A Whateley Academy Short Story
Wednesday, May 16th, 2007, dinnertime
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
When my cell phone beeped to tell me I had a message and I saw the number, I tried really hard not to show it, but I was a little nervous, and I guess that my team-mates and friends noticed.
"What's up?" Evvie asked between bites of her salad, beating Naomi, Laurie, and Addy to the question.
"Nothing important," I said, trying to downplay the message. I looked longingly at a big slice of ice-cream-covered apple pie and sighed. "Gotta run."
"Before dessert?" Naomi asked, jaw agape in shock. "What's going on, Kayda? You don't pass up apple pie for anything!"
"Stuff with my magic spikes," I lied. From the looks on their faces, I wasn't convincing. "Who wants my apple pie?"
Vasiliy grabbed it before anyone could speak up, and I don't think anyone wanted to- argue with an energizer - putting a limb between an energizer and his food was an invitation to lose said limb. I carried my tray to the conveyor belt, then, for safety's sake, popped up my shield spell and walked briskly out of the cafeteria. Most students were still going in, so there was a bit of a door dance before I was out in the late spring air, which, given the latitude and elevation of Whateley, was a touch cool. At least it wasn't hot and humid; I disliked that part of summers in East River, South Dakota, the most.
It took moment at a fast trot to reach the tall A-lister's dorm, and a brief elevator ride had me on the fifth floor. There were a few students about, and I couldn't help but wince at the way some of the boys stared at me. It was my own fault, I supposed, for wearing my buckskin dress, since I didn't get to wear it much during the class hours because of the stupid uniform rules Hardass was making me adhere to.
I started down the hall the wrong way, which wasn't surprising, since I didn't live in Melville. It also didn't help that my friends Addy and Alicia's room, four-oh-seven on the floor on the floor below, was right beside the elevator, so I didn't know from visiting them which way the numbering went. A quick read of the door numbers told me I was heading into the boy's section. That was confirmed when a door opened and a boy stepped out, halting suddenly before he bumped into me. A look of utter disdain spread quickly across his features. "The section you're interested in is the other way," he snapped, "unless you've decided to come over to the right side of the street!"
I shook my head, trying to do what Lanie would have done. "Not even in your dreams," I said, tilting my head up just a bit to look unflapped - like Lanie would do. I turned and marched down the hall the opposite direction.
"Damned lezzie bitch!" the guy muttered angrily behind me. I ignored him, looking for room five-twelve.
The door opened on the first knock, and I was pulled into a tight hug, which I returned. "Are you okay?" I asked softly.
Elaine Schroepfer tried to not cry, but she couldn't. "Nein," she said, and I could feel wetness from where her tear-streaked cheek was pressed against mine. I just hugged her, not sure what to say.
A couple of minutes later, another knock sounded on the door, and Elaine answered, "Come in," without letting go of me. Something had really upset her. No sooner had the newcomer opened the door than the two of us were swept into her arms as well.
"What's wrong?" Maria Ricardo, the new faculty member and 'leader' of our tiny support group asked Skybolt.
Anyone could tell that she was trying to keep up a good front, but she failed. "It's ... it's Cav!" she wailed softly. "I ... I asked him ... to come ... to a meeting," she began to sob, "and ... and he got mad! He ... he was furious! He said ... that he ... that he ... didn't need help," she managed to get out through her tears. "He ... he said ... it was for ... for girls like me!"
After a few seconds of hugging her, I realized that Maria was looking at me, a peculiar expression on her face. "What?"
"You're ... a shaman, aren't you?" she asked, adding quickly, "Isn't there some shaman magic you can do?"
I sighed. "I'm a shaman-in-training," I said sadly. "And you should know better than all of us - you can't make a person get treatment."
"Can you talk to him? Maybe?" Sky managed to ask. "You're ... you're the one ... person besides me ... whose ... rape ... is known." She had a pleading look in her eyes, and she sounded a bit desperate. "Maybe ... maybe he'll listen ... to you? He's ... I'm afraid he's getting ... seriously depressed!"
I shuddered inside. I didn't want to talk to someone I didn't know about those events. I really, really, didn't want to. Nevertheless, I found myself agreeing. "Yeah, I can ... I can try." I shuddered, knowing that I might have to relieve that horrible rape and beating.
Wednesday, May 16th, 2007, evening
Near Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
I sat in one of the little sitting nooks on campus, avoiding the coolness of the spring evening by using a warming spell. I felt the sky spirit and the earth spirit, and satisfied that no-one was near, I cast a shield spell around myself.
I knelt down by the fire circle and began to brew some tea, mixing the herbs in the clay pot, and then put a small heated rock into the bowl with everything. Instantly, steam flashed off the hot rock, and as the heat spread, the water began to boil, but within seconds, the water had sucked the heat out of the rock. As Wakan Tanka had taught me, part of the art of making tea - or soup - this way was to judge the right size of rock. Too big and the liquid would boil too vigorously and even dangerously. Too small and the water wouldn’t be heated enough. A simple metal pot that could be directly heated over a fire seemed like such a life-changing development after experiencing the ancient craft of the Lakota.
Wakan Tanka walked in and sat beside me, silently nodding her approval. I poured some of the liquid into one of the clay cups and poured more for myself. After she took a sip and inhaled some of the delightful aroma, pausing to let the warmth spread from her belly, she asked, "What troubles you, Wihakayda?"
"I ... I was asked to try to help a student ... who was horribly abused," I said, wincing. "They're expecting some shaman magic, but I don't know how I can help him."
Wakan Tanka shook her head, sighing, and then she took another sip. "A shaman's magic can heal a body. To heal a mind or a spirit is not so easy. You must do what you think is right."
"But ... he's so badly wounded in spirit!" I protested. I guess I was really hoping she'd tell me I didn't know enough yet.
"So were you," Wakan Tanka reminded me. "Now you must go. Two children approach in the real world."
Skybolt and Cavalier were standing by the wall of the sitting nook, looking askance at me. It was easy to see that Cavalier was skeptical; the look he was giving me was dubious at best. If it wasn't for the haunted look in his eyes, he would have looked dashing, but the pain in his eyes belied that.
I unfolded my legs and stood, dropping my shield and practically dancing over to Sky. "Hi," I said, giving her a big, reassuring sisterly hug.
Cavalier's look changed from skeptical to concerned, and possibly even jealous. I knew immediately what he was thinking. "Yes," I acknowledged to him with a confident smile, "I'm a lesbian." Lanie was right - it was getting easier and easier every time, increasing my confidence. "And due to ... events ... " I winced; the memories were still brutally fresh, "everyone on campus knows. But I have a girlfriend, and I'm not interested in your Elaine. In case you never noticed, girls hug a lot." I released my embrace of Skybolt and turned to Cav, taking both his hands in mine as a friendly - and hopefully reassuring - gesture. "I'm Kayda."
"Yes," he said unenthusiastically. "I know." He shook his head. "I'm sorry to 'ear ... what you went through."
"Shit happens," I said, trying to make light of that entire debacle.
He looked down, shaking his head. "I don't know why I'm 'ere," he said softly. "It ... I don't need ...."
I put my hand under his chin and lifted it until he was looking at me in the eyes. He was startled, and as I gazed into his eyes, he tried to fight me. "I know the feelings you are experiencing," I said with conviction.
That stirred his anger. "Nobody knows what I went through!"
"Oh?" I asked, arching an eyebrow. "Does that include Elaine? I thought she'd gone through the same ordeal that you went through."
"That was different for 'er." He said, tearing his chin out of my grasp and looking down. "It's ... not the same."
"Because you're a guy?" I demanded. He nodded slightly. "Can I trust you?" I asked, surprising both him and Skybolt.
"Uh ... why?" he stammered.
"Because I know more about how you feel than anyone else on campus, and I might be able to help you. But I have to show you something, and I need to know that you won't betray my secret, so once more - can I trust you?" I asked with firm conviction.
Sky slipped to Cav's side, wrapping her arm around his waist and lifting her head toward his ear. "Trust her," she whispered to him, loudly enough that I could her.
"Why?" he asked her.
I interrupted before Sky could answer. "Because if you agree, I'm going to show you some things that have to be kept secret. So I repeat - can I trust you?"
Cav looked at me, and then he looked questioningly at Sky. "Yes," he finally said. "You can trust me."
"You'll tell no-one? Not even Sky?"
This got Skybolt's eyes open wide, and Cav glanced at her, wondering what could be such a huge secret that he couldn't even tell his girlfriend. When he glanced at her, she was biting her lip, lost in thought for a moment. Then she simply nodded.
"Oui," Cavalier said. "Not even Sky."
"Okay," I said, already knowing what I had to do. "Elaine, can you move about seven feet - um, two meters - away from us?" Before she could ask a question, I explained, "I will be ... dream-walking with Cav and ...." Both sets of eyes widen in terror, and both flinched. "Don't worry," I assured them. "I have no casting circle. This uses no spells. You will not be bound."
The two of them exchanged wary glances. "I have done this with many people," I assured them. "Anna Parsons, Elaine Nalley, Wyatt Cody ...."
At Wyatt's name, Cavalier goggled at me. "The Kodiak? You dream-walk with the Kodiak?"
"He visits my dream-space ... perhaps too often," I added with a wry smile.
Cav and Sky exchanged another glance, and then Cav nodded hesitantly. Skybolt backed away, sitting on a bench a bit apart from me, and then Cav sat down cross-legged on the ground after I did.
"This will be a little odd," I explained, "but you'll be in my dream-world. It's my private space to share with my spirits. In it, we can see ... dreams and visions and memories." He gulped, and then I reached out and touched his forehead as I invoked the shaman magic.
May 16, 2007, late evening
The March of Dreams, Dream Space of the Ptesanwi
Cavalier looked around himself, speechless at the Native American village we were in. It was evening, just like it had been at Whateley, but the air didn't have the spring chill; rather, it felt like a warm, comfortable summer night. I knew from looking at his appearance how damaged he was; one's appearance in the Dream World matched one's own internal self-image. In Cav's case, though he was mostly recognizably a Kings Musketeer, he looked haggard and defeated. His hat was soiled and torn, the adorning plume bent, stained, and hardly graceful or ornamental, and instead of the expected dapper, royal blue tabard, his was faded and moth-eaten, and his sword rusty and bent. Bandages adorned one arm, and one pants leg was cut and blood-stained. He looked old and worn, his beard and moustache ratty and unkempt, matching his graying hair - hardly a dashing hero as I was sure he'd once appeared.
Around us was my usual village - a dozen or so tepees in a double ring around the fire burning brightly in center fire circle, but the village was empty of people, as it usually was. "Is this ... real?" Cav asked in an awe-struck voice.
"This is my spiritual center," I explained. "In my dream-space."
"What about ... the real world?" he asked nervously. He seemed edgy, his worn body still trying to be ready for surprises, but unable because of the ravages of time and unhealed injuries that his own mental image had projected upon himself.
"I put a shield spell around our physical bodies to protect them, and Skybolt is keeping watch. It'll be okay," I explained.
For the first time, he seemed to notice how he was dressed. "Why ... am I dressed like this?"
I smiled. "It is the world of dreams. It is how you see yourself." I said sadly. "Somehow, I pictured you as more of a French Foreign Legion type. You know, Beau Geste and all that." I couldn't help but sigh. "How you appear in the dream world betrays how you feel about yourself, your own self-image."
"Why ... did you bring me 'ere?"
Wakan Tanka emerged from her tepee and walked almost regally to the fire circle. "Make us some tea, Wihakayda," she said in Lakota, but where it could have sounded imperious and superior, she made it sound inviting and friendly - as I knew she was. As I began to fix the tea, Wakan Tanka sat and pointed at a log. "Please, be seated." I guessed that she'd learned a little bit of English from the time I'd been spending - probably by tapping into my mind. It was a relief knowing I didn't have to translate everything, but it was also a bit creepy.
Jean-Michel looked nervously at Wakan Tanka, then at me, and then back at my spirit. "Uh," he muttered, confused by our similarity, "I'm not sure ...."
"Sit," I said as I put a hot rock into the pot to boil the water. "It's more comfortable. And more polite," I added with a smile.
Cavalier sat, not taking his eyes off the two of us who were, as far as he could tell, nearly twins. "Why ... did you bring me 'ere? What are you going to do?"
Wakan Tanka smiled, while I put the ingredients into the steaming water. "Wihakayda is a shaman."
"What is she saying?" Cav asked, still eyeing me warily.
"She says that I'm a shaman," I replied, still working on the tea.
Wakan Tanka spoke some more in Lakota with a sad smile, and I translated. "She says that a shaman heals others. It is part of being a shaman. And you need to be healed."
Cav started to rise indignantly. "There's nothing wrong with me," he protested angrily.
"Sit," Wakan Tanka said firmly, enough to startle Cav into sitting back down. "A shaman helps heal the body and the mind. I know that you fight demons in your own mind," Wakan Tanka explained. "And you need to be healed so you are in control, not your demons."
"She said that a shaman helps heal the body as well as the mind, and that she can tell you fight demons in your mind. She says that you need to be healed so your demons don't control you," I loosely translated.
I handed Wakan Tanka a cup of tea, and then gave one to Cav before taking my own cup. "This is a mild healing potion," I explained quickly. "It helps calm you as well." Cav's eyebrows shot up, not surprisingly considering how he'd been mentally enslaved. "Mindbird really likes it to help her relax after a stressful day." I smiled with a hint of amusement. "Although Wyatt remains unconvinced."
Cav relaxed a bit, but he still watched us warily as Wakan Tanka and I took a few sips. I enjoyed the feeling of calm that permeated me as the tea worked its magic.
"Are you sure about this?" I asked Wakan Tanka in Lakota, feeling uneasy about trying to help where Dr. Bellows and expert psychiatrists hadn't been able.
"Who are you?" Wakan Tanka asked evenly, giving me a knowing look.
"I'm Kayda - Wihakayda," I answered without hesitation.
"You are Ptesanwi, a shaman, the first of my People," Wakan Tanka said. "From the line of shamans extending back to ... the Kodiak and Grizzly."
That little revelation startled me. "But ...."
"But nothing. You are a shaman, a healer. And a shaman always thinks of how to heal others first." She rose gracefully and walked back to her tepee, casually brushing aside the tent flap and letting it fall behind her.
I stood, staring after her and wondering what I was supposed to do when I felt the Earth Spirit telling me that we were getting a visitor. Tatanka plodded noisily so he wouldn't startle Cavalier; still, the European student was shocked to see a large white bison amble into the camp. He stared at Cav for several seconds, and then nudged him to one side with a small sweep of his head.
"'ey!" Cav protested, annoyed. Unafraid, he pushed back on the big bison's head. "I was sitting 'ere!"
"Why did you push me?" Tatanka asked.
Cav goggled at the talking white bison. "Erp," he stammered, "uh ... you pushed me first. I was sitting 'ere before you came." He was visibly uneasy with a talking, pushy, white bison.
"Then why do you not push back against the demons in your mind?"
Cav stared at the white animal, his jaw moving but no words came out for a while. Finally, he hung his head. "You wouldn't understand," he said bitterly. "It's ... not something I can talk about to people who don't understand."
"Wihakayda understands," Tatanka said evenly. I stared at the animal uneasily. Though I'd realized that I might have to show certain events to Cav to break through his stubborn resistance, I expected that to be a last resort. But Tatanka was taking that choice away from me, forcing me to reveal something that terrified me. I had planned to show him the brutal rape only. Tatanka was making me show more.
Cav hung his head, shaking it sadly, still holding his half-empty cup of tea. "I ... 'eard about what happened to you," he said to me, his voice barely above a whisper. "And I know it was 'orrible."
"But?" I asked, knowing instinctively that there was more he wasn't saying.
"But ..." he muttered, shaking his head, looking down. "You're a girl. You just wouldn't understand."
Tatanka took a sniff of Cavalier. "He smells honorable," he pronounced after considering the French junior.
"I told you, I ... try to keep my 'onor," Cav protested indignantly. "Even with all that 'appened."
"Show him, Wihakayda," Tatanka suggested very strongly, almost ordering me.
"But ...." To be honest, I was scared stiff of what Tatanka was suggesting, because the memories still terrified me. I realized, at the crucial moment, I was too afraid of those memories to reveal my own secrets.
"You are a shaman," Tatanka continued, reminding me once more of what was expected of me. "Show him."
"Show me what?" Cav asked, confused.
With great effort, I forced my worries to the back of my mind. "What I was talking about earlier. Don't worry - there will be a point where I reveal this to Skybolt, too." I stood, offering my hand to help him to his feet. I led him away from the fire, into the night; slowly, the world morphed into a black void, but so slowly that Cav didn't seem to notice. I stopped then and turned, releasing his hand.
I focused, and after a moment, I felt myself splitting. Soon, both my Brandon-self and my Kayda-self were standing side-by-side. Cavalier stood, gawking at us, totally stunned and quite confused. "What ... is this?"
"Watch," I said, flinching at the memories I was about to unleash. Maybe Kodiak had helped me with them, but they were still terrifying. That I would release and relive them on purpose was more than a little nerve-wracking.
As we watched, I relieved my manifestation, from the point I'd collapsed. The others saw me; some were frightened, but more became irrational and violent. I held my Brandon-self's hand tightly, feeling him trembling as much as I was, while we saw the boys chase down my Brandon-self and beat him nearly to death, then pitching his broken, bleeding body out of the gym into the snow. I don't know if my Kayda-self or my Brandon-self was shaking worse from watching - and that was the easy one to watch. But Wakan Tanka and Tatanka expected me to be a shaman, so ....
Cav looked warily at the two of us. "Okay. But that's ...."
Shaking badly, I shook my head, knowing my Brandon-self clinging tightly to me was doing the same. "That's not all of our story. There's ... more."
We watched the second assault, and I felt my Brandon-self trying to slip into me, hugging me tightly at the awful memories I was dredging up. We relieved the assault, from the cars screeching to a halt, boxing in my truck, to the hands ripping me from the truck, pawing at me, ripping off my clothes, beating me mercilessly between rapes. The abuse unleased on my body had me fighting the PTSD that I knew would never go away, and I felt tears on my cheeks. Eventually the scene ended when I mercifully lost consciousness. Shaking, crying softly, I held my Brandon-self tightly.
"I ... I don't understand," Cav stammered, shaken himself at the brutal gang-rape and attempted murder.
It took me several long seconds to recover my composure enough to speak. "Those two events were one week apart," I said, my voice trembling. "And ..." I winced, not sure how to proceed.
My Brandon-self hesitated only slightly before picking up the narrative. "Those happened to the same person."
Cav's eyes narrowed. "I ... don't understand," he said slowly.
"That was us, the two parts of Kayda, two halves of the same person," Brandon explained, trembling at the awful memories.
"I still don't understand?" Cav asked, confused and shocked at what he'd been shown. "What does the beating of the boy 'ave to do with the beating and rape of the girl?"
I took a deep breath. "When I manifested," I said uneasily, "I ... changed from him," I nodded at my Brandon-self beside me, "to me. We," I held onto my Brandon-self, "are two sides of the same person."
"You ... you were a boy?" Cav stammered, goggling at us at the news.
"And mentally, when I was raped, I was still a boy. In my mind. I was still male when it happened." Brandon shook visibly, his words an effort.
"You ....?" Cav didn't know what to say.
"I ... blamed my Kayda-self for the rape. I claimed to myself that she was weak, and that my Brandon-self could have fought, could have avoided the ugly incident." Brandon explained. I pulled my Brandon-self's hand, and he eagerly merged back until we felt whole together again.
We weren't done with the awful memories. We showed Cav some of our PTSD episodes, when mere contact with a male sent us into a panic attack, even bordering on catatonia, although we skipped the memory of the first encounter with Ayla, the one that had put us in Doyle.
"Why ... are you showing me this?" Cav asked, baffled and a little unnerved by the brutal beatings and rape he'd witnessed.
I was still trembling, still fighting my own demons at the brutal memories; thankfully, Kodiak had helped me quite a bit, or I would have probably had a full-blown PTSD episode. As it was, it was still excruciatingly painful to watch again.
"Because she wants you to know that you are not alone, that she understands only too well the trauma and pain and indignity you suffered as a male," Tatanka said, appearing out of the darkness. "Wihakayda understands. She - Ptesanwi - can help, but only if you want to be helped. Only if you can admit that someone else understands, and that you are not alone in the indignity and self-loathing a male rape victim feels."
I nodded, taking his hand to lead him back to the campground. I could see in his eyes that he was stunned, and probably concerned, by how much I was still shaking from having relived my own nightmare. "Dr. Bellows suggested to Maria and Elaine that I talk with you, although they didn't know why." There was no point in revealing that Maria did know why since she'd been a Poesie. "Dr. Bellows knows, but he couldn't tell them - or you. He knows that I understand some of your humiliation, some of what you feel inwardly, and that maybe, because of that, I can help you in ways that Maria and Elaine and he can't."
We sat back down at the fire circle, and I poured two more cups of tea from the still-steaming pot. "Now what?" he asked as he took the tea from me.
"Now," I said, "you will have to go through the same process I went through - that I'm still going through. You will need to face your memories to understand them - and to understand yourself." I smiled, a thin, forced effort. "It won't be easy. There will be times you are terrified of the memories, just like I was ... am ... of mine. But together - and sometimes with Sky, we will help you." I paused, thinking for a moment. "You need to accept and understand that you were a victim, that there was nothing that you could have done. And to do that, you will have to confront those memories until you give up the foolish notion that you could have fought back. You have to accept that you were helpless." I sighed heavily, knowing that I was still doing the same thing. "For a guy, admitting that is ... very difficult. I'll help you if you let me. The Kodiak will help if you let him."
Cavalier stood, silently contemplating what he'd been shown. "But," he said after a long silence, his voice trembling, "you don't think I relive those memories every night? That I'm not 'aunted by every single thing that 'appened to me?" I could tell that he was, at that moment, mentally reliving some of the horror.
"Like I still am. But I'm healing, and if I can conquer my demons, then you can as well."
Cav sat silently for several moments, trembling at the prospect of facing his own memories, so Tatanka nudged him slightly. "You will not tell anyone what you saw here?"
Cav shook his head. "No," he replied in a quavering, unsteady voice. "If I did, it would bring pain to Kayda, and she's suffered enough already."
"We both have," I said, reaching to clasp his shoulder. "We both have."
Cavalier looked at me, trembling, and then, as he considered that I did understand, I could see in his demeanor and expression that some of the nightmares were replaying in his mind, triggered no doubt by watching the scene of my rape. He collapsed, weeping, onto my shoulder, and I held him tightly. "I ... I'm ... so dirty!" he cried. "I feel ... 'elpless, and violated!"
I nodded. "I know. I felt the same. And I still do sometimes."
"I ... I want to make it go away," he sobbed.
"Then I'll help - any way I can," I reassured him.
May 16th, 2007, late evening
Near Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
We came out of dream space, and Cavalier started shaking badly - frightened of the prospect of seeing his own nightmares with same vivid detail that he'd seen in my nightmares. Sky darted in as soon as I lowered my shield, and the two lovers clung together, Skybolt giving him all the support and comfort she could. She turned her head, looking at me, not knowing if she should be grateful or angry.
"I showed him that he's not alone, but that others understand what he went through," I explained quickly to calm her fears. "It's a start. He has a long road to walk to confront the memories and realize that he was a helpless victim, like we all were."
After hugging for several more minutes, Cav straightened out, turned, and embraced me briefly. "It's terrifying to think of facing my own nightmares," he said softly. "But ... will you 'elp me?"
Sky nodded, lightly pulling his arms from around me and slipping into his desperate embrace. "Thank you," she mouthed over his shoulder toward me.
Friday, May 18th, 2007, Late afternoon
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
The difference in Skybolt was apparent without even having to look; she had a number of piercings back in, and she looked completely devastated psychologically. The spark of life was gone, or severely dimmed; her head hung a little lower, her eyes seemed less lively, the smile she'd been showing with her increasing self-confidence was gone.
"What happened?" I asked, jumping to my feet and wrapping her in a hug.
"They ... they can't come out!" she replied, starting with sobs and ending in full-blown wailing.
"What do you mean, they can't come out?" I asked, baffled.
The girl with Skybolt, her roommate Stunner, sighed and shook her head. "The areas around where the piercings were started to infect really badly and ... decay. Apparently, Hekate put some kind of curse on them, so if they get taken out, the place they were starts to rot and die."
"I had to have them all ... put back!" Skybolt wailed.
"Did Circe or Dr. Tenent look at them?"
Skybolt nodded, crying. "Yes," she said softly. "And they can't find any magic. Just like they couldn't find the magic of the mind-slave spell." She started shaking as she sobbed. "I'm stuck like this ... forever!"
I was instantly reminded of the copper spikes and the snake-demon's hide. "Come with me," I said, taking her hand. Without a word of where we were going, I led her out of the cafeteria at a determined pace.
"Where are you taking me?" she asked, baffled by my rapid pace and grim determination.
"Kirby Hall," I announced.
"I was there," Skybolt protested. "And they couldn't do anything. They couldn't even find magic on all the ... piercings!" Tears ran down her cheeks. "So I'm stuck with these horrible things!"
"They also couldn't find magic on my copper spikes," I told her, "but I could." I shot her a quick smile. "Maybe, maybe because I'm a shaman and my magic works a bit differently, I might be able to detect some of the ... taint ... the magic spell left. Maybe." I winced because I was afraid that I might not be able to do anything. "I don't want to get your hopes up, because it might not work. So we'll try, okay?"
We were in luck; Circe was still in her office. I knocked on the door frame to get her attention from the paperwork she was shuffling through. She looked up almost like she was glad to have an excuse to distract her from whatever it was she was doing, and as soon as she recognized me and Sky in the door, she let out a heavy sigh.
"Why did I have a feeling you were going to get into the middle of this?" she asked with a weary frown.
I winced at her implied admonition. "Um, I was thinking that maybe, since I am a little more sensitive to a different kind of shamanic magic ...."
Circe let her head hang down, shaking it slowly as she signed again. "Kayda, if there's anything here, it's Mythos magic! Do you have any idea just how dangerous that is?"
"You and Ms. Grimes couldn't detect the magic on the Mishibijiw's copper spikes," I countered. "So maybe I'm a little more sensitive to whatever Hekate used because it's a different kind of magic."
"It's too dangerous!"
"Can I at least try to see if I can detect it?" I pleaded. I wanted to try to help Skybolt; she and Maria had been very helpful to me when I'd had a couple of nightmares and flashbacks. "Please?"
Circe winced as she drew in a sharp breath, her eyes narrowed in concern. "Why do I suspect that if I let you do this, you'll go beyond just detecting and try to do more?"
I dropped my eyes; Circe - and indeed probably the entire Magical Art staff - knew me a little too well, it seemed. "Uh, I promise..." I said, hoping that she'd give in.
Circe studied me intently for several unnerving seconds, like she was reading my thoughts and intentions. "Wizard's Contract? You'll do no more than examine Skybolt without explicit permission from me or Ms. Grimes?"
"Or Dr. Tenent?" I added, hoping to get her to give me a little more latitude.
"Me or Ms. Grimes." She extended her hand.
I glanced at Skybolt, who was a little confused by our brief dialog, and then I took Circe's hand. "Done," I grumbled. She'd boxed me in neatly, and judging from the smile on her face, she knew it.
"Don't expect anything," Circe cautioned both Sky and me. "We couldn't find any magic."
"I have to try," I replied firmly. "Wakan Tanka keeps reminding me that I'm a shaman and that I'm supposed to help people." I took Skybolt's hand. "Let's go to your room."
"My room?" she asked nervously.
I nodded. "I need to do a little ritual, and we need privacy."
"You can use one of our casting rooms if you'd like."
Skybolt blanched, her entire body trembling, and I noticed. So did Circe. "No," I declined quickly. "I don't think ...."
Circe immediately read my intent. "I understand. Very well. I presume you'll report to me when you've finished whatever shaman magic you do?"
"Yes, ma'am." I turned, leading Elaine quickly out of Circe's office before she changed her mind and added more conditions, and then out into the hall of Kirby, past the magic barrier. I smiled to myself - it was nice to be able to pass through the barrier again now that my magic wasn't sealed and my core essence was relit.
May 18th, 2007, Late afternoon
Room 502, Melville Cottage, Whateley Academy
Stunner was still at Crystal Hall having dinner, so we had the privacy needed for the ritual I had to do. "I, um, er," I stammered, "I need you to ... undress," I finished, wincing and blushing because of the rather ... personal nature of my request.
Her eyes looked like they were going to bug out cartoon-style. "What?" she asked, not quite sure she'd heard me right.
"You need to be ... naked," I repeated, still feeling quite embarrassed. "I ... need to mark you and your piercings with an herbal mix. And your clothes would get in the way." She hesitated, staring at me.
"Okay, let's get something clear, okay? Yes, I am a lesbian. I admitted it in the hearing, and I haven't denied it since. Yes, I had an affair with Lanie. And yes, you are an attractive girl. But I've got a girlfriend and I'm not interested in you that way. I don't make a habit out of running around hitting on girls. Okay?" I tried to smile. "I promise I won't do anything that's not required for the magic, okay?"
Skybolt thought a moment, and then she nodded fractionally. "Okay." She didn't sound quite convinced; if I'd have been abused like she had, I'm not sure I would have trusted someone in my position either. Not completely.
"While you get undressed and lie down on your bed, I'm going to consult my spirit in my dream-space to make sure I do this right - and that I take precautions to protect both of us." Before she could answer, I sat down, cross-legged, and let myself slip into dream space.
Wakan Tanka was waiting for me at the fire - with all the fixings of a stronger healing tea waiting for me to brew them. When I saw that, I sighed heavily and let my head hang, which drew a chuckle from her. "What is the white man's saying - practice makes perfect? You still need to practice, at least with the stronger spells and teas.
"You know what I wish to do?" I asked as I sat down.
"Yes. You will need extra essence for this, because it is more complicated than detecting the contaminated spikes. Speaking of which," she interrupted her own train of thought, "have you located the missing spike?"
I rolled my eyes upward so I could glare at her since I'd been looking down to make the tea. "Are you kidding?" I demanded harshly. "With all the crap that's been going on?"
"You must locate that spike. It is dangerous to others, and when you complete the set, it will make powerful charms and totems for you."
"Yeah, you told me," I replied impatiently.
"Now, listen carefully, and follow my directions. We will add magic to the tea you made so that it will give protection against some of the darker magics, like that of Unhcegila and other demons."
I must have been improving - or my exemplar memory was better, because I remembered the instructions clearly after the first practice. Then we went through a new spell, complete with an herbal brew that would help me locate and characterize any magic that might lie on a person. For battle, it was impractical, but as she reminded me, shamans seldom fought. Kody and I were going to have to talk to her about that - with the Bastard awakening, I was going to have to learn to use powerful magic in battle.
And that reminded me that I hadn't spent a lot of time practicing control of my Will and storing essence. I'd have to look up Fey to see if I could get more tutoring after I finished this little exercise.
It felt as though I'd spent hours practicing the spells under the extremely strict tutelage of Wakan Tanka in dream-space because she was adamant about precision on the protection spells and then the magic divining spell. In reality, though, the time difference meant it only took a couple of minutes in real-space, because Elaine was still taking off her underwear when I came back out of dream-space.
I gasped involuntarily when I saw the extent of her piercings, and she flinched, looking very distraught. She had double nipple piercings, multiple piercings in her vaginal area, and a geometric pattern of piercings in and around in her navel. All told, she probably had thirty-five or forty piercings mutilating her body. I felt a rage growing within me, a hatred for a girl that I didn't even know who would be so sadistic as to do this to a defenseless girl who'd been mind-raped and enslaved and abused. I could sense Wakan Tanka's anger burning within me. If I'd been determined to help her before, I was doubly-determined now.
As if the piercings weren't bad enough, Elaine also had several very trashy-looking tats, all clearly designed by a very sadistic bitch to utterly degrade and humiliate her. As I stared, it seemed that the tattoos had a pattern to them, something that seemed almost familiar. Were they even really tattoos? Or were they glyphs, spell circles or curses etched into her body with the ink of the tattoos? I guessed that I'd find out soon enough.
Using a couple of ceramic coffee cups, I mixed up two cups of the new potion that Wakan Tanka had taught me. As they flashed and began to steam, I explained to Skybolt. "This is an herbal potion which will help you relax and will help me focus my magic on you. It's also like a ... contrast medium," I added. "It will temporarily put essence in your body, and that will help me read any magic patterns that are in or on you, okay?"
She nodded, and as I drank my tea, she drank hers. I could see her relaxing a little, and I could sense the essence flowing into her.
"Lie down on your bed, and try to relax," I said, struggling to control my anger to help soothe Skybolt. It wouldn't help her remain calm if I gave rise to my feelings of disgust and hatred of what had been done to her. Mentally, I could picture her without the tats and piercings, and I knew she'd be a damned beautiful, sexy girl. I let that thought linger about a millisecond before I squashed it. I couldn't allow myself to be distracted like that.
Skybolt lay down, her arms crossed nervously across her chest, watching me fearfully. I couldn't say that I blamed her after her ordeal, and I was asking her to make herself totally and completely vulnerable to me and my magic.
"I'm going to have to touch the piercings and tattoos," I said soothingly to her. "I promise this is nothing sexual. This is like a doctor examining you, okay?"
"Okay," she squeaked, her eyes betraying a growing sense of terror.
"I'm going to start with the piercings on your face so you feel comfortable with what I'm doing." I saw her nod hesitantly. "If you feel uncomfortable at any time, tell me, and I'll stop, okay?"
Working slowly, invoking my magic, I moved my fingers carefully over the piercings on an earlobe, feeling a disgusting, dark, filthy magic emanating from each piercing, but I couldn't tell if it was in the metal itself or if it was in her. The magic 'tasted' a little like that of Unhcegila, but it was also different. Related, perhaps? Moving carefully, I went over each of the piercings on her face and ears, even the multiple tongue piercings she had. Each gave me the same dirty feeling.
"Okay, I'm going to move to your ... breasts now, and then to your navel. Okay?" She nodded. "Just so you know, I am sensing dark magic here. I can't tell if it's on the piercing or on you yet, but we'll find out, okay?"
It felt really weird to be touching on and around another girl's breasts without intending to get her - or me - aroused. I could feel her tensing up, shuddering slightly as I did my scan for whatever magic had contaminated her or her piercings. As I expected, the magic all had the same feel - strong and dark and ugly. After warning her, I scanned the piercings around her navel, and then, to both her and my discomfort, I repeated the scan in her nether-regions.
I sat back when I'd finished. "That wasn't so bad, was it?" I asked lightly, trying to relieve her tension. She breathed a sigh of relief and nodded. "Okay, I'm going to do one more thing to see if I can characterize the magic better - to find out what type it is and how it's made. I'll have to paint around a piercing with another herbal mix, so I'll work on the navel piercings. Those will be the easiest to work with, okay?"
Once she assented, I began to incant and paint a pattern around the navel piercings, the jeweled studs that were at the same time beautiful and ugly - beautiful in that they were ornate and attractive, and ugly in that they'd been placed without her permission and cursed.
In my mind's eye, I saw a swirling of magic, a mix of dark, foul patterns and essence, some of which seemed familiar and more of which didn't. I hesitantly reached out mentally toward one of the living, writhing tendrils that seemed most familiar, and as it brushed me, I started when I found the 'taste' somewhat familiar. It was like Unhcegila's foulness, and yet it wasn't. Another of the winding filaments felt a little like Fey's Sidhe magic, but others were completely unfamiliar. Cautiously, I reached for one of the unfamiliar threads, and as it brushed by me, it suddenly lashed out at me, smashing into me.
I sat on the bed beside Skybolt, shaken. Had Wakan Tanka not insisted that I use some magic defenses, the black cord of the magic tapestry might have overwhelmed me, hurting me or cursing me or even destroying me. In my mind, I could still see the swirl of dark magics, the tangled knot of familiar and unfamiliar patterns intertwined and interacting and attacking me for trying to understand it.
"Kayda?" Skybolt's hand on my shoulder broke into my trance, a mini-PTSD-like episode of terror which reminded me of the evil of Unhcegila's spawn and the Mishibijiw. I shuddered involuntarily.
Trembling, I held onto Skybolt's hand to reassure myself, to regain a sense of stability after the horrific view of dark magic I'd seen.
The sound of a key in the lock preceded the door opening by a couple of seconds, just long enough for both Sky and I to turn, startled, toward the door as it opened. Stunner walked through the portal, and a half-step later, she froze, cartoonish eyes as she goggled at the sight that beheld her. "Erk...." she managed to squawk.
"It's not what it looks like," I managed to say quickly, knowing precisely what it looked like. Skybolt was lying naked on her bed and I was sitting beside her holding one hand while my other hand rested on her belly near the navel piercings.
"If ... if you want me to leave ...." Daphne managed to stammer, her eyes still wide open as she gawked at us.
"Kayda was trying to 'feel' if there's any magic!" Skybolt protested weakly.
"Uh, huh." Daphne sounded unconvinced. I had to admit that I'd have been skeptical if I'd have walked in on my roommate lying naked in bed with a known lesbian hovering over her.
I decided to ignore Sky's roommate. "Get dressed," I sort-of ordered her. "If we hurry, we can get back to Kirby before Circe leaves, and maybe she can help us figure out what to do with what I learned." I glanced at the still-skeptical Stunner. "Do you want to come along for moral support for Elaine?" I asked, practically demanding that she accompany us to get the true story so she didn't spread rumors about what we were doing.
May 18th, 2007, Early evening
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Circe huddled with Dr. Tenent, very involved in a discussion and occasionally glancing over their shoulders at Skybolt and me. After we'd met with Circe in her office, she'd practically dragged us to Doyle. Satisfied that I wasn't doing something kinky to Skybolt, Stunner went back to her room to study.
Eventually, Circe and Dr. Tenent came back to the two of us. "Ophelia would like to dream-walk so she can ... talk to your spirit and try to understand the magic a little better."
Dr. Tenent nodded. "I still think we should ask Fey to help here."
Circe got a disgusted look on her face, but I didn't know any of the details. "Well, we can't, and you know it."
Ophelia Tenent nodded. "Yeah, I know. And I still think it's wrong." She sighed heavily. "Kayda may be her best chance to break the spells, then." She squared her shoulders as if preparing for an ordeal. "Okay, how do we do this? I'm a little familiar with shamanic magic but it's not my specialty."
I nodded. "Okay, we need to sit down, and then I'll lead you into my dream-world, where you can talk about all of this with my spirit."
"If you don't mind," Skybolt interrupted, "I'll just go get a cup of coffee." She shrugged, grimacing. "Kayda tried to explain this before, and even if I hear it again, I won't understand it any better."
Circe nodded, giving a half-smile. "Don't wander too far. I hope this won't take very long, and if we find something we want to try, I assume that you'll be eager?"
The March of Dreams, Dream Space of the Ptesanwi
I led the doctor and the magic department head over a small rise, down into the draw where the village sat peacefully. The purples and reds and oranges of the sunset painted the sky spectacularly, light enough that some greens still showed in the landscape. As we descended the hillock, the sun on the horizon disappeared behind the triangular shapes of the tepees, casting them as dark shadows against the colorful display in the sky. It definitely was a Kodak moment.
Wakan Tanka stood at the edge of the village, her arms crossed and wearing a stern visage. "Who are these intruders?" she demanded in Lakota, not yielding and in an angry mood the likes of which I'd never seen.'
"These are my teachers," I explained in Lakota to Wakan Tanka. If she was speaking her native tongue, there had to be a good reason.
"They are powerful magic users," Wakan Tanka countered. "They don't belong here."
"Excuse me," Circe interrupted in English. "What are you two talking about?"
I reflexively recoiled a little bit, because I knew that my spirit was being quite rude to my teachers. "She's not happy that you're here."
"That's obvious," Dr. Tenent said, scowling. "Did you explain to her why we're here?"
"I haven't had a chance yet," I replied before turning back to Wakan Tanka and switching back to Lakota. "The girl I examined - her magic confounds these two teachers. They can't see it or feel it, and they need to understand it better if they are to help her."
Wakan Tanka scoffed. "You are a shaman. You don't need their help."
I winced at her tone. "Can you at least be polite and talk with them? They are my teachers, after all."
Frowning, she studied the two for several long seconds before she nodded curtly and turned, walking back into the village.
"I guess it's okay for you to enter," I said. I turned, but then realized something and spun back to the two. "I'll need your permission to cast a small spell on you - so you'll understand Lakota and I won't have to translate everything."
Circe shot a glance at Dr. Tenent. "You can cast a spell - here in the spirit world?" she asked incredulously.
I nodded. "Yeah, a few of them. Seeing their nods of assent, I cast the two 'languages' spells on them, and then I led them to the fire circle.
Wakan Tanka was being obstinate - still. Normally, for my company, she would have prepared tea, but she just sat stubbornly, staring into the fire. Sighing, I gathered the gourd cups and the ingredients, and then brewed four cups of tea. Wakan Tanka took the cup I proffered without comment, while the two faculty members both arched their eyebrows.
"It's herbal tea with a weak calming and healing spell," I explained.
"Is this the one Mindbird raves about?" Circe asked with a wry smile. When I nodded, she lifted her cup as if toasting. "Cheers." As she took a sip, she savored the tea like a wine connoisseur sampling a new vintage "Interesting," she said. "Quite flavorful. It reminds me of a wonderful herbal tea I used to make on Lesbos ...." her voice trailed off as she smiled to herself at what was obviously a fond memory, leaving me to wonder, given the legends of that particular island.
"Why are you here?" Wakan Tanka demanded directly of the two.
"A student has been cursed, but we can detect no magic, and so we can't help her."
"Then let Wihakayda help her," Wakan Tanka replied curtly.
Circe glanced at Dr. Tenent. "If it is what we think, the magic is very powerful and very dangerous. We ... don't understand it well enough to allow Kayda to take that risk."
Wakan Tanka scrutinized them for a few moments, and then she looked down into her cup for several agonizingly long seconds. When she looked back up, her features were less harsh.
"Long ago, the world was whole. Magic was everywhere. It was the time of the Five-Fold Courts, but it was also the beginning of the rise of man." She frowned deeply. "Then came the Bastard, the evil one. He shattered the land, broke the Five-Fold Courts, and burned the sacred trees that had brought magic to the land. He scattered the Peoples as well."
Circe frowned. "The breaking of Pangea happened millions of years before the rise of humans," she said, confused.
Wakan Tanka sighed. "At the Sundering, time itself was shattered. What you 'know' as the history of the world is a haphazard ordering of what Wihakayda calls space-time, shattered and strewn about through time itself." She shook her head sadly. "What is now are merely scattered fragments of what was before."
"Are you saying that ... our history ... isn't real?" Dr. Tenent asked hesitantly.
"It is real - to you. It is not real to me, nor to Aunghadhail, nor to any of the surviving spirits of the Sundering." She looked down in her cup. "I fought alongside Aunghadhail against the Bastard. The Bastard used his foul powers to create the demons of the world, warping rocks and trees and people into whatever evil form he desired. Many of my shamans fought and died alongside the Sidhe, fighting against him, while the demons he created hunted the People." She shook her head sadly. "When the world broke, we were scattered, our tribes strewn about in both space and time. Many ... did not survive."
"What does this have to do with ...?" Dr. Tenent started to ask.
"The magic Wihakayda and I share is magic that was lost to most of humanity. It is the magic of the Shaman. It is a surviving fragment of the magic of the world, of the magic used by the Bastard to create the demons."
Circe frowned at her explanation. "You're saying that your magic is a part of ... this Mythos magic?"
"All magic is. The magic of the Sidhe, the magic of the Shaman - all of your magics today - were part of a rich tapestry of magic from before the Sundering." She turned to me. "Do you know why that magic 'tasted' like Unhcegila? Why it 'felt' like the magic of the Sidhe girl you know?" She didn't give me time to answer. "Because those threads are part of the tapestry of that ancient magic, and you recognized those parts that are familiar to you."
Circe shook her head. "Then there is nothing Kayda can do against this powerful of magic. She was almost harmed just feeling the magics of the tapestry."
Wakan Tanka shook her head, smiling sadly. "What happens to the woven cloth of the white man when a few threads are removed or destroyed? The tapestry unravels. The cloth falls apart." She took a slow, deliberate sip of her tea.
"The Bastard created the demons to destroy the People because Shaman magic is a vital part of the tapestry of magic he used. Shaman magic was more damaging to him than Sidhe magic. That's why he could burn the world trees without harming himself. That's why he had to destroy the People - because our shamans could hurt him, could unravel his magic in a way the Sidhe magic, or other magics, could not."
Dr. Tenent perked up. "Are you suggesting that Wiha ... that Kayda could unravel the magic that curses Skybolt?" I winced that she almost called me by Wakan Tanka's pet name for me.
Wakan Tanka nodded. "Yes." She glanced at me, sighing. "She is strong. She can remove taint that is purely shaman - that's how she was able to remove the taint of Unhcegila. But removing the threads of shaman magic to unravel the curse?" she shook her head, wincing at the thought of me fighting the dark spell. "That is far more difficult. And then she would need to do a powerful shaman healing spell to make the tapestry of dark magic fall apart and heal the damage to the girl's flesh. I wonder if Wihakayda has enough essence to do all of that."
Circe and Dr. Tenent exchanged a knowing glance that worried me. "With the right ritual," Circe said definitively, "she could have."
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
We came back out of dream space, and I shuddered at the way Circe and Dr. Tenent were looking at me. Skybolt had returned from getting her coffee and was sitting, staring at us as she sipped the hot beverage.
"We think that Wiha .... that Kayda can heal you," Dr. Tenent said hesitantly to Skybolt. "Her spirit thinks she can - with our assistance."
Skybolt's eyes lit up with hope for the first time. "Do you really think you can?" she asked - almost begged - of me.
"I'll ... try," I said, a lump in my throat. Because I knew shaman magic, I might be her last hope, at least on campus.
May 18th, 2007, Late Evening
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Except for the sheet, Skybolt was lying naked on the bed, looking nervously but hopefully at me. Cavalier stood by the bedside, holding her hand to reassure her - and possibly also to watch me. After all, he was in love with Skybolt, and I was an admitted lesbian.
"If this fails," Dr. Tenent cautioned Skybolt, "it might leave tissue damage or a scar. I would suggest starting with your navel piercings. If something goes wrong, that would be easier to cover up."
Skybolt nodded, nervous at her warning. "Okay," she squeaked nervously.
"First, I'm going to make the protection brew like I did in your room," I explained to Skybolt, knowing that Dr. Tenent and Circe were also paying attention. I looked at Cavalier. "You cannot be touching her while we do this," I cautioned him.
Circe nodded. "In fact, given that we're dealing with dark magic, I think you should wait outside the wards and protections - just in case."
I could see the anguish in his eyes. He desperately wanted to be by her side through the procedures, just as I'd have wanted to be by Debra's if circumstances were changed. I could see his eyes misting as he leaned over, whispering something to her - no doubt expressing his love and confidence - and then he kissed her gently on the cheek. He paused in the doorway, looking longingly at Elaine, and then he looked at me, his eyes pleading to help her and to not screw up. I felt a lump in my throat as I realized how my actions - or mistakes - could impact not only Skybolt, but also Cavalier.
I took the four ceramic coffee cups, half-filled them with water from the sink, and then began to incant as I mixed in the herbs. I felt my pool of essence being drained by the effort, but I completed the first step. Together, we all drank the brew, which was not nearly as tasty as my regular tea, but still not nearly as foul as my major 'decontamination' concoction.
Circe and Dr. Tenent looked at me warily, and then Circe incanted something and touched my shoulder, pushing essence into me. I pulled away from her when I sensed that my well was getting past the point I could easily control it; there was no point wasting essence that we might need later.
With renewed energy, I carefully mixed up the foul-smelling decontamination concoction, making sure I pushed as much essence as I dared into the mix. Carefully, I painted it on Elaine's nude torso in a precise pattern around the piercings in her navel, and I could sense magics battling within her.
"When I tell you, drink this," I said, holding the remainder of the cup to her. "It tastes ... pretty gross," I added, wincing at the memory of the bitter potion, "but it's necessary." When she nodded, I felt Dr. Tenent's and Circe's hands on my shoulders, prepared to push more essence my way. I shuddered involuntarily, not knowing quite what I was getting myself into, but in too deep to back out and very determined to see this through. With a quick glance at the two magic users, I gulped nervously. "Drink it now!" I commanded.
At the same time, I pushed myself into a world that wasn't dream space, wasn't reality, but was somewhere in between. The realm where I would do battle with this ugly, evil spell, just as I had against the spirit of the son of Unhcegila.
Dream Space of the Ptesanwi
I found myself face-to-face with the horrid, ugly monstrosity that was fighting against the decontamination spell, wrapped around a girl - Skybolt - trying to hold her fast within the tangled weave of its structure. I gasped at her appearance, her reflection of her own self-image. Though she was, at her core, pretty in the real world, she looked trashy and slutty in this one, with overdone, sleezy makeup one would find on a cheap whore. Her eyes were sunken, her cheeks hollow, and her skinny arms bore needle tracks of a junkie. Her hair was cut in a punk style to match the image that her multitude of piercings and colorful tattoos presented, and what I could see of her clothing inside the tangled monster was that of a cheap hooker.
An unearthly shriek rose from the living tangle of cords, and it writhed in agony, shuddering and convulsing as the noxious concoction attacked it.
Wakan Mila, my sacred knife, was unexpectedly in my hand, and I could feel that it was topped off with essence, a reserve pool that I had a feeling I was going to need.
The threads tangled in the unholy knot encircling Skybolt were varied and clearly nasty. Some had eyes that were scanning all around, focusing at times on me. Others had gaping maws of what looked like razor-sharp teeth, while others were studded with cactus-like spikes. Only some slimy, greenish-brown tendrils seemed familiar, but they flopped around like clubs, lashing out blindly at whatever was attacking it.
I almost didn't dodge one of the spiked threads because I was trying to figure out what to do and how to do it. Wakan Tanka had told me that I had to unravel the fabric - in this case a knot, and that meant that I could attack the ones that felt like Unhcegila without danger to myself, but I had to be careful that I didn't hurt Skybolt in my attacks. And suddenly, as the potion took effect, the threads of shaman magic stood out clearly, starting to glow as the magics battled within them.
I leaped at one of the glowing threads, dodging its hammer-blow, and then stabbed it with Wakan Mila. It convulsed mightily, knocking me back. Despite the minor pain, I rushed in to attack again. Again I stabbed it, and this time I anticipated the reaction and hung on to the massive cord of magic, my knife buried inside it as I poured my essence into it. After one more major convulsion, the thread wilted, and seemed to be deflating, melting like the Wicked Witch of the West after being hit with water. In seconds, it was gone, evaporating into nothingness from around Skybolt.
As I stood to search for another thread of shaman magic, one of the spiked tendrils smashed into my back and I screamed in pain. At the same time, a mouth bit into my leg, causing me to trip and fall, the teeth still biting into my flesh. And within the cocoon of evil magic threads, Skybolt screamed in agony as the spikes dug into her flesh, and the mouths bit her body, and other cords pulled tight like boa constrictors squeezing the life out of her.
I flailed wildly with my knife, stabbing into the living cord that was biting me, but though I hit it hard, I could tell my magic wasn't affecting it very much despite me pushing essence through my knife. It was hurt enough, though, to release its grip, and I rolled free. These things were dangerous, and I realized that this was going to be a huge battle, not like tugging a loose thread and unraveling the sweater Grandma Franks once knitted for me.
Suddenly, it felt like someone laid hands on my shoulder, and as I was in the middle of battling the knotted monster, I flinched, wondering what was happening. But then essence poured into my well, refilling the reservoir which had been getting drained. Renewed with essence from Circe and Dr. Tenent, I slashed into black tendrils which were trying to block me from reaching the shaman energy strands. Bits and pieces of magic energy flew as I chopped and hacked my way through, until I grabbed another of the slimy shaman magic threads. It fought to defend itself, aware somehow that I was an existential threat, and as slimy as it was, it was hard to hold, but when my knife jabbed into it, it convulsed and screeched as my shaman magic melted it away.
Over and over, attacking the vital shaman core of the spell-beast, I hacked, constantly refreshed by more essence from Circe and Dr. Tenent, until I found no more. And as I tore out and destroyed the shaman magic, Skybolt's screaming lessened, assuring me that I was having some positive effect. I was battered and bruised in this realm, sliced and skewered and bitten and knocked around by the black, foul octopoid magic monster. What was left was less a Gordian knot of evil magic tendrils and more a loose, barely cohesive pile of yarn threads around the girl. Now I had to do something else in the real realm.
Doyle Medical Complex
I fell to my knees with near exhaustion and pain when I emerged into the real world. Circe caught me before I could face-plant on the floor. Behind her, Dr. Tenent was examining Skybolt. She seemed lost in pain, her body knotted up in a struggle over which she had no control.
"I need more essence," I gasped to Circe with a voice that was for some reason hoarse; maybe I had been screaming in pain in the real world as well as in the dream world. As Circe prepared to give me more essence, I turned to Dr. Tenent. "Take out the piercings," I urged her. "Quickly! The spell - it's like a living thing, and it might ... regenerate."
Dr. Tenent needed no further urging. Pushing me aside, working without anesthetic, she separated the ends of the piercings, and then, to Skybolt's considerable discomfort, pulled the pieces out of her body. While she did that, I used another cup and mixed up my strongest healing potion, the one I'd used on Debra after she'd been injured in Sioux Falls. As soon as Dr. Tenent finished, I poured the rest of the decontamination brew on and around Skybolt's navel, and then I began to paint the ritual healing markings on the girl - on her forehead and cheeks, on her ankles and arms, over her heart, and around the wound site. Then I sprinkled it over where the piercings had been, and with a glance at Circe and Dr. Tenent, looked down at the wounds and focused my energy on healing them.
Dream Space of the Ptesanwi
Once more, I was in a dream world, this time fighting a desperate, wounded monster, the residual of the spells. It had been badly hurt by my efforts up to that point, but they were still present and would still harm Skybolt. I had to push essence at them, to make the remaining fragments unravel completely so they wouldn't harm Elaine again. My knife in my hands, I renewed my attack on the weakened spell. It's threads were looser now that the piercings were gone, but my knife couldn't destroy them. When I stretched out my hands toward them, essence flowed to the pile of tendrils like a Jedi force push, scattering a few of the evil shards of magic. Separated from the pile, the writhing tentacles wiggled like worm, trying to inch their way back to encircle Skybolt even as they began to smoke with an evil hissing sound. I interposed myself, grabbing one of the threads and hurling it further from its compatriots, ignoring the burning in my hands and the hammering at my body from the pile behind me.
I spun, catching a spiked tentacle before it could hurt me, and with essence pushing around it, I tugged mightily until it was free of the pile behind it. I hurled that one away, and to my delight, I saw the first tentacle vanish, evaporating into the ether.
Over and over I tugged at the threads, pulling them away, ignoring the now senseless, frantic thrashing of the spell-monster as I liberated Elaine from the writing pile of spell threads. And over and over, every time I felt my essence fading, I felt another burst reinforcing me from Circe and Dr. Tenent's ritual. But the fight was exhausting me. I pulled a thread free, ignoring the burning, shocking sensation in my hands - much weaker now that it had been damaged - and I threw it aside as far as I could, watching with pleasure as the remains of the thread evaporated into the mist. On and on I pushed, fighting, slashing, tearing, trying to destroy the remaining fragments, yanking them away from their core, scattering the remaining pieces of the dark spell, scattering them until they evaporated.
A final few threads were still fighting, still trying to resist my efforts, but I reached deep into my reserves of energy - both physical and magical - and I tore them away from Sky, even as their touch seemed to sear me, burning and causing me to cry out in pain. But I'd come this far - I wasn't about to give up. With a final heave, I separated the remaining two threads, feeling them withering in my hands as I tossed them away from each other, leaving Skybolt, battered and bruised and crying in pain, and free of the spell fragments.
Doyle Medical Complex, Whateley Academy
I emerged into the real world again, staggering once more from the battering I'd taken trying to separate the strands of evil magic so the decontamination elixir could finish them off. I'd destroyed them all, not leaving a single one untouched.
Shaky, rattled by the enormity of the struggle, I caught my balance with the help of Dr. Tenent and Circe.
"Are you okay?"
I nodded. "Yeah. Now I need to do a major healing to make sure that all of the spell fragments are completely wiped away and her body damage is healed." While the two pushed even more essence into me, I shakily mixed up the major healing potion. Circe frowned at how unsteady I was, and again when she felt only a small amount of essence go into the newest brew, but I ignored her and pressed on.
Skybolt was still in pain, though less than before. My knees wobbling from fatigue, my finger shaky, I carefully painted the ritual markings on her - forehead, wrists, ankles, arms and legs, around the injury site, and over her heart. Then I sprinkled the mix onto the wound itself, the ugly remnants of her unwanted piercings. As it flashed, I pushed my essence into her wound, feeling my knees buckle, and then blackness closed in around me.
Saturday, May 19th, 2007, Early Morning
Doyle Medical Center, Whateley Academy
Pain dragged me out of a fitful sleep and horrific dream in which I'd been fighting living, octopoid demons. My whole body ached, some parts worse than others, and I was lying flat on my back on an unfamiliar bed. As consciousness slowly returned, I risked opening my eyes. The familiar sight of a hospital room in Doyle was actually welcome after the nightmares I'd had.
A muffled 'ahem' to one side of me caught my attention, and slowly, painfully, I turned my head. "Welcome back to the land of the living." Mrs. Carson's voice was - unfortunately - all too familiar to me in this setting. "What am I going to do with you, Wihakayda?"
"Uhnnnn," I groaned as my stiff body protested the movement. "How long ...?" Even though my eyes were mostly closed, I frowned when I realized the name Mrs. Carson had called me by. I couldn't tell from her tone if she was teasing me, or if that was my new name when I got in trouble - she'd call me Wihakayda in the same way that a mother would yell a miscreant child's first, middle, and last names. I had a sinking feeling that I was in a lot of trouble again.
"It's Saturday morning. You've been ...."
"Saturday?" I was suddenly very alert. "I have to get to costuming class!"
Mrs. Carson pushed me back down into bed. "You've got an hour and a half before class starts. You're not going anywhere until Ophelia clears you."
"How's Elaine?" was my next question.
Mrs. Carson chuckled. "Just like Ophy. Always thinking of the patient first."
"Did it work? Is she okay?"
"It appears so," another voice came from the doorway on the opposite side of me. Having learned my lesson, I caught myself before I turned, so I wouldn't get more pain. "The sites of the piercings we removed - where you decontaminated - have completely healed. Is that some kind of regeneration spell or something?" Dr. Tenent asked, her voice drawing nearer until she was standing over my bed.
"Yeah," I replied. "Something like that. Are you sure...?"
"Yes, we're sure," she replied. "Last time, the wounds didn't heal at all, and within a few hours, they were starting to become infected. It's been over twice as long, and from looking at her navel, one would never guess that she'd even had piercings done there. It's completely regenerated."
I fell back into my pillow, relieved. "Good. I'm glad it's working."
"It's going to take quite a while to remove all the other piercings, though," Dr. Tenent cautioned me, dampening my spirits a bit. We'd only removed four - and probably only because they were so close together. I don't think I could have done more than that; four was almost pushing it too much."
"Next time ..." Mrs. Carson started, her voice firm.
"I got permission!" I interrupted her, protesting firmly. "It was supervised!"
"And I'm proud of you for actually following guidelines and instructions for a change, Kayda," Mrs. Carson chuckled. "But next time, I want you to get more magic help to assist you. We think you could have used more essence in your protection spells, and you definitely could have used more in the healing bit where you were unraveling and destroying the spell fragments."
"Yes, ma'am," I answered, a bit humbled by her analysis of my magic - which was spot-on correct. "If Nikki helped ..."
Mrs. Carson's expression hardened. "Miss Reilly will not be available to help you for the rest of this term."
I started at her news. "What?"
Mrs. Carson frowned grimly. "Miss Reilly has to learn to be more judicious in the use of her magic," she said. Her expression let me know I should drop the subject. "And you are not to try this again until you've rested and you get clearance from the magic department and me. It'll take a while to get out all the piercings," she cautioned me, "and you have to be patient. You can't overdo it, or you'll hurt yourself. And then who'd help her?"
"Yes, ma'am," I replied heavily. I wanted to help Sky right now, and Mrs. Carson knew it. She knew I'd be impatient if she didn't put her foot down up front. "Can I see her?" I asked hesitantly.
"If Ophy clears you, you can get out of here and get some breakfast, where I suspect you'll find her in at Crystal Hall. When she left this morning with Cavalier, she was rambling excitedly about finally getting to wear something with a bare midriff and not feeling humiliated."
"Good for her."
"Now, while Ophy checks you out, let's talk a little about how you used your magic. You've got some powerful shaman magic, but you're going to have to learn to use other spells. Your spells wouldn't be good for combat, would they, Kayda?"
She wasn't saying anything that I hadn't already figured out. But there was no sense in aggravating the headmistress. "No, ma'am." I had the sinking feeling that this was going to lead to some special tutoring on spells that would be useful in combat. Great - the more I did to help people, the more 'special tutoring' I was getting.
May 19th, 2007, Morning
Ophelia Tenent's Office, Doyle Medical Complex , Whateley Academy
Liz watched Kayda walk out of Dr. Tenent's office, shaking her head.
"What?" Dr. Tenent asked, curious about Liz's reaction.
"She never ceases to surprise me, Ophy," the headmistress replied. "Her frustration at not being able to help Skybolt more and faster was almost palpable." She chuckled softly and looked at her friend. "She'll have your job soon if you're not careful."
Ophelia laughed. "Some days, Ah'd gladly let her have it." She took a sip from her coffee cup. "You know she's right about Fey - about helping."
"Maybe," Liz acknowledged grudgingly, "but we can't back down on that, can we?"
"Ah suppose not."
"I have to maintain discipline. I can't be seen as one who waffles on punishment."
Ophelia took a sip of coffee, considering what Liz was saying. "You may be right." She saw something in Liz's eyes. "You want Wih .... Kayda to work alone, don't you?" she asked knowingly.
Liz nodded, a wry smile breaking across her features. "What's Kayda's biggest problem? With her magic, I mean?"
Ophy thought a moment. "Discipline over her Will and storing essence?"
"Exactly. She's a very stubborn, headstrong girl, and she'll push to be able to do these healings without us helping." Liz chuckled. "You saw how she reacted when I told her she had to have more backup, didn't you?"
Ophy thought a moment. "Like a teenager told she has to sit with the little kids at Christmas dinner."
Liz nodded. "Kayda's determined enough and stubborn enough to work very hard on gathering and saving essence so she can do it herself, just to show us that she is capable."
"That's how Ah was reading her, too," Ophy said thoughtfully. "Ah sure hope this doesn't backfire on us."
May 19th, 2007, Lunch
Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
As Skybolt, wearing a bare-midriff outfit, walked toward the Beret table, smiling broadly for the first time in a very long time despite the plethora of piercings still in her face, a pair of eyes noticed the outfit, and more importantly, that her navel was free of piercings, and in fact, the area looked completely healed, and even regenerated. The face behind the eyes frowned deeply; the rumors, it appeared, were true - the Native American girl had defeated Hekate's dark magic spell, freeing the German girl of at least some of her piercings.
If she could do that, then she was much more dangerous to him - and by extension, to his plans - than he'd first thought, and he'd already noted her to be a formidable threat. Damn those two idiots - they'd picked the lesser threat to eliminate, it appeared. Heyoka and his Thunderbird spirit would have been challenging, but that spirit didn't give Heyoka the ability to defeat the complex tapestry of Mythos magic.
There would have to be new plans to deal with her. But as he thought, his mind echoed a line from a movie, a deep, almost mechanical voice that said, "If he could be turned, he would become a powerful ally."
Perhaps, he thought. She had to have weaknesses he could exploit - family, friends, or perhaps even a lover that she'd sacrifice herself to save. If she could be made to dabble in the forbidden magic, she'd taste the power that came with the dark arts, and would be seduced into joining him. At the very least, he'd have blackmail material, the ability to expose her use of that which was so explicitly banned, so that she'd fall in line rather than risk being expelled from the school.
Yes, there had to be a way to deal with her. He'd have to devote some of his planning time to find the best way to manipulate Kayda Franks toward his plans and goals. And already, ideas were swirling in his mind, thoughts that he knew would coalesce into a perfect trap. He permitted himself a slight smile, knowing he would weave a snare that no-one , not even the vaunted Lady Astarte, would suspect until it was far too late.
Sunday, May 20th, 2007, Mid-afternoon
Room 517, Melville Cottage , Whateley Academy
Cavalier, Skybolt, and I sat cross-legged on the floor, having just come out of dream-space. As soon as she was alert, Skybolt leaned to one side and wrapped herself around Cavalier, who was in tears as his consciousness returned to his body. It had been a particularly brutal dream-walk for Cav - confronting for the first time a nightmare to realize that, just as Kodiak had taught me, he wasn't in control of the situation, and that there was nothing he could have done.
"I know how you feel," I reassured him, putting my hand on his arm gently. "Remember that."
Cav nodded. "I ... I know." He shook his head, fighting tears. "But ... it hurts."
"I know. But remember - there was nothing you could have done to stop it. There was no way for you to fight it." I lifted his chin so he was looking me in the eyes. "It. Wasn't. Your. Fault." He nodded slightly, unconvincingly. "Just like what happened to me wasn't my fault! All of us were victims. Helpless victims. Remember that."
Skybolt looked up at me, not comprehending some of what I'd said, both as we dream-walked and just after we'd come back to the real world. But I could see a quick mental struggle, and then she decided to let it go. Just as I didn't need to know all the details of her ordeal unless she chose to reveal them, she likewise didn't need to know my secrets.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that now that the dream-walk was over, I was a third wheel. I excused myself, declining their offer to walk me down to the lobby so they could comfort one another. That would be the best thing for them after the brutal but necessary dream-walk. And I knew, from their appearance at the end of the dream walk, that they were making progress, although how much was due to my help versus Dr. Bellows professional assistance was a question I couldn't answer. Though still shabby and haggard, Cav's image in the dream world was a little more heroic, a little less defeated, with color to his Musketeer tunic that was less ripped and torn, and with hair that was less gray and frazzled.
Sky, too, was benefiting from the help; getting a few piercings out and having good counseling had improved her view of herself. She had hope; that much was clear in her dream-world self. Still slutty, she looked less like a heroin-addicted, old, wrung-out whore, but instead she seemed a little classier, a little less trashy, like a somewhat up-scale call girl. I could now easily imagine them, after more counseling, appearing in the dream-world as a dashing Musketeer and his beautiful lady - although my mind was fixated on Kiefer Sutherland's portrayal of Aramis and Raquel Welch's portrayal of Constance. Ah, well - my mental imagery wasn't always consistent.
The elevator door opened, and I stepped in, surprised to see Lanie and Wyatt. "Hi," I said cheerfully.
"You're on the wrong floor to be visiting Headrush and Charge," Lanie said, giving me a little shoulder hug.
I shrugged. "I was with Skybolt and Cavalier," I replied.
"Ah heard you got some of her cursed piercings out," Lanie observed.
"Yeah," I chuckled. I glanced around almost conspiratorially. "And I learned something that I think could be very ... useful ... to the Atlantean League."
Wyatt's eyebrows rose. "Oh? Should we talk about it over dinner tonight? How about if I order something Chinese?"
I arched an eyebrow. "You do realize that if someone sees me spending time with you and Lanie, it's just going to fuel rumors that you're starting your own little harem!"
Lanie slapped his arm, "And Ah bet you'd love it, wouldn't you? Mister Macho Studly, with two hot girls chasin' after him!"
Wisely, Cody said nothing, instead choosing to change the subject. "What were you doing with Sky and Cav? Making a house call to see if her piercings healed completely?"
"Something like that," I lied.
Lanie chuckled. "Kayda Franks, Medicine Girl! You're even making house calls!"
I smiled. Even though Lanie was a soul-sister and Wyatt had demonstrated himself worthy of my trust, the very existence of the rape survivors' group had to be kept a secret to protect the privacy of its members. I knew we'd eventually have more members, unfortunately, and that secrecy -guaranteeing privacy - would be vital to help victims feel comfortable joining. Not everyone had a good support network to help them if they were outed as a rape victim. No, I'd keep that a secret, even from my best friends. But the other part?
"Medicine Girl," I rolled the words over my tongue, listening to how they echoed in my ears. "I kinda like the sound of that," I replied with a grin.