Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Amulet

by Kate Sherrod

The death of a famulus is one of the most dangerous times in a sorceror's life.

Gastor Windryyke stood at a distance and watched as his breathed her last. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, breathing deeply inward but not exhaling; this was not the respiration of an ordinary man but the marshalling of unseen forces by a centuries-old practitioner of the most powerful arts.

The small, trembling form – a raccoon this time for reasons Gastor had never fathomed – was still at last.

He was out of time – though he was prepared.

The assault began with a greater subtlety than he had planned for, however: with a smell. Gastor didn't notice it at first, not until it had completely filled the room, and even then what he noticed was its effects: a feeling of calm, of warm, sleepy well-being, and –  lust?

For the first time in over 300 years, Gastor Windryyke had an erection, comically parting the scorched  robes he'd not bothered to change since rushing to the tower with his famulus.

He began to fantasize, and from the direction of the bench upon which he had laid the dying raccoon advanced a beautiful woman in semi-dishabile to match his own; her eyes dwelt worshipfully on his cock as she approached, moaning and licking her lips.

Gastor found himself reaching for her despite himself... then chuckled.

“Nice try.”

The wench disappeared. The intoxicating scent remained, however. Had Gastor conjured up the woman himself, under its influence, or was the apparition part of this first salvo in the battle?

A woman's frenzied moan sounded in his ears.

“No!” he roared, and the moaning stopped. The scent, though, the scent still remained, and his body's response continued unabated. It was becoming difficult to think clearly. He needed to open the shutters, air out his chamber, dissipate the potency of the supernatural pheromone that was turning his body against him.

Instead, his hands drifted downward. Why not? Just for old time's sake – very old times? Just let go and...

“No!” he roared again, this time flinging himself bodily across the room. The shutters opened at a touch and a breeze from without stirred. Gastor breathed in its freshness gratefully for a moment before turning back to engage his foe.

Where the raccoon had lay, something hovered at the edge of even Gastor's heightened perception.

He drew in another mighty breath of the clearing air, smiled in a placating manner, and began to speak.

“You don't really want this, you know,” he said, his words vibrating with all of the sorcerous persuasion with which he could imbue them. Any ordinary person in the room would have been powerless to disagree, powerless to want this.

“Free will is so exhausting,” he continued. “Didn't you find it exhausting? And the responsibility. So heavy. Almost too heavy to bear. And you've never been that strong. Not really.”

The energy on the workbench seemed to withdraw a bit, to diminish.

“You're happier as you are,” he purred. “So faithful, so helpful, so obedient. It gives you such pleasure to obey, doesn't it? Yes. That's it. So much happier this way. You'd forgotten how much you love it, I think.”

Almost, Gastor permitted himself to gloat prematurely over his success. Almost.

As if to prove his caution right, his foe suddenly awoke from the quiescence into which he had lulled it -- and engulfed him.

Gastor was surrounded by a dazzling swirl of flickering hues, pulsing in time with the intimate rhythms of his deepest thoughts, the colors those a sleeper sees behind his eyes as he drifts away. No matter where he turned his gaze, his sight was flooded with captivating, intriguing patterns of color. His arms, then his jaw fell slack.

And the childish cast of his delighted face was becoming more than figurative; the years were melting away from him visibly as he slumped into a chair, still fixated on the beauty around him.

“It... it wouldn't be so bad...” he managed to say.

And his human form began to blur.

Then a last reserve of strength surged in him and he reached up with one faintly glowing hand and did something that had never happened in the long ages of this battle: he touched the being that had been his famulus. Touched it, and began to caress it.

The beguiling light show continued – everywhere but where he touched. And where he touched, the energy took on a steady (if fading) glow.

Gastor raised his other hand and with it mimicked the caresses of the first.

“There are no rules in this contest,” he said soothingly, but there was mockery in his voice, too. “No rules at all.”

He continued to stroke, to sculpt. The bewildering chaos was gone, reduced – seduced – by Gastor's gentle, patient touch into the form of a softly glowing orb in his hands.

“We both do better when I am the sorceror,” he assured it. It was now small enough to fit in one hand as he continued to caress it.

“You came very close this time,” he told it. “You almost had me.”

The now palm-sized lozenge in his hand stirred, a hint of its hypnotic display pulsing across its surface.

“Ah ah,” he chided. “I made up my mind at the beginning of this cycle that never again would I be famulus.

“And I prepared every day for this battle.”

A last spark of energy in the now gemlike form followed the movements of his finger as he traced a slow, languid spiral from its edges to its center. When he stopped, the faint glow did, too.

Gastor arose with a cackle of triumph and took up the chain and empty pendant setting the raccoon had dutifully stolen for him on its final mission. The opalescent stone was a perfect fit.