MC Ch. 31

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Chapter 31: Ivy (III)

For the first time since I was killed and became a ghost, I was feeling useless. Martha Fokker had taken over Shylock’s rehabilitation, and while she was not paying much attention to it, the girl Jenny’s as well. She was also off to talk to the mayor as part of her strategy to defeat Edward Cross and get the vampire policemen reinstated.

What was I doing? Nothing. Giving advice to Martha, whom I did not like and didn’t much trust. Oh, her devotion to her vampires I felt I could rely on. It was her methods and judgment that bothered me. I had asked her to see to Nora O’Donnell, and she had taken advantage of the girl by drinking her blood. And Martha seemed to thrive on violence. She had never looked more cheerful than when she returned here after torturing and killing one of Cross’s sorceresses.

Oh, and I was routinely supplying blood to both Shylock and Jenny, since we did not dare let either loose as yet. Big help. At least Martha was doing something for Shylock. Since she had fixed Jenny’s body, she had otherwise all but ignored her.

Maybe there was something I could do there, but I doubted it. Martha had a spell on Jenny keeping her unconscious, and unless I removed that, I could do little more. But I had nothing better to do, so I took a look at Martha’s spell. And then I carefully examined it in detail. It was odd. It seemed to cling to Jenny a bit more tightly than most spells. And it was a little different, as if it were a slightly different flavor of sorcery. The difference was very subtle. I went and looked at her spell on Shylock. Same two peculiarities. What they meant, I didn’t know. I’d not seen or read of their like. But then I knew of no other vampire who was also a sorceress.

ii.

I felt I had to do something, something within my limited powers as a ghost sorceress that would help Shylock, if only indirectly. So I decided to spy on Edward Cross.

Cross’s establishment, which was both his residence and place of business, was on the Gold Coast. It looked like a mansion, and was fortified by innumerable protective spells. None of them were of much use against a ghost; after all, why would Cross protect himself against spirits who could do him no harm? Of my existence he had no clue. So I passed directly through the grounds and into the house.

That was my first mistake. I had not anticipated that Cross would have sentinel spirits patrolling the place.

It’s rare that a sorcerer makes sentinel spirits. They are difficult to create, and usually not worth the trouble. The sorcerer has to enslave another sorcerer completely, and then transform the enslaved sorcerer’s body into magical energy. The result is an entity that is made up of pure magical energy, obedient to the enslaving sorcerer’s will. Too obedient, as it turns out: they are literal-minded and exert little independent judgment.

However, they are active, unlike most protective spells. I had barely stepped into the house when one caught sight of me and began to pursue me. Rather than admit defeat so quickly and leave, I decided to see if I could evade it. It seemed to be bound by the mundane architecture of the house, so I was able to lead it on a chase and lose it in a hallway by passing through the floor into the basement.

The basement room I found myself in was small, perhaps the size of a compact bedroom. It had cement walls and floors, with one window facing east. And chained to the western wall was a vampire. He was screaming.

It took me a while to understand exactly what was going on. There were two sorcerers questioning the vampire. The vampire was bound to the wall with magical bonds that kept him from transforming. There were two needles stuck into him. One led from a bottle of some clear liquid into the vampire’s veins in his neck, and the other led from his carotid artery to a bucket. Every time the sorcerers asked a question, and got an answer they didn’t like, one of them pressed a button, and simultaneously some of the clear fluid flowed into the vampire’s veins, and some of his blood spilled into the bucket. And he screamed again.

It is hard to torture vampires. They become less sensitive to pain over time, and can take a great deal of punishment. It is easier to kill them, really. I almost had to admire the thought that had gone into this arrangement. The sorcerers were pumping acid into the vampire, while letting him hear his life’s blood spill into a metal bucket. The creature was neither pale, nor bloody, but gray, no doubt from the acid destroying cells in his body.

It is also unnecessary to torture vampires. These were sorcerers. With one spell, they could have compelled this vampire to speak the truth. Instead, they were asking question after question, questions it was clear the vampire did not know the answer to. And more of the acid spilled into his system, and more blood flowed into the bucket.

I could not believe what I was seeing, and then I understood. This was not interrogation, this was not done to extract information. This was torture, and it was meant to terrorize the vampires. I doubted very much this poor fellow would live to the next evening. Like as not, they would let him burn with the coming dawn.

I did not like Martha Fokker. She had killed many people. And she, too, enjoyed terrorizing people. What I was seeing here was no doubt done at Cross’s behest. Was either better than the other? Was the only reason I was siding with Martha because she could help Shylock get what he wanted?

I had spent too much time watching the proceedings, not paying attention to what was happening around me. That was my second mistake. I turned, and saw another sentinel approach me. I turned to run and evade, but found I was being drawn back.

The sentinel had a ghost trap. And I was doomed.

I had been foolish, and now I was going to pay. I would be caught for Cross’s pleasure. And that I would not submit to, not willingly. As I was drawn back to the sentinel and its ghost trap, I used what magic I could to grab hold of the sentinel and the ghost trap, and hang on. The sentinel was taken by surprise and toppled over on me as I was being pulled into the ghost trap.

iii.

The next thing I knew, I was in a featureless, lightless space of unknown dimension. The sentinel was with me, showing as a flickering column of light. It seemed as much confused as I was, probably more so. I think it was trying to figure out how to get back to its normal space. But there did not appear to be any entrance to this space we were in, no portal to another dimension. We were trapped.

I took stock of my situation. We were in a real space, which is to say we could move about in it and the magical energy that permeates the world was also present. I could still do sorcery, if I could figure out what I needed to do. There didn’t seem to be any way out of this place, no sign of a portal at all. I tried pacing out the space to find its boundaries, but within ten paces in any direction I found myself back in the same place . . . or at least in the same spatial relationship to the sentinel. The sentinel itself clearly had no idea of what to do next. It was just standing there.

Presumably in the regular world, in Cross’s house, there would be a portal to this place. It might take Cross a while to notice one of his sentinels was missing and to go look for it. But he or one of his minions would find the portal and investigate. I did not want to be here then. But with every passing moment, the portal back to Cross’s place became a riskier proposition, assuming I ever found it.

All right, Ivy McIlwraith. People called you the most knowledgeable and best-read sorceress of your day, and you took pride in that description. So just put on your thinking cap and figure out how to get the hell out of here safely.

End of chapter thirty-one

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7 Responses to MC Ch. 31

  1. crimsonprose says:

    Ditto previous comment, re edge of seat.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      Every so often, I realize that I haven’t thought about what a character would be doing, and have left the character passively doing nothing. That’s what happened to Ivy. So the issue became figuring out what she would do. She’s an information maven — time to collect information!

      • crimsonprose says:

        It amazes me how you can handle so many POV characters, and each with 1st person voice. I’d more than lose track of them. I’d start start switching voices.

        • Brian Bixby says:

          I wrote my first story that way, because I had to. I couldn’t figure out how characters could misunderstand each other until I forced myself to view what was happening through each of their viewpoints.

          But it’s an uphill battle. One’s style permeates them all, so they tend to sound similar. But trying to make the voices too distinctive not only grates on the reader, but can easily sound as if you’re making fun of your characters.

          • crimsonprose says:

            There I know what you mean. I’m sure Raesan sometimes comes across as OTT; OK to say true to life … “I mean, yea, you would, wouldn’t you, yea, I mean, people do, don’t they, know what I mean …” But en-bulk it causes indigestion. I do admire your ability.

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