by Xenophon Hendrix
Sunday morning, after doing about a half hour of exercise, I got out the willow burl I had cut off the tree Saturday and put it in the wooden-jawed vise. Taking a medium-size gouge and a mallet, I began carving it into a small bowl or noggin. I didn't worry about making it round; I just followed the natural contour of the burl. It was going to be the replacement for my ritual cup. Because I was making it from material I had collected from nature myself, my spells should thereafter be somewhat more efficient and powerful.
It didn't take long to make an adequate hollow in the wood. I replaced the gouge with a smaller one and smoothed out the rough cuts. Then I replaced it again and smoothed some more. By the time Mom called me for brunch, I was in the process of giving the interior of the bowl a rough sanding. I had decided to leave the bark on the outside; I liked the rugged appearance.
As we were eating, Mary said to me, "Kirsten invited me over to go ice skating at the school with her and Pam. Did you want to come along?"
"Nah, no thanks. I'd sooner take some tweezers and yank out my nose hairs."
"Bawk, bawk, bawk. Have fun."
"Band practice is at one, right?"
"Yep. Try not to break anything you use for music." We helped clean up and then Mary took her skates and left on her bike.
Before it was time to practice, I had really wanted to perform the location spell in another place, which would allow me triangulate the rough position of where the goat had been sacrificed. Unfortunately, my assistant had just gone ice-skating, and I couldn't think of any place with the requisite privacy to work the spell that wasn't also out in the cold. Going into trance under conditions such that freezing to death was a real possibility simply wasn't something to do alone. Familiars are useful for such situations, thought Ursus.
Do you think we could find one?
I don't know anything specific yet about the spirit realm of this node, so I haven't any idea. That said, I'm not ready to go looking for a new familiar. I hope to someday be reunited with my old one.
Can we scry for her?
We can, hypothetically, but we don't yet have the strength, control, or the tools needed to scry across nodes, so it wouldn't actually work.
Could we try scrying the local spirit realm, just for practice?
Getting a bit addicted, are we?
I admit that I find magic the ultimate coolity.
Coolity? I think you just made up that word.
Perhaps. What about scrying?
Practice is good, and we might learn something about the local metaphorical dimensions. Be aware, though, that scrying metaphorical space is inherently more dangerous than scrying physical space. We're more likely to run into something that both takes offense and can do something about it.
I'm still game, if you are. Arthur, what about you?
I'm in, if you both are.
All right, thought Ursus. The same rules apply as last time, but even more so. You two better let me be in charge.
We set up, used the guitar to gather manna, and cast and purified the circle. Instead of the old cup I had borrowed from the kitchen, we used our new willow noggin, even though it wasn't yet finished, to hold the purification water. We gathered more manna with the guitar, put a drop of blood into the scrying water, and began deepening our trance while staring into the pie pan.
I lost track of time, and visions began to form. They were inchoate at first, but I eventually began seeing--and sometimes hearing, feeling, and smelling--things that made sense. I saw a forest that was greener than anything on earth. I saw a rocky desert with a line of humanoid figures walking across it. Although they were wearing long robes, I say humanoid, because they were taller and skinnier than a line of humans could be. They were chained together at their ankles.
I saw something that I originally took to be a bird, but then it came closer and I discerned a long tail. Then it came even closer and landed upon a crag. It was a dragon. The vision drew in even closer and I knew that he knew that we were watching him. He winked, and I felt Ursus relax. Greetings, sky brother, Ursus thought at him. The dragon nodded his head once in acknowledgement, and our vision shifted.
We saw a great many things, some that made no sense, and many that were boring--just landscapes or seascapes. Once we saw a sea serpent for a few moments.
Suddenly, a new vision felt much closer, more immediate. It was the back of a young woman, brunette. She was naked and bent over a chair. A man was taking her from behind. We were seeing the vision from his point of view. An angry feeling enveloped us, and the man said, "Get out of my head!"
The scene shifted, and our concentration almost broke, but Ursus managed to maintain our hold on manna. He picked up a toothpick and dropped it into the scrying water. "Where, where, where," he began to chant while trying to re-envision what we had just seen. Arthur and I soon joined our efforts to his.
For a moment, the vision formed again, and the toothpick quit drifting and pointed in a fixed direction. Ursus marked the spot on the pan with his finger--the toothpick was pointing in the same direction as the location of the goat sacrifice--and then ended the spell.
I was aroused and embarrassed about it. Don't worry about that, thought Ursus. We are in a pubescent eleven-year-old body. It gets aroused with a shift in the wind.
Don't worry about it? thought Arthur. Old man, I'm going to go take care of it. We hastily broke the circle, thanked the powers, snuffed the candle, and pretty much ran upstairs into the small bathroom.
After a certain tension had been relieved and we were again in the basement, Ursus thought, as we cleaned up the ritual area, I take it you both felt the change during that last vision?
It felt much closer than the visions from the metaphorical dimensions, I said. I can't explain it any more precisely than that.
Indeed, I'm almost sure it was nearby, and I strongly suspect that we again saw the same man who sacrificed the goat. It's not absolutely certain, but it's the way to bet.
He knew we were there, thought Arthur. And he didn't like it one bit.
Yes, we seem to have discovered someone else with genuine magical ability. As for being angry with us, wouldn't you be?
Of course, no one wants to be spied on at a time like that.
Agreed. When one is randomly scrying, it's usually considered good ethics to "turn away" from any private moments one stumbles upon. What intrigues me in this case, however, is that we were drawn to a scene here in physical space while we were actively trying to scan metaphorical space.
What does that mean? I asked.
Something about the vision was special, Ursus replied.
Could it simply have been my adolescent horniness?
Hmm, maybe. It has been a long time since I've been in a body so constantly aroused. It could be that this brain simply is showing its naturally intense interest in sex. On the other hand, any sex scene should have satisfied that urge, yet we found someone who has at least some magical capacity and knowledge. I don't think it's a coincidence.
Maybe he was singled out because he was a magician and he was having sex.
I suppose that could be it, thought Ursus, but I don't really believe it. Anyway, if we're going to be practicing scrying, we should improve our tools.
I flopped down on the couch. I felt pleasantly tired and wanted to relax a bit before band practice, which was--I glanced at my watch--in about five minutes. I was starting to doze off when I heard Mary say, "Hi, Artie. Kirsten and Pam are getting a ride and will be here in a few minutes."
I didn't open my eyes. "Did you have fun?"
"Uh-huh. After we got tired out, we went to Kirsten's, and Mrs. Kennedy made us hot chocolate. Then we sat on Kirsten's bed and talked. Did you know that Mrs. Kennedy was a music teacher before she had Kirsten?"
"No. That's never come up, but it helps explain how Kirsten started learning the piano so young."
"What did you do this morning?"
"I practiced scrying."
"Did you see anything?"
"I saw lots. I saw a dragon, and I'm pretty sure I again saw the guy who sacrificed the goat."
"Was he killing another one?"
"Not so far as I could tell."
"And you saw a dragon. Wow! I wish I could see a real dragon."
"Once you learn how to hold manna, you might be able to."
Mike, Terry, and Danny arrived at about the same time as Kirsten and Pam. We practiced for a couple hours. Both of the Prestors were getting good at open-chord changes and picking out simple melodies. As circumstances permitted, I passed manna to Mary. I also gave some to Kirsten a few times.
Mrs. Kennedy must have decided to stick around and talk to my folks, because she and my parents came down to listen to us for a while. Oh, well, there was no point in worrying about what they were getting up to. Kirsten's and my mother had been talking on the phone regularly, after all. Thank Bog, my hoodlum friends were on good behavior.
Mike, Terry, and Dan cleared out about three. They wanted to go add lights and reflectors to the pedal car. Except for the windshield, it was just about finished. Danny was thinking about adding a removable canvas roof, but he wasn't sure yet that he wanted it. Terry said, as they went out the door, "We're leaving Art all the pretty girls to himself."
"That's as it should be," I said.
Pam, Mary, Kirsten, and I went back downstairs. Pam was the percussion section while Kirsten gave Mary tips about playing melody on the chord organ. I played accompanying chords whenever they attempted a song. At about four, Mrs. Kennedy called down the stairs, "Let's go home, girls." Kirsten and I had a longish hug and kiss before we went upstairs and briefer ones when I showed her to the door.
"I went downstairs earlier today," Mom said, once our guests were gone, "and you were staring at that damn pan of water so intently that you didn't even notice me. And what's with the crap you had sitting on the chairs surrounding you?"
"Those are my ritual purification tools."
"What in hell is that?"
"Once I cast the ritual circle, I use those to drive off any malign influences."
Mom stared at me for several seconds. "You are so full of horse shit."
"Says the person who reads the horoscopes in the newspaper every day."
"That's just for fun."
"Who says I'm not having fun?"
Mom shook her head and said, "You can help make supper, if you want."
We made hamburgers with homemade French fries. Mom peeled while I sliced the potatoes. Mary cut up some onions to cook with the hamburgers. Mom didn't want Mary and me anywhere near the hot oil, so she deep-fried the spuds herself. I got to cook the burgers, though, when it was time. We made Rich help clean up the mess.
After supper, everyone ended up in the basement to shoot pool, except for Mom, who didn't like the game. I didn't play but sat on the couch designing a new glyph to scribe into the bottom of my scrying pan. It should make the process more powerful and efficient. Ursus and the brain collective eventually came up with a circle, in the center of which would be back-to-back stylized eyes made from sideways "Vs" with arcs between their arms. Immediately above and below the eyes were simple sketches of ears. Above and below the central figures would be circled pentagrams. To the left and right would be circled hexagrams. Representing manna, inward-pointing arrows went between the stars.
The thin aluminum-foil pan couldn't accept a deep etching, so I intended to just scratch it in lightly with a pin. Because everyone but Mom was downstairs, I took the pan and my drawing tools and headed to the desk in my bedroom. No one said anything as I left the basement.
Neatly scratching everything in took some time, so I wasn't finished until just after I heard everyone come back upstairs from the basement. As I walked out of the bedroom, Charlie asked, "What's that?"
"A magic pie pan."
He looked skeptical. "Does it make magic pies?"
"I don't know. I think we'd have to bake a pie in it to find out."
"So, you going to do that?"
"Not any time soon. I'm just going to fill it with water."
"To make magic water, of course."
I went back downstairs and set up and performed the charging ritual. Because of the shallow scratches couldn't hold much blood, tracing them over was sloppy, but I still got the finished feeling at the end of the ceremony.
It was no longer a cheap pan. It was a magical tool. I felt a lot of satisfaction as I pondered that.
I noticed Mary sitting on the couch reading when I got up to break the circle. She helped me clean up and climb the stairs. As usual, I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed.