Warnings: Slight AU
Characters: Edgar Frog, Alan Frog, Sam Emerson
Spoilers: If you haven't seen the movie you're unlikely to be reading this. But still very few if any.
Synopsis: Edgar and Alan are less than pleased when a magic store opens up on the Boardwalk, but who are the newcomers to Santa Carla running the place, and what exactly are they hiding?
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11
As a child, Sophie had believed in magic in the way that every child believes in it. She had believed in fairy godmothers, and evil witches and everything in between. Her parents had told her that there was no such thing. They had been lying. Not just wrong, like the parents of her friends who stopped believing a long time ago; they had known about magic, and they had chosen to tell her it wasn't real.
She hadn't believed them, she had seen through their lies in the way that she had always been able to. She had known her whole life that there was no Santa Claus, and no Tooth Fairy, but that magic was very real. And then one day, a man had come to her house and killed her parents. He had used magic, and from that day she had known that magic was evil.
It had taken a lot of convincing from her Grandfather to make her believe otherwise, but he was patient, and a good teacher. When at last, she wasn't afraid, he had released her magical abilities and begun to teach her what she could do.
He had taught her about the different kinds of magic in the world. He had taught her that no magic was inherently evil, but the purpose it was used for could be. He taught her that there were two main kinds of magic in the world, the kind that required talent, and the kind that could be done by anyone. She thought of the latter as a form of science. It required belief that it would work, and strong intent to get the required result, so it was far from the kinds of science she was forced to learn in school, but anyone could do it if they took the time to learn.
Her grandfather's favorite kind of magic involved elements of the two, taking a spell that anyone could perform, and mixing in a little real magic. The magic lent power to what would otherwise be a very weak spell and its base in folklore provided a stability that other spells might lack.
Very slowly, Sophie mixed the sugar and water together in a glass gar. She stirred with a wooden stick, in a clockwise direction, muttering the required words as she did. She added a slice of licorice root for control and a strand of her target's hair, then she sprinkled in a pinch of ground poppy seeds . The hair had been easy to get, simply by walking past him and taking the strand left resting on his shoulder. He had no idea how vulnerable his carelessness had left him. Those who didn't know the ways of the Practice were so easy to target.
This spell was one of those that could be performed without even a hint of magical talent; the right ingredients in the right order, combined with faith and intent would get the job done. But the effect would be so weak that it would be difficult to tell whether it had worked at all.
She screwed the lid of the jar tightly closed and spoke several more words. In fact, the words used made little difference, they served to focus the mind in the right direction. Her grandfather favored an old Cornish dialect that outside of their family probably hadn't been used in centuries. Sophie spoke in modern American English, repeating over and over in whispered tones what she wanted the spell to do.
As she spoke, she placed her hands around the edge of the glass, feeling its smooth surface with her palms and imagined magic as heat flowing from her skin into the jar, infusing the spell with her own power. She forced in only a little magic will. She had so much more power than she was using, more than enough to completely change her target's opinion and make him believe anything she told him too, but this kind of thing was best done more carefully. She lit the candle and tilted it over the lid of the jar, allowing three drops of molten purple wax to land in the center, then she pressed the candle onto the lid and held it steady until the wax solidified, holding it in place.
She wished that she could just take what she wanted, twist her victim's thoughts to suit her purpose, but she had learned to be more careful than that. To suddenly change his opinion would be disconcerting, he would realize what had happened. That kind of spell, forcing its way into his mind like a blunt knife, would not only risk doing spiritual damage that might make him useless to her, but would also instantly alert Edgar Frog to what was happening. If he somehow managed to warn someone, it would all be over.
So this was the best option. She would work on him gently. The spell would soften his mind to her and make him more susceptible to her charms. She would be able to convince him to listen to her, while still influencing him magically to trust her. She could then use what she knew to convince him to see sense. When she was done, he would be certain that it was her logic and not her magic that had changed his mind.
Frustration forced its way out of Edgar's body in the form of a low growl. Alan's time limit had expired several minutes ago, and although a glance through the window revealed his brother still standing perfectly safe at the back of the shop talking to the old man, Edgar didn't like it. He had said two minutes. He had allowed them extra time. Enough was enough.
“Calm down,” Sam told him, looking pointedly at the concerned glances from people walking past.
“You calm down,” Edgar snapped. He knew it made no sense, but it made him feel better, somehow. “What the hell are they talking about in there? I swear, if he's still trying to make Alan do magic, I'll...” he shook his head.
“Alan can take care of himself, you know.”
Edgar glared at Sam through narrowed eyes. “Yeah, he's really done a great job of proving it lately,” he said.
Sam shrugged and made a lip zipping gesture. He turned around and leaned against the yellow glass of the window.
Edgar growled again. “Alright, that's it! I'm going to get him.”
He brushed past Sam, who was positioned between him and the door, and grabbed hold of the handle like it was a wild animal that might bite him back. He twisted it hard and pushed open the door, putting the full force of his strength behind it. Just a split second earlier, from the inside, Alan pulled it open.
Edgar stumbled forward under the force of his own momentum and almost fell onto the floor inside the shop. He was saved only by the strength of his double handed grip on the door handle, that allowed him to remain in a more or less upright position. Still hanging onto the door, he regained his balance and shot a look of irritation at the old man as though he had somehow caused his humiliation. Then he backed off quickly out of the door, allowing Alan to exit after him.
Alan glanced back into the shop before he left, then he walked out quickly, giving Edgar a puzzled look as he did. Edgar glanced away, feeling heat in his cheeks as embarrassment pumped the blood to his face. Alan pulled the door closed behind him and inside, Edgar heard the sound of the key being turned. He turned to his brother. “So, what was that about?”
Alan shrugged. Edgar looked at him critically. Inside the shop, Alan had seemed completely at ease in a way that made Edgar very uncomfortable. It hadn't just been the way he had asked them to leave, taking charge, making decisions that Edgar would normally make for him. Something about his manner had appeared more confident than usual, as though he was on familiar ground. But now his brother appeared worried. Something had happened in the past few minutes that had changed everything. The confidence was gone.
“It was a couple of things.” Alan said. His voice sounded flat, as though he was trying to appear calm and had instead cut all the emotion out of his voice.
Sam leaned forward excitedly, looking at Alan with curiosity, eager to find out what he had missed. “A couple of things like..?” He had somehow managed not to notice that something was wrong. How, Edgar had no idea.
“Anthony has a plan to find the warlock, he's fairly sure it's going to work, but he still wants to teach me the defensive spells. If everything goes to plan, I'd probably never have to use them, but if it doesn't work, he wants me to be able to defend myself.”
“And you told him no, I assume?” Edgar said.
Alan nodded reluctantly.
“I think you should do it.” Sam told him. “You need to be able to fight the bad guy off if he's targeting you. It's the same as fighting off vampires, only you use different weapons, right?” He glanced at Edgar.
Edgar set his face into a grim frown and shook his head against the idea.
“Plus,” Sam continued, “I know you guys are against this stuff, but you've got to admit it'd be cool to be attacked and just be able to blast the guy into oblivion.”
Alan shot him half a smile. “Yeah, I guess it...” he stopped as he saw Edgar's expression. “No, it wouldn't. Not cool at all.”
Sam shrugged, but the smile on his face said that he disagreed.
Edgar turned away from him and focused his attention on Alan. “A couple of things, you said,” he prompted. “What's the rest of it?”
“Well...” Alan cleared his throat nervously. “Okay, don't freak out or anything, Edgar.”
Edgar exchanged a glance with Sam.
“I'm think he's starting to freak out,” Sam helpfully supplied.
Alan took a deep breath. “Anthony says there's a spell on me,” he said.
Edgar froze. The instant he heard the words, completely against his will, he felt his every muscle of his body tense to rigidity, effectively immobilizing him mid step. In his head, he processed and analyzed the words, trying to decide that he had misheard, or that there might be an interpretation of them that was less terrifying than the only one he could thing of. There was none.
He forced his lungs to inhale a breath and struggled to regain control of his body, forcing himself to relax to the extent that he could move again. The first thing he did was turn his head from left to right, making sure that no one around them had overheard. Then he tuned to Alan and addressed him in a low whisper.
“What are you talking about? What kind of spell?”
“I'm not sure,” Alan told him. “A scrying spell, he said. Anthony thinks...” he paused to take a deep breath and looked away. When he turned back, the false calm he had been trying to project had evaporated and he looked genuinely terrified. His voice trembled slightly. “He thinks the murderer did it. But he can trace the spell back to the source and find him, so I suppose in a way is is a good thing...”
Edgar realized that he was still shaking his head from side to side as though he was trying to deny that the conversation was happening. He tried to think of something to say, but his mind refused to come up with any intelligible thought, this was one revelation two far for him. Every time he thought it couldn't get any worse, it did.
“Okay, time out. Wait a minute,” Sam said. He raised a hand in the air like a traffic cop at a broken set of lights, indicating that the drivers stop so that he could tell them when and where to drive. He looked at Alan. “Are you saying that the warlock has put a spell on you? The evil, murderer warlock?”
Alan closed his eyes briefly and nodded. Edgar stood watching silently, frantically trying to force his mind into gear while he fought to control the sick feeling in his stomach.
“And Anthony wants to use the spell to find the warlock?” Sam continued. “So is this the clue that Anthony mentioned? Because I'm thinking this is probably not as good a thing as he seemed to think.”
“No shit,” Edgar muttered. He took three deep breaths in a further effort to calm himself. It seemed to have to opposite effect as the sudden influx of oxygen made his head spin. Because it was at least doing something, and he couldn't make himself stop, he took another deep breath. He knew that he was half way to a panic attack but wasn't sure how to stop it.
Sam looked quickly from one brother to the other, switching from traffic cop to triage nurse trying to decide which of the two cases in front of him was most in need of treatment. He turned to Alan and grabbed hold of his shoulder tightly. “It'll be okay,” he assured him.
Edgar frowned. He was starting to get pins and needles in his fingers and he still couldn't stop himself gasping for air that he didn't need. He opened his mouth to ask how Sam had managed to reach that conclusion when all the evidence appeared to be telling them the opposite, but Sam answered before he had the chance to speak.
“Edgar won't let anyone hurt you. Right, Edgar?” He turned to look at Edgar.
Alan looked at him too, and Edgar saw his own fear reflected back at him in his brother's eyes. Seeing that gave him the clarity of mind to beat the rising panic. He stopped the deep breathing and in a moment of clarity, looked at his brother and best friend and saw that they both believed that he had a plan. They were wrong, but determination to prove Sam right overrode all other emotions; determination to protect Alan and stop the bastard responsible for this by any means necessary.
He nodded once, with a certainty he hadn't felt in a long time. “That's right,” he said. “The warlock is going down.”
He turned around and walked to the low wall that separated the boardwalk from the beach. He leaned against it heavily; he could still feel himself shaking, and he needed the support. He closed his eyes against the bright lights of the boardwalk, trying to think. Sam clasped his shoulder supportively in the same way he had Alan's, and Edgar didn't shrug him off
“All right. Alan, you read the books. Time to put it to good use. What the hell is a scrying spell, what is it going to do to you, and what do we do about it?”
“It won't do anything to me,” Alan assured him. He too leaned against the wall, facing out toward the teeming boardwalk crowds. They passed by without paying the slightest bit of attention to the three worried looking boys huddled on the edge of their peripheral vision.
“It's a spell to see things that are happening somewhere else.” Alan explained. “You know, like in the movies where someone looks in a crystal ball?”
Edgar and Sam looked at him blankly.
“Like a fortune teller?” Sam asked.
Alan shook his head and waved an arm through the air dismissively, “It doesn't matter. The point is, this guy can see what I see. He can look through my eyes.”
The implication behind the words hit Edgar like a slap in the face and he actually felt himself flinch. “Close your eyes,” he ordered.
Alan complied instantly. He waited for Edgar's next instruction, and recoiled in surprise at the unexpected feeling of something touching his face.
“Will you relax?” Edgar told him. “I'm just going to tie this around your eyes so you can't peek.”
“What?” Alan opened his eyes to see his brother had removed his bandanna and was brandishing it in front of him like a weapon. He took sideways step away. “No way. I'll close my eyes but you're not blindfolding me, Edgar.”
“If you're going to close your eyes anyway, what's the difference?”
“There's a difference.”
“Yeah. There is. You can peek when your eyes are closed,” Edgar told him. “If he's using you to watch us, there's obviously something he wants to know. We don't want him to find out whatever it is.”
“No, Alan,” Edgar shook his head. “I've been backing down too much lately, letting you change my mind. And sometimes your ideas are better, so I guess that's fine, but right now I'm in charge. Even if you didn't mean to, you'd open your eyes, so wear this or else...” he stopped, letting the threat hang in the air. Or else what? He had no idea. He wouldn't let Alan come home? Alan knew he would never do that to him.
Alan sighed and nodded. “Fine, but I wouldn't have peeked,” he said. It came out sulkily. He grabbed at the bandanna and tied it on himself, making sure it was tight and didn't allow him to open his eyes. He winced. “Edgar, this is all sweaty.”
“We'll get you a fresh one at home. Come on.”
Alan gave the knot at the back of his head one last tug to ensure it was tight enough, and then reached out in front of himself, hoping to grab onto either Edgar or Sam. Through closed eyes and the dark colored fabric he could just about make out brighter areas where streetlights and the illuminations of the various boardwalk attractions were. The boardwalk was always loud and claustrophobic, but right now it felt more so than it ever had before. His reaching hand found nothing but air and he fought down the idea that Edgar and Sam had walked away without realizing he wasn't following.
“Edgar?” he said uncertainly, reaching out again. His other hand moved to his face to remove the blindfold.
He was stopped by a hand grabbing his own before it reached his eyes. He recognized Edgar's presence and felt himself relax.
“Told you you'd peek,” Edgar said. “Did you think I'd leave you here?” Then, gripping Alan's hand tightly, he began to walk home.
Edgar walked slowly, keeping a minimum of distance between himself and his brother. His hand never broke contact with Alan's, they walked so closely, Edgar just in front of Alan, that their arms touched almost all the way to the shoulder. Through the crowds Edgar ensured that they weren't separated by pushy tourists.
It was one of the most disconcerting experiences of Alan's life. He had grown up on this boardwalk, thinking he knew it like the back of his hand, but he knew that if Edgar disappeared, he would be completely lost. He gripped Edgar's hand tighter, making sure that that wouldn't happen. He trusted Edgar completely; he knew that his brother would never deliberately let him hurt himself, but accidentally was a different matter, He tripped and stumbled as he failed to recognize bumps and dips in the sidewalk, he tripped as they crossed the street. All the time he was certain they were being silently observed by puzzled Santa Carla residents. Through the loud music and the screams from the roller coaster, he could hear people around them walking, talking. He was used to being considered weird, but this was a step too far.
“Here's a question,” Sam said suddenly. His voice came from a few paces behind Alan, as though he was trying to look like he wasn't with them, like he just happened to be walking in the same direction. “If the bad guy suddenly decides to take a peek at what Alan's looking at and he can't see anything, don't you think that's going to tip him off that we're onto him?”
Alan felt Edgar slow as he turned around to look at Sam. For a moment, he didn't reply as he considered his answer. “Good,” he said eventually. “Let him know. We're taking back the upper hand.” He turned his attention back to Alan, “Okay, one step up, bro and we're here.”
Alan felt Edgar step into the store, and reached out with his foot experimentally, finding the step before he did the same.
Sam hung back outside as they entered the comic shop. Alan recognized that they were home by the smell of marijuana hanging in the air. He heard Sam sigh. “Guys, I'm sorry to bail just as it's getting interesting, but if I don't get home soon my mom's going to freak.”
Edgar let go of Alan for long enough to presumably make some kind of gesture. “Fine, go,” he said. “I'll catch you up tomorrow.” He grabbed hold of Alan again, on his shoulder this time.
Alan heard Sam retrieve his bike from just inside the store where he had stowed it earlier. He disappeared without saying another word.
Edgar half dragged Alan into the back of the shop, where the family kept their small kitchen and sitting room. He pulled out a chair from underneath the table, lined his brother up to it and pushed down on his shoulders. Alan took the hint and sat down.
“Alright. Just to make sure, he can only see what you're seeing, right? He's not listening in on us?”
“Anthony said not,” Alan told him.
Edgar grimaced in disgust at the thought of having to trust the magician. “And did your new best friend tell you why he might be doing this?”
Underneath the blindfold, Alan frowned. “He has an idea.”
“You're not going to like it.”
Edgar sat down heavily on the chair opposite him. He gritted his teeth. “I already don't like anything about this, and you know it. What's the reason?”
For a long moment, Alan didn't reply. Edgar waited impatiently, staring at the boy opposite him, who was irritatingly oblivious due to the blindfold.
“You,” said Alan eventually.
“Me? Me what?” The uncomfortable feeling in his chest and the pit of his stomach that hadn't gone away since the night he found the magic books hidden under Alan's bed suddenly grew more intense.
Another long pause. Alan chewed his bottom lip with his front teeth, “Right now your power is locked away. You can't access it...”
“Which is exactly how I want it to stay.” Edgar interrupted.
“Right. But if you can't access it, the warlock can't either. So Anthony thinks he's looking for some way to convince you to switch your power on.”
Edgar took a breath through his nose and out through his mouth. He had considered that he might be a target from the moment Alan had told him the truth, so it was far from a revelation to him, but it was still unpleasant to hear. “Two for one special,” he muttered. “Kill one, get one free.”
Alan fingered the bandanna still covering his eyes. “Can I take this thing off?”
“No.” Edgar got to his feet and began to pace the room. “What does he think he's going to achieve by watching us? Am I suddenly going to say 'Hey, if whatever happened then I'd start taking magic lessons.' Not very likely.”
“You wouldn't just have to say it, you'd need to write it down and then show it to me,” Alan said.
“Maybe the warlock can lipread.”
Edgar walked to the sink and back to the table. He tapped his fingernails on the tabletop and looked at Alan. His brother's hands were resting on the table, scrunched into tight fists, the only outward sign of the tension in his body.
“Okay,” Edgar said, “If he's literally looking through your eyes, he can't be watching all the time. While he's watching us, he won't be able to see what's going on around him.”
Alan exhaled slowly. “I know the feeling,” he said pointedly.
“Quit whining. Maybe this'll teach you not to mess about with magic. So if he's not looking all the time, he might not have found what he needs yet. We've got to assume that he hasn't, or he'd take the spell off, right?”
“Either way, we need to plan our next move quickly.”
“We already know our next move,” Alan told him. “We trace the spell to its source. Well, Anthony does. He wants me to go back tomorrow night.”
Edgar resumed pacing. “Which is damned suspicious, if you ask me. Why didn't he do it there and then?”
“Maybe he wanted me to explain it to you first. Maybe he needs some equipment he hasn't got or something. I don't know, Edgar. If you'd talk to him civilly, he might not have asked you to leave and you could've asked him yourself.” Alan sighed in irritation and pulled the bandanna off over his head. He dropped it on the table and blinked several times. “The warlock's not going to find out anything from the kitchen,” he explained to Edgar's glare.
Edgar made a low sound in his throat, then pointedly moved himself behind his brother, out of his line of sight.
Alan obligingly continued to stare forwards rather than turning around to look at him.
Edgar took a minute to consider his options. He didn't have any. “Okay,” he said. “Fine. Tomorrow night we see what the magic guy can do. If you're sure he's one of the good guys, I guess the worst that can happen is it won't work. Stay home tomorrow, and don't look at anything that might give something away.”
“How do I know what's going to give something away?” Alan asked.
Edgar resisted the urge to smack his brother on the back of the head. “That's why the blindfold. But if you won't wear it, stay in your room. I guess if the warlock wants me first, you're safe here alone for a few hours, so I'll go to school and tell Sam what's going on.”
Alan continued to look at the wall opposite him. “But if wants you, you're not safe,” he said quietly.
“I can take care of myself,” Edgar assured him, managing to fill his voice with a certainty that he wasn't feeling. Then, with a final glance at the back of his brother's head, he turned and ran up the stairs before Alan could say anything else. He wasn't sure how much longer he could keep up the charade of confidence. “Remember, stay in your room tomorrow,” he called down.
He slammed his bedroom door and sat down heavily on his bed. His stomach churned uncomfortably and he knew that tonight would be another sleepless night. He felt like a coward for running away.
Alan waited until he heard Edgar's bedroom door slam closed before he allowed his head to slump forward to rest on his arms. Staring down at the tabletop, he felt moisture gathering inside his eyes and quickly closed them against it. If Edgar came back, which he doubted would happen, the last thing he needed was for his brother to see that.
He stayed there most of the night, unable to summon up the willpower to move. When he finally got to his feet, his parents had locked up the shop on their own and gone to bed, and there was a hand knitted blanket draped around his shoulders.