A Touch of Fate

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Fantasy Realm
Olin Laurence is a man struggling with grief. When two men carry a half-dead girl into his shop, Laurence starts to take the steps needed to finally move forward.

Submitted: March 24, 2019

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Submitted: March 24, 2019

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Bowed oak trees curled around the grey slabs of a cracked concrete sidewalk. Their colorful skins of red, yellow, and brown peeled from their thin fingers and fell down to the man-made ground below. They were carried with the wind, dancing with the icy chill that came with moonlit fall nights. One of the skin’s dancing came to a quick end as it fell into a crow’s nest of thick dark-brown hair. The face below the unruly mess was that of a young man in his mid-twenties. He looked forward down the cement sidewalk, a cigarette glowing between his lips.

The man was alone on the sidewalk. It was well past the witching hour so all the sane men and women were well away into the land of dreams. This; however, was how the man preferred things.  The sidewalk was his own. He didn’t need to step aside for a group of passing teenagers incapable of sharing the narrow space. Nor did he have to deal with the infernal yapping of some dumb mutt that didn’t like him. Most importantly, he didn’t have to waste his magic in creating a glamour for both his and his world’s protection.

Dark eyes hidden by the shadows made by messy bangs looked out over the sidewalk one last time. They flicked back and forth, doing a final check to be sure no one was near. Satisfied he was alone, the man stopped in the center of a cement square. There were a few markings etched into the corners of the square. Any normal person would just think a bird had landed in the cement when it was still drying. Extraordinary people, like the one standing there now, knew better.

“Open sesame.” It was such a cliché thing to say but cliché or not, it did the job.

The chilled wind snapped to attention the second the words were uttered. It stopped flowing in gentle tumbles through the trees and rushed to the speaker of the magic words. It swarmed him like wasps to a soda can, engulfing him in a cyclone-like funnel. The wind whistled and screeched as it picked up speed and just as suddenly as it came, it disappeared.

“Welcome home, Master Laurence.”

The man from the sidewalk stepped forward but his feet didn’t collide with more cement. His feet only met the warm touch of wood paneling. He was no longer outside on a cold fall night. He was in the warmth of a shop stocked full of books and old trinkets. Standing near the warmth of a blazing fireplace was a peculiar little creature. It was a ferret with beady black eyes and patchy brown fur. Unlike other ferrets; however, this one was standing on its hind legs and had just said a greeting in perfectly clear English.

The ferret’s greeting was answered with a grunt. It wasn’t a surprise to the little creature though. His master was a man of few words. His master, the man now stocking through the shop, was Olin Laurence.

The Laurence family were a well-known line of sorcerers dating back to times farther than records report. Their name is not known as that of the great wizard Merlin or Morgana Le Fay. Those old names have been twisted and warped due to the imaginations of regular human people. The Laurences were unknown to regular people; however, and thus their name was kept pure and untouched. They were not known for unimaginable deeds that they never did. They were only known for the truth.

Laurence sat down at an old wooden desk towards the back of his family shop. He shoved a mess of papers to the side and plucked a small cardboard box up from where it had been sitting near the leg of his chair. He set the box in the center of his desk and flipped open the lid with a quick flick of his thumbs.

A putrid smell filled the air the second the lid left the box. It wrapped itself around Laurence and proceeded to filter through the rest of the room. It was a sickly sweet scent and it came from the corpse of a sparrow.

Rigor mortis had long set in. The sparrow’s body looked flat due to it being spread out in such an awkward position and its feathers were frayed and sickly to the eye.

The poor thing’s thread had been cut long ago but now Laurence held a new one above its body. The string was not one of yarn, cord, or straw. It was a glowing line of golden light threaded between Lawrence’s calloused fingers that moved and hummed with life.

Laurence began to hum back to the string and more of it spiraled out of the pores hidden within his fingertips. It began to pulse with the low sound of his voice and it was then when Laurence began to guide it from his hand into the shoe-box. The string seemed confused at first and tried to crawl back towards Laurence’s hands but then it noticed the presence of the corpse beside it. It poked and prodded the bird before slowly sneaking its way into the dead animal’s beak and easing itself down the throat.

Once the string was completely inside the dead bird, Laurence began to mumble under his breath. His eyes glowed the same golden color as the string and the air in the room crackled with the sheer amount of friction and power beginning to build up.

Chirp.

The sound was soft, so soft it was almost missed by the sorcerer's carefully listening ears.

Laurance lowered his hands and his eyes faded back to their dark color. He peeked into the box, a smile lighting his lips.

The sparrow stared up at him, turning its head curiously. Its eyes glistened with life and its once sickly looking feathers were now fluffed and healthy.

“Very good, Master Laurence,” the ferret said. He was standing by his master now, peering into the box as well. “Will this little one be joining our team too?”

Laurence reached into the box and the sparrow jumped into the palm of his hand. He stroked its head and it gave a cheerful series of warm chirps.

This was the power of the Laurence family and the reason for the awe and respect that followed their name. They carried the power of fate in the palms of their hands.

“Take her to meet the other birds on the roof. She’ll make a fine messenger I think.”

The ferret took the sparrow from his master then and scurried away to the staircase hidden by an endless stack of books. Laurence briefly watched him go before sighing and looking around his little shop. His eyes weaved through the endless clutter of dusty beakers and half melted candlestick wedges. They danced over the old family pictures cluttering the walls and the untouched stack of mail by the shop’s front door.

A frown creased the sorcerer’s brow. He stood from his desk and stepped towards the mess of letters. That’s all they were too— letters. There were no bills or anything else. Laurence’s familiar made sure to filter those from the rest. He had called Laurence while he was still in the other world and told him that the letters were building up but he had thought the animal was exaggerating.

Apparently not.

Laurence grabbed one of the unopened letters. He read the name on the front, not surprised that the last name matched his own. In fact, if he were guessing correctly, the rest of the letters were all in a similar state.

With a snap of his fingers, the envelope opened like an invisible letter opener had sliced through it. The letter itself floated out of the envelope and Laurence snatched it up so he could read the familiar curling black ink. The frown carving lines into his brow grew as he read. The air was becoming thick with friction again but this time it was not due to Laurence’s unyielding power.

The letter made a soft thud as it fell into the nearest trash can. It was followed by several more as Laurence started to throw the rest of the letters in after it.

As the last letter fell into the mouth of the trash, a new sound echoed throughout the shop. A fist was knocking against the hardwood of the shop’s door. It wasn’t a calm, gentle tap like most people would hear at their front door. This knock was frantic and screamed for immediate attention.

Laurence wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. He ignored how wet his skin felt afterword and focused on the door.

“Mr. Laurence, Sir!”

There were two men, one in fancy dress and the other in the typical rough clothing Laurence was used to seeing his small town’s working men in. In their arms, they carried a girl about thirteen or fifteen years of age. Her face and clothes were covered in mud and she was dripping wet with boggy green water. Her chest raised and fell but the movement could be easily missed.

Laurence opened his shop door wider and beckoned the men to come inside. “What happened?” he asked. “Quickly, bring her to the table in my study.”

Laurence led the way to the study and waited patiently for one of the men to speak up.

“Poor girl!” the richest of the two men yelled. “I saw her while I was walking by. She fell off the old bridge by the flour mill.”

“I came running from the mill when Mr. Snelling here called for help,” the man in plain clothing spoke next. His Adam's apple bobbed and his eyes grew wet. “The river had nearly swallowed her whole by the time we found her.”

The men set the girl down on the table. Her hair fell in messy wet strands around her pale face. It looked like it was red once but it was hard to tell with the number of weeds and mud that caked it now.

Laurence pressed a hand over the girl’s heart. He closed his eyes and focused on the organ that should have been beating there. He had noticed it the second she was set on his table, but the girl was no longer breathing. Her heart was also, he quickly realized, no longer beating.

With a quick flurry of hands, Laurence stripped off his coat and vest so his movements would not be restricted. He pressed his hands to the girl’s chest again, pressing down as he began to perform CPR.

The men around him muttered nervously. One of them managed to reach out to the girl and attempt warming her body with his powers but it was no use. He couldn’t rid her of the cold that was taking her over now. This wasn’t cold caused by the touch of the river. It was caused by a touch from death.

“She’s gone,” Laurence announced and he let his hands fall back to his sides. “I’m sorry but I’m afraid I can’t do anything more for her.”

“You can though,” one of the men said urgently. “Mr. Laurence, your powers...you can save her.”

Laurence grit his teeth. He wasn’t surprised by the request. He knew it was coming the second he opened his door. Yet, for some reason, it still irked him.

“I have told you all before. My family carries the power of the fates but that does not mean we can fully control it or control it well. Fate is cunning that way.” Laurence ran a hand through his mess of hair. “She could carry on living like she would if she hadn’t died, her body could be reanimated but her mind could possibly remain lost, or the spell could just not stick and she’d remain as she is.”

“A small chance is still a chance, Sir.”

“And you are a master of your trade. I have seen your work before. Not once have I seen your work gone wrong.”

Laurence gripped his hair tight in a shaking fist. “That does not mean it hasn’t,” he said in a whisper.

A pair of calloused hands gripped Laurence’s own then. They were shaking and cold. “Please, Sir. She’s so young. She has so much life waiting for her,” a soft voice pleaded.

Laurence met the man’s wet gaze. He drank in the pain and grief hidden in his green irises. It was a look he had seen himself and for a brief moment, he wondered if he was actually looking in a mirror.

“Do you know this girl?”

The answer was obvious not only by how the man was acting but by his physical appearance. His nose, though larger, was hooked much like the girl’s. They shared a dusting of freckles too and a similar shade of rusty red hair. Despite this, Laurence asked and waited for the answer he was dreading.

“My little sister,” the man all but choked. “She usually waits for me to get out of work by the bridge but…” Fresh tears spilled from red-rimmed eyes. “Please, Sir. I’ll do anything. I...I can’t lose her.”

“I can’t lose him.”

Laurence swallowed hard and looked back to the girl sprawled out on his table.

To his surprise, the girl wasn’t there. A boy slept in her place. His lips were a cold shade of plum and his eyes were sunken into his head. He stared up at Laurence, the light of life glinting in the far corners of his irises.

“Master Laurence?”

The voice of his concerned familiar snapped Laurence out of the illusion. When he stared at the table now the boy was gone and the girl was back. The men who had brought her were huddled around her, waiting for Laurence to answer her brother’s prayers.

A clawed paw touched Laurence’s cheek and the sorcerer turned his face into the gentle touch. His familiar had crawled up onto his shoulder at some point and was now sitting there patiently as he waited for his master to recover from his daydream.

“The longer we leave her the farther she drifts, Sir,” the familiar whispered into his ear. “Humans are more difficult than sparrows.”

“I know.”

Laurence stepped forward. He raised his hands over the girl’s body as he did and his eyes began to glow a burning gold. The men surrounding him watched with a mixture of fear and awe but they remained silent as mice as he began his work. The familiar on Laurence’s shoulder began to chortle and its eyes too shifted from their dark beady black to a thrumming gold.

A string formed between Laurence’s fingers and snaked down to the open lips of the girl sleeping on his table.

As Laurence’s eyes faded to their natural color, the girl sputtered, throwing up mud and murky green water. Her brother grabbed her, holding her as she shook and coughed.

Laurence stepped back and leaned heavily against the wall. He breathed raggedly and his hands tingled with excess power. The girl on the table met his eyes at some point during the chaos and for a moment, Laurence could have sworn her eyes were a deep brown instead of grassy green.

The thought sent a wave of panic thrashing through the sorcerer and he doubled over. His lungs swelled behind his ribs but refused to fill with air. The familiar on Laurence’s shoulder licked at his cheek and chortled sounds only the sorcerer could understand. The inhuman sounds were laced with concern and Laurence did his best to comfort his familiar through the link their bodies and souls shared. He gasped and focused his gaze back to the girl he had saved. Her brother was kissing her cheeks now, tears flowing down both of their cheeks.  The sight seemed to calm him and, slowly, Laurence’s breathing evened out.

“You did it, Master.”

Laurence swallowed down a lungful of air. “Yes,” he agreed. “I suppose I finally did.”


Laurence sat at the quiet sanctuary of his desk. A sheet of parchment sat before him and a pen balanced limply between his calloused fingers. Inky black puddles formed on the parchment, unable to form the words they were meant to become without the will of their writer.

The shop was quiet now, the perfect time for Laurence to be alone with his thoughts. He had entertained the idea that the day’s events would push him to finally step forward and do what he was unable to do for the past four years. Unfortunately, his hand remained still, uncertain thanks to the conflicting feelings swirling together in the pit of his heart like some murky stew.

“What ya writing?”

Laurence raised his head, tired brown eyes meeting wide green.

It had taken some time but Laurence had managed to convince the men to leave the girl with him for the next 24 hours or so. She had awoken from death’s coma but there was still a chance of failure. Since Laurence was the one who brought her back, she was his responsibility. He had to see this spell out to the very end and make sure the past did not repeat itself again.

The girl’s brother had refused to leave his sister alone and was currently asleep in the guest room. His sister, on the other hand, was wide awake. She sat in a chair in Laurence’s study, curled up with the familiar who had helped bring her back to life. Her eyes were focused on Laurence, curiosity swirling in her bright green eyes.

“Nothing.” Laurence sighed and he set down the pen. “How are you feeling Miss. Nigel?”

The girl’s eyes rolled. “Pft, call me Jem,” she said. “Miss Nigel was my mom.”

“I see.” Laurence leaned back in his chair. “Well, how are you feeling, Jem?”

Jem entertained the question for a moment before shrugging. “Like I woke up from taking too long of a nap.”

Laurence nodded. “Do you feel pain or sudden bursts of cold?”

Thin shoulders rolled backward and a shiver seemed to run up Jem’s back.  “Umm...I do feel flashes of cold. Like someone is blowing cold air at the back of my neck.”

Laurence bobbed his head and stood from his chair. He walked over to Jem and peaked at the back of her neck. Sure enough, her hair was standing on end.

“Am I—”

“There’s a reaper standing by you,” Laurence said, flat and direct. “They can take the lives I return within 24 hours after the revival. My familiar’s power is keeping it away from you for now. When you’ve passed the 24-hour mark you’ll be safe.”

Jem clung to the familiar a little tighter than before. “Have...have you ever seen one? A reaper I mean?”

Laurence’s eyes drifted over the empty space behind the girl, eyes trying to see what could not be seen.

“Once,” he admitted after a beat. “Whether it was a figment of my own mind at the time or real; however, is up for interpretation.”

Jem nodded as if she understood and then directed her gaze to a family portrait hanging on the wall. “Can everyone in your family bring the dead back to life?”

Laurence’s eyes roamed to the picture she was staring at. His eyes met the firm gaze of a man with white hair and traveled down to three sets of brown eyes just as wide and curious as the eyes that belonged to the girl in his shop. “Some better than others.”

“My brother and I can generate heat.” Jem raised her hands and red thrummed beneath her skin. “My mum could actually make fire!”

“Ah, that is quite interesting.”

“You don’t sound interested.”

Laurence’s familiar chortled at the pout. He blinked up at Jem, beady black eyes shining with mirth. “Don’t worry, Miss Jem,” Laurence’s familiar spoke up. “Master has never been good at expression.”

Jem scritched the familiar’s chin. “Thank you...umm...what do I call you?”

The ferret chortled again. “Whatever you wish, Miss. Familiars must not give the name their master calls them to others.”

“Oh, I see,” Jem said and she pursed her lips in thought. “How about Noodles?”

Silence filled the shop for a split second before being ruined abruptly by Laurence’s choke-off laugh. His voice cracked a bit, his vocal cords not used to the sudden work-out.

Something sparked somewhere within Laurence’s heart as he laughed. It was a small wave of what felt like irritation but it was not coming from himself.

Laurence looked up and his eyes met those of his put-off familiar. He smiled, teasing and boyish. “I think Noodles is a fine name,” he agreed while holding the animal’s gaze.

The familiar sent another wave of irritation through his and his master’s link before looking back to Jem. He tilted his head down almost as if he were giving a bow. “If that is what you wish, Miss,” he began. “Then you may call me as such.”

“Noodles it is!” Jem patted the familiar’s head. “Have you been with Mr. Laurence long, Noodles?”

“Yes, ma’am. All Laurence children summon their familiars when they show signs of possessing powers.”

The girl’s eyes brimmed with excitement. “I see.” She looked at one of the many pictures on Laurence’s shop wall. “Do all the kids in that picture have ferrets too then?”

Laurence stiffened and he glanced at the picture out of the corner of his eye. He bothered his lip, seeming unwilling to speak of the children hanging on the wall. Nevertheless, Jem was his guest.

“The girl in the blue dress— my older sister— her familiar took the form of a raccoon.”

“A raccoon?!”

“A raccoon,” Laurence repeated. “Nasty little thing. He was always breaking into my things.”

“Raccoons sneak up to my dog’s food bowl sometimes and steal his food in the night.”

“My sister’s familiar was just the same.”

Laurence’s mind drifted a little as he said the words. He fell into a memory of him and his sister eating from a bag of sweets brought home to them by their father. A raccoon snuck up behind the Laurence children, snatching their candy and quickly bolting for the door. The two children screamed and ran after him. Another child though, this one far smaller than the other two, grabbed the raccoon’s tail and snagged back the bag of treats.

A smile slid over his lips and Laurence’s heart squeezed in his chest, longing to see the smile not only in memory but life again.

“And the boy? The one between you and your sister?”

Laurence snapped out of the memory on hearing Jem’s question. He didn’t look at the picture, nor did he look at the girl now staring him down. He swallowed hard around the lump in his throat.

“Mr. Laurence?”

“He didn’t,” Laurence whispered. “He didn’t summon one.”

“Oh, he still doesn’t have his powers?”

“He never will.”

Confusion flickered across the girl’s face. She opened her mouth to ask more questions but Laurence was done with chatting.

With heavy footsteps, Laurence moved across the room. “My apologies. I have a lot of work to take care of. If you’ll excuse—”

“Did he die?”

Laurence froze mid-step.

“It’s okay if you don’t like talking about it. I didn’t when my mom died.”

Laurence turned on his heal, brown eyes meeting gentle green.

Jem held a hand out to him. “If you do want to talk though, I’m a really good listener.”

This wasn’t the first time someone had held their hand out for Laurence to take. His father, his sister— they had all reached out for him in their own ways. Sometimes they spammed his mailbox with worried letters and other times they showed up unannounced on his doorstep. Each time; however, he had turned his back to them and walked down the winding path of his own grief. Now; however, as Laurence stared at the hand of the girl he had saved just hours ago, he couldn’t help but for some reason feel compelled to take her small hand.

“Take it,” a voice said within his head. Whether it was his familiar or his own consciousness Laurence wasn’t sure. What he was sure of was that at some point he had actually knelt down on the warm wood of his shop’s floor and took the girl’s hand in his own.

“His name was Isaac and he was only thirteen years old.”

The words tumbled from Laurence’s mouth like water from a tap. As each one left, Laurence lost himself more and more into the story. It played out right before him in foggy spirals of an old memory long repressed.

Laurence stood at the edge of a bed. It was an old one made out of carefully carved mahogany. Leaves and acorns were etched into it, giving the wood just a little bit of life.

In the bed was a forever thirteen-year-old Isaac. A month ago, the boy had been just as full of life as the carvings on his bed. He ran through the nearby forest with his brother and sister and swung on his father’s strong arms. It was a little later though that his dreadful cough started and as time ticked on the life he was once filled to the brim with drained away.

Twelve minutes ago, the boy had been gasping and coughing into his pillow. Now he was still and quiet.

Laurence choked on a sob as he stepped closer to his baby brother. He pressed a hand to a cold cheek and shivered as it chilled his fingers. His father and sister cried off to the side but Laurence couldn’t hear them over the sound of his own shattering heart.

Inconsolable, Laurence bent over his brother’s body. He cried and cried, dampening his brother’s clothes. There was a time when the younger boy would shove him away and scold him for ruining his good clothes but now he couldn’t. He was too far away, unreachable.

Or, maybe not.

Desperation clawed at Laurence’s heart. He sat up on his brother’s bed and called out for his familiar. It curled around his neck and Laurence held his hands over his brother’s body. He started humming, singing the song that charmed the dead like a siren to lonely sailors. His father barked at him to stop but he was too late.

The golden strand of fate’s string curled out from Laurence’s fingertips. If he were older and more skilled Laurence might have noticed that the light was too dim but at the time he wasn’t. He let the strand slip into his brother’s mouth and watched with fading gold eyes as it slithered down his throat.

In stunned silence, Laurence waited with his sister and father. He watched with relief as his brother’s chest began to move and his eyes opened up again. His dark eyes stared up at Laurence but though Laurence could see the life in them now, they stared blankly right through his older brother.

“Issac? Isaac, are you there? Isaac, please!”

Laurence’s wails of torment fell on the unhearing ears of a living corpse. He tried humming again, tried to start the spell again but he was too weak and tired to go again. Still, he tried and it wasn’t until his father dragged him kicking and screaming from the room that he noticed the strange shadow now lurking in the candlelight beside his brother’s bed. It watched him go, glowing white eyes haunting him but not as much as the unmoving gaze of his brother’s corpse.

“I can’t lose him!” He yelled out his brother’s name, crying as loud as his voice would allow him. “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, Isaac. So sorry…”

A pair of small but gentle hands cupped Laurence’s face and he shot out of the haunting memory. He sobbed and fell forward his tears spilling into the nightgown of the girl that nearly shared the same fate as his brother.

The hands that had been on his cheeks moved to his hair. They stroked and curled through the mess, trying to console the pains of a man broken from years of grief and unyielding guilt.

“I’m so sorry—”

Jem hushed his pleas. He could feel her own tears falling against his scalp. The tears surprised him and he looked up into her red-rimmed eyes.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Laurence,” she said in a choked voice. “He was my age, wasn’t he?”

Laurence tried to compose himself but he was too far gone. His jaw wobbled as he opened his mouth to speak and breathy hiccups left his lips. “I saw him on the table when you...when you…”

Jem hushed him again and went back to carding her fingers through his hair. Laurence’s eyes slipped shut and for a second it was his sister comforting him instead of a stranger he had brought back to life only hours ago.

“I’m sorry…”

Hiccups and sobs wracked Laurence’s body. It went on for what felt like hours but, eventually, his body ran out of tears to shed and exhaustion began to settle deep within his bones. He sat in a slumped heap on the floor of his shop when that happened, head pillowed against Jem’s lap. The girl had stayed silent while Laurence cried but had made her presence known by the gentle way she combed his hair and the soft words she whispered here and there.

“Are you asleep?”

Laurence shook his head sluggishly. “No,” he said. “I’m sorry. I should move—"

Jem patted his head. “It’s fine.” She sighed and fiddled with one of Laurence’s curls. “I’m sorry. I’m no good with crying people.”

“You did fine,” Laurence reassured and he lifted his head from her lap. “Though, I don’t have many others to compare you to. I’m just sorry for my...unstately manor.”

“I don’t think you need to apologize for that.”

“A grown man shouldn’t—"

“Everyone deserves to grieve. Even grumpy old men like you.”

Laurence huffed but there was a small smile on his lips now. “I suppose you’re right,” he said after a beat.

“So then...you didn’t grieve with your family? Back then?”

“Never.”

“You should.” Jem glanced to the shut door her brother currently slept behind. “The memories you share with them of your brother is all you have left. They can help. They did for me and my brother.”

Laurence’s eyes swept towards his desk. “You may be right,” he sighed and he closed his eyes. “I’m so tired.”

A hand patted his shoulder. “Then write your letter, Mr. Laurence,” Jem said. “Have faith in your family so you can rest.”

“Smart words for a teenager.”

A clock ticked somewhere in the room and Laurence focused on its steady sound. He didn’t move from Jem’s lap at first. He stayed where he was, allowing himself to absorb the energy needed to take that final step and grab his pen.

When the time finally came, Laurence pushed himself to his feet. He swayed unsteadily at first, his legs like blades of grass struggling under the weight of a buzzing bumblebee. Nevertheless, he drew in a deep breath and moved onward. He reached his desk and, with one last glance at his familiar and Jem, he turned his attention to the blank sheet of parchment he had abandoned earlier. He dipped his pen and pressed it down against the paper.  He moved his wrist and in curling black lines, Laurence wrote a set of simple but important words that would shape his world from then on: Dear Sister…


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