The Impossible Wizard: Chapter 18
If you ended up here before reading the earlier chapters, you can return to Chapter 1 here
“The wizards killed Mort, just like Black Bird said they would.” Michael paced in the close quarters of the tiny apartment that served as the official church of the True Face of God. The four other members of his congregation watched his agitated movements with bright, eager eyes. They knew, as he knew, that the time for their glorious retribution was nigh. “For that heinous act God will punish them. He will punish them through our hands.”
“Amen!” Gabriel raised his hands in praise. Brother Gabriel was always the most demonstrative of his little congregation. He’d lost his job as a demolition worker when the company switched to using magical constructs to pull down derelict buildings. For safety, they claimed, but everyone knew the truth. The wizards had enchanted the weak-willed suits into doing what they wanted.
“Though he wasn’t a member of our congregation, Brother Call was still a fellow traveler on the true path. As a sign of our faith and to honor our fallen brother we will finish the good work he started. We will kill the boy wizard before his powers can be unlocked and his soul condemned to Hell for all eternity. Though it may cost him his life we can still save him from damnation. It’s our duty.”
That brought smiles to the faces of men eager to do God’s work. These were good men, strong both in body and in faith. They couldn’t fail, especially since Black Bird told them everything they needed to know, both when and how to best accomplish their noble mission.
“Brother John.” Michael focused his intense gaze on the youngest member of their group, a man of only nineteen years who’d been denied his rightful place at college due to the foul influences of magic. “Did you bring the item?”
John reached into the pocket of his ragged army surplus jacket and pulled out a small device with a screen and several buttons. Michael wasn’t a technical person, his skills lay in a more divine direction, but Brother John worked at an electronics store and had a gift for cobbling together technology.
“Are you sure this is right? I felt bad about stealing the components from my boss.”
Michael bent down and stared into John’s watery brown eyes. “We’re doing God’s work, son. There can be no crime while we’re acting in his name. Will it work?”
“Yes, sir. I tested it with my phone and it blocked the signal from several hundred yards and weakened it for a third of a mile.”
Michael clapped the youth on his bony shoulder. “Good man. I knew I could count on you.”
John puffed up at the compliment and sat up straighter. He’d do what was necessary. Michael saw it in his eyes.
“Brother Jacob.” Michael turned to the oldest member of the group, a still-spry sixty-year-old who ran a pawn shop and found the True Face of God after surviving a brush with cancer. “Did you bring the weapons?”
“Sure did, though a stranger collection of gear I never seen.” Jacob unzipped a green duffle bag and laid the weapons on Michael’s battered coffee table. First came a baseball bat, then a pair of chef’s knives, a three-pound sledgehammer, and last a wrecking bar. “How come we can’t just take guns? I have plenty of them at the shop.”
“The wizard’s vile magic protects the building. Black Bird says only weapons that are also tools can pass through.” Michael made the sign of the cross and spoke a prayer in Latin. “With God’s blessing these humble implements will see his task complete.”
Ezra snatched up the baseball bat. Heavyset and balding, Ezra had seen some rough years before he found his way to Michael and the church. He caressed the grip of the bat. “I was the star shortstop in high school. Feels good to hold a bat again.”
Michael smiled and folded his hands together. “It will feel even better when you use it to send the heathen to meet his maker. Take up your weapons, brothers. We go to do God’s work.”
The congregation left Michael’s apartment and piled into his white panel van. He settled in behind the wheel and turned the key. The starter whined and refused to catch. He paused and looked to heaven. “Dear Lord, if you wish us to complete your divine work please make this useless pile of metal start up.”
He tried the key again and with a little divine intervention the motor sputtered to life. The guys gave a round of Hallelujahs and Michael pulled out. They drove through the streets, watching the people go about their business, indifferent to the blasphemies surrounding them. That would all change tonight when they announced the abomination’s death on the evening news.
Fifteen minutes later they parked in the garage under the wizard’s building. There were only a few cars at this time of day so they had no trouble getting a spot close to the elevator. Though Michael had no intention of retreating it always paid to be careful.
“Are you sure we should be doing this in the middle of the day?” John asked.
“Of course.” Michael raised his fist. “We will bring judgment in the bright light of day.”
“Besides,” Jacob said. “Everybody’s at work right now. Fewer people to call the police before we finish our work.”
“That too.” Michael slammed the transmission into park and they climbed out of the van. “Brother John, up to the roof. Call us when you’re in position and you’re ready to activate the device.”
“Yes, Michael.” The young man scurried into the elevator and pressed the button for the roof.
When he’d gone Ezra said, “Shame the kid’s going to miss the important work.”
“John has a gentle soul.” Michael pulled his knife and tested the edge. “He would be a liability to us in a fight.”
“Ain’t going to be no fight.” Gabriel slapped the wrecking bar into the palm of his hand making a meaty smack. “It’s going to be a slaughter.”
* * *
Conryu closed the big book of boring magic and banged his head on the cover. He’d been reading at the dining room table in an effort to keep from falling asleep. It had been a week since he began his house arrest and Conryu finally finished the stupid book.
Much as he might complain, if you looked past the mystic mumbo jumbo it appeared magic was nothing more than a system of energy manipulation that you altered to create the effects you wanted. As long as he looked at it that way he found he could wrap his head around it pretty well. The problem was whoever wrote the book liked to couch everything in supernatural terms instead of just saying straight out what she meant.
The alarm on his phone rang and Conryu glanced at the clock. Eleven exactly. Jonny and Rin were supposed to have lunch with him and Maria. Mrs. Kane had gone out of town for a job so they were all going to watch the opening match of the Four Nations Magical Tournament together in Conryu’s apartment. It wasn’t like he could go anywhere.
Maria didn’t think much of the North American team this year. Conryu had no idea if the team was any good, all he knew was this was Heather James’s last year and the blond team captain was one of the hottest women he’d ever seen. He’d have to be careful not to drool or Maria would give him a smack.
Conryu collected the bag of chips and fresh salsa his mom had picked up for him and spread them out on the living room table. The others were supposed to bring sandwich fixings and more snacks. Five minutes later his doorbell rang. Maria was waiting on the other side with rolls and deli meat. “I’m the first to arrive?”
He grinned. “Yup, though you had the shortest trip. I finally finished the stupid book.”
“But did you understand it?” Maria slipped inside.
“I think I understand the principles, how the various types of energy interact, that sort of thing. What I can’t figure out is why people who wield certain types of energy wouldn’t get along.”
“It’s not that the people don’t get along, it’s that the energy doesn’t combine well with its direct opposite.” Maria put the meat in the fridge and the rolls on the counter. “Some wizards also have a tendency to get mixed up in the politics of elemental spirits which can lead to arguments as well. Those who specialize in one type of magic tend to view the world through the lens of that magical philosophy and it colors everything else. It’s stupid on a lot of levels, but then wizards aren’t so different than any other group of people.”
Conryu sighed, still not really getting it. “It sounds sort of like the arguments Harley guys and Indian guys have.”
“That’s as good an analogy as any. When are the others supposed to arrive?”
“Any time now.” Someone knocked. “Speak of the devil.”
Conryu was surprised Jonny arrived first. He figured if anyone would arrive early it would be Rin. Jonny had a cooler with him, hopefully stocked with soda. “Hey, bro. Did I miss anything?”
“Nope, we’ve got ten minutes before the start. What’d you bring?”
“Root beer, cola, and mineral water for the ladies.”
“Bless your heart, Jonny Salazar,” Maria said in an over-the-top southern accent.
The boys shared a laugh at that. Maria’s phone rang and while she talked Conryu and Jonny broke into the chips and salsa. A few seconds later Maria joined them on the couch.
“Who was it?” Conryu asked.
“Rin. She can’t make it, her little brother’s sitter had to go home early. It’s weird, my phone cut off in the middle of our conversation.”
Conryu shrugged. That happened now and then. No big deal. Since Rin wasn’t coming they fixed themselves some sandwiches and settled in.
The announcer came on the tv. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 567th annual Four Nations Tournament. This year’s odds-on favorite is the Empire of the Rising Sun’s team with four seniors and two juniors returning to compete.”
“Who do you like?” Maria asked.
“Heather James,” Conryu and Jonny answered together.
He thought maybe that wasn’t the wisest answer an instant before she smacked him on the back of the head. The blow didn’t surprise him in the least, but it still stung. “I meant which team. All the guys and many of the girls like Heather James. I read online she’s got a modeling contract waiting for her after she graduates.”
That surprised Conryu less than the slap. “I don’t know. If the Alliance doesn’t have a chance I guess I should root for the Empire, since that’s where Dad comes from.”
“Yeah, that’s who I’m going for,” Maria said.
“I’ve got twenty bucks on the Kingdom,” Jonny said.
The camera shifted to the arena floor and they stopped talking. There were no seats since the people monitoring the event didn’t allow a live audience on the off chance a spell went out of control. Outside the arena dozens of lounges had been built with large-screen tvs, bars and restaurants for the patrons, and plenty of gambling halls.
The tournament was being held in the Republic of Australia this year, though no one gave their team much chance of success. A group of girls stood at each of the cardinal directions. They wore robes associated with their element and school patches on the back.
“What are they starting with this year?” Conryu asked.
“Group casting. It’s the trickiest discipline and requires the most teamwork.” Maria took a bite of her sandwich.
That was one of the last chapters Conryu had read and he hadn’t fully understood it. Something about layering spells so opposing energies didn’t come into contact.
The Empire team and Australian team moved to the edge of the arena leaving the Alliance to face off with the Kingdom of the Isles team in the first match. Five members of the Alliance team raised their hands. Heather took the lead, chanting a spell, her blue-green robe swirling around her, outlining the exquisite figure underneath as the power built. She was stunning, like someone out of a story.
“Oh man,” Jonny groaned.
Maria glared at him then shifted her gaze to Conryu. He kept his expression neutral, barely.
A water dragon appeared above her. Next it was wrapped in a skin of swirling energy by the wind mage, followed by scales of fire and spikes of earth. Last the light mage cast a spell, but nothing happened.
“Did her magic not work?” Conryu asked.
“It worked,” Maria said. “Light magic can interact with all four elements. She used her spell to bind the construct into a complete whole. The results aren’t visible, but they’re probably the most important if the team wants to win.”
“Just watch,” Maria said.
A single member of the Kingdom team stepped forward. She wore a black robe and carried a rod tipped with some sort of round black gem. She chanted in a language both guttural and entrancing. Conryu had never heard anything like it. Those strange words spoke to him, called him. He leaned closer, his food forgotten.
Beside him Maria shivered and set her snack down. On the screen, power gathered around the gem, throwing off black sparks. The chant built to a crescendo. With the final word the wizard in black thrust the rod at the dragon construct.
An orb of dark energy streaked toward the dragon. It crashed into the stone spikes, smashed through the fire scales, shredded the wind skin and exposed inside the watery center, blowing the construct to shards of energy.
“Told you they were going to lose.” Maria hugged herself and tried to act like nothing had happened.
For his part Conryu couldn’t get those words out of his mind. He wanted to hear more.
The match went to commercial and a few seconds later someone knocked. “I thought you said Rin wasn’t coming?”
“That’s what she told me. Maybe something happened.”
Conryu shrugged and walked to the door. He looked through the peephole and saw the familiar mass of white hair. He groaned and opened the door. “Can’t you take a hint?”
“Sorry, my boy,” the professor said. “I just thought you might li—”
Conryu looked down the hall. Four men carrying an assortment of improvised weapons roared out of the elevator and charged.
Conryu grabbed the professor and yanked him inside before bolting the door. “We’ve got company!”