To the average person sitting on the dock with the expresso, the sparks looked like just another firework display for New Year's...even though it was mid-August. To the wizard in the middle of the forest beside the lake with burn marks all over his exposed skin and a live flame on his butt, this was the biggest screw-up since that time he had turned his familiar's fur into live snakes. Yeah, that was fun. And so was having your butt on fire.

Silas Ashcroft batted at the blue-purple flame on his posterior frantically, cursing quite beautifully while his orange cat watched from inside a nearby hollow. His one yellow eye gleamed and just shouted "you idiot". "Shut up, cat, I don't want your input!" Silas howled as he pushed the laughing flame further into his dark pants.

His cat- Milkshake- remained silent and silently laughed as the flame proceeded further in. "What it up with this fire?" Silas huffed, pausing to catch his breath, "It's got a thing for my a- OW!" He yelped as it bit one of his cheeks.

Suddenly, all of the fire was extinguished in a final spark of yellow. "Silas..." an exasperated voice echoed through the trees, accompanied by a sigh, "What in Gaea's name are you doing this late out in east-Jesus nowhere?"

Silas stuffed his hands in his pocket and glowered through the pines as his oldest brother Gilbert strode among them with a small necklace of lit yellow stones around his neck. His dark green eyes- a trademark of the Ashcroft family- reflected the yellow light, making even the happy color of his magic bored. "I was practicing," Silas answered simply.

"You're not allowed to practice by yourself. You don't know who could get hurt," Gilbert scolded as he leaned against a tree and took a glass ball out of his pocket. His index fingernail traced a few simple runes onto the reflective surface, illuminating the orb in his sunshine and then vanishing. The runes still burned in Silas' eyes.

He chose not to rise to the passive taunt and simply picked up Milkshake, whom had strutted to his knees. "I wasn't alone. Milkshake's with me." He gave the ginger cat a single stroke. Milkshake made no sound, just blinked his eye at Gilbert.

Gil stared down at the cat. "Well thank god for that. If it wasn't for Milkshake, you would have set the entire wood on fire..."

"Shut it, Gil..." Silas and his brother stood in silence, not quite looking straight at each other. "So...T's got his panties in a twist?"

Gil rolled his eyes. "Of course he's mad, Silas! You're lucky he didn't come himself and just...just-"

"Smite me himself?" Silas offered.

"Sure, we'll go with that," Gil acquiesced, "But, point is, you know you're not-"

"Supposed to come out here alone, much less do magic alone," another voice interrupted. Gil and Silas' gazes shot up to where their little brother Gabriel hovered with a grin on his face. "Cause, you know, you'll kill everyone with your inadequacy."

Milkshake made a noise in his throat, swishing his puffed out tail in alarm. "Gabriel, I told you to stay home," Gilbert said in a deadpan of annoyance. His stones around his neck intensified in their glow.

"You're not Thom, Gilly-bertha," Gabriel called down, pale eyes widening with his smile. He drifted down just above Silas' head, as he was taller than Gil. Silas reached up to grab his collar, but he moved out of range with a laugh.

"Gabriel, go home," Gil said, his eyebrow twitching in annoyance.

"Or what?"

"Or I'll cut off your toes and feed them to Vi's frogs," Silas glowered, glaring up at the next-youngest sibling in the Ashcroft family.

Gabriel stared smugly down at him. "You won't," he drawled before turning and speeding off through the trees, creating streams of light that emulated Silas' failed attempt at sorcery. Milkshake relaxed, as well as the glow of Gil's stones.

"Anyway." Gil took a breath and held the bridge of his nose between two fingers, rubbing as if he had a headache. "Thom wants you home now. He's furious..."

"Wonderful." Silas put Milkshake down and ran a thumb over the chain around his neck through his turtleneck.

"Hey, your fault for acting unreasonably," Gil said gently. He patted Silas on the shoulder.

"More like his fault for having a kid with no magic talent..." Silas retorted, rubbing his face with his hands and groaning.

"You just haven't found the right kind yet..." Gil offered as the three started to walk, Milkshake trotting in front of Silas like a well trained guard dog. "And, besides, you have a wonderful guardcat. I don't think Milkshake'd let Thom come too close to you," he laughed.

Silas' shoulders fell. He could not even muster a smile in light of his latest screw-up. "I remember the first night he was on our doorstep. He wouldn't settle down until you came near him..."

"Yes...he's a wonderful person..." Silas droned. Milkshake shot a look over his shoulder and flicked his tail in an unmistakeable bird. "You are! You put up with my crap all the time. It takes a saint not to throw up in Gabriel's shoes, I'm sure!"

Milkshake gave a strange huff noise like a laugh and looked back forward, tail swishing. Gil laughed again. "That cat..." his face fell as he took on his bored air again, "I hope you're not punished too hard...he just got back..."

"Hasn't stopped him before..." Silas said with an eye-roll as they neared through the first wards that surrounded the village. He could just barely make out the shadowy shapes of the tree-houses and lights from their point. "Do I have to come home?"

"You're under Magic Liability to stay till you're eighteen..." Gil said, casting a sideways glance of sympathy to his little brother. Silas' eyes darkened and his mouth tightened as he stopped just outside the second group of wards. Milkshake padded up to him and stood on his right foot, looking up at him.

He fingered the chain again, a tad rougher. "And there's not a way to remove that?"

"Aging, yes. But no, honestly...you should know that. You're read pretty much every book in the library," Gil reached up and tapped on each of the rocks to extinguish and remove them from his pale neck. He turned and hurled them individually into random directions, returning to the earth he had plucked them from.

Silas nudged a root of a particularly large tree with his left foot. "I've tried every type of magic there is..." he muttered. "I'm just a complete foobar."

Gil blinked and turned to look at Silas. "Foobar? No you're not. Maybe your Find will be at eighteen, when you can get away from us."

"Doubt it..."

"Always so optimistic."

"Well, how can I be optimistic when I can't even make a light without it trying to burn my arse off?" Silas pointed at his butt with a glower.

Gil chose not to look and simply examined his brother's pale face. How the dark hair waved wildly at strange intervals, the mildly bushy eyebrows, how his chin that came to a pseudo-point was emphasized by the dark turtleneck. He looked paler and there were shadows under his eyes. Silas looked away after a few seconds and kicked the root hard, staring at the ground. Milkshake entered his field of vision and meowed once, gazing up at him with his one golden eye. "Come on," he grumbled, "Let's get this over with."

Silas took off through the trees, striding through each ward with Milkshake at his side. Gil followed, a mild pang of fear in his chest for Silas. They soon entered the village, where the houses were hewn out of living trees. The magic energy kept them alive despite their missing cores, and one just simply learned to deal with the bugs after living in a tree for so long. But it still grossed some out to find a beetle in their sock to some degree. Most of the inhabitants of the village retained magic of the earthy type- the population comprised of herbalists, geomancers, the Ashcroft family whom specialized in all forms of mancy, assorted other magic-users of the humanoid type, and a few of the fae.

People greeted the returning young men from their perches in the trees or on the roots of their dwellings. The Ashcroft name was of the chief standing in the village and Thom- the current head of the family- kept a sterling reputation as a staunch influencer of the law and of keeping everything in working order. The Ashcroft house was comprised of a large cluster of pine in the center of the village and of multiple levels. They even had an underground room where relics were stored.

Silas entered the front door and waited for Gil to lead him to Thom. They proceeded up a side-stairwell to where the studies were and entered the second door in the hallway. Thom sat at a desk magiced out of the floor hundreds of years ago. He leaned over a packet of papers filled with charts and accountants of the goings-on in his absence, which had been filed by Gilbert. His coat hung off the back of his chair and his bag was still next to the door; his long umber-colored hair was a tad disheveled but still in its trademark ponytail at the nape of his neck. The ends curled up like Silas'.

Thom's very dark green eyes did not look up until he had read the final paper. Silas felt a cramp coming on in his right leg, so Milkshake sat on his foot. Always a helpful little bastard. "Silas." Thom said simply, reclining in his chair, yet not looking at his son. He closed his eyes and laced his fingers together.

"Sir," Silas replied, knowing he hated being referred to as 'Thom' by his children when spoken to.

"Where were you?"

"By the lake."

"Doing what?"

"Practicing m-"

"You were breaking my rule about you." Milkshake made his trademark guardcat noise somewhere between a hiss and a growl.

"Yes, sir..." Silas looked at the corner of the desk where the back of a small painting of his mother stood.

"Why did you do that?"

"I got tired of sitting in the study doing nothing and could not wait to-"

"Silas, do you know why that rule was established?" His voice took on the scary-quiet volume.

"To keep people from being injured by my inadequacy." Silas' eyes lowered to the ground. Gil shot him a sympathetic look again, and twirled a piece of straight dark hair on a finger.

"Yes." Thom's eyes shot open as he yelled, "So why did you break it?"

Silas and Milkshake winced at the sudden loud noise. Thom's evergreen earth magic swirled in light form around his fingers as he rose and stood in front of Silas. His son still towered over him. "Do you want to kill someone? Are you just being a rebellious, stupid teenager? Is that what it is?"

Silas looked Thom in the eye. "I apologize for my break. It's just hard to-"

"I don't want your excuses," Thom hissed. He backed up and rubbed his temple. "Why are you such a pain, Silas?"

Silas did not respond. Milkshake shot an unmistakeable death glare at Thom, his claws unsheathing. "You're the only burden of all of my children...just..." Thom opened his dark eyes to look at Silas. "I'm going to decide what to do with you tomorrow. I'm tired from traveling. Can you go to bed without setting the goddamn house on fire?"

"Yes."

"Yes what?"

"...yes sir..."