What Really Happened in Peru / Page 5

Page 5


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Magnus did not particularly want to think about whatever he had been babbling piteously about on the night when he'd gotten his heart broken. There was no point in wallowing. Magnus refused to wallow. Wallowing was for elephants, depressing people, and depressing elephants.

Catarina continued despite the lack of encouragement. "I was born this color. I did not know how to wear a glamour as a newborn. There was no way to look like anything but what I was then, all the time, even though it was not safe. My mother saw me and knew what I was, but she hid me from the world. She raised me in secret. She did everything she could to keep me safe. A great wrong was done to her, and she gave back love. Every human I heal, I heal in her name. I do what I do to honor her, and to know that when she saved my life she saved countless lives through the centuries."

She turned a wide, serious gaze to Ragnor, who was sitting at the table and looking at his hands uncomfortably, but who responded to the cue.

"My parents thought I was a faerie child or something, I think," Ragnor said. "Because I was the color of springtime, my mother used to say," he added, and blushed emerald. "Obviously it all came out as a bit more complicated than that, but by then they'd gotten fond of me. They were always fond of me, even though I was unsettling to have around the place, and Mother told me that I was grouchy as a baby. I outgrew that, of course."

A polite silence followed this statement.

A faerie child would be easier to accept, Magnus thought, than that demons had tricked or hurt a woman - or, more rarely, a man - and now there was a marked child to remind the parent of their pain. Warlocks were always born from that, from pain and demons.

"It is something to remember, if we feel distant from humans," Catarina said. "We owe a great deal to human love. We live forever by the grace of human love, which rocked strange children in their cradles and did not despair and did not turn away. I know which side of my heritage my soul comes from."

They were sitting outside their house, in a garden surrounded by high walls, but Catarina was always the most cautious of them all. She looked around in the dark before she lit the candle on the table, light springing from nothing between her cupped hands and turning her white hair to silk and pearls. In the sudden light Magnus could see her smile.

"Our fathers were demons," said Catarina. "Our mothers were heroes."

That was true, of course, for them.

Most warlocks were born wearing unmistakable signs of what they were, and some warlock children died young because their parents abandoned or killed what they saw as unnatural creatures. Some were raised as Catarina and Ragnor had been, in love that was greater than fear.

Magnus's warlock's mark was his eyes, the pupils slit, the color lucent and green-gold at the wrong angles, but these features had not developed immediately. He had not been born with Catarina's blue or Ragnor's green skin, had been born a seemingly human baby with unusual amber eyes. Magnus's mother had not realized his father was a demon for some time, not until she had gone to the cradle one morning and seen her child staring back at her with the eyes of a cat.

She knew, then, what had happened, that whatever had come to her in the night in the shape of her husband had not been her husband. When she had realized that, she had not wanted to go on living.

And she hadn't.

Magnus did not know if she had been a hero or not. He had not been old enough to know about her life, or fully comprehend her pain. He could not be sure in the way Ragnor and Catarina looked sure. He did not know if, when his mother knew the truth, she had still loved him or if all love had been blotted out by darkness. A darkness greater than the one known by his friends' mothers, for Magnus's father was no ordinary demon.

"And I saw Satan fall," Magnus murmured into his drink, "like lightning from Heaven."

Catarina turned to him. "What was that?"

"Rejoice that your names are written in Heaven, my dear," said Magnus. "I am so touched that I laugh and have another drink so that I may not weep."

After that he took another walk outside.

He remembered now why he had told them, on that dark drunken night, that he wanted to go to Moquegua. Magnus had been to that town only once before, and had not stayed long.

Moquegua meant "quiet place" in Quechua, and that was exactly what the town was, and exactly why Magnus had felt uneasy there. The peaceful cobbled streets, the plaza with its wrought-iron fountain where children played, were not for him.

Magnus's life philosophy was to keep moving, and in places like Moquegua he understood why it was necessary to keep moving. If he did not, someone might see him as he really was. Not that he thought he was so very dreadful, but there was still that voice in his head like a warning: Keep in bright constant motion, or the whole illusion will collapse in on itself.

Magnus remembered lying in the silver sand of the night desert and thinking of quiet places where he did not belong, and how sometimes he believed, as he believed in the passage of time and the joy of living and the absolute merciless unfairness of fate, that there was no quiet place in the world for him, and never would be. Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Nor was it wise to tempt angels, even of the fallen sort.

He shook the memory off. Even if that were true, there would always be another adventure.

You might think that Magnus's spectacular night of drunken debauchery and countless crimes must be the reason he was banned from Peru, but that is not in fact the case. Amazingly, Magnus was allowed back into Peru. Many years later he went back, this time alone, and he did indeed find another adventure.

1962


Magnus was strolling through the streets of Cuzco, past the convent of La Merced and down the Calle Mantas, when he heard the man's voice. The first thing he noticed was how nasal said voice was. The next thing he noticed was that he was speaking English.

"I don't care what you say, Kitty. I maintain that we could have gotten a bus to Machu Picchu."

"Geoffrey, there are no buses to Machu Picchu from New York."

"Well, really," said Geoffrey after a pause. "If the National Geographic Society is going to put the wretched place in their paper, they might at least have arranged a bus."

Magnus was able to spot them then, wending their way through the arches that lined the street once you were past the bell tower. Geoffrey had the nose of a man who never shut up. It was peeling in the hot sun and arid air, and the once-crisp edges of his white trousers were wilting like a sad, dying flower.

"Another thing here is the natives," said Geoffrey. "I had hoped we could get some decent pictures. I expected them to be so much more colorful, don't you know?"

"It's almost as if they are not here for your entertainment," said Magnus in Spanish.

Kitty turned around at the sound, and Magnus saw a small mocking face and red hair curling underneath the brim of a very large straw hat. Her lips were curling too.

Geoffrey turned when she turned.

"Oh, well spotted, old girl," he said. "Now, he's what I call colorful."

That much was true. Magnus was wearing more than a dozen scarves all in different colors and carefully arrayed to swirl about him like a fantastic rainbow. He was not too impressed by Geoffrey's powers of observation, however, since Geoffrey was apparently unable to imagine that anyone with brown skin could possibly be a visitor like himself.

"I say, fellow, do you want to have your picture taken?" asked Geoffrey.

"You're an idiot," Magnus told him, smiling brightly.

Magnus was still speaking in Spanish. Kitty choked on a laugh and turned it into a cough.

"Ask him, Kitty!" said Geoffrey, with the air of one prompting a dog to do a trick.

"I apologize for him," she said in halting Spanish.

Magnus smiled and offered his arm with a flourish. Kitty skipped over the flagstones, worn so smooth by time that the stone was like water, and seized his arm.

"Oh, charming, charming. Mother will love to see these shots," said Geoffrey enthusiastically.

"How do you put up with him?" Magnus inquired.

Kitty and Magnus beamed like actors, toothy, ecstatic, and entirely insincere.

"With some difficulty."

"Let me offer an alternate proposition," Magnus said between the locked teeth of his smile. "Run away with me. Right now. It will be the most amazing adventure, I promise you that."

Kitty stared at him. Geoffrey turned around, in quest of someone who could take shots of them all together. Behind Geoffrey's back Magnus saw Kitty begin, slowly and delightedly, to smile.

"Oh, all right. Why not?"

"Excellent," said Magnus.

He spun and seized her hand, and they ran, laughing, together down the sunlit street.

"We'd better go pretty quickly!" Kitty shouted, voice breathless as they rushed. "He's bound to notice soon that I stole his watch."

Magnus blinked. "Pardon?"

There was a noise behind them. It sounded disturbingly like a ruckus. Magnus was, through hardly any fault of his own, somewhat familiar with the sound of the police being summoned and also the sounds of a hot pursuit.

He pulled Kitty into an alleyway. She was still laughing, and undoing the buttons of her blouse.

"It will probably take them a little longer," she murmured, the mother-of-pearl buttons parting enough to show the sudden rich flash of emeralds and rubies, "to realize that I also stole all his mother's jewels."

She gave Magnus a little saucy smile. Magnus burst out laughing.

"Do you con a lot of annoying rich men?"

"And their mothers," said Kitty. "I could probably have taken them for the whole family fortune, or at least the silver, but a handsome man asked me to run away with him, and I thought, What the hell."

The sound of pursuit was closer now.

"You are about to be very glad you did," Magnus told her. "Since you showed me yours, I believe it's only fair I show you mine."

He snapped his fingers, making sure to trail blue sparks to impress the lady. Kitty was clever enough to realize what was going on as soon as one of the first pursuers glanced down the alleyway and ran on.

"They can't see us," she breathed. "You turned us invisible."

Magnus raised his eyebrows and made a gesture of display. "As you see," he said. "And they don't."

Magnus had seen humans shocked and scared and amazed by his power. Kitty flung herself into his arms.

"Tell me, handsome stranger," she said. "How do you feel about a life of magical crime?"

"Sounds like an adventure," said Magnus. "But promise me something. Promise we will always steal from the irritating and spend the cash on booze and useless trinkets."

Kitty pressed a kiss to his mouth. "I swear."

They fell in love, not even for a mortal lifetime but for a mortal summer, a summer of laughing and running and being wanted by the law in several different countries.

In the end Magnus's favorite memory of that summer was an image he had never seen: that last picture on Geoffrey's camera, of a man trailing bright colors and a woman hiding them beneath a white blouse, both smiling because they knew a joke he did not.

Magnus's sudden turn to a life of crime, shockingly enough, was not the reason he was banned from Peru either. The High Council of Peruvian warlocks met in secret, and a letter was sent to Magnus several months later announcing that he had been banned from Peru, on pain of death, for "crimes unspeakable." Despite his inquiries, he never received an answer to the question of what he had been banned for. To this day, whatever it is that actually got him banned from Peru is - and perhaps must always remain - a mystery.


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