A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
He walked in the room and she was still there, quietly sobbing.
"Grace, do you need to talk?"
Acolyte Garcia turned and looked at Duncan. "Don't call me that."
"Grace. It's not my name. My name's Patrona. Patrona Garcia."
"Oh. Why'd you lie?"
"Gods, Duncan, because of the secretiveness of it all. When we approached you, we had no idea you'd become one of us." She tucked a lock of hair behind her ear. "It isn't about you. It's about Bree."
"I know. We've got to save her."
"Yeah, save her. Well, we're too late for Francis."
"I'm sorry, I heard. Is there anything I can do?"
"No, Duncan, there isn't. There's nothing that can be done. Bree's not going to come round, and Eleanor's going to be the vessel. And I just don't give a shit anymore. Let it all come apart. I know I'm going to be the scapegoat and I just don't care anymore."
"Scapegoat for what? For not saving Bree? Look, I'll go to her. I'll get her to listen to me and see that she's been lied to."
"Fuck, Duncan. I don't care about Bree. Francis is dead and my life has just fallen to shit. Now you should leave. I'm not even supposed to be talking to you."
"Grace, I mean Patrona. Look, it's just that-"
"Go," she interrupted him, "just go." He stared at her for a moment and then turned and left. He walked down the hallway and into the grand foyer of the Ghost Lord Bethel.
Fine. Then I'm going to protect her myself. Duncan crossed the grand foyer to the entrance. As he was climbing the stairs, he heard hurried footfalls behind him. Turning to look, he saw The Grand Lady Eleanor dashing towards him, her robes pulled up from the floor in her fists. Lord Roberts followed, holding his robes in a similar manner.
"Initiate Ferris! Please, stop," she called to him. He did, and then turned to face her. She slowed her pace and let her robes drop to the floor. Lord Roberts followed suit. "Thank you. Where are you headed?"
"I need to get some things from home, placate my mother, and let my roommates know I'm moving out. I just sorta disappeared on everyone. I'm sure they chalked it up to my breaking up with Bree, but that's only going to fly for so long; soon my Mom is going to call the police. I figure it's better for everyone if I cover my bases."
"That makes sense, Duncan, but you should have contacted your Acolyte first."
"I did, Grand Lady, but she said she's forbidden to speak with me at the moment."
"That is true, but just until I get a chance to talk with you. Your initiation was a bit atypical."
"You mean not everyone is shot?"
"Well, a near death experience is a factor, but what I refer to is the fact that your initiation was quick. Normally it is a much more lengthy process, but for good or ill you are a Ghost Lord now. I'm sure you have many questions. When you return from straightening out your mundane affairs, please come and see me so we can chat."
"Yes, Grand Lady."
"The correct honorific for my title is Your Reverend Lady."
"Sorry, Your Reverend Lady."
"Very well. Tend to your business, Initiate. I look forward to speaking to you."
"And I you, Your Reverend Lady." Duncan bowed to her and then left the Bethel.
Lord Roberts looked worried. "Is that wise Eleanor? Should we let the boy leave?" he asked her.
"Oh Alvin, please. Achan would never let Ferris betray us. Remember in this case, the Ghost controls the Lord, not the other way round. Has Eidolon Metzger been released on the target?"
"Yes, Eleanor. He'll find the Oracle."
"Come then, we have things to prepare for." She left the grand foyer and Lord Roberts followed the Grand Lady of the Ghost Lords.
Bree paced back and forth around the glass-topped dining room table of Rodrigo, Duncan, and Mac's apartment. It was strewn with books and papers. Mac and Rodrigo sat at the table looking at handwritten notes.
"There has to be a way to find out if I'm right and the Shaman does still exist in some form and that there is a connection between us."
"Bree," Rod said, "there is nothing here in these books that suggests a reawakening of the Shaman would happen. There are hints that at her death her power was absorbed by the earth, awakening this area as a new place of power, but even that is very much up for interpretation."
"True. But Rod, history is written by the victors, and you saw the same thing I did from the book the Chroniclers had us awaken. The Ghost Lords were the victors. They could very easily have kept facts they didn't want known from becoming public and, say, being recorded in books like these," she said, gesturing at the books on the table before her.
"Yeah, that has a ring of truth to it," Mac replied, "but we need proof; intuition is not going to be enough. Did you try talking to the Chat-mu when you went there to get whatever it was you got for Enid?"
"It was a Sacred Hoop," Rod interjected. Mac gave him a quizzical look. "A medicine wheel. And no, we couldn't get a word in edgewise. Alice wanted us to fulfill our penance for opening the gate to the fairy realm. She had us seal a gate. I think we did okay. Once it was done she sent us on our way to bring the hoop to Enid."
"What kind of gate?"
"One to the land of the Tejón, whatever that is. Alice wouldn't explain," Bree offered.
"I googled it!" Rod said with a smile. He flipped through some of the papers. "Here we go. There's a Tejón pass and a big earthquake where Tejón Fort was. Nothing useful. Then it hit me. It sounds Spanish, and in Spanish it means badger or mole. When I did a search for those terms along with the Chat-mu, I really only found one thing. There is an Ohlone myth about how the hummingbird discovered fire. She stole it from the mole people below the earth. Maybe, at least to the Chat-mu, there are really mole people. Hell, there are ghosts and fairies, who are we to saw there can't be mole people?"
"I don't know..." Mac began.
"Mac, did you or did you not kill a Ghost Lord with a magic bow?" Bree asked, hand on hip.
"Point. So, clearly the Chat-mu are afraid of these mole people; they want to keep them locked away."
"Or they want to keep other people out of the land of the Tejón," Bree countered.
Rod glanced that the clock. "Shit. Guys, I've got to run. I'm supposed to meet my Abuelita. She's here from Mexico to celebrate El Día de los Muertos with the family. We are apparently going very traditional. I'm expected to make sugar skulls." Rod stood up and went to gather his jacket and bag.
"Wait," Mac said. "If all this other stuff is real, then couldn't Día de los Muertos be just as real?"
"Shit! Shit, shit, shit!" Rod said.
"I don't follow" piped in Bree.
"Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, is when the spirits of the dead come back from the beyond or heaven or wherever. Maybe they really do come back."
"Oh," she replied, not quite getting it. "Oh, shit. No..."
"Yeah. The Ghost Lords might be able to control them. Or worse," Mac said.
"Look," Rod said, "I'll talk to my Abuelita about it. She's old and very into this whole thing. She might have answers. Mac, you and Bree should see if Enid will confirm any of this. Seriously though, I've got to jet." With that, Rod left the apartment.
Bree sat down at the table and started flipping through the papers. "There has to be an answer somewhere," she said.
"I'll call Enid." Mac stood up and headed for the telephone, but halfway there a knock came at the door. "Probably the pizza, though it's a bit early." He altered course and opened it. Standing there was a young man with dark, shoulder length hair. His skin was a warm dark brown and his eyes a light green. He was wearing a ratty t-shirt and dirty blue jeans. He had a large backpack slung over his right shoulder, and silver and turquoise studs adorned his earlobes. "Can I help you?"
"I hope so. Is Bree Montgomery here?"
"Um, who are you?"
"I'm Jeremiah Fourstar. I'm the Oracle of the Karkin. Since my cousins, the Chat-mu, would not listen to my message, I have come directly to Bree with it."
"Uh, Bree?" Mac asked tentatively.
She stood and looked over at the door. "Yeah, are you short? I have some cash."
"No. This isn't the pizza guy, Bree."
"Oh. Who is it?"
"Your answer. Please, Mr. Fourstar, come in."
"My what?" she asked as she walked toward the two men.
"I'm Mac, by the way," he said to the guest. "Bree, this is Jeremiah Fourstar. Jeremiah, this is Bree Montgomery. He's an oracle."
"No shit... Can we sit down?"
"Yes," Mac said. "Let's sit, shall we?” He motioned them back to the table.
Once everyone was seated, Jeremiah began his tale. "The Karkin are Ohlone, just like the Chat-mu, but instead of our ancestors living in the areas between what is called Santa Cruz and Santa Maria, my people lived between what is now San Francisco and San Pablo Bay. I am their Oracle, and while the business of what happens in Santa Maria isn't normally our concern, I think this warranted my getting involved. I've seen signs about the Shaman of the Chat-mu, who died protecting her people from the Ghost Lords, who were under the guise of missionaries." Bree shifted and she leaned in a little closer towards Jeremiah as he continued, "She isn't dead, she's just energy now. And the Ghost Lords are preparing to take that energy, which was their original goal. At least, that is how I've interpreted the signs."
Mac's phone rang. "Excuse me. If you don't mind waiting?"
"No problem," Jeremiah affirmed. Mac stood and went to answer the phone.
"Wow, this is just amazing, Jeremiah. I've been so frustrated over all of this and how I tie into the Shaman. Nobody seems to really know what I am."
"It's funny, Bree. You are not really all that uncommon. Many people have true power lingering beneath the surface. The rarity is that yours awoke, and I have to admit that your power level seems to be stronger than most people I've met. The reason it seems so rare is that most people who are part of this other world have to work for their power, through rote and ritual and other various means. You are at your full potential, and that is rare because Kindlers are rare, especially ones as powerful as your friend. What you have to learn now is discipline in using your power, and you have to choose how you want to use it. Think of it like clay. It needs to be molded."
She started to tear up. "Thank you. Thank you so much. Nobody has had anything close to an answer for me. Not even Enid."
"Enid? No, she wouldn't tell you anything; she's a-"
"Come on," Mac interrupted, "we've got to go. Fast." They both looked up at Mac.
"What? Wait!" Bree stammered.
"That was Diasuke. His people are apparently still watching this place. According to one of his sorceresses, there’s malevolent spirits coming here. He says we need to go. He is sending people to get rid of the spirits."
"Wait. Spirits coming to do what? Are they Ghost Lord spirits?"
"I don't want to find out. Let's go!" Mac shouted.
Jeremiah stood. "He's right, Bree. If they have sent Specters, it will be hard for me to combat them." She stood and hurried to her purse and jacket. Jeremiah heaved his backpack over his shoulder while Mac collected his things.
"Are we ready?" Mac asked.
"We're too late," Jeremiah said. "Get behind me. Both of you!" As they moved, Bree screamed. Two black ephemeral forms were slithering through the wall. "Fuck. Specters." He reached under his shirt through the collar and pulled out a small cloth bag on a leather cord. It was adorned with small, red feathers. Jeremiah closed is eyes and began chanting. The two ghosts charged at the threesome, but seemed repelled once they were within two feet of the humans. The creatures hissed. Bree grabbed Mac's hand as she saw what was now coming through the wall. It was a large humanoid figure, composed of a ghastly white light. It was wrapped in chains and carried a large whip, both of the same sickly pale light. Where its face should have been was a blank, except for one large closed eye. Jeremiah opened his eyes. "An Eidolon." He dropped the pouch and suddenly an ornamental knife appeared in his left hand. "Run! Get out!"
The black specters swirled, now cackling. Mac darted out from behind Jeremiah and started for the bedrooms, but was blocked one of the specters. Bree just stood there, paralyzed by terror, and only began to react when the other specter started to pull her away. The ghostly whip lashed out at the Oracle and he deftly dodged the strike, but in doing so knocked an end table over, sending the lamp crashing to floor. Mac was quickly dodging the specter that had engaged him, but was not making any progress towards his goal. Bree was screaming and struggling to get free of the specter as it pulled her off the ground. Jeremiah somersaulted towards the Eidolon and popped up in a low crouch, slashing with his knife, which tore at the light the creature was made of. It howled out an unearthly cry that sent chills through the living in the room.
The lash came again, and once again the Ohlone boy dodged. The ethereal whip left burn marks on the wooden floor where Jeremiah had just been. The specter on Mac managed to catch hold of him, and was pulling him off the floor as well. Jeremiah dove in for another attack, but missed the Eidolon, whose whip finally found its mark. Jeremiah stumbled as the flesh of his fighting arm seared. The Eidolon spun in the air to face the Oracle and readied the whip. In a desperate lunge, Jeremiah struck out at the creature wildly, hitting his target and evoking another chilling howl. The young man moved back and prepared to strike again.
The Eidolon opened its eye. A baleful, bluish white light blasted forth and caught the young man, who screamed as he twisted and floated off the floor. Bree echoed his screams as she watched his clothes disintegrate off him. Jeremiah, still shrieking in pain, dropped the knife. Bree watched in horror as the Oracle's body rapidly atrophied before her eyes. Mac couldn't see because the back of the Eidolon was obscuring the view; all he could see was the horrible light filling that part of the room. In just moments Jeremiah Fourstar fell into dust, as his clothes had done seconds before. Bree screamed again, but this time it was primal.
Mac saw a blast of what looked like heat distortion emanate from Bree. She fell to the ground as the specter holding her was pushed away and dissipated. As she hit the floor, she knocked over a torchiere lamp, which crashed through the glass dining table, sending glass, books, and papers flying. The distorting wave then crossed the Eidolon, pushing it back as it howled again. The force Bree had unleashed hit Mac next. He crashed through his coffee table as he dropped from the grasp of the dissipating specter. The pain of his landing, though, was a distinct and separate thing from the pain of the energy wave. Every nerve seemed to feed agony from skin to brain as the wave washed over him.
In spite of the screams of his battered body, he pulled himself up to all fours and turned to look at Bree. She floated, naked and twisting, in that pale blue light which was spewing forth from the ghostly beast's lone eye. Mac forced himself up and ran for his bedroom.
Bree was in pure agony held within the Eidolon's light, but she fought back with everything in her. She pushed against the blinding brightness of the light.
Mac scrambled to get his bow.
Bree kept pushing back, fighting the pain, the fear, the power of the Eidolon. As she fought, a voice in the back of her head began to speak. It whispered to her seductively, telling her how much easier it would be to stop resisting. The pain would stop, and then she wouldn't have to worry about any of her problems again.
Mac hurriedly limped back into the room and readied an arrow.
Bree so much wanted to stop fighting it. To just let go...
A bolt of golden energy sped through the air, hitting the Eidolon in the shoulder blade. It howled much worse this time. Its light stopped and Bree fell to the ground like a rag doll. The creature rounded on Mac and its whip lashed out, wrapping around his wrist, the pain dropping him to his knees. He dropped the bow and tried to pull at the whip. He could smell his own flesh burning. He screamed as his tried to pull the whip away. The Eidolon shifted and pulled Mac into the air and flicked him around; the whip let him loose and he went careening into a wall, smashing his own painting. He fell to the floor in a shower of glass, canvas, and wood.
Bree was trying to pull herself up when the light resumed and her horror began anew.
Mac felt someone pulling him up. He turned to look. He was dizzy with pain and a bit confused. Blue hair. It was Ant.
"Come on, we've got to get to Bree," he whispered. "Help me out. I can't carry you, and the others are too far away. We have to leave."
"How did you-" Mac began to ask.
"Teleported. Seriously, we've got to move. Now." The last word was an odd combination of both a shout and a whisper.
The blue-haired Gamin quickly surveyed the destroyed room, spotted the bow, and then darted over to grab it. He returned to Mac and hoisted him up, dragging him towards Bree. Ant jumped at her, pulling Mac with him, who yelped from the pain on his battered body. Once Ant touched Bree, all three of them vanished in a flash. The Eidolon whirled around, blindly striking out with its whip, leaving scorch marks wherever it fell. Within a few minutes it realized its prey was gone and vanished.
Duncan could hear sirens in the distance as he walked into his building. Tapping his foot impatiently, he rode the elevator to his apartment. He walked down the hallway, fishing his keys out of his pocket, but they were unnecessary. The apartment door was unlocked. He pushed open the door, and stood aghast at what he saw. His apartment was destroyed. Slowly, he stepped into the room.
My liege, I am so sorry. It would appear that our enemies have already gotten to your Bree.
Duncan fell to his knees and wept.
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007