Aubrey Fletcher is over two hundred years old, and between the biggest lump of raw talent anyone's ever seen, and a couple of centuries of practice, he's the best mortal caster anyone's run into. (So far, anyway.)
It could've been incredibly intimidating to have Aubrey as a teacher, but Cal's not the sort of guy who takes the whole power-and-authority thing seriously. Of course, it helps that Aubrey stopped visibly aging when he was a cute and slender twenty-three, while Cal's six-four and muscular; he definitely has the size/strength advantage, and did even when he and Aubrey first met. I think it's more a personality thing, though. Cal just doesn't intimidate easily. It takes a lot to make him angry, and when he's not angry he's pretty easy-going, with a quick grin. He shows his master respect when it's important, but without either groveling or fear. His ego is strong enough to acknowledge that Aubrey is lightyears beyond him in magical knowledge and skill, without being resentful or feeling diminished. It takes a pretty dire situation to knock Cal out of kidding-and-teasing mode and get him completely serious and obedient, but being over thirty, Cal's not likely to disobey for the sake of being rebellious, the way a teenager might.
But sometimes the obedience just isn't there, even when it should be....
Cal's been working on an elaborate spell to open a portal between universes, and after weeks of work and calculations to draft out the diagram and get all the symbols right and acquire all the right powders and pigments, he's eager to actually try it. Master Aubrey wants him to wait, but Cal has a day off today, and he doesn't see why the fact that it's Halloween should make any difference. He takes advantage of Aubrey's absence to go ahead on his own. After all, this is only practice, opening a portal to an empty, pocket universe. Even if something goes wrong, how bad could it be...?
Famous last words, right? O_O
Today was Sunday and a friend of Daniel, Cal's executive chef, had booked the whole restaurant for a party. Daniel was running the show, giving Cal his first really free Sunday in longer than he could remember. He had good staff, of course, but he was the owner and it was his place. Monday would be busy again, with the weekday crowds from the medical center across the street, a couple of last whoop-it-ups before the election, and people who'd been partying over the weekend and just didn't feel like cooking, all coming in to eat. Taking time off at random for magic-related emergencies was one thing, but this was just practice; there was no reason not to fit it into the restaurant's schedule.
Of course, it was Halloween. Cal didn't see what difference that made, though, seriously. It wasn't like he was going to be summoning a demon or something. Or calling up the shade of someone dead. Or even opening a gate to one of the hell planes. Cal's apprenticeship hadn't progressed anywhere near that far and he wasn't stupid enough to try any of those things by himself for the first time anyway, Halloween or not.
All he was doing was opening a door to a pocket universe, one of the bazillions of blank, uninhabited places in the cosmic multiverse. Even if the fact that it was Halloween did make a difference, there was no possible harm that could come out of having a door to an empty nowhere strengthened or enlarged or whatever it was the Halloweeny effect might cause. Aubrey was just being a putz -- he did that often enough, usually for a joke -- and probably had some idea of giving Cal yet another lesson about doing something difficult and stressful when you're tired or distracted or pressed for time.
Aubrey was really big on practicing for combat conditions, but Cal thought he went overboard sometimes, like right then. The fates had conspired and Cal had the free time and attention; waiting until Monday was pointless.
If the old bastard really wanted to run him to exhaustion, then he'd do it again on Monday. Cal had worked his ass off with the research and calculations, though, and he wanted to try this out now.
The fact that Aubrey was off raiding a library and wasn't due home for -- Cal checked his watch -- about half an hour just made it perfect.
Cal shoved the nervous shiver to the back of his mind and stomped on it, hoping that having a perfectly executed spell to show his master would balance out the whole disobedience thing.
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