Rule of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 4
By Martha Carr & Michael Andrew
Leira stood in the grassy courtyard of a large stone house at the northern end of Lake Travis. Turner Underwood stood just behind her in a suit and tie, leaning on his cane giving instructions. It only took an hour to hear back from him and all he said on the phone was a time and place for the next day before he hung up. Leira made sure she was early and dressed in running clothes. She had no idea what to expect but wanted to be ready.
“This is good earth here. Draw up the energy and let it flow straight through you without direction. Let the energy go where it wants. You take your hands off the steering wheel. Surrender to it.”
Leira focused but the splashing from the nearby pool was distracting her. The troll floated by on a blowup of a turtle, one arm behind his head as he laid back. “Surrender to it,” he chirped.
Turner smiled and said, “Part of this exercise is to take in all the noises around you and let them pass through. Yumfuck is helping you with the process.”
“Did you know trolls could speak?”
“Of course, so did you. He’s been talking from the beginning.”
“I thought it was random.”
“What has that damn troll ever done that was random? You chose to assume that all you saw and heard was all there could be.”
The troll let out a cackle and rolled off the turtle, falling into the water with a yelp. He gulped water and sputtered, going underwater twice and came up coughing. Leira went to scoop him out of the pool but he was already dog paddling his way to the edge. He pulled himself out, giving a good shake. “Rat bastard!” He shook his tiny fist at the floatie.
Leira went back to her place in front of Turner. “I didn’t teach him that one. Classic though.”
Turner nodded. “Focus. Let the furry munchkin do his thing. You do yours. Draw up the energy. Become one with it.”
“Wax on, wax off.”
“Movie hoo-ha. The exact opposite of what I’m asking of you. If you’re working at it, you’re doing it wrong. Relax into it.” He tapped his cane against the ground.
Leira shook out her arms. “What have I been doing all along if I wasn’t relaxing into it.”
“You were taking on the role of creator, acting as if you controlled the energy. You are not the creator of anything, only the hollow bone.”
“Now, I’m confused.” She put her arms down. “Correk said not understanding how to use magic, this energy that flows through me is dangerous. You’re telling me I’m overstepping if I try to control it.”
“What I said and what you heard are not lining up. Correk is right. I’m right.”
Leira turned around to face him. “This word jumble is getting me nowhere.”
“Control is a way to get started at something new but eventually is always fails. True success comes where control ends and we step out into thin air. Correk was explaining to you the same thing I am right now. If you don’t gain an understanding of how to trust the source of energy from within you, from within the ground you stand on then you will try to control it, limit it.”
“I had to learn how to shoot a gun.”
“A gun has very real and obvious limits and is always a weapon. Its definition is brief and with a distinct purpose.”
“Magic is bigger…” She said it with hesitation. “I don’t get it.”
“Clearly and normal. You are a novice with a lot of power. A unique place to be. You are under the impression that the magic has no ability to understand and is waiting for instructions from you. That would limit the ability of magic to whatever you already know but you’ve already seen it do things that teach you. How is that possible if you’re right about your assumption.”
“Well that just blew my fucking mind.” Leira took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. “Hang on.” She kept breathing in deeply, letting it out.
“Every Light Elf has symbols that appear on their arm. You call it a ticker. Not quite. Those annoying streams of television junk mail along the bottom of the screen are meant to tease the masses. Everyone has to fit the one square hole. But these symbols are designed specifically for you. The magic gives each user the information they need and no more than they can handle.”
“It fucking knows me…” Leira let out a small gasp.
Turner smiled. “I’ve noticed you swear more when you’re surprised. This is going to be a fucking, wild-ass goddamn ride for you.” He snorted with laughter.
“I thought gurus were supposed to be of a higher mind.”
“More dumbass movie hoo-ha mostly written by my cousin Irving. Bought him a nice beach house in Malibu but confused a lot of humans and apparently a few Elves. Whatever. It is what it is.”
“That was Zen of you.”
“It was Elven of me. There’s a difference. We’ll get in there and fight, make mistakes, say we’re sorry, eat too much crap, swear, smoke a good cigar, not make it so much about us, trust the energy and marry a good woman. Basically have an ordinary life. That’s right, ordinary. Ordinary is a little bit of everything. For us, it includes magic. For you, a helluva lot more magic. Your type of ordinary.”
“How much does the energy know about me?”
“Absolutely everything. More than you know but without the useless judgie parts. Nature doesn’t know right or wrong, only consequences. The magic blends with you even as you resist getting out of the way. Your part is to make a choice about using magic in the first place. Magic doesn’t intervene without being invited into the party.”
“But then it takes over.”
“With as much permission as you allow. Some might call that trust.”
“In this thing I can’t see… I can only feel it.” She tapped the scar under her shirt. “My gun was more direct. Aim it and shoot. Hit the target and end the threat.”
Turner’s face grew serious. “Like I said, a gun has a very defined use and once you run up against dark magic it’s as useful as a tissue in a rainstorm.” He pointed at her stomach. “I imagine that stream of energy you pulled off in the hotel room left a nice mark behind. A spiritual tattoo. Never seen anything like that.”
“I trusted the energy in that moment.”
“Mostly but there was resistance and that’s what caused the scar. You pulled in massive amounts of magic and let it flow through you while fighting it at the same time. I wondered if you would survive it and was pleasantly surprised. That’s what showed me you are nowhere near your potential yet. A fire hydrant of magic and you lived to tell about it!”
“Everyone can pull in vast amounts of energy but most die trying…”
“Correk again, I take it. He’s right but there’s some wiggle room.” Turner lifted a hand off his cane and waggled his fingers, squinting. “Resistance can cause harm to the user. Usually comes from insisting on a particular outcome out of fear. I’ve seen Elves blow off a finger or two. Oh, it happens.” He sighed and waved his hand. “Feeling is everything in magic and attachment gets in the way. But sometimes the user can overcome their fear and completely surrender to the magic and strange things happen. It’s rare. It takes a moment of blank mind and complete presence in the moment. Even humans can succeed when they get a hold of an artifact under those conditions. It’s true.”
“It feels like the top of my fucking head is floating away.”
Turner laughed. “Then enough for today of the talking. Draw up the energy and let it flow through you. Let go of the steering wheel. The magic knows what you need. It’s literally telling you in the symbols on your arm and looking for agreement.”
Leira turned back around and shut her eyes. She breathed in deeply, slowly letting out the air as she pulled in magic from the ground.
“Quit trying to pull it in. Just make space for it.” Turner’s gruff voice echoed in her head.
Make space for it. No fucking clue. I can make it okay for it to be here…You are officially invited in. I want you here. Wait! “What?” A sudden rush of magic filled every corner of Leira’s being as a low-level musical hum played in her ears. It rolled through her in increasing waves but this time, instead of sending it out in front of her she felt herself let it pass through. She opened her eyes, wide with amazement. “The same thing is happening but without my limited idea of what the magic needs to do.”
“Ah, a small kernel of understanding begins. Look down at your arms and take in what’s happening.”
Leira slowly looked down, feeling the flow of magic coming up through her feet and out through her chest as a shimmering swath curling and turning off into the distance. Symbols were appearing on her arms, reshaping themselves in a constant motion as the energy continued to swirl inside of her.
“Breathe,” said Turner.
Leira realized she was holding her breath and took in oxygen in a gulp.
“Drop your shoulders. Relax. Become part of the magic.”
Leira looked at Turner and felt the calm strand of magic he was releasing, guiding her into it. She smiled and let herself go with the magical stream, getting pulled along to a destination. Images appeared inside of her head just like before when she sought out the answers to a crime. But this time she was along for the ride.
The magic raced out ahead of her and just as suddenly she felt herself give in and spin around, flowing at the tip of the energy.
“You’ve surrendered!” Turner marveled at the symbols flowing across her arms and neck as he did his best to steady her with his own magic.
Leira felt the magic slowing down and growing more cautious as it approached a thick forest. That looks familiar. “Oriceran…” she muttered. “The Dark Forest…”
“You’ve crossed the divide! How is that possible?” Turner flinched sending a bubble of hesitation into the stream but Leira’s curiosity distracted her just enough to let it pass through.
The magic rolled across the forest floor, slowing to a crawl as it approached a small thatched cabin deep in the woods, surrounded by a dense stand of trees. I would have never noticed this without help. The stream stopped yards away and patiently waited. For what? Leira focused her attention. Let the magic tell me.
Turner watched the symbols along her skin and his eyes widened as they appeared more slowly. “What is that? That’s impossible…” He read it again and again. “Eight hundred years,” he whispered hoarsely. “How could someone have duplicated Rhazdon’s magic?”
Leira finally saw what the magic was seeking out and why it stopped. A dense circle of shimmering black and the deepest sparkling blue shrouded the bottom of the cabin just at the place where it met the ground, pulsing with energy like a heartbeat. The details of the cabin shimmered above the rim of the circle of dark energy. More energy than Leira had ever seen before even in the world in between.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered, reaching out with her energy to touch the stream.
Turner saw the symbols change and slapped his hand tight around Leira’s forearm. “No!” he barked, reeling her in like a fishing line. She snapped back into her body in a rush, the air pouring out of her lungs as she hit the ground hard. The troll ran to her side, growing with each step as he let out a roar bearing his claws at Turner.
Turner took a cautious step backward and let go of Leira holding up his hands. “She’s okay.” He was still reeling from what he saw.
Leira sat up, gulping in air, making herself take in ever deeper breaths, fighting off the dizzy feeling from crossing over the threshold to Oriceran and back again so quickly without a portal or a body.
The troll slowly shrunk back down and jumped onto her chest putting its hands on her chin and looking her in the eye. “That was some kind of trip. I can’t imagine shrooms could do as much.”
“Overrated,” said Turner, still staring at Leira’s arms but the symbols were already fading. He shook his head to clear his mind. “Tell me exactly what you saw. Leave out no details.”
“Tell me why you so abruptly killed the vibe.” She pulled herself back off the ground. “Feels like the fucking bends.”
“You were reacting instead of responding. You stepped outside of the intention of the magic. You wanted to alert a very, very powerful dark magic of your presence. Your own magic would have let you do it. You always have choice. I’m more interested in your survival and put a stop to it. What did you see?”
“Not much. A small cabin in the middle of the Dark Forest. It’s protected by a layer of magic around the bottom. It felt like it was drawing me in. I wanted to go inside.”
“Part of the spell. It’s not meant to repel you but get you to announce yourself.”
Leira shuddered. “I assume the end to that story is not pretty. Wait, did I hear you say a name?”
“Rhazdon…The darkest practitioner of magic Oriceran ever knew and wiped from the planet about eight hundred years ago.”
“Isn’t that the guy whose artifacts are all piled in the Gnome’s vault?”
“One and the same. Whoever created that spell appears to be as powerful as Rhazdon. If that’s true it’s very bad news.” Turner looked grim as he slowly shook his head. “Took everything we had to defeat Rhazdon and even then, there were a lot of casualties.”
“Like the old king of Oriceran. Your friend I understand.”
“Very bad shit sometimes happens. Come on, that’s more than enough for today. I’ll make you a sandwich. Magical energy pulls on resources. Good idea to put them back.”
“You know I’m going to do something about what I saw, right?” Go in first, ask questions if I really have to.
“Understood. Come back here for lessons every morning. The magic feels you have a chance to take whoever this is but you will need to be absolutely sure of that before you come face to face with whoever it is.”
“You’re thinking a confrontation is a done deal.”
“The magic inside of you is certain of it.”
“Then I’ll get ready.”
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