A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Bree cradled her right hand in her left, her left thumb gentle rubbing over the gauze wrapped around the palm of her right hand. She flinched slightly at the small sting of pain.
"Don't fuss with it," Rod said, crossing the room and placing his hand on her shoulder, rubbing it. "You'll only make it hurt more."
"What the hell was all that about anyway? Isn't the New Dawn supposed to be all about the modern technology and not creepy arcane things?" Rod sat down on the couch next to her. He shrugged.
"Well, it's magic and technology, I think. Besides, who cares? They wanted you to bleed on a crystal and for me to awaken its potential. It's done and our favor to the New Dawn is dealt with. That's three down now."
"Good point, but I think I'm going to have to refuse any more favors that require my blood."
"Okay, deal. I'll have your back on that." Rod checked his watch and popped up off the couch. "Okay, I've gotta run. Let the pain reliever kick in and just relax for a bit, you've earned it." He walked over the television, picked up the remote and used it to bring the television to life. "See if you can find a sappy movie or something." He walked back to her, placed the remote next to her, and gave Bree a quick peck on the cheek. "Take care and rest, that's an order."
"Yes sir!" She saluted with her good hand, then giggled. Rod smiled, taking a moment to look at her before he turned and left the apartment. Bree started flipping through the channels and settled on the evening news. The newscaster reported about a new coyote habitat at the zoo. Bree settled into the couch and smiled as she watched the coyotes play and cavort in their new artificial habitat. Before too long the lightheartedness was replaced with what the news had become known for these days, melodramatic stories. Bree sighed and then muttered to herself, "Damn, this may be real news, but they sure spin in it in a way that makes me sick to my stomach. Just report the damn story." Bree rolled her eyes while the newscaster rattled off alarmist warnings about the serial arsonist that had been setting businesses ablaze. Just as the news reporter stopped the spiel meant to frighten people and got into the actual facts of the story, Duncan came in the front door.
"Hey baby," he called from across the room. He closed the door behind him with his foot, his arms full of grocery bags.
"Hi hon," she called back. He sets the bags down and began unloading the items.
"How are you doing? I haven't seen much of you lately."
"Yeah, I know. I've been busy at the shop. How was your day?"
"Good. I stopped by the shop will flowers for you. Janet said you called in sick." He turned towards her. With a box of frozen peas in his hand he waited for her explanation. Bree looked away as her heart sank. She said nothing. "Well?" He prompted.
"I," she started, and then stopped. Damn, I don't want to lie to him. "I'm sorry. I called in sick - I didn't want you to worry."
"Bullshit! Now damn it Bree. This crap has gone on long enough. What the hell is happening with you?" She recoiled from his shouting.
"Look, it's just that..." She stumbled. "It's complicated. Duncan, I wish I could tell you more, but I can't. You just need to understand that I need some time to figure things out. I need you to trust me."
"Bree, how the hell can I trust you? You've been lying to me. What is going on with you?" She stood up and walked towards him.
"My God, what happened to your hand?" he interrupted as he ran to her.
"It's fine. Nothing; just a scratch."
"Okay, seriously, just what is going on?" Duncan said, urgency rising in his voice.
Fuck. "I can't tell you right now. Please, you have to find a way to trust me."
"You're hurt and you're lying to me. Damn it! Are you involved with drugs?"
"What! How could you even think that?" she shouted.
"What has Rod gotten you into? If that f..."
She cut him and that awful word off. "Don't you dare. Damn Duncan. He's your roommate. I'm your girlfriend. You need to just extend a little trust."
"I think I'm done with blind trust Bree. I know something fucked up, if not criminal, is going on and I can't fathom why you'd be involved or why you've been shutting me out."
Shit. I can't violate the Covenant again. I can't let him be hurt by this. Shit, I have no choice. This is impossible. She shook her head. "Duncan. I'm going. This isn't working. We just need some time, I think."
"But," he started to speak, but she stopped him.
"Leave Rod out of this. Mac too. You can't trust me and I can't tell you anything right now. We're at an impasse and there is nothing to do but to take some time away to cool down and think about what is really important." She went and retrieved her purse. "I won't come around here and, please Duncan, don't call me or stop by my Mom's place. Just give this some time. I'm sure we'll be okay." She kissed him softly on the cheek and then left, closing the door behind her. Duncan snarled and slammed his fist into the wall, wincing at the pain.
Mac knelt in the damp grass in front of Adam's headstone. He reached out and let his fingers caress the cool marble. A single tear ran from his eye down his cheek.
"Why Adam? Why did this have to happen to you?"
"Well moppet," Enid's voice replied from out of nowhere. Mac whirled around and half fell back, mouth agape. "We all have a destiny, a fate, an' Adam's fate dictated that this was his path."
"But, where? What, what are you doing here? Where did you come from?" Mac stammered.
"Oh love, I just walked up like any normal person would do. You're goin' to have to be a bit more perceptive than that if you're gonna survive. Have you forgotten the wight already, poppet?"
"Wight? Yes. No. I mean no, I haven't forgotten."
"Oh dear, we've got so much to worry 'bout, you and I," Enid said, her voice softer than usual.
"How do you mean?"
"I mean, you've had the truth of the world thrust upon you an' you're gonna need to get busy if you're ever gonna survive it-and of course we've Bree an' Rodrigo to worry 'bout. I must admit, I've a few other things rattlin' round my skull that concern me too."
"Don't you be concernin' yourself with that nonsense Mackey boy, you just worry 'bout you and your friends, 'kay?" She winked at him.
"What are you?" he asked.
"Now that's a hell of a question, love."
"Well, sure. Yes, but I mean you said to the wight something about not just being a mere witch. What did that mean?"
"Well, that seems simple enough, means I'm more than just a mere witch." The look on his face told her this was not an acceptable answer. "Fine, fine, but remember, you asked for this, love. I'm a member of one of the first four ancient mystic races. No, I'll not be tellin' ya the name- there's too much power in that name for you to deal with. What's important is that currently, I enjoy a symbiotic relationship. My true form is of pure energy. This woman," Enid gestures with both arms, indicating herself, "willin'ly gave her body to me an' we merged. At the beginning, we were separate identities, but after all this time we are truly one. That is the way of my kind. Evolving by sharing experience and memories. Our hosts gain access to a rare view of the world and gain an extended lifetime." Mac just stared. "Don't look so gobsmacked, love! Buck up, it isn't so awful."
"Wow. Just, just how long?"
"Oh well, this fine woman and I met in 1804."
"Over 200 years!" Enid laughed.
"Yes, moppet. Even I must admit this has lasted longer than most relationships. Mary is an exceptional woman."
"Yes, Mary Dover. My host."
"This is just too wild. I can't even really wrap my head around it." The blond man stood up, "How can anyone accept this hidden world?"
"I can make ya forget again, if that's what ya truly want, moppet." He looked at her, then to his lover's grave-marker. He turned to look at the setting sun. The graveyard was on a hill that overlooked the ocean. The sun was just starting to dip down and turn the ocean gold and crimson.
"No. I don't want to forget. I need to know, to remember what really happened to Adam, not some lie about a gas main."
"That's good, love. You'll be needin' your resolve an' your strength of passion an' that is fuelled by the truth. The pain an' the truth. You should be practicin' with the bow I sold you. You'll need to use it to protect a friend soon."
"Who?" he asked as he turned back to her, but Enid was gone.
She steeled herself before entering, tucking a piece of dark hair behind her ear. She pushed open the heavy oak door.
"Greetings acolyte," he said.
"Greetings sir," she replied.
"What brings you here?"
"He just called me, sir. Well, he called Grace. He's upset. He and Bree have broken up and frankly he is beginning to question the whole drug trafficking story. It wasn't my best idea, sir."
"No, it was fine. We just didn't expect a violation of the Covenant so soon. It clearly has put pressure on Bree."
"So, how do we proceed, sir?"
"Well, if Eleanor will let us, I suggest we speak with The Grand Ma'nes," the master suggested.
"Yes... sir," she whispered.
"You don't have to come."
"No, sir. I'd be honored, sir."
"Very well. I'll contact Eleanor immediately," he replied.
Bree ran up to the café. Rod met her halfway and embraced her. They hugged for a good minute before they broke away from each other.
"Oh Rod, I left him."
"I'm sorry sweetie," he said, brushing her hair back from her face.
"No. It's okay. I had to. To protect him. He can't ever know about this world."
"Let's go inside," he said, turning to open the door to the café.
"Okay." She entered and saw a man with blue hair, instantly recognizing him as Ant. "Oh gods, I'm sorry Rod. I'm totally interrupting..."
"Don't give it a second thought. I understand and if he doesn't, I don't need him hanging around anyway." He smiled and her and hooked his arm around her shoulder, walking with her to the table where Ant was sitting.
"Hi," the blue haired boy said.
"Hi," Bree replied, "Sorry to interrupt."
"No worries. Besides, I remember what it's like being new." Bree and Rod sat at the table.
"Thanks," she said.
"Can I get you a coffee or something?" Ant asked.
"No, thank you."
"So," Rod began, "How are things going to work now?"
"I don't want to talk about Duncan."
"Okay," Rod said, nodding.
"Actually," she said, turning to Rod's date, "I have a couple questions for you Ant, if you don't mind?"
"Sure. What's up?" he smiled at her.
"I just had an idea about on of our other problems, and I'd love to use you as a sounding board."
"Shoot." The three then began an animated discussion, bandying back and forth various ideas and questions. After about an hour Bree and Rod both gave him a quick kiss and left the café with smiling faces.
Eleanor turned the old key in the lock and then pushed the heavy door open. She bowed and let master and acolyte to pass. The both nodded to her and entered the doorway to descend down the stairs to have their Audience with The Grand Ma'nes. As they walked down the stairs, she tucked her defiant hair behind her ear. At the base of the stairs, she looked around the stone room with curiosity. Her companion just walked forward; obviously this was not his first time down into the catacombs. She followed as he turned a corner, taking in the ornate wall sconces and arcane markings on the wall. She recognized most of them, but some were unknown to her. She tried to burn those images into her mind for later research. Her master lead her into a room, and it was all that she could do to not start. Before them, perched upon a throne constructed from human bones, was a horrifying creature.
A figure in gray robes, adorned with a black ephod, decorated with hematite, obsidian, and small bones. Its pale skin, pulled tight, created a ghastly effect, especially in comparison to the thick neck that supported the frightening head. Its eyes were sunken and the area around them varied in color from the deep purple of a bruise to jet black. Its head was devoid of hair but instead sported lesions. She could feel the bile rising in the back of her throat. The Grand Ma'nes was more retched than she ever imagined.
It cocked its sickly head at the visitors. "Lord Douglas, welcome. I presume this is acolyte Garcia. The one I've been hearing so much about."
"Yes, your Excellency. Thank you for your kind welcome. We have come seeking counsel in the matter of Duncan Farris."
"Very well," the Grand Ma'nes croaked, "but first I wish to inform you that Acolyte Garcia will be accompanying you when you collect the Burning Rage. Do you object?"
"No, your Excellency. It is an excellent opportunity to test her skill," Lord Douglas replied.
"Excellent," the animated corpse smiled, which turned Garcia's stomach. "As to the matter of Mr. Farris, his usefulness has just increased. Genealogy reveals that he has the potential for the gift and his exposure to the kindler has only increased that potential. Thankfully we don't need his intervention - I can awaken the gift. With Duncan Farris as an acolyte, our plans for Miss Montgomery will be that much easier to accomplish."
"I see, Your Excellency, but with Eleanor's return I thought we no longer require Miss Montgomery."
"Require, no. Desire, yes. She is still is the preferable vessel and if she is not performing the transference for us, she could do it for another. That is not an acceptable option," it hissed the last words. "Acolyte Garcia, you will recruit Mr. Farris immediately."
"Yes, your Excellency," she managed.
"You are dismissed," With that they two bowed low before the abomination and left.
Bree and Rod stood before the Maven Praesidium of the Seventh Power.
"And your are certain that this is the route you both wish to take?" the leader asked. He was an old man, stooped with age and long, shaggy yellow-white hair.
"Yes," they replied in unison.
"Very well then. The Maven Praesidium of the Seventh Power as no choice than to acquiesce to your request. Let it be known from this moment forth that a new society has been formed, the Santa Maria Coffee Klatch." Just saying the name seemed to cause him pain. "As such, you both being members of a society, we find the Tribunal's ruling to be technically fulfilled." Bree and Rod hugged.
She whispered in his ear "We did it."
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007