Remembered Kisses: Chapter 20: The Mage's Study

When Sam made it home, he found Audrey asleep in the big green fuzzy easy chair.  He tucked a blanket over her and kissed her on the forehead and went back down to the bookstore. He was tired, and he still hurt all over, but there was work to be done.

Saul’s gone.  He can’t help.  What I intend is too dangerous… the Collegium will be unhelpful and will tell me not to do it.  So they’re out.

He walked to the back of the store, into the rare books section, and glanced at the floor.  He rubbed his foot against the hardwood, swiping three times, and then he muttered a few words and keyed into the power he had placed here long ago.  “Methuselah,” he said.  “Open the way.”

Of course, Sam. The words were not really spoken; they were more like impressed into Sam's mind.  One moment they weren't there, the next they were.

One of the bookshelves, an antique monster of old-growth oak, slowly scraped across the floor as it slid forward and revealed a narrow stair that plunged downward into the basement of the store.  New Tamsbridge, particularly the older parts of the city set further back from the water, was built on the ruins of New Tamsbridge-that-was, which had been mostly-destroyed by a colonial attack early in the revolutionary war.  The cannon barrage on the city had caused a fire that had swept through most of the town, leaving cellars and foundations of old buildings but little still standing whole. Only the garrison and a handful of other buildings had survived. That was why so many of the buildings in the area inhabited old cellars or sub-floors. Sam had found this basement when he had bought the place, hidden or forgotten under a poorly-built floor.  He had added the iron-work stair and the trap door soon after, and now had a place to work magic and research in relative safety.

Well.  At least at minimal danger from outside interference.  Working magic is never exactly safe.  Sam climbed down the stairs, threading just a little bit of magic to light the antique oil lamps, and, stepping carefully around the copper-and-iron summoning diagram, walked over to his desk.  He glanced through some of the papers on it, set them aside, and started glancing through the old Rolodex.  “Methuselah,” he said.  “What do we have on Arachne?  Anything on her as an otherworldly enemy?”

Trouble with spiders, Samuel?

“You could say that.  Throw a summary up on the chalkboard please.”  He flipped through names while the chalk piece lifted up, seemingly on it’s own, and started to tack-tack against the old black slate.  “Sir Robin?  No, out of the country. Vincent?  No, he’s dead.  Damn it.” He flipped through some more and then pushed it away in disgust.  “That’s useless,” he muttered.

The chalk stopped moving. Useless, Sam?  Methuselah’s form took shape holding the chalk, his expression sad and his long white mustaches droopy. I’m doing my best.

“No, not you,” Sam said.  “Just looking for allies.  You’re doing fine.”  He ran his hand through his hair and looked at the board.  “Okay. So… she was weaver from Asia Minor.  Cursed by Athena.”

Indeed.  She was boastful of her skill, so the goddess challenged her.  In the contest, not only did she prove victorious, but the legend indicates she pointed out the abuses of the gods as well. So she was punished; transformed into a spider.

“I see,” Sam said, then paused, briefly grateful he his collection of world mythologies was as complete as he could make it. Methuselah knew every written word in the Dusty Covers, and could access that information instantly.  “Wait.  So she isn’t from the otherworld.  Could she be a mortal?”

It’s a myth, Sam.  It could go either way.

“Still.  It would be an interesting development.  Either way, she will hate the Hellenic Gods, which would work with her targeting a coven and working with the Goblins.  Perhaps she wants everything to burn. Or freeze, as it were.”

That would be a very human response.

“I agree.”  Sam looked at the information again.  “Okay.  We know lightning has an effect, and that it can get a theurgic kick.  So that’s something.” He yawned and rubbed his face. His head was spinning.  There was so much to do and every time he turned around there seemed to be another complication.

Methuselah turned to face Sam and meet his gaze with his odd stare.  His eyes were invisible behind his round, opaque spectacles. Sam.  You need rest. I can feel how tired you are.

“I know.  I know!  But I ran into a whole colony of spiders last night.  Webs all over the place.  I barely made it out.”  He sighed.  “We’ve been too focused on the murder, and all the while the nightmares have been making their move.”

You are of no use to your community if you burn yourself out. The spirit’s expression grew stern.  You are of no use to Audrey if your mind cracks like an egg under the strain, the brain oozing out like so much yolk.

Sam shuddered at the image.  “I agree.  I will rest soon, I promise.”

Methuselah nodded.

“Okay. Do we know any Hellenic theurgists?”

There is the witch Pallas. 

“Other than her.”  Sam ran his hand through his hair.  “Okay.  Move to board number two, and run me a formula for some weather magic.  Making conditions favorable for storms won’t cause too much trouble on the coast, and will make summoning lightning easier.  Also some basic vermin-wards so I can get Lily working on them later tonight.  They may come in use. Thank you.”  He looked around the lab.  As a re-purposed basement, it was a cramped thing, barely room for his desk and the summoning diagram.   He did have a shelf of books down here, research even he didn’t dare keep out for sale.

He watched the chalk work across the board and studied the calculations being copied out from one of his own journals. He sat down at his desk, still watching, and he let his vision linger on the sigils, numbers, and figures, reminding the back part of his mind exactly how the otherworld could be manipulated for his goal.  Weather magic was tricky, and by its nature dangerous, interfering with the natural course of climate patterns.  But if practiced carefully, to augment and guide rather than outright change, it could be incredibly beneficial.  Time passed. 

Eventually Sam looked away from the calculations.  He was calmer now.  He could feel the refreshed knowledge lingering at the back of his mind, ready to be used. “Okay,” he said.  “I think I’m set.  I should be able to start the incantation tonight. And I’ll talk to Marcus on patrol, make sure he can help.”  He checked the clock and eyes went wide.  Much more time had passed than he had expected.
“And I’ve got to get to morning classes.  Damn. Almost late.”

Take care of yourself, Sam
, Methuselah told him.

“I will.  I promise.”


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