DISCLAIMER – This story features images of violence, adult language, and some adult situations.
The following story is Copyright © 2015 Padraig O’C. Copying this story without permission from the author is strictly prohibited.
“A Shadow-Man attacked me a few hours ago,” Quinn Tamsin “Nyla” Clarkson told her mentor inside his small cottage on the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. It was turning to night as she sat across from her mentor, teacher, and part time captor, Jack O’Shadows. The normally grinning man was dour in expression, and looked quite concerned that someone had gone to great lengths to attack his apprentice, and protege.
“One of those midwestern native spirits?” he asked as he walked over to a shelf and tapped his cane on the top. The sound was resonate and seemed to ring in the air for a few seconds. Moments later a book sailed from the shelf and fell flat on the table where they had both been drinking tea. Jack was drinking some strange exotic mixture called “Red Velvet” whereas Nyla was sticking with chaomile to carlm her nerves. Usually a heavy coffee drinker, nearly having her soul eaten was forcing her to take something a little less stimulating.
“Yeah, Choctaw or Cherokee, it was babbling in something either Alogquin or Muskogean when I hurt it at first,” she said. Not the best at her own mother’s people, she did have some basic knowledge of the languages of the amerindian first nations. Her hair was still frazzled from racing over the Mount Baker Highway to Jack’s abode; while mentally running through all she had learned that day.
“And this was after you found the image of one James Douglas relating to the planting of a ‘scared’ tree in front of the old city hall,” he asked his second question.
“Yes, the picture actually smiled or whatever at me. It moved Jack. I’ve only seen Fae do that!’ she cried. Her voice getting louder, and more aggressive in tone as she answered each question. Her right eye twitched as she began to shake her leg to cool the anxiety running through her restless body.
Jack folded his hands together, interlacing his fingers over each other. He whistled and the book began to page through itself at a quick pace, the pages sliding against each other with muffle swishing. Then he stopped a page and reached a picture of a sun set upon a standard, Quarterings on the upper left, and lower right displayed a heart, and then in the upper right and lower left quarterings, a thunderbolt.
“Sol Invictus the Sun Unconquered is the badge of the study of Alchemy. The heart blazon is often used so symbolize life, and the thunderbolt the power of the gods.” Jack read the words aloud as he let Nyla get a look at the image.
“Alchemy?” she said blinking at the man. Alchemy might roughly explain how the Shadow-Man was able to suddenly find her, though usually that took knowledge of southeaster native traditions to pull off. Then there was that strange large Fae that had attacked her.
“What did the large monster from earlier look like?” Jack asked.
“Silver, very block in his body. He just roared at me,” the reported told him. She had drawn a rough horrible sketch, and the Fae had looked at it for a while..
“A golem, likely made out of metal to make it more versatile, even some electronic parts,” Jack replied. Nyla nodded, a golem would make sense. The fact that it know she was a Changeling was strange, Golems were not usually that aware of themselves. In most contexts when she had seen a golem it was at a Fae Court and was usually acting as a thuggish robotic bodyguard, not an entirely living being that could track someone as the one after her nearly did.
“A thinking golem,” she growled at the memory of the thing stomping after her. Then she remembered, “My fire magic hurt it, how can something like that be harmed by fire?”
“The things internal chemistry is likely semi-organic to have the level of articulation it showed,” he surmised. Jack sipped a bit of tea as he scanned the book for a few minutes. Nyla sat there just calming down the best she could. Her emotions as of late had become far more complicated with new horizons opening up. The date weeks earlier with Hoku (who she had yet to still call back), and the more recent encounter with Gerry were setting the old feelings she had long tossed aside refreshed, and not well received.
Jack raised his gaze from the book as he gave her a quirk of of an eyebrow.
“So an alchemist wants me dead over a tree,” she said breaking the quiet. Jack closed the book and gave a stressed clucking of his tongue. He placed both hands on the tabletop before asking her.
“How many times have you gone to the edge in the past few weeks?”
“Three.” Nyla groaned as she leaned back in the chair and rocking in it impatiently.
“You’ve almost broken the Oaken Accord wonderful. They’ll skin me and you if you keep doing that,” he said. The more she experience Soulburn, the more evident her Fae blood, and nature would become both visually and mentally. At that very moment she could already sense a growing disparity in how she empathically connected to the world, and people around her. She had heard stories of Changeling so consumed by their Fae side that they ended up becoming something else entirely. What that was Jack so far refused to tell her.
“I’ve kept my features hidden, and I’m using Wolfsbane to cleanse the corruption,” she retorted.
“Not good enough, it may be almost time to bring you to the next level of your training,” he intoned to her as he tapped his cane twice on the ground. The book in front of him flew back onto the shelf on its own volition. He then stood up and walked into the kitchen nearby. Jack’s cottage was only slight bigger than Nyla’s apartment with a full kitchen connected to the dining nook, a living room, and then two bedrooms connected to a singular bathroom via an adjacent hall.
“Okay, but first did you get anything else on the circle that was used against Daniels?” the girl asked her focus swinging them back to discussing the murder of the prominent man.
“Yes, from what I understand of this city’s history, the local Fae struck a peace deal years ago between three warring Fae Lords, each with their own interests. When the city father’s signed the pact along with a mundane agreement to bind the four towns into Bellingham, they cemented the deal between the three Lords,” the man said giving a small moment of exposition. His voice was peppered with his typical soft R’s noting his past in the British Isles.
“You know their names?” she asked while considering getting some more tea. Her eyes were losing focus as she was finding it hard to recover from all the stress from the past two weeks. In fact if she had not encountered the Shadow-Man she would have spent a few hours rummaging around in more bookstores. Likely finding barely a thing, but with the attack on her person alone, she was sure that she had struck a nerve.
“Aye,” he replied as he began to tinker with the kettle as he prepare dto boil more water for tea.
“Well who are they?” The young woman stopped tapping her foot, as her anxiety was rewound into a new goal, to pester Jack into giving her a full answer.
“See Lord Bronze-Falcon of the Great Island, that would be Victoria. Then there’s Lady Emerald-Eyes of the twin lakes, Seattle. Finally there’s the Gentry leader, the one your related too, Lord Laughing-Crow.” He used their anglicized names to keep translation and information clean. Fae names tended to be confusing, complicated, and followed a lengthy system of formality. What caught her off guard was the usage of the word, Gentry, a Fae term for a select elite of Fae that called themselves DhÍarhu, Divine One in Elder Tongue. Older than than most Fae, the Gentry were a select band of tribes that usually killed their magical cousins on sight rather than chat over lunch.
“You never did explain to me how I was descended from two supposedly different races,” she smirked. According to her basic biology and genetics classes two species could not cross-breed. Fae tended to not follow this rule.
“Well,” he began, and then he was stopped as she thrust up a hand to motion him to cease. “Gentry are not a separate race, its more like a wolf and a dog really.”
“Okay then, never mind, back to the three Lords.” Her eyes shifted over as he was facing away from her setting a skillet on the cook top. Food, and she was quite hungry.
“Bronze-Falcon came to this land when the pioneers from Russia did, He’s a hardened Wila with a lot of connections back in Siberia. Lady Emerald-Eyes is descended from the Loa Trib, so she’s often a bit more upbeat than Bronze-Falcon. Laughing-Crow is a whole other story, most of his people dwell in the local tribes, and he is very protective,” the Fae said. The Gentry Lord was very likely incredibly protective. His people were often few in number with most of the Gentry kyn, and tribes lessened over the years by Fae enroachmnt. So few in number they were they were often simply called Fae as their bloodlines had become ‘mixed’ for so long.
“I’ve met Laughing-Crow when I was conducting my work for a dance back on the Skuallup reservation, he came over from Orcas Island to speak to me, and two other Changelings. He didn’t like me much, something about being the blood of three Ravens,” which she had only started to pice together.
“He’s a blighter ignore em,” Jack drawled. He dropped a few choice pieces of canadian bacon into the mixture causing it to sizzle.
“Gentry are high and mighty gits, their ancestry is from the ruling families of the Great Cities from back in the old world,” he intoned, “And they are said to have the purest blood of the God-Kings.”
That fact caught her unwares. It was a bit unlike jack to give her a download on Fae ancestry like that, or even mention their previous homeland. A fact that most Fae hid.
“Gentry, Hobs, and Spiritkin, its all confusing,” she said whil rubbing her head.
“Racism,” he chuckled.
“I’m hunted by a golem with a secrtive alchemist, and turns out one of my relatives is part of a deal the maniac is apparently trying to undo. Wonderful, why does this always come back to me.” She was feeling a bit off, and then the bacon was dropped on a plate in front of her.
“Could be worse, it could be the Siren Raid all over again.” He sat across from her and gave her a smile that made his jaw look to big. Jack rarely let her see his true self, and when he removed the mundame glamour that covered his countenance it usually reminded her how alien he, and she, were.
“So all the recent business at the Oaken Throne, does it mean they’ll be calling the three together?” She shoved a few pieces of bacon into her mouth to savor the greasing salty taste. Her body was more than just drained at the moment, it was demanding nutrients, raw energy that it could use to recover from the repeatd withdrawls of Soulburn. Already a deep bone panging restlessness was growing in her, a weariness that would drive her to seek out whatever first came to mind.
Her mind rolled around the idea of leaving town for a length vacation. Of course that would likely get her fired, and she could not at all afford that. Nyla needed the money.
“A little from column a, and a little from column b. I’ve been negotiating with Laughing-Crow, and Emerald-Eyes over one of the reason the pact was sealed in the first place.” He turned around to hold an egg in one hand and fluidly crac it open before setting it to cook in the pan.
There was a growing feeling of avoidance deeply situated in their discussion. Jack was slowly steering the narrative in a way to prevent her from pushing toward the topics that he knew she was not ready for. Prime among them the terminology of the Thrice-Bound that people kept calling her. Nyla herself was completely unsure where to go from here. She was stuck in a loop at the moment with the case, and she was even further lacking in direction.
Cases like this were often part of an even more complicated. She finished off the bacon, and then sat back in her chair on, once again rocking back and forth. She had to find a direction.
“I’m going to pick up tomorrow here I left off,” she said suddenly, “There’s an occult store near the edge of town. I’ll hit there and see if someone’s picked up some parchment.” She crossed her arms and waited to see if her mentor would say something. Golems required orders done in ancient hebrew, and had to be written on lamb or goat skin parchment pieces. A somewhat strange requirement, not to mention a specially embued ink. She would need to speak to a rabbi about ink sources.
“Sounds fine to me, I translated the first line of the circle that was used on Daniels. The inner ring reads – Dare to take hold” A bit weird,and sounds like its from a trashy supernatural fantasy romance novel,” he remarked. Nyla blinked, and then broke out laughing without any reason. All the stress melted away from as took a deep breath and then found calm finally settling upon her person.
“What about the Futhark and the Elder Tongue,” she asked, both of which were not that hard to translate.
“Oh? They’re written in a code, the actual wording is completely nonsensical. Only the ancient chinese is translatable.” He finished the eggs, and set them down upon a plate with a spatula.
“That makes no sense.” It did not one bit. Incantations required specific writing, they were not so flexible that one could just jabber up the words for funzies.
“Well I do know what they say, but they make no sense in context with the inner-ring.” He then read off the two lines:
“The center line reads – Master of them all,” he said, and then thumbed his chin. “The outer ring reads – Scepters for the valiant.”
Her mind plumbed it for a moment. “I’ll look it up. It makes little sense at the moment. Just some random lines.”
“The three languages are interesting, likely its trying to draw from directly or regional contracts to do something. The circles are not for binding or summoning, this appears to be a sacrifice.” Jack finished eating his eggs as he then wiped his mouth. Nyla looked a bit shocked that someone would be trying to sacrifice a mayoral candidate. There had to be more than just the election.
“Alright, get to it then,” Jack ordered as he gave a showing gesture toward her. Nyal shook her head, and gave a roll of her eyes. Being indigant was just being playful, and Jack being in a good informative mood meant she better keep it that way (his darker moods tended to include lynched rats).
“Go sierd yerself,” she drawled at him after grabbing her leather jacket and closing the door. After shoving her hands into the thick pockets of her jacket she strolled out to her bike. The old piece of junk was battered, but still ran like it was new. A present from Jack after graduating, she had kept it for years. Now it was like her might steed as she puttered around town playing knight in leather armor for the Trickster.
The clouds above shifted in the sky as she noticed it was time to get moving. Dark was coming, if she was unlucky she would incure the interest of things that went bump in the night, literally. Her arm tingled as she felt someone watching her. Stopping the young woman then looked around, her eyes narrowing as she sniffed the air. The feeling was gone.
“Gods sierd it,” she growled before jumping on her bike and heading back into town.
Next Part: Chapter 11
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