One hundred words for each of the one hundred prompts, as inspired by the Balthy 100 forum. In which I lurk, because that's what I do. This is only the first twenty I did, because I realized after prompt two that if I honestly tried to go in numerical order they'd find me hiding in the cabinet eating my shoelaces. The others will go up, still in groups of twenty, as I get them done. These are not meant to be little stories; they're snippets, like pieces taken from a longer story that can stand alone. Sometimes they begin or end kind of awkwardly, to which I say: you try it, if you think you can do better.
note: this is one hundred words by the measure of microsoft word, so if you disagree with the exact number of words in each prompt, a) you have way too much time on your hands and b) it's not my fault.
note two: no, the title makes no sense to me either, it just appealed to me.
note three: forgive my crappy formatting, this site is eating my normal stuff and I'm still trying to figure out what the hell is going on.
note four: the number in 69 is a rounded number, arrived at by guesswork and hasty math done on the computer calculator. My figures will probably disagree with others. At this point, I honestly do not care.
disclaimer: me no own.
1. Arcana Cabana
He got the store because he was tired of wandering, of running and hunting and chasing. Also, like any sorcerer, he tended to collect junk with any connection to the arcane. New York was a busy enough place to settle and disappear into the crowd and still be looking out for the Prime Merlinian, if a bit passively. He was tired, truth be told, and more frequently feeling every second of his thousand-plus years. It was nice to have someplace steady to go home to.
Because he thought Veronica would have found it funny, he called it the Arcana Cabana.
"They have funny patterns on them and everything."
Balthazar ran a hand over his knee, trying not to bristle. "I'm not asking you to wear them, Dave," he said semi-patiently. Sometimes he hated this century. More specifically, he hated the kids this century produced.
"No, but you're… out in public..." Dave wisely trailed off, gesturing helplessly. Balthazar pinned him with a merciless glare.
"With you?" he finished. Dave started to nod but stopped. "I'm not related to you, Dave, and you're not sixteen. My pants should not be that big a source of embarrassment to you, patterned or not."
The unicorn skull was one of the very few things Balthazar collected that had actual bearing on his profession. Matter of fact, it was probably the most expensive thing in his store. Unicorns, not the smartest of creatures, were increasingly hard to find, and with proper preparations the horn was a wonderful focusing tool. An intact skull was worth its weight in gold, or more.
All of this flew through Balthazar's mind in half a second. Compared to the worth of the Prime Merlinian, though, a unicorn skull was nothing.
He wrenched the horn off and turned to face Horvath.
There was something foul on the night breeze, a soft whisper he couldn't quite make out. Balthazar leaned out the window and caught a hint of smoke. Behind him, Merlin was moving about busily, muttering to himself.
"What is it?" Balthazar asked, when he thought he'd get an answer.
"Morgana," Merlin said. Balthazar turned at his tone. There was an unfamiliar look on Merlin's face. "I haven't told you, yet, the reason I took on apprentices."
Balthazar waited. He was good at that.
"There is evil out there," Merlin said softly. "And you are going to help me defeat it."
After a thousand-plus years, a man tended to pick up a sense of diplomacy. After all, Balthazar was ageless, not immortal, and an insulted woman is a dangerous thing in any era.
So he didn't spit out the bite of whatever-it-was, although his gulping down half a bottle of water probably wasn't very subtle.
"Are they that bad?" Becky asked Dave, who was turning an interesting shade of red.
She wasn't Balthazar's girlfriend; this wasn't his problem. Balthazar took another sip and glanced at the tin Becky was holding.
Cookies as lethal weapons. Now he truly had seen it all.
They finished the Chrysler Building in 1930; Balthazar was only interested in one part.
The eagles on the sixty-first floor corners were massive, easily big enough to carry two or three people. Big and impressive and majestic, they instantly appealed to him. Three years after the completion of the building he finally wandered up to the proper floor and stood on an eagle's broad neck for more than twenty minutes, watching the sun set and the city light up.
It didn't really surprise him when the steel eagle, broad wings spread wide in flight, became something of his calling card.
The air was blistering hot, which made sense now, and dry as bone. Balthazar carefully tucked himself into a ball against an oven-hot rock, trying to make as little noise as possible. It was difficult; he'd taken a solid blow across the chest that, if he was lucky, had broken only a few ribs.
Merlin was going to be furious. So would Veronica, who always had an unkind word for them when they nearly got themselves killed. And Balthazar himself had a few things to say to Maxim.
But not before he murdered whoever had declared dragons to be extinct.
The old man gave him a ring, a jeweled thing that looked ridiculous against his small seven-year-old hand, and asked him if he could do something special, something impossible. What he did made no difference; the jewel glowed, green-yellow like a cat's eye, and the old man smiled.
His brother gladly traded him for a handful of coins so he left with the old man, balanced carefully in the saddle. They rode to a castle, where two other children ran out and greeted him with smiles.
Thus began the happiest time in the very long life of Balthazar Blake.
There was a certain quietness descended over the lab, a sort of contentment only achievable by two people completely at ease in each other's presence. Balthazar was settled on the couch, back against one arm and heels propped on the other, only half focused on his book, mind mostly offline. Dave wandered around the lab, organizing in one place and working on homework in another, moving more because he couldn't decide what to do than for any real sense of urgency to get something done.
It was a peaceful, sleepy sort of mood, and Balthazar wished it would never end.
"Have you ever been to Scotland, Balthazar?"
"We called it Alba, back then," he replied, not bothering to look up.
"Have you been to Edinburgh Castle?"
Balthazar looked up then, studying the two kids. Becky was armed with a laptop. Dave was watching him with wide eyes.
"Once," he said finally, slowly. "When Merlin was still alive."
Becky made an 'oh' sound and visibly retreated. "We were just curious…"
Dave was shaking his head, divorcing himself from the 'we'. Balthazar turned away from them and returned to work, visions of Scotland's emerald lands and Edinburgh's beautiful castle haunting him still.
The Morganians of this century were not impressing Balthazar.
Drake Stone, this one's name was, and according to Google-via-Dave he was some sort of celebrity. Balthazar almost felt sorry for Horvath, fresh out of the Grimhold and having to rely on this sort of nonsense. He also almost felt sorry for Stone, although anyone foolish enough to trust Horvath earned their fate.
Still, after Morgana, Balthazar tracked Stone down to a private hospital in Albany and paid for the kid's medical bills. With his magic severely decreased and his ring missing, Drake Stone had hard times in his future.
Ever since the death of Merlin, Balthazar had set his standard by Horvath's measure. True, they were now enemies, but once they had been friends, and they were almost perfectly matched in every regard. Horvath was the carrot and the stick, eternally driving Balthazar to do his best, be his best. When Horvath was finally sealed in the Grimhold, Balthazar lost the drive to make every day mean something.
Which was why he smiled when he whipped his car around the corner to find himself facing a garbage truck. They were back on even ground; now, winning would mean something.
Dave started to protest the general unfairness of Balthazar's damn honor code, but swallowed the words. He had once asked if Balthazar's moral compass pointed north. Now he knew better.
Instead, he tried a different tact. "They're not exactly boy scouts, Balthazar. They basically stole it first."
"So stealing from thieves is acceptable?" Balthazar asked, realized the futility, and retreated to the safer ground of Because I Said So. "No."
Dave groaned- there was no budging Balthazar when he got that tone- and glanced mournfully at the casino billboard on the side of the road.
So many lost opportunities…
"You're joking, right? I mean, you have to be. You can't be serious."
"How many times," Balthazar said, patiently tapping the staff against the ground, "have you seen me win a fight using only magic?"
Dave opened his mouth to answer, shut it again after a moment. Finally he sputtered a reply. "That's different, you're… you. I can't do this!"
"That's why we're starting with these," his master answered, hefting his staff. "Instead of swords."
Perhaps a bit pointed, but it got the message across. Dave shifted, bracing himself for the beating he knew was to come.
He wasn't disappointed.
Merlinians are bad liars.
It's just a part of who they are, as much as the disregarding of all rules is the most basic tenant of Morganians. There is no written rule declaring that as one of their traits; it simply is.
After lifetimes of lying, Balthazar got the hang of it. Those who knew him well knew better, for Balthazar learned only to be harder to read, not a better liar. Still, those who knew him were few enough.
Sometimes, he paused to take his own measure. He quickly stopped that. He didn't like how Morganian he was becoming.
Most holidays made Balthazar cringe, since he had known them both before and after commercialism, but Halloween was worst. There was an element of truth in every myth, after all, and things always got weird. Especially around sorcerers.
Which was why he protested loudly when he saw the pumpkin sitting at the end of the driveway. Veronica overruled him without saying a word, as she always did, and he ended up on the porch with a bowl.
He decided, after chasing off a third goblin with a well-aimed Tootsie Roll and a swift spell, that he really hated Halloween.
Four hundred sixty-three thousand, eight hundred and twenty-eight days.
He wasn't actively counting the days, the hours, the very seconds. He didn't have to. Some small part of him was keeping track. Sometimes the numbers blurred a little, the days and months running into each other. Other times it seemed like he had nothing better to do than to listen to the clock ticking away in the back of his mind.
When Dave asked if he knew what it was like to wait for the woman he loved, he almost laughed.
Not at all, Dave. He didn't have a clue.
Intellectually Balthazar knew being sealed in an urn for ten years paled in comparison to Horvath's near-century, or Veronica's millennium-plus. Still, there was something ironic to Merlin's apprentices all being sealed into decorative objects, and all by Balthazar's hand.
Not that Horvath was interested in irony. After pointing out how fitting it was that the keeper of the Grimhold ended up sealed away himself, he huddled into his own corner and spent his time muttering over something.
Balthazar merely waited patiently. His term would soon be up, and he had a Prime Merlinian to track down and train.
Balthazar gazed at the mirror in front of him, eyebrows rising.
"Why?" he asked.
"Because it's cool," Dave replied, one hand steadying the floor-length mirror. "And because I need to know how to fight other sorcerers, not just… you know, get lucky."
He agreed with the latter, even if the first part was a bit weak. "And how many other sorcerers do you plan on fighting, Dave?"
"There are still Morganians out there, right? And you can't always be there to bail me out." Pause. "Please, Balthazar?"
He really should know better.
"You'll need another mirror to get out."
The bridge bucked under Balthazar, knocking him over. He was back on his feet instantly. He had left everything, except the Grimhold and Merlin's ring, in his car on the mainland. It was safer there.
In the middle of the new bridge they were calling Golden Gate, Horvath stood watching. He couldn't see Balthazar, but he knew his old rival was out there. He rapped his cane again and the bridge twisted like a living thing. He loved this modern age.
Balthazar kept his feet, barely, and staggered forward. His sweaty grip on the Grimhold tightened.
Now or never, Horvath.