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A "Santa Maria" Story
James M. Sullivan
Start from the beginning of the Santa Maria Series
Duncan plodded up the stairs to his new room with his shoulders slumped and head down. He entered and took a look around at the plain room. All the necessary trappings were present: a bed, desk and chair, bookcase, dresser, and a large mirror. It was all very simple though, wooden and drab. The mirror, framed in carved oak, was the must lavish thing in the room.
Stavate sperando per un palazzo, ragazzo? Duncan had already discovered that the ghost bound within him was sarcastic, and bit mean. He also knew that the spirit was asking him if he has been hoping for a palace to stay in, despite not knowing a lick of Italian. He heard the words as Italian words, but instinctually understood them.
No, he thought back, and don't call me boy. I'm a Ghost Lord now. Shouldn't you call me master or my liege or something?
My liege then, the spirit replied, again in unsettling, understandable Italian. What do you wish of me, my liege?
One, I'd like to know what to call you. Two, I'd like to know exactly what happened back in the cemetery. My mind's a blank. How exactly did I defeat you?
You may call me anything you wish, my liege, but my name was Lazzaro Mauro Tornicasa. As this incarnation most call me Achan.
Achan. I like that.
Thank you, my liege. As for the cemetery, it is not uncommon for a Ghost Lord to be unable to recall their initiation ordeal at first. In time, likely, your memory of the event will return. I cannot restore your memory, but I can share with you my remembrances of the event if you wish, my liege.
No, that's alright. I suppose it's enough that I did survive and it sounds like I'll remember in due time. Grace mentioned spells.
Yes, my liege, Achan thought. Let us start with the simplest of spells, Eidolon Flash. This should be simple enough for even you to master.
What does that mean?
Nothing, just that it is simple enough that even those without a spirit bound to them can produce this effect to some degree. I meant no slight, my liege. You are just an Initiate, despite my cachet among the Ghost Lords.
You see, my liege, among Ghost Lords, a certain amount of prestige is afforded members outside of their rank. This secondary, status system if you will, is based on whom they have bound to them. While I am nothing remarkable in and among myself, the fact that I was a member of the Tornicasa family while I was living gives my name a small air of respect. Perhaps not justly deserved, as it was simply a matter of birth, but it is not my position to question, my liege.
I see. Yeah, the Tornicasa were a founding family of Santa Maria.
Yes, my liege. You are correct. Shall we begin the lesson on spells?
Eidolon Flash. It can be a very useful spell, but it is in no way truly using Eidolon Light. It is mere apparitional energy manipulated to simulate something similar in appearance, but lacks most of the other properties of Eidolon Light. It is very brief, but bright. If used strategically, the Eidolon Flash can be quite effective. Now go over to the mirror and we shall begin practicing, my liege.
Yes, Achan. They spent the next several hours working on the spell until Duncan, exhausted, collapsed into bed.
As Duncan lay sleeping, Achan thought, e non vi ricorderete di mai ragazzo, which if Duncan had been conscious he would have understood to mean "and you will never remember, boy".
The woman Duncan knew as Grace futilely tucked her defiant lock back behind her ear once more, where it refused to stay. Her fingers were quickly darting over the keyboard of her laptop when she was disturbed from her task by a knock at her office door. The young acolyte hit the control and s keys simultaneously and placed her laptop into sleep mode before rising to answer the door. Upon opening it, she was met with her senior, Eleanor, wearing a stern look on her face. The acolyte nodded to the elder woman as a sign of beckoning her into the room. Eleanor strode past her, walking to the center of the room where she turned to face the young woman. The acolyte crossed her arms over her chest, silently preparing herself for the verbal assault she was undoubtedly about to receive from Eleanor. The gray-haired women narrowed her eyes. Her lips were pulled tight and she said nothing for a few moments, just staring at the young woman, as if taking stock of her.
"Acolyte Garcia, what do you have to say for yourself?"
"Excuse me, Eleanor, you are not my mistress. Lord Douglas is my master and he is whom I answer to, not you."
"I see. Acolyte Garcia, what is my rank within this Bethel?
"Grand Lady, what?"
"Grand Lady, Your Reverend Lady."
"I can see that this casual approach that has gone unchecked is beginning to takes its toll. Lord Douglas reports to me, therefore you do as well. You will explain yourself to me. On whose authority did you initiate Duncan Ferris? Surely you and Lord Douglas know that this was overstepping your bounds."
"By the command of his Excellency, the Grand Ma'nes."
Eleanor stared hard at the brash acolyte and Garcia glared back. It was clear that she would not back down. "You realize that I can easily confirm this."
Eleanor's eyes widened in anger and her head tilted just slightly to the right.
"Yes, Your Reverend Lady." The young woman's eyes narrowed as she forced the honorific out.
"And you expect me to believe that you were asked to do this, Garcia?"
"Yes, Your Reverend Lady. It was my idea, Your Reverend Lady."
"I see. And Duncan is bound with whom?"
"Achan, Your Reverend Lady." The older woman's face blanched and her mouth hung open. Garcia could not hold back her smile.
"How very dare you! How dare you suggest such a thing, you impudent child! No Initiate could ever tame Achan! Or any Specter! I should have you lashed."
"But, Your Reverend Lady, it's true. That is to whom Duncan is bound."
"That would be more like it, he bound to the Specter. And Achan at that; the boy doesn't stand a hope! I can't believe you're letting poor Duncan think he can control a ghost. Why are we wasting Achan on Duncan? Does anyone seriously think he can bring Bree over to see our side of things? She isn't even needed now!"
"Oh yes, because you can perform the transference."
"What do you know of that?" Eleanor asked, ignoring the younger woman's sarcasm.
"Enough, Your Reverend Lady. Enough, that I know everyone would prefer that the Montgomery girl be the vessel and not you."
"I see you know very little. And you claim the Grand Ma'nes still wants Bree Montgomery for the transference?" the older woman asked.
"Well, no. He just doesn't want her doing it for anyone else."
"Who would dare? Hell, who would even know?"
"I don't know. I don't question his Excellency, the Grand Ma'nes."
"Does Duncan even have the gift?"
"What?" the young acolyte questioned.
"Does Duncan have the power to perceive and control ghosts?"
"That is the word of his Excellency, the Grand Ma'nes."
"Do you question the word of his Excellency, the Grand Ma'nes?"
"No, I do not, but it is clear you question my motives, Acolyte Garcia! I shall have none of this, child. You know nothing of what we have worked for here. You've been among the Ghost Lords, for what, five years?"
"And what do you know, Grand Lady? You've been gone all that time! And longer! My Master said you ran. That you hid from us, that you broke your oath!"
"How very dare you! I never broke the word of my oath!"
Young Garcia was taken aback when spirits grabbed her arms and lifted her off her feet. Her mouth opened and closed as if she was trying to speak.
"Didn't know I could summon wordlessly or without gesture, did ya little miss?"
"But, it's just rumor... Lord Douglas said it can't be done." Her eyes were beginning to tear up.
"Well yes, not by him. Now, Acolyte Petrona Garcia, I've just about had enough of your foolishness. You shall know the errors of your ways. You shall be lashed by Eidolon Metzger.
"No! Oh please, Your Reverend Lady! Please! No!"
"Oh, now it's Your Reverend Lady, is it?"
"No, I mean yes! Please, Your Reverend Lady."
Eleanor stared at the woman, who moments ago was filled with such smugness and contempt and now was reduced to a whimpering child begging not to be punished. There was a knock at the door. Garcia looked hopeful and Eleanor annoyed. She gestured and the invisible spirits holding the young woman moved her from in front of the door and Eleanor went and opened it. Standing there was another member of the Ghost Lords, Lord Roberts.
"Oh, Grand Lady," Roberts scanned the room and quickly assessed Garcia's predicament. "I don't mean to interrupt Your Reverend Lady..."
"Eleanor is fine, Alvin." She shot Garcia a side glance.
"Fine, yes. Thank you, Eleanor. Forgive me. I bring distressing news." He glanced at the young acolyte hanging in the air. "I'm afraid it's Lord Douglas. Francis Douglas is dead."
"No!" Garcia shouted.
Eleanor turned to her. "You're in enough trouble, Acolyte. Keep your tongue!" She turned back to Lord Roberts. "He was sent to retrieve the Wakan-Peta. The fire spirit was new, weak. This collection should have been a breeze. Alvin, what happened?"
"Yes, Your... Yes, Eleanor. We've no idea what has happened yet, just that his soul has appeared in the Chamber."
"Fine. I'll go." She turned back to Petrona. "I'll forego the lashings this time, considering the circumstances. I don't want you talking to Duncan Ferris until I've spoken with you again. She flipped her hand up and Garcia fell to the floor. "Try to stay out of trouble".
"Yes, Your Reverend Lady. You'll resurrect him, won't you Your Reverend Lady?"
"Impossible, Acolyte; the fool's died too many times. He's bound for the Great Sea. I'll see to that. After all, that is why this Bethel was created. Alvin, come with me." The older Ghost Lord walked out the door and slammed it behind her. Acolyte Petrona Garcia lay on the ground sobbing into her arms.
"Rod, slow down," Bree pleaded. "You're too upset to drive. Pull over and I'll drive."
"Fine," he said through his clenched teeth. Rod slowed his car and pulled over to the side of the winding hill road. "Dammit!" He unbuckled his seatbelt and threw open the car door and jumped out. Bree followed quickly.
"What the hell is wrong with you?" He was already walking off the shoulder and up into the grassy hills. She jogged to catch up with him as his angry strides were moving him forward in a hurry.
"Didn't you see?"
"Yeah, I did," she said. He stopped and turned around.
"Don't you get it? That bastard, the one who raped that shaman - that killed her. He's me!"
"Didn't you see him? He looked like me. He has the same last name as me!"
"Oh, yeah. He did kind of look like you, now that you mention it."
"Well, Rod, I think it's a lot more likely that he's your ancestor, or even that he's some sort of evil doppelganger, rather than you suddenly put your head up your ass, became a Ghost Lord, went back in time and killed that Chatu-mu shaman."
"Well... wait. How do you know she was Chatu-mu?"
"I don't know. Stands to reason I guess."
"Well, sure. They're the local Indian tribe of note," Rod reasoned.
"Now, seriously. You can't think that was actually you. That monk was obviously your ancestor; it's no weirder than anything else we've seen in the last few months."
"I for one am glad he was a bad monk and violated his celibacy vows, because now I have you!"
"Bree! He raped that woman!"
"Yes, probably, but based on what I saw, that baby was never born. How could the child have survived that?"
"I don't know. I don't see how you can be so causal about the monk said."
"Honestly, I was too caught up in how it felt, more than paying attention to what was actually happening. Did you notice?"
"That the energy she pulled from the earth felt just like your energy, especially when you 'woke up' at Club Nexus? Yeah, I noticed."
"What do you think that means?"
"I don't know Bree. Enid seemed to indicate that you are rare. Maybe you and the Shaman are the same thing; you both use the same type of energy."
"Possible, but I don't think so. It just doesn't seem right. I think it goes deeper than that; the two of us are connected somehow. Okay, let's reconnect with Mac and pay a visit to Enid and see what she is willing to tell us. We've put a lot together. She's got to be willing to tell us something now.
"We haven't put anything together! All we ever get is more questions!"
"No, Rod think about it. I'm connected to the Shaman and so are you. The Ghost Lords killed her then and they killed Adam trying to stop Aubrey and Diasuke for gaining access or control of me, or you and me. The Ghost Lords are up to their necks in this. Lynn, or rather Eleanor, is a Ghost Lord, but when she was Lynn, she clearly didn't remember being a Ghost Lord or she was putting on a really good act or maybe a homeless woman is the speaker of the Ghost Lords."
"Eleanor could be Lynn's evil twin," Rod interrupted.
"Shut it. No. Hmmm. Okay. Mac has said very little to say about his time with Enid. We should really get more out of him; he's part of the Coffee Klatch after all. Okay, from the books we know Santa Maria was not always a place of power and that the Catholic Church had its hand in the power of Santa Maria forming. It awakened around the time... wait! Monks! That's it! Come on, we've got to go see Enid!"
"What is it?"
"The Chatu-mu shaman said the Ghost Lords weren't the only ones who understood death. I think that she might be what powers Santa Maria or the energy she released when she died. Maybe her spirit is in the earth. I'm somehow connected to her! Wow, just wow. We've got to get to Enid."
"Come on! Hurry!" She bounded off back down the hill toward Rod's car with him in following not far behind.
Mac angrily opened the red door on Rocky Pond Way that he had become so familiar with. The brass bell chimed loudly in response. He wasn't more than a quarter of the way into the shop before Enid popped up from behind a stack of mismatched china settings.
"Oh, hello, love. You're in quite a state, aren't ya?" The old British woman asked.
"You know damn well what I've been through, don't you? You set me up. You've known all along that Adam's spirit was being tortured and that he was the source of all the fires around the city!" She nodded. "Well, what do have to say for yourself, old woman?"
"Well, Mac, I'm not sure I've got anythin' to say on the subject. It is what it is and what needed to be done was done. Oh, moppet. It was nothin' more than that."
"But you could have freed him! You could have stopped him! You even knew where he would be, I imagine. You told me where to go for lessons. It's no coincidence that I was walking past that warehouse with my bow, when I did." She nodded again. "So you can see the future? What the hell, Enid? If that's true, why didn't you stop Adam from being killed in the first damn place!" His face was growing red and he stepped closer to her.
"Now love, don't be thinkin' of doin' anythin' rash. I cannot see the future, really. I sometimes just know things. I had no idea what was going to happen to your Adam the night Rodrigo awakened Bree. And love, I'm sorry for ya. There's nothin' sadder than losin' one ya love. I could have stopped that Ghost Lord from taking him, but I could not have freed his soul, only you or a very powerful Ghost Lord coulda done that; a few others too, maybe. However, there are things afoot and you needed to be tested."
"Tested? What the hell, Enid? This isn't some Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi bullshit, this is my life! What the hell could be so damn important? Why do I have to pass a test?"
"Hadn't you guessed, moppet? I'm going to die and you're to be my replacement."
Mac just stood there, silent.
"Oh love, it isn't as bad as all that. Come on then, I'll make ya a cupper and we'll sit down and have a nice little chat." She walked over to him and took his hand. She guided the tall man through the stacks of books and odds and ends back to her desk, where her electric kettle was always on. He reached for the ever present plate of cupcakes, or as Enid would call them, fairy cakes. "Oh, moppet. Not one of those today I'm 'fraid. I need ya sharp and makin' your own decisions.
"What? What do the cupcakes have to do with any of that?"
"Nothing, sorry moppet. They're just a bit stale. Now, love take a seat." She poured out two cups as he sat, stunned, into a small chair by the desk. "I'll be mother," she said, dropping sugar into the cups. After finishing off the tea with milk, she placed one teacup near Mac and sat down with hers in her hand.
"Yes, dear. I'm going to die. Everyone does; nothin' to fret about."
"But, from what?"
"I'm old. Now, let's start talking about you and if you can replace me. There's a lot you need to know. I didn't want to have this conversation just yet, but now's as good a time as any. Just let me take care of one thing." She picked up her phone and dialed; after a moment she spoke. "Hello, moppet! I'm glad I caught you on your mobile. I need you to do me a little favor, love. What's that? Oh, you were comin' to see me were you? Well, isn't that convenient. I need ya to stop by and speak with Alice Yamane. She has somethin' I need you to pick up. Yes, love, we can talk when you get here. Fine, yes moppet. The address is 1287 W. Old Skyway. Yes, she's expecting you. Yes, love. Fine. See you soon, dear." She hung up the phone.
"They'll be busy for awhile." He stared at her incredulously. "Now Mac, let's talk."
Story by James M. Sullivan, Copyright 2007
Image by Rory Clark, Stopped Motion Photography, Copyright 2007