Magic can be fickle. On the days that it likes you, you can do almost anything. On the days that it hates you, watch yourself because chances are high you will end up injured or worse. Store magic in an item, such as a gem or a book, and depending on the day, the magic will remain either friendly or unfriendly. Sometimes it comes to you, sometimes it doesn’t. So you have to romance it, make it like you, make it dependable. I had an instructor once who told me, “Love your magic and your magic will love you.” He’d been a follower of Taylor, Goddess of Romance, so everything was explained that way.
Magic is also like fine chocolate. Once you have a taste, it is hard to turn down more. Some prudes call it an addiction, but really, especially in my family, it’s a calling.
Another calling in my family is our tendency to be procurers of rare and wonderful magic items. Oh we can infuse items with our own magic, but we prefer to obtain magic items created by others; the older and more powerful the better. Which brings me to the start of my current situation.
The mark is a large ruby, filled with the power from a temple full of Mayer worshipers. See, magic is not only secular, it is also divine. Some say it is only divine and we beings have sullied it by taking it from the temples to use in daily or mundane affairs. While I agree that magic probably originates as divine, I know that most magic I find (and that’s my job to find magic) is devoid of any particular god’s influence. It’ll work for the faithful or unfaithful, so in that way, its more of a natural neutral element (excepting of course its fickleness).
My fence thinks that going after a Mayer artifact could be dangerous. My cousin Cherish is the best forger I know. She can create authentic-looking documents of any age, including those techno-generated. She’s beautiful, smart, sassy. Her only two blemishes are a weal along her cheek that she received from a magic pen on a day when the magic was not her friend and the fact that she’s my first cousin. In magical families like mine, first cousins are not allowed to breed. Inbred magic is stronger yet stupider magic. The kind of magic that can’t be wooed.
Cherish is also the family fence. She could sell ice charms to the northerners. She has a respectable job in a respectable business that is not a part of our family. In fact, if she sees one of us in public, she doesn’t know us. This isn’t acting; she’s charmed herself to not know us, so that each time we interact, if we interact in a public manner, she has to be introduced. After work hours, in a private setting, the spell she uses for that fades and she works her fingers off to produce provenance for our liberated goods. Then when we sell them to her in the morning at her antiquities shop, she has no idea that the item’s origin is not what its papers say and can claim that in front of a jury.
My other cousin Otto, he’s a second cousin on my mother’s side, he’s gotta touch of that inbred magic (or, as a baby, he was dropped on his head a few times. No one is entirely sure). Otto is like a rock physically and like a puppy otherwise – a big solid puppy. Although he has moments of lesser comprehension, he’s just so cheerful its hard to hold anything against him. He’s a part of the family’s brute force team. Otto, like most of the males in the family, has a crush on Cherish and wants to impress her, so he invited himself to come along to the temple to be a spotter.
What does this have to do with the magic ruby I am chasing? Mayer is the God of Smooth: smooth talkers, smooth surfaces, smooth sailing. A magic item infused with power derived from the god and his worshipers could allow a user to smooth things over with someone or smooth the path to getting into a certain someone’s bedroom, which was what I wanted it for. The big ruby was a tool and I needed it for my real job, which was to liberate a chalice of great power from the Duke of Milagro. Word had come down that his rival, the Duke of Vilanova, would pay extravagantly for the Milagro chalice and a chance to get back at the Duke, who had stolen the love of his life (no one ever asked the Duchess of Milagro what she thought of this).
Another thing about my family, we enjoy wealth. We’re not greedy or anything, but wealth gotten through nefarious means is almost as attractive as magic gotten from through nefarious means, and the combination of both is sweet. The Duke of Vilanova pays really well.
So I needed that ruby so that I could talk my way into the court of the Duke of Milagro and in to a position where I could access the Duke’s bedroom, where it was said he used the chalice as a regular cup, rinsing his mouth out with it in the bathroom and such. The chalice was rumored to provide eternal youth to those who drank from it. The Dukes Milagro and Vilanova had grown up together and as young men had vied for the hand of the same woman. This was 30 years ago. The Duke of Vilanova, of course, married someone else, produced an heir, and time moved on for him. The Duke of Milagro, and presumably his wife, remained twenty-years old. Otto has already established himself in the Duke of Milagro’s guard. I just need to get the ruby, be introduced to the court with my papers that Cherish was working on, and the job will practically do itself.