WHO: Jack & James WHEN: March 12th WHERE: James’ wagon
He felt lost. Jack had hoped to get guidance from an old friend, but time had not been kind in that aspect and he’d been about two decades too late. He thought about going to Sean, seeing as he was a Magi as well. But he’d been given books. Books written by a fellow Magi, sure, but Magi didn’t use books to learn how to use magic. It was natural, it just came to them. Perhaps his old friend, Owen, had written them to help his kin tap into magic as Blackstone did. Perhaps, Jack just wasn’t interpreting them right. So, he figured the best person to help him, would be the one who was better at research.
First, he checked the tent, but it appeared empty, so Jack instead he wheeled up next to the steps and reached up to knock on the door of the wagon- managing to hit the bottom corner area of the door. “Professor?” He called, trying not to be too loud that he’d be rude, but loud enough to be heard.
For James Henry Blackstone magic hadn’t come naturally. The man known as the Professor hadn’t been born with the natural gift that the Magi possessed, nor was he truly supernatural like so many others there in the Carnival. Still natural talent and affinity weren’t the only ways to acquire power. It was through hard intensive work and study, that had cost him over two decades of his life, that Blackstone became the powerful sorcerer that he was today. Still that effort and continuous research never ended. There was no rest for a man who was driven to constantly further his craft. Every new day offered James the chance to continue his work; to learn new things, and to hone his magic more. Even being in this new age didn’t slow his dedication down by any means. If anything, since finding himself in the ‘modern world’ the Professor’s efforts had nearly doubled.
Unlike others of his trade and craft, James had always favored the use of science and math when it came to working the mystical arts. Where another mage might have focused their efforts on ancient lore or rituals to breathe life into their magic, the Professor had long since found a way to use technology and chemistry to bring about real power too. In this new age, technology and access to information was plentiful indeed. To the point that Blackstone found himself spending countless hours simply sifting through a seemingly unending supply thanks to the internet. Oh much of what was out there had proven fake, yet still there were always little golden nuggets of very real magic, potion recipes, and spells to be found if one was diligent enough to go looking. And diligence and patience were things that James possessed in spades.
Before the sun had even risen the sorcerer had long since been up; having not truly gotten much in the way of sleep ever since arriving here in this ‘present’ decade. So when that knock was heard, and someone called out his name, Blackstone sighed softly to himself before moving to see who it was that came calling. Instead of the wagon door being opened though James appeared from up above, leaning over the top of the wagon to peer down from the edge...because he had been sitting up on the roof of his wagon for a few hours now; working on installing a solar panel up there, one that he had been tinkering with to collect and convert sunlight into a new form of energy. Not for powering electrical gadgets, but to convert the solar energy into power for his spells. Once more seeking to combine tech with the ancient arts.
“Yes? May I help you, lad?”
Jack looked up with mild surprise and wheeled his chair back to see the man better. “I was hopin’ so.” He said with a nod. “Tryin’ t’figure out how t’get is back home.” Him being the cause was something he played close to the vest, but seeing what he could do- it made sense for him to try to work out how to fix it, so he wasn’t as secretive about that. “I’ve got some…” Jack reached into the small bag next to him, inches tall but it was as long as his chair, and pulled out a book- one that had no right to fit in the bag. “Books from another Magi. I’m having some trouble figuring it out. I… was hoping you might be able to help?”
An eyebrow arched ever so slightly when James heard the young man talk of trying to find a way home. Yet instead of saying anything right away the Professor glanced back at the solar panel he had been working on. Time was precious, and there was always so little of it when it came to his projects. Still instead of turning Jack away the sorcerer continued to listen. That slight sparkle of interest seen in his eyes at the mention of a magi book. A mage’s spell book; be it magi or sorcerer, was very precious indeed. His own collection of spells and recipes was something that Blackstone kept carefully hidden away. To see those books in the other’s man's hands certainly drew his attention.
“That is an interesting request to be sure...still I have a bit of work that needs to be handled before I can turn my focus to another project. However, if you’d be inclined to lend a hand up here...well I suppose I can find the time to aid you in kind.” The fact that Jack was in a wheelchair hadn’t eluded the Professor at all. But the boy seemed strong, and an extra pair of hands would make things go quicker for him on the roof. “So what do you say? Care to help me out for a bit?”
His brow arched at the request as he placed the book on his lap and patted the wheel of his chair. “As fun as that sounds, I may run inta a bit of an issue with that.” Jack chuckled.
That gaze of his drifted down to the chair when Jack patted it’s wheel, and after considering things for just a moment James moved to sit on the edge of the roof. His legs hanging over the edge. Without saying a thing the sorcerer took a moment to fish through his pockets; pulling out a small coil of copper wire, a vial of inky black liquid that seemed to shimmer softly in the light, and a small notepad as well. After flipping through the heavily scribbled pages the Professor seemed to find what he was looking for, and proceeded to carefully wrap the wire around his finger. Making a little makeshift ring out of the wire. When the ring was complete the cork stopper was pulled from the vial and that odd substance was slowly spilled onto Blackstone’s hand. Coating his fingers and the copper ring too.
That free hand of his picked up the open notepad at last, and silence lingered for just a few seconds as the air around them both began to hum with magical energy. Beneath his breath unintelligible words of arcane power were muttered in an almost rhythmic chant, until the black liquid suddenly burned away from the mage’s hand...revealing the copper ring to now be silver. With a sigh of slight exhaustion James finished the spell. And after putting away the notebook, and the now empty vial, he slipped off the silver ring and tossed it down to Jack. “Put that on and get up here, lad.” Without waiting to see if the young man would follow suit, the sorcerer slowly stood up and disappeared from sight as he walked back across the roof of his wagon. Stopping and taking a knee beside the contraption he was in the middle of working on.
Jack instinctively caught the ring. It was always interesting to see a sorcerer cast. If he tried, he could see the magic gather around the man, could feel it coalesce. Of course magic was everywhere, so he (and most Magi) were picky as to when they ‘saw’ magic. But sometimes it was almost automatic. He slipped the ring on and could feel the spell gather to him. It was as if tendrils wrapped around his hips, spine and down his legs and stiffened like supportive rods. He put the book back into the bag and slowly pushed himself out of his chair. At first he felt off balance, but the spell supported him.
A weaker man may have cried. Jack just felt his breath taken away for a moment. Had he not known it was magic, he would have. Looking up at the roof of the wagon he already knew he’d not be able to climb up there. It had been way too long since he’d done something like that. Sure, he had the upper body strength, but the coordination he was lacking. Still, Jack had a trick up his sleeve.
He focused on the area upon the roof, and reached out before him, clenching his fist, he visualized the two points next to each other and focused, gathering the magic around him. Then, he stepped forward and onto the roof, through the invisible door he’d created. “So… what are you doing?” He asked, crouching down to better avoid looking down at the height.
So focused on his little invention, James hadn’t even noticed that Jack had made it up to the roof until the young man crouched down beside him and spoke up at last. “Hmm? Oh it’s an idea I had after coming across these fascinating solar panel devices. You see, they are meant to store solar energy, and in turn then convert it into power. But I had found myself wondering if that power couldn’t in and of itself be altered to fuel spells. After all, all magic is merely a matter of energy being harnessed or displaced to create a desired effect.”
Even as he spoke up Blackstone picked up a piece of chalk from the beside the panel, and began to carefully start inscribing little runes across the reflective surface. Tracing out runes, and lines as well that started to slowly resemble some manner of a geometric line like patterns. “The real trick to it all though is in the actual application of spellwork woven within the solar panel itself. In some regards the runes are quite similar to the ones I have drawn into my tent. They are what store my energy when I recharge the tent. And in turn act as a sort of battery to fuel the illusions. Now if I can calculate the right equations, I just might be able to find the correct way to have the sun itself be used as the source of energy. Thus possibly eliminating the need to use my own energy in the process.”
Jack nodded, though most of it went over his head. He saw the runes but had no idea what they meant. When he made a spell stick, like his bag, it was more like weaving the magic into the open space of the bag. Visualizing the effect he wanted while guiding magic to make it happen. It was a bit more nuanced, but he’d never been god at explaining how he did what he could do. “That’s an interesting idea.”
It wasn’t hard to spot that much of what he said hadn’t made much sense to the young man, but James was used to that by now. Mostly since he could easily get swept up when it came to his research and projects, to the point that when he spoke of them with others...well most folks tended to just look lost. “In simplified terms, I wish to use the elements to produce a specific outcome. Back home, well wind and water have both been used to create energy. Wind with windmills, and flowing water with water wheels. Here, it will be the sun that serves as the driving force, while this little contraption will store the collected energy.”
Truth be told, before arriving in this modern age and seeing the solar panels first hand, such a notion hadn’t been something the Professor could have even imagined. Now though, now that the tech was very much real, it all came down to finding a practical way to harness that power. “I believe you are an artist, correct? Could you be so kind as to follow a sketch I’ve created, and duplicate the sigils and runes on the panel here with chalk?” As he asked the question James pulled out a piece of paper from beneath the panel; on it a hand sketched diagram that held an intricate and detailed pattern. “While you do that I shall begin enchanting the panel itself with the spells needed to have it hold the charge.”
“I can do that.” Jack nodded and moved in place by the panel. He took up the chalk and the page and began to draw the sigils. Some of the designs were complicated, but he had a pretty good sense of spatial awareness and was able to get them copied down without error- he went slow a few times to make sure. But was extra careful not to mess up.
It took time to patiently weave the spellwork into the already inscribed runes. Time, and more energy than James would care to admit. The lack of sleep, or eating for that matter, always had a way of catching up with the Professor. Especially when added with the drain that came from pouring his power into his inventions. Earnestly, had it not been for his vampiric lover, Blackstone likely wouldn’t have slept at all. He would have worked until passing out, and repeating the cycle all over again. Here and now though he mustered up the strength to keep going. Slowly muttered those arcane words beneath his breath as each pattern began to glow when Jack finished drawing them. With a soft sigh of exhaustion Blackstone finally sat down, and as he inspected the finished work the man wiped the sweat from his brow. “Well done, lad. You have quite a knack for this.”
“I have a knack for this.” Jack held up the chalk. “And this…” his eyes seemed to narrow as he focused on the chalk, his other hand twisted slightly as the worn chalk reformed into a full piece- the drawings remained. It was something he did as a parlor trick, turning time back on something repeatedly seemed to lower the quality of the item, which was why he did it to impress or in time sensitive situations.
Once again that brow of Blackstone’s rose in earnest interest as he watched the piece of chalk be restored. A hundred different questions sprang to mind all at once; so many questions about the nature of the time magic that the young man used, inquiries regarding possible applications for it in regards to manipulation of temporal energy, and more than a few questions about how Jack was able to use such a gift too. But instead of posing any of those, he merely offered a nod before gesturing to the books. “Well since you were kind enough to lend me a hand, what is it exactly that I can do for you?”
Jack saw the expression and tucked a bit of hair behind his ear. For some reason he was always self conscious about using his powers in front of other magic users. “Yea, so… honestly I dun know. But back in 1914 or so I met a gent named Owen in Nawlins. He was a Magi like me an’ helped me learn some focus. I was hopin he might be able t’help with our situation.” Jack explained. “Unfortunately, he passed a while ago. But his granddaughter lent me some books a’his that he wrote. Actually wrote about magic. Seems like more’in what we can do. But I’m not sure. Not as learned I think. Can’t make sense of half of what he’s talkin’bout. So, was hopin you might be able to find somethin’ on how t’... well, t’get is home… gonna be a lotsa power. More’in I got.”
Tired as he was, and tempted as the Professor was to turn his attention back to the solar panel they had just finished work on, James kept his attention fixed to the young man. Listening with interest to the puzzle being laid out before him. A magi’s magic, written about in those books. Time manipulation, and the question of how to get them home. All of it did intrigue the sorcerer. Even if he honestly had no real desire to return back to their own time. Others did, including Eva, and for that reason alone he was willing to look into the matter. With a little nod to himself James fished out his dark tinted glasses and slipped them on, before they headed down to retrieve the books. James watched as Jack reached into the bag and pulled out the two books from a space obviously too small to hold them.
Oh he was no user of time magic at all, but altering the reality of the senses was the Professor’s bread and butter. Some had teased him about those spectacles he always wore, but in truth James used them as a spell focus. As a way to literally see things in a sort of slow motion, allowing the older man to speed read his way through pages and pages of written material at seemingly inhuman speed. Sure doing so always left him with a nasty headache, but this was clearly one of those times where the headache was well worth it. So in silence he sat there on the roof, taking a few minutes to literally read through every written word within all the books Jack had brought.
When he was done at last the glasses were put away, and with a little wince the sorcerer began to rub his temples. “Well now...that was...interesting to be sure. It appears as if this Owen gentleman had been involved in an effort to fashion a totem of sorts that could be used to channel his Magi power through. He even wrote of linking it to the leylines as well in order to boost the magic.” Just the raw power of a tapped leyline alone was incredible to consider, but when harnessed in conjunction with other magic too...the sheer brilliance of it was amazing. Incredibly dangerous. But brilliant.
“When I first joined Zion I had postulated that the carnival itself used...well for the lack of a better term..a heart or focal center to transport itself from one place to another. Granted, my initial research never bore much fruit in the way of substantial proof. Yet if these books are right, it’s possible that this totem device could be the key. Not just to answer how Zion functions, but also how it can return to its own point in time too.” It was all a theory presently. An untested one at that. Still if the young man sought the way home, Blackstone figured he could at least try to offer up his best education deduction. “The main problem though is that his calculations and spellwork were somewhat shaky. And from the look of things Owen never managed to make his totem work.”
“I’ve… tapped into a leyline b’fore.” Jack said, pondering the revelation the professor put forth. “But never used no totem. Never needed to.” He rubbed his neck as he paced away a few steps, thinking. (Later, the epiphany of how natural it felt to pace as he thought and how natural it felt verses just sitting in his chair pondering something would hit him and he’d send the professor a grateful note for the experience of walking again, even for a little bit.) Jack tried to focus back on what happened when he’d messed up. It felt different than when he normally casted, like he was boosted. But he hadn’t had a totem or anything. Sad thing was, even with the same circumstances, he didn’t think he could make the same ‘mistake’ and take them home. To purposefully move the carnival, he’d need to focus and maybe this was a way to do it. “So, maybe if I can channel my focus through a totem… int’ th’ convergence- the leylines… y’think it could boost things enough t’ undo what I- er, what happened?” He asked, trying to cover his slip.
The Professor was a little familiar with leylines, yet as a sorcerer he had never tried to directly tap into one. Mostly because it was the magical equivalent of trying to grab onto a bolt of lightning during a thunderstorm. Such raw unchecked power could be a boon, but he wasn’t physically capable of handling it at all. No, James used a buffer of sorts. Be it potions, trinkets, or totems. The sorcerer funneled magic through objects or spells to deliver results. To varying degrees of success.
That slip of the tongue hadn’t been lost on Blackstone at all; yet he had no interest in calling Jack out on it, not when the greater puzzle remained to be solved. “Realistically speaking? I have no idea. I mean, hypothetically it could be possible I suppose. If you were to tap into a leyline, while using an attuned totem, and trying to work your magic through it all. Still even then I highly doubt an average totem would be enough to augment your innate abilities to the level required .”
Just piecing things together about that night, the best James could suss out was that in the chaos of it all Zion tried to move, and at the height of the magic being cast...well it seemed like Jack unintentionally tapped into the ley line too. Causing his time magic to meld with Zion’s teleportation. Which resulted in the carnival being sent here to the present. “Now if you could get your hands on a powerful enough totem, while syncing it to the leyline and the power source of Zion...and additionally ensure that you also have an anchor in place to the past as well, to serve as a compass of sorts to take Zion back to the right point in time...provided you also factored in some manner of magical buffer to prevent you from killing yourself and everyone else when all that pure raw power was channeled through you as you cast your magic….then I suppose that could potentially work.”
There were so many moving parts to it all; so many possible ways anything and everything could go horribly wrong. Still as he considered it, the Professor’s thoughts drifted back to his studies on Benjamin Franklin. Specifically the kite and key experiment. “More or less you’d metaphorically be trying to harness lightning through yourself, while sticking a finger in an active light socket, and your foot into a raging furnace...while using your tongue to make a connection to a lamp you wished to turn on. It would be quite dangerous to attempt. Though...with the right precautions in place, and if the calculations are correct, it would be possible to succeed in the endeavor. And even possible to minimize the risks to yourself and the carnival too. Not completely negate the risks, mind you. But certainly enough to reduce the chances of just exploding into pieces from the power surge brought on by tapping into three very potent sources of magical energy.”
“All magic comes with the chance of backlash… especially harnessing a leyline.” He said softly, at least the last time hadn’t put him in an extended coma- probably because it was coupled with the other spell. “Do y’ think you can figure out the equations? I’ll try n’find a totem and anchor.” And probably practice channeling the leyline more, just to get comfortable with it. Maybe that would help- if he could atune himself… or something. Jack looked at the professor. “If you have time of course… Not lookin’ ta put y’out or anythin’.” He was grateful for what the professor had given him thus far- hope. Even if…
“An that description, quite a image.” He smiled softly. “But goal is t’get everyone back safe… Wanna limit the repercussions, but I’m ready t’take what comes t’me.”
Oh there was no denying the truth to those words, not after two decades of dealing with the steep price that always came when using real magic. For James the price was his sanity. Illusion magic allowed him to bend perceived reality to his will and whim, but in doing so...in constantly weaving such forces...Blackstone’s grip on what was and what wasn’t real had slowly been slipping away. Hell half the time the Professor had a rough go at knowing if the folks he was conversing with were real, or simply figments he had created.
Lost in thought for a moment, thinking about how he had just had a conversation with his dead wife only a few hours ago, the sorcerer took a second or two to register the questions. “Hmm? Oh, the equations are already completed in my head. I merely need to double check them by setting pen to paper. As far as the totem goes though…” With a slight frown the older man turned to glance back up at the roof of his wagon, before scratching his head and chiming in anew. “You won’t find a totem out there because there are no Magi totems. Still...I suppose the solar panel contraption would do, with a little bit of modification. It is a pity though; once used in this endeavor it’s more than likely going to be damaged well past the point of being repaired.”
The question of time was met with a little shrug. “I do enjoy my various projects, but this seems like a worthy use of my time. Plus I know that many are eager to return home, so helping you all get back would be a good turn.” An anchor wouldn’t be too hard to come by here, yet the real problem remained. “The hardest part of it all would be having Zion ready to make the jump back. For that you’d need to speak with Kristoph and convince him to let you have access to the heart of this place. Well that, and convincing others that this is the best option.”
Limiting the repercussions was always an objective for any undertaking. So with a nod of his head Blackstone offered up a slight but earnest smile. “I’d speak with the other magic users and see if they can lend a bit of their strength when the time comes. With the right warding in place, and a few safety measures established as well, it shouldn’t be too hard to ground you. Like a lightning rod being grounded when the bolt strikes.”
“Plannin’ on talking to Kristoph.” He’d already spoken to him about what he and Kieran had found. “Right now, not lookin’ t’leave soon… but there’s a chance that when we leave there will be little notice.” Enough time to pack up- he hoped. He didn’t know how Kristoph was planning on dealing with those who had Edi, or how he was planning on getting her back, but Jack knew that her rescue could mean that they were in danger again by whoever took her in the first place.
“Thanks for your help. I’ll reach out to others, more can help, better our chances are. Gonna work on gettin more comfortable in the leylines too. Half the times I’ve used ‘em have ended badly… can’t let that happen this time.” He moved over to his chair and sat down. “Keep the books… who knows, maybe there’ll be more you can learn from ‘em.” He said with a small smile. “An’ thanks for…” Jack pulled off the ring and felt the magic unfurl from around him and back into the ring, the silver almost entirely faded back to copper. He held the ring out to James. “Felt like a dream.”
“When you do, tell the old man that I’d like to take a gander at that power source too...for my calculations of course.” That slight cheeky smile tugged at the corner of the Professor’s lip, mostly because it was mainly curiosity that had him really interested in taking a peek at the heart of Zion. Hearing that Jack wasn’t looking to leave right away was a bit of a relief, since James was still a bit conflicted on the whole thing. So having a bit more time suited him.
When the books were offered over as a gift Blackstone paused to carefully eye them for a second before finally nodding at last. “You have my thanks. It’s hard to find such fascinating written material. Even here in this age.” As Jack slipped off the ring, and extended it to him, the Professor looked down at it for a moment or two, before offering a little shake of his head. Without saying a word he opened up the wagon door, and quickly stepped within. Putting away the two books, and returned with a small leather case that he handed over to Jack. Within it were six more vials of that strange shimmering black substance.
“Keep the ring, and these. A gift for the books. Just...well when the ring goes copper, all you need do is pour the potion onto it again. It will recharge the enchantment, though I would suggest only using the ring’s power once every few days. After all the spell hasn’t actually healed you, lad. It just...it merely tricks your body into thinking that all is well. So go easy on how often you use it, because more than an hour or two every few days could cause you to hurt yourself.”
He palmed the ring and nodded gratefully. Taking the case, he slipped it into the bag with care, it seemed to vanish into the small space. “Thanks. Really, ‘preciate it.” While he was accustomed to the chair and the outlook on life it had given him- even with the downsides. There were some moments he did wish he could move, free of the chair. Having a moment like that, even once in a while would be nice. Even just having the option brought him a sense of joy. He could surprise Kieran. Jack pulled back on his wheel. “If you come across anything else, y’know how t’get ahold a’me. I’ll let ya know what Kristoph says.” He gave the man a small wave before he wheeled away. It was nice to talk magic with someone again, reminded him of his mentor- who was most likely dead in the current time. Wait until he heard what they’d been though.