Image Prompt 061 – The Face of a Cat

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I chose the image of the black cat in the black back pack for my twenty-minute sprint today.  I set this in the same world as my books, with a student at Black Ashe University, the Wiccan University in Fort Madison as my main character.  I hope you enjoy.

 

The Face of a Cat:

Kyle padded out of his room into the kitchen, starting the coffee maker more by feel than sight.  He’d been up late last night finishing up his essay on metaphysical translation spells.  He’d thought this was going to be one of those boring, reading dusty old tomes kind of metaphysics classes, but the professor was new, and was actually having them research spells, discuss how the mechanics worked and how they could potentially rework or recombine different mechanics for different spell effect.  It was the most fascinating class he’d taken as Black Ashe University so far.

Once the coffee was brewing, Kyle stopped in the bathroom, then returned to the kitchen, actually turning on the light this time and opening the fridge.

There was a soft noise from near the door, almost like there was an animal outside growling.

Kyle straightened up and looked toward the door.  He had the food for his late class in a bag hanging behind his backpack so he wouldn’t forget to pack it.  They were taking turns providing snacks so everyone had something since they met during normal dinner hours.

The noise came again.

Kyle walked toward the door, and when he came around the counter, something in his backpack moved, eyes shining in the dim light from the overhead.

“You better be a raccoon that broke in or some such,” Kyle muttered under his breath, grabbing the emergency flashlight from the counter.  He turned it on and shone it at the bag.

There were eyes, and a mouth, and they looked like they were part of the backpack.  They were on the front, where his initials were embroidered.  The bag had been a gift from his grandmother, complete with customization and extra straps.

Kyle approached the bag slowly, still hoping whatever animal would either duck down to hide, or jump out to try to get away.

No such luck.  He was crouched right in front of it now.  The bag had been made mostly of nylon fabric before, but now it looked more like suede in most places, and a little more like actual fur around the face.

“Are you friendly?” Kyle wondered, reaching toward the bag just to see what happened.  The bag made a noise, and Kyle really wasn’t sure if it was a purr or a growl.  The face on the bag looked mostly feline.  It had that sort of triangular shape to it that he associated with cats anyway.  Kyle touched the bottom corner of the bag.  It was soft, softer than most suede, and warm.  Like body heat warm.

“Okay,” Kyle said softly, meeting the eyes of what used to be his backpack.  “I’m going to call my professor now.  Hang tight.”

Kyle shuffled backward still in the crouch before standing up and retrieving his phone.  He took a quick picture of the cat bag, and attached it to an email so he could send it to his professor easily if needed.  Then he found the number on the syllabus for emergencies related to class.  He dialed and waited for it to ring, still looking at the bag.  He’d been talking in his paper about how to leverage the mechanics of a spell designed to make a book able to defend itself, and how that could be applied to a variety of objects.

“Hello?” someone answered.

“Hi,” Kyle said.  “Is this Professor Scriven?”

“Yes,” he answered.

“It’s Kyle, Kyle Melbourne, from your Metaphysical Research class.”

“Is something wrong?” Professor Scriven asked.

“Maybe,” Kyle said.  “I finished my paper last night, and I was postulating about some things,” Kyle said, giving a very brief explanation of the book defense concept and the possible applications.  “And when I got up this morning, my backpack appears to have changed.  It has a cat face, and it’s either growling or purring at me.”

“A cat face?” Professor Scriven asked.

“Eyes, mouth, fur, I think there’s a nose but it and the bag are black and the lighting isn’t great in my apartment.  The bag used to be nylon and now it feels like super soft suede and it’s warm to the touch.  I have a picture I can send you.”

“That would probably be helpful.  Your paper draft too if you can.”

“It’ll be two emails,” Kyle said.  “Hold on a sec,” he added, pulling his phone away from his ear to send the picture.  “The paper’s going to take a minute since it’s not on my phone.”

“That’s the bag you usually bring to class?” Professor Scriven asked as Kyle pulled up an email.

“Yeah,” Kyle replied, typing in the professor’s email and attaching the paper.  “There used to be initials were the face is.”

“I have a colleague who has postulated that this kind of application would be possible,” Professor Scriven said.  “But she’s never tested it.”

“Mostly I just want to know what I should do now,” Kyle replied.  “Is it dangerous?  Do I need to feed it?  Should I never use it as a backpack ever again?”  That would be a shame.  He really loved that bag.  It was super versatile and really comfortable.

“Let me just scan through your paper,” Professor Scriven said.

“This bit is on page three I think,” Kyle offered, turning back to the cat bag.  He wondered what his grandmother would think when she saw it.

Image Prompt 060 Response – Familiar

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I chose the picture of my black cat, Locke, looking out the kitchen window for my story prompt this week.  This is the product of a twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy-edit.

Familiar:

Midnight had her paws up on the kitchen windowsill so she could see outside.  Amanda smiled as she got out of the car and saw her familiar watching for her arrival.  She hurried to grab the bags out of the trunk but walked carefully up the steps.  It had snowed again today and she needed to clear them off again, maybe put down some more salt to keep things from getting slippery.

Amanda unlocked the door and pushed it open.

“Hello my lovely,” she greeted Midnight, who was now sitting on the counter right beside the front door.

Midnight meowed happily, brushing her head against Amanda’s arm since her hands were full.

Amanda chuckled and set her bags down, petting Midnight with one hand as she closed and locked the door.  “All’s well?” she asked.

“No callers or intruders,” Midnight informed her.

“Good,” Amanda replied, stroking Midnight one more time before turning to deal with her bags.  “I’m glad no one bothered you today.”  Some days there would be salesmen, or someone looking to hire Amanda would find out where she lived.  She didn’t like when they came to her home and bothered Midnight while she was gone.

It only took a few moments for Amanda to put away the groceries she’d picked up on the way home, and set her work bag and her little backpack by her desk in the second bedroom.  She came back to settle on the couch and Midnight jumped up to sit beside her.

Amanda stroked Midnight’s soft fur and sighed happily, relaxing into the cushions.  It was good to be home.  She missed Midnight on days she couldn’t take her familiar with her.  Some clients just didn’t understand the bond between a witch and her familiar, so they requested she leave the cat at home, like it was just some kind of pet.  At least this job had only taken a couple days and was close enough she could come home each night.

Sitting here with Midnight beside her again, Amanda could finally relax.  It was stressful on both of them when she was away.  Maybe she’d stop taking jobs that asked her to leave Midnight behind.  She could change her contract, make it state that Midnight was to be allowed to accompany her for all portions of her work instead of having a question asking if Midnight could accompany her.  Work was pretty steady now, unlike when she’d first started out.  She didn’t have to take every job she was offered just to make ends meet.

Amanda looked out the back window, watching snow begin to fall again, the swirls of snowflakes lit by the streetlamps.  The world was hushed and quiet now that night had fallen, the blanket of snow muting any sound there might have been.

“Tomorrow we leave for the next job,” Amanda said softly.

“We’re helping someone ward their home, correct?” Midnight asked.

“Yes,” Amanda replied.  “A very nice family,” she added.  They’d been very gracious about the entire thing.  They’d even asked if they needed to keep their own cat sequestered while she was there.  It was rare for anyone to even think to ask about things like that.  It was much more common for a client to ask her to keep Midnight sequestered or on a leash or something equally ridiculous.  Midnight would be at her side where she belonged.  “I think you’ll like them,” Amanda told Midnight.  “And if you’re feeling frisky, they have a cat you might be able to entice to play.”

“That would be nice,” Midnight replied, nuzzling Amanda’s leg.  “It’s been a while since I had a chance to play with another feline.”

Amanda smiled.  She’d amend her contract.  There was no reason to be so accommodating of those who didn’t understand her bond to her familiar.  If they wanted her services, they’d just have to accept that Midnight came too.

Image Prompt 050 Response – Mage’s Bridge

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I chose the image of the stone bridge in the UK for my twenty-minute sprint this week.  And then I was having so much fun that I kept writing, so this is longer than usual and definitely wasn’t written in only twenty minutes.  I still did the usual quick copy-edit before posting, so please excuse any errors I missed.

Mage’s Bridge:

Aaron held Jason’s hand as they walked down the road from the little village where they were staying.  There was a lovely little stone bridge Aaron wanted to look at.  Jason found them interesting because of the engineering principals involved and how old they were.  Aaron thought they were lovely and had found that any kind of water crossing had potential to be a place where mages placed protections.  In a country as old as Britain, he thought there was a chance there would be traces of some kind of spell he could study.

“We’ve walked back to every old bridge we’ve crossed on this trip,” Jason said as they arrived.  “Is there something about them besides the look that you find so interesting?”

Aaron smiled.  Jason knew him too well.  “They’re a common place to find the remains of spells,” Aaron confessed.  “If a village had a mage, they would put protection spells on bridges and fords and crossroads to guide those who intended harm away from their home.”

“Find any so far?” Jason asked, squeezing Aaron’s hand.

“There were faint traces on a few, but nothing strong enough for me to learn anything from.”

“So it’s a research thing?” Jason asked.

“Sort of,” Aaron said as they stopped before crossing onto the bridge.  “It’s intellectual curiosity,” Aaron said, studying the bridge with his eyes first.  “But it’s also about finding ways to weave magic that have been forgotten.  I spent a whole summer traveling to any sites where Native Americans lived that are still in existence.  They had a different way of weaving magic once, and a lot of it was lost when so many of them died out.  Settlers would find their mages and make sure they were educated by European mages rather than their own.  It was shameful, to lose so much.”

“That sounds awful,” Jason said.

“Yeah, history has a lot of examples of mages being worse than the average human when it comes to that kind of thing.  Some still are.  There are weird pockets of insular people who don’t want to change with the world.”

“I’m glad you’re not like that,” Jason said.

“You’d never have stayed with me if I were,” Aaron replied.  He was pretty sure Jason never would have agreed to a first date, let alone a second if Aaron had the superiority complex he’d seen in so many other mages over the years.

“Go explore,” Jason said, squeezing Aaron’s hand before letting go.  “I’ll take some pictures and look up architectural facts.”

Aaron laughed.  He loved that Jason was willing to indulge him.  He’d been so patient even before asking why Aaron was so fascinated by the old bridges.  The stone ones were the best.  Wooden ones wouldn’t hold the magic as long.  But a stone bridge could hold magic for centuries.  Especially if the mage had been around to weave the magic while it was being built.

Aaron stepped onto the bridge, letting his magic flow out through his feet to examine the stonework.

There was definitely magic in the bridge, but it was strong.  Too strong to be a remnant.

Aaron stepped back off the bridge.  He looked closer at the end, searching for a mark.  Most mages these days left one, but it was usually subtle, something that could be missed or ignored if you didn’t know what you were looking for.

It took him a good five minutes to spot it.  It was on the first stone at the very center of the bridge.  Aaron moved to it, crouching down so he could examine it closely.  He knew Jason would be paying attention and let him know if a car was coming.

The mark had been placed there recently.  Maybe even in the last few years.  Since they were visiting another country, it wasn’t something Aaron was familiar with.  He kept up with the Mage’s Society back home, but Britain had their own, and didn’t make their resources public to other societies.

Aaron reached down, touching the mark with one finger.  The mage had been young when they placed the mark, perhaps early twenties.  She’d placed the spell on the bridge first, then the marks.  Now that he was touching this one, Aaron could sense the other four.  One at the other end of the bride and two in the middle on either side.  They weren’t part of the weaving of the spell.  They were something else.

“Aaron, there’s a car coming,” Jason said.

Aaron opened his eyes, got to his feet and hurried to the side of the road with Jason.

A little sedan pulled up but didn’t drive onto the bridge.  There was a woman behind the wheel.  She looked to be in her late twenties, and as soon as she turned and looked at them, Aaron knew she was the mage who put the spell on the bridge.

Aaron held her eyes as he bowed to her.

Her mouth popped open in surprise. ~

Aaron smiled as he straightened.  She hadn’t expected him to acknowledge her.  Interesting.  He realized now why there were four marks.  It was a common way to weave a very subtle spell that most mages wouldn’t notice that would alert her to the presence of another mage.

She clamped her mouth shut and narrowed her eyes at him.  Aaron held his hands at waist level, a little away from his hips, and very slowly and deliberately turned them palm toward her and spread his fingers wide.  It was a sign most Mage Societies recognized as signaling peaceful intentions.

She nodded to him, then put her car in reverse and pulled off the road.  She got out and slowly walked toward them.

“Well met,” Aaron said, nodding to her again, his hands never moving.

“I hope so,” she replied, her accent sounding very much like the ones he’d been hearing in the village.

“My name is Aaron,” he said as she crossed the road to them.  “I’m on vacation.”

Her lips twitched at that, like she wanted to smile but didn’t want him to know she was amused.

“I live here,” she replied.

“I know,” he said.  “You do good work,” he added, nodding toward the bridge.

Her eyes narrowed again, and she stopped at the side of the road a little away from them.  It put Jason closer to her than Aaron, which got Aaron’s protective instincts into high gear, but he kept them in check.  Jason was being amazing so far, not saying anything and not making any sudden movements.  Aaron could feel that he was slightly worried.

“I really am just here on vacation,” Aaron said.  “I like to stop at old bridges and take a look at them.  Sometimes there are traces of something old that I can learn from.  That’s all I was doing.”

“And him?” she asked.

“Can’t you tell?” Aaron replied.  He and Jason were bound.  Any mage that encountered them should be able to tell as much.

She frowned, and looked at Jason.

Aaron could see it in her face when she recognized the signs of their bond.  Her eyes were wide and they quickly moved back to Aaron.  She actually took a step back.

“I believe in being civilized,” Aaron said.  “We’re all fine because no one is being threatening.  We’re just talking.”

“We don’t get many visitors here,” she said, her own hands down at her sides now, palms out and fingers spread.  Aaron understood her caution.  Most mages were a little unreasonable about protecting their bound mate.  Aaron thought it was old fashioned and knew Jason wouldn’t appreciate it if he was overbearing and overprotective.

“Most of those I know are uncomfortable traveling,” Aaron replied.  “They all find me quite odd.”

She actually smiled at that one.

“We’re staying in the village,” Aaron said, motioning with his head toward the direction she’d driven in from.  “Perhaps we could go have tea and chat?”

“You are quite odd,” She said, smiling as she approached them.  She stepped onto the road so that she was facing Aaron.  “I’m Emily.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” Aaron said as they shook hands.  She had her magic pulled in tight, just like he did.  “And this is Jason.”

“Nice to meet you,” Jason said, offering her his hand.

“Likewise,” EMily said, her eyes wide again as she shook hands with Jason.

Aaron smiled.  She was kind of adorable as she tried to figure out how to interact with them.  He wondered if this was the first time she’d ever had a foreign mage in her village, or even the first time she’d met a mage she didn’t know through someone.

“You can ride with me if you want,” she offered.

“Fine by me,” Jason said, looking at Aaron.

“Thank you,” Aaron said as they followed her to her car.  He was looking forward to the chance to talk with someone from another Mages’ Society.

Image Prompt 042 Response – This Is Not Our Basement

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I selected the image of Scotland cityscape for my twenty-minute sprint this month.  I hope you enjoy the beginning of this idea.

This Is Not Our Basement:

Michael made his way down the stairs into the basement to investigate the weird noises.  His roommate must have left one of her weird experiments running, because the combination of bubbling noises and sharp knocking sounds made no sense and wasn’t rhythmic enough to be music.

The light was still on, but she’d put up a red filter so it didn’t do more than make sure he didn’t trip on the stairs.  He didn’t see her as he reached the bottom, but that didn’t always mean anything. Continue reading

Image Prompt 040 Response – Celestial Academy

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I selected the image from Calton Hill in Edinburgh, Scotland for my image prompt this week.  A twenty-minute sprint and a quick copy edit produced the below.  I hope you enjoy it.

Celestial Academy:

Ryan walked slowly up the steep grassy hill.  When he’d agreed to meet Xander at his school, he’d expected a university or a secondary school.  The address he’d found for Celestial Academy in Edinburgh had been at the top of the hill at one end of the city.  According to the website, the place had been some kind of memorial back in the twentieth century, but had since been repurposed for private use.  The web didn’t say what the school taught or how old the students were, just that it was highly selective and students were invited to apply. Continue reading

Image Prompt 039 Response – Need of You

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I selected the image of the south wall of David’s Tower for my prompt today.  I’m also playing with characters from some previous posts.  You first saw them in my 2017 A to Z challenge story (story starts here), and they appeared again in my response to Image Prompt 028.  I hope you enjoy.

Need of You:

Uriel materialized in the world inside a castle.  It was cool, but far better lit than any castle he’d been in when they were common place.  Michael had told him that it was only a few months since he was last sent into the world.  Avery had need of him again.

There were voices further down the corridor, so Uriel took a moment to observe himself and his surroundings.  He could feel that he looked the same as he had in his two previous encounters with Avery.  He was wearing black pants and a simple dark green shirt.  There were sturdy boots on his feet and a dark jacket folded over his arm. Continue reading

Image Prompt 038 Response – The Magic of Dice

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I chose the image of the spiral staircase for my prompt this week.  Twenty-minutes of furious writing and a quick copy edit later, I was left with the below.  I hope you enjoy.

The Magic of Dice:

Gemma wasn’t sure where they were going.  Alan and Trish had just said it was a friend’s place.  Gemma wasn’t so sure when they opened the door without knocking.

“So whose place is this?” Gemma whispered as she followed them inside.

“Gary’s,” Alan replied.

“The DM guy?” Gemma asked.  Gary ran Dungeon & Dragons campaigns at the local comic and games shop.  Alan had been trying to talk her into one for ages.

“Yeah,” Alan replied.  “He knows we’re coming,” he added.

“And why are we here?” Gemma asked. Continue reading