It was a chilly winter day on the streets of Manhattan. All around, people were bundled in multiple layers of clothing, shivering and clattering their teeth, rubbing palms together in a vain attempt to gather heat. All Jason Karter, dressed in his thin cotton t-shirt, faded blue jeans and black trench coat could think about was how foolish people really were. He strode through the city not even feeling the bite of the January winds, despite the fact that his coat was wide open and flapping in the breeze.
Jason had always been partial to winter anyway. The cold chill kept people indoors and off the streets, which suited him fine. Summer always meant children released from the shackles of school, teenagers without jobs loafing about the mall, and the tourists. The Hawaiian-shirt wearing, picture snapping loudmouths from Minnesota or some such state, who drew so much attention to themselves the panhandlers had to compete for an audience.
And that was the problem really. It wasn’t the fact that they were tourists, but rather the attention. Jason hated attention. He did his damnedest to draw as little attention to himself as he could, but these people. They drank in attention like mosquitoes drank blood. The whole thing made Jason’s head hurt.
Stopping in a small mom and pop coffee place he frequented when in the city, Jason took a seat in the corner. After a minute or two, a waitress came over and he ordered his usual; black coffee and a cheese Danish. One of the few simple pleasures Jason allowed himself nowadays was pastries. At forty-two, age was quickly catching up with him. He was still lean and fit however and his hair, while grey, was a thick mane that made him look distinguished. Not that Jason cared. He tried to have as little to do with other people as he could. So of course, when the girl sitting across from him starting making little sneaking glances at him, he did what came natural. He left.
He only got a block away however, before the girl caught up with him. She hesitantly walked behind him, arm stretched out as if to tap him on the shoulder. Before she could reach him however, he spun around and gave her a menacing glare.
“What is it brat? I haven’t got the time or patience.”
The girl, perhaps sixteen or seventeen, who was dressed in baggy jeans and a loose fitting hooded sweatshirt, pulled back looking hurt. “Geez, sorry. It’s just, well…” she broke off into a string of incomprehensible murmurs.
“What do you want?” He accentuated every word, becoming increasingly frustrated.
“You’re a warlock aren’t you? I mean, an actual element crafter. I noticed when you walked in, but was so surprised I didn’t even notice. I mean-,” He cut her off before she could say anything else, pressing his hand over her mouth. Without a word he pulled her into an alley, pressing her against the wall.
“Who sent you? Was it Sheena? Is she sending children to do her work now?” Without even realizing it, he had wrapped a hand around her throat and it wasn’t until she went limp in his grasp that he had realized what he had done. Immediately relaxing his grip, she let out a throaty cough and ducked behind him, putting up her hands in defense.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know any Sheena, I’m just a kid!” Tears began to well up in her eyes and Jason let out an exasperated sigh.
“Sorry kid, I just…sorry. Look, it’s not safe to talk like this on the street. I know a place where we can chat in private. Follow me.” Without waiting for confirmation he walked deeper into the alley, until he came to a dead end, a brick wall standing in his path. The girl, after a moment of indecision, followed behind and now stood behind him.
“What’re you doing?”
He didn’t bother responding, but began talking in a low voice that sounded like he was gargling with rocks. When he was done, he pressed his hand to the wall and walked through. Blinking in disbelief, the girl pressed her hand against the wall, and stumbled through, finding herself standing in a café that looked like it was decorated in an homage to the 20’s. She saw Jason in a corner and walked forward, not looking where she was going, nearly knocking over a waitress carrying several drinks of various bright colors, all popping and fizzing. Taking a seat next to him in the booth, the two sat there in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, until Jason finally spoke.
“So, who are you and what can you do?” It was more of a statement then a question.
The girl blushed, suddenly becoming very interested in the table. “Well, my name’s Rachel and to be honest, not very much. I mean, I can do some minor tricks with light and~” He interrupted her before she could get any further.
Rachel let out an audible gulp and began a whispering a chant. Jason could see the fire spirits appear around her, and a sphere formed between her hands. It started at a dull red but quickly becoming brighter and brighter until he was forced to look away. With an explosion of light, it floated upwards out from between her hands and became larger, taking on a humanoid shape. Everyone at the bar at this point had their attention focused on Rachel. The humanoid shape at this point had grown to well over seven feet tall and featured human facial features. It dropped to one knee and bowed its head.
“Mistress, how may I serve you?” Its voice was low and husky and although it had no real gender, its voice was closer to a man then a woman. Rachel blinked, unable to respond. The crowd at this point had formed a circle around Rachel, Jason and the creature.