Protection of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 3
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Leira drove slowly home, the leather jacket with the large APD on the seat next to her. Cohen told her to take a beat before stopping by the field office to fill out the paperwork. He shook his head when he said it. “Good luck. I hope they rewrote the little boxes you have to check off.”
She was still shaken by the experience of almost getting dragged into a netherworld by something she couldn’t quite explain.
“Malevolent.” Leira said it out loud to try and shake off the feeling. She gripped the steering wheel tighter. “Not working,” she said, between clenched teeth. “Nana.” The feeling of her grandmother’s energy streaming in to save her ass was still vibrating in her chest, making her teeth chatter.
A measure of fear that always brought out defiance in Leira, was mixed with something sharp that threatened to break her heart. “No!” Leira hit the steering wheel, startling the driver in the car next to her as they waited at a light on 5th Street. Leira wasn’t in a mood to make anyone feel better. She glared at the driver till he looked away.
Tears filled her eyes again, catching her off guard. She sucked air in between her teeth and jackrabbited off the line when the light turned green, turning sharply and squealing the wheels.
“I’m fucking angry!” she screamed from inside the car. She pulled over to the curb and beat the steering wheel with her fists till the pain made her stop, tears coming down her cheeks. “My grandmother deserves better.” Leira hunted around on the floor of the car and found a napkin with a few familiar orange streaks across it. “Cheetos.” She pressed her lips together, squeezing her eyes shut, feeling the pain wash over her. “Enough,” she whispered, opening her eyes. “Okay, new agent for the Feds, we don’t stare at problems. We go hunting for solutions. What would Hagan tell me? Look for clues. I can do this.”
She shut her eyes again and let the scene replay in her mind. What did I miss while I was trying to save my hide? There is it. That thing broke apart. Wait… I can feel it.
Her eyes popped open. “Not one being. A mass of them. Well, well, well, the baddies have formed a band in the world in between. Okay, the start of a plan,” she said, wiping snot off her nose with the napkin. She looked in the mirror and saw the start of an orange moustache. “Fuck! Stupid Cheetos dust! Like a dye pack went off on my face!” She scrambled for the glove compartment, pulling out the wipes. “Should have reached for these in the first place. Dammit!”
She pulled out a wipe and rubbed the smudge off her face, looking over at the empty seat next to her. “What would you say Hagan? Come on. Shit doesn’t happen to you as much as it just happens. Get over yourself and let’s figure out the next thing to do.”
Leira sat back against the seat and breathed in deeply, letting go of some of the pain as she breathed out. “There has to be a solution. What the hell?” A bright white light suddenly filled the car. “What, first hell almost finds me and now heaven is tracking me down?”
“Thank you. I’m not usually associated with such a nice place.” An elderly well-dressed man using a cane was taking mincing steps toward the corner. He turned and looked directly at Leira over half a block away. “I was wondering when you’d turn your attention to the answers instead of the problem. Could hear you from a block away. Sounded like a lot of whining.” An ethereal white light swirled around him.
Leira’s eyes grew wide and she realized he was creating sound tunnels. “Hey! Big dark thing like jello, tried to turn me into the living dead.” She threw up her hands, feeling a little ridiculous arguing with an old man standing so far away. “What are…?”
“Light Elf, if you have to ask. You need to learn to recognize your own family.”
“You need to wait till you get a complete sentence. What are you doing? Why are you going to so much trouble to talk to me? Have we met?”
“That’s a lot of questions. Like an old time interrogation. Look kid, I felt your pain and reached out to check on you. Could tell from the trail you left that you’re family. Another Light Elf. Horrible place that world in between. Remember, just because someone hasn’t found a solution is not the same as there being no solution to find. You may have to be resourceful but from the energy you give off, you may just have a shot.” He leaned forward, both hands on his cane, chatting with Leira like they were standing next to each other. No one else meandering down the street even noticed. The entire time his body swirled with a white glow that reached all the way to the Mustang.
“I’m new to all of this.”
“No shit. What? You didn’t think the elderly swore? You’re fucking right I do. I’m almost a thousand years old. Yes, a millennia. Your surprise tells me there is so much for you to learn about yourself. I’ve earned the right to not have to dress it up for anybody. You’re barely an Elven toddler and at least you’ve figured that one out. You have a potty mouth, child.” He cackled, straightening up for a moment before going back to leaning.
“But you need to put a little more spit into it,” he said. “Helps get the point across if you land a little something on someone. In the history of the world, nobody likes getting schmutz on themselves, especially when it’s not their own. There you go, a smile, even if it’s a small one.”
“Who are you?” Leira resisted the urge to lean forward in order to make herself heard. Instead, she sat back, doing her best to relax and gather information.
“Much better. Sit back, listen. You don’t know enough to be asking so many questions, anyway. Forget about it. My name is Turner Underwood. I’m known among certain magical Austinites as the Fixer. I carry a lot of knowledge up here.” He tapped the brim of his hat. “Strange how life works. I’m starting to finally feel my age and wondered who would take my place. Just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers, “there you are. Like a spell was cast! Who knows, maybe I’m better than I realize.”
Leira’s curiosity got the better of her. She turned off the car and opened her car door.
“No, no,” he said, “not now. Soon enough. But when we can be sure no eyes are on us. You need to learn more about who you are and what you can do before you even think about stepping into my shoes. Ask that Cousin of yours who’s been hanging around to tell you more about the stories of Light Elves from thousands of years ago.”
Leira started to interrupt him but an angry look passed across his face. “You insist on playing by the rules that you know,” he said, slamming the tip of the can against the hard concrete. “That will not work here! Mind your elders! Don’t make me use a spell.”
He gave a shake all over as if he was casting off a bad mood and started over, moving his hands quickly, bending his fingers. A thin streak of sparkling red and gold light shot through the sound tunnel straight to Leira’s hand, pooling the light in the center of her palm.
A red poppy appeared, growing from a bud into a flower as if she was the soil, opening its petals. “What?” Leira watched in amazement.
“You learn a few things to dazzle the ladies with when you live to be my age. I need an edge of some kind over the younger Elves who’ve only been her for a few hundred years. They’ve still got their looks. I know how to make women smile. It’s really the best kind of magic.”
Leira lifted the flower and was surprised to find that it had a scent. “I do have so much to learn,” she said, awe in her voice.
“I’ll leave you with this. I sense a strong force is unleashed among us again. An unfriendly sort. I’d say more but I don’t speak of certain things before I’m ready and I’m not ready. Too much information is lacking. It would just be speculation, which is worth nothing. For the addle-brained.” He waved his hands in disgust, one hand still holding on to the cane, and made a face like he was tasting something sour. “
“There may be some harder days ahead for you, my dear Leira. But occasionally take a look around, a real look around and notice how many of our kind are passing right by you. You made need all of us some day, Agent Berens. That’s right, I know all about you. For now, I’m glad to see you survived the ordeal. Rough business. You take care of yourself. I’ll find you when the time is right. Good day.”
He tipped his hat and turned around, the can tapping against the sidewalk as he continued on his way. Leira started the car back up and headed back into traffic. She got to the end of the block and looked to her left, hoping to spot Felix but he was nowhere to be seen.
“How did such an old man with a can move that fast?” Leira drew on the energy from the ground beneath her, searching for his magic trail. She was met with a dazzling panorama of white light that made her blink at first till she realized the light wasn’t blinding. “It’s like he was everywhere at once.”
A car honked behind her, two short taps. The Austin version of an angry driver. Leira gave a short wave in her rear view mirror, saving the one finger salute for out of view below the windshield.
“Childish!” rang in her ears. It was Felix, still speaking to her from a distance. Leira leaned forward, taking a look all the way around but couldn’t see him.
“There are amazing things in the world, Agent Berens, some good, some not so much. Just remember, if I could see you, then others might as well.”
“Creepy thought,” she whispered. She heard a raspy laughter and felt it spread out through the white light as the car behind her honked again, this time a little longer. She turned the corner, the laughter still in her ears as the light that had encircled her in every corner of the car, flew back out again leaving everything looking a little duller.
Leira let out a sigh. “How many people have to absorb this much weird just to start a new job? Screw taking a beat. Might as well head to my new office and find out just how ready they are for the likes of me.”
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #6! PROTECTION OF MAGIC, Book 3 is just 4 DAYS AWAY! Wednesday, August 30th! Up early writing as usual. The good dog Lois wants to go for a walk in the rain. May give in, bundle up and get out there and get it done. I figure one turn around the block should convince her that staying inside for right now is a good idea. Enjoy the snippet everyone! Next part of the story is almost here… YTT!