by Christine Nightstar
On Wednesday and Thursday, the groups spent time in class reading books on their chosen spirits and taking notes, so class was very quiet those days. Timothy Hunter was reading books on Celtic and Gaelic spirits connected to death, Josh Cantrell and Alfred Twitchell were reading books on death spirits connected to the American Indians, Devin Burgess was reading books on the Wendigo, Naga, and Banshees, and Naala the satyr was reading books on the death spirits of Asia and Africa.
Mr. Drake sat at his desk and watched the groups both days, answering questions and pointing students in the right direction when needed. On Thursday, his attention was focused on the table with Tim, Devin, Josh, Twitch, and Naala.
So like his father, filled with such potential, brilliance, and ambition, and so much arrogance and anger, Christopher Drake thought as he considered Devin Burgess. I couldn’t prevent his father turning into what he did, but perhaps I can prevent the son from going down that same path.
Before the end of class on Thursday, Mr. Drake drew the attention of the class and said, “Since tomorrow is the field trip, and we will be gone for the majority of the day, I will expect your papers handed to me — finished — by the time we return. I have already cleared your field trips with the rest of your teachers. Tomorrow we are visiting a place where nature spirits congregate with humans; there is plenty of lore for you to study there, too. I will explain what we are doing there tomorrow. If you don’t follow my instructions precisely, you may end up hurt, or worse. So please, pay attention tomorrow! All lore classes are going, and I will not be the only teacher there; Professor Ramphastos and Baron Weirwulf are also going.”
The class huddled together and talked about the upcoming field trip as the clock tower signaled the start of lunch.
The next morning at the clock tower, Mr. Drake and the other teachers were making sure that everyone was accounted for, while the tower’s keeper Simon Belmont was setting up the dimensional portal for the field trip, grumbling as he did so. Nearby, Tim Hunter and Rick Billings were glancing around to catch a glimpse of their mysterious follower, Naala and Patsy Ambrose were comparing each other’s outfits and makeup for the field trip, Josh and Twitch were hanging out with a few fellow fourth-years, and Devin was with his own group of friends were amusing themselves with mean comments about other students.
There was a buzz of excitement as the students watched the portal open to the location of the field trip. It had taken longer to open this portal than it had been to visit the picnic world, but when it opened, the view of the other-dimensional world was amazing.
“Welcome to Waypoint, one of the many secret convergences there are,” Mr. Drake said as he, the students, and the other teachers slowly walked through the portal. “It has many other names, depending on the mythos involved, but has connections to them all, and the gods and other beings from each of them still protect it.”
The students were oohing and aahing as they looked past through the portal; even Devin Burgess and Naala were forced to put their feuding on hold as they were taken aback by the beautiful scenery of Waypoint.
“The natives here guard their written lore jealously,” said Mr. Drake, “so do not, under penalty and threat of death — by them, not me — do not touch or try to read the scrolls, tablets, or books without permission. They will read the lore to you if you ask nicely.”
“Why do some of their body parts seem to be intangible, and the rest of them solid?” asked a student in the first-year lore class.
“Good question,” replied Mr. Drake. “I wish I knew the exact answer as to why, but the main reason is that they are spirit folk — related to spirits and other mortals in ways that nobody really understands. That one there…” He pointed at one with watery parts and textures on its arms and torso. “…is a water spirit. You can tell the type that they are related to by observing the areas that they frequent and by looking at their bodies.”
“Mr. Drake is not exaggerating on how jealously the keepers here guard their lore,” Ramphastos said in his slow, methodical way. “So keep it in mind as you interact with them. They will curse those who offend them as well, so be on your best behavior, because a keeper’s curse is very difficult to break and/or dispel, even by experienced witches and wizards, and most tend to be very nasty.” Turning to Drake, the toucan-like Feitheran asked, “It’s cold here — why couldn’t we have arrived at a warmer spot in Waypoint?”
“It’s not cold,” said Mr. Drake with a grin. “It’s about seventy degrees here, Professor. I know you like your nice, hot, humid cave, but the whole universe isn’t like that.”
“More’s the pity,” Ramphastos replied.
“You have your assignments from each of us,” Baron Weirwulf said in his deep, authoritarian voice. “Now spread out and explore Waypoint, and try not to get into trouble. Remember, students, the keepers will not hesitate to curse or kill if they feel that they have been insulted or violated.”
Tim Hunter marveled at how trees seemed to have been grown into bookcases and scroll stands and just kept growing; rock faces, streams, lakes, and even fire and air had likewise grown into useful shapes and objects. It was amazing.
“How did you do that?” Tim asked a tree spirit. “It’s amazing!”
“When one of us dies,” replied the tree spirit, “our physical humanoid body is planted into the ground, and while our true spirit is set free, the body creates something useful for other keepers to use, most often a book case or scroll stand. The rock, water, fire, and air spirits have their own ways of doing this as well. The animal spirits provide us with food when they die, as do some of the other plant spirits.” The tree spirit smiled at him and went back to stacking books beside the desk, which had the appearance of a shrub.
“What happens to the true spirits when their body dies?” Tim asked.
“They often stay with their loved ones, or go to Earth to find places that will welcome them, or if they have been really good — or bad — become something… more.”
“Could you tell me the lore of one your people that became something more?”
“Of course,” replied the tree spirit. “It all began when the Earth was young…”
Rick Billings had begun exploring Waypoint, finding many interesting keepers and astonishing sights. He was about to look at a wall of all the elements, hypnotized by its being, when a voice came from behind him.
“State your purpose for approaching the memorial to Acaran the Just, human.”
“I-I’m a student with the Grimoire Academy on a field trip here,” gulped Rick as he realized that a fire spirit had addressed him, “and something about this memorial fascinated me. I just had to make sure it wasn’t–”
“Acaran the Just, while living, could never accept how much he meant to the keepers of Waypoint,” began the fire spirit without any preamble. “He was a simple being, never wanting the honors, wealth, or luxuries that were his due. He was the true keeper of Waypoint for many centuries, outliving all of his friends, who had long since passed on due to old age. His wisdom, faith, and love of Waypoint were the reasons he is so revered by us. We tried to train others, as he had been trained, to do the job of the keeper of Waypoint, but none were able to take the task from him for whatever reason. When a successor came, Acaran just handed that successor his favorite book of lore and died.”
“It seems so dreamlike, like I knew that this would be here, but didn’t want to believe it until I saw it.”
“It may be possible that Acaran has returned,” stated the fire spirit cryptically.
Josh Cantrell and Alfred Twitchell were listening to a story from a wind spirit about a trickster that had convinced Odin, king of Asgard, that his thought and memory were tied to two ravens, and that when they were gone, those faculties were gone as well.
The trickster, who was the foster mother of the two ravens, wanted her children to be cared for and treated well, because she didn’t know how well they could fare if she wasn’t there to take care of them. But when the time of her death drew near, she sent for Odin and the two ravens, and revealed her trick to the mighty god. For her gall, love of her children, and honesty at the end, Odin allowed her to pass to Valhalla.
Not far away, Patsy Ambrose and Naala the satyr had found themselves talking to a water spirit, listening to the lore of Atlantis before its fall, about the rivalry between Arion and Garn Daanuth, how the two brothers fought each other for the sake of Atlantis time and again, and how their mother and father — though strangely attracted to each other — did so as well before the birth of the twins.
It was amazing that, even when the twins had found out about the truth, they continued their rivalry. The good and the evil that were in their upbringings could not be set aside, nor truces be drawn. Even after Atlantis had sunk, there were rumors that both brothers had survived to the modern age through different means.
What was amazing for Josh, Twitch, Tim, Patsy, and Naala was that they not only heard the stories, but they felt as if they were seeing the stories play out before their eyes as well. It was as if they were witnesses to the actual events and battles.
The experience was so real that they felt all the fear and anticipation involved with hearing spells being cast and feeling blasts of magic whizzing past their heads. The stories seemed to teleport the listener and storyteller alike to the actual times and locations in which they were taking place.
By exploring Waypoint, Devin Burgess had found a set of caves, and his cronies were with him. It didn’t take long for them to get themselves into trouble.
“My father told me of this place,” said Devin. “And told me, if I ever had the chance to come here, to locate the crypt of Oesop the Betrayer. It was so kind of Mr. Drake to transport us so close to our objective.”
“What do you mean, boss?”
Devin slapped the speaker, who just barely flinched, looking ashamed that he had spoken out of turn.
“Don’t ever speak to me unless I ask your opinion, understand?” Devin raged at the boy who had spoken, who immediately nodded in acquiescence. “Oesop the Betrayer was a Chimera spirit, a rare and powerful type of spirit folk who, it is told, discovered the secret of ruling not just the bodies, but the spirits as well. He gained followers of those who were willing and unwilling. And because Waypoint was the major link between the gods and Earth and many other locations, he sealed off all the portals to the realms of the gods until he could challenge them. Thus he betrayed his oath as a keeper of Waypoint… but he hadn’t counted on something.
“There were champions from the other worlds that Waypoint had access to,” continued Devin. “They came to Waypoint after discovering that access to their gods was cut off. He could not rule their spirits and bodies, because the spirits and bodies of champions are different than the normal being. The champions bound together — from Earth, Skartaris, Gemworld, and many others — rose against the would-be tyrant.”
The empty look on his friends’ faces caused Devin to just exhale in frustration. “We’re here to claim that secret for me,” he finally explained.
The cave opened to something that looked like a temple, surrounded by an energy-field. “They put a barrier around it so that no spirit folk would be able to gain access to the knowledge of Oesop. But, as you can tell, we aren’t spirit folk.” Devin walked right through the energy-field, then took some things from his backpack. “Come on — find the markings on the crypt and make rubbings of them with the charcoal and the paper you brought.”
Unseen by the students, a figure had been watching their journey to the crypt. This was not the hooded figure that had been following Tim and his friends, but another individual entirely.
“And so the destiny of the Burgess line is set for another generation — to walk the path of evil and chaos,” the figure said as he watched Burgess and his cohorts defile the tomb. “I’m so sorry, Alissa. I did not know that, by giving you what you wanted, I would thrust your children — and mine — into a cycle of evil that would last so long.”
The figure turned and walked away to find the hope that he had lost in Devin in the other child of his line, Timothy Hunter.
By the time the students were being herded up to return to the Grimoire Academy of Applied Knowledge, Tim Hunter now saw two dark figures watching him; the first one was, of course, the one with the hood who had been there from the beginning of the year. But there was also another one now, a tall man with dark, reddish hair and a neatly trimmed beard and mustache, who stood watching the students from a spire, his long coat blowing around him.
As the last of the students exited the portal to the school, Ramphastos, Christopher Drake, and Baron Weirwulf all looked up at the figure and saw him just watching the students leaving Waypoint.
“You know who that is, don’t you?” Ramphastos asked. The other two nodded in recognition.
“I wonder what he wants — or who he wants,” the Baron said gruffly.
“No use worrying about it now,” said Drake. “We’ll find out what he’s up to soon enough. Until then, we’d better let Headmaster Gallowglass and the others know.” The others nodded in agreement.
To Be Continued in The Books of Magic: The Game of Royalty and Rogues