Saturday, February 21, 2015

Keeping Time

The downsides to being a magician are varied, and at least some of them come from knowing when not to use magic. I’ve tried to explain that to Dana, but fae are glamour even more than magicians are magic. Often it is not something they do so much as something they are, and her glamour is coming back to her. It’s enough that often she uses it instead of the CSIS agent she has been hiding as in order to solve problems. I don’t know if there really is a CSIS operative named Dana, but given fae glamour it doesn’t matter at all – as far as the world is concerned that is what she is.

CSIS doesn’t agree. Fae glamour is terribly powerful but it isn’t perfect – if the fae were perfect, there would be nothing in the universe beyond them. As such, her existence had triggered some response and the fact that her glamour had been all but shattered by a near-sacrifice at the hands of an ex-magician had no doubt given them information they wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Such as her name and what she looked like. Not that she was travelling with the wandering magician, though: I like to think even the agency would have reconsidered their plans given at least some of my reputation. I’ve spent ten long years acquiring it and have the nightmares to show for it sometimes. They sent a dozen shadow-men after her and she unmade them with glamour without even trying, so they sent something from Outside the universe the next morning.

I don’t know what it was, but I woke to her flushing what was left of it down a toilet. Which is when they got serious, and serious involved weapons I hadn’t thought anyone actually had – for all sorts of good reasons. The air above the cheap motel room we were staying in shuddered and my magic formed a ward around me without my even asking, yanking power from the world around us. The colours bled out of the room and the walls and ceiling fell apart as the warding consumed them for energy. Magicians don’t do wards like this as a general rule: it damages the fabric of reality if you deliberately wrap it around yourself, and reality isn’t near as tightly woven as people think.

The explosion is black noise, static that makes my eyes throb and sets up unpleasant resonances in my bones.

“Dana, move the humans,” I snarl, and she asks no question at all. Every human in the surrounding area is simply elsewhere, reality redefining itself to fae will. I’m not a fae, but even so. Just so. I snap out half of a name I learned at great cost and the chronobomb that is detonating turns the motel into nothing more than ash and fragments of memory. We aren’t erased from time: I undo that much of the bomb and my magic still holds wards about me as I breathe slowly.

“I need glamour,” I say, not looking in her direction. “Weave reality together.” Dana says nothing: not if this is possible, not how difficult it might be. The bomb was because of her. I’d like to think that’s why, but she probably doesn’t want me to know what she can’t do. I shove the thought aside, breathe in, thread power into my voice.

“Time isn’t a toy to use, the world isn’t something you can casually break and hope it holds together,” I say, and my voice sounds like thunder in my ears, words rolling over each other, hurling into the air. “There are things that should not be done, even if you know how to do them, even if you are them, and you most certainly are not. I most certainly am not. But I am the wandering magician, and I am seriously pissed off.”

No one answers, though I am certain CSIS agents are hearing me.

You will not do this again,” I say, and I make the words a command, bend their will to my own. There will be prices for this, and I will pay dearly, but some things are too important to leave to trust. Such a weapon is one of those.

I let out a breath, and the magic goes away reluctantly, power flowing from me into the world in stabbing aches I don’t try and ignore. I hurt all over, but I have sense enough to get my phone and text Charlie and Jay, informing them I am fine before Jay overreacts.

“Magician,” Dana says, her voice almost diffident.

I look over. Colours have returned to the room, to the world, reality reasserted itself. She looks almost as tired as I feel. “You know why they went that far?”

“No.” She shakes her head. “That a fae could become of them would anger, yes, but to go that far is foolish.”

“You call detonating a bomb to erase time foolish?”

“I am fae; we are beyond such weapons.”

She states it as a fact; I am now a little scared at the diffidence I caught in her tone. “That doesn’t mean they might not try other things; we need to get moving. They are your problem to deal with from now on, not mine.”

“Agreed.” Dana bows and wraps glamour about herself, vanishing from my senses. She has returned the people to the motel, which is at least a relief.

I walk out in search of a vehicle, gently probing my magic as one would a sore tooth. I definitely went too far, let myself get too angry. But that’s something I can deal with later; for now, I head to a coffee shop, order the largest size they have, and sit in a corner, drinking it until my hands stop shaking.

It only takes four hours.

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