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David Stutler
15 December 2011 @ 10:44 am
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David Stutler
26 September 2011 @ 08:40 pm
[Locked to Sarah M.]

Sarah,

Are you okay? I noticed you haven't been in school. Do you need the homework or anything?
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David Stutler
23 August 2011 @ 01:00 pm
I have a crush on a demon.

And it's weird, because it doesn't really bother me. But I feel like it should?

I know the demons here aren't necessarily bad. I know it doesn't work that way. And she doesn't seem bad. A little weird, but look who's talking.



But I'm the Prime Merlinian. And something about the word "demon" doesn't sit right with me, because when I hear "demon" I also hear "evil" and then my instincts tell me to fight it.

So I guess it's the word that bothers me more than anything. She definitely doesn't bother me.
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David Stutler
22 July 2011 @ 11:06 am
[From here.]

Chinatown is a blur of confetti, flames, and dragon scales.

Dave isn't sure of anything until he's clinging to a fire escape, Balthazar shouting at him from below to clear his mind. Then he's sure of two things:

1) Balthazar is insane;
2) The dragon that's been chasing him isn't going to stop just so he can focus, so he really needs to clear his mind. Now.

He draws a breath, closes his eyes, and shuts the world out. The noise and light below fade to silent darkness and Dave suddenly realizes that he knows exactly how to make his ring work; he imagines a spark, just big enough to ignite a blazing fire, catching the dragon's tail.

And it does.

When he opens his eyes, his right hand is tingling, his head feels a little funny, and the dragon's tumbling away in a shower of flames.

That's when he knows that his life has irreversibly changed.

The deal, as they say, is off.



Back in the car, Balthazar turns to face Dave. "You may now return the ring to me. I'm a man of my word—you helped me, we're done."

"Right," Dave says. "Right. Uh."

Beat.

"I'd like to learn some more."
 
 
David Stutler
13 July 2011 @ 10:47 pm
It's around dusk when Dave knocks on Aqua's door.

She's probably studying—something he should do, but nah, later—but this is important.

And adorable.
 
And fluffy.
 
...no, it's not him with bed hair.
 
When she opens the door, she'll find a thoroughly squishy panda plushie waiting for her on the other side, and Dave, not so stealthily hiding slightly down the hall.
 
 
 
David Stutler
27 June 2011 @ 12:35 pm
It happens faster than Dave's rattled mind can process. One minute there are deadly wolves growling and snapping at his legs, and he falls; then there are harmless, adorable puppies piled on his chest where the wolves' sharp claws should be; and then there's an eagle.

A impossibly gigantic steel eagle, perched on the tracks mere feet away with a man on its back.

And then Dave finds himself staring over the edge of the Chrysler Building, heart pounding in his ears, stomach twisted into nauseating knots. He talks himself out of throwing up—there could be people on the sidewalk below, after all, and that would suck for them—and then turns to face the eagle's rider.

Recognition dawns on him within seconds.


His eyes widen and he immediately shakes his head in utter disbelief. "This is not happening, this is not happening, I taste sour in my mouth—"

"Take it easy, Dave Deep breaths."

Those words belong to Balthazar Blake, the man Dave remembers as crazy, dangerous, and crazy. He looks exactly the same as Dave remembers: straggly hair, old trench coat, wild eyes—the hat's new—and all Dave can do as Balthazar coaxes the gargoyle back onto its ledge is gape.

The simple action of picking up a pigeon is what finally makes Dave snap, ten years' worth of anger bubbling to the surface.

"No, no, no no no! You are not doing this to me again! Do you have any idea what my life has been like for the last ten years?"

"I've been stuck in an urn for the last ten years."

"...so have I! A... figurative urn. Of ridicule."

Balthazar seems more concerned with the pigeon than with Dave's hysteria. Dave glares and continues, arms flailing, "Do you know that in certain parts of the tri-state area, they still refer to having a nervous breakdown as 'pulling a David Stutler'? Did you know that?"

"Try to be a good listener, Dave. That doll is called the Grimhold. It is a prison for the most dangerous Morganians in history, each one locked up in a layer of the doll. Horvath wants to free his fellow Morganians and destroy the world." He looks up from his work of tying a string to the pigeon's leg, expression somber, and emphasizes each following word: "This must not happen."

"Yeah." Dave nods. "For sure."

Great, he thinks. Apocalyptic icing on a crap cake. He doesn't want to imagine what the cherry could possibly be.

"The truth is," the older (much older) man says, bearing down on Dave once the bird's taken flight, "you have a very special gift. You need to see that."

"I just wanna be normal," Dave pleads. "Have a normal life. I wanna forget about that day at Arcana Cabana, I wanna forget about magic, I wanna forget everything!"

Something whistles in the distance; Dave looks up just in time to see his dresser hurtling through the air.

"You should duck," Balthazar advises.

He moves just in time, narrowly avoiding a concussion.

Or a beheading.

Really, the latter would seem fitting for how his day's going.

"You wanna forget magic?" Balthazar steps over to the piece of furniture, eyes narrowed. He opens the top drawer, grabs Dave's ring, and holds it up in front of Dave's nose. "Then why'd you keep the ring?"

Dave stares at it for a second, nearly cross-eyed, then shakes his head. "I... was going to sell that," he stammers. "On... uh, eBay."

This is not entirely true, and Balthazar knows it's not. "You're still a bad liar, Dave. I like that about you; it's a good sign. You have the gift."

As far as Dave's concerned, he's nothing particularly special. His only gift is his talent for physics, and it's rare that anybody is impressed with that for reasons other than math is hard. "No," he says. "I have a life."

Balthazar is running out of patience. And time.

"You're the last person Horvath saw with the Grimhold. That puts you on his list. So unless you want him to turn you into a pig who just loooves physics, then you better help me find that doll before he does."

"This is crazy. You see how crazy this is, right?"

"Alright." Balthazar looks Dave over, yielding only slightly. "Alright. You help me get it back, you're done."

Dave arches an eyebrow, skeptical. "Really?"

"You can walk away."

As crazy as Dave thinks this is and as much as he wishes this was a dream, or some glucose-related hallucination, or anything but reality, he's reached the point where he knows he has no choice but to accept what's happening and go with it. Part of him, minute and buried somewhere deep down, believes all of it.

"Can you please put my dresser back?"

The moment Balthazar knows Dave's on board he springs into action, calling up the barometric pressure spell he has attached to the Grimhold for tracking purposes. Dave watches in confused awe as thunderclouds gather in the distance, hovering over one unnaturally concentrated spot. "It displaces the atmosphere above the doll," he explains. "Looks like downtown."

Dave doesn't have to ask to know where they're going next.
 
 
David Stutler
16 June 2011 @ 01:09 pm
After staring blankly at himself in the bathroom mirror for four minutes and thirty-eight seconds, David Stutler decides that there is something very strange about the world today.

He'd like to know why he woke up with the taste of cinnamon in his mouth, for one thing.

This feeling has nothing to do with the fact that it’s his birthday—or maybe it has everything to do with that, but that’s not a possibility Dave wants to consider at all, given the events of certain past birthdays—so he simply shrugs it off, splashes some water onto his face, and heads to the kitchen in search of some breakfast.

It's weird, though; he's not really hungry. So he settles on a bottle of Mountain Dew, because he is oh so very health-conscious, and some unexpected cookies that nearly hit him in the face, courtesy of his apartment-mate.

Dave and Bennet Zurrow have been friends since high school. They're almost as unalike as two friends can be—Dave is shy and nerdy and intensely focused on his studies; Bennet is outgoing and charismatic and focused largely on girls—but he's the first friend who didn't insist on prying after Dave said talking about his childhood was off-limits, and Dave's always appreciated that.

“You’re up early,” Bennet says.

“Professor Heiderman wants me to give a presentation to his Physics 101 class,” Dave explains, glancing at the TV. It almost sounds like he's complaining, but Dave tries not to complain about his adviser. Much.

“What, teaching long division to English majors?”

“I know." He rolls his eyes, snarkily adding, "It’s like the Peace Corps. But—” Dave tries to rationalize his decision for both his sake and Bennet's, but he's cut off.

“Hey! Bio nerds are getting drunk tonight. And we invited cheerleaders from Princeton.”

Dave is unimpressed with Bennet's sense of priorities. “So… smart cheerleaders. Awesome.”

He turns to grab a pair of socks when something catches his eye: a ring, silver and jade, set in the shape of a curled-up dragon. It’s nestled between some balled-up socks, and for the first time in ten years, Dave really, really looks at it.

The first few words of inscription on the band are in view, and Dave is surprised to find that he remembers it completely.

Take me up. Cast me away.

“I gotta finish my Tesla coil project if I want to graduate,” he says, forcibly breaking his gaze from the drawer and turning his attention back to his friend. He's met with a stern, disapproving look.

“Dave, are you familiar with the gray wolf?”

He looks up just in time to notice Bennet’s going for the calendar on their fridge—again—and he sighs. “Please, Bennet, not this again with the gray wolf, I can’t—”

“The gray wolf,” Bennet begins, “is a pack animal. He must find a mate. He must hunt and grunt. He must participate! You’re gonna get booted out of the pack. Alone. Eaten. By a hungry bear.

“That’s a real pick-me-up pep talk,” Dave mumbles, all sarcasm. “I think I'm ready to go get the day now.”



Dave never thought he'd see Rebecca Barnes ever again. He'd have calculated the odds of running into her in Heiderman's class, of all places, somewhere up there with winning the lottery. But there she is, bemusedly blinking at him with the same blue eyes he remembers from fourth grade.

Their first meeting in ten years is as awkward as Dave expected it would be, not that he ever really fantasized about such a meeting, of course not; Becky remembers him only as “that kid from the uh, oh, what was that place called—?”

“Arcana Cabana,” Dave supplies. No amount of therapy could ever make him forget that name.




He remembers, among other things, a man in a leather trenchcoat. He remembers a man made out of cockroaches. He remembers the Russian doll, and an urn, and the ring, and panic, and fire and shattered glass and splintered wood and water spilling onto his pants.

He remembers the sharp sound of his classmates' laughter, and the sensation of his teacher dragging him away from the seemingly undisturbed shop—the shop that was in chaos moments ago and
should have been a fiery mess—by the collar of his jacket.

“You really shouldn't tell stories.”




“So," Becky says, breaking Dave from his trance, "did you transfer?”

“Yeah, I did. And got some, uh. Help,” he stammers in reply. “Treatment. It turns out it was just a glucose imbalance! Hallucinations? Not uncommon in young subjects.”

“Ah.” Her smile is clearly forced and, to Dave's horror, slightly uncomfortable. “Right.”



Meanwhile, elsewhere in the city, an antique urn starts to tremble.

It's been ten years since Dave last wore the dragon ring, ten years since he was branded crazy, and, most importantly, ten years since he witnessed an ancient Chinese urn lock up two of the world's most powerful sorcerers.

It's been ten years.

Time's up.
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David Stutler
28 May 2011 @ 06:53 pm
WORDS.Collapse )
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David Stutler
18 May 2011 @ 09:09 pm
After discovering Jane's note, Dave immediately whipped out his phone and dialed the number for his old apartment. With any luck, Bennet would still be there, paying rent and taking care of Tank like Dave asked him to.

Luckily, he was.

A few continents away, Bennet Zurrow groggily rolled over in bed and stared at the caller ID in disbelief. "Dave? It's 2 in the morn—"

"Did Becky tell you why she left?"

Bennet sat up and said, through an impressively long yawn, "No, man. Becky hasn't spoken to me since she left with you for your X-Man academy or whatever."

"Oh."

Dave looked down at the half-crumpled note in his hand and sighed quietly.

"Is that seriously all you called for? You don't want to know about your drooly-ass mutt, or your weird uncle-mentor guy?"

"I actually called—" Dave trailed off, tossed the note onto his desk, and flopped back in bed. "Yeah. What's up with them?"

"Well, your dog's been chewing up almost every shoe left on the floor in this apartment, including Balthazar's, and he was not happy about that. And I had to take him to the vet a few weeks ago because he was acting weird, but don't worry, he was fine. Also, you owe me $200 bucks."

One thing caught Dave's attention and made him squint at his ceiling. "Why... were Balthazar's shoes in the apartment?"

"Oh, yeah, hahahaha. You might want to get a new mattress, dude. He's been living in your room and he's had that Veronica woman over a few times. She's kinda hot."

The scream that echoed through the halls of Joe West's fifth floor was one of vague disgust and agony.

"Yeah," Bennet said, sounding a little farther away. (Probably because he had to move the phone away from his ear.) "Thanks for that. I see you're still your normal self."

"Yeah... actually. I kind of... had a girlfriend for a little while." Dave immediately facepalmed. That was not something he wanted to talk about, but it was too late. He knew Bennet wouldn't let it go until he got all the details, so Dave folded and explained everything that happened with Jane, from start to finish. Or, rather, from beginning to end.

On the other end of the line, Bennet listened, rapt. Once Dave finished, all he could do was laugh the kind of laugh friends do when they're simultaneously impressed by both your accomplishment and your subsequent failing. It was loud. Possibly loud enough to wake someone up. "Damn, bro. I hope she doesn't find some jungle man out th—" He trailed off, laughing.

"Shut up! That's not funny, man!"

"Bennet, is that Dave?"

The young apprentice shot up in his bed at the sudden sound of Balthazar's gruff voice, eyes wide. Bennet snorted once more, then said, "Yeah. You can talk to him; I'm going back to sleep. Good luck over there, Romeo." And then the line fell silent.

"So," Balthazar finally said, "It's nice to know you haven't killed yourself."

Dave looked down at his sheets, swallowing back the anger growing in his throat. "Yeah, isn't it great?"

"I didn't think you would, you know. This is part of your training."

"Yeah," Dave mumbled. "I knew you'd say that. Great excuse. Do you have any idea what you put me through when you left like that, without a word? I thought the Mist took you, or that you were dead... and did you know that Drake's here?"

"Drake? Huh. No, I didn't know that."

"Well, he is. And you're not. And that's just friggin' awesome."

Balthazar, nestled in the comfort of Dave's bed, glanced over at his apprentice's old Buzz Lightyear alarm clock (the one he'd found stuffed in the closet) and sighed to himself. Children. Really. "Dave, you're going to have to learn that your training will not only come from me. What you're getting right now is real world training. You're out there. You're in danger. And you're surviving. I'm proud of you."

They spoke for the better part of an hour, Dave updating Balthazar on magical techniques he'd learned on his own and ways to improve the ones he still sucked at. Dave talked about the friends he'd made, and the classes he'd taken so far, and all the times he'd embarrassed himself in front of the whole school. For some reason, Balthazar wasn't surprised.

The phone call left Dave feeling only slightly better. It was comforting to know that everything was mostly fine back home (even though his room would have to be set on fire at some point in the future), but Jane's letter had left a lead ball sitting in the pit of his stomach that he knew would be there for a while.
 
 
David Stutler
29 March 2011 @ 09:24 pm
After a week of wondering what he and Aqua should do on their First Date, he decided that going the traditional route would be best: a nice dinner somewhere, some conversation, maybe a moonlit walk. Simplicity at its finest, mostly for Aqua's sake. She needs to experience a proper date before Dave starts coming up with nerdy things, like... well.

Things.

He's looking much more fancy than usual this evening, dressed in a simple gray suit with a skinny black tie—something like this—complete with shined shoes and not-as-everywhere-as-usual hair. He's waiting for her down by the Academy's main entrance, rocking on his heels as he glances, restlessly, at his watch.

She's nowhere near being late; he's just nervous.