Thick Cover

 
Art by:  Hugh Pindur

Art by: Hugh Pindur

 

Jakkob knocks. A trio of dull thuds. A rough voice tells him to “Enter,” the old mage pours over a massive tome lit by dozens of candles. An owl sitting on a perch turns its head, opens an eye, then returns to its nap. Overcrowded bookshelves stretch to the ceiling, books too big to fit on the shelves sit in piles. Smells of wax, dust, ink, bird, paper, smoke, tea, and wool fill the room.

“Master Grall.”

“Hello, Jakkob.” Grall spins a finger and the door closes. “Lost your little friend, eh?”

Jakkob groans. “I was careless.”

“I’ll say.”

“I wasn’t thinking, moved to quick, figured I’d picked the right…Obviously I didn’t.”

“What’d I tell you about selecting and casting spells?”

“Take time to consider the consequences—I know, I know.”

Grall looks up for the first time, sneers, “No. You don’t. And now you’re here when you should be out there”—waggles his finger, the old door rattles—“practicing your art.” He sighs, “So what’re we going to do about this, mm?”

“That’s why I’m here, sir.”

“Oh don’t “sir” me,” Grall groans. “You’ve never been one to show respect before, don’t tickle my fanny with fluffy words now that you want my help.”

“How can I get Sven back?” asks Jakkob.

“Sven? Oh, that’s the rat’s name?” Grall grins. “I’ve got to ask, what made you pick a rat?”

“A lot of reasons. They’re clean, they’re smart, they can get into places most people would never expect. People underestimate rats. I know a lot of mages prefer bird familiars, but I’ve grown quite fond of my little buddy. He has far more personality than any bird I’ve met.”

The owl’s eyes flash and clacks her beak. “Ah, ha. Be nice, Bella,” Grall chuckles. “Pray she and Sven are never in the same room together.”

“I’d put my money on Sven. Like I said, people underestimate rats.”

“Yes, fine-fine. So, how do we get him back, eh?”

Jakkob nods, “That’s why I’m here. Do you have any ideas?”

“Tell me how it happened.”

“Right. Two nights ago—”

The full moon gives a boost to magical energies, and Jakkob, after a few beers, is in a fun-loving mood. Wants to play around. Nothing wild, nothing sinister, just make people pause and scratch their heads. He’s walking down an alley, headed back to the room he rents and gets an idea. He’ll tweak the color of the bricks on this wall, put little white flowers growing between the cracks. When people come this way tomorrow, they’ll wonder if the bricks were always that shade. Were the flowers always there? At least those that notice—if anyone even does. A harmless prank.

As Jakkob flips through the pages of his spellbook he senses eyes. Sven squeaks. Ah piss, muggers. Now instead of looking for a spell that’ll tweak color and grow flowers, Jakkob searches for something that’ll allow him to get away.

One of the muggers, his words slurring says to, “Drop the spellbook.”

Jakkob casts a time dilation spell. A simple thing that changes one second into many. Now how to get away from these bastards. The moment the spell ends they’ll be on him...Unless. A half dozen possibilities come to mind, which one, which choice, what spell for this moment? Ah-ha, here we go, this’ll work. Jakkob smirks as the spell catches his eye.

Pages swirl as Jakkob weaves his magic. He pulls threads of possibility, twists chance, a snip of reality here, a bit there--minor tweaks. He takes a fragment of fate and binds it to the tangible now. He turns their boots to bricks, melds the bricks to the road. They’ll be stuck until morning, or at least until a mason hears them.

“Thought you’d get the jump on”, says Jakkob, but when he turns to look at his would-be-attackers there’s no one there.

Grall combs his beard with thin, ink-stained fingers. “Ah. You discarded the wrong spell, didn’t look twice. Classic. You removed them from the current Now.”

Jakkob nods, “Sven too.”

“Mm, and Sven, yes. Well, here’s the funny thing about that sort of spell. You can’t undo them. You’ll have to wait for a new opportunity, and try again.”

“I thought you just said I can’t—”

“Undo is not the same as redo. This fate is set, but if you pay attention and take your time—as I’m continually telling you to—then maybe you’ll get Sven back. Not what you were hoping to hear, I know. But when the opportunity arises, be ready. It’ll happen. Keep your eyes open. Learn from your mistakes.”