Whispering Death (part 24)

The room was silent while Drina kicked the last pouch from the set corner. All eyes set on her, waiting for her to speak, though Drina didn’t know what to say. The purpose of the summon was to find the spirit attacking her, but she’d discovered something far worse. 

“Your hurt!”

Hestar broke the silence, rushing to touch her shoulder. Drina spun around and stepped back to avoid her touch. The wounded look in Hestar’s eyes didn’t help her already fading hope.

“What happened? What did you see?”

How did she even start? Searching for words, Drina could only stare at her blankly. Lulu spun around with a frustrated huff, stomping off to her office. It left Ocan confused, looking between Drina and Lulu with uncertainty. Slams and bangs came from the room before Lulu stomped in a rush back out. She was on a war path, holding gauze, ointment, and a hell-bound look. 

Drina retreated, stubbornly holding her unwounded arm up. “No, it’s fine. It’s not that bad, honest-” 

Lulu swished her hand, whispering a faint word. Without warning, the chair behind Drina slammed into the back of her legs, knocking her back. She fell with a hard thump, grunting at the pain in her legs. Golden ropes then leap out from the chair and swirled tightly against her. With a gasp, Drina tried to escape to no avail; she was tightly trapped.

With a final stomp of her foot in front of her, Lulu glared with pure rage. It was the first time anyone had seen her this upset.

“You stupid girl!” Lulu ripped a long strand of gauze off the bundle and shoved it painfully into Drina’s wound. Her voice was harsh as she lashed out at her, “Do you know how stupid you really are? Summoning the unknown, bringing it in here with stupid intentions!”

Drina cried out from the forceful jab at the puncture. “I didn’t think it was going to be-” 

Another glow of gold sliced at her clothes, cutting them from her neck to the sleeve. With a careless tug at the cloth, Lulu ripped it down to expose the rest of the wound. Drina painfully grunted the rest of her sentence.

“-a dead god! Can you please use a little less force?!” 

Lulu froze, allowing Drina to shuffle the chair just out of her reach. The burning sensation of the air and gauze caused a small tear to tremble down Drina’s cheek. Ocan and Hestar stood in shock, watching while she growled from the pain. 

With a softer touch, Lulu stepped forward to open the ointment and apply it. The sizzle of her skin made Drina cry out in an unexpected yowl. Black smoke rose out from the wound, dissipating quickly after. Drina could only grit her teeth, unable to move. 

“Dead god or not. You are lucky. The poison didn’t get too far.” Lulu scoped more ointment onto her fingers, holding it up in front of Drina, “Ready?”

Drina dropped her jaw at the amount dripping from her fingers. Closing her eyes in despair, she knew what was coming. Lulu removed the cloth from the hole, letting it fall to the floor before shoving her finger inside. It took everything in Drina not to pass out from the blinding pain.

A few hours passed when Lulu finished bandaging her shoulder up. The golden ropes around Drina had already faded, allowing her to move freely. Instead, she could do nothing but stare off into the distance. Hestar sat on the couch holding Ocan, both eager to continue speaking to Drina. 

Pushing back the chair, Lulu stood up to stretch her back out, walking to the counter to pull the boiling water from the kettle. She poured two cups and dropped tea leaves into them before returning to Drina’s side. Extending the cup out, Lulu waited for Drina to accept it. 

Drina stared at the cup. The smell was from a herb she’d known from a very young age. Lifting her patched arm, she tested to see how well the healing salve worked. Accepting the cup, she held it for a moment to assess the pain. To her surprise, there was none. Lowering the cup, she took a deep sip of the tea.

Lulu sighed, taking the seat in front of her again, clasping the cup while she waited. There was a long silence again, allowing Drina to look up at the windows to see where the sun was. She was at a loss. How was she going to solve her problem now? The soft, tender voice of Lulu broke her thoughts.

“Was it sincerely a god? I knew the moment something broke through the barrier; it wasn’t just a haunting spirit, but a god?”

The image of the red piercing eyes burning within the enormous skull of a beast flashed in Drina’s mind. There was no doubt about it. “I think there is more at play than we are aware. This situation is no longer just a bound spirit; it’s a contract.”

It was a little worrisome how Drina’s voice sounded, even to her. It sounded distant, more assertive than she felt. After all the screaming and crying she’d done, it was a surprise she still had a voice. Lulu sharpened her gaze.

“A contract?! I’m sure we would have noticed signs of a contract made.”

Although Lulu was right, Drina was certain. The display of power the culprit exhibited had no other explanation. Drina rubbed at her chin, looking down at her cup of tea. For a contract to be made with such power, it would take at least a dozen people. It was typically common within gypsy tribes, needing fewer people to accomplish it due to their bloodline. 

The god that her mother followed was passed down from her grandma, as it was from hers. Despite the many generations from the original contract, it still left a mark on each child born within the family. In her case, the ability to see and speak with the dead.

Drina looked up from her cup to the table, her deck of cards still splayed out untouched. Standing up, she took a look at the display once more. Each card had a specific meaning: Five men with wands, the skeleton queen holding a ring, and the burning tower. Tilting her head, Drina spoke without looking away. “Hestar, how many men have you dated in this town?”

Hestar blinked, pulling her arms away from her embrace around Ocan. 

“Dated?! I… didn’t date anyone as much as I…” she paused to clear her throat, feeling awkward by the sudden question. “I didn’t date anyone.”

Drina felt her ears burn. She suddenly didn’t want to know the answer to the question that followed. Lulu stood up, moving to the other side of the table to look at the cards. Drina was thankful for her graceful tact. 

“No need to fret, my dear. I’m sure Drina is just trying to ascertain the meaning of the cards. What are they implying? Can you share what they generally mean?

Drina heard the girls joining them around the table while taking her time to decipher the cards. It was different than reading her fan, even though the intent was the same. Because she was reading through a shared bond, how much of it was sheer distortion? Reaching her hand out over the card, it proved otherwise. Dark power flowed out and around each card, confirming that it was attached to the targeted being. She tapped the card while speaking aloud for the others.

“This card represents the person in question. The five men represent several opposing forces, the wands showing that they were in battle. Not a physical one, but a shared ideal. Assuming it’s a male, it could mean they are all fighting for the same goal: that goal being Hestar.”

Hestar slowly turned red, catching Drina’s attention. Seeing her embarrassment at the idea that men were fighting for her attention made Drina feel unease. Was she just another player part of the battle? Drina’s voice broke with a crackle, moving quickly to the next card.

“The qu-queen usually stands for a woman; someone mature, grounded, loyal. However,” Drina picked up the card to examine it closely, feeling its energy. “When upside-down, it’s the opposite. Shallow, possessive, chaotic… Jealousy.”

Ocan gasped, reaching for the card to touch the side. “It’s a double meaning. The woman wasn’t looking his way, and he got angry. So he decided to take things into his own hands.” 

Drina nodded, handing the card to Ocan. She took it absently, studying the card intently. Drina watched cautiously, waiting to see what would happen. It wasn’t the first time Drina had let her feel the cards during an active reading. One day Ocan would eventually awaken and learn the craft. Better to get used to the feeling to understand it. 

Ocan broke her concentration to look up at her sister, handing the card back. Drina offered a meek smile, placing it back down on the table. Moving her hand to the last card, she hardly touched it when a shock jolted her entire body. She stiffened, unable to move while the world distorted around her. With all her strength, she pulled her hand away to break free. 

Sweat poured down Drina’s temples from the sudden surge, panting from the energy it admitted. Reaching her hand over to Ocan, she stopped her from wanting to touch it too. 

“For this last card, I think we can safely assume the meaning. He’s become violent and based on the failed attempt at murder, he isn’t planning on stopping soon.”

Drina felt exhausted, plopping down into the chair behind her. Pinching at the bridge of her nose, she sighed exasperatedly.  Ocan reached out to hug her, resting her head on her good shoulder. Hestar leaned over the table, staring at the cards dumbfoundedly. Laughing, she spoke with heavy sarcasm. 

“Simple. We just have to find a man who is madly in love with me. Shouldn’t be too hard since half the town already has a crush on me.” 

Lulu scoffed, placing her teacup down to rest her hands on her hip. “Honestly, girl! How much of the town have you seduced?” 

Hestar crossed her arms defensively. “I haven’t seduced the town at all! It doesn’t hurt to go out and show a little kindness for business. How else do you think we keep busy during the summer? It’s not my fault they can’t tell the difference between being in love or being polite.” 

Drina dropped her hand to Ocan’s arm, watching Hestar. The pain in Hestar’s eyes was palpable. It was equally painful to witness. Biting sharply at her lip, Drina forced herself not to think about it. Yet Drina couldn’t stop her sharp words from hurling like daggers. Just thinking of Hestar with another man was something she couldn’t handle. 

“Seduction or not; there’s an obsessed lover who wants all of your attention.” 

For the first time, Drina saw real anger in Hestar. Dropping her arms, she shot a disproving glare at her. 

“I’m aware that I’m a notorious flirt. I’m also aware the entire town gossips about my past flings or possible lovers. I’d even been accused of adultery by others.” Hestar took a few steps back from the table, fighting the tears welling up in the corner of her eyes. “But the truth is: I’ve only ever had one lover in this town.”

A hard punch suckered Drina in the gut. Confusion rolled across her face. What? Who? Hestar’s stare lingered a moment longer. Her expression looked as if waiting for Drina to figure the answer out herself. The tears won, rolling down Hestar’s cheek. With a loud tsk, she turned to leave the room. 

Drina pushed out of the chair, breaking through Ocan’s arms. She wanted to reach out to her, say something, or hug her. Instead, she stood there and watched Hestar take off down the hall. Drina frowned. What? Again, she replayed the words in her head. Who was her lover? As far as she knew, the only person Hestar wanted to be with was her.

Lulu growled in frustration. “She means you! Go!”

Codexing Against Blood: Ch. 3

Several days passed before Sarah knew it. She stood in front of her father’s house nervously, straightening her jacket. It was a large mansion, fenced off with tall brick walls surrounding the vast yard within. The taxi driver closed the door he held open for her, then walked back to the front seat and took off. Sarah watched the yellow vehicle disappear around the bend before facing the enormous house. Sighing, she approached the gate and pushed it open.

The house, the yard, and the driveway brought back vague memories. It was so long since she’d been here it almost felt awkward and strange to return. Although she grew up here, her memories were distorted and sparse. Why did she forget so much about her childhood?

Reaching the door quickly, she hesitated before knocking. How should she greet her father? What if it was her stepmother instead? Sarah held her hand floating before the door when it suddenly opened. Inside stood her brother.

“Welcome. Dad is going to be a little bit. Let me show you around.”

He was quick and abrupt in his speech, turning to walk back down the hall with no notice. Sarah walked in quickly as he left her behind, holding a quick debate about whether to take her shoes off and close the door first. With quick flicks, she knocked her shoes off and pushed them to the side, and quickly swung the door closed. Before she could open her mouth to speak, he had already begun the tour of the home.

“This is the living room to the left, down the right hall is the kitchen, and up the stairs to the left is the bedrooms. The library and study are also up the stairs to the right. We also have the lounge and day room past the dining room. There are snacks in the kitchen if you want, the cook is preparing dinner, and mom is in the garden enjoying tea. I am sure you would like to be entertained by her so you may do as you wish. The exit to the garden is also down the hall beside the lounge.”

The primly dressed boy didn’t pause a beat, taking to the stairs to disappear around the bend. His footsteps muffled quickly into nothingness, leaving Sarah alone in the hallway. Letting out a disgruntled huff, she crossed her arms. Why was he in such a rush to leave her? There was her chance to say something to him. Instead, she was left alone in the dust. A little cross with herself and at him, she whispered to herself.

“Good to see you too, Tyler.”

Sarah turned from the stairs, looking down the hallway towards the rest of the house. The hall had a hardwood floor and rolled-out floor mat that stretched from one end to the other. The color faded after years of constant traffic and began to fray at the edges. If she understood Tyler’s tour, the garden was down the hall. The vague memory of the yard came to mind when she used to run around and play freely.

Although she wished to see the garden again, the idea of facing her stepmother alone didn’t sound appealing. Sarah was still gaining confidence to walk freely in a house she’d long been removed from. Instead, Sarah made her way up the stairs. The idea of reading in the library was more intriguing than introducing herself to a stranger she’d never met.

The same worn carpet trailed up the stairs and into the upstairs hallway. Even though the stairs parted left and right, they both connected to the same hallway. In the middle of the staircase hung a giant chandler with small crystal-like shards spiraling into a peak in the middle.

There was a small balcony that overlooked the stairs so anyone could see who was coming up or going down. Sarah ran her hand along the balcony to appreciate the view. Turning down the hall towards the library, she noticed a few doors on each side. All of them were closed with no signs.

Sarah bit her lip, walking down quietly and inspecting each of the pictures on the wall. Some were old frail photos of past generations, others expensive art of landscapes or buildings. Approaching the first door, Sarah pulled against the handles. It rustled with a loud clunk, indicating it was locked.

She moved along to the next door on the other side of the hall to meet the same fate. A few more doors further down, Sarah picked up the pace to find the library. Before she could reach the next door, a picture on the wall caught her eye. It was a picture of a family posing outdoors in front of the mansion she was standing in.

Sarah gasped, recognizing it. With small steps, she approached it. The image of 3 people came into view. She spotted her mother and father smiling. In the middle of them was a small girl with long black silk hair wearing a frown. Sarah reached out towards the picture, touching it gently to trace the outline of her past self.

The image brought forth several feelings. Some painful, some happy. It was hard to tell exactly how she felt about seeing the image. How after so many years could she not remember this picture or memory? The image flickered with an instant electric buzz around everything but her. Grinding her teeth, she decided to let it go, turning quickly towards the closest door to her. One day she would need to deal with these feelings, but today was not one of them. All she wanted was to make it through the day successfully. Then, after she went home she would sort it out.

Grabbing the handles of the next door, she pulled at them forcefully. It didn’t take much effort as she began to swing it open before her.

Sarah stepped back a bit as the door opened up to the library. The onslaught of old books and leather hit her senses, making her smile. All memories of the photo forget she stepped into the room. Shelves lined the large room with layers of books along each wall, with a few extras further into the back. Up on the far back wall was a large stained window that opened the room with bright natural light, giving a welcoming glow.

Unlike the school’s library with several dim lights, this room had long hanging chandlers much like the one hanging over the staircase. Despite the room looking disused for many years, not a trace of dust feathered the tables, chairs, or shelves. Look’s like father kept excellent care of the books, Sarah thought with a smirk. Quickly, she walked up to the closest wall and ran her fingers across the binds, looking at each name as she did.

Sarah closed her eyes with a warm smile and traced several books before stopping at one. Pulling it out, she anxiously looked at the front book of an unknown author. Flipping through the pages at glance, she noted it was written in old English. It was fascinating. Hugging the book close, she looked around the room once more. The vague feeling of being here before in her past passed in a faint wave of nostalgia.

The middle of the room held a small coffee table and a leather couch. Sarah walked towards the chair and flopped down into it with sudden disappointment. The moment her bottom hit the stiff and cold leather, she knew it was still very new and hardly used. Sarah grunted from the hard impact, then quickly stood up she examined the chair.

There was barely a wrinkle in the leather, confirming her suspicion. Did her father read in the library at all? Sighing, she sat back down in the chair, disgruntled. It was nothing like the school’s worn couches, but it would have to do. Nestling down into the chair as best as she could, Sarah tucked her feet beside her on the cushion. Ready and comfortable, she opened her book and began to read.

The library’s temperature was cozy and warm, whispering a sweet lullaby of tranquility. No wonder she spent all her time in the library at school, it was possible she subconsciously remembered this room within the house. Where all the books came from was no concern to her, as long as they were there to read. With a small yawn, Sarah leaned her head back and closed her eyes.

Several hours must have passed by when a knock at the door startled Sarah awake. Looking about the room, she felt lost and disoriented. When did she fall asleep? Rubbing her sleep-filled eyes, she looked down at the table to see a cold cup of tea next to it. Sarah was so enthralled with the book, she didn’t even notice anyone come in. Or was it when she fell asleep? She stretched out with a slight groan before closing the book that was still open on her lap. With a glance at her watch, she knew it would be well time for dinner.

Sarah stood up, straightening her skirt while returning the book onto the shelf. A voice stopped her moments before she could slip it back into place.

“I figured I would find you in here.”

Sarah froze. The sound of the deep rolling voice was one she had not heard in person for many years. It was the same tone she remembered as a child, and even over the phone when he called her. Continuing to slide the book into place, Sarah held her hand flat against the shelf for a moment. She was nervous about facing him, even after all this time. Timidly turning her head, she finally met eyes with her father. He stood in the doorway, a grand smile looking tenderly back at her. He offered a small chuckle at her unease.

“Hello, Sarah. It’s been a long time. I’m honestly not surprised you would stow away here instead of meeting your new mother.”

“Stepmother. She is no mother to me.”

Sarah didn’t mean to come off so bitter. She was sure the woman was a lovely and kind person, yet she was nothing but a stranger. With a quick brush of her skirt and jacket, Sarah straightened out her uniform to present herself before her father.

Dropping her hands to her side, she stared awkwardly at him. Why was she suddenly so nervous to speak to him? Should she politely thank him for the dinner invitation? Was that too formal? With a few quick steps, her father closed the gap between them to embrace her close. He hugged her tighter than she ever felt before. It took a few moments to realize he wasn’t going to let go when she slid her hands up around to hug him in return. If there was anyone she would hug, it would only be him. It was a feeling she missed and felt safe in. Resting her head on his chest, she closed her eyes.

“Hello, dad. I missed you.”

Not letting her go, he spoke softly. “I missed you too. You look so grown up and just like your mother, the real one, I mean.”

Sarah chuckled, sure he was just telling her to make her feel better. Stepping away from the hug, he sighed heavily with a smile. “Well, my lovely bookworm, shall we head to the dining room?”

With a nod, the two of them made their way down the hall.

Whispering Death (part 23)

Ocan and Hestar rushed to Lulu’s side, huffing to catch their breath. Unsure of what was happening, Hestar held Ocan close. 

    “On a scale of one to dangerous, how bad is the thing Drina’s about to do?” Hestar whispered in a hush towards Lulu. 

    Lulu held her hands up in front of her and sighed. “10.”

    Drina stared hard at her cards on the table, then down towards the mutt. Reaching out, she patted him on the head. Although his fur was soft and lush, Drina shuttered at the memory of his form with instant regret. Why on earth did she do that? Was it for comfort? Quickly she turned her attention to the cards and proceeded to flip them.

    The card showed five men facing each other, each holding long sticks. All of them weren’t fighting, but each had an aggressive stance. 

    “Spirit that’s bound to me. I call you forward.”
    With a quick release of her soul-well, Drina’s vision slowly filled with the blue glow from the afterlife. Around her, several ghosts stood outside of the squared-off grid. Each face wore the same horrified expression. They knew what was coming. 

    Flipping the second card quickly, she heard the shrieking call of the beast she had summoned. The second card held a skeleton with long withered hair. On top of its head was a tarnished crown; held high in her hand was a solid ring. Drina felt a shiver of dread. 

A thunderous slam against the ground, shaking the table and chair she sat on. The wall in front of her began to bubble. Black tar slopped unto the floor and crept across the surface, flooding the room around her. The spirits around her transformed into dark shades with wicked smiles that seared with a burning hatred. 

    The beast was close. Drina picked up the fan and flicked it open. Leaving her hand on top of the last card, she didn’t need to guess hard what awaited her. From the center of the tar sprouted a long jagged claw. The light from the sun was bright enough to show its form, if only for a short amount of time. The tar crept quickly to block out the rest. 

    The long, boney arm reached out of the tar and placed its claw against the wall. Long slender horns began to peek through as the second claw emerged.  The horns glinted off the light from its smooth polished surface until the sticky reddish fur covered the base. Slowly the head of the beast pushed out, exposing a giant head. Its black fur was matted with sticky goo, covering any details of the skull, making it difficult to distinguish what thing she was facing. 

    A sudden putrid smell slammed Drina hard, making her gag. Whatever this creature was, it was sickening. Without any more hesitation, she flipped the card over to reveal a long tower on a hill. Several limbs, weapons, and flames reached out of many windows. Along the side of the tower ran a deep jagged crack that lined from the base to the top. It was all she needed to know the monstrosity’s true face. Whoever the beholder was, they were beyond saving. 

    With fierce eyes, Drina stood to face the beast. Her power was not enough to cut ties alone. He was simply the decoy.

    “Where is your master?”

With a swift flick of her fan, Drina poured as much energy into the attack as she could. It flung hard towards the beast and slammed its head backward. Its head snapped with several grotesque pops and crackles. Slivers of bone flew like shrapnel in every direction. Its sticky fur began to tear, the sound echoing in the room as it slid down in tatters. Several pieces hit the floor with a stomach-turning thud. 

Without the coverage of the fur was an exposed horse skull. Its teeth gnarled in every direction, each tooth crowding with different lengths within its mouth. The jaw barely hung on, attached by a few fresh tendons dripping with blood. A wound Drina was convinced had not been caused by her attack.

    Wiping its head with an unnatural speed, it fixed onto Drina with the void-less eye sockets. Deep within its wells ignited a small red bead. The red lights beamed brightly, almost blinding compared to the shadow and darkness filling the room. 

    Drina froze with fear. She had made a grave mistake. She came looking for the form of the spirit who attacked last night only to discover something far worse. Suddenly, something flew out from behind the skulled spirit’s portal. Unexpected pain erupted in Drina’s shoulder, nearly dropping her to her knees. Behind the beast extended a long needle-thin vine. It twisted and slowly slithered out of her shoulder, sending a burning sear throughout her body. Drina cried out as it pulled sharply out with a quick flick the rest of the way. 

Stumbling backward, Drina grabbed at the wound. The blood trickled down over her fingers, triggering a distorted scream. Looking up towards the sound, Drina had nearly forgotten that Hestar and Ocan were watching. Through a thin veil, the black fog around her clouded their shapes. Lulu stood close to the barrier she had created; her face wrote with concern and fear. 

A soft, golden-yellow glow shimmered around her hands that Drina didn’t notice before. Lulu’s small shimmering power extended out towards the white spiraling sphere around her. Drina widened her eyes at the realization; the fog was trapping her in the realm.

Drina shot a glance at Wiggles. He sat there in his burnt form, unmoving as he casually looked at her. Confused, Drina yelled at him.

“Why aren’t you stopping it?”

Wiggles didn’t reply. Instead, he simply walked out of the sphere and sat beside Lulu. The crossover changed his form into a regular mutt, his appearance disappearing along with the others. Drina was dumbfounded. How could he just leave her right at a crucial point?

Slowly it came to her. There isn’t anything they can do.  Looking towards the being, it jarred its head to the side, bone cracking as it did. With wide eyes, Drina dropped her hand to her side. If a demon dog didn’t dare to mess with this sentient, this fared far worse than she realized.  

Closing her eyes, she understood what Wiggles was trying to tell her. Walking towards Lulu, Drina reached her hand out to touch the protective barrier. Her hand passed through unencumbered, allowing her to return to the living realm. Cutting off her soul-well allowed her to break the connection and shatter the spell. 

With a bit of defeat, Drina walked to the corner pouches and kicked each of them away. Everything used in the summoning needed to be severed. Anything to keep the summoned god from entering the living realm.

Codexing Against Blood: Chapter 2

Sarah stood with a groan after Heather left to return the book. I guess it won’t hurt to be a little social today. She brushed off her skirt to straighten the back end and picked Heather’s bag up. Sarah never brought her bag to the library. It felt weird to be carrying something so bright and cheerful. It was a bit of a surprise that Heather was into these kinds of things. Then again, if you knew how cheerful she was, it did make sense. 

Sarah placed her hands in the pockets of her blazer and stood near the book aisles. Heather placed the book back on the shelf and then promptly skipped back with excitement. Her momentum didn’t stop when she reached Sarah, linking arms the moment she reached her. Without pause, she pulled them off in a flash.

Blatantly leaving through the front doors, Sarah griped loudly while fighting against Heather’s pull. There was no escaping Heather’s iron grip on her arm all the while tugging Sarah along. All pleas fell on deaf ears the entire way down the street. Constantly Heather would ignore her request to wait till the bell had officially rung. She knew full well how uncomfortable it made Sarah. It probably humored her to tease Sarah relentlessly over it.

The walk to the cafe was short since it was close to the school’s campus. It was a convenient place since the owners knew it would attract business efficiently from the academy. Upon entering the front doors, it was bustling with kids. Several of the Scalers were crowded around a booth on one side and a handful of Hopper’s on the other. You could tell instantly by the painfully obvious difference in attitude. Scalers never stuck to the academy’s dress code while Hopper’s thrived on it. 

Several blazers had been discarded carelessly unto chairs and tables nearby, nearly every Scaler had untucked shirts or rolled-up sleeves. The Hoppers sat neatly in their chairs with clean neat suits and skirts while they shot deadly glares. They were brooding and collected closely into a small group around a table. 

Sarah tugged at her blazer to straighten it, sharing equal disapproval for the disregard the Scalers had for their uniform. In the past, Sarah tried to convince them to follow the dress code to no avail. There was nothing she could do to convince them, being “fresh blood” to the school. Most of the students had been attending the school since they were in preschool. Some habits died hard.

Sarah and Heather approached the table and were welcomed into the swarm. Each person gave a small cheer and shuffled to offer a place to sit. This won a loud scowl from the other side of the room. The Hoppers shook their heads at their rowdiness, watching them closely with sneers. 

Sarah did her best to act properly, sitting with her legs and arms rested in her lap. Even though her actions were observed, there was no gaining any favor from them. Her association with the Scalers sealed her fate and would always be disliked by them. There would always be a painfully obvious distrust from each faction. 

Each interaction was met the same; either inside or outside of the school ground. The distinct separation between the two was palpable.

Although, Sarah knew that becoming a Hopper would change that, giving up her new way of living wasn’t worth it. Still, she made a valiant effort in hopes to patch the difference.

The sound of laughter bursting around her brought Sarah’s attention to the table. Easily she’d forgotten to pay attention to the conversation around her, although it wasn’t any better. She could hardly keep up with the crew since the only thing they ever talked about was video games. 

What was it about video games that teenagers were obsessed with? The constant comparing of scores, skills, and abilities was insufferable. Not to mention the ever-changing lingo and abbreviations from game to game. It was difficult to follow. 

Sarah had learned to stop asking each time because it was visibly irritating for everyone. To constantly keep her in the loop each time they spoke slowed down the pace. Instead, she long learned to just pretend.

Again Sarah’s attention drifted, looking about the cafe for stimulation. Several more groups of classmates had flooded their way in. It got busy and loud with several more Scalers crowded around them. The bell must have rung for lunchtime. 

People lined up for food or piled around the small tables around them. Despite the high energy, Sarah found it hard to fight her drowsiness. With no stimulation or intriguing conversation, she began to zone out and picture the hillside instead. 

How quiet and peaceful it would have been while lying outside. The wind blew softly through the trees rustling the leaves, the chirps of the birds as they flew about building their nests, and even the bell as it rang in the distance for class changes. It was such a shame she was trapped indoors in a cafe with nerds instead.

A sharp nudge to the rib tore her back to the present with a dizzy whirl. With a grunt, Sarah pouted at the person responsible. Heather offered her a smile and then nodded her head to the shooter game behind. Was it that time already? 

Gladly removed from the conversation, Sarah willingly crawled out of the booth. Sarah made her way to the machine and pulled out some cash to hand to Heather for coins. Leaning against the machine, Sarah glanced around. The cafe had died down significantly. The Hoppers returned to the academy for classes aside from a few stragglers who were still eating. 

Several Scalers had moved into the computer backroom, leaving the lobby emptier than when they first arrived. The once overly crowded tables branched out into smaller groups, each in deep conversations. 

This wasn’t so bad, Sarah thought while tapping her fingers against her arm. She browsed the room until Heather approached with a cup full of coins, wearing a grin from ear to ear. Sarah smirked, shaking her head, then turned around to grab her trusty grungy red gun. The way Heather got excited to play a lame old game was adorable.

The game was one of those “cop-duo” games where the players had to save hostages from gang members that held up buildings and malls. To Sarah, it was something mind-numbing to point and click at. Heather, on the other hand, was a different person. 

Her entire being was into it, cheering at kills made or yelling at the screen when she felt the game glitched. If a shot missed or a bad guy didn’t die after several shots, she would slam her hand on the surface of the counter before them. 

Sarah couldn’t help but laugh at how obsessed Heather was about how far they made it, achieving certain checkpoints, or when they beat their previous scores. How was Heather able to keep track of each game flawlessly?

Despite how carefree Heather was, this was one area that surprised Sarah. Who would have thought she was such an intense gamer?

To Sarah, it was no different than playing a game at a carnival. You already know all the games are rigged so you have to pay more to win. No matter how good you are, it was impossible to win. 

Sarah speculated that maybe the reason she couldn’t be bothered with games was because of that. She believed it was all just a waste of time and money since there was nothing to gain from it. Games were just a giant sinkhole for your pockets. Either that or Sarah had extremely low motivation to do anything. Which rightly did play a big factor. 

With no real hobbies or interests, sleep was the only compelling thing. There were no driving passions other than reading, but even then, Sarah did it to only pass the time. There wasn’t any real enjoyment from doing so.

The screen began to flash red and her character died again. Absently reaching into the cup for a coin, it came up empty. Sarah had zoned out entirely the whole game, not paying attention at all. With no more coins, she placed the gun into the holster to watch Heather’s character instead, placing her hands in her pockets. 

Sarah witnessed Heather shoot at several thugs in quick recession, saving a running hostage. The graphics of the game were terrible and pixely, making it laughable to watch the 2D character run, flailing arms towards more criminals. 

Tsking, Sarah shook her head. Why did they program them to be so stupid and run towards more danger? It was such a nuisance.  It was no bother to Heather though, already popping two more guys nearby for a successful hostage escape. 

It was amazing to see how skilled Heather was at the arcade game; to see her with so much focus; saving ammo until the right moment to shoot, finding all the secret items that hid in the background of the rubble, and even managing to run to the next shelter point without taking damage. 

Intently watching Heather’s gameplay, Sarah saw a strange quick flicker fizzle across the screen. It was barely noticeable at first until it focused into a blur of red flashing words. Sarah squinted, trying to read it when it vanished. 

Scanning the screen, Sarah blinked a few times then rubbed her eyes in confusion. She must have been seeing things due to being tired.

Heather glanced over to Sarah’s side of the screen quickly before abruptly dropping the gun into the holster. She must have realized that they had finished the coins and no longer had the desire to play. Sarah frowned, watching the character on the screen take damage all around and die within seconds. 

Game over scrolled across the screen, playing the failure end song. Shrugging at Heather, Sarah scoffed. “You could have kept going.”

It was the same banter they exchanged after each game. Heather swiped her hand dismissively. “Naw, it’s no fun if you’re just standing there watching me. And frankly, I think this was your worst game yet! What’s up with you today? You seem to be zoning worse than usual.”

Sarah rolled her eyes, leaning against the machine to scan the room, not taking note of anything in particular. It was hard to say what was going on in her mind since all she wanted was to sleep. Having kept herself awake all morning in anticipation of the warm hillside, she had exhausted all the revered energy. Why did socializing have to be so tough?

Heather watched with the anticipated smile, snickering as she pulled out an energy bar from her purse. Handing it towards Sarah, she lifted a brow.

“When was the last time you ate?”

Taking the bar with a grumble, Sarah chose to eat the bar in silence. It was interesting that Heather had an acute intuition, especially when it came to her eating habits. Granted, Sarah’s desire to sleep had bypassed the idea of a meal. Never expanding much energy left her hardly feeling hungry. That, or when she did eat it was always alone. 

Crossing her arms, she chewed solemnly. The only time she had company was with Heather. As the idea crossed her mind, Sarah closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Slowly she released it and swallowed her meal. 

Thinking about it, there was something that weighed heavily on her mind: the visit to her fathers on the weekend. Glancing at her friend, Sarah fidgetted with the bar’s wrapper.

“I’m supposed to visit my father in a few days. It will be the first time I’ve seen him in years, ever since my parent’s divorce. Something about meeting his new wife and establishing a relationship with my brother.” 

Why she felt so inclined to share so much was beyond her, possibly the fact that she had no one else to speak to about it all.

Heather nodded with understanding, slinging her bag around her shoulders before leading them towards the small bench against the wall. Sarah followed with a bit of surprise. It was rare that they would ever sit and talk. Heather turned to properly face her, with readiness to listen to her. Sarah nervously sat down. It was a little offsetting.

“Were you ever close with your brother before?”

Dropping her arms to her lap, Sarah leaned into the wall in thought.

“From what I can recall? Not entirely sure. A lot happened back then and it is a bit of a blur. I would be the first to admit that when it comes to this kind of stuff, I had never paid much attention to my surroundings.”

Heather giggled, not surprised by that sort of response. Sarah shot a look of irritation, triggering Heather to promptly wave her hand in front and apologized. “Sorry, don’t mind me. It just sounds very much like something you do even now.”

It was a typical answer Sarah expected to hear. Still, she huffed and leaned her head back against the wall to stare off into the space before her. True as it was, Sarah always thought that the gap in her memories was odd. A piece of her she was missing that led to her isolation and solitude. Her father made no efforts in the past. Now suddenly he was reaching out to attempt a shell of a family? 

Heather’s frowned, feeling a little guilty at the sudden laughter, her voice softened as she spoke. “Are you worried about seeing them again?”

This time, Sarah dropped her head with a smile. It was considerate of Heather to show such kindness when it wasn’t needed. It was accepted graciously. With a slight shake of her head, Sarah took the last bite of the bar and crumpled the plastic neatly into her palm while she chewed. She took a moment to trace her finger on the outside of her lip to gather crumbs. Before answering Heather, Sarah licked her finger clean.

“My father, yes. My brother on the other hand…  He attends the academy here in a different grade. We’ve seen each other here and there, although there haven’t been any attempts in conversation. Besides, what is there to say? We have nothing in common outside of our father and attending the same building. Not grounds for a conversation starter.”

Sarah avoided eye contact, not eager to see Heather’s reaction. The last thing she wanted was any pity. Quickly, Sarah stood up and straighten her skirt before heading to the garbage bins. She knew she wasn’t doing a swell job communicating. It was uncomfortable talking about a past she barely remembered and a family she was never close with. 

With a huff, she prepared to face Heather only to be grappled around the shoulder. With no warning, Sarah was dragged away towards the door. Heather wore a grand smile on her face, pulling Sarah close under her arm. Barely steady on her feet, they collided into the door and nearly tripped out into the sunny afternoon.

“Don’t worry about the small stuff.” Heather planted her feet on the ground, supporting Sarah from falling, “I am sure that your dad feels incredibly guilty and wants to make it up to you. If not, why would he suddenly be inviting you? 

Sarah wrestled out of her grip with a grunt, glaring at Heather as she continued, “Cheer up! It could be good news! For now, let’s just head back to the school.”

Heather pivoted on her heel towards the school, flashing her a wink as she walked off ahead. Over her shoulder, she spoke loudly for Sarah to hear her. “I’ll let you finish reading your “Russian Agriculture” book. If you want, I can teach you how to speak it. I’ve heard I’m an excellent teacher.”

Sarah chuckled, shaking her head. Heather was right, there’s no reason to fret it now. All she could do was wait and see. Shoving her hands in her pockets, she took her time to catch up to her sly friend.

Whispering Death (part 22)

There was a slight bounce in Drina’s step when she entered the common room. The colorful folds of her wraps swayed with each strut she made towards the counter. Behind her cheerful smirk was a low hum of an upbeat song once sung back home. Ocan could tell she was in good spirits just from the abundant glow on her face. 

    Leaping to her feet, Ocan rushed to her side. Speaking in their mother tongue, she eagerly wanted to know what transpired that morning.
    “Did something good happen?” 

    The playful tone gave away her subtly, one Drina caught right away. Raising her eyebrow, she reached casually for the pot of hot water sitting over a small flame. 

    “Yes. In fact, something absolutely wonderful happened.” 

Ocan gasped with wonder, hooked on Drina’s every word as she poured the water into a cup. After putting in a tea bag and grabbing the handle, she turned to narrow her eyes. “I didn’t die. You still have your sister to take care of you. How lucky.” 

    The look on Ocan’s face made Drina cackle. Her face flatted with absolute disappointment.

“Come on, Lana! We saw you this morning! What happened!?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing happened. We fought demonic spirits that tried to murder us and barely escaped with our lives.”

Drina leaned against the counter and stirred her cup with her pinky. It took everything in her to force the smile away from her cheeks. It was a serious topic that should be met with a serious tone, yet she was unable to. Especially after Hestar walked into the room fresh from a shower. 

Ocan crossed her arms, tired of her sister’s game. “Lie all you want, I know something happened. Besides, I already knew you were in a fight. We helped drag you into the room last night after all the noise.”

The smirk on Drina’s face dropped from the news. “Wait, you saw me last night?”

Ocan softened her face, looking at her sister’s scars on her arms. It was quickly brushed away with a mischievous grin, one she knew very well. “Of course! Lulu helped Hestar clean your wounds. Lulu also took your clothes to repair them. You used too much of your power and were frozen. So it was my idea that Hestar stayed to keep you warm.”

Drina stopped stirring her tea and pierced her lips. Turning her head, she glanced in Lulu’s direction. She caught the sly woman innocently smirking and pretending not to listen while mending her garments. Drina clicked her tongue with irritation. If Ocan and Lulu already knew she was in that condition, why did it feel like she was set up? Lulu may have given them trouble but she was just as evil as Hestar.

“Is that so? Good thing you already knew that I would have been fine either way.”

Ocan giggled at her success. She managed to get under Drina’s skin so flawlessly. Drina could only retort with a scoff, turning back to the counter to place her cup down for a moment. Picking up a small cube of sugar, Drina turned it about in her fingers. Despite what she said, Drina was grateful for the warmth. This was the first time she had ever drained her soul well that much. If she was usually cold, to begin with, how cold was she after nearly depleting her power? The thought that death was closer than anyone realized sobered her. Still looking at the cube, Drina whispered enough that only Ocan could hear.

“Jeta, thank you. I haven’t been a good sister to you, but you’ve been a good one to me.”
    Ocan tsked at her, sneaking under Drina’s arm to hug her. 

“To be honest, I was scared when I saw you.”

Drina bit at her lip in shame. Pulling her sister in close, she kissed her on the top of her head. Drina wanted more than anything to ask for forgiveness and to say she was sorry. She opened her mouth but the words got stuck in her throat. How could she promise not to do it again when she knew that she would break it? After all the mess was cleared away, she would come clean and apologize properly. 

Pushing Ocan away from her side, Drina took the opportunity to flick her on the forehead. It was hard enough to shock Ocan and cause her enough pain to respond with an “ouch”.

“That’s for teasing me.” Drina chuckled softly, picking her cup of tea up to walk away. Ocan dropped her jaw in shock before following behind with a pout. 

Hestar shook her head while watching from the table as it rested on her propped fist. “How is it that no matter what is happening, your language sounds so enthralling.”

Drina tilted her head as she approached the table while Ocan walked around Lulu to sit next to her.

“Have you heard it before?”

“No. Like I’ve said before, it’s not easy to approach travelers. It also didn’t help that Lulu discouraged it.”

The sisters flung their heads toward Lulu with surprise. Drina decided to test her theory. “That’s like calling the kettle black, is it not?”

Lulu dropped her hands with a sigh, placing the stitching aside. Unable to ignore the conversation any longer, she folded her hands neatly in her lap with a motherly stern look. 

“Can you blame me? You of all people, know what our kind is capable of. With your power, is it that surprising?”

Her accent was thick and light, indicating that she had been from the eastern side of the continent. It was a pleasant reminder to Drina of the old country. The melody was smooth like warm honeyed milk. Drina felt homesick from her dialect while at the same time, she completely understood what she meant. It was a harsh truth about her people and their customs. Drina looked down at the table for a moment to reflect on her words. If Hestar was this entranced by Drina, imagine if it was with the wrong type of traveler. Not all of them were gentle, kind souls.

Hestar flipped between Lulu and Drina with curiosity before looking to Ocan. “What did they say?”

Drina shot a warning towards Ocan, hoping she would catch it. Instead, the child leaned in and whispered loudly in her ear.
“Drina asked Lulu permission to date you. Lulu said, ‘what do you have to offer our family’. It’s a custom thing.”

With a scowl, Lulu gruffed at Ocan, sending her into a howl. Drina pinched the bridge of her nose with a shake of her head. Out of the corner of her eye, Drina caught Hestar staring at her with a sigh. Their eyes connected while Lulu continued to reprimand Ocan. 

The kindling fire within Drina sparked once more as the corner of Hestars lips curled into a devilish smile. She bit the front part of her bottom lip, sending the memories of only moments ago to flood her mind. Memories she would never forget. 

A cold wet nose tapped her on the elbow, breaking her from the trance Hestar locked her into. It spooked Drina for a moment until she realized who it came from. Glancing down at the hellhound sitting at her heel, it struck a frightening cord. 

The mutt gave a stern glance, one that served as a warning. It didn’t take much for her to understand what kind. Whipping her head towards the window, Drina inspected the position of the sun. It was nearly past noon and they were running out of time. 

It steeled her emotions like a rock. This needed to come to an end and last night’s events gave Drina a clue where to look. Hestar pushed from her chair and stood close to her side, following her gaze.

“What’s the plan now?”

Drina took a long sip of her tea, placing it down half-finished. It was bitter despite the sugar. Raising her hand in front of her, she stared at her hand. Concentrating on her power, she managed to summon a small swirl of power in her hands. The light blue tendrils licked at her skin with a smokey flicker. Testing her soul well, Drina had recovered fully. 

    Ocan gasped, breaking Drina’s concentration. The smoke dissipated from her hand as she dropped her hand. She hardly noticed when Lulu had stopped punishing her for them to observe her. Could they see it too?

    “When did you learn that?” Ocan spoke with wonder.

    “Last night, while she was protecting me. I saw it too.” Hester replied, staring hard at her hand.

Drina’s eyes widened. How were they able to see the power she could summon? Shaking her head, she dropped the question. Now was not the time to get into it. “As curious as we all are about it, now is not the time to get distracted.” 

    Reaching into the small satchel at her side, Drina pulled out a few items and walked around Hestar to sit in her chair. On the table, she placed a small candle, her deck of cards, and her fan. Opening a pocket deeper within, she pulled out the small bottle of red paint she used during her performance. 

    “Lulu, how safe would you say the protection around the hostel is?”

    The color on Lulu’s face drained with only a small hint of fear in her eyes. Her mouth dropped open while she contemplated Drina’s words. Not waiting for her response, Drina opened the bottle and dipped her finger into it. She began to draw sigils on the back of her hands and wrists. 

    “What are you planning to summon?” Lulu’s usually calm voice cracked, unsure of Drina’s intentions.

    “Is it strong enough?”

    Drina locked eyes with her, brushing the line from her mid-forehead down to the tip of her nose. Lulu’s breath had quickened, understanding what she was asking. Looking between the two girls at her side, Lulu pushed from her chair and dropped her stitching. 

    “Come girls. Help me remove gems from each corner of the house. Ocan, you know the spell, correct?”

    Ocan nodded her head, panic spread across her face from the urgency in Lulu’s voice. She looked to Drina for reassurance before rushing to the common room’s corner. Lulu pulled at Hestar’s arm roughly and began to explain the words she needed to repeat. “You need to say these words exactly as I say them. Say them with me, ‘I’shieal Th’iramal kovi’stur’ …” 

    Lulu’s words were cut off as they left the room. This gave Drina enough time to finish preparing her own spell. Lighting the candle in front, Drina paused to take a deep breath. Releasing her breath, she spoke to Wiggles sitting beside her. “Hope you’re still hungry.”

    Starting her chant, Drina had to do her best to ignore Ocan, who was chanting at the same time. Strengthening her focus, the candle’s flame began to swirl. 

Ocan finished her chant and grabbed a small little satchel tied together with a small twine. Running past Drina towards the door, she slowed down to a stop to watch the candle’s flame spiral and change color. The moment the flame touched the base and snuffed out, she continued down the hall with loud footsteps. 

    Drina blinked her eyes several times while the smoke enveloped her face before glancing at the door. It was the first time Ocan had witnessed the spell. There was a reason she held it hidden from her, but at some point she would need to teach her. Without a doubt, Ocan would remember the chant. Drina sighed heavily with a sinking heart. Once a gypsy held the knowledge of a spell, they would never forget it. 

    Standing up, Drina dipped her finger into the paint once more and drew a sigil on her stomach. This time, it was different. During the seance, she used one for calming. Today, she invoked an old god her mother used to call upon. It was one Drina avoided, knowing there was always a cost. It was also a shame it was the strongest sigil she knew. 

    With one last look at the sigils on her hands and wrists, Drina sat back down. Taking the tarot deck on the table, she shuffled it quickly three times and cut it twice in front of her. The sounds of rushing footsteps down the hall signaled that the barrier was removed completely. 

Glancing towards the door, Drina pulled a card from the left pile and placed it down. Lulu was the first one to walk into the common room out of breath. The other two followed, carrying two satchels each. Lulu stood a few feet from Drina, pointing at the floor around the table as Drina pulled the second card. 

    “Quick, place the pouches in the same corners they were moved from. Try to keep it even.” 

    Drina held her hand over the pile and waited while the girls placed the bags in each corner. Watching Lulu, she saw her lips move subtly to chant the spell around her. A small waiver of energy floated past Drina with a disorienting shock. The two spells had mixed with a disturbing collision of powers. Drina grabbed the edge of the table for support at the sudden lurch in her stomach. 

    “Serves you right. Should have waited.” Lulu’s tone was harsh and her eyes stern with motherly disapproval. 

    Drina frowned, grabbing the last card sharply to place it down with a heavy thud. 

    “How much time do I have?”

    Lulu’s eyes were cold. “Not enough for this.”

    “I’ll never have enough, it seems.”

Codexing Against Blood: Chapter 1

Sarah sat dully within the worn leather chesterfield, her legs crossed elegantly. Absentmindedly, she flipped through pages of a book that sat neatly on her lap. It was quiet and peaceful. 

The casual cough of the librarian in the distance, the constant smell of old books, and the timeless aura of peace enveloped her like a warm blanket. It was an ideal place to seclude herself from the entire academy. Had she not been patiently waiting till the lunch bell rang, she would already be napping in the cozy chair. However, today she will not sleep away indoors.

The sun was out in full force and the warm rays sang to her in a siren’s call. Sarah kept herself from checking the clock, not wanting to fret anxiously about the time since it was all she had nowadays. It was a privilege for a student like her. 

The Willager Brightson’s Academy was unique, offering several options and class styles that were like no other. For several reasons, the biggest option was the module structure class. Not only was it a self-paced program where each subject was offered in module format, but you also had to apply to get into it. It was very exclusive and few were selected in each grade. Even fewer were accepted outside of different schooling systems. Once you are accepted into the program, you could complete the entirety of your education. However, failing to comply with the grade mark requirements or rules meant expulsion from the program. Permanently.  

Sarah was the small few that were accepted into the program. Instead of spending her school days in a classroom, she was granted the freedom to do as she pleased. Within limitations, of course. Some requirements were that each student must be on-premise for the morning classes and with good attendance. Only then were they able to leave the property during the 3rd and 4th periods. 

At the end of the day, they must return to check-in after classes had finished within an hour. Leaving the academy’s premise was a perk that Sarah utilized every day. 

Often she spent her time in the library and then would go sleep out in the fields. During the first few weeks of attending the school, several of her classmates had shown her around. They shared all of the hidden gems and where most of them would hang out. One of her favorites was the hillside. 

It was a fair distance from the academy and through the forest that surrounded the entire property. The small worn path weaved and if it weren’t for the others, she would have easily gotten lost. There in the far back of the property line was a small open field that turned into a sharp hill. It was a popular place for all the module students to hang out due to the privacy. It was also easy to access once you knew your way and quick to return to the building to check back in.

  Although as fall began to settle in, it got quite chilly out. Several of the students decided to stay inside. Despite the cold, Sarah was determined to enjoy the last few days of good weather on the small hillside. It had become her place of sanctuary. On hot days, the tree shade gave enough solace and the open hill patch was a great place to have lunch. The way it angled was perfect for a snooze and the feeling of nature all around was soothing.

Sarah was fortunate to have been invited on a whim to the hillside by her classmates. It was easy to get along with them since they too desired to laze about. Not having the overbearing weight of constant conversations was a beautiful change of pace. Because she wasn’t much of a social being, it was hard for her to make friends. Even in her previous school.

Here, Sarah could let her guard down. To just enjoy the weather while feeling like she had low-maintenance friends. Occasionally they would share in playing games, but with winter approaching it died down. Sarah had not seen them since. 

So alas, her hiding out in the library began. Students also began focusing on oncoming module deadlines since the majority of them put it off to play outside. Now being forced indoors it was a perfect time to catch up. At least for them, not for Sarah. She had long completed the necessary ones in the first month.

A sudden loud clunk on a small table nearby broke Sarah from her daydream. Heather plopped down her pastel rainbow bag and crossed her arms in the chair across with a smile. She took the liberty to sit down first before breaking Sarah’s thoughts.

“Hey, you look a little worn out more than usual. Winter blues kicking in early?”

Heather smiled softly, waiting with a twinkle in her hazel eye. Several freckles sat on her cheeks and nose against the contrast of her light cream skin. She brushed her amber bangs to frame her face, then pulled at her large braid made of dreads down her left shoulder while she adjusted in the chair. How she managed to keep them so neat and firm always baffled Sarah.

Smiling lazily back, Sarah closed the book on her lap with a thump. Looking down at Heather’s uniform, she stiffened. Immediately she spotted several infractions to the school’s dress code. Heather had ditched the academy’s forest green blazer and untucked her long sleeve shirt from her plaid green and blue skirt. Several top buttons were undone to show an array of layered necklaces and tank tops. 

Sarah scowled with a shake of her head while Heather burst out laughing. In response to Sarah’s displeasure, she leaned back into the leather chesterfield and kicked up her legs to rest on the table. Before Sarah could start her usual lecture about her uniform, Heather raised her hand to stop her and quickly interjected.

“You can’t change how I am. I’ve been doing this since 5th grade, If they haven’t kicked me out since then, they won’t start now.”

Sarah huffed before snapping her mouth closed. Adjusting her poster to sit up straight, she flicked her long black silky hair out of the way to lean into her fist propped against the chair’s arm. “Fine, make us look worse than we already are. You wonder why everyone in this school thinks the Slithers are spoiled rich kids.”

Heather rolled her eyes. “As if sitting outside on the hill is any better. I heard you’ve been napping out there and was late for check-in, Miss Kettle.”

Sighing heavily at her companion, Sarah squirmed in her seat. She may have been a little tardy here and there in the last few weeks. At least it was a few small mistakes and not blatant disregard for uniform policies. 

Sarah settled back into the chair and placed her hands behind her head. She noticed a few students sitting nearby at tables with headphones in. They worked hard on projects and term papers, scribbling frivolously in their world. 

Yes, Sarah had been tardy a few times. However, it was no surprise Heather would have found out she was scolded. There were classroom students, or Hoppers, who had it out against them. The Hoppers who complained usually tried to get the mod students banned or reprimanded on purpose. Scalers were treated like degenerates, no matter what they did. Even though they had the same grade point as the class or higher since it was a requirement. The real difference was that Scalers didn’t need to follow the standard rules.

Sarah was always treated the same as the Scalers, no matter how hard she tried to follow the rules. She would always be an outcast regardless of where she attended.

Sarah feigned ignorance of Heather’s statement. With a coy smile, she finally replied.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

Closing her eyes, Sarah fought the sleepiness that pulled at her. They sat in silence for a few moments. The sound of pages flipping could be heard, filling in the silence. Each moment that passed, Sarah could feel Heather’s eyes on her. How long was she going to keep staring? Was she going to comment on her remark?

It finally became too much to bear when Sarah took a deep breath in. Since Heather had come to find her, there must have been a reason. There was always a reason.

Not bothering to open her eyes, she let out a long-drawn sigh. “Was there something you needed?”

Heather giggled victoriously. “I’m glad you asked. A few of us Scalers are going to the cafe at lunch if you wanted to tag along. You can always go nap on the hill tomorrow. If the weather permits.”

Fighting a grumble, Sarah chewed at the inside of her lip in thought. Going to the cafe meant that Sarah was expected to socialize with several groups while they talked and played games. It was a new internet cafe that opened last year that served food, coffee and tea of all kinds. They had several tables to hang out and a back room with several computers lined against the walls. 

The boys would hang out in the back to play games, yelling loudly and cheering at each other every time someone scored or won. Meanwhile, the girls would stay at the tables watching the boys. 

Sarah was not interested in gawking and found it unamusing. Not to mention that games were not her thing; she despised them. There was only one game she didn’t mind playing. The cafe had an old-school shooter game in the front. Heather forced her to play a few rounds even though she was terrible at it. Still, Heather didn’t stop inviting her to play. 

They would play till the money ran out regardless of her skill, which wasn’t long. Heather was much better at playing and always carried them through the levels. Each time Sarah could no longer play, she would give up and claim she was no longer interested.

If not for Heather, Sarah wouldn’t bother to go. In the past, Sarah used to refuse Heather each time. She would seek Sarah out every day to befriend her, asking her to come. Until one day, she finally said yes. Since then, Heather would constantly drag her along. 

Why she bothered to do so was a mystery. Neither of them had much in common. Heath was incredibly popular where Sarah wasn’t. Yet, out of all the people in the school, Heather was her closest friend. If she hadn’t made an effort, Sarah would be left in the library or hillside each day alone. 

It was a sombering thought. Sarah opened her eyes and glanced over at Heather. She sat patiently with a caring smile, waiting for her to reply. How did Heather put up with her? Sarah was stale and mundane to be around. She knew if she decided to sit in silence till the last minute to answer, Heather would comply without a fuss. It made Sarah feel guilty. 

Heather was a saint with her carefree attitude and hippy appearance. Sarah was quiet, reserved, and followed the rules. So what if she wasn’t the ideal friend? Just because Heather broke the rules more than any student in the academy didn’t mean Sarah couldn’t be friends with her, right? Sarah had an opportunity to make a close friend, even if she was troublesome. 

Dropping her arms to her lap, Sarah gave in. she nonchalantly answered while flipping open the book again. 

“Fine.”

Heather stood up and snatched the book from Sarah. The action startled Sarah. With a gasp, she sneered at Heather. Heather giggled and tapped the book under her chin, leaning in close. Her necklaces fell out and dangled in front while she planted a fist on her hip. With a roguish grin, Heather wagged the book with a taunt. 

“I will have none of that. I know you’re not even reading anyways. It’s in Russian, and I have a sneaking suspicion you don’t know the language.”

Sarah crossed her arms defensively. On second thought, she was a terrible friend. With a pout, Sarah barked back. “I could be learning.”

Heather raised an eyebrow and looked at the title of the book. Laced with dramatic flair, she spoke enthusiastically. 

“Mmmhmm. ‘Agriculture of Russia’?”

Heather flicked her eyes towards her with a knowing grin. It was a new form of teasing Sarah hadn’t seen before. Desperately searching for an excuse, there was no escape from the embarrassment. Sarah ran out of interesting books to read. It had become a game to grab one at random and try to read it regardless of language or topic. Disarmed with no retort, Sarah frowned. 

Heather laughed victoriously and turned towards the library aisles. “As I thought. Khoroshaya popytka, my friend. Come, we are leaving early today.”

Whispering Death (part 21)

(Hey Ragarootlings! Apologies for the late post, I’ve been dealing with a lot of personal issues which are getting sorted now. I should resume my regular Wednesday postings again. Without further delay, please enjoy!

-Turan)



Stirring back into the world of consciousness, Drina groaned. Her body was stiff and sore, not to mention overheated. It prickled uncomfortably with pain. Why was she boiling up? The sounds of birds chirping outside the window reminded her of the hostel she was staying at. Quickly Drina established that the source of the heat was coming from someone beside her. With a groggy roll to the side, she grumbled.

Jeta, you are too close again. Move over and give me space.”

Her body ached at the movement which caused her to take a sharp breath in. With a light touch against her arm, Drina felt several bandages wrapped around her shoulder. A vague memory of the night before began to swarm her at once. The attack from the ghosts, her newly awakened power, Wiggles gulping the spirits down with ease. There was so much she needed to process from all the events that transpired. Deep within her thoughts, a sudden hand slid across her chest to pull her close.

“I am starting to pity your sister for having to deal with you as a bedmate. You are a total bed hog, not to mention you yell at her all night.” Hestar’s body connected to her and embraced her tightly. “Is Jeta her real name?”

Drina frowned, furrowing her brow with her eyes still closed. “I am not a bed ho-”

    It took a moment before it dawned on her, the person sharing her bed was not Ocan. It was Hestar. Stiffening, she shot her eyes open and turned to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. Sure enough, Hestar was staring back at her with a smirk. The sun had brightened the room and bounced off the strands of blonde flowing hair that splayed across the pillow they had been sharing. Her soft violet eyes locked with hers threatening to lure her into their depths. Drina felt the heat radiating from her face. Too close! 

In a panic to push herself up, pain erupted all over her body. Drina winced and grabbed at her shoulder with a growl. The soft linen sheets and blanket covering Drina slipped off her chest, exposing her unclothed body. Hestar sat up with a concern, brushing hair out of Drina’s face. 

    “Are you ok? Don’t move so fast. You took a lot of damage fighting yesterday. Some of the burns haven’t healed fully.”

Drina grabbed handfuls of the sheet in front and covered herself. Her voice cracked while she spoke in a harsh whisper, “W-why am I naked?” 

Drina turned to Hestar for answers and got an eye full of her body. Hestar was also unclothed and unhindered by the covers. It was clear her concern was more important than modesty. Drina felt her jaw drop in a stupor. It was the first time seeing a woman she felt attracted to this close and naked.

    “I had to remove your clothes to look at your wounds. You don’t expect me to put you to sleep with dirty cuts and burns so they can get infected, do you?

    Before Drina could break from the spell she was under and reply, a giggle came from the entrance of the room. Standing there was Ocen and Lulu. The timing they both couldn’t have been any worse. Lulu had several clean towels in her arms and dropped them on the bed nearby. Having just entered the room to check on Drina’s wellbeing, she gave a shake of her head. Ocen couldn’t hide her excitement, giggling uncontrollably. Lulu rushed back to the door and shoved her around the corner quickly. Looking back once more, she narrowed her brows. “Honestly girls!”

    Drina felt all the blood drain from her face. Stammering a bit, she finally yelled out after them. “It’s not what it looks like! We didn’t do anything!”

    Hestar broke out into a hearty laugh, unable to help herself. There was nothing Drina could do now to convince her sister that she was not intimate with Hestar, especially after seeing her like this. Hopeless, Drina flopped back against the bed and covered her face with embarrassment. Hestar fought to speak through the last remains of her laughter.

    “Drina, relax. You are right, nothing happened. Last night you were so cold after I removed your clothes and cleaned your wonders. I was worried you were going to die, so I joined you to help warm you up.”

Hestar crawled partially over top of her and grabbed at her hands. With a light pull, she peeled them away from Drina’s face to uncover her lips. Kissing them tenderly before pulling away with a more serious tone. Her voice was barely a whisper.

“In all seriousness, I thought I was going to lose you.” Hestar reached up to Drina’s hair and brushed it away from her face once more. The memory of the night’s events was fresh in her mind. Drina removed the rest of her hands, looking up at Hestar. Because of her power, it was normal for Drina to be as cold as the dead. How easily she had forgotten that no one else would be used to it. It was one of the reasons Ocen slept so close to her while they were out on the road traveling. She too would often worry that Drina would drift off in her sleep and never wake up in the morning. Reaching up to touch Hestar’s face, Drina offered a tender smile.

“Don’t worry, I am here now. We are lucky to still be alive.”

Drina caught the scarring on her arm. With curiosity, she let go of Hestar’s face to inspect it. “What did you do to heal it so quickly?”

“Healing salve. Lulu usually keeps it for things like this. Not that it happens often, but anytime someone shows up at her doors with injuries or wounds, she would tend to them. No questions asked. Now knowing that she is a traveler, it’s really no surprise.”

Drina reached around Hestar to rub her arm, nodding. Everything had made more sense since she learned the truth about Lulu’s past. Ever since the first day they arrived, Drina suspected that Lulu knew more than she let on. Yet at the same time, it wasn’t much of a concern. With a heavy sigh, Drina remembered the fight she had with Ocan in Lulu’s office. She must have known what she was saying in their dialect too. Dropping one hand on Hestar’s back, she used the other one to pinch the bridge of her nose. Drina was ashamed of her behaviour. How could she have been so childish? There was much she needed to correct. The blood-bind contract, saving Hestar, breaking the bind with a vengeful spirit, and apologizing to Ocen. All the wave of embarrassment slammed into her gut, twisting it into a knot. How was she going to apologize to Ocan now after she had seen her naked in bed with Hestar? Too many emotions flooded Drina at once that she couldn’t focus on just one. Instead, she peeked through her fingers towards Hestar. 

There on her side was Hestar shamelessly laying beside her exposed. It took everything in Drina to keep her eyes from drifting from her soft violet eyes peering back. Not that it was any better. The look of adoration shifted quickly into a look of lust. The blood that had drained her face earlier had raced back into her cheeks from the sight. This had become a very dangerous position.

“Well, since you are feeling much better and no one will be disturbing us for some time,” Hestar raise an eyebrow as she adjusted her position closer to Drina’s face. In a small voice that sent a shiver throughout Drina’s spine, she continued. 

“How about we finish what we started in the alley?”

Whispering Death (part 10)

**Authors notes: Hello readers! I wasn’t expecting this story to go on as long as it has. Originally it was going to be a short story with several parts, yet as I keep writing it has slowly been evolving to a greater story. I hope you have been enjoying it so far and that it hasn’t been too much of a wait in between chapters. I am planning to release a weekly update of this until the end of December, where I believe it may come finally to an end. Thank you all for the comments, follows, and likes! It means so much to me and gives me more confidence to continue to write. Enjoy part 10 and we will see you again next week!**

Several messages were passed and a few questions were asked, Drina was beginning to handle the flow much better than at the start. It had taken a bit longer at the beginning, and once the people present gained confidence in her ability, they began to participate quickly. It was much harder for Drina to focus on the living, making her assistance with the staff easier to handle. All she had to do was relay between the dead and the living like a telegram. Only once did someone ask for a specific ghost was she left unanswered, leaving the guest disheartened. Drina could not please everyone, and no matter her power, there was no forcing a spirit to come forth. There was, however, a small miscalculation in performance. The more she was able to relay the messages from the other world, the more spirits began to crowd around her. 

Expanding more energy to silence them only seemed to anger them more. Unsure of how much longer she could keep up the unrest from the realm of the dead, she released the image of the ghost whom she had relayed the message to the crowd. Closing her eyes she had to catch her breath, taking a moment to collect her ether and take an assessment. Gauging her soul well, she could still go for a few more hours before she would run out of energy to continue. On the other hand, the intensity of the ghosts on the other side of the wall had become worrisome. Something was wrong. Opening her eyes once more she scanned the spirits as they slammed and bashed against the barrier. There was no way she could decipher them without wasting more energy than it was worth. 

With a nod, she decided. Addressing her audience, she cleared her throat. “The thinning of the veil is drawing near to its closure. The spirits are weary, and so I will only take one last request from the living.”

With a wave of vocal disappointment, the people seemed to understand as some began to sit down. A tall gypsy man from the festival began to make his way to the last person when a woman stood up angrily and yelled. 

“What about Marcus Vis’tacer!!”

Drina focused on the women as best as she could, irritated at the demand. Had she done something personally to upset this person, or was it just a general displacement of her emotions? The crowd stilled in silence, staring at the women. The name seemed to have meant something to the locals, as a man on the other side of the room stood up. He was not as angry as the woman, yet his stance was one in unity. He looked about his fellow townsfolk, then up towards Drina. 

“Marcus Vis’tacer!”

The simple act of him yelling the name triggered a chain reaction as several people began to stand and yell, chanting the name of this person. Drina saw as the staff trying to calm them to no avail, the rising energy soon to turn violent. Raising a hand towards the people, she waited until they quieted down. With a curious tone in her voice, she addressed them. “You all wish for me to call this person? I have no issue in honoring this request, all I ask is why?”

The woman who had first called spoke stepped forward towards the stage, the crowd around her parting to help her. Drina narrowed her eyes as she cupped her hands towards her in a plea. 

“Ma’dam, my boy. He was taken. Missing. Please, ask my boy where he is.” 

Drina gasped lightly, her jaw slack as she scanned the crowd of both the living and the dead around her. Even at the mention of the boy’s name, the ghosts stood glaring with hollow eyes. Was this the reason for their discord? Sighing heavily, she nodded. Drina was a vessel and her duty was to do as the people asked. This was enough for everyone to return to their seats, including the woman as she sat along with several others in the front. Sudden nerves got the best of Drina now that she could not disappoint. Looking through the crowd, she spotted her Ocan. What if she failed and could not reach him? Would they be safe if the crowd became restless? Catching Lulu’s arm around Ocan, she pulled her in closer to her as Drina shifted eye contact with her. She held her with a stern knowing look, nodding as if answering her doubt. Ocan would be safe with her, no matter what. Even Hestar reached out and pulled close into the two of them. 

There was nothing to be done, Drina must honor the women’s request. Looking at the sigils on her hand, she flooded them with power to check their potency. Still glowing with a dim aura, she took a steady even inhale. Determined, she focused back on the wall of waiting undead. 

“Marcus Vis’tacer, I call you. Come.” 

An unearthly chorus joined her as she made her command. The spirits stood unmoving. Again, she tried to call him, the eerie chorus of voices stronger. 

“I call you, Marcus Vis’tacer. Show yourself!”

The air stilled around Drina while the ghosts dissipated one by one before her. It was startling to see the last image of their wicked smiles before the light began to dim. The gray colorless world through her eyes became smokey with black creeping clouds that began to seep through the walls of the room. It filled the room quickly, leaving her alone in the protective sphere she had created. Drina’s heart raced with fear while she looked about. Unable to see the crowd, she worried that it had happened outside of the spirit world and into the living. Pushing to her feet, she pierced her eyes through the wall, reaching out to touch it. A sudden slam of a monstrous black fist hit the wall just before her, causing her to jump. Afraid to move outside her protection circle, she sprawled her hands to activate her sigils. Whatever this beast was, it was no longer safe. 

Preparing to dispel the entire ritual in order to break the connection completely, a small cry stopped her. Whipping her head with bewilderment, she dropped her hands. Again the beast’s hand slammed into the wall, causing Drina to shutter in pain. The force of the hit zapped the inside of her body, yet the small cry grew stronger as it called out again. At first, the beast had thrown her off, making her think Marcus had become a tainted spirit that grew corrupt with discontent. The small cry shattered that thought as it cut through the realms of both the living and the dead. How was it possible that someone who was dead could reach out in the real world as well? It dawned on her all at once as she called out towards the boy. He was still alive. 

“Marcus?!” 

Her voice was strained with surprise and concern, no longer shrouded with the ghostly presence. Calling to him had brought a small bead of light off in the distance, directing her to where he was still being held. Under her breath, Drina stood stunned. “Oh god, He’s still alive. That must be where he is.”

There wasn’t much time to react as the beast roared loudly at her. The sounds of the cry sent tendrils of pain throughout her ear and deep within her mind. Covering her ears, she yelped at the sudden attack. The beast furiously began to pound against the barrier with both its claws. The electric shock pulsed several times, dropping her to her knees. With a cough, she spat out blood onto the stage. The sight of her own blood terrified Drina. If she didn’t stop this beast, it would break from the veil and into the real world. Glancing up towards the wall, she saw the glinting eyes of the beast as it crushed down on the protection shield she set up. Rolling from her knees to her bottom, she quickly dipped her finger in her blood and began to mark her arm, drawing symbols to connect to the sigils. 

In a last-ditch attempt to strengthen her barrier, she focused all her energy on her hands. The red paint and blood began to glow brightly, sending her ether flow in a rush to the sphere around her. The cracks began to meld, fixing the damage that had now been dealt. Without hesitation, she then began to break the connection of her energy from her eyes and ears. It should have been simple enough to disconnect, yet as she tried there was no change. Whatever presence involved had her forcibly connected, unable to break sever her flowing ether. Confirming her suspicions, the beast began to chuckle. Drina’s eyes widened, her body trembling with fear. This spirit was bound to Marcus’s soul, and by calling him she had leeched herself to it. Unless she found Marcus, there was no breaking the bond. 

The beast lifted it’s paws, slamming it against the barrier once more. Amping up the shield in anticipation, Drina’s powers weren’t enough to stop it from shattering several cracks throughout the sphere. Keeping as much focus as she could, she cried out from the pain while still holding her hands out towards the walls. Tears fell from her eyes, as she glared with hatred towards the beast. She would rather die than let him break free from the plane of the dead. The beast lifted its paws for another attack, and as Drina released more energy into the wall, a small black shadow howled with a leap into the circle unhindered. With a startled cry out, Drina pulled her feet away from the hellhound that stood in front of her. Laughing with overwhelming joy, she held her energy into the wall as the mutt growled at the beast. 

This had been the first time she had ever seen one outside of its physical form. Black charred skin covered its entire body, bulging layers of charred skin protruded over its eye sockets. The hound’s teeth came out from the sides of the jaw, oversized and jagged. Saliva dripped constantly from its teeth, tearing holes in the realm as it sucked the energy from whatever it touched. This was how it ate from the soul well of its owners, and the fact that it stood protecting her meant that it was a stray from its master. Drina was grateful nonetheless as the mutt began to bark back at the beast. Smirking, Drina tilted her head cockily at the beast. The task it was trying to accomplish was hindered, meaning this battle was over. Slowly it withdrew from the wall fading into the black shadowy smoke. With a sigh of relief, Drina dropped her arms to her lap to rest. The hound then turned around to sit in front of her. 

The spiritual form of the dog was horrifying, even more so as it stuck its face closer to hers to check on her. With its slimy snake-like tongue, it slithered along its teeth hungrily. Right, Drina thought, it wanted payment. Raising a brow at the mutt, she reached out to pet it on the head, a way of her agreeing to its terms. Hastily it began to lick her face. Drina hated the feeling as it lapped its chilling tongue against her cheek and eyelids. The more it ate, the clearer the room had become as the haze depleted and the audience had fully returned to her sight. Everyone had stood up at this point, watching with confusion and fear as the staff stood in a line across the stage to block anyone from approaching. Drina looked about the stage to see the candles had blown out and the puddle of her blood had been real. Pushing the furry mutt away, she quickly stood up to use the last of her sight. The small shimmer of light where Marcus could be seen in her remaining spiritual eye. Turning back to the crowd she shouted over them.

“What lies in the southeast from here? Forest? Farmland?

A young lad spoke up here as everyone silenced in shock. 

“There is an old distillery a ways away from here.”

Locking eyes with the lad, she needed to act quickly. whatever she woke up was now on its way to finish the boy. “Take me. Marcus is still alive.”

Whispering Death (part 9)

Standing behind the doorway, Drina took a few deep breaths. This was it, it was the moment she had been dreading since agreeing to the terms of her contract. When was the last time she willingly let her power flow without restriction? Other than her loss of control of her emotions, this had been different. To be able to let it truly loose and to stand like a horse trainer in the center of the ring while directing the flow with a whip, making it turn and twist as she pleased was a concept she had never dreamed of. And to top it off, to do it while others watched in awe as she showed them her unpracticed skill in hopes to give them a show of a lifetime. Maybe Drina had bitten off more than she could chew. Alas, it didn’t matter much now. There was no turning back. Opening her eyes, she swallowed hard. Time for the show. 

Releasing her control, it was like a flow of water letting go from a clogged creek. It was refreshing as the air began to suddenly cool around her, causing an unnatural fog to form along the floor. Spreading it further, she held fast to the presence of the ghosts, waiting until she was ready before calling them forth. Their whispers gnawed at the back of her mind with eagerness, knowing that soon they would be allowed to pass through the barrier of the plains. Wait, she mentally pressed, wait a little longer. The ghosts had no sense of a dramatic flare. Waiting a few moments to listen as the crowd began to make comments at the sudden chill in the air, she smirked. Grabbing unto the flow of the energy, she placed her voice into the ether. With it now detached, it spread throughout the air in a distortion, breaking it up to hide her true presence as she spoke. Spirits unable to wait, joined in adding an eerie undertow of whispers. Some spoke different words, others mimicking Drina’s own. 

“So, you have come to speak with the dead? Loved ones long past, waiting on the other side to reunite by your side? A daughter, brother, cousin perhaps?” 

Drina paused a moment, taking a moment to revel in the sound of her voice bouncing around the room before her. With a melodic chuckle, she continued to build the tension. 

“Very well. But be warned, the spirits are restless tonight.” 

Pulling her voice back from the flow, she reached into her small pouch at her hip, pulling out a white powder. Gently she pulled back the curtain at the entrance and blew on the powder. It connected with the breeze, catching the drift into the room and spiraling wildly about, filling the room as they grew into tiny sparkling stars that hovered about the room. Inside the tent now looked like the night sky, the only piece missing was the moon. Drina didn’t have the parlor trick to create something that big so this would have to do. Now ready to walk inside, she released the spirits from the wall. Whispers began to fill the air as the chill grew ever more around her. Shadows began to creep along the corners of the walls and floor, darkening the light of the candles and torches. Holding the curtain sides, she took one more deep breath in before pulling them apart to step in. 

No one had noticed her at first as they looked about to see what was to come next. Only a few that had been looking behind had spotted her with a gasp. Like a spark, it set a flow of heads turning to face her while she slowly began to walk to the front of the stage. In her peripherals, she spotted Ocan sitting beside Hestar and Lulu, her eyes lit with wonder. Don’t look, Don’t look, Don’t look! It took everything in her to not make eye contact and to look past everyone as if she was not on the same plan as them. The crowd began to whisper amongst themselves with curiosity as she stopped midway. Pressing her finger to her lips, she shhed them softly. It was hard not to laugh as they stopped suddenly, all listening in as hard as they could to hear what she could. Releasing her control, she looked about the room to spot the now visible spirits floating about. 

With a smile, she lifted her hands at her sides as if she was feeling the rain against her skin. Using her sigils on her hands, she tapped her ether into them as they gave a dim red glow. With a wave of gasps, the ghosts were now visible out of nowhere for everyone to see.  They danced, flew, and even interacted with the crowd as she waited for them to make their way around her. It was as if they were puppets with a mind of their own, her string tethering them to keep a safe distance from touching anyone. A few people reached out in hopes to feel them, which caused them fad out by her will to avoid contact, only to reappear out of their grasp. Softy cries and wails could be heard from the dead while they drifted towards Drina, which she had been accustomed to. They didn’t like it when she policed them from reaching out to the living, yet she needed to make sure she kept everyone safe. Who knows what would happen if they had. 

Once the ghosts had made their way above Drina, they began to orbit around her while swimming about in the air. Continuing her way to the stage, Drina allowed them to fade from the view of the audience, where only orbs or shades could be seen. Finishing the steps she turned around to face the crowd and took a small bow. Time for her introduction, she thought. 

“Good evening, thank you all for coming on such a special night. It is my honor and pleasure to hold such a seance for you at the Steaua lunii festival. I am Ma’dam Drina Forest.”

There was a small pause as several people began to clap. With a playful frown, she jested with them. “Save your applause, I haven’t done anything impressive yet!”

With a small burst of laughter from the audience, she held her hands out in front, palms upward while she waited to continue. 

“Tonight is the fading of the veils, where the spirit world and the earthly plans are closely connected. You may hear things that will spook and frighten you. You may also see things that may be gruesome and terrifying. I cannot control the ghosts as they appear and they may not listen. All I ask is for you to stay calm. They are as scared of you as you are of them.” 

The last joke only got a few chuckles. She expected it as much since they wouldn’t be able to tell if she was being serious or not. With a devilish smile, she looked at someone in the front of the crowd. It was a younger child clinging to her mother with bewilderment and wonder. It was a change of pace she was not used to seeing. Leaning in her direction, she raises her eyebrow.

“Or at least we hope.” 

Dropping her hands, she slowly turned to face away from the crowd. It gave her a moment to take a small breather before moving to sit on the small cushion provided for her. It was surrounded by candles by her request, giving her a small welcoming aura. Drina walked past the wall of candles, standing in front of her seat before wiggling her fingers. Closing her eyes, she made a small prayer. 

“Please let this work.”

Spinning around, she sat quickly without wasting more time. Crossing her legs and posing in a meditative state, she closed her eyes. 

“There will be a brief moment of silence as I conjure the spirits to listen. If there is a person you wish to speak to, stand up and call out their name. The staff will keep you in order to speak.”

Pacing her breath, Drina began to shift her energy flow. Instead of spreading it across the room, she pulled it into a sphere around her. It flowed swiftly like a current as spirits swam in and around it. The onslaught of voices began to call out to her at once as she built a wall from the outside world, keeping them close to her. Next, after she had set the perimeter of which they were allowed to summon, she moved a small steam of her ether to flow towards her eyes. It worked the same way as throwing her voice, yet this allowed her to see the spirits better. Instead of their decayed and withered appearance, she would see them for who they were. It was easier to project that image for the viewer’s sake, causing less panic and distress. Almost ready, she had several spirits who wanted to speak waiting in front of her. The onslaught of their wails raising while she tried to focus. With a bit of frustration, she spoke to them. 

“Can you be a little quieter? It’s almost your turn.”

There was laughter under the cries of the spirits that reminded her that she was not alone. Chuckling at herself she addressed the living. “Sorry, I forgot you were all here with me.”

This time, the laughter boomed as Drina took a few deep breaths to finish directing the flow of her energy. Making the connection to her eyes, she felt the cool refreshing flow rushing past them. Opening her eyes, she blinked a few times to adjust to the sudden change in the room. From the audience’s point of view, she knew her eyes were glowing a greyish blue as the spiritual film had developed within her iris. Within her view, the darkroom had become lighter and all the color dimmed. Standing around her were several ghosts all waiting for her to begin. Looking to the first one in front of her, the ghost brightened up as he stepped forward. His mouth began to move, yet the words only came out in unearthly wails and cries. 

With a bit of a hum, she furrowed her brows to focus on splitting the flow in two directions. Keeping her eyes connected, she tried to also attach her ears as well. If in order to see them with her ether she had the flow directed to her eyes, she wondered if adding her ears would do the same. It was either going to work or have the worst outcome. Thankfully none of the adjustments were permanent and she would just eventually run out of her soul well, undoing all the tiring work to make this happen. It was a fear that had already crossed her mind. Thankfully the cooling flow sprung forth from her ears, and the words of the man began to ring True. 

“Ma’dam Drina? Ma’dam? I want to tell my wife, I miss her.” 

It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time that for the first time ever, Drina could actually hear what the ghosts had been saying to her. 

“What’s your name, Sir?”

“Patrick Stumbles.” 

Drina nodded gearing to begin the hard work she had been setting up for. Pushing aside all the other voices of the ghosts eagerly yelling at her, she concentrated on her sigils to focus on him. It flickered for a moment, reminding Drina that she had forgotten to say his name. 

“Patrick Stumbles, show yourself.”

With a shimmering silver flicker, he finally appeared before the crowd. With a cry of awe and a single woman crying out with shock, Drina knew she had done it. 

“What’s your wife’s name?”

“Magenta.” 

“Magenta, your husband wants to tell you that he loves you. Do you have anything else to say Patrick Stumbles?”

Whispering Death (part 8)

The night had dragged out so slowly for Drina, her hands amply dealing out her tarot cards into a simple splay. It was another typical reading, making it harder for her to act neutral. Glancing towards the tent entrance, she hoped that someone would come to release her from her prison in hopes that she could head to the main event soon. Although she was anxious to perform in front of hundreds of people, she also felt insecure and timid. Never in her past had she done anything to the likes of what she was about to do tonight in front of another living being. Any time she had played with her powers in the past was when she had been alone and hidden from eyes to pry. Most of it was spent in the wild forest near her little village. Deep within the thicket, she had made a little hut where no one could find her. Stealing candles and incense, she would then commune with the spirits in hopes to appease them into leaving her be. 

Only after years did she learn to tame her ability, and shortly after her parents had passed that she suppressed it entirely. To boldly state the way she had in front of Mr. Gafrald was only because she grew cocky while putting up a front. Now she needed to put her money where her mouth was. While she read off the fortune to the older lady in front of her, the flap behind her opened and a young boy held his hands up to flash 10 at her. In ten minutes she was to make her way to the main tent in the center of the festival. Giving a small nod in reply, she returned her focus to finish reading quickly. 

“And you will find the man of your dreams. Look in the fall after the last leaf has fallen. I am sure you will know by then. Now I usually take questions, however, my time is up. I am needed on the stage. Will you be attending the performance?”

The women looked offended by her abrupt reading, changing quickly to excitement at the mere mention of the seance. “Oh yes! I have never been to one before. We haven’t had something like this in over 30 years.”

Drina had suspected that the last time someone had been here would have been from her family. They used to travel around before she and Ocan were born. It had stopped after Drina’s ability had become apparent. Still, she offered a smile while standing up to help escort the women out of the tent. “Then I am sure it will be the talk of the town, and you can say you were there.”

They both laughed, although Drina’s had been a well-practiced and rehearsed laugh. After saying it to each and every client of hers, it had become a habit and skit. The moment she stepped past the fabric’s edge, Drina dropped it and quickly turned to gather her things. She had no time to waste and needed to start preparing herself mentally. Pulling out a small mirror within her satchel, she placed it on the table after cleaning up her cards. Next, taking out a small bottle of red paint, she dipped her pinky into the liquid and brushed it on her face. From her mid-forehead to the tip of her nose, the color stood out drastically. Taking a candle from around her, she placed it in front of the mirror. It had been a while since she had practiced the spell of protection and while she stared at the flame she took a shaky breath in. 

Lightly chanting, she watched the flickering of the candle flatten out into a straight point. Unblinking, she continued to stare off into the light, looking past it and through the window of the flame. The color of the flame shifted, the middle of it beginning to darken while the orange circle around it. In a slow counterclockwise motion, it began to spiral, quickening as she began to speed the chant up. Drina’s eyes burned and sweat began to trickle down her temples, yet she persisted. It was nearly complete while the spiral squished into a flat spiral, slowing down as it moved. The moment it had touched the base of where the wick had started, the flame snuffed into a puff of white smoke. 

Blinking several times, Drina stopped chanting and sighed with relief. The smoke had floated slowly towards her, smudging the paint along her nose. Like a white powder, it softened the drastic paint on her nose and gave a soft red taint to her skin. Drina watched the mirror’s reflection of the process, completing her spell once the smoke dissipated. Taking out her eyeliner, she fixed her makeup to give a smokey appearance around her eyes. Although the spell was necessary for not only herself but for everyone else around her, the makeup was mostly for dramatic flare. With another dab of the red paint, she drew sigils on the back of her hands and on her stomach. 

Using the small mirror as she took a few steps back, she adjusted her clothing. Her pants had been loosened to flow more as she stepped, but her top had to be altered more. Taking her wrapping, she removed the portion covering her torso, and instead fastened it to drape down along her back. The sigil needed to be exposed, meaning a whole lot of skin she was not used to uncovering was now available for all to see. Placing her hands on her hips, she groaned in discontent. “Well, at least if it doesn’t work out, I can look good while doing it.”

Kneeling back at the table, she placed everything back into her bag and wrapped it around her to leave. Stepping out from the front of her tent, she took a moment to take in the fresh air and look at the moon as it brightly shone above. She only had a little amount of time left to meet backstage. Thankfully the pathways were barren. Everyone had made their way to the event of the night. Smirking, she walked off with an even pace, not quite in a hurry to arrive on time. Passing by several of the other gypsies and travelers alike, she noticed several of them gaping in awe. Greeting them in a partial bow, they returned the acknowledgement with a smile. It must have been a while since they had seen an outsider from their bands, especially one who was well acquainted with their customs walking amongst them. It gave her a bit of courage to strut with pride. 

A call from behind her shattered that just as quickly as it came, causing her to turn with surprise.

“Drina! Hey!”

Running ahead of Lulu and Hestar towards her was Ocan wearing a bright smile. Mixed emotions flooded her at the sight of them all, especially with the way she was dressed. Anger that Ocan was not in the hostel being protected, fear after the fight they had earlier, worry that her powers would overwhelm her sister all crashed into her as Ocan threw herself into Drina for a hug.

What are you doing here?! You’re supposed to stay out of sight!”

Ocan scoffed in a dismissive way. “I am not going to stay inside while you get to perform! Besides, I miss being able to watch you work.”

The way she sported a pout almost made Drina laugh if she had not been struggling with complex feelings. Looking up at Lulu with an icy glare, she was reprimanded in reply.

“How could you be so cruel? She just wants to support you, as do we all. Don’t be so hard on her. When do you start?”

Drina puffed her cheeks, moping in her defeat. “In just a few. I had to take some time preparing.”

Looking behind Lulu, Drina spotted Hestar ogling her, biting at her lip while she did. The look set Drina’s face on fire, something she had completely forgotten about in the presence of her sister. Suddenly feeling discomfort, she pulled Ocan to stand in front of her to break Hestar’s line of sight. “I, uh, don’t think you should all sit too close. I will warn you now, it will get very chilly quickly.”

Ocan leaned into Drina grinning ear to ear with excitement. “Does that mean I get to watch?”

Huffing angrily, Drina wrapped her arm around Ocan’s neck to pull her along her side, heading back towards the main stage. “It looks like I don’t have much of a choice. But so help me, if you cause Lulu any trouble, it will be you next I will be contacting from the spirit world.”

Ocan laughed, not taking her sister’s threat seriously. They all continued to walk together and in the short window of time Ocan had with her, she spouted all of the things she had done with Lulu back at the hostel. It was as if they had never fought at all, giving Drina comfort knowing that they were ok. Still, she knew she would have to apologize sooner or later, but the contact and conversation calmed her nerves. Maybe this was what she needed all along, was just knowing her sister was nearby. It didn’t completely fix her fimble confidence, however. With the persistent tingling sensation of being watched from behind, Drina had become highly aware of her every move. Casting a glance over her shoulder, she caught Hestar absently checking her out as they walked. Lulu intercepted the look with a motherly warning look, making Drina’s gut drop. Keeping her attention forward like a child who just got caught, Drina could hear Lulu vocally giving Hestar shit.

“Honestly, you two.”

Finally arriving at the tent, Drina paused to kneel in front of Ocan. In a low enough voice where only Ocan could hear, she whispered to her.

“Are you sure you want to be here?”

“Yes. I have never seen you use your power like this. I want to be here for it.”

Drina took a long deliberate exhale while looking at her sister’s face. Reaching into her satchel, she dug around for a crystal and placed it within her hand.

“Listen carefully. If it gets too overwhelming, hold this in your left hand and channel it into the crystal. I can deal with it later for you. If this is not enough..”

Ocan flicked Drina on the forehead, breaking the frown on her face. “Lana, I will be fine. Don’t worry so much about me.”

Drina looked over at Lulu, considering her sister’s words. Hestar watched with confusion yet something in Lulu’s eyes made her wonder. It added further suspicion that Luly nodded with understanding in reply. Puzzled, Drina didn’t get a chance to question Lulu when Ocan pulled her face back to her.

Please be careful.”

Smiling, Drina held her hand, rubbing her thumb against it. “I always am. I love you.”

    “I love you too.” Flipping back to the common tongue, Ocan shouted in a cheer. “Go show these folk what you are capable of!”

    Drina stood up with a laugh, standing back from her sister. Lifting her arms, she motioned at how she looked, slightly turning side to side for Ocan’s approval. “What do you think? Too much?”

    Ocan scanned her, reaching around her to remove the fabric around her that hung down around her back. Grabbing her satchel as well, Ocan slung it around her shoulder, stuffing the extra clothing within it as well. Stepping back she took a second look at Drina’s further exposed midriff. It took everything in her not to catch Hestar or Lulu’s expressions as her sister nodded with a smile. “There. That’s better. You can see the sigil clearly that way.”

    Drina’s face fell as she looked down at her stomach, touching at the bottom of the shirt wrapping. It was separate from the secondary wrap Ocan had just removed. “What are you talking about? It didn’t cover it in the first place.” 

Instead of replying to her, Ocan gave her a wink instead, rushing to stand beside Lulu quickly before Drina could stop her. Clicking her tongue, she leered at Ocan for her slyness while catching her glancing Hestar’s way with a grin. She just wanted to get her to expose more for Hestar’s sake, but there was no more time to argue with her.

Drina turned to Lulu with a sigh. “I’ll meet up with you at the hostel after. I will be a little late collecting my pay for the work tonight.”

Lulu nodded and before Drina could walk off, she spoke up. “Won’t you be cold?”

Drina smirked confidently over her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I won’t feel a thing.”

If there was one thing she knew she could deal with unhindered, was the effects of her own powers. The cold was the least of her worries.