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It had been many, many years since Christopher was afraid of the dark. He’d embraced it long ago, learned to make the dark a part of him, use it to cloak himself and hide. The dark was his friend, it kept him safe. Safe and sound. Everything was going to be all right. It was quiet in the dark, peaceful.
He stepped out of the darkness now, into the gentle light of a porch lamp. It fell upon the reddish stubble on his face, crept up to illuminate the dark rings under his pale blue eyes and swept across his tousled hair. He was home. Safe again.
An old woman sat in a rocking chair on his porch, rocking back and forth, back and forth. She was knitting as she rocked, spinning loose pink yarn into clumped pink yarn, humming happily to herself. Her eyes were closed and her expression was one of peaceful contentment. She didn’t see Christopher.
Christopher coughed, “Grandmoth-Granny. It’s me, I’m home.”
Granny looked up with a broad, innocent smile stretched across her toothless mouth, “Oh, well isn’t that nice, dear? There are cookies in the cupboard for you. Then, off to bed with you, ducky. I think it’s past someone’s bed time.”
“Yes, grandmamma,” Christopher replied obediently, bowing his head in submission with a bashful smile as he ducked inside. He hadn’t had a bedtime in years. Warlocks didn’t have bedtimes, no one told Warlocks what to do.
“Granny” lacked the necessary cognitive ability to understand such social niceties, however. Which was only natural, as she didn’t realize exist. Well, she had once, but she’d died long ago. This new Granny was made of clay and magic, a companion to satisfy one of Christopher’s many whims. It amused him for the moment, to play a child. She amused him. And when she didn’t? Well, that was what recycling was for.
There were freshly baked cookies in the cupboard, as promised. The Mickey Mouse shaped jar smiled eerily at Christopher as he took it clumsily into his arms, reaching straight for the largest of the cookies. No one made better cookies than Christopher’s grandmother, alive or dead.
As Christopher chewed mechanically, listening to the crunching and chewing with an odd sort of detachment born of too much magic in too little time, his body began to relax, lose the familiar edge of tension. It started with a shaking in his hands, weakness and fatigue crawling up his legs, a faint blurring of his eyes. He’d been under enhancement spells for so long that Christopher had nearly forgotten what it felt like to be human. He wasn’t sure if he was horrified or relieved by the reminder.
It had been a long mission this time. Three weeks in Florida, chasing a pixie around the Everglades, and then a weeklong trek up the coast, outrunning the elves all the while. She’d been delivered though, as he’d promised, to the grand Poohbah himself, Winston Pembroke, bear King, beast lord, Alpha, whatever he was calling himself now and Christopher had received his payment, as promised. Should tide him over for a few weeks, if he supplemented it with some party gigs. He could hold himself over with tricks for another month even, give his body some time to recover. The enhancement spells had saved his life more times than he could recall, but they took a toll.