Prompt Short Story: Pride & Experimentation (Interviews with a Sorcerer #5)

CONTENT WARNING! Torture, towards the end; not explicit or detailed, affected text is under the +

Something I’m proud of, but that people don’t know about… I spent last week telling you all about the size of a sorcerer’s ego, and you want a heartwarming story I kept to myself? Getting kinda demanding, aren’t you?

Alright, if I answer this, I want something a bit lighter next time. Some of this isn’t going to be easy for you to hear, so please be prepared.

Yes, most of the time sorcerer’s are very intent on everyone (those who can, obviously) knowing how great they are. One of us helps an old lady carry a bag? Out goes a bulletin – and I mean that literally. We have something like a magical social network, that’s the best way I can describe it, anyway. Magic users all have the capability to connect in a sort of liminal space. It’s limited, difficult to access, costs a lot of energy to interact with, and we can’t talk and comment like your networks do, but it means we can share things if we want to. And anything that makes us look good? We want to share.

Except that sometimes, some things, no matter how good they might make us look, no matter how many points they might add to our reputation… Some things aren’t right to use for hyping yourself up.

I’m gonna tell you a tale nobody but those directly involved know. It was covered up so well even I can barely find the hints, so you are going to have to take my word on this because I’m not going to be giving you any info that you can use to go hunting. These people you’re going to hear about don’t need that. If I find anything coming back to me about you trying, that’s the very last you’ll hear from me.

You know what? I need wine for this. One sec.

Ah. Lovely. Much better. Brought the decanter, too. I’ll need it. And these extra couple of bottles. And yes, I pour red wine into a decanter. Trufax. Hahah! Sorry. Already questioning why I’m opening this box after so many years. I’m good. And don’t worry, I already spelled myself to not get drunk.

Right. Back to just before the world slumped out of the 2000s into the 2010s. A time of technology and hope, unlike the gloomy pall of now. I mean, not really, but it’s nice to pretend the past wasn’t always a fucking mess, right? But you know the world we live in now. Looking back to the start of this millennium…it does feel like a better place. Before everything else happened. Sometimes I wonder what I’d give to go back to my young self. Before everything fell. If you’ve wondered at all why I’ve kept my stories so far in the past, that’s why. But that’s enough of that for now, to the tale!

Most normies didn’t believe in the supernatural or the paranormal – and those that did, couldn’t see the stuff that actually existed all around them. But for most, science had explained the spectres out of the night, and the strange and magnificent was lost to but a rare few, who still truly Believed. 

During this time, it came to my attention via a somewhat roundabout series of events I won’t go into, that a certain family were in fear for their lives. And by family I mean – an entire family. One by one, over the course of the preceding couple of years, people with a certain bloodline were dying. Some of them were murdered, some suicide, others seemed like perfectly natural deaths. It was just that…so many of them were dying.

By the time I arrived, they’d lost, I think, 16 members of their bloodline – and it was an easy moment of work to confirm that connection, and find others. But even studying every detail of each case, I could find nothing to connect the deaths beyond that fact. It looked, for all the world, like a terrible, tragic, run of bad luck.

But even then, I’d been around long enough to just feel the magic hanging around, clinging to this family’s blood like…hemoglobin. Heh. Or a bad smell. Or frizzy hair to static electricity. It felt like that last, more than anything, except this doesn’t just happen. It’s not a natural occurrence. Magic is, like I’ve explained before, made from the inert strings that make up our universe. They don’t just detach, become infused, and work their own will. They can’t. Even when detached and infused, shaped, cast, the strings aren’t sentient.

But on every member of this bloodline that I saw, dead or alive, these strings of infused magic were wrapped around them.

Normally I’d have gone into research. But there was nothing on this – not that was available to me, anyway…by the time I’d gotten to the Secret City and dug deep enough, too many more could have died. The only indication I had was the wrapping of the strings. I discovered those who had died without outside influence had their strings wrapped tightly around whichever part of them had done the job; heart, liver, brain, and so on. And from that I extrapolated some entirely estimated timescales on the family members whose strings were loose, but tighter than others. I only had 15 of them to work with – of all the bloodline I contacted, these were the only ones to show up in a hurry – so it was a lot of guesswork, but I applied every bit of knowledge and experience I had, and figured the nearest of those to death had another couple of weeks.

That left the second group. The dead whose strings had tightened around whatever wound killed them – stabbing, bullet, whatever. These held an interesting phenomena. Many of their strings flapped loose. They were ragged and partially unravelled, as if torn away from something.

Some of the killers of these people had been arrested, so I visited the two closest with a theory that turned out to be correct: they also had strings. Many fewer, and all loose. All similarly torn apart. Lastly, all of the killers were very confused, and could offer no answer as to why they did what they did.

I allowed this as confirmation of my theory, and discovered that certain living family members had strings which led beyond them, presumably connecting or seeking to connect with someone.

It happened that the tightest strings were around a woman, Maja, who possessed these leading strings. My theory was that they connected to whoever was to kill her.

However, following where those strings led proved impossible. They wove in and out of our universe, leaving my trail cold. Given time perhaps I could have found a solution, but by my estimation there was no time. No more than a day or two.

If I was to save Maja, and gain myself a route to the instigator, I must let events unfold – at least until the moment came for me to interrupt.

I hoped that having the live magic so close, I would be able to trace it to the source, then hopefully get them to remove this curse. It felt like a wild hope, but it was the only plan I had at that moment.

So, I told Maja and her new spouse, Jim – poor guy, had no idea what family he’d married into – that I would protect her. But, that meant me hovering around being invisible as I followed them everywhere. Jim tried to nix that, he thought we were all insane. But, I used a little magic to reveal the strands around his wife, and he soon changed his mind. Not happily, but he did.

For the next two days, I lingered near her. I kept my distance as much as I could – if they were outside I just made sure I had a sightline, when indoors I just tried to stay quietly in the farthest corner.

They very kindly made sure to fix me an extra plate when one of them made food, and would refill my drink bottle whenever I placed it down. And so I watched.

It took until the third night – so I was only a little off in my estimations – for it to happen.

They were asleep. So was I. But I was a spider at the centre of a web of silent magical alarms. None could enter this house without me knowing. I was pulled awake as someone began using a cutter on the downstairs kitchen window – the back of the house, behind a tall fence.

As soon as the sneak was inside, I felt the magic. It thrummed through my web and I itched to follow it home. But first I had to stop what was about to happen.

I waited as the sneak climbed the stairs, casting just a touch of magic to make them step on a creaky floorboard.

The millisecond before that sound reached Maja’s ears, I sent a light puff of air into her face, waking her just enough so the creak would fully rouse her. And it did.

Sleepy, and now scared, she forgot about me and woke her husband, shaking him awake and telling him someone was in the house.

Jim, also forgetting about me, sat up and began to get out of bed, just as the sneak appeared in the doorway. 

To them, it was just a shadow. A person dressed all in black.

To me, they were a shadow surrounded by a nimbus of light; the magic controlling them. A patsy, like the other killers, who would remember nothing of how or why they did this.

I moved from my corner, casting a sleep spell on the sneak and catching them as they fell. It was a young woman, and neither Maja nor Jim could tell me who she was. Like the others, she was a stranger, compelled to kill.

I took hold of the magic around her, clearing it away and bottling some for a tracing spell. But before I could follow it, this woman needed dealing with.

I woke her, and she was terrified, then appalled, then both. She had no idea who these people were, either. She had gone to bed at home, some miles away, and then awoke here.

A quick look outside and she confirmed her car was there, and the keys were in her pocket.

Maja promised to look after her and ensure she got home safely, so I thanked her and moved on to the magic I’d captured. Uttering a transportation spell, I allowed the magic to take me back to its home.

The sorcerer was waiting for me, of course. It would be a terrible and shameful thing to keep such a loose track on one’s magic that you wouldn’t feel someone dismissing it, capturing it, then following it. So as I landed, I dived forward, beneath the spell that sizzled over my head.

I came into a crouch mere inches away and, instead of wasting time on magic, I kicked out, sending one of their legs backwards, then hit up with a flat palm into their chest as they were forced to lean over me.

This put them on the floor, too winded to cast, allowing me the time to bind them hand, foot and mouth. That done, I cast a fog around me, shielding myself from their view and therefore any unspoken spells they might be able to send my way.

That done, with a spell to let me see through the fog myself, I reached out to speak mind-to-mind.

The sorcerer was female. She looked middle aged, which probably meant she was at least a century and a half old. So she had a lot of time and power on me, but I expected that given the circumstance of our meeting.

“I am Avay,” I sent to her, “And you?”

It is a very rare person, magic user or not, that can prevent thoughts from automatically bobbing up into the first layers of the mind when triggered. She was not one of these.

“Phylimena,” I heard back, even as the lady herself twisted in her bindings.

“Thank you. Now then. You know why I’m here. Tonight’s target lives, and no more will die to this. I will see you into the hands of the appropriate magical law, but first you will tell me why, and you will remove the strings that are killing them.”

This statement wasn’t simple enough to give me the answers to these questions, I wanted to give her the chance to answer them herself. Predictably, she did not.

“Fuck you,” was her reply.

Having tried it the nice way, now I would move to the next optioh.

“Why are you killing this bloodline?” I asked.

It’s important for you to understand in what follows, that piecing together triggered memory is a difficult job. I was fortunate to have some training in this, but most sorcerers run the risk of losing themselves to the flood. This was clearly what Phylemina was hoping for, as she opened up and threw memories at me. It was a lot, and most were not her own but memories bequeathed to her.

Let me stop to explain that part. Magic can preserve memories for transfer to another person. It’s difficult magic, and dangerous, so it’s only used for very important things. Things that whoever it is feels is necessary to preserve intact. The recipient takes these memories into themselves, where they are stored on something akin to a separate but accessible partition, so they remain distinct from the person’s own memories.

Some bloodlines use this magic create a line of ancestral memories, which are passed down each generation. This is usually when they are investing themselves into something that they know will take a while (some research can take decades), or if they believe themselves to have something particularly important to share.

So what came to me at that moment was a whole lineage of sorcerers that served the cursed bloodline. It was every memory deemed important by hundreds of sorcerers. And even with training, I was almost completely blown away by it.

As it was, it took me a while to sort and dismiss the memories I didn’t need, by which time the bindings were beginning to wear off. Clearly she had been hoping that I would be floored for long enough for her to get free.

I strengthened them, then went back to finish looking through the memories I’d kept.

Her bloodline had begun serving the normies centuries earlier. The normies knew, initially, about their magic, though at some point it was decided that knowledge would be erased. Messing with memories is never a good look for a sorcerer. It’s never victimless, and the side effects can be unpredictable. But, they did it anyway. Why?

Well, it seemed the sorcerer line wanted to experiment on the normies. Each generation had a new question to ask. What would happen if…? The questions ranged from eugenics, to murder. What happens if they steal away the firstborn? What happens if a young child is found murdered in bed? What happens if the normie bloodline breeds with different supernatural elements? What happens if the one they married wakes up one morning and has simply forgotten them, with memories of a different life inserted instead?

As I picked up more and more of their experiments, I grew sick, realising how much knowledge we sorcerers possessed had come from these and other experiments. It was inhumane.

Reaching the most recent memories, I saw that the sorcerer I had bound nearby, had asked  “What if I just kill them all, in different ways, but close together? Who will suspect, and when? How far can I go?” Then she had holed herself up here and cast the curse.

The spell she had cast required blood. Her own blood, and that of the line she was cursing. It also required a lot of power, first to cast it and then to keep it going. Which meant it would be difficult and potentially deadly for me, if the lady refused to break it herself.

I turned back and levitated her off the ground, strengthening the bindings still further.

She struggled, hissing at me through the gag.

“Remove the curse and you’ll get no worse than this. I might even speak on your behalf to the law.”

She glared at where she thought I stood, and I could feel her attempting to send magic my way.

“If you don’t release the curse, or tell me how to, I will force the issue,” I warned her, walking around erratically to make sure she had no way of fixing my location.

She refused, loudly, into my mind. I’m pretty sure she swore at me through the gag, too. Unfortunately, my mind-to-mind skills weren’t good enough to reliably steal information this complex. I could await the law, but…I’d taken the job of protecting these people. It was my job, therefore, to break the curse.

Please understand, that I’m not especially proud of what I did next.

For five hours, I threw different spells at her, trying to break her will.

CW beneath
To start, I clamped a vice down on her brain. It was the least harmful, but still unpleasant, thing I could think of. As long as I stopped before doing any cerebral damage. Of course, she also knew that, which is why it didn’t work.

I fed her horrible images, next. Pulled all the nasties from her brain, and then mine, smushed them together into a makeshift hellscape, and trapped her inside. That didn’t work either. At this point, I was realising that trying to match mental wits with her was always going to be a big nada. She was too much older, too much more powerful, than me.

So I went physical. First, I cut off her circulation with the bindings, numbing her hands and feet beyond where pins and needles would set in, to the point where the rush of returning blood on release would hurt her badly. That didn’t work either. I’ll be honest, I’d thought myself pretty smart for that, and I was quite disappointed when it still didn’t budge her beyond a pained expression.

So, angry and disappointed, and getting more frantic at my lack of ability to fix and control this whole situation – please remember, I was young and foolish – I covered her exposed flesh in cuts. Just little ones. I’m not going into detail, but when that also failed, I added burns into the mix.

After five hours, as I was carefully aiming another spell at her face and trying desperately to think of what else I could try on her, she caved.

“Please, stop,” she begged into my mind. She sounded exhausted, broken. I believed she was ready.

“Break the curse or tell me how. Then I’ll heal you. You have my word.”

She dropped her head, shaking it from side to side, “Don’t have the strength. Can’t promise you wouldn’t get hurt trying. Heal first, and I’ll break the curse, and go quietly with the law. My word on it.”

“Make that a magical oath, and I will,” I told her.

A magical oath is pretty much what it sounds like. One of us casts a spell, and we both speak our intention into it. That oath attaches to us, follows us around, until the oath is either performed or broken. Breaking it involves death, but not before an awful lot of pain.

So I cast the spell and ungagged her. She repeated her intention into it – she would break the curse attached to the bloodline and surrender to the law without issue.

In return, I spoke my intention: I would heal her and loosen the required bindings, so she would have the strength and ability to break the curse. Then I would rebind her and call for the law, ensuring her handover. I would also ensure a statement followed, informing them she released the curse herself, after some…persuasion.

Technically I could also be arrested for the interrogation, but the law really wouldn’t care about that because it got the right result, and she was healed for complying.

So, that’s how it ended. She cast the spell that would release the curse – sending all of those strings back into their previous place in the universe. I saw her off, and fulfilled my side of the oath.

I’ve visited her a few times over the years. Her own bloodline disowned her, though they’re too afraid to continue their experiments anymore, which is good. She’s still in prison in the Secret City. Prison there is very different to yours, but that’s maybe a talk for a different day. I’m tired.

I didn’t tell the family what I did to release them – that was for my conscience alone to deal with. They were free, it didn’t matter how.

I started by telling you that this was something I was proud of, but didn’t tell people about. I think you can see why. Some sorcerers would still run this story up every flagpole, thinking it made them sound dangerous or whatever. I couldn’t do that.

I’m proud that I saved that bloodline. That’s a lot of people, present and future. I’m not so proud of how I leapt straight into those particular interrogation tactics. Hurting someone isn’t quite as bad when you can heal them up again – though I’m sure you can see how that itself can be taken advantage of. Some would be proud of breaking such a powerful sorcerer, especially as I was so young.

But no. I came out of that with a new understanding of the power I had, and how I should and shouldn’t use it. I’ve never used it like that since.

I’m done here. That was even harder than I expected. Think I’ll remove the spell that stops me getting drunk…

Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my latest story. If you’d like these right to your inbox, please subscribe to the mailing list on the top right. If you’d like to support me, please share my stories around! You can also select one of the links to the right, and find commissions, writing blogs on via Ko-Fi,. If you enjoy my work, please consider a donation, to help me out with daily living and more storytelling. Either way, thanks for your time, and come back soon!

Writing prompt used:

The sound of creaking floor boards startles her awake. “Jim,” she whispers as she shakes her sleeping husband. “Someone’s in the house.” MichaelWellington.com

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