Nelson Marleen’s well-chiseled face was on the cover of three live streaming magazines.[SB1] Never one to rest on his achievements, Nelson had set his sights on mastering an addictive Augmented Reality (AR) game called Thoology.
He barely missed walking into a tree as his fingers pecked away at the console[SB2] . Whatever it took to capturing elusive creatures, bag ammo and energy points. He’d been at it for as long as six straight hours.
The city’s warm weather came drew people out of their homes. People were out in droves traipsing the streets looking for creatures.
After spending over three hours streaming it was time to re-charge, both physically and technically. Just when Nelson was about to his end live stream, a rare creature appeared inside a bush.
He gasped. Within seconds, he crept inside the bush and snagged the creature[SB3] .
Movement near the bush caught his attention. On the other side of the bush, a homeless man was looking around.
The homeless man’s bones were showing under thin skin. The man’s face was scrunched up as if he couldn’t make up his mind. He looked like he decided on something and pulled out a stick, tapped the ground and a plate of sandwiches appeared out of nowhere.
Nelson rubbed his eyes[SB4] . Was he mad or did he just not see the plate of sandwiches?
It was like magic.
He asked his live stream if they saw what he saw, and to his astonishment, they saw the same thing.
Unfortunately for Nelson, the homeless man heard him on his third sandwich. How was it possible that the plate refilled itself? The man looked horrified that he was seen. He tapped the plate with his stick again and the plate stopped refilling itself.
The man got up and ran to the bushes. Nelson startled that the man was running at him got up quickly and fell, the man reached Nelson and grabbed him by the legs and pulled Nelson to an even more deserted area. Nelson didn’t even think to scream. When they were in the shadow of a big oak tree the man spoke to Nelson.
“What were you doing hiding in the bushes, eh?” There was fury in the man's face.
“I was catching-” Nelson began.
“So, you thought to catch the notorious River Jaydon by yourself,” River whispered furiously.
“No, sir, I-, ” Nelson tried to say.
“Oh, you want to be polite now that you are caught. I don’t think so,” the River continued to whisper to Nelson.
Wailing sirens could be heard in the distance[SB5] .
“If you let me go, I won't tell the police where you were,” Nelson replied, hoping to settle this peacefully.
“The what?” River looked confused.
“Police, cops.” Nelson looked confused. What was River running from, if not the police?
“Now you’re making up words,” River looked annoyed, and angry.
Nelson thought of an idea so crazy, River might just let him go because he will think he went mad.
“I won’t tell the wizards about you,” Nelson knew how stupid he sounded.
River went from red to white in under a second.
“Y-y-your not a tempty,” River said uncertainty.
Nelson looked confused.
“What is a tempty?” Nelson asked.
“And you said police are coming,” River asked.
“I just said that so we could end this peacefully.” Nelson said.
River didn’t look like he believed him. The sirens were getting louder.
“So you're trying to catch a pure one? Well, your luck has run out.” River was getting angry again.
River pulled out his stick and pointed it at Nelson. A flash of light appeared from the tip and Nelson crumpled to the ground. River ran to get the plate of sandwiches, which he had left on the ground, then continued running. The police came a few minutes later and found Nelson unconscious on the ground. When he came to, he didn’t remember that night, but his live stream did.
The news about it flared like wildfire. People talked about it for weeks. First to see if the video was fake, then it was judged to be real. Everyone was talking about the pure ones, which were thought to be evil magic users.
Easrim Pax was handing a freshly completed potion to Luna Natille, when he heard this on his TV, he snorted, “They're going to cost me my business.”
Luna stiffened when she heard this. “What do you mean, Mr. Pax?”
Easrim sighed. “Call me Easrim, Luna, and if the news keeps going on about how evil witches and wizards are, they would not come to buy potions from me,”
Luna woman relaxed a little when she heard this but not completely. “So, don’t you fear the witches and wizards[SB6] ?”[SB7]
“Of course not, they may have different talents than me, but they're still human,” Easrim explained. “I understand why the general public is making such a scene. If a small portion of the population had a gift such as magic, then they will be feared, as they can do evil without [SB8] anyone keeping them in check, no matter how wrong that mindset is.” Easrim continued.
Luna thought for a moment. “And why do you think you will go out of business if your magical customers stop coming?”
“Most of my customers come in to buy my potions. Some come from all over the world judging by the way they dress. And since the only thing around for hundreds of miles is your mansion then why are there so many people coming to my store? [SB9] Also, some people provide ingredients, so I can make new potions.“
Luna stiffened again. “What type of ingredients do they give you?”
“Mythical creatures’ ingredients that I didn’t know exist,” Easrim replied.
“Basilisk eyes for anti-petrification, mermaid teeth for charming potions and Kraken blood for breathing underwater.”
Luna scowled, “Do you think you should be using those ingredients?”
“Are these ingredients illegal, or is their use frowned upon?” Easrim asked.
“No, they are quite common, other than the basilisk eyes,” Luna explained
“Then I shouldn’t be testing ingredients from what was thought to be mythical creatures?” Easrim inquired.
Luna had no words to say. Easrim nodded, “I wouldn't have touched them if I wasn’t told what they were, and if they didn’t want a potion from these ingredients.”
Luna was silent. Easrim understood, and then said, “Well, have a wonderful afternoon. I hope that potion works the way you want it too.”
Luna relaxed again. “Thank you.”
“Come see me again so I’m still in business,” Easrim said with a sly smile.
Luna smiled. “Alright.”
As Luna left the shop, Easrim turned off the tv and sighed.
“If this keeps up, I might really have to close down. Most of my regulars stopped coming.”
Easrim heads over to his computer and opened a search browser called Nicamos.
“Well when this finally passes over, I will be able to make different types of potions some even magical.” Easrim searches for mythical creatures.
“Most of the creatures should be accurate, I should take some of these with a grain of salt though.”
Easrim looked up and said out loud to no one. “I didn’t hear the door open...well that is why I do have a bell.”
Easrim got up and went over to the counter. There, in the doorway, stood a hooded man.
“Sorry for the wait. Welcome to Easrim’s Potions of The Great Plains. How may I help you?”
The hooded figure spoke in a deep masculine voice, “I would like to have a potion of anti-petrification.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have the ingredients for that,” Easrim replied.
The hooded man took out three size bottles which Easrim recognized. They contained eyes of a basilisk, the venom of a gorgon, and Apache tears.
“Alright, as you are providing the ingredients, you receive a discount of twenty dollars, so the price of the potion, just so you're aware, is five dollars.”
“That is fine,” the man replied.
Easrim lit his small caldron, then put the gallon of venom in. While waiting for it to boil, Easrim grinds one eye into a paste. After bringing it to a boil he added a cup of Apache tears, Easrim stirred clockwise, then counterclockwise, making sure the tears kept moving. When the potion turned from dark green to black, Easrim added the basilisk eye paste and stirred again. Then, something happened that Easrim wasn’t used to. The man spoke.
“You find yourself in a room alone, and you see two doors that lead to freedom. One door leads to darkness, while the other one has a blinding light in it. What do you do?” The hooded man asks.
“Usually people don’t speak to me while I am working,“ Easrim explained while stirring clockwise.
“So what would you do?” The man asked, yet again.
“If you want to ask me that, why not ask while waiting for the potion to boil?” Easrim asked while he stirred counterclockwise. “Unless you forgot.” Easrim didn’t know why he said that and cursed himself for being so rude. And to a client no less.
But to Easrims surprise, when the man spoke it wasn’t of annoyance, but with a tone of praise. Easrim could have sworn that the hooded man was smiling when he said, “true, true.” The hooded man then asked again, “what would you do?”
“Well,” Easrim thought about the question again while he stirred clockwise again.
“I would only go the path of darkness if I wanted to hide from something that is the path of the guilty,” Easrim began.
“So?” the hooded man asked.
“Also that path is completely unknown. You want a little bit of the unknown, but not completely.”
“So you would choose the door of light?” The hooded man asked.
“No. I can’t see what is ahead of me, so I would be blinded, such is the path of the blind.”
“What do you mean?” the hooded man asked.
“You are putting your absolute faith in something that you believe in, and only that thing, such as a higher being or money.”
“So you would stay in the room you found yourself in?” The hooded man questioned.
“No,” Easrim repeated stirring counterclockwise.
“That is the path of the fool.” Easrim explained.
“Why do you say that?” the hooded man asked.
“You know what is in that room, but you're stuck there without food or water you would just die waiting.”
“So what will you do then?” the hooded man asked again.
“Well,” said Easrim taking the now thick grey with a hint of red potion off the burner letting the potion cool.
“I would choose the third door” Easrim replied finally.
“You don’t see a third door.” the hooded man replied.
“Just because I don’t see a third door doesn’t mean it is not there.” Easrim explained.
Easrim swore the man smiled again when he said it.
“You find a door hidden between the two, and it is lit perfectly not too bright, not too dark,” the hooded man said.
“That is the path of the wise and might be the hardest path to traverse because you will see things you don’t wish to see.” Easrim finished while pouring the cooled potion into a container.
“Correct,” said the hooded man. Easrim put a stopper in the container.
“That will be five dollars please.”
The hooded man took out a large gold ingot.
“For the potion, and for answering correctly.” The hooded man said.
Easrim took the ingot, then handed the man the potion.
“Pour the potion over the person or item that is petrified and give them an antidote, just in case the venom lingers on their lips. Also, here is an antidote, because you paid far too much” Easrim grabbed his best antidote and handed it to the hooded man. The hooded man thanked Easrim and strangely didn’t head for the door, but for the mirror on the wall. The man didn’t have a reflection. Easrim thought it was strange for vampire wanted an anti-petrification potion when something stranger happened.
The hooded man vaulted through the mirror as though it was an open window. “Before I forget again. Welcome to the Order of the Bane of Mars.” and with that, the hooded man vanished. Easrim went to the mirror and saw his own reflection and touched the mirror. It was solid. There were no more customers that day. Nothing happened until the next morning.
Easrim felt heavier than he did the night before, and when he opened his eyes he saw a mirror he did not own at the foot of his bed. The mirror was strange. It did not reflect theroom, but Easrim could tell it was a mirror. There was also a book Easrim had never seen before let alone bought on his desk the title read, A Guide to being a Bane of Mars. The picture on the front cover was two blades... No, two shields the shields comprised blades that fanned out to make a shield. There was also a thing of tweezers in the picture above the two swords.
Easrim looked around and saw two swords hanging on the back of the door. He unsheathed one. It looked odd, different from what a normal sword would look like it was mechanical. Easrim gave it a light flick with his hand and it bent between the handle and the blade ninety degrees. He spun the blade counterclockwise, to see what would happen. The blade multiplied, forming a circle around the handle until it made a complete shield. Easrim heard a click as it completed the circle. He spun the handle clockwise then flung his hand the other way. The blades retracted until there was only the one blade then the blade returned to its original straight position. Easrim put the blade back in the sheath. He looked around confused someone had broken in while he was asleep (which was hard to do because Easrim was a light sleeper), the only thing that was worth stealing was his laptop, but he can see it and it didn’t look damaged. So, instead of taking something the reverse thieves left a few things.
Easrim looked around the room again to see if there was anything else. He noticed something was on his bedside table a badge with a weird symbol on it on top of a navy blue box. Easrim pocketed the badge and opened the box it contained a beautiful thing of tweezers on a velvet cushion. Easrim could tell these tweezers were used for different reasons, not for bodily uses. There was also a coin under the box half lead and half Osmium and a piece of paper with the words for practice on it. Easrim knew what it meant strangely enough.
He grabbed the tweezers and bought it to the lead side of the coin and to a proton from the lead atom making it Thallium and bringing the proton to the Osmium side of the coin turning and attaching the proton to an Osmium which causes it to turn into Iridium. Easrim did it again turning the Thallium into Mercury and Iridium into platinum and then turning the Mercury and Platinum into gold. So the coin was now half lead and half Osmium, but with two atoms of gold on the coin, Easrim could see the atoms of everything if he squinted a certain way. Easrim did this with the rest of the coin until it was made of completely of gold. He took less than a second which surprised him because of how many atoms there were in the coin. Easrim put the coin down and the special tweezers back in its box and looked at the mirror again. On the floor on either side of the mirror were dragons climbing the mirror breathing fire on a bird … no, the bird comprised fire. It was a phoenix, rising from the mouth of the dragon. On top of the frame was a unicorn resting. The mirror was the size of a door, and on the back was the was a picture of the tree of life and to the top left of the tree was a picture of,
“Fortola, the mythical bird creature said to be have created the universe,” Easrim said, to no one. On the top right of the tree was a picture of “Lisfanta, the mythical beast creature is said to destroy the universe,” Easrim noticed the note under the picture of the tree of life. The note read.
Show the sign of recognition and say the name of where you need to pass through.
Easrim went around the mirror it continued to reflect nothing. Easrim took out the badge with the strange symbol and showed it to the mirror. The mirror surface rippled where the badge should have been reflected.
Easrim choose a location “Easrim’s Potions of The Great Plains.” The mirror showed the shop downstairs and then the mirror stopped rippling. Easrim tried to touch the mirror but his hand passed through. Easrim put his hand through and looked at the back of the mirror. Easrim’s hand wasn’t there, he then stuck his whole head through. It was his shop downstairs, Easrim took his head out of the mirror and ran down the stairs and into the shop. There was a second mirror with the image of Easrim’s bedroom on it. Easrim ran back up the stairs and went through the mirror. The mirror stopped reflecting Easrim’s bedroom. Easrim ran back upstairs to check what the mirror was doing, but it was gone. Easrim tested the mirror for a while and discovered that it can travel any distance. He checked Tokyo Japan, St. Petersburg Russia, south pole Antarctica, and Orlando Florida. Next, he checked other worlds in different universes (because he thought why not) he said the location of his favorite places in books and movies most even when describing what the places are didn’t work which didn’t surprise Easrim, but when the mirror reacted, the locations were breathtaking. His imagination didn’t do these locations justice. Easrim also discovered that unless he takes the badge with him the mirror door would stay open, possibly forever, though that didn’t seem to be the smartest thing to do. And time-traveling related things only worked in their own universes something must have happened in the universe to allow for time travel to work. Easrim was downstairs in his shop when noticed something was off with his mirror hanging on the wall. He looked at the mirror on the wall trying to discover what was wrong with what he was seeing when it hit him. His reflection was gone. Easrim recalled the hooded man had said: “Welcome to the Bane of Mars”. Didn’t the book he receives say- A Guide to being a Bane of Mars?
“So he was the culprit. That was so simple, how did I not realize it sooner?” Easrim said to himself. Easrim tried to touch his wall mirror, but his hand went through this mirror too. Easrim pulled his hand back and felt all around his neck for puncture wounds but found none. He then traveled to sunny places to test something, and he had no problems and his skin didn’t burn. He didn’t think he was an Upir because he didn’t have puncture wounds. Easrim thought about it later, but he did buy a cloak with a hood. When Easrim got back he read the book given to him. He got into a chair and read. It turns out it was a rule book telling Easrim what the rules where and why they have to follow that rule. Chapter 1 was all about staying secret and not drawing attention to yourself. But the strange thing about the book was that after Easrim finished a page, turn it to the next one, it fused with the page after he finished turning it. Easrim couldn’t turn the page back so he had to memorize the page, which wasn’t hard. Easrim stopped reading around six o’clock and got ready for the day, opened his shop at seven o’clock, and continued to read while he waited for customers that didn’t come. It wasn’t surprising, Easrim got only two customers the whole week and they both came yesterday. He closed shop at nine pm, had dinner, then read the book again. Easrim went to bed late and woke up early. The days repeated like that for a few weeks with no changes and no customers. Easrim was on chapter three hundred fifteen and the pages continued to fuse with the first page. Easrim was just finishing his lunch of noodles, when the first customer in weeks came in the door. It was Luna Natille.
“Hello Luna, what will it be today?” Easrim asked.
“A charm potion,” Luna responded, reaching into her bag.
“Do you have the ingredients?” Easrim asked. She handed him the ingredients.
“So you get a discount.” Easrim said.
“How many customers did you usually have?” Luna asked, curious.
“There normally is a line. I think I could do six people an hour if they all want simple potions”
“If you don’t mind me asking how much money do you charge?” Luna questioned.
“If they give me the ingredients, I charge them five dollars, and let's say I have eighty-four customers a day so let's say I get four hundred twenty dollars a day.” Easrim responded.
“And how many customers have you had lately?” Luna asked.
“You’re the first customer I had in weeks. If this keeps up I might have to close down” Easrim answered.
Luna thought for a moment before she asked. “How are you with teaching children?”
“Teach them what exactly?” Easrim questioned.
“Potions,” Luna replied.
“How do you want me to teach potions?” Easrim asked curiously.
“Do you want me to teach cutting and stirring techniques or just potion recipes?” Easrim continued to ask.
“Potion recipes.” Luna answered.
“I can do that, but I don’t know all of the recipes. Why?” Easrim inquired.
“I am the headmistress of Buffleetoe’s school of Magical Exploration.” Luna replied.
“I get buff like buffalo because we are in the Great plains, but what does leetoe come from?” Easrim asked with great interest.
“I didn’t come up with the name, I am just the headmistress there.” Luna answered in an amused voice.
Easrim handed over the completed weak charm potion and Luna handed over what she owed. “Anyway, I would like to hire you as the potions master,” Luna continued, “if you’d want to take up the job.”
“I would love to.” Easrim said.
“Great, I have been looking for a potions master for years, but nobody wanted to teach it. Potions have become a lost art.” Luna explained.
“I actually wanted to employ you earlier, but magical law prohibits it, but now Halforms know about witches and wizards, so I don’t see a reason why it should be a lost art any longer.”
“Halforms?” Easrim asked.
“It is what we call non-magic users, though you don’t seem surprised I am a witch.” Luna explained.
“After what we talked about last time you were here and you kept stiffening it wasn’t hard to figure out,” Easrim replied then asked, “is Tempty the rude way of saying non-magic user?”
“Very,” replied Luna, indignant.
“I can tell. Tem for temptation and pty for empty” Easrim said.
Luna looked impressed, then listed off what he needed to do. “Well, term starts in two week's time so I would start preparing. You will be spending the nights at Buffleetoe’s Mansion so gather all your clothes. We will provide meals, you get paid in gold and jewels and you can cash it in a few different places for different currency the closest one is in Buffalo, New York.”
“Can you provide ingredients for me so I can make new potions?” Easrim asked when she was out of breath.
“Of course. Now be at the mansion at nine am sharp so we can get you settled …. ” Luna stopped talking she was looking at the mirror without Easrim in it. Easrim smiled showing his teeth (which he shows when he smiles) and said “nine am sharp, got it. Will that be tomorrow?”
“Yes…!” Luna looked back at Easrim saw his teeth weren’t sharp and looked back at the mirror confused then back at Easrim’s teeth.
“Allow me to walk you out,” said Easrim.
Luna looked startled when she heard this, and looked outside. It was very sunny outside, she looked back at Easrim confused. Easrim came to the front of the counter. Luna was looking at Easrim with concern. It looked like she wanted to say something, but didn’t know how to say it.
“Wait a-,” Luna began, but it was already too late. Easrim was too fast, he was out the door in the sunlight and took down his hood. Luna shut her eyes and turned away. Waiting for something gruesome to happen, perhaps. Easrim waited for a few minutes. Then said to Luna
“Are you coming? The weather is lovely.”
Luna turned back and looked like she couldn’t believe her eyes. She ran out of the shop and looked up. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
“I thought you were a new vampire that didn’t know you can’t go into sunlight. You almost gave me a heart attack.”Luna said exasperatedly.
“Sorry Luna-,” Easrim began, but Luna cut him off.
“And now that you are an official employee, in public, you must call me Professor Natille and have the students address you as Professor Pax.”
“So you still want me as an employee?” Easrim asked curiously.
“As long as you don’t scare me like that again.” Luna said. Professor Natille left without another word.