Vic set a steaming cup of tea on the table and gently placed their hand on Kristal’s shoulder, “Kristal, wake up.”
The woman tensed as her eyes shot open and she expected to see something lurking above her. In a moment, she was already opening her mouth wide to scream before remembering what Vic looked like. She relaxed, but only a hair, and pushed herself up to sit against the arm of the sofa. “How long did you let me sleep for?”
Vic sat across from her on the sofa with a mug of coffee, brown like sugar–thick and sweet. “Half an hour. You need more, but you need this lesson even more. It gave me time to ward the place, make sure nothing comes in.”
Kristal picked up her tea and nodded her gratitude.
“Ok, so here’s the deal. You live in a world with monsters and witches and magic. The fact that you most likely did not know this for certain, and certainly did not know the precise nature of it, is credence to the efficacy of the Vow of Silence, which is the deal struck by the supernatural community to not reveal their existence to humans so that humans would not come after them with pitches and torchforks,” Vic quipped. “Broadly speaking, there are six major lineages, and then there are the anathema. There are also varieties of each lineage, but you’ll get the basic idea. There are the werethings. They call themselves the lycanthropes because none of them came from Greece originally, and so they don’t care about Greek. There are the vampires, you know what those are, I’m sure. There are the automata, which are artificial beings. Adam, the Golem, androids, that sort of thing-”
“Er, Frankenstein’s monster. He was named Adam.”
“Oh. …he wasn’t real, was he?”
“Yeah, he was. His lot are called Frankensteins. Reputedly, he did not much care for that, but it stuck.” Vic sipped their coffee before continuing. “There are leviathans, creatures which descend directly from the chaos dragon mother of monsters Tiamat, or people which ate leviathan flesh, and then there are transhumans, people which made themselves more than, and witches, people who adapted their heart and soul to magic. I save transhumans and witches for last because there’s honestly a good deal of overlap.” Vic looked Kristal over for any sign of acceptance or final mental snap. “With me so far?”
“Yeah… and that’s it?”
“Well, no, there are also the anathema, creatures which typically hail from the other realms, and refuse to get with the program. Demons, goblins, fae, evil plants, zombies, monstrous animals like chimera and swarms, and so on. But for that, we need to talk about the other realms. There are three worlds beyond the mortal coil we grew up on—the Dark Reflection, or Limbo—Hell, for all intents and purposes; the Gloom, or Mictlan, a world of death and cold; and Maya, the Dreamworld, realm of monstrous beasts and sapient plants.
“Every supernatural draws power from one of those realms. For example, as a Baal, I draw my power from Limbo, it allows me to conjure flame, and gives me the magical energy to use to see auras, like you do. As a warlock, I also have spells, but those are somewhat separate, and require learning from tomes. Powers are mostly innate, though they can be learned as well.”
“Can normal people learn spells?”
“It’s possible, but there are really two strata of ‘normal people,’ Luminaries and the chaff. Luminaries are people who have some extra spark—if you saw people emanating golden light, those are Luminaries—which the chaff do not. This spark means that when they are turned into a supernatural, they retain their individuality and sapience, becoming a full supernatural. When chaff are turned, say by a vampire, they become near-feral beasts called spawn. Or they just die, if they’re left for dead by a lycanthrope. When a normal person attempts to learn magic, they typically learn, at best, one spell or power, and have poor control of it, and they’re referred to as cultists, since they usually learn magic through a cult or are quickly grabbed hold of by one after they learn their magic.”
“Am I chaff?” Kristal asked, mortified.
“No, you’re a Luminary. If you were chaff, well, I’d have basically been required to kill you. Trust me- it’s better than the alternative would have been. But no, you are a Luminary, and you’ve basically been made a Baal. The Limbic energy of the pot basically burned out your soul. …sorry.”
“So… souls are real.”
Vic made a face of theological discomfort, “Yeah, but it’s not really what you’re probably thinking. There are a lot of ways for supernaturals to come back from death, and none of them—even leviathans and werewolves, who don’t lose their souls in their transformation—have said anything about any kind of afterlife beyond Mictlan. There are some people who wind up in Limbo when they die, usually because of mucking around with stuff from there, and there are people who wind up in Maya when they die, but most people become ghosts in Mictlan.
“Soul, as we use the term, really refers to a core of humanity which basically makes one react badly to magic. If you get changed into a vampire or lycanthrope, your soul is changed, and your powers don’t really do you any harm. If you’re an automata or leviathan, you have a different kind of soul, which doesn’t react poorly to magic—at least, not as badly as a human soul, which has a tendency to make its owner go insane when magic hits it. Transhumans change their own souls, and witches, well, we destroy ours. Dryads replace their hearts with magic seeds that turn them into something more akin to a plant, khaibit turn themselves into something more like an animate corpse, and Baali, well, we just fucking burn our souls out.”
Kristal’s home evinced no particular devotion to God, but a small piece of her, verging on a racial memory of devoutness and religious superstition piped up inside her. “But… so… what will happen to me when I die?”
Vic sipped on their coffee again, looking over the top of it at Kristal. “Well, that rather depends on what you do while you’re alive. And I don’t mean in a general good deeds and bad deeds sorta way.” Vic pulled their shirt collar aside, showing a complex brand and tattoo just below their collarbone. “See, if I die, this thing here will do a quickie one-time rez on me-”
“Oh, sorry, resurrection. There’s a power-slash-spell, it’s called all kinds of things when you’re looking at it as a spell, when it’s just a power someone has, it’s called Restoration—very original, I know—which returns a person to life. It’s a one time thing, and I have to make sure I have I have the mojo to let it do it’s thing, and if I’m impaled or my head’s been separated, I need to be taken down or reassembled, but basically, this puts me back on my feet so I don’t sit around as a ghost waiting for someone to come along and convince them to do it for me.
“So, if you get one of these—I can put you in contact with the people who do ’em—then when you die, you come back after a few hours as a ghost. Or, if you make the right friends, one-a them can do a Restoration on you.
“If you mean metaphysically… well, you will probably become a ghost in Mictlan until you’re pulled back. If you die in your sleep, well, then you become what’s known as a Jalus, the lost soul of a person who died while their mind was in Maya. If you give a demon or a goblin claim to your soul, you get pulled into Limbo. But notably, none of this prevents you from getting Restored.”
“So…” Kristal tried to muster a response to all of this, “so wait, does God exist?”
“Not so far as I know. There are a load of potent fucks claiming to be gods, and, yes, there are demons, but every mythos has evil fucks who want to take what is essentially you, so it’s not like that’s a sign of God’s existence. Hell, having thought on it, and seen enough, I’m starting to think a load of the supposed gods were just powerful supernaturals. You see a guy throw a bolt of lightning up another’s ass, and suddenly Zeus is a lot more human-seeming.”
“Ok… so… about the seeing things?” Kristal said, still trying to cope with the new world she’d been thrust into.
“Ok, so that’s a power, typically called Aura Perception. It’s pretty much the primary thing you get when you become a witch. It lets you peer into the shallows of other worlds, and see the true auras of supernatural beings. Because you’ve been transformed by an artifact of The Dark Reflection—Limbo—you’ve got your eyes stuck on that world. Each world has the Shallows and the Deeps, with the Shallows being basically an overlay of the mortal coil, and the Deeps being just that world.”
“How do I turn it off?”
“You just do. You just decide to not use it anymore. You didn’t know what was happening to you, so you didn’t know you could do that. Hoping for something to end and turning it off aren’t the same thing. So, take a deep breath, focus on your eyes—closing them may help—and will your eyes to see only the mortal coil.”
Kristal did as she was told. She closed her eyes, and focused her attention on the darkness behind her lids, and then… “Wait, how do I will something to happen?” she asked, her eyes still closed.
“You decide it’s so.”
“Oh.” Kristal focused on that blackness again, and just… decided that she wouldn’t see the demons of Limbo and auras of the supernatural.
“Ok, open them, and look at me.”
Kristal slowly opened her eyes, and looked at Vic.
“Oh.” She said.
“I mean… I… didn’t know you were a woman.”
“Um. Ok, yeah, sure, physically, yes, I’m female,” Vic said.
Kristal just looked at them quizically.
Vic sighed, “Yes, my physical sex is female. I’m transgender, meaning I identify differently from my physical sex. Specifically, I’m gender queer, I identify as both male and female.”
“Oh.” Kristal considered for a moment. “Are all Warlocks-”
“No. This is a person thing, not a supernatural thing. I mean… if you look at history, there was often complicated gender stuff ascribed to the magic people and spirit talkers of various non-abrahamic cultures, but no, there are a lot of witches who are male or female and a lot of warlocks who are male or female. Warlock is just my preferred term for my status as a magic using person. Just like I prefer to be seen as and referred to as ‘them’.”
“Oh. Ok, so I can turn my visions off. Could- Could I turn them on again?”
Vic smiled inwardly for the return to the talk of the supernatural world. “Yeah, same way. You just decide to turn it back on. You need to keep in mind how much energy you have in you. Now, unless you have a secret life as a murderer that you’re very successfully hiding, I’m going to assume you’re a Lunar witch, which is to say, you gain energy from the rise of the moon. It doesn’t have to be full, it just needs to rise. And you’re specifically tied to the moonrise schedule of your home, meaning the Pacific timezone. You could be in Egypt, and be filled with energy in the middle of the day because the moon rose here.”
“How much energy do I have?”
“Well, it’s not like it’s in tangible units… but generally a new supernatural can, say, activate Aura Perception 13 times between recharges.”
“And I recharge when the moon rises?”
“Most likely, yes. There is a possibility that you recharge by inflicting harm on people, which is unlikely, as you would probably have run out of power and had the visions stop for that reason. There’s also the possibility that you are on what is known as a ritual power schedule, which requires you to spend two hours doing something specific. Such as absorb energy from the pot. That’s entirely possible. How much time have you spent in or around the kitchen since you got it?”
“Well… actually the pot was in my room originally. I moved it down here just a night or two ago when the nightmares got really intense.”
“Well, then it’s even more likely,” Vic said. “You can always experiment, and may want to, since it’s good to know when and how you get your power, and you’ve got some new capabilities to learn to use.”
“So, what else can I do?”
“Well, that’s very vague. You get to see auras, you can push people around, and you can manipulate peoples’ memories. Beyond that, it really matters more what you learn. So I’d recommend taking a much needed rest, get some sleep, and then start getting to know that pot. It’ll be the source of your initial sorcery, then you can learn spells later. Each witch walks their own path, and all the others are no more than guides.” Vic stood, slipping their coat back on. “So, get some sleep. Get to know your pot. Take two magic-acid-trips and call me in the morning.”
Kristal stood to walk Vic to the door. “Thank you. Do I owe you?”
Stepping out of the house, Vic reflexively pulled a white cigarette from her case, where cigarettes alternated regular white and black clove, and lit it. “Well, this was an intro to the world of supernaturals. My usual rate for that is $100, more if it takes particularly long, or I get mauled because it’s some out-of-control werething with a deadbeat sire—happens more than you’d figure—so paypal it to me.” Vic considered and sucked on their cigarette, “plus $50 for the warding and mirror-sanding. Oh. Speaking of, it may be hard to see in your mirrors for a bit. I mean, I didn’t sand them, with, like, sandpaper. I just magically embedded sand into them—it’s how you nullify infernal magic, sand. It’ll be absorbed, should be fine in a day or so.”
“Ok. One-fifty. Glad I have savings.”
“Good. Wait’ll I introduce you to the society,” Vic said.
“Eesh,” Kristal grimaced, “What’ll that cost me?”
“Eh, I just charge ya twenty bucks and gas money for that. The Syndicates pay for the actual intro since it encourages us to actually introduce you guys.”
“Ok. Imma go sleep now…”
“You do that.”