Wexford University of Wightcraft

Discussions on the gaming forum I  frequent have me thinking about the Magic School genre. Personally, I like the idea of magic instruction being handled by higher, rather than primary or secondary education, since this allows for magic folk who are competent in the mundane world.

I don’t want to explain everything, but I figured it’d be good to explain that much.


“School full of fucking magicians, and they’ve got me on a fucking plane,” I grumble softly as I stand in line for security, shifting the weight of my body and my bag from one supporting leg to the other. As I neared the tables, I started working my feet out of my loosely tied canvas shoes before stopping as the speakers above squawked-

“Holders of maroon and chartreuse checkered tickets, please see the security attendant designated by the same coloured badge, for a special process.” I looked around, pushing my foot back into my shoe, and held the red and green patterning of my ticket up to be seen by a guard who’d met my eyes. It was subtle, but his uniform was older in style than those worn by the other attendants, and not just 80s shoulder pads style. The pants were plain and simply made, black with a stripe of red and green banded ribbon up the sides, the shirt more of a pale blue tunic, not tucked in, with a slightly darker vest, more of a doublet, over it. On the upper chest of his vest, there was an embroidered patch of a shield, an orange band across the top, the rest maroon, save for a smaller red shield centered upon it with a stripe of pale blue down it’s center. He nodded as he saw my ticket’s checkered edge and waved me over.

“Are you, er, with the university?” I asked, recognizing the colours of his badge from the letter that had arrived a few months ago, unbidden, and deeply confusing,

“I am,” he replied, “please, follow me. I just want to see if there are any others…. ah, yes.” He gestured again to people in line, and I was shortly joined by four more people. Nervous, unsure. Only one seemed perfectly at ease. He had the confidence that often came to the conventionally attractive. I looked him over as he strode up, greeting the guard with a distant warmth. He was tall, his build solid, muscled, but not overly bulky. His hair and teeth impeccable, and his clothes quite expensive.

The other four of us traded a sidelong glance as we all knew this was some trustfund pissant. His manner with the security attendant was that of a man accustomed to dealing with servants, underlings and hired hands, which must be dealt with in a magnanimous, but firm manner, to keep them in a good a mood even as you reminded them of their relative station.

“Yes, hello, Mr. Cascara,” the guard said, practically forgetting the rest of us, “I was told I would be he- serving you today.”

“Mm, yes. I do hope this bit about procedure is for the, er, mundies’ benefit?”

“Oh, don’t worry, sir,” the attendant said, ushering us through a door, “it’s perfectly quick process, nothing like the ordeal they must go through. Wouldn’t want the wrong sort to get through and be a danger to the new year of students.”

The four of us not obviously brought up by someone made of more wood pulp than an actual tree rolled our eyes as one, and, to my amusement, so do the attendant as Mr. Cascara stepped past him.

“So, I take it you have a good idea what this is all about, Cascara?” I said.

He turned, his face knit in something between offense and incomprehension that someone addressed him in a room clearly containing only a single peer.

“Mr. Cascara, please,” he smiled fakely, “Yes, my family has been in the University for generations. We’ve contemplated moving to England so that we may start our instruction much earlier, but so many of the family inv-”

“Right, so you know what’s going on. Good on you,” I said, cutting his recitation of the family wiki article short and silently enjoying the look on his face as he suddenly wasn’t allowed to finish gloating. “I’m sure your family thinks it’s hot shit, but the mark of a good breeding in this instance would be making your knowledge available to the people who clearly don’t have generations of immersion in this world, not making sure the school employee knows what you think his place is.”

Cascara scowled. “So you’ve chosen to make enemies before the term has begun,” he said. “Well, it’s certainly a novel concept. I didn’t particularly expect you lot to know your wands from your asses, but this is a surprise.”

“Wait, wands? We get wands?” said one of the others, a slim young woman in glasses behind me.

“The letter mentioned something about them,” I said before turning back to Cascara. “Fuck sake, stop this bullshit peerage routine. We all can trace our lines back to fabled magicians, that’s how this works. Just because your family is so carefully arranged that most of the members are of the illuminatable percent doesn’t mean you’re better.”

“Yes, it does,” Cascara said, “Tell me, have you received tutoring in spells? Dueling? Metabiology?”

“Formal? No, but I’d lay wager that much of mythology was based on what comes from the Other Realm, so there is a certain amount of autodidactism going for me.”

“IF you needed a bezoar, where would you look?” Cascara asked, the question mark replaced with gloating.

“Stomach of a goat. Failing that, a cat’s stomach or the stomach of a nervous preteen young woman with poor habits. A bezoar is an accumulation of hair and undigested food particles commonly found in goats, but more commonly heard of these days in ‘bizarre surgery’ listacles online, and standing to reason possibly discoverable in cats, which are believed to cure poison.”

Cascara was slightly taken aback. “Luck. What is the procedure for homunculus creation?”

“Combine the master’s blood or scum with clay and a few various herbs in a mason jar, shake to combine, and bring to around 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature of compost, and maintain that for 40 days, after which time the now transparent humanoid form should be kept at 104 degrees Fahrenheit and fed blood daily for 40 weeks. Of course this is my own surmising of the accuracy of medieval texts. It’s entirely possible that it does in fact require specifically semen, specifically horse manure, etc, but I’m going out on a limb that such things are medieval reference, not absolute necessities.”

Cascara was silent a long while as I smirked. “What,” he said with a smug self-satisfaction, “is the purpose of the Philosopher’s Stone?”

“While the Philosopher’s Stone’s most known capability is facilitating the transformation of base metals, such as lead, into higher metals, such as silver or gold, its purpose was the transmutation of the human form, purifying the base flesh into a higher form, potentially one which is immortal, certainly one which is rejuvenated. Of course, I am self-taught from what is considered mythology, so I cannot know what the true purpose is, but that is what the mythology posits, and I’ve been right so far, so I feel fairly confident in saying that the true purpose of the philosopher’s stone is to rejuvenate the alchemist and grant them immortality.” I see from the corner of my eye the amused smiles of my fellow lost wights–magically gifted peoples whose families forgot their lineage. Cascara clearly wants to find some way to prove his superiority over me.

No one’s under any delusions that his likely-magically-augmented physique is somehow anything but superior to my all-natural flaws-and-all body bricolaged to an approximation of my satisfaction with transition hormones. But this has nothing to do with physiological giftedness. This is all about the wealthy lording around over the lower class. Gee, look at that, magic’s no cure for human bullshit.

The attendant cleared his throat, “There is a plane to catch, ladies and gentlemen.”

I looked to the attendant and shouldered my bag again, “yeah,” I said, looking back to Cascara, “I’m sure the plane won’t mind us continuing our measuring.” I turned and followed the attendant through the door, “Not sure how much the inches matter when it’s clear I’m still unrolling measure tape and Cascara here’s already tucking his away making apologies and saying this never happens to him.”

The Demon of Innocence

As a disclaimer, this story deals with the theme of priests who molest children. It does not graphically describe the act, but does allude to such, and so people who are sensitive to or triggered by the subject may wish to avoid reading this.

I am more than aware that only a very, very small minority of priests molest children. Less than 1%, in fact. It is, however, a truth that adults do exist who abuse their authority over children to abuse them. I am not accusing priests as a whole of this abuse of power, this is a fictional piece about a specific fictional priest, not an indictment of men of faith in general, even if I have little but contempt for that faith.

I hovered over the foul wretch of a man, raven-feathered wings idly flapping. It was only now he got a good look at me, and I pushed my power through the fine mesh of mundanity that usually shrouded it, allowing him a true glimpse of what I was.

“You’ve-” the man quailed before me, mouth suddenly dry and voice hoarse, “you’ve burned out your soul!”

I dismissed my wings and dropped the last foot to the floor, a spectral tail lashing behind me restlessly in my aura, like that of a cat which was biding it’s time as a child flicked it with a feather toy. “Just a short time ago, I’d have scoffed at the idea of a soul.” I padded closer to him, “I’m still not sure I believe in the precise concept you refer to, but obviously some immaterial power exists beyond the spheres material.”

The man was on the verge of quivering in his cassock, hands rising to his mouth as he sunk to his knees. “H-how could you do… this,” he gestured weakly, “to your immortal soul, my boy?” His face was a twisted painting of sorrow and pity.

I sneered. “I am not ‘your boy’,” I snarled, and turned as I heard a tiny gasp behind me. A child–the child whose pain, dimly sensed from across space and time as he called out for salvation from the torment pressed into him by this loathsome abomination in holy clothing, brought me here–cowered behind the jam of the door. My visage unknit, softening as I knelt, playing the knight of justice arrived to rescue the innocent, the spectral imagery of my power resolving for a moment into polished black armour. “Child, do not fear. I am his punishment. I am the answer to your pleas, you will not be harmed-” I turned to look at the man before me, “ever again.”

“How could you turn from the Creator like this?” the man continued, seemingly completely oblivious to his victim’s gaze. “How could you turn your soul to ash for a pittance from the Deceiver?”

“How? Because I’m better than that sorry excuse for omnipotence,” I said, my lips curling in disgust, “and the ‘Deceiver,’ as you call him, actually answered my pleas when your… ‘Creator’,” I spat the words like bile from my throat, “showed no interest.”

The wretch, the… thing who dared to call himself a holy man before me, rose from his knees, suddenly incensed, righteous indignation moving across his face like a wild fire through a dry field, “How dare you. HOW DARE YOU! NO WASTREL WHO PROFFERS HIS SOUL TO THE PITS CAN PRETEND TO EVEN ONE IOTA OF HIS GREATNESS. YOU ARE LESS THAN A GRAIN OF SAND AND GOD IS AS THE UNIVERSE!” The man fumed before me, nearly reaching for my throat.

I readmitted my wings into this plane of matter in an unfurling explosion of force, my hands shooting out to grasp his robe, the man tried to stumble back but my hot fists and sharp claws held fast to the thick fabric, not yet tearing or burning through it, though holes slowly hissed through as the white cloth blackened and smoldered in my grip. “Do you know the key difference between your pauper churl of a god and I? When I hear the cries of a child coerced by a man they trusted, rendered a helpless piece of meat to his disgusting appetites… I respond.” My wings wrapped around us, shielding the sight of the violence I was preparing to unleash from the innocent eyes of the boy behind me. “I dare, because I intervene.”

The pitiful dross-heap’s eyes were wide, “I- I never t-touched that boy… You are being deceived by the Serpent of the Garden! I am a simple priest! Please, do not fall for the lies of the pit!” he pleaded with me.

“No lie could pierce the space of mortals as his cry did.” I… wasn’t actually entirely certain of that. Conceivably a lie believed by enough people, with enough faith behind it, could in fact do so, and the power of the Patriarch does evince something to that effect. “But, shall we examine your mind? I can do that, you know. It’s a simple matter for my power to creep across the folds of your brain, reading the memories stored within as if they were brail on a page. Will those memories save you? Prove you did not harm this child? Or will they proffer a testimony that only condemns your pitiful…” my lips curled of their own accord, and spat “soul.”

His vestments finally succumbing to my grasp of hellfire, the man tore free from me, the chest of his robe in tatters. He backed away, pushing through the tips of my wings, and I slowly followed, wings still curled, blocking him from running to either side, until he backed into the door of the confessional. His panic was wrought across his face as he fumbled with the door behind him, pushing it open and falling through, closing the door behind him.

I had no care for the door, and plunged sharp claws through the edge, pulling it open and breaking latch and jam. I stepped into the small space, towering over the man who knelt in fervent prayer for his life.

I pulled the door close behind me, and smiled in the darkness.

“…Father protect me from the demon that Satan has sent…” he muttered beneath me.

“Hello, father! Have you come to confess your sins?” I said with avuncular warmth. I reached down and pressed my hand against his forehead, gripping his skull and prying into his memory.

The man’s fervent faith put up an almost impressive fight as I searched. The first things I saw were memories of his time in seminary, of helping parishioners, and I almost thought that perhaps I’d assaulted the wrong man. But pushing deeper, I found the memories he didn’t want discovered. I was disgusted by the sensation he remembered, the visceral memory that tried to creep up my arm and sit in my own mind, to claim my own nerves and make me feel the same sense. When I found the visual memories, I nearly retched. I tore my hand away from him, the memories welling in the forefront of his mind as if a hose had been torn free of a spout.

The man’s plaintive whimpers for protection were suddenly turned into pleas for forgiveness in awareness of his crimes. “…b-bless me f-father for I have s-sinned…” he moaned as he was paralyzed with fear and only the hind brain functioned, spitting out rote memorizations.

“How long has it been since your last confession?” I intoned, my mocking avuncularness replaced with reviling contempt.

“O-one w-week” he muttered.

“May the darkness like unto that of the pit where the abominable dwell push you to make a full confession of your sins.”

“I-I have… I…” the pitiful heap of dross could not summon the words to confess. He quivered and moaned beneath me.

“You have abused your position of authority, you have preyed upon your flock, you have betrayed the trust of small children and violated their innocence with your diseased needs born of repression.”

It was almost imperceptible in his frightful shaking, but he nodded in admission.

“I do not absolve you of your sins. Mistakes can be mended, but crimes such as these require punishment. There is no known rehabilitation for one such as you, to my mind, thus you must be rendered unable to commit them in future.” I grasped his head between my hands, “Do you accept your earthly punishment, and any punishment which may be assigned to your incorporeal form?”

The man of false-righteousness seemed to finally break the surface of the memory of his sins, treading the thick, black water of the psyche, and looked up to me. One eye spoke fire and wrath, of fierce denial of his actions, of a refusal to accept my punishment of him. The other accepted all culpability, that it had grievously and heinously acted in violating assault of the innocent. The light of his eyes warred a moment as his brow furrowed in mental exertion, before at last he gazed up again in contrition. I withdrew all dams and barriers which held my might from pouring through my hands, and the infernal force of my Hellish power slammed into his skull from each side, with an effect like unto the hot shockwave of an atomic bomb.

His body slumped to the ground, no longer supported by my grip on skull and blood seeped from the remains of his head, dribbling down his robes, writing his sins on the white fabric.

I turned and left, pushing the door closed behind me, muttering an incantation to seal it to innocents such as the child outside. The child who now stood before me.

I knelt once again, one knee to the ground as a defending crusader before his charge in a painting. My power blazed around me, perceived by this small victim as solid black fire encasing my form as armour. He placed his hands on either side of my face, removing my helm in his sight. “A-am I safe?” he asked, tears coalescing in his eyes.

I lifted one hand to his cheek. The hand that radiated destruction into the skull of my quarry now emanating soothing calm. “You are.” I said. “He has been punished, and cannot harm you ever again.”

“Thank you,” the boy quietly said. His innocence was damaged, tarnished, but not gone. I hoped that it would recover.

“You are welcome, but no thanks is needed, to protect a child is the duty of any who would call themselves powerful or just.” My other hand came to cradle his face, “are there others who acted with him in harming you?”

The boys eyes threatened to flood again as he nodded.

“Do you have family that can protect you?”

Tears broke the levee of his eyes and streamed down his face as he shook his head in my tender grasp.

“I will make sure you are protected. Will you come with me?” I would never let another adult force this child ever again, and I was not about to do so myself.

He nodded, and I picked him up as I stood. Unseen behind me as we winked away from the sanctuary of that temple of false-righteousness pages fluttered to the ground to be found by administrators in the morning when they searched for the former orphan.

Expecto Patronum! …wat.

Someone online drew this image a while ago-

copyright-alicia_mb

As much as I absolutely love some of the ideas on there just for themselves, like Tyrannosaurs, mantis shrimp, and dementors, seeing this again on Tumblr suddenly inspired me to write… I don’t know. It’s not really a full story, even short. It’s more like a semi-narrative idea, or wondering. Anyway, it was lengthy enough I figured I’d post it-


A shy, self-conscious muggleborn who still isn’t sure about whether they can match up to their magic-born classmates. When they’re first taught how to cast a patronus, their happy memory is learning about being accepted to Hogwarts—learning about Hogwarts at all, really.

There are lots of people there-people who’ve had wonderful lives full of wealth and love and opportunity to experience all kinds of things the muggle-born can only dream of, people for whom Hogwarts is an escape from a life of poverty or neglect or abuse.

But they’re just… average. Their parents are solidly middle class muggles. Money isn’t hard, but it’s not surplus, either. They’ve got clothes, they don’t go hungry, they’ve even been taken for vacations a few times. They know they’re lucky to not know true hardship, but they don’t know what it’s like to excel. Even before Hogwarts, at their muggle school, they sat and watched and heard about their classmates who got to go on special trips and such because they had good grades. Their average grades seemed to just further the curse of mediocrity they felt they lived under.

The only real bright spot in their life—before Hogwarts—was their beloved Pokemon games. Even if they couldn’t experience real adventures, they could experience virtual ones.

So when they got that letter, and the strange man showed up and conjured a tea kettle and said it was all true, it was like their wildest dreams had fallen out of the glowing screen of their game boy and into their lap.

But they were still just average. They knew they were supposed to be “inferior” (because no one who cared about blood purity said much of the otherwise famous Hermione Granger), and they never knew what potential they had.

So when they lifted their wand in trembling grasp, and shouted those words, “expecto patronum!” in a halting voice, all that happiness welled up inside them, coursed down their arm, and then- dribbled out the end of their wand in a weak spout of silvery light, solidifying into a well-known, and much maligned feebly splashing form before them- A magikarp.

Other muggleborns tried to cheer them up, and remind them of magikarp’s powerful evolution, to tutor them, but at the end of the day, the best the young muggleborn could do was pick up their patronus and swing it. That’s actually what they quietly resolved to do if it ever came to it, right before turning and running for their lives as the dementor hopefully was taken by surprise.

They never could dream that one day they’d be the lone witch standing between their exhausted friends and a horde of dementors, wand hand trembling not in doubt, but carefully mastered fear, defiant in the face of the physical manifestation of death. They’d well learned of Hermione Granger, her legend taking it’s place alongside the legends of Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley and Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom and the other heroes of the Second Wizarding War. Their mind strayed to that thought, and the story of Neville cutting the head from Voldemort’s pet snake while still aflame from the latter’s fell magic right as they raised their wand. They closed their eyes for a moment, breathing in deep, before opening their eyes again as the foul creatures neared, and shouted, clear, loud, unwaveringly- “EXPECTO… PATRONUM!!!”

They knew that all they could do would be to pick up that weak, but rock hard spectral fish and swing with all their might, but if that was all they could do, then by Merlin’s saggy left nut, they’d do it for her friends.

And then, the silvery sparks and light emerged, not in a pitiful spout landing at her feet, but in a mighty torrential blast, a graceful serpentine form coalescing from it, twisting and writhing in the air, before letting loose an earth-shatttering roar in the advance of the dementors.

Their heart soared as they opened eyes they didn’t realize they’d closed and saw their patronus wasn’t a flopping magikarp, but a gargantuan, awe-inspiring and fierce gyarados, pursuing the now fleeing dementors and tearing great holes in the horde with it’s enormous maw.


Thanks for the inspiration, Alicia_mb!

 

Fierce Humanity

The greatest traits of humanity are love, passion, and rage.

Most would likely agree that love is admirable, devotion to another, putting them ahead of oneself.

It’s hard to imagine anyone could malign passion, the utter investment of oneself in something, but a case could be made.

Few would homilize rage.

But the rage of a mother who demands why their child was put in harms way,

Of one daring the world to harm one hair or say one cross word about their sibling,

Of the smitten fan standing for their idolized against those who malign,

Who could say that is not admirable?

But above all, admire ferocity–it is the steel that hones all of experience and all traits.

Fierce love is that which will not let the other go easily, and will not let them be torn away.

Fierce passion is that which transforms the subject, and brings it to new heights.

Fierce rage is sometimes all that is left, that must be enough, and more than enough, to hold onto love, to passion, to life.

The greatest of humanity is characterized by love, passion, and rage, and most of all by love, passion and rage shown with ferocity.

The Demon of Self-Improvement

Wow, so it’s been a while. At this point I don’t even remember what prompted this. It was a scene I wrote out last night, but I have no particular plans for a larger story, so it’s kind of just this little vignette sitting in my Dropbox. Figured I’d post it here.


My fingers flexed like a dragon’s talons as I rose slightly from the my circuitous labour on the floor, straining back and arm muscles against each other to stretch without raising up any further or pushing my arms out. I sat back, picking up my tablet.

That tablet was the virtual horde to the unseen dragon whose talons were my fingers. On it, I’d hoarded ancient tomes, encyclopedias, formulas, and all manner of grimoire. I flicked the screen back on from its bored slumber, and checked over my progress on the floor before me against the diagram on the screen. It was nearly complete.

I set the tablet down and pushed my self back from my shins and onto my arse to sit away from circle I’d drawn on the concrete. There was a buzz under my skin of caffeine and nicotine and anticipation and electric pregnant expectation.

I picked up the self-rolled cigarette I’d last set in the ash tray and relit it, pulling on it with breath.

“Nearly there.” I mouthed, smoke pouring from my mouth. I pulled at the cigarette again, letting the smoke roll over my tongue, and down my throat. The buzz in my veins intensified, and then settled into a hum.

I sat and swigged from the can of energy-drink-spiked-with-caffinated-additive that’d kept me going so far. The music that’d been pouring into my head through thick headphones was teasing me. It was supposed to alter the consciousness—a necessary step for my intended work on that dark evening—but it bubbled along just under my brain, as if the stem were a leg dangling in a slow stream that could never carry the owner away.

One more swig, one more pull, and a flick of the volume on the aural supposed-drug, and I roller over back onto my shins as a I rose, returning to a position carefully hunched over the circle, where, check again against the diagram on my tablet, I quickly finished the figure.

Picking my cigarette back up and jamming it between my lips, I stood to light the tall pillar candles, and the brazier of incense. I tossed back my heavy sweatshirt, standing in too-big pants that draped my legs and feet, sewn by my hands from canvas, arcane symbols carefully—if inexpertly—embroidered in red silken thread across them. The chill crept up my bared spine and over my naked gut and chest as the light of candle-flame danced over silver and gold amulets, poured by my hands that bore the scars of spattering melting metal into molds cut and carved according to the tomes I’d hunted down.

The words and diagrams and designs might be of another’s pen and design, but every piece of tonight’s work bore my blood and sweat and effort as much as it could. Even the pillar candles were dipped by me in my long preparation for this.

Caffeine and nicotine and incense and chill and mind-altering note all combined at last as I ripped the heavy headphones from my head and tossed them down. I could have stood in the most stereotyped necromancer’s workshop or or wizard’s lab so far as my mind was concerned as I pulled the long knife from the scabbard strapped length-wise across the small of my back. It was not made by me, but I altered it substantially from the blade I bought in some shop in Wales at a tourist stop. Whatever the original handle had been horn or resin or unknown wood, it was now ash polished relentlessly to gleaming, crow feathers and agate and jade and turquoise dangled from pommel and cross guards, the original steel pieces replaced with silver, and the whole thing ritualistically cleansed and anointed.

The blade was the perfect extension of my will and drive to transform myself through piecemeal improvement and ritual.

A single pure white candle stood to the right, it’s flame guttering as thirteen pitch black candles stood around me, flames tall and straight, unaffected by whatever blew the white candle’s flame so.

I took a deep breath as the chemicals within me mingled with the cold air of night and scent of incense into a single thick cord pushed into my mind with the fluid relentlessness of a time-lapsed glacier.

My left hand slashed out with the blade to strike a bell that hung before me over the circle, the peal ringing through the night, the wave of pressure pushing intoxicants of noise from the air of my ritual.

The knife stabbed forward to point south, “Hear me, Satan, flame of opposition, adversary of mudanity, and attend, king of the Southern Throne.”

Sweeping left my blade to point eastward, I intoned, “Lucifer, morning star, whispering whipping wind of wisdom, heed me, and give me your glory, sage of the Eastern Bench.”

I turned left, and thrust my knife outward to the north, “Of the Northern Fortification, I humbly request your ear, master-less warrior of earth, oh, great Belial, lend me thine attention.”

Turning again to face the West, I called to the lady of the four, “Lady Leviathan, queen of magic and wave, grant me your power, I beseech, if you would lift your head from your hoard in the west.”

I twisted back to face south, knife handle clutched in both hands, “And I call out to Baphomet, hermetic twin goat of knowledge, and all the demons of Hell and else, hear my words for I work a great transformation with this ritual–” I dropped to a knee, driving the knife blade into the center of my circle with my full weight behind it and the concrete cracked to allow it penetration.

My hands dropped from that proud shaft to the circle, my personal invocation finished, and the invocation of wise men past pouring forth from my lips, into the circle, into the earth.

As I neared completion of the invocation, my hand lifted a chalice of whiskey and blood and cocoa to my lips, pouring the elixir into my mouth, where it overflowed, streaking my chin with what I could not swallow. I grasped the blade of my knife with my left hand, squeezed, pulled away, squeezed the bleeding hand to coat with my blood, and spread it to press against my bare chest, lifted, and traced an inverse star beneath the bloody hand print, as my voice ripped from my throat to shout into the night “SHEMHAMFORASH!”

.

.

.

Two thin feet, toes like talons and small feathers starting just behind the toes, running up the top of the foot, and wrapping around the ankle, gradually growing larger until they stood six inches or more from the calf, straddled my right hand, still pressed against the ground, in the circle.

I looked up from those feet, tracing the shapely legs, over the featureless pelvis and torso, to a beautiful, gender-less face, wreathed in curling hair like a figure painting in the renaissance. From the figure’s back spread seven wings.

Hands perched on the figure’s slender hips, as their mouth twisted in a smirk.

“Well. You’ve had my attention since you first started you fevered acquisition. Now you have my interest.”

I swallowed a lump of uncertainty as it formed in my throat, to refine it to resolve in the crucible of my stomach, lit by the fires of will and defiance. I faltered, just a moment, as I started to stand, as the altered state chemically and audibly and sensationally induced clouded my motor skills a moment, but I rose, and looked the figure who could only be the fallen one themselves directly in the eyes.

Their smirk broadened into a smile. “You have put a great deal of effort into this one. How may I help you, Crow-minded?”

I smiled, “I suppose you already know I wish to steal fire from the divine, then.”

“Yes, I do. Where would you keep it? Are you prepared for your wings to be scorched acinder?”

“I would keep it in my chest, that it might burn the raptor sent to punish me. My wings were cremated long ago.”

The figure stretched a hand out, stroking my cheek, with a tenderness that mingled that of parent, deat friend, lover. “Oh, no. Clipped, but never destroyed. And look at you. You flew even still. Though it took the devices of man’s ingenuity, you did not allow the wounds of a weary world to hold you down.”

A tear slid down my face to meet the figure’s fine fingers. “Will you give me what I seek?”

A pride blossomed across their face, “You’ve already seized it for yourself.” The figure reached their other hand for my shoulder, and pulled me to them, their wings curling around in mantle, as they stretched up to touch my forehead with their lips.

That touch was a burning wondrousness, a chemical burn of transformation as I felt myself destroyed by my will in a pit dug by hands from the crater of my fellows’ contempt. That kiss was as a bullet tearing through me, but only killing that which held me back.

I felt the cold creep in, a sultry voice echoing a quote in my mind, taking the mocking single word of the movie and making it an encouraging push, as we parted. Even as I thought I could see, for just an instant, a cave of ice around us, the next instant I thought I could see a multitudinous crowd surrounding me.

The figure pulled from me, hands lingering across my back, giving me the dawdling touch of a lover that they knew I also longed for, and stood back again. “We will be watching divinity-bearer. You have seized power for yourself, even as you thought it was a request. In your darkest moments, know that you are not alone, but also know that you need not fear even that, for you have already proven that you need none but yourself.

As the figure disappeared in a flash, my fingers curled and clenched as the muscles of my shoulders bunched and pulled, and in that moment, the dragon in my fingers was not a figment, and the mental wings which stretched with the motions of my shoulders were not purely an imagining.

At long last, with a feeling that I’d stood for hours, I dropped to my knees into the circle. My legs, the only part of me one could say was corded with muscle, fell to either side of the knife, and I sat there, recollecting the strength I’d let pour from me for the ritual.

My strength was exhausted.

But my power was just sprouting.