The Consultant and the Mask Ch 2 of 7

The search for the mask and the thief is on! Can Morgana find the Mask and the thief before the forces behind the theft can be marshaled to cause havoc in St. Louis?

The Consultant and the Mask

Author note: Magic has always existed is now openly acknowledged. 10% of the population is magically sensitive and 5% can actually be taught to cast spells. Only about 1% have the ability to earn a Magic-User 3rd Class license. In a country of 300 million that means there are potentially 3 million professional practitioners. However, it takes hard work and training to develop that raw talent. There are currently in the United States about 1 million licensed practitioners. Of that about 100,000 are rated 2nd Class, with about 10,000 1st Class Magic-Users, and about 300 Masters in the entire country.

There are also ancient private schools of magic whose traditions extend hundreds of years into the past. These schools are not registered with the Guild and specialize in unique types of magic that are considered illegal. The Guild of Magic-Users actively hunts these schools yet they persist.

The multiverse is layered with world stacked upon world the only thing separating each realm of existence is the veil. The veil separates what is, from what might have been, and from what may yet come to be. It’s as thin as silk and yet unless one has the power and skill it is impenetrable. For those with the ability it can be parted and thus, Elves, Dwarves, Fairies, Ogres, Orcs, and Trolls and all manner of legendary creatures now walk the earth.

The power of magic is rising how humanity reacts will chart the course of civilization of the next thousand years. An Age has come to an end and a new Age has arrived and as yet no one has noticed.


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Chapter 2
“The Hunt”
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It was well past midnight and Mark was on his way home from work. He’d gotten out of the Army a few months ago and was planning to start college this fall using the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Even though he had a bit saved up from his last overseas deployment Mark had found a job working as a security guard. The pay wasn’t great but he needed the work at least until school started. Besides, in Marks opinion, walking around an empty warehouse at night was much easier than other types of work and far less dangerous than his time in the Army.

Suddenly Mark felt a magical stirring on the road behind him. He glanced in the review mirror and saw a set of lights in the distance. Mark was on a back road about 25 minutes outside of East St. Louis and was used to this being a fairly quite drive home. Again Mark felt a spike of magic behind him and this time saw a flare of light in the mirror. Someone was throwing magic around back there and it didn’t seem like it could be anything good.

Mark had no magical power. None, he was what was currently being called ‘magically sensitive.’ After he’d entered the Army they’d put him through a battery of tests, Battle-Mages (BMs) were in very high demand. However, once the Army was convinced he couldn’t be developed into a BM they put him into another course. The course was designed to develop Mark’s magical sensitivity, after BMs Magic Sensors (MSs) were the next highest demand. When a squad was out on patrol it was handy to have someone who could sense a ward, or magical trap before it killed the whole squad.

Mark could now feel the magical battle raging behind him. He sped up and at the same time started to look for side roads. He needed to get off this road and let the battle sweep past. Unfortunately when he looked into his review mirror the car that had seemed at least a half mile back was now only a couple hundred meters behind him and gaining fast.

Within seconds it flashed by and swerved in front of him using his truck to block the view of whoever was chasing the car. As soon as it was in front of Mark an object was flung out the passenger side window. Mark reacted instinctively slamming on the brakes and turning the wheel to avoid the object. Before Mark had time to come to a full stop he heard the thunder of hooves and looked out to see nearly half a dozen glowing horsemen galloping down the road at an impossible speed. As they neared Mark’s truck the lead horse leapt into the air sailing over the vehicle. The others followed and Mark turned his head to watch as they continued to gain on the fast moving car.

Mark sat there for several seconds watching the incredible chase and felt the spells slashing back and forth between the car and horsemen. Soon they were beyond his ability to see or sense them. After a moment Mark realized that he could feel another source of magic. Getting out of the truck he walked to the side of the road where the object had been flung, Mark knew he was being stupid and yet he couldn’t help himself. There were so many ways this could go bad. If this were some sort of MIED (Magical Improvised Explosive Device) then he was probably already a dead man. Of course how could he leave it along the side of the road? It might hurt the next car that came by. And odd were could that car would have a family in it.
Mark spotted a plain looking gym bag. Mark knew that instead of approaching it he should call 911 and get the police out here. There was something about the bag drew him toward it. Mark approached carefully every sense full open. Whatever was in there was powerful, and unless he was completely mistaken non-hostile. In fact he could almost feel it’s welcome. With care Mark squatted next to the bag and gently eased the zipper open. He then peered into the bag and saw what appeared to be some kind of Mask. Mark decided that it would not harm him so he picked the gym bag up. He let out a breath he hadn’t realized he was holding when nothing happened. As he walked back to his truck Mark told himself that he’d call the Guild in the morning and turn this thing in. It was way too powerful to leave on the roadside where anyone might stumble over it. He’d never be able to live with himself if some innocent mundane person was hurt because of this artifact.

Mark climbed into his truck and headed to his apartment. Safely home Mark tossed the gym bag onto his coffee table and went into the kitchen for some left over Chinese food and a beer. While waiting for the microwave to heat his food Mark downed his bud in two long steady pulls. Once his food was warm he grabbed a second beer and sat down on the couch and turned on the TV. Mark was into his third beer before his attention returned to the bag. Suddenly he realized that it was tugging at him. He opened the bag and pulled out the Mask setting it on the coffee table so he could examine it better.

It appeared to be made of a white stone, the features were fine and the Mask was obviously designed as a female face. Mark extended his senses and got his first solid impression. He dropped the Mask and jumped back. The clatter of stone on wood barely registered as Mark realized that the Mask was aware of him, and that it wanted him to put it on.
“The damn thing is sentient.” Mark said out loud.

He’d never heard of an artifact that had an awareness or perhaps a sense of identity? But somehow this one does. If Mark’s sensing ability was working then the Mask was curious, it was curious about Mark and its surroundings. Mark snorted slammed his third beer and headed to the bathroom for a shower and bed. Mark at the last second and diverted into the kitchen for a fourth beer after what he’d witnessed tonight he needed something to take the edge off. He usually didn’t drink this much but the magical battle he’d witnessed during his trip home had left him shaken. He felt like he was back in Afghanistan and had just returned from a patrol and needed to decompress. Of course they’d not been allowed to drink while in the sandbox.

Standing under the shower Mark finished off his beer. Once ready for bed Mark walked back into the living room to turn off the lights and walked around making sure everything was locked up. Again the Mask caught his eye, and this time the siren song snared him. Almost in a daze he walked over and picked it up. It didn’t feel like stone. It felt soft, somehow, and this puzzled Mark. When he’d first held it the Mask had felt hard and cold like it was made out of marble. Now it was springy and warm to the touch almost like it was a living thing. When his fingers made contact he felt a shudder run through his body. Mark returned to the bedroom turning off the lights along the way without conscious thought. Mark looked into the mirror in the bedroom. Staring back was a slender young man, 5’ 10” with brown hair and eyes. Mark turned out the lights and settled onto his back holding the Mask in both hands. Mark felt a shiver of surprised, he could have sworn he’d put the mask back on the coffee table before he’d left the living room. Unable to fight the urge Mark lifted the mask up and then settled it onto his face. For a second it made his whole face tingle and then everything went dark.


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Moonlight washed over me as I stood in my secluded backyard. Morgana’s body, my body, is strongly aligned with heavenly objects as well as ley-lines. Even after taking this into account I was still unable to explain why the moon felt especially personal and powerful. Even my cycle (I shuddered slightly remembering my first experience) was tied to the moon.

My recent experience at the Guild Hall and the Mansion House apartments had left me determined to prove my ability. Even if this was a simple theft I fully intended to show the Guild and that smug Inspector Lee what I was capable of! So as soon as I’d returned home I’d changed and gone for a run. This may seem contradictory but when I run I sort of zone out to the world around me, it’s where I do some of my best thinking. I returned home after five miles with no flashes of insight. I got cleaned up and made light dinner and then started searching through the records I’d brought home from the Guild. After finishing these I switched to my research books and on-line search engines. After several hours I’d come up with a couple of options. Mrs. Smyth must have been the means the thief had used to take the Mask. She’d left in the middle of the night and returned later. Assuming she was innocent of the theft that left three possible options.

A soul swap, which while possible, (I glanced down at my breasts for an ironic confirmation) but was extremely unlikely. It was very rare magic, and it would have been impossible for the thief to get out of her body since she had no magical power. That left compulsion and possession as possible means. Of the two, compulsion was the most likely possibility. In the United States it was illegal to compel people against their will but the magic didn’t take all that much power and the principles were obvious to anyone with an undergraduate level of magical training. It would be relatively easy to find out if she’d been compelled a magical examination would answer the question.

I wrote a note to myself to ask Allen about having the Guild get a court order and force the exam. Now I considered possession. This was much trickier possibility. She could have been possessed by a being from beyond the veil. Or she could have been possessed by another human a Magic-User for example. For a creature from beyond the veil to possess her they would have needed a vehicle. Perhaps a means was a better way to think of it. An artifact, a messed up summoning, or a ritual with the intent of summoning a being from beyond the veil into a host body would be the most likely possibilities. If her husband had screwed up a summoning or if she’d been in contact with an artifact, well, those were the two most likely possibilities.

The last possibility was a human Magic-User had used a spell to do this, I had no idea how that would be done I only knew that it was theoretically possible. I was determined to show Inspector Lee, the Guild, and (even though I wouldn’t admit it) the handsome elf, that I was a very capable Magic-User worthy of my honorary the Master Class ranking! Thus I found myself standing in a light cotton robe next to a summoning circle in my backyard under the silvery light of the moon. Luckily for me this spot was secluded because I was very uncomfortable with my next step. I had drawn three circles for tonight’s work. The first was the Great Circle with symbols at each of the four cardinal points. Within the Great Circle I’d drawn to two smaller circles. One of the smaller circles was where I’d be standing and the second was where I intended to summon a being from beyond the veil.

I took a deep breath and tossed my robe to one side. I was now completely naked, female, and a virgin. These were all powerful symbolic aspects useful for the ritual magic I was about to preform and were extremely important to the being whose help I intended to beseech. I stepped into the Great Circle and glanced over at Edgar. He was perched outside and would be of no real help for this.

“At least it’s warm,” I muttered under my breath.

I now focused briefly on the Great Circle pouring enough power into it to activate it. Next I stepped into my circle and faced the circle I intended to use to contain the Spirit. Once I’d activated the inner two circles I focused on pulling as much power as possible. Morgana’s body gave me access to tremendous amounts power, I added to that by drawing from the ley-line beneath my feet and then with a deep breath focused on the silvery light of the moon. I felt my body hair stand up pulling away from me defying the laws of gravity as I drew even more power. One part of my mind noticed that my skin now emitted a soft silvery light, but I stayed focused on the task at hand. The great thing about this type of circle was that they helped to focus and contain power. When I felt the moment was right I spoke the incantation, finishing with a plea in plain English.

“Luna as a sign of your favor I ask that you send me one of your servants.”

I felt the power flow out of me causing me to collapse to my knees and catch my breath. For a second I felt utterly empty. The stillness in the clearing was like a moment of perfect frozen crystal clarity.

“What would you have of me mortal?”

I looked up and the woman in the summoning circle opposite me was as stunning as she was inhuman. She was completely naked with a perfectly formed body made of what looked like liquid silver.

I climbed shakily to my feet.

“What is your name?”

The creature stared at me for a moment and then let out a high pitched laugh like the sound of church bells ringing.

“Surely you don’t expect me to answer that question.”

“By my power and the will of your mistress you are here, by the circle you are bound, and thus I ask again. What is your name?”

This time the slivery lady appeared enraged and darted forward to rake at the invisible wall of her circle. When her claw like fingers hit the edge of the circle a spider web of light flashed around. Yet she remained contained within the circle.

“You try my patience mortal, say the reason for summoning before I breach your defense and devour your soul.”

I took a deep breath and focused my will upon the being from beyond the veil.

“Again, I ask, who are you?"

“Aarghh!” the being’s screech made my ears ring as it threw itself at me ruthlessly striking the magical barrier, only to be stopped once again by the circle.

“Thrice I’ve asked and now thou art compelled, speak THY NAME!”

At my words the creature went ridged. Then suddenly she threw back her head and laughed.

“My queen has once again shown her wisdom. She sent me to you this night because three cycles ago you did battle with another mortal and during that battle my queen observed you and became interested. I am Procellarum Oceanus, the Mistress of Storms, second only to the great goddess herself.”

I stood there for a moment stunned. The spell I’d used was designed to summon a servant of the moon and to bind it for a short time. Once I had its name it had to answer my questions honestly, however the answers given were not necessarily understood correctly. It could also refuse to answer. I could try to compel it but that was a tricky business better to barter if the creature became difficult. I could also use its name in future summoning’s with greater ease. This was the first time I’d tried this type of a spell since very strong Magic-Users are capable of working a summoning like this and for this particular summoning the Magic-User had to be female. The fact that Procellarum stood before me left me momentarily speechless. Procellarum didn’t seem to mind and simply stood there staring at me as I collected my wits.

“Three nights ago,” I began at last, “in the human city of St. Louis an artifact was stolen,” I made a gesture and released a spell I’d prepared in advance. An image of the Elven Mask appeared in the air above my head.

“Where is the thief?”

When I finished Procellarum nodded and motioned for me to continue.

“What is the purpose and nature of the Mask?”

Again she gestured for me to go on.

“Why are the Sylvari Elves interested in this crime?”

After I asked my third question Procellarum smiled.

“Ah, child excellent questions all and yet better ones could have been asked.”

Before I could respond she said; “Prima, in the morgue two blocks south of the Guild Hall. Secundo, the nature of magic is different in every realm. When Elves come to the human realm they must bring their magic with them or they are powerless. The Mask transforms human magic so that an Elf might have unlimited supply of magic while here. Mighty Elven artifacts are aware and have a will of their own. These Masks were crafted at the height of Elven power to provide way for Elven warlords to conquer the human realm. Tertia, Isilidhrindal the Sylvari Queen wishes a peaceful relationship with humanity. Trade has been prosperous for both elves and humans although the elven nation is divided on this issue. The Queen is not as powerful as she once was and there are those that wish to over throw her and see an opportunity in the human realm to gain a power base. The Mask are crucial to these rebels and the Queen will do much to keep them out of rebel hands.”
For a moment I stood there feeling stunned.

“Thrice you have asked and thrice have I answered, the cycle is complete, this summoning is done. Call again Maiden-of-the-Moon and I will answer but next time be prepared to pay a price for a service.”

With that Procellarum disappeared in a blaze of silvery light. After I realized the spell was indeed over I stumbled out of the circle and hardly aware of the fact that I was still nude and in a daze pulled on my robe and walked to the house. Abruptly I felt Edgar when he settled onto my shoulder and the normality of it brought me back to the here and now. What the hell is going on? Perhaps it’s time to go see mother, I thought.


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Max woke up and struggled to sit up. She’d been lying on her side naked, with her hands cuffed behind her, feet shackled, and rubber ball gage in her mouth. Max struggled to look around but the cloth sack that had been pulled over her head limited her vision. Max felt inside and found that she had about a quarter of the power she would have if she were at full strength. It should be simple to get out of these bonds Max thought. Drawing on that power Max felt agony arc through her body. Gasping for breath Max realized that there was some type of collar around her neck and as she moved about Max realized that there was a chain running through the collar. Obviously her captors didn’t want Max to use her magic. Whoever it was that had captured her, they knew what they were doing.

Max lay back and thought about yesterday. After she’d killed Siofra she knew she had to run. Max had collected up her gear taking only enough time to finish forging a new Georgia drivers licenses. What Max had failed to appreciate was that the spell Siofra had cast had been a sending, calling for help. Before Max had finished up the door had burst open and two tall male Elves had come in hands blazing with power. Max had thought quickly and pretended to be Siofra. Things had calmed down but one of the Elves had pulled out a phone and called in the situation, including Siofra’s recovery of the Mask. Both men had picked up the Mask and apparently tried to draw magic through it. They of course failed. After a few minutes they asked Siofra to try. Max had been startled to realize that just holding the Mask in her hand was enough to allow her to draw power. At the same time Max felt something come awake inside the Mask. Like there was some kind of entity in it and when Max used it, it had awoken. It felt hungry and evil to Max so she quickly put the Mask down. Max had to fight the urge to wipe her hand on her robes the Mask left her very skin feeling contaminated. She also realized that the one slight tug of power had been enough to fill her with energy. It didn’t take long for the two goons to realize something was wrong and start to become suspicious. When one went outside to get a better cell phone signal, Max acted. She hit the remaining elf with a stun spell grabbed the Mask tossed it back into the gym bag and ran.

The chase had resulted in her current situation, Max thought with a grimace, but at least these assholes don’t have the Mask. In a last ditch effort at defiance before Max had been captured she’d tossed the bag with the evil thing into a ditch.


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I woke early the next day. My head hurt like I’d been on a drinking binge even though I hadn’t touched any alcohol. I got a pot of coffee going and then looked up the number for the medical examiner’s office. After going through a couple of automated answering trees I got a real person who put me through to one of the assistant medical examiners. After explaining who I was and that I was working a case for the Guild and suspected there might be someone in the morgue from two days ago who had been killed via magic and that it might be related to what I was working on. The examiner told me that I couldn’t get that kind of information over the phone but if I came down they would let me do a magical examination of the body. They’d also need confirmation from the Guild that I was on official business. This meant that I’d have to call Inspector Lee.

My conversation with Al had been brief and after a little persuasion he agreed to authorize my visit. The trip downtown was pretty quick with light mid-morning traffic. This was my first visit to the morgue and I was surprised to figure out that it was on Clark Avenue just a couple of blocks from Busch stadium. There was plenty of parking and the building itself was very modern looking. I found my way to Dr. Paula Caldwell’s office and after knocking on the door was greeted by a short plump woman in her early fifties with thick glasses and brown hair.

“Are you Dr. Caldwell?”

She looked up at me with eyes made extra-large by her glasses and said “that’s me, and you must be Ms. Livingstone from the Guild?”

“Come with me” she said and led the way down the hall toward an elevator. “So there was only one body brought in the night that you mentioned. A male, mid-thirties, and it was obvious that he’d been killed by magic. The Guild sent an inspector down to examine the body and then she left.”

We took the elevators down to a lower level in the building and when we stepped out the smell of chemicals hit my nose and made me sneeze. Dr. Caldwell marched off down the hallway, seemingly oblivious to the odor, to a door were she swiped a badge and then typed in a code. There was an audible click and we entered a secure area. Once inside she indicated a large book on a table next to the door.

“You’ll need to sign in.”

Once I’d signed in we went down a short hall and into a larger room with several rows of square doors. There was a computer in this room and Dr. Caldwell went to it and sat down. I noticed at once that it was much colder in here than other parts of the building.

“Ah, here it is.” She said looking up at me. “Maximilian Alexander Dionissis, age 34, U.S. citizen, died of massive heart failure due to magically induced trauma.”

She said reading from the computer screen. She then got up and walked to one of the square doors and opened it. Inside I could see a shelf and something wrapped in a medical bag. She pulled the shelf out and unzipped the bag. I was surprised by the lack of smell. Evidently the chemicals they’d used were enough to stop the body from decaying. Or they had such an effect on my nose that I couldn’t smell anything.

Looking down at the corpse I felt my heart start racing and suddenly I felt nauseous. With an effort of will I pushed aside my reaction to seeing this unknown corpse and focused on the wound. The cause of death was obvious. The size of the hole burned through his chest left no doubt. What I noticed right away was that the edges of the wound had blackened. Whatever had done the burning had been so hot that it had cauterized the flesh as it burned through. I took a shallow breath (another deep breath would have made me sneeze again) and opened my third eye. The area around the hole sparkled with faint traces of green and gold energy. I pulled out a small clear crystal and held it over the damaged area and spoke a soft incantation.

The energy from the wound arced up to briefly touch the crystal. I now held up the crystal checking to make sure that I had an exact match for the residual energy from the wound. If I found the person who did this I’d be able to use the crystal to identify their magical signature.

Dr. Caldwell was looking at me curiously, “what did you just do?”

“This” I said holding up the crystal for her to see “is like taking the magical equivalent of a finger print. It should help us identify who did this.”

I said feeling proud of myself. I’d worked out how to do this spell this morning and prepared it for this visit. One of the differences separating Magic-Users 1st Class and above from 2nd Class practitioners and below is that ability to take theory and turn it into a new spell when the need arises. At 2nd Class and below it’s mostly just memorization.

“The Inspector who came down yesterday just looked at the body for a few minutes and then left.”

She said with the sound of disapproval in her voice. I could tell by the way she was looking at me that I’d earned some respect with just this one spell.

“Thank you for the help Doctor I think it’s time I head over to my office.” I said not bothering to tell her that my office wasn’t in the Guild Hall.


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Mark woke feeling absolutely fantastic. It was almost noon and he lay there for a moment puzzled about the feeling of euphoria, then he shrugged it off and rolled out of bed. As he walked to the bathroom he wondered at the strange dreams he’d had all night long. They were filled with color, but had been fragmented he remembered seeing broken glass, looking into a glowing purple crystal, holding a pair of wands; it went on and on random and disconnected.

Mark headed to the kitchen to get a pot of coffee going. Once the coffee pot had started brewing he headed to the bathroom to go through his morning ritual. Passing through the living room Mark spotted a couple of objects on the coffee table he didn’t recognize. Looking closer out of curiosity he noticed what appeared to be a half a dozen crystals, a couple of wands, and a set of rings. Mark felt a chill run down his spine.

“What the hell?”

Mark opened his magical senses and looked closely at the objects. At first he felt relieved since he couldn’t detect any magical power. Mark picked up one of the crystals and it felt empty sort of hollow. This reminded him of that time in Afghanistan when they’d gotten ambushed by an Afghan Shaman who had started hitting them with Magic. They’d called it in and returned fire but lost several guys before help arrived in the form of one of the Division’s Battle Mages. The duel had been impressive, particularly for Mark since he’d watched it through his enhanced senses. Once the battle was over he’d been ordered to help sweep the area and to look for any magical traps or objects. Mark had found the Afghan Shaman’s body and he’d noticed several crystals around the Shaman. Mark had picked up one and felt the same feeling then as he did now. The BM had explained that it was the way a magically wrought crystal normally felt after it had been drained of its power.
“How did all of this stuff get here’ Mark asked himself. He set the stone down and checked to make sure the doors were locked. To his surprise the apartment was unlocked.

“I could swear I locked up before I went to bed” Mark muttered feeling even more confused and quickly locked the door.

Mark stepped into the bathroom and turned on the light. When he looked into the mirror he was a bit startled by his appearance. He looked paler, his normally brown hair was slightly longer and lighter, and for the first time in years he had no whiskers in the morning. Mark had been shaving since he was a freshman in high school and now his face felt soft and smooth to his searching fingers. Abruptly Mark remembered the Mask. He’d put it on right before he fell asleep. What in God’s name had he been thinking. Mark rushed into the bedroom looking around intently for the Mask but couldn’t find it. After looking under the bed and into every corner of the bedroom Mark gave up and returned to the bathroom.

He spent several minutes looking at his face. It had changed. The changes were subtle but there none the less. His skin looked paler and felt very soft and smooth. His nose was thinner and smaller and his lips looked puffy. Turning his face from side to side Mark decided that the depth of his eyes had changed and his chin was more pointed and delicate.
“What the fuck is going on?” Mark asked out loud.

Suddenly he had an idea and opened up his magical senses to the fullest. As soon as he did this and looked into the mirror he saw the Mask sitting on his face. To normal mundane sight it was invisible but it stood out to the third eye. Mark reached up and tried to touch the Mask but his fingers felt only smooth soft skin. He slid his fingers around trying to hook them under the Mask but couldn’t find the seam. Mark could see the faint line where the Mask stopped and his skin started. When he ran his fingers over the area he couldn’t feel the edge. For a second Mark couldn’t breathe.

“Oh, God! What have I gotten myself into?” He whispered.


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I made it to my office in no time and let Edgar out through the window, he’d been feeling cooped up today since I’d not let him out for a flight yet. I didn’t have any appointments today but I liked to make sure I spent some time in the office every day. I don’t get a lot of walk in business, but I feel like it’s important to keep up the appearance of normal hours. Looking down at my casual attire I regretted the choice since I usually went out of my way to look professional while in the office. It was summer and the heat has in the upper 90s. I’d chosen a pair of khaki slacks and a sleeveless light green blouse and sandals with a low heel. When I’d been at the morgue I’d wore a light matching khaki blazer which I’d left in the car. The neckline on the blouse showed off a hint of cleavage, my mother would have approved of the outfit, but the only thing I liked about it was that it was somewhat cool and didn’t expose too much skin. When I glanced around I smiled, the only real change to the office was that instead of just one desk now there were two along with a second name on the door.

I figured that I probably should call my mother and let her know that there were some strange events going on in town. But besides giving me unwanted advice, there really wasn’t that much she could do. She just didn’t have the magical strength to do a whole lot. I would need to talk to Inspector Lee and fill him in on everything I’d learned. In fact I’d already promised him I would. It was the price I’d had to pay to get him to agree to let me examine the body in the morgue. I called my mother but got her voice mail. That is just too weird, I thought, at hearing my old voice answer.
“E. Mor Donegal, I can’t take your call at the moment, please leave a message.”

I grinned a little when I noticed that mom was now using her middle name instead of her first and name. Maybe I wasn’t the only one having to work through my gender issues. I put down my cell phone and pulled out the crystal and set it in front of me on my new desk. I examined it for a minute or two with my magical senses before turning to the computer. The Guild had a number of useful applications on line if you had authorization to access them. Because of my retainer status I could and I made use of one now. It was sort of like a program used by the FBI to run a finger print. It was more difficult because you can’t just scan a magical signature with a machine. Instead I used it like an index. First sort by color, this was tough because shade mattered and even though the signature’s base shade was green it had been laced with gold. Next the pattern, I frowned with concentration since this was the most complex part of this task. The first aspect of this pattern told me the person who’d cast the spell was female. After another ten minutes I was sure that the caster was an Elf.
I pushed my chair back and rubbed my eyes. Max had been killed by an eleven woman. I knew that the Guild data base didn’t have much information on elven criminals. The elven kingdoms liked to extradite any Elves who had committed crimes in the human realm back to ‘Summer’ to try and if necessary punish them. Perhaps I should attack this from another direction, I thought. I dug into the Guild’s criminal data base, search by name: Maximilian Alexander Dionissis. The search came back with a match almost at once.

It turned out that Maximilian went by Max and had been arrested on two occasions, once for theft and once for the unlicensed use of magic. On both occasions there hadn’t been enough evidence to go to court. In the first instance the charges had been dropped and in the second Max had paid a fine. My eyes lit up as I read the notes attached to his file. An inspector, from Atlanta, had speculated that Max was much more powerful (magically) than they were able to prove. They’d tested him and he’d graded out below Magic-User 3rd Class, but the Inspector thought he’d somehow spoofed the tests. It was further speculated based on a tattoo on his forearm (of a hand inside a circle) that he was a member of the Hidden Hand Society. I had no clue what society that was, but I figured it must be one of the illegal magical organizations that the Guild was constantly trying to stamp out.

Just then my cell started to buzz and at the same moment there was a tingle at the outer wards to my office. I ignored the phone and got up to see who was coming into my office. The man who walked in was about 5’8” with brown hair, and while he looked rather ordinary I knew he was a Magic-User 3rd Class. He was also one of the better magical craftsmen in St. Louis. He’d commissioned me or Alastar rather, to put the wards on his shop. His shop was in East St. Louis and therefore needed an extra bit of magical protection.

“Can I help you Mr. Carter?” I asked trying to sound politely interested.

“Where’s Alastar?” He asked angrily.

“Unavailable at the moment, I’m afraid. I’m his partner and am familiar with his work. I believe he installed a triple ring set of wards on your shop last fall.” I said trying to sound competent and knowledgeable in spite of my apparent youth.

“You can give me my money back!” He said glaring at me.

I met his gaze for a moment and then he looked away. “Please, why don’t we sit down?” I said indicating the couches off to one side. We moved over to the couches and Carter seemed to have come to the conclusion that I was a woman because his eyes became glued to my chest.

When he looked up from my chest I said, “So can you tell me what happened?”

“I’ll tell you what happened I was robbed!”

“Did you call the Guild?” I asked knowing that no matter how good the wards there is always a way to get through them.

“Of course, and the insurance adjuster, in fact they just left my shop. That’s why I’m here.”

“Okay, could you just tell me what happened from the beginning?” I said starting to become annoyed.

“I arrived at my shop this morning and found the wards down. Like they’d been turned off, except that when I tried to bring them up all the magical linkages and bindings were broken. They’re now completely useless. I saw that the main door had been forced and the mundane alarm had been hexed. The only thing the thief touched was the display case where I display some of my enchanted magical items.”

I interrupted, “the thief didn’t try to take the cash from the safe?”

“No just the items on display,” he replied sullenly.

“What about the more questionable items you kept shielded in the lower vault” I asked staring intently at him.
Mr. Carter jumped to his feet, “how do you know about that?”

“Oh, sit down. I’m Alastar’s partner. I’m fully briefed up on his work. So the thief got through the outer wards, but the ones hiding the vault kept everything there safe?”

Slowly Mr. Carter sank back onto the couch blushing as he did so. “I, uhm, yes, that is the lower vault was untouched.”

“Luke, may I call you Luke?” I didn’t wait for his nod, “I don’t care that you keep some semi-legal magical items in the vault. If a stripper comes to you for a glamor to make her sexier who am I to judge? Or if some guy wants to fulfill a fantasy about being a woman for a day why should I care? I’ll need to see your shop so I can see how the wards were breached and I need you to be completely honest with me. If you try hiding things from me it will just prevent me from being able to help you.”

With that I stood up. “I’ll meet you at your shop at 1 pm?”

When I extended my hand he shook it and said, “I’ll be there.”

******************

It was now nearly three pm and I was worried. I’d never seen a set of wards taken down the way the ones on Luke Carter’s shop had been. It was like all of the magic they channeled had been drained to the point that there wasn’t enough magic in them to maintain the linkages that bound them together and allowed them to draw on power from the ley-line under the shop. Once they’d been drained to that point they’d simply collapsed under their own magical weight and even the small amount of energy this would have caused had been drained. What remained was worse than useless. I’d put up a temporary set of wards for Carter and told him I’d craft another full set as soon as possible.

But the whole thing puzzled me. If the thief had been strong or skilled enough to use some new spell to get through the outer wards why stop at a bunch of relatively cheap items? The lower vault had several items of far greater value, and the safe had several thousand dollars. Why break in and not take the money? If the thief was after magic why not take the more powerful stuff?

The call on my cell phone had been Inspector Lee when I’d called him back he asked me to come into the office. Since I’d promised to tell him what I’d learned from my summoning I figured I’d best head in. Besides it would give me a chance to talk to the Special Agent who’d responded to Carter’s call and find out if he knew anything more about this. Using Guild ties to help my personal business might not be completely ethical but I needed to figure out what happened.


******************
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Mark woke with a start. Late afternoon sunlight streamed through his bedroom window and at first he couldn’t figure out where he was or the time of day. Shaking the cobwebs from his head he glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost five pm.

“God I must have been tired.”

He mused out loud and was startled to hear his voice. It sounded slightly different. Am I coming down with a cold? He wondered, although he felt great so it must be something else. Mark lay there for a couple of seconds collecting his thoughts. After discovering the Mask was attached to his face he’d decided to call the Guild and get help. He’d actually dialed a couple of times, but for some reason he’d hung up each time before the line connected. What would he tell the Guild? That he saw a magical battle and had taken a magic artifact? That instead of delivering it to the Guild he’d used it and oh-by-the-way how did all of those powerless magical items make their way to his living room? If a Guild Special Agent walked into his apartment it would look like he was a thief!

Mark had decided to go out for a walk to clear his head. If he couldn’t go to the Guild there were other Magic-User’s in the city. They were more discreet than the Guild, and were willing to overlook a few of the finer points to Guild law. Perhaps they could help. When Mark got back from his walk he poured a bowl of cereal since all of a sudden he was starving. After he ate, he felt incredibly tired and looking at his watch realized he had a couple of hours before he had to go back on duty tonight. A short nap would feel pretty good.

The nap had probably been a bad idea Mark decided since he now had less than an hour to get to the ware house where he’d spend the next eight hours walking around. Mark hurried into the bathroom and stopped when he spotted his reflection in the mirror. His hair was almost completely blonde now and it had grown several inches. His eyes had turned a startling shade of green and his skin was much paler. His face had continued to change, the features were much more delicate and the lips were fuller. Mark could still see a little of the old Mark in this new face, but it was rapidly changing. Hardly able to believe what he was seeing Mark ran his fingers over his new features just to make sure they were real. Then Mark opened his third eye and was shocked again. The Mask glowed with power, and green energy in vine like tendrils had wrapped around him ducking into his skin here and there and popping out in other places. With a shudder Mark released the sight.

“Ok, get dressed and then head down to the Guild Hall. It doesn’t matter if they think you stole all that stuff, they’re the only ones who can help you.” Mark said to himself.

Figuring a quick shower would help calm his nerves Mark turned on the water and stripped off his clothes. When he caught a glance of his reflection he stopped and turned to face the mirror. His body was thinner and taller than before he was sure of it. But what had stopped him were the bright pink nipples on his chest and the missing definition. Mark had spent many hours in the weight room and the thin twig like arms and legs showed a staggering loss of muscle. His now hairless chest could have been that of a ten year old boy. Except that his nipples looked a little puffy.

“Fuck the shower!”

Mark raced to pull on a pair of jean shorts and a t-shirt that were both suddenly too big at the waist and shoulders yet tight around his butt. He slipped his feet into a pair of flip flops and grabbed his keys, wallet and headed out the door. Once in his truck Mark drove west toward down town St. Louis. As he was driving he suddenly felt the urge to pull into a shopping plaza. It was now 6:30 pm and most of the shops were closed. Mark parked the truck unable to resist the urge to get out. He walked along the side walk until he was standing in front of a small magic shop. It sold used and cut rate magical items. Probably half the stuff in there wasn’t even magical.

Suddenly Mark opened his senses and could feel and see the wards. He was almost touching the outer ward. Helpless Mark watched as his right arm came up and his palm touched the ward. Unexpectedly Mark felt a rush of energy from the ward as it pushed into his palm. The energy poured into him causing the Mask on his face to tingle before settling into his center. It had only taken a second but Mark could tell that the ward net was completely down. He moved toward the door and watched as his hand came up in a gesture and with a word he’d never heard before he cast a spell. Suddenly telekinetic power gripped the door and the latch clicked open. Before Mark stepped into the shop he uttered another word and there were several electrical sparks. Mark knew instinctively that all the electrical items in the shop had been shorted out including the alarm.

Mark headed toward the first display case. There were several items showing the signs of minor enchantments. In short order Mark had them out and was stuffing them into his pockets. Then moving behind the counter he found the plastic bags the shop keeper used for customers. Picking up one he continued to clean out all of the magical items. Once done Mark headed back to his truck.

Before he knew it he was back in his apartment sitting on his couch. Mark watched helpless as he picked up each Magical item and drained it of power. Each time he drained an item he felt the Mask tingle and then the energy settle deeper into him. For the first time in his life Mark felt what his instructors had described as a Magic-Users center. This was the place a Magic-User stored magical energy before casting a spell. Once done Mark headed back to the bedroom to stretch out on the bed.

Suddenly he felt like he had control of his body again. Mark jumped out of the bed.

“Holy shit, what the fuck was that.” He looked at his hands and realized he was shaking.

“The Mask! It’s possessing me!”

Suddenly more determined than ever Mark headed toward the door to his apartment intending to drive into the Guild Hall. A wave of exhaustion hit him and he stumbled. Mark caught himself on the edge of the door and tripped forward into the hallway. He made it another step before he collapsed to the floor in a dream filled sleep.

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I rode the elevator up to the sixth floor looking forward to meeting Inspector “call me Al” Lee. At least I’d be able to contribute some information to the investigation even if I didn’t have any real answers. I made it to the lobby and was once again startled by the freaky receptionist. This time I didn’t bother looking at her with the third eye. A few minutes after I arrived Inspector Lee was escorting me to his office. It was a small office with no windows and barely enough room for his desk and a couple of chairs.

“So what do you know about the thief, Maximilian Alexander Dionissis?” I asked.

Allen shrugged, “not much to be honest. I’d heard that he’d been killed but since it was done with Elvin magic it was turned over to the Foreign Affairs Division (FAD). Which brings me to the main reason I wanted to talk to you,” he said. “This case has also been pulled into the FAD. I’ve been officially taken off the case and your involvement is terminated as well. You can talk to Diana the receptionist on your way out and bill the Department for your hours.” As he said this I could tell he was pissed.

“What about the information that I learned from my summoning spell?” I asked feeling annoyed.

Al pulled out a small digital recorder and sat it on his desk. “I’ll take any information you’ve discovered and pass it on to the FAD.”

With that I relayed what I’d learned, however I left out the details of who I’d summoned since it was none of the Guild’s business. Once done Inspector Lee stood up and offered me his hand, “it’s been a pleasure working with you Ms. Livingstone. I hope we can offer you some business in the future.”

I knew I’d been dismissed so I headed back out to the lobby to find Diana and bill her for my time. As I was talking to Diana I heard the elevator doors open behind me. I glanced over my shoulder and my heart started racing. Sir Galohond Larothta in an immaculate grey suit walked into the lobby. I’ve never been attracted to men before, but there was something about this elf that made my body react in ways that were foreign and uncomfortable for me.

“Ah, Morgana Livingstone if I’m not mistaken.”

He said extending a hand. I reached out to shake it and was startled when he deftly took my fingers and turned my hand over so he could bring my fingers to his mouth brushing them with his lips. My body’s earlier reaction had been nothing compared to the electrical jolt I felt when his lips brushed my fingers. I felt my nipples harden like pair of tiny erections, my face flushed, and there was an unexpected ach in my loins that made me want to squirm and rub my thighs together.

“Yes, . . . ah, . . .that is, please call me Morgana.” Why the heck did I say that, I thought? “And you are Sir Galohond Larothta I overheard your introduction to Inspector Lee the other day.” Why am I babbling I thought, good grief Alastar get a grip.

“I am pleased that you remember me. I am of course familiar with the Livingstone family. Please accept my deepest condolences on the loss of your parents.”

As he said this, his gaze caught mine and I noticed that he had deep grey eyes. The sincerity in his voice made me feel ashamed about the ruse I was forced to play, while making my body hum in response.

“Thank you. You’re very kind.” I stammered and I suddenly realized he’d not released my hand. With a bit of reluctance I pulled my hand away. “Excuse me, I really should be going.” I said attempting to step around him but he moved back blocking my avenue to the elevator.

“Your pardon, Morgana, but I’d like to speak with you. I understand that you’ve been looking into the theft of the Mask of Esarthae Haelond.” Before I could respond he continued, “I’m the Chief Investigator for the Sylvari here in St. Louis. I understand you’re a private consultant. May I come by your office at say 10 am tomorrow? I’d like to discuss an opportunity for us to work together.” At this he pulled out a business card and handed it to me.

I wasn’t sure how to respond so nodded my head, plucked the card from his hand, and ducked around him heading for the sanctuary of the elevator. Once safely in my Charger I let out a breath. Well now I’m officially off the case according to the Guild. But I may be back on it as an agent working for the Sylvari, and Sir Galohond.

“God I need a drink.”


******************
******************

Max had spent most of the day sitting on the floor or lying on her side. This had been the least uncomfortable position she could find with her hands behind her. Max had also discovered that the chain that connected her to the wall was barely long enough for her to lie down. Eventually she’d been forced to relieve herself, stretching the chain as far as it would go Max squatted so that the urine would be directed as far away as possible. This was met with only limited success and she’d been forced to sit on the floor next to a puddle of urine.

The loud noise of a door banging open caused Max to jump. A pair of rough hands gripped each of her shoulders lifting Max to her feet. There was the sound of a key turning in a lock and Max felt the chain in her collar come free of the wall as one of the guards tugged her forward by it. Max instantly tripped and unable to catch herself with her arms bound and fell head first to the floor causing a muffled yelp when her breast was smashed against the cold stone.

“Take off her shackles.”

Max felt one of the two move to her feet and once the restraints were removed she was again pulled upright. With a tug on her leash Max was dragged forward. She was led down a hall and then up a set of stairs. Max soon lost count of the twists and turns and only knew that they’d arrived at their destination when she heard a door open and was led into another room. Now for the first time Max’s arms were freed from their restraints only to be secured to the arms of the chair Max was forced to sit in. Max felt a tug on her collar as the chain was attached to the chair and then felt a new set of shackles secure her feet to the legs of the chair. Then Max heard one of the guards leave.

After a few minutes the door opened again and suddenly the hood covering Max’s face was jerked off. Max’s eyes watered at the bright light and she tried blinking several times. After a few minutes Max made out the form of a male elf sitting in a chair opposite her. When it was apparent to the elf watching her that she could see he spoke.

“Do you know who I am?”

Max just started at him and then made a muffled sound around the gage.

“Please remove the gage.”

The guard to Max’s right quickly complied and Max felt her jaw ach after having been forced open for so long. With another gesture a small cup of water was placed under Max’s lips and she drank greedily. Once Max had finished drinking the elf lord looked over at the guard who’d remained in the room.

“Leave us.”

The guard nodded and left shutting the door behind him leaving Max alone with this elf.

“Now, let’s start again, do you know who I am?”

Max shook her head, “no should I?”

“As a matter of fact Siofra would know me very well. How is it you wear her body?” The blonde elf lord sounded curious.

“A misunderstanding.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, the bitch seemed to think that she could double cross me and kill me after I’d done a job for her. She failed to full understand the consequences of her rash decision.”

At this the male elf threw his head back and roared with laughter.

“Ah, that sounds just like Siofra. Unfortunately, you still haven’t told me much.”

At this point Max decided it was time to come clean. He explained how he’d stolen the artifact and how Siofra had tried to kill him. When Max was finished the elf shook his head.

“Siofra was always too arrogant for her own good. Too sure of her power and quick to assume that humans are weak. Now for her pride she’s gone.” Then he looked sharply at Max, “What am I to do with you?”

“You could just let me go? I promise I won’t make any trouble for you. I’ll disappear and you’ll never see me again.” Max said desperately.

At this the elf lord laughed, it was a rich golden laugh the kind that made others want to join in.

“No Max I don’t think so.” He held up his hand before Max could interrupt “I believe you. I’m sure you’d do everything you could to disappear. But you see you’re wearing the body of my cousin, the body of a Sylvari noble woman. It’s very valuable just for the blood line to say nothing of the power you might wield if allowed to run free.”

At this the elf stood up and picked up the wooden chair he had been sitting in and moved it to the far wall. When he returned he looked down at Max.

“I’m sure you don’t recognize the chair you’re sitting in. It was Siofra who found it while exploring an ancient ruin in Summer and it was Siofra who discovered its purpose and capabilities. It has the unique property of appearing as a normal chair, unless one knows the command words. Its magic only works here in human realm. Which is probably why it had been hidden in Summer in the first place.”

Max felt his heart start to race and a cold sweat broke out on his skin. “Look there is no need for this I’ll do whatever you say.”

The elf ignored Max and continued. “It’s very effective in getting information from a captive. It can give pleasure, or pain, because it’s designed to be used on the mind of the person in the chair so it leaves no physical damage. You see my cousin was very gifted at mind magic, compulsion, and illusion so learning the secrets of the chair was an obsession of hers. Then she shared that information with me.” For a moment he shuddered. “You see that is how I knew that you were telling me the truth. Siofra’s death released me from the magic of chair.”

At this he grinned widely. “The irony is poetic since you’re wearing her body and I intend to use the chair to en-spell your mind just as she en-spelled mine.” At this the elf let out a soft chuckle. “You see while you’re bound to the chair all of your natural and magical mental defenses are gone. Let me give you a demonstration,” with this he spoke several words that Max couldn’t quite make out. But suddenly she felt a wave of energy sweep over her body making her shudder.
“Your name is now Little Slave.” The elf said. “Please tell me your name?”

“I’m Little Slave” Max said and was startled. “No my name is really Little Slave, damn it I’m Little Slave.” No matter how hard Max tried to say ‘Max’ it kept coming out Little Slave. “Please I beg you this is unnecessary.” Max pleaded tears starting to leak out of his eyes.

The elf lord’s grinning was filled with glee. “I’m sure you’d do whatever I asked right up to the point where you thought you could escape. Oh, no Little Slave, I have need of you but I must be sure you’ll obey. Now be silent.”

Max tried to say something and found that his voice wouldn’t work.

“Let us begin, when you and I are alone you will answer to the name Little Slave. When we are around others you will answer to the name Siofra. You will think of yourself as either Siofra when others are around or Little Slave when it’s just you and I, but you will always remember who you once were. You will do nothing to harm me or yourself and you will always obey my every command.”

Little Slave could feel magical shackles burning their way into her brain. She tried to fight them and was helpless against the power of the chair.

“You are in my cousin’s body; one of the things I need from you is children to continue the line. The other thing since you’ve used the Mask is that you now have a connection to it. I intend to use that connection to find recover it.”

The Elf lord walked around the chair like a wolf circling his prey.

“This is just too perfect, my vain, domineering, and arrogant cousin killed by a human thief. Now her body is my play toy.” When he laughed this time there was no gold in it, instead it sounded too Little Slave like pure evil.

“Elvin woman have learned to control their cycle so that they can become pregnant when they choose.” With an evil leer he said, “you’re now attracted to men and only men. Your main purpose in life is to have babies and give pleasure to men. You will act very feminine and never tell anyone that you were once male.”

Little Slave shuddered again and felt the mental bindings burn into her and then she felt a shifting deep within her psych. When she glanced up at this elf she noticed his broad shoulders and how strong and virile he looked. Little Slave felt her nipples poke out and for the first time since she’d been trapped in this body she felt an ach between her legs.

The elf lord’s face was now flushed with glee as he leaned forward, “you will have sex with any male I order you too. On my command you will become pregnant as often as you can. You may speak, now what is your name?”

“Little Slave” She said shuddering as the third set of commands burned into her.

“What is your purpose, Little Slave?” Asked the elf.

“To have babies and pleasure men.” Little Slave responded with growing horror.

“You will not cast a spell unless you ask me first is that clear?”

“Yes” She replied screaming on the inside.

“When we are alone you will call me Master. But when we are around other Elves you will do your best to act as my cousin would, only as a more subdued, humble, and respectful version of Siofra.”

“Yes Master.” Little Slave responded, feeling more mental chains burn into her psych.

With that the elf lord began freeing Little Slave from the chair. Once she was free Little Slave sat there quietly thinking about her options. The collar had also been removed but she doubted that she’d be able to cast a spell. The elf lord held out his hand.

“Come now, Little Slave it’s time to get you cleaned up and then you will come to my bed chamber. I intend to be the first to show you the joy of womanhood.”

Little Slave followed the lord into the hallway where the two guards waited.

“Take my cousin to her old chamber and once she is ready escort her to my bedroom.”

As the new Siofra was walking away following the guards the elf lord said, “Oh, Siofra, clean yourself quickly, put on something sexy, and hurry back to me.”

Siofra felt the order sink in as though she were still in the chair. Feeling like she was trapped in a nightmare she hurried after the guards.


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The End
of
Chapter 2
“The Hunt”
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