Once we finished eating, I filtered my vision through a revealing spell. An illusion of a mural hid a door. The mural featured a row of peach trees, in outstanding detail down to the bark and leaves, each in a different season. It was gorgeous. Even more impressive was the spellwork of the illusion. It was complex enough to sense our intention and create an illusion of us leaving the diner while we actually went through the hidden door. This market was smaller than the last. Thankfully, there weren’t any neophytes gawking at any of the booths. There was no arena here. A humble bar was on one side, and only twelve shops were set up on the other. This group valued exclusivity. That explained the intricacy of the illusion. Even a practiced witch would have to know what they were looking for to get in here.
Only eight other people pursued the merchandise. Nothing was marked with price tags. This was an “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it” situation. I found my necklace at a market like this one. The enchanter there had two witches training under her. Between her talent and their efforts always had a stock of rare and powerful items to sell. If she weren’t on the opposite side of the country, I’d have suggested going to her. If I didn’t want to wait for Ice to come back, I’d have gotten Ruby and myself on the next plane to Seattle. We didn’t owe Eli anything. In fact, I’d saved his life, so I wouldn’t have felt bad about letting him figure things out for himself. As long as we were staying put, though, I was glad to have another ally. I trusted Eli enough to believe he wanted to block Newton’s clairvoyant more than he wanted to go back to Las Vegas.
The enchanter’s booth here was immaculate. She had black silk over the tables of her shop. She’d organized her merchandise by color. Everything there was made of metal. It wasn’t uncommon for enchanters to have a preferred medium like this. When working with metal, enchanting was easiest in the casting process. If she made everything she sold from scratch, they’d be especially strong because the spells were taking hold while the material was being shaped. There was everything from accessories to weapons to kitchenware. My eyes immediately went to the gold section. As much as I tried to steer my aesthetic toward my abilities. I couldn’t resist a bit of shine. A knuckle duster drew my gaze. The card under it advertised its ability to trigger an opponent’s fight or flight response, slip it on your hand and watch them run. I liked the idea of avoiding a fight entirely without having to draw on my magic.
“Anything I can help you find?” the enchanter asked.
“We’re looking for items that will block us from a clairvoyant’s sight, like this one,” I said, taking my necklace off to let her examine it closer.
“This is gorgeous. Where did you get it?” she asked.
“Cara, of course,” she said. “I don’t have a blocker this strong. If you gave me a week with this one, I could give you something comparable.”
“We need three, preferably in the next few days,” I said.
“Impossible,” she said.
“Even if you had help?” Eli asked.
“None of you have any skill with enchanting.” She knew without asking. That was an interesting trick.
“We have another enchanter willing to collaborate,” I said.
“$150,000 upfront, you supply the power needed to make them your three plus one for me, and you keep Willard a minimum of three feet away from me at all times,” she said.
“Done. And add this to the bill too,” I said, picking up the knuckle duster.
“I like your style. I’m June.” the enchanter offered me her hand. I shook it and felt the power in her rings. They weren’t showy, just plain silver bands, but she was packing enough energy to level a building on that hand alone.
“You can call me E,” I said. I didn’t want to lie to her, but I wasn’t going to give her my real name. Names have power. That’s part of why the Coven gives their people new ones.
“You’re going to need Billie too. They’re not going to agree easily. You’ll definitely need to show them this,” June told me as she handed me my necklace back.
“What did Willard do to make you and Billie dislike him?” Ruby asked.
“You don’t have time for the whole story if you’re hoping to get those blockers made quickly. Suffice to say he’s a selfish glory hound who is a better liar than he has any right to be,” June said.
“Anything you know that might help us convince Billie?” I asked, handing over the credit card Ruby made for me.
“Money won’t hurt. But they’re a very proud person. So make sure to show respect for them and their craft,” June said. She handed me back my card.
“Thank you,” I said. I put the card and my new enchanted weapon in my pockets. “How should we contact you if we can get them to agree?” I asked.
“Here’s my card,” she said. The business card she handed me was updated. Almost nothing except for the location matched the card that Willard had given us.
“Can we still find Billie at this market?” I asked, showing her the other card Willard gave us.
“You haven’t been in Atlanta long, have you?” June asked.
“That market isn’t safe anymore,” she said. “She’s at the Chastain Park Market.”
“Thanks for the tip,” I said.
Ruby and Eli stayed quiet as we walked away. I could feel the foreboding in their silence. For a magical market to be considered unsafe, things had to take a turn towards the darker side of the supernatural world. Magical markets don’t operate by mundane laws, but they have rules. It takes a compelling force to start changing those rules. Enchanters are some of the first people to go when a place is headed downhill. They either help set up the enchantments to keep the order or are very attuned to them. Either way, they can usually tell when something is going wrong. If I had to guess, Mr. Newton would have started his operation in one of Las Vegas’s markets. It would certainly be a good way for a cerebremancer to start building power. If he did it subtly enough, he’d be able to keep people from noticing the changes before it was too late.
A lot of enchantments, wards, and self-policing go into making sure that no one gets hurt or at least keeps them from getting too badly hurt if they’re not on their best behavior. Unfortunately, there are a lot of beings in the supernatural community who thrive in those broken places. I’d taken shelter in them many times before. The Coven and other major powers in our world don’t interfere with them unless they risk discovery. I was safe from the Coven in those places, but the cost was knowing that I was capable of that same darkness on some level.