His name is Jacob Rasteur. He's 16, into occult books from libraries and has probably read too much stuff about 'Do what thou wilt' and the like. Charlie checked his facebook account and a few other places while I browsed the local paper. Mysterious lights. Odd accidents at the school. Little bits of nastiness left to fester. He's not a magician yet, but you can see it from where he is if you squint a little. I arrange for his parents to leave town with tickets to a ball game. He doesn't ask them why, doesn't even wonder at how his mother doesn't much like ball games since he's glad to have their house to himself for an entirely Saturday afternoon.
"You're picking the lock," Charlie says as I crouch by the back door, in a suffering tone. Jay is standing behind her with headphones shoved into his ears. I can hear classical music coming out of them but he's not moving to the beat at all, just listening to us and waiting. "Because he has some kind of magical wards up?"
"No. Rusty. I had a cousin with interesting hobbies when I was younger: he taught me to pick locks," I say between wiggling the credit card carefully. "And before you huff, I do have wards around us so the neighbours don't call the police."
"I don't huff. Or puff," she adds, but resists comments about breaking the door down, probably because I'm expecting some.
"Edmund Hillary's daughter found us using money, Charlie. It's easy to get so caught up in magic that we forget that options exists." I give the door one tug, then another, and pull it open carefully. "He's in the basement. Jay, down the steps, distract him. He'll try and bind you, you ignore it. Charlie, up here as back up."
"He could have allies. Also, he might see what you are and panic to the tune of gas main explosions and a levelled home. I'd rather avoid that."
"And he won't be scared of you?" she snaps.
I just smile and walk into the small, neat kitchen. The basement door isn't even locked and not warded at all, which means overconfidence or ignorance but it's often hard to tell the two apart.
Jay hands Charlie his phone as I open the door and is simply gone a moment later, down the stairs and in the basement before either of us register the movement. I wander down rickety wooden stairs to find myself in a cement unfinished basement complete with a giant pentagram drawn on the floor and candles painted black burning with pale green fire at each corner of it.
Jacob Rasteur is a pudgy scowl of a kid who is calling up fire and hurling it as actual balls of flame at Jay, the room cooling along with his body as he draws up heat to turn into flame, the candles guttering out to no effect at all. The walls are decorated in a half-dozen scorch marks as Jay springs aside from each. His skin is ivory pale now, eyes clear and glowing in the basement and moving faster than each fireball, his grin huge and delighted. He's spent a week eating food and healing as much as he could from the transit to our world and sticks his tongue out at the magician in a bid to impress me.
Jacob clenches his fists and screams a Word that seems like something from a bad fantasy novel. Intent matters more than words, and the banishment is thrust of pure will that ripples the air in front of the magician. Jay dives and rolls to the side, and the second banishment is at least a sane attempt that envelops the entire room.
Jay scrambles to his feet with a yelp of pained surprise as Jacob advances on him, trembling with effort. The pentagram he'd been drawing power into was his need to be left along, an attempt to alter the minds of his parents to obey his will. I undo the entire thing and he doesn't even notice, gaze locked on Jay.
"Your true name binds you," Jacob shouts, as if shouting would increase the power he put behind the words. "Speak!"
Jay shakes his head; he can't speak his true name and refuses to even try despite the whimper of pain that escapes him as the magician's voice batters into him. Jacob has wrapped the binding around him, threading it through earth and air, stone and ether, looking perplexed as it keeps sliding off of Jay.
"Jay is protected."
I pitch my voice mildly, but Jacob still spins back too fast, almost toppling over for a moment. He's cold, shivering, eyes glazed with exhaustion he hasn't noticed yet, but at least has skill enough to keep Jay held to the wall.
Jacob throws up his right hand in a warding gesture, fingers trembling with effort. He's too cold for fire and doesn't consider pulling the cold out of him as ice.
I undo the binding around Jay with a single flicker of desire, and Jacob gulps breaths as energy returns to him and hurls it at me with a thrust of both his hands.
I undo the fire with a twisting of a finger, giving back to the world the energy he's been taking from it for his pentagram and warding it against his use.
"Magician," he wheezes, the word half a question.
"Yes." Jay stretches behind him, flexing fingers questioningly and I shake my head to him. "You've drained yourself and the area to no effect, Jacob. You can keep trying or we can talk."
His answering grin is bared teeth. No one has hurt him since he gained magic; nothing has beaten him, his life become his own. He reaches for power in the only way left and I step forward and drive a knee between his legs.
Jacob hits the ground in gasp a moment later. There are few things more dangerous than giving power to those who desire it; too often all it makes is another bully.
"Lesson one: only drain your own life if you know how to do it so it isn't permanent. Lesson two: don't be in situations where you have to drain your own life permanently." I crouch down as he tries to stand and curls up in pain instead. "Lesson three: pay attention to the world around you."
I pull out a small business card and drop it on the basement beside him. "Go to this bookshop if you still want to be a magician. You'll need more than eyes to see it and the owner can direct you to better texts." I stand. "And, for the record, Crowley's line about 'Do what Thou wilt', meant Thou as being your own higher self, which I hope is kinder than you are."
I walk out without another word; he doesn't try to stop us from leaving.
"Are you okay?" I say to Jay as we get outside.
He considers that, stretches a little, then nods. "I'm kind of hungry?"
"There are times when you aren't?" Charlie says dryly.
Jay considers that. "When I'm dead?"
"The term is sleeping," I say. "You're not actually dead when you sleep."
He says nothing to that at all.
"Right. You want to get lunch?" I say to Charlie, who just holds out a hand for money. I make no comment about her own wallet and hand over a few bills.
"You coming?" she says, quieter as Jay heads to the street.
"In a few minutes. Making protections just in case."
She glances at Jacob's home, then me, and just squeezes my shoulder once before walking away.