Magic born, p.1
Magic Born, page 1part #1 of Dragon Mage Series
Table of Contents
Dragon Mage Book One
Illaria Publishing LLC
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters and events in this book are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons living or dead is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Published by Illaria Publishing, LLC
Copyright © 2018 by Dyan Chick
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover Artwork by Melody Simmons
Created with Vellum
The rooms were mostly picked over, the obvious valuables long gone. It didn't bother me. I wasn't here for jewelry or old baseball cards. Magical objects repelled most humans, but every so often, one found its way into someone's home. That's where I came in, trolling estate sales looking for things that seemed useless to regular people. It was a semi-honest living. I didn't ask questions about where the objects came from, or how they got there, I just purchased them cheap, then sold them at the shops in Realm's Gate, the secret magical community where I'd grown up.
Being a mage wasn't the worst thing in the world, and honestly, if I had any marketable skills aside from detecting magic embedded inside objects, I'd probably live in the human world permanently. Instead, I kept a rundown apartment right on the edge of Realm's Gate. It was the best compromise I could come up with: close to the human world, as far outside the community of supernaturals that lived in Realm's Gate as possible.
After ducking into the last bedroom on the upper floor, I decided this estate sale was a bust. Glancing down at my phone, I scrolled through the list of estate sales for today. I'd only checked a few of them off so far. Time to find another house.
As I walked through the upstairs hall toward the stairs, a pull in the pit of my stomach set off alarm bells inside my head. Something was here. I froze, and closed my eyes, taking a deep breath. Detecting magic was something my mother had been adamant about me learning in my youth. Like most pureblood mage children, my mom homeschooled me until high school. My courses included things like divination, elemental magic, defensive magic, demon hunting, you know, the usual. It made for a well-rounded education if I intended to join the Order, but wasn't much use for doing anything else. And after what the Order did to my mom, there was no way I'd ever work for them.
Opening my eyes, I looked up, trying to locate the invisible magical force. Then I saw it: an attic. How had I missed that? Nobody else was in this part of the house. Deciding it was better to ask for forgiveness, I pulled on the string, and the panel came down, complete with attached ladder.
As soon as I opened the door, I felt the rush that could only come from a cursed object. Grinning, I climbed the ladder. Occasionally, a mage added a curse to an object. They weren't exactly legal, and they were difficult to sell, but to the right buyer, it could pay my rent for a month. Maybe two.
In my business, you couldn't get hung up on what was done with the objects after you sold them. If you did, you weren't going to last long. Might as well join the defense league or some other goody-two-shoes organization. I'd learned quickly who the best customers were. It was my repeat business with the notorious gangster known as Vicious Jimmy that led me to a full-time gig working for him. I still sold my finds to other interested parties on occasion, but Jimmy got first dibs.
The temperature dropped when I entered the unfinished room. Insulation and exposed boards lined the walls. There wasn't a floor. Just two-by-fours. Usually, if I found things in the attic, the owners had taken the time to add drywall and a rudimentary floor. I wondered if the people who lived here even knew there was something up here.
Following the tug of the magic, I stepped from board to board, stopping by the back corner. Nailed to one of the exposed beams on the wall was a small fabric pouch. The magic coming off of it was so intense, it was nearly vibrating. "Bingo."
Reaching for it, I paused, then pulled my hand back. That was stupid. Since when did I reach for a cursed object without testing it for wards? Man, I was off today.
Shaking my hands, I cleared my head, switching from the focus of finding magic, to the area of my brain where conjuring spells came from. I rubbed my hands together and whispered an incantation. Stretching my fingers out in front of me, I swept them over the object.
It vibrated again, and black smoke burst from within it. I nearly laughed. The only protection the object had was the magical equivalent to a smoke bomb. Like the small ones that humans light on the Fourth of July. The only thing that would have made it funnier was if the smoke was pink or some other obnoxious color. It was a charm any novice mage could perform, and its only benefit would be to scare away someone who knew nothing about magic. Whoever left this here, never thought a magic user would come across it.
Hands on my hips, I waited for the smoke to fizzle out. It didn't take long. I pulled the bag off of the nail and untied the string to look inside. Whatever the curse was, they'd stored it inside a ceramic dragon sculpture. At least it shouldn't be an expensive purchase.
Once, I'd found a charm stored inside a ruby necklace. Needless to say, I had to pass it up. The price they wanted was more than I'd make from the sale. For a moment, I felt bad for the human who ended up with it, but in the long run, I wasn't doing this to protect anybody. This was all about the money. And this little ceramic dragon was going to be a big payday.
My feet sunk into the soft carpet on the stairs. The house was on the smaller side, but it had been updated and well maintained. It didn't even smell like old people, which was unusual for a house at an estate sale. Cutting through the living room, I made my way toward the woman who was working the check out table in the dining room.
Her face rested against her fist, squishing up her cheek and knocking her glasses askew. It was hard to tell if her eyes were open. She might have fallen asleep. For a moment, I considered walking out with my find. After all, it l
I cleared my throat when I stopped in front of the table. The sleeping woman dropped her hand and looked up at me with a start. She wiped a spot of drool off of her mouth, then straightened her glasses. "Yes?"
Fighting the urge to laugh, I pressed my lips together for a moment, then held out the little dragon. "I'd like to purchase this."
She lowered her glasses and looked at the figurine from above the frames. "I don't remember that from the inventory."
"It was on the table of knick-knacks." I gestured to a table full of salt and pepper shakers and ceramic cats.
She waved her hand. "Whatever. Everything on that table is fifty cents."
I pulled a dollar out of my pocket and handed it to her.
"Sure you don't want another one?" glasses said, lifting her eyebrows. "I don't have any change."
"Um, I think I'm good with one, you can keep the change."
She opened a zippered pouch and stuffed the dollar inside. "Have a nice day."
"Thanks, you too." I couldn't believe my luck. This was probably going to be the biggest score of my life, and it had only cost me a dollar. I pulled out a scarf from my oversized purse and wrapped the dragon inside. The fabric had been enchanted to keep magic from getting out. Most of the objects I found were small, fitting easily in the folds of one or two scarves.
Leaning against my old Honda, I opened the estate sale app and scrolled through the list. Then, I stopped scrolling and glanced at the time. There was a good chance that my boss, Jimmy would pay me enough for this curse that I could skip the rest of the day's sales and be just fine. As a vampire, Jimmy couldn't make his own spells or curses.
That's where I came in, finding them for him so he could use them for whatever he needed. While I was privy to most of the business he ran, I often preferred to be left in the dark. Nothing Jimmy's group of vampires did was precisely legal, and it made me feel a bit better not to know enough to be able to testify against him if he got busted. I liked Jimmy far too much to see him locked up.
Glancing at the app, I wondered if I should try one more sale before I headed home. There was always the chance I'd risk missing out on something else big, but the temptation of having an actual night off was too great. Plus, I wasn't a big fan of having a cursed item in my possession.
For the most part, these objects were usually stable, but there was always the risk of finding a poorly executed spell. In those cases, the magic deteriorated and eventually the curse would break free on its own. It was better to have it stored away somewhere more secure than a bundle of enchanted fabric.
Climbing into my car, I tossed my purse on the front seat of the car, then turned on the ignition. Payday, here I come.
A rush of cold filled me as I crossed through the enchanted barrier between the human world and the secret world of Realm's Gate. Our city was the only all-magical city in the western half of the United States. Located on the border of California and Oregon, it was hiding in plain sight in the middle of a National Forest. The few humans that ventured to this area simply passed right by, not even noticing us.
I reached for the pendant around my neck that gave me access to the city. I was a native, lived here my whole life. But I hadn't left until I turned sixteen, the age where you could apply for a charmed object that would allow you back inside. Anyone could leave Realm's Gate. The hard part was getting back in. Without something that was charmed by the elders, you'd remain locked out.
One of these days, I figured I would pack up and move to Winter's Haven, the all-magical city in the Canadian Rockies, but Jimmy had given me more responsibilities in the last six months, making it harder to leave.
Jimmy's laundromat was dark when I pulled up in front of it, which wasn't a surprise. Most people knew how to use magic to clean their laundry, or they hired a service to do it for them. It was a rather odd choice of business in this town.
Everyone seemed to know the laundromat was a front for his criminal enterprises. It made me laugh every time I visited him. A gangster with a laundromat. When I first started this, I took my business to one of the more legitimate pawn shops, but after a year of selling what I found, Jimmy took me on as a contractor. I'd been working for him since I was nineteen and he looked out for me. As a kid who lost both of her parents by sixteen, it was nice to have someone I could count on.
The front door wasn't locked when I tugged it open. A cheerful bell attached to the door jingled. It was a few hours before sunset, so I guessed that Jimmy and most of his henchmen were in the basement. Being vampires, it was more comfortable for them in the dark even if the sunlight didn't kill them. It wasn't until I was in my late teens that I learned about how much humans had wrong about us. It would be funny if it weren't so sad.
I paused in front of the basement door. It was open, and I could see the light coming from down below. Pop music carried up the steps. Its tinny-over-processed sound made my jaw tighten. Attempting to ignore the crooning of whichever teenaged pop star was top of the human music charts, I called down the stairs. "Jimmy?"
The last thing you wanted to do was sneak up on a vampire. I took a few steps, and the wooden steps creaked. "Jimmy, you down here? I have something special for you."
The music stopped. "Morgan?"
"Yes, it's Morgan," I answered as I took the last step.
A cloud of smoke hung thick in the air. Jimmy and four other vampires were standing around a pool table. All of them were in suits, ties removed and the top buttons open. This was downtime for them. Apparently, I'd come after some formal meeting.
Jimmy set his cue against the wall and walked toward me, arms outstretched. "Morgan! Happy Birthday, my dear. Did you get my flowers?"
He pulled me in for a hug, then kissed each of my cheeks. I kissed his cheeks, then put on my best smile. He sent me an enormous bouquet of flowers every year on my birthday. This year, it was white and pink roses. "I did, thank you. They're beautiful."
"So glad you like them," he said. Then his expression grew stern. "Don't tell me you were working today? Didn't I tell you to take the day off? You know I'd give you an advance if you're short on rent."
"I like working. You know that. And I like to make my own money," I said.
"Right, I forget how independent you are." He smiled, then ruffled my hair as if I were a small child. I supposed to him, I was. "You'd make a hell of a vampire. Have I told you that before?"
"Yeah, many times. But I'm good," I said.
I didn't know a lot about Jimmy before he turned, but I knew he was at least a thousand years old. Nowhere near as ancient as the originals, but certainly old enough to have seen a lot in his lifetime.
"Alec, get our guest a drink." Jimmy snapped his fingers and a younger, blonde vampire I didn't recognize, ran off through a closed door I'd never gone through.
This room was where Jimmy did any business with me. Polished tile, pool table, and a leather sectional couch facing a massive flat-screen television were the only things in the room. Add in the fact that they always seemed to be smoking cigars when I came by, and it didn't look like anything other than a men's club.
I nodded toward the closed door. "Who's the new guy?"
Jimmy gestured toward the sofa, and I walked over and took a seat. Jimmy sat next to me, leaving a large gap between the two of us. "That's Alec. I found him in the city when I went to visit some old friends. New vamp. Nice kid, but needed guidance."
My shoulders tensed at the mention of Alec being a new vampire. Cases of vampire attacks in Realm's Gate were rare. Most vampires could control the thirst, and there were always enough willing donors to appease them. The times you did hear of attacks they were brutal. Usually involving dozens of people killed in one whirlwind of bloodlust. And almost always by a new vampire.
Just then, Alec entered the room, closing the door behind him. He walked over to me, a can of Coke in his outstretched hand. I flinched as he approached.
Alec froze, then set the drink on the coffee table in front of the couch. "Sorry."
"I'm sorry," I said. Here I was in a whole room of vampires, insulting one of them. The one most likely to snap and drain me dry in a dark alley. You'd think after years of being around them, it wouldn't get to me anymore, but Jimmy hadn't added anyone new to his crew since I'd known him. Not once. This new vampire must have made quite an impression.
Standing, I reached my hand out to him. "I'm Morgan."
He closed his cold, dead hand around mine. "Alec. Nice to meet you, Morgan."
"Morgan's an ex-mage," Jimmy said as I sat back down.
"How can someone be an ex-mage?" Alec asked.
"Well, technically, I can't ever stop being a mage, but I'm not in the guild. I don't associate with other mages." I shrugged. People often had this reaction to me. It was unusual for a mage to live alone and even more unusual to not belong to a community of other mages.
"A rogue, eh?" Alec smiled. "I get that. But honestly, things have been so much better for me since I agreed to join in with this lot."
"That's the truth. But our Morgan is special. I don't think anyone could tame her." Jimmy slapped the seat next to him. "Have a seat. Maybe you'll learn something."
by Dyan Chick have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes