Chapter 1:

☆A Mysterious Stranger☆

Magic Makes my Life Less Lonely!

I brushed my hair, working my way through each strand carefully. I didn’t mind having long hair, though it was a pain having to constantly brush it.

“Elio! I told you! Just look at all these tangles and knots!” my comb scolded me.

“I know, Tooth...but I can’t always be brushing and combing! I have things to do,” I said as I got up and made my way downstairs to the main room of the cottage.

The walls were a pastel blue, with plants and bookshelves almost everywhere you looked. The sun-catchers on my windows split the morning sun into tiny rainbows that shot around the room like confetti made of light. Being a night owl, that was definitely the only part I loved about the morning...and espresso!

“But you must take care of yourself! You always do this,” the little comb in my hand reminded me.

“Of course, Tooth, I know! I’ll try to be better about it. Let’s see the time… My first client should be here any moment now…” I turned to a pair of wall clocks and squinted before giving up trying to decipher the time. I decided to ask them instead.

“Good morning Tick and Tock! Could you please tell me the time?”

“Why, it is 8:20!” the older one, Tick, responded.

“Of course it isn’t, you old pendulum! It is 8:25!” Tock corrected snarkily.

“Now, now, it is too early to fight, you two! You’re always just a bit off from one another!”

“It is because Tock is hyperactive! Always in a hurry!”

“You’re just running far too slow!” Tick shot back.

The two clocks continued to bicker loudly in the background, but I paid them no mind.

“Well, I have at least five to ten minutes before the client shows up! I should be able to make some coffee for myself, and them!” I said to my comb.

“Maybe have some food, too? You promised to take care of yourself!” Tooth whined.

I stopped combing my hair and put Tooth onto the countertop so I could make some quick espresso.

“Yes, yes! I’ll just toast this,” I said as I held up a day-old baguette to show my little comb. It smiled at me approvingly.

As the oven preheated, I popped open a can and was welcomed by the bittersweet aroma of fresh coffee. I spooned a few heaps into my espresso pot and set it on the burner.

“Who is the first client today, Elio?”

“I think it’s Rosetta, or maybe Irina?”

“You don’t remember?” the comb questioned while hopping around on the countertop.

“It’s too early, Tooth!” I said as I sliced the hardened baguette in two.

“Well, whoever it is, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the espresso!” Tooth giggled.

“I hope so!” I placed the baguette onto a tray before sliding it into the oven. Five minutes should be good.

My little comb was right though, I needed to review the schedule for the day—hopefully it wouldn't be too packed! With a curious stride I found myself over at my desk, reading through the schedule. Hmmm, it was Rosetta, after all! She is the local florist in the nearby town of Windbloom. Unusual for her to seek out my help—oftentimes I was the one requesting HER services. I wasn’t blessed with a green thumb, to my dismay. Grabbing a new appointment sheet, I sleepily treaded to the front door. As it opened, I was greeted by the most beautiful, sunny day. The cool morning air brushed lightly upon my nose and lips. I could still smell the dew on the flowers and grass lingering in the air around me. Living in the countryside certainly did have it’s perks! Reaching my mailbox, I stuck the schedule sheet to a little makeshift board I had set up above it. Can’t forget to post that, otherwise no one could sign up for tomorrow!

Since I was here, I decided to check if the morning mail had come. Let's see...oh! There was something! I pulled out a small stack of letters. Hmmm..nothing, nothing, junk, ad… Oh! This looks like a fun catalog to flip through! I’ll save it in case I want to treat myself later. Turning back towards my cottage, I slowly dragged my feet down the path as I flipped through what was surely going to be a tempting shopping spree this evening. The catalog was filled with many cute little decorations and clothes from some new boutique in the city. Crystalis...I hadn’t been back there since, well...I don’t plan on ever going back! At least it was nice to have an option to order; now I could shop while staying nice and cozy at home! I smiled as a couple items caught my eye.

“Elio! The espresso is done!” I heard Tooth yell from the kitchen just as I opened the door. I placed the mail on the entry table and went to take the pot off the stovetop. Carefully, I poured the shots of espresso into a pair of tiny, tulip-painted cups and placed them on matching saucers. Breakfast must be ready by now, so I bent down to peek into the oven. The baguette looked to be golden brown—perfectly toasted. After putting on my oven mitt, I retrieved the tray and let the baguette cool atop the counter.

“Tooth, do you think Rosetta likes sugar?”

“Hmmm...I think she would, but put a couple cubes just on the side in case she doesn’t!” The comb skipped about, pleased with its suggestion.

“Good idea,” I said as I pulled some butter and a jar of homemade blackberry jam from the refrigerator. With some tips from Rosetta and perhaps a little magical help, my berry bushes had done quite well this season!

I spread the butter and jam evenly over both pieces of the toasted bread and took my first bite. The jam was sweet, and had a pleasant tartness that complimented it. Together with the creaminess of the butter, the flavors created a sweet harmony. The baguette itself was initially crispy, but fluffy and soft after biting into it. I’m so glad Tooth talked me into this, but I’d never tell!

“How is it?” it asked sweetly.

I just nodded as I licked my lips, turning away from the little comb. It would be ready with an ‘I told you so’ if it saw me enjoying the food as much as I was. There was a light knock at the door.

“Oh! It must be Rosetta!” I placed my breakfast down and went to finish setting the table.

“Just a second!” I quickly grabbed two small spoons and some cubes of sugar to place on the saucers. Careful not to disturb the creamy layer on top of the espresso, I made my way to the table in the middle of the living room. I placed one cup on each side, and went to answer the door.

“Sorry to keep you waiting!” I said as I opened it.

“No problem, Elio! I was just admiring your begonias. It’s good to see you!” Rosetta was such a pleasant woman, with no airs or graces. She came dressed in a simple blue sundress and boots. On her head she wore a bright flower clip to keep her lavender hair out of her face, and her trademark warm smile was spread across her face. Rosetta nodded politely before she stepped inside, I showed her to the table.

“Oh! Thanks for the espresso! I’m sorry it’s so early.”

“No worries! Make yourself comfortable!” I said as I sat opposite her. “What can I do for you today?” I plopped a couple sugar cubes into my espresso. The spoon made a twinkling sound as I stirred, awaiting her response.

“Ok,” she replied excitedly, “I’d really like to have your help to create a new flower!”

“A new flower?” I repeated before bringing the cup to my lips for a sip. Rosetta wasn’t usually interested in such things, she never even cross bred her own flowers! She was more the type to take the plain and turn it into the extraordinary! I wondered what role magic could possibly play in her request?

“Yes, I need a new one that is a bit...different from normal flowers.” She placed a sugar cube into her cup and delicately stirred it before partaking herself.

“Well, what’s different about this new flower? Would you like it to be striped, or perhaps spotted?” I mused.

“No, I need it to illuminate my garden, actually.”

“Wow! How interesting…” I leaned in, curiously “...but what for?”

“When I’m working at night I want to have a better view of everything so I can tend to the flowers appropriately. And besides,” she said cupping her face, “won’t that be so pretty?!”

“It does sound beautiful! Extremely so! Where did you come up with this idea?”

“Have you seen the new lanterns they put in town? They absorb the light of the sun during the day, and glow at night!”

“Oh? Those enchanted lanterns finally got installed here? I used to see them in the city.”

“Yes! So I thought, why not have something similar? Lanterns would likely be easier, but I must consider the aesthetic of my garden!”

“I see… So basically you’re looking for me to create a bioluminescent flower…”

“Bio-wha?” She tilted her head to the side in bewilderment.

“Never mind! I think I can do this!” I mirrored her excitement. It would be fun to create something as lovely as a glowing flower!

“One other part of my request—could you make it from lavandula?”

“...Lavandula? What is that, exactly? Is that like lavender?”

“Precisely! I’d like it to be a type of lavender, but with a soft yellow light. Can your magic do that?”

“Magic can do anything!” I grinned. “There is one caveat though…”I said before taking a quick sip. Rosetta leaned in, intently hanging on my next few words. “Basically, I can only enchant the seeds. Full grown lavender won’t be able to be imbued with magic. It would be a light spell and...I’m afraid I might burn it.”

“Understood! I kind of figured I’d need to grow it myself,” she said while digging in her dress pocket. She gave up after a moment and shifted in her seat to search her other pocket. “So I came prepared! Here you go!” she said as she extended her hand, filled with about six or so seeds.

“Are these...lavender seeds?” I squinted at the contents of her palm.

“You bet!” She nodded as she grabbed my hand and dumped the seeds into it.

“Ok, let me do the shouldn’t take me too long.” I said before downing the last of my espresso and heading over to my desk.

“Hey! Finish your breakfast!” I heard a tiny voice yell from the nearby kitchen countertop. Rosetta turned and saw Tooth yelling at me before she let loose a peal of laughter.

“Tooth, you’re as cute and caring as ever,” she exclaimed.

“Thank you, Rosetta,” it said with a little bow, “but please help me convince Elio to finish his food. It will go to waste!”

“Tooth, it’s ok! This spell won’t take too long. I’ll finish it after, I promise!” I arranged the seeds on my desk and pulled a dusty old tome from my bookcase. Flipping through its pages, I searched for an illumination spell—maybe a glowing charm? Which option would be enough to make the flowers shine with light, but not harm the seeds?

“There it is… This should be gentle enough to work,” I said, pointing to a glitter glamor. A simple trick really! The lavender wouldn’t emit actual light, but rather store the magic I put into the seeds now and illuminate at night. Bioluminescent, just like the lanterns Rosetta saw! This was assuming it worked the way I imagined it would—we’d have to see after the flowers were fully grown. I placed my hands above the seeds, closed my eyes and recited the incantation:

“Glitter and glow, in the darkness of night… Sparkle brightly with golden light!”

As I spoke, I visualized a stream of small yellow stars shining from my fingertips and flowing into the seeds. Magic was a complete matter of will, requiring focus and a bit of imagination. I opened my eyes and was relieved to see it was just as I had seen in my head! The seeds glowed brightly with a golden gleam. Suddenly, there was a blinding flash! As the light subsided, I noticed the seeds had changed from an earthy brown to a faint shade of yellow.

“Oh my! How beautiful! Golden seeds?” Rosetta gasped as she cupped her cheeks once more, looking upon my work.

“There you are,” I said excitedly, scooping the seeds from the desk and into Rosetta’s excited hands. “These should light up your garden nicely. Please let me know how they work after they’re fully grown!”

“Thank you, Elio! I absolutely will!” She smiled. “So, how much for your wonderful work today?”

“I think…” I stared at the ceiling and pondered for a moment. ”Does five gold sound fair?”

“More than fair,” Rosetta said as she pulled the coins from her jingling pouch. “You undercharge, if anything!”

“Living out here doesn’t cost nearly as much as it did in the city, so I’m happy to charge less. My expenses are much more manageable.”

“Fair enough,” she said, before getting up and heading towards the door. She stopped for a moment. Hesitantly, she spoke once more as she turned the handle. “Despite what happened, and what they might say in the really are a talented wizard!” She smiled encouragingly one last time before shutting the door behind her.

As it closed, I felt a flash of heat run across my face. My palms grew cold and clammy. I know she spoke with kindness, but I couldn’t help feeling embarrassed.

“How could she know about that…”

“Elio...are you ok?” Tooth was quite intuitive and was always the first to sense a change in my mood. It was quite impressive actually, an enchanted comb being so sensitive to others.

“Yeah, I’m fine, Tooth...”

“Then it’s time to finish your breakfast!” the little comb insisted.

“I’m on it.” I saluted Tooth in a silly manner that made it giggle sweetly. I returned to my plate and took another bite of baguette. Tasting it again, I felt my embarrassment slowly begin melt away.

“You know Tooth? You truly are a wonderful little friend.”

───── ⋆⋅☆⋅⋆ ─────

If I ever had time between clients, I liked to relax outside in the garden if the day was nice and the sun was shining. Today was one such day. I lounged in my chair with a cool mint lemonade in my hand while Tooth sat on the table beside me. My garden was my little sanctuary, a secluded patio surrounded with mounds of beautiful plants and flowers. I felt lucky to have my magic and Rosetta's guidance in this moment, knowing fully well nothing here could flourish by my efforts alone. The patio furniture completed the aesthetic. The table was small and dainty in the shape of a butterfly, with two matching chairs on either side. Whenever I sat there, I imagined I was resting on the beautiful wings of a real butterfly. A previous client had offered the whole set to me as payment for a simple spell. The trade was definitely in my favor, but he was more than eager, so I accepted it gladly.

I sipped my lemonade, savoring the sour and refreshing liquid while Tooth hopped around the table watching the birds fly by. A slight breeze swept gently through the air, carrying the sweet scent of flowers with it. I laid back and watched the clouds float lazily across the bright blue sky above.

“This is heavenly…”


I looked down and saw poor little Tooth land with a thud on the ground. I leaned down to pick up the comb and brushed the dirt off of it.

“You ok, Tooth?”

“Yep! I just wasn’t watching where I was hopping. Sorry!”

“It’s ok, silly. I guess I’ll need to wash you off later.”

“Probably!” it said, before letting free a carefree laugh. “I’m just happy you’re taking a moment for yourself!”

“Well, I’m lucky I have a gap between clients today!” I sipped the last of my lemonade, sucking on a cool mint leaf from the bottom of the glass.

“That’s not usually the problem, Elio! You just sleep too much, and never leave the house!”

“Yeah, well...that’s why I have you and the others to keep me company, right?”

“Well, I am happy to do so!”

The comb and I exchanged a smile. It was so sweet, wanting to take care of me. Tooth was the first of my enchanted household items I brought to life. I had originally done it in an attempt to have it brush my hair for me since self-care was not my strong point these days… It was quite unexpected that instead of combing my hair, Tooth took on a mind of its own! I still had to comb my hair by hand, but I gained a friend to talk to! It wasn’t long before I had enchanted a few other objects around the cottage. I enjoyed listening to their thoughts; some were insightful, some snarky, and others were so sweet! Best of all they didn’t drain me like my interactions with actual people, and my anxiety never spiked! Some might think it’s weird, but it was nice to have friends.

“Do you hear that?”

“Hmm?” I put an ear to the air and listened. From the cottage I could make out some heated voices. “Oh dear… Time to head inside, I believe.”

I took my empty glass and little comb-friend, and headed back inside. We were greeted by a shouting match.

“I SAID it’s 5:30!” Tock yelled.

“Of course it isn’t! It is 5:35!” shouted Tick.

Oh my, time to play mediator. I placed my dirty cup on the countertop and prepared to head into the fray.

“Oh no you don’t! In the sink please,” Tooth protested from my pocket.

“Ugh… Fiiiiine….” I picked up the glass and washed it hastily.

“Thank you.”

In the living room, the two clocks squabbled and bounced on the wall.

“No, you won earlier! I adjusted my time accordingly! Now you’re wrong!”

“I changed my time too! I gave up because I thought you were right!” Tick yelled back.

“Hey, you two. It’s only five minutes! It’s not worth getting so worked up—”

“Time is the only thing that matters,” Tick pointed out to me.

“Yeah, Elio! How is anyone supposed to be on schedule if no one is keeping track of time?!” Tock was exasperated at this point.

“It’s ok,” I pleaded, “The next client isn’t for at least another twenty-five or thirty minutes. Either way, we have plenty of time.”

The twin wall clocks grew quiet. Tick huffed and puffed as if it were a steam-clock, while Tock grumbled to itself.

“That’s better,” I exhaled, relieved the fighting had ended. At least I had thirty minutes of peace until the next client, and what a client she was! Irina, the town gossip. She was an elderly woman who had an ear to nearly every door in the region. Somehow she had tabs on not only the small town of Windbloom, but also the city of Crystalis where I used to live, far away! Maybe she was secretly a witch spying on her fellow magic users…what a thought! Truthfully, I enjoyed her visits immensely. I tried not to let on that I was excited to catch her latest scoop however, because if she knew, she might never leave! Maybe I should take a small cat nap before she gets here to bolster myself for whatever drama she has prepared for me? I retired to my bedroom and laid down on my comfortable bed. There came a tiny yawn from my pillow.

“Sleepy as usual, Cushion?” I asked my fluffy pillow. Cushion was by far the cutest object I’d enchanted, and that was confirmed when it opened large and shiny eyes as it heard me.

“I can’t help it, Elio, it’s just...soooo comfy here,” it said sleepily.

“Yes, I think I’ll join you for a bit before Irina arrives.”

“Irina’s coming today?” Cushion yawned again.

“Yep. There’s only enough time for a power nap, I’m afraid.” I said as I fluffed and kneaded the pillow.

“That tickles,” it giggled. “Well, let’s make the minutes in dreamland count!” Cushion closed its eyes as I laid my head down.

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Really? How is that possible? Tick and Tock must’ve been off by a whole lot more than five minutes! I quickly got up to check the door while Cushion called out to me with a small lazy voice.


“Yeah?” I turned back.

“Could you take me to the living room?” it blinked sleepily. “Since I’m awake anyway, I wanna hear the latest juicy details Irina is sure to bring!”

“Sure, Cushion.” I grabbed the pillow and placed it gently onto the couch in the living room as I made my way to the door.

“Thank youuuu—!” It trailed off as the knocking came again.

“Coming!” I said while reaching for the door handle. I opened it and was greeted by Irina, her silver hair in an ornate up-do—almost blinding in the sun.

“Hey Irina!” I nodded to her respectfully.

“Hello, dear!” she broke into a crooked smile before walking in.

“You’ll have to excuse me, I’m a bit ahead of schedule today!” She waddled towards the closest chair and plopped down at full force into the seat. So that’s why! Tick and Tock weren’t THAT off...I think?

“That’s quite alright! How are you? Would you like some tea?” I said as I went to join her at the table.

“No tea needed, thank you, dear. I’m afraid I’d spill it; my arthritis is back with a vengeance!”

She was about to spill the figurative tea anyway, but I didn’t bother to tell her that as she wasn’t privy to such expressions.

“Should I prepare your salve?”

“It would be much appreciated, dear.”

“No problem, Irina! Let me get started.”

“Yes thank you. Now…” She shifted back and forth in the chair, and cleared her throat. “Let me tell you all about this pickle I’ve found myself in,” she said somewhat under her breath. Here we go! Let the gossip begin.

“Do you know that old coot, Mr. Bartel?”

“Hmmm, actually, I’m not sure. Could you refresh my memory?” I turned briefly to look at her, then shifted my attention back to the mortar I was using to prepare her salve. As I ground together a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, and matcha, I heard her throw her hands up in surprise at me not immediately knowing the man she spoke of.

“He’s the hat maker! You know, Bartel’s Hats?” She crossed her arms in frustration.

“Oh yes! He’s actually quite famous in Crystalis! I remember!” He was trusted to make the hats for the royals I’d heard. The chair creaked as she shifted again before continuing.

“Well, you see…” she trailed off.

I plucked an aloe vera leaf from its pot as I waited for her to continue. I scraped the gel into the mortar and began to mix and grind the ingredients together with the pestle. After a moment of awkward silence I prompted her to continue…

“Yes? What about Mr. Bartel?” I turned to find Irina with her hands over her mouth, covering a large grin.

“He’s...single!!” She finally burst out.

“Oh? Is he?” I smirked. How cute, a crush! I never thought Irina was one to get like this. “And what led to this discovery?”

“Ok so, last week he actually dropped by my shop and needed a few things mended. I saw that dreadful Mildred!” The infamous Mildred, Irina’s sworn enemy in town. There was nothing really wrong with her from what I’ve heard, the two just didn’t get along. “She was all over him! It’s obvious she’s interested, but he didn’t seem to reciprocate her advances!”

“Ah I see! So, I guess she won’t be your competition this time around!”

“Well, I don’t know. That Mildred…she’s a wily one! So I thought, why don’t I ask Elio for some help?”

“Now, now, Irina… We’ve been through this. You know I can’t do curses, I’m a Wizard!”


“Despite your persistence, I’m afraid I can’t help with that.”

“Drat, well one of these days you’ll help an old woman out with a hex or two.” She burst out a mischievous dry cackle. “Anyways, I’ve come to ask for the next best thing!”

Oh? Irina might be more wily than her nemesis…

“What would that be?” I finished mixing the salve and poured it into a glass bottle.

“I want to get Mr. Bartel’s attention so...I want you to make me a magic perfume,” she declared!

“A perfume? Sure I can do that! But...what kind of magic? Perhaps a spell to draw people’s eyes to you?”

“Brilliant. That would be most excellent! I knew I could count on you, dear.” She clapped her hands a couple times with excitement.

“It might take me a couple of days. Could you tell me what his favorite flower or scent is? That will help make it more personal.”

“Oh, definitely! I can find out,” she nodded excitedly!

I waved my hands over the cap of the glass bottle, and whispered the words of healing. A couple twinkling stars floated down into the bottle and swirled inside it like a starry sky. I walked the arthritis-curing mixture over to Irina and handed it to her.

“There you go!” I held the bottle in my open palm. She grabbed it gently and smiled.

“Thank you dear! Nothing else works as well as your concoctions. I hope one day you are able to share your gifts with more people.”

“Maybe one day…” I said politely.
“Well, if it makes you happy being all the way out here...Don’t let me rain on it, I suppose.” She waved her hand in the air as if to clear it. “How much do I owe? The usual?”

“Tell you what, since you’ll be buying the perfume, how about seven?”

“Just seven gold, lad? That’s very generous. I promise to not pester you for any cursing or hexing...well at least not too much,” she teased while digging in her purse. Before I knew it, she had pulled out a few more gold than the amount we’d agreed upon and shoved it into my hand.

“Keep the extra, dear. Get yourself something nice,” she said with a wink. “I’d best be off! I have quite the backlog of garments to mend, myself!” She raised herself up slowly, and shuffled towards the door.

“Thank you, Irina!” I smiled and waved at her.

“Have a good day! See you again soon!” She waved from the door before shutting it behind her.

“Not much juicy gossip today!” Tooth piped up from the countertop in the kitchen.

“Right?” Cushion yawned. “She has a crush, though!”

“Quite interesting, indeed. Who is this Bartel fellow?” Tick chimed in from his spot on the wall.

“I’m afraid I don’t know much about him, he’s just a famous hat maker. That’s all I really know.” I rubbed my bottom lip and smiled. “It is pretty cute that she’s found a new infatuation at her age, isn’t it?”

“So cute!” Tooth yelled in adoration.

“But...that Mildred.” Cushion yawned.

“Well, to be fair, Cushion...we’ve never met Mildred!” I added.

“True, but I already think she’s a sneak.”

“Hehe, well I think we all do! It’s because Irina has a way of drawing you in with her stories,” Tooth pointed out. We all erupted in laughter.

“Elio, I believe the time is 7:16!” Tock joined in the conversation.

“Well, I believe Irina was my last client today?” I glanced at today's schedule sheet lying on my desk. “Looks like I’m free for the rest of the evening!”

“You should think about having dinner!” Tooth always reminded me to eat, and I appreciated it.

“Yes, right as usual Tooth! Maybe I’ll do that now!”

There was a soft knock at the door.

“I guess Irina might’ve forgotten something?” I looked around the room before opening the door. “Everyone, do you see anything Irina might’ve forgo—” I was cut off in surprise. It wasn’t Irina at the door. A man was at the door, but not one I’d ever seen! His hair was a dark navy, and his skin had a grey undertone to it. The clothes he wore indicated he was quite well off, from his cravat to his boots. They were well tailored, and hugged his body tight enough to see a faint hint of his muscular frame. I had to stop myself from staring, as I felt my face begin to flush. I gulped pretty loudly, and tried to greet him politely but he spoke before I was able to clear the lump in my throat.

“Are you the wizard? I’ve come to seek your assistance.” he said, with two of his particular teeth gleaming in the twilight. “May I come in?”