Selkies' SkinsInstallment 56Chapter 29 (part two)
Dreams and Divination
Dreams and Divination
Morvan tossed in his own bed. As the days stretched and he complied with orders his sleep grew more and more restless. A great weight pressed down on his chest, slowly growing heavier with each passing breath. For now he did not feel it, lost in his dreams. Beside his bed stood a stallion, ink dark with ruby eyes blazing and competing with the fire for the privilege of lighting the room. Tendrils and whisps of swamp mist, burial shroud, and the requisite night of underground caverns flowed serenely to form his mane. A solid iron hoof, ever unrusted, stamped lightly on the stone floor.
Imp watched in glee, hopping up once more on the nightmare’s shoulder and stroking his mane with relish.
“Pretty pretty. Thank you for coming again.”
The nightmare whickered in reply and exposed his teeth, all points and serrated edges of tempered steel and sharpened bronze. Morvan moaned again and clasped his arms around himself.
“No, don’t come any closer!” Morvan whimpered, sweat beginning to pin his hair down.
The nightmare watched the boy, snorting. “Of course.” He replied. “I’ve never failed the Cailleach yet in her corrections.” He sniffed. “Ah, there, he’s opening back up. Do your thing while I get my feed.”
With that, the nightmare laid his large head on the boy once more. The weight on Morvan’s chest increased and he fell deeper into dreams. The nightmare’s eyes glowed brighter as he sucked in the fear and life energy of the little speck.
It was going to be a very busy night indeed once he returned to his lovely mares and possibly bred up a few new foals for his mistress. They would be needed soon if he guessed his Lady’s agitation right.
While the nightmare fed Imp climbed up his neck and ran down his head before jumping. He made sure to land right on the boy’s nose, then sat down and let loose with a long, swampy fart. As the heavy scent of rotting foliage bubbled up around him Imp grinned maliciously, his mouth splitting all the way across his face and literally ear to ear.
He bit Morvan’s eyebrow heartily, being sure to draw blood and sucked hungrily. It wasn’t as sweet and pure as what Mistress Kirsty sometimes fed him though. Hers tasted of honey, cold spring water filtered by clean rock, old magic—that was smooth and sweeter than watermelon—and brine and it never failed to give him a zing and tingle from top to bottom no matter how little of it she fed him. Morvan’s though was copper and the tang of fear, and some slimy rotting flavor that he could not quite put his finger on. What taint did he carry in his blood?
Icky. Maybe it was excrement or the remnants of some curse.
Imp drank it anyway and took a little extra, just because of all the things he’d done and likely would do to his kind mistress. He’d be sure to steal Morvan’s shoes before morning and put them under Professor Gerwulf’s hat. They were maybe a little small, but they were in much better shape than his own. Maybe he would like them. Yes, that was what he would do, because the Professor was kind to Mistress.
Imp shook himself, teeth still firmly clamped in the squirming boy’s face. It was time to focus or he wouldn’t be able to pick his head for more information on the amulet. When he found how Morvan had been bringing things on the school grounds and told mistress, then he might be more favorite than that drippy old waterhorse. He could get more lovings and pettings and maybe even pressies. Master David might be pleased with him too. He was much harder to please.
Imp shook himself again, pulling away from thoughts of praise. Instead he delved as fast as he could into the boy’s mind while the nightmare—nightstallion might be better—had him cracked open like those coconuts some of the students clopped around with when being funny.
Nutters they was. Bored humans did strange things.
Imp poured his awareness through the crack. It felt much like running between a couple narrow rocks where the springs bubbled out of the ground onto the surface where his old stream had been fed from. The difference was that he was going against the current, and this was a mind he was worming into.
Imp found himself in a large room, perhaps as big as Kirsty’s parlour, kitchen, mudroom, and Finnol’s study combined. It was not as large as the dining hall of David’s home though. He saw a large fireplace, easily large enough for two people to walk through at once. Curios gleamed on shelves and walls, as well as a few selkie skins mounted.
Imp bared his teeth, barely restraining himself from bouncing up to take those down and try to return them to owners or family. Those owners were likely long dead though. Some had names below them, which certainly would have made it easier to go through with the idea if this were not just the boy’s dreams. There were also what looked to be bits that had belonged to boats, and in one case a figurehead of a barebreasted and rather fierce woman, with blue paint swirls slowly flaking away from her cheeks as she gazed balefully over the room.
He was unable to resist jumping up to more closely check some of the names. “Zendra Makay, collected off the African coast... Salena Moribeth-Makay, Duestschland... Germany, really?”
Movement caught his eye by one of the wingbacked armchairs drawn around to face the fireplace. The pale haired irritation cowered into the cushion, his face tight while gazing into the fire. Vague purple and green flames licked below the regular orange and yellow flames that strove to heat the room unsuccessfully.
Morvan took a deep breath and leaned forward toward the flames, apparently picking up where he had left off. His hands shook as he extended them, tossing another yellow handful of a powder that billowed acrid clouds into the air.
Imp gagged. “Sulfur. Don’t tell me he conjured demons for this.”
Morvan drew a breath, then extricated his gangly body from the chair. Crouching, he scratched out chalk diagrams of what Imp thought to be one of the Greater Seals of Solomon...if he remembered Mistress’ book of Talismans well enough. Morvan sat himself in the center of this, then drew a pocket censor out before placing it before his crossed legs.
Dragon’s blood resin dropped onto the materialized coals and let up a much sweeter and far more palatable cloud, which mingled with the nonsense syllables. Imp’s body prickled, and he wished that he at least had hair to raise.
He sidled behind the nearest curio, a piece of wood that still stung of an iron ball. If the painted figurehead had been able to glower any more fiercely at the boy’s fumblings then he might have burst into flame then and there. Imp half expected a bevy of demons to flame up from the fire and drag Morvan from the circle back into their world.
No such thing happened.
Morvan waited, gazing into the flames and keeping his hands extended. His breathing slowed and he could feel his eyes begin to bulge and his brow furrow while he concentrated on generating the needed energy. Some he could pull from the incense, but most he was aware was coming from him. Perhaps, this time, he could make contact with something. Anything. He was a Lilitu!
His bones were beginning to ache.
He was ready to give up, mentally chalking this up as yet another failed experiment. What good was it to specialize in dark magic if one couldn’t conjure a lesser demon to bring him the sort of thing he needed? What use to channel his energy into this? He needed some way to hurt her. It didn't matter what had started the feud, only that it be ended the way it must. He'd give anything for that honor to be the one.
The flames flared finally, rising to fill the fireplace and the room was suddenly awash in light and heat. The stench of sulfur filled the room even more powerfully than what he had cast on the flames to open the gates. Black smoke rolled forward and encompassed his circle.
Imp turned to liquid and hid himself within the dry wood he’d been hiding behind. Even though it was only Morvan’s dreams and memories, there was still the possibility that this was indeed an actual demon.
Morvan tensed, waiting for the demon to materialize. A form started to congeal before the circle. Morvan smiled.
The form just as suddenly dissipated, as if once observing Morvan the demon wanted absolutely nothing to do with the boy. Morvan stared as the smoke roiled back into the fireplace and the flames squatted back down, taking the heat with them.
“Why?” Morvan screamed as he jumped up, stepping forward and out of the circle.
The stones in the firebed cracked and yawned open, exposing a chasm shot with glowing globs of molten goo. The dream started to pixelate.
“You are supposed to serve my family! Come back and hear my demand.” The boy screamed.
“Come back when you’re older, little boy.” The ground itself seemed to growl the answer.
Imp slowly extruded a bit of himself so as to better see and hear.
“Since you do exist you would be well served to remember how my forefathers bound you.” Morvan stood as tall as possible for his small frame.
“You would do well to remember you’re just a puffed up toad in an expensive suit compared to me. Tell me, child, do your parents know you’re here trying to get me to help you get revenge against a little girl like yourself?” Low chuckles rolled up from the depths.
“The Makay whelp is no ‘little girl’ and you will give me something that I can use to expose her.”
“Go crawl under your blankets before you wet yourself, little girl. If you really want something you can use to hurt her with, go look in the vault for the amulet that has the purple glow. You’ll find it.”
Morvan clenched his fists and gritted his teeth, remembering the oppressive, dark hole. “I’ve scoured the vault several times already, and there is nothing there that will do it.”
The demon sighed, shaking some dust from the mantle. “Are you really that dense? Astereth regains his strength for another cycle. That means that the amulet will work. If you use it, you will be rewarded well.”
Morvan stared doubtfully into the chasm, but could not hide the queasiness that the name filled him with.
“And what if I don’t use it? As you say, I’m still a child. It may be one of those I’ve already been passed, but not all of them I’ve learned what’s required yet?”
“Astereth will collect your soooulll.” The demon wailed up merrily. “And I might have a chance to finally be free of you brats and your petty demands.” Laughter followed as the chasm slammed shut, bringing a load of dust down from the rafters and on top of the formerly still clean boy.
It was only then that he realized he had stepped out of the protective circle. Morvan narrowed his eyes and stepped back in, going through the motions of bringing the ritual to a proper end.
Morvan made sure to use the Lesser Banishing Ritual...even though the demon appeared to have left. Crossing himself, he intoned, “Atah Malkuth Ve-Geburba Ve-Gedulah Le-Olahm, Amen.” After a pause he drew the four banishing elemental pentagrams, drawing them always widdershins, and turning widdershins as well.
The blue flames that lit the pentagrams’ lines burned black at the tips, not quite able to purge all of the remaining energy. However, a vague breeze did curl though the room lazily, bringing a little fresh air and the scent of sea and bloom.
Imp hated this ritual, it always left him feeling vaguely unwelcome, though never fully dismissed. Mistress always performed it so much better when she did feel a need to use it to get rid of things bothering Mrs. Kitsch and the few other people vaguely within the Point’s jurisdiction.
Vague...that pretty much summed up Imp’s opinion of Morvan’s whole performance.
Morvan tried to call on the Archangels next. Imp was unsurprised when said archangels completely ignored the summons. Well, perhaps not completely ignored...
A mound of sparkling sludge materialized at each quarter. It smelled of appleblossom and frankincense, but had a decidedly soft consistency suitable for manure. “Angel excrement? I wonder what the family, or Morvan, did to annoy Archangels that badly. Mistress will never believe that one.” Imp struggled not to laugh, not to influence the dream, but he was starting to bubble with the effort.
Finally, Morvan’s farce ended, and he stormed to the fireplace, then through.
Imp leaped down, returning to his regular shape, and tried to follow, only to splat against the stone backing.
“He’s starting to wake.” The nightmare’s voice slid through Imp’s mind.
“Coming back out then. Maybe next time I’ll get it. Preoccupied with demons.” Imp let the dream go, following the stream back out and returning to himself where he crouched on Morvan’s face.
“Who’s Astereth?” Imp asked as soon as he was out.
The nightmare went grey at the name. “Someone that my Mistress thought she was done with. A former student that was removed from the cycle of birth because of his penchant to take away Their servants...” He made his way on silent hooves toward the window and jumped through, galloping away though the sky as the light began to turn the sky a matching shade of grey.
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