Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 2

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August 1st, 9 AM

The agent made his way down the familiar halls of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. At first glance, Aidan Scott might strike people as “medium.” Medium height, medium build, medium good looks. It was the second glance that made the difference. His piercing turquoise eyes and thick coal black hair were startling. The agent knew this and had learned to use it to his advantage, so that, at 37, this veteran of the Navy SEALS exhibited the natural confidence he felt. Heading toward his boss’s office, he walked at his usual clip. It was the no-nonsense walk of a man well-trained, of a man who knew what he was about.

Aidan once again pondered why his boss, John Lucius Power, who was so well connected within the Beltway elite, had not climbed into a more prestigious job, one with a more impressive office and staff.

“Ah, my boy, there you are.” Power, an aging, pudgy, well-groomed little man, almost bellowed as his secretary ushered the agent in, “Got your go-bag packed?”

“Always sir,” Aidan replied. It was, after all, a requirement of the job.

“Good.” Power motioned for Aidan to take a seat. “I need you to hightail it to upstate New York. Some guy got himself ritually murdered in some backwater town. I want you to keep an eye on the investigation up there.” Power handed the agent two over-stuffed folders. “There’s a girl involved.”

“When was the murder?”

“Last night.”

“I see.”

Aidan flipped through the first folder. “This took a while to collect,” he said, looking for an explanation. He saw that most of the documents had been signed by Power himself.

“That’s the victim,” Power explained. “The other file is on the girl. The parents disappeared 18 years ago. The girl was raised by an aunt. She moved back to New York from Boston last year.”

“Is the girl suspected of the murder?”

Aidan opened the second folder. Nobody collected this much information on someone, he observed to himself, without suspicion of something.

“Doubt it. But she’s hiding something.”

Power leaned back and placed his perfectly manicured hands behind his round balding head. “I need someone I can trust.”

Aidan, whose father had been killed in combat before he was born, knew every word of this oft-repeated speech. Sure fire, this guy wants something off the grid.

Next would be the implication–never directly stated–that, if his agent was loyal, he might even inherit some of the vast Power family fortune along with the influence it brought. Unimpressed, Aidan waited for the speech to end. He worked for Power, not because of any sense of loyalty to the man, nor for the perks that loyalty might bring, but because it afforded him the opportunity to explore something that fascinated him–the Occult. This little known division of the FBI headed by Power investigated occult related crimes.

“So I know I can trust you,” Power continued. “I need to know about that girl. I need to know what she knows, but off the grid. Strictly off the grid, got it?”

Aidan closed the folder and looked at his boss. Working “off the grid” was not unusual in this highly unusual division. It was the vagueness of the assignment that caught Aidan’s attention. He leaned forward, expecting more information. “Of course, sir. So, what do we….”

But before the agent could finish, Power broke in, “And how’s that ex-partner of yours?”

“Doing fine, sir. He just got back from Kenya.”

“Yes, I heard about that. Babysitting that Ambassador’s wild child daughter. He’s back, then?”

“Yes, sir.”

Aidan knew Power wasn’t asking about James Cameron out of idle curiosity–he never did. His boss and his ex-partner had drawn blood on more than one occasion. No love lost between them. That was why his ex-partner was his ex-partner. Power had forced him out of the agency.

“Sir, you haven’t given me much to go on. I’m following a murder investigation–unofficially, and I’m investigating some girl, but for what?”

“Read her file. The family had abilities. I want to know if she inherited them. That girl is hiding something–something she got from her parents. I want to know what it is. It may be connected to the murder. Report back anything interesting. Anything at all.” Power stood and offered his hand, “Good luck, son. I’m counting on you.”

 

As the agent unlocked the door of his shiny black Land Rover, he calculated it would take about five and a half hours to drive from Washington to Buckston, fifty miles up the Hudson from Manhattan. He should arrive at about 2:30, assuming he did not get stopped for speeding.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo attribution:

By Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice: Chapter 1

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(Background notes are at end of the chapter.)

CHAPTER ONE

August 1st Present day

Kian’s 28th Birthday

 

She sat staring at the flame, as had her mother before her, and her grandmother and their mothers and grandmothers for countless generations before them. Each flame was different and she wondered what this one would bring. Her eyes softened their vision and she reached out to cup her hands around the candle itself. Cool, it was, cool and smooth, like precious white stone, only softer. The flame flickered then flared and dipped to the right, calling her attention back. As she stared, the flame grew more intense, expanding its light now until the corona filled the entire cave. Ah, yes, it was happening, that old familiar floating sensation. She allowed her eyes to grow softer still and then she saw it, the dark tunnel that brought the Visions.

Kian woke with a start. This was the third time in a week she’d had that dream. That’s how she thought of it. It was “that dream.”

Taking her wind-up alarm from the old bed stand, she checked the time. Four a.m., the best part of the morning. No use trying to fall back to sleep. The dream would only repeat itself.

Kian Radha Buchanan rolled her long, lean, freckled legs out of the bed. She slid her orange painted toenails into aqua flip-flops, pulled a tattered tee over her cami-top, and adjusted her waist length red hair into a ponytail. Without turning on a light, she headed down two flights of crooked wooden steps to the large open room that was the main floor of her log home.

She turned left toward the kitchen. It was set off from the rest of the house by an oak counter now yellowed and worn to a fine patina. After turning on the fluorescent light over the sink, Kian entered the walk-in pantry to retrieve a fresh box of K-cups. She popped one into the Keurig® and pushed the handle down, selecting the strongest brew possible. Lucky, her midnight black cat, was not to be forgotten. He rubbed at her ankles, begging for his morning meal.

“Here you go, Luckster, canned mush, your favorite.” Kian set his bowl down on the dingy linoleum tiles. Like most other things in the house, the kitchen floor was on a long list of things needing renovation.

Kian scratched Lucky’s head. She liked remembering the day, just three months ago, when the golden-eyed cat had come into her life. He’d crept out of the woods and jumped into her lap, almost spilling the hot coffee she’d been enjoying on her new deck.

“And who are you, sir?” she had asked. He sneezed. She stroked his back and noted how emaciated he was, wet and shivering too. Another sneeze.

“Well this will not do,” Kian had said as she lifted him up and brought him inside. The cat dined on leftover steak set in a marred plastic bowl used by the many pets in the Buchanan household back when her parents lived there. Given his near-miss with death, the vet called him “Lucky.” The name stuck and the memory always gave her a sense of joy.

Coffee cup in hand, Kian now left her kitchen and walked to the oak dining table positioned conveniently in the center of the huge open space. She grabbed the shawl, the one her mother had knitted years ago, and headed for the back deck. As she passed by her father’s old study, the scent of vintage books caught her attention. One day I guess I’ll have to sort through them, she thought as she unlocked the deadbolt, its shiny newness a contrast to the battered door.

Once outside, she eased onto her porch swing, a sleek model bought from the local home improvement store just last spring.

Today was her 28th birthday. She could only hope it would be better than her 27th.

Sitting there, Kian pictured it all again. A scraggy looking gunman holding a high-powered weapon. She had stepped in front of her patient, a small child, to spare him the sight. The gunman screamed, “Where is she? Where is the red-head?”

In the crowded emergency room that night, all work had ceased, all movement had become as if in slow motion.

Kian’s best friend, Cathy, had not been present when the man broke in and then Kian had seen her walking toward the chaos. Kian tried to motion her back. But it was too late. The wildman had seen Cathy. Nobody dared stop him when he grabbed her and threw her to the floor. Kian remembered how Cathy’s red hair, dyed as a joke just for Kian’s birthday, had flown loose. The man had fingered it, and then aimed for Cathy’s heart. Kian had watched the slow graceful movements of the security guard as he reached behind the gunman, catching him by his right shoulder. It was enough. The bullet had missed its mark and Cathy had lived, taking a superficial wound to her shoulder.

After the attack, Cathy had moved to rural New England with her fiancé, changing from emergency to pediatric nursing. With nobody important left in Boston, Kian decided to move back to her parent’s Hudson Valley home where she found a part-time job as a home-hospice nurse. It wasn’t that she needed the money. She liked the work.

In many ways coming back had not been easy. Aside from Uncle Jacob, now her patient on hospice, all she had of this place were childhood memories and the comfort of the home’s long history. Her father’s great-grandfather had built it on land that had been in the Buchanan family since–well, Kian was not sure how long. Each successive generation rebuilt or remodeled, adding on a bit more each time. Her parents had built the barn for horses. And now she’d added the deck.

Kian wondered if her parents, were still alive somewhere, or if they had, indeed, died. All she knew was that they had left without saying where they were going. And then vanished. At ten, Kian was old enough to experience the loss, but too young to do anything about it. Now she did not know how she felt. Angry? Abandoned? Lost? Yes, that was it, lost. As a child, there had been a sense of security and purpose to her life. Now that was gone.

Lucky scratched at the screen door, urging her to let him out. “No way, young man,” she said. “You aren’t getting lost in those woods again…not if I can help it.”

Kian leaned back and stared out at the trees beyond the small stream as she sipped her coffee now growing cold. She could see the soft glow of the sun as it made its way into the rose-colored sky. The air had a freshness to it and wispy tendrils of fog rose from “her” valley.

The longer Kian sat there, the more her thinking was pulled back to that dream.

But this time it was different; it wasn’t a dream. This time she was the girl in the cave. This time when the tunnel opened up, she felt herself pulled through and she could see something or someone there. She tried pulling back, but couldn’t do it. She looked closer, straining a bit. She saw… what? Two people, a young man and a young woman. The man’s red beard was well trimmed, his eyes blue, his hair down to his shoulders. He was, Kian guessed, about her own age, strong and muscular. Around his curly hair there was a coronet of gold. The woman was younger than the man. She seemed innocent and trusting. Circling her golden hair was a coronet of silver. The couple looked familiar, and then Kian saw her parents kneeling there.

Other people solemnly chanted behind them.

Suddenly a garrote was thrown around each of their necks, their heads were pulled back, and daggers slashed across each of their throats. They fell forward into a dank pool of shallow water, red spreading out in swirling ribbons among the tall swaying reeds. Kian wanted to scream. But she could not.

Then she heard a voice whispering to her. It sounded like Uncle Jacob’s: “Willing Sacrifice. Sacred three-fold death. It’s okay. It’s okay.”

Willing sacrifice? Three-fold death? OK? Kian shook herself and, with tremendous effort, she pulled away refusing to let herself think about all the other times she’d had Visions. Some had even been premonitions. “No, not premonitions,” she always told herself, “just coincidences.”

Kian jumped up and bolted inside, letting the screen door slam firmly behind her.

 

Background notes:

August 1stLammas:

Lammas, August 1st, is one of the pagan cross-quarter days. Half way between summer solstice and fall equinox, it marks the beginning of the harvest. Another cross-quarter day, Beltane, is just three months prior and is the beginning of the planting season. Beltane is, therefore, associated with re-birth and new beginnings. (You may have noted Lucky came into Kian’s life on Beltane.)

Lammas, at the time of the harvest, was also the time the Corn King was sacrificed, his blood soaking into the fields to nourish them for the following year. As the wheat was harvested, so was the Corn King. Thus Lammas has traditionally been the time of sacrifice. But, as I have been told, the sacrifice must be a willing one.

Kian’s 28th birthday:

There is some numerology here. 2+8=10. Ten is new beginnings and for Kian a new stage in her life is beginning. 2+7=9, the culmination of the old life. On her 27th birthday, things changed for Kian and her old life ended.

Three-fold death:

You will find the three-fold death described in The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: How the discovery of the Lindow Man revealed the secrets of a lost civilization.

Whether the Lindow Man was sacrificed on Lammas, we do not know. But the manner of his death was preserved in a bog near Manchester, UK. That his death was sacrificial is clear.

Candle-working:

Staring at the flame of a candle is an old method of scrying—bringing on visions of the past, the present, and the future.

The mysterious Hudson Valley:

Stay tuned. I will have more to say about the Hudson Valley in coming posts.

I suppose I should add here that Kian is fictional, as are all the characters and the plot of this story.

 

 

References:

Ross, Anne and Robins, Don (1989). The Life and Death of a Druid Prince: How the discovery of the Lindow Man revealed the secrets of a lost civilization. New York: Summit Books.

Photo Credit:

By Matthew Bowden http://www.digitallyrefreshing.com (http://www.sxc.hu/photo/148763) [Attribution], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice

As far back as I can remember I have always wanted to write and to write well. To do that you need to just write and keep on writing.

So about five years ago I began that journey. I started with a simple exercise from an on-line creative writing class and just kept at it. From that simple exercise, characters emerged and—as characters often do—they had their own minds. I sat back and watched them move around and interact, developing a story of their own.

Along the way I took some classes and thought, “Hey, maybe I could get this published.”

That was when I hired a writing coach. Big mistake.

I think every writer should print this out and post it on their computer:

It is better to write for the self and have no public than to write for the public and have no self.

Cyril Connolly The New Statesman, February 25, 1933

I am not kidding about that. Somewhere in the process I lost my self and followed the advise of “experts.” Until I realized I was writing their story, not mine.

From that experience, I have rescued what I could. I present it here in installments and with commentary because it is the background of this story that is important to me. Hopefully it will be interesting to one or two others because, as my coach and writing teachers never understood, the setting, history, and spiritual concepts behind the story are “real” and that is what makes the story, not some contrived “arc” in the plot. I may have invented the characters but their world is based on what I have knit together during my less than traditional studies over the last fifty years.

So here is the first installment of Willing Sacrifice. At the end you will find some of the historical and magical information on which this is based.

Jacob_van_Ruisdael_-_Stormy_Sea_Nationalmuseum.jpgJacob van Ruisdael [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Willing Sacrifice

Prologue:     12,000 years ago

I, Ainan, Chief Guardian of the Ark, watched as Kyann, my priestess-wife, stared into the candle flame. “M’Lady, what do you see?”

“Our enemies have been blown off course,” she replied. “But the storm comes our way. We must prepare.” She stood with a stately grace and shook back her long auburn hair. “Get me the Ark. We need a weather-working.”

There were eight of us in the small below-deck cabin of the ship. Fear was heavy upon us, and I watched Yonos put his muscular arms around his wife Miryan before kissing her head gently. Gryffud reached for the hand of his wife to move closer. Ka’morion stood alone, deeply saddened for having lost his wife in our escape. Only tall lanky Oron, barely old enough to shave, stood apart staring at the floor.

I retrieved the Ark from under the small bed that served my wife and I.

As I set it gently on the small table, Oron spoke, tears rolling down his face. “M’Lady, it will not work.”

Kyann stared at her brother. “What do you mean?”

“I have used the Ark to bring the storm to our enemy. Now it cannot be used to stop it. I am sorry, I only wanted to send our enemy far from us.” Never looking up, he staggered up the steps toward the deck.

“How could you make magic that would hurt another?” Ka’morion shouted after Oron, pounding his beefy fist onto the small table. “You know it only comes back in kind! You know there is always a price to pay!”

But Oron was gone.

Our small ship started to jerk roughly. The pounding waves were mounting more of their fury against us now. One hit broadside as Kyann grabbed the table for support. Whether from shock at what her younger brother had done, from the fury of the waves, or whether from fear, I could not tell.

Then even stronger waves smashed into the ship. The boards creaked and groaned. Water splashing upon the bow trickled down into the cabin.

“I did not tell you all I saw,” Kyann then admitted. “There is more disaster to come.”

She told us she had seen us paddling our coracles—our life boats—on the open sea, our pursuers not far behind. With her voice rising, she shouted over the sound of the raging sea. “Our ship will be crushed. We must prepare for the worst.”

The bile ran strong into my throat, but I could show no fear, I knew that. Instead I asked, “Do we destroy the Ark, M’Lady?”

“No, I have a different plan.”

Kyann held the Ark gently in her hands. As designated Keeper of the Ark, she removed the two wings from the kneeling forms. “Miryan, you take these. Without them the Ark cannot be opened. You and Yonos take the smaller coracle and try to make your way south. We are not far from land, maybe two days. The rest of us will take the other coracle and go north if we can. Our only hope of saving the magic within this Ark is to separate the keys from it.”

At that point, tears streamed from Miryan’s eyes. “Kyann, I cannot leave you. Yonos and I are sworn as your Guardians.”

“You are the Ark’s guardians. Not mine.” Kyann kept her voice steady and calm. “And you have a duty. We will meet on shore when it is safe. But if I am captured, run and hide the wings. Do not try to save me. Do you understand your duty?”

“Certainly, M’Lady.”

I could see Miryan’s vexation as she silently wrapped the two wings into a dark silk cloth and tucked them in her ample bosom.

“Yonos, I charge you as Miryan’s Guardian. She is a Keeper until wings and Ark can be re-united. Do you understand your duty?”

“I do, M’Lady.”

I will not lie. Though we kept our manner and bearing strong, there was fear and dread in all our hearts. Had we come this far only to lose the magic of the Elementals to our enemy—an enemy that would use it for selfish means?

Moments later a huge wave smashed into our small ship tilting it sideways and knocking us all about. Then the groaning boards snapped and torrents of water poured in from above.

“Hurry,” Kyann said as she rose and shoved the Ark into its ebony box. “Let us save what we can of this day. Miryan, have no fear. If we do not find one another on the shore, the Great Mother will reunite wings and Ark again one day.” Then she added, “Tell your children that.”

With that, Kyann placed the Ark in a pack and strapped it to her back.

As we struggled up the steps toward the deck and into the pounding storm, waves continued crashing into our small ship and we desperately held on, calling out all the while to Oron, but he never answered.

With the help of Ka’morion, Gryffud, and Yonos, I managed to untie the coracles and just as we all started to climb in, another monstrous wave hit. How we were not crushed by our ship, I do not know. Instead we found ourselves in the raging sea trying to get to the wildly bobbing coracles. Yonos managed to push Miryan into one before climbing in himself. The rest of us somehow reached the second coracle. I took the helm, allowing our small boat to ride the waves rather than fight them, praying all the while that we would survive.

We never saw Miryan, nor Yonos, nor the wings again.

And now as the sun sets on our aging forms, we and our children continue to pray that they are alive and somewhere safe. What happened to them, we do not know.

Signed: Ainan, Chief Guardian- Book of Knowings,                           In the year of Atl 3496

 

 

 

Background notes:

Some of you may recognize this Prologue as I published it April of 2016 as part of the Book of Knowings series in this blog.

Here is some of the background on which this prologue is based:

Arks:

An Ark is simply a box or container. There have been many. The most famous are Noah’s Ark and the Ark of the Covenant, containers of precious things indeed.

New World Crossings:

That people have been coming to the Americas for millennia is not a new idea. Indeed, this blog has recorded some of the more convincing evidence to show that ancient people visited these shores, perhaps even settled here to escape persecution in their own lands.

12,000 years ago:

This was a turbulent time on earth as the ice age ended and massive amounts of melt water dumped into the oceans. We like to think the melting and therefore the rise in sea level was slow, but that was not the case. Earthquakes and tsunamis were regular occurrences as the pressure of the glaciers was released and tectonic plates readjusted under the continents and island. It was a dangerous time to live.

Weather-working:

There is a story that Sir Francis Drake performed a weather-working to stop the Spanish Armada from invading England. We do know the armada was blown off course and crashed on a rocky shore, never making it to England.

Those who have studied magic of this sort will tell you there is always a price to pay when you use the natural forces against another. Sir Francis Drake certainly paid the price as he fell out of favor and died a broken man.