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Archive for December, 2017

Witch Magic

The Elf Whisperer

“Portland. This is Portland. Portland. Local time is 4:45 pm. End of the line. Check with the ticket agent for your bus numbers if you are headed north or south from here,” the bus driver intoned over the loud speaker. Marie Rose woke and raised her head from where it had been resting against the window. She scowled owlishly, confused. What had he said? Portland? Why was she here? She had finally gotten her life together. Why had she left a perfectly good job and an apartment that was not a cock-roach infested hell-hole? Why had she packed what she could into her backpack and left Salt Lake City in such a hurry?

She wrested the heavy backpack out of the overhead rack and trudged sleepily to the front of the bus.

“Thank you,” she said to the bus driver. The man did not look up from his clipboard, merely grunting as she passed him. Marie Rose stepped out onto the wet pavement and took a deep breath. It had rained recently. Shadows ran like water across the pavement and pooled in the puddles of the uneven parking lot. It would rain again sometime in the night. She needed to find somewhere safe and dry to sleep before then. Walking through the bus station, she pulled out her phone. By the time she stood curbside, she had a Lyft ride and the address of a hotel with monthly rates.

The hotel looked promising. Being part youth hostel, it boasted a coffee shop and a restaurant that catered to the less sophisticated tastes of the average college-age summer backpacker. The Lyft driver was personable and chatty. By the time he dropped her off in front of the hotel, she had the names of a half dozen restaurants that were cheap and clean where the locals ate regularly.

On the sidewalk in front of the main doors, Marie Rose paused, heels hanging off the edge of the curb, as she studied the edifice of the five-story hotel. Old. Post WWII, or a little earlier. Ghosts hung inside by the dozens, just off the edge of knowing. She took in a deep breath, pulling light out of the Void and letting it wash through her, cleansing her of any shadow she might have picked up on her journey. As expected, at the flare of light, most of the ghosts took note of her presence and pressed their noses against the windows to stare down at her with hungry longing. Marie Rose shouldered her pack and walked through the front doors.

A ghost of an old man drifted near. Too late, it realized that the storm of light surrounding her was a whirlpool. Caught in its eddies, it was pulled apart and sucked away. Marie Rose pretended not to notice as she crossed the lobby to the front desk. The clerk studied her speculatively. She knew what he was thinking. She was too young to be a derelict. Too old to be a college student on a walkabout. Travel had rumpled but decently dressed and clean. Nondescript in a way that proclaimed her disdain for current fashion trends.

“Can I help you?” the boy behind the counter asked. He was that age that made him unremarkable – young and sheltered. Life had not yet marked his face with the lines of pain and anguish that left their indelible scars on a human soul.

“Your website says you have monthly rates,” Marie Rose said.

“Those rooms are taken. I have a few beds left in the hostel or you can pay the nightly rates for the rooms on the top floors.”

Marie Rose nodded and pulled out a credit card. “Give me a room. As high up as possible. And put my name down for the next monthly-rate room.”

The boy had a couple of guardian ghosts. Older women. They scowled at her from over the boys shoulders. Marie Rose scowled back. They looked surprised as they fled through the front doors and hovered out on the sidewalk. That was fine. She could tolerate them there. They could pick up their boy when he went home.

Marie Rose smiled at the boy as he took her credit card. “What is your name?”

“Ethan,” he said, pointing at his name-tag in annoyance. Ethan Hutchinson. A nice Viking name. She liked how he tasted. His great great grandfather had come over from Scotland back before the turn of the last century. Five generations later, this boy was the same mixed heritage of all white Americans, the magic of the old gods now just a mere whisper running through his veins. She sent a tendril of power into him, and the old magic flared into life, bringing Ethan one more step closer to awareness of his own power. His hand hovered over the keys as he blinked in confusion. Shaking his head, he completed the transaction.

He swiped her card and watched the screen, probably expecting it to be declined.

“Ethan. Will you tell me when you get a vacancy or do I need to come down here everyday to check?”

Ethan handed the card back with a long-suffering sigh. “I will make a note for tomorrow’s shift. The restaurant closes at 7 pm if you are hungry. The coffee shop opens a 6 am.” He took a card blank and ran it through the machine. “Your room is 521. Top floor facing the river.”

“That’s perfect, Ethan. Thank you very much,” she said as she took the room key. She turned and scowled at the room full of ghosts that had gathered while her attention was elsewhere. Not all of them belonged to the hotel. Her presence had called them here, clearing the city for blocks around. She took another deep breath and filled the room with white light. The power of it wanted to rage out of her and fill the world. She struggled and managed to contain it to just this building. When the power subsided and she could see again, the room was empty.

“Uh, the elevator is to your left,” Ethan said helpfully, misunderstanding her hesitation.

Marie Rose nodded and turned in that direction. Shadows chittered excitedly from behind the walls. It would take more than a bit of white light to banish them. She needed to get behind walls that kept them at bay.

The elevator was as old as the building and took forever to descend to the lobby. She felt the sweat form on her skin. Damn, damn, damn. New places gave her the heebie jeebies. Hotel rooms especially. Never mind the ghosts. The dark anguish of the past inhabitants clung to everything and no amount of soap and water could wash it away. She need to get up to her room and start cleaning.

The elevator opened to a long hall that smelled of wood rot and mildew. The room, while relatively clean, smelled of harsh cleaning products and old sweat. Marie Rose crossed to the window, threw back the curtains and pushed up on the old style casement. It only rose half a foot before it ran into something that blocked it. The hotel wanted to guard against the random suicide. A cold wind swept down the river and sent eddies into her room. It would have to do. She went to the bathroom and turned the cold water taps on full in the tub and the sink. Water splashed against the porcelain and gurgled down the drain, chasing away the shadows that hid there. She striped naked and hung her clothes on the hook behind the door.

Returning to the room, she unzipped her backpack and dumped its contents on the bed. Finding the incense sticks and the lighter, she put flame to tip until it glowed red then she walked the edges of the room, wafting the sweet smoke into every corner. Between water and smoke and breeze, the stagnate energy began to break apart.

She made a second circle of the room but this time the smoke from her incense stick glowed white and the runes and sigils she inscribed in the air hung stationary where she placed them, glowing softly. Taking a deep breath, she sent power coursing through her body. The spirals and circles and triangles inscribed bone-deep by the old shaman years ago burned brightly through all the layers of muscle and skin, turning their white light golden. The sunlight was disappearing from the sky but she did not need to turn on the lights to see in the growing dusk. Her body was light enough.

Marie Rose pointed two fingers at the wall and a flaming blade sprang into her fist. She made a circle for a third time, the blade of light cutting through the walls and incinerating any shadow that was too slow to get out of the way. She returned to the center of the room and used the blade to inscribe a spiral in the floor and then put an identical spiral in the ceiling above her.

Satisfied, she returned to the mound of belongings on the bed and picked up the rag doll. Propping it against the head board, she pressed her fingers into the crystal in its heart and whispered the words that opened the portal into the other places. A name fell from her lips, spoken in a language had not been heard on this planet for thousands of years.

A creature of light and shadow stepped into the room.

“Killeel,” she murmured with pleasure, throwing her arms around him.

“Ah, my lovely witch, Rose,” Killeel said, burying his fingers in her mass of dark hair as he pressed his forehead against hers.

His pointed ears poked out of the fall of his pale hair as he studied her face with eyes that sparkled like faceted amethyst. He was every bit as naked as she and he was very male. She ran her hands over his hard belly as his lips dropped to nibble on her earlobe.

Maddenly, he stopped and lifted his head to look around. Was it the bright sigils floating in the air or the chitter of shadows beyond the wall of light she had created that disturbed him?

“What is this? Why have you moved?” he asked.

“They were getting too close. People were getting hurt,” she said with a shrug.

“And you do not think they will notice this?” he asked frowning at the magic that laced the room and shown through her skin. “This extravagant display of power will surely be turning heads. They will notice. If not now, soon. You grow in power. It disturbs them.”

“They are busy feeding on a city full of ghosts. The dead and the death at the stadium will keep them happy for months.”

Killeel grunted. “It is getting easier and easier to find a mind open to such possession. It is a wonder that you do not have mass shootings on a daily basis in this country. I cannot tell if it is intrinsic in their nature to kill or if the Dark Lord triggers them on purpose.”

Marie Rose grimaced. “Or maybe it is me and my meddling.”

Killeel shrugged. “There is that possibility also. I was not going to say anything. If you have one failing it is that you are too cautious.”

“Cautious? That is not the word I would have used. Sloppy. Haphazard. Careless. I have no problem deciding the fate of the ghosts and shadows but I cannot bring myself to force humans down a path that will save them from their own folly.”

“You wake them but then abandon them to their own resources afterward.” Killeel reminded her as he brushed a stray curl from her shoulder.

“I keep hoping they will use their beloved free will to actually do the right thing,” she said, crossing to the window to stare down at the river. “Ten thousand years of toxic parenting and all the humans have to show for it is books full of lies and no wisdom.”

Killeel shoved her belongings unceremoniously onto the floor and laid down. ”What is that quaint saying your people have? Something about making a horse drink water?”

Marie Rose turned, momentarily puzzled. “You can lead a horse to water . . . Yeah, horses are pretty stupid as my mother used to tell me all the time. Are you going to spout my grandfather’s wisdom back at me all night?” she asked crawling onto the bed to straddle him.

“Grandfather? The one you like or the one you hate?” Killeel asked returning his attention to her earlobe.

She forgot to answer.

Hours later, sometime in the middle of the night, they woke to the angry hiss of a fairy hovering over Killeel’s head. The elf lord sighed as he swatted at it halfheartedly. The fairy dodged his hand with ease and burned a little brighter. Marie Rose moaned as she threw up a hand against the glare.

“Duty calls, my love,” Killeel said, pressing his lips against the line of her jaw. In the next moment, he was gone.

Marie Rose sighed and tried to find sleep again but sleep was far away. She went into the bathroom and took a long hot shower instead. Sex always made her hungry but it would be hours before the coffee shop opened. She filled her belly with light to ease the hunger pains as she pulled on a t-shirt and crossed to the open window to stare out at the city lights.

The fiasco at the University of Utah stadium had not been the result of a random angry human confused by the burden of shadows being lifted from his mind. No. This time it had been different. Three men with a small arsenal of weapons, in a highly organized operation, had sprayed the sold-out stadium with a hail of lead, killing players and audience alike. The death toll was still being counted when she had packer her bag and boarded the next bus out of town. They had found her and the stadium was their way of giving her notice that they would create untold havoc until she showed herself. Not that that was ever going to happen. Maybe they just hoped to catch her in their net of chaos like the random spray of buckshot into a flight of birds.

She thought about that for a long time. What was the point of running? They would find her eventually. They always did. What was the point of her existence, when you got down to the core of her problem? What good came from waking a human to the true nature of the Oneverse if they woke to a world in which Darkness held sway leaving only helpless hopelessness?

The shadows chittered there, behind her walls. What was the point of any of this? This room was one tiny clean spot on a planet mired under layers of filth. Maybe she granted the world too much autonomy. After all, had anyone ever asked her if this was the life she wanted? She had been born awake and aware, seeing everything, feeling everything, overwhelmed by the sea of ghosts and the tides of Darkness. It had taken her this long to beat back those tides and reclaim her sanity. Up until this moment, everything she had done, every spell cast, every wish whispered into the dark cesspool of this place had been an act of survival.

Maybe now it was time to do something more than just survive.

Marie Rose drew in a deep breath and filled her body with light. Golden light washed the walls once more as the magic inscribed in her bones burned hot.

She took another breath and create a bubble of white light and placed it just outside her body. The next breath pushed that bubble to the limits of the room. The shadows in the walls grew silent, breathlessly expectant. There she stopped, panting at the effort it took to control the energy that wanted to come streaming through the Void into her. What if . . . what if she just let it loose? Would it consume her? Would the cleaning staff open the door to her room tomorrow and find only ash? If she were wise, she would do this carefully, erring on the side of caution. It would be kinder for everyone involved. But she was sick and tired of being kind.

“What is the point of being me if I am not true to my nature?” she asked the Oneverse. The Oneverse was surprisingly silent, as if it too were holding its breath waiting for her to act.

“Fuck it,” she whispered, opening the door in her mind all the way and letting the energy rush through her. She lost herself in the cataclysmic eruption of white light as it poured out of her and exploded out into the city. She became the bubble of light that spread out into the world. Shadows popped and were consumed in the event horizon of her will. Darkness became fuel to further feed her fires. An atomic bomb was a mere firecracker in comparison to the size of the thing she released into the world. It was still spreading out into the universe when she blacked out.

Killeel found her there, crumpled on the floor in front of the window, shivering. He gathered her up and lifted her onto the bed to cover her with blankets.

“Silly girl. What were you thinking?” he murmured, wiping the cold sweat from her forehead with his fingers.

“Killeel? How? How are you here? I did not open the door into Fairy.”

“Many doors opened with what you did. Opened permanently. This reality has not seen the like in well over ten thousand human years. Not since the Dark Lord sealed them shut.”

“What of the Dark Lord?” she asked from behind heavy lids. “Is he gone?”

“No. But you have him on the run and with the doors open, you have gained a thousand new allies in the fight.”

“I should have done this long ago.”

Killeel lay down beside her and gathered her into his arms, laughing. “You were not ready. It would have destroyed you before now. But I will tell you this. Waking the old gods in the boy, Ethan, did the same for you. Now the Dark Lord has some competition. Your world is about to divide itself in two. Those who wish for the mindless oblivion of the Darkness will clash with those who want to embrace the Light.”

“Fuck,” Marie Rose murmured. “Nothing is ever easy, is it?”

Killeel laughed. “With you? No. Nothing is ever easy. You would not allow it to be otherwise, my love,” he said as she fell asleep.

 

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