She lay watching the waves pound the beach. Her scrying net was wrapped around her waist, covering her blue dress with lines of inky black, proclaiming her trade. The couples walking the strand turned their eyes away from her face. The admiring gentlemen lengthened their stride once they looked past her pale features, eyes masked behind dark lensed glasses and saw the choker around her neck bearing the blue eye.
Women who dabbled in magic were not welcomed in polite society. No matter that the women came at night for love potions and the men spent their gold on luck charms and wards to protect their homes and businesses. Male Sorcerers were employed to a one by the crown but no royal court would take a woman. They were dismissed as hedge witches and harlots. A woman’s magic waned and moved with the tides and the moon phases, never constant. During her moon time when she bleed her magic was unstable and would cause horrible pain if used.
Rebecca sighed, shifting her feet farther under her dress and turning the page of her book. Why on earth her brother had insisted on meeting her here was beyond her. He was the youngest son of the family, with their older brother Robert taking on dealing with family politics and running the various businesses and investments. Having an older brother allowed him to be the eccentric man that he was, forever pottering about the estate and country collecting his rare books and artifacts. It was a miracle that he found a woman willing to put up with him. Agnes was a saint, happily dealing with the household and two children while her husband spent all the money on molding manuscripts and artifacts claimed to be ancient and magical.
Rupert probably wanted her to test some new artifact he had received. So far only a handful were even enchanted in any way. The rest were magically inert, if “ancient” bits of junk. Digging out her pocket watch she checked the time, half past two. Her brother was late, but then he was always late. She closed the silver watch and ran her thumb over the front cover. It was one of the few gifts from her father that she loved, the front cover was the coat of arms of their family, engraved and with a single small ruby set in the center. Putting her watch away with another sigh, she went back to her book.
The sudden stabbing of the sun in her eyes under the edge of her parasol drew her away from her book. The sun was setting and her brother had not come. That was not right, he may be late, but he always came eventually. Stuffing the small book in a pocket, she stood shouldering her creme colored parasol. She scanned the handful of people still braving the incoming tide and dwindling beach. There was no sign of her brother’s tweed coat he always wore.Frowning she made a small gesture against ill luck before heading to the walkway off the beach.
Hours later she was home and exhausted. She had wasted most of her day in the sun reading from her Eraculum. The slim volume may look like a thin book of verse to the untrained eye but it was in fact her greatest achievement in spell craft. This small book contained her entire library. You simply had to say the name of the volume you wished to read and it would fill in the pages. Never getting any larger or heavier, always as thin as before, it would have hundreds of pages at your fingertips in a breath. The book itself held little magic, it was the library that was enspelled. Any book she added to its warded shelves would be added to her Eraculum.
Her wing of the estate was a small building by the lake. Housing her rooms, those of her maid, a kitchen, formal dining room, observatory and library, it was small for most nobles but more than large enough for her needs. She would live here until she married or her father died. At this rate she would never leave, she could not see her oldest brother pitching his sister into the streets once their father died and he inherited.
There was no harm in imagining this building as her own. Any way, who would want to live in a magic users house after they had died? It would take much money and spell casting to remove her wards and spells cast on the various room and objects scattered throughout them. No one would want to live in fear of tripping some old spell remnant on accident. She herself had been paid to wipe a house clean of magic on more than one occasion. Such work was seen as beneath most Royal Magicians.
Rain pounded against the glass of the observatory. She had turned the room into her workroom. It made for cold night but the view on clear days and the influx of sunshine made it worth it. Finishing the last letter she needed to write with a flourish, she touched a smooth stone sitting on the desk. A few moments later steps sounded on the metal stairs leading to the observatory. Sealing the letters she bundled them together and turned to watch the older woman cling to the railing as she climbed like each step might cave out from under her.
“I do wish you would just call me once you are down, my Lady. I do not care to be up here.” the maid said her voice quavering.
“I know, Sarah. But the only way you over come a fear is to face it.” she said watching her maid inch her way to her before griping the desk like it was the only thing holding her to the floor.
“I need you to post these letters. Please have the cook send diner to my rooms. Also I need someone to run to the main house and see if there has been any word of my brother, Rupert.”
“Yes, my Lady.” Sarah said, carefully making her way back to the stairs and starting her inching progress down.
Gathering up her books and papers and neatening the desk, she waited till she was sure the maid had left the room below before tucking everything in a bag and heading down the stairs herself. The rooms she passed through had few ornamentation or decoration of any kind, she had little use for things that were not functional in some way.
Entering her bedroom she set her things on the small desk and entertained herself by enchanting dust motes to spiral around the lamp until her diner tray arrived. The life of a Victorian spell caster was not as glamorous as the books made it out to be. According to the papers she should be dancing in the rain naked trying to summon demons, vapidly ignoring the fact that the demons would then happily eat her. There was even a pamphlet against magic users since they wantonly fell to their demon lovers circulating at the moment.
Demon lovers? She wished it were true. No man had tried to catch her eye or even speak with her outside of small talk since she turned fifteen and started to wear her scrying belt in public to her father’s horror.
Two days and six failed spell later she gave in and arranged for a carriage to the city. She disliked London, the Royal Magicians counsel ensured that. She would be treated like a leaper by every magic user she passed. But Rupert lived and worked in London in his brick house and small garden full of strange plants that had a tendency to move. However she arrived to find only the housekeeper at home. Agnes had taken the children to visit her family in Scotland and Rupert had not been seen in days.
“What have you been up to, Rupert?” she said exasperated. The upstairs library and study looked like a hurricane had swept through, books and papers covered every surface. Typical Rupert on a researching binge. Taking a deep breath, she pulled her magic up and into her hands. Slamming her hands together in front of her face she cried, “Enough!”
The resulting wind grabbed every book and paper and slid them into alphabetical piles on one side of the room, all the loose papers swirled in a miniature tornado coming to rest in a single stack of paper on the desk. She had crafted this spell as a gift for Agnes after the harried woman had to hire their sixth cleaning maid in two months. Now they employed a maid who also had a small gift of magic, not enough to be a true magic user but enough to work small spells already set in place.
With a small smile she sat down the begin finding out just what her wayward brother was researching this time. Hours later she paused to stretch the kinks out of her back and survey the wreckage of the library again. Well, she could understand where they both got it from, their father was know to do the same while he worked on his maps. One thing was certain, whatever her brother was working on it was big. The books and notes ran the gambit, legends of magical rings used to control magical beings, demons summoned to do your bidding, cups that would grant eternal life, magical animals that would lead you to your hearts desire. It was a massive jumble, the only theme she could see was some kind of magical guide that did things for the summoner. Just what they did varied across all the stories as did the form of the being. Rupert’s notes were worse, random lists, names of places and people, diagrams of circles and runes.
Giving up she hunted down the driver and butler hoping maybe he had remembered the last few errands her brother had went on or visitors.
“I dropped him at the Collegium Library several days last week, my Lady. Beyond that he has been to Sir Walter’s for tea on Wednesday and to the new exhibit at the museum. He did have me run his down to a small shop off Randle street, now that I think of it. Full of junk and clutter it was, windows all dirty. Brim and something, I don’t remember the rest I am afraid.”
“Thank you, Charles. I am sorry for bothering you so late. I am just worried about Rupert, maybe it’s nothing. Have a good night.”
“You as well, Lady Rebecca.” Wrapping up the pages of Rupert’s notes she tucked them in her bag. Maybe she would see something later that her eyes were too tired to see now. Blowing out the candles she let herself out and asked the coachman to take her to an inn. She loved her brother but she did not trust his wards, she would let a small room and ward it herself.
Why did it have to be the Magicians Collegium Library?
Her black velvet dress and wool wrap shielded her from the icy rain and helped to hide her scrying belt from prying eyes. She had left her choker at home, it would do her no good here. Before she had even made the door someone had spat into her path. Meeting the mans eyes, she raised an eyebrow before continuing on her way, not bothering to avoid the spittle. She kept her face blank and her eyes forward as she passed but did not miss the color draining from the mans face as she deliberately walked through his shadow. It was an old wives tale that a women magician could steal a man’s shadow, but she would use what she had too to finish her errand and leave.