The Ancient Magus Takes A Bride

by Kryss LaBryn

Once upon a time there lived a terrifying inhuman mage.

He had a terrifying wolf's skull for a head, with terrifying big sharp teeth, and terrifying horns, and wore a terrifying (but surprisingly natty) black suit. His name was Elias Ainsworth; but people also called him the Thorn Mage, or Pilum Murialis (which means Spear Wall), because he tended to burst out in thorns when he was aggrieved; but he preferred people to not call him anything at all and to just leave him alone. He was something of a recluse, which is a polite way of saying a prickly misanthropic jerk.

It wasn't so much that he actually hated people, though; it was more that he just didn't really give a fuck about them, and deeply wanted them to not give a fuck about him in return. However, he had unfortunately come to the attention of the Church some time before, during a particularly unfortunate interaction with a very obtuse Customs agent in France, and now they wouldn't leave him alone. They kept checking up on him. They weren't very subtle about it, either.

Every Sunday morning, Elias (who was decidedly not a morning person and therefore inclined to be extra prickly when roused from his extremely comfortable bed, or otherwise bothered before he'd finished his morning tea—or at any other time, to be honest) would answer the door to find a pair of overly-chipper young idiots darkening his doorstep. "Hello!" They'd say to him. "Have you found Jesus?"

"No," he'd scowl; "Try under the sofa cushions." And then he would very firmly close the door in their faces, and they, satisfied that the terrifying recluse was still reclused at home, would wander off for another week.

Frankly, it was a relief when the latest priest sent to bother him did so by merely hiding in the bushes, which was far easier to ignore—except for his persistently annoying cough. Elias eventually had enough of it, bopping him on the head to get his attention, and giving him some cough medicine, which apparently the priest hadn't thought to try taking. "Shut up," Elias advised him, which apparently endeared him to the priest enough that the priest subsequently considered him (and treated him as) something of a friend. Elias, meanwhile, was just happy that the noise had stopped. He was also happy to keep him in cough syrup if it meant being left alone.

Elias had tried to fit in, he really had, for a very long time, decades, centuries even. Unfortunately though, humans tended to be a bit put off by very large inhuman creatures with very large teeth and glowing eyes who looked like they might eat them (which, to be fair, he might do), no matter how natty their suit was. And so, at this point, unable to fully integrate into human society (at least, so far as the European ones were concerned; but he doubted any others would be any different), but also unable to return to being the simple fae or spirit or ambulatory thorn bush or whatever he had once been (he didn't quite remember anymore—it was a very long time ago), all he wanted was to be left alone to live out the rest of his apparently-immortal life in peace.

The contradiction inherent in that plan had not yet occurred to him. He was not unintelligent; but he could be a bit obtuse at times.

Unfortunately, he was still not being left to his own devices. He avoided humans, and the Church largely left him alone (thanks, apparently, to his so-called friendship with Father Simon, who was perfectly happy to ignore his more minor doings so long as he didn't actually eat anyone else); but there were other mages as well, and they insisted that he had a duty to them, to mage society, and that he should take on an apprentice. To share his knowledge.

"Why?" he'd frown. "I learned almost everything I know from Lindel. Go bother him about apprentices."

"He's already taken at least two, and he's busy with the dragons," they'd reply. "It's your turn."

"You can take my turn; I don't mind."

"It doesn't work like that."

And so they kept nagging at him, whenever they crossed his path (or he theirs, which was slightly more often, as he did need to go out for supplies occasionally, as even the most traditional of British grocers do not tend to stock the more esoteric magical ingredients, and the paperwork to put in a special order was usually more hassle than it was worth). This did not seem to be a problem that he could solve with simple cough syrup, alas. Still, he put them off, or ignored them in turn, for as long as he could, while he vaguely contemplated various plans to shut them up.

One happy day, however, he heard about a unique item up for auction at Sotheby's, the magical British auction house, where one might acquire anything from unicorn horns to the odd Aston Martin (which he had heard was a very high calibre of horseless carriage, although he had no personal experience with it, since he didn't fit into most of them very easily, and far preferred to travel by train, when he had to travel at all). The unique item was called a Sleigh Beggy, and was a type of magical battery, more or less. Wonderful! They tended to break down after a decade or two, less if one actually made use of them, and this one was already a decade and a half old. Almost used up! He could tell everyone he was going to use it as his apprentice, watch it for a few years and maybe learn something more about humans, and be done with it.

And then maybe they'd leave him alone for a few more centuries.

All he had to do was to go and get it after ascertaining that it wasn't too objectionable. And to his satisfaction, it wasn't. To be sure, it was rather grotty; but he gathered that giving one's new pet a bath was rather a tradition, anyways. Best to start off on the right foot.

And so he washed it, and belled it, and fed it, and showed it where its bed would be, and even remembered to ask if it already had a name, instead of just giving it a name he liked himself, as humans did with pets that couldn't speak. And much to his delight, and as he'd planned, when finding one without any other social ties, it bonded to him very quickly, even refusing to follow the ariels into Tír na nÓg, despite them promising it a far happier life than it had apparently had heretofore.

Yes, this would work out very well, he thought. It—she—could be his apprentice, and he could teach her a few things about magic, and if she lived long enough to become a full mage, she could stay on with him indefinitely, and he could keep on observing her. And she could answer the damned door.

The End