now in this scenario who's going to have the best garden?"
"Obviously the man with the drum of water. He's got the most potential to water his garden when it's needed." I said granting the point. "I get it I guess, if mana is the 'fuel' for magic, whoever has the largest reservoir is the most powerful?"
Adam shrugged and bobbled his head, "Not exactly. Certainly the ability to store more mana means that you have more power at your fingertips at any given moment. But there's also the first factor of reality to consider, and also balance. But before I get into that, let me answer your original question. You asked why I wasn't tired. Well, to continue our analogy, I have not a carafe, nor do I have a fifty five gallon drum. My personal reservoir of mana is more akin to an above ground swimming pool."
He chuckled slightly and sipped his coffee. "Every night when I go to sleep, a little bit of mana trickles back into that pool. But the flip side is that I can drain the pool to stave off the effects of sleep if I want. The longest I stayed up for without feeling any ill effects was four and a half days. But the drain on the mana is exponential, and by the end of that time I was pretty much powerless. So it's not a trick to be used carelessly."
"So you regain your mana when you sleep?" I asked.
He nodded, "Among other things. Every mage has at least one alternate way of gaining power. Some gain extra mana when they eat a good meal, some when they make others laugh, and I've even heard of a select few mages who gain mana when they taste blood."
I raised an eyebrow, he wasn't telling me something. He chuckled, "As for me, I find that sexual encounters increase my mana greatly. It's one of the reasons I own a brothel. Having my workshop in the basement of the brothel is... invigorating. To continue the analogy, it's like having a garden hose that's almost always trickling water, feeding into my swimming pool."
I couldn't help myself. I openly laughed at this. "So," I asked, wiping a tear from the corner of one eye after I stopped laughing, "You're trying to tell me that you quite literally have a magical cock?"
He laughed and nodded, "I suppose in a way..."
We both laughed for a few moments at how ridiculous the statement was. But then he grew slightly more serious. "But yes, my magic is often fueled by my sexual encounters. In addition I can draw from sexual energy that is in close proximity to me. That's why working under a brothel provides me with quite a bit of mana. A large amount more than just normal rest. But of course, nothing really charges my batteries as it were then getting in there and mixing it up with a partner... or two."