Romance Fantasy

The Magi Weekly Classifieds. 

Ad #1610

Single Wizard, 42. Enjoys good books, star charts and deep conversations. Seeking a star-crossed sorceress with a passion for discovery. If you value serious research during the day and playful observation at night, please write back.

“Playful observation,” Albert Limerno read aloud from his ad. “What a buffoon.

Albert tossed the issue of the Magi Weekly atop a heap of star maps on his desk. It took him a week to make those charts - plotting two new celestial bodies and calculating their apparent diameters, yet he spent a month agonizing over that silly ad. Time he could have spent on more serious matters.

He plucked his quill and wrote a letter he’d been putting off for over a year.

To the honorable members of the Order of the Heavenly Magi,

Proven by the theory of perfect fixed motion, all celestial bodies move relative to each other in precise harmony. However, I have discovered an aberration. A dim body near the King’s Head star has an erratic motion that I cannot reconcile. Please refer to the included star map.

Your humble servant of the skies,

Albert Limerno 

The dim star was a frustrating deviation in an otherwise perfect sky, but he could not deny its existence. The past year he’d built and rebuilt his astrolabe - spending a great deal on bronze plates and ecliptic rings. He bought three different telescopes and built two of his own, all to make the star conform to the theory of perfect fixed motion. The star refused to meet his expectations.

But even with the heavens on his mind, Albert's thoughts turned to his silly little ad.


For nearly a month, Albert rose early, only to watch the postman speed past his house - save for three deliveries of The Magi Weekly.  

“Morning Bert.” The postman slapped issue #754 in his hands. Atop it were two letters. One sent from Martin Hornsby, Head of the Order of the Heavenly Magi, and the other addressed to the star-crossed Wizard.

Albert rushed to his desk to retrieve his letter knife. He opened the second letter first.

“Paintings?” was all it said.

“Paintings?” Albert scoffed at the ads that had paintings. He saw one where a wizard clutched a gold staff and wore embroidered silk robes, as though that was his common attire. Another sorceress depicted herself atop Dragonridge summit, alluding that the peak experience defined her personality. A painting could be doctored to show any superficial display of status or attributes. It was beneath him. Albert threw the letter in disgust. 

He opened the other from Martin.

Dear Albert, brother in seeking. 

The theory of perfect fixed motion has accurately predicted movements in the celestial sphere for centuries. During that time, we've had countless reports of ‘aberrations’ that have all been proven wrong. Most are as simple as not having a clean eyepiece.

In your case, however, I suspect a failure in your imagination. We’ve confirmed that your reported body is simply not there. This is common for overtaxed minds. I advise a break from star charting. Enjoy some time off with your loved-ones.

Your humble servant of the skies,

Martin Hornsby

“Clean eyepiece? Failure of imagination?” Albert crumpled the letter and tossed it in his stove pit. “He thinks I am some lunatic neophyte without a clue. No! I’ll prove it.” 

Albert dragged his astrolabe, hung from a stout pedestal at the foot of his desk, to his window. With two turns of the latitude plate, he found his star’s coordinates. He swung his telescope and looked through the immaculately clean eyepiece. 

The dim star was not there.

No. How could this be?

Albert spent all night cleaning his lenses and recalibrating his disks, but it did not make his star reappear.


“Can you paint me?” Albert said, at the doorstep of his sister’s house.

“You look awful, have you slept?” Gemma said.

Albert came inside and slumped down on Gemma’s sofa.

“Don’t tell me you come seeking a last portrait. Are you sick?”

“No.” Albert sighed. “Well yes, but not of the body.” 

“What is this about?”

“I need a painting for my ad.”

“What are you selling?”


“A classified?”


“It’s about time!”

“Can you paint me or not?”

“Of course!” Gemma fetched a canvas and a case of paints from her armoire. She sat opposite him and set the canvas on her lap. “Suspenders and an ink-stained shirt? I still have some of Roger’s formal wear here, I'll fetch you—”

“My clothes are fine,” Albert said. “And why would you ever paint the stains?”

“Don’t be surly, I’m doing you a favor. Relax, I’ll make you look good." Gemma pointed her brush to the top of Albert’s head. "I’ll even add a bit of foliage to the barren hill up there.”

“Ugh, the world has become as shallow as a spring puddle.”

“First impressions matter, Bertie.” Gemma smiled and set her brush to the canvas. “My teacher said that no one will swim the depths of the heart, if the surface does not first capture their eye.”

“Painters should stick to paintings, not proverbs.”

Gemma dabbed her brush in a canister of blank paint. “Would you meet with a bald woman?”


“If you saw an ad with a bald woman, would you meet with her?”

“I’d guess she’s sickly or insane.”

Gemma gave a mischievous grin. “That’s your first impression?”

Albert slunk further into the sofa. How can a painter best a wizard so many times?

“Sit up, and stop slumping,” Gemma said. “Look like you have some dignity.”

Albert sat up, and for the rest of the painting, he followed her direction.

Albert left Gemma’s with a splendid portrait. She captured his best features - his high cheekbones, and sharp jaw - and lessened his worst, by adding a little foliage and removing a little girth. After admiring the image for too long, he sent it away to The Magi Weekly.


Within a week, Albert had a new letter.

Dear star-crossed Wizard,

My best work is done by moonlight, and if we connect, I’m certain I can help with your playful observations. Shall we meet? Say at the promenade on the solstice? I’ll be wearing a blue dress.


Albert grinned. The solstice? That is tonight! 

He rushed out his door to Gemma’s house.

“You’re smiling?“ Gemma said. “So you’ve finally gone mad.” 

“Can I borrow Roger’s formal wear?”

Gemma clapped. “You have a date! Yes, come.” She ran upstairs and fetched a white silk shirt - frilled at the neck - and striped trousers. 

When Albert finished changing, Gemma brought him a short-waisted maroon doublet with gold trim at the sleeves. “He wore that on our first date,” she said. Her eyes grew teary.

Albert gave Gemma a hug. “Thank you. For everything,” he said. And he dashed out of Gemma’s house on route the promenade.


Sara stood at the head of the cobblestone path that followed Maggie Lake. Albert nearly turned around upon sighting her. Sweat pooled on his forehead and he could barely breathe. She was stunning. Her long curly black hair draped past her shoulders - streaked with a subtle gray that added a distinguished touch to her cherubic looks. She stood at least five inches taller than him, and her blue dress exposed only slivers of her long legs.

“Sara?” he finally said, after calming his nerves.

“Oh! I’d hoped it was you.” Sara thumbed to a man squatting on a dock nearby. “And not him,” she said, under her breath.

The stout man held a rod in one hand and a bottle in the other. He flashed his yellow teeth and gave the two a nod.

Sara held her arm out. “It’s nice to have the company of such a handsome man.”

“I…ah, you…ahem..look radiant.” That was the best Albert could muster. But he took her arm, and they walked down the promenade. It wasn’t long before Albert settled and the two were laughing and chattering on.

“You know!” Albert said. “That angler had the upper hand on me.”

Sara laughed. “Is that so?”

“Yes, he had a bottle! Such forward thinking by my rival. But I won’t tolerate any more embarrassment” He swept his hand toward the wine house a little way ahead. "Would you join me for a drink?"

“Are you trying to make me giddy?”


Sara squeezed Albert’s arm. “Well in that case, I’d love to join you.”

The pair sat at a table overlooking the Maggie Lake gardens and shared bread and wine and stories.

“So what do you do for the Order?” Albert said, pouring their second glass.

Sara fiddled with her napkin. “I don’t work for them.”

“Ah, and independent. I’d admire that. What’s your field of research?”

Sara nudged her head towards the sprawling two-acre garden behind the wine house. “Plants,” she said.  

“You’re a cataloguer?” Albert said, somewhat taken aback by the low station for such elegance before him.

Sara’s eyes remained on the napkin. “I make salves and potions for my clients.”

“Hah! Like a witch, good one!”

“That’s not a term I use.”

“You’re a witch?” The wine and bread threatened to come up. 

Sara’s eyes narrowed. “I’m someone who doesn’t agree with everything that pompous Order has to say. They don’t like being proven wrong, and for that they slander us.”

“They’ve been proven correct, time and time again, for centuries. And excuse me, but witches are prideful neophytes who don’t take their research seriously.”

“All of them?” Sara said.

Albert caught his reflection in the glass. He looked sharp in Roger’s maroon doublet. “In truth, I know nothing of witches. And you’re right, the order is expertly pompous. Would you accept my apology?”

Sara smiled. “If you can accept being seen with a witch.”

Albert lifted his glass. “To the under-realms with the Order of the Heavenly Magi.”

Sara clinked her glass against his. “And to all the magic that life has to offer.”

They finished their wine in silence. Albert looked out to the night sky. The moon was waxing gibbous, and the stars shone brightly.

“Come,” he said. He left a bill on the table and stood. “I’ll show you what I do.”

Sara took his arm, and they walked to the lakefront, where Albert withdrew his pocket astrolabe.

“What is it?” Sara said.

“Many things. A clock, a calendar, a compass, but for me, it’s most important use is a map.” He held the brass instrument to the moon and spun the outer disk. “You see that bright blue star?” Albert pointed to the sky and Sara followed the line of his finger.  

“I do!” 

“It’s the Gleaming-Soul star. Look for it if you’re ever lost, it will guide you north.”

“It’s wonderful when you really take it all in.” Sara came close. “Do you have a favorite?”

“There’s one that I’ve looked at a thousand times more than any.” He gave three turns to the disk. “There. A faint red dot called the King’s Head. Do you see it?”

Sara squinted and thrust her neck forward. “I only see white and blue.”

Albert dug in his pocket and fetched a loupe he crafted for such moments of spontaneous observation. “Here, look through this.”

Sara held it to her eye. “Oh, I see it. And look, the King’s Head has a little ear.”

“A what?”

“A white point right beside it.”

“May I?” Albert grabbed the loupe and looked through. It was his dim star. “You see it too?”


Albert clutched her hands and found her eyes. “You really see it!” 

“I do.”

Albert’s joy turned to elation as Sara leaned in and gave him a kiss.


The enamored couple spent every day together for over a month. The nights were dreadful apart, so Albert asked Sara to move in.

“Are we rushing things?” Sara said.

“I don’t care. I’ve been a cautious man my entire life,” Albert said. “And I only feel alive now.”

“All my things, my cauldron, my herbs, you’ll be sick of my clutter. ”

“Look.” He patted his desk. “You can set everything here.” 

“If I leave, my mother will be alone.”

“Ah, it’s a bit too high.” Albert said, mimicking a stir of a cauldron over his stove pit. He took his astrolabe off the pedestal and pulled the column the masoned pit. “Come,” he said, holding out an open palm.

Sara went to him. “Are you sure?”

Albert helped her onto the pedestal and held her close. “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life,” he said.


“Can you please not boil the aniseed while I am …aaa… achoo...working.” Albert said. He was at his planisphere, redoing calculations for the hundredth time, in pursuit of a new theory of perfect fixed motion.

Sara stirred her cauldron, red-faced and gleaming with sweat. “My client’s daughter has a terrible rash and needs this yesterday. Can’t you work outside?”

“Aaa…achooo!” In the force of the sneeze, Albert snapped the tip of his quill. “All I’ve done for you, and you can’t fulfill this simple wish?” Albert stood and crumpled his page. “I could figure this out, if there wasn’t such foul humors in here.”

Sara dropped her stir stick. “What exactly have you done for me?”

Albert chucked the paper into the fire. “How about giving you a roof, free of charge.”

“I never asked for that.” Sara said.

“Great heavens I wish you’d give those silly potions a rest. We don’t need the money. And do you know what it’s like to hear the other wizards chatter about me being with a witch?”

Sara dug into the drawers of the desk and pulled out handfuls of aniseed and mandrake. “You needn’t worry about my foul humors anymore.” She clutched her ingredients to her chest and ran out the door.


“Is Sara here?” Albert said, at the doorstep of her mother’s house. 

The old lady stood with two hands shaking on a hazel cane. “Yes.”

“May I speak with her?”

Sara’s mother shut the door.

I’ve ruined the only good thing in my life. What’s the point of this misery…

“Albert,” came Sara’s voice from the window.

His heart skipped. “Sara I’m —”

“I need my things from your house. I’ll be there in the morning.”

“Please, let me explain. It was my work, I was frustrated and–”

Sara closed her shutters.

Albert retreated to his house and collapsed on a chair near his desk. He could not eat, he could not sleep, he could not work. Sara’s grimoire lay before him and he opened it. The dust from the book carried the scent of aniseed and he sneezed. And then he cried.

Albert composed himself. The open page of the grimoire caught his eye.

Sister Abathy’s Love Potion

One Mandrake root

Three areca nuts

Two leaves of henbane

This recipe was handed down by my great grandmother. She was born in…

Albert flipped past three pages of Sister Abathy’s family history and paintings of each of the ingredients. 

Mix with your beloved's favorite drink, and they will be by your side forever. Please note that for guaranteed results, the potion should be made under the light of the full moon.

Albert rummaged through the drawers. There’s a full moon tonight. I can do this. I can have her back.

He found all the ingredients, save for an empty jar labeled henbane. He was not deterred. 

There will be some in the garden. There must be some. 

He grabbed his cloak and ran to the garden.


Albert turned every leaf in search of the brown petaled henbane flower. For most of the night, he avoided a dense thicket of thorny roses in the middle of the garden. Exhausting all other options, he finally dashed into it. The thorns tore through his shirt and trousers and soon it was pitch black. 

Something hissed. Albert jumped back into a bush, taking thorns to his rump. Two tiny pinpoints of light rushed toward him.

“Get back!” he cried. 

The hissing grew louder, and the figure took shape. The raccoon hissed once more and fled.

Albert collapsed in the dirt. The stinging scratches on his body were nothing compared to the misery in his heart. The moon shone through the brambles above his head and only a few hours of its light remained. Even if he found the henbane, there wouldn’t be enough time.

“To the under-realms with you,” he said. “Waxing and waning in some cosmic joke of lunar peekaboo.”

Albert gasped. A moon! And then he laughed the greatest laugh of his life. “The King’s Ear is a moon!”

Albert stood, plucked a handful of roses, and rushed back to his house.


Albert sat on his porch the rest of the night, waiting for Sara to come.

“What happened to you?” Sara said as she approached.

“Something magical.”

“I’m glad to see you so happy without me.”

“Oh no, I’m dreadfully miserable. But now I see why.”

Sara walked past him.

“Wait. Look, I was frustrated with you, because you didn’t fit my idea of perfection.”

“Yes, it’s a great shame to be seen with me–”

“No. I was idiotic. Things don't need to conform to what I think, and they can still be perfect in their own way.” Albert held up the roses. “I’m not making sense…and I’m not asking you to come back. All I ask is that you accept an apology from this buffoon of a man.”

Sara took the roses and gave them a sniff. “I never asked to live with you or take any of your space.”

“I know.”

Sara was silent for a long while. She stepped off the porch and looked up to the sky where the rising sun’s orange and red hues overtook the silver moon. She held out her arm, and the pair went for a walk.

December 12, 2023 21:41

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18:59 Dec 20, 2023

Interesting take on the dating scene. Paintings is inspired! AHH yes the rush of excitement of something new giving way to the harsh realities of compromise and cohabiting! Lol. Albert had a lot to learn! Thanks for this, lovely read


James Lane
00:48 Dec 22, 2023

Thanks for the read Derrick! Yes - even as a wizard, poor old Albert can be pretty dumb. Really appreciate the kind words.


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Michał Przywara
22:22 Dec 18, 2023

Lots of story in a small package. I like that we get two kinds of epiphany here. First, Albert realizes he's too stuck up and too careful, and he takes a risk on Sara. But, it's too much too soon and the lesson doesn't fully stick, until his second realization. By the end, we're reasonably certain they're in a good place, both individually and together. “Paintings?” lol! Took me a moment :) Lots of funny moments in this, and I like the magical take on mundane concerns. The theory of perfect fixed motion is a neat idea too, since curiousl...


James Lane
03:21 Dec 19, 2023

Thanks Michal! Albert's woes are my own in trying to get a story done in a week and have it sorta good and fit the theme and prompt. But I really appreciate your comments and this site for the inspiration to keep writing.


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