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A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
What the hell am I doing in here? Mac moved slowly through the shadowy warehouse, feeling along the rough walls, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Playing at being a hero? You've seen what is out there, Mac. You know this isn't just fun and games of make-believe. That... thing, that hideous thing could be out there. Mac's face pulled back in a grimace at the memory of the wight he had seen at Enid's shop, but he only paused for a moment before he continued moving forward. This is just stupid. Yeah, a robed figure entered into this place. Couldn't you just be like anyone else and call the cops? What're you going to do? Shoot him with your bow and arrow? His grip tightened on the bow the odd British woman had given him. Fuck. I think I am.
As he rounded the corner, he stopped. The warehouse opened into a larger receiving area and, not a hundred yards away, was the robed figure that had brought Mac into the closed warehouse. Drifting around the presumed Ghost Lord, about a foot above the cement floor, were three diaphanous shapes; blurry outlines of human figures, just a darker shade the black shadows of the warehouse. So, yes. A Ghost Lord. How the hell am I going to deal with ghosts? Mac slowly knelt to the ground and silently set the bow in front of him. Across from him, the figure raised its arms from its sides. The wide bell sleeves of the robe hung down and gave the suggestion of a moth. As its arms moved higher, the sleeves slide down revealing muscular forearms, pale and bruised. It began to speak, a booming voice ushering a rhythmic pattern, but the words were unclear. Mac turned his ear towards the figure in hopes to hear better.
What the hell is he saying? The thunderous voice continued and two of the hazy forms floated to the front of the hooded chanter. As his hands meet over his head, the two filmy beings collided, then their forms took on a brief shimmer, reminiscent of oil on water. A moment later the combined creatures changed shape, becoming spherical. The Ghost Lord lowered his arms in front of him, keeping the palms connected. Once they were at a right angle to his body, he moved them apart, sweeping them back behind them as far as possible. The sphere elongated from the sides, like putty pulled by a child, and began to stretch around the Ghost Lord. The moving shadow stretched far past the figure's arms and met in the back, making the same shimmering flash when they connected. Now a ring, the blurry shape settled to the ground and soaked into the cement creating a dark, circular stain, which then began to glow with a sickly, claret-colored light.
The unintelligible chanting became louder and the Ghost Lord slowly brought his arms forward and the remaining ghost moved to the front, as if silently compelled. This shadowy form swirled and compressed into a much smaller, and much darker, sphere; no longer was it translucent, but a ball of pitch no larger than a basketball. It floated to the cement and rested in front of the robed individual. The dark globe lit from within; the same dark reddish-purple color as the ring on the ground.
For the first time, Mac could understand the Ghost Lord's words.
"Wakan-Peta! I summon you! Come forth, I am your master and you shall obey!" The Ghost Lord shouted, louder than his chanting had been. Mac's eyes widened as he witnessed a point of warm, orange light blink into view. It blossomed into an orange jumble, streaked with yellow and white. It danced like fire and coalesced into a vaguely humanoid shape.
It is fire...
"Restless spirit, your time for puckish games and arson are done. Your power is needed for greater tasks, but fear not - when I need something burned, I shall summon you forth from your new home." The eerie orb before the Ghost Lord grew brighter and little motes of light from the fiery figure shot out from it, like little comets, and were absorbed into the claret globe. A wail issued forth from the creature as more of its substance was pulled away.
Oh God. No. It can't be... No. Oh God no!
Mac fumbled for the bag he had carried in along with the bow. Finding the zipper, he moved quickly, taking no caution to be silent. Within seconds, he had an arrow knocked.
I can't believe this. It can't be real, but there's no denying - Bastard!
As Mac pulled the bowstring taut, it began to glow with a golden light, but Mac continued to pull it tight. The Ghost Lord turned towards the bow's light and cursed. Mac let the arrow fly. It shot forth, a golden aura screaming through the air, finding its mark in the enemy's shoulder. He screamed and the light of the circle and orb both winked out. The fire spirit spun and circled the hooded villain once and then flew above him. With one quick flick of its arms, white-hot fire burst forth from the ends of its upper limbs, consuming the Ghost Lord in a conflagration. Mac had to scramble back from the heat. The fire billowed out in waves, catching the various items stored in the warehouse on fire.
The Ghost Lord did not scream for long. The fiery form hovered above the smoking, charred body for a minute, then streaked over to Mac, who just stared at it. The creature starred back. Mac slowly pushed himself up, letting the bow clatter to the ground. He stepped closer to the fiery figure. Tears ran down his checks.
"Adam?" Mac whispered. The spirit just hovered there. "Adam," he said with more confidence. The brightness of the flames dimmed and then diminished altogether. In their place was a ghostly outline of Mac's love Adam. "Oh!" He reached out, but his arms passed right through. Outright sobbing now, he futilely tried again.
"Shush," he heard in his head. No mistaking, it was Adam's voice. "You have freed me, Mackenzie. I was so angry, consumed by the anger of my death, but you released me from my blind rage. Now my spirit may continue on. I love you, Mac - always". Before Mac could even respond, Adam's spirit floated up and away. Mac crumbled to the ground in tears, oblivious to the fact that all the fires in the warehouse were out.
"When did you last hear from Duncan?" Rod asked.
"He hasn't returned my calls for days. I ran into him on the morning of the 4th, so it's been, what, six days now." Bree answered.
"You saw him?" He turned to look at her.
"Keep your eyes on the road. We ran into each other at Val's Diner. We both were getting breakfast, no big deal."
"Seriously. I wish things were different. Damn, I'm just so worried about him. I have a bad feeling. I'm going to call him again."
"How's your sister?"
"What? Oh, she's fine. She got an actual acting job. In a movie even. Stalking the Night. Some sort of horror film. I'm sure it'll be lame, but everyone has to start everywhere. At least she isn't doing soaps."
"Hey, soaps are fine," he said, giving her a glancing look of mock hurt. "That's good about your sister. It'll be -,"
"Turn left here," she interrupted. "Just up here and we should be there."
"Any idea what they want us to do?"
"Something about awakening a book." Rod raised an eyebrow, but continued driving up the private road to the manor house.
"Give me one reason I should trust you?
"Well, are there any other choices?" She tucked a lock of her dark hair behind her ear.
"You shot me, bitch!"
"Yes Duncan, I did. I had no other choice. That is how I became a Ghost Lord. It is similar to how all Ghost Lords are initiated. You had the potential for the gift and it is clear by your survival that we were justified in giving you this gift."
"Gift? You call this a gift? You've shot me and now I have some old Italian dude rattlin' 'round in my head. This is no gift!" he spat.
"In time you will see. What's important now Duncan is you understand what's happening with Bree and Rodrigo. Now that you are among our numbers, it is no longer a violation of the Covenant to speak freely to you. No more lies about the FBI or drugs. The truth of the matter is that they are both in trouble. They are very new to this world as well and the reason they have been distant, lying, is because they too cannot violate the Covenant. Even our enemies follow it."
"Enemies? Are they in danger?"
"Yes, Duncan, they may be. They have been subverted by a powerful witch and less noble factions of the city: criminal street urchins, practitioners of forbidden magic, and one even associates with the Triad."
"The Triad? Like from action movies?"
"Duncan, you know ghosts and magic are real. Is it really that hard to believe in the Chinese mafia?"
"Fine. What do these people want with Bree?"
"And Rodrigo. They want to use her power. She's unique. Think of it as a raw source of power. Power is useful. Very useful."
"And you want her for purely altruistic purposes?" She raised an eyebrow.
"We want to help guide her. Yes, as with the way of everything there would be some compensation, but we hardly have evil purposes in mind. We strive to make the world better, not to enact frivolous notions like others. We need you in order to save her."
"Yes, of course. Anything. I'll tell her all about this."
"No. That won't work. She's undoubtedly been told we are evil enemy. She'll have no reason to trust you. It's going to take more than that."
"Duncan, right now what we need is for you to rest and become accustomed to sharing your body with another. Also, listen to him. He can easily train you in the first few spells you will be able to attempt. Now, go upstairs and rest."
"Okay. Fine, but you should know that I don't fully trust you." Duncan stood and started walking toward the stairs of his new home with the Ghost Lords." He stopped at the base of the staircase and turned back to Grace.
"Hey, how do I know you aren't the ones lying about the other side being evil?"
She smiled and tucked her lock of errant hair behind her ear again. "I suppose you don't. However, if you want to save Bree, you must trust us." He stared at her for a moment and then climbed the stairs.
"Sorry to have kept you waiting. Please come in," The portly Jasper Addams of the Chroniclers waved Bree and Rod into the wood paneled room. "Thank you for coming. As I explained before, we need you to rekindle the properties of a rare and valuable text. I believe your talents Rodrigo, fueled by Bree's raw energy, should be sufficient to reawaken the extinguished magic of the book."
"Does this kind of thing happen a lot? I mean, things losing their magic." Bree asked.
"Well, certainly not 'a lot', but it does happen from time to time."
"And you just wait for a Kindler to come around to fix them?" Rod spoke this time.
"Well, no. This is only one method, but I am certain it is the best method in this case. You are both strongly tied to Santa Maria and the book is a relic of this city, so I believe the sympathetic energies will bode well for this particular magical endeavor. If you'll please come over here to this desk, I'll show you the book." The crossed the room and looked at the leather-bound tome on the desk in front of them. It was battered and frayed; one of the corners was missing. It had seen better days. Bree had to squint to make out the faded silver script on the cover, only to be vexed that should didn't know the language.
"What's it say?" she asked.
"Recordatio," Rod answered, bringing a look of surprise on Bree's face.
"It's Spanish?" she asked him.
"No, Latin," Brother Jasper interrupted. "Very good Rod."
"I was raised Roman Catholic."
"I see," said the Chronicler, "well, shall we get started?" They both nodded. Bree moved behind Rod and placed her hands on his shoulders. Rod then placed his hands on the old book. He closed his eyes and began to concentrate, feeling the energy pulse through him as he expected, when a sharp jolt of energy surged through the book and caught him off guard. His vision when white and the next thing he knew he was standing near the old mission, but things were very wrong. He reflexively looked for Bree. She was there too, face in mask of horror at the massacre that lay before them.
Then ground was stained with blood. Several monks stood before a woman, who was swollen with child. She looked Native American. Farther out from them, men dressed as Spanish soldiers fought with other Native Americans. Beyond that, flowing figures of shadow battled with various animals, or perhaps spirits of animals, as they were translucent. The pregnant woman's face held a look a great hate and contempt. She began to speak.
"Valencia, how dare you come to defile this land, my people! Was your violation of me not enough to fill your dark pride?" All the monks laughed, but one also stepped forward. He was taller than the others, raven hair touched with gray at the temples.
"Your 'violation' was nothing to me. And your foolish people and spirits would not have perished if they had just handed you over. Now, you can concede by handing yourself over to the Ghost Lords and spare those of your people who still remain among the living, Shaman." She glared at him.
"Never!" She raised her hand and light sprang forth towards the monks. Then next few minutes were chaos as magical energies shot back and forth, spirits and warriors form both sides closed in and joined the fray. It became obvious that none of the participants perceived Rod or Bree, but they moved away from the combat nonetheless.
"She's so quick and agile, especially for being pregnant," Bree commented.
"Yeah. And does. Wait, she's down!"
"No!" They watched the Shaman fall, one arm around her child, the other pulling energy from the earth. As she collapsed, she yelled.
"You're not the only ones with the knowledge of the dead!" As her head hit the bloodstained soil, the ground shook and blinding white light erupted from her, sweeping over everyone in the battle, and then over Bree and Rodrigo. They closed their eyes and when they opened them, they were back in the office of Brother Addams.
"It's done..." Rod managed to say.
"Wonderful, wonderful. Now, I'm very busy, so I cannot dally, but thank you very much. I'll report your debt as paid." He ushered them towards the door.
"Um, okay. Yeah. No problem," Bree replied. Once they were out the door, Brother Addams went to the oval mirror that hung by his desk and tapped it three times with his index and middle fingers. The reflection shimmered away to the gruesome image the leader of the Ghost Lords.
"It is done?" it hissed through its husk of a mouth.
"Yes, but I don't understand. You know everything about what befell the Shaman. What do you want the book for?"
"Knowledge of the Tej?quot;
"Homotaxus? You certainly can't believe they exist?"
"I'm the living dead, I can believe in anything," it rasped.
"Fine, fine. Whatever. Well, I'll have the book delivered."
"I do not care for your dismissive attitude Jasper. You are where you are today because of me. I've asked nothing untoward of you. Our pact is true and sound by the Covenant and I shall take this time to remind you of your Chronicler's oath- you shall not become involved, but simply to record as history unfolds. I expect you to honor that oath, Jasper."
"Of course! I would never violate my oath of brotherhood! You need not remind me of how I came to lead the Chroniclers. With the delivery of this book, our pact is concluded." Brother Addams waved his hand over the mirror and the ghastly visage dispersed. He walked to his desk and sat down, placing his head in hands."
Those poor kids. That thing is right though; no matter what I expect is unfolding, it's not my place to get involved. It really is a shame more people don't understand that if you don't know your history, you are doomed to repeat it.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007