Memory-Log Recorded 26 December, 2016
Subject: Alexandre Blackheart
Personal Antiquarian of Donar Vadderung, CEO of Monoc Securities
I’d been set up with a luxury apartment near the office, but after a job I preferred to go to my shop first. Blackheart Antiquities felt like home, but more than that it held the things I valued above all else: the most powerful, interesting, or hard to procure artifacts I’d managed to procure over the years were stored there. I had thought gathering these magic trinkets and relics of long dead civilizations made me stronger, made me wiser. Made me somebody.
Recent experience taught me I was woefully mistaken. But it also opened my eyes to a world of power I’d couldn’t have imagined. I saw the hands which moved me around on the chessboard like a pawn, pulling strings.
It was time for a change. Time to become one that pulled strings of my own.
My feet had carried me, almost as a reflex, down the dark Oslo street my office sat on and to the door. I always felt a moment of fear as I approached, half expecting my wards to have been torn down and my office looted. Looking around, I saw no signs of tampering – no broken windows, or doors left a jar – but that only told half the story. I reached out with my senses, probing my wards. I drew back quickly when I felt a surge of magical energy swirling towards me. Everything was as it should be.
I took out my keys and reached out with my right hand to slip them into the door. On that hand was a second, more important key – the one that allowed me to pass safely through my wards – and my hand passed through that magical curtain, I could feel it parting for me. Quickly, I unlocked the door and passed through the threshold.
I flicked a hand, whispering an incantation. A dozen or more candles burst to life, filling the front room of Blackheart Antiquities with pale orange light. Looking around the modestly-sized room, I took a moment to linger on each of the various antique and occult items I had on display. Most of them were mundane in nature, but all still rare and expensive. They each had a story, stories I happily told prospective buyers. I never lied to my clients: I conveyed the legends, noting them as apocryphal , and never made an item into something that they were not.
Magic or not, expensive or not, each of these objects had intrinsic value to me.
Finally, I made my way from the front to the back of my office, the candles winking out as I went by. I slid to one side a hidden panel to reveal a large door that separated the living area, and the treasures I secreted there, from the store front. In the past I would have to unlock several deadbolts to get past that door, but after the year I had I decided it was time for an upgrade. Now, the door was akin to something you’d see on a bank vault,with a series of tumbler locks and second, nastier set of wards.
I raised my right pinky to the door, and the thrum of the additional wards parted. I put the combinations into the locks, each loudly clicking into place, allowing me to pull the door open and enter. I felt the wards thrum back to life as I passed, and quickly I closed the door and shut it securely.
I sighed, flicking my hand again to light the candles within my sanctum. I could go a full lifetime without another Christmas. Santa’s workshop wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, and if I never saw another Outsider again, it’d be too soon.
This space had originally been the size of a standard flat in Oslo. But working for Monoc had proved very profitable with lots of perks, and I’d been easily granted permits to expand and renovate. I carved out a basement for my workshop, gutted the bathroom, and added a sturdy wood burning stove for central heating and hot water. Unlike some magical practitioners, I would not go without the comfort of hot water in a marble tub.
The common area was small, but comfortable. There was a black leather couch, rich dark red ottoman rug on the floor, and an antique coffee table. Instead of a flat screen, which wouldn’t last into through even an episode of a typical sitcom in my presence, I had placed a large fish tank with the sole occupant of a large Oscar fish.
Adjoined to the living area was a small office, with two thickly packed bookshelves and a small writing desk, and also a small, modern (and wizard-friendly) kitchen. Perpendicular to the couch, a quarter-wall and post demarcated the living room from the door that led down to the workshop. A hallway cut down the back, leading to the bedroom and the bathroom.
I sighed tiredly and began the meticulous ritual of removing my adornments: watch, jewelry, ritual objects, and clothes. Each were placed in their proper place, a habit I required of myself after my last ‘slip’. The flat was immaculate, like a showroom, to the point where one could hardly tell anyone lived here at all.
Naked, I fired up the wood boiler stove and fixed myself a Scotch while I waited for the water tank to heat up. I fed my fish. After several minutes, and a second Scotch, I shuffled off to the bathroom for a well-deserved soak.
Lighting additional candles, I began to fill the tub with wonderfully hot water. As I did, I caught a glance of my bruised knuckles. I was sore to the bone, felt like the world was weighing down on me, but I couldn’t help but laugh. I punched my bruised hand into my other palm: it wasn’t every day I got to lay out the boss and still have a job to go to.
Still laughing, I stepped into the steaming water and let it scald my problems away. Problems, and all the rest, could wait till tomorrow.
After all, no one became king in a day.
Written by Dennis Kellogg and edited by myself.