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SirPiecemaker t1_je6v6bi wrote

She had seen mages before when she went to sell her embroidery in the city centre. They would put on grand displays of magical wonder. She had seen them appear in a puff of colourful smoke, pull crystals out of thin air and turn them into soft, gentle rain, and bestow good fortune and prosperity on the discerning audience while the masses watched from afar.

The issue is that those mages stayed in the nice parts of town, in the luxurious highrise apartments paid for by their wealthy clients. Displays such as those would cost more than her entire hab-block, took entire squadrons of servants weeks of meticulous preparations and were reserved only for the rich and powerful who could supply the mages with crystallized mana and freshly ground stardust. The less fortunate folks, well, they were on their own.

But there are some issues that can't be fixed with hard work and grit. There are issues that need magic. If a tulpa - a thought form made manifest - starts terrorizing a district, magic is the only answer. The fair and noble mages wouldn't dream of coming down to the dirty parts of town. The only option left was the man who just walked through her front door.

The best word to describe him would be 'dishevelled'. He had a 5 o'clock shadow, a long, crumpled up trenchcoat and threw away his cigarette just seconds before walking in. Proper mages were never seen smoking anything except the finest of cigars, not budget-brand coffin nails. Still, he barged in with the swagger she wasn't entirely sure he could afford.

"Where is she?" he asked quickly, not even bothering with proper etiquette. The woman, her eyes red from fatigue and tears, clutching a handkerchief, pointed towards a nearby room. The man quickly paced in, finding a girl, no more than 10 years, laying in bed, gripped by a terrible fever. He touched her forehead to measure her temperature and opened one of her eyes, inspecting it.

"Is... is she going to live?" the woman asked with a shaky voice. The man turned and gave her a sly grin.

"Dontcha worry love, I got you covered. Now, get us a toothbrush and some baking soda, would ya?"

The woman wasted no time and rushed to gather the required materials. When she came back, she found the man removed his trenchcoat and started rolling up his sleeves.

"Grand," he said and took the toothbrush, dipping it in the baking soda until it was completely covered in the white powder. He forced the girl's mouth opened and ran the toothbrush on her teeth. Despite the terrible taste, the girl was far too weak to protest. The man removed the toothbrush and laid it on the ground, surrounding it by the rest of the soda.

"Now," he said resolutely, "you got any beer? Moonshine? Any alcohol? Stronger the better."

The woman once again rushed to grab the necessary ingredient.

"This... this is a bottle of plum brandy one of our neighbours makes. It's cheap, but will it do?"

The man grabbed it and sniffed the contents, his nose hairs almost burning as he did. Whatever it was, it was strong.

"Aye, that'll do," he said and started downing the entire thing. The woman's heart sank - this man was nothing but a drunk with a flair for theatrics. He downed almost half of the entire bottle before he finally set it aside.

"Nnoow... blimey, whatss... in diss shite? Kno- knockd me... on my arse..." he said, his speech already slurred from the hard alcohol. He started uttering some words in a hushed tone, too quiet for the woman to hear, before pulling a lighter from his pocket and setting the toothbrush on fire. It flared with a blue flame far greater than anyone would expect. He kept holding it and uttering his words until almost all of it burned away, the putrid smell of singed plastic filling the words.

He suddenly yelled out several odd words the woman did not recognize. The toothbrush burst into one last blaze before it went out completely and the fire dissipated.

The man sat back down on the ground, breathing heavily. The woman watched on quietly until her attention was grabbed by her daughter coughing up the baking soda, now turned black, and opened her eyes.

"Mum?" she said slowly; the first time she spoke in over a week. The woman rushed to her bedside and inspected her eyes, her forehead, and her mouth. The fever was gone entirely, her eyes no longer bloodshot, the only thing that seemed to bother her was the gross taste of baking soda in her mouth. The woman hugged her tightly before turning back to the mage, still sat on the ground, clutching his head.

"Th- thank you!" she said. "Are- are you well?"

"Aye, dontcha worry love," he said with a pained expression before taking another, small swig of the brandy. Despite this, his speech was no longer slurred, his movements precise - unlike what he looked like when he downed half the bottle. "This kinda shite sobers you up proper, so if you're not actually drunk, well..."

"Then what?" the woman inquired.

"You'll get an aneurysm," he chuckled.

"Is... the monster gone?" she continued in a shaky voice.

"Naw," he said and stood up, grabbing his trenchcoat. "Just broke the bastard's grip on the lass," he said and gave the girl a quick pat on the head. "The bloody thing is still around, lurking, pissed that I just took away its meal," he said and put a cigarette in his mouth. Noticing the woman's concerned expression, his eyes went to the girl again and he slowly took the cigarette out of his mouth and put it behind his ear.

"Need to talk to the block's elder to get the bugger sorted out. Can you take me to him?"

"Of course, but... can it wait for just a few moments? I- I need to tend to Isabella, make sure she is well."

The man offered a smile. "Sure thing love. I'll be outside. Dying for a smoke anyway."

And with those words, the dishevelled, scruffy mage left, leaving behind only a faint smell of cigarettes and plum brandy.


Tychus_Balrog t1_je6w9ym wrote

This is so great. I'm really picturing a budget Constantine.


aRandomFox-II t1_je729jr wrote

That's not budget. That is John Constantine, accurate to a T.


bookseer t1_je9poa6 wrote

I was picturing a rougher Harry Dresden.


stealthcake20 t1_je9u4wf wrote

I loved this! My only pause was when he put the cigarette behind his ear. In my mind it was still burning and his hair was getting singed. But I still love it all, especially having it set in a modern environment.