The Brotherhood (Part 2)
By Mark W. Meier
The Final Spell
“Horoscopes, fortune telling, and tarot are next, Ken. And get used to incense. It’ll help create a mood for your readings.”
If I’d accepted help from others in the Brotherhood it could have been done in a few months, but I hated owing anyone favors. Senior Brothers might ask for help in return at the worst possible time, ruining my own plans, which is why I had this assignment. I hated my Brothers almost as much as I hated you.
You lost your job busing tables at a local franchise restaurant because you called in sick too often. No matter. Your time with an oversized tarot deck on your coffee table would garner you more than enough cash at next year’s fair.
Any deck of cards could give a tarot reading, but a specialized deck tended to impress people more. A crystal ball added a level of mystique, and the fragrant Nag Champa powders added to a simmering candle warmer amplified the effect.
The next county fair brought longer lines outside your tent. People remembered your dream readings; now they wanted to know their futures. I seldom prompted you. By the end of the fair you’d earned more money – five dollars at a time – than you’d ever possessed.
“Give your money to Gilbert & Associates.” That enterprise was controlled by one of my other clients. “They can work magic – no pun intended – with money, and you’ll be wealthy by the next county fair. You’ll never have to fill out a job application ever again.”
In the meantime, your latest job of sweeping floors for a cleaning service put food in your pantry, paid the electricity bill, and built up a workroom for magickal training. Over the next year you learned numerology, runes, and potions, all of which came as second nature to you.
You moved from your apartment into a small house in Lake Hills, next to an industrial park. The oily stench there was less obvious than the untreated sewage near your previous flat. You felt safe enough, though, to stop carrying your pistol – during the day.
When neighbors discovered your skills they asked you to paint runes on their walls. The crime rate around your home dropped to near zero, thanks to my intervention. You suggested which numbers to pick in the lottery, and those were numbers that won – no big jackpots though, as that would be too obvious. Your concoctions helped them lose weight, gain muscle, earn promotions, and find love.
Again, you were careful. Too much too soon is almost as deadly as too little for too long.
In the course of two years Gilbert turned your three thousand dollars into three million. Using a half million, you bought property in the country outside of Bristol. We needed acreage to learn spellcasting.
Watching your home being built from the already-completed greenhouse, you turned morose. “But what about love? I’m so alone it hurts. Can’t you bring someone to me?”
“They’ll only get in the way. A needy woman will derail your training.”
While you washed dirt and residue from your hands I could see you thinking. I’d given you everything you’d need to find the solution, and you didn’t disappoint.
“How about a non-needy woman?”
“A prostitute?” I pantomimed a shocked expression.
“Well, yeah. She can see to my needs when I want her, and she can otherwise go about her business.”
“Hmmm. We should use a teenage girl who won’t mind staying out here in the middle of nowhere. Barely legal would be best.” If she were over eighteen she wouldn’t be of much concern to the police.
Your face twisted in horror. “I’m thirty-five. Eighteen . . . that’s wrong.”
“Why? Younger girls are easier to control. They’ll be more impressed with you and won’t cost anywhere near as much money. And they’re . . . cleaner.” I peered closer at some white sage, pretending to inspect it.
Your resolve crumbled in record time. “Okay. A girl of eighteen.”
“Get three of them. A real man’s attention will tire only one or two girls that age.”
“Three it is.” You didn’t even pause that time.
“Set them up as your daughters. That’ll keep most people from questioning you if you’re seen with them.”
Your country home eventually grew into a sprawling mansion. One entire wing held your magickal training facility, another, your three girls. Your greenhouse was updated to grow things native to different climates. As the years passed, you acquired new companions – that is, after paying the previous ones a handsome severance package.
“Why is it taking me so long to learn spellcasting?”
So I could attend to other projects at the same time. I wouldn’t tell you that, of course.
“Because you’ll be needing all the things you’ve been collecting and grinding.” You’d worn out two mortar and pestles in the five years you’d been working. Vials of completed spell components covered entire walls in your storage rooms.
I leaned forward to inspect a glass jar of powdered lavender. “Besides, it’s the hardest of all magick to master. It’s easy to pull a rabbit out of a hat, pick the right card from a deck, and make someone’s watch disappear. Any idiot can learn that. Magic is simple, magick is more involved.”
You kept with it, despite what seemed like foolish activities. A flask with pine extract? An envelope with bits of string? Even the broken remnants of a porcelain teacup stored in a felt pouch.
You hired staff to keep your home tidy. A decade passed, and you finally cast a simple spell – creating fire.
You complained bitterly.
“I can strike a match and make fire.” You sipped tea in your work room, watching the pyramid of lint and splintered wood chips burn down. “It took ten years for me to cast a spell to do that!”
I drew myself up taller and let my face reflect a bit of my anger. “You’re just starting.” Raising my voice wouldn’t matter, since nobody else could hear me. “The next ones will be easier. In another ten years you’ll be more powerful than you can imagine!”
You frightened so easily. A hint of sharpened teeth and smoldering red eyes, and you lowered your gaze. Cowed, but not cowering.
“It just seems to be taking so long for so little progress.” You pointed to the smoldering remains of burning pine pitch and linen emanating from a copper brazier.
“Little progress? Your entire lifestyle is supported by donations from grateful clients. Do you want more, like astral projection?” A rhetorical question, since I already knew the answer.
“How about summoning and dispelling spirits? Speaking with people long dead, enchanting mundane items, flooding entire valleys, burning whole towns to the ground? Does that appeal to you?”
Your eyes widened with an avaricious gleam. “Yes.” Your whisper screamed.
The hook was set. “What if such power required the use of . . . unconventional . . . methods?”
“I want it.” Your hands clenched, as if grasping something intangible. “I want it.”
“You’ll need help.”
Now I would really make some headway.
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