The Glass Magician
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Now well into her apprenticeship with magician Emery Thane, twenty-year-old Ceony Twill is continuing to discover the joy of paper magic. She adores bringing her spells to life in surprising ways, from learning the power of distortion to creating a beloved paper dog. And she secretly hopes that the romance she foresaw blossoming between her and the peculiar yet strikingly handsome Emery finally becomes real.
But when one magician with a penchant for deadly scheming believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony, and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, she knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wicked hands.
The delightful sequel to Charlie N. Holmberg's The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician will charm listeners young and old alike.
Release date: November 4, 2014
Print pages: 224
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The Glass Magician
Charlie N Holmberg
A late summer breeze wafted through the open kitchen window, making the twenty tiny flames upon Ceony’s cake dance back and forth on their candlewicks. Ceony hadn’t made the cake, of course, as one should never bake her own birthday cake, but her mother was a good cook and a better baker, so Ceony had no doubts that the confection, complete with pink cherry frosting and jelly filling, would be delicious.
But as her parents and three siblings sang her birthday wishes, Ceony’s mind wandered from the dessert and the celebration at hand. Her thoughts narrowed in on an image she had seen in a fortuity box just three months ago, after reading Magician Emery Thane’s fortune. A flowery hill at sunset, the smell of clover, and Emery sitting beside her, his green eyes bright, as two children played beside them.
Three months had passed, and the vision had not come to fruition. Ceony certainly couldn’t expect otherwise, especially since children were involved, but she ached for a wisp of the thing. She and Emery—Mg. Thane, that is—had grown close during her appointment as his apprentice and subsequent rescuing of his heart. Still, she longed for them to be closer.
She debated her birthday wish and wondered if it would be better to ask for love or for patience.
“The wax is dripping on the cake!” Zina, Ceony’s younger sister by two and a half years, exclaimed from the other end of the table. She tapped her foot on the ground and blew a short lock of dark hair from her face.
Margo, the youngest sister at age eleven, nudged Ceony in the hip. “Make a wish!”
Taking a deep breath and clinging to the crisp memory of the flowery hill and sunset, Ceony bent over and blew out the candles, careful not to let her braid catch fire.
Nineteen went out, casting the kitchen into near darkness. Ceony quickly huffed and extinguished the twentieth rogue candle, praying it wouldn’t count against her.
The family applauded while Zina rushed to turn on the one electric bulb that hung from the kitchen ceiling. It flickered thrice before popping, sending a downpour of glass and darkness onto cake and partygoers alike.
“Well, great,” complained thirteen-year-old Marshall, Ceony’s only brother. She heard his hands slide around the table, searching for matches—or perhaps sneaking an early taste of cake.
“Watch your step!” Ceony’s mother cried.
“I’ve got it, I’ve got it,” Ceony’s father said, shuffling toward the cupboard-shaped shadows. A few moments later he lit a thick candle, then fished around in a drawer for an extra bulb. “They really are handy, when they work.”
“Well,” Ceony’s mother said, picking off a few shards of glass that had landed in the cake’s frosting, “a little darkness never hurt anyone. Let’s cut the cake! Do chew with care, Margo.”
“Finally,” Zina sighed.
“Thank you,” Ceony said as her mother expertly sliced a triangle of birthday cake and handed it to her. “I really appreciate this.”
“We can always spare a cake for you, no matter how old you get,” her mother said, almost chiding. “Especially for a magician’s apprentice.” She beamed with pride.
“Did you make me something?” Marshall asked, eyeing the pockets of Ceony’s red apprentice apron. “You promised you would two letters ago, remember?”
Ceony nodded. She took a bite of cake before setting the plate down and retreating into the tiny living room, where her purse hung from a rusted hook on the wall. Marshall followed excitedly, with Margo at his heels.
From the purse Ceony pulled out a flat, Folded piece of violet paper, feeling the slight, familiar tingling of it beneath her fingers. Marshall looked on as she pressed it against the wall and made the last few Folds that formed the bat’s wings and ears, careful to align the edges of the paper so the magic would take. Then, holding the bat’s belly in her hand, she commanded it, “Breathe.”
The paper bat hunched and pushed itself up on her palm with the small paper hooks on its wings.
“Amazing!” Marshall exclaimed, seizing the bat before it could fly away.
“Careful with it!” Ceony called as he rushed toward the back hallway, to the room he, Zina, and Margo shared.
Reaching into her pack again, Ceony pulled out a simple bookmark, long and pointed at one end. She handed it to Zina.
Her sister crooked an eyebrow. “Uh, what is this?”
“A bookmark,” Ceony explained. “Just tell it the title of the book you’re reading and leave it on the nightstand. It will keep track of what page you’re on by itself.” She pointed to the center of the bookmark, where she’d overlaid a small square of paper. “The page number will appear here, in my handwriting. It should work for your sketchbooks, too.”
Zina snorted. “Weird. Thanks.”
Margo clasped her hands under her chin. “And me?”
Ceony smiled and rubbed Margo’s orange hair, a color that matched her own. From the side pocket of her bag she pulled a small paper tulip. Green paper comprised its stem, and red and yellow paper formed its six petals, which overlapped at the edges and alternated in color.
Margo’s mouth formed a perfect O as Ceony handed her the flower.
“Set it in your window, and in the morning it will bloom, just like a real flower,” Ceony said. “But don’t water it!”
Margo nodded excitedly and followed Marshall’s path back to the bedroom, cradling the tulip as though it had been crafted of glass.
Ceony sat in the living room to finish her cake with her parents while Marshall and Margo played with their new spells in their room. Zina had headed to Parliament Square for a date. Bizzy, the Jack Russell terrier Ceony had been forced to leave behind upon accepting her apprenticeship, curled up lazily at Ceony’s feet, lifting her head every now and then to beg for a crumb.
“Well,” Ceony’s mother said after her second piece of cake, “it does sound like it’s going well for you. Magician Thane seems like a very nice teacher.”
“He is,” Ceony said, hoping the poor lighting masked the blush creeping up her cheeks. She set her plate on the floor for Bizzy to lick. “He’s very nice.”
Ceony’s father clapped his hands down on his knees and let out a long breath. “Well, we’d better get you a buggy so you can head back before it’s too late.” He glanced out the window at the night sky. Then he stood, opening his arms for an embrace.
Ceony jumped up and hugged her father tightly, then her mother. “I’ll visit soon,” she promised. Without traffic, it took just over an hour to get from Emery’s cottage to Whitechapel’s Mill Squats, so Ceony didn’t drop in as often as she would have liked. She felt certain she could make the trip in a quarter hour on Emery’s paper glider, but he insisted that the world wasn’t ready for such eccentricity.
Ceony’s father called the buggy service, for which Ceony insisted on paying, and soon Ceony sat in the back of an automobile, chugging past the tightly spaced flats of the Mill Squats on a cobbled road winding between town houses. She passed the post office, the grocer, and the turn for the children’s park, taking the meandering route out of the quieting city. Soon her buggy’s lights were the only ones on the road. Ceony stared out the open window at the stars, which grew in number the closer she drew to Emery’s cottage. Invisible crickets sang from the tall grasses that lined the road out of London, and the river running alongside it bubbled and churned.
Ceony’s heart beat a little faster when the buggy pulled to a stop. After paying, she disembarked and stepped past the cottage’s menacing spells, which disguised it as a rundown mansion with broken windows and falling shingles. Beyond the fence, the home stood three stories high, made of soft yellow brick and surrounded by a garden of vibrant paper flowers, buds closed for the night. A light burned in the library window. Emery had been away all week at a Magic Materials in Architecture conference, which the Magicians’ Cabinet had insisted he attend. Ceony quickly straightened her skirt and rebraided her hair to smooth any loose ends.
The padding of paper paws rattled behind the door before Ceony could finish turning her key. Once inside, Fennel jumped into her arms and wagged his paper tail, barking his whispery bark. His dry paper tongue licked the base of Ceony’s chin.
Ceony laughed. “I wasn’t even gone a full day, silly thing,” she said, scratching behind the dog’s paper ears before setting him back down. Fennel ran in two short circles before jumping onto a pile of paper bones at the end of the hallway. When enchanted, those bones formed the body of Emery’s skeletal butler, Jonto, to whom Ceony had finally become accustomed. Still, being routinely awoken by a paper skeleton dusting her headboard had been enough motivation for Ceony to start locking her door.
“Be gentle,” Ceony warned Fennel, who had taken to chewing on Jonto’s femur. Fortunately, his paper teeth did little damage to the bone. She stepped past the mess and flipped on the light in the kitchen. The simple room had a small stove to her right and a horseshoe of cupboards to her left, behind which rested the back door and the icebox. She didn’t see any dirty dishes in the sink. Had Emery eaten?
Ceony thought of preparing something just in case, but a flash of color from the dining room caught the corner of her eye.
There, on the table, sat a wooden vase full of red paper roses, so intricately Folded they looked real. Ceony approached them slowly and reached out a hand to touch their delicate petals, which had been Folded of the thinnest paper Emery had in stock. The flowers even had complex, fernlike leaves and a few rounded thorns.
Beside the vase rested an oval hair barrette made of paper beads and tightly wound spirals, heavily coated with a hard gloss to keep it from bending. Ceony picked up the barrette and thumbed its ornamentation. It would take her hours to craft something this intricate, let alone the roses.
The roses. Ceony pulled a small square of paper from the center of the bouquet. It read “Happy Birthday” in Emery’s perfect cursive script.
Her stomach fluttered.
Ceony fastened the barrette behind her ear and slid the note into a side pocket of her purse, where it wouldn’t wrinkle. She took the stairs to the second floor, pinching her cheeks and adjusting and tucking her blouse as she climbed. The electric light from the library drew a lopsided rectangle on the hardwood flooring of the hallway.
Emery sat at the table on the far side of the book-lined room, his back to Ceony. He leaned on one hand, fingers entangled with the dark, wavy locks of his hair. His other hand turned the page of an especially old-looking book, though Ceony couldn’t tell which one. A long, sage-green coat hung over the back of his chair. Emery owned a long coat in every color of the rainbow, and he wore them even in the middle of summer, save for July 24th, when he had thrown the indigo coat out the window and spent the rest of the day Folding and cutting a blizzard’s worth of snowflakes. Ceony still found the snowflakes every now and then, wedged between the icebox and the counter or collected in crumpled piles beneath Fennel’s dog bed.
She knocked the knuckle of her right index finger against the doorframe. Emery started and turned around. Had he really not heard her come in?
He look tired—he must have been traveling all day to be home by now—but his green eyes still burned with light. “You’re a sight for sore eyes. I’ve done nothing but sit in hard chairs and talk to stuffy Englishmen all week.” He frowned. “I also believe I’ve become something of a food snob, thanks to you.”
Ceony smiled and found herself wishing she hadn’t pinched her cheeks so adamantly. She turned her head to showcase the barrette. “What do you think?”
Emery’s expression softened. “I think it’s lovely. I did a good job on that.”
Ceony rolled her eyes. “How modest. But thank you, for this. And the flowers.”
Emery nodded. “But I’m afraid you’re now a week behind in your studies.”
“You told me I was two months ahead!” Ceony frowned.
“A week behind,” he repeated, as though not hearing her. And perhaps he didn’t. Emery Thane had a talent for selective hearing, she’d learned. “I’ve determined it’s best for you to study the roots of Folding.”
“Trees?” she asked, thumbing her barrette.
“More or less,” Emery replied. “There’s a paper mill a ways east of here, in Dartford. They even have a division for magic materials, not that it matters. Patrice requested your attendance for a tour of sorts, the day after tomorrow.”
Ceony nodded. She had gotten a telegram from Mg. Aviosky about that.
“We’ll start there. It’s quite exciting.” Emery chuckled.
Ceony sighed. That meant it wouldn’t be, but she wasn’t surprised. How exciting could a paper mill possibly be?
“We’ll take a buggy at eight that morning,” the paper magician continued, “so you’ll have to rise early. I can have Jonto—”
“No, no, I’ll be up,” Ceony insisted. She turned back for the hallway, but paused. “Did you eat? I don’t mind cooking something if you’re hungry.”
Emery smiled at her, the expression more in his eyes than his lips. She loved it when he smiled like that.
“I’m fine,” he said, “but thank you. Sleep well, Ceony.”
“You, too. Don’t stay up too late,” she said.
Emery turned back to his book. Ceony let her gaze linger on him for a second longer, then went to get ready for bed.
She set the roses on her nightstand before falling asleep.
After frying some crepes with strawberries and cream for breakfast, Ceony returned upstairs and opened her bedroom door and window to keep the space from getting too hot. She played fetch with Fennel using a balled stocking for a few minutes, then returned to the spell Emery had assigned her before he left for the conference—a paper doll of herself.
The paper doll had proved tricky, not because of the abstract concept, but because the initial step required the assistance of another person. Ceony couldn’t very well trace her own silhouette onto paper, after all. With Emery gone and Jonto unable to hold a pencil steady, Ceony had telegrammed Mg. Aviosky to request the assistance of her apprentice Delilah Berget. Delilah, a year Ceony’s senior, had taken two years to graduate from Tagis Praff instead of Ceony’s one, so they’d overlapped. Since Mg. Aviosky kept Delilah frightfully busy, the tracing hadn’t commenced until the evening before Ceony’s birthday.
Now Ceony sat on her bedroom floor with a pair of scissors she had purchased from a Smelter two years ago. The twin blades could cut through anything, and would never dull. Ceony studied them for a moment before taking them to the long sheet of paper etched with her front-facing silhouette. Had she become the Smelter she’d once dreamed of being, she would likely know how the spell worked by now. Not that she regretted the decision to apprentice under Emery, whether or not it had been hers to make.
Cutting out the silhouette was a slow process; Emery had warned her that one wrong cut would ruin the spell, and she didn’t want to start over again. Ceony had managed to cut out the left foot and up to the left knee before Emery appeared in the doorway, his indigo coat sweeping about his calves.
Ceony carefully pulled back the scissors before giving him her attention. Emery’s eyes sparkled with amusement. Had she done something funny?
“I’ve determined that I will teach you to cheat at cards for the day’s first lesson,” Emery announced.
Ceony dropped her scissors. “I knew you were cheating!”
“Astute, but not astute enough,” the paper magician replied, tapping his index finger against the side of his head. “Unless you can tell me how I did it.”
“A location spell of sorts?”
He smiled. “Of sorts. Come.” He motioned with his hand.
Grabbing Fennel by his belly so he wouldn’t trample the paper doll, Ceony followed Emery into the hallway, shut her door firmly, and set the dog down. Fennel sniffed the floorboards before discovering something interesting in the bathroom, and vanished from sight.
In the library, Emery sat on the floor by the table littered with neat stacks of paper, each a different color and thickness. He set his Folding board down in front of him, then pulled an ordinary stack of playing cards from an inner pocket of his coat.
Ceony sat across from him—the position she took for most of their lessons. Emery shuffled the cards rather expertly, which made her wonder what sort of employment he had taken before becoming a Folder. Her journey through his heart hadn’t revealed those secrets, and so she decided it best not to ask.
“You remember the file-location spell I taught you, yes?” he asked.
Ceony did, as she remembered nearly everything that occurred in her life, whether she wanted to or not. For the most part, her photographic memory was a gift. Emery had taught her that spell the day after his recovery from losing his heart—the same day Ceony had begun calling him by his first name.
She recited the lesson. “So long as I have made physical contact with the papers in question, I can use a ‘sort’ command and then recite, verbatim, the written terms I am looking for.”
It would have been a useful spell to know while studying for midterms at the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined.
“Precisely,” Emery said with a nod. “With playing cards—unless they’re from a tampered deck—you can do the exact same thing. And you can assign a card a gesture instead of a name, so that the gesture will call it forward in a game. Allow me to demonstrate.”
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