The Holidays are still real mean.
This is Part Two of the Bad Ritual short story, if you haven’t read part one yet, you can find it here. Make sure you catch part one first!
Patton stood and waved the crowd away from the corpse, turning back to face it. He closed his eyes and muttered under his breath, holding his hands out before him, fingers interlocked in the vague formation of a rune. He shut out the murmuring of the students as he spoke the incantation, and before him, a small speck of bright light emerged from nothing.
The white dot swelled and swelled as ethereal mist floated from the floor and into the center, devoured by the ever-growing orb. It grew until it was barely larger than a baseball and Patton silenced his incantation, the echo of his words reflecting around the room and feeding a tiny amount more into the orb.
When Patton opened his eyes, the center of the orb split. A crease dividing the white shell of his magic in two and opened. The eyelids split to reveal a bright blue iris within. A rune scratched into the surface of the eye, floating before him. Patton turned to face the class.
“This is an Arcane Eye. A product of Sorcery, which I have chosen to adopt for the expressed purpose of divining the cause of this woman’s murder. I feel that this is a perfect time as any to explain to you, that if any of you are caught wielding Sorcerous abilities without the consent of the Silverforge, you will be stripped of your essence and your Lapis Parvus will be broken.” Patton tucked the small sheet of paper he revealed to aid with the spell into his pocket. He turned back to face the Arcane Eye as he directed it towards the fallen woman, and it went to work.
It flitted through the air, sporadically and quickly, examining the marks on her body and inspecting the traces of magic that remained outside the realm of human observation. Occasionally it turned to look at Patton, who waved it on to continue.
The Eye looked back toward the woman and widened as it set its gaze upon her skull. Patton turned to look back at the students, whose faces widened with a shocked expression as they watched a small beam of light shoot from within the center of the eye and pierce the woman’s flesh. The light poured through her skin and into her body, illuminating out of her mouth and ears, flickering as it reflected off her guts and bones. It infiltrated everything, and in response to the new force, her body began to glow, ever so faintly in the center of the old shop.
“Perfect, we’ve found our root cause.”
Patton reached out and put his hand atop the Eye and grasped it firmly, sure to keep it in place as he closed his eyes to inspect the evidence that he had discovered.
Patton opened his eyes to find himself floating within a small basement, his body transfigured to match that of the eye, and he viewed the space around him. The basement was messy and in extreme disrepair, below him, there were two children playing pretend as they lashed out with fake whips and swords at fake beasts that came to take them. Their giggling filled the room as they conquered droves of imaginary beasts.
When they overcame the looming threat and saved the kingdom, they took off up the stairs of the basement to alert the guard who initially sent them on their quest. Patton watched as the Eye illuminated the imaginary figures in the midst of the children, shimmering outlines of beings which were never there stood and spoke. The guard himself donned in heavy armor and bearing a standard outside the city gates. The children passed by him and entered the city, what appeared to be their mother’s study.
Within, the young boy, Andy, distracted the captain of the guard while the young girl, Angela, began to search through the belongings in the chests. Patton chuckled to himself as he watched the two of them playing and reminisced on his own youth. When he fought with swords, they weren’t imaginary. When he fired guns they shot true pellets. He found himself longing for the feelings of his youth once more, as the image before him began to tear, slowly at first. It quickly became distorted and broken.
He panicked, fearing that he would lose sight of the woman’s memories, he neglected his own and focused on the task at hand. As he did so, the image returned clear as crystal. Angie had plucked a large book from a locked box within the study. She had opened it with Andy watching, their imaginary game vanishing before them at the sight of something more interesting.
“What is all this, Angie?” Andy leafed through the pages, confused at the sight. The images within scrawled in black ink with care, unlike anything Patton had witnessed before. Each rune was perfectly aligned, and before each page with a perfect rune, there had been more torn out. The Spellbook didn’t feel that loss of pages, however. It was still rife with perfect runes as Patton observed each turn of the page.
The children took the book with them, as Angie read aloud a list of ingredients they would need. After collecting them all from the kitchen, they returned to the basement, locking the door behind them. Patton passed through with the power of the Eye and observed them, hanging behind them and watching as the two children drew an exact replica of the sigil on the steps of the basement. Angie turned the page and began reading the list of ingredients.
“Alum, 2 oz.” Angie read, and Andy organized them on the steps.
“Sprig of parsnip.”
“Two cloves of garlic.”
“Andy.” Angela looked up from the list. “What is a newt?”
“Does mommy have any newts?”
“I’m sure, somewhere. She had all this other stuff.”
Angela looked around, frustrated. Unable to find a newt in the basement she ascended the steps, taking care not to step on the sigil they had drawn in chalk on the steps.
“I’ll go look, you keep doing this.”
She unlocked the door and Patton watched her leave.
In the basement, Andy looked up at the open door for a moment and when Angie had departed, he turned back to the book, continuing with his duty.
“Cardamom?” He looked around at the small pile of bottles and cans that Angie had collected, and Patton sighed. Trapped within the spirit of the Eye, he hung from the ceiling watching Andy arrange the ingredients with only a few struggles as Angie returned. In her hands, a small glass jar with a newt inside, crawling around its new prison confused and likely afraid.
“Did you get it?”
“Yeah, I got it.” Angie opened the lid and flipped the container upside down onto the stairs, trapping the newt within as she descended.
“Is it ready?”
Angie lifted the book from the ground and began reciting the words written within, a pausing every few moments to decipher them. Patton continued watching in silence as she finished, and a fizzle erupted from the sigils on the floor. With a loud pop and a series of sparks the ingredients burnt up and vanished into smoke. The small jar containing the newt flipped upside down with one final pop and smoke poured from the circle where the newt was once laid, in its place rested a freshly cooked lizard. Seasoned to perfection.
The siblings turned to gaze at one another with wonder in their eyes at the new thing they had found.
“Mom is never allowed to complain about making dinner again!” Andy exclaimed, running up the steps to meet the cooked lizard and picking it up, taking a bite out of it.
Patton watched the kids as they finished their snack, and when they had taken every piece of the creature for themselves, they turned their attention once more to the Spellbook.
“Since that worked,” Angie looked towards her brother. “Let’s try this one!”
She pointed down at a new page, with a new sigil, perfectly scrawled into the parchment. Atop the page, Andy looked at it with wonder.
“Ritual of Plenty.”
Angie nodded. “Read what mommy wrote.”
Andy sounded out the words, many of them too difficult for him to say, but Patton could see the notes written and his heart sank as he read them.
“Ritual of Plenty, 1794: Dark Saint LaLaurie – Alteration for the creation of servants, bounty, and friends. The rites of the Ritual are defined below.”
In the blank space below, where the rites had once been written, the children’s mother had replaced the words with a small note of her own creation, in an ancient language that the children were far too young to understand.
“Current Composition, 3/8ths of a soul.”
“this ritual is forbidden, and it is forbidden for good reason.”
Thank you so much for reading and sharing. As of yesterday I’ve doubled my past record of views on the blog, and I know it’s a silly metric, but I am so incredibly humbled by this. Mean for the Holidays has been something close to my heart since 2016, this is the third year I’ve done it and this is the first year I’ve successfully completed it. I mean, we’re still a few days out, but everything else is docked and ready to go.
All you need to do is see it.
There is water, there is fire and there is so much more coming. But first, Bad Ritual, and the Culling of Creation.
I hope you have an amazing day today. I know I am.
If you missed anything from the Mean for the Holidays release, you can find all of the relevant links here:
I’ll leave you with that for now. Something is coming soon.