By David R Castro
I recovered all that I could from the crime scene myself, drawing in samples of the sickening energies that resided in the room into a few of the clean quartz crystals I carried in my bag. Despite sketching out the room out into a notebook and looking around for metaphysical evidence of the crime, I didn’t find anything. I tagged out, having kicked all the mortals earlier. The crime scene guys gave me sideways glances, but they always did. I’m the stranger, the outside man, the crank that is taking money from whatever it happens to be that they want in the budget that week. They don’t say anything though, not any more, because I close cases. It might also be a little bit because they are afraid of me, at least a little bit, and in the mood I was in, maybe they should have been.
It was half an hour, most of which was spent swearing, before I got home and got straight to work. Someone was mucking about with people’s minds out there, and I had to stop them. Knowing that she was doing that was, as my childhood told me, half the battle. The other half was protecting myself from her. That was also the harder part.
I knew that she was powerful, to be running the spell on two people simultaneously, as well as the spell that killed them, so I had some measure of the kind of stuff I had to protect myself against, but at the same time I barely got a glance at what the woman could do, so I could very well underestimate her abilities, which could prove fatal to me and everyone else around me. Couldn’t have that.
I gathered ingredients from my second bedroom which, until Cassie came into my life, had been my office. Now it was the place where she crashed when her mother was actually in town, as they didn’t get along at all and it was better for her and her emotional control. It put me in a precarious place between me and her mother, as she would rather not have her twenty-one year old daughter living with, if only part time, a thirty year old man.
From there I got a bottle of acai berry juice, omega-3 supplements, and various packets of dried herbs. Angelica, anise, basil, sulfur, white chrysanthemum blooms, gum arabic powder, and a few knots of different roots, ginger, ginseng, and marshmallow. I carried all of this into my kitchen and got out my athame and cutting board. Potion making is not my strong suit, but one of my best friends, Mary Lefay, the chief healer for the New York chapter of the Enlightened Society, however, was very good at it, and had taught me what she knew. As a Wiccan, she had a very strong tradition of alchemical magic to draw from, and did so to teach me.
Potion making is basically the combination of two kinds of ingredients, the first being something with the properties of what you want the potion to do either mundanely or otherwise, and the other being of things that have intent for the use of the potion. I went to my drawers, pulling out an old little luggage lock. That was pretty much everything, other than the base.
All potions start with water, water as pure as it can get on Earth without magical intervention. We, the Society that is, bottle it from a few protected springs around the world for use in potions. I pulled over one of those bottles, glass with no label on it, and screwed off the top, pouring it into a cast iron pot. I set it on a low flame and began slicing the herbs into a fine chiffonade, then diced the roots. I dropped the roots into the now boiling water, and sat down onto the stool in the corner, thinking.
The potion I was making would help boost someone’s mental defenses. For me, a mage trained in magical defense, it would help reinforce what I already had. Although I would be using it, it was mostly for Baker and his crew. He would be facing whoever was around messing with people’s minds just like me, and although everyone have some natural kind of defense against invasive magic, it wouldn’t be enough against someone who knew what she was doing.
I could smell the roots stewing in the water and dropped the key into it; it clinked against the bottom of the pot. I stirred half the bottle of acai juice and pierced the gel caps of the supplements, dropping those in as well. I heard a key enter the lock of the door, followed by a small popping noise. Well, not so much heard it as felt it on the edges of my senses. There were only two people who had the key, and I wasn’t unlocking my door.
The key completed a magical circuit that undid, for a short time, my defense on my apartment, as well as all the things that normal keys do. The door opened and shut, and Cassie called out to me.
“In the kitchen. Where’s Lucy?”
“With my cousin and her kids. They went out to an arcade for a while. I needed to get some work done.” She looked at my athame, a silver handled steel dagger with a ball of quartz crystal embedded in the pommel, then the pot on the stove. “Whatcha brewing?”
“I caught a case, really bad, psychomancy. This is a booster shot for mental defenses. You’re having some.”
She pouted, but didn’t argue. No potion in the history of man has ever tasted good, so drinking one was a hassle to say the least, but she understood how important it was. I wouldn’t make one if it wasn’t needed. I stirred the mixture again and dropped in the herbs, turning off the heat and letting them steep.
“I want you over at your mom’s while I’m dealing with this, Cassie.”
“What? Why? You think that I can’t handle myself?” She looked hurt.
I should have seen that coming. She could be defensive of her magical development. It wasn’t her fault that she came into her powers at a later age than was normal, so all the students she knew of that were her age was much further along in their training, but she made it seem like it was a slight to her. All I wanted to do was protect her from the danger of me going after this witch. It’s happened before to people, and I didn’t want anyone getting hurt for me.
“No, I know you can. I also know that you have a family and need to protect them. I can handle myself, so let me do so; you focus on what you need to do, alright?”
She looked down but didn’t reply. I reached out and have her shoulders a squeeze. “Cassandra Andrea Black, look at me.”
The use of her full name made her eyes snap up to mine, something I’ve only done when she had seriously stepped over a line. She shook a little and, in the corner of my eye, I could see her shadow become less distinct.
“Listen to me when I say this. You are an amazing mage, stronger and more skilled than I had been at your age. You are truly the best student I have ever had. What I am telling you to do is not because you are not ready, but because you have responsibilities that you have to tend to. Do you understand me?”
She smiled a bit and blushed, nodding. “I’m your first student, Daniel.”
“Doesn’t stop you from being the best I’ve ever had.”
She chuckled and hugged me. She’s a hugger. I’m not really one, but I squeezed her back anyway. “Thank you Danny.” I kissed the top of her head for good measure, and released her.
“Get your gear and come back for your shot.” She nodded and went off to her room, as i grabbed a strainer, and a bowl. I strained the potion into the glass bowl, the color an unappetizing aubergine. I tossed the lock into the sink to be cleaned and threw out the rest of the left over things, and dipped the tip of my anthame into it. The crystal at the end of it filled with sapphire light, and I could feel my magic flow down from my hand, down the metals of the dagger, into the liquid, filling it with purpose.
The potion, the ingredients and everything else, were at that state, neutral. Drinking it then would have some small effect, but nothing really worth the exercise. It takes a really concentrated tonic and top shelf quality ingredients to be useful without a mage’s intervention. It takes a spark of energy, of magic, to pull together all the ingredients, the actual ones like the acai juice and the tablets that have properties that help with mental acuity, the natural ones like the herbs that all have protective effects, and the metaphysical, the lock, whose purpose and intent to keep something safe and keep outsiders out, together. The liquid swirled on it’s own, a cold sapphire flame lighting on it’s surface like a flambe, then went out. It was ready; all it needed to do was cool. I found an old pocket flask and two shot glasses, first pouring shots with a ladle, then funneling the rest into the flask.
Cassie returned with a backpack on, grimacing at the sight of the shots. “Could that look any more like Barney’s blood?”
“I was thinking more Grimace than Barney.”
“McDonald’s….really…never mind.” I shook my head and and slid the shot glass to her. We clinked them together. “To safety.”
We downed them straight, and I could feel the magic flow through before I finished drinking. I could feel energy flow up the normal barriers around my mind, strengthening them.
“Disgusting as always, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t feel good. A girl can get used to that,” Cassie said, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
I chuckled, pocketing the flask. “Yeah, okay, you can have a glass of that with your complete breakfast every morning; I’m fine. Get going.” We hugged, again, and she bounced off as my phone rang. It was Baker.
“Twice in one day, it’s almost as if you love me or something. You’ve got to take it slow with me Martin, I’ve been hurt before.”
“Cut the crap Brandon; we’ve got another job, same deal as the first, dead bodies, no COD, found in a sexual position. Get here.”
He gave me the address and I jotted it down on a pad, grabbing my gear again. I hadn’t even gotten a chance to go over the things I’d collected from the first scene, and now there was another already? This witch was moving quickly, more so than I thought anyone could be able to, given the strength that it would take to cast that many high powered spells at once. I ran out to my car, my mind racing and fear rising.