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    Volume 12, Issue 3, August 31, 2017
    Message from the Editors
 Karda Burns by Roderick Phillips
 Ada, or, The Limits of Logic by Robert Dawson
 All Our Goodbyes, All Our Hellos by David Cleden
 A Familiar and Her Wizard by Jeff Stehman
 Paper Walls by Matt Hollingsworth
 Editor's Corner: Featured Author Laurence MacNaughton
 Editor's Corner: excerpt from A Jack By Any Other Name by Lesley L. Smith


         

A Familiar and Her Wizard

Jeff Stehman


       
        Maggie flicked her tail as a fairy buzzed near the open window, hovered for a moment, and darted away. Tempting, but Maggie's humility had limits and falling from the tower's highest window was beyond them. Besides, she was too busy luxuriating in the sunlight, her black fur soaking it up. Soon she would have to retire to the cool stone floor. Busy day.
        Occupied as she was, she could only spare an ear twitch for Barclay as he bustled into the room.
        "Maggie! Look what I bought at the diggers' auction. Practically stole it from the other wizards. It's an ancient puzzle box." Something heavy clunked onto the work table. "I can't believe no one else was interested in it."
        That got her attention. She jumped down from the sill, trotted amidst the clutter, and leapt onto the table. The wooden box was bigger than she was and had many complex inlays. She sniffed at a corner. Through the fresh oil, it still smelled of deep earth. She shook a paw.
        "Don't be so dismissive. Think of the double mystery; what it contains and how to reveal it."
        Maggie sat down and looked up at him. "Mew?"
        He rubbed her head. "Sorry, puzzles before lap time."
        "Mmraw!"
        "Jealousy does not become you. Let's see..." He laid his hands on the box and started murmuring a mantra of focus. Maggie crouched on the corner of the table as he shifted bits of inlay this way and that.
        Several minutes later the box clicked. "Yes! First position!"
        Maggie's head snapped up. A very large spider was lowering itself from the rafters directly over the wizard, its four front legs spread wide with aggression.
        Maggie packed herself down into her hindquarters, wiggling with anticipation. As the spider neared Barclay's bare neck, she sprang over his hunched shoulders and swatted. The spider smacked into the far wall and fell. Dragging legs, it tried to get away, but she bounded after it and sank her teeth into its back. She carried the wiggling thing to the window and watched it fall. A swarm of fairies was on it before it hit the ground.
        Maggie started bathing her foreleg vigorously, hoping to scrub away the taste. The foreleg led to paw-licking, which led to face-washing. She was finishing up when Barclay gave a little jump.
        "I got the next one! Now, how to reach the third position..."
        A small black-and-red clad goblin popped into being by the potted lemon tree. Assassin colors. Startled, it looked around. When it saw Barclay's back, its eyes narrowed and it drew a wickedly curved dagger from its belt. Although little more than knee-high to the wizard, the goblin crept toward him.
        Maggie sprang, her size tripling in midair. The goblin was turning toward her even as she hit, jaws latching onto its throat and bearing it to the ground. The goblin stabbed at her several times before the end, but the blade turned aside, unable to pierce her skin.
        "Maggie, please!" Barclay said without turning. "Iím trying to concentrate."
        It took more effort to get the goblin out the window than the spider. Maggie didn't look to see if the fairies feasted. She lapped the blood from the sill and floor, shrank, and settled in for a full bath.
        When the bath was interrupted by a joyous shout from Barclay, a sickly white demon, tall and sharp, appeared in the middle of the room. It stepped over a pile of books and toward the wizard, claws extended. Venom dripped from its jaws, hissing against tome and stone.
        Maggie stalked toward the demon, a low growl in her throat. The demon turned and started to snarl, but stopped. Maggie went still. Despite her cat guise, recognition dawned in its otherworldly eyes, followed by uncertainty. It glanced at the wizard. Maggie took two quick steps and went still again. Holding up its hands in supplication, the demon stepped back and vanished.
        She returned to her bathing.
        "Yes! I've done it! Oh, Maggie, look!" Barclay held aloft a small, yellowed scroll with flaking edges.
        Rear leg high, Maggie gazed at the scroll. It burst into flames.
        "Whoa!" Barclay dropped the scroll, which was already fully engulfed. It drifted to the floor and fell to ash, the final threat eliminated. "Ohhh, there must have been a magical trap on the box. Somehow I missed it." He dropped into a chair, leaned it back on two legs, and put his feet on the table.
        Maggie jumped into his lap. Purring, she stood on his chest to nuzzle his chin. He chuckled.
        "Why can't you be more like other familiars? They actually help their wizards." He scratched her behind the ears. "I guess no matter what I call you, you're just an alley cat who found a home. Still, I'm inordinately fond of you."
        Still purring, Maggie kneaded his stomach before curling up. She was inordinately fond of him too.
       
       




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