The door wasn’t the biggest of doors, just as the office didn’t look like the biggest of offices. An unpretentious door opening to the street, with a very simple sign written on its frosted glass upper half: “Niall Tiergnan, Wizard-for-Hire”
It was just as well, Cadee thought. She would have probably backed away if Tiergnan’s office had given her a flamboyant ‘fortunetellermediumscam’ vibe . She liked discreet. It spelled seriousness (and a little insolvency too, but that was to be expected… wizard clientele usually liked flamboyance). And a wizard who didn’t use his trade to get rich spoke of honesty as well.
She checked her watch, she was just in time for the date she arranged by phone. She had liked the man’s voice too. How had Pitorri put it? Deep and soothing, right. Without more thought, she rang the bell and waited.
At the sound of the electronic buzz filling the quiet stillness of his arcane laboratory, Niall glanced up from the confusing book laid out before him. He'd spent the last few days perusing any and all of the text he could find on zombies, but none of what he had found seemed to explain the strange events of the other night at the book party. Niall saw on the grainy monitor mounted near the door to his workroom that a very attractive young woman had just entered the shop upstairs. He checked the analog watch on his wrist and saw that the time had arrived for his appointment with Ms. Cloud. *She's right on time,* he thought. *That's a nice surprise.*
Niall hurried up the stairs and opened the connecting door leading back into his shopfront. "Good afternoon, Ms. Cloud," he said as he walked through the door. "Sorry. I've been working on a project and sometime's I'm a bit narrow-focused."
Niall headed for the small cart to one side of the door, where a teapot and coffee machine sat. "Can I offer you anything?"
“A cup of tea would be perfect, thank you,” Cadee answered, smiling. Even if she had been almost sure, she was glad to confirm that the man was indeed the wizard from the other night. Again, she liked the man’s voice and his general aspect was as unpretentious as his office, but she liked that too.
She took a look around while he poured tea in a couple of mugs. It was a little cluttered, but very neat and inviting. Several magical implements were scattered around, candles and jars and bottles too. Also, she noticed runes and mystical signs written in the walls and windows, again, some she could recognize, and some others were just a little too strange for her. All in all, the place was warm and made her feel comfortable, secure.
“I’m glad you could see me on such a short notice, Mr. Tiergnan,” she said, as she took her tea and followed him to a big, scarred desk. The wizard sat down and she did the same on the other side, setting easily in an old but comfy chair. “As I said on the phone, there’s something I need some advice on.”
Niall offered Ms. Cloud some sugar and milk. "I don't know how much you might want to follow any advice from me. As you can tell from this place, I'm not exactly the most successful wizard in the business. Still, if I can help, I will. That's sort of what I do."
“In your business, lack of success doesn’t equal to lack of skill. On the contrary, it is telling in itself.” She answered, and sipped at her tea; it was good, no wonder. Then she went on. “And I saw what you do. At the party, last Saturday.”
Niall paused, taking a sip of his tea to cover gathering his thoughts. This was an unexpected turn. If she had been at The Graveyard Saturday night, then it was very likely that Ms. Cloud had indeed seen quite a lot, much of which could not be explained by normal means. The fact that she was here, had sought him out intentionally, suggested that Cadence was not as "normal" as she seemed. Certainly, she had a breadth of knowledge not normally seen in your average beautiful young woman. *I wonder,* Niall thought, reaching out with his magical senses towards the young woman seated across from him. He probed gently, hoping to discover something of what had brought her here.
Cadee watched the wizard as he sat behind his desk, sipping his tea, not talking; it was clear that he was reflecting on her words. She imagined that the wizard’s usual clientele was probably not aware of his true nature, and she had said enough for him to realize that she wasn’t among those numbers.
However, she wondered how she measured up to him, but most importantly, how she would sound when she mentioned werewolves; his being a real sorcerer didn’t mean that she couldn’t be a real nut job…
Well, best to get it over and done with.
“I have a friend who’s in trouble, real trouble,” she said, and stopped, not very sure how to go on.
Niall was surprised by what he sensed in this young woman. She was far from your average girl. There were strange, magical energies floating all around her aura. There seemed to be magic inherent in her very make-up, but she was like no demon or hybrid he had ever seen before. Niall was fascinated by what he could sense, but it would be rude to ask all the questions teeming in his mind.
"Rescuing damsels in distress may not be my job, but some people think it's my calling," Niall joked, hoping to put Cadee at ease. "Please tell me about your friend. If I can help in some way, I will...gladly."
Cadee smiled, a little more confident. She could believe his words too, all about him made her feel … safe, for lack of a better word. She wouldn’t want him to believe her crazy, though.
*Oh, for God’s sake, he isa wizard! He’s probably dealt with strangest things than lycanthropy, you know?* she said to herself, *and he can probably read your mind or your aura or whatever to know you’re saying the truth, right? Right,* Having made up her mind, she was ready to put her cards on the table .
“I guess all we talk about here is confidential, right?” she asked, and at his affirmative answer she nodded. “Please, don’t think I’m crazy or something, but, well, this girl, you see… she was bitten by a werewolf this past full moon.” She paused for a second, cleared her throat and went on. “I researched on the topic, all that I could, and I found some interesting bits. But there was nothing on… cure. I mean, I now know several ways to kill a werewolf, but none to keep her alive.”
“She’s just a girl, you know? She doesn’t even know what’s happened to her. It’s just… not fair.” She stopped, frustrated, and looked at the man in the eye. “I thought that maybe, if I consulted an expert… a wizard, like yourself, maybe, just maybe, you’d be able to help me. I mean, her.”
Whatever he had expected, Niall was not prepared for what he'd just heard. Once more he probed carefully with his magical senses. He had to be sure that, one, Cadee wasn't actually referring to herself, and, two, that Cadee was telling the truth. Carefully, Niall focused on Cadee's aura. He could not detect any untruths in what she had said. *Which only makes this harder,* Niall thought.
"Lycanthropy?" Niall looked thoughtful. "When and where was your friend attacked? Has she shown any...symptoms yet?"
“Last full moon,” Cadee answered securely, Meredith hadn’t changed yet, so it couldn’t be earlier than that. “And I’m pretty sure it happened in Central Park.” Then she frowned, the part of the symptoms was a little more complicated to explain.
“Well, she’s extremely hungry; she was bitten in her arm, and she’s healed very fast.” In about three days, she thought, she wasn’t wearing a bandage at the party and the wounds were almost healed, showing pink new skin underneath. However, as she spoke, she noticed that not a thing she was saying shouted werewolf, not even to a wizard like Tiergnan. Those… symptoms could be explained away by a variety of reasons. If she didn’t give the man something more, he would dismiss her as a pathological liar, if not just a lunatic. She bit her lip.
“I know this sounds completely crazy. Hunger and a high healing rate do not equal a werewolf, and I didn’t see the attack, but I know by a very reliable source that there is a werewolf in NY and it’s been roaming Central Park during full moons.” Still, not enough; you have to give some to get some, right? She looked at him in the eye again, a little defiant. “And she smells wolf. I can tell, believe me, the same way I know you aren’t wearing any cologne but you use lemon scented glycerin soap and mint shampoo.”
She looked around, scanning the room again, inhaling deeply as she did so. After a couple of seconds, she started pointing: “those candles there, they’re beeswax and thyme, nice, and I’m sure you keep dried flowers in those jars… poppies and rosemary and… damiana? You should close them better. I can also smell bile and blood, probably lamb, and-” she reached his desk and took a small desiccated animal’s paw, sniffed it and continued. “This isn’t a rabbit’s foot, but a cat’s; hope you weren’t expecting some luck from it.”
Niall was suitably impressed. He'd sensed that Cadee was...different than other girls her age. Her enhanced senses were only the tip of the iceberg if he was correct in his assumptions. *What a fascinating young woman.*
"It sounds like your friend could definitely have been exposed to lycanthropy," Niall rubbed his chin, his eyes going slightly out of focus as he thought deeply. "I hate to tell you this, but I don't actually know of any for certain cure for lycanthropy either. The research you've done undoubtedly has come up with some of the 'speculation'. There are some who believe that killing the progenitor of the werewolf line will free all the others from the curse, for instance. I have read and heard about people controlling their lycanthropy through the use of meditation, herbs, rituals, spells, you name it. I even heard once about an organization that was experimenting with controlled lycanthropy through the use of drugs and training."
Niall snorted derisively. "If only The Initiative had been willing to work with some of the supernatural community. Despite their dubious motivation, they did manage to come up with some very interesting findings in their research and experimentation." Niall spoke these last sentences almost to himself and it was clear he was commenting on his own thoughts.
“Interesting is not the word I’d use,” she answered, before even thinking herself. She immediately tensed, automatically becoming in the defensive. Could this be some kind of trap? One she had jumped in with both feet. Maybe Tiergnan read minds or something?
Trying to cover her mistake, although not very hopeful it’d work, she continued quickly. “I read about killing the progenitor, yes, but I have no idea who he or she is, and by next full moon it will be too late anyway. Meditation won’t work in a fortnight either, we have no time” She sighed, “this is very frustrating. Should’ve know there’s no such thing as miracles.”
Niall noticed Cadee suddenly seemed wary, but he couldn't be sure what he'd said to put her on the defensive. "Unfortunately, even wizards don't work in miracles. I'm afraid that's a calling for a much higher power. Hmmmm...," Niall paused, standing and moving to the bookshelf behind his desk. He scanned the spines of row after row of books, pulling out one or two and muttering to himself. Finally, after he'd amassed a pretty good sized stack, he sat back down, placing the books on the desk between himself and Ms. Cloud.
"I don't know what exactly I can do, but I'm willing to do some research," Niall said, with a kind smile. "I may be able to come up with something, even if it's only a temporary solution. I think I might have read a thing or two about delaying the change. If it can be postponed, then at the very least it could be controlled. If we can keep your friend from changing, we might have time to find the progenitor. It's a thought anyway."
Niall opened one of the books and scanned the text for a couple of minutes. "Yes, there is something here." Suddenly Niall had a thought. "Ms. Cloud, why are you here instead of your friend, if I might ask? Surely she wants to be included in any plans we make."
Cadee moved in the chair, uncomfortable; she didn’t like admitting to Friday’s debacle. She still didn’t know how else she could have acted, though. However, she should be honest with him.
“Please, call me Cadee. And, actually, we’re not really friends, more like… acquaintances.” She smiled weakly to the man, and went on. “She’s a regular at the restaurant where I work, and I discovered the wolf thing when I was waiting on her. I just couldn’t leave her alone, so I forced our association a little.”
“We could have become friends, but then I introduced the lycanthropy topic and she freaked out; no wonder.” Cadee sighed, the failing of the potential friendship was something she didn’t want to think about, people she felt keen on were so rare she didn’t want to lose any of them. “I don’t think I’ll be able to get close to her again… more probably she’ll file a restriction order. However, if there is a way to delay the change, a potion or something… I could try and make her drink it, and kill that wolf. She’s not the first one it’s attacked.”
She let out a little laugh. “You probably believe me very naïve, don’t you? But, how do you go
and tell somebody she’s a werewolf?”
Niall laughed as well. This young woman had found herself in an interesting predicament. It was difficult to tell anyone that you thought they had a disease or infection, but it was particularly challenging if the disease in question was supernatural in origin. Niall guessed that Cadee's friend didn't have a clue about the things that shared the world with "normal" folk either.
"Actually, there is very little chance we can do anything without your friends cooperation. I may be able to come up with something to supress her change, but the best I can imagine would be a ritual and series of renewable spells that she would have to engage in daily. And even that would only work for a short time. We might be able to gain a couple of weeks leeway to find the progenitor and try to cure your friend. I'm willing if you are, but the first step is getting your friend here so I can, unfortunately, convince her that neither one of us is crazy."
Cadee thought about the way she had parted with Meredith, and despaired. The little hope Tiergnan had raised with his earlier words, sunk as lead in water.
“I see. I was being naïve again, thinking just a potion would do the trick. As if it could be so easy!” Cadee sunk in her chair, thinking about the way she had parted with Meredith, and despaired, the little hope Tiergnan had raised with his earlier words vanishing in thin air.
“I’d be willing,” she finally said, discouraged. “But I don’t think she’d give me the time of day, even less accompany me to see a ‘wizard’.” She was silent for a moment, pondering the situation. Meredith struck her as somebody highly independent and even wary, any new approach would definitely end in an ugly situation, for both of them, and forcing her didn’t sound like an intelligent course of action. “I don’t think kidnapping her would do much good either… not if she has to be cooperative in those rituals,” she said, not noticing she was speaking aloud.
“No. She won’t come with me, not on her free will at least.”
“I’m stuck, Mr. Tiergnan. I’d already planned on hunting that werewolf next full moon. He’s done enough damage as it is. But that would be too late for Meredith, and there’s not a real consensus about it being effective anyway. Or I could try and found Meri when she turned, and get her to a safe place, so she won’t kill anybody or spread the disease.” She sighed. “I understand you can’t work miracles, not with what I’m giving you, anyway.”
“Well, Cadee, as they say, ‘If Mohammed won't come to the mountain, then the mountain shall go to Mohammed’," Niall replied. "I don't intend to give up on your friend without giving this my very best effort and I have a sneaking suspicion you feel the same way. So, is there a way we can...confront this young woman? I am fairly persausive, and I think I might be able to convince her that you are not mad. As a matter of fact, when I'm finished, she will definitely believe in all manner of things currently hidden behind the veil. What do you say? Willing to give it a shot?"
Cadee’s smile lit her whole face. “I say it’s a great idea. I don’t know where Meri lives, but I’ve managed to learn where she works at nights… in a club called ‘Grindhouse’. I guess she’s a waitress there. Maybe we could pay her a visit at her work?”
“The Grindhouse?” Niall thought, fighting to hide his grimace. He’d heard of the place. It was a seedy sort of establishment and not the sort he normally he found himself in, but he wanted to help Cadee and her friend. “How bad could it possibly be?”
“That might work,” he finally replied. “Give me a day or so to pull stuff together for a ritual, and assuming we can convince your friend, I guess we’re on. So, we’ll meet here on…let’s say Wednesday night? We can head over to the club together and see how it goes from there. Does that work for you?”
“What about Thursday? It’s my free night.” Besides she had promised dinner to Logan on Wednesday, and even if it felt terrible to postpone Meri’s ritual because of a date, she really needed the time for herself. At the wizard’s affirmation she smiled. “Great, I’ll be her about 8:00. I hope you have a bag of tricks, cause she’s a tough girl to convince.”
"I'll bring out the big guns. By the time I'm done, your friend should be a believer in the supernatural if nothing else," Niall promised, rising. "Until Thursday, try not to worry too much, Cadee. We will figure out how to help her, somehow."
“It’s easier said than done, but I’ll try my best.” Cadee smiled at him and stood up as well. It was good to have an ally at last, even if it was to convince a girl that the monster in the closet was real.