"What's Lucky doing here?" G asked as he helped himself to the nearest serving dish.
"Kyla has been fighting with her local school system, trying to get Lucky a decent education. It turns out that they're more interested in forcing all the children into a standardized track than helping any one of them to discover any special talents that they might have." Beth said darkly.
"That sounds like the exact opposite of what a school should be." D interjected.
"True. But according to Kyla, it has all the makings of a perfectly functional and efficient warehouse." Beth added.
"If it's that bad, then why isn't Star here too?" Paul asked curiously, then glanced at Lucky to find him listening intently.
"To be honest, Star doesn't need any specialized attention. She appears to be perfectly 'middle of the road' in both her temperament and ability. Uprooting her from everything that's familiar to her would only cause her harm." Beth calmly explained.
"But it wouldn't hurt Lucky in the same way?" Lex cautiously ventured.
Beth looked at him strangely, then at G for an uncertain moment before responding, "No. Thanks to G and Paul helping Lucky discover his hidden talents he no longer fits into the one size fits all box that the school system constructed for him and his classmates. That not only leads to a lot of frustration for him personally, but it also sets him apart from his peers, making him a prime target for ridicule and harassment."
"Don't worry, buddy. I've got a lifetime of experience dealing with that kind of stuff. Stick with me and you'll be able to stand up to anything before you know it." Paul assured his adoptive cousin.
"I hope you mean that, because once Lucky has completed his evaluation, he may end up being even more isolated than he was at his old school." Beth said reluctantly.
"Why's that, Mom?" Paul asked curiously.
Beth looked around the table, apparently deciding if her audience were of sufficient age and maturity to comprehend the decision that she had unilaterally made.
Before the silence could go on too long, Beth finally responded, "If we were to try and put Lucky into an elementary school setting, he would probably be worse off than he was at his own school. While I believe that the school administration would do their best to accommodate his needs, the ability that Lucky has demonstrated is more advanced than they are capable of dealing with. It would essentially isolate him, the same as getting him a private tutor would be likely to do."
"So it would end up being the same as him going to his old school, except without him having the people that he already knows around him." Paul said speculatively.
"It would probably still be better because the school administration here is at least willing to try to help him develop his gifts." Beth said seriously, then paused for a moment before continuing, "But I think we can do better."
"Are you going to send Lucky to our school?" G ventured a guess.
"That remains to be seen. I've already spoken with Mrs. Bright at the school and she's arranged for an evaluation tomorrow morning. Once we have those results, we're going to sit down and do what we can to make the best long term decision for Lucky." Beth said frankly.
"If that ends up happening, it might be a good idea to fix it so Lucky can spend some time with Filipe. Even though they're not the same age, Filipe knows what it feels like to be the youngest person in a group and he's been able to handle it pretty well." Paul suggested.
"Yes. Maybe this weekend if he's available. It's always a pleasure to have him over." Beth finished with a smile.
"Keep in mind that he's been away on the work-study. He may need some time to recuperate or his host family might have felt his absence and want to spend some time catching up with him." D said firmly.
"We'll invite him. However it turns out will be fine." Beth said simply.
"I've spoken with Dr. Williams about doing an evaluation on G tomorrow, so G and Lucky may be able to go together." D said informatively.
"I'm probably going to need an evaluation too." Lex hesitantly added.
"Yes. I'm sure that Dr. Williams is already planning on that." D assured him.
"Please excuse me for asking, but... what exactly are you?" Beth asked Lex hesitantly.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I thought Dad... I mean, D already told you."
"You had it right the first time." D quietly assured him.
Lex flashed a quick smile in D's direction, then said to Beth, "When we were spellcasting, G needed to be in two places at once and somehow he was able to make his 'self-portrait' into a living person... me."
"D said your name is Lex." Beth cautiously said in a leading tone.
"Yes. Lexington Tamhas Darroch." Lex confirmed.
"And you're a..." Beth prompted.
"An air elemental. A sprite." Lex helpfully provided.
"Oh? So you're not a witch." Beth said to verify her understanding.
"No. But as far as I can tell, I can probably do anything that a witch can do." Lex reluctantly informed her.
"Except eat." Paul said as he glanced meaningfully at Lex's empty plate.
Lex smiled at Paul, then reached over to Paul's plate and picked up a single brussels sprout.
"If you're trying food for the first time, that's probably not the thing you want to start with. A lot of people don't like brussels sprouts." Paul warned him.
"I've been part of G for all of his life up until this week. I remember what brussels sprouts taste like. I just don't know how my body will react to food." Lex said honestly.
"Well, if it turns out that you can't eat, it won't be a big deal. I can think of worse things." G said honestly.
Lex slowly chewed the Brussel's sprout and his eyes seemed to light up as he continued.
"I'm guessing he likes it." Paul said with a smile.
"That tastes so much better than I remember it." Lex said happily as he stood and served himself a large portion of Brussel's sprouts from the center of the table.
As Lex was sitting back, D reluctantly said, "Why don't you go ahead and have some of everything."
Lex looked around at everyone watching him and realized what he had done.
"Oh, right." Lex said as he stood again.
G, Paul and Lucky all helped by passing things to him until he had a little of everything.
"Have you thought about the questions that will be asked when G's identical twin brother shows up to school out of the blue?" Beth asked curiously.
D, Paul and G shared a look before D answered for all of them. "No. I don't think we've considered that."
"Curtis and his family have been here and they never saw or heard about me having a twin brother." G said thoughtfully.
"And there's all the people at school who know you. Even if you don't talk to all of them every day, they know who you are and who your family is." Paul quietly added.
"That's right. Because of school, there are a lot of mundane people that I know at a distance." G confirmed.
"If you think about the level of secrecy surrounding the work-study, it would probably be best not to have to answer a lot of questions about Lex's origin even to your casual friends who are witches." D said seriously.
"So, should Lex not go to our school?" Paul asked curiously.
"No. That's not what I'm saying." Beth hurried to interject.
"Then what are you saying?" Paul asked his mother slowly.
"That it might be best if some of those amongst us who have talents for sorcery might come up with some sort of disguise for Lex that would make it easier for him to blend in at a new school." Beth said frankly.
After a long silent moment, Lex quietly said, "Actually, that sounds like a pretty good idea."
"Is anyone here good with charm magic?" Paul asked as he looked around.
"I can usually do it if I have to. Why?" G asked cautiously.
"For Lex. If he has the spell put on an amulet, he can take it off if he needs to and doesn't have to worry about it being exactly the same every time." Paul said frankly.
"If Lex is able to use sorcery on the same level that I can, an amulet will only get in his way. Imagine trying to play your clarinet while you've got some other type of music playing in your headphones." G fought to explain.
"Yeah. And besides that, any sorcerer worth their salt is going to want to tweak and improve their glamor with each casting. Anyone who would be content to use an amulet has no sense of artistry... no soul." Lex added.
"Oh. I just thought..." Paul trailed off with a dismissive shake of his head and a shrug.
"I know what you thought, and thank you for thinking of it. If I can't get my sorcery up and running for some reason, then an amulet is the next best thing for us to try." Lex assured him.
"Are you going to have everything that you'll need to take care of this tonight?" D asked urgently, then explained, "If we need to go out and get you anything, let us know as soon as possible."
"I think G's got everything that I'll need." Lex said with a questioning glance in G's direction.
"Yeah. Even though I haven't tried to do anything like this before, I should have everything we'll need in my sorcery toolbox." G confirmed.
"You have a sorcery toolbox?" Paul chuckled.
"Yeah. And if you don't have a wizardry toolbox yet, you probably will soon. There are some common things that you need for just about every spell. You get into the habit of keeping those things together, so they're easy to get to when you need them." G seriously explained.
"He's right. I've still got mine." Beth confirmed.
"I guess I do too. I've just never thought of it being a 'toolbox' before." Paul admitted.
"Before I forget, are you boys going to have a problem with Lucky staying out in your rooms with you? I didn't think it would be right to put him in a guest room all on his own." Beth asked with concern.
"Yeah. That's no problem. We'll probably end up crashing in my living room, no matter what we plan on doing." G finished with a chuckle.
Lex and Paul nodded their wholehearted agreement.
"Paul. Before you turn in for the night, it might be a good idea if you and your mother spent a little time discussing... recent events." D said urgently.
"Huh?" Paul asked, not at all getting the message that D was trying to convey.
"You need to talk to your mom about meeting your dad." G translated.
The shocked look on Paul's face paled in comparison to the look on Beth's.
"Oh, um. Yeah. Right." Paul stammered, then collected himself before continuing, "There's really not much to say about that. I met V... that's what we're calling him... and he helped us out a little with the project that we were doing."
"Did he know who you were?" Beth asked cautiously.
"Yeah. He was on top of the whole thing. He asked how you were doing and when he found out that you got married, he said that he was happy for you." Paul said carefully.
"I had always harbored the hope that he didn't mean for things to turn out the way that they did." Beth quietly admitted.
"Yeah. He said that he was sorry about all that, but not sorry that I was born. He seemed to be really happy and proud and stuff." Paul said as he fought to sound casual about it.
"I just wanted to be sure that you were aware of their meeting in case something more came of it later." D told Beth gently.
"Thank you for telling me. I could easily see myself being blindsided by the information, if it had been revealed at an inopportune time."
"Yeah. There's one other thing that happened that you should probably know about." Paul said as he made a gesture to an open area beside his plate on the table.
A small formation of five flames sprang into being, hovering a few inches above the table.
Everyone watched to see what impressive magic Paul was about to perform.
With a simple gesture, the flames transformed into plumes of water, gurgling up like five miniature fountains.
"A lot of people got to investigate their primary and secondary elemental affinities during our 'work-study'. There were a lot of surprises, but mine... somehow I've got both 'fire' and 'water' abilities. According to everything that I've ever heard, that's not supposed to be possible." Paul said frankly.
"What do you want me to do about it?" Beth asked her son cautiously.
"I just thought that you might have some idea of why I can do fire and water at the same time." Paul said, then suiting actions to words, picked up the five little fountains to form a ball of water in one palm while a fireball of equal size formed in the other.
"As you recall, up until the wedding you couldn't do any magic at all. I really don't have any idea how or why you can do half the things you do. But so far as I can tell, these are all gifts that you have the opportunity to use or refuse, at your own discretion." Beth said honestly.
"You're a witch/demon with hot and cold running magic. I can think of worse things to be." Lex said honestly.
Paul brought his hands together, causing the fire and water to dissipate in a brief hissing steam cloud, then calmly said, "I guess you're right."
"Who wants snickerdoodles and vanilla ice cream?" Beth asked as she got up from the table.
"Oh my God, yes!" Lex exclaimed.
Paul, Lucky and G looked at him curiously.
"This whole eating thing... I wish that I had tried it earlier. I don't remember it being nearly as good when I was G. Everything tastes so... extreme!" Lex said happily.
The sound of a fussy baby rose up from the stroller, drawing all attention.
"D? Would you mind taking care of the dessert? I believe the princess is ready for her dinner." Beth said warmly.
"I've got it." D said easily as he walked to the sideboard, where Beth had already started dishing up desserts.
"Do you need any help?" Lex cautiously asked.
"You could clear the dinner plates while I'm doing this." D suggested.
With little more than a glance at each other, all four boys began to work, clearing away the detritus of their shared meal.
* * * * *
Once everyone, including Beth, were back at their places around the table, Beth finally said, "I know you can't go into the details of what happened during your 'work-study', but would it be possible for you to let me in on one or two pivotal points so that I won't feel completely left out?"
The boys simultaneously looked at D, obviously expecting him to answer for them.
"As you said, we can't go into the details. But I think that if we disclose a few of the outcomes, you'll get a sense of the scale of the project that was undertaken." D said carefully.
Beth nodded that she understood.
"As you've already been told, we fell a bit short on spell-casting, so in a moment of peak magic, G called up his self-portrait and somehow imbued it with consciousness." D said carefully.
"But how... I mean... how?" Beth stammered.
"We're still working on that. Maybe Dr. Williams will be able to come up with something after his examination tomorrow. In the meantime we're going with Paul's theory that this is a variation of mine and my father's animation abilities that was unlocked when G directly accessed the magic of pure elemental air." D explained.
"Pure air? As in, holding a relic of elemental magic?" Beth asked cautiously.
"Yes. That's exactly what I mean." D confirmed.
"Paul was holding a relic of elemental magic too. He was holding elemental water." G interjected.
"Yeah. That was before Dad got called in. By the time Dad got there, they had already decided that I needed to let someone else hold the water and that I needed to stand as a Magi." Paul finished quietly.
"Wait. Magi? As in, an Assembly of the Magi?" Beth asked cautiously.
"Yeah. The whole 'work-study' thing ended up being a lot bigger than anyone expected. The only way to deal with the whole thing at once was to access... let's just say it was A LOT of magic." Paul finished uncomfortably.
"During the assembly, Paul played the part of Balthasar, the Magi of Composition." D said proudly.
"No. That's too big for you. You're too new at magic. There's no way you're at a point, either in knowledge or in power, to wield that level of magic." Beth said firmly.
"Mom. I already did it." Paul said frankly, then added, "Each of the Magi were strong in some ways, but deeply broken and flawed in others. I gave them my strength and they made up for my weakness. I'm stronger than I was before because they showed me what I was missing."
Beth looked at her son dubiously, but didn't contradict him.
"So Paul was a Magi and G was holding a relic of elemental air. In the midst of all that, G's illusionary self-portrait was somehow endowed with consciousness, which makes the resulting being an air elemental, more commonly known as a sprite." D carefully explained.
"But didn't you say that Lex also has the same abilities as a witch?" Beth asked curiously, then checked to see that K was content with her bottle.
"From what we've seen so far, Lex is competent in sorcery and has a working knowledge of basic magic. Add to that, he has direct access to elemental air, which most witches have to struggle to tap into. Once the evaluation is complete, we'll have a better idea of what he can focus on to develop his abilities to achieve his best potential." D said thoughtfully.
Beth glanced in Lex's direction and couldn't help but smile at the expression of bliss that Lex wore while enjoying his cookies and ice cream.
"G. Do you have any ideas for how to alter Lex's appearance?" D asked curiously.
"No. He knows everything that I know, so I just thought that I'd leave it to him to do." G said honestly.
"Tell me, were you surprised at how difficult it was to make a self-portrait?" D asked his son curiously.
"Yeah! In fact, everyone in my class was just as surprised as I was. None of us ever thought that it could be that difficult."
"If that's the case, what are the chances that altering your appearance might end up being at least as difficult as duplicating it?" D asked in a leading tone.
"So you're saying that it's probably going to be a lot harder for Lex to change himself than it would be for me to change him?" G asked cautiously.
"Think about it. You created Lex. You are intimately familiar with every fiber of his being. Wouldn't it be easier for you to make a change to what you can see that's right in front of you than it would be for you to make a change to yourself?" D asked seriously.
"But wouldn't it be better for me to be responsible for myself?" Lex quietly asked.
"Yes. But if you look at it practically, we need this for tomorrow morning and you just might not be able to do it all on your own. If you and G can come up with an illusion of some sort, that's great. But if you need for him to cast it on you, then you can do that. Later, when you have the time, you can develop a version of the spell that you can do all on your own and tweak to your liking."
Lex thought about that for a moment, then slowly said, "Okay. You're probably right. When I thought about changing my appearance, I was thinking more in terms of how I would cast a spell on something in front of me that I could see and touch with my own hands. After all the trouble G had crafting and rigging me, it's likely that I will have trouble trying to overlay or warp my own perceivable surface."
"Can you be smaller?" Lucky asked curiously.
"What's that?" Lex asked the younger boy with an indulgent smile.
"Right now you look just like G. If you wanted, could you be closer to my size?" Lucky asked cautiously.
Lex looked at G inquisitively and received an almost imperceptible nod before responding, "Yeah. Actually, there's no reason that I couldn't change myself like that."
"Then maybe... I mean, if you wanted... you and me could kind of... you know, go to school together, so neither one of us would have to go there all alone." Lucky finished in a voice so low that it could barely be heard.
Lex looked back to G and asked, "What do you say? Do you think that I can be changed enough so that I can take on the role of 'Cousin Lex' and go to school alongside Lucky?"
"Maybe. We could try." G said uncertainly.
Before Lex could respond, D added, "It's probably going to have a lot to do with what type of magic Lucky has. If his talent is based in air, then it probably wouldn't be too difficult to arrange for the two of you to have the majority of your classes together. If his ability is in another discipline... I don't know what to tell you."
"If it turns out to be fire or water, you could probably work it out so that I could work with him." Paul added.
"I'd say that's less likely. Not only are your abilities far less common, but you've also achieved such an advanced level that I doubt that it would be to Lucky's benefit to be partnered with you." D said honestly.
"Yeah. It's just that kind of thinking that's kept Lucky at the warehouse school. When Lucky got to spend a little time with people who were more advanced than he was, he began to dream about using his abilities in new and different ways." Paul said defiantly.
D thought about that for a moment before responding, "Point taken."
Paul was a little surprised by the easy concession, but was also gratified that his father took him seriously enough to consider his words.
"What kind of magic should I do?" Lucky asked into the silence that followed.
"What we need to find out is what kind of magic you can do. Then, once we know that, we can work on getting you teachers and classmates who can help you learn how to put your magic to good use." Beth said gently.
"You're not listening." Lucky said as tears of frustration welled in his eyes.
"Then tell us again." Paul said gently, then prompted, "Go ahead."
"I want you to tell me what kind of magic I should do." Lucky said desperately.
"It doesn't work that way. We have to know what kind of magic you can do..." D started to explain, but trailed off at Paul's warning look.
"Lucky. Tell me. What would you do if I told you that you should do fire?" Paul asked carefully.
"I'd show you what fire I can already do." Lucky answered simply.
"Can you do this?" Paul asked as he repeated his trick from earlier and made five little fireballs that looked like the flames on invisible candles.
"Uh huh." Lucky said as he repeated Paul's gesture exactly, ending with the same result.
"Oh... wow. You did that just right. How about this?" Paul asked as he made the short, yet complicated gesture to convert the fire to water.
"I never did that before." Lucky said as he fought to make the same gesture.
While his gesture was nowhere near 'graceful' Paul noticed that it was technically accurate and thus, provided the correct result.
"Wait. No. That can't be." Beth said slowly.
Undeterred, Paul moved the spoon from beside his plate to reside within the circle of little fountains of water.
Carefully watching Paul's every move, Lucky patted around until he found the fork beside his plate and moved it so that it was placed in the center of his own diagram.
"Before we start, we need to switch this back." Paul said as he made a clockwise gesture over the little gurgling fountains of water.
In a surprising transformation, the water seemed to ignite as it changed back into flames.
"Fire into air." Paul said as he brought up both hands to gesture.
As he did, the five little flames seemed to extinguish, but hanging in the space where each of the flames had been was a blur of wind, almost like five tiny tornadoes.
"Paul, you don't have an affinity for air. You can't do that." D said to him firmly.
"Whatever you say, Dad." Paul said with a grin as he continued undeterred.
"Fire into air." Lucky parroted, then performed his two handed symbols like a master mage.
Lucky's five little tornadoes appeared where the flames had been and held their place.
"Air into water." Paul said, then performed a gesture at high speed, so quickly that it was almost impossible to see.
"Air into water." Lucky repeated and flawlessly performed the gesture just as quickly as Paul had.
"Water into earth." Paul said as he performed a series of hand signs so complex that even the adults were having difficulty following along.
"Water into earth." Lucky said in deep concentration as he struggled to complete the entire series of complicated hand signs.
Paul stopped all motion and waited for Lucky to catch up to him.
When Lucky was finally finished, Paul quietly asked, "Do you want to do it with me?"
Still looking Paul in the eyes, Lucky gave a single nod.
At some signal none present could detect, Paul and Lucky began to start weaving the exact same hand signs at the exact same time. After about a dozen distinctly different signs, both said in unison, "The magics of fire, air and water I now channel into the earth. Imbue this token of the earth with magic to cleanse, purify and heal. I entreat, this instrument of power that I create be forever nullified if used to cause harm. Thus I claim. Thus I swear. So let it be."
"What the hell did you just do?" Beth demanded to know.
"No. Not hell. Not this time. Nature." Paul told his mother as he took the piece of silver that had previously been a spoon. It had melted into a puddle on the table, then frozen in a nearly circular pool of metal.
"What did you just do?" D asked his son hesitantly.
"What I did is nothing compared to what Lucky just did." Paul said honestly.
"We'll get to that in a minute. Before we go any further, I just want to know what that is that you just made." D firmly demanded.
Paul handed the smooth round piece of silver to his father as he said, "It's just a simple healing charm. Actually, I was researching it for G. It's supposed to help with acne."
"What? But you used all four elements. You're not supposed to be able to do that." D said anxiously.
"Remember when I said that I wasn't supposed to be able to use fire and water at the same time? That's what I was trying to tell you. I have two primary magics. That means that I also have two secondary magics. As luck would have it, all my primaries and secondaries are basic elements, meaning that I can magically manipulate all four." Paul said honestly.
"No one is supposed to have that kind of power." Beth told her son firmly.
"C'mon Mom. There are people all over the place who have that kind of power all the time. It's what blessings, curses, charms and amulets are for. The only thing that's different about my power is that I was born with it." Paul said frankly.
"Why are you just telling us about this now?" D quietly asked.
"I just found out. I never even thought about trying to do anything important with water until I held the third grail."
"Okay. Let's just say for the sake of argument that you're interpreting events correctly. How unlikely is it that a one-in-a-million person who has two primary elements would find himself in a position to find and recognize another one-in-a-million person?" D asked challengingly.
"Lucky doesn't have all four elements. I'm not sure if he has any." Paul said simply.
"What are you talking about?" Beth asked as she moved K to her shoulder and began gently patting her back.
"Lucky. What's your mom's magical ability?" Paul asked simply.
"She's a magic thief." Lucky slowly answered.
"But Lucky didn't steal your magic." D said slowly, obviously beginning to realize what Paul had already deduced.
"No. He doesn't steal magic, he mimics it." Paul said simply.
"But he was able to mimic all four elements being used at once." Beth said uncertainly.
"You guys probably know a lot more about this stuff than I do. I didn't grow up around it. I just noticed that every time I saw Lucky that he was able to copy spells that were a lot more advanced than he should be able to use. Once I figured that out, I went ahead and used the only spell that I could think of that would prove it."
"Lucky. What's the most complicated spell that you know?"
"Besides the one that Paul just did?"
"Yes. Besides that one."
"Zah Zah. Can I bring her here now?" Lucky asked hopefully.
"Yes. I think that would be fine. Go ahead. Whenever you're ready." D said encouragingly.
Lucky looked at the floor beside his chair, then made one simple gesture.
Out of nothing, a cat-like being bounded up from the floor and settled on Lucky's lap.
"What the hell..." D began to say as he stared in horror at the way-too-human eyes staring back at him over the edge of the table.
"Nah. You can't blame hell for this one." Paul said in hell's defense.
To Be Continued...
I love it.
Why is it that parents always want to tell their children that they can't possibly do such and such?
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
P.S. I hope there is another chapter fairly soon.