‘Keep your hands off my friend,’ Kane growls at the shocked personification of grossness sprawled on his ass on the floor. Kane’s pretty sure the beating already sent the message, but it doesn’t hurt to be thorough.
Big Ugly splutters, then glares. ‘You-you piece of shit, you’ll pay for this! I have powerful friends.’
‘Yeah? Bring it on,’ Kane retorts, feeling pretty confident right now.
He feels rather less confident when two other men loom up behind Big Ugly.
‘Outside,’ the first growls.
‘We’re Zit and Wedge, and we’re gonna kick your arse,’ the second clarifies.
Zit nods. ‘But we don’t wanna make a mess of you on Mal’s nice floor, since it was just scrubbed an’ all.’
Kane glances at Mal – supposedly a trustworthy bartender – to find her nodding appreciatively. ‘Brawlers these days are so polite. Out you three go.’
Kane wilts. ‘But…there’s just one of me.’
It’s around this time (as the two other guys crack their knuckles and look like they’re going to drag Kane outside whether he likes it or not) when someone else pushes their way through the gathering crowd.
‘ ’Scuse me, pardon me. Hello. What’s going on here?’
Bright blue hair; the kind you get from mucking around with magic way too often. Everyone immediately reassesses the situation, and watches her warily. A sorcerer can quickly change how a brawl plays out, if they feel like intervening.
Kane sincerely hopes she does.
‘Miss,’ Zit intercedes before Kane can get a word in, ‘this young…person here, just brutally attacked my poor friend, and me an’ Wedge think we oughta be able to teach ’em a lesson in manners.’
The sorcerer studies him for a moment, as if considering his statement, and Kane grabs his chance.
‘Pimple here is completely leaving out the fact that their friend wouldn’t leave my friend alone, after she asked him to go away twice!’
Zit bristles, and looks to the sorcerer for her judgment.
She considers. ‘Can anyone else vouch for this guy’s statement?’
‘I was the one getting hit on!’ Jen shouts from behind Kane’s shoulder.
The sorcerer digests the witness’s statement. ‘Hm. I’m inclined to see this as a case of self-defense, from the perspective of someone not the self being hit on. So: I’d suggest that all parties involved accept the ruling of ‘he who gets their ass kicked probably deserves it’, and move on.’
‘Fat chance,’ Wedge growls. ‘The pack sticks together. We have to defend our leader.’
Werewolves, Kane sighs inwardly. Just my luck.
There’s a dramatic pause, then the sorcerer says cooly, ‘you try it, and you’ll get your asses kicked too.’
Zit and Wedge eye her warily. Kane eyes all three of them, which is hard to do with only two eyes.
‘Reckon we could take a sorcerer,’ Wedge hypothesises — an idea quickly proven false and stupid in any lab experiment.
But this is a tavern, packed out on New Year’s Eve, and the sorcerer only raises her hands when Zit charges at her. Kane flinches back, sure she’s about to be crushed, when suddenly bright purple flames explode in the air between her and Zit. Zit yelps and scrambles back from her.
‘I have nowhere to be until book club at midnight,’ the sorcerer informs them calmly, her palms up and ready to summon more flame. Kane squints at them. ‘So I have plenty of time to teach you a lesson.’
Apparently rescinding their hypothesis, all three werewolves make a mad dash for the door and disappear into the night.
The sorcerer smirks victoriously, then shakes her bright hair out of her face. Kane squints at her as she turns to them. ‘All good?’
‘Yes, thank you,’ Jen says, sounding impressed. ‘Wow…a fire summoner. I didn’t know there were any teenagers powerful enough.’
Kane has nowhere else to squint, so just stares hard at the sorcerer’s face. ‘Yeah…thanks. That was…really cool.’
She waves their thanks off with one hand, a few wisps of smoke drifting from her sleeves. ‘All in a day’s work. I’ll be off now.’
Kane blinks in surprise, then follows the sorcerer outside. ‘Hey, wait! You, blue-hair-magic-person. Who are you?’
‘A masked vigilante,’ she says, after a pause. ‘Without the mask, because duh, magic.’
Kane blinks at that, before realising she’s perfectly right. Besides the obvious that she’s female and blue-haired, he seems to forget what she looks like one moment to the next. Kinda neat, honestly, though disconcerting.
He shakes his head. ‘No, I mean…you’re not a sorcerer. I’ve seen people summon fire, and it’s always from a closed fist, not an open hand. Also, your hair’s dyed, not magically changed.’
She doesn’t answer for a moment, then looks stumped. A long pause.
‘Well?’ Kane asks.
‘Fine,’ she admits. ‘I’m a sorcerer-in-training, but the fake mask’s about the most complicated magic I can do. The hair’s so people take me seriously whenever I do masked vigilante stuff.’
‘And the fire?’ Kane persists.
After a moment, she shakes out her sleeve, sending a tiny purple dragon tumbling into her hand. ‘My helper. Fire aid, if you will. You’re the first person to notice, y’know?’
‘Just logic and being awesome,’ Kane shrugs, pleased. “Hey, um…can I ask you a question?’
After a pause, the sorcerer nods, ‘sure.’
‘Why do you wait a second before responding to anything?’
Another pause…then the sorcerer beckons Kane closer, tucks her hair behind one ear. He leans in, stares: there’s a golden skink no longer than one finger-length perched behind her ear, its claws gripping her piercings for balance. It unhooks one tiny leg to wave.
‘…What the fuck,’ Kane says.
‘What the fuck,’ the skink repeats, snout buried in the sorcerer’s ear.
‘This is Amber,’ she grins. ‘My hearing’s shit, so it helps me out. I call it my hearing aid.’
The reptile preens under Kane’s stare.
‘Shit,’ Kane mumbles, for lack of better words.
‘Shit!’ Amber crows gleefully.
Happy New Year! ❤