Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 12

With the final, fate deciding word, Lady Anilesa’s voice had become harsh and booming, bouncing off the bricks walls lining the alley way. I shuddered from the sheer sound of it. She smiled again in my direction and then sat down.

Sikal moved to the middle of the alleyway and rocketed off the ground, levitating in the air above me. Menacingly, he swooped down, just barely missing my head with a flaming sword that had materialized out of the air. Ducking, I flattened myself against the cold, damp pavement. Sikal landed on the ground behind me. I extended one leg straight out and pivoted around in a quick circle on my other. Landing on his back, Sikal grunted and then a low growl escaped his throat.

Sikal threw a lightning bolt at me; I swirled around behind me grabbing a mirror and swung back around to reflect the bolt back at the demonlord. During my training, Drew taught me that magical weather forces bounce off of glass surfaces. Just as the lightning bolt reaches him, Sikal levitated into the air like a rocket ship launching. It exploded on the brick wall at the back of the alley and set a couple of wooden crates on fire. From the corner of my eye, I can see Drew rush over and, materializing a bucket of water, put the flames out.

The demonlord laughs and then retaliated by shooting a fireball in my direction. As soon as I felt the heat of the fire, I threw myself on the ground and rolled over to a pile of debris. Rapidly I picked up various pieces of the garbage as the fireball went by and doused them in flames. Launching each piece at Sikal, I felt my hands get burnt a little.

After that attack, Sikal resorted to magic that wasn’t based on nature. He wasn’t using the elements of the Earth to fight this battle anymore. His eyes went black as he summoned a black hole and formed an abyss in the middle of the alleyway. A second image of Sikal appeared behind me and I realized that he’d cloned himself. Before I had a chance to react, the demonlord’s clones pushed me forward and I tried to regain my balance as I teetered back and forth over the edge of the black hole.

“Foul!” I heard behind me.

“Agreed.” Lady Anilesa’s voice sounded like an angel’s from where I was trying to keep my balance.

“Sikal, you know that it’s against the rules to bring a black hole into this dimension during daylight hours, do you not?” Tismen asked the demonlord.

“Right.” Sikal growled as the black hole disappeared from under me. “I forgot that it was daylight out.”

“Carry on.” Tismen commanded from his seat and I sent a silent thank you to both of them.

We continued exchanging attacks in this manner for two hours before I began to tire. Dodging, ducking and jumping Sikal’s flaming sword was beginning to take its toll on my body. My reaction time was declining and my precision was beginning to fail. I began to expect defeat and accept the loss of my own soul. I had given the best I could without the use of magic, I reasoned with myself. No one could blame me for not being able to defeat a powerful demonlord.

I was in the middle of a jack rabbit attack when I felt the sword slice into my skin followed by an extreme heat and the smell of burning flesh. I had been wounded right along my stomach and I felt ready to pass out. As I let out a piercing scream, Sikal released the laugh of a devil.

“What made you think that you could defeat a demonlord without magic? Was it him? Did he also tell you that he lost his soul once? Or that he isn’t mortal anymore? Why would you trust something like that?” He taunted me, pointing the sword in the direction of Drew.

A small red dot appeared in the middle of Drew’s forehead and slowly, I realeased that the flaming sword was now nothing more than a teacher’s laser pointer. Seizing the only opening I’d seen the entire battle, I lunged my entire body at Sikal, managed to grasp an arm and trip him forward onto the pavement. As crimson blood splattered the surrounding brick, the gravel pavement, and Sikal’s black trenchcoat, I stood over the demonlord’s head and pulled his arm backwards until it lay parallel with his body. The sounds of bones cracking and Sikal screaming were followed by an uproar of applause and Drew’s voice shouting, “Now!” What followed next I only know from the reports of Tismen and Lady Anilesa and from my all too hazy memories.

Of course, at first I thought I was hallucinating. My second thought was that I had died. Sadly, when I thought I was dead, I was relieved. I said to myself, “At least this way, Sikal won’t get your soul and you died fighting for the honor of all those who had fallen before you.” When I realized I wasn’t dead, I was slightly disappointed because I assumed I had lost the battle and that the demonlord was the proud new owner of my soul.

I vaguely remember seeing the people that I had met over the past two months. They started appearing out of no where. Some came down over the sides of the surrounding apartment buildings; a couple appeared out of thin air; others crawled out from around the debris; and a few just walked into the alleyway like they had been waiting out by the street for some signal. It felt weird seeing Andrew, Michelle, Sandra, Freddie, Timothy and Paula at the battle. When Katie showed up, my nausea got worse because I began to worry about her safety. I tried to scream out to the others that she was just a little girl and shouldn’t have to be subjected to this kind of violence, but no one could hear me. The only thing coming from my mouth was blood.

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Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 11

Battle day arrived and I felt nauseous. I wanted to face Sikal, but I wasn’t completely convinced that I would win. I wanted to win, but was that honestly going to be enough to carry me to victory? Drew showed up on my doorstep with breakfast and a single yellow daisy. Opening the door, I let him in and put the daisy in water.

“I guess I should be glad that you didn’t show up with a black rose,” I told him morbidly and shook my head. “There’s no way I can eat anything this morning.”

“I figured,” He admitted opening the fridge. “That’s why it’s dinner for when this is over. We’ll just pop it in the oven for a half hour and then we’ll be able to have a celebratory meal.”

“Right.” I grunted and sat down at the rickety kitchen table.

“Hey, you’ll be fine. Just trust me, I wouldn’t let you go up against him if I didn’t think you’d win. I would’ve found some other loophole and gotten you out of it.” He gave a small, sly smile. “Even if it meant giving up my own soul.”

“Why now?” I asked him. The confusion was strewn across his face.

“Why now what?” He questioned.

“Why me? Surely I’m not the only person who Sikal tricked into losing the challenge. Why didn’t you tell one of the others about the loophole? Get them to face him?” I had been thinking about this for a couple of days now.

“I tried with one person before you but they were too afraid of Sikal. Everyone else I’ve met withstood his illusions.” Drew said shrugging.

“Oh.” I told him surprised. I don’t know what I had been thinking, but I wasn’t expecting the answer to be so simple.

“Your up. Ready to do this thing?” He asked him, heading for the door.

“As ready as I guess I’m ever going to be in this lifetime.” I told him shrugging and sighing.

“You’ll do great.”

We walked out of the apartment building and around to the alley way. Sikal was already there and smirking. I could tell that he was sure he would be walking away with my soul today. In his mind, he had already won this battle.

“I’m surprised you even bothered to show up Miss.” He said to me with a cocky attitude. He didn’t know it then, but his arrogance was just fueling me. My adrenaline was coursing through my veins like a bullet train in Europe. I would be ready to take him out in no time. I just had to wait until the battle officially started.

“The pleasure’s all mine.” I assured him narrowing my eyes.

“This is Tismen; he’ll be judging the battle today.” Sikal said as a stout little man stepped out from behind him.

“And this,” I said gesturing towards Drew. “Is…”

“Lady Anilesa.” Drew jumped in. “She’ll also be judging the competition today.”

I didn’t know who Lady Anilesa was, but I could tell that she must be one of the good guys just from looking at her. She was wearing a soft blue fuzzy sweater with black slacks. Her skin was pale white and her hair was a light auburn like the autumn leaves when they first start to turn colors and fall off the trees. She gave me a supporting smile and sat down on a nearby discarded lawn chair. Tismen pulled up a broken bench piece and sat down beside her. They exchanged some words, but spoke too softly for anyone else to hear.

“Is everyone ready?” Tismen asked.” We both nodded from our respective corners.

“Then the battle officially begins…” Lady Anilesa said as Drew gave a quiet drum roll behind me. “Now!”

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Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 10

The next two weeks, I didn’t get to meet anyone. Drew said I needed to stay completely focused on physical training and reflect on the information that the others had provided. I felt like Drew was trying to psych me up so that I would realize that Sikal could be defeated. That other people were able to stand up to him in the challenge and that I would be able to beat him in a challenge. It was nice to hear that Sikal could lose, but I already knew that because Drew hadn’t lost his soul. I didn’t have the guts to tell Drew, but hearing everyone else’s success stories just kept depressing me. I kept thinking about how I should have been able to wait out those last few minutes. With only two weeks left, Drew introduced me to another person.

Katie was seven years old and had been challenged by Sikal six months ago. Raised by two magic practicing mortals, Katie grew up with both knowledge of magic and skill in it. I asked Katie about how Sikal had tested her and at first she clamed up. Drew whispered something into her ear that brought a smile to her face. Grabbing my hand and pulling me along behind her, Katie led me to a park bench.

“My parents helped me defeat Sikal. They always told me that sometimes you need help to do things. When he came, he made me think that I had gotten lost by making everything look different. I couldn’t find my way home and I got real upset. My mommy and daddy showed up, but it wasn’t really them. It was an illusion.” She told me, starting her story in a mad dash and stumbling over a few words.

“What happened next?” Drew asked leaning down beside Katie.

“He set them on fire. My fake parents, I mean. I started screaming, ‘Momma!’ and “Daddy!’ as loud as I could. My parents are real smart though. They had used one of them location spells and found me. They used their magics to fight that bully demonlord. But that’s against the rules. I never got my soul taken away ‘cause I didn’t use my magic, but mommy and daddy both lost their souls cause of it.”

Water was streaming down Katie’s face and I felt tears forming in my own eyes. Drew signaled to me that he would be right back and he led Katie off. When he came back he handed me a tissue and sat down.

“Do you see now?” He asked. “Do you see why it’s so important that you defeat him? Sikal has done so much bad in this world and you’ve gotten the chance to set it right or at least avenge the wrong he’s done. Can you do it?”

“I can more than do it.” I told me, wiping my eyes on my sleeve and standing up. “I’m not scared anymore and I don’t pity myself either. Now I’m just mad. That little girl passed her challenge; she shouldn’t have been left an orphan because of it.”

Sitting back down quickly, I turned to Drew. “Who takes care of her? She’s not in foster care, is she?”

“Sort of.” He admitted, kicking the ground. “She stays with me. Right now, I’m her legal guardian.”

“I never knew.” I told him, reaching out to hold his hand.

“It’s no big deal.” He told me, standing up and stretching. As a grin spreads across his face, he instructs me, “Time to get back to work.”

The next two weeks were spent with more mental tests and physical strains than I’d known in my entire life, but I kept telling myself that it was going to be worth it. I was going to defeat Sikal for everyone out there who hadn’t been able to because of his tricks and for everyone else who had but still ended up shorthanded, like Katie. I ran, jogged, swam, climbed, did crunches, push-ups, and took on every exercise that Drew threw my way. There was no way I could have known it then, but I wasn’t the only person training for the battle with Sikal.

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Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Anthromagic ~ Chapter 9

The following week, Drew started me on a high protein diet to build muscle. We also added in extra trips to the gym for weight training in addition to the cardio we were still doing from the previous week. Again, I met two people who had been tested by Sikal a few years ago.

Sandra was thirty two and started using magic when she was twenty five. On her twenty sixth birthday, Sikal had tested her to see her commitment to the secret of magic. The test for her was a real challenge as she tried to balance a job, family, and magic without mixing any of the three. During her test, Sikal displayed an illusion in a mirror. Sandra saw herself standing there with blood dripping from her eyes like teardrops. She was just about to cast a healing spell when her husband walked into the room and complimented her on how beautiful she looked that night; Sandra put her hand up to her eye and realized Sikal’s trick because she didn’t feel wetness. She had defeated Sikal through the grace of her husband’s love.

Freddie was thirty and Sikal tested him when he was twenty eight. Freddie lived alone and was currently unemployed when Sikal decided to test him. Sikal created an audio illusion of voices that continuously told Freddie that something horrible was going to happen. Consoling himself with junk food, Freddie told the voices to ‘bring it on’ because he couldn’t fall much from where he was. Freddie’s terrible place in life saved his soul. He had defeated Sikal through his own self-pity.

I felt bad for Freddie when he told me his story, but he assured me that a lot had changed in his life. He had joined a gym and was engaged. According to him, being able to get through Sikal’s test had given him a new perspective on life. It had made him want to live again.

We were well into week three and I still didn’t feel prepared to even talk to Sikal again. How did Drew expect me to be ready to fight him? I had grown accustomed to meeting others who had been challenged by Sikal. During my cardio, weight, and strength training, I met two more. When I say ‘during,’ I mean that it was literally during my training. I was doing advanced aerobics when I met Paula.

Paula was forty two and Drew informed me that she was one of the first people who had ever been tested by Sikal. I figured her story would be pretty relaxed because I thought maybe Sikal hadn’t been as powerful or skilled when he tested her. That was not the case; if anything, Sikal had eased up over the years. During Paula’s test, the hated demonlord made her think she was loosing her mind. Within twenty-four hours, Paula had checked into a mental institution where she would spend the next year of her life. The only reason that Paula passed the test from Sikal was because she didn’t know that she was being challenged. When Sikal came to Paula, she thought he was an illusion or trickster; she had never been told that she would have to prove her dedication to keeping magic a secret from other mortals.

As I was boxing with Drew, a shorter man with blonde hair entered the ring. After squaring off with him for about an hour, I took a water break and learned that he had encountered Sikal as well. Timothy had accidentally started using magic when he was nineteen. Goofing off with some of his friends, he checked out a spells book from the library. While most spell books from public libraries don’t actually contain magic, Timothy had found one that did. When his friends and he casted a spell, they summoned a mythical dragon from a fairy tale. Quickly, speedy Timothy thought to look up antidotes in the same spell book and had copied down a general antidote. Swiftly reading the second spell, Timothy sent the dragon back to its legendary home, but also managed to alienate all of his friends who started to think of him as ‘the freaky man-witch.’ At that point, after only two spells, Timothy swore off magic forever. The following year, Sikal showed up and tried to tempt Timothy with his challenge. To no avail, Sikal went home empty-handed; Timothy had been magic-sober for eleven months. He didn’t even consider magic again until after Sikal had left without the desired soul.

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Anthromagic by Crystal and Pamela MacLean is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.