Lighting Candles in the Dark Part V: Smoking Wick
"What kind of name is Thurman-whatsis Greymantle?" asked Wilcox of the bed-ridden sorcerer.
"As I have said, he is not human. The corrupt ones where he is from have strange names, though they are masters of deception. They use whatever name suits their fell purposes."
"And he is using the name of Miles Thurmond here? We shall find him. Starbright has the resources."
"I am gladdened, Matthew. I ask that you do not attempt to capture him yet, as he is dangerous. Only I know what he may be capable of. I need to heal before I am ready to face him again. Perhaps the Father might be of some assistance in preparing for him. He has seen the necromancer in action, when I was ambushed."
Father Tobias Rothwell stood silently, staring at the sorcerer. Two days ago, he had not known anything, really, of sorcery. But since the battle that pitted this sorcerer against the necromancer Greymantle, and angel against demon, the night before last, he had sought out help in understanding it. And gaining help in punishing the dark sorcerer for laying waste to part of Providence. Here, it seemed, was that help. A sorcerer of good, strange as that might seem.
"Father Tobias? You have nothing to fear from me. I know that you have been taught that sorcery was twisted by the Deceiver into something evil. But there are those few who overcome that, and fight in the service of the Creator. Christ always finds a way to stop Satan."
"I can tell you speak the truth, yet it still bothers me, that sorcery can be used for good. It is much to overcome, a lifetime of knowing a thing is true."
"It will come in time. Go back and tend to your flock; when the battle comes, you will be summoned to have an honored place in it."
"I thank you. A question, if I may. What is your name? Mr. Wilcox didn't say."
The sorcerer smiled warmly. "I have not yet spoken it. Relations between Matthew and I have been strained, as he is not as strong in faith as you. I am Tandalus Zivo, Knight-Sorcerer of Christ."
"The secret order I am a member of. We hope that you will preserve the secret. Secrecy is a powerful weapon in defending our faith."
"I will not speak a word about them, either," said Wilcox suddenly.
"I know that, Matthew. But what of the others?" The three turned their heads toward the two young women standing near the door out of the isolation ward.
"What about us?" said Sandy. "I'm not going to reveal any secrets. No sirree."
"Neither will I," said Melissa precisely. "No one would believe me, anyway."
The sorcerer looked at them carefully, and Melissa stared back cooly, raising an eyebrow. "These have some connection to Greymantle, but only in the tools that they use."
Wilcox broke in, "I will have them detained."
"What?" asked Tobias.
"That will not be necessary. I can convince them they remember nothing of us. Then maybe someday, they will turn back to the path of the Creator."
"You won't harm them, will you?" asked Tobias.
"No, that is not my way. They are no threat if they... forget the events of the last two days. Bring them here."
Sandy turned and banged on the control panel, trying to get the door to open. Melissa merely stood alert, hands extended to ward off the men. Wilcox said, "Come, this will not be so bad. Your life will be considerably less complicated."
"Waah! I don't want to be brainwashed!" cried Sandy. She turned at the sound of a cocked pistol. Wilcox trained his ever-present Lynx on them.
"I'm sorry, Melissa, Sandy, but it's for the best," said Tobias quietly. Wilcox grabbed Sandy by the arm and brought her over to the sorcerer.
"You lend your trust too easily, Tobias. I hope that you find that out before something terrible happens."
"I am trying to stop it."
"Just consult that god of yours, and find out what He tells you."
"I already have."
"Father? Wake up! I didn't see you come back in."
"William?" said Tobias groggily. He flipped his covers from over his head.
"Was your meeting fruitful?"
"Yes, I think that it was. I gained some help. I just need to wait for them to contact me, once they find the dark sorcerer."
William sighed. "If you ask me, this is something that you shouldn't be mixed up in. It's too dangerous."
"I know what I'm doing."
"I worry. There is some lunch for you, when you get up. I've already had mine."
"Thank you for telling me. Lunch???"
"It's after noon, Father. You must have come back late morning, because I checked earlier."
"Never mind. I want to get some more sleep."
"Where did you two disappear to?" asked Selina testily. "You just took off, and we couldn't find you."
"I must have fallen asleep, up here on the roof," said Sandy, squinting in the sunlight. "I should work on my tan."
"In October? It's warm, but still...."
Melissa sat up, rubbing her eyes. "You have something to drink?"
"No. And you two were looking at the book, and using the jewel. I can tell. Were you showing them to that priest who was nosing around?"
"Priest? What priest?" asked Melissa. "You know I haven't been near a church in over a year."
"The one that... Oh, never mind. Play your little games. Now I understand that you two have Calculus to go to. Gupta is not the most forgiving instructor on campus."
"Oh!" exclaimed Sandy. "It's almost noon! We gotta go, Melissa. No time for lunch today. See you later, Selina." The pair rushed over to the door off the roof of the Union.
Selina looked around, seeing if anyone was watching. No one would really be able to see, except maybe if they were up in the clock tower. She slammed the chest with their magical equipment back closed, and purposefully followed Melissa and Sandy.
The redhead turned. "Selina. How are you?"
"I should ask you the same thing. I didn't see you yesterday."
"I was... sick. Want something to eat?"
"Well, that's why I'm here."
"I suppose no one comes to Tastee Burger if they're not hungry."
As Ariel placed her order, Selina looked over her companion with a certain sense of exasperation. Ariel's fashion sense ran towards the unimaginative. Today was the usual jeans and t-shirt. This one proclaimed last year's tour dates for Inquisition, a heavy metal band that Selina didn't care for. She did have beautiful red hair, though it never seemed to be fully combed. Selina could never figure out how such a good-looking man would be interested in one such as Ariel.
After they found seats, she asked Ariel, "So, how is Miles?"
Ariel was bringing her burger up to her mouth, but stopped and looked at Selina. "He's fine. Why?"
"Just wondering. There are only so many men like him, and I'd hate to have something bad happen."
Ariel's face twitched for a moment, then said, "No, nothing. He's sort of ordinary, you know. Boring to be around him."
"That's not what you said back when you first met him."
"Er, well, I guess it's sometimes exciting."
"That's all right, you keep your secrets. I'd want to keep other women away from him, too."
They ate for a while in silence, until Selina broke it with "So, did you see the battle the night before last?"
Ariel started coughing in mid-bite, but finally cleared out her mouth and replied, "Yes, you could say that."
"Spectacular, wasn't it? I'd never seen so much magic being flung around in one place."
"That it was." She paused. "Did you have a reason to bring this up?"
"No, the rest of us saw it from campus, and I haven't had a chance to talk to you about it yet. Did you have a good view?"
"You could say that."
"Well, you'll have to talk about it to the rest of us. We'll be interested in finding out things that we missed. Was Miles with you?"
"You could invite him, too. I haven't met him, formally."
"He's not much for that sort of thing, and I don't want Sandy getting her hooks into him."
"Oh, well. I understand about Sandy. But go ahead and invite him anyway."
Ariel sighed. "I'll see."
Selina thought that Ariel was being even more evasive about her boyfriend than usual. Was she pregnant? Or was it something else?
That evening, Wilcox visited the sorcerer again in his isolation ward.
"Good evening, Matthew."
"All right, I know that you have something up your sleeve. You are not any sort of follower of that priest's god. And how did you know that he was a priest?"
"Need you ask, Matthew? How did I know to seek you out?"
"You looked at the size of this building, and said, '=That= is an important man, to control this edifice.'"
"There are things that cannot be explained, only experienced. I sense that you are worried about my deception. Do not worry, that was necessary to gain his assistance. You are too canny to be deceived. Or need to be such."
"Just don't attack me with phantom birds or whatever again, or I will make sure that your mangled body is fed to the sharks."
"No need for threats, Matthew. We are on the same side, in a mutually beneficial agreement. I get Greymantle, and you get magical ability."
Wilcox looked at the sorcerer for a long moment. "That may be so. But it seems that the hunt may be over. I am told that there is one 'Miles Thurmond' who owns a mansion outside of Providence. When will you feel up to assaulting it?"
"A mansion? Hmm. And how long has he owned it?"
"What?" He consulted a data pad. "Oh, at least fifty years, it seems. That's as far back as the records go. We're going after an old man?"
"He is not a man, like I said. Time does not age him like you or me."
"I... see. Shall I mobilize the troops now, or do you want some supper first?"
"Patience, Matthew. I am not a full strength yet, and attacking a sorcerer on his home ground is a futile effort at best. He needs to be drawn out. Keep up the watch for now."
"Make it soon, sorcerer. I am not a patient man." Wilcox walked out the door.
"No, you're not. That makes it so easy.," muttered the sorcerer, flexing the fingers on his remaining hand.
Some days later, Melissa unlocked the door to her apartment and stepped inside, glancing over the mail she had picked up downstairs. Curious that there was still paper mail in this age of computers, but it seemed that the advertisers liked having a tangible ad in their customers' hands, where the DELETE key would not quickly send it into limbo. And that was what the mail seemed to be full of these days. She tossed the stack into a box with the others. She'd look through them for anything interesting later.
"Hello, sugar," came a voice.
A hand seemed to grip Melissa's heart. Could it be? She looked around the living room frantically, and there he was, sitting in his chair. "Dad!" Melissa started to run forward, but stopped short. "You're dead."
"Indeed I am. It's an interesting experience. You should try it someday."
Melissa stood there, speechless, staring at the barely transparent form of her father sitting in his chair, the one that she had not moved or sat in for the year since he died.
"Well, speak up. Talk to your father. How's your life doing?"
Melissa swallowed slowly. "Dad, I'm... fine. I'm not hallucinating, am I?"
"That's something you have to decide for yourself. While you're doing that, could you get me my pipe and a light?"
"They're... on the table next to you. Where you left them."
"Oh, yes. You know, you should redecorate this place the way you like it. It's yours now, since your mother and I died. Don't dwell on it."
"But, but they killed you!"
"Indeed they did. A shame, really, since I was looking forward to bouncing my grandchildren on my knee. That's out of the question, now. But we need you to help us, your mother and I. I'm sure that it will help you, too. You know who killed us?"
"Starbright," Melissa said flatly.
"Indeed. Good girl. I didn't raise you to be dense. It was unfortunate, your mother and I being caught with the real targets in the sinking of the Serafina. Starbright is getting just a little too big for its britches, if you know what I mean. That's why I certainly don't mind telling you this."
"What?" said Melissa, sitting down on the couch and leaning forward.
"I'm getting to that. The dead have a different perspective from the living, although I haven't been dead all that long to lose the ties I have to the mortal coil. It seems that during the last couple hundred years, there has been a mortal here on Earth who has been able to pull the dead to the land of the living. As far as I can tell from the stories, this has been unheard of since ancient times. The passage of time is hard to measure by the dead, so I can't tell for sure. But what's happened is that it's easier for the dead to make the journey on their own now. Scratch that; it's not =easy=, but possible. The door is open."
"And you made it here?"
"Your mother and some others are back there, holding the doorway open for me to be here long enough to talk to you. She sends her love."
"I love you, Mom," breathed Melissa.
"I will tell her," said her father, looking rather sad in his own right. "Anyway, this necromancer who has helped us is now being threatened by Starbright."
"You don't know? You were there, in Starbright Tower, a few nights ago, with Sandy and Father Rothwell."
"What? Are you crazy? I was never there. And with a priest?"
"Hmm, I must have seen it imperfectly. What about the battle with the angels and demons?"
"What are you talking about? I never saw such a thing. Selina said that I did, but she was wrong, too."
"Oh, dear. You see, Melissa, there's another presence here. Another sorcerer. That's what Starbright is using against the necromancer, and they stand a good chance of killing him. Tonight. What would happen to us, I don't know. Look, that sorcerer is in the Tower, and he must have played with your mind. Talk to your friend Selina, and try to remove the block. Please do this for me, Melissa. And Ariel; she is in danger also, although I cannot see exactly how. And most especially for yourself. Take out some of the anger on our killers. Maybe then you can sleep nights."
"Dad..." Melissa reached out with her hand.
"Don't blame it on the church, Melissa. Go back to St Angus."
"I don't blame it on them, there's just no way the Creator could have let you and Mom die so senselessly..."
"He works in strange ways, sugar. The church was the best thing that happened to your mother and me, other than you, of course. I have to go now, we're tiring too much..."
"Dad!" She tearfully reached out further and further, and the ghost of her father reached out with his hand. Melissa felt a cold, yet curiously comforting, touch on her fingers. Then it was almost as if he had kissed her on the cheek, and with an unearthly howling, he was gone. Melissa flung herself along the length of the couch and cried.
Melissa knocked on the door. "Selina? Are you there?"
After long moments, a grumpy Selina opened the door. "What is it, this time of day?"
"My father came to visit." The tears were mostly dried, and she hoped that the quaver in her voice was unnoticeable.
Selina took a moment to ponder the implications of Melissa's statement. "Appropriate day, Halloween."
"He said, he said that you could help me with a mental block, in order to stop a tragedy."
"I can try. What sort of tragedy? He's already dead."
"I'll know later. But hurry, he said it was going to happen tonight."
"Let me get get my shoes, and we'll head over to the Union. We need the help of the jewel, I think."
"Matthew, he has left his mansion this night."
"What? Oh, damn you, don't sneak up on me like that, Zivo." Wilcox sat perturbed at his desk, Lynx half out of its holster. He let it drop back in. "So you finally want me to call out the cavalry?"
"Yes, let them surround his mansion, for when he runs back to its safety."
"You have a high opinion of yourself, don't you?"
"I am the better sorcerer, am I not?"
"I wouldn't know."
"Oh my God," said Melissa as the mental block dissipated. "Miles! Miles is the necromancer!"
"What are you talking about?" asked Selina testily.
"The sorcerer said that the one he was sent to hunt was called Miles Thurmond. Where's Ariel?"
"She said she was going to visit him, wherever the heck he lives, this afternoon."
"Quick! We need to make it to St. Angus before they call Rothwell! I'll explain it to you on the way!"
"A church? Oh, I'll go along with you, just to find out what the hell you're talking about."
"Father Tobias? Father Tobias?"
"What? Oh, its you, Stevenson. It's not Sunday."
"I'm here to get you. The message I am to give you is, 'The necromancer has been found.' Don't quite know what that means. But we're supposed to go to these coordinates."
"Good, Stevenson. Let's go."
To be continued....
"Lighting Candles in the Dark Part V: Smoking Wick" is Copyright 1996 by Timothy Bailey. All rights reserved. This story may not be distributed for profit, with the exception of the normal charges for online time.