“Mmm, this pizza is really good!”
Around a mouthful of the hot, cheesy stuff, Hazel replied, “Mhnmm, nom nom nom!”
Michelle grinned. “Now Hazel even witches shouldn’t talk with their mouths full.”
“Oh yeah? My mom always scolded me ’don’t cast while you’re eating!’”
Both girls shared a laugh and downed some HeroCOLA.
“Thanks for inviting me over and all. I mean, I know you wanna learn what you can from me and check out the jewelry…” Michelle did her best impression of the Queen of England and the Crown Jewels. “But it’s pretty cool to be able to just put all the heroic stuff aside and hang out.”
“I totally get you. Verge and I get to hang out sometimes because we have similar schedules. But not so much with the rest of the team. The Legion is up to its eyeballs in missing cats and muggings. In fact, lately it’s been busier than ever. It makes me nervous. I mean, despite all we’re doing it seems like things are actually getting worse.”
“Yeah,” Michelle replied a little dejectedly. “Some days I feel like I make a difference, but most days I just feel like I’m not even making a dent.”
“I think there’s a lot of big pieces of the puzzle moving about. Muggings and cats are small-time. Those are symptomatic of something bigger. Maybe the seeds of corruption have taken root and there are more small-time thugs who slip through the cracks because the big timer heroes have big-time fish to fry. Maybe we’re only seeing a very small part of a bigger picture. It makes me worried.”
She chewed her pizza thoughtfully.
“So what about you Hazel? I told you about my embarrassing teenager days and what brought me here. What’s your story?”
“My story?” Hazel echoed. “It’s kinda depressing. I mean, I grew up as the most popular girl in school. The Prom Queen, like, three years in a row. I had this great boyfriend, an awesome car, and a loving family.” She swallowed hard. “Then I threw it all away to come to Century Station, live in a dorm, and beat up bad guys. Cool, right?”
Hazel looked across at Michelle’s reaction and the corners of her mouth upturned and slowly creased into a broad-brimmed grin.
“Naah! I had it pretty bad. Home-school, no friends, crappy part-time job at a book store, no car — I saved every last penny I could for a dirt bike…and an amulet of Negate Magic. My family kinda sucks — all magic-users. One day at the mall I looked into this mirror, freaked the fuck out at the cosmetics counter, and turned into…a monster. Then I beat the shit out of my mom. Kinda a typical Christmas in our family. My dad basically disowned me after the incident. My brothers…well, there’s only one whose capable and, like father like son.”
Michelle’s eyes went wide.
“It’s okay. I’m adopted.”
Michelle looked at you dubiously at first, then when you told the rest of the story her expression was more sympathetic. “Oh wow, I had no idea. At least you’re out of there now, right?” A thoughtful look crossed her face.
“What do you mean, you turned into a monster?”
“Well, I…” Hazel hesitated.
“Michelle, when you were fighting Antipode and I was on the prowl, you couldn’t see me because I cast the spell “Sight Unseen.” It’s something I’m very…self-conscious about. My ‘heroic’ alter-ego, doesn’t look…normal. It doesn’t look beautiful and heroic with tights and spandex and makeup and all that…stuff. My real name is Lashe’evadne Sycorax-Circe Griselda Duchesne. No one has ever actually called me Lashe. My friends would. I guess. But I don’t have any of them. I dunno. Everyone calls me Hazel because of the color of my eyes. And I’m growing to accept and even like the aphorism…Witch-Hazel. Maybe one day I’ll just be…Witchcraft."
Hazel cast a sidelong glance at Michelle to see the other girl looking a little confused.
“Sorry. I dunno. I tend to ramble when I’m nervous. My…other self. My TRUE self. Is…kind of scary. That’s why I was invisible. I know you saw me when we apprehended Antipode. Thank you for not running away scared. But I turn into this…uh, like hot, seductive B-movie actress who should be all scantily clad and stuff…but I’m covered in like Gandalf’s Wizard Robe with a crazy demonic mask of Darkness on my face and tattooed all over my body — everywhere you can see my skin, there are glowing floaty runes and symbols and magical…um, gibberish and gobbledygook. So you can imagine the first time that happened…um, I kinda ruined everyone’s Christmas. But now I’m really at peace with myself. I think I’ve accepted who I am…fully. Though it took a while. And I feel…whole. I feel really good. And I think things are starting to change for the better.” Hazel smiled and took another healthy bite of cheesy goodness.
“Well, that doesn’t sound too monstrous. I pictured something like a werewolf, or the villain Lionheart! What you described and what I saw the other day just looked like an intricate, if weird, costume.”
“So, will you tell me the story of how you and your girlfriends found these amulets and became your own super-hero team?”
She smiled. “It’s more embarrassing than cool. They’re my friends and we went through so much together, but we were definitely young kids with a wild imagination who had watched too many Saturday morning cartoons. The way we initially misinterpreted the amulets kind of became our trademark.” She strikes a pose and mimes an over-exaggerated casting position, then shouts “Mystic Ice Bind!” She makes another pose. “Flame Circle!” She cringes for a moment as one of her recent injuries just got stressed, then she gives a small laughs and continues talking as if nothing happened. “None of us really knew what we were doing. I’ve been studying for years and and I only understand the magic a little bit, myself.”
She smiled, placed her plate on the table and leaned back in her chair. She got a far-away look in her eyes.
“How did my friends and I find our amulets and become a team? Well, it’s all by coincidence – or fate, if you choose to believe that. On a hike through the woods near my house I was attacked by a creature – at first I thought it was a rabid dog or something like that. I ran from it in a panic and literally stumbled over this amulet, sticking halfway up out of the ground. I stared at the creature approaching, then looked at what had tripped me. It was as if…”
She paused for a moment, remembering, and tried to place it into words.
“I felt like time slowed down at that moment, and I could clearly feel the presence and power of this amulet. Like it was calling to me, only it wasn’t literally saying or doing anything. I reached out and gripped the amulet in my hand while the creature ran for me in slow motion – everything was in slow motion. With the amulet in my hand it just felt right. I felt the magic flow through me and it lifted me up in the air, out of the way of the monster as it lunged at me.”
She leaned forward to open a new can of cola and leaned back again with it, sipping it as she talked.
“That seemed to break the ‘time-slowed down’ perception I had. I was shocked and exhilarated to be actually hovering up in the air! I knew I should’ve felt scared or worried, but it was just felt wonderful. As if I was always meant to be able to do that. Down below me the creature I thought was a rabid dog tried to leap up after me but couldn’t reach me. Then it did the damnedest thing – it leaped at a nearby tree and jumped from branches in that tree to higher branches in another tree, using them like a ladder or stairs to get high enough to reach me.”
“That’s when the magic words came to my mind. The power for magic and words to cast it suddenly flooded into me, and I knew what to do. A blast of ice magic to slow the creature down, and then some fire to entrap it, and finally a cold blast to finish it off. One after another I threw spells at it until it fell unconscious and the dark power that possessed it fled, leaving behind an unconscious stray dog.”
Michelle suddenly seemed to snap into focus, as if her flashback was done playing out before her eyes. “Oh no! I just rambled on and on there. I was the first one to find my amulet but a week later, another strange creature appeared. I still hadn’t figured out what the deal with my amulet was but I had kept it with me. When the next creature attacked it was in a more public place and it was chasing my friend Natale. She ran by me and without hesitating I activated the amulet’s power to subdue this creature also, but it ran away before I could finish it. Natale talked with me, amazed, and we went back to where the creature appeared. Once there Natale had a moment sort of like the one I had – or so she said. But she felt drawn to another amulet there. Once she grabbed it the creature returned and caught me by surprise. But Natale activated her amulet and in a flash managed to knock soak and then electrify the creature until it reverted back into an ordinary animal. Just like the first one did.”
She paused to take breath and think. “My other two friends were a similar story with their amulets. Since I was the first one to find my amulet the other three just looked to me for guidance and direction, so without meaning to I became their leader. It seemed like at least once a week an incident of some kind cropped up and put regular people in danger, so we banded together as a team to protect our hometown from what was going on.”
“Wow! That’s incredible! But at least those minor threats gave you some good practice honing your skills and using your new powers so you could deal with that evil being’s dream fragments. I still can’t believe you managed to trick it into returning to its home dimension. Hah!” Hazel paused thoughtfully. “Maybe we can trick Iron Mike into hiding back under a rock.” She grinned.
“So let’s get down to it, shall we? I’m really curious about how you cast these spells. It almost seems like the amulet isn’t just giving you powers but it’s bestowing you with actual arcane knowledge. Would you please describe for me again what you see in your mind when you cast a spell? When you use an ability from the
“Wow! I can’t believe this! So you mean that the amulets contain both the knowledge of spell casting and the power to cast them. When holding Antipode’s amulet I felt the energy contained therein and with a thought I could cast the any of the spells from the amulet. And your amulet works the same way!”
“Yep, it would appear so. Hazel, you’re so excited about this stuff.”
“Michelle, I don’t know what all these spells do but I am able to draw on the energy of the amulet to cast those spells. And, remember when we tested it out? I didn’t have any of the crazy side-effects that usually disrupt me. Also, I’m pretty sure I can draw on that pool of energy to cast my own magic…but I think that would be subject to the unintentional side-effects that plague my spell-casting.”
Michelle looked appraisingly at Hazel. “I’m not sure if your makeup works with the Amulet. It makes your eyes glow deep red. Like when Antipode was wielding it.”
“Ahh! Yeah, it doesn’t go with my eye-shadow. I didn’t wanna keep the amulet anyway…well maybe a little. But I find it fascinating to study! I’m kind of a nerd at heart,” she said sheepishly.
“Well it’s funny you said that because a friend of mine is kind of a spell-nerd too. He’s more of a scholarly wizard type and I think you two would get along great. He’s a lot more knowledgeable with this sort of thing than I am. Maybe I could setup a coffee date for you guys.”
“Oh would you?!?!” Hazel gushed.
“C’mon, let’s keep trying. You’ve almost got Light Shit Up…although I really don’t think that’s what the spell is called.”
“Hey! I’m the scholarly type! I’m the one who gets to name the spells!”
“Whatever you say Hazel. But, I’m taking away the BoingoJOLT until you get this one down.”
So, Matty, it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that Arctic Hellfire and I use magic in two totally different ways that really aren’t compatible at all. My magic is more formulaic and I’d almost say scientific…scholarly, while hers is more intuitive and, almost wild.
From my research and lore I looked up some other schools of magic and remembered something that dawned on me the day of the block-fire. When I was out there saving Hellfire and locking up Antipode I remembered something I learned from Gerhardt – something about other schools of magic and this, in particular, being something like ELEMENTAL WARLOCK magic. It’s fascinating, really! They don’t even define spells the same ways that we do so their spells are really difficult for me to follow. They are more like a series of “effects” that are strung together with…words and emotions. It’s very raw…very primal…and it can be very powerful! I’m going to spend the next few weeks with Michelle and learning as much as I can while imparting as much of my own knowledge as she wishes to learn.
The first two spells I’m trying to learn are “Light It Up” and “Dowse” — basically the opposite of Light it Up. Those are spells that have corresponding invocations for regular sorceresses…like me. The other spells I’d like to learn…well, since they don’t have corresponding invocations, we’re going to have to INVENT them. And with Michelle’s help I think I can translate a few of them over into actual spell-magic invocations! It’s all so exciting Matty! Maybe I really do have Gerhardt’s blood in me! It’s like this stuff is in my veins! Like I was BORN to discover magic!
I’ll keep you posted…