Jump to content

Recommended Posts

When the last of the one hundred drops from the sacred vessel splashed home, the bowl was again filled to the brim, reflecting the stars and Moon above. Neko rose to her feet and began to chant in an eerie caterwaul of a voice that was the only thing about her that actually sounded like a woman nearly a hundred years old, her yellow eyes cast up to the night sky as she turned in a slow, deliberate circle, her tail twitching behind her the way it would if she was about to spring. 


She called to the goddess of the Moon. “Tsukuyomi-no-Mikoto!” 


She called out their purpose. “Silent night; moon bright! Calling down its magic power! Gentle glow, all hour!” 


She called out their plans for the evening: “Strength beyond measure; protected by magic’s might! No one can harm us!” 


She called out their plans for the future. “Elegant and strong; crowned with wisdom and beauty! Queen of all we survey!” 


When the bowl dumped its contents out on the sacred circle between them, she knelt down again with a smooth, economical grace and spread her hands, rejoining the mystic circle she and Raina had made for what Americans called the Wolf Moon - the full moon in January. 




Neko had proved to be a good housemate for Raina because Neko knew how to do magic. Oh, Owain knew how to do magic too, with a command of dusty old Hermetic tomes that would surely have brought about envy from some of the stuffier mages who had never stopped judging Raina even after her parents had been put away in warded cells on her testimony. 


Neko knew the good stuff. She knew the names of things you weren’t supposed to say and would never admit knowing around anyone else. She knew how to snap a pigeon’s neck so the tiny soul would power the sort of spell you didn’t admit to casting; even if Raina had had to tell her early on that biting off the pigeon’s head was not something she was ever going to try and not something that Neko had better do in front of her again either. She knew how to summon the essence of fire; not the stuff Raina shot at people who had it coming but the pure stuff, and bask in it, the light in her eyes and her belly in the air, for hours at a time. 




Neko had appreciated someone who didn’t pretend to love her. Oh the affection she got from the adults in the Espadas household was all fine and good, the sort of thing she’d have gotten from the aunts and uncles in her home village. (Owain was the brother who had lived, the one piece left from the girl who had never come home from going off to war.) The feelings she had for her classmates, her peers in some ways, were all fine too. 

Raina was a friend who didn’t try to be a sister. That had been right - that had been what she needed. And besides bringing her business partner Merlin into her life, Raina also knew things that non-magic users didn’t know. She knew the names of the spirits in America, the ones that didn’t respond to Japanese but had English or Indian names, and she even knew the machine-things that sometimes came out to trouble her. And most importantly, at least for this conversation, she had a solid knowledge of the nature of American teens - and post-teens. 




“Things are all right. No one digs too deep.” She shrugged her shoulders fractionally. “It was a nice New Year. Luke’s family should be fat with how much they eat.” The host of Neko’s new year, Luke was the friend of Leon, who with a little advice from Raina, Neko had figured out how to make her boyfriend. He was by all accounts nice to look at and did what Neko wanted him to do, which was all she really wanted. 


“I thought the boys would fight the other day, but-” She made a small noise as she felt the power of the circle growing, and there was a faint crackle as of static electricity when she shifted her position. Looking annoyed, she pulled one hand out of the circle and licked it.


“Careful,” Raina murmured, not even looking Neko’s way at the small commotion. She had both hands still in the circle, manipulating the power between her fingers with the sure focus of a master weaver setting a weft, not even looking as she worked. Her whole attention was turned to the moon itself, its light making her blue eyes almost luminescent in her upturned face. “This would be a bad night to make a mistake.” 


Another few twists, knots in a line Neko could feel but not see, and the circle settled down with a sigh of power, humming peacefully instead of crackling. It was still very powerful, but more like a sleeping lion than one pacing its cage. Raina settled back on her heels. “You know boys and their hormones,” she told Neko, which at least proved she’d been listening some. “If they’re not fighting over dumb shit, it’s only because they’re figuring out something else dumb to do.” 


Scrubbing the back of her hand through her hair and assuming a distinct ‘I meant to do that’ air, Neko resumed her place in the circle. “They are easy, like you said,” she agreed, having found Raina’s relationship advice remarkably useful in negotiating both male friendships and male interest around Claremont. There were rude boys and nice boys, and boys who liked boys and boys who were from other places or other times, but boys were boys. “And the girls too.” She’d been worried about the mind reader but that girl didn’t go where she wasn’t wanted; which frankly put her ahead of several of her classmates when it came to courtesy. 


“I was afraid of leaving,” she said out loud, “but if everyone is so - easy, it will not be so bad.” Certainly she was doing well out of her online presence; from what Merlin had told Raina, Neko had successfully monetized herself to a degree unusual for a high school student. “They are all - babies anyway,” she added.   




“”They haven’t seen what you have,” Raina agreed, spreading her fingers wide and letting the power flow through them. It rippled blue in the air, making her hands look like starfish in a tropical tide pool. “They haven’t had to do what you had to do, so they got to stay kids a lot longer.” She turned her hands, pulled the power like taffy, braided it like dough. “You can pretend though, if you want to.”


 Raina glanced up and caught Neko’s eye for a moment. “Try to act like they do, just for a night or a weekend. Throw caution to the wind. Dare to be stupid.” She grinned. “You might get in trouble, but you’ll probably have a good time.” 


Neko smirked at Raina’s words, obviously thinking it over. “Will Erik give me a lecture?” She rolled her eyes, though not with any particular malice. The older women of the household could be stern taskmasters when the situation called for it, but Erik tended to be a softer touch. The key, as she’d learned from Raina, was to make sure he found out about it first. “They talk about some things. Leon and Luke know places.” She stretched her fingers like claws and pulled slightly at the power, loosening it so it could spool quickly up her arms. 


“If we bring costumes, it is…patrolling…” She fell silent, concentrating on a particular fiddly point of magic, a glowing crimson dot that hovered between her fingers for long seconds as she leaned her face closer and closer. No! With a palpable effort, her fingers almost trembling, she pulled her face back and let the dot fade away. It wasn’t that long ago that she’d have tried to eat it, with disastrous consequences for the evening. I’ll get that crimson power yet! With an exhale, she said, “Can you cover, if they ask?” 




“I never know where anybody is unless there are lives at stake, it’s my personal policy.” Raina cupped the magic in one hand, stirred it with one finger from the opposite hand. “Just make sure to have guardrails on your stupidity at least. Keep the tracker on your phone, don’t go anywhere alone. Stupidity in groups is more fun anyway. Make it a date night and drag Luke along.” She tilted her hand, spilling the magic from one palm to the other. “Okay, this is about ready. I’m going to start prepping the talisman so we can charge it up.” 


Neko was all business for a little while, rising to her feet to help control the gathered magic while Raina prepared the silvery-bright moon talisman. She paced around the still-filling bowl, her hands outstretched and tail twitching heavily behind her, careful to keep it out of the way of the falling drops. She seriously considered inviting Raina along, but the older girl had been quite vocal about having no interest in hanging around with “a bunch of high school kids” in the past despite the fact that their age gap wasn’t that big. It had been frustrating at the time but now, with significant exposure to them, Neko could see where Raina was coming from. 



It didn’t do to vocalize specific intent around so much magic, not when one’s words could become real, so instead she bounced lightly on the balls of her feet before whispering, “And then, spring.” She was already thinking ahead to what the two of them had planned for the equinox. “We will have so much.” she added excitedly. 




“Sounds like a good time,” Raina murmured absently. She wasn’t talking much now, instead humming and singing under her breath. Whatever Raina’s school of magic was, and she’d always been a bit cagey about that around Neko, it was tied up intricately with music and rhythm. Most of her spells seemed like doggerel, nursery rhymes with power behind them, but for complex spells like this one she had entire songs that had to be completed for the power to grow. Neko had occasionally seen even the pragmatic Merlin participating in the music that helped power the magic. He couldn’t sing, of course, but he could keep time with claps or a small drum and chant along, after a fashion. Having a familiar with hands was convenient. 


Raina’s song trailed off finally, and she lifted the amulet in cupped palms as the last notes faded away. Moonlight began to pour down from the sky, covering them both but concentrating itself in the charmed jewelry. It glowed like a small moon itself, throwing Raina’s upturned face into shadows. 

Neko closed her eyes, raising her wrists in front of her with hands pointing down, and gave a soft, almost inaudible nya from low in her throat as the crescendo of the song and spell came at the same glorious moment. This was the kind of magical power she could hardly ever get in the safe, secular confines of Claremont, the kind of thing she generally could only get through her friendship with Raina. She hadn’t sung during the casting because this wasn’t her spell, not really - but as her power grew under Raina’s tutelage, she knew her time would come. 


When she opened her eyes, they were glowing from the reflected moonlight, and she watched with great interest as the amulet shone. She folded her hands, ears twitching and tail lashing behind her, obviously eager for the power that lay in the twin amulet but clever enough to avoid breaking the circle until Raina could give her share to her. In a soft voice, she whispered excitedly, <“feline now with power, whiskers aglow, spells take form, mystic cat now reigns.”> 


The Moon, Raina knew well, was a common source of illusion and misdirection - one reason why she’d brought Neko along with her natural talent for illusory magic. Thus it wasn’t too surprising when the power bound into the amulet fluctuated and squirmed as Raina bound it, seeming to speak in half-whispers that a less experienced witch might have tried to listen to. When it was quiet, it was Neko who broke the new silence, distracted from her hunger for the power by a question. 


“Out there,” she said with a wave towards the city, “they…they think this is not real. Even though there is…very much in Freedom City. Why don’t they?” 


“Because they can’t feel it.” Raina’s voice had an absent quality, preoccupied as she was with handling the powerful trinket safely. “If you can’t feel the magic around you, then you don’t know what’s real magic and what’s bullshit. Even worse if you learn confused and messed up stuff about gods and magic and reality when you’re little, you grow up with no idea what to believe. Easier for them to just say no to all of it. Plus then they don’t have to feel bad when they can’t touch it or use it. Here, gimme your hands.” 


When Neko extended her hands, Raina carefully tipped the amulet into them, her face intent. “Drop it right away if it starts to burn,” she warned. “Should be okay, though. Cats and the moon get along.” 


Neko clung to the amulet excitedly, chittering in her delight, and held the amulet up to her face, where the magical glow was reflected behind her eyes. For a moment, it looked like she was going to try and pop the thing in her mouth, before she put it around her neck, grateful that Raina had put it on a chain with a clasp so she didn’t have to try and fit it over the top of her head. 

With the amulet on, her eyes glowed for just a moment before her body adjusted to the magic. “T-thank you,” she stuttered briefly, obviously trying to remember her English in her excitement. “Verry good. Good.” 


Raina reached forward and put the tips of three fingers against Neko’s forehead, her face serious and solemn in a way she almost never was. “The gifts of the Moon: safety and strength, light in dark places, and protection from the evil that lurks in shadow. May you use these gifts to protect others and bring light in your turn. Blessed be.” 


Neko closed her eyes, flushing briefly as she fought embarrassment at being so overcome in a sacred moment. But when no tart comments from Raina followed, she relaxed. I will remember this always! She thought. This is one of the most special gifts I’ve ever gotten. I must find some way to repay her for this boon. “Tsukuyomi remembers, because she sees all,” she murmured softly, then opened her eyes to look at Raina. “Thank you,” she whispered reverently. 


Raina nodded. “Now close the circle by yourself,” she instructed. “I’m going to watch you to make sure you do it right.” She said nothing else as Neko extinguished the candles and erased the lines they’d drawn while murmuring the ritual words, so apparently she’d done it right. When it was finished, they stood together in the clearing, Neko’s new amulet gleaming in the light of the moon. “You feeling okay?” Raina asked, giving the girl a close look-over. “Don’t feel like you’re going to collapse or barf or anything? No sudden evil impulses that you didn’t have before?” 


Neko took the questions seriously - all of them. “Here,” she said, running her hands along her arms and through the fluffy white hair on top of her head, which seemed to be sticking up slightly, the way it did when she was especially nervous or on particular cold, dry autumn days. “Not here,” she clarified, pointing to her stomach. “I am okay. Just brighter,” she added, hand resting on the amulet. When she did so, her eyes shone briefly, but it was more like light reflecting behind her eyes rather than actually emitting it. “I will wait. It is very late,” she added, removing her hand from the magically empowered gem. “You?” 


“Fine,” Raina told her briskly, putting away the ritual gear into an embroidered backpack. Neko could recognize a few of the designs on it as magically significant, power woven into the very fabric. “This is pretty basic stuff, you’ll probably do this again dozens of times during your practice. It’s a good way to gather energy for big work, or just to recharge.” 


Raina’s fingertips were glowing slightly after handling the amulet, but she otherwise seemed unchanged. “The amulet will be attuned from now on, you’ll have an easier time putting energy into it and it’ll resonate to your power. Don’t give it to anybody you don’t want having a key to your heart,” she warned. 


A few faces flashed behind Neko’s eyes - and she dismissed them just as quickly. “It is mine.” she said firmly. She smiled, points of her teeth showing. “They will not have it.” It wasn’t as if any of her friends would understand how to use it, anyway. Neko’s aura was already charged by the amulet to Raina’s eyes, though subtly enough that she probably only saw it there because she knew to look for it. Just as planned. 


For her part, Neko gave into temptation and tried a small magic backed by the power of the Moon. With one hand on the amulet, she raised her other hand. For a moment a spectral white fiery cat with huge eyes and grinning teeth circled them in the air, leaving behind the smell of brimstone and the sound of a distant miaow when it vanished. Neko looked very pleased with herself. 

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...