Another crystal lit up red, as their counterparts would be doing on a dozen other desks. I watched it for a moment, hoping someone else would reach for it first, but after a moment it was stubbornly red. I reached out and picked up the crystal. It turned yellow for me – if someone else grabbed it now, it would still show red. This was my call, now. After a moment it turned green, and a voice rang out in my mind.
“Hello? Is this thing working? I’m trying to get a ‘cure disease’ spell to work, but it just gave me a headache.”
I sighed and covered my face. Another careless teenage mage, trying to resolve their teenage stupidity without their parents finding out. With a practiced mental voice, I cast my thoughts back to them. “I am here. You’re speaking to a master of Elementalism, and adept of Naming. My representative number is 3231357. Your telecasting may be duplicated for quality assurance purposes. And, you should know, if you happen to be underage and your legal guardian inquires, we will be required to provide them the duplicates.”
“Wait, what? No, I . . . I’m absolutely not a kid.” Definitely a kid. “I am a full-grown woman, and I need help with this spell.”
“Okay. Start at the beginning. What happened when you tried to cast it?”
“Well, I etched the crystals, and I sealed them, and I said the words.”
“Okay. Think through the words you used–“
“AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, do not speak them aloud as you cast them to me.”
“Oh. Oh! Of course! I’m not stupid.” She had been speaking the words, then. “Niphelthus assar phentrisquus.”
“Assuming you pronounced it just that way, and you don’t have a lisp or whistle through your teeth or something, that should be fine. Show me the crystals you used. You’re going to have to concentrate to send an ima–“
Suddenly her vision bloomed in my mind. Not just a picture, but her field of vision in real time. That required pretty advanced focus. I actually worried a little – this kid was skilled enough and stupid enough, to be quite dangerous if she wasn’t careful.
“Um . . . okay. I need you to break the seal on each crystal, and show me the etchings inside.” I watched her as she began picking up each one. For a one time spell like this, they were only sealed with candle wax, and she was able to separate each crystal in halves with a little pressure. Within each one, there was a cavity carved out in intensely precise geometric shapes.
Her focus wasn’t the only dangerous thing. This kind of precision was powerful, and she’d made a mistake. “That crystal. You sealed the top to the bottom upside-down.”
“What? No, I didn’t. “
“Please check. If you reversed that part of the spell, you might have been taking disease from others, into yourself. You have to check for me.”
“I can’t have . . . shit. Oh god. What do I do? I was in the school, I might have everybody’s . . . ick!”
“Normally, you might have taken sickness from one or two while casting that. But your focus is excellent, and your etchings are precise. That will have been powerful enough to have taken from hundreds of people. You are skilled enough to be dangerous, which is why you have to be careful, okay? Now check the other crystals.”
“But I found the problem!”
“You found a problem. Let’s make sure there’s nothing else.” She checked each other crystal, then sealed them under my watchful eye. She bundled them together and held the little bundle up to inspect it. As she did, a mirror passed into her vision.
“Miranda, you know where I work. Good job altering your voice, though.”
“What – Dad!?“
“You’ve got a lot of problems right now from that charm, Miranda. I need you to focus and say the words now. When I come home, I’ll check a few more things and make sure you’re healthy. But your mother IS going to know about this.”
“It . . . was a cold. I just wanted to feel better.”
“Miranda. If you want me to craft a ban on magic over you for the next six months, then go ahead and lie to me.”
There was a long silence. “It . . . wasn’t a cold.”
“And you had a charm to prevent pregnancy, I hope? When I get home, I’ll inspect that, too.”
“Now say the words aloud.”
I listened as she spoke, and took a deep breath of relief as the spell took hold on her.
“I have to go, Miranda. I can’t take personal calls, here. But when I get home there will be consequences. I don’t care about . . . what’s his name, Melvin? I don’t care that you were irresponsible. Well, not so much. You could have died today. This could have been how your life–“
“Gawwwd, dad, I KNOW! Geez, I’m not a child!”
“Yeah. I know. Love you, Mirakin. Even if you terrify me sometimes. Now wash up. Use the harsh soap. This was about disease, so don’t mess around.”
She grunted, irritated with me, but unwilling to leave my sentiment hanging, and further irritated that she couldn’t bring herself to be a complete pain in my ass. God, girls were complicated. “Yeah. I will. Love you too, dad. Later.”
The crystal went dark, and I set it down in its cradle, lowering my face into my hands. Returning to my physical surroundings, I became aware of a presence behind me, and turned around slowly. My boss was leaning at the entrance to my cubicle.
“How much of that did you hear?”
He watched me, expression impassive. “Enough to pick up ‘you could have died.’ Kids are rough, especially when they get to doing their own spells. I keep wishing William had half Miranda’s talent, until I hear things like that.”
I turned back to the desk, several of the crystals red, waiting for someone to pick them up. I reached for one, and I felt a hand on my shoulder. I looked back at my boss again, my eyes questioning.
“Like I said, kids are rough. Take twenty, settle yourself.”
I stared at my boss as if he had turned into a mobile creature made of cream cheese and pancakes. “Uh . . . yeah. Sure.”
He nodded and walked down the hall, and I looked out my cube entrance to watch him go. Well, I wouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. My little girl wasn’t ridden with a thousand diseases, and I had a break to take.
But when I got home, she was going to be so grounded she’d have children of her own before I let her practice spellcraft again.