The potion bubbled, pale green steam drifting upwards from the simmering liquid. Beneath the dark cauldron, the fire sent up a burst of sparks, lighting up the dark room enough to see the stone brick walls and a myriad of white chalk markings all over the floor. The chalk centered around the potion, starting near the center in swirls of orbits and constellations, and arcing outwards towards the four corners of the room in hoarfrost ferns and spikes of crackling lightning.
A door opened, the hallway beyond the doorway dark with wavering shadows, especially to eyes adjusted to looking into the fire. An older man in a black three piece suit holding a briefcase stepped barefoot into the room, taking care to not smudge any of the markings on his way over to the cauldron.
“Is it done?” He asked the scantily clad boy using a long wooden stick to stir the potion, which swirled in colors of neon green, highlighter blue, and a dark, blood red.
As yes- the scantily clad boy. Danny had almost forgotten about him. The boy couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old, and was wearing nothing but a grey half apron, the kind that started from the waist and fell to a couple inches above the knee. In order to reach the cauldron to stir it, he stood on a short wooden stool, which was set a reasonable distance from the fire. He was tan- maybe Latino? He had a crown of dark curls but short around his head, and dark pondering eyes, which he fixed on the man.
“Not yet, mister.” The boy had a soft accent, one that Danny didn’t recognize.
The man in the suit didn’t answer the boy, who went back to stirring once the man’s eyes left him, and instead stared at Danny, who stared back.
Danny was tied, upside down, from the rafters, using soft red rope that he was pretty sure was meant to be used for very different situations than this one. A series of complex knots held his ankles to each other, his arms behind his back, and crisscrossed the rope over his body and ultimately led back to the rafters, keeping him suspended head first over the bubbling potion. His longish white hair, as he was in his ghost form, hung only a couple inches from the liquid, which admittedly made him extremely nervous.
The gag Danny’s mouth found itself being held open with was a tremendously complicated contraption. So much so, in fact, that he found himself wondering if they had made it themselves just for him (in which case he was touched they cared so much) or if there was an actual market somewhere out there for such things. If they did buy it , Danny thought wryly to himself, they probably got it from the same place they got the ropes. It was a single piece of wrought iron, heavy and crude, that tasted metallic in his mouth. The gag circled his entire head, with two thick bits between his back teeth that kept his mouth open. A thinner iron bar, connecting aforementioned bits, held his tongue down, and the weight of the thing made his jaw and neck incredibly sore, not to mention that the iron made his teeth throb uncomfortably. Danny had been there, tied up and suspended over the boiling cauldron, for so long that his drool had fallen down his face and over his eyes, not that he could help it, and now occasionally dripped into the potion. Scantily-clad-boy didn’t seem to mind, and the potion fizzled whenever the saliva fell in.
After a couple minutes, the man walked closer and gazed into the cauldron. Almost like it knew it was being watched, the potion began to boil a little bit more rigorously, the bubbles exploding in little showers of liquid. Danny could feel the heat of the fire and the potion on his scalp, which was not even remotely pleasant. As if the man could sense his discomfort, he twisted his lips into a malicious grin as he looked at Danny.
“The concoction is ready,” he said to the boy, still looking Danny in the eye.
You about to initiate a Spider-man kiss? He tried to ask snarkily, but it came out as a wet grunting gurgle instead, which was obviously misinterpreted as panic, because the man just laughed before stepping away.
“Don’t worry, my dear boy. The ritual will not hurt you too much, I assure you. We need your presence of mind when it is finished so that you can properly listen to our requests like a good little pet, hmm? So it won’t hurt you too bad, just… trap you a little, yes?”
Danny raised his eyebrows skeptically, carefully phasing one of his fingers in and out of the ropes to make sure he could still use his powers, and thus get out if need be. The lengths he went to satisfy his curiosity were… extreme, to say the least, and probably seemed insane to normal people. He was bored, though, and this was the most interesting thing that had happened for weeks, so he thought he may as well let it play out and see what was going on.
“Mister?” The boy asked, once the staring contest had been going on for a couple moments.
“ Be quiet, boy . But yes, go fetch me the ladle.”
“Where is it, mister?”
“My study. Be quick, now. Don’t want the concoction to over-boil.”
The boy ran off through the same door the man had first come through, bare feet slapping against the stone, skillfully avoiding even nudging the chalk with his foot. Rather quickly, no longer than a minute, he returned with a large metal ladle, of the sort used in industrial kitchens that only put one scoop of soup in each bowl. He offered it to the man, but the man simply gestured lazily towards the cauldron with one hand. Somehow understanding this, the boy knelt down, put his face too close to the fire to have been comfortable, and blew lightly on the flames. The flames reacted as if he had poured cold water on them, wavering and then extinguishing to burning embers and then fading altogether in a small shower of sparks. Then, the boy scooted his stool closer to the pot, stood on top of it, and scooped out an entire ladle-full of the swirling liquid.
With one hand under the ladle to prevent any accidental spills, and with a nod of comfirmation from the man, he stepped down from the stool and walked over the to the chalk line nearest to him. Carefully, crouching low to the ground to have more control, the boy started pouring the potion over the chalk lines. The potion in the ladle never seemed to run out, and Danny could see the amount still in the cauldron diminishing as the boy went, some sort of magic in the ladle letting it continue to draw the potion from the original. Not very helpful if you were in an industrial kitchen, say, but very useful for this specific purpose and possibly this specific purpose only. The chalk soaked up all the potion that it came into contact with, so that instead of the concoction getting everywhere all over the floor, it just made the lines glow shift in color from neon green to highlighter blue to dark blood red.
After a while, Danny could tell that the whole pouring thing was going to take a while, and also that the potion wasn’t actually going to run out before the SCB (scantily clad boy) was done tracing the chalk. The room was decently large, really, and as the boy went, the chalk lines were lighting up the room. This was fortunate, as the fire had previously been the only source of light, and that had been blown out at least fifteen minutes ago. Danny wasn’t sure how the boy could see so well in the dark, to be honest- his own eyes had needed a while to adjust to the darkness, and he was a ghost . Then again, the boy was certain to have some sort of magical ability, so perhaps he had just automatically adjusted his own eyes? Danny wasn’t sure.
Now that enough of the chalk had been traced over, the colors that each pattern shifted into was more obvious, and it was beautiful and mesmerizing. The swirls of space nearest to him was stained blood red, with the stars of the constellations sparkling a bright green. From Perseus’ sword or Hercules’ belt extended spiraling patterns of intricate hoarfrost, which glowed a highlighter neon blue, shifting occasionally through a blue leaning teal or an oil-spill red. The spikes of lighting arced outwards from Andromeda and Leo Minor, glowing an ectoplasm green that looked suspiciously like the color that had dominated his vision when he first became half ghost.
And as the boy traced over the last few lines of lightning, the man stepped out of the confines of chalk, and the entire pattern lit up. The walls glowed green-blue-red, and Danny felt an electric tingling in his spine that crawl up to the base of his skull before lighting up every nerve in his body. The ache in his neck and jaw disappeared, a surge of power in his core cancelled out any weariness that hanging upside down for nearly three hours might have created and them some. His entire body glowed ectoplasm green. In the corner of the room the man started cackling happily.
“Ha HA !” He cried, “Now you are trapped , and if you ever want to escape you must do Exactly As I Say .”
Danny phased out of the ropes and the gag, flipping back right-side-up and working his jaw open and closed, marveling at the fact that he wasn’t even sore. The circle had really done a number for him- lovely . The gag clanked in the bottom of the now-empty cauldron, putting a solid dent in the bottom, and the ropes fell in a pile on top of it.
He stretched his arms over his head in mid air, letting his torso elongate to show off some body horror, and drifted down to be parallel to the ground, taking a closer look at the chalk patterns. He turned a circle around the dark room, and with a wave of his hand he made the walls and ceiling glow enough to see. The boy had scampered off at some point, and his absence made Danny grin to himself. At least someone here had some sense, you know?
“Maybe you should have studied your circles better before you went into all the trouble of building one,” Danny said, flexing his fingers and making sure all his joints were in order. He slowly began to float towards the man, who instinctively began stepping backwards, away from the edge of the circle. “Because I think you’ll find that your circle doesn’t trap me,” he stepped out of the confines of the circle- “at all .”
The man’s eyes widened and he stepped back farther, while Danny loitered just outside the edge of the circle. He and the man were in the doorway of the room, as the circle was so large that there was barely any room between the edges and the wall. “H-how?” He asked.
“You straight up forgot the trapping runes dude, though there’s barely enough room for them since you made my personal circle so big. Without runes directing the power and telling it where to go, depending on the circle it’ll either go to the subject, or the power will rush to the center. In this instance, it did both, and I thank you for that,” Danny gave a dramatic bow, and floated back into the circle. He fetched the rope and the gag, and sent a wave of ectoplasm across the floor that sent all the chalk dust into the air. Once it drifted down, it was just an evenly spread layer of color shifting oil-spill dust. The man gaped as hours of hard word were ruined a just a few moments.
Danny shrugged and walked backwards towards the nearest wall. “Better luck next time,” he said, turning intangible. “Ciao!”