Four figures huddled together. Blood red lines
drawn on the
floor tracing a twisted hexagram with a circumscribed hemi-spiral.
within a barrier of salt, protected by the ancient talismans against
The room twists. Footsteps trace the outside
barrier. Seeking a way in.
Blood on her hands. The blood on her hands
“What the hell are you doing!? Wake up!” a
Startled by the shout, Vex looked up. The bright
headlights shone through her window, another car was directly in front
She wrenched the wheel hard as a horn blared and the bright light
as her foot sought the brake. The shriek of tires on the pavement rang
ears as she watched a lit neon sign slide absurdly past outside the
The taxi came to a lurching stop by the curb and
hiss the engine stalled. Her knuckles had become white with pressure
holding the wheel and her hands were slick with sweat. Vex could hear
beating in her ears louder than a subwoofer speaker.
Vex’s fare, the man the back seat, didn’t look
Mr. Suit and Tie with a Crumpled Fedora—now a smashed and crumpled
have clutched it against the divider grating when she made that
face was red as she turned to look at him. A brief glance out the
Vex could tell that she was just on the other side of Mill
“Look,” the man said after a moment. “Where I
need to go
isn’t that far away. I’m just going to get out here. If that’s okay.”
this as if he was going to give her a choice. He opened the door and
some bills through the hole in the safety grating. “Keep the change.”
The man walked away briskly without looking back
quickly vanished into a side-street while Vex tried to recover herself.
“They never learn, do they,” Vex growled to
turned the key. The engine coughed once but then roared to life. She
taxi into gear and hit the accelerator as hard as she could. The taxi
out hard from the curb and she spun it around to face back down
moments later the cab was careening onto Mill
The vision clearly depicted somewhere Vex had a little
familiarity with: the Hayden Library Stacks. She’d been in them before
for books. She couldn’t tell quite exactly where but she figured that
got closer to the exact area it would become obvious. Things of this
“Does anyone have any freaking clue what that was?”
sharply. She pushed David away from her; he had all but climbed into
her arms by
clinging to her when the screaming started.
“I think we should get out of here,” David said,
“Well, it’s over now.” Mary Beth threw her head
raised her voice in authority, trying to take command again. “We have
up the ritual—”
“Sorry, hunnybun,” Korey said quickly, cutting
her off and
grabbing her hand. “I think we can leave it. Let’s get the fuck out of
Korey half-fought, half-dragged Mary Beth
exit, David wasted no time in following, and Darlene didn’t waste any
getting her violin back into its case before turning to follow the
Before she went after them though, she paused
enough to blow out all the candles. She spent barely enough time to
one out—hard—but not so much as to remain alone in the room for any
necessary. Satisfied that the candles didn’t look like they were going
to life again, Darlene immediately sped to the slowly closing door to
“What took you so long?” Korey said when Darlene
through the door.
“I couldn’t leave candles burning,” Darlene said
and glared; “something could catch fire.”
“This is someone’s idea of a stupid joke,” Mary
railed back at Korey, whose grip did not wane.
“Some joke,” Darlene said as the door closed
Everybody sighed with relief when they heard the door at the top of the
stairwell latch solidly; even Mary Beth, who despite her air of
showed obvious signs of anxiety in her expression.
Chattering nervously amongst themselves, the
the Stacks through a side-door unlocked by David’s deft handling of his
and they walked purposefully away from the place. The full moon lit
when there were no sidewalk lamps, but as a whole the group avoided the
of buildings and anywhere darker as they made they way to IHOP on far
If anyone had been paying attention to their
instead of carrying on in an uneasy hurry towards the restaurant and
the Stacks, they would have noticed a darkly clad figure racing to
had just exited.
Vex found the room with extreme ease. The magickal
from whatever happened were especially intense in the Stacks, gathering
strength as she went up the stairs. Obviously something had
on one of the upper floors. After checking a few doors, she finally
that was open—the very top floor.
When Vex pulled the door open, the air rushed
out in a
hollow sigh. It played gently with the black locks of hair that hung on
side of her face and ruffled her lacey black clothing. Caution
footsteps, Vex reached into her belt and withdrew her ivory athame—a
knife carved from whalebone and etched by her own hand to stand proof
Her boots clacked solidly against the unfinished
echoed through the various bookshelves scattered around the room. Deep
were churned in the layer of dust on the floor where some bookshelves
pushed out of the center of the room to make space for a very
of lit candles. The center of the room stood completely clear of dust,
edges showed footprints and signs human of activity.
“What do we have here?” Vex said to herself as
into the room.
The people involved in this ritual were
gone. They were probably just stupid college students anyway. Perhaps
spooked themselves. It would be for the best; if Vex ran into them
she would have had to beat some sense into them.
The design on the floor looked exactly like the
had seen in the unbidden vision in the taxi. A twisted hexagram painted
spiral and several extra lines that added the optical illusion effect
second star, a pentacle that didn’t exist in the lines. The entire
surrounded by two circumscribed circles poured with salt containing
recognizable Enochian symbols invoking angels and Witch’s Script
“Sigil work.” Vex shook her head as she surveyed
The Enochian seemed almost out of place with the
the center, as if they didn’t belong to the same traditions. It was
kids these days to find old books of mysticism and then mix them
a tossed salad. Generally, that’s also all that came out: something
for cleaning out someone’s bowels. However, once in a while someone
talent would inadvertently create a working with real power and bad
A music stand that had been set up on the far
side of the
sigil was knocked over on its side. The metal bands of the stand
the guttering candlelight.
Vex stepped towards the music stand and was
stopped by a
sudden sense of unease. She glanced down to see that she had nearly
salt lines. The magickal protective circles were still intact and the
was trying to resist her passage.
“Someone knew what they were doing,” Vex said.
The magickal barrier’s power was infinitesimal
what Vex could muster, so she just cut through it with her athame and
protection spell by drawing her boot across the lines of salt. The air
with the release of the bound energies in the spell.
Vex moved between the candles with purpose. They
if they had been burning for hours, having nearly become piles of
melted goo on
the floor. One in particular caught Vex’s attention. It seemed to be
in the center, something was bulging from it. She picked it up, blew
flame, and examined the bulge.
With her pocketknife in hand, Vex removed a
glistening quartz crystal from the center of the candle. Replacing the
pocketknife in her belt, Vex prodded the crystal with her athame. It
with a soft pulse of orange and felt slightly warm in her hand.
A soulstone. Vex quickly accounted the sigil and
candles. Three of the seven candles appeared to have soulstones in
including the one that she now held, but Vex counted four positions
people could have been standing. Soulstones were used to trap spirits
in magical invocation or—as the name suggested—to take souls from
Someone in that group of four wanted the souls
Vex hefted the stone in her hand and shook her
was no ordinary group of would-be wizards she was dealing with;
seemed a lot more wicked.
“Freeze and drop the knife,” a voice said behind
A flashlight beam
was shining over her shoulder and illuminated the sigil. Vex cursed
not even noticing the security guard sneaking up behind her. She
she really must have been lost in thought.
“I’m not going to tell you again,” the security
“It’s not what it looks like,” Vex said. She
slid the soulstone into her pocket and put both hands up.
“Slowly, on the ground, and kick it away.” he
Vex complied, letting herself down slowly and
knife as far as she could reach to her side, stood up again, and kicked
athame with her foot sending it skittering across the floor.
“Okay, turn around, slowly. Keep your hands
turned around slowly but the light was in her eyes, all she could see
flashlight, maybe the gun, the man’s badge, and his brownish pants. ASU
Vex recognized the uniform instantly.
“I think that I can explain.”
“You can explain at the station, young woman,”