Walk Between Shadows | Chapter 18 – Reality Bites


Walk Between Shadows | Chapter 18 – Reality Bites

 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.

When Nyla was a child she was told stories about various subjects ranging from those about her grandfather’s on both sides; stories about great men, and of lesser men. Stories that would curdle milk by simply mentioning their names. It was from these stories that Nyla learned how to see the world; how to view her family. Since being a young girl she had used the stories of her past ,and what she read about other peoples to construct a view of nihilism, and cynicism. This was an outer defense created to protect her from problems she faced as a child. Why care about things when people where hurting you? A reaction to bullying, to not being accepted, and not knowing how to truly communicate.

So for many years she was uncaring, cynical and quiet. Mostly keeping to herself Nyla plumbed her imagination, and wondered why she was different. Why did her skin feel wrong at times? Why was her memory so fragmented, and why did she dream of other strange alien places. Her dreams of course were only the beginning ,and perhaps it was a good reason that Jack O’Shadows took her in as she came of age. Nyla was a Changeling, a half-breed, someone who could walk the Shadow of the realms between mundane and whimsical madness.

For years she had lived on the brink learning what she could from Jack. Training to fight, to sense, and how to mediate the two sides of Agaera. Yet, it only got worse in a lot of ways. Her first night of breaking the edge and tasting Soulburn left the young girl with months of exhaustion, and pain. Afterward she almost became addicted to the feeling that it gave her to relish the knife’s blade of the Fury that came with pushing her soul close and closer to the wyld of the briars. Jack pulled her back from that acting as her anchor and her mentor. When she was not training she was schooling, and being taught by her parents. Though she often felt aloof from them because of her half-nature, she could tell they understood in some way. Her family had alwas been quirky, her cousins were a Japanese snow spirit, and a minor Kami.

SNAP. Something broke in the darkness? What she dreaming? Dreams could amost be real for those with a touch of the magic of Fae. That could makse sense why suddenly as her mind was slowly being pulled, no dragged, from the darkness that she was remembering things. Life flashed, and she suddenly plummted back in. Memory overtaking her as she remembered her first kiss. A fact she wanted buried back there, but no it came surfacing. It felt like she was in some kind of reflective clips show, and was stuck as the audience.

Jack’s tutelage of using magic allowed young Nyla to unlock the abilities that were locked away deep in barely mutated DNA. The first ability she unlocked after hours of Jack playing Mister Miyagi was the simple skill to view the Shadow. Most Fae could see the Shadow, and even most Changelings had some innate ability to sense it. However, because of her lineage on her father’s side, to a goddess of death; or possibly related to the time her grandfather stole the eye of Crom Cruach; she could see into the world of Spirits. The shock of staring into a wooded area filled with the dead was more than enough to almost cause her to faint. Nyla’s imagination to put it blandly was overreactive. She was a creative writer, and it was her Fae nature that allowed her to adapt quickly to situations, but it impinged upon her in a way that caused rampant anxiety attacks.

So she not only trudged through her teaching, she fought back the woes, and weary that came over it. But it still showed as a problem in how she communicated, and how she spoke. To her adult life Nyla would continually second guess her decisions, look down upon herself, and in general consider herself a reject. For a while there was sure yes some enjoyment in who she was, but like most battling with identity issues, she did not feel right. When Warren Colson threatened her away from Gerald, that had shoved her off the presicipe.

Maybe that was why she was hiding in the darkness. Instead of pushing forward she was wrapping herself up in her woes, and fears. Not a completely atypical attitude of a young supposed hero, but she did have some right to angst. That, and a very nasty blow to the back of her skull.

Then after some time light shook her being, and her eyes fluttered. A dull ache poured in and around her brain as she became cognizant of being in a bed somewhere, or some sort of soft bedding for her body. Nyla’s deep moss green eyes lazily opened only to feel piercing pain at a blatantly opened window bleeding with bright white sunlight from the cloudy day.

“Gods dammit,” she moaned. Her mouth tasted like cotton, and blood. What in the world had happened to her? Why did she taste blood in her mouth, and why was her tongue and lip hurting? That was more than unusual, that was just down right perplexing. By Odin’s damn beard, and the tits of the Morrigan, what happened to me? It was hard for her to remotely register what had occured. The only sense of feeling she possessed was the pains throbbing in her head, which were becoming worse by the second.

SHe fought back the feeling that wanted to rip her away from consciouness and send her spiraling back down into the depths of the black. The twisted kingdom of madness that would easily claw at anyone who walked her path. Nyla closed her eyes tight as the blinding white light threatened to push her headache into a full blown migraine. Already she could see the aural pattern in her vision, and she wanted to vommit. At least she could now feel her stomach. Seconds before she was unware of her body existing except for a disembodied head in a jar.

“She’s awake,” a person said beside her. Nyla slowly opened her eyes as she tried to sit up and, and found that her shoulder was stiff, and in pain. Pain today was some old unwanted ex, and it was refusing to go away. Did the doctors have morphine somewhere, she slowly wondered. Be nice if they did have some nice opiates for me to take, just not damn vicodin.

“Mom is that you?” she asked aloud as her eyes noticed the flutter of a matronly hand clutching her own. Her mother, Ronja Clarkson was a small woman with a slightly round build. Dark brown eyes holding years of wisdom, were met with a gracious caring smile. There was however a sense that her mother wanted to tell her something, and Nyla remained quiet. Nyla’s father, Samuel, was off to the side speaking on, likely someone from the state that he needed to connect with. It seemed even stranger still that her sister was not there, but at least her parents were. Jack’s miner shaped body with his large thick muscular shoulders, and shovely fingers appeared in his usual waistcoat, and white shirt along with a pair of black workman’s pants.

“Tut,” her mother said, and then added, “Rest. You nearly died.”

I nearly died. This makes what the third time now? Though that was note entirely true, the fact her mother, and father were with her in what she guessed was the hospital was truly a fact she did not relish. Her work was dangerous plain and simple, but the fact they had appeared meant a serious complication arose. Not good.

“Your concussion caused swelling in your brain, honey,” her mother told her.

“Is there like a hole in my head now?” she asked lightly.

“No, but you were in coma for a few days, and your heart had some problems.” Not good. Her half-fae nature only exascerbated her family’s already wonky genetic problems. Her uncle had Huntington’s Disease, and her sister problems with her immune system. Now it seemed that her little escapade with the Golem was going to bring out the worse in her bloodline.

“So,” she started to say as Jack took a step forward. Samuel was eying the man with a slow glare of righteous anger that turned to smoke as he noticed his daughter was awake.

“You really need to get a better job,” he told her, “and your insurance is going to go crazy with repairs for the bike.”

“Sierd,” she swore.

“Yeah kiddo the Golem apparently came back or someone lit it on fire. Its all scratched up sorry,” the aging Fae said to her with a glum look on his face. He was thinking about something she could tell. Her parents meanwhile hovered in to give their worries, and condolences. Her mother also reminded her to be more careful, and then asked if there was something she could do to kill the Golem. Nyla smiled and thank her mother to then share a hug with Ronja. Then Jack quietly asked for the room to be cleared as he had business with the patient.

Her parents were mot trutly mundane humans. They did not have the whacky half-blood status she held, but in a lot of ways they were just as in the middle of it. Her mother had the sense that Changelings often did, and could easily riddle things without trying. Her father was compassionate, and was able to calm people without really trying that hard. They were Faekin like her sister, but they were not “Fae-blooded” as most Fae would put it. It was a complex technicality that often saw her family seen as lowly in some cases, and above in others.

She waited for the morphine to kick in as she noticed a drip, and watched Jack sit astride her hospital bed.

“That Golem almost killed you kid, and you are definitely in Soulburn. You’re lucky the damn Courts did not snatch you up for openly using magic in broad daylight. They dislike it that way, but I hear Laughing Crow is smarming himself around the other Courtiers hearing that his descendant was able to light a shadow self on fire. Not a bad spell kid, not bad.”

The Dweomer, or combined magical ability she used was something that most Fae could do without trying if they had the right contracts. Nyla had pulled a rabbit out of her ass, and fought of a semitic muscle clay metal thug after reaching the end of her limits. Jack was impressed to say the least.

“Thanks Jackie,” she croaked as she realized her throat was hurting. How much of her was not hurting? This is more than simply annoying, its a damn sierding atrocity on my person. Jack was already holding a cup while conjuring a bit of water for her before she could really ask. Damn him. The Trickster had a weird way of knowing when people needed something. Something about his Fae archetype that played into his nature.

“The Golem is likely going to make another grab at you soon,” he said bluntly.

“It can hurt me from inside the Shadow,” that fact seemed to caused Jack to blink, and then gulp. The man rarely did so, and so if he did, it means things were likely Dire.

“That’s bad,” he said.

“And his owner is an adept, she’s got serious brands, all over her arm, char black even,” Nyla said after another sip to ease her voice.

“Even worse, she’s got big backers,” Jack replied.

“Any Fae willing to sign a deal with a mundane, and then give them the notes to a contract with Cold Iron?” she asked.

“No one in the entirety of Faerie is that sierding stupid, no she’s doing this on her own, or someone or something else is in play,” he surmised. Their banter went on for another hour or so. Jack relayed a list of information he had put together since the attack, including a scroll covered in Kabbalah writings that would likely disarm the clay monstrous minion. He held it out in front of her and used his thick steam shovel fingers to indicate the patterns in the ancient Hebrewic writing.

“So I shove this in its mouth and say the word for Death?” she asked, and repeated the word in Liturgical Hebrew.

“Yes that should do it. The magic used to give it life is based upon the teachings of the Elohim, you know how bloody structural those brats can be,” he told her. Nyla had met one angel in her life, a singular Cherub who had acted as a local liutenent for a powerful Throne of the Hosts. The collective Tribes that made up the supposed pure blooded folk of the non-pagan Fae. A strange thing to call a Fae pagan, since most of them were behind human mundame mythology.

“I wonder how my catholic great-grandmother would react to me fighting a Golem. Has to be a regretful sin in there somewhere,” she quipped. Jack looked at her and shook his head. Having witnessed the foundation of the Catholic Church dating back to Saint Peter, the Fae was usually hard to joke about when it came to modern religion.

“You know most of them got it wrong about Mary,” he coughed.

“Yes yes, I know I know. And his name was Rebe Yeshuah,” she commented under her breath. How many times do I have to here the Nazarene story? She swore between her mother, and Jack there was never an end to understanding faith. IN many ways they were right, and Nyla was just being stubborn. Mostly it was just her being a stubborn brat, when it came to certain facts about history.

“Right shove it in the thing’s mouth physically, and then utter or carve the word for death on its forehead. That will kill it permanently,” he told her.

“Okay, and do we know when Alchemist is thinking of going to make a move on the medicine tree?” she asked him.

“I am not sure yet, did you figure out if the runt got the contract with Cold Iron?” he countered.

“Same, I don’t know.” She was starting to feel like vommitting again and notice a small thing of horrible hospital jello on a small table near her bed.

“Great,” he grunted.

“We’re going to have to trick or smoke her out.” A horrible, and dangerous option. Unless they acted soon the Alchemist could do many of a variety of things. The most dangerous options were to either disappear and resurface later on, or use the ability of a deal with Cold Iron to harm someone gravely. A single block of Cold Iron which bore a contract with the world could quietly easily kill twenty Fae at least. Nyla knew something though, and as she sat there glaring at that horrible jello she then blurted out.

“Of course the deal is not done, she needs the tree to anchor the deal to Agaera,” she smiled at that little epiphany. It made sense, blood only sealed the initials of the contract. An actual act had to take place to seal it permanently and anchor the magical transformation that would be undertaken across the world.

“One medicine tree is not enough to do that, she could make create a zone of Cold Iron, but not world wide. That would require a larger scale crew, and there’s no indication she’s working with anyone, yet.” Jack was right about that. The Alchemist likely wanted the Cold Iron locally so she could either force a means of saving her sanity, or worse, possibly learning more powerful and deadlier forms of blood magic. Oh the options of chaos,and destruct were numerous at that point. Its like sierdin whack-a-mole!

“The docs told us ye’ll need a week or so ta rest.” Jack was already showing his busy mind as he was muttering to himself in some old language not likely spoken by living mundanes anymore. The man was then rummaging around in his many pockets and producing a series of items upon his side of the bed. She could only watched as a pocket watch, a crucifix, a pentagram, a small figurine of shiva, and other strange items started to populate an area upon her bed. In fact the small pile was no longer not so small.

“What are you looking for?” she questioned him. He was busy arranging everything into neat little orderly piles and ignored the needed to do much more. Her eyes were intent upon counting the items and identifying them. Jack mumbled on for a few more minutes before reaching what appeared to be an old compass. His large hands then picked up the item and held it delicately with great care. The man was determined to use the strange little items for a reasons unknown to her.

“This compass was taken from a man sailing through the arctic circle, and he died up there. Supposedly killed by a Russian Yeti,” the man told her quietly. Each item she had seen in some form before, and was use to hearing the unearthly tales attached to each. Jack collected such items as they held power in them. Magic was not always in the work of the Fae, but sometimes in the spirit embued into inanimate objects by those who use them.

“He was so dogged in his search for the mysterious ancient city said to dwell at the top of the world,” he smiled. She froze. The compass was from a man who had likely gone mad seeking the ancient city of Thule. That was bad. The little compass likely held a stray thought of that corrupted place. Why does Jack have -that-?

“Obsession will lead us with obsession no?” he said looking back at her while holding the small little metal item in his hand. It was working slowly, wobbling violetly as if it could not at all find polar north.

“So its a desire obsession…a stalker compass,” she said working through the words. Did her brain just randomly drop information like a broken computer. Focus was loosening as she wobbled in her seat.

“In a way,” he said and sighed.

“We can pick this up in a bit,” he told her as he sat up, and suddenly allt he items from earlier were gone. All disappearing back into the man’s many pockets in a manner only a Fae could. His actions caught her slightly off-guard. Resting like this was not usually how Jack worked, letting her have time was unheard of. Whatever the Alchemist was doing had shaken her mentor on a level sh ehad never seen before. But she could not help, but wonder. What else was going on? The Alchemist was not the only problem she was facing. Something was wrong with her, she could tell.

“Jack what are you not telling me?” she broke the quiet. Her mentor’s reaction was to face her and give her an odd expression she could not remotely place. It was a mixture of remorse, and much – much more.

“I’ll speak to you about it in a bit,” he held held the compass in front of her in his great shovel like hand. How his hands could be shovel like she could only begin to describe. They were thick fingered, with careful flat square nails. Yet, his hands did not always look that way. In fact they changed now and then, the -just- changed. More of that weird inhuman knack the Fae carried with them.

“This compass is able to sense obsession, but we must hone it. This will require a bit of blood from the assailant or something close.” He was suggesting they use a blood ritual to find the nutcase playing localized god-child. That alone only seemed to bring everything into greater perspective for Nyla. This was not at all what she had expected from a case. The Siren incident had been more than crazy, this was just insane. Whoever the Alchemist was they were deeply gripped in the conspiracy of something over a hundred years old. Typical.

Everything that was on this level of dangerous always dated back over fifty years. There had to be some kind of membership card for the guild of villainous intent out there. To create such nonsensical calamity on a mass scale. So far though, the Alchemist had kept things small. That was good, for now. For now the situation as not -yet- completely out of whack. Though she did possess that little niggling succint feeling that it was about to boil over. These problems always did. Once some nut case decided to start playing god, there was always a point break.

“What is the something else Jackie?” shed asked him, and gave her mentor a small snap of her finger. He had stopped talking for a while after getting lost in his own machinations. A being of his age often easily got lost in their memory.

“Yours of course,” he replied in a matter of fact tone that edged on outright bone chilling sociopathy.

“How much this time?” It was not the first time she would have given blood for a ritual. Most of the more specified forms of magic required blood, something about an ancient contract with living creatures to cemented its ability to seek out the living.

“A drop or two,” he replied. His face was smiling in a way that was outright psychopathic. Only Fae could smile like that normally and not really realize what they were doing. Even humans normally understood that such expressions were wrong down into their creepy uncanny core.

“Not now,.”

“Of course not, you need to be healthy, we’ll make an attempt in a week once we near the celebration of the winter solstice,” he smiled. Shit. The Winter Solstice was getting that close, very bad, very bad! Her mind race as the sedatives started to kick in.

“Later princess,” he said to her before darkness over took her once again.

Next Part: Chapter 19

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