Black Gold: The Demon and the Mystic
Synopsis: Since running into the girl that fell ill there have been two other individuals have fallen ill with similar symptoms. This prompts Khalid to attempt to contact a family member to get a better idea of what could be happening in Gotham. While in the middle of getting prepared to cast his spell he encounters Rebecca Langstrom. The two begin discussing what’s happened recently in Gotham. This begins to give Khalid a better idea the current state of affairs. Deciding to trust Rebecca, Khalid casts his spell to speak with his deceased mother, Farrah, who learns he’s in Gotham. After a brief conversation Farrah advises that she will check into his inquiry while making Khalid promise to deliver a message to an old family friend.
Khalid advises Rebecca to be careful as she continues to embrace magic and her own origins as it is a dangerous time and that the current state of magic may be the reason why the cultists who attempted to place her under their will are making a move.
Concern. It was the feeling that had crept into my mind upon hearing the words that the girl had spoken. I wasn’t clear on what to do from there. I know it wasn’t a trick of the mind. To many other things happened prior to her collapse. Emergency services had arrived and whisked her off taking her to the local hospital and nothing more was thought about it.
I thought about talking to my father about it, but I rather not worry him. I didn’t want him to become distracted. I thought nothing of it until there was another student that collapsed this time it was a guy, he collapsed on his way to class. I didn’t see him, but I heard about it. Couldn’t help hearing about it. It was similar to the girl though not as many people had seen her collapse. However, the description was the same he fell to the ground and grew weak, frail even. There was nothing natural about what was described, but some believed it was the flu. Others were worried that it could be something worse.
Two different cases of an unknown ailment. Both the woman and the man were running fevers. They complained of feeling weak and that’s when they were able to speak. It was sudden and came upon them quickly and the two of them had no interactions. That puzzled the doctors, but for Gotham University the only thing that was communicated was that there may be a strong strain of the flu going through the school and that people should take precaution.
Wash your hands. Cough into the pit of your elbow. Get a flu shot if you haven’t. If you start to feel ill go to the on campus health clinic. A completely normal response, because the hospital had not stated that there was anything to be concerned about. Students weren’t coming in droves. Two cases and they seemed to be isolated from one another beyond the fact that they attended the same university. There was nothing that linked them. That was the puzzling part.
Still I had seen what I saw in the puddle of water when I knocked the girl’s water bottle out of her hand. I remember the water spreading across the ground and the images that revealed themselves to me. The night that the boy grew ill I saw the moon darken, but I don’t have visions.
However, it does not mean that visions can not been given. I remember that.
I told myself that I should go, but I didn’t. I told my father that I would speak to him soon. If I went I would have only gone to see him off. Instead I stayed and good thing, because there was another incident and this time I saw the crowd had gathered and there was a picture. It was another guy, he was in the band. He collapsed during practice as he was taking a picture.
A mark was on his face that looked reminiscent of a spider web of some kind, it looked like bruising of came. It came and went, because by the time emergency services arrived it was gone, but it did stir a bit of a panic. It was more the mark that concerned people. The administration was getting in front of this along with staff at the hospital. Tests were sent off, but there were still questions. Questions that had no answer, not yet at least.
I had a picture, but nothing more. It had started to circulate among some of the students. II needed to know that I wasn’t seeing something where there was nothing. This could be an illness. There was another concern, but nothing I could out right say to most people. They wouldn’t understand so I waited. I waited and asked one of the professors in the archaeology department that was friends with my father if I could use one of the labs. I was doing a little work while I was visiting the school.
Nothing was out of the ordinary about the request. I needed to wait until not had fell, because I had not realized it until I came across the date. Something had happened and there was only one person I trust to consult on the matter.
Night fell upon the campus. I told Ronnie that I would give him call tomorrow. He was worried, because he knew I was worried about my dad and I am, but I’m more worried about what’s happened. I was so focused that I didn’t check to see if anyone was nearby or might have seem me striding down the hall with a satchel as I looked in to make sure I had everything I needed. Nothing out of the ordinary, candles, athame.
What’s the worst that worst that I could do?
Opening the door to the room I shut it behind me. This isn’t something that you want to do in the hotel room.
Magic left a trail, a feeling, something that tickled her senses and made the tiny little hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. It was a purse instinctual feeling that Rebecca was trying to understand. She could reason that maybe she could feel it because hunting it down may lead to something she could gain. She was trying to think from the angle of a predator, a trail left to be followed, to stalk. Following these feelings led to some mixed results, not all of them pleasant. She took a much more cautious approach this time when it was so close ‘home’, on her campus, students falling ill from a bad flu. The warnings were out there, posters put up to ‘dab’ your cough and your sneeze. The truly paranoid brandishing some fashionable face masks to avoid breathing contaminated air.
It had taken Becky a while to catch on to what was going on but she didn’t have any answers either. It all surfaced as symptoms of an illness but it had the tinge of something else involved. That was all she had to go by, that feeling that pricked at her neck and not a lot of information. She merely didn’t have the time to perform an investigation into it. After classes she was studying and training. Weekends? Training. What stolen moments of freetime she had, had been filled with terrifying news and working every angle she could think of to center herself and fight a battle between her nature and her heart.
Sometimes she hoped for just having the normal struggles she was familiar with. Then again, she had never had any real exposure of what ‘normal’ was. Despite the facade her family tried very hard to keep up within her home, it was far from normal. Her brother was forever marked by the family’s legacy of bio-engineering. Her father was still gone, not missing but perhaps doing the very same soul-searching that Becky found herself doing over the last week. She had a small hope that maybe during the trip with her mentor she might be able to track down a lead. Despite knowing the truth of her creation, of her true origins, the man that raised her and took care of her was still an important priority in her life.
The halls were quiet, though, not quiet enough. The echoes of footsteps were easily caught by her ears in the Science building. That prickly feeling at her neck again with every soft and cautious step she took. She made a peek around the corner, pulling the straps of her bag around her shoulders a little tighter. A young man working his way into one of the chem labs. It wasn’t a familiar face, or maybe she had seen it before and didn’t think anything of it. There were few other students she talked to regularly, then again, she was fairly anti-social and had her nose in a book most of the time.
It was a split-second decision. Follow and come off as creepy and suspicious? Keep walking and wait for the next horrible thing to happen?
Her jaw went tight and she strolled forward towards the classroom.
She made a polite knock on the door, hopefully quickly enough before the other student got too settled.
“Hey. Potions Lab is in the basement by the Slytherin Dorm.”
I could have gone back home and did what I needed to do there, but it would probably defeat the purpose if I had. It was more than a feeling that I had. There was something happening here saying that I could not put my finger on it was an understatement. I required assistance. Consultation.
In some ways I was seeking out a second opinion. I was also looking for a diagnosis.
Slipping the satchel from my shoulder I set it upon the counter and began to remove one of the items when I heard the knock and the voice behind me. Slipping the candle back into the bag I turned towards the visitor with an arch of a brow.
That was a very specific reference. Running the tip of my tongue across the back of my teeth I leaned back against the counter taking a moment to decide if this was a good, bad, or benign situation.
“Pardon?” Why a Harry Potter reference? I did have a chemistry book in and notebook in my bag, so I could play it off, but are people this curious naturally or was there something that stood out?
“I have the lab scheduled for the next two hours.” Not a lie. She could check. “Were you scheduled to use the room?” That would be unfortunate, because I would need to find another spot. Also, poor communication, but something told me neither of those were the reason. She did not look lost, so let’s see where this goes.
She shrugged as she allowed the door to close behind her. She wasn’t even sure what she was chasing down but so far it didn’t seem like a threat.
“Just a feeling,” it was an honest response but she didn’t make any sudden movements and moved slowly as she moved to the nearest table and took a seat on the stool.
Rebecca studied him for a moment before shifting the weight of her bag to slide it onto the table and rummage through the contents to pull out a jar of some kind of black substance.
“Thought you might need some help studying. Black salt. Stronger kick than Morton’s.”
My eyes followed her movements watching as the door was shut. Looking back towards the stranger my brow arched for a moment wondering exactly what this feeling was. Just a feeling. Not something unfamiliar, but what type of feeling. My eyes continues to follow her waiting for her to come to a stop again. My lips twist a bit while I give her words and actions some thought.
“Studying. Okay. I’m going to go with I think I got this, but something tells me that’s not going to elicit the response I’m hoping for.” It rarely does.
“So, how about we focus on the “Just a feeling.” Time better spent yes?” I think it is, but hard to say what she thinks.
“The feeling? Okay.”
She pressed her lips together unsure of how to go forward with that. There was a pretty firm line that was dangerous to cross. It was different than the usual crazy stuff this city usually saw. This was about forces that didn’t see the light of day and rarely made it into public view. She also didn’t want to out herself too much, the less someone with that kind of knowledge knew about her, the better.
“Like when….something bad happens and the room feels cold and the air is full of electricity. When you walk by a place where people have suffered and you can just feel the weight and the doom of it. Felt a little more like static this time. But, this coming from the crazy witch girl that no one really talks to.”
She had overheard the rumors, she can hear whispers across the room, it wasn’t a big secret that others talked about her. There were a few that didn’t, or didn’t care. She was still wearing her classmate’s jacket that he had leant to her and she hadn’t quite gotten around to giving it back to him. He was nice, but he was one of the quiet ones too.
“Just bothered me to see my fellow students sick, real sick. There’s been weird stuff going around and I’m really worried about it spreading.”
There was a lot to unpack there and I could dig into all of that, but instead of tipping hands and giving away more than I needed I focused on a few things to respond to.
“Weird stuff? More so than people taking ill?” That was troubling, but there were always weird things going on. Not that everyone noticed. When people noticed you had to wonder why they noticed. It’s not that I’m paranoid or feel that you can’t trust anyone, but I don’t even know her name and she knock on the door of the room that I was in.
“Students getting sick is unfortunate. I’ve seen one of them up close and it doesn’t look good at all.” Throw something out and see what happens.
“But now you have me worried. Am I one of the weird things or weird feelings because you decided to dropped in on me. Do you think something is going to happen to me or do you think I’ve done something nefarious?”
I thought it was a fair question. Still why would I of all people be involved in doing something to people? Is it because I stand out by being a stranger or am I giving off a vibe?
“Something in town at the garden under the Hunter’s Moon.”
She wasn’t sure if he had caught onto that or maybe it slipped under the radar. Becky really hoped it just slipped under the radar. This was a word game of chess just trying to come to some understanding. Her anxiousness acted out in the form of sliding the jar from one hand to the other over the black surface of the table.
“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s nefarious or I would have reacted differently. I can go, if you want. Use the salt though. Doorways, windows, mirrors. Circle around yourself. Make sure your intentions are clear.”
With the last shove of the jar she didn’t catch it, merely allowed it to nearly reach the edge of the table.
“Keeps those nefarious things out, or it will trap them in.”
I consider what she says next along with the witch girl comment. I don’t know. It was more about a bit of trust than anything. Sure he could go about protecting himself, in the various manners and methods that he was accustomed to, but int his case it was something that he could not do.
“I’m afraid that I cannot use that.” Looking towards jar I consider what could happen, but it’s also why I make a tweak.
“I need the way to be open. The circle only calls, but it is not a conduit. If ways in are blocked then I defeats what I’m trying to do. Ordinarily this would be done within a space of my own, or preparations would be made. ” That would take a little longer that I would like. “If you like you can stay and spread the salt afterwards, but it will need to be removed afterwards. It would be a waste of salt.” That much was true.
“I need to speak with a family member.”
“Take it anyways. Might come in handy another time,” it wasn’t much use to her.
The fact was, it could easily be used against her but she felt better arming someone else with the ability to protect themselves with the right tools. Her chin lifted in interest when he went on about what he was trying to do. She hadn’t had much luck with some of the spells she had attempted, a sad admission to herself that she probably just wasn’t gifted in that area.
“You sure? I’ll stay right here if that’s okay…be your Buffy to your Willow.”
There was some hesitation to her words, an uncomfortable squirm. Spirits could see things that may be more easily overlooked by the mortals that dwelled in this realm. At best, she could at least make sure something else didn’t come along with the relative. Dropping the protective veils was a risk and not using anything to shield himself made him quite vulnerable.
Either way, she was on her feet and leaning against the table instead. It was quicker to respond while standing whether it was to protect or leave at his request.
“Well, this interesting. You’re just giving this away? I mean what if you might need it? Perhaps a friend could use it?” I look at the contained, inspecting it carefully before sitting it down on one of the tables. “What about you? It’s something that you could use?” My brows arched for a moment. “I guess what I’m saying is that you had it for a reason. Are you sure you want to part with it?”
Pulling my satchel towards me while considering the question I wonder how best to respond. “Well, I could leave. You could leave, but I think curiosity might get the better of you. If I leave you’ll probably think I’m up to no good and follow me just to make sure that I’m keeping my nose clean. If you leave you might get the wrong idea if something goes horribly wrong suspecting that I might be the cause because I either didn’t take the proper precautions dabbling in things I shouldn’t or I decided to just play fast and loose and do what I want.” Equally valid points.
“Is there something that I should be concerned about? ” I have neither confirmed or deny what I was going to do. Contacting a family member is as easy as phoning them.
“Perhaps we should go about this a different way. I’m Khalid.” I turn to give her my full attention. “What name do you prefer to go by. Why name do you feel most comfortable with. True or false it doesn’t matter. However, a name would be nice. It could be a start.”
“It’s a gift. I can always get more or make more. It’s not a big deal.”
Her lips twisted in frustration. This was dancing around the bush and the whole situation was a lot more complicated than she’d like it to be. It wasn’t easy to be straightforward about these kinds of things. She couldn’t just come out and say what she actually was and what she was doing here, though for the most part she had been fairly truthful. She was following a feeling.
“I’m not the unofficial campus security. If you want to leave and go do your own thing, that’s fine. You could also ask me to leave since you were here first and I would respect that and hold nothing against you, Khalid.”
She appeared confused by his request for a name, her lips parted to say one thing but she was a bit lost in the word play.
It wasn’t the name she felt the most comfortable with. Every day, every bit of information she learned, she felt that much more separated from it. Names have power. She wasn’t even sure what was going on at this point and if it was one big mistake she would just make a damned fool of herself to some stranger. A stranger with a name.
Looking the jar over once more when she said she could get some more or make some more I considered that for a second. There’s always a need for the substance, but at the moment I was more focused on who she was. What she was. She was drawn here, but there was also an unease about her that was quite evident.
She spoke of the Hunter’s Moon. Not something that you start with in casual conversation, but there was very little that was casual about the conversation. Not real.
“I don’t know. Perhaps you are the unofficial security.” He shrugged. “I’m just a visitor really.” It was the truth, but I was curious. If there was uncertainty on my end it was because I was not sure if I was meant to stay or go. If I left it would be of my own accord not, because something spoke through the girl that I bumped into pressing me to go. That alone gave me pause, but what I realized last night gave me even greater pause.
“Pleasure to meet you, Becky.” Walking over towards my satchel I one of the items that was stashed inside. It was a calendar nothing special about that. However, what came next was a series of candles five to be exact.
“You’re right to be wary about thing slipping in and out. When you cast a line into the aether hoping hook something you invite good and bad. I’ve seen it happen. Things go bad usually because the structure of the entire ritual. People skirt rules, sometimes they don’t know them. Others don’t respect them.”
I arrange the circles into a loose circle. “It’s like talking over unsecured line. Anyone can hack in if their strong enough, skilled enough, and sometimes through random dumb luck. They look through unfinished tombs. Or finished ones and say a few words and hope to hell it works. This says nothing of those who fall into the psychic or sensitive area. They get it the worse. They’re beacons beaming into the darkness. They flicker at first then they light up when they start flexing their muscles and sometimes all hell break loose.”
Setting the final candle down I look over at them. “It’s not as difficult as one thinks. Not when the spark is there. Dialing random numbers gets you in trouble. Sometimes it can be necessary, but this, well you either get an answer from the person you want or you don’t. Usually if you don’t it’s because the times not right. You’re stilling living in the moment. That’s if you’re reaching out for someone near.”
Walking back over towards the satchel I reach in to retrieve three things.
A book of matches.
A strip of paper that very much like a strip of papyrus.
And a pen.
Striking the match I walk over towards the candles lighting one then proceeding to light the others with the flame of the proceeding one. There are other ways to do what I want, but this way is the least evasive. At least I consider it the least evasive while I write down what I need folding the strip of papyrus right down the middle.
“I see confirmation to suspicions I have, Becky. Either I can see out or someone can’t see in. It troubles me and I what I need to know a Magic 8 ball can’t answer.”
“It’s nice to meet you too, even if I’m not even sure what you’re doing. I’m aware that it could be easy to invite something completely uninvited without a good anchor, a clear intent, the right items to guide those intentions like a compass to the right being. Some want to skimp over the details and skip right to the juicy stuff, that’s when mistakes are made. Doors are opened that can’t be closed.”
It was all she could really follow up with. Theory she knew well, there were so many ways to do what she thought he was trying to do. There were a lot of right ways to do it and a lot of wrong ones too. She at least knew even if she had no practice of it. There was a reason she was staying well away and not edging any closer, she didn’t want to taint this and it was quite possible she could.
The was he talked wasn’t too different to what she was used to hearing from Jason’s ramblings. Not that she discounted those words or stopped paying attention, sometimes it was hard to follow when it felt like a riddle. She didn’t seem too concerned with what he might bring into the room. There wasn’t anything much worse than what she was to really spook her. Not that she considered herself to be horrible but that was a matter of perspective and the universe had its own balance of things.
“Simple. Reliable spell. Slight modification definitely sampled.”
I grinned while I walked over towards the satchel and retrieved the last item, the double edged blade.
“Oh if they look annoyed. It’s my fault. They kind of hate the spell, but like my grandmother says, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Just don’t tell her I said ain’t. She hates that even if she says it all the time.”
All that aside I lean forward to set the payrus on fire letting it better before tossing it towards the center. I let it burn to release the smoke and burn what was written inside.
One moment everything is fine. Everything is just as it should be, but it changed. It was enough to make the hairs stand on the back of uninitiated’s neck. There was a bit of a power magic, a wisp of it.
“Hear these words, hear my cry, spirit from the other side. Come to me, I summon thee, cross now the great divide.”
I take the point of the blade piercing the tip of left middle finger releasing three drops of blood into the flame of the candle that I lit first.
“Blood to blood, I summon thee. Blood to blood, return to me.”
The magic in the room rose for a moment before there was a swirl of lights inside the circle of candles followed by a rush of flames, but none went beyond the candles which did not melt away.
“You used that spell again.” The disembodied voice chastised.
“It’s easy to remember and it works. It solid.” I reply as the flames down revealing a woman of mixed birth dressed in a white linen gown. Her hair was dark, her eyes lighter brown than mine, but the shape her eyes matched my own as did her lips.
“I won’t answer next time.”
“You know the world could be facing a horrible fate right now. Raining fire. Toads falling from the air. Hell on earth and everything. Or mad gods.” I didn’t even want to get into what I heard about what happened in Metropolis and then in Coast City. “Creeping death released from the bowels of the underworld..”
“Creepy crawly death everywhere. It’s possible and it could be stopped, but I’m being mommed on my choice of spell.”
“As it should be.”
My head falls back.
“Exaggerated Homer Simpson groans are not allowed.”
I settle for a small one.
“Becky my mom. Mom this is Becky. Change that station before you even ask. It is not that type of event.”
“Focus mom. Focus.”
I should’ve rung up granddad.
It was a little bit of a challenge not to watch too intensely. Controlling the movements of her head tilting and trying not to be too obvious when she sniffed the air when the blood was spilled. It was a delicious scent, even when it was burning, alluring like a fine perfume. She caught herself from leaning in by gripping the table.
It was almost as enchanting as the figure that didn’t quite materialize of the woman. Beautiful in an ethereal and otherworldly way, maybe the beauty was in that she was such a strong spirit, able to find her form and her voice so clearly. Where did Khalid pull her from? Questions that picked at her while she remained silent until there was an introduction.
Her eyes were so sharply focused on watching, they went a bit wide when the focus shifted to her.
“Uh…hi, Mom. Pleasure.”
She caught herself in her response, it wasn’t helping Khalid’s case but she was just used to calling her friend’s moms by the same name. Well, with what few friends she had growing up.
This is usually how things went. It would pass eventually. There was little that I could do about that. Life had not stopped when she left this world. I grieved and I continued on as I know she would have wanted it. My father is moving on, but his grief still holds him in a place where he cannot do what I do. If he did he would never move forward. He would never continue on with his life as she wants him to. It is the one thing I have not shared with my father and I do not seek my mother all the time.
“Mom..” I try to get her to focus on the fact that I did summon her. She’s looking Becky over carefully, not exactly scrutinizing but something has caught her eye.
She says with a nod.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you Becky.”
Her attention drifts from Becky back towards me. She has questions, but she’s processing. Better not to bog her down with the details. Obviously, Becky is some connection to the world beyond the veil other wise I wouldn’t have done the spell.
“Consider Becky more of a spectator, mom. I have a concern. I had a vision. I don’t’ have visions.”
It’s as simple as that.
We say at the same time.
“Someone gave me a vision and I think I know who that some is.”
My mother starts to speak causing me to shake my head. Switching to Arabic would be impolite.
“Hunter’s Moon recently past, but my vision had nothing to do with the Hunter’s Moon at least not that
I could tell.”
”Khalid if you were given a vision that you must interpret what it. I cannot divine or share the information. It’s forbidden. If you were given a vision then you must decide what it means and act accordingly. I cannot influence your decision. I’m afraid that you’ve summoned me for no reason.”
Where there had been a joy, motherly joy, things changed as she spoke to me. I knew the rules when it came to visions. Our family did not have naturally occurring visions. Having the gift of visions is different from being gifted with a vision. Sometimes being gifted with a vision was the exact opposite.
“Mom. I know. I know, but that’s not why I summoned you. I’m pretty sure what the vision was trying to tell me. This is more about Khonsu. I cannot see him. I search the sky and he is no where to be seen. That is my concern.”
I glance towards Becky. “That weird feeling you had. The concern about your fellow classmates. The Night Traveler’s eye is no longer upon us. It’s more than a feeling for me. More of a concern. It is one thing for the Traveler to step away so to speak to hide his face from us, but for his face to be hidden that is something entirely different. There is something that someone does not want him to see. Something that is being hidden from him and perhaps others.“
I think the vision I had was incomplete.
“Kama turid. ‘Ana ‘afahum.”
Becky shrugged as she spoke softly. It didn’t matter to her what was spoken, she would understand it. The infernal gift of her blood that she cared not to explain and really couldn’t explain. She didn’t want to be the rude one when she was simply a spectator and she felt more like a spectator that forced her involvement. She certainly felt like she didn’t belong but listening was important, if there were parallels to be drawn, she wanted to be sure to hear this story.
“His face shines bright during this moon, allowing hunters to see their prey and farmers to work into the evening to harvest the last of the crops. It is a symbol of change, gripping onto the last bits of life before the coming winter when the prey hides and the crops wither.”
Becky seemed concerned but she didn’t know what any of that meant, if it was not seen in the sky for some time. It was the conflict of beliefs and science that was troubling her. She was trying to reason it out but it was beyond her grasp and beyond her knowledge. Khalid seemed better in touch with it. What she knew was beliefs that ruled the northern hemisphere, that was gleaned from other cultures of a more European origin.
“I’m still figuring things out, Khalid. I’m the only one with an interest in this, my parents are scientists,” it was a partial lie. The truth didn’t really have an impact on her knowledge and experience at the moment.
Also in truth, Becky didn’t know who was pushing the pawns around. This could be too separate events or part of the whole to culminate towards some end. This world wasn’t an easy one to figure out, the mysteries ran deep and tracks were covered with illusions and riddles.
I have my reasons for proceeding the way that I did. I know my mom. She has questions, but she doesn’t always ask her questions. She lets things play out. I should have seen that coming. I don’t apologize for my actions. I move forward. Now that certain questions have been asked and answered I know I will be receiving her thoughts about this entire matter soon enough. She’s translucent, but not completely transparent, but the slight ‘mmm’ sound is enough to let me know that she has concerns, but not concerns enough hat I cannot move forward.
While others might narrow their eyes, my mother on the other hand turns to study her surroundings. She had not asked the all-important question.
Rather than head her off at the pass I chose to respond to Becky’s statement. I have no idea what’s happening with her or if things are intrinsically connected or tangentially. It could be that they are starting with the latter and may eventually become the former, but it’s difficult to say. However, I think it’s ok to be uncertain. It preserves a healthy amount of caution something many people lack. At least that’s what I’ve been told.
“I think of it less than science versus magic..” I went and said it first. Darn I was hoping to say second. “… and more like seekers of knowledge. We just employ different methods. Some even blend the two when they need.” She may be the only one that has interest in this but it doesn’t mean that their paths don’t run parallel or cross. I’m sure she’s seen it.
“Better to consider all possibilities rather than just one. Consider the possibilities and then decide upon the best course of action. One of my teachers said something like that.” Directing my attention back towards my mom I offer her a smile and try to diffuse the coming situation, because suspicions had been raised somewhat on several fronts.
Family drama aside it was not the time. I need her to depart and consult with others. She would get a message to me.
“Decide how you wish to spend our time together, Mom.” I had to reminder. Yes the spell I used is reliable, but there are rules. As time goes on I will be able to speak with her more often, but right now there are limited.
“Where are you?”
Oh, straight for the jugular. No happy times. There should be happy time shouldn’t there be?
Is it important.
“Campus. In a lab.”
I regretted the moment I said it.
“Khalid, where are you?”
“In a room talking to you trying to get additional information.”
“Does it matter? I need you to do this for me. Confirm his Khonsu’s sight has been blocked.”
There gaze she levels at me says it all.
”Becky, where is my son? What city is this?”
Rebecca nodded. Her parents were seekers of the mysteries of science and had unlocked some amazing truths in their search. They could have only done it together by combining their expertise and together they created the chain of events that led to the birth of the Bat. No one else could unlock that and what’s to say there wasn’t a little bit of the mystic tied into that as well?
‘The price’ was something she was starting to understand. Using magic, using science, it all had a price and it took things and sacrifices that weren’t monetary. It picked at your humanity, it picked at the bonds of love and family.
Becky knew that tone of voice, it struck panic into the hearts of children, it was enough to make her wince and tense. It seemed fine until the question and gaze was directed at her. Crap.
She wasn’t sure if it mattered. The city had a reputation of having a lot of problems, it wasn’t exactly the best place to live and grow up. It was the kind of place that tore you apart and brought you down. Somehow Becky thrived in it, but she was surrounded by the suffering, by the darkness. There was history and mysteries locked away in the past and lost to the changing landscape. Dark things.
It could have been Hub City. That’s all I can think right now. With the answer acquired my mom turns towards me and I have my arms open wide with a smile on my face like this could make the situation better.
She did not flame out which is a plus foe me and a minus.
”Kind of sort of. Dad said I should try to visit with him. I don’t know if there’s time. He gave me an address to go to.”
This can go either way really. I don’t know. Everything felt a little different.
I let her take it in. I know it’s been a long time since she and my uncle saw one another. I know the memories it stirs. I let her have the moment, because there is little that I can do about that.
”I told your grandfather that your path is yours to make as it should be. I know the choice you have made. I knew the choice you would make before you could even speak. It is in your eyes. His eyes.”
Tipping my head down I draw in a deep breath attempting not to talk about this subject. It would lead into a longer, deeper conversation that I don’t know if we’re ready to have.
“Granddad won’t like it. He may not…”
”He is your grandfather. That will never change. You will be you. I have no doubt in that.”
She was holding back. There was more she wanted to say. I could sense it. You know when your parents are holding back. I could attempt to draw it out, but I won’t.
”If you do happen upon Uncle Alan. Tell him hello. Tell him your grandfather does not regret his choices and tell him he is missed.”
It’s as simple as that. Not really, because now I have a message deliver.
“Such a cheater.”
”World class.” She smirked. ”You should’ve seen it coming.”
There’s some muttering and a motion of my hand.
“Alright. Can’t say it’s going to be a timely delivery, but I’ll deliver the message.” Simple as that.
“That said. Gotham. The Bats,” she asked.
Right to business eh?
“No. What you think I’m going to step out and start sending out flares. This hit me not the other way around.”
There’s a look exchanged between the two of us, but she moves on.
”Gotham. Blood or Etrigan?”
I shake my head.
“I have not crossed either of their paths.” Not that they would know me. I’ve never been to Gotham. Never traveled in their circles.
Again I shake my head. “No reason for anyone to get involved with anything that I’ve done.” Reason to consult. Maybe.
“I thought it better to get confirmation before running down the streets sound the alarm when there may be nothing to sound the alarm about. I’m not getting anyone’s hair mucking up anyone’s city. I’m not doing anything to be perceived as a threat, dabbler or a fool.” I dig in my pocket and hold up the tarot card of the fool. “Constant reminder.” Not that the Fool was a bad card it meant different things depending on how it landed, but it again it reminded me to use caution when possible. The barbarians aren’t at the gate so better to ask questions.
“I’ve taken on your request. All I ask is that you do the same.” There is a cost this just happens to be a minor one compared when viewed in the grand scheme of things. I just have to deliver a message.
”Very well.” She turned from me to Becky.
”Thank you for being forthcoming when my son would not, Becky.” My mother’s eyes lingered upon Becky for a moment longer before turning back towards me.
”Use a different spell.”
She gets the last word, because she disappears just like that in the same swirl of flickering lights that she appeared.
“Cheater.” Snorting I walk over towards the candle blowing out the flame followed by each one.
“So, if your family are more into science. How did you lean towards magic?” Look at me keeping up.
Becky was bristling but saying nothing else. The mention of the bats made her tense, paths she didn’t want to see cross anytime soon. She wasn’t even sure how she would react, there was a lot of resentment and bad blood that resided with the Langstroms and that bat family. There wasn’t a point on saying much, she did enough damage by mentioning where Khalid was.
It just seemed easier to just shift uncomfortably and listen. More names taken in, two she was quite familiar with but again she remained silent. His mother seemed familiar with the landscape, he had ties in the city yet he said he was just visiting. He didn’t appear to be a student but he was young and deft enough to blend in and make use of the grounds. Hell, it was probably the safest place in the city to be sneaking about. Aside from the few random attacks and incidents that have occurred, it was better than being out on the streets.
“I’ve always been drawn to it. I’m not any good, mind you. A few things that feel like second nature but in practice? I’m lousy. I’m plenty book smart but I don’t have that spark someone like you might have.”
She gave a glance around to the candles, the blade. He certainly had a gift for the craft even if he made it sound like it was very simple and easy.
“If you’re familiar with the city’s history at all, I’m from the other bat family. The dark business of the Langstroms isn’t a secret or anything.”
She took a deep breath, turning to zip up her bag. She was planning to leave that jar there, it was probably best it wasn’t left behind to cause a small panic with the faculty.
“I’m still trying to figure things out…but there’s some interesting infernal circumstances in my birth and my creation. Probably part of a bigger plot and I’m feeling a lot like a pawn in the middle of it right now. The ritual that happened on the Hunter’s Moon dropped some serious barriers. I’ve had some talents that I thought were just because of some of that bat DNA leaking into my own code. Whatever was holding everything else back was ripped off like a band-aid that night.”
It felt good to let the truth out, even if it wasn’t every last little detail.
“Your mother mentioned Blood and The Demon? They’re here. For now. If you need to consult with my mentor it’s as easy as dropping in on his class. I really don’t plan on telling them anything about this, or you. I’ll keep an ear out though, just like I have been. I don’t know how to interpret the signs too well but if anything foul steps foot on the Quad they’re probably going to regret it.”
“Sometimes it’s better to be competent than to be good. There are people who are amazing at it, but there well idiots. They lack sense, but you’re cautious and I’ll take someone that shows a bit of caution and restraint over someone that can do the amazing. Sometimes they just blow past the, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” common sense.”
Things like that caused major problems for anyone involved whether they wanted to be or not.
I needed to wait for the candles to cool before putting them away. “Being drawn means that you notice that most dismiss. Why…” Well, she just dropped nuggets right into my lap.
“I was going to say that there could be multiple reason why you notice them, but now I know.” Ritual. Did I want to know. That was the question. She was being very measured with her responses.
“I don’t know if it’s all connected in the sense that what I saw is directly related. However if there was a ritual and blood, lots of it was involved that might speak to why I saw a blood moon, however that’s the problem with visions they don’t always have to be literal. It’s why I hate them. I’m not blessed with them, but like I said earlier they can be given if someone wants you to have them. I think it was Khonsu. On occasion my mother was passed information that way.”
Which brings me to the all important fact. “One can ask for a vision, but there’s a cost. A bargain, but to be given one usually there’s an equal reaction to that action. Based on what you’ve said this may be check on the balance. Mostly speculation and conjecture, but it makes a bit of sense, but there’s a lot that I don’t know. It’s not my city. I don’t know what’s been going on. Khonsu’s vision may be for me to leave immediately or it may be something more.” As my mother said it’s for me to interpret.
“However, I’m more concerned with Khonsu’s concealment. If you’ve been getting weird feelings and things have been happening there is probably something going on, but my mother would tell me that sometimes there is the obvious and then the not so obvious and you have to decide which is more important. ”
“I’m not sure yet. I’m not sure how long it will take for my mother to send back confirmation. I’ve been told to leave.” That I did not share with my mother.
“Something is here and it does not want me hear. What I cannot say, but it is connected to the illness. That alone should compel me to act, but it’s goading me. It wants me to tip my hand. They want to see who I will call, who I will ally with or attempt recruit. Marshal the forces so to speak. Lead them into the unknown, but against who. It against what. It’s frustrating as hell.” It was not demons and rituals that drew me here something different something more.
“I think this ritual that involved you. Is one thing and this is another, but this ritual sent a flare and attracted something more or perhaps stirred something that was already here. Wouldn’t be the first time.” I wish I could be more certain, but I’m stepping into this in the middle of things.
“Perhaps I will speak with Blood, but I rather avoid the Demon if possible. I’ve heard stories My grandfather likened dealing with Etrigan to ice skating uphill.” But if I must I will, but only if I must.
“Sorry. Talking aloud about a lot of things.” There was a switch it was flipped and I gathered up the candles and set them on the table beside my satchel along with the other items. The athame was cleaned while I looked at Becky.
“The ritual affected you personally. Unlocking the power of your blood?” There was a seriousness that crept into my tone. Gone was the college student that seemed to be easy going and laid back. It wasn’t severe, but it was very much like my mother.
“If you don’t mind me asking what was life before the ritual? Did you always feel different?” It was so easy for me in a way.
“My father is an archaeologist with specialization Egyptology. My mother was many things at least that’s how I saw it, archaeology, medicine, then she trained to be a doctor and then she became a shop keeper. Magic and science both married together in an easy way.” It’s been in my life as long as I can remember.
“A lot of blood. It wasn’t just a blood ritual, it was a sacrificial ritual. I’ve a lot of guesses to the chain of events. I’ve tried to make a timeline with the facts I know and it seems to make sense but there’s a lot of questions. My conception is due to one being, but they would need help to even get to this realm. A sorceress was at the hospital during my birth, perhaps summoning a distraction while shielding my true nature or something. This ritual brought that shielding down. Blood was there for my birth…and my rebirth. If more had died during that ritual, I may have been in the thrall of them. A vicious little weapon to use as they please.”
She wasn’t planning on elaborating much further than that, she already explained there was some infernal involvement. All the same, she was keeping her distance and appearing to be relaxed and non-threatening. There was no reason to be on guard at the moment unless the young man turned on her. She didn’t give him reason to.
She snorted when he brought up the demon, it was in pure agreement.
“He’s not one for talking. He’s someone you want fighting beside you, not sharing a cup of tea with. I don’t know him that well, or Blood for that matter. He’s nice enough though, a good mentor, a good host.”
Life before the ritual? She tilted her head back to pull on what that felt like, it seemed out of reach now, like some distant dream she couldn’t quite put her fingers around.
“Wasn’t very social, always odd and incredibly stubborn. I mean, life was as normal as it could get living with a father that could turn into a bat. Kidnapped a few times, held for ransom, foster care for a stint or two when both parents got into the serum. My brother and I tried to stick together the best we could. Our parents will always love us, they’ve never hurt us. Their demons are just a little bit more pronounced. I always knew I was different. I didn’t ever believe it would be this different.”
It sounded all far from normal when she put it to words, anyone else might be dropping their jaw and might think it was horrible. For Becky it was just a matter of perspective and her perspective was pretty dark.
“Heh, I’ve been dabbling in Archaeology and Anthropology. I guess I was just hoping to travel the world and unlock the ancient secrets and raid some tombs. Maybe understanding how the world was before can help us understand our world now. I love the occult studies. Magic has touched so many civilizations and held more importance. It’s shoved to the shadows and obscure places now.”
She shrugged before speaking again, “I’ve had to adapt. At least now maybe I can help and maintain the balance and keep the normal folks from being messed with. Protect this realm and its people. This sickness that is happening? It’s got my interest. If you’re being watched then you just have to be a bit more deceptive about what you’re actually doing. Not that it matters, unless you’re in a completely warded off space you’re going to be watched by someone that’s damned determined enough.”
Her head tilted as a sudden thought hit her, “I use an old crypt. It was used by a gang as a hideout but it’s since been abandoned since The Bat took them down. Not exactly hallowed ground but if you need someplace safe and easy to ward off…”
I consider the things that I knew and the things that I didn’t. There were many levels to what was happening. I may need to speak with Zatara to determine how far it went, but then again perhaps it was best to step away from the tapestry. Champions were chosen from what I could tell.
It was best to focus on what was on in front of me rather than the larger picture. One thing that was certain opportunity existed for any that realized something had shifted.
“Your powers…your true nature was bound? Your parents, your brother, no one in your family is aware of what you’ve gone through?” Support in this matters help. Distance can also, but too much distance can be dangerous.
The things Becky described sounded quite mundane for her. That it was nothing more than another day in her life, but it sounds like this particular situation. The infernal one she has chosen to deal with on her own away from her family. Was it by choice or necessity?
“Not to sound uncaring or clinical, but if your creation is the result of infernal circumstances does this means that one of your parents is not your biological parents? Or…” There are means. There are always means, but usually the easiest and most direct approach is the natural approach.
As for a place to work. There was no need to be concerned about that.
“If necessary there is a place I can go. Thank you for the offer though.” There is always a place to go. It will be a little weird, but it is there.
“Has your teacher said anything about your family’s safety?” Everything else was on pause for the moment.
From what she could gather, Khalid was a sharp one and pretty much had it figured out. The questions didn’t really need to be answered but clarification is always nice. He made it sound like she was dealing with this alone and she really wasn’t. Blood had taken her in, Nightmare Nurse had been a supportive ally in digging for the truth and supporting her wishes to be better than what nature gave her. Those influences were very important to her and while she wasn’t always happy about the situation, she was thankful to have good people around her to support her.
“Bingo,” a finger gun was blasted at him.
“That being the truth, I don’t think it’s necessary to draw my parents into it. It’s pretty disgraceful and dishonorable and considering I have two parents with short fuses and transformable natures in the literal way, it’s not a good time. Considering the donor in this case, it fits right in with his M.O.”
She pressed her lips together, it was hard to seperate herself from this and not take it too personally. She worked out her anger already, many times over. She allowed herself some time to process and mope but now it was time to focus on the facts and the things she could change.
“So it’s just a matter of trying to understand why. My family could have just been a convenient target, not chosen for anything in particular. It was an opportunity. Beyond this, they’re safe. It’s safer I’m not too close to them right now and Blood is doing his best to support me. My mother and brother aren’t without means to protect themselves. Aaron is…forever going to be a Man Bat. My mother can shift. Hi, I’m Becky from the house of monsters, I used to be the normal one.”
Maybe those circumstances made it easier for her to deal with this, she seemed highly adaptable to those changes, she also fought every day to not be swallowed whole and not lose herself amid those changes. At her core, she was still still part human, she still cared, she wanted to do the right thing.
“I have a small but mighty support network. Two demons and a skilled and very knowledgeable occultist and demonologist. A lot of training physically and mentally, a code of honor to follow. Two names on my list to hunt down. I get the feeling that list may grow if things keep going the way they are. This is still my home, I don’t take kindly to others working their foul rituals here.”
I shake my head, because this was important. Perhaps I should put it a different way.
“If they are not required for support then they require you and your allies protection. If I understand you correctly. Someone unbound your abilities, removed the protection that was in place to release what was contained within your blood. In some ways you have been made whole.” If that made any sense. A part of who she was had been locked away.
“If they have not been handled then they still represent a problem for you and by association for your family. The cultists I’m less concerned about given the things that you’ve said about your family, but the infernal presence in your life? The one that wants to cross through. If this presence cannot get you to cooperate it will go through your family. You can ask your allies, but you said it yourself you were kidnapped.”
That alone should be enough. “It was one thing when everything was held in check, but now that it isn’t and you’re aware of who and what you are. If there is someone seeking you for whatever reason they will not stop until they get what they want and they will use whatever means they can to get it. Unlike the masked vigilantes you have no mask. Your life does not exist in separate buckets. Your life has been laid bare and given that this involves individuals of an infernal nature the question becomes is your strong enough to resist temptation?”
“Right. I’m trying the best I can to understand the why. That’s where I’m stuck and that’s what I’m trying to figure out among all of the other problems that have been unlocked in trying to understand myself.”
It was true, it felt a lot like being made whole but the other part was still very alien to her. She wanted to embrace it but there were the challenges of embracing a creature that was essentially meant to bring suffering and agony to the damned. She’d never admit outloud that she was scared of herself but it was scary.
“So I can’t disconnect myself from them. I could go at it alone but I will not be prepared. I could gain more allies and that will just be more allies put at risk. I’m aware of how this could domino. I’m aware of the danger it presents to everyone around me. Puts a lot of pressure to get better, get stronger and do it fast and get on finding my enemies and stopping them.”
It sounded easy when it was just put into words but it was a very steep and dangerous mountain she had to ascend. Any normal woman her age would be worried about the normal things like finals and socializing. This was the kind of stuff that could crush someone or make them stronger. By all appearances she looked to be pretty confident and set about it.
“There’s always going to be temptation. I’m not always going to succeed at resisting it. I haven’t. I’ll be facing the consequences of those bad choices. All I can do is do better and be responsible.”
It wasn’t the type of thing she could put on a mask and a costume for. He was right about that. This was too real and tied into her blood and bones. It would be something to take into consideration with every decision she made.
“Time will tell if I’m strong enough. Right now? All I can do is cling onto believing I am.”
It seemed pretty settled that all of her cards were now on the table. Names were left out, details left out but too much information and then Khalid may find himself pulled into this problem as well.
“What about you? You’ve got some interesting family.”
“Pace yourself. It can get a bit overwhelming if you take on too much too soon.” I say honestly.
“I think if you do that then you will be okay. The world will always feel like it’s coming apart. There will always be someone on in trouble, but that’s what support systems are for. Don’t take it on especially when you have some much to find out about yourself. Decide how much you want to take on and try to focus on that.” Sometimes you have to make the sacrifice.
“It’s not your temptations that concerns me. It sounds like you have people to support you.” It was the temptation of her family to get to her. That’s what one had to be worried about.
“Me? Well, let’s see. What more is there to tell?” Offering her a smirk I tip my head from side to side. “I was raised in the craft. My mother was strict by caring. She hates that I cribbed a spell from television.” Shrugs.
“I’m following int he family foot steps. I have to decide if I’m going to go to medical school or not. I haven’t decided. It requires a huge commitment, but I also inherited my mom’s shop. She did good work and I want to continue that, but I have figure out how I’m going to marry that with other goals. Can’t say that I’m too out of step with the family business. Archaeology. Medicine. Travel. Honing my craft. Expanding my mind.”
“Working on that. Small bites. Like I said, trying to get down a good foundation first. I don’t know how much you know about Blood. He used to be a knight. I started a crash course that’s a little more angled for modern times. So that and my studies plus my actual school studies. I’d like to get through the semester but I’m beginning to understand that there might be things more valuable to add to the knowledge bank through actual experience. All this kind of makes a traditional learning environment look pretty boring.”
It was at this point. The truth she’s been uncovering doesn’t quite match up with some of the junk that’s written in overpriced text books. It started to make traditional education feel like it was for the masses and not for those in-between worlds.
“Well, Homeopathic and New Age is catching on like wildfire. If you’re looking towards any kind of success in that realm I don’t think it would be too hard. Strictly speaking on the business end. How do you want to help? How can you help? Maybe those are the important questions. Don’t ask me for answers. I’ve written those questions down so many times the words start to look funny.”
Things tended to circle back around to the main problem at hand, what drew them here. Her challenge was one thing and it may be connected or just riding the crazy train along with this other event.
“If you need a blade or some muscle, you’ll reach out to me? Use your hack skills to ask for Vesper.”
He asked about her name before, she was hesitant to give it out but she felt he would use it responsibly. It was only a little play on a latin name of a species of bat, a nickname that stuck and that she’s adopted. If she had taken on a mask and a cape it would have been a pretty cool one.
“Foundation is good. Practical application sometimes is trial by fire. More often than not. Sometimes it doesn’t feel real until then. Not until you find yourself in the middle of it and you have to make a choice. Good or bad the choice has to be made and you have to live with it even if it haunts you for the rest of your days.” Nothing like that happening.
“Boring? That’s because you’re getting the trial by fire version. It can be pretty boring. It can be pretty amazing just like any craft. It’s all about what excites you, but..if I had to put my finger on it. Even though you have more questions and concerns there’s a certain relief about finding your tribe..so to speak. You’re no longer the outsider. The things that were oddities they’re normal, but not in that boring normal way. More in that amazing normal way.”
You’re no longer alone even if what you are comes with a lot of baggage.
“All big questions. Questions that I have to answer. I told my friend that I was keeping the shop. How I use it, that’s the next question, because there may be times I could be called away and if that’s the case then I may not be able it to run in the same capacity that my mom did. I have to find what works for me. No matter what anyone says we have to do what works best for us even if it’s not how we were taught. I’m my parents’ child, but I’m not my parent. I’m my teacher’s student, but I’m not my teacher.” Difficult lessons for everyone to learn, but it helps us carve our fate.
“If things keep me here and I require help trust me I’ll be calling.” Smirking he arched his brow when she said mentioned that her name. Her other name.
“If there is one thing that I can ask for you to pass to your allies. Tell them to be careful. I’m sure they are aware, but it is a dangerous time for all of us. Whether they care to believe it or not. Tell them to be wary of their darker natures. Change is in the air, the good, bad and uncertain. I can’t be certain, but this change this flux may be the reason why the cult chose to make its move upon you. To unsealed what had been sealed away. It may also explain the increased activity in the area. I’m sure Gotham is not the only area that’s experienced increased activity, but we’ve stepped into whether by design or by happenstance we have stepped into the web that Fate has woven around it even as the strands are done and undone all at once.”
I sigh a bit. “I’m sorry. I know this will only spark more questions. What I’m saying is there is a reason why all of this is happening right now. Your personal battle to chose your destiny is your part in it. In this moment you would be at your most powerful and your weakest depending on how you respond to the challenges that present themselves to you. I see that now. ” I cluck my tongue a bit.
“I needed to take a step back. The bigger problem is not ours to fight, but it ripples that have been set in in motion, those are our problems to deal with. A ripple set the cultist in motion. A ripple is drew out what has ever afflicted the students. Opportunities have emerged and people are taking advantage of them.”
So that with that said.
“Be careful. Lines are crossing, but I can’t see how yet. That’s what confounds me at the moment.” Not enough has happened.
“I guess all we can do is take one step at a time right? Besides Gotham’s in good hands with it’s own Evening Star looking out for it right?” Her name like many has multiple meanings and connections both of each work.
“I’m trying to approach this with a cautious step, trying to learn all I can before taking action. I’m learning that diving in head first is pretty dangerous business if I don’t have all the information pulled together.”
She wasn’t used to being this verbal, talking this much and digging really deep into the issues of things. Not that she wanted to avoid it but she thought her energy was better spent on other stuff. It was good though, hearing those words from Khalid. It wasn’t the first time that someone’s words planted a little hope in a pretty dismal and dark situation.
She hadn’t thought of the name in that way but in a way it seemed a little fitting, a bit of a bright spot. It got a rare smile from her.
“Take care of yourself, okay?”