Author's Note: This story came out of an urge to write a story about a pyschic's convention. I thought it might be fun to write the magical side of this world (which I've written about before, obviously) from a complete newcomer. Then I realised that I couldn't think of anything much that could go on at a pyschic's convention, so I made it a general magic-type fair.

I also wanted to write something using some of the characters from my abandoned novel (that's why people keep popping in and out). Also, it occured to me that a fire-raiser who smoked could light cigarettes with the power of their mind, which struck me as incredibly cool.

Pyrokinetics - fire-raisers - in this world have strange coloured hair. Flikken are a Hobbit-like species. I don't think I used anything else that needs explaining.


She walked up to the doors and stopped, rocking back and forward slightly on the balls of her feet. She took a few steps back and read the banner above the doors, then stepped forward again, wondering if she should go in. Starting to climb the steps would be a good way to start.

There was a young man standing in the porch, with a leather jacket, chunky silver chain and hair dyed scarlet and cropped close to his head.

As she watched, he slid a cigarette out of his pocket, put it in his mouth, and cupped his hand around it as if he was lighting it. Before she had a chance to wonder what he was doing – no lighter or matches – there was a brief burst of flame from nowhere as it lit. Her eyes widened. 'Oh!' she thought. 'That's not hair dye, is it?'

"What?" he said. He'd noticed her watching him.

"Nothing." She turned her attention back to the steps. He looked from her, to the door, then up and down the street.

"You going in or not?"

"I – well – I…" she trailed off, and stared at him. He stared back. "Yes – I mean – yes. I'm…" she gave up, and practically ran up the steps and through the door into another world (or so it seemed; it was that different from the grey, dreary where it was just starting to rain).

She stood just inside the door for a moment and stared out at the fair. Then she walked slowly towards the nearest stall, where a young man was arguing with a middle-aged woman. She stopped to listen for a moment.

"I can't believe you're not stocking him!"

"We specialise in female writers, sir. Look, if you're interested in that kind of thing you should try Lady Carisham…"

"Lady Caisham isn't the same kind of thing at all! Well, not really. And you should still be stocking Martyn's books! He's one of the greatest spell-writers of the twentieth century!"

"We only stock spell books written by woman." Said the woman. "No exceptions!"

"Well, Martyn's practically a woman. He's an androgyne. Verging on female!" said the man as she moved on.

"He's still biologically male!"

"That has nothing to do with it!"

She walked past a stall selling moving paintings, and one which was apparently run by a large dog (or possibly the stallholder just liked to nap that way).

"Rabbits." She heard someone across the aisle say. "Rabbits, lambs, and anything in checks. And the colour yellow – most of the time."

She turned to face the voice just as a boy, who looked about twelve and was completely yellow, buttercup yellow, all over, said; "Oh. You don't have a problem with me, do you?"

"No, actually, which is strange."

"That's good." The yellow boy leaned round to look at the clock. "I'd better go."

"Okay." Said the other speaker, who she thought was probably about her own age. "S'later, Connor!" he waited until the boy was gone, then walked over to a nearby stall – run by another boy of about the same age, and advertising itself and 'Smythe and Adrei, Fortunes told, Templestad' – and leaned on the table.

"Having much luck?"

"Not really. I'm not sure if it's because people aren't interesting in rune stones or because they're just overlooking me, though."

"Well!" said the other boy. "Can't be having that!" he stood, and waved in her direction. "Hey! You!"

She glanced behind her.

"Yes, you! Girl in the red shirt! Fancy having your fortune told? Very reasonable prices and guaranteed fairly accurate!"

"W-what, me?" she said.

"Yes, you!" he said, and frowned. "Sophie!" he laughed when she gasped. "See, we're authentic. Now come get fortuned!"

She hesitated, then began to walk towards the little green stall. "Okay!" said the boy when she arrived. "It's five pounds for five minutes and eight pounds for ten." He rubbed his hands together. "I'll leave you to it."

They wanted him wander off. "Sophie, was it?" said the boy behind the stall. He pulled a green bag from somewhere under the table.

"Yes," she said. "Which one are y-you?" he looked at her, puzzled. She blushed and pointed at the sign.

"Oh!" he said. "Smythe. I'm Samuel Smythe. Rune stones." Her opened up the bag and offered it to her. "Take a handful." She took some of the stones. "Now, scatter them."

"Um?"

"Across the table?"

"Oh!" she dropped her handful. He winced.

"Be gentle with them." He leaned forward and began to turn the stones so all the runes were facing upwards. Then he stared, eyes roving over them, finding an invisible pattern in the stones (though a few were made of wood; they seemed to be an amalgam of several sets) and their painted or carved symbols. Then he sat back and looked at her for a while.

"Anything specific you want to know?" he said at length. Sophie shrugged.

"Not p-particularly."

"Well, it's certainly going to be an interesting few weeks."

"Is that good or bad?"

"I'd say good. You might not think so right now, though."

"So when does this happen?"

"Over the next few weeks. It starts tonight, though.

"Oh…"

"There's a show on in ten minutes. You should go, really. And stay clear of ladders."

"S-stay clear of l-ladders?"

"If you value your life, yes." He said matter-of-factly, and checked his watch. "That's five minutes. Want to stop?" she nodded. "Five pounds, then." She rooted through her handbag, then remember that she'd put her money in the pocket of her jeans. "Enjoy the fair!" she said as she handed him five pound coins.

She was hurrying away just as the other boy – Adrei, she supposed – came back. She watched him perch on the edge of the stall and say something to Samuel, then moved on.

She stared for a while at a display of crystals. "For focusing, dear." Said the woman behind the counter. "If you're having trouble with a spell, these can help. Then these ones over here are enchanted already – this one glows in the dark, see, and these ones can change temperatures, y'see, so you can use them to warm things up, dear. Very good value for five pounds!" she looked at Sophie expectantly.

"N-no, I – I'm fine, I don't want -" she gave up and turned away. At the next stall, a young man was describing his product with an excited expression and much gesturing. She moved a little closer.

"All you have to do," he said, snatching something from a bowl of brightly coloured spheres. "Is break them," he knocked the ball against the desk," And marvel!"

The ball split. Three snakes flowed out across the stall; most of the watching teenage girls jerked back and screamed, but they were gone already, vanished. One of the girls, who seemed immensely amused, bought some before moving on.

Sophie saw the stallholder watch them leave. Then the broken sphere vanished as if it'd never been there. She moved a little closer.

"Yes?" he said after a minute.

"Did you – ah – I mean – did you a-actually…"

"Actually…" he gestured for her to go on.

"B-break one?" she swallowed.

"Oh, Lord, no. Pointless waste of merchandise." He held out his hand. One of the balls appeared on his palm. He squeezed, and birds flew out, getting a few feet before vanishing into the ether. "Much cheaper. And very easy." He gestured towards the curtained stage area. "Next show starts in a few minutes. If you want to see it you'll have to hurry."

"Right," she said, wondering why everyone wanted her to go and see the show. "Yes. I'll just-"

She walked away. Just as she reached the gap in the curtains, she turned and saw the fire-raiser she'd met out on the steps talking to him. Strange conspiracy theories flashed through her head, and were dismissed. She shook herself and pushed through the curtain, where a few people were standing.

One the stage, a telekinetic woman was doing a dance involving two scarves (neither of which was she touching) and flying several feet above the stage. She stared for a few minutes, then heard the curtains behind her rustle, and turned.

The fire-raiser ambled in, and stood right next to her. She edged a few inches away from him, mostly because of the cigarette smoke.

"Very pretty," he remarked. "But a bit dull.

"I- I think a lot of the shows are?"

"Someone told me I should come. Maybe they meant a different show."

"Oh?"

"It probably improves as it goes along."

"Well, it better had." He said as the music stopped. There was a smattering of applause. "I'm up next."

"Oh. R-really?"

"Yep." He took the cigarette out of his mouth and glared at it. The glow died.

"Oh." The woman floated off, and a sign (probably magical) lit up saying 'Next: Caspar Lennox'.

"C-caspar?" she said. "Really?"

"No ghost jokes." He said, and ran towards the door by the stage.

He reappeared a moment later, jacketless and energetic. Most of the remaining people left. He glared at them, and began.

First, he held one hand out in front of his face, and stared at it. Flames leapt up on his fingers, and as he stretched his arm out they spread to his wrist, then his elbow, his shoulder. He tilted his head to the side, away from the flames, and they faded away.

He slowly brought his other arm up, and repeated the motion, before brining both his arms above his head and igniting them. The flames flowed downward to his chest, where they died.

She watched him draw fiery symbols in the air, and shivered. It was like, she thought, watching someone spontaneously combust whilst doing tai-chi; slow movements and creeping flames.

Finally, he spread his arms out and let (or so it seemed) the fire spread over his whole body; he burned fiercely for an instant, the flames obscuring him completely; then the flames went out, leaving the stage empty.

There was a few gaps, a whoop from someone, and some slow applause. Sophie frowned at the place he'd be standing. Behind her, the curtains rustled again; it was the man from the illusions stall, with the air of a job well done.

"Enjoy it?" he said. She nodded. "That's good." He slipped away again. She followed, but it seemed to have suddenly got busier; she couldn't see him anywhere. She sighed, and headed towards an aisle she hadn't seen yet.

She stopped at a toy stall and stood with her arms folded across her chest. A girl with light ginger (strawberry blonde, maybe) hair lifted up a clear tube with a little ballerina inside it, and watched her pirouette; the small boy standing next to her picked up something that was, according to the sign next to it, a tap-dancing teddy and held it out; it carried on dancing for a while, little tap-shoes wiggling in the air.

"D'you want that?" said the girl. He hugged it to his chest in response. "Alright, then." She set the ballerina down on the table – she folded her arms across her tiny chest and stared up at the girl in rejection – and started trying to get the stallholders attention.

The little boy caught sight of Sophie, and hugged the teddy closer to his chest. She smiled nervously at him, then turned her attention to the cart wheeling doll by her elbow.

"I guess," said someone behind her. "That they must get quite dull once the novelty wears off. I mean, they only do one thing." He turned, and saw Caspar, apparently talking to himself.

"I w-wondered what had happened to you." She said. "I th-think people thought you'd burnt up or something."

"I have a friend. He does illusions. S'a good effect." He said. She nodded slowly. The cart wheeling doll stopped and scowled, stamping her foot for more attention. Sophie turned, and watched her for a little longer.

"S-so..." she said, and turned around. He was gone; she thought she could see him at a stall a few aisles over, but it was probably someone else. She sighed, and headed away.

"Hey!" said a voice behind her. She turned, and found herself facing a crazy-looking girl dressed in a coat made of feathers. The girl peered at her face. "You're in my way."

"I – er – Sorry?"

"Out my way!" Sophie gulped, and took a step to the side. The other girl followed, and glared. "Oi!"

"I didn't – I mean – you – but- " she sidestepped again. The girl followed.

"Stop that!" she said.

"I'm not-" said Sophie. The girl stpped forward.. She stepped back.

"Out my way," she said quietly. "Or the cleaners'll get you."

"The cl-cleaners?"

"Get you at the end of the day. With a dustpan."

"Oh!" she stepped to the side, but the girl followed her again.

"I mean it!" she said.

"But I-" she tried again, but was followed. The girl made a strange growly noise. Sophie gulped.

"Hey!" said someone brightly. It was the boy from the fortune telling stall, Adrei. "Tratty. Leave her be, will you?"

Tratty – if that was really her name, it sounded incredibly strange – muttered something. The boy rolled her eyes.

"She's new to all this. I don't think she gets it. And she can't throw fireballs. Now leave her be!"

Tratty glared, then wandered away, still grumbling under her breath.

"It's alright." Said the boy. "She wopuldn't have actually burnt you. Singed you a little, maybe. The trick is," he said, leading her away. "To shout back at her, glare, and be threatening. But I really don't think that's your strong point. Oh, look!" he let go of her arm and stared at the nearest stall. "Crystals!" he picked up a blue stone and tossed it in the air. Sophie thought he was acting rather strangely.

"Now," he said. Looking at her. "You don't have to be a mind-reader to work out that you probably think I'm weird."

"I w-wasn't."

"As it happens, though," he continued. "I am a mind-reader, and, Sohpie, I am deeply, deeply, hurt by your harsh thoughts."

She twisted her hands together. "Sorry."

"It's fine." He tossed the stone in the air again. "I get that a lot. I'm Leo. " he said. "You enjoy the show?" she nodded. "Most of the good stuff's on tomorrow night, though."

"M-maybe I'll come back."

"You never know," he said. "Something might come up. Watch out for Tratty. She'll probably be watching out for you now. Enjoy the fair!" He replaced the stone and walked away. Sophie whimpered, and decided that now might be a good time to leave.

She turned towards the door, and crashed into a Flikken carrying a stack of parecels before she'd gone five streps.

"S-sorry!" she said.

"It's fine." He said, and knelt down. She joined him on the floor.

"I didn't see y-you."

"Well, I didn't actually see you either, so there may lie the problem." He picked up one of his parcels, and squeezed it slightly. "I don't think it's broken." He picked up the second parcel, and she handed him the other two.

"That's good." She said, and smiled timidly.

He stood up, nodded, and juggled the parcels into one hand so he could run the other through his curly hair.

"I'm r-really sorry." She said. He stared up at her.

"And it's really fine." He took the last parcel from her, and balanced it precariously across the other two. "See you around!"

"Well, actually I'm j-just..." she said, but he'd gone already. She sighed, and headed towards the door.

A few minutes later, she was standing outside on the steps, glad she hadn't cuased any more accidents, and wishing she'd thought to bring a jacket or something.

The door opened, and Caspar emerged. "Hi." He said. She smiled. He produced another cigarette; it lit before he'd even got it in his mouth; then he noticed her watching him. "You smoke?" she shook her head. "Drink?"

"N-no!" she said. He raised his eyebrows. "I'm seventeen!"

"So?"

"I'm s-seventeen!"

"I was drinking when I was seventeen." He turned his attention back to the cigarette. Sophie stared at the water flowing out of the drainpipe, then sneaked a look back at him. He took the cigarette out of his mouth.

"You doing anything tomorrow night?" he said. She blinked.

"I'm free."