The Fire Wizard

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The house was on fire.

In the dark evening, the burning house was easily visible from several blocks away. It wasn’t just fire and smoke creeping out the windows. It was a pyre so bright it was painful to look at. The people milling around it were a shadowed mass in the light of the blaze.

Elizabeth didn’t even bother to park. She just got out of the car and started fighting her way through the crowd. As her neighbors recognized the teenage girl desperately pushing past them, they parted to let her pass.

“Stay back,” a police officer warned her as she reached the barriers.

“That’s my-” She was going to say ‘house,’ but she trailed off as she saw a paramedic examining a ten year old boy. “Jeremy!” She ran past the officer, who made no move to stop her.

Jeremy threw himself at her, bawling his eyes out. He was saying something, but with his face buried in her shoulder and his voice muddle by tears, she couldn’t understand him.

“Are you family?” a fireman asked.

“He’s my foster…” She started her automatic explanation of her foster family without even thinking about it, but cut herself short. “Yes.”

“Is there anyone else in the house?”

She shook her head. “No. The Masons were out. I was just running out to get some groceries.” She turned to face the paramedic, her arms still wrapped protectively around the sobbing Jeremy. “Is he okay?”

“Miraculously, yes,” he replied. “A little smoke inhalation is all. Given the state of the house…”

Elizabeth looked at the fireball that had been her home for the last year. The firefighters weren’t even trying to put it out anymore, focusing their efforts instead of containing it.

It hurt more than she thought it would. The Masons had been all right, as foster parents went. As long as she was home by curfew and didn’t get in trouble, they mostly left her alone. Jeremy had eaten up most of their attention.

“I didn’t do it,” he said, pulling his face back to look up at her. “I didn’t do it, Beth. I didn’t do it.”

“It’s okay,” she told him, brushing some of the tears and soot from his face. He was wearing his pajamas, with an old canvas jacket that was way too big for him on over that. It was the only thing his father had left him, and he wore it whenever he was nervous – which was most of the time, really. The red bird sewn on the back seemed to glow in the firelight.

A man approached us. “Elizabeth and Jeremy, I presume?”

“Excuse me,” the police officer said, moving to head him off.

“Child services,” he said. He held out his hand, and the officer studied it for a moment before waving him on. The odd part, Elizabeth noted, was that he hadn’t actually been holding anything.

“It’s my fault,” she said quickly. “I was making hot chocolate and we ran out of milk, so I went to get some more. I must have left the oven on.”

“We’ll discuss this somewhere more private,” the man said, gesturing for them to follow him.

Elizabeth held Jeremy still. The man didn’t look like someone from child services. He wore a long coat that made him look more like an FBI or a private detective than anything else, and his hair came down his back in a long pony tail.

“Who are you?”

He studied her for a moment before answering. “I’m Mister Lin. I’m someone who can help. If you come with me, I’ll make as much of this go away as I can. The Mason’s will get a nice insurance payoff, no bad marks will go in anybodies records, and Jeremy will get the help he needs.”

“I didn’t do it!” Jeremy said, holding Elizabeth even tighter. “I swear, Beth, I didn’t do it! Don’t let them send me away!”

“I told you, it was my fault,” she told Mr. Lin.

He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “I didn’t want to have to do this. Get in the car.”

Elizabeth was in the back of the Mr. Lin’s car, but she couldn’t remember why. She could remember walking there with Jeremy, getting in, even buckling her seat belt, but she couldn’t remember actually deciding to do any of those things.

“Three cases in four years, and a firebird jacket to boot, and they didn’t notice you,” Mr. Lin said, looking at the children through the rear view mirror. “That’s just sloppy. And I already know they’re going to spout the typical ‘lost in the system’ bullcrap, but the entire point in this thing is to find kids like you no matter what. Three cases, and it takes you burning down a building for them to find you.”

“I didn’t do it!” Jeremy insisted. “I don’t need to see another doctor!”

“You’re right on that second part,” Mr. Lin said with a wry chuckle. “Tell me what happened before the fire started.”

“Beth left to get milk and I… I got scared. So I went to my room to get my dad’s jacket.” He pulled the jacket tighter about him. “And the bed just suddenly caught on fire.”

“The other cases,” Mr. Lin said. “Were you scared those times, too?”

“I… I guess so. But I didn’t start those fires, either!”

“You didn’t mean to set the fires. It’s not your fault, kid. You should have been told a long time ago.”

“Told me what?”

“You’re a wizard. With an inherent focus on fire, it seems.”

Elizabeth had had about enough of this. “That’s insane. Let us out of this car.”

“It’s not as insane as you think. Just-”

“Let us out!” she shouted.

“All right,” he said. He pulled the car to the side of the road. “But where do you think you’re going to go?”

“What do you mean? It’s just-” She stopped as she looked out the window. They were in the middle of a forest. But that didn’t make any sense. There weren’t any forests like this in LA. “Where… where are we?”

“White Mountain National Forest,” Mr. Lin said. “That’s in New Hampshire, if you were wondering.”

“How did we…”

“I find find the whole space-time thing to be a trifle restrictive at times.”

“What’s going to happen to me?” Jeremy said, staring out the window.

Mr. Lin put the car into motion again. “There’s a school hidden here. You’ll be trained how to use your magic properly, so you’ll only set things on fire when you actually want to.”

“And me?” Elizabeth asked.

“That’s a bit trickier. It’s easier to make both of you disappear than just one. You showed some strong magic resistance, back there, though. You shrugged off the passive obedience charm I cast back at the house like it was nothing. I had to use a much more direct one to get you in the car, and if you weren’t so desperate to help your foster brother, I’m not sure that would have worked, either. We could find a job for you, if you’re interested.”

She raised an eyebrow. “You’re going to teach me to be a wizard, too?”

He chuckled. “No. You don’t have the gifts for that, I’m afraid. But there are things you could do that a wizard couldn’t. We’ve got a while to go before we reach the school. Think it over.”

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Prompt: You’re a Wizard!

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This week’s prompt (via my brother, Owen) is a character learning that he is capable of casting real magic.

Good luck and good writing!