Act 1: Chapter 7, Part 1

Posted on October 01, 2017

Chapter 7: In Which Evan is Befriended

In Which Angie Prepares the Calling

Angie. First Day of School. A Little Earlier, Before the Battle.

“Hey, what you up to?” Ryan spoke behind her as Angie dug through her stuff.

She’d half taken over one of the small rooms in Ryan’s basement suite with enchanting, art, and more general magic supplies, mostly scattered around in paper bags without that much organization. She mostly knew where everything was.

“I gotta do something,” Angie said. “Just in case.” She was collecting what she needed in a bag she’d just dumped out in the corner of the room. A bunch of candles, mostly white, with one blue and one yellow for the elements of the spirit she wanted to talk to. “I’m not about to lose Evan when I just got Megan back.”

Ryan didn’t respond immediately, but started digging through her stuff as well. “What do you need?” he said after a few seconds, pausing.

“Still need saffron,” she said. “And do you have any ideas for how to substitute for owl’s eggshell? I don’t think I have any, and that’s my surest guess as to how to pull this off.”

Ryan had started digging for another couple of seconds when she said saffron, but now he paused, holding a bag with some sort of journal or diary type book in it, frowning down at it. “Owl’s eggshell? You trying to contact that storm owl?”

“Yeah,” Angie said. “I figured I’d have the most luck with someone I’ve met before, and she gave me a name, unlike any of the other spirits I've met. I think she might be the most useful anyway.”

“You don’t have any owl feathers either?” Ryan asked.

“Obviously not,” Angie said, her tone coming out somewhat crosser than she intended. It was getting late and she was getting tired, which wasn’t ideal for a working like this. She should have some owl feathers. That was a stupid oversight.

Ryan sighed. “Let me see what I can do,” he said, then left the room. As she continued to collect what she needed, she could hear the telltale creak of the third, fifth, and ninth stairs as he climbed up to the main floor; the creaking of the old floors was always enough to track other members of the household, if you paid attention to it.

When Angie was three steps up the stairs, Ryan appeared at the top, and had to wait until she reached him, because even as skinny as they both were, it would be tough to squeeze past each other with the stuff Angie was carrying. He was holding a trio of eggs. Regular chicken eggs from the fridge, to be precise. “What on Earth are those for?” Angie asked, feeling rather cross with him.

Ryan frowned back. “You really want me to take the time to explain?”

Angie growled at herself. “No, not really. I’ll be out back.”

Angie strode through the kitchen and out through the back door, taking a second to touch the salt frame1—for luck or reassurance, she didn’t know. She hadn’t made a point of doing that when she left a house since she was twelve, but the dumb little childhood ritual brought her a little comfort as she stepped out into the night.

It’s not like she’d never been out after dark before. She stepped out into the darkness, leaving the back door light off so that her eyes could adjust as much as possible. She stepped out among the old apple trees that surrounded the Grove and granted the old boarding house its name. The apples, close to but not quite ripe, hung from the trees as simple dark globes in the gloom. The City would probably have someone along to harvest them soon. Above, the moon hung gibbous in the black, a few wisps of cloud intersecting with its face, lending the night an eeriness Angie would have just as soon done without.

Angie settled in a clear enough area of the backyard, and started, as quick as possible, setting up her supplies. One by one, she placed white candles into a circle around her, ten of them, one at each point of a platonic clock with the twelve o’clock aimed north. Excepting at three and nine; at three o’clock, due east, she placed a yellow candle, for the thaumaturgic element of air, and due west in the nine o’clock position she placed a blue candle, for water.

Once the candle’s were arranged to her satisfaction, she knelt facing north in the center of the circle holding a thirteenth candle, a kindling candle, longer and more slender than the others. With a lighter (matches were better but she was in a hurry) she lit the kindling candle, and one-by-one, she used it to start lighting the circle, starting with the northernmost candle and continuing clockwise. The yellow and blue candles flared up brighter than the others when she lit them and stayed that way, despite their otherwise identical sizes.

Angie’d just lit the last candle and blown out the kindling candle when Ryan stepped out the back door. The candles had improved the gloom in the yard a surprising amount, she noted, as she rose to her feet in one smooth motion, stepping out of the circle southwards and turning around to face it, one corner of her mind keeping track of Ryan as he crossed the gloom between her and the circle of the candlelight. Then she knelt to reach into the bag that she’d brought with her, dug around a bit to pull out a small copper chalice, a cloth, and a cream-silver candle. She paused, looking at the items remaining in the bag.

“Shit,” Angie said, looking up at Ryan just as he reached her. “I forgot to grab something of Evan’s to give her to track him. Can you get something for me?” She looked at Ryan’s proffered hand and what it contained: it was an eggshell, neatly cracked and split in two halves. It was, maybe, slightly smaller than a chicken eggshell. It didn’t look that different than what he’d carried downstairs.

“Sure,” Ryan replied as she looked at the eggshell. “Hair if I can find it?”

“Hair or nail clipping,” Angie replied. “Or something from his gun cleaning kit would work in a pinch, I think. He spends a lot of time with that. Or a photo, I guess. Is this really going to work?” She said the last sentence as she accepted the eggshell.

Ryan frowned. “Do I ever question the efficacy of your work?”

“Once or twice,” Angie said, raising one eyebrow at him.

“Okay, yes, but not for… at least eight or nine months,” Ryan replied in a shamefaced grumble as he turned and headed back inside.

As he did so, Angie set the shell aside with care, and spread out the cloth. She place the chalice in the center of the cloth and the candle to the chalice’s eleven o’clock. Then she pulled her remaining supplies out of the bag and arranged them along the east edge of the cloth. Then she settled herself into a cross-legged position. She leaned forward and lit the kindling candle using the six o’clock candle of the circle, then used it to light the altar candle, before blowing it out again.

Then Angie sat back and sighed. She started taking slow, even breaths. She needed to center herself if she was going to pull this off. She couldn’t let the gnawing fear for Evan, or the simmering rage at him, make her rush, fuck things up. The owl might be offended by a botched calling.

Angie watched the flame of the altar candle, started murmuring a simple nonsense chant that she had made up when she was a kid, babbling for fun. She’d just liked the sound of it, she supposed, because she’d used to sing it to herself a lot when she was alone; now, it served as a useful tool for driving other concerns out of her mind. “Sheh re shoh rah ti queh teh quah, an ro on reev int lo ent leave.” Enunciating clearly each word’s difference from its fellows made it a bit of a tongue twister, and concentrating on saying it quickly and clearly, on the purely physical sensation of forming the gibberish with her mouth and tongue, served as both a vocal warm up and helped her get her head clear for the actual chanting.

As she repeated the phrase, the sing-song rhythm of it filling up her mind, Ryan came out of the house again. As he approached, he said, “Evan really needs to vacuum in th-oh, sorry.” This last he said at a lower volume; Angie presumed he realized she was muttering to prep for her working. “Hair,” he said, stepping around her and setting a small sealed baggie with a dozen or so little hairs inside, almost invisible in the shadows of the candlelit night, down with the rest of her supplies on the east edge of the cloth.

“Thanks,” she replied, interjecting it between two repetitions of the chant. She noted Ryan retreat without further words, and settle himself on the back steps, his phone out. Gathering data, no doubt. Angie paid him no more mind.

  • 1. The border of solid salt crystal built, in an easily replaceable manner, into the window and door frames of most structures, even in humid places like Seattle, where it was extra important that the frames be easily replaceable.