Theft of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book Six
By Martha Carr & Michael Anderle
11 MORE DAYS till Theft of Magic! Snippet #4! Get those pointy fingers ready! Busy weeks ahead for me. Getting all the Leira and troll swag ready for the Veterans Open House and then off to London with the Offspring! Looking forward to seeing a few of you Super Fans and lots of other 20Books authors. I’ll be there chitchatting about world building and meeting and greeting! Then there was that house buying this past week and anticipating selling this house, and packing and writing and… Whew! May need to dig out that paper bag and breathe deeply. I think I’ll just stick to one day at a time. Read on Fans!
Turner Underwood looked down at the Breguet watch on his wrist. “Right on time. Of course, I would expect that of a Light Elf.”
Correk marched across the patio as a few small stray leaves swirled around his cowboy boots.
“I heard about the family get-together. Jackson finally made his way to Earth. Surprised it took this long.” Turner Underwood looked out over Lake Anna from his well-manicured lawn as the sun set turning the large Texas sky red and purple.
He was dressed in a long dark wool overcoat, the bottom flapping in the cold breeze. A brown fedora with a striped ribbon around it was clamped down on his head. “Tempting to use a little magic and let the wind blow right around me. Would certainly be warmer. But then, what’s the fun in that? You try to make everything comfortable all the time, in my long experience you end up missing out on some great moments. Besides, it’s Austin and by tomorrow we’ll be back to balmy. I suppose this is our idea of a change in seasons. Would hate to miss it.”
Correk came and stood next to him, his hands clasped behind his back. He was dressed in his tunic and jeans, his eyes watering from the wind. The troll poked his head out just as the faint smell of pizza mixed with the air around him. Turner turned and smiled at Yumfuck. “Some guests enjoyed themselves at the dinner.”
“I won’t waste our time by asking how you could already know about Leira’s father showing up or even how you know him. Doesn’t matter, at least not to me. But you can answer a question for me that’s been bothering me.” Correk turned to look at Turner. “Are you equipped to help Leira learn everything she needs to know given her special circumstances?”
Turner pursed his lips and leaned on the silver handle of his cane. “Jackson has his doubts. Not surprised. My role was to mentor Leira, to be a guide and not to ensure anything. That is an assumption you were making. No one can guarantee that and if someone tries, thrash them with a fireball for being a damn liar. Dangerous business.”
Correk folded his arms across his chest. “Tell me about the Jaspar Elves.”
“I will answer your question, mostly because you won’t be able to focus until I do but it’s the last one today. I asked you here to discuss something else that is more important.” Turner easily made his way up the stone steps to the patio, tapping his cane on each step. “Take a seat.” He slowly lowered himself down into one of the wrought iron chairs around the large glass-topped table and settled back, adjusting his coat. “Where to start, exactly?”
Correk sat down across the table from him as the troll jumped out of his pocket and down his leg, scampering across the lawn to investigate the bushes. Turner smiled broadly as he watched, balancing his hands on his cane. “Some of the smartest creatures… Some would say smarter than an Elf.” Turner Underwood jabbed at the air letting out a hearty laugh but he could see Correk was not in the mood. He arched an eyebrow and started into the story again. “I suppose I could tell you about the times when Jaspar Elves were more common.”
“I’m only interested in the parts that affect Leira.”
Turner shut his eyes, nodding his head. “A good sign for our eventual conversation. Fine, I will cut to the chase, then.” His deepset eyes opened slowly as they narrowed, studying Correk as he talked. “Magic is another name for energy. It’s like electricity in this world. It’s unseen and all around us, all at once.” He waved his hand in the air, dragging streams of colored light that formed into different shapes of dragons, pixies and trolls, scattering into sparks that floated up into the sky. “It isn’t until someone can harness it that things change.” He formed a ball of light in his hands and reshaped it like a pillow, sliding the light behind his back.
“A first year child on Oriceran knows all of this.” Correk was growing irritated and his eyes glowed momentarily as the old injury sent an ache through his body.
“Don’t interrupt a fucking old Elf. I’ll tell the tale the way I want to, Correk. You came to me for answers. Try trusting that I know how to set the truth free. Where was I? Ah yes, the energy of it all. Magical beings are all like the hose from a garden. Energy passes through us but isn’t ours to keep for very long. Some beings can let more energy pass though and others are better at manipulating the hell out of what is available to them. But not one of them ever merges with the energy. Turn it off and you are back to your regular self. You see it now, right? That comparison to electricity was necessary.”
Correk gave him a hard stare, waiting for the next part of the story. His lips were pressed together in a thin, determined line.
Turner tapped his cane hard on the grey slate in frustration. “Do not act as if this is a crisis, Elf! It’s a sure way to cause harm. There is always time to pause and think before you act. Always.”
Correk bristled and snapped, “I did what had to be done against Rhazdon.”
“I would agree. Again you assume without gathering information. There is a lot for you to learn, still. But first, let me finish answering your one question,” Turner said, pointedly.
The troll suddenly rolled swiftly out from under a bush covered in peat moss as a mouse peeked out from the rhododendrons and just as quickly disappeared again. The troll let out a cackle and set off to follow it.
“Jaspar Elves are the same as any other magical being. They don’t absorb magic but they can channel a far larger quantity and are very clever at bending the shit out of it. I long suspected Jackson was really at least part Jaspar. Damn clever of him to keep it quiet by living in humble surroundings. There’s far more he could do if he ever chose to.”
“Says even more about him that with all his gifts he chose to be a scavenger.”
“Just one more of nature’s recyclers.” Turner held his arm out wide. “Another clever ruse. His ability to detect the more powerful artifacts would be even more keen than even your own skill set. Yes, it’s true. Get your fucking hackles up if you need to, won’t change a thing. You might miss a detail like that but he wouldn’t. Sometimes I wonder what’s buried out at that cabin in the woods. But, that’s another day. He’s even been able to teach a lot of his finer skills to his young protege, Louie. Be glad he’s on our side now. That young Wizard has some mad skills. Alright, I’ll get on with it but patience will be required of you in the coming days, mark my words. Leira brings an ancient spark of humanity into the mix and this combination is even more rare than a Jaspar Elf. It was rare even back then and…”
Turner hesitated, letting out a gruff cough and clearing his throat. “There are no stories of anyone living to be an old Elf like myself who had the combination but…” He held up his hand to stop Correk. “There’s also a good reason why that might be. A wise parent would have hidden the child and spirited them away. It’s the same way that the few remaining Jaspar Elves have managed to live amongst the Oricerans peacefully. It’s possible…”
“But not likely.” Correk finished the sentence for him. “The power got away from them at an accelerated speed, didn’t it?”
“Most likely. The light drew them in until they merged with it. That’s the point of this tale. The combination of that spark of humanity means that Leira doesn’t just take energy in and then let it go. She is slowly becoming one with it. Her very being is becoming a vessel for the magic.”
The color drained from Correk’s face as his eyes widened. “You’re saying she’s becoming a living artifact.” He gripped the sides of his chair.
Turner nodded his head. “The most powerful kind either world has ever known, if she survives the transformation. That would be the tricky part. The unknown element.”
“How fast does all of this happen?”
Turner’s bushy eyebrows shot up as he wrinkled his forehead. “More unknowns. But Leira doesn’t have an illness. She’s not sick. Don’t take that attitude. It won’t help her.”
“Is there a possibility we can stop the melding from happening?”
“I’m going to say with some confidence… No. That should not be our goal, anyway.”
Correk pushed back the chair abruptly, scraping it along the slate. The troll emerged from the middle of a bush, looking around for trouble. He took a seat on the end of a twig and kept watch, sensing the tension in the air.
Turner tapped his cane hard again. “I didn’t say that meant the end of Leira,” he said, tersely. “Sit down and pay attention. We are after a different goal. To guide Leira so that she can become the conductor of the energy on a level we have never seen before. I tell you, it has to be possible,” he said in a hushed tone.
“How can you say that?” Correk spit out the words, pounding his fist on the glass, rattling the table.
“Because Leira exists and therefore all things are possible, including a good outcome. But only if we focus on it to the obliteration of any other ideas. We must or we are certain to fail. We must be sure that every decision we make is aimed at succeeding and not at preventing failure.”
“There’s the slimmest of differences.”
“True but it will make winning this campaign even possible. You had best decide right now if you have what it takes to see this all the way through.”
Correk’s brows knit together as a spidery trail of anger crept back up his spin, lighting up the symbols on his arms. “I think I’ve already proven that.”
“This venture will take even more than what you have already sacrificed because it will take time and require restraint and the hardest of all, exactly what I’ve said all along. Belief in a good outcome” He pointed his finger at Correk, his gold cufflink twinkling in the last of the light. “It will shade what we do by the thinnest of margins but could be what changes everything.”
“I understand what you’re saying, you know. I won’t be able to rescue her. Not again. In the end the choice will be Leira’s.”
“But we can teach her balance in the meantime. Don’t underestimate the power of a guide. Her father will be of use as well. He may hold small details to what it’s like to actually be a Jaspar Elf that could prove crucial.”
“I don’t trust him.”
“Not a requirement. Let it go and focus. There’s something else that’s interesting about Leira. There’s a measure of belief inside of her already that acts like a compass. It’s built into her and even after everything she’s been through, it’s still there. Most remarkable and extraordinary thing.”
“Is that part of being a Jaspar Elf?
“Does her father strike you as having that same quality?” Turner shook his head with a laugh. “No, not to me either. It’s not part of that spark she was given in her DNA, either. Made her a great detective, even without any abilities and is serving her well as an agent. Leira innately believe a solution exists. I feel very good about all of this. Yes, indeed I do. Now settle in, we have something else we need to discuss and it’s time we got to it.”