Sweet Silver Rain

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Sweet Silver Rain: A Bayes Cabral Short. Part1/1

The storm had socked in for the better part of a week and was even now bringing on an early dark.

Rain didn't bother Bayes. He was one of those people who liked the sound of it. In his mind, there was nothing better to fall asleep to than a steady rain on the window. Bayes didn't know if it was something to do with the rain itself, or if it was just about the noise it made. A rhythm to set your heart to while you let your mind slip away to nothing after a long day. Something so the night wasn't so quiet, so unbroken.

Or of course it could be the anticipation of the ending to it, the crescendo. The sun will come out tomorrow and a mist will rise and the whole world will take on that hush that only comes after a good, soaking, rain. The light will gleam off of a puddle, off a sodden spiderweb, off the laden needles of a gnarled pine and the air will smell of soft, green earth and pitch. Bird songs will fill the forest, set to the soft percussion of their wings as they go about their early morning work. It would be cool, damp, but with a promise of warmth to come from the sun's amber rays.

Rain is certainly a poet's plaything and it's no hard task to imagine such a setting, to sleep with the dream of the earth slaked and silent after a night of much needed rain.

Or it could be something else entirely, neither the rain itself nor the sound it made, but something as old and human as the thought that it's cold and terrible outside and I'm warm and safe in here. Nothing cements this idea like the pounding of the rain on stone and the arching, crashing energy of the storm outside. Let the storm drum out its fury and the thunder thrum across the heavens, for my walls will hold strong against the dark of night, the cunning of beast, man, or monster, and the violence of the sky itself. Do your worst, because I am safe in here.

Maybe it was just magic.

But even the magic of rain fades away when you've been standing in it with only the sun-bleached, wind-torn awning of a little corner store between you and it for the past three hours. Here on a rainy soon-to-be Saturday night in Chicago's center there was no gleaming pools of crystal rain, no natural smells or silent beauty, only oil-hued, foamy puddles and traffic fumes mixed with the incessant patter of rain on old canvas. Behind him the store proclaimed itself open in flashing blue and across the street, "Tobacco" flickered in neon red.

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Bayes lit another cigarette, his last. He didn't think he had long to wait now.

He was right.

She was slipping out the door of the apartment building now, a bass-y track thumping behind her from somewhere upstairs. Bayes didn't think it was hers, she didn't seem the type.

She was tall, and well coated against the rain, but with the hood left down so you could see her long, raven hair. She wore sensible, black leggings tucked into pointed boots. A pair of white, glass earrings spun by her neck as she walked. Her skirt didn't extend past her coat, but Bayes guessed that it would be red. She wasn't pretty—that wasn't the word for her.

But there was a weight about her, an air of hardship despite the image she struck. Her boots were creased and cracked about the heel, the sleeves of her navy blue jacket a hair too short, her long ring-less fingers too rough, worked too hard for too little pay, for too long. The same story told so many times, plain to the searching, for anyone who dared look and see the stress marring otherwise so perfect a beauty.

There was something else about her as well, something deeper, that only Bayes could sense. The thing that had drawn him here, to her. Bayes put out his cigarette and stepped off the curb, following her. It wasn't hard to catch up, she was walking slowly, going nowhere in particular.

Excuse me,” he said, and she turned and shot him with her green eyes.

I don't want to buy anything,” she said.

And I'm not selling. It's just I'm new here and it's Saturday night. You're clearly dressed for somewhere fun.”

“You have to know someone to get in.” She turned away from him.

“I know you,” Bayes answered.

No, you don't,” she growled, and began to walk.

Bayes let her take a few steps, then, “He's got his hooks in you, witch, I can sense them.” She stopped short and Bayes knew her face would be a mixture of shock and fear. “I can make him go away,” he called.

“No, you can't.”

“Yes I can. At least come hear me out. This may be a chance you never get again, and I'm not asking for anything in return other than a minute of your time. Come if you will, no sense in getting too wet.”

Without a word, the girl followed Bayes the little way back to his awning and together they stood under it so they could talk out of the rain.

“How do you know about him? Are you going to shoot him? People have tried.” She stammered the words.

“Surely you've held enough power to know that I'm not ordinary,” Bayes said.

“He'll just come back,” she said, not hearing him.

“If I deal with him, he won't come back.”

The passion he let into his voice stopped her, and she stared a moment, her mouth half open as if to speak. But she didn't.

“You think this is too good to be true, that no one can come along and make your problems go away. And you're right. I can't make it all go away, I can only stop the downward spiral.” She still didn't speak and he went on. “It started small, didn't it? He offered you some power, and you took it. Maybe your hearing got better, or hands got faster, maybe you could remember everything you read, something like that?” She nodded, but still didn't speak.

“And in return you did him a favor, nothing too big, nothing to worry about. You knocked someone's coffee out of their hand and ran away, you stole an old lady's purse, you did some tiny act of evil that was so small a price to pay that you couldn't pass it up. Even then you knew where it could lead, and you cut your losses then and there, vowed to do no more.”

“But then the power wore off, didn't it? And you'd gotten used to how quick you'd gotten, or how sharp you were and now that you were normal again everything seemed as if it was in slow motion, like a pipe dream. So you went back. After all, another small thing won't hurt, right? It's just such a cheap price to pay. But then it piles up and up and soon you're not doing it for the power anymore, you're just trying to get out from underneath it, the weight. The road's paved by good intentions, they say.”

“By the time you realize your mistake, it's too late,” she whispered.

“It's human to err, but these monsters don't give you a second chance. That's the thing with his kind, they don't let you learn from mistakes, don't give you time. But it's not too late. Sure, it reaches a point where it is, when you finally take a look at yourself and all the bad things you've done—little things, all little, but oh so many—and think, I must really be evil and I deserve all that comes to me. That's when he's got you, when the hooks, so gently placed, draw tight. When you abandon hope. But you're not there yet, I can tell. You're in debt to a demon, but you're not one yourself.”

“They used to burn people like me,” she said. “Sometimes I wish they still did.”

“There are better ways to deal with this, that's why we stopped.”

“You can really fix this?”

“I can't fill in the hole you dug yourself, but I can stop you from digging.”

“Did he send you? Is this a trick?”

“Does it matter? If this is a trick, you will just end up in the same place you would have if I had never shown up. You know that, you've gone over it in your mind a thousand times trying to fall asleep.”

“What do you want me to do?” she said, and Bayes had a hard time not letting his relief show. He hadn't been anywhere near as sure of her, of what she'd do as he had let on.

“Just show me how to get there. Just walk, nothing more. We don't have to speak, just put one foot in front of the other.”

And he saw in her, then, as she stood there, the red “Tobacco” painting her face as she fought a battle that was soon to be his. Bayes said nothing to her, if she was to master her fear, to master herself, she had to be the one to do it, the whole of it, otherwise it would be for nothing. He waited, listening to her breathe and the steady cadence of the rain. Finally, slowly, she lifted her arms and put up her hood, and then began to walk.

She led him along the street, through some lonely little alley, and then another, and another, the click of her heels on the pavement like a march to war. She stopped at an unassuming steel door with the word “EXIT”stuck on it, the E flaking off. It didn't look like much to be the home of a demon, a monster crawled up from the Low Place to make chaos in any way it could. The same weight that Bayes felt in the girl was raw here, a stench in the air.

Maybe she could see it in him, how much that weight affected him, or maybe she was just sharp, but she asked, “If you can sense him, my debt to him, why did you need me to lead you to him?”

“I didn't. But you will always remember that you did. One foot in front of the other. You're not free, you have a long road ahead of you. But the weight is lifted.”

“There are others,” she said, letting the words hang there.

“Then I suggest you find them, and help them.”

And then Bayes pushed open the door and let it close behind him.

The girl stood outside and watched, and nothing happened for a time, no sound other than far-off traffic. Then light forced itself out of the building from every crack, chink, and window. It wasn't red like fire, or golden like the sun, but white like the purest star in the night sky. Then a tremor came, as if a train was passing nearby, but not too close. It shook the ground, sent ripples through rain-drenched ground, and sent pigeons from their roosts. And then it was done. Bayes came through the door once again, nodded once to the girl, and then walked off into the rain.

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Part Four: The Wizard

Authors Note: Sorry this was so long! Don't forget to read part three! ;)

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Part Four: The Wizard.

Bayes sat alone in his room, meditating. Ysabella had set the apple to charge, he could feel it, slowly draining the power from around him. He lost himself in the tranquil motion of it, like leaves floating on top of a cracked birdbath. Now that he knew what he was looking for, it was easy to see, to sense.

Time passes slowly when you’re waiting, but for Bayes it almost did not pass at all. The flow of magic was endless, only Ysabella’s spells shutting down one-by-one left anything for him to measure against. But either way, he did not care. Meditating as he was, it was meaningless. All of it. The apple, Ysabella, himself.

He was secluded within his own mind, but that did not mean he was at peace. It was all meaningless, yet somehow it ate at him. He knew it was wrong. He knew he was wrong. In the abyss of his meditation he kept seeing his father, not as he remembered him, but as he was now. As he would have looked before he died. He looked old. Like he’d lead a long hard life but had gotten through it.

He could bring him back, be at his side. Make it easier. Change everything.

It was wrong, Bayes knew it, but what happened to him was just as wrong. He was ripped out of his world and thrown in another, given power he didn’t want. His very mind was stolen from him. Two wrong don’t make a right. But it would for him. It would make it right. He was prepared.

But there was one thing he needed to do first.

Bayes opened his eyes. The curtains were drawn across the window but it seemed like it was growing dark. He was sitting cross-legged on the bed, and as soon as he was aware of himself again the aching in his head came back. He ignored it and stood up.

He didn’t know where Ysabella was, he could not sense her, which likely meant she was in her mother’s study. She would come for him soon. He didn’t have much time. But he didn’t need much, only enough to be sure of something.

He walked downstairs and found the hag as a cat lounging on the couch, claws poking holes in the plastic covering.

“I need to speak to you,” he said. The cat looked at him, eyes as sharp as her claws. Other than an idle flick of her tail, she did not react.

“Now,” Bayes snapped. The cat looked away. “I need to talk about Ysabella,. Please, it is important.”

Their eyes met again. “I want to stop her,” he said, and instantly the hag transformed. One moment she was a cat, and the next, a woman. As if she was a song with a skip, the time in between was just missing.

“You will betray her? How could you?! Die!” the hag screeched, extending a finger toward Bayes. Bayes made a shield of magic before she could speak another word, but she did not strike him. Her hand trembled in the air, and then she coughed and collapsed back against the couch. Bayes knelt beside her and took her hand in his. She stared hate at him from under her eyelids, but was too weak to lift her head. So long being a thrall, a tool, she could do nothing for herself anymore. Not even think, and before the night was done any shred of the person left inside her would be destroyed.

“I need to know how to fizzle the spell,” Bayes said. “I need to know how to stop her without hurting her. I need to know how to save you.”

“Save me? I am honored to do Ysabella’s bidding! To carry out her will!”

“No! You are her thrall, but you do not have to be! The spell is not complete, I know there is some of you left!”

“Get away from me! I will tell you nothing!”

“Just tell me if you want to be saved.” Bayes caught by the shoulders and held her still. Their eyes met and hers seemed every bit as animal as they had when she’d been a cat.

“No,” she whispered, but she did not look away or struggle against his grip. “No,” she repeated, tears slowly making tracks down her haggard face. “No.”

Bayes released her and stepped away. The hag transformed as soon as his hands were off her and scurried around him and down the hall.

He hadn’t meant what he said. He didn’t want to stop Ysabella, but he had needed to speak with the old lady, the hag. He’d needed to know who he was willing to destroy. He was perfectly willing to erase the world that was to find the world he wanted, but somehow the old witch’s tears held more sadness. He never knew her before, Bayes had no way of knowing what she was like. If she deserved it.

“Bayes!” Ysabella said, startling him. He turned to look at her. She was standing in the doorway that lead to the kitchen. She wore a white robe that was too long for her, it bunched up on the ground. She looked nervous.

“It’s okay,” Bayes said, smiling at her. “I’d be nervous too if I were going to become a god.”

“The moon is in the sky. It’s time.”

“Lead the way.”

Bayes follower her to the portal and waited in silence as the water closed over them. He calmly swam with her beside him, and they stepped onto the balcony in the study. The hag was there, standing next to the bowl and the apple, leaning on her cane. There was a wide circle of lit candles around the old woman that gave off a slightly pungent smell as the burned. The whole room was eerily cast in shadows and silent. The things that had bubbled on the tables were missing, the only sound in the room was that of their feet on the uneven stones.

They reached the candles and Ysabella said, “Sit on the far side. Do not let any part of you breach the ring once we start. Even if something goes wrong.”

“I know what to do, Ysabella,” Bayes said, looking at the hag.

“Take you place.” she said, and sat down across from him. Bayes crossed his legs. The stone floor was cold, but he ignored it. He focused his gaze on Ysabella now, and she returned it. They watched each other over the light of the candles.

“Ysabella,” he said. “Don’t do this.” Looking at her, the words were heavy and he trailed off.

“You said it yourself, Bayes. It will be alright. Together, it will be easy.”

“I’m not having doubts, Ysabella. For the first time since I met you, things are clear. You have been inside my head, controlling me.”

“I have used no magic on you, Bayes. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I know it isn’t magic, it’s something else. You’re in my head, and maybe you always will be, but I’m done being blinded by it.”

“It was not for me that you agreed to help!”

“I know. It was for myself. But I’m done being blinded by that too.” Bayes reached forward and very carefully put out the nearest candle with two fingers.

“to feel isn’t to be blind. You are hurting, Bayes. We can fix it. You couldn’t deal with it before, how will you now? Knowing that you could have changed it. If you miss this chance you will never get another.”

“I’ll deal with it. My father did. After losing me, he kept going. He survived. I will too. Maybe I’ll take up smoking.” Bayes smiled at her.

“I’m going to change the world, Bayes. If you won’t help, then get out. I was prepared to do this by myself before, and I am now. I don’t need you.”

“You have no idea how badly I want to just walk away, but change isn’t always good,” Bayes said, standing. “I won’t let you do this.”

“You’re a coward, Bayes.”

“And you’re a witch,” Bayes said, and took a step towards the apple.

There wasn’t a flash or a bang. The power that Ysabella unleashed didn’t travel through the air, but along it. It was invisible, but to Bayes it shone like the sun. It was raw magic, it didn’t come from her. She pulled it from around them, the energy that had been traveling into the apple was now directed at Bayes. And it was heavy.

Bayes reacted without thinking, a lifetime of training suddenly challenged. He made a shield, not to block the energy, but catch it.And then he made another. And another and another and another. Each one a fractal of the same working, splitting and branching again and again. He knew he could not hold against the energy, so he simply made somewhere else for it to go.

Bayes held infinity in his mind and a world of magic with his hands. He was driven to his knees by the power of it, but even an ocean can be swallowed a drop at a time. Bayes stood and took a step toward the apple. Ysabella lashed out with her own power, but it did not stop him.Bayes took one more step and kicked over the bowl with the apple.

Ysabella wasn’t nearly strong enough to pull that much energy herself, it was years of magical infrastructure that allowed her to channel it, and Bayes just threw a wrench in the gears. The flow of magic stopped, and Bayes let his shield drop. Ordinarily, so much energy released so quickly would be explosive, but this was raw magic without direction, and now that Ysabella’s spell was broken the magic snapped back to whatever in-between that it existed in.

Bayes and Ysabella starred at one another. And the hag took the opportunity to lunge for the apple. Mindless in her thrall and the need to please Ysabella. Bayes sent a bolt of his own magic and the apple exploded before the hag could reach it. She collapsed, sobbing.

“It’s over,” Bayes said. He took a step toward where Ysabella was still sitting on the ground. There were tears on her face.

“No it isn’t,” she said, wiping at her face. “You have stopped me. For now. But I can try again. It will take me a very long time, but I have the time.” She smiled at Bayes and very slowly got to her feet. “You don’t. You don’t have any time at all.”

“Don’t do this, Ysabella. We don’t have to fight.”

“It won’t be a fight. There is a reason witches were burned, Bayes. People have forgotten.”

“Do I need to burn you, Ysabella?”

Ysabellaanswered with fire. Bayes felt her magic, and then the air inside the cavern coalesced into flame in one searing flash. But heat and cold are both sides of the same coin, two extremes. All Bayes had to is push with his power, and the flames did nothing but blind him, chilly as the air from which they came.

Seeing spots from the flash, Bayes tried to ready himself for the next attack, but none came. Instead he heard someone running up the stone stairs toward the portal. He ran after her. By the time he ascended the stairs, she was gone, but he could feel the thrum of power from the portal. He reached it, touched the wall, and went through.

The living room was dark. Even the dangling Christmas lights were dead.

“The apple is destroyed, Bayes. My spells are powered again,” Ysabella said, her voice coming from everywhere at once. “You’re standing in the source of my power. Everything Obeys me here.”

“Not me,” Bayes said, and then the he felt a rush of magic behind him. He half turned, and saw the couch flying at him as if fired from a gun. Fast and slow are one and the same and easy to shift with a thought. The couch dropped from the air, momentum lost.

Bayes felt magic again, only this time it was all around him. Everything in the room was floating, chairs, lamps, tables, everything. It all flew at Bayes at once, streaking through the air, all seeking to be the first to crush him. Bayes pushed some out of the way with magic, and stopped others all together like he had the couch, but every time he threw one aside, it only lifted and came again.

And it was not only the furniture from the living room, knives from the kitchen drove at him and pans and stools. The carpet tore itself off the ground and began trying to wrap itself around him like a snake. Bayes held all of it off, but only barely, and he was losing ground.

He made a chair drop, then sidestepped a pair of knives, but the carpet bunched and he tripped, hitting the wall. As soon as he was down the carpet shifted again, rolling over him like water. At the same time the drywall behind him burst and filled the room with a white cloud of dust, making him cough and the flying knives nearly impossible to see before it was too late.

Bayes unleashed magic at the carpet that was binding him, tearing it to shreds and freeing his ankles. It came again, but not before he could lunge out of the way of the plastic couch. It hit the wall, kicking up more dust. Coughing, Bayes sent another burst of power toward the wall before the couch could come at him again. He blew it through the wall and into the snow outside, where it dropped to the ground, lifeless.

Ysabella’s spell did not extend outside.

Bayes batted the knives out of the air again, and chairs and lights and stools and tore at the carpet before it could hold him again. It all came again, and occasionally nails from the walls would work themselves out and add to the chaos. But now Bayes threw things out of the house and into the night whenever he could spare his attention.

He blew a hole in the wall on the opposite side. Several knives went spiraling out of the hole and didn’t return. Bayes sent a wave that carried a cloud of nails and books out the window. He defended himself, and slowly it got easier.

More nails came from the walls and springs ripped themselves out of furniture and came at him, but Bayes knew how to deal with it. It was a waiting game, and he had the time. The air from outside was clearing the dust, he burned wood splinters to ash before they could touch him and one-by-one he threw the contents of the house outside where they dropped to the ground, free of magic.

He dealt with another cloud of nails, and then he felt a new rush of magic from the doorway. Ysabella was there, he could see her mouth moving as if she was speaking a spell. Bayes sent a burst of power at her, but she blocked it as easily as he had the nails. He attacked again, and found the edges of her shield. He hammered at it with blow after blow, and felt it begin to break, all while she frantically spoke her spell. More furniture flew at him and he cast them all aside.

He put a crack along the middle of her shield, and felt his magic seep in past hers. It wasn’t that Bayes was any stronger, they were equals, but he’d had a lifetime to practice. He could hold off the remaining missiles and still break through her shield.

He sent one more bolt and her shield overloaded, before she could try for another he picked her up with magic and threw her outside in the darkness. He followed her out, jumping down andpicking his way carefully through the minefield of nails and knives in the snow.

She was sprawled in the snow a few feet from him. Her lips still moved, she still chanted. She threw a fireball at him. He pushed at it with his own power and it missed him, exploding somewhere in the house.

“Stop fighting, Ysabella,” Bayes said, standing at her side. Bayes reached down to stop her chanting. She kicked at him and twisted away, desperate to finish her spell. Bayes grabbed her arm and held tight, clapping his other over her mouth. He was too late.

She spoke the last word and there was a tremendous outpouring of power. Bayes felt his whole body tingle. He turned to look at the house, and saw it fading. It was fading from sight, and his magic sense. In another second it was gone. The entire building was just missing.

“Where did you send it?” He shouted. Ysabella was standing, snow drifting around her.

“Far away.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not done. I have given my life to changing the world, Bayes. I won’t let you stop me.”

“I just did.”

“I’m still breathing.” And with her words she attacked, shooting three bolts at Bayes. He brought up a shield and blocked them, pitting his strength against hers. She struck again and Bayes knocked them aside, melting snow and sending up clods of frozen earth wherever they landed.

Bayes blocked another strike and then sent one of his own. Ysabella blocked it, bringing up a shield of her own.

The shield would protect her from energy, but not heat. Bayes sent a wave of fire that flowed around her and blocked her from view. He didn’t stop. He pumped more and more fire at Ysabella until they were like a beacon in the night, a spinning conflagration.

When Bayes finally stopped Ysabella was gone, burnt away, nothing left but dust on the wind.

Bayes stood there a long time, resting, and mourning. The snow fell around him as he sat in the snow. He waited until he could hear distant sirens, and then he moved to inspect the house to see if there were any sign of the old woman. Among the wreckage, he found nothing, but the front stairs were still there and on them he found a piece of paper with only the word “thank” written on it in scrawled letters. He picked up the paper and something was underneath it.

An apple stem, slightly burned at one end. Bayes tucked it in his coat pocket and looked around at the snow. The sirens were close now. Bayes didn’t know where he was going to go, but he figured he might as well try somewhere warm.

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Part Four: The Wizard

Authors Note: Sorry this was so long! ;)

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Part Four: The Wizard.

Bayes sat alone in his room, meditating. Ysabella had set the apple to charge, he could feel it, slowly draining the power from around him. He lost himself in the tranquil motion of it, like leaves floating on top of a cracked birdbath. Now that he knew what he was looking for, it was easy to see, to sense.

Time passes slowly when you’re waiting, but for Bayes it almost did not pass at all. The flow of magic was endless, only Ysabella’s spells shutting down one-by-one left anything for him to measure against. But either way, he did not care. Meditating as he was, it was meaningless. All of it. The apple, Ysabella, himself.

He was secluded within his own mind, but that did not mean he was at peace. It was all meaningless, yet somehow it ate at him. He knew it was wrong. He knew he was wrong. In the abyss of his meditation he kept seeing his father, not as he remembered him, but as he was now. As he would have looked before he died. He looked old. Like he’d lead a long hard life but had gotten through it.

He could bring him back, be at his side. Make it easier. Change everything.

It was wrong, Bayes knew it, but what happened to him was just as wrong. He was ripped out of his world and thrown in another, given power he didn’t want. His very mind was stolen from him. Two wrong don’t make a right. But it would for him. It would make it right. He was prepared.

But there was one thing he needed to do first.

Bayes opened his eyes. The curtains were drawn across the window but it seemed like it was growing dark. He was sitting cross-legged on the bed, and as soon as he was aware of himself again the aching in his head came back. He ignored it and stood up.

He didn’t know where Ysabella was, he could not sense her, which likely meant she was in her mother’s study. She would come for him soon. He didn’t have much time. But he didn’t need much, only enough to be sure of something.

He walked downstairs and found the hag as a cat lounging on the couch, claws poking holes in the plastic covering.

“I need to speak to you,” he said. The cat looked at him, eyes as sharp as her claws. Other than an idle flick of her tail, she did not react.

“Now,” Bayes snapped. The cat looked away. “I need to talk about Ysabella,. Please, it is important.”

Their eyes met again. “I want to stop her,” he said, and instantly the hag transformed. One moment she was a cat, and the next, a woman. As if she was a song with a skip, the time in between was just missing.

“You will betray her? How could you?! Die!” the hag screeched, extending a finger toward Bayes. Bayes made a shield of magic before she could speak another word, but she did not strike him. Her hand trembled in the air, and then she coughed and collapsed back against the couch. Bayes knelt beside her and took her hand in his. She stared hate at him from under her eyelids, but was too weak to lift her head. So long being a thrall, a tool, she could do nothing for herself anymore. Not even think, and before the night was done any shred of the person left inside her would be destroyed.

“I need to know how to fizzle the spell,” Bayes said. “I need to know how to stop her without hurting her. I need to know how to save you.”

“Save me? I am honored to do Ysabella’s bidding! To carry out her will!”

“No! You are her thrall, but you do not have to be! The spell is not complete, I know there is some of you left!”

“Get away from me! I will tell you nothing!”

“Just tell me if you want to be saved.” Bayes caught by the shoulders and held her still. Their eyes met and hers seemed every bit as animal as they had when she’d been a cat.

“No,” she whispered, but she did not look away or struggle against his grip. “No,” she repeated, tears slowly making tracks down her haggard face. “No.”

Bayes released her and stepped away. The hag transformed as soon as his hands were off her and scurried around him and down the hall.

He hadn’t meant what he said. He didn’t want to stop Ysabella, but he had needed to speak with the old lady, the hag. He’d needed to know who he was willing to destroy. He was perfectly willing to erase the world that was to find the world he wanted, but somehow the old witch’s tears held more sadness. He never knew her before, Bayes had no way of knowing what she was like. If she deserved it.

“Bayes!” Ysabella said, startling him. He turned to look at her. She was standing in the doorway that lead to the kitchen. She wore a white robe that was too long for her, it bunched up on the ground. She looked nervous.

“It’s okay,” Bayes said, smiling at her. “I’d be nervous too if I were going to become a god.”

“The moon is in the sky. It’s time.”

“Lead the way.”

Bayes follower her to the portal and waited in silence as the water closed over them. He calmly swam with her beside him, and they stepped onto the balcony in the study. The hag was there, standing next to the bowl and the apple, leaning on her cane. There was a wide circle of lit candles around the old woman that gave off a slightly pungent smell as the burned. The whole room was eerily cast in shadows and silent. The things that had bubbled on the tables were missing, the only sound in the room was that of their feet on the uneven stones.

They reached the candles and Ysabella said, “Sit on the far side. Do not let any part of you breach the ring once we start. Even if something goes wrong.”

“I know what to do, Ysabella,” Bayes said, looking at the hag.

“Take you place.” she said, and sat down across from him. Bayes crossed his legs. The stone floor was cold, but he ignored it. He focused his gaze on Ysabella now, and she returned it. They watched each other over the light of the candles.

“Ysabella,” he said. “Don’t do this.” Looking at her, the words were heavy and he trailed off.

“You said it yourself, Bayes. It will be alright. Together, it will be easy.”

“I’m not having doubts, Ysabella. For the first time since I met you, things are clear. You have been inside my head, controlling me.”

“I have used no magic on you, Bayes. I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I know it isn’t magic, it’s something else. You’re in my head, and maybe you always will be, but I’m done being blinded by it.”

“It was not for me that you agreed to help!”

“I know. It was for myself. But I’m done being blinded by that too.” Bayes reached forward and very carefully put out the nearest candle with two fingers.

“to feel isn’t to be blind. You are hurting, Bayes. We can fix it. You couldn’t deal with it before, how will you now? Knowing that you could have changed it. If you miss this chance you will never get another.”

“I’ll deal with it. My father did. After losing me, he kept going. He survived. I will too. Maybe I’ll take up smoking.” Bayes smiled at her.

“I’m going to change the world, Bayes. If you won’t help, then get out. I was prepared to do this by myself before, and I am now. I don’t need you.”

“You have no idea how badly I want to just walk away, but change isn’t always good,” Bayes said, standing. “I won’t let you do this.”

“You’re a coward, Bayes.”

“And you’re a witch,” Bayes said, and took a step towards the apple.

There wasn’t a flash or a bang. The power that Ysabella unleashed didn’t travel through the air, but along it. It was invisible, but to Bayes it shone like the sun. It was raw magic, it didn’t come from her. She pulled it from around them, the energy that had been traveling into the apple was now directed at Bayes. And it was heavy.

Bayes reacted without thinking, a lifetime of training suddenly challenged. He made a shield, not to block the energy, but catch it.And then he made another. And another and another and another. Each one a fractal of the same working, splitting and branching again and again. He knew he could not hold against the energy, so he simply made somewhere else for it to go.

Bayes held infinity in his mind and a world of magic with his hands. He was driven to his knees by the power of it, but even an ocean can be swallowed a drop at a time. Bayes stood and took a step toward the apple. Ysabella lashed out with her own power, but it did not stop him.Bayes took one more step and kicked over the bowl with the apple.

Ysabella wasn’t nearly strong enough to pull that much energy herself, it was years of magical infrastructure that allowed her to channel it, and Bayes just threw a wrench in the gears. The flow of magic stopped, and Bayes let his shield drop. Ordinarily, so much energy released so quickly would be explosive, but this was raw magic without direction, and now that Ysabella’s spell was broken the magic snapped back to whatever in-between that it existed in.

Bayes and Ysabella starred at one another. And the hag took the opportunity to lunge for the apple. Mindless in her thrall and the need to please Ysabella. Bayes sent a bolt of his own magic and the apple exploded before the hag could reach it. She collapsed, sobbing.

“It’s over,” Bayes said. He took a step toward where Ysabella was still sitting on the ground. There were tears on her face.

“No it isn’t,” she said, wiping at her face. “You have stopped me. For now. But I can try again. It will take me a very long time, but I have the time.” She smiled at Bayes and very slowly got to her feet. “You don’t. You don’t have any time at all.”

“Don’t do this, Ysabella. We don’t have to fight.”

“It won’t be a fight. There is a reason witches were burned, Bayes. People have forgotten.”

“Do I need to burn you, Ysabella?”

Ysabellaanswered with fire. Bayes felt her magic, and then the air inside the cavern coalesced into flame in one searing flash. But heat and cold are both sides of the same coin, two extremes. All Bayes had to is push with his power, and the flames did nothing but blind him, chilly as the air from which they came.

Seeing spots from the flash, Bayes tried to ready himself for the next attack, but none came. Instead he heard someone running up the stone stairs toward the portal. He ran after her. By the time he ascended the stairs, she was gone, but he could feel the thrum of power from the portal. He reached it, touched the wall, and went through.

The living room was dark. Even the dangling Christmas lights were dead.

“The apple is destroyed, Bayes. My spells are powered again,” Ysabella said, her voice coming from everywhere at once. “You’re standing in the source of my power. Everything Obeys me here.”

“Not me,” Bayes said, and then the he felt a rush of magic behind him. He half turned, and saw the couch flying at him as if fired from a gun. Fast and slow are one and the same and easy to shift with a thought. The couch dropped from the air, momentum lost.

Bayes felt magic again, only this time it was all around him. Everything in the room was floating, chairs, lamps, tables, everything. It all flew at Bayes at once, streaking through the air, all seeking to be the first to crush him. Bayes pushed some out of the way with magic, and stopped others all together like he had the couch, but every time he threw one aside, it only lifted and came again.

And it was not only the furniture from the living room, knives from the kitchen drove at him and pans and stools. The carpet tore itself off the ground and began trying to wrap itself around him like a snake. Bayes held all of it off, but only barely, and he was losing ground.

He made a chair drop, then sidestepped a pair of knives, but the carpet bunched and he tripped, hitting the wall. As soon as he was down the carpet shifted again, rolling over him like water. At the same time the drywall behind him burst and filled the room with a white cloud of dust, making him cough and the flying knives nearly impossible to see before it was too late.

Bayes unleashed magic at the carpet that was binding him, tearing it to shreds and freeing his ankles. It came again, but not before he could lunge out of the way of the plastic couch. It hit the wall, kicking up more dust. Coughing, Bayes sent another burst of power toward the wall before the couch could come at him again. He blew it through the wall and into the snow outside, where it dropped to the ground, lifeless.

Ysabella’s spell did not extend outside.

Bayes batted the knives out of the air again, and chairs and lights and stools and tore at the carpet before it could hold him again. It all came again, and occasionally nails from the walls would work themselves out and add to the chaos. But now Bayes threw things out of the house and into the night whenever he could spare his attention.

He blew a hole in the wall on the opposite side. Several knives went spiraling out of the hole and didn’t return. Bayes sent a wave that carried a cloud of nails and books out the window. He defended himself, and slowly it got easier.

More nails came from the walls and springs ripped themselves out of furniture and came at him, but Bayes knew how to deal with it. It was a waiting game, and he had the time. The air from outside was clearing the dust, he burned wood splinters to ash before they could touch him and one-by-one he threw the contents of the house outside where they dropped to the ground, free of magic.

He dealt with another cloud of nails, and then he felt a new rush of magic from the doorway. Ysabella was there, he could see her mouth moving as if she was speaking a spell. Bayes sent a burst of power at her, but she blocked it as easily as he had the nails. He attacked again, and found the edges of her shield. He hammered at it with blow after blow, and felt it begin to break, all while she frantically spoke her spell. More furniture flew at him and he cast them all aside.

He put a crack along the middle of her shield, and felt his magic seep in past hers. It wasn’t that Bayes was any stronger, they were equals, but he’d had a lifetime to practice. He could hold off the remaining missiles and still break through her shield.

He sent one more bolt and her shield overloaded, before she could try for another he picked her up with magic and threw her outside in the darkness. He followed her out, jumping down andpicking his way carefully through the minefield of nails and knives in the snow.

She was sprawled in the snow a few feet from him. Her lips still moved, she still chanted. She threw a fireball at him. He pushed at it with his own power and it missed him, exploding somewhere in the house.

“Stop fighting, Ysabella,” Bayes said, standing at her side. Bayes reached down to stop her chanting. She kicked at him and twisted away, desperate to finish her spell. Bayes grabbed her arm and held tight, clapping his other over her mouth. He was too late.

She spoke the last word and there was a tremendous outpouring of power. Bayes felt his whole body tingle. He turned to look at the house, and saw it fading. It was fading from sight, and his magic sense. In another second it was gone. The entire building was just missing.

“Where did you send it?” He shouted. Ysabella was standing, snow drifting around her.

“Far away.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m not done. I have given my life to changing the world, Bayes. I won’t let you stop me.”

“I just did.”

“I’m still breathing.” And with her words she attacked, shooting three bolts at Bayes. He brought up a shield and blocked them, pitting his strength against hers. She struck again and Bayes knocked them aside, melting snow and sending up clods of frozen earth wherever they landed.

Bayes blocked another strike and then sent one of his own. Ysabella blocked it, bringing up a shield of her own.

The shield would protect her from energy, but not heat. Bayes sent a wave of fire that flowed around her and blocked her from view. He didn’t stop. He pumped more and more fire at Ysabella until they were like a beacon in the night, a spinning conflagration.

When Bayes finally stopped Ysabella was gone, burnt away, nothing left but dust on the wind.

Bayes stood there a long time, resting, and mourning. The snow fell around him as he sat in the snow. He waited until he could hear distant sirens, and then he moved to inspect the house to see if there were any sign of the old woman. Among the wreckage, he found nothing, but the front stairs were still there and on them he found a piece of paper with only the word “thank” written on it in scrawled letters. He picked up the paper and something was underneath it.

An apple stem, slightly burned at one end. Bayes tucked it in his coat pocket and looked around at the snow. The sirens were close now. Bayes didn’t know where he was going to go, but he figured he might as well try somewhere warm.

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Part Three: The Hag

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Part Three: The Hag.

Shape shifting with magic is extremely dangerous. Magic is dangerous. It is easy to lose concentration and have a spell fizzle, or make a mistake and have it literally blow up in your face. Shape shifting is a special case. Dangerous not because you might fail, but because you might succeed. It’s a fine line between saying, “I want to become a cat!” and “I want to look like a cat.” Many young mages never learn the difference until it is too late.

Bayes did know the difference, and the ragged woman that stood before him now had been a cat. It had not been an illusion or form, she had been a cat in every echo of herself, in every facet of the universe that Bayes could see. Evidently, a lifetime was not enough to learn all there was of magic.

Bayes looked at her. Her nose was sharp and misshaped, as if broken and healed. Her hair was was long and drawn with age and her hair was white and thin with an oily sheen. A patchy, black robe billowed over her small frame, concealing it. She was bent over a cane of wood, leaning heavily on it with one hand. The cane’s head was carved to look like an upturned palm. Her gnarled fingers intertwined with that of the cane and she watched Bayes with upturned eyes. She gave him a yellow smile.

“Mother,” Ysabella said. “It’s time.”

Without a word the old woman shuffled to the bowl. With her free hand she reached for the apple in the dish, joints creaking and body shaking as the ethereal wind and ice scorched her rough skin. She picked the fruit up and stepped away from the gale. She took a bite.

The hag let the apple drop. It hit the ground and rolled and she collapsed after it, sprawling on the hard flagstones. Her cane rang out as it fell beside her. Bayes moved to help her up.

“No. Leave her be. She will need to sleep while the spell has its affect.”

“Shouldn’t we move her upstairs? We can’t leave her here.”

“Don’t touch her!” Ysabella shouted, grabbing Bayes by the shoulder and stopping him in his tracks.

“Why?”

“It could kill you. If the magic that is inside her right now was transferred to you your blood would boil. Among other things. Do not touch her.”

“How can she handle this power?” Bayes gestured to the prone woman on the ground.

“I have been preparing her. You are seeing the result of years of work. And tomorrow, you will see the pinnacle. Of my work, of magic. Come upstairs. I will tell you about it.”

Bayes followed her to the little stairs that led to the balcony. She ascended them, touched the wall and was gone, fading from the air as if she had never been. Bayes copied her. He pulled his eyes shut and touched the wall, there was a rush of power and he too was gone from the room of bubbling pots and hissing magics, leaving the old witch to her slumber on the cold stone floor.

Bayes opened his eyes. He was standing in the living room. He was alone. Someone or something had cleaned the broken glass from the teacup he dropped and there was no stain on the shaggy carpet.

Bayes found a loose coin in his pocket. He held it in his hand, and then let it drop to the floor. It hit without a sound, and then lifted itself slowly back in the air. It floated over and lay itself gently on the coffee table. The cleaning spell from the kitchen. Now that the apple was gone, there was enough magic in the house to run the spell here also. Or at least that was Bayes’s guess.

He sat down on the plastic couch and knocked the coin off the table. It spun, fell, but this time it never touched the floor. The coin stopped in the air and set itself back on the table. A few more tries yielded the same result and Bayes sat back on the couch.

Ysabella entered the room a little while later. A tray followed behind her carrying two glasses of water. She delivered one to Bayes and then sat down across from him.

“Seems as if I have been here before. I don’t plan on drinking that, I hope you don’t take offense.”

“That’s your business. I thought you looked a little pale downstairs, that’s all.” Ysabella sniffed.

Bayes kicked the cup of water off the table. The water sprayed in the air and the cup fell and then they stopped and hung there. Water leeched back into the cup as it righted itself on the table.

“You were drawing so much magic that your own spells couldn’t even work. What is it for?” Bayes asked.

“ I’ll explain. Magic is a mental state, that’s what you have been taught, right?”

“Yes.”

“Therefore magic is in our heads, our minds.”

“It is our minds.”

“Exactly. Now what if you could control the mind completely. You would control magic completely.”

“That is what we do.”

“No. No person can have complete control over themselves. Very close to it, but not complete. You would have to not feel hunger, or pain. You couldn’t be human. No. I’m talking about complete control over someone else.”

“Compelling. Hijacking someone’s mind. I try not to do it, but even if I did, that would not give me control of their magic. You cannot go that deep.”

“Compelling isn’t the same as what I’m talking about at all. Why you get in someone’s mind, you borrow it, nudge it. I’m talking about owning it. Owning it so completely that there is no room for anything else but what you put in there. You could use it for magic. Perfect magic. Free magic.”

“You’re talking about turning someone into a wand. An object.”

“It’s unpleasant, yes. But imagine what you could do with perfect magic? What we have, what we call magic, it’s little more that a chef turning the heat up and down on a stove. We’re very precise, learned. But at the end of the day all it is is a dial. We all wear blindfolds, Bayes.”

“I don’t think that’s true. The glass is foggy, yes. But that means we must clean it, not smash it open.” Bayes stood and with a slight push of will, stopped the ceiling fan and its Christmas lights. The whirring stopped and there was silence.

“This could change everything. It could be the start of a new age for magic, for the world. Or if it goes as I hope, it won’t be. This could be the key to everything. The last secret.”

“But first you need to destroy someone. Make a thrall, a husk. You’re sick. You do this to your own mother?”

“Don’t you see?! This was her vision too! We’re not killing her, Bayes, we’re making her into something greater!”

“We’re cracking her head open and using it like a candy jar!”

“Listen to me, Bayes! You’re not angry at me, Bayes. You’re angry about your home. About your home. It was taken from you, and you were taken from it, shoved back into a different place and time. You shrug it off, you tell yourself that it’s okay. But I know you wish you could have it back. Not just have it back, you could make that happen whenever you want. You want to never have left, to change history. With this power you could do that. Make it so it never happened. So you never left your father. I know that’s what you want, truly.”

Her words cut Bayes, stunned him. He felt a flash of anger because she was right. He did want to change it, to go home. Not just bring the world he knew here, but to bring himself back to it. He had run from it, that pain, buried to so deep that he didn’t even feel it anymore and kept it there with a lifetime of training.

“How did you know that?” he growled. Ysabella stood and came to face him. Her face betrayed nothing, but he could feel her magic, stronger now that the apple was not sucking it from her.

“You let me know. I saw it, in your head.”

”You have never been in my head. You could not get past me without me knowing.”

“Not if the gates were open. Your guard was down, Bayes.”

“When?! I can’t afford to let it down, I can—“

“When I smiled at you.” Ysabella whispered as she slipped her hands around his waist, pulling him closer. She looked up at him. “I need you, Bayes. Now that you’re here I don’t know how I ever got along without you.”

“It isn’t worth it, Ysabella. We will find another way.”

“Please, Bayes? Don’t let your fear hold you back. I am going to change the world, but first I can bring yours back. Don’t make me do it alone.”

Bayes looked into her eyes. He saw himself in a sea of white and blue. Bayes kissed her softly, and then unwound her arms from around him and pushed her away. She smiled at him, but he turned away and faced the open doorway. But that did not prevent him from seeing her, only her. In his mind her smile still shone like the sun, and he didn’t need to see her to feel its warmth.

“What do you need me to do?” he said, voice rough.

“Tonight I will place another apple to charge, and tomorrow the spell will be complete. You witnessed the one hundredth dose of the power. It has taken that many apples, that many nights to come this far. One and one hundred shall seal her fate. Our fate.”

“Then I will be there. To help you when it happens.”

“Thank you, Bayes. You have no idea what it means to me.”

“To have a hand?”

“To have a friend. Its a lonely, changing the world. Not many people understand it. If you were to ask them what they want, they’d say better wands. I understand them, though. It’s scary. I’m scared. But not anymore, not with you with me.”

Bayes looked at her, her face shaded in color by the dangling Christmas lights. Tomorrow he would help her become a god. Tomorrow he would go home. But tonight it was just the two of them.

“Drink?” He said, and sat down as a bottle and two glasses floated in from the kitchen.

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The Last Apple: A Bayes Cabral Adventure.

Author's note: classic rock great Greg Lake died today at the age of 69. RIP, you will rock on in our hearts forever. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4bWQsnI8Y0

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Part Two: The Cat.

There is a type of dreamless, thoughtless sleep that leaves the body wholly rested, and the mind relaxed. Time passes quickly, and for that night you leave the world and go somewhere far simpler. You enter a bubble of reality where the only thing you have to do, to worry about, is sleep, and you give yourself to it utterly. You awake feeling like a weight has been lifted from your shoulders, because you know that everything is all right. You don’t know where you went, but you know that you will go there again someday.

But there is another type of sleep, and like its twin, it is dreamless. In this, the body does not so much sleep, as wait. You don’t travel anywhere, you just lie still. You feel everything, the lumps in the mattress, the dull ache in your leg from when you missed a stair and stumbled who knows when, and unmoving you remain flat, hoping beyond hope for the sun to come up, because you can’t bear another instant of this, but at the same time dreading the dawn because that means you have to get up and face all the challenges of the day and pretend that this night never happened. You feel shame from past mistakes now long gone and terror of uncertainties of a future to come, and you can do nothing. It isn’t a nightmare. A nightmare shows you a monster or a horror and makes you feel fear. This state of non-restful immobilization makes you wonder, “what happened?”

Bayes did not dream that night.

He awoke in a cold room, freezing. He started up and half ran, half limped over toward an open window, curtains blowing wildly inward from the icy wind. Bayes shut the window with a thump and then collapsed against the sill, limbs still dumb. He looked outside. It had been prettily snowing last night, but it evidently had turned into a blizzard. Snow was piled high and was still coming down, trees swayed in the wind and the carpet was wet where he knelt from the snow that was blown in before he shut the window.

He shuffled back to the bed and sat down. The room was dim now that the curtains had fallen against the window. The walls were a sunshine yellow trimmed in a floral border. There was a large dresser in the corner and a small writing desk and matching chair on the opposite wall from the bed. There was no other furniture and both surfaces were covered in stuffed toys. The bed was piled high with blankets, as if someone had been worried that he would be cold and then later opened the window out of concern that he would be hot.

Bayes was still dressed, all except for his shoes and he stood up and tested his legs. He felt thick, sluggish, but he stood straight and slowly, he walked over toward the door. He knew it was unlocked even before he touched it(locked doors have a certain “feel” about them), and so he opened it without hesitation. The hallway was long and empty with wood floors and a light on at the other end. Bayes felt for magic, for a trap, or a person, but he perceived nothing. There was nothing but air, but Bayes didn’t trust it. You don’t hold a wizard with locked doors, you do it with open ones.

He shut the door.

He went over to the window and opened it again and groped with his mind. Again, nothing. He closed the window and walked back to the bed. With a thought he made it, sheets tucked in tight and extra blankets folded at the bottom, pillows stacked neatly. Bayes sat down to wait. He watched the door, senses keen. He needed to find the magic that he was sure was there, he needed to spot the trap. He let his consciousness slip as he began to meditate.

The instant he relaxed his mind he became aware of someone watching him. He opened his eyes and saw the dozens of furry faces, glassy stares locked on him from their perch on the dresser.

One of them moved. A cat, with black fur and orange eyes like autumn leaves leaped lazily from among the toys and prowled over to Bayes. Had it been there all along? He looked at the cat suspiciously. He probed at it. He could sense a faint glow of magic about it, but nothing strong. The cat stretched under his mental touch, purring, tail snaking. Bayes reached out to stroke it with his hand, but the cat saw this and jumped back and hissed. Before Bayes could try and calm the animal, it ran toward the door and started meowing, wanting to be let out.

Bayes stood up and ran for the cat, he had to quiet it, he couldn’t let the witch know he was awake, he needed time. The cat saw him coming toward it and hissed again. When the hissing proved ineffective, the cat turned and ran. It passed through the door and disappeared on the other side. Bayes reached for the doorknob, readying a spell to throw at the cat. He opened the door and—there she stood.

The girl wore the same dark clothes as the night before, and she held the startled feline in her arms. The cat continued hissing at Bayes.

“Good,” she said. “You’re up. It’s a little late for breakfast, but lunch is ready.” The girl smiled at him prettily, and then turned and started down the hall.

Bayes threw a net of air around her. Whenever she tried to move, it would push her back in place. It caught her and tripped her, but pushed her upright again before she fell. The cat began to scream as it recognized that it too, could no longer move. Unable to turn, the girl demanded, “What is this?!”

“Why did you put me to sleep? How did you do it? Was it the lights? What have you done to me?!” Bayes said, keeping his voice tight. He would play her game no longer.

“I didn’t! I have done nothing! It was the tea! I put something in the tea!” the girl wailed, trying, and failing, to turn her head.

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t know who you were! It was an insurance policy. If you had been a problem, then you’d have been an easy one to fix. And if not,” Bayes could hear the smile in her voice now. “Then we’d have today.” With her words Bayes felt the shield on her mind lift, just a little so that he could peek. She wasn’t lying, he could see the images in her mind: slipping a vial of clear liquid into the cups, finding a reason to drop her tea and straining not to smile when Bayes kept drinking. Bayes kept going, he could see himself through her eyes when she answered the door, he could see her look up sharply from what she was doing when he knocked. He could feel apprehension.

Her mental wall slammed down again and Bayes was pushed out, back into his own body and mind. The girl had stopped fighting the wind and was now relaxed, letting it hold her slightly aloft.

“I’ll have to remember this one,” she said. “It’s a nifty spell.”

“Why do you cloak this place from magic?” Bayes asked. He could feel her probing his spell, like vibrations on a spider web.

“I told you what you wanted to know, you know I’m not a threat.”

“Answer my question.”

“I will show you. But first, you will let me out.” There was no smile in her voice now, only cold command.

Bayes let the spell fizzle. The witch dropped to the ground with a click on the wooden floor and she turned to look at him. She smiled and the cat hissed.

“Lunch?”

“Lead the way,” Bayes said, and followed her downstairs, through the living room, broken glass still littering the floor, and to the kitchen where two places were set on either side of the island. Bayes and the girl sat and the oven opened itself and two plates floated over and set themselves down before them. Steamed vegetables with rice and salmon with a drizzle of some dark sauce. They ate a while in silence and it was some time before Bayes thought to ask the question,

“What is your name? I have told you mine, but you have not told me yours.”

“Ysabella.”

“Ysabella what?”

“Just Ysabella.”

“Well then, thank you for lunch, Ysabella,” said Bayes, smiling in between bites.

“No problem. I don’t make it anyway, it makes itself.” Ysabella’s giggle was cut off by the bang of the refrigerator door closing as the kitchen started on desert.

When they were done with their salmon, the plates carried themselves over to the sink and began to wash up. They finished the meal. Flan topped with caramel syrup and espresso to drink, blacker than sin, hotter than hell.

“How long did it take you set up this enchantment?” Bayes asked.

“Longer than I’d care to admit. And getting it to run this smoothly took even longer.”

“I don’t doubt it.”

“Come on,” she said. “I want to show you something.” She stood up and Bayes followed her, once again, through the living room with it’s spinning Christmas lights, down a corridor and into a little bathroom with a tub on one side and well lit by a row of task lamps over the vanity. She shut the door and stopped, turning to look at him, as if waiting for something that she knew was coming.

“Why are we here?”

“Turn the faucet all the way to the right, and all the way to the left in the tub.”

“Alright.” He did as she said and put the sink on full, cold clear water sprang from it and began to fill the bowl. He moved to the tub and grabbed the knob, but Ysabella’s hand fell on his before he could turn it.

“Be ready,” she said, and together, they turned the knob. Water rushed out of the spout, not in a trickle, or a stream, but a furious gush. The sound of it was deafening and in an instant water was spilling onto the floor, overflowing from the sink and tub. In a breath it was up to his knees, then to his waist, and then he was having to hold his head up so that it wouldn’t close over his mouth. He looked at Ysabella and she pointed toward the ceiling, then the water took them both.

Bayes had never been a good swimmer, and he looked around, panicking, at the submerged bathroom. He’d not had time to fill his lungs with air before the water rose and so he pushed himself over toward the door and tried desperately to open it. It was held fast by the massive weight of the water(and ur mom)and it wouldn’t budge. He cast around for something, anything, and in a last ditch effort, he swam up, kicking off the floor hard and hoping that the water didn’t reach the ceiling.

He swam up and up and up. Long past the point at which he should have reached the ceiling, or even the roof of the house. The water grew gloomy and he could no longer see even his hands in front of him as he desperately clawed at the water trying to swim. His lungs burned and he began to see spots. Finally, when he could stand it no longer, he opened his mouth and tried to breathe. He was very surprised when it was air, not water, that flowed into his lungs.

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He found himself standing on a balcony overlooking a wide room with an arched ceiling and made all of stone. It was lit with only candles and it gave the stones a reddish tinge. Long work tables were set against every wall and they met end-to-end. They were covered in boxes and vials and burners with bubbling pots and jars with glowing things and stones that whispered, and brooms that floated. The tables were covered in magic things, wonderful things, but what really held Bayes’s attention was a small bowl set on the floor in the center of the room. It was catching a perfect beam of wind and snow, swirling all around in a funneling twist from the ceiling into the blue opaque glass.

He sensed-more than saw-Ysabella come and stand next to him on the balcony.

“It’s an experiment. I have been working on it for a long time, and I’ve had no one to show it to. Would you like to take a closer look?”

“What is this room? How did we get here,” Bayes asked.

“I don’t know. It was my mother’s invention. I couldn’t tell you how it works. Follow me.” She took Bayes by the hand and let him down a small set of stairs, cut deep in the stone. They reached the floor and walked over to the beam of trapped world. Bayes could see now that in the bottom of the bowl there was a single apple, leaves turning brown as the whirlwind of snow and air froze them. The murmur of the magic things on the tables and the whistling of the wind filled the room.

“What is it?” Bayes asked.

“You asked me why I cloaked this place from magic. I don’t. I’m stealing it.” She pointed up. “We are below the house. Far below, I assume. The cupula is directly above us and serves as the point. I’m using the house as almost a dowsing pendulum, or a crystal. It’s finding magic and sucking it from the air and dumping it out down here.”

“Why? What could you possible need it for?”

“My experiment.” She smiled at him. “Would you like to see how it works?”

Bayes nodded without taking his eyes off the vortex.

“Mother!” Ysabella called and the black cat that had hissed at him earlier trotted over from some dark corner that it had gone unnoticed in.

Bayes saw it out of the corner of his eye, but when he looked, this time, he didn’t see a cat, but an old woman, clad all in rags.

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The Last Apple: A Bayes Cabral Adventure. Part One.

*Authors note: The content of this post is intended to follow that of my backstory. If you have not read that, it is located in the "About Me" tab in my profile.

The Last Apple:

A Bayes Cabral Adventure.

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Part One: The Witch.

Bayes had only been a part of the world again for about eight months and the first snow he'd seen in a lifetime was falling all around him in peaceful, windblown drifts.

He’d made his way to America.

After awakening in the cave, he had explored his homeland as it was now. Bayes went back to his hometown and found that the word “town” no longer applied. Buildings were larger than they used to be, streets were wider and clogged with new, strange looking cars and the whole spirit of the place had changed: things needed doing, and people were hurrying to do them. It reminded him of toolmaking. He had known it would be like this, he had seen it in the mind of the man he met in the woods, but he’d went anyway, he had had to.

His father was dead, he found out. Killed in some war he only knew the name of. His estate(what there had been left of it) was claimed by the government and the old cottage torn down long ago to make room for some development-or-other. Bayes didn’t care what now held its place, he left England without visiting it.

Why he left, he wasn’t exactly sure. It had changed a great deal, but the image of it, as it had been, would always exist. All he had to to was call it up, but he didn’t want to. That was what really struck him—he was perfectly content to let it die, and so was everyone else. Sure there were statues, and plaques and a most of the old buildings still stood, but it had forgotten itself, the town. He couldn’t sense it in his mind and that worried him, scared him. Not because he couldn’t but because he didn’t want to. The image slumbered, a dead weight in his mind.

He stayed a while and learned. He took from people’s minds what he could without harming them and for the rest he read. Great texts of history and science and philosophy. Libraries were in Bayes’s mind a very great invention and he spent a lot of time there, reading the minds of those who went there as much as the books.

After he felt like he had a basic grasp on the world and what it had been through since he’d been gone, he left England. First he traveled around Europe, wandering and seeing sites. Eating food he grew and Sleeping in shelters he made with a thought. He hitchhiked when he needed to, but he didn’t like doing that. No one would pick up a scraggly looking man on the side of the road in the middle of the night unless he compelled them, and he hated compelling people. It made him think of the sheep he used to tend, and people weren’t sheep.

The traveling was nice, but everywhere he went he felt echoes of the same thing. Of oldness and past lost, buried under a patina of shiny newness. Past and present are two poles of the same thing and he felt them both equally. The old cities of Rome and France and everywhere just had so much. They crashed down on his mind like an avalanche and evidently how to tune it out was not something he had been taught.

Eventually he could stand it no longer and he went to America. There was past there too, but so long as he stayed off any reservations there wasn’t the bone-deep sleeping past of Europe. And to his surprise, he found that he liked it. It was a place that encouraged imagination, and he felt that reflected in the mind and spirit of the land and everyone in it. Bayes had been to all the major cities from New York to Los Angeles but something had drawn him back to Chicago. And standing on the street of a sleepy suburb(as sleepy as they get in Chicago), snow falling all around him and gleaming in the light from the streetlamp overhead, he thought he knew what it was.

The house was two stories and white with gray shutters. Yellowish curtains were drawn across the windows but Bayes could see light coming from behind them. It was not the largest house on the block, nor the nicest, yet somehow it stood out. Paint was peeling in some places(but not any more than any of the other houses), one of the windows looked as if it had a crack, but not a large one. The lawn was tidy, but not remarkable so. Nothing about the place stood out in any way, but Bayes was inclined to look at it above all the others.

He watched the house, feeling somewhat a fool, but watching it nevertheless. the fine snow was collecting on the grass and slowly beginning to dust the cupola of the roof. It looked beautiful, almost like a cloud in the low light.

And then it hit him.

The rest of the roof’s slate gray shingles were dry. Snow was being drawn there, to the point. Bayes walked to the house and ascended the two steps up to the door.

He knocked.

He thought he heard a faint noise from within, but no one opened the door. He shuffled his feet and waited. He knocked again, louder and this time the door swung in almost immediately. Warm light spilled from it and outlined the form of a woman. Bayes hesitated.

She wore black leggings and a heavy black sweatshirt that fell below her waist. Her hair was light, but not quite blond, and was done up into a bun, hair pulled away from her neck. She was pretty, and young. Perhaps no more than twenty. She had a sharp nose, high cheekbones and a square jaw. Her eyes were blue and her face was lightly freckled, and now Bayes realized, very annoyed.

“What do you want?”

“Er… Excuse me, Miss.” Bayes cleared his throat. “I’m sorry to bother you, but may I come in?” He reached out to touch her mind, but found nothing there. As far as he could sense, she didn’t exist.

“Are you a vampire?” Her eyes narrowed with the question.

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“Would you believe me if I said I wasn’t?” Bayes asked.

“Maybe.”

“I’m not a vampire.”

“Come in then, you’re letting in the cold.”

The girl stepped aside and let him pass and then hurriedly shut the door. Bayes felt the door shut, not only in the physical realm, but in the mental also. She protected herself well, and Bayes wondered why. She guarded her mind and her home with magic, but that was what had drawn him here. It likely did more harm than good.

“Go on and sit down in there.” She pointed down the hall to an open door. “I’ll go and make some tea.”

Bayes followed the ruts in the old shag carpet down the hall and through the door. It lead to a living room, warmly lit and apparently furnished by a blind person. A bright yellow armchair was jammed in one corner and an antique wooden sofa met it at the wall, the upholstery well stamped down from long use. A gigantic leather couch swallowed the opposite wall and it was covered in a layer of clear plastic as if it had only just arrived. Four cement blocks with a tray across them served as the coffee table in the center of the room and a floor lamp occupied the far corner, flanked by kitchen chairs

A ceiling fan spun on the lowest setting overhead and from it dangled a string of bright, multicolored Christmas lights. The entire scheme suffocated in the already small room. Bayes made his way, with difficulty, to the plastic covered couch and sat down. His hostess scurried in a moment later with two teacups, trailing steam.

She saw him eying the painfully yellow recliner and said, “Do you like it? I thought it was quite a fine piece, myself.” She set a cup on the coffee table and took the other and sat down on the edge of the before mentioned armchair.

The Christmas lights made a slight whooshing noise as they spun and threw dancing shadows on the walls. It was a moment before Bayes answered.

“It’s very nice. How did you fit it through the door?”

I have my ways.” She smirked and took a sip of her tea. “It’s hot. Be careful.”

Bayes felt for the tea with is mind, and pressed very slightly, cooling both their cups just enough so as not to scald. She felt him do this, she had to. Yet she didn’t try to stop him or even mention it. She cloaked herself from magic so thoroughly as to almost be invisible, but she was okay with letting a magic-wielding stranger in her home, and seemed not to notice when he used his powers for a task that could be achieved by simply doing nothing.

“Is there anyone else in the house?” he asked abruptly.

“Yes, so if you’re thinki—“

“Oh no, you’ve got it all wrong. I was just wondering.”

“M hm.”

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“May I ask who?”

“What?”

“Who else is in the house? May I speak with them?”

“I’d have to be able to tell her who is calling, wouldn’t I?” The girl gave him a pointed look over her tea.

“I’m so sorry, I should have introduced myself before now. My name is Bayes Cabral.” He was about to go on, to tell her about how he was drawn here because the magic of the world wasn’t, but before he could speak again the girl stood, her steaming teacup shattering on the floor as she dropped it.

“Bayes? The Bayes?”

“You know of me?”

“What? Everyone does! You are famous!” She skirted the broken glass on the floor and came to sit beside him on the couch.

“What for exactly?”

“You are the student of the Magus! He who is thrice wise, thrice great, and thrice a mage. You are the only living person to have even spoken with him, let alone studied with him.” She giggled and fixed her blue eyes on his.

“Does this mean your study is over? What a windfall is this! You have been eagerly awaited by the occult for a hundred years, and now here you have emerged from cloister and I am the first to meet you!” She grinned wide and drew herself closer to him, laying a manicured hand on his knee. “Did he tell you his name?”

“So it is you who cloaks this place from magic. Why?” Bayes said, doing his best to draw away from her without being to obvious about it.

The girl didn’t answer his question, but she moved with him as he slid to the other arm of the couch.

Bayes stood and said, “Stop that!” His voice sounded rough to his ears.

The room began to spin.

“what is this?” he said, looking desperately at the girl sitting serenely on the plastic couch. Her blue eyes were still fixed on him but now she seemed to sway with him, to become one of the dancing shadows on the wall.

Bayes fell and immediately pushed himself back up on his knees, broken glass stinging his hands. He tried to stand but he felt the girl’s warm breath on his ear.

“Sleep,” she said. And he did.

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