Release of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 2
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Leira pulled into the parking lot at Costco and turned off the engine. She was trying to choose her words carefully.
“What?” Correk looked at her. “I can see a lecture of some kind approaches. You didn’t have to come with me. Look, Scott gave me a map and a bus schedule.”
“You can’t get in Costco without a membership card, and they all know it. It’s why they brought it up in the first place. They have a habit of testing new people to see how many favors they can get out of them before you say no. I’m the only one at Estelle’s who’s a member. It was their Christmas present to me last year.”
“Interesting. An exclusive meeting hall for shopping. Oriceran has something similar but it has far darker intentions.”
“This is more like shopping at Target but in bulk sizes. You show up to get a cake and push out a cart full of jeans, a few books, yoga pants, a case of beer and a twelve-pack of steaks. I usually end up with a shopping hangover.”
“We can use your plastic card. It will be alright.”
“You’re dying to see if they have an as seen on TV aisle, aren’t you? We can’t do that again. Look me in the eye. No!” She gave him a stern look and waved her finger sharply back and forth.
“You could stand to relax a little more. It could only help you with learning magic. Okay, yes, I want to see more gadgets. They’re like cheap magic tricks for humans.”
Leira she rolled her eyes. “Tell me again, who exactly told you this would be a good idea? I want names. Fuck, it’s like giving a box of matches to a pyro and then being surprised at what happens next.”
“Normally, I don’t find it useful to do what I think you Earthlings call tattle.”
“Well, you’re going to have to do something about those ears or wear the hat again.” Leira pulled the knit hat out from under the seat, brushing off crumbs the troll left. She held it out to Correk, raising her eyebrows, giving it a shake.
“You have another idea?”
Correk didn’t answer. His eye glowed and symbols appeared around his hairline. His ears slowly rounded.
“Whoa, did you just change the structure of your ear? You didn’t even say anything!”
“No, it’s just an illusion. Not everything has to be spoken. Some things can just be felt, imagined. We call it a glamour spell. The gnomes lent me a book. If you touch them…hey! Don’t put out your hand.” He batted her hand away. “You’re not feeling up my ears. I assure you, the points are still there. Now, if that’s your last objection, let’s get in there!”
“Way too excited about Costco.”
The troll climbed out of Leira’s pocket, neatly rolling over the top of the front seat and into the back disappearing to the floorboards below.
“You realize, that wasn’t a good sign. He looked like he had a plan before he went over the back of the seat.”
Leira waited, but when it became clear Correk wasn’t going to answer she said, “Spill it. It was Mitzi, wasn’t it? She has a crush on you, you know. What she doesn’t realize is that if you keep buying in bulk like that, those six pack abs are going to become more like a tootsie pop.”
“It’s a candy. Like a lollipop with a surprise inside. Hard on the outside.” Leira stopped herself at the last moment from pointing at the outline of Correk’s abs clearly showing through the long sleeve shirt. Instead, she knocked on her head. “But chewy on the inside. It doesn’t take long. One of our better weapons of warfare.”
“They said you’d say that.”
“Aha! I knew it!” Leira practically jumped off the front seat, banging her hand against the steering wheel, letting out a sharp honk from the horn. A mother dragging a reluctant toddler behind her jumped and turned around to glare at Leira.
“Sorry,” Leira said, holding her hands up like she was under arrest. She lowered her hands and said, “I knew who the they are. It’s the usual list of suspects from the bar. Mike? Craig? They give you a list of their own?”
A smile spread across Correk’s face.
“I may be from another planet altogether but family operates pretty much the same way everywhere I’ve ever been. Well, maybe not for the gnomes. They don’t talk as much and they all look alike. I’m not even sure how they manage to tell each other apart. And they share everything…”
“You have a point buried in there somewhere?” Leira turned in her seat and got up on her knees so she could get a better look over the seat. She could sense something was happening with the troll. That, and the loud chewing noises were causing her concern.
“It’s like you’re in their clan. They’ve adopted you and you’ve accepted.” Correk pulled a list out of his pocket. “And yes, I have a list. They said it was the only way to shop in this large bazaar. I’m splitting a bag of tube socks with Craig, and Mike assures me you can get Cheetos shaped like little balls in giant containers. And I’m looking for the Double Stuff Oreos.”
“You look way too happy when you say these things. Oh damn, what have we done? You are a Light Elf in the royal court. You don’t wear tube socks or eat orange, crusty air.”
“I believe the saying is, when on Earth, do as the humans do.”
Leira leaned further over the seat till she could see the troll. He was chewing on an old green wad of gum.
“Nom, nom, nom.” The troll was at first delighted, munching away, but then a look of confusion spread over his face. He pulled one end of the gum out of his mouth, watching it stretch. He pulled his fingers apart and stared at the gum stuck on them.
Leira looked at the wet, sticky hairball and felt herself gag. The troll shook his hand, letting out a high-pitched exasperated squeak. It wasn’t long before the gum was stuck all over him.
“Uh oh, yum fuck.”
“He sounds defeated,” said Correk, glancing back.
“He’s got gum in his green hair. This won’t end well.”
“Give him a chance. They’re very resourceful.”
The troll tried rubbing his hands on the floor. Crumbs and bits of dirt were ground into the gum, cutting down on the sticky texture. A happier, “Mah, fuck hmph.” He threw himself onto the floor of the car and rolled around like a log from one end to the other. The troll stopped and looked down at his body, now covered in a rainbow mashup of crumbs. He patted his belly and trilled softly.
“I’ve seen gunshot wounds that weren’t that gross. Is it safe to try and take food away from a troll?” she asked. She slowly lowered her hand toward the troll’s mouth.
“I wouldn’t. I’ve never known it to end well. What’s he eating?”
Leira quickly took her hand back. “Fuzzy gum. I don’t suppose it’ll hurt him.”
“Have you fed him lately?”
Leira’s face warmed. “Oh crap! I guess I own this one. What do you feed a troll? Can they eat Kibble?” She slid back into her seat.
“Not sure what a kibble is but they’re little tiny garbage dumps. Scavengers. They eat whatever they can find. On Oriceran it’s of nuts and berries they find in the forest and the scraps others have thrown away. Works out well for everyone. Here,” he said, gesturing at the vast blacktop full of cars, “there’s not much forest. You’re going to have to find food for him.”
“Then we’re in the right place to solve this one, both short term and… whatever the hell long term turns out to be. Fuck, I didn’t think of that till just now. Do trolls live a long time? No, wait! Don’t tell me!”
“What’s a Topo Chico?”
“A fancy Mexican fizzy water. That’s Estelle’s order, isn’t it?”
“See? This is what I mean.” Correk slapped the piece of paper. “You really know these people, inside and out.”
“They’ve all taken to you, too. Come on, we’d better get going. Looks like quite a list you’ve got. Who needed a giant bag of frozen fruit?” Leira opened the glove box and rooted around till she found a small rag with a few grease stains. “Better than nothing.”
She leaned over the seat and scooped up the troll, wrapping him in the rag. “This time, he’s all yours. Think of it as shared custody. This trip was your idea, so you watch him.”
“Fair enough, but he won’t listen to like he listens to you.”
“I can live with that.” Leira opened the car door.
“So, we’re not going to talk about your mother yet. I was trying to wait but it hasn’t come up.” Correk got out of the car.
“What is there to say? I keep rolling it around in my head. Trying to figure out how to get her out without anyone dragging her right back in again. I don’t have power of attorney over her. Even if I did, she was committed by the state.” Leira shook her head and started walking toward the oversized warehouse. “The only thing I’ve come up with is to magic her out of there.”
“That’s not really a thing.” Correk caught up with Leira, even trying to find a pocket where he could keep the troll hidden and happy.
“Hang on,” Leira said. She ran back to the Mustang and opened the trunk, pulling out a green hoodie. “This’ll work. Put it on and he can sit in the pocket. Do you really think we can’t use magic to get her out of there?” There was a catch in Leira’s voice.
“There’s a limit to everything, I assure you. However, I suspect your powers are more than capable. Eventually. You don’t have enough control yet for us to be sure that we wouldn’t end up making things worse. Then, there’s the Silver Griffins.”
“Someone would notice I messed with the order of things and send a bolt of magic.”
“That’s one way of putting it.”
“Do you have a better idea?” There was a hopeful note in Leira’s voice that wasn’t normally there. She wasn’t used to feeling so vulnerable and asking for help.
Correk stopped near the entrance. He put his hand on Leira’s shoulder. “I have been a part of much more difficult journeys. We’ll find a way.”
Leira stood still and closed her eyes, searching for the feeling that was always with her these days. The buzz of magic. We’ll find a way.
“Okay,” she said, shaking off darker thoughts. “Time to get our oversized shopping on. Get a cart and meet me back near the front in thirty minutes. That’s plenty of time. Probably too much time. I’m not guaranteeing we’re getting everything you pick up.”
“I have money from your family.” Correk pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket. Leira saw the curve of his stomach and felt herself flush.
Have to stop doing that every time I see the man’s skin.
“That helps,” she said, flustered. “Put it back in your pocket and grab a cart.”
“You know, we could be cousins.”
“Alright, alright. That helps. Fuck. Grab a cart, already. One of those rolling metal cages. You put what you want to buy in that.”
“I saw them at CVS. They’re amazing.”
“Go figure. No one ever stole a shopping cart and took it back to Oriceran. You travel through a portal from another world and ooh and aah over a shopping cart and Cheetos. Hey! No gadgets,” she yelled after him, as she reluctantly watched Correk head off toward the home goods section.
“The tube socks are in the other direction! I know you can hear me!”
A woman turned to see who Leira was yelling at and smiled. “Men. They say they don’t like to shop but put them in a Costco and they go nuts.”
Correk quickly abandoned his first cart. A front wheel kept spinning in circles making it drift to the right. He considered applying just a little magic but thought better of it. He turned around, retracing his steps in the direction of the front of the store to get another one.
“Try a pig in a blanket?” A tall, thin woman with spiky blonde hair wearing a blue Costco apron stood behind a tall, narrow table with a hotplate full of little wieners stuffed in crescent rolls. She was holding a pair of tongs in the air, yellow bracelets jangling around her wrist.
“Beg your pardon?” The smell made him stop. That and the troll squirming to get out of his pocket. Correk clamped his hand down over his stomach, holding the troll as still as possible.
Correk raised his fist to cover his mouth and coughed, “Nesturnium.”
“I thought that only worked when I did it.” Leira was right behind him, whispering over his shoulder.
Correk jumped and almost lost his grip on the pocket.
“It does, but hope springs eternal. Dammit! Announce yourself!”
“You mean, like with a card? Not the way I roll. Helps to be able to sneak up on people. Hang on, come here.”
Leira bent over so her face was closer to the pocket.
“How close do I have to be when I say it?”
“Not that close.”
Leira straightened back up, waving at the old man walking by, leaning on a cane. “Hello,” he said, tipping his hat with way too broad a smile.
“Well, that was awkward,” she said, her face warming. “Okay, from here is good?”
“Perfect. Right where you are,” said Correk through clenched teeth.
“No need to get twisted about it. Simple mistake. Things like that happen all the time on this side of the portal.”
“Any time you’re ready,” he said, annoyed.
“Okay, okay.” Leira was enjoying the moment. So much better than touch-feelie. “All right, that’s enough.” She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Nesturnium.”
“It isn’t necessary to do the whole deep breath thing first.”
“I know but I like the dramatic pause. Makes it seem like a bigger deal.”
“Sure it does. Wiener?” Leira grabbed a toothpick from the clear plastic cup the woman was holding and speared a hotdog, holding it up to Correk’s mouth. “Careful biting down. Might be hot.”
Correk wanted to protest or at least look more dignified. “Smells too good,” he said, and bit down hard.
“Careful! Don’t want to take the toothpick with you,” said the woman.
“Listen to the sample lady. Besides, they’ll let you have two. You can even have mine if it means that much to you.” Leira saw the look on his face and rolled her eyes. “Oh come on, it means that much? Sure, fine.” She speared another one, dipped it in the ketchup and held it up. “Slower this time. Even in Costco there’s a certain etiquette, you know.”
“Even better with the red sauce. Why are you back over here?” said Correk through a mouth full of dough and hotdog.
“I can always wait till you swallow,” said Leira, looking away. “It’s a crime scene in there. You’re near the produce section. My next stop.”
“You’re checking up on me.”
“No, that’s hopeless. You’re like a dog in a warehouse full of shiny squirrels. You’re going to chase after everything. My plan is to stop you at the point of exit.”
“It’s nice of them to feed us while we shop in their market.”
“Oh, you have no idea. Meet you up by the front. Tick tock. I’m headed to the groceries. I’ll catch you later.”
“Does that mean we’re near the Oreos?”
“In the neighborhood.”
“They’re over by the back wall, three aisles over,” said the sample lady, smiling at Correk. She was pointing in the direction he needed to go.
Leira watched the way the woman was ogling Correk. “Your fan club grows larger everywhere we go. I don’t quite see it,” she said, squinting her eyes. “Get going. Don’t want to be in here all day.”
“I was headed to the front to get a better cart. The old one had a broken wheel.”
“The worst,” said Leira. “Twenty minutes left on the clock,” she said, patting her wrist.
“Is that some kind of sign language?”
“Leftover signal from another era. Never mind, get going.”
Correk worked his way toward the front of the store again and found the carts. He pulled another one out, testing it in every direction.
“Careful. Thoughtful. I like that in a man.” The woman smiled at him with crimson lips, batting false eyelashes attached to smoky eyes.
Correk offered a strained smile and pushed the cart away quickly, sliding a hand into his pocket to check on the troll. “Women on this planet…” he muttered. “There are so many of them in constant search for a mate.”
He turned at the mattresses and got disoriented, weaving his way down the lawnmower aisle before popping out next to a display of no-name cookies in large plastic containers. He stopped and looked at them. “Probably not.”
He looked across the wide expanse in the center at the tall aisles on the other side. From that vantage point it was easier to see that at the end of every third aisle was another sample lady.
“Well, it’s kind of a plan.” He maneuvered his cart to the far wall of the store, checking his list. The first sample station was serving tiny quiches in three varieties. He gave the lady a half smile, arching an eyebrow as he got closer. “I know I’ll hate myself later. Using Elven charm for extra servings of free food.”
“Why, hello there. Bless your heart,” said the tiny, round woman standing on a stool so she could more easily work the microwave next to her. “These come thirty-six to a bag in the frozen section just behind me. Two minutes for half a bag in the microwave and you have yourself a party!” Her voice was high pitched, almost a squeak.
Correk took a small napkin, trying to decide what to try first.
“Oh, take one of each, darlin. It’s early. I have plenty. Nice big man like you. You need a little snack.”
Correk easily palmed one of the quiches into the pocket in his hoodie, and felt two small hands grab on and pull the morsel away from him.
“Are we near tube socks?”
“Honey, just work your way down all the food aisles and you’ll see them in a big display in the middle, halfway down. Can’t miss it. You single? I have the cutest niece!”
Correk smiled and turned quickly, pushing the cart in the direction of the Oreos. He wheeled down the third aisle, easily spotting the large packages of Double Stuffed, amazed as he took in the different sizes and flavors of just that one cookie. He went further and looked at the Chips Ahoy, Pepperidge Farm and Keebler.
“That is not at all what an elf looks like. Like they mashed a troll and a gnome together and put a little pointed hat on it. What are these?”
He opened an oversized bag of Deluxe Grahams, sliding out two, putting one in the pocket with the troll, biting down on the other. “Not bad, even if they have their Oricerans wrong.”
“No sampling the stuff that’s for sale.” A large man with a bushy moustache wearing the familiar Costco blue apron stopped at the end of the aisle with his hands on his hips. “Make sure you buy those and stick to the free samples till you get out of the store. Some people,” he muttered, as he walked away.
“Got it. Only eat what the sample ladies give you in the store.”
Correk made his way up and down the aisles, listening to the pitches, stopping for a small paper cup of chicken chow mein, ‘ready in ten minutes, all in one bag’, and another paper cup with cherry cheesecake, ‘just take it out of the freezer and you’re done’, and a hot and spicy wing, ‘perfect for game day’, that left him holding his mouth open, fanning his tongue till he came across the samples of Gatorade, ‘to replace all of those electrolytes after a hard workout’, grabbing three of them and drinking them down as fast as he could.
In between, he managed to find the things on his list, marveling at all the varieties. “Look at all the different kinds of pizza! Surely, Leira will understand.” He got one of each and tossed them into the cart, making his way to the next sample lady.
By the time he got to the front of the store he had found everything on the list, but there was a growing gurgle in his stomach. The troll trilled softly and a tiny hand poked out of the pocket, the palm outstretched, looking for more food. “Oof! I don’t know how you do it.”
The little hand waved faster. Correk pulled out another graham cracker and shoved it into the pocket. The little hand retreated. “Mmmmm. Yum fuck.”
“Hello… good day,” said Correk, trying to smile at the ladies passing him who seemed more amused than offended.
“It’s about time!” Leira was leaning against a large pile of men’s khaki pants. “You don’t look very good. What did you do? Oh, you tried everything.” She shook her head. “Such a rookie. You’re riding home with your head out the window. Come on. Did you manage to get any kibble for the troll? Forgot didn’t you. No worries. Saw that one coming a mile away. We’re going to try a little Purina. He ate fuzzy gum. This will be a big step up,” she said, as she pushed her cart up to the nearest register.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #8 from RELEASE OF MAGIC coming out in TWO DAYS – MONDAY, AUGUST 14th! Longer snippet time! Meet you right back here tomorrow. Enjoy your Saturday!
Next up will be SOUL STONE MAGE by Sarah Noffke on SEPT 6TH and FAIRHAVEN CHRONICLES by S.M. Boyce on SEPT 8TH – so much magical fun headed your way! I hear the KACY CHRONICLES by A.L. Knorr may be headed your way starting SEPT 4TH! PROTECTION OF MAGIC will be out 8/30 from The Leira Chronicles. (There’s also Flint Maxwell working on a new series about THE WORLD IN BETWEEN and if you’re already a fan, you know what that’s all about… That should be amazing!)
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