Witch Eyes Online - Scott Tracey

one

Binding circles were bad news, my uncle said. Since I was currently trapped in one, the word understatement came to mind.

“You think it’s going to be that easy to escape?” Across the field from me, the graying man snickered. The sun was just about to set, and the odds of help coming from somewhere in Middle of Nowhere, Montana, were slim.

Between him and me were a series of concentric circles dug into the ground, and I was in the center. Seven in total, and so elaborate they must have taken weeks to design properly. It was always important to be exact when tapping into powerful magics like a mystical prison cell.

That’s what the circles were for. “You know all it’ll take is one tiny flaw, and the whole thing breaks down,” I bluffed. But the truth was, my casual glance around hadn’t spotted a single flaw. That was bad.

“I’ve got you right where I want you,” he said.

If I hesitated for too long, he’d know I was intimidated. So I smiled. Leaned back and stretched. Pretended like I had all the time in the world. But behind my sunglasses, I waited and watched. The stretching was starting to aggravate him. He started scowling, right on schedule. Arms crossed in front of him, his face getting red. I knew all the signs.

After all, the man was my uncle.

He’d been the one to design the challenge—get trapped in a binding circle and then figure out a way to escape. Weeks of design meant weeks’ worth of energy building up the spell’s power, making it that much stronger than my uncle’s already impressive abilities.

For most practitioners, magic was like cooking. Mix the right ingredients in the right combinations, and boil for the desired effect. Uncle John and I were different—most of the time, if we knew the spell we wanted to cast, it was just a matter of gathering the magic around you and making it happen. Willpower.

But cooking had just as much a place in magic. Uncle John could have been listening to a book on tape or learning Swahili while he was putting the circle together, and the circle’s power would be the same. But if he’d just forced it into place without any tools, the slightest crack in his focus and the whole thing would have fallen apart.

“When would you use something like this?” he asked.

I looked around me. “Never.”

“And why not?”

“Because something like this takes a lot of work. It’s difficult to get someone to walk into a trap when there’s a big X on the ground, right?”

“So why use them?”

I looked blankly back at him.

“Some witches use them for summoning spirits from the other side,” he said, an unmistakable chiding to his voice. I should have known this. “And the most powerful spirits can only exist inside the circle.”

This part sounded more familiar. “You mean like demons.”

“Anything of a significant power,” he clarified. “Their power is too great—it forces them back where they came from. The stronger the entity, the less they can remain in our world. A binding circle is one way to hold them here.”

“Make them do algebra,” I muttered. “They’ll get so bored they’ll forget to leave.”

“Braden, now’s not the time for games,” he snapped. “What do we know about demons?”

I sighed, thinking back. Most kids took Math, English, American History. Mine was more Demons 101, AP Magical Defense, and Advanced Sorcery for Slackers. “Demons are too powerful to deal with, they can’t be controlled, and they have hungers that can never be sated. They exist to destroy and consume.”

“Tell me something that you didn’t memorize out of a textbook,” he chided.

“You can’t control a demon, but you can contain it. Trapping them in the circle limits their power.” I tried to think. “So if you could work out the properties of the circle, you could keep one trapped indefinitely, right?”

He didn’t exactly smile, but that twitch of his lips was basically the same thing. He took the magic far too seriously. Like it was life or death, instead of just another lesson. “So how long do you think I can keep you trapped?”

I started to smile. “Five minutes, tops.”

“How about all the laundry for a month?”

My smile widened. “Light it up, Uncle John.”

The binding circle was currently only half done. Anyone could walk in or out. In effect, it hadn’t been turned “on.” That changed the moment Uncle John struck the match and flicked it into the third circle.

As the fire started to circle, the