The Road Yet Traveled – Chapter 8 of The Notes From the Abyss

February 6, 2012

Well, it’s Monday. I hope all of you had a great weekend, I certainly did. Some quality time with my girlfriend and my first professional massage (which has left me so sore…so sore). I’m back at Starbucks today, working on a new fantasy story for a competition (it has to be less than 8,000 words, though). I’ve run into a bit of a roadblock, though, since I can’t put my finger on what makes a story fantasy so if you have any ideas, I’m all ears.

After the fold is the next chapter in Notes From the Abyss, I hope you enjoy it. Still waiting on a cover image to get that thing to market (and, if anyone feels like donating for the cover or even donating a cover, feel free. I’d like to get this up sooner rather than later!).

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Eight

The next morning I was heading back to Metris through the Standing Stones again, this time with two containers of documents, recordings, and evidence as well as Jennifer, Mori, and a spirit named Tarafalix the Watchful who worked as Jennifer’s assistant. The Gates had arranged for transportation for everything back to my family’s compound on Metris, which was waiting for us as soon as we arrived. Djinn, powerful spirits like the elementals that worked for the Gates family but locked into a sex and personality, lifted the containers onto a waiting cargo truck while one of the Djinn drivers escorted us to a waiting town car. The convoy of two vehicles left quickly, me and Jennifer in the town car discussing what we’d need to do in order to unravel the spell while the cargo truck drove in front of us.

As we pulled out onto the road from the Standing Stones station on Metris, I noticed a black car following us at a distance. It didn’t seem like the Djinn had noticed it since it was dancing lanes and hiding behind the other cars on the road. Within the city, traffic flowed with a reliable consistency. Having been in this situation a few times before, though, I quickly picked up on the tail.

While my office and the Standing Stones are in Sapphire the Mac Callan family household is several kilometers south of the city in a valley called Whispers Gorge. It was named after the constant whispering from the rocks, an after effect of the leylines that run through the ground. All the extra arcane energy in the air caused the rocks to speak of times before magic, about the creation of the universe and the life forms that came before us. The families that lived in the Gorge studied it and, from those studies, helped advance arcane theory and history.

It wasn’t until we were heading out of town that our shadow started to really press the little convoy. I growled under my breath as Jennifer and the Djinn noticed for the first time, first one car pulling along side the town car then another melting out of one of the side streets to pull in front of the truck.

I closed my eyes and sent a Sending to the front truck, telling the Djinn driver to just push through the car and drive straight to my family’s home. After that I grabbed my dagger and quickly invoked the power inside of it. I lowered my window with a quick flip of my wrist and told the driver of our car to start driving defensively.

My order wasn’t a second too soon as electrical flashes danced across the ground where the car used to be.

I pulled myself into the window, sitting on the edge of the car with my dagger in one hand, the other hand pointed straight at the car. I held it there for a few seconds, watching the tinted glass for any sign of the driver but the glass had been tinted darker than the law allowed. I growled my frustration and the general frustration of anyone dealing with chases in this day and age – there weren’t tires to shoot out anymore so you had to hit the driver or the propulsion Circle on the undercarriage if you wanted to stop it. Hoping for a lucky guess I pointed my arm at the right side of the car and screamed, “VIR!”

I guessed wrong, but not about the driver – about the car. I shattered both the windshield and the back window but it seemed to deflect most of the power in my first arrow. It’d take a few seconds for me to fire something like that again and there was clearly some kind of Seal on the car that was made after my run in with the suits at my office.

I dropped back into my seat and muttered, “Jenna’s going to rip me apart if we lead them there…” I thought for a few moments before snapping my fingers, “Driver! Lead them around the causeway, the big loop a few miles up. We’ll get past them in the-”

While I wish I could share the rest of my cunning plan with everyone, myself included, it was about that time when the truck struck the car infront of it and filled the world with light, noise, and heat. I’m not exactly sure how the truck survived, or how it started the explosion, but the front car was completely consumed by it and the shipping truck drove right through it. Our towncar, however, wasn’t quite so lucky. The resulting arcane wave disabled the Circle powering the car and we skidded off the side of the road.

Just in time for it to start raining. It’s always the little things, y’know, that reinforce when life’s at its worst. If also reinforcing the sheer melodrama that seems to hang around people like me.

The car spun as it hit the grass to the side of the highway, sliding along the increasingly wet ground until it struck one of the small hills that stand all around the area south of Sapphire, the hills that extend in every direction until the small towns along the Causeway start, or you hit the forests around Whisper Gorge.

As everyone else in the car tried to sort themselves, I kicked the door open and climbed out, one hand clutching Rothus and the other holding my hat down. I was fueled by rage and frustration as I snapped out first an invocation of Malkuth, sending a message to the local OEA agent I had met last week, and then I escalated the Argent Arrow into its second stage war-spell. As the last word passed my lips, Rothus quivered and lengthened, becoming a long, glowing silver schiavona. A sword of intricate beauty, careful balance and a wonderfully decorated hand-guard. In front of my right hand, arcane energy spun together into a silver shield, normally called an aegis by the pretentious magicians, and I charge toward the black car that was slowing to a halt over the grass.

“Arcane-born bastard asshole goons always getting in my way!” I shouted toward the car as plain-faced men in suits and reflective glasses climbed out, each with an electrical charm around their wrists like the ones I confiscated from the suits at my office. “You think your little fucking tricks will work on me? Have you ever fought a trained spellsword!?” The schiavona, Rothus, shimmered and spat sparks as it fed from my anger. Lightning flashed from their hands but my shield easily batted it away. Part of spellsword training, learning to fight with magic and melee weapons simultaneously, was entering a kind of battle trance where magic becomes easy to parry with the aegis if it isn’t carefully directed and controlled. Spellswords made large scale war difficult because it was a martial art that practically forced you to either destroy the ground around them with massive artillery spells or go toe to toe with a fencer.

Unfortunately for our black hat friends, they lacked any artillery equipment.

I reached the first one as the OEA cars started to arrive. Before he could turn I cut open his thigh with a quick cut, flipping the tip down and pulling it back up in a flash, as I walked past him. He fell to the ground and, with the enchantments on Rothus, his arcane power leaked out of his leg along with his blood. The other two started to run as they watched the driver collapse in a heap behind me.

I growled like a beat as I leaped over the back of the car, the arcane energy fueling my trance state letting me easily clear it and land in a roll so I could come up running. I was barely aware of the lightning bolts that they fired back toward me, spinning around one as I deflected the other up into the sky. One of them ran straight into a group of OEA agents that had just climbed out of their cars so I bent my will toward the other.

I raised my voice, letting my rage pour out of me and into Rothus. It began to glow with a shimmering silver light, growing ever brighter as I screamed. I pulled my sword back and swung it before me, releasing my hold on it and watching a silver crescent sweep out from the tip of the sword. It flew over the ground like a hawk with prey in its sights, washing over and through the last running goon and dropping him to the ground. It sapped his strength, stole his consciousness, but did not kill him. I may be enraged but I’m not a murderer.

Rothus was slowly returning to normal and I was catching my breath as the OEA agents caught up with me. I felt Seals settling on me, not caring that they were encapsulating my power – Spellswords were registered and considered dangerous at all times, especially while their battle-trance was active. Before the True Ways were discovered, even some of the people of Earth knew the trance, the lust for battle and the extreme focus that came of it. The only descriptions that got close to the full arcane trance, though, was the Celtic warp-spasm – it consumes you, become you, and drives you.

The OEA agents slapped gold braces on the fallen black hat and gently woke up him with first aid incantations. Every OEA agent practices Holy Light, the True version of ancient Kaballistic rituals, which focus more on speaking to what people had thought was God, health, wellbeing, and self-improvement. It was one of the best systems for healing and helping others if you wanted to do so arcanologically.

Luckily for me, Margret Zormann was the first detective to pick up my call. She took my statement, everything from arriving on Metris to now, and respected Jennifer’s requests for privacy. I was relieved to find that Jennifer was all right, if startled, by the quick altercation since I had forgotten about her as I climbed out of the car. The Djinn driver was working with a pair of OEA engineers to fix the vehicle so we could get moving but it seemed to be damaged beyond repair.

Margret took a statement from Jennifer as a few of the other agents Unwove the Seals on me, noting that my trance had passed and I wasn’t carrying around a 3-foot piece of silver destruction. Just your average, every day ritual dagger. As they cleaned up the scene and called in ambulances, they registered the crime with the OEA proper and declared me innocent by way of self-defense as ascertained by Margret, the on-site Practitioner of rank. After the ceremonies certifying our innocence and setting the black hats up for a stay in prison, she was nice enough to give me and Jennifer a lift to the Whisper Gorge.

Overall, it was a pleasant trip. I got to know Margret and Jennifer better as they grilled me about my Spellsword training and told me about their own lives. As we pulled up, in fact, Margret offered to buy me a beer when this was over if I promised to tell her what I could about the case. Being that Margret is a comely woman of no little power I had no choice but to accept.

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