Gravity, Part 5 of 5

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The sun warmed his skin and the latte warmed his insides.  A toasted sandwich helped bolster his energy.  The day was beautiful and the street was quiet as he pretended to read his book while letting his gaze shift around.  Richard also searched through the gravitational strings around him.  He didn’t pluck or strum or rearrange them at all, he just studied them.  He was looking for something out of place, where, perhaps, someone was doing something they shouldn’t be.  But, for over an hour he sat at the little table outside the coffee shop and all assaults against him stopped.  Nothing looked out of place.  Nobody walked by that he didn’t recognize from the neighborhood.  He couldn’t spot anyone lurking in nearby shadows.  All was quiet.  All was calm.

Frustration that his plan hadn’t worked began to grow, along with a tremor of fear.  If he couldn’t figure out who was attacking him, then what?  What would be subjected to next?  What if he couldn’t ward off the next attack.  Someone obviously didn’t want me to be successful in what he was doing.  The spells they’d used against him were proof of that.  Rather, the cost of those spells was proof.

The chair across from him at his little table was pulled back and a woman sat down, startling him out of his thoughts, and out of the world of magic where he’d been scanning for things out of place.

“Good morning, Richard.”

“Oh,” he replied, trying to play off his surprise as having been interrupted from his reading.  “Hello, Bree.  How is my favorite neighbor this morning?”

She smiled and said, “Tired.”

“On such a beautiful day?  I’m sorry to hear that.”

“It’s okay.   I’m sure I’ll feel better tomorrow.  You don’t mind if I sit with you for a bit, do you?”

“Not at all,” Richard replied truthfully.  Bree was his favorite neighbor.  She was only one of a couple people on the block he actually talked to and the only one he talked to more than general greetings in passing.  “Everything okay?  Something I can help with?”

“I’m glad you asked,” she said, a small smile on her lips. 

She’d been sitting with her hands in her lap but now she raised them to rest on the table in front of her.  She had a large bandage on the wrist of her right arm.  A red stain ran down the middle of it.  The wound was fresh.

Richard gasped and locked eyes with Bree, “You?”

“I threw the best I had at you.  Just to see.  Just to try and prove that you shouldn’t have given up on blood magic.  And you blocked it so easily it was laughable.”

Richard had no idea what to say.  He couldn’t Bree was a magic user too.  He couldn’t believe this person he had considered a friend would use blood spells against him.  His mind reeled.

The smile fell from her face and she grew very serious.  She didn’t look away, though, and when Richard thought about the exchange later he decided that was the key.  “Will you teach me?”

He didn’t miss a beat, “Yes, of course.”

Gravity, Part 4 of 5

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The instant he left the protection of the wards he’d placed around his house, he felt the prickling on his skin that meant magic was being worked against him.  He reached for the gravitational strings to make it harder for the spells to land.  Plucking them, massaging them, and shifting them around as he had practiced, he was happy to feel his flesh return to normal.  His counter spells seemed to work.  Smiling, Richard stepped further away from the safety of his home.  He didn’t relax, though.  He expected the onslaught to intensify.  He wasn’t disappointed.

Before he could reach the sidewalk in front of his house, his skin puckered in goose flesh and the hairs rose on the back of his neck.  He didn’t react immediately.  He wanted to see if the changes he’d made, the spells he had cast, would hold against this new attack before he cast further protective spells. 

He made it to the sidewalk and turned to his right to stroll towards the little market a block up.  He wasn’t going for anything in particular.  It was just a trip to test his new spells and see if he could draw his attackers out.  He hoped that his first set of gravitational spells would keep him safe until he reached the market.  There he hoped to grab a latte and find a place to sit where he could pretend to read a book while actually looking for those attacking him. 

His flesh crawled but his wards held.  Richard made it to the end of his block and started to cross the street.  Two-thirds of the way across, his vision began to dim.  He didn’t run, didn’t panic, but he did speed up so he wouldn’t be blinded while still out in the open.  Safely on the other side, his vision little more than tiny circles of morning light, he stopped and focused on the magic again.  He was pretty sure he knew what spell this was and for a moment he was shocked that someone thought he was worth spilling so much blood over.  Who was after him?  And why?  But, as his world went completely dark, he pushed the questions away and plucked at the strings of gravity around him, shifting things just so.  Light filled his world again and he looked around, satisfied, and then he carried on towards that market, almost as if nothing had happened.

Richard glanced around, though, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone he didn’t recognize, someone who might be actively trying to staunch the heavy bleeding that would have gone with the spell he had just thwarted.  At the same time, his own magical exertions had weakened him and he slowed his pace so he could focus on his breathing and not waste any power energy rushing to the market.  He would get a break there.  His coffee and a bite to eat, along with the rest while sitting, and that would be enough to get him home even if he had to use more magic to do so.

Still, this was becoming problematic.  How could he ever get anything done if he was constantly under attack.  He desperately needed to find who was behind it and put a stop to it.  Whoever it was.  Whatever was needed.

Gravity, Part 3 of 5

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When he’d felt strong enough, Richard had ventured out with his newfound magic, ready to change the world for the better.  He hadn’t expected opposition.  He hadn’t realized that his dabbling with gravity had been noticed.  He hadn’t understood that there were people who didn’t appreciate his efforts and were willing to steps out of their shadows to fight him.  And, because he had been caught off guard, he hadn’t had a way to defend himself. 

What gravity spell could he use to block a blood spell?  What could he move to protect himself, to heal himself?  What strings could he pull on to keep the various magics being worked against from taking hold and tearing him down?

That first night?  None.  There was nothing he could do, nothing he could think of to attempt.

He was assaulted by magic he recognized, spells he had cast himself when he’d dabbled in the darker arts.  He couldn’t see his assailants.  He couldn’t understand why he was under attack.  He took hit after hit until he pulled the strings that would send him flying, literally, to the safety of his home.  There he had used the last of his strength to put in place wards and other protective measures that he hoped would keep alive through the rest of the night before he lost consciousness.

The next morning Richard had woken with a start, ready to spill blood, his own, and cast dangerous spells at those who had attacked him.  Finding himself alone in his house, he calmed down but it took hours for his heart to stop pounding and his head to clear.  It took the full day to get himself off the floor, fed, and into his actual bed.  From there he strengthened the wards he’d placed the night before and then fell into a troubled sleep.  People he couldn’t see were chasing him and every time he tried to pull the strings so he could get away he found the strings had all been cut.  He was grounded and they were getting closer.

When Richard woke again the sun was shining and he felt strong enough to get up and get some more food.  Over breakfast he poured over what he could remember of the attack and tried to figure out the who and the why.  Who had attacked him and why?  It had definitely been blood magic.  He would need to figure out if he could use gravity magic to defend against that.  But, that didn’t help him solve the unanswered questions. 

His contemplation led to zero concrete answers, though.  He had ideas but nothing he could prove and certainly nothing he could act on without more information.  He would need to draw them out but he would need to be better prepared to fend them off when he did.  So, switching gears he bent his thoughts towards how he could counteract the spells he’d been hit with.  Then, he thought about what other spells he would have used if he were on the offensive and tried to figure out how to defend against those as well.  The people who had attacked obviously knew about him so they likely knew that he wouldn’t be venturing forth again until he felt confident he could stand up to the same sort of attacks.  Richard wanted to make sure he was prepared above and beyond that.

So, he went back to training and testing and failing and trying again and again until he felt like he knew which strings to pull on to keep himself save from all sorts of blood magic spells.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t about to cast those kinds of spells on himself so he had no way to know if they would work in practice as they did in theory.  He would rest and then he would venture back outside and see what happened.

Gravity, Part 2 of 5

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Richard started small.  That was a lesson he’d learned early on, when he’d first started trying to learn magic.  And then the lesson had really been driven home when he has started practicing blood magic.  He’d tried to start small then too, but he had still spilled too much with his first spell and almost hadn’t survived.  So, for his first gravity spell all he tried to do was lift a small plastic ball a few feet off the ground.  It was tricky, and he was sweating with concentration and the exertion before he got the ball to move but eventually he managed to twist the gravitational forces around so the ball wasn’t being pulled towards the earth as much and then the moon’s gravity began to lift it up.  He repeated this test several times until he could get it to happen faster and then get the ball to hover and then get the ball to spin while hovering. 

The tests ramped up from there.  Night after night for weeks he spent training and learning and failing and trying again and again.  From the small plastic ball he started with to eventually lifting the car a few feet.

No magic comes without a cost, though.  Blood magic cost blood.  Gravity magic, Richard found, cost energy.  He couldn’t feel it with the smaller spells.  But, when he started to move the larger objects he could feel exhaustion slam into him.  It took practice to build up the stamina to hold on despite his body and mind telling him he was too tired to keep going.  Occasionally he did push himself too far and he passed out in the middle of working with the magic, only to wake hours later, aching and groggy, to find that whatever he’d been manipulating had crashed when he’d lost consciousness.  Then, he found, he wouldn’t be able to work another spell for a couple days, until his body had fully recovered.  If he didn’t push himself that far, though, he was able to work spells again the next night and occasionally he could work another one the same night.

“It’s like building muscle,” he mused while holding his car two feet above the ground and then getting it to rock back and forth to have the left wheels and then the right wheels touch the ground briefly.  “I have to build the muscles to do more, to recover faster.”

Gently bringing the car back down, he released the spell, and sat down to rest.  The good thing was he learned something every night.  Even the nights he pushed too far he learned something about gravity or about himself.  He had learned so much already but knew there was still far more too learn before he’d unlocked enough secrets to feel proficient.  It was far more complicated than blood magic had been.  It was far more complicated than he’d realized when he’d seen the connection that night weeks ago sitting in his car at the beach.  It had seemed simple.  He wasn’t disappointed that it wasn’t, though.  He was enjoying the challenge.  He was enjoying the process of learning.

Standing again, Richard reached out and pulled at the strings, as he had begun to think of them, until he was able to lift his car again.  Once it was hovering two feet off the ground, he begun to nudge it so it would swivel left and right a few times.  Exhaustion began to push against his thoughts.  His body grew heavy and he felt like he could sleep for a week if he would close his eyes.  He held on, though. Swung the hood back and forth in smooth, controlled, arcs two more times and then straightened it out and set the car back down.  With the wheels grounded again, he released the spell and his legs immediately buckled.  He managed to stay awake which he was happy about and he shuffled backwards to the chair he’d rested in earlier.  There he pulled himself in and smiled.  That was the fastest he’d been able to do two heavy lifting spells back to back.  He was getting stronger.  He was getting better.

The next night he would work on more delicate spells.  He’d flip a light switch on and off.  He’d unscrew the lug nuts on a tire and then screw them back on.  He would work on these smaller tasks that would work a different set of muscles.  For what he had in mind, he figured he’d need to be able to do the big jobs as well as the small ones.

As soon as he felt strong enough, he rose from the chair and headed to bed, a smile on his face the whole time.

Gravity, Part 1 of 5

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A violent red slashed the sky as the setting sun dipped below the horizon.  The clouds, far out at sea, grabbed the last of the light and transformed it into what he might have otherwise considered an ominous display.  But, he’d given up on blood magic months ago.  It had worked but the cost was too much for the results.  His eyes shifted from the horizon to the waves rolling up the beach to where he sat.  The water ebbed and flowed.  It came in.  It went out.  Sometimes the swells were larger.  Sometimes they were smaller.  But always, always, the ocean rose and fell.  The ocean.  The largest force on the planet.  Except it didn’t do it on its own.  The ocean itself was controlled by something else.  Gravity.  And that gravity came from the moon.  And anything that had that much power absolutely fascinated Richard.  He had to know how it worked.  He had to learn how to harness it and use it for his own purposes.

Sighing, Richard pushed himself off the sand and walked back to his car.  He wanted to get off the beach before it got too dark.  The clouds on the horizon were headed his direction and with the sun quickly making its daily exit, it would soon be harder to see on this empty stretch of the coast.  For a moment there, he’d thought he almost had it.  The secret.  The key he needed to unlock gravity.  He’d be back the next afternoon, though, and maybe he’d get it then.

He had plenty of time to figure it out.  He wasn’t going anywhere and neither was the moon.

Though, interestingly enough, the moon was actually moving further away from the earth all the time.

He stopped, his hand holding the key outstretched toward the driver’s side front door of his car.  “Maybe that’s it,” he muttered.  “It’s not just the gravity of the moon.  It’s the connection between the Earth’s gravity holding the water down and the moon’s gravity moving the water back and forth.  It’s the intersection of these two where the magic is.”

Biting his lip, he finished opening his door and got in.  He didn’t start the car right away, though.  His mind was going too fast to even think about driving.  He was so close to the answer.  He could almost feel the magic on his skin.

And then he laughed.  Joy bubbled out of him.  He had it.  He knew how to get at the gravity magic.

Starting his car he headed home, eager to run his first test.