Sunday, September 6, 2015

Practical Magic: The Joining (Practical Magic #4)

Representatives from Gifted communities all over the country were gathered for an unprecedented meeting. Reports were given about dangerous situations. The Others were starting to sense that maybe they were not alone in their world. And that what they were sharing their world with was dangerous. Deaths had occurred in their community that they could not explain. The same was happening with The Gifted but they knew it was pockets of wild magic.

All magic comes from the Earth. From her core. The Gifted were in touch with it, used it, were used by it. But for the most part the magic of the Earth remained dormant unless called. It could be called softly like a plant calls to the Earth to grow. Or it could be called more directly as when a Spell-Caster drew the power of the Earth up and through themselves to perform a spell. Or when a Healer borrowed the health from a plant to close a wound or knit a bone. But every once in awhile a pocket of wild magic was formed. This usually happened when a spell was cast in an area without sealing the circle. Children who were first coming in to their gifts sometimes caused them, not understanding how to use their newly found powers. But those were usually small pockets. Easily closed by giving thanks for the gift and sending the magic back to the Earth’s core to nourish her and let her grow. The final step in any spell, gratitude and replenishment. The Gifted called it closing the circle.

Sometimes a large pocket was found. Sites of old magic. Spells that had gone wrong. Powers that were called that were greater than the one calling them. Those could turn dangerous. Not malevolent, but like a calm ocean could become dangerous if the tide changed. Like the wind could shift from a gentle cooling breeze to a deadly tornado. There was nothing personal, but it did not stop these pockets from being dangerous. They could trap a person within them sometimes breaking their minds with the images they saw. Sometimes the life would be drained from them and added to the pocket of magic. The storm strengthening and feeding itself.

When these pockets were found, and it had been rare to find a large one in today’s day and age, a group of The Gifted would join and close the circle. Meditating, giving thanks, soothing the magic and returning it back to the Earth to wait. But if it was one of The Others who found a pocket it was a different situation. Sometimes it was a small pocket and the worst that happened were stories of haunted woods and people avoided the area. But sometimes they were larger and you had stories like the Bermuda Triangle where sailors and ships disappeared without a trace.

The problem they were facing right now and the reason for the meeting was that more and more of these pockets were appearing. Small ones at first, then larger ones. The magic wasn’t old. It hadn’t been growing on its own for decades or even centuries, these were newly formed. The Others were dying and they were looking for answers. The Gifted faced a choice. Come forward and offer assistance or remain in the shadows and try to close these pockets and find the reason for them in secret. The risks of coming forward were well known. Through out history when The Others had come in contact with The Gifted it had not gone well. Fear of the unknown is always a strong motivator and in the wrong hands it can lead to persecution. The Gifted had faced times where they had been hunted by members of The Others. And had watched in disbelief as The Others had turned on their own kind; trying and killing those that they determined were witches, their favored name for The Gifted.

But the risks of not coming forward were great as well. They needed more freedom of movement to find these pockets, and more importantly to find the source. And the longer they were left opened the greater the danger not only to themselves but to The Others. There had been those in the community who had argued for years that they needed to come forward, to blend societies. That living separately was of no benefit to either group. That hiding who they were when they did have to interact with The Others was unnecessary. And some of The Gifted did live among The Others. People like Aric Keeper who had chosen to attend school with them, to study them from within. Also people who had felt out of sorts with The Gifted. Usually when their own gifts were not as strong they felt as though they could do more, live more fulfilling lives among The Others than among The Gifted.

After much debate, some polite and some otherwise, a vote was held and it was decided that it was time to approach The Others. They would need a plan on how best to accomplish this and those among The Gifted who had spent time living with The Others were called to help. The first thing The Gifted discovered is that their own name would be seen as insulting. By calling themselves The Gifted they would be seen as putting themselves above The Others. “But we are The Gifted. I received my gift at 12, why would I not acknowledge that?” was a common question. Aric and the other Gifted tried explaining that among The Others to be gifted was to be special. To have something that others did not, and that it made you special. The Others referred to talent, intelligence and even athletic ability as gifts. To be gifted meant you had more talent than the other people around you, so for an entire group of people to call themselves Gifted while referring to everyone else as Others it would be seen as an insult. An older Prophet among their numbers replied to this argument with, “I refused to be called a witch. They will have to learn that we are The Gifted only because we have received our gifts. It’s nothing more than an acknowledgment. I was a child, now I am one of The Gifted.” Aric smiled patiently, “And if you tell them that then they will assume you are calling them children because they have not received a gift.”

The best course of action would, of course, have been a slow process of revelation. To show that they already knew and were with The Gifted and that there was nothing to fear. But due to the increasing numbers of pockets of wild magic there was no time. It was decided that groups of The Gifted would join with members already living and established with The Others and approach the people in positions of leadership. The heads of local governments and the police department to start and try to establish a working arrangement where they could then start to seek out information on what might be causing these pockets. And to help establish protection for The Others as well.

The first few months were difficult. The first hurdle was trying to convince The Others that this was real. That there were those among them who could perform magic. Not as tricks for parties, or sleight of hand, but actual practical magic. And that these people had lived near them, in communities of their own for as long as they had been alive. That the community you had always thought of as normal, if maybe a little standoffish, was really a community completely separate from yours, with it’s own rules and ways and laws. And that they were only revealing themselves now because they felt there was a danger happening that they could help quell. That the mysterious disappearances weren’t the work of some sort of madman but of what they called wild magic.

And the problems weren’t just with those that didn’t really believe them. Among those that believed were some that felt it must be The Gifted’s fault. If the danger was caused by magic then if they locked away those that practiced it the problem would be fixed. And who was to say they weren’t doing it on purpose? That they had laid traps to catch them and get rid of them? Or needed human sacrifice to do what they did? It had happened in the past, it could be happening now!

Luckily cooler heads prevailed and the consensus was reached to work together to find the cause. It was a cautious process, neither side fully trusted the other. History had shown that this was a risky undertaking. But it was important to both of their people that it be done right. A task force was formed. One group of the The Guard and one group from the local police force. Reports were shared, information given. Who had seen what, where it had happened. Pockets were found and circles were closed. The more The Others saw of The Gifted in these situations the more they began to trust them. And the more The Gifted worked with The Others the more they trusted them as well. Warriors and Police Officers gave each other respect. The Warriors impressed with the men and women of The Others who chose to go in to dangerous situations without the protection of their gifts. The police forces of The Others had watched as The Warriors would move as one in a situation, showing no fear, no hesitation.

As they worked together to find and close pockets of wild magic they also started to work toward finding what was causing them. A Prophet, Healer and Spell-Caster working together in deep meditation around a recently discovered pocket were the first to find an answer. While Warriors guarded them from harm they communed deeply with the magic the Earth was releasing. Trying to find the source. Why had it been called? Why had the circle not been closed? And during one of these sessions the remnant of a spell was found. The magic had been called recently enough that it still tasted of the spell used to call it. This was the best explanation The Gifted could give to The Others. Spells had a feel to them, and a recently cast spell left a remnant. This was what the Spell-Caster could feel. Drawing strength from the Healer to his left and opening himself to the empathy of the Prophet on his right he had reached out to touch the spell that was lingering. And then recoiled quickly as his mind felt the darkness around what the spell was. After thanking the Earth for her wisdom and help the three closed the circle and made plans to meet with the blended councils of Others and Gifted.

There was no time to waste, the spell had been a dark one. One created to find and steal power. Now was the time to bring in all of The Guard. To bring both communities together as one. No more small task forces and easing in to the situation. The Joining would happen now. 

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