Alexander Nixon—Nix to everyone but his mother, God rest her soul—was sure he’d checked everything. But here he was, standing atop the platform of marble, and nowhere near his insertion point. He hadn’t a clue how far off he might be, but the symbols inlaid along the alabaster stone’s outer edge still glowed with residual power. If he hurried, he might use that to take him to his intended target zone. There wasn’t time to check his calculations, so he began the sequence and hoped for the best.
In eighteen years, he’d never gotten the best of anything, but there was always a first time. It just wasn’t today.
“Stop your casting, boy,” the gravel-filled voice croaked at his back.
Nix spun to confront the voice’s owner and stumbled back a step at the sight of the man accosting him—if it was a man. Hunched at the shoulders, his limbs twisted and deformed, the pitiful creature shambled toward him. He was dressed in rags, though in their youth they must have been similar to Nix’s usual attire. The right sleeve, ruined and filthy, was shredded up to the elbow, and the brown skin of his right hand shriveled and covered with white rivulets like molten wax. The malformed creature grinned at Nix, and the boy shrank even further. Most of the man’s teeth were missing, and those left were discolored and crooked. The eyes, though… they would haunt Nix for the rest of his life. The left was large and brown, though not looking directly at him, but the right was milky white, like the stone beneath Nix’s feet. A thin stream of drool dripped from one corner of the man’s mouth.