By David R Castro
I could feel the wards on her place a block away. I had Baker pull over and double parked on a narrow street on in a mostly deserted area near the border between Queens and Nassau County. When my feet hit the concrete of the sidewalk I felt the sick power again. It resonated in the air and in the ground. Whatever ritual she was using, it was centered here, focused here. This was her Hall of Doom. The building itself was covered in graffiti, a box shaped warehouse made of white painted brick. I felt there was more there, so I focused a moment, and cheated.
Part of being a mage is getting to cheat, do things that normal folks can’t. Some of that means I get to throw fire and things like that, but mostly, it’s little things like getting to peek behind the veil of the mortal world and see that which lies beneath. I can, when I want to, look upon the supernatural face of the world, the skeins of magic that are woven over and through everything living and most things that aren’t. I call it my mage-o-vision and focused it on the building before me.
Beneath the graffiti was a haphazard mess of mixed magical sigils and formulae. There was not one running theme. Latin based formulae on one side of the wall with ancient Hebrew iconography, then runic scrawls on another. It showed madness, for one spell to work with the confused sigils there. I could feel something else though, something at the base of the spellwork. I knew somehow this wasn’t going to be what I thought It would be, but I had no choice. Lucy was in there, with god knows who else, and a crazy witch bent on killing her. I closed my mage-o-vision and waved over to the rest of the group.
Baker exited the car and looked around, surveying the mundane side of it, something a mage can forget sometimes. Cassie was shaking a little bit, and was paler than normal, but she had her bag with her, so her gear was all set.
“I’m guessing I’m not going to be calling in for a warrant, am I?” Baker asked me, pulling his sidearm and flicking the safety off in the same motion.
“Nope. Cassie, get ready.”
I pulled my wand from my bag, and she did the same. Where mine was a foot of rolled silver etched with runes and sigils, Cassie’s was glossy ebony, the markings that she had seared onto the wood hidden under the black stain. She thought that it was a good idea to not let people know what you worked onto your main magical aid, and I had to agree. She rolled her wrist like I did and I held up a hand.
“No magic, not yet; we don’t want to give up the surprise. Ready a spell, but don’t charge it, and calm yourself. I can feel the energy radiating off of you.” She blushed and nodded. I pulled the sphere filled with black smoke and violet sparks from my bag, tossing it to her. “There, when you’re ready, use that to fuel it, okay?”
She caught it in her left hand and nodded, her face set in determination. I looked to Baker, who nodded, holding his gun in both hands. He’d take up the rear, as we dealt with the magic up front. It’s how we dealt with most magical things, and it was comfortable. I couldn’t be comfortable, because I’d fall into the same things we do when we, say, take down a vampire nest or a troll in the subway, which is nothing compared to this.
Don’t get me wrong, trolls are dangerous in the same way that a starving animal backed against a wall is, and vampires are straight up and down evil, but they aren’t as mutable as a mortal mage is, you know how they will act most of the time. There is a penchant in mortals for creativity, and that can be applied to magic, and to cruelty. They can do anything, and if they are insane like what I saw is leading me to believe, there are way too many permutations of what can happen to be comfortable with anything.
In my mind I readied two spells, a shield against magic and psychic attack, and an attack. They spun in my mind, like lightning in a bottle bouncing off the sides again and again. It was incredibly uncomfortable, and as we neared the building, that grew. Whatever I felt from the crystal and the crime scenes was nothing compared to this. no wonder there were no cars on the street, no animals around. Even the mundane can feel auras as strong as this, and are driven to avoid it on a purely instinctual level. Ever get chills down your neck? Walk into a room and feel the hairs on your body rise, and get an deep seated need to leave wherever you are? To avoid a dark alley or a creepy house? That’s that feeling, the aura telling the reptilian instinct based part of your brain to not stick around where bad things happened, or was happening, or were going to happen there. The problem with guys like me is that though I get those feelings to, I don’t get to hightail it out of there, I get to run headfirst to them.
The power was thumping like a drum, and I could feel through my link to the crystal shard that the rest of them were inside, and increasingly active. We had to go in, and soon, but I didn’t know what the wards did, and if I tried straight up brute force, anything could happen.
I looked at Cassie. Her magic was diametrically opposed to mine, where mine was mostly focused on light and flame, her’s was shadow and darkness. She could do things I couldn’t, and her powers were a lot more subversive and for lack of a better term insidious than mine. Mine was all flash and showy, her’s wasn’t. And it was her’s that we needed.
“Cassie, can you get behind the warding magic there? Just a little bit, a crack that large enough that I could get a chisel into?” I asked her, looking at her. She didn’t answer, just closed her eyes.
Her shadow grew darker, and she breathed in deep. “Montru al mi vian fendoj, lasu min en vi. Malŝlosi mem por mi.” She whispered. The air around her dropped a few degrees and a thin smirk spread on her face. She turned to me, violet sparks filling her eyes. “There are kinks. This ward is a haphazard blending of so many different things, it’s a surprise it’s even standing.”
I walked up next to her, and she slid the sphere into a pocket, taking my hand. “Show me.” We breathed in together and, like we did a thousand times before in practice, spoke as one.
“Lig dom a fheiceáil mar a fheiceann tú. Tabhair mé fhéin leat ‘.”
“Lasu lin vidi kiel mi vidas. Venigu lin al mi.”
I felt my magic swirl in me, the sapphire flame rising, flowing from my chest through my arm and hand into Cassie. Her cold black smoke with violet sparks swirled around my flame and fled from it like the last bits of night flees from the dawn, slithering up out of her, through her shadow, and to the wards on the building. I could see what she was talking about. The magic wasn’t just a mishmash of different ways of writing magic, it was also a patchwork of different spells that barely worked together and was only holding on because of the massive amount of power running through it. This much energy just jostling it could kill you if you didn’t know what you were doing. Anything I could have done on my own would have killed me, but with the sneaking magic of my dear Cassie, I could take them down without anyone getting hurt. Possibly.
I readied that attack I had swirling in my mind, fueling it with my magic and the collected fear of me and Cassie. It let her shadows be a guiding line straight into the crack in the wards, hoping my focused attack will be enough to shatter them without much blowback. I readied my shield as well, and Cassie felt me doing so, readied one of her own. That she hadn’t thought about protecting herself while we did this wasn’t a good sign but there was no time for that now, every moment that we spent out here was another moment that someone would notice. Surprise was our own friend at the moment and we can’t afford to lose it.
I let the flame of my magic and awareness roll into a small sphere, the flame turning into a miniature blue sun, and reached for the other spell in my mind, the shield, letting the words to both coalesce at the tip of my tongue, my understanding of the magic and my will for what I want my power to do held firmly in the center of my awareness. It felt like I was in an airplane right as my ears were going to pop from the pressure, and released the magic and begun the attack.
There was a bright blue light and a wave of pressure as the spell fired, a blast of sunlight about twenty times more intense than what one would experience on a normal day. It blew a hole in the wall in front of us and a second later I could feel the wards crumbling, the magic that was all that was keeping there begin to grow like a generator going critical. I squeezed Cassie’s hand and together we spoke again.
We held our wands out in front of us, in an identical guard stance as our magic flooded out of us. Mine manifested as an almost transparent film of sapphire light around us, while Cassie’s took the form of a circle of shadows that when around us just beyond my light, it’s fast rushing of violet sparks barely visible in the fading sunlight. The wards fell, throwing off enough energy that even the mundane Baker gasped at the feeling of it. It struck our defenses, Cassie drawing a lot of it into her darkness before it hit my light, making it glow brighter, and glancing off of it. You could see physical evidence of it on the ground around us, burn marks on the grass and concrete where our shields began and the air smelling of ozone.
“Cassie, diversions, go!” I gritted, pulling a glass sphere of my own out of the bag. In the center of the sphere hung a barely visible spark of blue light, a bit of magic that sits like a pilot light inside my spell grenade. I etch the glass with a spell on top of the anti breaking enchantments, charging them when I need to for a ready made spell that gets released on the shattering of the glass. This one, a supernatural flashbang, swirled with sapphire flame as myself, Cassie, and Baker ran towards the whole I made in the brick.
We knew our roles, even though we hadn’t discussed them. I would be on the offensive, throwing combat magic around, like the badass I am, while Cassie would be using her more elusive magic would be using illusions and shades to confuse the witch, protecting me from her magics, baker taking the rear making sure nothing sneaks up on us and providing a mortal end game for a fight. Many magical beings, especially those who aren’t in any way close to the mortal world, forget that a bullet does a whole hell of a lot of damage, just as much as any spell or sword. Martin Baker however, never forgets this.
I chucked the sphere into the hole, heard the glass break as I willed it to, and then a cacophony of noise and light, and a trio of screams. Cassie had disappeared but I didn’t worry about her, I focused on my next spell, which I needed to do before I saw what was in there. Risky business but I couldn’t think about it, just act. Creativity, will, and magic came together and I rolled off the wall, wand out, grunting in bad Irish.
“Cheangal iad uile!”
Magic flew out of the silver wand and I could feel three bodies hit the ground. My binding spell dropped everyone in the room. I walked in, wary. Baker spoke from the hole in the wall.
“Yeah, sure. Stay there though.” A bit of my will and a flick of my wand back behind me with a minor ward, offering him some protection at least for a few minutes. I moved forward, slowly, my muscles feeling twitchy, wanting to run at the slightest motivation.
The inside of the building was bare, concrete floors and walls, all spray painted with the crazed writing accompanied the wards. There was a bare circle dead center of the building though, about twenty feet in diameter. Five cylinders of quartz crystal ran on the inside barrier of this circle, and I could feel that one one them was the one that my shard had come from. Three people lay in the circle, Lucy still in her pink party dress, a boy I saw at the party whose name I didn’t know other than that he was one of Lucy’s cousins, and a middle aged woman.
She was five foot five, and where once she had perfect alabaster skin, I could see that she had a burn on her right hand that went up past the cuff of her long sleeve blouse. She was also the only person still awake, slightly struggling against the binding. I looked away from her, eye contact was very important for psychomancy, and I didn’t want to tempt fate. Instead, I walked around the circle to its starting point, the crystal there seated on top of an altar made of dull iron. Symbols had been hatched into it, these concise and ordered, and a bowl was set before it, the contents dark, probably blood. I looked to the two children and saw no cuts to them so it was probably animal blood.
It explains a lot, how she was able to do so much, she had gotten help from the Other Side. The Other Side is a catch all name for all the many dimensions that sit on the edge of this one, accessible with magic. Most supernatural beings hail from on those places and there are many a being that would like to influence the people of this realm with their magic if given the chance. I couldn’t tell what it was that was helping her, but it was probably what she was feeding the life energy to. There are many that on the Other Side feed on what we would call the soul, and there isn’t nearly as many things that a mortal mage could do with a soul that any of those things can.
I knelt by the altar, pressing the tip of my wand to the space where the iron met concrete., and pulled the crystal shard from my pocket. I summoned up energy from deep within myself, thinking about all the people she had killed, how she killed them, and that she was planning to do the same to these two children. Fear, rage, panic, all of those emotions and the magic that was inherent to who I am, and snarled.
My magic ran down the wand and into the shard, and from there, into the others. It was ten seconds before they were glowing brightly with blue light and shattered, leaving burn marks where they stood. The altar felt to the side, the metal vibrating with energy. I could feel the magic of the witch battle mine, and the sudden focus of whatever being she had been in compact with. Power flooded the altar, and I felt the attention of the being press against my psyche. I fortified my mind with magic but stumbled back falling onto the concrete, and the binding spell snapped like a dry twig.
The witch rose, her eyes clouding with a greyish-green fog. I heard Baker yell out, and then gunfire echoed in the room. Her eyes flashed and the bullets had to have bounced off some shield of some sort as she stood unaffected. I felt a wave of that sick magic, and heard him groan and the sound of metal skidding on the floor.
When she spoke, her voice sounded like two people speaking in perfect unison, one voice feminine and the other deep and gravelly. “Hello mage. You’ve been hunting us. You have found us.” She twirled much like a little girl in a new dress. “Aren’t we resplendent?” She continued to twirl, and then stopped, looking at me with her head cocked. Her voice was quiet. “You didn’t answer us.”
I struggled to keep the daimon from my mind, I was sure that was what it was. I could feel burning in my body and soul. It was burning into my magic, and I had no idea what else it was doing to me. I was only dimly aware of what the witch was doing. She kicked me in the ribs, hard, driving the air from my lungs.
“YOU DIDN’T ANSWER US!” She screamed. She kicked me again and again, the pain making the holding of the spells in my mind increasingly difficult.
She stopped and smiled a very genuine smile. When she spoke, the feminine voice was more present, the gravelly one more an undertone. “We are, aren’t we?” She curtsied, a motion that was fluid like a dancer but the face she made was sharp with pain. The two voices were even again when she spoke. “Do you love us mage?”
I shook, the defenses I had beginning to fail, I could feel the daimon gaining, and tried to speak, but she kicked me. I rolled too my side as my vision began to darken. I felt cold, and a shiver ran down my spine. The witch walked around my body, turning my head to look at up at her with a boot. She began to speak when Cassie stepped from behind a pillar and grabbed her.
I could see her eyes, and they were completely black, her irises pinpoints of violet light. Her skin was even paler than normal. I watched the witch struggle and the daimon pull away from my mind, but before anything could happen, Cassie pulled her behind that pillar again, and they vanished.
I laid there, shivering. Psychic attacks are some of the most traumatizing things one can experience and I very almost got my mind scrambled but a daimon I didn’t even know anything about. I still felt the searing pain deep inside of me, and I had no idea what it was. I groaned and rolled over, looking at Baker. He was passed out, a thin bit of blood flowing from a cut on his head. I rolled over again, see the kids starting to get up. I summoned up the last of my will, and rose, going to the kids.
It was the last thing I wanted to do, but it would be easier to to deal with them if they were not awake, which meant one more mind spell. There wasn’t much magic left to me, but it was easy to put them to sleep, all I do to was to draw on the weariness I felt deep in my bones and let it flow out to them with a single word.
They stiffened to the word and drifted off to a dreamless sleep. I staggered, and was barely able to rise again, walking to Baker. I was reaching into my bag for my first aid kit when I heard a thud and felt another shiver down my spine. Turning, I found Cassie standing in the middle of the warehouse, the body of the witch on the floor, her face twisted in what could only be fear. Cassie’s eyes was still black, and her shadow, as well as those of the things around her, swirled like high grass in the wind.
She didn’t say anything, just looked at me, then to the children. I nodded. “They’re ok, they’re asleep and will be for a while. They’re ok.” She nodded and moved towards the kids. I raised my voice. “Cassie, don’t…”
Before I could finish the sentence she turned back to me and the look on her face was the most terrifying thing that I had ever seen. I could see her power was only barely under control, and she would do whatever she had did to that witch to whomever stood between her and those children. I relented, and she turned back.
She walked between the two children and closed her eyes for a moment, their shadows rising off the ground like a blanket and cocooning them, then she raised a hand and spoke.
“Prenu nin hejme.”
The cocooned kids slid over the ground as she walked behind another pillar, vanishing again, leaving me alone with Baker and a corpse.
I sat on the hood on my car with Baker, who upon waking was stunned, but didn’t let that stop him from getting into action. He took my phone and made all the calls I should have to the Enlightened Society to deal with both the scene and the body. They were there within the hour, two members of the Bright Mantle, the mage equivalent of a police and military force, and a healer. The healer looked us over as the others broke down whatever remaining magic was in the room and removed the body. Baker’s head trauma was an easy fix, while all the healer was able to give me was a tonic to restore energy and orders to rest as soon as possible. A magical Red Bull and bedrest, so useful. We left soon after.
The ride back to the crime scene was a silent one. Baker isn’t used to dealing with magic, and though he is more open minded than most, being whammied by a possessed witch is a bit much for him to handle. It’ll be a few days before he would be ready to deal with what happened. I’d need that much time too.
I’d never seen cassie get like that, to be able to restrain the witch and pull her into the shadows with her, to return with only her corpse, it wasn’t the Cassie I knew. Yes it was in defense of the group and her little sister, yes it was completely justified in that as far gone as she seemed to have been would have been almost impossible to pull the daimon back out of her, but still. The look on the witch’s face, who we still had not been able to identify, the horror there, I wouldn’t wish whatever happened in that darkness on anyone.
I dropped Baker off by his car and bumped fists with him, promising to contact him in a few days to talk about how he would close the case. Saying that a daimon possessed witch was the perp but there is no reason to worry about more victims because another witch killed her wasn’t the way that one retains important things like employment and a penson. Most of the evidence would be taken care of by the Society, especially the things relating to the daimon, lest that get into the hands of someone else.
I thought a lot on the drive home. How to deal with Cassie if, I was going to deal with her. I didn’t know what to do, and had figured out a whole lot of nothing by time I got home. Cassie was sitting cross legged in the middle of my living room, surrounded by a circle of crystals and black sand. Her eyes were squeezed shut and she was rocking slightly back and forth, muttering to herself over and over again.
“Mi estas la mastrino de mi mem. Mi kontrolas mia magio, ĝi ne regas min.”
It was the mantra I taught her when she felt herself losing control of her powers. The words, in English, ran in my head at the same time. I am the mistress of myself. I control my magic, it does not control me. I put my bag on the floor and she stilled.
“Danny, oh God Danny, don’t come any closer. It’s so close to the surface. I’ve..oh what have I done…” The words trailed off and she shook.
“Cassandra Andrea Black, you are not alone, and I will help you. I’m making another circle, then entering yours, do you understand me?” I said, my voice firm. She nodded and continue to chant.
I opened my bag and pulled out a leather sack, loosening the knot that held it closed and pouring out a circle of sand, this one white, around her black and stepping into the space between the two. Reaching out with my power, I sealed my circle. Inside my mind the sand line was alight with sapphire flame, and the circle before me was swirling darkness, drinking in all that light. I readied myself and held out my hand.
“Are you ready Cassie?”
She didn’t stop her mantra, but nodded fast. The circle she had built was made with the intent of keeping her and her powers in, so it was a simple measure of putting a little pressure to it to break it from this side, and withstand whatever comes loose. I pressed against it with my power and it broke, the crystals around her flashing sapphire when it did.I could instantly feel the energy flowing off of her, the instability and the fear she was feeling. I crossed the sand line and sat in front of her.
“Cassie, open your eyes and look into mine.” She shook her head and I repeated myself more firmly. She opened them slowly. The black smoke and violet sparks filled her eyes still, not as dark as before but still scary. I swallowed back my fear and reached out, taking her hands in mine.
Her magic was right under the surface, roiling and struggling for release. I could feel her try to rein it in though, so on her next cycle of the mantra, I spoke with her, lacing my voice with magic, fortifying what was was already doing.
“Mi estas la mastrino de mi mem. Mi kontrolas mia magio, ĝi ne regas min.”
“Tá tú ar an máistreás de féin. Rialú tú do draíochta, ní chuireann sé rialú tú.”
I am the mistress of myself. I control my magic, it does not control me.
You are the mistress of yourself. You control your magic, it does not control you.
We repeated this over and over until she calmed and stilled, her magic back under control. When we were done, she collapsed into me, and I hugged her, swaying.
“It’s ok, it’s ok.” I muttered to her. She chuckled. “What?”
“I think we should skip the Halloween Ball this year.”
I laughed with her and squeezed her. “Yeah.”