I yawned as the sun began to set. Time to close up shop. Slow day, really. I guess not many people were looking for herbs or spellbooks today.
I got up off my chair behind the counter and walked up to the entrance, switching the sign on the door to closed. I yawned again. I shouldn't have stayed up late last night, but I was busy making fire spice. Some woman had tried some of it the day before and liked it so much that she asked if I had ten pounds of the stuff. I of course hadn't, but I told her I'd have it by today. Thus, I had been up till three o' clock last night making fire spice. It takes a long time to boil, and must be done very precisely. If done badly, it could blow up a whole city block. That would get me arrested real quick. Then I'd spend the rest of my immortal life rotting in some jail cell.
The woman, true to her word, had bought my ten pounds of fire spice early this morning. It cost one hundred dollars. She was the best customer I had all day.
I sat back down at the counter and looked at myself in the mirror. My reflection stared back. I looked over my white skin, long dark hair, and green eyes. I was still looking good for someone who was over a thousand years old.
My name is Anton Blackstar. And I am a wizard. Yes, a wizard. You heard me right.
And I don't mean a D&D or a birthday party wizard either. I'm the genuine article. I have lived since the tenth century and will continue to do so forever. That's the power of all wizards, you see. Whenever we are made into a wizard, we become immortal, never changing our appearance from then on. Oh sure, we grow old mentally, but physically, we never change.
It's surprising that wizards exist, is it not? I would think so. But considering everything else that exists, wizards are the least strange thing one would encounter in today's society. You see, every myth you've ever heard is true. Monsters are real. Magic is real. And every god from every religion is real. Except for the flying spaghetti monster. That's definitely a fake.
You see, in the beginning, seven gods, who were also the first beings to come into existence, created the universe. They were Atum, Eros, Brahma, Izanami-no-Mikoto, Quezalcoatl, Odin, and the nameless Christian God. Together, these gods create life out of the void, creating the stars, planets, and all else. Afterwards, they separated into separate Pantheons and more gods arose soon after.
Our Earth is often the playground of gods. One of them created man, who quickly worshipped whatever gods they thought the greatest. Over time, humans grew to believe the gods were false (they were wrong), and began to make up facts about why the world worked. Science, they called it. Sorry, but that's wrong.
Anyway, like I said, I'm a wizard. I'm probably one of the most powerful wizards living today (and I'm the only wizard that dwells in North America). The rest are around here somewhere, but they still cling to the old ways and live in castles or caves out in the wilds of Europe, China, or anywhere else isolated. They haven't embraced modern human culture as I have.
I glanced at my watch – 6:30. My friend, Jiayi Chen, would be here soon. With the sun going down, it is safe for him to come out of his hiding place.
I decided to neaten up my shop before he arrived. My shop also doubles as my home, at least for now. As is typical of all wizards, I am a wanderer. I have walked across the planet for many years now, stopping in different towns to help where I am needed. I have seen civilizations rise and fall, I have seen wars fought, and I have saved more humans from things they can't understand many more times then I can possibly count.
Last year, I came to this town, Danforth, in Maine. I took a liking to its small town atmosphere and decided to stay here for some time. I set up a shop (hey, the bills can't pay themselves), specializing in herbal remedies, magical food, and books. I also sell occult merchandise, but I don't usually advertise that, as many people here are devout Christians and would probably object to such material.
I grabbed up a wooden staff lying against the wall. This was my focal object. A focal object is an item a wizard chooses to channel magical energy. We can only choose one, and if we lose it, we cannot use magic. Wizards, unfortunately, cannot just fire bolts-of-lightning and wind from our fingertips. We need a focal point to do that.
I grabbed my staff, and pointed it at some dust covering my book shelves. I was feeling a bit lazy today, so I decided to just use magic to clean everything rather than do it by hand.
Concentrating, I said, "Tergeo tergo tersei tersum!" Instantly, all the dust vanished from the books, literally fading away into nothing in the air.
I did this to the rest of the store, cleaning off a pair of sandals that had gotten mud all over them when I had been running last week. These sandals were a special gift from Hera, the Greek goddess of women and marriage. In the early 1980's, I had cleaned out some farms she held in high regard. In return, she had given me these sandals. Pretty lousy reward, but you don't say that to a god or goddess. Especially one as famously temperamental as Hera.
Finally finishing with my cleaning, I placed my staff back on the floor and admire my handiwork. The room now looked spotless. At least it would until tomorrow, when my customers come in and put their dirty hands on everything in sight. I was thinking of putting magical charms on everything to make them feel squishy and gross to touch, but I'm not that much of a jerk.
I also glanced over my herbs. They lay in a little garden outside my windowsill. I grow basil, green onions, nightshade, thyme, frankincense, and a lot of other stuff. Most of my customers come to me seeking various herbal remedies. I usually charge five dollars for any herb, and an extra five if they want me to make the remedy for them in the store.
My herbs looked healthy, which I'm pleased by. I didn't use any magic in growing or nurturing them. They are completely natural, which is good for the health of my customers. Consuming things touched by magic has unpleasant effects on people, like making them vomit repeatedly or make them see frightening hallucinations.
I looked outside after inspecting my herbs. The sun had finally set. That meant Jiayi would be here any sec…
As if on cue, there was a knock at my front door.
A young Chinese man was standing there. He had long dark hair and brown eyes. He wore a black overcoat over a blue T-shirt. He also had strikingly long and well-manicured fingernails. He smiled at me, showing off long fangs."Anton. Good to see you."
"Come in, Jiayi," I said. He walked in and sat down on one of the nearby chairs in front of the counter. I didn't offer him anything, as Jiayi literally couldn't consume normal food. This was because he wasn't human, but a jiang shi. A Chinese vampire.
Like myself, Jiayi was much older than he appeared. During the early years of the Qing Dynasty in China, around 1675 or so, he was turned into a jiang shi. Like wizards, jiang shi were immortal and did not age. However, unlike wizards, they required something to sustain themselves. No, not blood. That's European vampires.
Instead, Chinese vampires feed off of qi, the life force which inhabits most living beings. They are required to absorb qi from at least one person a day. If they do not, jiang shi will gradually turn into a hopping corpse, an undead being with little mental capacity that gets around by hopping. (I'm not kidding). Jiang shi, like European vampires, can be destroyed by the sun, so they sleep in dark areas during the day. Every night, Jiayi went looking for prey, feeding mostly off of criminals and the corrupt. He tried to avoid feeding on the innocent, but that was not always possible.
Jiayi was my watcher. He inspected the area for anything evil that might want to threaten this town. I had first met him when I was exploring Canada, and we had become friends. He now followed me on my wanderings, acting as my eyes and ears.
"How are you tonight, Jiayi?" I asked.
"Hungry," he grunted. "I don't think I can stay long, Anton. My hunger pangs are getting the better of me right now."
"Noticed anything strange the last few days?" I said. He shook his head.
"Nope," He responded. "Nothing out of the ordinary. I mean, there are a bunch of fae dwelling in the woods near here, but they aren't evil or anything to worry about. Unless they start tempting mortals with their sweet songs and music, and have men dance with them for eternity."
I nodded. "Yeah, I won't worry about them yet. Any gods pay a visit here, lately?"
"Just one," Jiayi said. "I've smelled Kokpelli hanging out in the woods near my cave. I haven't seen him, but I know that scent anywhere. Plus, his blasted flute playing awakens me at night."
"Kokopelli?" I said, scratching my brow. "Well, that should be good for the agriculture of this place. Well, thank you, Jiayi. It's always nice to see you."
"My pleasure," He responded, standing up. We shook hands. I escorted him to the door.
"Anybody special you're feeding off of tonight?" I asked. Jiayi nodded.
"There's a priest I've been watching lately," He said, grinning. "Oh, don't give me that look. He's an evil man, constantly spouting about God while he indulges in all manner of sin during the night. He's at home right now. Maybe I'll frighten him by saying I'm a demon sent from God to punish him."
I nodded. "Well, good luck. Careful he doesn't have any sources of fire to defend himself with." (One of the jiang shi's major weakness was being burned.)
He snorted. "You insult me, Anton. I'll see you tomorrow perhaps."
"Goodbye," I answered. Jiayi turned and disappeared into the night.