Author's Notes: I do not own any rights to Daria, just this story. Please pardon any typos or errors.

Magician's Code

by Crow-Black Dream

1

Charles "Upchuck" Ruttheimer III was and always had been too poetic for most people. Partnered with flaming red curls and freckles peppering his large dimpled cheeks, this tendency toward speaking in flowery prose proved too much for any one of his peers for as long as he could remember, regardless of his inherent cheerful disposition.

Much of the free time in his life was given to various hobbies. Beginning at age five he kept a journal filled with daily routines, his own lyrical musings, and the occasional drawing or pasted magazine clipping. Next he discovered the work of adult authors, books above and beyond the drab texts he learned by rote. Dabbling in various topics of history led to a greater thirst for knowledge of medieval times. The lifestyles, the fashions, the poetry of the bards, the cartloads of bloated bubonic dead. He took on any of this reading material from the downtown library every Wednesday. After noticing this pattern his mother surprised Charles with tickets when the annual renaissance fair came to town in nearby Highland. Until this moment in his nine years on earth he had never been aware of such a magical space. In his new eyes this was a band of nomads staking their turf for a handful of precious days to masquerade where time and true medieval horrors were suspended, to raise tents carrying their mystical goods, to dazzle crowds with their yellow-talon birds of prey, to tilt full speed at one another atop horses with armor and shields and lances.

Alongside the jousting ring Charles discovered the callous taunts of a jester cavorting about the fairgrounds, heckling plainclothes passerby. His devil-may-care attitude and his mandolin enchanted Charles, who resolved right then and there that this was the person he wanted to be in life. He resonated with the Fool; he saw it most in the lofty vocabulary and biting satire. There was a certain resilience to be admired in the way the man in the jingling hat took the crowd's eye rolls and dismissal with good humor. From that day forward the boy took it upon himself to sharpen his tongue with velvet words. Better to make a point of eloquence in his defenses against playground taunts.

That didn't save him from the unforgettable name Upchuck one fateful day in third grade when he vomited all over the classroom floor before he could make it to the bathroom, thus casting him further out as a social pariah.

On his tenth birthday he received a mandolin. Of course he was clumsy at first. During occasional family gatherings his uncle Leo showed him the basics on his guitar. It was not the same instrument, Leo said, but the basics translate. Soon enough Charles had developed an ear for it and the doubly remarkable skill of pairing the music with limericks of his own craft.

It was during his freshman year that he discovered a dusty side-street magic shop full of more flash and deceptive plastic than one could shake a stick at. There were, of course, books on illusionary magic involving household items such as handkerchiefs and real money. It was a favorite point of interest on his frequent walkabouts. He often stopped in to learn tricks from a husband and wife duo who had been illusionists in their younger days, and on allowance day he never failed to appear with cash in hand.

He practiced until confident in his abilities, and when his mother became bored of his antics he sought out an audience at what he assumed to be the best gathering place outside the confines of school: the mall. There he set up the box serving as his workspace outside the Cashman's entrance, was hassled by head of security, and slipped him a simple twenty dollars to shoo him away. Carefully he cleared his voice before raising it in a call, "Ladies and gentlemen! You have seen David Copperfield and his, and no doubt you wished for more! May I present to you a chance to marvel without the aid of a television set! Ruttheimer the Prodigitator at your service!"

He slipped the top hat from his head, turned it over and summoned a puff of smoke from within using only a flick of his fingers. This certainly grabbed attention. Grinning, he replaced his hat and continued right into his next trick with smoke tendrils still creeping through his hair. And so began his random Saturday afternoon routine of setting up his magic space outside the mall to wow and extort the general public. When the head of security worked he took a fee; when he did not work it was understood that Charles was to be left alone by the other guards. Eventually he took to setting up in other locations around town.

One Saturday Mr. DeMartino caught him outside the video rental store, began to denounce the boy, then was appeased with a bribe when Charles realized how useful it would be to have a two-man con. The next Saturday they worked together at Cashman's. Mr. DeMartino proved to be an excellent sidekick even if his acting seemed a little forced to Charles. He helped Ruttheimer the Prodigitator round up seventy dollars, took his cut and was gone.

Charles turned his head at the sound of that which he had not mastered, that which did not bend to his will. The fairer sex. The laughter, ah yes, that was what he adored most about them. He certainly did not elicit that reaction enough.

It was the self-proclaimed Fashion Club, though he sometimes failed to see what set them apart from the other upper echelons of Lawndale High. It seemed they limited their acceptable wardrobes to the point of revolving through the same basic outfits. Not that it mattered much to Charles. They had their interests, he had his.

If his magic failed to charm them, no matter. Many unseen opportunities lie ahead.

++To be continued++