His name is Edwin Sandleberg; I get that much easily from him as I walk into his small basement apartment. There are six other people not-here: videochat of some kind, but their cameras have been set up to form a six-pointed star and Edwin is in the middle of that. He doesn’t know my name, but he knows some of the titles I’ve used and his desire is an anti-ward pulling me into the building. Charlie is in a hotel room six blocks away probably having hysterics; Jay is out having an adventure, and I am responding to – this. A summons, as though I were a god or Outsider.
Charlie is a god-eater: she sensed the call before I did. I might have not even noticed it if she hadn’t pointed it out. I’ve done a lot of things in my wandering, but nothing that I thought could lead to anyone forming a religion around me. Unless I was the villain of the piece. Magic is many things, but need and desire are the core of what a magician does with it. Not the core of what we are: the magic is just a gift from the universe, the cheat codes of reality as a consolation prize. But this isn’t about Outsiders, not the binding and banishing of them.
I close the door behind me as Edwin continues his chants. Calling on the wandering magician, seeking my aid. He mentions the wandering jew as I listen, and a host of famous magicians and legendary people as I was them, or their descendant. It takes little need or desire to kill each camera, and then all the technology in the building. I call up light around my right hand, pale and wan sunlight dancing in the air as I enter his living room.
“Oh, come on,” Edwin is saying, and stops when he sees me. He is naked, and has put runes on himself. With washable marker, given how some have already turned into squiggled messes. “Who?”
“You have been calling me.”
He stares. I look ordinary; I’ve worked hard at it. “You’re no magician.”
I let the light dance up toward the ceiling, then some of my nature out. Not my voice: I can make people know things, if I have to, but I suspect that would break Edwin. There is authority to being a magician and I pull that about me for a moment before letting it go. I don’t use it often because I don’t like being noticed.
It would seem it has changed somewhat since the last time I used it as Edwin’s face drains of colour.
“I am the wandering magician; I would like you to explain your actions,” I say quietly. I put no power into that as I pull the authority that always feels forced back inside but the kid leaves a puddle on the ground between his feet as he whimpers. He doesn’t even notice, eyes wide.
“I didn’t mean not to See,” he whispers. “Please do not destroy me.”
“Why would I do that?” I ask, moving backwards. It helps a little, but he’s still terrified as people always are of gods if they have any sense at all.
“You destroyed Raven’s Bluff. It’s on the internet.”
I bite back words, but Edwin lets out a whine of fear at whatever he sees on my face for a moment. “I did no such things,” I say, and one of my gifts is to speak truths that cannot be ignored. “The town was destroyed by others: I tried to save it, and I mostly failed. Why did you call me here, Edwin Sandleberg, if you feared me so greatly?”
“I want to be a magician,” he gets out, shame and desire warring across his face. He wants to clean up the puddle, is terrified I might vanish if he leaves his weak protections.
“To what end?”
“This is –. I don’t have –. I want power,” he says under the force of my gaze.
“Many people do. Most who desire it seldom use it wisely,” I say, but the words don’t reach him at all. He’s heard stories, often terrible ones, and is convinced that they are true. I try not be noticed in my wandering, but I am not always successful – and it is the terrible things I sometimes have to do that get remembered, rather than why I do them or the good I do more quietly.
“But I called you and –.”
“No one has tried to make me a religion before.” I smile tightly, and he scrambles back out of the circle without thinking. “You will end this,” I say, threading power into the words.
There are wards under the ones he made. He straightens, screams a word of Power, and looks baffled when nothing happens at all. He still looks so young and needy, but there is naked hunger on his face that he thinks was hidden before now. “Your power is mine! I created this as a duel, and your voice means I gain your power,” he says, and laughs. The laugh is shrill and wild, though clearly practised.
“Duels don’t work like that,” I say, “but since you asked.” I reach out with the magic, binding his senses into mine before he can even try to resist. I am quite good at bindings, and knowing Jay has made me even better. For a moment, he sees himself as clearly as I do, sees the patterns of the world, the shapes of dreaming that bind the universe together, and then he is on his knees and crying as I let go.
“There is a magician in Denver less than an hour away,” I say, knowing he hears my voice. “You have never heard of them because people don’t hear about us if we do our jobs properly. Magicians are many things, but we are not gods and our power cannot be taken from us by children seeking what they have not earned. Go to Denver and seek out the magician there if you wish to learn.”
He says nothing, shaking all over. Seeing the world as magicians do has stripped him of some of his lust for power for its own sake, if only for a time. I turn and walk away, leaving behind bindings on him that ensure he won’t be able to attempt this again. It seems I might have to have a talk to the Internet soon, and see about getting rid of information about me.
I wonder how many other magicians have been confused with being a god, but I doubt it’s something they’d talk about or admit to. And there is power in that, if one wished to grasp it. Power that could be used for many ends. Magicians don’t deal with gods, as a general rule. God-eaters do, and gods deal with each other: it’s not a true rule, more a division of some and resources. One I may need to consider breaking in the near future.