Thought-Provoking Thursday Week Twenty

As a species, we’re a bit obsessed with time. Most civilizations have been coming up with ways to measure it for as far back as we can trace our stories and legends. Or at least it seems that way. It’s one of those systems that only works because we’ve collectively decided that it makes sense. Out of that agreement comes so many idioms I can’t even imagine listing them all. Our language around time continues to evolve as it passes.

Writing Prompt: Write a piece about the passage of time that plays with the language we use to describe it. Will you invent some new idioms for futuristic world or engage in some poetic word play? Whatever you write make sure you have fun with it.

Shadow-Blessed Ep. 20

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. 

“Seattle.” 

“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. 

“$150,00 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. 

“No. Why?” 

“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.

Shadow-Blessed Ep. 19

The crowd wasn’t as big as the vendor hall, but that didn’t comfort me much. At least I felt more in my element here. I’d never been to this particular market, but they all ran on similar rules. The elevator let us off on the second floor. This space wasn’t round like the one under Lake Eola; instead, this market was a substantial pentagonal prism. The people who’d come down with us walked straight to the edge of the floor. There was an arena in the middle of the first floor, similar to the one in Orlando. The second level had a large pentagon cut out at the center with railing all the way around so spectators could look down on the fights. The booths lining the walls still had plenty of room without pushing their customers up against the fight fans. Ruby went ahead of us, I gestured for Eli to go next, and I followed him. The elevator closed behind us, off to get the next group of newcomers. 

Ruby knew what we were looking for, and she cut through the crowd as easily here as she had in the vendor hall. I envied that talent. I had to dedicate so much of my focus to keeping pace and watching Eli. I couldn’t take in what most of the kiosks were selling. Umbra wove the noise of our surroundings into a song. I didn’t know exactly how they did it, but it eased my nerves. As much as I loved music, I wouldn’t have been able to pick out all the sounds they used to form the beat. I doubted any human could do it. It made me wonder if Umbra had any relation to muses. They didn’t come to our plane of existence for long periods of time. However, when they did, they could manipulate light to make themselves visible to people if they wanted. It wasn’t the right time to talk to the living shadow about their origin. Ruby ducked into one of the booths to our left. 

People were bumping each other back and forth, trying to look at all the items on the tables. The enchanter answered questions as quickly as he could, but there was no end in sight. All the merchants had to be feeling overwhelmed. This was more foot traffic than they ever got on a typical day. I saw one of the shoppers put something in his pocket. He tried to slip away from the table, but a screeching noise erupted from his pocket. Before most people could understand what was happening, a pair of vampires were in front of the thief. One of the vampires restrained him, and the other fished the trinket out of the man’s pocket. The enchanter nodded his thanks as the vampire placed the item back on the table. Then, they escorted the shoplifter toward the elevator. This wouldn’t be the last time they had to shuffle people out for breaking rules. Of course, they wouldn’t catch everything, but they would set enough examples to discourage other agitators. 

There was no way for us to tell if the item we needed was among the mess that people were making of the tables. The novice supernaturals were touching things more carelessly than they should have, despite the signs warning against that on each of the booth’s four posts. The item labels were askew or missing altogether. The enchanter adopted a “caveat emptor” attitude about the situation. If someone accidentally activated a dangerous enchantment, they might learn their lesson. Ruby and Eli made room for us along the center table. We waited as someone bought a dog whistle or at least something that looked like a dog whistle. The enchanter noticed us, probably because we were the only ones not adding to the chaos. He ignored objects from other customers and came to us. 

“You three look like you’re in the market for something specific. How can I help you?” the enchanter asked. 

“Can you replicate the enchantment on this?” I asked, holding my necklace out for him to inspect. He took it from me, studied it, and looked at me with an intrigued expression.

“This is intricate. It would take me months to duplicate all the layering this necklace holds if I were working alone.” 

“We don’t have a month,” Eli said. 

“What if you weren’t working alone?” I asked, holding my hand out for my necklace back. He hesitated for the briefest of moments before handing it back.

“Any of you have a talent for Enchantments?” the salesman asked. 

“No,” I said. I put my necklace back on.

“All right. There are two other top-notch enchanters in Atlanta. If you can convince them to work with me again, I think we’d be able to cut that time significantly,” 

“How quickly can you do it with their help?” Eli asked.

“A couple of days.” The other customers watched our exchange as if they could learn a new language by paying close enough attention. 

“Where can we find them?” I asked. 

“Here ya go.” The enchanter handed me two business cards. I vanished them immediately. I didn’t want to risk losing them. I could summon them again once we were away from the crowd. 

“Thank you,” I said before signaling for Ruby to lead us out. 

I knew it wouldn’t be as easy as showing up at the other markets and telling the other enchanters to name their price. I was assuming this one wronged the two of them in some way based on his phrasing. If the three of them could produce an item as powerful as my necklace in a few days, that would be an alliance worth a little frustration. I hoped that Ruby’s considerable sway over bank accounts would be enough to convince them to work together. It wasn’t a guarantee. There’s always work for a talented and versatile enchanter. In a city like Atlanta, they probably weren’t stressed about finding more customers. Their marketability would only grow now that mundane people were learning about magic. The market for power amplifying items and items non-magic users could activate would be expanding soon enough. 

A werewolf and vampire pair was waiting at the elevator with another rulebreaker gripped tightly between them. I wondered if they’d volunteered security duty or if they were recruited. The door opened to another set of wide-eyed tourists. They barely noticed we were there as they disembarked. An overworked-looking supernatural separated from the newbie and walked purposefully through the throng. The werewolf dragged their troublemaker onto the elevator, and we joined them. We couldn’t be choosy about riding up with riffraff. I wanted to get to the other two enchanters before lunch. Ruby ordered us an Uber. I was glad to avoid using her car. Eli seemed eager to go with us on this little quest, but I wasn’t ready to take that as a sign that he’d stick with us once he had his clairvoyant blocker. 

The entrance to the next magical market was in a diner. The smell of some freshly cooked bacon was all the convincing we needed to sit down for breakfast. The market would still be there once we were full. If this one was as crowded as the last, I could use the extra fortification. I didn’t want to think about how quickly I would lose my patience going into another horde on an empty stomach. While we ate, my mind drifted to Ice coming back. If he was going to join Ruby and me on the run, he would need a blocker too. The Coven wouldn’t be happy to let him go. If we were lucky, we’d be able to get at least one of them by the time he got back. Between me, him, and Eli, we could handle any other thugs Mr. Newton might send before we were able to the other two blockers.

Thought-Provoking Thursday Week Nineteen

I recently started reading a book called Hardwiring Happiness. I’m not far into it has been interesting enough to keep my attention. There’s a lot about how our brains evolved for survival and the way that survival mindset still has power over us even if we’ve moved past that motivation in our lives. I wish we were all past that point but sadly there are still far too many people who still have to think of things in terms how do they survive. I really want to believe that we can get to a point where everyone can leave that mindset behind.

Writing Prompt: Consider how the survival instinct shows up in your character’s life. Do they struggle with actual life and death scenarios or is their brain applying that mindset to less deadly situations?