Main Office (IV)

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rating: +12+x

The Fourth Wandswoman of Chelon was a parody of beauty.

The drooping folds of her skin were immaculately cleaned. Her razor sharp beak was polished to a mirror sheen, and the smell of death from her breath was cleverly mixed with the scent of strawberries to make it almost pleasant.

Even her eyes were wrong. She had perfect mascara, but she also had wide pupils and deep brown irises that covered the entirety of her strange, beady gaze.

But I knew there was kindness in her. True, genuine care buried in terrible suffering.

I’d met women like her before. Not that looked like her exactly, but ones that volunteered in soup kitchens and threw $50 a plate tea parties to raise money for kids with cancer. The kind of woman who was so nice you wanted to stab her.

She just happened to be a hideous vulture monster.

But I looked the same, if less well dressed, so it wasn’t like I could talk.

We were sitting in her clean, well appointed office. The only thing unusual about it was a couple of bolts of cloth and a dress form in a corner. The rest of the office could have been taken from anywhere on Earth. Two chairs, a desk, papers, even a computer, though I couldn’t tell you the brand.

“So,” she said, “Earth-5, how do you feel about ghosts?”

I blinked at her. “Those are real?”

She nodded. “They are. Note, “ghosts” is a bit of a garbage term. I actually teach a seminar on the different types of incorporeal undead. But they are real, and about as diverse as people. Some of them even work for our organization.”

Now that was a surprise, I thought this little coop had some very specific membership requirements. “Ghosts can take the map?”

Chelon-4 made an uncertain gesture. “It has happened, though it is not common. Most ghosts are nowhere near ‘alive’ enough to make choices like that. No, most of the ghosts who work for us are a bit like…” she struggled for an analogy, “like donated organs. If a Wandsman dies and happens to leave a ghost behind, often they will want to continue to help their family or carry on with their research. We have a memorial shrine of sorts where we read their stories, speak of their life, leave offerings, the works. All of these things are simple necromancy, strengthening our ghostly allies. Also, it’s just respectful.”

My understanding of the laws of physics was once again shattered, but at this point I was getting used to that. “That’s… cool I guess, but what does it have to do with me?”

She pulled out an odd whitish bracelet. “This is a Memento Mori of The Third Wandsman of Deer Run. I wanted to offer it to you while you’re learning magic.”

I stared at the strange, beaded thing. “Why?”

“Ghosts like him naturally absorb magic from their surroundings so they can manifest. If you’re bleeding off a lot of dangerous magic into the environment, he’ll absorb it and appear. It’s sort of a “heat sink” for your spell casting, allowing you a modicum more control.”

Suddenly a lot of things clicked into place. “This is because of that crap Dr. Bright pulled isn’t it?”

Chelon-4 winced. “For the record, I did suspend him from teaching over that, but he’s not wrong that you have the makings of an extremely talented magician and the early training of someone like you can be dangerous without proper safeguards. Please understand that this is just an offer. We’re not the SCP Foundation. No one is going to lock you up.”

To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure how much I wanted to learn magic in the first place given the oh so rosy picture that psycho cuckoo painted of it. But if I was dangerous without it…

I held out my talon, showing my scaly wrist. “Lay it on me.”

“He uses male pronouns.”

“I know, but ‘lay him on me’ sounds way too dirty.”

“Fair enough.”

She slipped on the bracelet.

Instantly, a giant pigeon appeared behind me. “Hello!”

“Gah!” I tumbled out of the office chair in shock.

The pigeon gasped. “Oh dear, I’m dreadfully sorry. I just wanted to introduce myself. Are you alright? I’d offer to help you up, but…” he reached out his talon and it phased right through the chair.

A few things locked into place. “Deer Run-3?”

The pigeon bowed widely. “And you must be Earth-5. Chelon-4 has told me much about you.”

Chelon-4 stood up, beak agape. “You had enough power to manifest just from touching her?”

Deer Run-3 paused. “Yes… that is rather concerning. Don’t worry though!” the ghost continued, “Cases of Spontaneous Spellcaster Combustion are quite rare once you’ve taken precautions.”

I stared at him. “Spontaneous what now?”

Chelon-4 rubbed at her temples. “You never did have the best bedside manner. I fear the two of you are going to be spending a lot of time with each other.”

I found my still human son Johnny in the nearest cafeteria devouring a pair of cheeseburgers and a pile of chili fries off of cookware that looked insanely over-elaborate for the task.

I pulled up a seat next to him “So I’m guessing heart disease is the latest teenage trend?”

He snorted. “Sure… So who’s your new friend?”

Deer Run-3 waved. “Hello! I’m Deer Run-3, the ghost in charge of helping your mother control her magic while she’s learning.”

I winced. “Deer, do you have to say that so loud?”

He cooed in surprise. “Why? It’s nothing to be ashamed of, we all started somewhere and that fact that I’m here implies you’re incredibly gifted. If anything I’m a status symbol.”

I groaned. “Yeah, provided I don’t blow up.”

Johnny dropped his burger. “You’re going to blow up?!”

Nice one Latisha, you really stepped in it there. In my medical career I’d seen scenarios like this play out tons of times. A patient gets better, but then they have to go back in for whatever reason and the kids feel… cheated.

Honestly they deserved to feel cheated. Disease was the most cruel, unfair thing there was in a world that provided a lot of competition.

I wasn’t about to lie to my kid, so I turned to Deer Run-3. “Yeah, I’d like some clarification on that. What are the odds that I explode from too much magic?”

Deer Run-3 retreated slightly into his feathers. “I don’t want to discourage you from getting a second opinion, but from what I’ve seen from rather intimate knowledge of your magic, with me on I’d say the odds are at a miniscule .01%. I honestly shouldn’t have even brought it up, I’m so sorry about-.”

“What are the odds if I take you off?” I had noticed his qualifier and wasn’t about to let him weasel away with it.

He winced. “I… I couldn’t be sure without a lot more equipment, but if you’re asking for a guess… I’d say 33%?”

“You’re never leaving.” Johnny said simply.

Deer Run-3 blinked. “What?”

Johnny stood up from his shockingly empty plate and got right in front of the pigeon.

“You’re. Never. Leaving. Got it?”

Deer Run-3’s feathers slicked in fear. “Yes sir.”

Johnny nodded. “Glad we understand each other.”

He picked up his empty tray and left.

Deer Run-3 let out a nervous coo. “Your son is scary.”

I felt a sinking feeling in my gut. “Yeah… Yeah, he is.”


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