The heavy door shut hard behind Gordon Waite, muffling the bass-heavy beat pulsing from the up-scale strip club.
The night was chilly. The sky clear. A gusting breeze tossed a cloud of dust and a torn flyer down an adjoining alley.
Blowing warmth into his hands, Gordon fumbled with the zipper of his denim jacket, drawing the collar tight to his throat. Glancing both ways, he stepped from the sidewalk and crossed the darkened street. Beyond the small, deserted park beckoned his car, a 1979 Monza Spyder.
The park was a minefield of construction. Warning signs dangled from an iron-wrought fence, sheets of plywood lay across deep, muddy pits. A back-hoe sat ominously near a series of orange cones surrounding several half-finished public works. At the park’s center lay a recently repaired circle of interlocking stones. The circle enclosed a sequence of lines radiating from a marble centerpiece. Gordon crossed.
Several steps in his head began to throb; a dull ache that became an explosive pain. His eyes teared as he rubbed at his temples. The pain flared, and he screamed.
Nagirok traveled the astral paths, an intricate latticework of shimmering threads that stretched across a black, starless field. The strands glowed with a myriad of colors, each color signifying a specific degree of danger. The well-used, safer passages burned bright blue; the more obscure trails a smoldering yellow, the dangerous paths pulsed deep vermillion.
The wizard had followed as many as he dared; not entirely certain what it was he sought. But whatever it was, the need was urgent.
Days earlier the dreaded Velamaran had crossed the border into Dacran lands with a large army supported by barbaric shamans and a powerful demon. Their advance was slow, but ruthlessly thorough, and while the proud people of Dacre defended their homes with stubborn resistance, they proved no match for a creature impervious to man-made weapons.
Thus, Nagirok scoured the astral paths in search of a solution.
He was dispirited and close to defeat when he chanced upon an obscure path, a faint trail of light bereft of any magic save in its most primitive form. Halfheartedly he tried it, and was somewhat surprised to feel a presence. It was faint, yet hopeful.
“Your workday is contingent on the astral planes, opines masterful fantasist Bruce Durham in his inquiry into magical reality.
Daniel E. Blackston, Editor