He saw himself through the eyes of a six-year old as images shifted like a television set to an unclear station. Again, Nicholas Delaney was a well-groomed six years old in a strange room facing a familiar yet unfamiliar girl of 12. Her name was like a word deleted from his mental encyclopedia, he was only aware that he should know her and that she was important.
The girl’s face was pale white framed in charcoal colored hair, which lay straight down like licorice. She wore a black blazer over a white shirt and black skirt. An “A” was on the blazer. As their eyes met Nicholas’ eyes shattered like glass. Her face drooped in sadness and the room slowly began fading into a bland light.
Near the girl seated on an old Oak-made chair was an emerald-eyed plush bear. It was big, nearly as big as Nicholas, and its fur was a tan color. The girl rested her hand on the bear’s paw, murmuring words the boy did not understand and it slowly ascended into the air and floated to Nicholas.
Nicholas felt no amazement; it was like he’d seen her do this a hundred times before. He only felt a twinge of envy, wishing he were blessed like, like her.
“I won’t forget you,” she whispered in a solemn promise and his heart palpitated. “I will see you again.” The bear floated into his arms as she faded with her words into the bland light, which soon became darkness. Nicholas’ insides ached with a grave sadness as though someone important was snatched from his life and his memory of her vacuumed away.
Nicholas’ child-self began to fade as the bear hugged him. His eyes popped open and consciousness slowly overtook his sleepy brain. For a moment he just lay there, his eyes rolled toward the bear that sat on a chair in the corner of his room. Its eyes had a glow that slowly faded into artificial brown eyes.
Music played from the alarm-clock radio on the nearby table. He reached over and slapped the off button. Then, turned on the lamp by it. He sat up in bed and looked around the box-like room and thought of his ever nearing 21st birthday, just a few more days. He wondered if it was time to get his own apartment.
His room contained few things, a dresser near the closet. On the closet door a poster of his favorite rock/pop star, “Karina” a leggy blonde with flashing lights behind her.
A wiry young man, Nicholas liked athletics, participating more than watching. His favorite sport was volleyball, and he frequented the local gym.
Nicholas’ bed was by the window; he could just sit up and look outside when he felt like it. A thing he enjoyed. The walls were light blue in color. He looked outside at the neatly trimmed yard and old doghouse –the pug-faced little mutt, had died seven months ago – old age.
After closing the venetian blinds, he got up to get dressed. He considered what to wear and finally decided on Navy blue slacks, an auburn colored buttoned shirt, black socks and tan sneakers. He looked to the nearby bear; Nicholas remembered his father bought it for him as a sixth birthday present.
The tingling smell of apple-cinnamon oatmeal wafted up from the kitchen. Nicholas stroked the bear’s head, “Good morning Buster.” He stepped from his room, across the hall was his younger brother’s room; down the hall was a bathroom, the other end a staircase that wound down to the livingroom. Corby was already downstairs, his door hung open and room empty.
“Let’s move,” his stomach seemed to growl and Nicholas headed downstairs. His dad and brother – Corby were at the circular table. His stepmom, Phyllis, hovered around the stove.
His father, George, was an age worn person in his 40’s. His round blue eyes looked out through bifocals. His crew-cut hair was grayed, worry lines creased his face. Little brother Corby was the son of George and Phyllis He was an energetic kid with reddish-blonde hair and blue eyes.
On the radio was a news show, The Winn Dixie Show this morning’s guest was a sorcerer named Rathon Bixley. “Welcome Mr. Bixley,” the host greeted “Of the house of Mercury, of the Demi-gods.”
“Good morning Mr. Dixie,” Bixley said.
“We don’t, as some claim, want humans to worship us against,” Rathon Bixley said in smooth sales pitch voice. “We simply want to keep to keep the blood of the Demi-god families pure.”
Corby wolfed down a spoon load of oatmeal. “They’re descended from those who were once considered Gods.”
“Gods,” George’s voice was snappy. “There are no Gods, only people who think they are better than others.” He shook his head. “They still want worship, that they don’t deserve.”
“With the power they have, maybe they are Gods,” Corby said.
“They live and they die like all humans,” George said.
“Morning Nicholas,” Phyllis said in a “merrie-melody” sounding tone. She dished out some Oatmeal and handed it to Nicholas as he sat down.
“Thanks mom,” He said, settled into the chair.
“A is for apple, J is for jacks,” Phyllis sang as she fixed up her own breakfast and sat down.
On the radio, Winn Dixie asked, “I’ve heard there is a group called the Purifier’s Guild, whose purpose is to eliminate those considered,” Dixie hesitated. “Impure.”
“No, no,” Bixley replied. “We are not out to kill anyone. We simply wish to separate our society from others, truthfully I feel it would benefit all.”
Nicholas saw his father looked at him with misty eyes. As though some unvoiced concern lurked within. “Something wrong father?”
“Most of the trouble comes from the old families of the Greek lines,” Corby said. “Names for the families of the children of Zeus: Hades, Mercury, and Athena.”
“I bet it would be great to have the power of sorcerers,” Corby said wistfully.
“Be happy with what you are dear,” Phyllis said. “It’s not wise to envy what others have.”
“I know mom,” Corby replied. “It’s just pleasant to imagine.”
“You’re best to stay away from those people,” George said, his eyes shifting to Corby. “Their lives are full of conspiracies, lies, duplicity, and egomania.”
“Did you have a restful night Nicholas?” Phyllis asked.
“Yeah,” Nicholas said. He thought of the dream, “Just the dream of me in the room with that little girl.”
Corby smiled and giggled, amused at one of his weird thoughts. Nicholas just shook his head at him – get those weird thoughts out of your head perv.
George turned down to his oatmeal. “Just a dream, they mean nothing.” His head shook slowly. “Sometimes sorcerers can use your dreams to manipulate you.”
“So can witches,” Corby added.
“What’s the difference?” Nicholas asked, wasn’t a subject he had ever paid much attention to.
“Sorcerers can manipulate energy, kind of bend it to their will, to a certain extent.” Corby was proud of his knowledge of the world of the supernal. “Some have more power in certain areas than others, like lightning, water, earth and such.”
“And witches?” Nicholas asked.
“Potions, spell casting,” Corby said. “They make things, experiment, some have become werewolves or vampires.” He shook his head. “Fascinating stuff.”
“You need a new hobby,” George told his youngest son. “They are dangerous people to be around.”
“So, on your way to work?” Phyllis asked. “How are things going?”
“Fine,” Nicholas answered. He worked at a place called Troll Bites; a female troll named Katrina Skinshredder ran it. “It’s fun, I like meeting people.”
George shook his head. “I wish you would find a better job than that Troll place. They can be vicious creatures.”
“Katrina’s a decent Troll,” Nicholas said.
“A bright man like you should be doing something else for a living anyway,” George said. “You’re too good for that kind of work.”
His nerves pricked, Nicholas resented his father’s sour tone. “I like it, the tips are good.”
George rolled his eyes. He worked as a certified public accountant in downtown Alexandre.
Corby finished off his oatmeal and drank some juice. He spoke in a casual tone, “Once Trolls were slaves to the sorcerers.”
“Great, another history lesson,” Nicholas said and blew a sigh.
Corby held up his news. “They became free with the great revolt some three thousand years ago. They also have powers.”
Sometimes Nicholas found Corby’s knowledge impressive. Most times -annoying. Corby’s interest started with a grade school magic show performed by witches.
“Trolls are carnivores like humans,” Corby said.
“Katrina’s a vegetarian.” Nicholas said, his brother’s eyebrows flinched in surprise.
Nicholas finished his breakfast and placed his dishes in the dish machine. “That was delicious mom.” He gave Phyllis a kiss on the cheek.
“Thanks Nicholas, have a good day.” Phyllis said.
“Have a good day son,” George called as Nicholas headed to the door. He turned, smiled and waved.
“I’m off,” Nicholas called as he pushed the door open.
“I’ve always though so,” Corby rejoined. He gave a bright smile.
Nicholas returned a bored look, “Cliché.”
As Nicholas stepped onto the porch, the heat hit him like a hammer. It was mid-June and the humidity was wicked. His car was parked in the cement driveway, behind dad’s LeBaron. Nicholas started to his two-door red sports car, a used car – the first he’d ever bought soon after graduating high school.
When he got settled into the leather seat, Nicholas cranked the A.C. The radio came in a newscaster was saying, “Police are investigating the disappearance of Victoria Athenian, daughter of a prominent Indianapolis family.” As he turned the channel, the image of the young girl from his dream flashed in his mind.
The name Victoria Athenian seemed familiar somehow. Should he know here?
Indianapolis was the state capitol, about two and a half hours North of Alexandre. He pulled from the drive and headed through the city. The Alexandre square was centered by a courthouse, and surrounded by assorted businesses.
Troll Bites was located on a county road just outside the city. The small building was fronted by a rectangular parking lot, just off the road. The image of a troll was drawn on the diner’s window with the words, “Troll Bites,” stenciled around it. Near it were the words, “USE OF MAGIC FORBIDDEN.” And there were enchantments about the place to enforce that.