Summoning

As Aulus finished his enchantment, he stared in shock at the portal opening up in front of him. Instead of the small, pink portal that he had been assigned to create and bring in a little white rabbit, instead a large, black, malevolent doorway appeared, all sorts of sinister sounds emanating from its depths. He backed away, and out of the portal stepped a huge, monstrous creature, eight feet high, and rippling in red and black. Its eyes narrowed and its jaw twisted into a grin as it spotted Aulus, who immediately ran, slamming the door behind him.

While he ran through corridors and up stairs, he cursed himself for his mistake. Reminiscing, he thought he knew where he had messed up, but he was always so worried about getting the enchantments right that even his guess about his mistake was wrong – often because there had been two or three compounded on it. So had it been he had put the wrong accent on one of the words, or that he had swapped it with another?

The whole tower shook as he ran, not from his movement, but rather that of the monster lumbering slowly after him. Aulus burst through a door on the top floor where, in the center of a spacious room, surrounded by all manner of chemicals and potions, stood Aulus’s master, Numa.

“What is it now?” Numa demanded, not looking up from his position over a cauldron. “I’m rather busy at the moment.”

“Master, I’d been practicing my summoning. However, I must have got the incantation wrong, and I summoned some kind of demon.”

“So that’s what that infernal shaking was all about.” Numa sighed. “You’ve never been good at summoning. In fact, you’ve been utterly terrible. I don’t know why you keep trying to do it at all, when there are plenty of other magics you don’t completely fail at performing.”

Aulus hung his head. It was true. He was no good at it. He just had no confidence when it came to reciting the enchantments, which were often long and complex. He was much better at potions and runes anyway. But he ought at least be able to summon a simple rabbit.

“So why is the tower still shaking?” Numa continued. “There wasn’t any recoil from the portal, was there?”

“No…. I didn’t feel confident enough to send the creature back, so I thought you, being so much more competent, could do that.”

“Then you’re sorely mistaken. You brought that thing into his world, you take it out. It’s your responsibility.” He waved his hand, dismissing his apprentice.

Aulus took a deep breath, steeling himself. He then left the room and went down the stairs, where, at the far end of the corridor, he saw the red and black monster appearing at the other stairs. He had to do this now. He remembered the enchantment to send back creatures – he thought. Beginning, he spoke slowly, trying to make sure each word was perfect. But as he went, more words than those for the enchantment floated through his mind – specifically, those uttered by Numa. His master was right, he was no good at this branch of magics. He was just going to get it wrong, and probably summon a twin for this creature lumbering toward him, now almost halfway toward him. Wait, had it been reveno or reveneo? Too late, he had to keep going, the monster was getting closer, its grin wider.

Just as the monster stood before him, he finished.

Nothing happened.

The red mouth laughed and an ashen claw thrust into Aulus’s chest.

* * *

The door to Numa’s chamber opened as the monster stepped inside, carrying Aulus’s body on its shoulder.

“Your apprentice,” it hissed, depositing the body on the ground. Numa looked from it to the monster with surprise.

“How dare you!” Numa exclaimed. He stood, gesturing angrily as he recited a spell. A bolt of light flew from his finger and hit the monster in the chest, disintegrating it entirely into a pile of ash on the ground.

He walked over to his dead apprentice. In vain, he checked Aulus’s pulse. A single tear fell from the master’s eye.

“Why couldn’t you do it properly…?” Numa muttered.

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The Map

I’d like to thank a friend of mine for inspiring this story, though I imagine the circumstances around her map were much more mundane.

Paul kicked off his shoes as he closed the door to his dorm room, relishing in the respite from the heat of his shoes after a long day of walking around the campus. He turned around, facing the window, where he thought he caught a glimpse of some dark shape ducking out of sight.

Curious, he walked over to the window, which had been opened somehow. However, looking down the three stories to the ground, he saw nothing out of the ordinary. He shrugged, figuring it must have been his imagination.

He decided to leave the window open to keep his room cool, and walked past the couch, back to the door, where he collected his backpack and brought it over to the desk supporting his bed. In this little alcove, he brought out his textbooks, notebooks, and handouts from his professors.

He was studying to become a doctor. Well, there was a specific kind of doctor he wanted to be, but Paul rarely brought that up in conversation, save around other people who also wanted to be doctors. For the majority of people who didn’t understand all the chemical names and technical terms for anatomical processes he might occasionally mention in casual conversation, telling them he would be a doctor generally placated them. And he’d been telling people he wanted to be a doctor for years – his entire high school schedule had been built around that goal as well.

An hour or two later, after reading through a chemistry and an anatomy textbook, Paul leaned back in his chair, sighing. It was time for a break. He walked over to the couch, which was situated opposite a rather large television screen. As he sat down, however, his attention was taken from the black screen and to the crunch emanating from under the cushion.

Standing up quickly, he plunged his hand beneath the cushion and brought forth a piece of paper. It was old and discolored, and crinkled as Paul folded it open.

It was a map. Paul stared at it in fascination, his eyes darting all over the inked names and landmarks. In the upper left corner, there was his dorm, and part of the campus drawn in simple, yet accurate, detail. However, after the campus, there were a number of landmarks Paul didn’t recognize, along with a rather large patch of writing, which he perceived to be instructions on reaching said unrecognizable landmarks. Then, nearer to the center of the map, Paul became aware that it displayed some kind of fantasy realm, full of dragons and wizards, and what appeared to be a villainous lair in the lower right corner. His heart leapt in his chest at the prospect of adventure.

But then he frowned. What if this was some kind of joke map? He turned the map over to the back, and then smiled wryly.

It was addressed to his roommate. Go figure whoever wrote this would want someone still trying to find themselves to go on such an adventure.

Love Wins

The sky rumbled in the distance as the clouds gathered around the single beam of light emanating from the ground as Chara hurried toward it like a moth, her friends Zak and Greg close behind her. But their destination was not the beam of light, but rather the castle right before it, where even now the Lady Tyriel stood singing the incantation that would finish opening the portal from which the light came.

The great gate to the castle was closed shut and, despite the best efforts of all three of them, it wouldn’t budge in or out. Resigned, Chara took a step back and looked over the rest of the wall.

“There’s got to be another way in.”

“Don’t you worry, darling,” said Zak, “I shall find it for you.”

“No, you won’t,” replied Greg. “I’m going to find it. You see, I’m her romantic interest – not you – so I’m obviously going to help her more.”

“Are you crazy? I’m the one with the belligerent sexual tension. We argue all the time; thus, we’re meant to be together. Isn’t that right, my sweet Chara?”

“Look!” She pointed toward a series of vines creeping up the wall near a window. “Can you two reach that low vine there for me?”

“Of course!” The two boys ran to the spot, pushing and shoving one another as they vied for the vine, which lay just out of their reach.

“You know,” sighed Chara, rubbing her temples in frustration. “You would actually reach it if you two worked together for once.”

Greg turned to Zak. “Yes, why aren’t you working together Zak? She wants someone cooperative, not someone who tries to steal all the glory for himself!”

“You’re one to talk! Why, just yesterday didn’t you—”

“Fine! I’ll do it!” Chara snapped. “Zak, give me a boost.”

Zak grinned at Greg, who looked back distraught, as Zak lifted Chara up to the vine, which she grabbed and began climbing up the wall.

“Don’t worry, my lady!” Zak told her as she left his support. “I shall catch you if you fall!”

“No, you won’t!” said Greg. “I’m going to.”

Chara rolled her eyes as she continued climbing, now reaching the lowest window. As she came near it, however, the vine suddenly came loose. She only barely caught the ledge of the window before the vine tumbled to the ground below.

“You two find another way up!” she shouted, hoisting herself through the window. “I’ll try to slow her down.”

“I’ll be there right when you need me!” replied Greg, shoving past Zak as he began to search the area for another way into the castle.

Chara hurried through the castle. It was completely empty, all its inhabitants (save one) gone, probably fled as soon as the portal began to open. As such, it wasn’t long before Chara came to Lady Tyriel’s chambers. The Lady stood at the far balcony, in the middle of her incantation, which she stopped as she twisted around to face Chara, her close-fitting devious diva dress shimmering slightly with the change in posture.

“Hello, Chara,” said the Lady softly.

“Lady Tyriel, your reign of tyranny has come to an end.”

“But child, it hadn’t even started yet! Shouldn’t you let me have at least a little tyranny before you try to stop me?”

“I can’t let that happen. Now, surely you remember this!” Chara pulled forth a silver dagger from under her jacket, holding it at the ready. “I nearly finished you off with this last time we met – I don’t intend to make that mistake again.”

Tyriel smiled. “Surely you didn’t think I’d let you walk off with an item so dangerous to me, did you? When you weren’t looking, I switched it with a duplicate.” She pulled a silver dagger out of her bosom. “This is the real thing!”

Chara laughed. “Please! I knew you’d try to switch the dagger, which is why I left a duplicate of my own on that table for you to swap.” She tossed aside the first dagger and drew another one from inside her jacket. “This is the real one.”

“Ah, but I knew that you knew that I would switch the dagger, which is why I took it out of your pocket when you passed me to rescue your little boyfriend from the grecklewyrm.” She produced another dagger from the same place as the second. “This is the real dagger.”

“Very nice. But I knew that you knew that I knew that you would switch the dagger, which is why the dagger in my pocket then was a fake. This is the real one!” She took another one out of her jacket.

“Look, now,” sighed Tyriel, tossing aside her fake. “This is getting us nowhere–”

“Just because you don’t have any more daggers….”

“And the portal is just about to open up. You see, I purposely summoned a young gracklewyrm the first time, and I’m sure its parents are just on the other side, ready to destroy the girl that killed their child.”

Chara steeled herself. Behind her, she heard the sound of shoes slapping against the stone floor. Zak and Greg stopped as they entered the room. At the sound of their arrival, Chara grinned.

“You know,” she told Tyriel. “Last time we fought, I wasn’t quite as unsuccessful as you might have guessed. Sure, I didn’t hurt you, but I did manage to get one thing: some of your hair.”

“No….”

“And while I may not be as good as you when it comes to magic, I can make a decent love potion.”

“No….”

“Goddess!” exclaimed Zak, rushing forward toward Tyriel. He took her hand and kissed it passionately.

“Goddess? No, so much more!” said Greg, taking Tyriel’s other hand. “Divine, radiant, beautiful….”

“No!” screeched Tyriel. “This cannot be!”

“Pristine, regal….”

“Like a marble statue brought to life and….”

“No!” Tyriel snatched her hands away from the boys’ grasp and covered her ears. She twisted around and ran, plunging out of the balcony and into the portal, which, with the sound of thunder, closed behind her.

The Monty Hell Problem

Now that the “Eight” series is done, I’ll be returning to shorter, more random stories. New post every Tuesday. Hope you enjoy!

“Come now, choose! It can’t be that hard of a decision.”

Uriah resisted the urge to glare at the red, demonic face of the being standing next to him. His foot tapped on the stone floor as his not-looking-at-the-spooky-dealer eyes looked up at the two labels at the top of two, reddish doors before which he stood. There, in Comic Sans, were two phrases:

FALL TEN THOUSAND FEET

MISTAKEN FOR EX-WIFE BY PSYCHOPATH

He stroked his chin, but all his thinking was bringing him nowhere. He turned to the red guy.

“Is there a third option?”

The red guy sighed. “You don’t like my options? I thought the second one was a nice touch.”

“Yeah, but do you have anything…better?”

“Well, let’s see….” Red turned to the doors and snapped his fingers. A third door appeared, and shoved the other two to the side so that it had equal space on the wall.

“Ax murdered?” Uriah read. “That’s not much better than the other two. Anything that doesn’t involve me dying?”

“Still not satisfied? Typical. Come on. I did my end of the bargain, now it’s your turn.” He snapped his fingers again, and another door appeared.

ENCEPHALITIS LETHARGICA

Uriah raised an eyebrow. “So the other option is to be in a coma for the rest of my life.”

“At least you get to be a nuisance on society.”

“I suppose. Is there really nothing better?”

“Well, if you have any cash….” said Red out of the side of his mouth.

“If I had money, I wouldn’t have made this deal, now would I? Anyway, what’s money worth to you? What do you need it for?”

“Oh, please! As they say, the love of money is the root of evil.”

Uriah rolled his eyes, and went back to studying the labels.

“Alright, I’ll take ‘mistaken for ex-wife’. That at least sounds entertaining.”

“Oh, it is, it is….” Then he opened the door.