There are several ways to stop a speeding car if you know what you're doing and several more if you are a magician though the vast majority of those void the warranty. My method is simplicity itself: I step out in front of the red convertible speeding down the street and wait, ignoring the gasp of horror from the sidewalk as Charlie gapes at me. The driver twists the wheel hard, tires screaming like tin on a conveyor belt and the faux-limo jutters over the curb to come to a grinding halt, a horseho wrapped around an oak tree. Like I said, there's several ways to stop a speeding car but this one is the fastest and tells you a lot about the driver as well.
She stumbles out of the driver's door, face as red as her car, fury burning in her eyes. Her name is Cristal Moonbeam Smith but I don't hold it against her any more than I do her being seventeen or wearing a red princess dress to her prom. The golden circlet on her head is something else altogether. The moonlight doesn't fall on it and it casts a shadow all its own behind her, large and twisted with spikes, deep with hunger.
She begins screaming anatomically-impossible insults; I am not sure if it is her anger or the crown that allows her to march toward me across the lawn without falling in too-high red heels.
She stops at her name. "What are you, some kind of pervert stalker. I –."
"Your crown. Where did you get it?"
She looks blank for half a moment, then smiles the kind of nasty smile lawyers can only dream of owning. "You think I'm going to tell you? You want it for yourself, don't you? You want to be the homecoming queen: steal my dress, my crown, my night!"
"A homecoming queen wouldn't drive herself to the prom," Charlie says from the sidewalk.
Cristal takes in punk clothing and hair and dismisses Charlie as anything at all, her focus snapping back to me. "You're going to make your girlfriend into the queen, but the crown won't –."
"Magicians are many things, but not good dating material." No reaction. "Who gave you the crown, Cristal?"
"I said I'm not going –."
I hold her gaze, thread power into my voice. "Listen: you didn't run me over. Whatever the crown is, you're not that far gone in its power yet. Let go of it and walk away."
"And give up on being the queen?" She laughs shakily. "Lem will date me. The crown has promised me."
"Fix the car." Charlie favours Cristal with a smile that isn't wholly human; you can't be human and ignore a smile that sharp.
Cristal stutters out: "Pardon?"
"Can your crown do that?"
Nothing. Charlie looks at me and raises one eyebrow. I walk past Cristal to the car: the tree wants to be whole, the car the same. I reach into the world, pulling desire enough to bend time, raise my right hand and speak a Word. I don't normally waste time or energy on such things, but both the car and tree returning to their original states strikes Cristal numb.
I lower my hand, feeling it tremble a little, years of my life bled off. I can recover them with time so I'm not too concerned as I turn to Cristal. She stumble-steps back and the crown burns with a brilliant golden light the sun itself would envy, a light not from this universe at all.
"That's enough of that."
It burns brighter, fighting my will.
Charlie steps forward and opens her mouth wide, eating the light in a single gulp. There aren't many god-eaters in the world, and an alien crown is hardly about to resist her nature. She blinks a couple of times after and shakes her head. "Not a pleasant aftertaste."
I hold out my left hand; the crown snaps off her head and into my grip before it can anchor itself deeper into Cristal. It writhes, twisting into a shape with no angles and too many sides for half a moment. Go home, I think at it and it is gone a moment later.
Cristal makes a small animal sound, her eyes wide and breaking.
"I will not make you a prom queen, but I can let you be yourself as few people are, however that shines. Perhaps Lem will notice you."
"You'd do that?" Need flashes across her face and turns into something surpassing hope. She burns bright in inside-ways, lets out a small gasp and then begins to walk. No one will stop and offer her a lift; they would not dare, knowing no car is as real as she is for the next few hours.
"Isn't that dangerous?" Charlie offers.
"It's prom night: I imagine everyone will be drunk and a little bit scared,"
"So you rebuilt a car, destroyed a crown-thing and altered her in under five minutes."
She is quiet almost a minute as we walk back toward the car we're borrowing. "Payment for what?"
"My sister wanted me to make a prom king fall in love with her; I said no. I was two years a magician then and far from the pull of such things. She took a shotgun and fired it at me." I laugh, soft. "I didn't get the hint even then about how important it was to her. This pays that back, at least a little bit."
"A little bit."
I look over, but Charlie's face gives nothing away. I look away before I see too deeply.