Protection of Magic, The Leira Chronicles Book 3
By Martha Carr and Michael Anderle
Eireka looked at the cell phone Leira left for Correk, marveling at all the apps on the screen. “They had most of these things before I was taken away, you know. She laughed softly, pushing the button for Candy Crush. “What’s the point of this one? I don’t get it.”
“Good, I’ll stop worrying about you. It’s virtual anesthesia. Will numb your brain within five minutes. You don’t even need to count backward.”
“This thing says someone has played it almost a hundred times already.”
Correk hurriedly took the phone from her. “Yes, well, I was on a winning streak,” he said, sheepishly, sitting down on the couch.
“You okay, Correk? Not enough bacon this morning?”
“Huh?” The troll looked up from the TV. He was wrapped in a wash cloth, watching Golden Girls, cackling every time Rose said anything.
“What are those orange dots all over his body? Are you sick little fellow?” Eireka reached out a finger to rub his head.
“Be careful. The way he eats he may bite down on the end of your finger. Those orange dots represent a large plastic container of cheese puffs I just bought from Costco. He dove down the center of them and ate until there was just dust left. I scrubbed off what I could.”
The troll let out a large belch and smacked his lips together.
“What was all that screaming he was doing earlier?”
“Can’t be sure.” Correk tried to change the subject. “Did you try Words with Friends? You can play Scrabble with people from everywhere. Well, this world at least.” He swiped, starting a game for her.
“But he even started to grow. He looked like an angry blue poodle. Like a punk rock star’s idea of a pet. You were throwing spells right and left! Come on, what does all that mean?”
“That he’s a pain in my ass and a standard issue troll.”
Eireka took a long look at Correk, studying his face as he continued to play the game on the phone. The conversation was only reminding him of what he witnessed. The troll’s sudden deep blue color was a sign. Leira was close to something dark enough it could sever the connection she had with the troll. The troll let out a painful roar as the blue had rapidly streamed out along his fur, covering every inch of him. There was very little that could tear the tie once a troll bonded.
Death, the world in between. He glanced up for a moment and smiled at Eireka, raising his eyebrows before looking back down at the different-colored gems, stacking and restacking them.
“It’s like having a teenager in the house. Okay, keep your secrets. You and Leira really are like brother and sister more than cousins. If you need to protect her by saying nothing, I will live with that for now.” Eireka took a step closer to Correk and leaned over until she was inches from his face. “But if my daughter is ever in danger and you don’t tell me, I’ll show you what a determined momma from Texas who knows a magical thing or two looks like protecting her cub. And let me clue you in, it’s the Texas part you need to worry about most.” Her voice came out low and even.
Correk swallowed hard and thought twice about telling Eireka that the troll had been dangerously close to growing into the size of a Yeti. It was bad enough he was wailing at the top of his lungs. Only Correk’s constant spell surrounding the cottage kept any of the regulars who might be sitting on the patio from busting down the door. All he wanted to do now was call Leira to make sure she was still in one piece, or even alive. It was all he could do to stop himself from sending out a ball of light to search for her.
It wasn’t until the troll started to calm down that Correk knew whatever had happened, it was passing. Still, he was worried. He looked over at the troll, his mouth wide open in a laugh, his tongue still orange.
“Should have never let you see where I was keeping my stash. Only redeeming thing about any of this is they were knock off Cheetos.”
“Thbfttttt.” The troll pressed his hands on either side of his cheeks and blew a raspberry at him, laughing.
The troll stood up, letting the washcloth fall off of him. “Yumfuck! Yumfuck! Yumfuck!” He marched around in circles, stomping his tiny feet, trilling his name, ending his outburst by bending over and farting in Correk’s direction. A small orange cloud rose toward the ceiling.
“You think that’ll leave a stain?” asked Eireka, looking up.
“I’m not going to look. Even a Light Elf has his limits, and I’m going to live far too long to have to that gem stored in my memory,” said Correk. The phone suddenly rang in his hands, startling him as he tossed it into the air, fumbled it. “For the love of two moons!” He barely caught it, turning it over and over in his hands, trying to keep his Elven composure. It wasn’t working.
By the grace of Tess, still be in one piece. Please Leira. It was the only thought running through his head. He took a deep breath and answered the phone.
“Hello?” He tried to take a casual stance, looking around the room while he waited for a response, making the situation even more awkward. “At last, where have you been?” Everything came out in a rush of words and at a much higher pitch than he intended. He plastered a smile on his face and looked at Eireka who was looking at the troll, looking at the ceiling.
“The troll seemed agitated earlier but I managed to daze him with an overdose of cheese puffs. Yes, my cheese puffs.” He glanced at Eireka and did his best to sound casual. “Anything interesting happen so far on the job? Good first day? I realize they weren’t the real thing but they were close. What do you mean Cheetos come in different varieties? There’s a crunchy kind?” His relief at hearing her laugh flooded through him. She was alright, for now.
Eireka looked at Correk who was turning his back to her trying to whisper loudly into the phone. “I can’t tell if something’s gone wrong or you’ve been on this planet a minute too long. What has Leira done to you?”
Correk held up a finger. “Did you leave your Costco card? Wait a minute.” He squeezed his eyes shut. A little focus. After all, you were sent here to protect her. “How was your day?” He said the words slowly and deliberately, letting himself sing them. “Well, congratulations are in order. You’ll have to tell me all the details. I want to hear everything. I won’t spoil my dinner. I don’t think laughter is appropriate. Alright, I’m hanging up. I’m hanging up. If all you’re going to do is…alright…we’ll see you at dinner. Stop laughing!”
Correk felt the rest of the tension flow out of him. He would get the story out of her later all the same. Something dark happened. First that damnable necklace, now this. Something is stirring up the bottom dregs of magic. It’s got something to do with the Dark Market. I need to get a message to Perrom.
“Correk. Correk. Where’d you go?” Eireka was waving at him, the troll standing on her shoulder, grinning at him. He blew another raspberry at Correk. Eireka picked Yumfuck up and gently placed him back down on the washcloth.
“Sorry, I was lost in thought. Thinking about Oriceran.” He tried to hide the twinge of guilt that came over him. It was most of the truth. Somehow this is all connected. Oriceran and Earth, he thought. “We should get out of here for a while. Show you the city. See what’s changed. You can probably show me a thing or two. I’m still a relative newcomer.”
“Frankly, so am I in a lot of ways. Who knew the world would decide to change so much in just fifteen years. I mean, I saw commercials. That was practically the only thing to do in there.” She stopped suddenly, pressing her lips together. Not going to think about that place. That’s over.
“Then it’s time to go see what all of that advertising left out,” Correk said gently.
“Yumfuck!” The troll gleefully jumped off the arm of the couch, digging it’s tiny claws into Correk’s sleeve, grinning up at him.
“Yes, even you.” Correk was too relieved about Leira to care. The troll was happy and that meant Leira was fine and no sign of blue fur anywhere.
“You wearing those lace-up pants?” asked Eireka.
“Your daughter has the same issue with them. They’re what everyone is wearing in Oriceran. Do you mind if we make just one stop before we head to South Congress?”
“Costco? Couldn’t help overhearing. If you’re getting crunchy Cheetos, I’m in. There was no such thing when they dragged me away. Bet a Light Elf was behind the idea.”
Correk held out his arm for Eireka, depositing Yumfuck in his pocket. “You and I are going to get along well, Cousin. Let’s go see what there is to see.”
“You have a bag of treats for the troll?
“What a clever idea.” Correk hit his forehead with the palm of his hand.
“I still remember what it was like to be Leira’s mom. Those little goldfish crackers and hand wipes at all times.”
Correk turned and put his hands on Eireka’s shoulders. “You never stopped being her mother for a single minute. I’ve only known your daughter for a little while, and granted, I’ve known you even less time but I see the similarities and I can tell that you played a big part in making Leira strong enough to survive everything that got shoveled her way.”
“Even while I was gone.” There were tears in Eireka’s eyes.
“Especially while you were gone. Leira is the sort who answers the call to duty first and with some inner belief that she can figure it out. She helps people. You did a good job. Now, yes, I think I’m going to wear my favorite britches. Rumor is, I will fit right into South Congress and they are remarkably comfortable. I’d say the yoga pants are even better but Leira has told me I’m not to wear them outside of the cottage.”
Eireka suppressed a giggle as a tiny orange cloud puffed out of Correk’s pocket.
“Oh, smell-a-vision no less.” Eireka wrinkled her nose and waved her hand through the air.
Correk rolled his eyes and went and scooped up the Costco card and credit card Leira had left on the kitchen counter for them. There was a post it note next to them that read, ‘Show some restraint dude. No more As Seen on TV aisle for you’. He gave a half smile but it didn’t spread all the way to his eyes. “You are getting very hard to protect, Cousin,” he whispered.
“Ready?” Eireka appeared in the doorway.
“As ready as I’m going to be.”
“Snack!” Yumfuck poked his head out of the pocket, leaning toward the refrigerator.
“Smart little beast.” Eireka rubbed his tiny head and was rewarded with a trill.
“Clever like a Vegas magic act. Somewhat entertaining and you can never be sure what’s about to happen next or where that thing you just had disappeared to but you have a vague idea, all the same.”
“You know Vegas. Interesting. It’s like Earth is your reality TV.”
“Vegas has attracted a lot of Oricerans. All that glitter. It’s our HGTV.”
“I can see Leira used the TV as a babysitter for both of you.”
Correk poured kibble into a baggy as the troll blew a wet raspberry trying to knock the baggie out of his hands.
“No point in taking it if he won’t eat it. Try the stale popcorn in the bowl.”
“The one with his butt print still in it.”
“He doesn’t seem to mind. Go for it. Won’t hurt him. You like him, you know you do.”
“It’s their tiny secret weapon. You get used to their antics till the day seems a little holllow if something isn’t rocketing off your shoulder or cackling at dawn in a shoe box right next to you.” Correk pulled out a bowl of grapes from the refrigerator and put a handful into the baggie.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” the troll panted, holding out his hands for a grape. It was almost as big as his head but he managed to stuff it all into his mouth, biting down as the juice ran out of his mouth. He shut his eyes and gently trilled.
“You have wipes, right?”
“In bulk from Costco.”
“That place really made a big impression on you. Have you seen a Walmart yet? I’m glad Leira has you, at least for now,” said Eireka, gently smiling. “Now, let’s roll.
FROM MARTHA >>> Snippet #7! PROTECTION OF MAGIC, Book 3 is just 3 DAYS AWAY! Wednesday, August 30th! Steady sound of wind and rain outside but Lois Lane, wonder dog and I are high and dry. The offspring and the wonderful Katie are safe as well. Have a peaceful and dry Sunday everyone.