[Note the author does not speak Italian, or any other languages, so apart from a few words here and there all dialog will be in English. You may however presume that it is what ever language you feel comfortable with. Special thanks to Warren for providing taxi ride experiences in Italy, and a bunch of other insanity. (Yes some of it really is his fault! And Maggie for help with Saul.]
~’Ley-line!’~ warned Chaddy before I nearly fell face forward into it.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck!” I screamed as I only hesitated briefly before I plowed right through it. For a terrible moment the sensory overload flattened me to the ground in agony as I clutched one handed at my head.
~’Hurt later!’~ screamed Chaddy in my head. ~’Get up!’~
With a wave of anger I pushed myself back to my feet, stumbling forwards out of the torrent of energy. “I am so going to hurt something or someone after this!” I growled as my vision swam.
~’Later! Later! You have to get moving!’~ rampaged Chaddy in my head as the screams of fear repeated themselves.
“Yes drill sergeant, fuck you drill sergeant,” I said as I managed to lift my feet and stumble onward.
~’You going to let that sissy mommies boy of a daemon make you look bad?’~ goaded Chaddy as I managed to pick up the pace.
“Fuck,” was the only thought I could rationally make as I felt the daemons presence surge as I rounded a corner. Just ahead was the small form of Suzy as she was cocooned in some sort of glowing white bubble, how I knew it was Suzy, I had no idea. The daemon was all to easy to identify as it tried to bring its hooves crashing down on to her bubble, only to bounce off.
Aiming skyward I pulled the trigger and then remembered to take it off of safe. Not exactly panicked, I cursed as I fought with the unfamiliar gun and then smiled as the safety clicked off. I gave the oddly bovine daemon a growl and then aimed high on its torso, from the distance I was at aiming low as a bad choice. As my hands trembled in tension and waves of fear, I forced myself to step back into a two handed shooters crouch.
~’Just breath, aim, relax and shoot,’~ guided Chaddy’s voice as she ran me through the shooters mantra.
“Just breath, aim, relax and shoot,” I echoed as my hand steadied and the trigger gave way under the faint pressure of my finger.
Man made thunder lashed from my fingertips, seemingly stalling time as my pulse stuttered in time with the rain of falling brass. Three, six, nine, I seemingly counted as I took hurried steps backwards drawing the daemon in my direction. The air seemed to thicken as the daemon bellowed and its chest expanded outward as spines launched out from its chest. Still stuck in slow motion, my half step only partially pulled me out of their path.
Time sped up for a horrific heartbeat as the spines lashed into the right side of my torso and lower leg. I felt rather than heard my exhale of pain as I screamed my body’s protest, the waves of pain cascading up and down my body as I forced myself to kneel rather than fall. My finger convulsed four more times before I felt the chamber lock back on empty.
~’Re-fucking-load!’~ screamed Chaddy as my vision wavered, and I felt him seize my hand and work the clip release. ~’Kill this fucker!’~
Finding the clip in my belly band took long painful seconds as the daemon pounded closer. The unfamiliarity of the pistol pissed me off to no end as it forced me to look down to seat the magazine, then as I fell to one side to avoid a stomp that thundered in my ears, I got it to slam a round home and cocked it. Laying there I placed the pistol at the daemons knee and pulled the trigger several times.
I was rewarded with a screech of outrage as it collapsed across my legs and a secondary wave of pain as I felt my knee pop. Frantically I felt Chaddy take control of my hand as the trigger was jerked wildly sending bullets point blank into the chest of the daemon. I think we both screamed our outrage as the gun suddenly locked back on empty once more, with a jerk of fear I felt the daemon lift itself upward as it shrieked its own protest of agony.
As my heart pounded a psychotic rhythm in my chest, I scrabbled at the band of my skirt to find and free the dagger. The daemon and I shared a look of rage and hatred as it pushed itself off of me. Screaming our mutual defiance we gathered ourselves, pulling our bodies partially upright, the two of us unwilling to stop or surrender to oblivion. Then as I watched it muscles ripple and compress we both attacked.
Pain washed into my body driving me downward as my arms lanced upward. In one brief instant I could feel the dagger sliding up through the bovine jowls, sticking briefly on bone and then socketing in deeper. The next instant was a jangle of pain and confusion as my body was tossed through a wall of vegetation and broken branches, driven there under the mass of the daemon.
In the next moment of coherent thought I looked at my obviously broken wrist blankly and I could feel Chaddy forcing me to think and say, “Heal us.” For one long heart rending moment the ring seemed to pause to think, then we fell out of time, and into hell.
“Back so soon?” chided Satan as he shook his head, “Did you know it is much safer to make love to a daemon if you are the boy?”
“Oh?” I asked blankly as I glanced around trying to sort out the theme of events to come.
“No not really,” he admitted with a leer, “but I may let you try that some day.”
“Oh jolly,” I said recognized the kitchen, “you could be nice and tell me what the fuck I was fighting.”
“A possessed cow, naturally the negative planar influences warped its body drastically,” he explained with a chuckle as he drug me by my broken leg to a large bull like statue.
“Oh, naturally,” I said as I tried to focus, “you know I am having shitty luck with daemons lately?”
“Well the learning curve on fighting them is rather steep,” he admitted with a chuckle as he lifted me up and dumped me into the bull thing. “You may like to know I have been giving that some thought.”
I stuck my head back through the hole and frowned as he appeared to be stacking flaming wood under it, “Like maybe some help?”
“Could be,” he said with an infuriating grin, “it could be I just like to watch you suffer.”
“Oh, like I could not have figured that out, what is this, ow, thing?” I asked as the side of it slammed shut locking me in.
“It’s called the Brazen Bull, it is one of my favorite ovens of all time,” he said and then I learned why he liked it as I started to bake and then burn. Then there was screaming, a lot of screaming, but he likes that sort of thing.
The only consolation I had from the fact that the daemon was immolating itself, was that it was dead. The other facts I found troubling, namely that it was laying across part of my body as it did so. That and I could feel my flesh cooking off of my bones and healing in roughly the same amount of time. The fact that I was awake enough to register both sensations meant I would likely live through it. The other fact I was aware of was that I was screaming, about that time my brain gave up on cataloging facts and then it turned itself inside out dropping me into darkness.
Waking up didn’t hurt, much. Well much in the sense that I was alive, though all of my senses were pretty much one screaming circle of pain. I dimly recognized that I was in a bed and that there was several hands washing me with rough wash clothes, but beyond that things were not tracking very well. No part of me really wanted to do much but lay there, even Chaddy was mutely whimpering in my head.
~’Shield love, one level at a time,’~ instructed Sara’s voice calmly as it arose into my mind. Neuron by sluggish neuron, I pulled my electrical shield up and into place, ~’One down love a few more to go.’~
“There is a lot of ozone in here,” said the Matrons voice calmly.
“That’s normal for her body,” was the tinny voice I recognized as Paige’s. “Just do not ground yourself next to her and you should be safe.”
~’Ease the sight senses closed now,’~ instructed Sara calmly as the mantra for that cycled into my awareness.
“Her breathing is shifting, I think she may be waking up,” said Michelle as I felt her hand on my head.
“That’s a relief,” said Paige happily, “I have to go they want me back in testing again, tell my brat sister to not scare me like that again.”
“We’ll do that, thanks again for the help Paige,” said the Signora with a sigh as the phone beeped.
“Think we can ditch the power cords?” asked Rose after a moment.
“We’ll wait a bit I think,” said the Matron, “to my eyes she seems better though.”
“Less pink, in any case,” said a different woman’s voice.
“Magical and innate regeneration, and she still nearly died,” said the Signora hesitantly, “or rather nearly got killed again.”
~’Ride the Sensory Waves, do not be ridden by them,’~ guided Sara as I felt the motion swell and flow around me.
“Why didn’t she just blast it into oblivion?” asked the new voice.
“She has not been taught those sort of spells yet,” said the Signora calmly, “her control is lacking otherwise they would be a priority.”
“She’s the one who has been blessing the Lodge the past few nights in a row,” explained Rose with a soft chuckle, “a blessing is a bit easier on the building than a blasting.”
“Less noisy too,” pointed out Michelle with a laugh.
“I think the ants in Australia are finally taking a nap,” I observed aloud and then sighed, “finally.”
“So child, back with us?” asked the Signora with a pleased smile.
“Parts of me, I think,” I said after a moment and then I lifted my head and gave my body a glance, “well the important parts anyways. I think my wits are still missing.”
“Most people would run the other way if they ran into a daemon,” observed the woman I recognized as Suzy’s mom.
“I heard Suzy scream, and then I ran into the daemon trying to stomp her, though that didn’t work for it,” I said as I briefly relived that part of the fight.
“She plays turtle when panicked, I’m not sure where she learned how to make that barrier, but not much if anything can get through it.” Suzy’s mom shook her head, “Probably her invisible friend told her how to do it, like the other bits.”
“Well it seems intent on keeping Suzy intact,” said the Matron with a chuckle, “something that should not be knocked.”
“Oh I know, but now she wants to grow up and fight monsters,” her laugh was a bit more forced as she said, “and shoot them and stab them.”
“Tell her to stick with her magick,” I said with a sigh as I looked up at the ceiling, “guns and knives are overrated.”
My afternoon and evening had revolved around eating and napping off and on as my body tried to replenish its physical and other batteries. I would no more than get full, then conk out, only to wake up a bit later to make a hurried trip to the bathroom, and start the process over again. I recognized the pattern of gorge, nap, gorge as something familiar from my ‘awakening,’ so it didn’t worry me overly much, though it provided Rose and Michelle a few moments of fun. Largely at my expense.
“I’ve seen baby grackles with less appetite than you Petra,” said Rose with a grin as she sat another tray of peanut butter sandwiches in front of me.
“At least we don’t have to regurgitate to feed her,” said Michelle as she made appropriate gagging sounds to illustrate her point.
“Cheep-cheep,” I said once the bite that cemented itself to the roof of my mouth finally went down.
“We better check her for feathers,” said Michelle as she grinned impishly at me and started to pick up the end of the blanket that covered my legs.
“I can assure you nothing has been added or misplaced since this morning,” I said with a sigh.
“Are you sure?” asked Rose with a giggle. “Has all the swelling gone down?”
“Quite sure,” I protested as the two of them eyed me suspiciously.
“I bet we could get something to swell,” said Michelle as she looked at Rose and deliberately licked her lips.
I watched as Rose started to blush, “Is it hot in here?” she asked abruptly and started to undo a button in her top.
“I’m trying to recover here,” I protested as they glanced down at me.
Smiling, Michelle knelt down by my head and said in a husky whisper, “We just want to be sure your circulation is good.”
I felt rather then saw Rose do the same as she breathed into my ear, “I just like the way things rise when you get excited,” she said with a soft purr.
“I, um, um…” I said vaguely as my temperature shot up a few thousand degrees.
“So girls, are you just tormenting Petra because you like her or because you can,” asked the Matron as she stepped into the room with both hands on her hips.
“Why yes,” said Michelle as she paused to place a kiss on my cheek.
“She started it,” said Rose as she pointed at me. “Showing up naked in my bed like that.”
“What? Wait a minute,” I protested quickly, “it was you two who joined ‘me.’”
“And it was not even ‘your’ bed,” observed the Matron with a laugh.
“But she is cute,” said Rose as she placed a kiss on my opposite cheek.
“And her circulation seems just fine,” said Michelle as she made a snatching motion at my blanket.
“I thought you two had yet to figure out who was the doctor or the nurse,” asked the Matron with a chuckle.
“Um our negotiations were interrupted,” said Michelle with a shy grin at Rose.
I looked over to see Rose’s face flush and then it seemed to drop lower than her neck rapidly. “I see and just where had the negotiations stopped at?” I asked as I deliberately licked my lips to see if she would flush more.
“I think you two need some quality time alone together,” said the Matron with a smirk, “maybe you should investigate if the hot tub is busy at this hour?”
“It is early,” said Rose as she glanced shyly at Michelle, “and I am a bit sweaty from making all those sandwiches.”
“I could wash your back,” said Michelle with a mock mournful look at me, “surely you would not hold it against me?”
“Or you could hold it against her and I could help,” said Rose with a very direct look at me and then a giggle.
I swatted Rose on her bottom and then did the same to Michelle, “You fiends!”
“Oh a spanking?” ask Michelle with a giggle. “Followed by the hot oral sex?”
“Oh me! Me!” said Rose as she quickly stepped away from a second swipe from me while laughing.
“Out you trollops! Petra needs to rest, and no not that kind of rest,” said the Matron as she shook her head laughing.
“Oh if you insist,” said Michelle as she walked around and goosed Rose, “come you, we have been banished to the hot tub.”
“Darn,” said Rose with a giggle as she fluttered her eyes at me, and then draped her arm around Michelle’s waist, “such a difficult banishment.”
“Indeed,” giggled Michelle as she did the same, “don’t wait up Petra.”
“Oh you two, go molest each other, and try not to drown in the process,” I mock ordered with smile.
The Matron and I watched as the two giggled madly and not quite sashayed out of the room, after a moment she looked at me and said, “You don’t seem to upset by their departure.”
“The spirit may be willing, and other parts too, but I’m frazzled,” I said and picked up another sandwich. “It takes an effort to eat, and then I have to fight all the extra sensations and stuff to not have the room revolve.”
“So do you like them?” she asked as she took up residence at the foot of my bed.
“So far, though if you are asking if I have decided about a relationship with them,” I paused at her slow nod, “sex and stuff is still very new to me.” I sighed and took a sip of water, “Not that I dislike sex, its well…”
“Michelle tends to come on a bit strong, and Rose tends to shy away at odd moments?” asked the Matron quietly.
“Yes,” I said feeling a bit relieved that I wasn’t the only one that noticed.
“I think that in time you will discover that they are just as unsure as you are,” said the Matron as she grinned, “though if I get a bottle of wine in the two of them they would likely end up in bed together.”
“Yeah, I think you are right,” I said with a blush, “is there any way you can sneak one into the hot tub room for them?”
“And give you some ammunition to torment them later with?” asked the Matron with a smile.
“Something like that,” I said nonchalantly.
“I like how you think.”
Friday, 1 December 2006
The night had passed rather quietly for me, well aside from the odd wake up to blast-bless things. My dreams were a bit odd and disjointed and included some fairly explicit bits that were interesting. However, the nightmares were a unpleasant counterpoint to those things, but considering all the abuse I had endured in the past few days not totally unsurprising.
My bed was a bit crowded when my body finally decided that food was more important than rest. Figuring Sara had pulled one of her ‘guess what bed you are in’ high jinks, I took a moment to appreciate my situation. A glance to my left and I located Rose, a glance to my right and I discovered Michelle, so I was a bit surprised and confused to discover a rather blonde head resting lower against my chest. Envisioning all sorts of potential fireworks I paused before poking Michelle.
“Hello cutie, let me guess this isn’t Roses bed?” asked Michelle with a suspicious but ‘cat-ate-the-canary’ grin.
“No, and I suspect that the lady you are gently fondling is not Rose either,” I said as I pointed a finger down at the blonde hair partially hidden my the comforter.
“I hear my name being taken in vain,” said Rose and then there I felt her sliding hand sliding up my thigh and then it lifted the comforter. “So have you been sniffing the daisies while we were out Petra?”
“Not that I know of,” I said as I tried to remember the better dreams of the night.
Michelle gave the nude lady a cursory examination, then she smiled wickedly as she pointed at me, “You know if I was into fishing, I’d have to keep this lure.”
“I’m flattered, I assure you,” I said as I looked down noting the woman in question was indeed a natural blonde.
“So,” said Rose as she poked the sleeping lady a few times until she stirred, “who might you be?”
I watched as a pair of green eyes blinked at my chest, then up at my face, before she turned to look at both Rose and Michelle. “Goddess bless me, this is a nice way to wake up,” she said and then snuggled against me.
“Not that I can argue with that logic,” said Rose as she placed a kiss on my cheek, “but who are you?”
“I am ‘friendly,’” she said lazily as she patted my lower anatomy, “wakey, wakey.”
Michelle gave me an amused grin as she said, “Can we keep her?”
I eased a hand down to cover those bits and used my other hand to lift her face up so she could see my face, “Please I generally like to know who it is fondling my bits, before they get fondled.”
“Besides I had already called dibs,” said Michelle with a slightly grumpy look on her face.
Blinking in consternation, I watched the newcomer take Michelle’s hand and try to place it on my bits, “Sorry, I didn’t know, better?” she asked with a grin as I felt my temperature rise.
Michelle grinned and then started trying to actually touch things, “Much, how is it working for you Petra?”
“I think you’ve rendered the poor girl mute,” said Rose as she watched events with a smirk while trying to hold my arm back.
“Help, help I am being repressed!” I said with a groan, “I’m only dying of embarrassment here.”
“It doesn’t look like she is struggling very hard,” commented the newcomer with a smile, “in fact it looks like she is enjoying things to me.”
“I forget, did we measure this bit the other night?” asked Michelle as she looked over me at Rose.
“I thought you did it?” Rose asked in turn.
“Oh can I help?” asked the new lady.
“Will you all quit torturing Petra?” asked the Matron as she wandered into her room. “As amusing as it is, I am not sure if she is breathing properly.”
“Oh, I suppose,” said Michelle as she gave things a gentle squeeze before letting them go.
The Matron gave the lot of a shake of her head, “I could have sworn that you and Michelle would have been too busy to hop from bed to bed last night Rose.”
“Well I think we fell asleep in the same bed, just not this one, after a time,” said Rose as she blushed.
“It was a bit late too,” said Michelle as her smile turned dreamy.
“I see, so you got the bottle of wine?” I asked the two of them.
“Oh yes, thank you,” said Rose as she paused to kiss me on the lips, “that was very sweet of you.”
Michelle took a moment to do the same thing and then she grinned at me, “Yes that was very sweet of you, we might have danced that dance forever without a push.”
“Aw, so cute,” said the other lady with a smile, “so you helped them?”
“Well it was not like they were not heading that way,” said the Matron with a laugh.
“I’m Leigh, Leigh Freund,” she paused to giggle briefly, “or ‘friend-Lei,’ it’s a terrible play on words but I like it.”
Mutual groans and chuckles were echoed on my right and left, “I see and when did you get here?”
“Well it was before night,” she turned slightly so that her head was nestled between Michelle’s and my breasts, “and I remember going to bed alone, but the Goddess made a point of stirring my dreams.” She paused and her smile turned slightly wistful, “Really good dreams,” she paused and licked her lips thoughtfully, “really, really good dreams.”
“Yes, I seem to recall those,” said the Matron as she paused and looked at me, “again.”
“Its not my fault Sara likes you,” I said with a sigh, “I could ask her to tone it down if you want?”
“Don’t you dare!” chorused Michelle and Rose as they suddenly scowled at me.
“Easy, I was only asking,” I muttered at them with a smile.
“Besides, it is good for the circulation,” said the Matron with a faint smile.
“Sara who?” asked Leigh with curious look at me.
I glanced down and shrugged slightly, “Sara is the name of my goddess, its complicated.”
“I don’t seem to recall a goddess by the name of Sara, but there are so many,” said Leigh with a droll smile.
“Have you heard of Kellith?” asked the Matron with a chuckle as she went about getting dressed.
“Oh yes,” she paused to roll over and then she pointed down to a tattoo just above the crack of her bum on the small of her back, “I even have a tattoo of her sign, she’s a goddess of fertility and sex.”
I gave the triangle that sat there a glance, it was indeed Sara’s mark, just larger and placed there with ink. “I have a smaller one,” I admitted with a roll of my eyes.
“I know,” Leigh blushed deeply, “I um, peeked.”
“What! You have a tattoo and I have not seen it yet Petra?” asked Michelle as she looked at me questioningly.
“Its not exactly in an obvious place or one frequently seen in public,” I protested as I gave a sigh of indignation.
Leigh’s smile was slightly abashed, “I couldn’t help myself, I woke up and she was glowing a dim blue, except for one spot which was a cherry red… and curiosity is my one besetting sin.”
“And where is it?” asked Rose as she sat up slightly and tugged on the comforter.
“Between her sexes,” stated Leigh with a smile, “its very dainty.”
“There is nothing dainty about her um masculinity,” said Rose, and Michelle nodded in agreement as I melted in emotional distress.
“Oh and she blushes all the way down,” said the Matron as she pointed to a flushed foot that was sticking out.
Once my vocal chords got past the emotional warfare in my mind I groaned and tried to pull the comforter over my head, “Is this abuse?”
“Yes but it is friendly,” said Michelle as she tried tugging on the comforter.
“No I am ‘friendly,’ this is what you do to friends or lovers who are too easily embarrassed,” stated Leigh with a smile.
“Yes it’s abuse Petra, but I think you bring some of it on yourself,” said the Matron with a laugh.
“So what do you do for a living Leigh?” asked the Signora once breakfast had commenced.
“A variety of things,” Leigh said with a chuckle, “four days a week I drive a delivery truck, the rest of the week is mix of teaching massage, belly dancing and trying to sort out the meaning of life. Oh and occasionally I run a belly dancer’s supply stall at festivals or perform in them. ”
“Belly dancing, cool,” said Michelle as she filled celery with peanut butter.
“I find it entertaining and profitable on occasion,” she said with a smile, “not to mention it allows me to gorge on all the goodies.”
“Nice,” said Rose took a sip of orange juice, “so how did you find your way here?”
“Well I followed a map, and the other car that came here. I have a truck load of stuff I am supposed to sign over to a High Priestess from the Society of Kellith, once they sort out who that is.” Leigh looked at me with a grin, “You are about six to eight years too young to be a sanctioned ‘ritual priestess’ for Kellith, so I know it cannot be you.”
“They?” asked the Signora cautiously.
“Yes, the Temple from Bari sent an official, as did the regional headquarters, evidently they got sent out on quest.” Leigh shook her head briefly, “Evidently they got some sort of mysterious marching orders, very hush-hush,” she pronounced with an exaggerated sigh. “Evidently since I am ‘just’ a flunky, I don’t know much.”
“So we have some sort of officials from Sara’s cult here?” I asked slowly as I envisioned all sorts of impending weirdness ahead of me.
“Well they do worship a Goddess,” said Rose with a thoughtful expression on her face, “so it’s not like they would be too disruptive to the energies here.”
“Its not the magickal disruption that worries me,” I said as I looked at everyone, “doesn’t anyone but me get a sense for how pear shaped this is likely headed?”
The Signora gave me a thoughtful nod, but it was the Matron that spoke first, “That’s just paranoia, everyone has that.”
”Guns are crude instruments in comparison to magick,” stated the Signora critically as I studied the ruins of the nine-millimeter.
“Maybe,” I said with a sigh of disgust, “but I at least know what I am doing with one.
“In time you will likely find a gun superfluous,” she said with a chuckle, “and it is less likely to run out of ammunition at the wrong moment. Like you said that one did.”
“True,” I admitted with a shrug as I picked at the mass of metal. The pistol’s grip was a misshapen blob of metal and plastic, and the barrel had an unpleasant wide ‘U’ shaped curve to it. I set that off to the side, and examined the dagger which seemed as sharp as ever, though the scabbard that had been dug up for it had not survived the immolation of the daemon. Smiling I watched as Chaddy worked our hand through spinning and flipping the dagger experimentally a few times.
“Well the dagger survived,” I said with a pleased smile.
“Yes,” said the Signora, “though I would prefer that you avoid fighting with daemons today.
Suppressing a shudder I nodded, “Me too Signora,” I gave the dagger a sigh and placed it on the dresser in the room I was loaned in the Lodge.
“Come child, we should not keep our guests waiting too long,” said the Signora with a smile.
“If I said I was comforted by their arrival I would be lying,” I said as I debated picking up the dagger once more.
“Is that your senses picking up something or is it just nerves Child?” the Signora asked softly.
I reviewed the shifting sensations briefly before working to close them back down, “Well I think there is something out there yet.” I paused and picked up the dagger again, “I think it is like the one from yesterday too.”
“You are not facing daemons alone today,” chided the Signora as she placed her hands over mine and gently extricated the dagger from my hands.
Sighing unhappily I reluctantly let my hands drop to my sides, “I still think I would be happier if I was armed.”
“Violence is not the solution to every problem Child,” the Signora said as she placed the dagger back on the dresser.
“But I am good at violence,” I said as I slipped my stocking clad feet into a pair of barrowed sandals.
“That is not exactly something to be proud of,” chided the Signora as she adjusted the collar of my dress. “Not every problem can be resolved by flattening it with brute force; subtle manipulation can often accomplish the same thing with less trouble.”
“So you say,” I said with a frown.
She smiled and nodded, “So I know, I didn’t get to be this old by blasting away at my problems.”
“Not even a little?” I asked her in disbelief.
She paused a brief moment and then a faint smile washed across her lips, “Well I did try it on the plumbing once, but it just made a horrible mess.”
I grinned picturing that sort of mess in my head, “I’ll bet.”
“And here she is,” said Leigh as she pointed to me with a smile. She had evidently rediscovered her clothing and was currently wearing a two piece red outfit that hugged her form tightly leaving her flat stomach uncovered. The other bit of it blossomed out in many pleated skirt, and about her waist was a wide belt that looked like it was covered with many small coins.
“You said she was young, not a child,” said a man next to her that was wearing what I presumed was an expensive brown suit. I ‘presumed’ it was expensive, due to the fact that it seemed to be one of those futuristic cut suits that show up occasionally in the movies. He also seemed to be more agitated by my being young as he continued to shake his head, “Surely she isn’t performing the rituals? Gods this is a lawsuit just waiting to happen.”
“Miguel, hush,” instructed a woman I placed at roughly thirty years old. She was wearing a vibrant many colored sarong over a two piece gray business suit that appeared to have been tailored to accent her figure. Her wavy brown hair was loosely draped about her face and her general demeanor seemed to be that of a business woman or a slightly harried soccer mom. That was until she smiled and her smile seemed to light up the room with a gentle warmth with it as she did so.
The Signora passed me forward with a gentle tug of my hand, and I took a few steps ahead of her. “Hello, I’m Petra Donner, and you would be?” I asked carefully trying to suppress the odd worries that kept nagging at me.
“Alicia Sanders, I’m the high priestess of the Temple of Kellith, in Bari,” she stepped forwards to clasp my hands briefly, “for someone who fights with daemons I thought you would be taller.”
“Not to mention older,” said Miguel as he offered his hand for a shake.
Part of my mind, namely Chaddy, screamed, ‘Lawyer! Lawyer!’
Doing my best to suppress a wince of pain as I shook his hand, I nodded and then smiled, “Not to mention breathing fire, wearing guns, knives and stakes?”
“How very Buffy,” said Leigh with a droll smile.
“You will have to excuse Miguel, he was expecting someone much more different.” Alicia smiled and then said, “Someone a bit more… mature and charismatic, someone whose priestly presence he could mold into a public relations boon for the Cult.”
“Um,” I paused and looked at the two of them, “I’m not that kind of person, I have trouble not slapping people who tick me off.” I gave a look at the people watching the introductions a bland smile, “To be honest I am not that good at stopping daemons yet either.”
“You are good at stopping daemons,” said a small blue blur that nearly knocked me off my feet as she hugged my legs. I glanced down and quickly steadied myself and Suzy as she glowered at everyone, “She kicks butt!”
Alicia gave the little girl a smile, “I see you have a fan.”
“I um, made the daemon that attacked her yesterday change its mind about who it should be attacking.” I found myself blushing slightly as I tousled Suzy’s hair briefly, “After which I was a bit busy.”
“Preposterous,” said Miguel with a disbelieving glower at the two of us. “There is no way either of you could have stalled, much less stopped a daemon.”
Feeling an all to familiar tingle of dread waft over me, I scowled and looked up at him, “Look I’ve been told that I was not to play daemon slayer today, so since you are the expert; why don’t you show me how it is done.” I paused and looked back at the Signora, “It is maybe less than ten minutes away.”
Looking confused Alicia looked from me to the Signora, “What is she talking about?”
“She can sense daemons, part of it may be tied into her Gift, the other is likely caused from wounds received in combat with the same.” The Signora pointed at a few ladies, “Please see to it that the appropriate steps are taken.”
As they departed there was an additional disturbance. “She can sense the daemons because she summons them!” protested a shrill voice I was all to familiar with.
I sighed and gave Suzy a gentle push to send her back to her mother’s arms, “Here we go again.”
“Cast her out,” cried the large lady as she lurched into the center. She was sweating profusely and her flesh was oddly gray as she looked at me feverishly, “This is your fault!”
Blinking I took a step back as she flailed at me, “I don’t want to fight you.”
“You whore!” She stalled briefly as she put her hand in my face, “This is what comes to pass when you lay down with daemons!”
Grabbing the offending hand, I never got to say, “You insufferable psychotic bitch back off!” No what I got to say was, “Oh crap,” as my world suddenly was filled with a burning white light and pain as if Satan had pierced my wrists and feet again.
“Oopsie?” asked Satan as he wandered into view out of the crowd. “I am sure I mentioned something about messing with the clergy, admittedly this is not the clergy I had in mind, but beggar’s can’t be choosers when it comes to these sort of things.” I was stuck there gripping the ladies hand unable to speak as he paraded around mocking me. “You know I do rather like it when you complain or scream, so I am going to let you, how does that sound.”
“You fucking bastard! What the hell did you do to me?” I screamed as my vocal chords suddenly freed themselves.
“I gave you the Stigmata, you know, those pesky wounds of ‘the Crucifixion?’” His smile was gruesome as he continued, “I had to come up with something, and since you think vomiting snakes is passé, I came up with a substitute.”
“And I thought you just had a thing for the movie ‘Dogma’ or Jay and Silent Bob,” I said as I watched my free hand rise up to place itself on her face.
“No but I will say Alanis makes for a hot god,” he paused to sigh thoughtfully. “I have to say this could be most amusing, you bearing the stigmata, hardly Catholic, compelled to heal, oh and the suffering is just a delightful added touch.”
“I don’t see the point,” I admitted as I found myself following the falling body of the woman to the floor, partially grateful I was off of my searing feet.
“Oh my, I didn’t tell you?” he asked as he walked around to put his face next to mine. “How about this little scenario: You in your ‘Catholic School Girl’ disguise, a hospital of sick and injured people, with maybe even a few of them near death. Suddenly, this child is surrounded by white almost angelic light, she starts bleeding from the stigmata as she walks from bed to bed healing people. ‘It’s a miracle,’ ‘it’s an Angel’, stuff like that. Oh and the extra suffering on your face will just make it even more real and more spiritual for those you heal.”
“You are a sick fuck, what do you get out of it?” I asked as I watched the skin start to slacken and fall away from the lady.
“Oh a bit of idle amusement, a few souls pushed back into grace, a kick in the Balance, oh and the suffering of those who cry out, ‘Where is my miracle?’” He smiled and poked the fleshy bag that was around the lady, “Oh my it looks like it is nearly ready to pop, how do you feel about maggots?”
“That would be tacky,” I said as I glowered at him, “so all of this is what? Just another way of making people miserable?”
“Yes, you may be right maggots are tacky, I know I’ll make it a surprise, but you should pop her out before she drowns.” He stopped to pat me on the head, “I hope you enjoy all the healing you will do in the future, I know I will.”
“Just get it over with,” I grunted around the pain.
“Ta-ta dear child, I will be seeing you soon,” he said as he laughed, “oh and I found you a new recipe that is just to die for.”
Time hesitated like the single drop of ketchup stuck in a bottle before it winds its way down and out of the neck; just before falling to miss the plate and land on your jeans. In that quasi-real moment where you know it is going to happen and it has not quite happened, everything exploded loudly and crashed into my senses.
“Holy crap!” said Leigh as she placed her hands on mine and tried to pull me off of the fallen woman.
As my vision swam I was swamped by the feel and flavors of decay and rot, looking down I could see the misshapen bag of flesh shudder beneath my hand. “Not done,” I said past a moan, “she has to get out of it before she drowns.”
Giving me a look of horror, Leigh placed her hand on the shuddering thing and froze as a face pushed upwards under her hand from under the flesh there. “Fuck!” she cried in alarm as she fell stumbling backwards away from both me and the woman.
“You have to let the skinny person out,” said Suzy as the people around me froze in panic, “mommy always says there is a skinny person always trying to get out and she’s always right.”
“Suzy!” was the indignant protest of her mother.
“But you always say it!” Suzy said as she put her hands on her hips and scowled at her mother before looking back at me, “I’d do it but my mom won’t let me play with knives.”
“Oh for the love of Kellith people,” said Alicia with a jolting tone, “just give me a knife and I’ll do it.” She then pressed forwards to kneel down by the woman. Taking a knife that was nervously handed to her, she seized a handful of the sagging flesh and shoved the point through it with a firm push.
I watched helpless as I fell backwards, my weight tearing at the rip, opening it wider as I did so. My nose was abruptly assailed with the scent of blood and other bodily fluids as I sat there in shock. Mutely I sat there staring at the sight of a wailing pre-teen girl as she fell out onto the floor, as Alicia poured her out of her old body.
Suppressing the urge to vomit I looked up as Alicia seemed to suffer briefly with that herself. Then as the nauseating moment passed I heard some woman in the background hysterically say, “Congratulations, it’s a girl.”
“Well that has to be the largest child I have ever delivered,” said Alicia with a detached sounding laugh before she looked in the direction ‘Bethany’ had been carried off.
We were back in the large communal dining room and while I had managed to get a shower, change and recover my wits slightly after a rash of minor healings that followed that doozie. To me the room was still had an air of disarray in it and it seemed as if folks kept waiting on me to jump up and yell, ‘Boo!’ I wasn’t sure if hunger was a good sign on my part, but everyone ‘insisted’ that I needed food. However, they said I was not allowed to have any calming teas just yet, so I was stuck with juice.
“It wasn’t my idea,” I said after a moment, “I had just planned on bitch slapping her.”
“Violence isn’t the answer Petra,” chided the Signora with a forced chuckle.
“So you tell me,” I said as I rolled my eyes at her, “did anyone figure out what her damage was or am I going to get the chance to slap her later on?”
“We found a spine of some sort in her discarded skin,” the Matron shook her head, “it was daemonic in origin from what we can tell. Additionally we found several emptied bottles of Tylenol and thyroid medicine next to her bed.”
“So she was trying to kill herself?” asked Michelle as she looked down at the table in disgust.
“Not a pleasant way to go if that was the case,” said Leigh with an unhappy frown, “overdosing on Tylenol won’t kill you right out, but it will dissolve the liver, and that will kill you a few days later. I had a friend who died that way, we thought she was going to be fine and then her liver just gave up.”
“Rose is with her now trying to get a better picture of what happened to her,” said the Signora as she placed a muffin in front of me, “eat child.”
“Well the good news is that she did not succeed in committing suicide and thus did not desecrate the Lodge,” noted the Matron as she tapped the muffin I was studiously ignoring.
Reluctantly I picked up the muffin and removed the paper from around the bottom of it, “Uh yeah, keeping daemons out where they belong… speaking of which. What happened to the daemon?”
“They beat it to death with your blood soaked sandal tied to a stick,” said Miguel as he looked away from the table in evident discomfort, “after they blasted it with a few other bits.”
“How very ‘Life of Brian,’” I muttered as I looked at the odd smiles around the table. “Would I be surprised if I saw it hanging around outside on a pole?”
“Well there is talk about storing one of them along with some other relics here in the Lodge,” said Michelle as she giggled, “but yes some wag has run your sandal up the flagpole.”
I groaned as the odd humor seemed infectious as Alicia said with a smile, “All Pagans do tend to have a few favorite movies in common, I’ve always been partial to the Princess Bride myself.”
“I’ll pass on any offers of my being ‘King for a Day,’” quickly said Miguel with a pained smile, “I have issues with being sacrificed that way.”
“Most sensible people do,” said the Signora with a chuckle.
“Just for the record,” I heard Chaddy say aloud, “I weigh more than a duck.”
“Which part?” asked Michelle as she leered in my direction.
“Can I do the weighing?” asked Leigh with a matching leer.
“I am so doomed.”
“I see there are a lot of similarities in altar lay outs,” said Michelle as we helped Leigh and Alicia set up for a ‘gathering.’
“Well some things are universal, considering we do share many of the same themes.” Alicia smiled as she opened a box, “Birth, death, the bits between life and death, reproduction and so on.”
“Goddesses, and to a lesser extent gods, spirits, elements, and so on,” said Leigh as she set out red and green candles on a gold altar cloth. “Though by default we are rather Kellith centric,” said Leigh with a smile as she pointed to the triangular symbols woven through out the cloth.
I watched as Alicia set a large phallus and vagina onto the altar, “Please tell me those are not the holy items I am supposed to lug around?” I asked with a feeling of despair.
“Well they are blessed,” said Alicia as she touched them to her head and heart after picking them up briefly again. “Here feel this,” she said with a grin as she passed the large golden phallus to me.
I didn’t quite drop the heavy phallus as the odd sensation of power washed up my arm, “Um yeah.” Idly I noted it was atomically correct, as the veins and scrotum of it were inscribe with hundreds upon hundreds of Sara’s mark as was the head and shaft.
“You look a bit um, dazed Petra,” said Michelle with a giggle, “it’s just a blessed dildo, nothing to be shocked about.”
“I have a smaller one myself,” said Leigh with a giggle, “the texturing of them is um, special.”
“She still doesn’t look so sure,” said Alicia with a smile, “we did bring a set of regalia for you, so you can pick one out more your size.”
“It’s not that!” I protested indignantly as I was sure I was blushing down to my feet.” I looked at them angrily as they laughed at me, “I’m supposed to be a Knight of the Church, putting down daemons and vampires and stuff, it’s just not right!”
“What do you mean Petra?” asked Alicia with a soft voice as she watched me critically.
“Yes, I know it’s a ‘holy item,’” I said with a sigh as I lifted it upwards and looked at them. “How would you feel if you were about to be besieged by vampires or whatever, and you had to pull this out of your stake bag?” I asked as I pumped it a few times in their direction meaningfully. I mean seriously, I want to know that the vampire I am trying to put down is writhing on the floor in pain, rather than laughter...”
"Didn't Buffy?" asked Michelle as she stopped and started to blush, "Oh wait, that was in a slash fic, never mind…"
I gave the ladies that were gathering around an indignant look, as I hoisted in it their direction and crudely pumped it a few times again in a threatening manner. “Back off you vampires or you are really,” I pumped it few more times dramatically, ”really going to get it!”
“Oh stake me, stake me!” said one of the ladies with a giggle as she started to roll on the floor in laughter.
“No stake me!” giggled another as I let the phallus drop down to my side in dismay.
I walked over and placed the phallus on the altar and started to giggle as the hilarity and indignation warred with in me. “It’s just not right!” I protested around a mouthful of giggles as I felt my face flush.
Alicia was giving me a look that was both thoughtful and humor filled, “But it is ‘traditional’ for a Priestess of Kellith to use one.”
“I’m not that kind of priestess!” I protested envisioning all sort of crude things one might use such an item for.
“Yes we know,” said Michelle as she walked over and placed her arms around me in a hug, “we know.” She paused to place a kiss on my brow, “It might be safer if you were.”
I rested my cheek on her shoulder, “Yeah I know.”
“Still, we did bring an entire selection of blessed regalia,” she paused to lift a golden symbol out of the box and then she walked over and placed it in my hands, “I am particularly fond of this one.”
“Oh?” I asked as I studied the symbols as they seemed to shift and move on it, “Just lift this up and?”
“Invoke Kellith’s blessing,” she said with a twinkle in her eye.
I gave her a suspicious look as I looked at it and the odd symbols seemed to glow brighter, lifting it up over my head I said, “I invoke Kellith’s Blessing upon you all.” For the briefest of moments there was an odd tingle from where Sara’s mark resided, then everything went away as an orgasm completely blasted up and through me.
Blinking I sat up and looked at the others as they lay there with blissful expressions on their face. Panting I forced my eyes to focus on Michelle as she shivered several times in succession before opening her eyes. Cautiously I placed the fist sized amulet in my lap as the others seemed to look in my direction with similarly dazed expressions.
There was a soft giggle from Michelle as she looked up at me thoughtfully, “Oh my, bless me again?”
“Lay-Ter,” said Alicia with a pleased sounding sigh, “we still have to set up things for the ritual.”
Somewhere I was absolutely certain that Sara was laughing her ass off.
“Are you sure you are not that kind of priestess?” asked Leigh softly as she twitched off to my left.
I groaned as a series of small aftershocks wafted through me as I looked at the amulet, “I’ll get back to you on that.”
She licked her lips and smiled with a dreamy expression on her face, “Promise?”
“Lay-Ter!” said Alicia again as she crawled in my direction and pulled the amulet from my fingers, “besides the angry mob would likely insist the next one be constrained properly by a circle.”
I turned to see a mixed group of women and a few men at the openings of the large circular room as they seemed intent on weaving towards us. “Um, yeah, maybe.”
“This isn’t fair,” complained Suzy as we were herded into a workshop area while most if not all the ‘adults’ went to the Kellith Gathering Circle.
We were being herded there by Nonna Gracie degli Alberti, of whom I had evidently healed; as she kept going on about how wonderful it was to see clearly and not ache so much. Considering she looked much older than the Signora, even if she claimed the Signora was older than she was, I did not doubt she felt better. She looked entirely too frail to be moving as quickly as she was as well, which made me wonder just how much of a oomph she got from the healing.
“So Nonna, why are you not going to the circle?” asked Suzy as she sulked her way into the center of the room.
Nonna laughed in the pleasant but dismissing way adults will do when the answer you are going to get is not the real one, “Because I love children, and someone has to make sure you two work on your circles.”
I gave her a skeptical look but nodded, “Evidently I missed out on that class when I was asleep after beating up a daemon.”
“Daemons are a nasty bit of work,” Nonna said as she lowered herself to a cushion on the floor, “oh this is so nice, I will have to say a few thousand prayers to the Lady on your behalf Petra.”
“But it wasn’t me,” I said quickly as she indicated I should sit on a similar cushion.
“So you say and rightly so,” Nonna said with a pleased smile, “the Gods work miracles through their servants, so it is only fitting that you should never be overly proud.”
Since I wasn’t about to say that the spiritual kick in the pants came from Satan, I nodded once I was seated. “Oh I am all to aware I am human,” I said with a pained sigh, “I keep getting reminders just how human I am.”
“She’s special!” said Suzy as she moved her cushion over by me and sat on it with a bounce.
“All of us are special Suzy,” said Nonna with a smile, “while the Gods have not revealed what your purpose is Suzy, in time I sense you will find out.”
“I want to fight monsters like Petra,” Suzy said with a bright grin, “an shoot them and stab them!”
“Suzy, fighting monsters is not the most important thing Petra did recently,” Nonna shook her head softly and tapped her on the head, “its much harder to heal something than it is to destroy something.”
“No it is not, I fix my boo-boos all the time,” Suzy countered quickly.
“Have you tried to fix other peoples boo-boos?” asked Nonna softly as she watched her face intently.
“Umm, no, but I bet I could!” said Suzy as she looked at me. “Do you have any?”
“No, sorry Suzy, mine tend to go away very quickly,” I said calmly and deliberately not explaining how.
“Oh, oh well, maybe the next time you get hurt I can fix you?” Suzy asked as she looked at me expectantly.
“If I need a boo-boo fixed and if I don’t heal right away I’ll come and find you and you can try, ok?” I asked largely to humor her.
“Ok,” she said with a happy smile.
“So I’ve been asked to teach you the basics in Magickal Circles,’ Nonna said with a smile that seemed slightly concerned, “how you managed to not learn of them until now is a mystery to many people, but we shall rectify that lapse.”
“Well I’ve not exactly had a formal introduction into the Craft or magick, its been more of one rude surprise after another,” I said as I looked back at her.
“It does catch some of us that way,” said Nonna with a chuckle. “So as they say there is no time like the present.”
“I already know circles,” Suzy said with surety.
“You do?” asked Nonna with a grin, “Can you teach Petra though?”
“Um, circles are circles, you just go around and think them up,” Suzy said with a look that clearly said it was easy and that everyone should already know how it was done.
“Ah youth,” said Nonna with a smile, “they ‘see’ it as easy and thus it is to them.”
“But its more complicated than that?” I asked after a pause.
“Well the principle is more or less that, but the execution of it often is much more difficult.” Nonna smiled as she shrugged slightly, “It usually depends on the person, I’ve known more than a few Crafty sorts who can knock down a house without trying, yet they can’t put up a circle that will stop a spring breeze without effort and or having to draw and inscribe it for hours.”
“And the opposite of that is likely true?” I asked with a smile as I gave Suzy a poke.
“My circles keep bad stuff out, no monsters ever are in my bedroom or under my bed or in the closet,” Suzy said with a smile, “no bad dreams get in either.”
“That’s very good Suzy, we just have to get Petra to know how to make them that strong,” said Nonna as she nodded at Suzy, “maybe you will even learn a new trick.”
“I like tricks, but my mother says I can’t go around pranking people,” Suzy said solemnly, “even if they are meanies.”
“That’s very smart of your mother did she say why?” asked Nonna as she sat there.
“’Cuz of the Returns, she said I’d get too upset if I got pranked really bad three times for every time I pranked someone.” Suzy rolled her eyes at me, “Or if momma catches me I get three days of no desert an that really bites!”
Oddly I suspected Suzy would be more broken up over the lack of deserts, “I see.”
“Has anyone told you about the Three Fold Law?” asked Nonna as she looked from Suzy to me.
“It was mentioned, but well I’ve been either busy or out of it,” I shrugged and pointed at the floor, “about like this class, it seems to have gotten away from me.”
“Well then let us see about that as well.” She tapped the floor and said, “The law is simple, anything you do, for good or ill, comes back to you three times over.”
“That sounds simple enough, but something tells me there is a catch in there,” I said with a slight frown.
“The catch is largely how much you are willing to bear,” said Nonna with a patient nod, “every action has a reaction, do good and more good is done in turn. Do harm and more harm is in turn done, and sometimes it seems like the more good you do the more harm it seems to do.” Nonna paused and said, “Your healing someone might later result in then causing greater harm later.”
“But if I don’t heal, if I can ‘not’ heal, doesn’t that make me even more in the wrong?” I asked trying to work that out.
“Yes, no, maybe,” she admitted with slight frown, “its largely the intent that mitigates the later effects. You may get an exception, in that you are healing under the guidance of Divine Providence. The burden of the possible damages laid being at the Gods feet, after all only the Gods have any real clue as to the ripples such things can cause.”
“Oh well that is a relief,” I said with smile.
“Yes but any harm you may do, will likely be returned to you,” she said in a warning voice, “I’ve been told you have a temper.”
“Well, yes,” I admitted with look at the floor, “mostly it only comes out if I am treated badly or unfairly.”
“Life is seldom fair,” she said with a pointed finger at me, “do you plan on going around angry all of the time?”
“Well it beats moping around about it,” I said half heartedly.
“Anger and depression are two sides of the same coin, you lean one way or the other and it harms others and yourself at the same time; and both emotions are just as destructive.” Nonna looked at Suzy and then me, “The both of you need to work on finding the bright spots of any day or event, and focus on them. Otherwise you’ll discover more problems in your future.”
“No stinkin’ thinkin’,” said Suzy with a giggle, “momma always says that.”
“Correct and me without my gold stars,” said Nonna with a smile. “So now that we have covered the Rule of Threes, back to circles.”
“Ok, why circles, why not triangles or squares?” I asked jokingly.
“Have you ever tried to make a nearly perfect triangle or a square in an emergency?” Nonna asked in return with a small grin, “I don’t know about you but I can’t.”
Pausing I had to think about that, “No, I suppose not.”
Nonna nodded patiently, “A circle is basically the easiest shape to get nearly perfect, you just plant one foot and pivot around.”
“Ok I can see that, but why?” I asked as Suzy stood up and spun on one foot.
“Think of a circle as a container, it keeps things in and keeps other stuff out,” explained Nonna.
“It’s like magickal Tupperware,” said Suzy with a giggle, ”or a zip-lock bag.”
I sat there thinking briefly, “But a circle is two dimensional thing, how is that supposed to stop anything?”
“Ah I see we have a logical rather than intuitive thinker among us,” said Nonna with a chuckle, “magick breaks the rules Petra. If it helps, think of it creating more of an infinitely tall cylinder above it and below it; one that crosses multitude upon multitude of planes, worlds and times. Since it is infinite nothing can cross it or break it, with in limits.”
“Limits?” I asked as I tried to envision such an object.
“Well the movies do get a few things correct, how many times have you seen a daemon summoner devoured in the monster movies if their circle gets broken?” asked Nonna with a wry chuckle.
“None, my mommy don’t let me watch those kind of movies,” said Suzy with an indignant frown, “she says she doesn’t want me to get nightmares or ideas.”
“Lots. Does it matter who mucks up the circle?” I asked as it made an odd sort of sense.
“It depends on the nature of the circle, protective ones for the most part can only be properly taken down by their creator.” She held up an hand and then said, “Or by the people inside of it, but usually that only weakens it significantly.”
“Ok, and what about the salt stuff?” asked Chaddy before I could form a thought.
“Circles made of salt?” Nonna smiled and glanced briefly skyward, “Well somehow Hollywood got that mostly correct, but still it takes someone’s intent to make it work. Since it’s a part of the ‘common mythos’ of society, almost everyone who does it has that foundation of belief to make it ‘work.’”
“Somehow I doubt the Signora will let me dump fifty pounds of salt all over the place,” I said with a chuckle.
“Somehow I doubt that too,” said Nonna with a smile, “though I suspect it would depend on why you thought you needed it.”
“Oh my head,” I replied after a moment as I lay there listening to the ants in Australia sing, again.
“Now do you believe that a circle actually holds things in?” asked Nonna as she stared at me from outside of my circle.
“It was just a consecration,” I muttered as the sound of it still rang in my head and flowed upwards and downwards in the circle.
“Has no one worked with you on control yet Petra?” asked Nonna as Suzy giggled at me and poked my circle with her finger making it ripple and chime oddly.
“We keep getting interrupted by daemons and stuff,” I said as I lay there trying to close off my magical senses.
“She’s walloping things rather than tapping them,” said Suzy with a giggle as she ran her fingers up and down on the outside of my circle.
“I admit I may have set you up slightly,” said Nonna as she smiled and shrugged, “a circle can intensify or amplify some spells or rituals. Think of it as a rain barrel full of water, you drop a rock in and you get ripples, the ripples go outward and hit the sides sending ripples back in. Naturally the larger or more forceful the rock is dropped, the larger the ripples and since the point of origin gets crossed many times...”
“I get the full effect,” I said with a sigh, “and then some, but I swear I wasn’t trying that hard.”
“It could be you just have a natural affinity for that sort of spell, and there are several types of magick.” She paused and indicated herself, “I am rather good with some elemental magicks, but not so good with others. For example I can get almost anything to burn, keep any thing warm or hot and stir a breeze on even the most calmest of days, but I can’t get it to rain much less mist even on my best days.”
“I’m good at shields and stuff,” proclaimed Suzy with a grin, “momma says I am a very good turtle.”
“No kidding I saw a daemon try and stomp her but it bounced off,” I said shaking my head as the image replayed itself in my head, “I was certain she was gonna get squished.”
“Shields are very good to learn, but generally speaking you should start with the basics; circles, centering and grounding before you tackle weightier magicks.” Nonna said with a roll of her eyes, “I’ve heard about a few sigils gone wrong around you,” said Nonna as she pointed at me.
“A few?” I said with a sigh, “Almost all of them.”
“Sigils take a lot of control when it comes to making them into charms, not so much when you just need to brute force something half ways to smithereens,” Nonna said clearly, “some of them can be used as nasty traps.”
“I can see that, I found out the hard way you just don’t ‘stack’ them when they are charged.” I felt my face flush as she nodded, “I seem to be learning magick the hard and painful way.”
“Well you are,” said Nonna calmly as she indicated me as I lay there in my circle, “most people start out with circles, then simple things, simple protections, simple counters, basic, very basic blessings. If you were taught properly, you would not even be doing potent things until after a year of baby steps. Maybe not even then.”
“Where as I am fighting daemons and so on already,” I pushed myself to a seated position, “not exactly by choice.”
“True, do you notice anything different about yourself in the circle?” asked Nonna as she studied me thoughtfully.
“Well,” I took a moment to make a mental inventory, “I’m not feeling squeezed in here.” I considered that for a moment, “Nothing is pushing on me, well nothing I am not used to that is.”
“Is it easier to think?” Nonna asked as I sat there with my eyes closed.
“Its quieter,” I said after a time, “there is not so much ‘noise.’”
“Yes, so you may have some sort of crude rudimentary shields, but a circle isolates you from many things; extra disruptions, external forces, the environment and the like.” Nonna smiled and indicated Suzy, “She likely does it instinctively, you will have to learn how to make them more effective, otherwise you will keep ending up flat on your back.”
“Wonderful, so how do I get out of this thing?” I asked as I poked at my circle with a finger.
“Got in and can’t get out?” asked Suzy with a giggle, “You’re funny.”
“Someone is going to get tickled,” I said as I looked at Suzy, “and tickled a lot.”
“I promise never to try and tickle you ever again, will you please let me out?” I asked Suzy as she made faces at me from the outside of her bubble.
“Say pretty please,” said Suzy with a giggle.
“Pretty please with cherries on top,” I added for good measure figuring that is where things were headed.
“An chocolate chips?” she asked with more giggles.
Sighing I poked the bubble she had put me in as it floated three feet above the floor, “Yes, with chocolate chips.”
“Ok, ready?” she asked with a grin.
“Ready for what?” I asked suspiciously as the bubble lofted a few more feet higher.
“Ready?” she asked again as she edged away a few feet further.
“Um, for what?” I asked as the bubble started to turn and spin oddly.
“Three…” she said around a giggle.
I blinked rapidly as the bubble started to dip and weave, “Um Suzy, no…?”
“Two…” she said with a louder giggle.
As the bubble lofted higher I gave her a plaintive look, “I know where they hide the cookies…”
She appeared to give that a great deal of consideration and thought, “Really?”
“Would I lie to you?” I asked solemnly.
“May-be…” she said as she looked up at me critically.
I looked down from a position not far from the ceiling, “I am a paragon of truth and honesty,” I said as I crossed my chest quickly.
“I’ll bet,” said Suzy’s mother as she walked into the room looking slightly flushed. “Suzy you should put her down.”
“But she tickled me!” said Suzy with a giggle and an indignant stomp of her foot.
“Did you tickle Suzy?” asked her mom with a chuckle.
“Well yes, but she asked for it,” I said quickly in my defense.
“I see, and did you learn anything tonight?” asked her mother as she gave her daughter a hug.
I gave her a less than amused look, “Not to tickle magickal prodigies who know more dirty tricks than myself?”
“I suppose that is a start, ok Suzie put her down,” said her mom with a grin as she released her.
“One…” said Suzy with a giggle.
“Gently!” was her mothers quick injunction.
“Oh phoo,” Suzy gave another giggle and the bubble descended slowly to the ground, and a brief moment later it popped rolling me out in a tumble.
Sitting up I spat hair out of my mouth, “If you start talking like Yoda I’m gonna pout.”
“Well her ally is the force or something like that,” offered her mother with a chuckle.
“And how do you keep her from doing things like that to you?” I asked cautiously.
“I’m the Mommy,” her mother said smugly as she picked Suzy up in a hug, “I always win.”
“Mommy cheats,” Suzy explained with a giggle as she hugged her in return.
Her mother winked as she carried her towards the door, “You bet I do.”
“I see, I think,” I said as Suzy waved.
“So that’s one daemon a night plus what is trying to get past us here,” Father Rico paused and made a sigh of annoyance, “either our enemy has a nearly limitless source of power or he’s making an awful lot of sacrifices.”
“Do I want to know what kind of sacrifices?” I asked as I paced in my room with the phone to my ear.
“Human, most likely, possibly gifted,” he said after a moment, “which means more people are likely vanishing from the streets.”
“Wonderful, so he’s either panicking of he has someone snatching then for him?” I asked as I tried to think.
The was a brief series of loud popping of sounds as he continued, “Oh blast! Sorry Petra, have to go.”
“Go,” I said to the sound of phone as it disconnected in my ear. Sighing in annoyance I tossed the closed phone to the mattress.
“So there you are,” said Michelle as she wandered into the room.
“Yeah,” I said as my shoulders slumped, “so how was the gathering?”
“Different,” she said with a blush, “rather orgasmic too.”
“I’ll bet,” I said with a soft chuckle, “did it turn into an orgy?”
“Oh, no,” she said with a slight roll of her eyes, “not any more so than any other witches circle.”
“So why chase the younger kids out?” I asked as I plopped onto my bed with a sigh.
“Well their version of the Great Rite is not rated ‘PG-seventeen’ or even ‘R’, its closer to ‘triple-X,’” she shrugged with a grin and said, “and fairly erotic too.”
“Wonderful,” I said as a mutter, “I get to play with circles, and everyone else gets a ‘show.’”
“I thought you were not interested in porn?” she asked as she sat on the bed.
“Not for porn’s sake, but I, well, here I am part of the religion and I have no freakin’ clue as to what it is all about.” I said as I looked at her, “For all I know they could be molesting chickens.”
“The only chickens that get molested or sacrificed are usually fried, baked or rotisseried,” said Leigh with a laugh as she semi-danced into the room.
“Oh?” I said with a smile as she chimed her finger bells a few times.
“We end up having a feast after gatherings, it helps to ground, that and it allows folks to mingle, and canoodle afterwards.” She smiled and twirled briefly, “Often there is dancing and Meade or other delectable beverages.”
“Not much different than us,” said Michelle with a smile.
“So how did Circles one-oh-one go for you?” asked Leigh as she took her bells off of her hands.
“Well I can make one that is visible, and I discovered I never want to cast a spell in one again,” I said with a roll of my eyes.
“Why?” asked Michelle as she turned on her side to poke me. “That is what circles are for.”
“Because I don’t like being knocked half flat by them, its bad enough a blessing makes me feel three meals short,” I glowered at the ceiling, “but it is worse when my head falls off and the ants in Australia get to sing in multipart harmony as to how badly I got smacked by my own spell.”
“Ouch,” said Leigh as she walked over to the dresser and looked at the dagger there, “nice blade, is this your athame?”
“Its one of my daemon stickers,” I said as I looked over to where she stood.
“One?” she asked as she turned to look at me questioningly.
“I have three other spike like things, but the Signora say’s they are too special for that sort of thing.” I gave her a shrug and then added, “More so than that knife.”
“Take a look in the trashcan,” said Michelle with a chuckle, “guns don’t hold up so well.”
“Well yeah, nothing holds up very well under a daemon baking off, including me,” I said with a groan as I briefly checked for burned skin on my legs.
There was a rattle as the can was picked up then Leigh gave a soft whistle, “Wow, was it even effective?”
“I hurt it fairly well, but the dagger to the brain is what killed it I think,” I shrugged as she sat the can back in its place.
“Must have been some decent bullets, magical or just hollow points?” asked Michelle as she looked at me expectantly.
“Beats me,” I said with a shrug, “I picked them up with the gun at the Knights HQ.”
“Didn’t anyone salvage them?” asked Leigh as she looked back at the two of us.
“I dunno, I was unconscious,” I waved a hand at Michelle, “she might know.”
Michelle looked at us briefly and shrugged, “I think they were, but I’m not sure who did it.”
“If they didn’t just rip through the daemon and keep going, nine millimeters are notorious for doing that.“ I gave a sigh, “I may need to look at heavier caliber guns when we get back to Rome.”
“Is that practical?” asked Michelle as she looked back at me, “I mean considering you would have to reload more often.”
“I got off two full clips, about twenty-six or so rounds, and didn’t seem to really hurt it until the second clip was empty and even then I had to use the dagger on it.” I gave the ceiling a rude gesture, “I’d settle for reloading a few more times if I actually didn’t have to get that close again.”
“Therein speaks the voice of experience,” said a male voice at the doorway.
“Josh!” squealed Leigh as she bounced around the bed and threw herself on the very muscular man who was wearing a red and black kilt and not much else.
“Well if it isn’t Friendly,” said Josh as he easily lifted her up for a hug and a kiss.
Josh evidently spent way too many hours in a gym or was one of the lucky exemplar types who sprouted muscles by merely flexing a few times. He was as deeply tanned as Gothy showed up as, yet I suspected he got his tan naturally. His dark brown hair was braided in a ponytail that reached nearly to his kilt, though he seemed to lack any other body hair.
“Of course I am friendly, how else can I get away with half the silly stuff I do?” she asked with a grin.
He paused to tousle Leigh’s hair and then he put her down, “So who are these lovely ladies?”
Leigh seized him by the hand and made a show of trying to drag him closer, “Josh, these are my new friends Michelle and Petra.”
“Hello Josh,” said Michelle as she stood up to shake his hand and she blushed as she studied his hand as she did so, “so are you regimental?”
“Only in the warmer parts of the year,” said Leigh with a chuckle for Josh who simply rolled his eyes.
“True,” he said with a grin, “I’ve never cared for freezing bits of me off in the cold.”
I pushed myself up to a seated position and gave the slightly blushing Michelle a poke, “Easy girl, stop drooling.”
“Mine!” said Leigh as she jumped up on the bed and launched herself at Josh with a laugh.
“Oof!” protested Josh with a rumbling laugh, “now ladies there is no need to fight over me.”
“Is that because you are easily caught?” I asked with a roll of my eyes.
“Something like that,” he admitted with a chuckle. “That and I have hourly rates.”
Blinking I looked at him trying to decide if he meant he was a gigolo or something, “Oh?”
“Oh?” asked Michelle with a thoughtful look at him.
“You are so evil,” said Leigh with a mock scowl, “getting the poor girls hopes up like that.”
“I’m an ex Army Medic, physical therapist and licensed massage therapist,” he said he placed Leigh of his shoulder like a bag of flour and the then swatted her bottom a few times when she squawked, “and occasionally a blacksmith.”
“You fiend!” protested Leigh with a giggle.
“Now that you have her what are you going to do with her?” asked Michelle with a smile.
“Put her in chains and have her dance naked in front of my bed for a time, maybe whip her a bit, and then see if I can make her scream my name loud enough to get applause at breakfast tomorrow.” He swatted Leigh again on the bottom and grinned at her protesting screeches, “Or maybe lunch time, it depends on how ambitious Leigh will be in the morning.”
It was interesting to watch both Michelle and Leigh blush, “I see, well enjoy yourself, try not to break anything important.”