I've never seen you look like this without a reason
Another promise fallen through
Another season passes by you
I never took the smile away from anybody's face
And that's a desperate way to look
For someone who is still a child
Big Country, In a Big Country
October 31st, 2007
Fixer's Patio, Schuster Hall next to the Crystal Hall, Whateley Academy
Maggie screamed in horror as she stared down at the dead girl.
“No!” She screamed, chanting it over and over as it by doing so she could override the reality she found herself in and replace it. Lanie's form shifted and flowed into the amazon proportions of Grizzly as the spirit rushed to the forefront. She was dressed in Nurse's scrubs and her hands were glowing as she knelt down next to Joanne, whose sightless eyes were staring up at the moon. The spirit's gestures were quick and practiced as she caused what looked like holographic displays in magic to appear over the body, bathed in red. Tendrils snaked out from them to touch Joanne.
“Kodiak!” the nurse bellowed, loud enough to be heard Berlin.
Joanne's body jerked and she gasped for air like a drowning woman, but the features were still slack and the eyes wide. The Kodiak leapt over the crowd, better than ten feet off the ground and over twenty to land next to her, roaring, “Back up!” He snatched magical display around. “No Alpha, or beta waves, just random firing in the brain-stem, she's not in a coma, she's completely brain dead! What happened?”
Grizzly stood and grabbed a large handful of Maggie's jacket and shirt. “What did you do?” she snarled, hauling her up to eye level. Before Maggie could answer, Ms Hartford's voice rang through the speakers.
“Everyone remain calm and back away! Bluejay, come here!”
The crowd parted and Mrs Carson arrived, just as Grizzly's patience ended. “Answer me!” the gruff spirit demanded.
“Put her down, Grizzly!” she ordered sharply, which, to the shock of the onlooking crowd, the spirit obeyed and set Maggie down. “Chief Delarose,” she said, conveying complex orders with just the man's name as he took physical custody of Lifeline. “Kodiak, how bad...?”
The ancient healer looked up from what he was doing and shook his head. “There's nothing I can do,” he admitted with great despair. “Her soul is gone!”
“These are life support spells,” the healer explained. “They are stimulating her brain-stem to keep her heart beating and her lungs working, but this is just artificial. She...she's gone.”
“Not on my watch,” Carson declared. “Kodiak go with the EMTs and get her into Doyle. Keep her body alive and if any of the doctors have issue with you, tell them to come see me with their resignation letters in hand!” She stood and wheeled on Maggie, her face as angry as anyone had ever seen it and was even more terrifying with the demonic makeup and horns she was wearing. The crowd shrank away a bit from the fierceness of her gaze. “Miss Finson, what have you done?”
Maggie's eyes darted between the Headmistress and the enraged half bear woman, only managing to stammer, “I...I...I...”
Mrs Carson gave the spirit a look and she faded away, leaving only Elaine standing next to her. Turning back, her voice was stern, but no longer quite as angry. “Miss Finson! Calm yourself and answer me, what have you done?”
“I...I...” Maggie swallowed, her attention now focused solely on the somewhat demonic Headmistress. “Nothing! It wasn't supposed to do that! It can't do that! It, it's just an elixir of banishment! To drive out a possessing spirit....It...”
The Heroine's gaze moved to her Chief of security. “Franklin, escort Miss Finson to her dorm room where she will collect her Book of Shadows, then bring it and her to me in Doyle.”
“Miss Finson, you had best hope the formula you used for this is as innocent as you claim!” Elizabeth turned on her heel. “Miss Nalley, come with me and on the way you will tell me exactly what happened.”
Ms Hartford made her way up to the pair as best she could in a ball gown. “Liz, I have Bluejay on his way to get Banned Aids from Purdue...”
“I don't think Banned Aids can fix this, Amelia,” she whispered as she led the way to Doyle in her purposeful stride.
October 31st, 2007
Room 316, Whitman Cottage, Whateley Academy
Murphy’s Law #55: Never sink all of your resources into your Ultimate Plan. If it fails, you are Ultimately Screwed.
Maggie “Lifeline” Finson almost flew into her room in a frantic, tear-wracked panic, barely aware of the three stone-faced men who filtered in behind her, two of whom were armed, and all of whom were wary of this seeming attempted murderer who frantically maintained that she was innocent of poisoning and that the concoction given her trouble-magnet once-friend was not, in fact something that was supposed to harm anyone other than a spirit needing exorcism.
Franklin Delarose watched warily as the frantic teenager ripped through her belongings, desperately unlocking the box where she’d hidden the grimoire, triumphantly opening it and flipping to the last used pages to find them...blank.
The girl began trembling, suddenly aware of the precarious position she was in as she began to panic, flipping back and forth to the last spell and the blank pages stammering “no, no no, it was here… It was right here!”
Delarose gave nothing away, no expression as he looked at the two men behind him. “Kiehl, Cuff her. I want her in the warded lockup. Messenger, search the room. I want everything that so much as resembles a mystic diagram or a chemical.”
Delarose turned to Lifeline as she began bawling as the realization of what had just happened crept in and drew out a small card and began reading. “Lifeline you are hereby under arrest pending charges. I hope you cooperate fully so we might be able to save the life of Miss Gunnarson, but at this time, you have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can, and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney one will be provided to you by the court. Do you understand and acknowledge these rights as have been read to you?
Lifeline was unable to speak as Kiehl put her in cuffs and began leading her outside. Mrs Savage arrived from the hall, nervous. “All of the girls are occupied, the Cottage is isolated, as you requested,” she said as the young woman was hauled away and God’s Messenger began methodically, rapidly tearing the room to pieces, collecting the materials proscribed and marking the evidence.
“I want this situation quiet, Trish, No Kayda incident here. Until my investigation is complete no part of this incident is to be disseminated among the students. I’m not going to have someone turn my school into a goddamn circus spectacle again to attack a student, even if it does appear she was caught red-handed.” Delarose’s voice was quiet, calm, his face a stony mask of nothing.
It was an expression Trish Savage had learned meant doom for someone when she served in the military. “Franklin, it happened in front of the entire school at a party! What do you expect...?” She sighed and focused herself. “What else can I do?”
“If you would, as House Mother, before I am forced to conduct an official interrogation of Lifeline and the witnesses, I need to ask, does Lifeline have an exemplar memory?”
The House Mother nodded. “Most of the lit Chix have near-perfect recall of just about anything they have written or read.”
“Perfect. Get with Elyzia or Earth Mother, find a blank Grimoire that is unprepped and unwarded for student use, two hundred pages, Eighteen inches vertical, by twelve horizontal, or as close to it as you can. Lifeline claims she had a grimoire filled with spells and incantations to exorcise deadly spirits from possessed hosts. It’s gone, and the sheer number of times I have seen evidence removed from a site suggests that I should give her a chance to try.”
“You think Lifeline has been framed?”
“I think I need to explore all avenues to determine what happened. This reeks, the crime is too clean, it’s too obviously open and shut.” He didn’t say This isn’t a teenager’s crime.
“Too much like Kayda and her bison.”
“All Avenues, Trish. Can you coax Lifeline into re-creating this Grimoire from memory?”
Trish Savage nodded. “I can certainly try. What good will it do?”
“It’ll tell us what the hell got into that damn girl’s head, and if her formula is as harmless as she thought.”
“I’ll work on it, but I swear, Franklin if this is used to railroad…”
“Trish, Murphy is functionally dead. By all appearances she drank a poison meant for Loophole and her bear spirit. Lifeline was handing Loophole the poison when Murphy snagged it to screw with them, as I am told might as well be clockwork behavior on her part.” Delarose stopped her. “I want to know if this was willful, dementia, or compulsion before I begin anything.”
Trish Savage swallowed and nodded. It tasted foul.
“And Trish?” Delarose said as he watched his once-Dragonslayer minion obliterate anything resembling feng-shui in the room dispassionately, “Once Lifeline finishes her re-creation of this book I want it examined by Eldritch before anyone made of actual meat and blood touches it.”
“A Student? Why?”
“Same reason Pejuta was tasked working on plucking Skybolt’s body modifications. When you have a native expert, you USE the native expert. That and Eldritch can look at the nastier wards around campus and only suffer a skull-splitting migraine for her trouble.”
“Understood. I’ll get to it.”
“I’m going to go check up on Murphy. Keep me posted.”
November 1st, 2007
Warded Cell #1, Security HQ, Kane Hall
The guard paused at the door that made one of the two women with him shiver. The door was held shut not just by a mechanical lock, but the frame was electromagnetically held, requiring him to punch in a code at the panel, which required a second code from the central desk. Finally the door swung open and the prisoner inside looked up, her eyes red from crying. “Oh, Mrs Savage!” she cried, “I didn't! I swear! I...!”
The House Mother raised a hand in solace. “I know, Maggie, I know. Come to the edge of the door, but do not cross the threshold.”
Maggie stood and slowly walked over. Circe raised the box in her hand and opened it. Maggie's eyes went wide as she saw the necklace in the box. “Miss Finson, if you are willing to have your magic sealed, you may leave the warded cell.”
With a hesitant, jerking motion, she nodded. Circe held up the box and Maggie reached out, her arm tingling as it passed the ward and felt the natural flow, but that did not continue up her arm due to the ward line. That feeling was instantly gone as she touched the necklace. It was as cold as death and set her skin to crawling. It was all she could do to not snatch her hand back as if it had been scalded. With a great effort of will, she picked it up and drew it to her. As her hand crossed the ward line, most of the feeling vanished as she was closed off from the natural world. But the necklace was still inordinately cold. Some part of her remembered a lesson in magic, that certain, powerful charms and artifacts could cross a ward line and be unhindered by it. Clearly, this was such an artifact.
Swallowing, she put the necklace around her neck and instantly she felt like someone had punched her in the chest. She was nauseous and had to be steadied by the guard or she might have fallen as the feeling flowed through her that something important had been taken. The cold left the necklace, but it seemed inordinately heavy against her skin and even as she bent over in reaction to the feeling of imminent sickness, it did not leave her skin as if it had been glued in place.
“You may step out,” the guard commanded, and suddenly Maggie knew she could leave the room. She stepped out, shakily, one hand against the wall for balance.
“Maggie,” Mrs Savage asked, bringing the girls attention to her. “I have a blank spell book here. Do you think you can repeat the spell formula you used from memory?”
“Yes,” she declared instantly. “I can do that! I can prove I didn't...!”
“Alright,” the House Mother assured her. “Come with me, and let's get started.”
November 1st, 2007
ICU 1, Doyle Medical Center
Murphy’s law #27: If it’s dead, shoot it again, just to make sure. Sometimes dead ain’t dead enough.
“She’s alive, vitals are stable, but the lights are on and nobody’s home, literally. Medical staff’s baffled, and they’re all stuck for the inevitable alcohol poisonings and post-party stupidity.” Dr Raul Tenant pointed at the bio-monitors, visible through the glass 'wall' of the room. They stood in the hallway, between the room and the Nurse's station that over saw the ICU and beside the gurney, a pair of huge, anthropomorphic bears dressed in hospital scrubs were conducting magic rituals to stabilize the body on the bed. “No brain activity, and since the poisoning...”
“So she was poisoned?” the Headmistress asked softly.
“Yes,” Raul continued. “We found hyoscyamine and scopolamine in her system. They were highly concentrated, but the chemical chains point to an organic, rather than a refined chemical process source. Most likely harvested mandrake root. We've already flushed that from her system with physostigmine, and in any event, even at the levels in her system, it wasn't enough to have killed her this quickly. What's worse, since she has been here the albino scarring has begun creeping across her body. Gunnarson’s other eye has been blacking out visibly over the last hour. Whatever happened, her mangled BIT incident is coming fully to the fore, and fast. It’s like whatever resistance there was to it has been completely removed.”
“Physical changes are coming in fast and hard, I give her maybe six hours before the Body Image Template imposition completes.”
“We’ll keep you posted.” Dr Tenant looked at Carson. “Wish I had more to tell you here, but at this point, it looks like Joanne is officially brain dead. We can’t find any toxins, biologicals or microbiological actors in her system, other than the mandrake root and it should not have done this. Whatever hit her wasn’t poison, wasn’t pathological. Which leaves Mystic.”
“Then at this point, I’ll examine her, and see what I can find myself.”
“Liz you don’t have to do this.”
“Yes I do. Joanne was one of my students. She was attacked on my watch, and half a year later we have no culprits, no suspects. Her parents had to be convinced, I convinced them that Whateley was the best place for her to control the mangling and the channeling that caused the dead animals to follow her around and they allowed her to come back. Now this.”
“You won’t find real answers if you have this in your head.”
“I’ll clear my head, I promise. Have Earth Mother come in too. She can examine as well, and we can verify. And we can keep examining until we both agree on the outcome.”
“I’ll do that.” He gave her a long look. “Liz, no one could have predicted this kind of thing might happen.”
“I know. Doesn’t make it easier.”
With a deep breath, Carson stepped into the ICU room and steeled herself. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen Joanne Gunnarson looking like a dead body on life support. Her metabolism all but demanded a continuous flow feeder tube, and around campus would usually be seen snarking or snacking.
The Kodiak turned as she entered, a sorrowful look on his face. “I am sorry. We've done all we can. Her body is stable, and so long as the feeding tube is untouched, it will remain this way. But, without her soul...”
“Thank you, Kodiak,” Mrs Carson told the spirit. “And you as well, Grizzly. Now, you two better let your hosts get something to eat, I know being manifested this long is hard on the body.” The spirits vanished, leaving Wyatt Cody and his fiancee Elaine Nalley, both looking tired and drawn.
“Mrs Carson,” Elaine started, but the Headmistress shook her head.
“Not a word until you've both eaten. Go.” She pointed in the direction of the hospital's cafeteria and both students filed out, Elaine mournfully looking over her shoulder as she left. Elizabeth sighed and took stock of the girl on the bed, surrounded by both machines and magic spells.
If anything, Dr. Tenant had understated the physical changes. The day before, when Carson had Murphy in her office for brawling with Truck on the quad, the girl had been a living montage of scarring in the form of ghost-white lines and blotches that had been wounds rapidly healed by her fortuitous regeneration. The scars of the chainsaw accident on her face, the white arm that had replaced the one lost by thrasher’s PK blades when Phobos burned out, the jagged rips on her back and shoulders and legs where Razorback had mauled her, and the stark-white blotches where she’d taken deep hits in Brick Combat class, or where Tansy had shattered her bones in their altercation earlier in the year were spreading like a wildfire.
Joanne’s face had changed, subtly, her figure filling out even in the hospital bed. There was no resemblance to Vamp in the quiescent face, nor in build. The waifish Poe troublemaker’s BIT had been the template, but only the skin and hair color was being mimicked. Murphy had never been “small” and the body in the bed followed the trend. Where Vamp was slight and waifish, Murphy’s taller-than-average body was filling out like a light weightlifter, one with solid tone, but keeping all of the curves. Vamp’s red eyes weren’t mirrored in the glassy, black orbs set in Murphy’s head. The face didn’t change much at all, seeming to be a more idealized version of Murphy than her unwilling BIT-donor. It looked like she, and her family, would still recognize her face, despite the changes.
Carson took four deep breaths, using her long experience with meditation to align her mind, centering her thoughts and pushing the self-recriminations aside. When she approached the shell of the girl with her mystic sight open… She stopped briefly. A shell. She looked at the face, the unblinking, glassy eyes and moved closer, unable to breathe much as she whispered a series of incantations to focus her mind and guide her perceptions to discover if any corruptive taint had settled into the spirit of the girl and found her eyes…empty.
The Eyes were said to be the windows to the soul. Always before Murphy’s eyes had been vibrant, imaginative, mulish and unafraid to match one’s gaze. Now they were empty as Elizabeth Carson found… Nothing of the girl’s spirit. Except for a tiny reflection of a sleeping teenager forever away and yet deeply here. Surrounded by dreams of nothing shaped by the fanciful whim of sleep… and made very, vividly real.
“Astral…” The word was whispered with longing… and very real fear. There was no spirit to resist the incursion of the unnatural body template inflicted upon Murphy during the previous year by her unknown attackers.
Murphy’s spirit was somewhere in the astral, somewhere in a realm where the mind manifests power, and imagination and will could alter the very fabric of creation. It was a place that required an ordered, disciplined, and calm mind, one that could, and more importantly, would resist the temptation of the power that was the trap it offered.
Joanne was extremely ADD, was seemingly impulsive, and often uncaring of consequence. She was also vividly imaginative, often vividly vindictive, a warper who considered three-dimensional space a polite suggestion, a mangler of odds and fate and carried a disturbing and elusive connection to the energies of death and the underworld.
It was hard to imagine which was worse, the damage the Astral could to to Murphy, or the damage Murphy could do to the Astral.
November 1st, 2007
Foyer, Dickinson Cottage, Whateley Academy
Even though it was well past midnight, there was quite a commotion in the foyer of Dickinson Cottage as Adam opened the door and held it for Prue to enter before him. There were several couple's making out openly on the couches and, as they passed the common room, there was even more going on in there. Baffled, Prudence led the way to Sahar, who was standing by Mrs Nelson's apartment, a clip board in her hand. “Hey, Semi,” she greeted, looking around in shock. “What is going on?”
The Kurdish girl smirked. “Mrs Nelson is over at Whitman, covering for Mrs Savage. She's wrapped up in this thing with Lifeline and Murphy.”
“Where's Mrs Selkirk?”
“Took the night off, of course,” the other replied, rolling her eyes. “Mrs Nelson left me in charge.”
“Thus all the...?” Prue asked, making a gesture about the room and the amorous nature of the visits.
“While the cat's away,” Semi declared. “If the two of you plan on...anything...keep it discreet and make sure Mr Lambert is back in his own Cottage before it gets too much later.”
Prue turned to Adam, who was blushing fiercely. “Adam, would you care to escort me to my room?” she asked slyly.
“I...I...” was all the boy could manage. Prue shared a wink with Sahar and gently led the boy towards the stairs and her dorm room.
November 1st, 2007
Interrogation Room 1, Kane Hall
“Am I the only one that gets the creeps watching her write?” Trish Savage asked softly as she, Circe and Chief Delarose watched the teen through the two way mirror that looked into the next room. At a table, Maggie Finson sat, hunched over the blank spell book Trish had given her. She was using a regular ball point pen, and none of the materials had been properly prepared. As a spell book, it would be worthless, but it was hoped by looking at the formula it could be deciphered as to what the young girl had done, and if they were lucky, why.
“It's not just you,” Circe replied. “She looks like she is writing under a compulsion. There is no hesitation, no struggling to remember. Something is very wrong here.”
“Wrong enough to help her beat a murder charge?” Delarose asked. The two women looked at him and the ancient sorceress could only shrug.
“I cannot be certain until I have seen the formula, Franklin.”
The Chief rubbed his chin. “Speaking of that, before you or somebody with your ability sees that formula, Circe, I want an expert...” He was interrupted by a knock on the door. “Ah, here she is now.”
The door opened and Lieutenant Trout's head came around it. “Chief? I've got...”
“Send her in,” Delarose interrupted. The door opened wider and the slight, alabaster form of Caitlin Bardue entered. Circe couldn't help but start every time she laid eyes on the most coveted of mystic legends, the cobalt-tattoos glowing slightly. “Cait, glad you could come.”
The metallic eyes rolled and suddenly the mystic, living statue's posture became one of annoyance and it became an annoyed teenage girl. “Oh, anything for you, Frank,” she growled, sarcasm dripping from her tone.
The Chief of Security smiled a very false smile. “That's why you're so popular on campus, Cait! That sunny disposition of yours!”
“Fu...hang the campus pecking order,” Bardue growled. “What do you want?”
“Circe and Mrs Savage will bring you up to speed,” He replied, noting that Trout had not withdrawn and seemed to want his attention. To the two faculty members, he declared, “She looks at it first, before anyone else.”
“Don't worry, Franklin,” Mrs Savage assured him. The chief left and Caitlin looked into the window to watch Maggie writing furiously.
“What's wrong with Lifeline?” she demanded, looking up at the other two women.
“You don't already know?” asked Trish.
“I heard something happened at the party, but I have better things to do with my time; like improve my solitaire score.” As the joke fell flat, she let some of the attitude drop a bit and asked, “What's going on?”
November 1st, 2007
Cafeteria, Doyle Medical Center
While the rest of the school depended on the Crystal Hall and it's expert chefs for their food needs, Doyle Medical Center was the trauma center for the region, and due to that required it's own kitchens and cafeteria. While even Elaine would be loathe to try and puzzle out the tangle of Federal regulations, negotiated treaties, AMA Guidelines and Native American departments that Doyle worked its way through, the food was required to be planned and produced under the direction of certified nutritionists rather than professional chefs and so suffered terribly in comparison to the Crystal Hall.
Even on Chef Marcel's worst day his cooking was preferable to the bland, humorless hospital food of Doyle Medical Center's cafeteria.
What the Center could not do with food, it tried very hard to do with ambiance, and the Cafeteria was very pleasantly arranged and decorated with romantic and impressionist works of art and plenty of live plants and even comfortable chairs. Wyatt and Elaine had the cafeteria to themselves, save for a bleary eyed doctor or nurse coming in for a fresh cup of coffee to try and make it through their shift. They were poking at pair of unimaginative sandwiches and under cooked potatoes that had been 'air' fried within an inch of their lives.
After what seemed an eternity, Elaine let the fry she was listlessly pushing through the ketchup slip from her fingers and started to cry. At once Wyatt came around the table and the took her into his arms. “Mah fault,” she whispered through her tears. “It's all mah fault, baby!”
“Hush!” he commanded tenderly. “It's not...”
“It is,” she insisted. “Ah had Kayda bind Grizzly to me! Ah chased Maggie away! If Ah hadn't...”
“Stop it!” he told her urgently. “You didn't make Maggie make whatever she used on Murphy...”
“It was meant for me!” she wailed, looking up at him, her emerald eyes flooded with tears that glistened on her cheeks under the fluorescent lights.
Wyatt held her to his chest and soothed her hair, letting her cry knowing and hating that this was the only way he could comfort her. “Pin it on me,” he soothed her. “Me and Kodiak, if it wasn't for us...” Elaine's grip tightened on Wyatt's arm and her sobs shook her whole body.
“Me,” drifted out from between the sobs. “My fault...!”
The door to the cafeteria opened as Wyatt held his future wife, letting in a blonde Catwoman and dusky skinned Marie Antoinette, minus her towering white wig. Tansy, the mask of the outfit around her shoulders immediately saw the state of her lover and rushed over. Kayda followed as well as her hoop skirt would allow, fighting it all the way. “Baby!” Tansy cried, pulling off her glove as she skidded to a kneeling stop by Elaine and Wyatt.
“Help her,” Wyatt commanded, and Tansy nodded, reaching up with her hand.
Elaine's crying instantly stopped and Tansy became unearthly still next to Wyatt. “What happened? Kayda cried, trying not to look at the unnaturally still pair of her best friends.
“It's a long story,” Wyatt replied, falling into the one role he felt comfortable in, the Leader. “Wakan Tanka can show you the details. Get into Dream Space and find out what became of Jo Gunnarson's spirit. If you can, hold onto it so we can try and reintegrate it with her body.” Her mouth opened, but Wyatt shook his head. “Seconds count, Kayda!”
“On it!” she declared, sitting cross legged on the floor in the hoop skirt and closing her eyes. It would have been a comical sight if things weren't so serious.
Wyatt sighed and looked at the girls around him. Out loud to himself, he said, “Maybe I should go to sleep, then I can truthfully say I slept with three girls at once!”
Don't quit your day job, Kodiak told his host drolly.
November 1st, 2007
Dream Space of the Ptesanwi
Kayda only wondered for a moment why she was dressed in the combat costume of her Coyote identity that Tansy had helped her make. However, she quickly decided that anything was better than that accursed hoop skirt and took off running towards the fire circle up the hill. “Wakan Tanka!” she cried as she ascended the hill, marveling a bit and how well the outfit let her move.
It looked like she owed Tansy five dollars.
Wakan Tanka looked up from the fire circle she was tending, an eyebrow raised as she did so. “How may I help you, Coyote?” she asked, her tone somewhere between annoyed and sarcastic.
Kayda stopped abruptly, angrily crossing her arms over her chest. "I don't like it any more than you do," she said sternly, "And this is as much your doing as much as it is mine."
Wakan Tanka's jaw dropped at Kayda's stern, even angry, rebuttal. "How is this my doing?" she demanded.
"You started this whole thing, remember?" Kayda reminded her. "And you got Tatanka to introduce me to the animal spirits - who all frequently reminded me to disguise myself and my capabilities, remember?" When Wakan Tanka nodded grudgingly, Kayda continued. "The administration thought that was a prudent precaution, and decided to carry it a bit further."
"But ... Coyote?" Wakan Tanka complained, gawking. "You know that mangy mutt is never going to let either of us hear the end of this!" she grumbled angrily.
"We don't have time for this," Kayda changed the subject abruptly, knowing that she and Wakan Tanka were going to have a lot of long conversations about her new get-up. "Something bad happened at our Halloween party," she began, grimacing at the memory of what she'd seen. "Something ... tore the spirit out of a girl."
"What do you mean, tore the spirit out of a girl?" Wakan Tanka asked, frowning in confusion.
"Kodiak said that her spirit was torn out of her body. Her body is alive, but there's no spirit there at all!"
Wakan Tanka crossed her arms. "Then ... she is dead," she declared firmly.
Kayda shook her head. "Kodiak said her body is alive, but we have to find her spirit to try to re-integrate it with her body."
The spirit woman gawked at Kayda, as though she had declared some horrific falsehood to be absolute truth. "We don't ... we can't do that!" she stammered in disbelief. “We cannot allow...”
"Kodiak says he can," Kayda replied. Wakan Tanka's face flushed darker as the disgust and disbelief turned to anger.
"That arrogant over-sized ball of fur would think that," Wakan Tanka muttered mostly to herself. Noticing Kayda glancing questioningly at her, Wakan Tanka nodded slowly. "Yes, he probably would attempt something so unnatural. Perhaps he can do that, but ..."
"Okay, so ... how do we find her spirit?" Kayda asked.
“Do you believe that I would allow my shaman to tread the dark paths of evil?” she thundered. “This is forbidden! The dead are gone! Grieve your friend and ...”
“You can help me, or you can watch,” Kayda snarled at her. “Because I will!" For a moment, Kayda wondered if she was pushing too hard, too far. " I have had it up to here with your mooning and your mysteries and the Trickster himself appearing in my Bedroom! Where I sleep! To lecture me about how I haven't followed my own rules! You made me a shaman, you told me it is my place to heal, then by God I will heal Joanne Gunnarson or I will die in the attempt of it and to blazes with the lot of you!”
"Joining a spirit to an undead body is unspeakably dark! It is a path to destruction of your soul!" Wakan Tanka argued.
"You yourself taught me that there is no single true religion because all of them show differing aspects of a vastly complex spiritual plane. Planes. Whatever."
Wakan Tanka's angry gaze softened a bit as she wondered what the girl - her pupil and her shaman - was going to argue as her main points. "This is true."
"Which means that reincarnation of Hinduism, Buddhism, the druids, and countless other religions is as valid a viewpoint as any other religion. True?" Kayda posited to her mentor. "Or was it a lie, and some aspects of some religions more valid than others?"
"It is meddling with death and spirits!" Wakan Tanka protested again. "It is a path to evil."
"But binding a spirit to a living person is not evil?" Kayda noted, unable to keep the frustration out of her voice. "If the binding is mutually acceptable?"
“You cannot heal the dead...!”
“Her body is alive!” Kayda shot back. "How is it evil to bind a spirit to its own body? If this isn't the job of a shaman, to guide a lost spirit home, to be healed, what is?”
The Spirit's face was drawn and sour, at having her logic turned back on her. She crossed her arms and almost petulantly declared, “You are well named, Coyote. You have tasted deeply of the Trickster's Fire Water and are drunk with it!”
"Knock off the bullshit logic!" Kayda retorted sharply. "Why is it you're really objecting? Is it jealousy because the Kodiak can do it and you can't? Or because maybe once you tried and it failed? What's the real reason?"
Wakan Tanka gawked, and though her jaw moved, no sound came out. Finally, with an anguished cry, she turned away from Kayda, and the girl realized that she'd stumbled onto something which really hurt her spirit mentor. Finally, Wakan Tanka lowered her gaze, still faced away from Kayda. "We will have to meditate to find holes, or the remains of holes, in the barriers between the physical and different layers of the spirit realm," she avoided the question and acquiesced to the girl's logic. She gestured for Kayda to sit by the fire. "Brew some tea while I prepare. And explain more of the intricacies of the spirit realms." She sat down cross-legged next to the girl, still avoiding looking directly at the girl. "I saw something unnatural tear a hole from the physical realm to somewhere in the spirit realms. But it's very unlikely she's in this dream space on what you call the Astral plane."
Kayda looked up from her task. "Then ... where?"
"Do you remember when you had to fight the son of Unhcegila in the spirit realm?"
The girl shuddered involuntarily; no matter how much she might have wished to forget that nightmare, there was no way she every would. That battle was the stuff of horror movies.
"Unhcegila's son was in a different plane of the spirit realm. That's why there was a barrier between his plane and mine, and why I had to remain at the barrier and hold open a gate." She paused and touched Kayda' hand. "Brew the strongest tea you know. We will need every bit of strength and essence to follow the rips and tears and find the girl."
Kayda nodded as she adjusted what herbs she was taking from her medicine pouch.
"And Kayda, we must hope that she hasn't gotten too high in the spirit planes. At a certain point, it will be impossible for any spirit, no matter how powerful, to bring her spirit back to the physical."
"Why?" Kayda asked, not looking up from her preparations.
"Some of the planes may have ... things ... like Unhcegila's son in them. Evil things that would capture and torture or destroy the girl's spirit. We will need to be prepared for battle." The spirit gave a soft sigh as she stood and laid her hand on the girl's shoulder. Somewhat startled from the touch, Kayda turned and looked up into the older woman's face. “That is the worst that can happen. The best is that the spirit of your friend will find its way to the...” she paused, almost as if unsure how to form the thought into words.
“The what?” Kayda asked, taken aback by the behavior of her spirit. She had never seen Wakan Tanka act this way before. “Tell me,” she pleaded.
The hand on Kayda's shoulder gripped harder. “There is a place,” Wakan Tanka told her softly. “It has many names. Valhalla. Folkvang. Hel. Sheol. Tien. Xibalba. Hades. Tian or Diyo. Most religions have the same concept - a place of eternal reward or eternal punishment. In the Tradition of your Headmistress it is called the Tabula Rasa.”
Kayda frowned. “The what? That's not Lakota, it's...”
“Latin,” the Spirit finished. “Perhaps your sister the Pict Daughter can tell you the legends of it. I have no knowledge of what lies beyond it. No Spirit does. Perhaps, beyond is the Great Spirit, perhaps it is the Jesus you grew up worshiping. I cannot say. All I know - all any spirit knows - is that the departed are drawn to it. And they never return, Wihakayda. If the spirit of your friend is drawn to it, if she enters it, you must not follow. If you enter the Tabula Rasa, you will not return. You will never be able to return. Swear it to me, my shaman, my daughter of another, swear that you will not follow her.”
A fire lit behind the Spirits eyes and her other hand took Kayda's other shoulder and for the first time, Kayda saw fear in her spirit's face. “Swear it, Shaman! You must not enter the Tabula Rasa! Swear it or I will aid you no further!”
November 1st, 2007
Mind Space of Tansy Penelope Walcutt
As the real world fell away, Tansy was swept into a maelstrom as though she had been picked up into a tornado and was flung to and fro. The blonde was used to her lover's mercurial emotions and had long since learned to ride them instead of immediately trying to fight it. Through the darkness, she saw snatches of memories Elaine had shared with her. Tansy let her power flow out into the mental whirlwind, safety, love, contentment.
A flash of autumn sunlight heralded one of the fantasies that was Tansy's favorite. She was in jeans and an angora sweater against the chill of the coming winter. She was sitting against a high, proud oak that was ablaze in crimson. Elaine was leaning against her as they sat and watched Wyatt in the glade below them, rough housing with a gaggle of children of indeterminate ages. “Joann is dead because of me,” Elaine whispered and Tansy hugged her lover.
“Baby, that's not so,” she assured her.
“Ah bonded with Grizzly, Ah should have known...”
From behind them, Grizzly ambled up, pausing to reach down and gently caress the head of her host. “Don't be so quick to fill out the death certificate,” the spirit warned her. “Kodiak is a stubborn bastard.”
“Can he raise the dead?” the red head demanded. The bear's muzzle split in a knowing smile of fangs that somehow reassured.
“Your friend is not dead,” she retorted. “Her body breathes and you watched me help make it so,” the Nurse scolded, wiping the sweat from her forehead onto the sleeve of her scrubs. “The garage is ready, it just needs a driver and a car.”
“Can we find her, Grizzly?” asked Tansy. “Can we bring her spirit back?”
Music swept through the glade, washing away the park to a English tavern, the wide grin of Mustang shaking his head as he tuned his mandolin over his knee. “It's never been done,” he declared. “Not in any tale or song I've ever heard.”
“We saved Shelly,” Lanie protested as she joined Tansy with a pair of tankards of something that was strong and bitter and sweet tasting at the same time. “Maggie even helped...”
“Shelly was on the Prime Material Plane,” Grizzly declared from the CPR she was giving to patient in an over worked ER. “Trying to chase down a spirit, on the planes, before she stands judgment...?”
“It would be an adventure for the ages,” Mustang declared, now on all fours and liveried as a New York Mounted Police Horse. He turned and looked over his shoulder at Police Woman Grizzly on his back. “I'm up for the challenge if you are, Grizzly.”
Elaine's father walked up from the faceless crowd of New Yorker's and offered the horse an apple he began to munch loudly. “You promised to protect my daughter, Grizzly,” the mechanic told the spirit. “Not take her into dangers and adventures.”
“Mr. Nalley trusts his daughter,” Tansy told Elaine's Sense of Responsibility and the image of her father changed into her mother.
“Trusts her to mind her studies,” Mrs Nalley declared. “That's why she's at that school, not to go tearing off, leave that to Mrs Carson!” New York washed away and in the blackness, only Elaine was with Tansy now, the two girls kneeling and facing each other.
“Don't leave me,” Lanie whispered. “Everyone leaves...”
Tansy brought Elaine into her arms and kissed her, deeply. In her mind, as their tongues danced, Tansy felt their minds come ever closer and she began to understand what Shakespeare had meant when he talked about knowing the bottom of someone elses soul. To her lover, she swore, Never, my love. I will always come for you.
The kiss broke and watery, emerald eyes stared into twinkling sapphires. “Can we make this right, Tansy?”
“Mrs Carson will know what to do, baby,” Tansy assured her lover. “She always does.”
Elaine licked her lips and nodded. “Then, let's go find her.”
Tansy smiled and helped them both to their feet. “As you wish.”
November 1st, 2007
Secure Conference Room, Kane Hall
Amelia Hartford had been around Elizabeth Carson long enough to know that when she stepped into the secure conference room in Kane hall, wearing an immaculate Armani skirt suit and her hair and makeup perfect that she was faking things with magic. Before she had a moment to call the meeting to order, Amelia took her by the elbow and guided her back out into the hall way. “How long since you've slept?” she asked.
A brief expression of annoyance flashed across the older woman's face, but it was quickly washed away to chagrin. “As long as it's been for anyone else,” she admitted, then she spoke a heavy sounding word and her Armani skirt suit became a pair of worn jeans and plaid 'lumber jack' shirt, the make up vanished and her face seemed worn and a bit tired and her hair was back in a simple pony tail. “There, not quite so in your face?”
Amelia smirked. “I have to get you to teach me that,” she told her friend around her smile. Carson's expression changed to much put upon horror.
“And grant you magic in the mortal realm to go with the electronic one? Heaven forbid!” The two friends shared a chuckle, before Amelia put a hand on Carson's arm.
“Do you need to get some sleep? I can handle this...”
Liz shook her head as she guided the both of them back into the conference room. “No, you can't go where I believe we're headed.” She walked to the head of the conference table and when she arrived the various conversations about it ceased. “I wish I could say 'good morning, everyone' and mean it, but it's far too early and our situation far too grim. Having checked with both our staff at Doyle and the Kodiak, he and I agree that Miss Gunnarson soul was completely forced from her body and she is not exactly dead. That may give us a window we can act in to undo this. Louis, what have you seen in the Astral?”
The dapper looking shade sighed and nodded. “At the risk of sounding flippant, there is a great disturbance, right at the time Miss Gunnarson consumed the tainted punch. It was not the same as someone dying, though, not that instant departure through Astral Space of the person's presence. Indeed, it felt like Miss Gunnarson went...sideways...for lack of a better metaphor.”
“That was my take as well,” Liz agreed. “Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we can preform an astral quest to locate Miss Gunnarson's soul and the Kodiak is confident he can...”
Ms Grimes stood, still in her Morticia Addams costume. “Liz, you're talking about necromancy. That's...”
“No,” the Headmistress declared, a bit more firmly than perhaps she needed to. “I am talking about rejoining a spirit to it's rightful body.”
“This is a dangerous game you play, Dr Carson,” Doctor Al-Feyez declared from his seat. “You are skirting the edge of both the Codus and the Contract. Ethically...”
The Headmistress frowned, cutting off the Legal and Ethics Expert of her Mystical Arts staff. “Ethically, I am using magic to heal the injury of a innocent due to the actions of a third party,” she corrected him. “Well within the proscribed...”
“Well within is your opinion, Doctor,” Hakim rebutted sharply. “The Mystic Court may not agree with you!”
Circe stood and joined Ms Grimes next to the Headmistress. “No one here questions your devotion to these children, Elisabeth. But, are you sure your actions are as spotless as you claim? Are you sure you're not desperate to not have to live through another Heyoka incident?”
“Hey, back off...!” Amelia started, but Mrs Carson quelled her objection with a soft gesture.
“Certainly,” she declared softly, staring down her fellow mages, “there are some who may take issue with my conclusions. All of us, at one point or another, have made this choice when we took up the cape, or swore the Oath to the Contract. I have done both. If there are consequences, I will face them. But I cannot stand idle when there is a chance by attempting this Joann Gunnarson's life might be spared. Do any of you dispute my logic?”
“It could cost you your license,” Circe warned.
“Then I will cease the practice of magic,” Carson declared firmly. “If your consciences will not allow you to assist me, then I ask only that you stand by and not actively hinder me.”
Hakim humphed and crossed his arms. “No need to martyr yourself, Liz,” he told her. “As if any of us would stand by, let alone stand in your way.”
“What do you need, Liz?” Elyza asked.
“Fubar, have Mrs Horton wake Fey to assist you in strengthening the wards around the school. The disturbance will likely attract unwelcome visitors.” Louis bowed and vanished. “Circe, I am going to get some experts and go on this spirit quest. I need you and the rest of the Mystic Arts team warding our bodies and making sure the connection stays strong.”
The ancient sorceress nodded. “I'll inscribe the sigil of Dagda so the road home is bright.”
“I'm coming with you,” Grimes declared. “Knowing you, these 'experts' are going to be students and you'll need more than your bon vivant to ride herd on who I think you have in mind.”
Elizabeth smiled a cockeyed smile at her friend. “Why Elyza, Querida Mia that's French!”
“Kiss my ass, not my arm,” Grimes shot back, sulking at walking into a Addams joke. “Let's get this show on the road, it's not getting any earlier.”
“Alright,” Liz acquiesced. “Let's go round up the Tres Amigas.”
Somewhere in the Void
When she drifted awake, she felt nothing, like she was suspended in… something, everything, nothing all at once. She hurt, she felt good, blissful even, in a confusing simultaneous way. It was too much, and she opened her eyes.
The nothing was too much and eyes snapped shut again at the void of potentia as her mind began forcing the madness of not into something that made sense. She never saw the things that uprooted and tried to flee her presence as she felt the familiar sensation of being face-down in dirt and spruce-needles, a biting chill in the air gave hints of snow.
Joanne opened her eyes, but didn’t fully, and saw a pile of moose nuggets lying on the ground not ten feet away. As she pushed herself to her feet, gravity seemingly re-asserted itself as she looked around at the landscape her mind had created out of the chaos, and like a dreamer, didn’t question that the land wrapped and twisted itself, the squirrels darting around in impossible-to-track paths as the land curved up and trees hung down from stalactites on the ground above as they did around her.
Like in a dream, it made sense. She closed her eyes, and could still feel the things around her, could track the animals in the area. Something big was moving, stirring in the not quite winter chilled air. Moose or bear, she didn’t want to play with it. When she opened her eyes to the winter dawn, she looked for the familiar sight of the cabins on the next hill over, through the seemingly dead trees that had readied themselves for the cold of the coming long night.
She didn’t remember how she got out there.. So she looked for the road, and started walking, blithely not really paying attention to the fact that the act of walking forward resulted in maddening spirals of direction change, and walking up the curved wall in a manner reminiscent of scenes from the Labyrinth, or Inception.
It made sense, because Joanne Gunnarson didn’t have to trust her eyes. Her spatial sense told her where everything actually was in the not-directional insanity. She didn’t question the madness around her because despite her eyes being open, Joanne Gunnarson was not fully awake.
The once-nameless, murderously hateful thing that stirred in the cold that she sensed had fled her kind before. The pain of calcification into reality awoke it fully from it’s long, drifting joy of unawareness. The deranged, pain-maddened abomination of antler, claw, hoof, fur and fang. Something between bear and moose, but neither and other stirred and twisted. It could feel the land itself writhe as everything that was NOT got caught within the grasp of the Namer’s sight and was twisted, calcified and reshaped into some semblance of order. The pain of limitation ripped through them as potential became dirt, or tree, unshaped concept became mundane chill, or air. Glorious nothing became squirrel.
Where Joanne walked, the space around her screamed in protest as it was forced to conform. And as it was forced to conform, it began hunting… It began to prepare to fight back…
Hours… seconds? Minutes? Later, as time was enforced upon timelessness, the cabin she was looking for was found. Twisted and bizarre, the inside made perfect sense to her in her not-awake-but-seeing mental state. The outside of the cabin was a simple, small wooden structure, a two-story loft cabin. Inside was a labyrinthine funhouse of passages and twisting corridors, much bigger inside than out.
“Mom?” She called out. “Kayla? Brett?” She drifted through, hunting for her family. The silent halls of the cabin were devoid of feature, bare wood. Alone on a wall shelf was a dusty, old photo, not in a frame, face down and forgotten. Her family was gone.
She was in the wrong place!
The calcified portion of the astral lingered as Murphy vanished.
Another part of the Astral “screamed” in horrified outrage as reality was imposed upon it. The Moose/bear abomination tore through the walls in pain-maddened fury, charging across the nothing of potential to slaughter one of the Namers it had fled long ago for catching it in their hated existence.