I do a good shaking, because sometimes humans like to sleep way too much – probably cuz they have dreams. “Honcho?”
He wakes quickly, in the way of magicians, already dressed except for shoes even if it is three in the morning. “Jay?”
I feel him reach out, with magic and senses, the wards he put on the hotel room humming as he touches their bindings. He sits up, gets the shoes, grabs his coats. “What is it?”
I’m already dressed and hurry to the door, opening it and waiting as patient as a Jay. So I’m kinda bouncing from foot to foot.
“Jay,” he says once we’re in the hallway, closing the door behind him. “Is Charlie needed?”
“Nope! And I think it’s always safer to let Charlie sleep.”
“And that is why you woke her at 4 a.m. yesterday to help you invent verbs for Jayism as a language?” he asks because magicians are really good at not forgetting.
“Oh, that was different. I bet Charlie was totally bored of sleep after a whole six hours!”
Honcho says nothing to that, probably because he’s all impressed by my logic and we take the stairs down the three flights and leave the hotel.
“Okay, so I was practising flying a bit more because gravity is a binding I can have lots of fun with and I sensed some weird bindings on the ground in a garden – they weren’t broken, but they’re the kind of bindings that want to break other bindings? I landed, and listened a bit and came to get you because people listen to magicians more than a Jay and I’m all from Outside the universe so sometimes I don’t understand things?”
“Only sometimes?” he says, and I’m pretty impressed Honcho can do a joking when he’s only half-awake and without coffee.
“Uh-huh. Anyway, it’s some garden gnomes and they’re sounding really ... not mean, or meany, but – worse? Like trolls of garden gnomes were bigger, only trolls aren’t often mean because they don’t need to be?”
“What were they talking about?”
“With who?” he asks, not even breaking strike as we walk.
“Lots of human teenagers have been destroying them, thinking they’re just like normal stone garden gnomes when really sunlight turns them into stone and they’re really angry and want revege and have stone weapons and can sneak into homes and stuff and it would be a lot of bad bindings.”
“I imagine so.”
But Honcho doesn’t pull up a single ward against stone, doesn’t draw on the world for protections against gnomes as we walk. Maybe trusting I’ll be really good with bindings, but I’m not sure at all. I lead him to the garden and we just walks in after opening the gate. It’s really large, all ornate pools and gardens and trees and filled with gnomes. They’re all small and stone and angry, like pebbles grinding together in the darkness. There are sharp weapons, and their anger is like sharp stones cutting into feet.
“Magician,” rumbles among them, sounding like something ugly in the dark.
“Yes.” Honcho doesn’t put power into his voice like he can with magic. “You do know most humans don’t even know your kind exist. Most don’t even know magicians are real or that their world is more than advertised.”
“We will make them know,” one says, stepping forward, and she is really tall, almost reaching my knee.
“And then what?” Honcho’s voice is soft, the gnomes straining in to hear. “You murder them in their beds with your sharp stone blades, and you think humans will let it go? Every stone gnome in the city will be destroyed within a week. And they it will spread, because you’re seeking revenge. They will be driven by hate. Hatred that you’ve shaken them from comfort. Hatred that you’re action is to strike first and speak later. Fear that you’re as human as they are, in all the wrong ways.”
“What would you suggest we do, magician?”
“Decide what you really want, and seek for that. If you don’t want to be harmed, hide so the humans cannot find you in the mornings. Seek specific ones one – those with talents, the few psychics. Reveal yourselves in small numbers, let stories spread Let them tell stories with no substance, to make people scared of hurting garden gnomes. They’ll make curses up you can give small substance to, tell stories that will change the way they think about you. It’s one solution; there are others, but that could be the easiest.”
“You want us to hide, with your magic and –.”
“I want you to survive,” Honcho says. “And the humans as well. The real magic in this is to make everyone win, and it doesn’t take a magician to do that.”
“We are not cowards, magician.”
Honcho blinks. Nothing more. He doesn’t use magic, not even that I sense and I’m very good with bindings, but the cold anger in his voice is something else entirely. “It takes true bravery to seek peace. It is a lesson everyone forgets, and the one that must always, always be learned. You have jails, for those who break your laws?”
The gnome nods, looking wary.
“Arrest every voice that cries out for war, and perhaps you could find a way to peace.” He lets out a breath, the anger gone elsewhere. “I can work some small wards to help you; Jay here can help with bindings, but magic is only a band-aid. The solution will need to be something else.”
“You have power, and you ask us to seek other means?”
“There are many kinds of power. Restraint is among the most impressive; if you don’t think I’m doing that now, you know nothing about a wandering magician.”
The gnomes go still. There are whispers. Stories. They begin to back away, the bindings fragmentting apart.
“Stories,” Honcho says. “You can use that to change how we think. It won’t be easy. I’d never say that, but in the long run it might work.”
“You will help us, then?” The gnome asks, then she pauses. “Never mind. I think you did.”
They share a smile then, and Honcho nods and heads back out the gate. I follow in silence.
“We’ll need to do a binding to stop humans from hurting them, lasting at least a month,” Honcho says, not looking over at me.
“But you said –.”
“They make need help if they are to hold the course. We’ll work something out that helps them as best we can, kiddo.”
“And they won’t ever know?”
“It will be for the best if they don’t.” He reaches over, ruffling my hair. “You were right to wake me for this. Now, I’m going back to bed and you’re going to pretend to sleep for at least two hours.”
“Oh.” I let out a hugey sigh but follow. Sometimes Honcho thanks me in really weird ways, but he doesn’t say a single word when we get back and I sneak my phone under my bed to play games in the darkness. And sometimes Honcho is sharp enough to pretend not to see me being a Jay at all!