The Impossible Wizard: Chapter 11

If you ended up here before reading the earlier chapters, you can return to Chapter 1 here

 

Shizuku watched Maria and Conryu make their way toward the exit of the carnival grounds. It was an absolute miracle the shadow hounds hadn’t killed anyone, especially Conryu. Even if the beasts hadn’t intended it, a single brush with fang or claw could have seriously injured or even killed someone in the crowd.

And then zombies. Who ever heard of zombies with a dark aura that negated powerful fire magic? If Conryu hadn’t been able to deliver the magic physically they might have been in trouble. He certainly had his father’s skill when it came to fighting. It would be interesting to see what he could accomplish in the realm of magic.

She brushed loose grass off her knees while Terra watched with an impatient frown. Terra hadn’t been thrilled about getting called in on a Sunday, but with a blatant attack on a public venue Orin hadn’t had any choice. The police only had one wizard on their staff, a not especially powerful wind mage. This sort of investigation was definitely a job for the Department.

Shizuku didn’t mind lending a hand considering it was her family—and she certainly considered Conryu a member of her family—being targeted. That she had to work with Terra and not Clair was a relief. Clair had been in her grade at the academy and they’d never gotten along.

Shizuku chanted in the divine tongue, “Reveal the hidden darkness.” The spell should reveal the source of the hounds as well as the dark aura that surrounded the zombies. She repeated the words over and over, gently directing the white mist that served as the spell’s visible manifestation around the area. Soon an inky, insubstantial line appeared.

A wave of her hand sent the mist rushing along in the same direction as the line, following it to its source. Terra fell in behind her as they traced the spell through the grounds. All the visitors had left so they had no trouble making their way to the center of the park.

A gray, stone construct filled an area several hundred yards in diameter. It resembled a small mountain, with a shadowed cave entrance straight ahead. The line went right inside, getting thicker as they drew closer to the source. Beside her Terra muttered a spell of her own, this one in the language of earth. A little quaver ran through the ground in response to the magic.

“It was raised by mundane means,” Terra said. “The exterior only looks like stone, it’s actually some sort of light-weight composite.”

Shizuku nodded. It was hardly likely that the carnival kept a wizard capable of raising such a structure on their payroll.

Terra conjured a ball of flame in her right hand, pushing back the gloom. “Let’s head in.”

“Whoa, hold on there.” A skinny man with a pockmarked face, bald head, and filthy clothes came running toward them waving his hands. “You can’t take open flames into the Haunted Cavern.”

“Who are you and why can’t we?” Terra asked in her official voice, the one that made people who didn’t work for the government cringe.

“For one thing, most of the props inside are flammable, not to mention the hydraulic fluid that runs them and the cart. You go in there carrying that ball of fire and whoosh, I’m out three hundred grand and one star attraction and you’ll be needing to regrow your hair.”

“Is that what happened to you?” Terra asked.

He rubbed his bald pate. “Naw, mine just fell out. There are some flashlights inside you ladies can use. Would that work for you?”

Terra spoke a single, harsh syllable and the flame in her hand vanished. “It will, especially since you’ll be joining us to hold one of them.”

“I will?”

“Yes, you will. You seem a knowledgeable fellow and we may have questions. Just who are you anyway?”

“Beg your pardon, miss. Wilbur Cullen at your service. I own this carnival. It’s been in the Cullen family for over a hundred years. We crisscross the country every year following the island an—”

“That’s fascinating, Mr. Cullen, but we really need to move this investigation along so if you’d direct us to those flashlights, that would be great.” Terra motioned him toward the ride.

Shizuku watched the interaction with silent amusement. She couldn’t speak without ruining her detection spell, but Terra said enough for both of them. Terra herded Wilbur toward the ride like a collie chasing a sheep. Shizuku trusted Terra to keep a look out for any threats while she focused on the line that led ever deeper into the artificial caverns.

Ten feet inside the entrance a track started. Three cars that bore a vague resemblance to mine carts waited for passengers that wouldn’t be arriving that day. Wilbur went to a utility cabinet hanging to one side of the tracks and removed a pair of long flashlights. Terra accepted one and clicked it on.

The flashlight’s beam did little to dispel the cavern’s gloom. The still-functioning darkness spell must be suppressing the light. Shizuku didn’t know why the spell was still active since it had already summoned the shadow hounds and animated the zombies, but it was clearly doing something.

“Which way?” Terra asked.

Shizuku motioned straight ahead. They followed the tracks deeper into the cavern. Plastic demons hung limp from the hydraulic pistons that made them jump out to scare the passengers. The ride looked quite realistic. Whoever had designed the artificial stone had done a good job. No wonder this was a popular ride.

“This is our last carnival until the island returns next year,” Wilbur said. “Do you think we’ll be able to open back up?”

“I wouldn’t count on it,” Terra said. “This is the site of an active investigation. Besides, after what happened this morning I doubt you’d find many people willing to return.”

“Suppose you’re right. We had a good Saturday at least. Everyone wanted to go through the Haunted Cavern. Food sales were good too. We should at least break even on this stop.”

“I’m thrilled for you,” Terra said. “Please stop talking now.”

“Sorry. I talk when I’m nervous.”

The black line turned off the main tracks a little ways ahead, where there was a shadowed recess in the wall. Shizuku stopped, grabbed Terra’s robe, and pointed at the spot where it disappeared.

“Through there?” Terra turned to Wilbur. “What’s in there?” 

“It’s a maintenance access so we can service the machinery and disassemble the ride.”

Both flashlights swung in, illuminating the interior of the maintenance space. In the largest open area a corpse wearing a polka dot dress floated above a spell circle inscribed with dark energy that sparked with red light.

Shizuku released her spell. “Now I see why the spell is still operating. The corpse is maintaining a necromantic loop.”

“Aw, Gerty.” Wilbur moaned softly.

“Do you know her?” Terra asked with surprising gentleness.

“Gerty’s our bookkeeper. I hadn’t seen her all day today. Thought she was sick. Her stomach never has worked just right.”

“Did she have family?” Shizuku asked.

“We were all her family, but no kids or husband if that’s what you mean. She was devoted to the carnival. Gerty worked here since she was fourteen.” Wilbur sniffed and wiped his eyes.

“Perhaps you’d like to wait outside?” Terra said. “It won’t take us long to deal with this. I’m afraid the police will want to examine your friend’s body.”

“I understand. And I think I will take you up on your offer and wait outside. Be gentle. Gerty was a good girl.” Wilbur fled the maintenance room.

When Wilbur had made himself scarce the two wizards shared a look. “This isn’t going to be easy,” Shizuku said. “The dark magic has latched on to the body. Whoever set this trap did a poor job of it.”

“It’s an ugly casting, no doubt, but it did what the wizard wanted it to so you can’t call it a complete failure. Whoever is responsible probably didn’t care what happened after the hounds were summoned and the zombies raised.”

“Maybe not.” Shizuku pursed her lips. “But if we don’t break the spell and dissipate the necromantic energy properly the body will explode and release a lethal miasma over a square mile at least. It could kill thousands.”

“Well, we’ll just have to do the job right. How do you want to handle it?” Terra asked.

“I’m weakest in dark magic so you should disable the spell circle. I’ll craft a siphon of wind and light to disperse the gathered energy well above the city. Worst case we end up with a few dead birds and acid rain.”

“Given the alternative, I can live with that. How long do you need to construct the siphon?”

“Fifteen minutes.”

“Let’s begin.”

Shizuku tried to block out the guttural demonic language Terra used to unravel the spell circle. While she got excellent grades at the academy, Shizuku had never managed even the most basic of dark spells. She simply couldn’t get the magic to work for her. It was like her body rejected the Infernal power out of hand.

She began her casting by crafting a framework of light magic running from just above the circle, down the tunnel and out into the sky. That was the easy part. Next she switched to wind magic and conjured what amounted to a contained tornado inside the framework. Finally she bound the two spells together to make a stronger, cohesive whole. Not the most complex spell she’d ever created, but challenging enough given the circumstances.

A chill ran through her and she turned her attention to Terra. The circle had partly broken and wisps of dark energy oozed out of the body’s eyes and mouth. The crimson flecks were promptly sucked up into Shizuku’s funnel. Everything seemed to be working the way it should. So why was she so worried?

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Chapter 11. Click here to read Chapter 12 

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