With both the Cloak and the Mask, the curator jumped into the final spot of the Pentagram. Immediately everyone could feel a thrum of force as the circle began to close. Dancing blue flames spread from the bodies lying at the other four points around the circle and over the cross lines.
A fierce wind suddenly blew across the top of the building, bringing with it a rumble of thunder. Luckily, it seemed to be further away. Another lightning strike to the roof was not something anyone wanted.
Raising her masked face to the sky, the curator began chanting in a strange tongue. Based on the artifacts she was wearing, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say it sounded distinctly Central American.
Drawing to a high point in her chant, she yelled “Popocatepetl! Popocatepetl ko’oten! Popocatepetl!” With a brilliant flash of light–albeit less brilliant than the earlier lightning strike–the circle snapped shut.
“That can’t be good,” Jenna muttered under her breath.
“What’s she doing?” Shane yelled over the hum of gathering energy.
Jenna shrugged, “nothing good,” and turned towards the Russian, still recovering from the curator’s theft of the mask. He seemed to sway with the growing wind.
“It is too late,” he answered, half to himself.
“Too late?” Jenna asked, closing the distance between them, “too late for what?”
“Too late; too late to stop her; too late for the city.” With a sudden burst of speed, belying his earlier swaying, the Russian mage grabbed hold of her hand and pulled her off the rooftop. Gravity took hold and for a breathtaking moment later they were falling. Then there was the pulse of a spell and they were standing on the sidewalk.
“You’d better explain,” Jenna said a touch breathlessly.
“One moment,” with a short pop, he vanished again. A space of a few heartbeats and he was back, this time holding on to a disoriented looking Shane.
There’s an edge of roughness in the Russian’s voice as he looked back up at the radio tower. “No worries. I will explain. Drive.” He gestures to Jenna’s car.
All three pile in. For several moments, the Russian is silent, looking back at the tower. Finally, he takes a deep breath and begins his story. “It all began some years ago when I was studying under my former master in the heart of Mexico. You couldn’t ask for a better mentor in the Professor. I’d only Awoken a few months before and was still learning the ropes. Alas, it was not to be.”
“We’d gone down to a dig site where a friend of my mentor’s was uncovering ancient Mayan artifacts, many of an Awakened sort. It was quite a treasure trove. They promised me my pick if I would help with the digging.”
“I would have done it for nothing.”
Taking another look back towards the center of the city, he pauses. As you glance back, you notice what he must have. An almost continual stream of lightning was streaming towards the radio tower where you’d been standing shortly before.
“It all went wrong when we found the Bracelets.”
Shane raised his hands, “these?”
“Da,” he replied after a short hesitation, “those. I do not know if you want to be wearing those.”
“They might attract unwanted attention.”
“What sort of attention.”
“From the Spirit World.”
“I can handle Spirits. I’ve done it before.”
“That’s what Demeter said.”
“The curator. She was in charge of the dig in Mexico. That’s exactly what she said when we found the Bracelets. You’ve probably already discovered the connection to Spirit magic.”
“They were used to summon some of the most powerful Spirits of the region for protection. Wearing the Bracelets will allow you to summon any Spirit who’s True Name you know and render you immune to most of their abilities.”
“That doesn’t sound too bad.”
“Sure. But think of it this way. Would you want someone with the ability to summon and control you without a chance of fighting back?”
Jenna was first to answer, “I wouldn’t like that at all.”
“Exactly. And these Bracelets have a long history of pissing off some extremely powerful beings. So like I said, it’s probably best if you avoid using them.” After a slight hesitation he continued, “or even wearing them.”
“So what did Demeter want with them?”
“That’s where things get a little fuzzier. When we first found them at the dig in Mexico, she didn’t actually seem that interested in them. She cataloged them along with all the other trinkets and packed them up for later study.”
“That night, the killings started.”
Swerved slightly, Jenna turned to look at the Russian, “killings?”
“Da, da. For the next week, every night one or two of the native workers would go missing in the night. At first we thought they were just superstitious and deserting us. But the third morning, we found the bodies.”
“Whoever was killing them was doing a rather thorough job of it, removing all of their internal organs all while doing only minimal damage to the skin.”
This time both Jenna and Shane shuddered.
“And the bodies were being arranged in some sort of ritual manner. Evenly spaced out in a clearing a half mile’s walk from the dig site.”
“Why there?” Shane asked.
“Turns out, there was a buried temple directly under the clearing. Of course we didn’t find that out until years later. We just thought it was because the area was far enough away from the dig and free from debris.”
“When Demeter came out to the site, she could feel the echo of Spirit Magic right away. She was talented like that. You may have seen a bit of that up on that radio tower. Just at the end there.”
Thinking back to the curator’s exotic sounding cries and the sheer strength of the Spirit Magic she had put into to them, it was easy to believe.
“Well, she put that same talent to good use in that clearing. With all the traces being left by Sprits throughout the clearing, she put up a sort of net around the whole area to keep them out. It wouldn’t last forever, but she figured we could get a few weeks, maybe even a month, of uninterrupted dig time out of it.”
“And we did. Of course, we had to take time to allow the men to bury their coworkers. They weren’t happy with the situation, not happy at all, but somehow Demeter convinced them to stay on. Still not sure…” He broke off as a resounding thud shook the car.
Looking back, the lightning that had been playing over the top of the radio tower had ceased. Now, it was shrouded in a dull orange glow that seemed to flicker.
“She’s close now,” given his earlier panic, the Russian seemed surprisingly calm.
“Close to what,” Shane asked.
“Calling up the Pope.”
“Popocatepetl. Volcano spirit. A particularly nasty one hasn’t been really active in centuries. As far as I can tell, she’s trying to get him to manifest right here. Right now.”
There were a few seconds of stunned silence, broken only by the sound of the tires on the road. By this point, Jenna had left the city limits and was heading north.
Shane was the first to recover, “Doesn’t sound like the Pope.”
The Russian chuckled, “That is the joke, da?”
Regaining her voice, Janna asked, “A volcano? Here? Is that even possible?” The region wasn’t exactly known its seismic activity.
“If she can awaken the Pope? Sure. It’ll take a few weeks for him to break through the crust, it’s nice and thick here I’d guess. But he can do it.”
“We have to go back! We can stop him, right?” He held up the Bracelet he was still wearing, “with these?”
“Sure. The Bracelet will hold him. But only so long as you’re watching. As soon as you lose focus… drift off… fall asleep… BOOM!” Both Shane and Jenna jumped at the unexpected shout.
“Can’t we trade off, pass the Bracelets along?”
He was quite for a few moments. “It’s possible.” But how many would you trust enough to help? Particularly Mages with the necessary strength.”
He chuckled dryly, “I seem to recall a good portion of the city’s Mage population lying dead in that ritual. Not too many choices left.”
“Well that doesn’t mean we should do nothing! Perhaps if you tell us about the other two artifacts the curator was using. The Cloak and the Mask.”
“Ah, the Cloak and the Mask. Each tied to a part of the ritual for awakening the Pope in specific. We found them together, only a week after the killings stopped.”
“As you may have noticed on the rooftop, the Cloak is attuned to Forces and the Mask to Prime. All three are necessary to a successful binding of Popocatepetl.”
“He’s an elemental Spirit. Fire and Earth. That’s what the Cloak gives you. Absolute control over both Fire and Earth within quite a distance. Close to a mile if memory serves.”
“What do you mean control?” Jenna asked.
“I mean complete control. You could raise a wall of Earth without even breathing hard and then scorch it to glass. Quite something to get your hands on. Of course, you need some ability of your own to control it. Otherwise it’s as likely to burn you out as whatever or whoever incurred your wrath.”
Jenna whistled softly under her breath. That’d be something to have.
“And the Mask?” Jenna asked, “I saw you using that.”
“The Mask is a source of Mana,” the Russian began, “well; not a source so much as a… what is the word… carrier… a way to transfer…”
“A pipe?” Shane prompted.
“Da, da. A pipe. When you are wearing the Mask, any Mana that you need, you no longer have to supply. It will pull it from the nearest available source.”
“So that’s what I felt,” Jenna exclaimed, “you were taking my Mana!”
“You kicked me,” the Russian replied, bending over slightly as if still in pain.
“How were we supposed to know you the good guy?”
“Oh, I’m not a good guy,” he chuckled again, “not by a long shot.”
“Well; better guy at least.”
“You know, for how close we’ve gotten,” Jenna gestured about the car, “we still don’t know your name.”
The Russian hesitated, “Call me Boris.”
“Da. Is good strong Russian name.”
“Undoubtable. I’m Jenna.”
“And I’m Shane.”
“I know,” Boris replied, “my boss tries to keep note of anyone of supernatural persuasion in his city.”
“Your boss?” Jenna asked.
Jenna gestured for him to continue, but rather than answer, the Russian just smiled enigmatically. “So yes. A pipe for Mana. What you saw here was just the ritual to summon the Pope. It takes another to control him. One that requires many hours of rituals. Much Mana.”
Jenna shook her head.
“But it is possible,” countered Shane.
“I do not know. Why do you think I was trying to stop this ritual?”
“Then who does know?”
“My mentor would know.”
“Da. Unfortunately he is long dead. He died in Mexico all those years before. Like I said, it was not to be.”
“I’m so sorry,” Shane replied, “I didn’t know.”
“How could you?” Boris seems slightly perturbed by Shane’s response, “you did not know anything about him.”
Cutting in, Jenna asked, “then why did you bring him up?”
“Because the necessary research might be in his library.”
“Da. In Siberia.”
“Lovely,” Shane sighed.
“You wanted to know how to stop the ritual. That is the best bet. I can help you get there, if you are willing.”
“Can’t you just teleport us directly there?” Jenna asked, “like you did off the rooftop?”
“If you want your innards to remain in… no.”
“But I know a man with a private jet. Slight problem though…”
Jenna leaped ahead, “he’s back in the city?”
“I have a bad feeling about this…”