Let's get this straight: I'm no hero.

I don't wear spandex. I don't go out looking for trouble. I just do my thing.

Of course, since said "thing" is acquiring power I suppose you might say that I am looking for trouble after all.

Once I began my studies, the one thing I had promised myself was that I wasn't going to stick my nose into things that didn't concern me. That was the main reason I had stayed as far away from New York City as I possibly could. (Seriously, have you ever watched the news? It's like you can't cross the street without running into some sort of super battle.)

But the problem with magic is that you can't just get all your research material over the internet. You also can't buy magic items over eBay. (Well you can, but the odds are you're going to get a fake or a cursed item and I rather like not being a toad, thank you.) So when the Lady (of whom more shall be said later) told me that I needed a piece of Uru metal in order for the Spell (of which I shall also speak more of later) to work, I didn't have a lot of choice but to head to New York and visit the small nondescript store that it had taken quite a bit of legwork to discover the existence of.

The proprietor of the store was a tall, thin guy. The shop was freezing—I don't want to think about his power bill—and the curtains were drawn on the windows. "Yes?" he asked.

"Uru," I said.

"Uru?" He blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"Uru. The metal. The Asgardian metal that holds enchantment especially well."

"Uru doesn't exist." He drew himself up to his full height.

"Sure it doesn't. And neither do Dark Elves. Especially Dark Elves who are hiding out from their brethren for certain—shall we say?— indiscretions." I smiled at him. "It'd be much simpler for both of us if you just accepted that I know what I'm talking about. But if you insist, I could always break your glamour …"

The Dark Elf shot me a dirty look and immediately jumped over the table and locked the door to the shop. "Who the hell are you, kid?"

"Tell a Dark Elf my name? Yeah, right. And after that I'll go find the Hulk and call him an 80 pound weakling."

He glared at me and made an odd gesture with his right hand, and a sword of ice literally materialized in his hands.

"Flames of the Faltine." I didn't shout it. I did my best to sound bored, actually. Like so many things, magic requires confidence. I said the incantation and gave a bored wave in the direction of the Dark Elf's ice blade.

The Dark Elf howled as the blade was engulfed in green flame. He dropped it and shot me another dirty look. "You go too far, sorcerer."

"I'm not here to fight." Especially when the odds were that I could lose. "You have something I want. Let's make a deal."

He said nothing.

"Look, the sooner we make a deal the sooner I'm out of your hair."

"Fine. Yes. I have some uru." He walked back to his cash register and pulled out a small ornate box. "Direct from Asgard."

I blinked as I looked into the box. "THAT'S your uru?"

"I didn't ask you to come to my shop. You don't like the quality of my goods, then get out."

"It's not the quality—it's the quantity. I've seen bigger toothpicks."

"You think you can get any more uru from someone else, be my guest." The Dark Elf smirked, his lips stretching in a way no human's could. "I suppose you could always head to Avengers Mansion and ask the Thunderer if you could borrow his hammer. I can't imagine he'd say yes, though." And the Dark Elf barked a laugh.

Now it was my time to glare, but there wasn't much else I could do. He had me over a barrel and he knew it. Uru was pretty damn rare—on Earth, at least. Its properties were legendary, though—nearly indestructible, it would enchantment like no other metal in all the Nine Worlds. It was possible that the Spell would work without it— but "possible" carries an element of risk that I didn't want to entertain. "How much?"

"250 thousand."


"I wasn't expecting gumballs, kid."

"Do I look like I'm made of money?"

"You're a sorcerer. There should be some kind of way for you to raise that kind of cash." He gave me that too-wide smile again. "Of course you could always try to take it…"

"I could."

"Of course, you can't STEAL an item of magic like this—especially if you want it to work in the kind of spell that requires Uru—and have it work. I have to give it to you." He grinned again. "Or you have to kill me."

"That's true." I did my best to look intimidating—but let's be honest. I was about three inches too short and about thirty pounds too heavy to pull it off.

The Dark Elf sighed. "You have power, kid. But you still have your blood innocence. You haven't killed anyone yet—and I don't think you're going to start with me." He closed the box. "You get the cash, come back and we'll talk."

I didn't want to think what the Lady would say to me when I told her what had happened, but I couldn't think of anything else to say but, "I'll be back."

"Sure thing, Arnold."

I slammed the door as I walked out. I was not a happy camper. The Lady would not be happy with me about this, but the Dark Elf was right—I did not want to kill anyone. I wasn't sure I had it in me—but I couldn't imagine being able to earn that kind of cash, even with magic. It's not like opportunities just fall out of the sky …

And then that's when the girl fell out of the sky on top of me.