Tag Archive: Ballard


Emery frowned as the suspect confessed to Hassett of her crime. Sometimes the suspect was cocky or self-assured as they confessed, almost as if they didn’t care that they’d been caught as long as they’d been successful. Sometimes the wardens had to drag the confession out of them, inch by painful inch – showing irrefutable evidence until they could no longer deny their crime. This time – times like these – when the suspect seemed to have been backed into a corner by circumstances, were the worst.

This was not a cold-blooded murder, prompted by greed or a thirst for power. This was not even a crime of passion that could be seen as a momentary lapse. The woman had killed someone because she felt that otherwise the abuse she had from that person would never end. She had slowly and methodically plotted out every single portion of the crime. She had waited, using herself as bait so the person would fall into the trap. However, unlike those who he normally encountered that kill in cold-blood, she was remorseful.

The police could only tell the man to stop following her – to stop taunting her. They could not stop what was not considered a crime. Thus a perfectly ordinary, good-hearted woman had been driven to take the life of another.

“She’ll probably get off light because of extenuating circumstances,” Hurley said softly. “Anyway, you did a good job. What she did would have eaten away at her if she’d actually gotten away with it.” Emery nodded. The victory still seemed a hollow one, but the older man was probably right.

Applying Old Words to New

“Who would like to explain this principle?” the professor asked. He was greeted by utter silence. He glanced around the room at the students and repeated, “The principle of contagion? Can none of you explain it?”

Emery, the youngest student raised his hand. The professor nodded at him and he rose. “Sir, the principle of contagion maintains that… if something has been in contact, no matter how tenuously or how briefly, it will always remain in contact. It’s used in a variety of spells, especially those that connect people to property.”

“Yes,” the professor said. “It’s also used a great deal in magical forensics.”

Emery remembered that day like it was yesterday. It was the first time he’d heard of magical forensics – at least in more than a periferal sense. His father’s disappearance had prompted mention of forensic mages; only that they were unavailable.

Now he was a forensic mage himself and working on cases much like his own father’s disappearance. His magic did not use the principle of contagion. He hardly used the principles at all. Most of the time he used the gifts of semi-magic that he was gifted with.

“How can you read the trauma at a scene without casting a spell?” Hassett asked over his shoulder. “I mean… you don’t have a wand, so then you didn’t cast a spell.”

“Well,” he began. He looked down at his shoes and then up at the warden. “I use a preliminary spell that doesn’t require a wand. It gives me a general idea of the trauma that occurred in an area.” He did draw his wand then, at least for appearances. He even murmured as if he was casting a spell. It was easier to pretend than explain off-magic.

“The statement when dealing with the mundane is seeing is believing,” the lecture said. “Magic often takes this and turns it on its head. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the field of tangible illusion. In this case, to believe it is to see it, to taste it, feel it… all the senses can be fooled if the caster simply believes in the vision he has cast.”

Emery shook his head in wonder, common illusions, like hallucinations, fooled those they were cast on well enough. A tangible illusion for all intents and purposes was the thing it pretended to be.

“There are interesting uses, beyond simple entertainment purposes for tangible illusions. Can anyone think what they might be?”

For the next hour the man went on to describe everything from safe travel in even the harshest environments to medical care where there is no medical supply available. By the time the lecture was over, Emery felt like his head might explode. The idea of an illusion so powerful physically that it defied the term was bordering on insane. One thing was certain, when it came to magic, and especially illusions, seeing was not believing.

“The Associate Brotherhood of Metaphysicians,” Miles read the sign aloud slowly, obviously trying to discern their meaning. “Beyond the physical,” he translated.

“Into the spiritual, perhaps,” Emery surmised.

“We try to use magical philosophies to understand the essential being of the world,” a man behind them said. “It’s an interesting field of study – very broad in scope. Are you enjoying the conference so far?”

Miles nodded and Emery added, “Very much. It’s fascinating to see all the ways people use and view magic. What’s your take on semi-magic?”

Ah, semi-magic,” the man murmured. “Similar to off magic in the fact that the weave influences the mage and not the other way around. Awesome in its variety and fascinating in its uses. What’s your interest?”

Emery blinked and looked down, phrasing his next words carefully, “We know someone who has semi-magic.”

“We believe that semi-magic and off magic exist for those times and places where traditional magic would be dangerous or impractical to use,” the man said. “Does that help?”

Emery frowned and nodded. “I think so,” he said softly. The idea of having a special skill in the case that their usual ones weren’t usable was a new idea for Emery. He wondered what their father would think of the notion.

Emery shuddered as he looked over the crime scene. This was the third woman to be killed in the same brutal fashion. The problem lay in the fact that the only thing that connected the victims was their gender and the manner in which they’d been killed.

“It’s the same weapon as the last two,” Morrissey said softly. “Emery, what’s your analysis of the trauma?”

Emery swallowed heavily and looked away from the body. “Lots of it. She was scared – terrified… and so hopeless. Then the pain starts. Hers mostly – his to some degree.”

“So we aren’t talking about a sociopath here,” Hassett surmised. “They don’t get traumatized by the injuries and death the cause.”

“Right,” Emery agreed. He looked down and sighed before adding, “Only… he… felt the trauma after she was already dead. He was abjectly horrified. During the murder… he’s feeling nothing at all.”

“Really?” Morrissey murmured.

“That’s the base reading I’m getting. I’ll do a stress test – best to do it right here in situ. That’ll give me a clearer timeline,” Emery said as he began to set up the equipment for the stress test.

“You’re not usually so uncertain,” Morrissey added.

“Crime scene isn’t usually so…strange,” Emery replied.

Emery watched the military procession as it passed through town. It was a parade. These men had served their country in peacetime and, some of them, in war. Now they were being honored.

That was right and fitting. The fact that men of many ages, many backgrounds and many points of view had come together as a cohesive group was astounding. They had worked hard to ensure the freedom of their fellow countrymen and women. That hard work was what this day was all about.

What was worrying Emery was that more than one of those men was feeling such a degree of trauma that he could feel it from the crowd of on-lookers. He could pick them out as they walked by. They looked just as calm and confident as their fellows but an almost palpable wave of pain emanated from the men.

He wondered what had so terrified them; these steadfast soldiers; paragons of strength, that though they paraded just as proudly as their fellows, inside they were trembling. “What happened to them?” he whispered.

“They say that there were demons out in the wilderness,” Hassett said softly. “Kinda makes you wonder what kinds of battle they’ve fought.”

“Hard won ones, I’m sure,” Emery murmured. He closed his eyes, grounded and centered his aura, wondering if he could send these men the ease he felt even as they sent him their pain.

Miles stood watching the girl as she danced. The music was soft and sweet. The girl seemed the same. She didn’t meet anyone’s eyes as she danced but her movements were so very graceful.

“Hi,” he whispered as she walked by. When she looked up at him, their eyes met and he saw they were wide and dark, like a doe’s. “Sorry,” he added. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She smiled slightly and shook her head. “You didn’t scare me,” she whispered. “I can’t talk to you here though.” She spun away, as graceful as she had been on the dance floor and disappeared into the crowd.

“Who was she?” Emery asked as he rejoined his brother.

“I didn’t catch her name,” Miles asked. “But she’s really scared of… something.” He stood and headed in the direction the girl had gone. He may not have anything to go on but the girl’s emotions and an inkling of her thoughts, but she needed help.

“Continuing education, hmm?” Morrisey asked after Emery had explained his request. “How does a mage conference count as continuing education?”

“It’ll broaden my horizons and expose me to new ideas,” Emery said firmly. There was no doubt in his mind that this was the only way to get the department to defray the cost of the trip.” They have some very interesting seminars at these conferences, you know. There are discussion groups led by, and filled with, people from all over the world.”

“Do you really need your horizons broadened?” Morrissey asked.

Emery shrugged and replied, “We’re still quite young and don’t have the worldly experience that you and the other investigators have. This kind of thing will keep our minds from stagnating… keep our ideas fresh.”

Morrissey nodded slightly and murmured, “Time to venture into that great ocean of knowledge, hmm, Emery?”

“Time once more, yes,” Emery said. “It’s always fun to try out new things.”

“Well, I’ll send it on for approval, seeing as you won’t always feel that way,” Morrissey agreed. “They’re bound to approve it, unless you have a pressing case. Is all your paperwork up to date?”

“Yes, sir. Thank you,” Emery said as he bowed his way out of the office. He smirked as the door swung shut on Morrissey’s last words, “Pick up a souvenir for me too, will you?”

“What does it all mean?” Hassett asked as he read over Emery’s shoulder.

“It means that in order to really learn; to really truly gain understanding of something, you have to be exposed to all points of view,” Emery replied. “Look at it this way. My brother and I were both taught by the same primary teacher, our father, then we went to the same school, the Academy, and had all the same teachers. That means that we’re basically of the same mind about most topics in magic.”

Hassett nodded. “That makes sense,” he allowed.

“In order for us to truly grow as mages, we need to have different experiences. We need to be exposed to ideas that we weren’t exposed to by our father or the Academy teachers. That’s why they hold conferences like this. So people can be exposed to new ideas and ways of doing things.” He smiled at the older man and shrugged, the man still looked a little confused. “Hassett, if you surround yourself with people who hold the same view as you and never meet anyone else, are you going to get any new ideas?”

“No, because everyone will continue to hold the same view,” he said, a light beginning to dawn in his eyes.

“That’s why we’re going to this conference,” Emery said with a decisive nod. “That and they have the most amazing tools there and venders like you wouldn’t believe.”

“You want to go shopping,” Hassett accused wryly.

“Yes, but I also want to learn something new,” Emery said with a wide grin. “I love mage conferences,” he added as he scampered off to ask Morrissey if the department would pay for the trip.

Excite Those Ideas in Me

Abram looked out on the busy street and he saw someone he’d never seen before. The young man was small, as he was, but instead of dark hair and eyes, the stranger was fair. He moved with the grace of a dancer as he walked down the street, dodging between passersby.

He bounded from one shop to another with an enthusiasm that Abram rarely saw in anyone who belonged to the Order. His size marked him as a mage, but from his clothes it was equally obvious that he was an outsider.

A part of Abram wanted to go out onto that street and talk to the spirited young man. A part of his was terrified of ever approaching the stranger. He stepped back from the window as the blond ducked into the bookstore.

“Where are you going?” a familiar voice asked. Abram turned to find the father of the order. He seemed, as ever, stern.

“The… the bookstore,” Abram said quickly. He bowed slightly and went out the door, hoping to catch the blond. It didn’t take him long to reach the shop but with the high shelves, it was impossible to see if the young man was still in the store.

“Excuse me,” a crisp voice said from behind him. Abram turned to find the blond man standing there. “I… wanted this book,” he said, pointing behind Abram.

“Of course, sorry,” Abram replied as he stepped aside to allow him access to the shelf. “I’m… my name is Abram Winters.”

“Emery Ballard,” the blond said. His smile held a warmth that Abram had never seen in anyone in the order. He inclined his head slightly before turning toward the front desk.

“I… I saw you,” Abram started. He was rewarded by the blond man returning his gaze to meet his own dark eyes. “I saw you from my window and… wondered if… perhaps we could… have tea together. It… isn’t often that I meet someone from outside the Order.”

Once more the young man flashed a brilliant smile. “Sure,” he said. “There’s a little tea house I know, just down the street. I’ll get my book and we can go… unless you were here to get something too.”

Abram shook his head and followed Emery toward the front desk. Up close his movements were even more graceful. Abram felt his face warm and wondered if the father would be upset with him for meeting this stranger. Then he realized that it didn’t matter.

Monica Ferris

an author with many hats

A Land of Curiosity

From the files of Shynian Intelligence

Heather's Fancies

tales from the enchanted gardens and shadow hollow

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