Magic Forged – K. M. Shea

I crouched behind a rusty blue mail drop off box and held my breath. It wasn’t the most auspicious of hiding places, but it was closer to the smelly, dank alleyway I intended to hide in than any of my other cover options. I made a face at the rusty grit it smeared on my hand, but carefully peered around the side of the box. Gideon of House Tellier—or as I called him, the Idiot—was still poking in the bushes where I had originally hidden outside the bank across the street. It was now or never. I scuttled into the alleyway that cut between a popular café, Dream Bean, and what used to be the building of a now defunct newspaper. I had to pick my way around the bags of trash that bubbled over from the café’s dumpster, but I didn’t mind. The trash smelled strongly of coffee grounds and almost covered up the scent of rotting food. It wasn’t too bad a place to hide. I’d been in a lot worse. I circled around to the back of the café—which was supposed to be a neutral zone. Actually, all of downtown was neutral, but tell that to the clowns of House Tellier or any of the other wizards who thought they could push me around. At twenty-two, you’d think I’d be past the age of bullying, but the supernatural community reflects the wild, I guess. The strongest thrive while the rest are all dinner. With my tiny sliver of magic, I was lower than dinner.

I wasn’t even a snack. My cellphone erupted in a cheerful and loud song. I bit back a curse as I yanked it out of my jacket pocket and fumbled to silence it. When I caught a glance of the caller ID, I swiped to answer. I doubled my pace so I power-walked across Dream Bean’s tiny parking lot and hopped on the boardwalk that stretched around the perimeter of the lake that squatted in the middle of town. “Hey, Mom.” “Hello, my sunshine! How are you?” I glanced back over my shoulder, but I didn’t see Gideon the Idiot, so it was safe to follow the boardwalk away from downtown. “A bit busy,” I said vaguely. Whenever possible I tried not to let my parents know about my…run ins with some of the wizards from other Houses. It only made my mom anxious and my dad angry, but it wasn’t like they could do more than they already had.

It wasn’t their fault I had such sucky magic. “Did you need something? I’m on my way back to the House.” “Yes. Your father and I need to talk to you.” “Okay. I’ll find you when I get back.” “No, we’ll meet you at the Curia Cloisters,” she said, naming the one public magical building in town. It served as a meeting hall, court, and safe house for anyone in the magical community, so it was pretty weird for us to meet there as opposed to House Medeis, which was way more private. I peered back over my shoulder—still no Gideon. “Is everything okay?” “Of course!” my mother said in a cheerful voice that sounded totally fake.

“It’s just… we’ve realized we need to make some changes.” “Change can be good,” I said carefully. “Yes, it will be for the good of the House,” she said. “Though I don’t know that anyone is going to like the scale of it. But we’ll need your help.” “Uh-huh,” I doubtfully said. “You’re the Heir, Hazel,” my mother said—as if she needed to remind me. It’s not like I wasn’t painfully aware I was the weakest Medeis Heir in our centuries-old history or anything. “You can do so much. You’ll see how House Medeis will rely on you, and your father and I have a lot we need to talk to you about.

” “Okay,” I said, still not believing her. She and Dad always told me I needed to accept myself and embrace my weaknesses and strengths. Because having to crouch behind rusty mailboxes and frequently make escapes down smelly alleyways was something to celebrate, apparently. The boardwalk creaked as I marched on. “I still have to run back to the House so I can get my car. The Curia Cloisters are too far away for me to walk.” “There’s no rush,” Mom said. “Your father and I are driving there now—we’ll reserve a meeting room while we wait for you.” “Gotcha. I’ll call when I’m closer.

” “Okay, drive safe.” “Love you, sunshine!” Dad shouted, barely audible from Mom’s end of the phone. “Love you both! Bye.” I hung up and slipped my phone back into my pocket. I stepped off the boardwalk—I had left the hum of downtown traffic behind and had entered the quieter suburbs. House Medeis was still a good fifteen-minute walk away, but it would be faster to zig zag through the quaint streets filled with old Victorian houses, brick mansions, and colonial style homes. I stopped dead in my tracks, however, when I felt the tangy prickle of wizard magic. Without hesitating I burst into a run—I almost always wore running shoes for this very reason—before I risked a glance over my shoulder. Nothing. I frowned and ran smack dab into Gideon—who is massive enough to rival a defensive lineman—bouncing off him with the force of my own momentum.

He caught me by the arm and wrenched me back to him. “Going somewhere, Medeis?” “Let go of me!” “So you can run again? Nah.” He held his free hand out and gathered magic that flickered like fire in his palm. His wizard mark—which was distinctly spiky and more brown than black—appeared, slicing down his cheekbone and making a break toward his jawline. Ho boy. This did not look good. I kept my expression placid and didn’t fight him as I fidgeted, readjusting my stance so I faced him. “Isn’t this a little pathetic? It’s not like beating me up is going to give you any kind of bragging rights.” Gideon held his palm so close to my face the hum of magic crackled in my ears. “It’s not about strength, it’s about asserting what should be obvious,” he said.

“You shouldn’t be the Medeis Heir. You’re too weak. Your House will never be able to depend on you.” “That’s House Medeis’s business, not yours.” I rested my weight on the leg closest to Gideon and drew the other back, lining my shot up. He didn’t seem to notice. But I tried to cover my plan by sucking air in and snapping my fingers, pulling the tiny bit of magic I could channel from the air and pushing it through my blood and down to my fingers where I turned it into a tiny flame that I flicked at him. Gideon scoffed as the flame hit his t-shirt and fizzled, easily put out with a firm snap of his shirt. “No,” he scoffed. “It’s all wizards’ business.

Allowing one of the oldest wizarding Houses in the Midwest to be run by a wizard with your level of power makes us a laughingstock, and we’re already considered the weakest in our society.” He pointed to the tiny patch of blackened fabric for evidence of my weak powers—which was a birthday candle next to the glowing ball he held in his open palm. The heat of my wizard mark—which I knew from staring in the mirror was a stark black and made of one lonely, pathetic loop under my right eye—slowly faded from my face as I let go of my magic. “Ahhh,” I said. “I understand now.” Gideon squinted down at me and cocked his head in his confusion. “It’s because you’re compensating,” I seriously added. “Why you—” Gideon moved to mash his magic into my face—which would have at least given me third degree burns, if not worse. But I was ready. I smashed my foot into his kneecap, kicking as hard as I could.

Gideon’s leg buckled, and he tipped forward, off balance enough that I was able to rip my arm from his grasp and scramble backwards. He took a swipe at me with his magic, but only touched a bit of my hair, singeing it. I fled, the horrible smell of burnt hair trailing behind me as Gideon roared. “You’re going to pay for that, Medeis!” I didn’t even bother to see if he was following—his thundering footfalls chased after me as I darted across a grassy park. Three ladies and their kids stood in the woodchips surrounding the park playground equipment, their mouths hanging open as they gazed at Gideon with wonder. They had to be regular humans—no one else would look so awed. A few of the kids shrieked and clapped in joy. “Wizards!” I glanced back at Gideon—whose entire fist was now encased with magic. He mustered a smile. “Training, it’s necessary,” he lied.

I snorted and jumped a park bench. Even though supernaturals were “public”, and had been for almost two decades, we still weren’t supposed to flash our magic around. The last thing we wanted to do was frighten the humans, who greatly outnumbered all magical species and could potentially exterminate us if they felt threatened. Apparently, our community’s leaders were overly concerned, though, given that none of the mothers or their kids seemed to feel “threatened” while watching a gorilla of a guy with a fistful of fire chase me in broad daylight. When I reached the sidewalk on the opposite end of the park, Gideon chucked the fireball. I tried to dodge it, but I wasn’t fast enough, and it hit me on the left shoulder. It sizzled, burning a hole in my clothes, and it was so hot it baked my skin. I bit down on a yelp—that would have made the sicko happy—and inhaled air in a sharp hiss between clenched teeth. My shoulder throbbed, but if he caught me, it would only mean more pain. I limped across the street, picking up speed as I shook it off.

Unfortunately, my distraction with the pain—however short-lived—had given Gideon time to catch up with me. He was almost on me as I sprinted up the block. I came to a four-way intersection and glanced up the road. A motorcade of shiny black cars bore down the street, barreling closer. A fancy emblem was emblazoned on the sides of the front car—a limo—but the rest were all unmarked SUVs. I saw the black dragon roaring at the center of the drawn emblem, and my heart stuttered. The roaring dragon was something everyone in the Midwest feared—at least anyone with any sense of self-preservation. But Gideon was less than half a block behind me. If I waited for the motorcade, he’d catch me, and if I ran around the block again he’d be on me pretty quick. My shoulder ached, but although fear made my heart pound in my throat with enough force to strangle me, I darted across the street, narrowly missing being hit by the lead car.

Gideon skidded to a stop at the crosswalk as the lead car rumbled by, but when the SUV just behind it slowed to a crawl, he swore, turned on his heels, and ran back toward the park. I didn’t stop running either. Gideon wasn’t going to be able to catch me now, but I needed to get away from the motorcade. Only one magical group used a dragon as their emblem in this city: the Drake Family. The most powerful vampire Family in the Midwest. And they wouldn’t hesitate to maim us just for irritating them. Thankfully, the cars barreled on, and I made it home without any more “fun”. Well, I was almost hit by a blood delivery car—vampires had to be fed somehow— about four blocks up from the House. But neither Gideon nor a member of the infamous Drake Family stalked me home, so I’d count it as a win. I breathed a sigh of relief as I considered jumping the knee-high wrought-iron fence that surrounded House Medeis.

But considering I was the Heir I thought it best to pay my respects, so I trotted up the front sidewalk. Even with my small abilities, I could feel the magic of the House bloom around me. “Hey there,” I said with affection, greeting the House as I might a pet. Thankfully, the House didn’t seem to mind my wussy powers. Its magic greeted me with a content purr as a butterfly danced among the flowers that lined the front porch. The magical building was three stories tall and was cobbled out of stretches of blue siding with white trim and blocks of gray, ivy covered rock. Three turrets poked out of the House—two smaller ones in the front with the tallest in the back more closely resembling a bell tower. But instead of a bell it housed the House Beacon—a glowing orb that usually glowed blue with veins of gold. The lawn was big—House Medeis had a giant lot—and there was a huge flower garden that started in front and stretched around to the back. A large koi pond and a cheerfully trickling fountain that was ornamented with diapered baby angel statues was also settled in the backyard.

A bit eclectic in both looks and architecture, the best way to describe it would be to say if a Victorian house and a French chateau had a building baby, House Medeis would be the offspring. There were a bunch of cars in the long gravel driveway—which wasn’t unusual. Although House Medeis belonged to my immediate family, we still had a fairly large wizard House. Let me explain. Vampires have Families, werewolves have Packs, fae have Courts, and wizards have Houses. Though the term “wizard House” refers to the physical building—like House Medeis—it can also refer to the wizards who live there together as a sort of large magical family, not bound by blood, but by similar passions and desires…and a big magic House. My parents ran House Medeis because the House itself was theirs, but there were roughly twenty adult wizards who belonged to House Medeis who we counted as family and who lived here with us. I playfully slapped my hand on the fancy white porch railing, wincing when it made my shoulder twinge. “I better disinfect that before I head out,” I muttered. “Great Aunt Marraine ought to be home, and she’s the least likely to blab to Dad and Mom.

Maybe I should ask her.” I heaved the front door open and popped inside, immediately kicking off my shoes. (House Medeis got crabby if you walked its floors with your shoes on. It only takes so many times of getting your sneakers chucked at your head before you learn this, even as a child.) “I’m home,” I called out to any other members of House Medeis who might be around. “But not for long. I’m just stopping by to grab my car, then—” “Hazel?” Great Aunt Marraine appeared in the hallway—the bright blue streak she dyed into her curly white hair made her impossible to mistake. “Yep.” I shook my arm out, trying to get the sting out of my shoulder wound, and padded closer, pausing when I saw how puffy and red her eyes were. “What’s wrong?” Great Aunt Marraine pressed her hands to her ample bosom, but at my words her face crumpled, and she pulled me into a hug.

“It’s your parents. There’s been an accident.” The world seemed to slow as she pressed my face into her shoulder. “What?” I asked with numb lips. “There was a car crash and…and…” I heard ringing in my ears. Great Aunt Marraine sobbed. “Hazel…they’re dead.”

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