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The Book of Secrets

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Moira Jenkins strode purposefully down the hallway, her backpack hanging off one shoulder as she typed a message on her cell phone.

<<i'm not really sure what to do about it. for one i dont want to get blamed for stealing it or something, but i feel like it would be just as bad to ditch it. may as well use whats been given, you know? besides, i'm definitely curious. dont even try to tell me you arent too>> Moira hit /send as she rounded the corner, looking up in time to avoid running into an upperclassman headed for the stairs.

The boy, a blond with dark hazel-green eyes, was about four inches taller than her. Moira thought he looked familiar, but couldn't for the life of her remember where she knew him from, let alone his name. He was a junior, she thought. Connor something? Maybe she'd had a class with him at some point in the last two years.

"Oh. Uh…Sorry about that," Connor mumbled, sounding distracted, as they sidestepped each other awkwardly. He gave her a strange look before breaking eye contact.

"No... My bad. Wasn't watching where I was going," she replied, brandishing her mobile as the culprit. Moira smiled, confused and slightly embarrassed, before she hurried off.

She was always doing that—letting her mind wander, forgetting to accomplish tasks, not paying attention to the world around her. She was like a little kid in a candy store sometimes. Every time she saw something bright and shiny, she forgot about what she was doing. Her calculus notebook was a testament to that. It almost contained more doodles and scraps of amateur poetry than notes. She'd barely even paid attention during the last hour; the book in her backpack was infinitely more interesting than integrals. Sure, she loved math, but she grew bored with its predictability. The ordinary and regular had always left her with a sense that some secret surprise to life she kept missing.

Moira shook her head and tucked her phone into her coat pocket as she pulled on gloves and a pompom-adorned snow hat, wishing again that she hadn't forgotten her scarf that morning.

Her pocket buzzed cheerily as the twenty-year-old reached her car. She wrenched the door free of its ice coating and slid into the driver's seat, throwing her backpack and purse across to the seat next to her. Taking off one glove with her teeth, Moira retrieved her cell phone from her coat with her now-bare hand.

<<okay fine. im interested…  you technically didnt *steal* it, i guess, so they cant do much about it. i really dont think you should  keep it tho- you dont know what it is or whose for that matter… i mean really? "the book of secrets"?? :/ if youre really still intending to read it or whatever, you should wait for me to finish up work study. your place, half hour?>>

Moira rolled her eyes at the message. It was just like Anne to be paranoid about some stupid old book. She replied an affirmative and started her car, urging the heat to warm up faster on her numb toes. She pulled out of the parking lot and headed for her apartment. Had she felt compelled to look behind her, she might have noticed the troubled face of a tall blond boy looking out over the parking lot from the second floor of the library building.

//
[several minutes before]

Connor resisted the urge—barely—to punch a classroom door as he walked past. He was so far beyond dead if his master found out he had let his Book be stolen. Well, not so much stolen, per se, as unknowingly transferred from his possession; he knew his master wouldn't see it that way, though. At least he knew where it was now.

He had tried to think where he might have misplaced the Book without realizing it, but had come up short. The only plausible place was in the library that morning when he had emptied out literally his entire school bag looking for his wallet. (The wallet had turned out, aggravatingly clichéd, to have been in his coat pocket the entire time.) He must not have put the Book back. How he could forget his most valuable possession, he could only attribute to sudden madness. As it was, Connor had been on his way back to the library hoping that he would still be able to run a trace on both the Book and the one who most likely had it when he ran into Moira.

He had felt the Book's familiar tingle resonating from Moira Jenkins' backpack when he ran into her. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to place the familiarity until just a moment ago and had lost the opportunity to confront her about it right then. Connor was not one to act on mere hunches, though—hence the detective work. He had lost the first opportunity, but he was most definitely not going to burst into her residence bringing down Hellfire on a hunch. Better to do that on sound facts.

Sighing loudly, he pushed open the door to the library and cast a sideways glance to see how many observers were present. The library's only occupants were the old woman who ran circulation, a couple making out in one of the study rooms, and a group of very stressed-looking engineering students. None of them showed any sign of acknowledgment as he entered. That would make this easier. The blond closed his eyes, exhaling in a deliberately counted fashion as his palms grew briefly warm. He looked around again at each of the others in the library, pleased when a dull, muffled static returned to his ears and his gaze slid off them. They would all experience the same should they happen to grow curious and wonder what he was doing, which left him to work in peace.

Connor shed his bag onto a chair at the table he'd been using that morning and pulled a gold chain from beneath his t-shirt. The jade rose pendant on the chain glowed softly as he held it. It warmed in his hand as he had grown accustomed to. The distraction charm was fairly simple to pull off, but the bigger magic he was about to play with would require significantly more focus. Connor dragged his finger in a circle on the tabletop, leaving a sparkling navy trail—the color of his personal magic. Closing the circle, Connor poured a small portion of water from the bottle in his bag and watched the liquid spring out to the sides of the circle to a glassy tension. He smiled. This scrying spell had been one of the first he'd mastered on his own.

Holding a hand over the mirror surface, he closed his eyes and muttered a string of words in a language long lost to time with his intentions for the spell clear in his mind. The mirror flashed and shifted to show the library from above. It was around midday, Connor guessed from the lack of sun-cast shadows in the room. He had a class around then, so this was shortly after he had left the library. Connor cast his gaze around the reflection… There. The book was lying on a chair next to the same table at which he now stood.

Cursing himself again, Connor continued to watch the scene play out on the tabletop. In walked Moira Jenkins, her ponytail swinging with her stride. She walked over to the table and threw down her bag, pushing the Book off the chair in the process. Moira bent down to look for the source of the solid thump.

She picked up the Book and turned it over in her hand. He saw her raise an eyebrow at the gold title emblazoned on the front cover. Moira paged through a portion of the Book, her expression growing incredulous. Connor could tell the she wasn't entirely sure whether or not she believed anything she was reading, but obviously she wasn't planning on completely disregarding it. She flipped open the front cover and her eyebrow shot back up—that would be the identification he had written in it. And then, casting a look around the library, she unzipped her backpack and shoved the Book inside.

When she moved to pull out a textbook and sat down, Connor tweaked his fingers in a circle and sped forward past about an hour of studying and text messages. Eventually, she looked at her watch, grumbled something about classes, and began to put her things away. Connor sighed and broke the circle of the mirror, causing the spell to dissipate.

Well. Unless she'd done something with it between this afternoon and when he'd bumped into her just a bit ago—which didn't seem likely based on her actions—she was still in possession of his Book. Connor walked over to the window, watching cars pull in and out of the library parking lot. Now he had to figure out where she lived and go get it back before anyone realized he'd lost it or something bad happened. He had to admit to himself that the former was more likely, but sure to be closely followed by the latter. Hopefully luck would be with him. Connor shoved his pendant back beneath the collar of his shirt and made a face. This was going to be just great…

//

Moira parked her car in the small lot behind her apartment complex, slogging through a three foot drift to the door. She pulled out her key, let herself into the building, and climbed up to the third floor. Hers was the third room on the left, her door decorated with paper snowflakes for winter.

The apartment was small, but it suited Moira's needs. It was a two room affair, a bedroom and a sitting room that doubled as a kitchen with a small stove and a mini-fridge. Like in a dormitory, the bathroom was shared by the seven residents of the third floor of the apartment building.

She dumped her backpack in the doorway of her bedroom and returned to hang her coat and hat off the hook on the door. And here was her scarf—in a wooly puddle beside the door right where she had forgotten it that morning. Moira rolled her eyes at herself and grabbed her tea kettle. She would make some tea while she waited for Anne.

After she returned from the bathroom down the hall and put the kettle on the stove to heat, Moira wandered into her bedroom, not bothering with the light. She grabbed her university sweatshirt, somewhat worn out, but warm, from the corner, and the Book of Secrets out of her backpack. Back in the sitting room on her futon, she looked at the book disbelievingly again. Part of her wanted to laugh at anyone who would take this thing seriously, but there was also a small part of her that had never stopped believing in magic and the impossible as she grew up.

The book was blatantly ancient, but still in decent repair. Though the cover was slightly dirty, its corners worn and the binding cracked, it showed no signs of wanting to fall off. The pages were, as far as she could tell, intact and readable to someone. They were almost all handwritten and had diagrams and illustrations, though many of them were written in a language and characters she did not recognize. Other than those pages in the unknown languages, the book contained two other things: pages Moira could read (which again garnered a raised eyebrow by their odd subject matter) and completely blank pages. The latter took up about the back third of the book.

She turned back to the front cover and couldn't help snorting at it again.

"The Book of Secrets," she intoned solemnly, a smile teasing the corners of her mouth. She opened the cover to the title page. "Of life, death, and the truth behind wisdom. Property of Orian, Apprentice, Stone Rose Order."

Moira giggled at these words once again. Just then, she heard the dull buzz that told her someone was at the door. She stood quickly, and depressed the speaker button on the call box next to the door.

"Coming, Anne. Gimme a sec—I'll be right down!"

She pulled on a pair of flats, as the hallways were, without fail, wet with snow and she was running out of clean socks, and sped toward the stairs. As she reached the bottom of the last flight and opened the door, she was met with a surprise. Standing before he was not her short, ginger best friend, but a tall blond boy with green eyes. Moira tried figure out why Connor had appeared at her apartment, but merely ended up looking at him, perplexed. She was sure she'd not said two words to him in her life other than running into him earlier.

Finally she found her voice. "It's Connor, right? What are you doing here…?"

"Good evening, Moira. Obviously, I need to come up with some excuse for showing up here when neither of us knows the other particularly well, but unfortunately I can't really think of anything at this point…" He paused and extended his hand. "Until I get to that, how about this? Conner Meade. Nice to make your acquaintance."

"Uh... Sure. Moira Jenkins," she replied, her eyebrow twitching upward as she longed to give him the same look she'd just been giving the Book. They stood in the doorway for a moment. "Thought of anything yet?"

When he shook his head no, she continued, "Fine then. I s'pose you can come up if you want..? I mean, I'm expecting someone but you're obviously here for something."

She turned from the door, letting him follow her inside, as her pocket vibrated.

<<hey hon. something came up. not gonna be able to stop by tonight. sry.>>

Well. There went that excuse. Moira texted back that it was fine and shoved the phone back into her pocket. She led Connor upstairs, kicking off her shoes and going to close her bedroom door as he followed her into her apartment. She settled on the futon, shoving the Book under her knee. Connor gestured to the opposite end of the futon and sat down at Moira's nod.

"So. What was it that you wanted?" she asked again, getting straight to the point. She shifted in her seat, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear as she regarded Connor, eyebrow raised.

"Guess you'll have no beating around the bush, will you?" he replied, a good-natured smile on his face as he continued, "I can stop looking around for a tactful way to say this then. You have something of mine and I want it back, if you please."

Moira opened her mouth to rebuke him for his accusation, but stopped when he pointed at her knee. She pulled the Book into sight, trying to keep a guilty look from rising on her face.

"This is yours..?" she questioned. "I didn't steal it or anything, if that's what you're going at…"

"I'm aware. I left it behind by accident this morning and you picked it up this afternoon out of curiosity. But it is very important to me and I need it back."

Instead of handing back his Book like he was hoping, Moira instead turned it to look at it again. "So you're telling me that you're some kind of, what, wizard or something? Like Harry Potter?" She laughed in amusement of that prospect.

"A mage, actually. Mostly a technicality, I suppose, to someone who doesn't know the difference. Basically, I don't do the wand waving and spells. And no—I'm not kidding in the least."

At this point, Moira was having a time of it to keep from laughing.  She had thought the whole "Book of Secrets" thing seemed a little bit hokey, but she wasn't sure what to make of this guy sitting on her couch talking as if it were completely serious and factual. She decided to go with it.

"Okay then…" She thought for a moment. "Yup. Nothing to go on here, still, dude. Other than minor crazy vibes. So if you're some kind of all powerful magical entity, how come you didn't just…"—she wiggled her fingers in a mystical fashion when words failed her—"it back or something? Why the—no offense—creepy-stalker-ish appearance?"

"None taken. You looked through my Book, yes? Well that 'Apprentice' thing at the beginning means that I don't necessarily know how to do everything, and we'll just say summoning stuff isn't my strong point. I'm good at tracking spells, though, and I figured I should probably fix my screw up the, um, least hazardous way. Or something." He paused.

"Mostly I just don't want to get in trouble for losing it, letting someone outside the Order read it, blah blah et cetera… Also, I followed the Book, not you. Just to clear that up."

"Right. You do realize that I don't exactly believe any of this? And I was kidding about the stalker thing…"

"I'd kinda noticed the lack of belief. Do you want some sort of magical demonstration in order to relinquish my Book? Like, in addition to the fact that I knew you had it and all?"

Moira mulled the comment over briefly. "Yup. That'd probably do it."

"As you wish."

Connor looked around the room for something small to play with. He noticed the kettle steaming on the stovetop. He gestured for her to watch and then turned his attentions to the kettle again. He lifted a hand and the kettle sparked with navy blue fire. Tweaking his fingers upward, he lifted the kettle, drifted it over to the mug standing on the countertop nearby and poured the hot water over the tea bag inside. After returning the kettle to the stove top and flicking the heat dial to off, he guided the mug over on a trail of blue into Moira's bewildered hands.

"Okay…. I believe you now." She sipped the tea and looked down at the ancient tome on her knee. Moira was, to say the least, more than a little bit interested now. When she looked up at Connor again, her face was devoid of any lingering scraps of disbelief. Connor could see curiosity burning in her gaze. "Would you care to explain any of it to me?"

For some reason he couldn't place at the time, Connor felt that she deserved to know. He took the Book from her and looked it over himself. "Well, to start, I'm an apprentice mage, and a member of the Stone Rose Order. That's basically the Mage Order for this part of the country. This"—he pulled the jade rose pendant from beneath his collar and showed it to her—"is both my credential and my focus. It shows that I'm a member of Stone Rose. The jade is a magic amplifier and helps to channel my magic when I'm working big stuff, such as the scrying spell I used to figure out you had my Book. The little stuff just takes concentration.

"Orian's my mage name—most mages take a second name when they become novices; some also take a second when they're given Master credentials to show their specialty. Like my master for example. His mage name is Cairas Farseer, since he specializes in srying and future sight. (Between you and me, he's the only accurate weather forecaster in the area.)" This earned a small laugh from Moira.

He continued: "But there's not really any significance to that other than sounding cool. Who would listen to someone called 'Master Connor?' Example two: Merlin. Would Arthur really have listened to someone calling himself 'Master Gregor' or something? My point exactly.  'Lady Moira,' however, would not be a bad mage name." He smiled at her.

Moira smiled back, intrigued by the thought. "So how about that title bit? Secretly deep or just being mystically clever again?"

"A bit of both actually. The whole wisdom/truth part is just that there's usually unforeseen repercussions that come with using magic—you can't do something without giving up something else, the butterfly effect, chaos theory, that kind of stuff. The Book itself is a lot of that—things other mages have learned by mistake and gained knowledge from that they determined were valuable lessons for their progeny to learn. That's why the back half it empty. It's for me to put stuff that I learn or come up with, want to know about, or deem important to remember. Combo textbook and notebook, I guess."

"I see. That explains why not all of it is in English. You've learned how to read all the languages and scripts in here?" He nodded.

"One of the first things Master Cairas made me do was learn how to read the Book. He told me that was equally important to learning actual magic and 'fancy parlor tricks.' He's never been good with linguistics, so it took me a really long time to do on my own."

She smiled again. Then her eyebrows snapped down into a thoughtful expression. "How come you're training to be a mage anyway? Do you have to be, like, specially gifted to learn magic or is it something you can pick up like stage magic?"

"Actually, a surprising number of people are latently magical, but can go their whole lives not knowing it or using it. There are some mages out there that are magic sniffers and they find new novices to train for the Order. My master is mostly a seer, like I mentioned, so he found me himself. The lines from the beginning of magic have been interwoven and spread out for centuries, so having magic isn't really uncommon anymore, just unknown."

"So…" she pressed. Her questioning look had grown into a small fire behind her eyes. "Could I be a mage then? I mean, I've never done anything particularly earthshakingly abnormal, but I could have magic according to what you just said. Can… Can you teach me something? Or try, at any rate? Please?"

"Should have seen this coming," Connor replied with a smile. "I can try. I've never taught anybody before, but if you do have magic, you could probably pick up something simple fairly easily." He looked around the room again and noticed a candle sitting on the windowsill next to him. He grabbed it and presented it to her. "Like fire. Fire is pretty easy."

Moira set the candle down on the futon in front of her crossed legs. "How do I start?"

"Let's see. First you have to clear your mind. Magic is almost all mental, so being distracted will either make it fail…or go wildly out of control. But the latter's significantly less likely," he finished hurriedly at her alarmed look. "After that, you just concentrate on what you want to happen. You might want to try using a verbal focus."

"What, a spell? I thought we were past the Harry Potter thing?"

"Not a spell necessarily. Just something outside of your mind into which you can focus what you want to happen. Feel free copy off whatever you want. It's not the words themselves that count, but the intention behind them. Once you have a feel for your magic, you don't have to use a focus much for little magic. I can do little things just by thought and will; I haven't yet reached that point with bigger magic, though."

She nodded. Glaring at the little candle, she tried to clear her mind and convince herself she was magical and could cause spontaneous combustion with her brain. She pursed her lips, doing her best to envision the candle burning. "Okay. Don't laugh at me or anything…" She drew a breath and exhaled, closing her eyes.

"Um… Geez I feel stupid right now." She peeked at the candle, giving it a glare. The Harry Potter reference was the only focus she could pull to mind. "Screw it—incendio!"

Connor smiled; she did have magic. And she'd gotten it on her first try. He watched as a small fog the same color yellow as a golden delicious apple scooted from her finger over to the candle and wrapped itself around the wick. The little cloud contracted around the wick until it burst into flame, the pale yellow magic fading away.

"Moira. You should look now."

Opening her eyes warily, she expected to see the candle as it had been. She was pleasantly shocked to see the flame dancing around on the wick.

"I did it…" she said, bewildered. Suddenly, she felt that the pieces of her life were finally falling into their proper places. She'd never really had anything up to now that she felt truly inspired by and passionate about. Sure, she was at university, studying her years away, but for something that deep in her heart she knew wasn't what she wanted to do with her life. The sight of that little candle flame and the new realizations it brought with it settled themselves into that little dark space in the back of her mind.

"This is it, Connor… I've spent my whole life thinking I've been missing something. This must be why. You know, ever since I was little, there's always been some part of me that believed that magic and all that stuff was actually real. I think I knew subconsciously that my younger self was—is—right. I feel like I've finally found what it is that I've been missing the past twenty years."

"I know exactly what you mean," Connor replied, a wistful smile twitching up the corner of his mouth. "I remember feeling the exact same way when Master Cairas found me and made me do my first magic. Like everything in the universe finally made sense, and yet there was now so much more to learn and understand about everything I thought I knew.

"…Now. Since I was the mage that found you, you technically would become my student. That's all well and good, but only so far as I can teach you. So… Even though I'm sure he's already seen it coming by now, I think I ought to introduce you to Master Cairas. Since he's both my senior and my master, he will take over your training. At least until you figure out your magical calling, and then you'll probably have to find a master who deals in that type of magic. But that's for way later. I haven't even picked my specialty yet."

Moira continued to stare at the candle, which she had picked up off the futon and now held in her lap. She was still smiling. She, as hard as it still was to comprehend, was going to be a mage. What had started out as an accidental theft had ended up in Moira making the most important realization of her life to date.

"Sounds fantastic. Thank you, Connor." There was a fire in her gaze as she looked up at him again.

He grinned in return, and fisted his hand at the candle flame. It extinguished. Slowly, Connor Meade unclenched his fist, and the flame grew back to its original size.

"Well, Moira Jenkins. Welcome to the Order."
Short story written for the Walter Cunningham writing contest this year.

It's super lame haha. I wrote it in a very short space of time with not a whole lot of inspiration, so I wasn't particularly expecting much of it. But I finished, which is something I have a very hard time doing.

Let me know what you think. I'd love critiques and comments on it if you have any! <3
Published:
© 2011 - 2020 StrigineSensibility
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lorddelta's avatar
Bwahahaha XD

Nice attempt, one person found it entertaining I guess. :P

I enjoyed the references made, mostly.