Lucas


       Lucas let himself into his home at 3:30pm and turned on his computer. He started researching Mesopotamian agriculture when his computer flashed a message from his cousin Jessie.


       “Lucas!” It said.


       He typed, “No, this is George.”


       “Well, I need Lucas.”


       “Lucas is dead. I buried him in the back yard.”


       He could hear her snarl from across town.


       “I have something I want to show you,” she types. “Can I come over?”


       “Sure.”


       Lucas went back to his research, and after a while, the doorbell rang. He went downstairs and peeped through the peep hole. Jessie stood there with three men Lucas didn’t know. He paused.


       He opened the door. “Who are your friends?”


       Jessie was dressed in a turtle neck sweater and blue jeans. “This is Michael, Joshua, and Larry. They’re good people.”


       Michael said, “Aren’t you going to invite us in?”


       A tiny little voice spoke in Lucas’s mind, Don’t do it.


       He pushed the door open wide. “Come in.”


       As they walked past, he smelled a certain stench like the dead. He once picked up a dead squirrel and smelled it, and that’s what those men smelled like. They walked into the living room, and everyone took a seat.


       Joshua said, “Do you believe in magic, Lucas?”


       “Oh of course, I do magic all the time.”


       The three men laughed, but Jessie frowned.


       Michael held out his hand palm upward and a clean red flame erupted out of his palm. A sound like a piano hitting three notes over and over filled the room. Lucas jumped out of his chair.


       Jessie said, “Relax, Lucas, you’re among friends.”


       Lucas peered into his own soul, and the same tiny voice in his head said, Enemies.


       He sat back down and got a better look at the people surrounding him. The foremost thing he noticed was, even though they reeked of death, their clothes were new and fit well enough to be tailor made.


       A loud ping echoed through the room in Lucas’s ears, and he had an insane urge to whip out his penis and start stroking it. He shook his head back and forth to clear his thoughts. Michael whispered, “He’s strong. He resisted.”


       “It’s called hexing. You should have felt an urge,” Larry said.


       Lucas rubbed his palms up and down the tops of his thighs. “I felt an urge.”


       “Hell, it worked on me when they did it!” Jessie exclaimed.


       Joshua said, “Teach him how to do it.”


       “In your mind, focus on a blood red triangle inside of a scorched black metal circle. Think a dire thought, and throw the triangle in a circle at one of our hearts. Joshua is the weakest. Do it to him. When you focus on the triangle in a circle, a flexing of power should well up inside you.”


       Lucas imagined it. He thought to himself: they tried to get me to masturbate, and I’ll try something different. He threw the red triangle in a black circle at Joshua’s heart and thought back like a dog.


       Joshua’s eyes opened wide. He stood up and howled like mad adn wouldn’t stop. Jessie laughed.


       Larry yelled, “Get a hold of yourself, man!”


       Lucas reached into his sense of power and threw more triangles in circles at Joshua’s heart thinking the same thing over and over. Joshua howled louder.


       “Cast truesight on him,” Larry shouted as he pointed a clawed index finger at Lucas.


       Michael began to chant something in a language Lucas didn’t understand. The tiny voice in Lucas’s mind spoke, They’re vampires.


       Michael hissed and showed off his fangs. “He’s holy!”


       “What I need is a cross?” Lucas asked.


       White light burned out of Lucas’s right hand, and the others screamed and fell backwards. Lucas focused on a wooden crucifix in his mind hand carved from some hard wood. He pointed the light at Michael, and the creature burst into flames. Lucas did Larry and Joshua next. Sirens echoed in the distance. Jessie started backing away. “I’m your cousin.”


       Lucas paused. She barred her fangs and lunged at him. He burned her with the light. The sirens got louder. He stepped out of his house, and two unmarked cars and an ambulance pulled up to a stop. A man wearing tan pants, leather shoes, and a white shirt aimed a pistol at Lucas and pulled the trigger. A dart punched into Lucas’s leg, and his world began to spin. He fell to his knees. The paramedic raced to him and plunged a needle in his vein. His eyes fluttered closed.


       His dreams twisted and turned for what felt like an eternity. The first thing he noticed was he was sitting in a chair, and his arms and legs were strapped to the chair. He opened his eyes to a dimly lit room. A voice across the room said, “Lights.”


       The lights notched themselves up, and Lucas took note of his surroundings. A large desk sat across from him, and an ancient fellow with wild white hair and a white shirt sat across the desk from him. Lucas let out a low growl. “I want to be untied.”


       The elderly man nodded and began to speak in an incomprehensible language. The leather straps holding Lucas’s appendages in place swelled up and floated away from him. Lucas rubbed at his wrists. He focused on a golden crucifix and willed power to flow. The light encased the old man, but nothing happened.


       The old man tapped at his desk with his index finger. “Dear boy, that’s only going to work on a vampire. You’ve been in a medically induced coma for three days. You likely need to relieve your bowels, and you very likely need to eat some solid food.”


       That’s when Lucas noticed the distinct sound of music from far away. Like the speakers were in another room, and it wasn’t good music, but just a few notes on repeat in a separate harmony from another set of just a few notes repeating themselves. “Talk old man, and talk fast.”


       “I’ve ordered food brought. My name’s Jeffries, and I’m over seven hundred years old. Surely you need to relieve your bowels.” Jeffries pointed at a door.


       Lucas raced into the other room and took care of business. He looked in the mirror. He stepped back into the other room. Three carts greeted him loaded with fresh fruit, cooked meats, and breads. He feasted while Jeffries spoke.


       “You must understand. You’ll be the second most powerful spell caster on the face of the Earth, if you survive, and if the most powerful one finds out about you, he will come for you to kill you before you can realize your true potential.”


       Lucas paused between bites of chicken wing. “How do you know I’m the second strongest?”


       “Your aura is pure white. You’re a holy warrior. You’re the only holy warrior alive today.”


       The music in the distance changed. One set of notes stopped, then two more different sets started up, then the first remaining set of notes stopped. Lucas eyed a strawberry and chomped it in half. “What’s that music?”


       “We’re trying to hide you. You’re making an awful racket right now of your own. We’re staging an ongoing mage competition here at Raven’s Tower. The sound you hear is magic users doing battle to see who is the best. It was the only way I could think of hiding your sound other than keeping you on medicine. You must learn to quiet your mind, quickly!”


       Lucas peeled a banana and ate it. “What is this place?”


       “You’re on the top floor of a mage school. We’re both educators and protectors. We take in young magic users and teach them magic, so they can survive.”


       The voice in Lucas’s head whispered, They’re the good guys. They work for me.


       Lucas said, “Who are you?”


       God.


       Lucas shook his head and buttered a yeast roll. He chewed it slow like. “I want to go home.”


       “Your family was told you’re dead,” Jeffries said. “You must give up on them. Your future is with us now.”


       “Screw that!”


       “Young man. You’re 18. You can go back to your family, but you’ll be killed. You don’t understand how important you are. Every holy warrior for thousands of years has been murdered before they turned 18. You’ll die for sure, if you leave Raven’s Tower.


       “You must learn to control your magic. We’ll start with different methods right now, if you are finished eating.”


       Lucas looked at the food. “I didn’t poop before. Give me a minute.”


       He went into the bathroom and locked the door. Tears began to stream down his cheeks.


       Jeffries whispered in his mind, We can only maintain a facade of a mage competition for so long. If you can’t learn to control the sound coming from you, we’ll be overrun by an army, and everyone will be killed.


       Lucas took a paper towel and wiped his face off. He stepped out of the bathroom and looked into Jeffries’s eyes. “What do I do?”


       Jeffries rubbed at his chin. “Have a seat, and we’ll try something that works for most warlocks first. Have you ever seen white granite with gold veins in it?”


       Lucas sat cross-legged in the chair. “I have a good idea what that looks like.”


       “Imagine a cube of it.”


       “That’s it?” Lucas asked.


       Jeffries nodded.


       Lucas focused on a perfect cube of white granite. A tingling sensation started to build up in his extremities, and he started to shake a bit. The shakes and tingling got worse and worse until they became full on convulsions.


       Jeffries punched a button on his desk. “Medic!”


       A medic raced into the room and jabbed a needle in Lucas’s arm, and he drifted off to blackness. He woke up on a couch in Jeffries’s office. He rubbed at his temples. “You’re so loud. You think the competitors in the halls below us are loud. You’re like a damn symphony.”


       Lucas said, “What do we try next?”


       “Do you know what obsidian looks like?”


       “It’s black and shiny.”


       Jeffries clenched and unclenched his fists. “It’s dark magic. Try imagining a cube of it.”


       Lucas pushed out all thoughts from his mind. He imagined a solid black cube floating in space.


       Jeffries whistled.


       “Is it working?” Lucas asked.


       “A little. A long time ago in an ancient text I read of a witch who emblazened symbols on an obsidian cube to quiet her mind.”


       “What symbol should I use?”


       Jeffries shrugged. “I don’t recall what worked for the witch. I just know it has to be things from your life. Things you remember from your past. Things that were once important to you.”


       Lucas tried carving a jack-o-lantern on the sides of the obsidian cube. He looked to Jeffries. He shook his head no. Lucas tried putting roman numerals on each side. Jeffries shrugged.


       Lucas focused on a blood red triangle in a circle of scorched metal, and it felt good. He embedded the image on each side of the obsidian cube. A calm sense of warm and home spread out from his chest.


       Jeffries laughed. “Perfect! You’ve got it!”


       He started to chant again in that ancient language. “Your aura still shines a bright solid white. We must figure out a way to mask it. When you meet the other warlocks in Raven’s Tower, they might cast truesight on you.”


       “Teach it to me, this truesight,” Lucas said.


       Jeffries reached in his desk and withdrew a stiff parchment of some kind. “It’s easier to memorize, if you read it from a page.”


       Lucas reached for the page and started to read the words. Jeffries started to grow with a bright green shroud. Lucas read it over and over until it became second nature. He took the obsidian cube in his mind, and he started to spin it. “Try to read my aura now.”


       Jeffries chanted the truesight, and his eyes opened wide. “You now show as a normal warlock! Do you think you can keep up what you’re doing in your mind?”


       “I don’t have a clue how long I can stay focused on this. It isn’t hard.”


       Jeffries nodded and nodded. “If it’s the kind of ward I think it is, you can shrink it to make it easier to carry around with you, and the more you use it, the easier it will be to maintain. In time, it will be a simple matter of setting it up in the morning first thing and refreshing it first thing at night before bed.”


       Lucas rubbed at his tummy. “I need food.”


       “Breakfast is being served as we speak. I was about to have food sent up.”


       “I’d like to see more of this place.”


       Jeffries stood up. “Follow me.”


       He wandered out of the office to a wide hallway then to a set of elevators. He pushed the button, and the doors slid open. They stepped inside, and the elevators moved so fast it make Lucas wonder about the nature of where he was. They walked down another hallway and stepped through a double door. Lucas and Jeffries gathered up trays of food and walked into a massive hall filled with young men and a few male adults. Youngsters here and there threw truesight at Lucas, and he in turn cast it back at them in a wave of power. Every eye in the place turned on Lucas and stared. Countless voices asked in Lucas’s mind, What’s your name?


       Lucas called out with his mind, Lucas!


       The boys and men turned back to their food and ate. Lucas and Jeffries followed suit.


       An adult maybe thirty dressed in the same garb as everybody, tan pants and a white shirt, approached Lucas and Jeffries. This new man sat down and smiled at Lucas. The man held out his hand to shake, “I’m Johnathan Hinkle.”


       Lucas shook his hand.


       Johnathan kept on smiling. “Have you signed up for classes yet? I can squeeze you in some of my classes.”


       “He’s 18, and you teach senior level classes,” Jeffries said.


       “Still, he’s going to be a hunter, and that means he’ll be in my classes. He needs a mentor.”


       Jeffries shook his head. “He may not be a hunter. All of Raven’s Tower will mentor him, just like all the other students.”


       “He hits with truesight like gunpowder, but he doesn’t make a sound,” Johnathan said.


       Lucas took a sip of orange juice. “What’s a hunter?”


       “You know Rameus is on his way here, Jeffries?” Johnathan said. “Lucas is going to be a hunter.”


       “He has a choice, damnit!” Jeffries exclaimed.


       Johnathon reached out and squeezed Lucas’s shoulder. “Choose wisely young man, and I’ll see you in class.” On that note, Johnathan got up and left.


       “Who’s Rameus?” Lucas asked.


       “Rameus the Third leads the high council. He leads the hunters. He’ll be here by the time we finish our food.”


       “What does he want with me?”


       Jeffries ate an entire muffin and drank half a cup of coffee before answering. “He can explain that better than I can. Finish your food, and we’ll meet him in my office.”


       They ate and took the elevator back upstairs. A white haired man wearing a light blue blazer, just a tiny shade off from gray, sat in Jeffries’s chair. Jeffries took a seat on the couch. Lucas sat across from the white haired man in the chair in the center of the room.


       “I’m Rameus the Third, and I’m extremely happy to meet you, young man.”


       Lucas nodded.


       “If you can survive, you’ll be the first of your kind to reach adulthood,” Rameus said.


       The tiny voice in Lucas’s mind whispered, Cast truesight on him. Make sure you can trust him.


       Lucas chanted the words, and a blue shroud of mist-like color bled from Rameus.


       His eyes opened wide. “Dear lord.”


       “What do you want from me?” Lucas asked.


       Rameus rubbed the palms of his hands together and smiled. “I want your allegiance. I want you to come work for me. I want you to be trained in every art of combat that we’ve mastered. I want you to have the best teachers. I want you to have a happy life.”


       Lucas shook his head.


       Rameus reached in his pocket and withdrew a leather bag. He jingled it. He dumped the contents on the table. Gold coins. Ten of them. “This is the bounty on the master vampire you killed. Ten ounces of gold. Enough for the down payment on a house. Enough to buy a car.”


       Lucas reached for them, and Rameus pulled them away with magic. “You can only collect a bounty, if you swear allegiance to the high council. You’ll also receive a stipend while in school, and your tuition will be paid for. Study the ways of war, but study other things, too. Earn a degree.”


       Lucas looked to Jeffries.


       The ancient headmaster spoke. “It’s your choice, Lucas. The stipend and free schooling are yours for the taking. If you choose to be a hunter, the high council may call on you in times of need. Even if you don’t become a hunter, you may be called upon, but hunters are always called on first.”


       Lucas closed his eyes. “What do I do?”


       Rameus said, “Swear allegiance to the high council.”


       “So be it. I swear my allegiance to the high council.”

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