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 hushed silence always befell one when they entered the Shadow. A disquiet that eased over you like an badly fit glove. Or more appropriatel it was like dipping into a tub of heated milk. A strange viscous feeling waved over the body, even the air felt heavier for reasons unknown.
The Shadow was created thousands upon thousands of years in the past when humanity was still learning the basics of advanced stone utiensils. When the earliest of mankind created fire the Fae were using the Shadow to make war, and to hide away from the coming of man. Nyla trully, utterly, and simply -hated- the Shadow. It was a place too much like another realm she had once glimpsed in her dreams. A place of black grained sand filled with obsidian skies and sable clouds. No, the Shadow was literally a Shadow of the world itself. Of the land the Fae called Agaera, or the Broken Place.
To enter the Shadow a Fae could simply blink and waltz through a mirror or a reflect of water, or even ice. For a Changelings one had to commit use their blood and channel the portent energies displaced within their veins. Or that was how Nyla always saw it. In truth, she despised magic, as she despised many things related to her supernatural heritage. Her mother had been stronger in it than her father, and her sister only dallied with it now and then.
No Nyla was simply agent for a race of beings that called themselves the “Fated Ones or “Férhu” in their language of Elder Tongue. A name so self important Nyla sometimes forgot that many of them still carried the weight of godhood upon their mantle.
So perhaps it was just queer that she found herself traversing around the Shadow of the world itself to sneak past the security set on the Daniels murder scene. Even as she traversed the Shadow she dodged ‘things’ that dwelt inside of it. Many creatures Jack had told her had fled the lands of the Fae homeland when their masters had come. Even as she ran along the road she almost gained the interest of a Seal Spirit, a horrendous dead creature that stole the skin of man, and used it to bring others to the water.
Then there were creatures such as the Mara who roved in shadow figured packs, and she had to ward away with a song her mother had taught her as a child. No, even walking it took her a good half an hour to get to the edge of Shadey Meadows. On foot in the normal plane it would have taken her longer, but luckily the Shadow allowed one to blur time, and space to make travel much more convient.
So it was just within the Daniels’ house itself that she found herself slipping back into the mortal plane. Once again the strange feeling of viscoius fluid around her receded as she found herself back in the normal world. Just in time. Nyla was sure that there was a Djinn following her. She was not sure why though, the Changeling decided not to dally long enough to find out what the entity desired.
Now, she was in the house where a man had died, painfully, and slowly. Along with her was a series of supplies which would allow her to unwrapp the ritualistic layers of diviniation, and power cast across the room where Richard Daniels met his demise. Slowly, she made her way inside and felt her energy draining as she used what little magic she could to keep her presence in the home to a minimum. She had yet to contaminate a crime scene, and Nyla was not going to make a habit yet.
The study is where it all began, and ended. There she found the three ringed ritual circle. Within were a series of runic marks written out in Futhark in the outer ring; then Ancient Chinese in the inner ring; and finally the strange Ogham writing of Elder Tongue in the central ring. The man’s body was long gone, but his blood still remained. Even as she entered the room she could already sense the presence of a shade or spirit there.
Ghosts did not really exist to Nyla’s knowledge. The notion of a long standing spirit was not really how mortal souls worked when they died. Truthfully, they left an imprint in the Shadow, a shade of sorts that contained their memories, and a sense of who they were. Those who died powerfully might even impart their actual soul, these were known as wraiths, and could be quite dangerous if they were not watched carefully. Shades rarely evolved further than simple meddling, but as the young woman could tell as she walked closer to the circle, the man’s shade was already imprinted enough to be a spirit, if not a wraith.
“Richard I know you are here, I can sense you,” she muttered. The words rang around her as a pained whispered rode on the still air. Carefully, she touched the ring, and felt a pang of memory sear through her mind.
It was dark, with only a series of candles. Her body was broken, and pain was writhing across her arms. A man or a woman, she could not tell was standin in front of her. The face covered by a sweatshirt hood, as well as gloved hands. The assailant carried a jagged knife, a Kukri, and held it aloft with careful percision. The figure was talking, but the pain was too much for her to gain any attention. But she did catch one word, “Contract.”
Then the memory was gone, fleetingly. Already tired from covering her tracks, the memory only added to her growing exhaustion. Jack had yet to teach her further on how to draw from her magical background, but she knew that her edge was coming. If she pushed it any further she would suffer Soulburn, a deep abiding fatigue that would knock her out for a day if not longer.
Time was not on her side. The young woman reached into her pocket and fished out the sage she had brought. Usually used to banish foul spirits by mediums, she had picked up a few other items before placing the sage down before the dried blood. Methodically she then cut her hand once drew upon the innate nature of her Changeling self. Her mind centered itself as the mark on her arm burned, and then suddenly a light shot along her veins and lit the sage in a dull violet flame.
“Richard son of George of the blood of Daniels I bring you from the grip of the dead to speak with me. By the contracts struck by Anubis, by the Morrigan, and through the will of Charon. I summon you.” She invoked the contract, the most powerful of magics brokered by the Fae when the earth was young. A pounding sound started to fill the air as the shade she felt began to gain strength. She inhaled slowly as smoke seemed to stream from her eyes as the violet flaming sage grew brighter.
As smoke pooled upward from the sage it began to take shape. The face of Richard Daniel began progressively to metamorphasize out of the smoke. His eyes and mouth were fleshed by the flame, and his hair taken from the wisps of air moving near the flame itself. Steadily, the man’s eyes opened and he looked around, as if awoken suddenly from a slumber that was far from expected.
“What’s going on?!” the spirit exclaimed, “The last I remember was pain, and some thug telling me I was being used to forged some contract.”
Nyla stared down at the ring as the spirit started to speak further. He described the rough shape of his assailant being of mid-height, but failed to give a gender. Apparently during the entire time leading up to his death the attacker had distorted their voice through unknown means.
“Then the figure cut my throat, and I remember nothing else,” the spirit lamented. Tension was growing in the air as they moved closer, and closer to the limit of how long the summoning could hold. Only in the Shadow could a shade speak at length, even then the shade had to have evolved either into a wraith, or a spirit of the Shadow itself.
“Nothing?” Nyla asked quietly. Just loud enough so that the spirit of Richard Daniels could hear her. The face of the man created from ephemermeal elements twisted in place fo ra moment. His brow shifting as he attempted to piece through his last few hours on earth. Then after a bit of prodding the spirit finally spoke, “I remember a tattoo covering their exposed skin, elaborate and looking like curving intertwining briars.”
That was something. Especially with the tattoos description. Nyla gave a nod as she then said, “Rest Richard, return to the beyond, and find solace that I will find your killer.”
“Thank you Changeling, thank you,” the man said before his visage slowly dissolved into the night air. She then lifted her phone and walked around the edge of the ring. I need to get Jack to translate these marks in Elder Tongue, and maybe he knows a person who can figure the old Chinese symbols. After a few more moments she leaned down and touched the out circle of the ring. A charge zapped up her hand and she instinctively pulled it away. Arcane ritual. Not a contract. Using magic through ritual was one way the Fae of lesser tribes were able to conduct greater invocations, breaking the rules set down after the fall of their ancient rulers, the God-Kings.
But it was also a way that humans attempted to grasp the power of the gods, a route that often led to their death. Mortrals could barely wield the power of magics, and even though only for a short time before it drove them mad, or killed them.
“That’s not chalk, its ash,” she noted as she got a look at the substance used to created the circle, “Bone Ash.”
For a practioner of the occult to use bone ash in a circle could mean only one thing – dark forces were at work. She had to get out of here, and home where she could stole all the information away.
It was then that she turned and noted the mirror sitting in the room. Just big enough that she could likely use it as a portal to the Shadow. Just in time as that off feeling of the unknown presence was returning. Shit. This time her arm was starting to burn quietly as she could tell the tattoo heralding the arrival of the thing from earlier. She dug into what energy she had left and felt her body exude the necessary energy to break into the mirror world of Shadow.
Once again that milky feeling greeted her as the glass turned to a portal, and she dashed through it. Her adumbral hair drifting as she heard a thud outside. Dammit. The thud became heavier as she silenced her breathing. The thing downstairs shifted and began to look around a for a bit longer. Damn, Damn. Raven give me strength. Calling upon one of her ancestral totems was a last ditch effort to bring a sense of calm to her nerves.
Her eyes strained in the increased dark of the Shadow. Fear was not her friend here as she silently told herself. Fear is the killer, fear is the small trickster. An old saying she pulled from a book her mother used to read to her. Nyla had to center herself, or she might end up dead in the Shadow as a wasted soul.
There were a few contracts she knew, deals struck with Jack that the ageless Fae taught her to defend herself. All part of being a Thricebound he said.
So it was that she found herself taking a deep coaxing breath and then quietly creeping downstairs. The thing or whatever it was was located near the front of the house while she was located near the back. Her breath was getting louder as she could feel the magic draining her, the edge appearing on the tip of her tongue. A coppery taste telling her she was eliciting the edge of Soulburn.
Not good. She did not need to feel weakned by iron all damn week. Her eyes twisted around as she heard a deep thumping as a figure appeared in a hallway that came into view. A tall figure, one that definitely was more than some simple spiritkin lesser fae. No this thing was definitely of one of the more powerful tribes that existed. It was tall, very tall, and almost hunched in the hall. Its body was clothed in a strange silvery coat. Its head was veiled, but she could make out the mouth, silver dark skin pulled over a thick jaw.
“MEDDLING CHANGELING,” it growled as words leaped from its throat. The mouth barely opened, not truly enough to articulate. She stared at it as it took a step with a great booted foot, and reached out toward her.
“YOU WILL NOT MEDDLE IN OUR AFFAIRS!” It started to walk quicker. Why am I staring at this monstrosity! She blinked and then turned as she coughed under her breath. Her hand slipped up and touched the wall, and as she did a sprout of violet flame appeared and began to grow along the wall. She then turned to bolt toward the door, and gave a great kick as it burst open and she flet out into the night. The creature was thudding after her, but suddenly it screamed.
Her small flaming present had crept along and when the entity gave chase it jumped upon it. A screeching inhuman noise filled the air as the tall freak turned and jumped the fence opposite of her, giving up for now. She used that moment to get a little rest as she sighed. Whatever was interested in the death of Mister Daniels was a very powerful creature. Nyla was sure that what had attacked her was guardian Fae, and likely from what she surmised either Sky or Forest Clan.
Either types of Fae could be in play with something that freakish in size. Shuddering at her experience she gripped the energy left in her body, and activated her fire contract one last time. Then turned toward her home she held her hand aloft and used it to banish any entities of a minor form that might move to molest her. By the time she arrived home she could only collapse into her bed.
Next Part: Chapter 6
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