Storme Crow — Chapter Two
“Bree? Oh my god, Bree!”
I heard a voice from a long way away. It didn’t seem terribly important. Around me the world had gone black except for the darting of ultraviolet lights around me, etching out a pattern that I almost recognized before I bleerily made the connection. I had found Shem. And I hurt all over.
“It’s okay, Bree, I’ve called 911. You’ll be okay. I think. Oh, please be okay. I think you were hit by lightning. Or something. Dammit, Bree, what the hell were you doing? Can you hear me?”
Lightning? My brain tried to process that, and failed.
I concentrated, pushing myself to a sitting position, my head still swimming.
“I’m all right, Cass.”
I breathed, and stood, still swaying, still sore everywhere, but I should have been a lot worse. I should have been dead. “I’m all right.”
“Oh, god, Cass, you scared me! There you were on the ground, and for a moment I thought you were dead.”
“No. I need to sit down.”
The ringing in my ears had subsided to the point that I could hear the sound of an ambulance and police car’s sirens pulling up.
“I think I unconsciously warded myself. Shem.”
“Long story. “
The police knocked at the door, leading the EMTs, one of whom cared a cardio resuscitation unit. I recognized one of the EMTs, Mike Long, from St. Andrews hospital down the way.
“Good lord, Bree? What the happened to you?”
He and the other EMT, Tim Cready, I thought his name was, set the table back upright and put their equipment on it.
“Hi, Mike, Tim. BP 150/85, pulse 80. The bandages were from me scalding myself earlier tonightwhen the window popped open. I feel like I just ran into a mack truck, but nothings broken, and I don’t think I have a concussion.”
“Hey, doc, let me be the judge of that.” He set up some temporary lights in the room, then checked out my eyes.
“You’re eyes are enough dilated I wouldn’t rule out concussion. Probably pointless to have you get an x-ray at this point but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure there’s someone around with you for the next twenty four hours. I’d prescribe codeine for muscle bruising.”
“I’ve got some.”
“Figured you might. I’ll ask Dr. Weiss to write you a prescription if you need more though.”
He looked around. “Damn, I don’t know how you managed to get off so lightly.”
I followed his gaze. Dishes and mugs had been blasted from the sink, my papers had been scattered, and there was a clear dent in the wall, albeit one that seemed ill defined for being impacted by a human body.
“It’s been a nasty storm”, said one of the cops. “We’ve had reports of a couple of tree fires and another house got hit by a falling tree.”
Mike nodded, “Busy night. You want a ride in the Scooby-mobile to Andrews?”
Mike was clearly limned in greenish light, his easy going nature clear in the friendly flashes of color around his head. Tim was quieter for a human — we tend to be remarkably noisy psychically, though his especially shaded toward the blue of the magi. I had my suspicion that there were a lot more people with Magi blood buried in their genetic bloodlines than was commonly assumed, that could actually work at least a little magic if they were aware that magic existed. They were much brighter than was normal for me, as if someone had turned the gain on whatever my antenna was all the way to ten. I normally needed to concentrate to see auras.
“Thanks, but, I think I’m okay.”
“All right, then. You know the drill, rest, fluids, someone to check up on you every few hours. Give my best to your grandmother.”
The cops and paramedics headed back downstairs into the storm. It was now raining heavily but the wind and lightning had subsided.
Cassie had left and returned with a bag of electric lanterns, which she set up around my apartment. She moved with that efficiency of motion that she always got when she was scared or pissed, and I suspected she was about equal parts both. Once light had been restored, she handed me a light bulb.
“What’s this for?” I asked.
“I just want to make sure that the light bulb doesn’t light up when you hold it, idiot.”
“Do you have a friggin’ death wish, Bree?”
“Wait, what the –”
“I was downstairs opening up the bakery when the power went out, then the freezers suddenly kicked back in. while nothing else did. The only think I could think of was that you were powering them through the ley line.”
“Well, yeah …”
“Bree, there’s this little thing that I spend about $100 a month for called insurance. If the power goes out and I have to throw food away, it’s covered. You, on the other hand, cannot be replaced.”
She hugged me tight, then hit me softly on the shoulder. “Please don’t do that again.”
Mid hug, she spoke again. “Uh, Bree? You know that light bulb actually is glowing?”
I looked down curiously at the light bulb, was only mildly surprised to see that it glowed with a faint blue light.
“No, I think that’s me. I’m still bleeding off power.”
“Bleeding off power?”
“I created a physical barrier … somehow, one that included some kind of inertial dampener. I was thrown hard enough that my back should have been broken. Most of the power went into the ward, which in turn was anchored by the ley line, but some of it must still be bleeding off. The weird thing is that it also felt like the power was pushed up to me, not like I was drawing on the ley line.”
“Whatever it was, it made the ley line ring,” Cassie said, considering. “I’m not normally that sensitive to it, and I could feel something — it was that as much as the lightning flash that sent me up here. I suspect that whatever happened, people heard it down in California.”
“Look, I appreciate the concern, Cass, but I’m keeping you from opening the bakery.”
“Nope. It’s why I hire help. Mike said 24 hours, and I’ve seen you pull this crap on me before ‘I’m okay, really Cass’, then I find you’ve driven yourself beyond your limits and put yourself into the hospital. You look like you’ve not slept in three days, you’re more than a little ripe, and you’ve just been hammered with ‘powers beyond the ken of human comprehension’. You’re going to take a shower, then you’re going to sleep, and I and the cat are going to spend time comparing notes. Capiche?”
I wanted to argue, but as much as it galled me to admit it, she was right on all counts. I ached, the burn on my arm still stung, I was exhausted, and I wasn’t thinking clearly, or I wouldn’t have done the equivalent of flying a kite in a rainstorm.
I grabbed a towel, hung my Totoro shirt on the hanger on the bathroom door, turned around and saw a monk staring back at me from the mirror over the sink. My reaction was instantaneous.
There was no subtlety in that magic. One moment, the monk stood there in brown robes, his hood up but with enough light showing that he no more expected to be looking at a naked young woman than I expected to be facing a monk, the next moment, the bathroom mirror glowed a brilliant blue, probably strong enough to be visible to Cassie, who had never shown any signs of being able to actually see magic before. The monk was gone. The magic stayed, and I had a nervous feeling that I’d just permanently enchanted it.
“Bree, are you okay?” she said, opening the door. We’d seen one another undressed often enough that me wearing only panties didn’t phase her, but she was a little freaked out by the mirror. “Why is your mirror glowing Bree?”
“There was a monk in it. He was staring at me.”
“Well, he apparently got an eyeful. Where’s he now?”
“I don’t know. I threw a ward up. He disappeared once I did.”
“Life is never dull when you’re around, sis. Is there any reason why you’re glowing in the mirror?”
“I … I’m not glowing, you are.”
And she was. There was a brilliant pale yellow halo around her, with just a suggestion of yellow white wings that complemented her platinum blonde hair. I looked perfectly normal though. On the other hand, as I looked at her directly, I could see the same aura. I’d seen them from the time I started working with magic, but normally only with concentration. Now it was becoming harder to avoid not seeing it.
“Bree … you looked … dark and foreboding and stern. An avenging angel. Beautiful, but … implacable. Lke you sometimes look in my dreams?”
“Yeah … Bree — take your shower so your boobs aren’t in my face.”
“Um … sorry”
She turned and closed the door, but for just a second there was a look of … fear on her face. Not of me, I don’t think, but of something that she’d hoped wouldn’t happen but now was worried it might.
I washed, quickly, nervously eyeing the mirror as I got out. It was still glowing blue along the edges, the only light beyond the electric lamp that Cass had hung there earlier, and it only showed me, with wet black hair and green eyes. Cassie had replaced Totoro with Albert Enstein sticking out his tongue, on the eminently sensible theory that I may have gotten glass on the other t-shirt. Given that the glass from the window had been pulverized, not just shattered, it seemed a reasonable precaution.
By the time I was ensconced in night clothes, including fuzzy slippers, Cassie had gathered up my dirty clothes, put some order back into the kitchen and main room, and was cleaning out the dubious biology cultures now growing in my refrigerator.
Cassie handed me a tincture that I drank reluctantly, then followed me into my bedroom to make sure I got some sleep.
“Bree?” she asked after I’d slipped under the covers.
“What’s wron … never mind. Get some sleep, okay?”
“Okay, Auntie Cass,” I said bleerily, as the sleeping medicine finally drew me into the arms of morpheus.
I’d always been a remarkably lucid dreamer. I was aware I was dreaming, could even look at it objectively as a dream, as if I was both actress and audience. This one threw me for a bit of a loop, however. First, I was a little confused that I was even dreaming — most sleep medicines don’t actually put you to sleep so much as kick your brain into that same state as you enter under anaesthesia, kind of suspended animation lite. It was one of the reasons I never felt rested after taking one of them.
Yet beyond that was the level of detail involved. Most dreams have the LOD turned way down, just enough to hint at a half remembered smell or texture or pattern. I was on the top of a hill, sitting on worn sedimentary rocks, basalt or chist, with small deciduous scrub trees and bushes providing a modicum of screening. From here, a village spead out, but the buildings seemed remarkably primitive, constructed of fired clay bricks, with thatch or slate roofs. Cows, goats, chickens and geese were everywhere.
Most of the people — dark-haired or occasionally red — wore either light robes or girded loin cloths that left them uncovered from the waist up. Men and women both dressed like this. Some men wore a lopsided triangular kilt, and most of them could have served as cover models for some of the steamier romance novels. The more prosperous women wore dresses with elaborate skirts and bolero type bodices that left their breasts either bare or covered in thin cotton shifts.
At the other end of the village, I could make out a harbour with ships in black wood, ornate, Egyptian-like eyes painted on their prow. From this distance it was hard to tell, but it looked like the ships were crewed with men and women both.
Not all of the figures were human. A satyrine man with deerlike haunches and cloven hooves was braizing some meat in an odd copper kettle, exchanging shishkabobs for what I suspected were small metallic coins. A tall, stern young woman with great eagle wings on her back stood overlooking one of the building, holding a spear that was easily seven feet long. A giant of a man, his face sasquatch-like, hauled dozens of gourds in a couple of nets suspended from a shoulder brace. Two elf boys, nearly human seeming but with the thinness and sharp ears of the Elven tribes, raced through the streets causing minor mischief.
“This is where we came from,” a woman’s voice said behind me, making me jump. An older woman had settled on the rock next to me, dressed in the same flounced skirt, her dark hair coming down in ringlets tinged with white here and there. Her chest was covered with the thin shift. I glanced down at myself and self-consciously wrapped my arms around my chest, as I was dressed the same but with rather less shift.
“You are a priestess of the Elohim, the people of the gods. This humble little village, population twenty five thousand or so, is called Ada’an, the second largest city in all of Iriden, and is considered to be its center of academic learning.”
She pointed to a two story building at the end of the street. “That is the famed library, holding scrolls and tomes of great wisdom, wit and power, including magical power”.
“How am I here?”
“Thirty milliliters of diphenhydramine is likely to make anyone susceptible to cross-temporal trips.”
“So this is just a fever dream?”
She slapped me on the arm. It stung.
“Reality is a bit more complex than you give it credit for.”
“So who are you?”
“A potential you in a few decades.”
“You’re me from the future?”
“For now. It could change. Just think of me as the cryptic mysterious stranger who figured out that ‘if I knew then what I know now’ is more than just a motivational poster.”
“So any stock tips?” I asked, genuinely curious.
“Don’t. Stock market collapses in about 80% of the relevant timelines in about five years time.”
“You’re just a bundle of joy. “
“I’m you, from your future. What do you expect?”
I thought about that for a moment. At least in the dream that made a surprising amount of sense.
“So why are we here? And for that matter, when is here?”
“About five thousand years ago, give or take a century or two. We’re not exactly in the era of precision time-pieces here. As to the why, look over there.”
She pointed out a hill about half a mile distant, where I could just make out people beginning to appear on its crest. Lots of people, with more and more showing up as we watched.
“Uh huh. That’s the road to Sh’mayhim.”
“The heavens,” I translated automatically.
“Yup. Sh’mayhim is the largest city of Iriden, and is constructed around an elevated lake on the Sheol plateau. Population, about 120,000, a significant portion of whom are now descending upon A’dhan with intent to burn it to the ground.”
She grabbed my arm, pulled me back down.
“Stay down! We’re not invisible here, and you still need to know a few things.”
“Iriden … wait, you’re talking about the Outer Realms.”
“Yes. Sorry, I’d forgotten you didn’t know that. Yes, this is the outer realms, it’s about 3,000 BC and we’re about to become a part of the Fall of the Archangels.”
“We’re in heaven?”
“No, We’re in A’adan, garden spot of Iriden. Just forget that heaven and hell crap for a bit, because it’ll only get in the way of understanding what’s really going on here.
“Look, the Elohim have been fighting for their existence ever since enough of their ancestors landed on these shores from Earth through the various natural gates to build communities. This has been going on for millennia. You can think of Iriden as being Grand Central Station. There are gates from here to Gehinnem and, in a few places, gates from here to Fomoria. This place has a higher magical potential than Earth, but it’s also smaller and not nearly as well defined.”
“Gehinnem is … I’m guessing it’s a plane with dominant death energy.”
“Got it in one. The Fomor worlds are anti-magical, just like Gehinnem is anti-life. The Elohim managed to push all of them back about half a millennium ago, hard enough to have them lick their wounds. It’s been long enough that the Elohim have become bored and restless. The war-father in Iriden just seized power and killed the peace mother in Sh’mayhim and declared Lilidhu, the Ascendant Daughter of A’dhan, to be a traitor. He captures and kills her, he claims the region of A’dhar as his own, rather than as a mostly autonomous sister-state. We’re here to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Wait, look this is going too fast. How do we do that?”
“Simple enough. Your name here is Lilidhu Morning Star, the Ascendant Daughter of A’dhan. Let’s go foment a Rebellion against the King of Heaven.”