Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 26
“Okay, I like that,” Nikki said with a grin.
Tierra looked confused. “Is there a joke in Dex’s character’s name? I don’t get it.”
“Seriously?” Holly said. “Geraldine ‘Geri’ Rigger? Never heard the term ‘jerry-rig’ or ‘jury-rig’?”
“Basically,” Dex began, then stopped as he realized Holly and Seika had already started speaking — both of whom stopped at the same time. After a couple of “oh, wait, sorry” moments, they let Seika explain.
“It means to put something together in an emergency using stuff that wasn’t really meant for the purpose. I think it came from old navy stuff.”
“Okay, I get it. Sorry, I’m so thick sometimes,” Tierra said.
“Oh, bah,” Dex said. “Not knowing stuff doesn’t make you thick. You know tons of stuff I don’t. Like how to make art. I suck at that. I don’t even know the terms for whatever it is you do to make some of these things.” He gestured at the intricate steampunk jewelry and symbols Tierra had made over the weeks. “So anyway, yeah, Geri’s a researcher with a focus on archives and gadgets. One of her key aspects and catchphrases is ‘I can rig something up.’ Holly said you guys needed someone who could help you find out key information and maybe do quick fixes in the field if you dragged her along.”
Since Dex was new, this session had to be spent on character creation — which was just as well, since the weird encounter with Cordy had Holly tense. She glanced over, saw the hint of white that told her that Silvertail was once more watching them. Me and Seika need to talk with him afterward.
Dex was now concentrating on figuring out details for the character and starting to investigate good connections for his character to the others. “So, Dex,” Holly said, not without some trepidation, “what did happen to your other group?”
The blond-haired boy didn’t look up, but his shoulders hunched the tiniest bit as he answered. “The GM, Steve . . . he had to move. Finally got a decent job, which he really deserved, but it wasn’t near here. I couldn’t walk to any of the other guys’ houses, though, not in reasonable time, and I’m not old enough to drive after dark. Well, I could walk to Anne’s house, but they have cats and I’m allergic to ’em, so that was out. That plus the fact that none of the others wanted to GM, well, it just faded away.”
Crap, now I feel terrible about that too.
“So you didn’t just choose our group ’cause it’s all girls,” Caitlin said.
His head came up just a little, and while there was a darker shade to his cheeks he was smiling a tiny bit. He must have expected that question to come up. “Um, well, I won’t pretend I didn’t notice, but no, gaming’s like the only thing I’ve done with other people, so it’s important to me. I’ve never put myself in a group that way, though, so I was pretty scared coming up and asking. Wait, I guess I should say I’ve never physically come up and asked. I met Steve through online RPG stuff and that was how I got into that group to start with.”
“Boy, you are a total geek,” Tierra said, but she did smile at him.
“Yes, I am,” he said. “And my old group said that I sometimes get too loud and pushy so if I do here, I want you guys to tell me right away.”
“Don’t worry,” Holly said. “If none of the others do, I will lay the smackdown on you.”
The rest of the meeting proceeded smoothly; during one point when the others were talking with Dex, Holly texted “need 2 meet” to Seika; the other girl just glanced up with eyebrows raised; Holly nodded emphatically.
As Holly boarded her bus, Seika jumped up behind her. “Hi, you can drop me off with Holly.”
Tillie, the driver, nodded and waved her back. “Your dad already texted me to let me know. Everyone sit down!”
The bus ride seemed longer, somehow; they both talked about school stuff on the way, but neither of them was really thinking about what they said, but about what might be said later. And Seika doesn’t even know what’s up yet.
Finally, however, the bus halted, the doors opened, and the two of them bounded down the steps and ran up the driveway. “We’re here, Dad!” she called.
Silvertail, in his human guise, stepped out of the kitchen. “Just getting dinner ready. It will be a few minutes. Hello, Seika. Your father texted me to let me know you were on your way.” His expression shifted. “Am I to assume there’s Maiden business involved in this sudden change of plans?”
“Yes,” Holly said. “By the way, how the heck do you get here so fast?”
“I drive, Holly. I put my car in various nearby locations so I can reach it easily, and leave as soon as it’s clear you’re on your way out. With of course wards on my car to make it less easily noticed wherever it is parked.”
“Oh. Duh.” She saw Trayne pull out his own phone and text something quickly as he went to check on dinner. “Who’re you texting?”
“Seika’s father, of course; he had asked if this was . . . business, so I am letting him know.”
Naturally he’ll want to know that. Things had gone mostly back to normal between Holly and Seika’s parents in the last couple of weeks; they had apparently questioned Seika extensively and made her promise to speak about anything that made her uncomfortable — which was all exactly as it should be — but they were adapting with startling speed. Maybe Silvertail was right; the magic knows we have to stay together, so it makes it easier for parents to accept us if we force the issue.
“All right, girls,” Trayne said a few minutes later, putting helpings of a chicken casserole in front of them, “What’s our situation?”
Holly described her strange encounter with Cordy Ingemar. “I took her purse to the office to make sure she got it back,” she finished, “but I’m sure she didn’t have a chance to put her phone away, with the timing and all, and if she had, well, she’d have had her purse in her hand, so why would it be on the counter?”
Trayne looked pensive. “I wish you could have notified me of this earlier, Holly — ”
“Your phone disappears when you turn into a rat, Dad. I can’t text you, and I’m not going to talk to you in person, or next thing you know they’ll call me the Rat Whisperer.”
He rolled his eyes. “As I was saying, I wish you could but I understand that it was not feasible. Still, I will have to go back there tonight and see if there are traces of mystical powers in the area.”
“Mirrors,” said Seika positively. “Check the mirrors.”
“Why . . . ohhhhh, yeah,” Holly said. A number of films and animations ran through her head, along with urban myths such as “Bloody Mary.” “If she wasn’t talking on the phone, the mirror’s a meme-riffic candidate as an alternative.”
“And one that goes back centuries, yes,” Trayne said. “With some exceedingly dangerous beings that have made use of mirrors, reflecting pools, scrying crystals . . . yes, I believe you have hit upon a very likely source.” He ate a few bites thoughtfully. “Do you agree with my interpretation of the dialogue you quoted? She had arranged for something, or asked for something — ”
” — and the result wasn’t what she wanted. Sounds like a classic ‘Jerkass Genie’ to me,” Holly said.
“A . . . colorful description, but a well-known phenomenon. Unfortunately there are a number of beings that can offer such bargains, and each of them will be somewhat different in terms of how they are to be dealt with. And several, I am afraid, that could potentially be using mirrors.”
Seika looked thoughtful. “But these things aren’t just going to be randomly popping up in mirrors, right? I mean, if they did, the chances they’ll just freak people out is huge, and that doesn’t get them anywhere.”
“An excellent point. If we are correct, your Cordy must have had some reason to expect to communicate with something through a mirror or similar means. She would have invoked the being. Now unless her family has some extremely old and esoteric traditions, this would mean she heard about it from someone else.”
“Got it. You’re saying our enemies would’ve introduced it as some kind of rumor and Cordy must’ve given it a try. Must have scared her half to death when it worked.”
“Yes. But once invoked, such beings already have some small hold upon you. It is not easy to simply turn away and leave them, or to avoid summoning them again.” He frowned. “And for many of them, a true attempt to reject them once a pact has been made is very dangerous.”
“Crap. So Cordy is in danger –”
“Or others may be, if Cordy is persuaded to continue to work with this being.”
In danger. The words nagged at her, and suddenly she remembered the announcement. “Oh my God.”
“What is it, Holly?”
“Dad — Silvertail — these things, can they kill people?”
“Some of them certainly can, if that is the request made.”
“Someone at our school just died. They announced it this morning.”
He leaned forward. “What? Give me the details.”
“Don’t have many details, but . . .” She thought back and quoted the announcement as best she remembered it. Seika corrected her phrasing slightly.
Trayne Owen looked very grave now. “That fits with Cordy’s reaction, and with several possible causes. Holly, you and Seika stay here. I must go examine that bathroom immediately, and I have a far better chance of doing that unobserved than either or both of you.”
“But what if something does see you?”
“I have become extremely good at escaping over the millennia, Holly. Had I not, this war would have come to a very bad end a long, long time ago.” He strode to the door. “I assume I will know more this evening once I return, but in any case, you must discover how Cordy heard of this phenomenon, and if possible find a way to talk to her, to keep an eye on her. For almost all of these beings will try to increase their hold upon their victim . . . and expend their victim’s own soul and will in the process.”
As the door closed, Holly and Seika exchanged glances, and she knew what the other was thinking. The last attack was obvious.
But now our enemy’s getting smarter.