The moonlight was bright as it shined down on the gravel floor training ground in the distant manor training grounds. The training grounds were a sanctuary for Spirit quellers. Laced with plants and small shrubs, but most of the emphasis was placed on the vast amounts of equipment laid about. There were dummies, targets, and even a small obstacle course. My muscles cried in pain, still remembering the beating they took in the morning’s training with Mom.
The training grounds had been there ever since the manor was first built on the cliffside that hung over the ocean. All of this was first constructed over 300 years ago, when my ancestors first came to America. When my ancestors first arrived, they were considered ordinary immigrants, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They weren’t regular immigrants. They were Spirit Quellers. A selected group of families from different parts of the Earth, all tasked with one mission. Quell spirits. My family comes from this old culture, quelling any and all spirits that they’ve come across. They’ve done it ever since first landing in America and will continue to do it for all time. Never backing down from a challenge.
All this history has led to me, Connor Kemp-Abarroa. A thirteen-year-old who is the descendent of two different and competing families of spirit quellers. The Abarroa’s, a proud Spanish family with the ability to speak and see the spirits without special equipment and the Kemp’s, an English family whose expertise in defensive spirit magic is unparalleled by any other family. Despite the two peaks of bloodlines coursing through my veins; I’m still a spirit queller-in-training who has yet to master the first basic skill in a Spirit Queller’s training. Manifestation.
My breath was scorching in my throat as my body nearly folded; my bones were the only thing holding up my body. Time drifted on for what seemed like years before I finally took one last breath of air; in through my nose and out through my mouth before yelling loudly while throwing my right arm out in front of me. A green aethereal chain appeared from the air beside me as I moved my arm. The chain wrapped around the dummy with a loud crack before shattering into a million pieces. I could hear Mom, telling me to work on my form, to focus on my breathing. Picture the chain wrapping around and not breaking.
I gasped for air, the muscles in my body burning like the sun itself. “Dammit.” It had been three days since I started my nightly training and the closest I’ve gotten to improvement is touching the target.
It’s supposed to be a simple move, but it’s one that I had been struggling with ever since Mom first taught me it. While I’ve been struggling, all the other quellers-in-training have been able to master their bloodline’s ability without any trouble, or so I overheard Mom telling Dad. My hands trembled as I gazed down at them. It’s been almost an hour. The only bright side to all this, I’ve been able to indirectly focus on stamina training. I clenched my hand into a fist, ready to throw another chain; even though the outcome hadn’t changed all the other times I’d tried it. There was no better answer other than I was stubborn.
A soft, gentle hand drifted onto my shoulder as I panted. “It’s in your breathing. Control your breathing and visualize.”
I gasped and jumped backwards into the figure’s grasp, only to find myself on the hard gravel ground below me. The figure chuckled. The small hoarse sounds, all concentrated in the chest was everything I needed to know who it was.
I looked up to find Aunt Abby’s bright smile. She had a dark brown complexion much like my own, but the key difference between us was the eyes and hair. While my eyes were dark brown, hers were hazel. My hair was raven black, while hers was brunet. Within that brown sea of curls there was a multitude of silver hairs, silver hairs that only added to her beauty. She still looked the same as the picture I had glanced over a thousand times in that manor. The one with the whole family in suits and gowns, together, before I was born. For some reason, it was just my parents and Auntie Abigail in the large manor that once housed so many.
“How’d you know I was awake? And more importantly, how’d you find me?” I asked after getting back onto my feet and dusting myself off.
“Mijito, you left the window to your room open,” Aunt Abby smirked, before crossing her arms over her chest. “That and you’ve been screaming at that dummy since one in the morning.”
I let out a soft sigh and gazed down at the gravel beneath my feet, slowly moving my feet around to play with it. The soft clacking of rocks continued under my voice as I spoke. “I’m sorry.” Stubbornly, I picked my gaze back up to meet hers. “I’ve been trying this move for over a week auntie Abby. You’d think I’d at least master manifestation with the amount of time I’ve put in.” I turned back to face the dummy with gritted teeth and a narrowed gaze.
“You’ll get it soon enough Connor, it’s all about patience,” Aunt Abby stood beside me and swiftly moved her hand with minimal effort. There was a quick flash of a pink aethereal whip. In a matter of seconds, the dummy fell to the floor in half. Inside the dummy was a large amount of hay, that now sprawled out onto the training ground. “The important part is that you refuse to give up.”
“I know, I know,” I crossed my arms over my chest in an effort to not seem impressed, even though on the inside I was squealing with excitement. “But it’s easy to be patient when you’ve already mastered the move.” I turned my head from her.
I could hear her soft laugh that was concentrated in her chest before she kissed the top of my head. “Did I ever tell you how long it took me to master Manifestation?”
She placed a large emphasis on me.
The question piqued my curiosity. In all my training I’d heard the stories of great spirit quellers like my great grandpa. How He overcame the most troubling odds and how he saved cities and countries from spirits that threatened them; but I’d never heard about their beginnings. I turned my attention back to her, biting my lips before speaking. “No, no I haven’t.” Smooth Connor, real smooth, I thought to myself.
“Well, think of how long you’ve been attempting it,” she clolsed her hand into a fist, “and multiply it by three.” She mirrored the number with her fingers.
“Yes. I had trouble learning manifestation, like you do,” Aunt Abigail grabbed onto my shoulders before kneeling down so she could meet my eyes. “You’ll learn manifestation, and I can also promise you one thing.” She patted my shoulders. “It won’t take you a month like it did me.”
I smiled at her, hugging her and kissing her cheek. “Thanks Auntie Abby, and I’m sorry about making a lot of noise.”
She patted my back with her arms wrapped around me. “It’s okay, I was having trouble sleeping anyway.”
“I just hate that I’m not strong enough already. I’ve heard the others have been able to master manifestation along with their own abilities, and here I am struggling.” She pushed my head deeper into her warmth. “I’m a disappointment to both families aren’t I.”
After a short time, she pulled away. The look on her face said everything, she was thinking. She often bit her bottom lip when she thought, and her brows tilted towards the top of her forehead as she contemplated things. Auntie Abigail was bad with hiding her emotions. I had known this since the first time she saw me at practice with Mom. Auntie Abby didn’t enjoy the way Mom trained me.
“How would you like to come with me on an important Spirit Queller mission? It’ll be a lot better than training with Mrs. Dictator all day, and–It’ll take your mind off all, that.”
If I could see my face in that moment, I would have seen a thousand fourth of Julys in one-night sky. “Of course Auntie!” I nearly tackled her as I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into a hug.
“Oh, but you have to be careful Auntie. If Mom ever caught you saying that-”
“She would threaten to banish me from my own home?” Aunt nodded along and smirked. “Trust me, she’s tried before. Hasn’t succeeded. Yet.”
There was small moment of silence before we both erupted in laughter together under the soft, sparkly rays of moonlight in the training grounds. It was a nice, quiet night that was supposed to be spent in training, and yet, it was the most fun I had in days. The thoughts of my mother yelling at me, training me to the point where my muscles ached were painful but laughing about them with Auntie made them so much more bearable. Auntie Abigail had often been able to make my worst moments passable, like the day that I was told I would be a Spirit Queller. I was excited, but I vividly remember the conversation my parents had. They spoke about me, how my future was bright and filled with potential.
It sounds fun, but I was also terrified, I still am. What if I wasn’t what my parents expected? What if I failed and I wasn’t going to be as strong as they hoped? What then? I remember Auntie Abby taking me out for ice cream that night, behind my parents back of course. She told me our family was weird, but that’s what you expect for a family of ghost hunters. It wasn’t her words that comforted me, it was the fact that she cared enough to check on me.
My thoughts quickly went back to the mission as Abigail and I made our way back into the manor. This was the first time I was told about a mission, let alone asked to take part in it. Hopefully, this wouldn’t be the last time. This could lead to multiple missions; more importantly, maybe this could show Mom and Dad that I was making good on what they expected from me. Beyond that, I hoped that this mission would be the experience I needed to finally get manifestation.
I turned my gaze to the night sky. The clouds passed by without a care, and the future seemed to grow brighter. Things were finally looking up for me, despite the many clouds.
The next morning, I could hardly contain my excitement as I sat down at the dining room with my family. The hanging chandelier above us seemed to glow ever brighter, and the dark red satin window curtains popped. The whole world seemed to sing nothing but happiness, yet there was eerie cloud closing in just outside the manor. I should have taken that as a warning. I ate my breakfast there with my wonderful family, my thoughts filled with nothing but the mission I would soon embark on.
The conversation was normal, asking how the day was going for everyone there. Talking about the plans we had for the day, the hellish training I was going to endure that day. The way Mom spoke about training seemed to get less and less exciting day by day. As if even she knew the outcome would be the same. Everything seemed to be normal until Aunt Abby brought up taking me on a trip, that’s when hell itself seemed to open.
Mom slammed her hands down on the dark oak table. “Absolutely not! I will not allow you to take Connor with you! He can hardly use manifestation and you want to take him with you on some dangerous mission?” Mom’s bangs flailed across her forehead as she yelled across the table.
“Alexia, we both know that you can’t expect him to learn if you continue to teach him the same way over and over again,” her gaze fell upon me before returning to my Mom. “Connor needs a break.” Abigail didn’t scream, but she also wasn’t talking quietly.
Their voices rattled the entire room as my father and I sat side by side, attempting to make it past dinner with at least our lives intact. I gazed over to see my father drinking his morning coffee, he was the only one who agreed to have me go. He thought the experience was what I needed in order to learn manifestation. In fact, he encouraged me to go, but he knew better than to go against Mom. He winked at me while opening the morning paper and hiding his face behind it.
“I can promise you sister, he’ll be safe under my supervision. I’ll make sure-”
“No Abigail! Connor isn’t ready to go out on his own.”
“But he won’t be on his own, I’ll be there. I’ll be watching over him, I’ll make sure-”
“Abby, please don’t fight me on this. I know what’s best for my family,” Mom sat back down in her chair, rubbing the sides of her temple.
The dark clouds just outside the windows drew closer with each passing second as the sisters grew eager to jump at each other’s throats.
“It’s our family, Alexia. I’m as much a part of this family as you are!”
“Should you be? Maybe that’s why you don’t have-”
“Mom!” I called out to her.
The clattering of a fork falling onto her plate made me turn my attention to Abigail. I saw her face go white; her mouth agape as she found no words to speak. She picked up a napkin to dab her lips, as silence filled the house. In that moment I thought the world would shatter beneath the weight of terrible silence between both sisters. Both sisters looked away from each other, their faces said it all. They knew what had been brought up.
Abigail feigned a cough. “Maybe Connor should choose.”
Mom stared me down with this small smile. Her eyes were kind. They pleaded with me to say no, yet I ignored them, choosing instead to the food on my plate more interesting.
“I want to go with Aunite Abigail. I think it’d be good for me. Maybe a change of scenery and teachers is what I ne-”
“Go to your room.”
That moment seemed to continue for a lifetime, and nothing could be heard. Not the soft singing of birds two miles down the manor, or the soft breeze blowing through trees in the training grounds. Not even the soft clinking of utensils hitting the plates. I swear I could hear every heartbeat in the world at that moment, but never a sound within the room.
“Go to your room.”
Quickly I sat up from my chair, almost tripping over myself as I made my way down the long hallway where my room was. The red wallpaper and carpet were my only company on the way there as the sounds of yelling and screaming continued inside the dining room. Without any form of hesitation, I shut the door behind me, shrinking into myself as I slid my back down the closed door and sat there. I wanted to be tiny, to be so miniscule that I could never be seen again. At the very least that would take my mind off everything that happened.
I sat there for hours with my back against the door and tears streaming down my cheeks; which formed a small puddle on the dark blue pants I wore. Until there was a knock at the door, a quick rhythm of three knocks. The sign of my mother. I wanted desperately to stay pressed against the door. “Can I come in?” But I couldn’t. I stood up, unlocking the door with shaky hands and bated breath.
Mom slowly opened the door, about three inches, and peered around it. “Hey.” I could tell she wanted me to forget about everything. To forget about what just happened under the same roof, mere meters away from my very room. To forget about
“I’m sorry for the way I blew up,” Mom often did this. “To you and Abby”. She apologized for things after they happened, but she never seemed to think of the consequences before speaking. Next, she was going to say she just wants what’s best for me.
“I just want you to know that I want the best for you.” Next was I’ve been talking to your father and we can’t let you go.
“I’m just terrified of letting you go out there. The world is scary. It’s dangerous, and I don’t want you to get hurt.” I listened to her attentively.
“Your aunt and I, have seen a lot of stuff when we were young.” She gripped the door harder. “I want to protect you from all that— but I can see how I may have been overbearing.”
“I’ll allow you to go. On one condition that you promise to be safe and that you’ll run at the first sign of trouble.”
Even if technically that was two conditions, I was not going to let this chance pass me by. I flung the door wide open and nearly tackled my mom to the ground with a bear hug. “I promise you Mom, you won’t regret this!”
“Careful, careful. I’m not as limber as I used to be.” She giggled, wrapping her arms around me. “I just want you to be safe.”
That night, I could swear the moon was brighter than ever before. So brightly in fact that I refused to get any sleep. Though I suppose that had more to do with my excitement and eagerness to go on this mission, rather than the bright night. I packed my suitcase, stuffing it with as many clothes as I could, even though I wouldn’t be there for that long. I stayed awake, dressed in my blue jeans and white button up, with my dark blue cloak nearby. The cloak said what family I belonged to, and it mirrored the one Aunt Abby had.
It was around five in the morning when I said goodbye to my parents that I realized what leaving with Auntie meant for me. A new location meant new possibilities, and not practicing with my mother might help me for a change. I knew my body would be thankful at the very least. I hugged my parents tightly. Thanking them for allowing me to go on this trip in the first place before walking with Auntie onto the small plane that sat in front of the manor facing the cliff. Mom stared down Abigail until she looked away from her glare. I still didn’t know what happened in the past. Why my mother disliked Abigail so much, but I knew that depending on what happened on the mission her opinion could change.
While I stuffed my bag into the luggage compartment below, I couldn’t stop thinking about Abigail and Mom. Their history. With each passing second, I grew more and more curious about what happened between Mother and Abigail. “Auntie, what happened in the past? What did you and mom face?”
Auntie didn’t react until she finished placing her bag in the same luggage compartment. She sat down, in the same tired fashion I had seen my father do many times before, she and sighed. As if she knew I would ask this question one day. “Well a lot has happened. We did grow up together.” She had that same hearty laugh.
I didn’t chuckle with her. “But you guys argue so much, why is that?”
“Me and her, we’ve seen a lot. And the things we’ve seen, well they’ve changed us. For better or for worse.”
“If you guys have been through the same things, then why does she dislike you so much?”
Auntie’s face dropped before she quickly looked away. Her skin seemed to grow pale as she began to fidget with her fingers. “She hates me.”
“It seems like it.”
“Well, she deserves to. The least I can do is to take ownership of that.”
I didn’t know what she meant by that. Desperately, I wanted to, but it seemed Auntie didn’t want to tell me yet. My hand reached over for hers which sat plainly in her lap. Her fingers were fidgeting between each other; but at the last second, I stopped. Retracting my hand back into my own space and choosing instead to stay silent for the rest of the trip.
The plane we flew on was in no way illustrious as many would think. A popular family should have great transportation, right? Well not really. Spirit Quellers did live illustrious lives, but we are required to leave and arrive in the most inconspicuous of ways. Sometimes that mean taking a road trip on a bus, other times taking a fishing boat from one port to another. In our case, we were flying on a small plane with a bunch of farm animals. Strange regulations but considering how dangerous spirits could be it made sense. Spirit Quellers are often omens of evil. Wherever we are, that’s where spirits are. If your city or town was threatened by ghosts would you still want to live there?
The animals made it easier to stay silent, although sleeping eased that idea even further. I hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, so maybe it was better this way. It was only when Auntie Abigail woke me that I realized we had arrived. That was when I found out that I had laid my head on her shoulder throughout the seven-hour trip. She didn’t make a big deal out of it, which only made me respect her more. After what I had asked in the plane, she had a right to be mad at me. She could have and should have pushed me away, but she didn’t. I could blame it on the fact that I was thirteen, but I knew that wasn’t the case. My curiosity got the best of me, and I couldn’t apologize for that. At least not right now.
When Auntie and I stepped off the plane with our luggage I realized that the destination was a large old church house in the middle of nowhere, with a couple of acres in the back for a cemetery. The moment my foot crossed over the property my body temperature dropped. A chill ran down my spine and rattled every bone in my body. I opened my mouth to gasp, only to feel cold air escape my lungs. As my breath hit the air, I could see it turn a light shade of blue.
“You felt it too. right?” Auntie said, without attempting to look over at me. Her whole demeanor had changed as soon as we stepped off the plane. Usually she was talkative and chummy, but now? Now it she was a completely different person.
I nodded. “Yeah. Was that part of our bloodline’s skill?”
“No, every Spirit Queller has this. But something is different. This is the hardest it’s ever hit me.” She looked over to me.
“I need you to stay close to me.”
I nodded along, giving her a small smile in confidence. We both continued walk on the long winding dirt path that lead of to the large, lonely church up on the hill. If there was ever a creepy haunted place this was it. With every step I took I saw more problems with the church. The structure of it was unstable, to the point where I thought the wind would blow it away. The church was nearly corroded, taken apart by termites enjoying their holy dinner. And finally, the church stood in front of a cemetery. That alone was reason enough to dislike this place. Beside the church there was a small tool shed, but one that I paid little mind to.
At the steps of the church we were greeted by the pastor and some of the congregation. They spoke with vigor and terror in their voices, but attention wasn’t on them. I had a disturbing feeling that we were being watched. When I turned around my eyes met with a person dressed in a flannel shirt, some blue jeans dirtied with grass and large boots. He towered over me and Abigail. His eyes were Hazel just like Abigail’s but there was a key difference between them. Her eyes held nothing but kindness, and within this man’s eyes I found nothing but contempt and hatred.
He had a smile for me when our eyes met. “Hello everyone, I didn’t know that we were having guests Father. You should have warned me. I would have prepared the greenery a little better than I already have,” He let out a hearty chuckle. My air within my lungs went cold again.
The father spoke in a muffled voice, speaking of the man who looked down at me and Auntie. I can’t recall what he said exactly because I watched the man’s every move. There was something off about the man, not to mention whatever that skill was went off as soon as the man stepped into the room. They continued to speak before the father finally introduced us.
“Dominick, these are the people who can help us get rid of the demons on our property. Expert Spirit Queller Abigail Abarroa and her apprentice Connor Abarroa.”
“Ah. Well I must say, it’s a pleasure to meet the both of you,” his eyes met with mine when the words you escaped his lips.
“The pleasures all ours,” Abigail dismissed him easily. “Father, can you tell us where and when you first experienced these Spirits?”
They continued to speak, but their voices drowned out as I observed Dominick leave, a scowl on his face. While Abigail was acting more direct, I knew it wasn’t that Abigail had dismissed him. It couldn’t have been. That scowl came from years of anger and disdain. Like the man had known Abigail for a long time. Or maybe the man had known what Auntie and I were from the beginning. Maybe he knew about our arrival for a while now. I wanted to tail the man so desperately, but that go against both my mother’s and Aunt’s wishes. That’s what I should’ve told myself.
As soon as he stepped foot outside the church, I slipped away to follow him. Making some excuse that I was going to use the bathroom and ignoring Abigail’s wishes yes, but this man knew more than he let on. I continued to follow him around the church and to a small red shed in the back of the church. Unlike the rustic appearance of the church, this shed was just built. It had a fresh coat of red paint lining the outside. From within the shed I could hear the loud clanking of metal and rustling of plastic. I was a couple feet away from the shed when I heard a sharp bark coming from behind me.
I turned to see where the bark came from, only to find a small wolf shimmering in what I could only describe as the same aethereal shimmer that my manifestation had. I had to blink a couple of times to ensure that I wasn’t just seeing things, but there was in fact a wolf. I could see through it and see the white shimmer of it. Rubbing my eyes, I stared at it. Could this be one of the spirits that was haunting the place? It couldn’t be, right? This wolf was way too cute and small for it to be causing any problems. Let alone the fact that I’d never seen an animal spirit. Okay fine I hadn’t seen any spirit period, but an animal spirit was unusual. I’d never heard of them from my parents or in the books I read.
I stepped closer to the dog with an outstretched hand. Its eyes were a deep shade of red, like that of a ruby. Its fur was pure white, with only one splotch of black on the chest. With each step I took, the wolf seemed to pay no mind. It never barked. It didn’t even growl, instead it sat down as if waiting for me to pet it. As soon as my hand touched the white fur, I could feel it. It was soft, fluffy, but even stranger was the fact that it felt real. The wolf was a spirit, and yet my hand could press up against it and feel weight. Feel the fur. The wolf licked my hand before chomping down on the cape of my cloak and yanking me towards the church. It pulled me farther and farther from the shed until I was around the corner of the church, near its front steps. My button up was all dirty, but at the moment I wasn’t worried about that.
I could hear Dominick stepping out of the shed and walking further away from the church. Slowly, I peered over the corner to find him pull a large metallic contraption with wires pouring out from all sides towards the cemetery. When I got up to follow him the wolf pulled my pant leg back, making me fall flat on my face.
“Hey. What’s the problem?” I turned around, only to find the once small dog now gigantic and bulkier than before. Despite the wolf’s enormous appearance, it whimpered, sniffing the ground and looking towards the cemetery. It was trying to tell me something. I started off with the obvious. The sniffing.
“Are you looking for something?”
The wolf nodded, or at least what I thought was a nod.
“Is what you’re looking for in the cemetery?”
“Do you want me to help you look for it?”
The final nod before the wolf began to walk towards the cemetery. It wasn’t waiting for an answer, it knew I had a duty to help it. Despite the stories Mom and Dad told me, the name Spirit Queller was formed that way for a reason. Spirit for what our kind often fought, but the Queller part was still disputed today. Some people think that Queller means to banish the spirits, an act that would sever the soul of the spirit and force it back to wherever it came from. Others Believe that Queller means to form an understanding with the spirit so that it may leave this plane in peace.
From what I understood the two existed at the same time. A Spirit Queller was both in charge of severing Spirits from this world and allowing them to leave peacefully. From the way the wolf acted, it knew of this and it knew what kind I wanted to be. At least that’s what I thought about when we continued to walk towards the cemetery.
At first, I thought that we were heading the same direction as Dominick, but the wolf began to lead me away. Its nose was close to the ground as it moved silently in front of me, every now and again it would perk it’s ears up and wait for second before continuing to move. We crossed dirty tombstone after tombstone, to the point where I began to question if Dominick was even the groundskeeper. It would go along with my theory that he wasn’t, but still, the tombstones didn’t have to suffer for it.
The silence on the long walk was not the part that bothered me most, it was the fact that this dog had no name.
“I should give you a name, you know since you’re gonna be with me for a while. What about wolfy?”
Wolfy didn’t turn around.
“What about Rocky?”
Rocky ignored me once again.
“Well, how about Buddy?”
The wolf turned its attention to me and barked once. It panted, its tongue wiggling out of its mouth and moving with every breath. He enjoyed that name. I chuckled and messed with Buddy’s fur. “Buddy it is then.”
There was a loud thunderous boom and small flash of purple light in the near distance. I stopped petting Buddy. Whatever happened over there— I needed to report to Abigail. I was about to run back to the church when I thought getting more information wouldn’t be a bad idea. I thought about what Mom and Abigail said, about my promise. Technically I wouldn’t be in any danger so long as I stayed silent and away from their sights. Besides, Abigail would’ve heard the sound too. She should be on her way.
“Buddy I’m heading over there.”
I sprinted towards the blast until Buddy chucked me onto his back. I clutched onto Buddy’s fur tightly. The wind was flowing past us. It’s weird to be riding on the back of a large wolf, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was amazing. There was a bright smile on my face as we raced over towards the flash.
The position of the flash was just over the hill, but we couldn’t allow ourselves to be seen. I dismounted buddy and peered just over the hill. From the top I could see Dominick, kneeling in front of the contraption he had been wheeling over. They were in front of some tomb. An actual large tomb. There was another cold sensation reaching all along my skin before it was released in my breath in same puff of light green.
Another flash of purple and the contraption sparked to life, revealing the inside of a very dark figure with hellish blue eyes. It wasn’t human despite how human it looked; the eyes made sure of that. Staring into them made my heart race, my breath hasten, and my mind melt. I couldn’t think within those moments, only listen as they spoke to one another.
“You were right master, she’s here.” Dominick said, his head bowed in service.
“Of course I was. Now, did I ever tell you how much I hate being bothered by an unscheduled call?” The voice was deep and booming.
“Sorry your heighness, I was calling you to tell you that I haven’t found the artifact, and I’m afraid that with those two Spirit Quellers they’ll-”
“Those two? I got mention of one, not two. When did the other arrive?”
“They arrived today. This morning. It was a Spirit Queller and her apprentice.”
“An apprentice? That’s, interesting.” I shivered at the word interesting.
“Sir— I mean your highness. Can you please give me some assistance?”
“Hmm, I fail to see why I should. Your first task was to find the artifact. I helped you at the beginning by murdering that poor groundskeeper and giving you the position. The least you could do is finish your first task.”
That’s when it struck me, like lightning to a kite. That figure speaking was the Ghost king. It all made sense now. The highness, the purple almost black like mist and powerful aura. He was— no, is the Ghost king.
I saw Dominick’s face drop as he bowed his head, ready to end the call. Then a loud roar of laughter erupted from the Ghost King. “You can have your assistance, but just know,” a large tentacle with a dark aura surrounded it came from the portal and snatched Dominick by the neck.
“I want the artifact. Fail to do so, and you’ll find out exactly what I did to the groundskeeper.” There was a guttural growl with every syllable and then the portal shut down with a loud bang. Dominick sat there before the contraption, his head down. He gasped for air on his knees, hand wrapped around his neck.
The portal to the spirit realm, the contraption, whatever that thing was, it allowed Dominick to communicate with Ghost King. What’s worse, Dominick was communicating with the Ghost King. Abigail had to know about all this, there was no way Auntie Abigail could take on the Ghost King by herself. Two large dark figures rose from the ground beneath the contraption, their dark silhouettes were all I could see. Other than two object that made them distinct from one another. One held a large scythe, almost the same size as the figure itself; the other had these large claws on either hand like an animal.
I stood up with my eyes glued to the contraption as I moved backwards. Then a loud snap echoed through my ears. I looked down to find a stick broken beneath my feet on the tall grass. “Shoot.”
Dominick turned around to where I was and coughed. “Go after them, they can’t get away!” He stood up and ran away from us as the two figures raced towards us.
Buddy and I needed to go. We couldn’t fight both spirits alone, okay maybe Buddy could take on one, but I was just dead weight. There was no way I could use Manifestation to help him. A smirk crept onto my face; Auntie Abby was somewhere inside the church. She could take on more than five of them at the same time. All we needed to do was get to her.
I leaned into Buddy’s ear and whispered, “Head for the church.” He woofed back in response before dashing between both spirits.
I rode on top of Buddy, struggling to get my arms around his neck. The wind brushed against my hair, ruining any shape it had, but it meant we were making great distance. I turned my attention behind us to check, only to find the two spirits were gone. The Spirit rose from underneath us and attempted to slash its scythe at Buddy. Quickly, he dodged.
I was tossed off his back. When my back met the cold hard floor, the air trapped within me burst from my lungs and out into the air. The other spirit gave me little time. Rising from the ground in front of me. This one looked different from the other one. Instead of being a hooded figure, with a large scythe, this one was rabid. Its eyes were the same shade of red as Buddy’s, it had the same body as a human, but there was something animalistic about this spirit. It could have been the razor-sharp claws, which I swear could tear through metal like paper, or the fact that its face resembled that of a cat. Either way, I knew that I had to leave when the spirit screeched at me.
When I first learned about spirits with my mother, my attention was centered on what I should do if I ever met one. Naturally, the first step as a Spirit Queller was to fight them. However, considering I hadn’t mastered Manifestation yet, that was off the table. The second step was to try a cross. Bad news, the nearest cross was inside the church. Over half a mile away from where I was. The third step was to use holy water. Nearest holy water was the church. The last step was to seek help. Well that was the last step before accepting death, but I’m going to ignore the last step.
I leapt over the head stone in the ground. The spirit slammed its claws deep into the head stone. Tearing through it like swiss cheese. It didn’t move as it’s gaze shifted onto me. The blood red eyes peering through my very soul. It was an instinct. My arm moved by itself. A green aethereal chain shot out and before it even hit the spirit it shattered into a million pieces. Still, the animalistic spirit flinched. Raising it’s claws above to cover its head. Only to find nothing struck it. I ran away in those precious moments. It howled at after me as I dashed towards the church.
My mind was filled to the brim with one single thought. Make it to the church, but every step I took, the church only seemed farther away. That’s when Buddy flew above me, landing on the ground before me with a loud thud. Buddy smashed through any tombstones before me. I stopped dead in my tracks. There was no way I could move past buddy quickly enough and there was no way I could leave him. I was left with only one choice.
My breath was hot, arid fire inside my throat. With clenched fists and gritted teeth, I turned around to face both spirits. I knew I couldn’t do anything. I knew my manifestation wouldn’t work. I knew I stood no chance with two spirits. And still I stood before them. I stood before them because I had to protect Buddy for as long as it took for him to get back up. I wasn’t about to let them hurt him.
The air seemed to stop as we stared at each other, waiting for the other to attack. As suspected, the more animalistic spirit rushed me. Without thinking I moved my right arm. The green chain reappeared and instead of attempting to wrap the chains around the spirit, or even hit him, I attempted to scare them. The chain shattered into a million pieces just before hitting the animalistic spirit. A loud thud sounded off as the spirit jumped out of the way. They were afraid of what would happen to them. Scythe spirit moved and I shot my other arm out at him. Tt did the same thing; stopping just before my chain shattered.
My body trembled; my heart rate quickened with every second that passed. I could feel the breath escaping my nose and mouth. It was lava flowing out of me. They moved once more, and I did the same thing again. I figured I could do this for a while, but they were learning after two more attempts. Whenever they moved together, I struggled to manifest my chain. Manifesting one chain was a struggle in it of itself, and I couldn’t even hit my target with one; but two. I couldn’t do that. It’d be more likely to shatter as soon as it appeared rather than shoot towards my target. The more animalistic spirit seemed to smirk as it realized my trick. They both moved again, I focused my attack on the closest one, the scythe spirit, but this time it didn’t flinch. Instead it rushed past me, only to be met with buddy’s jagged teeth. I celebrated a little too soon when I flew seconds later.
My body fell hard onto the grass. I stared up as the spirit landed on the ground before me. Its ghastly appearance become more and more clearer as it approached me. I crawled along the floor on my stomach, only to find myself in a losing battle. Fruitlessly, I continued to crawl until the spirit grabbed my legs and pulled me below it. Its face was terrifying. Dark red eyes that had no soul. A furry face like a panther, but it was scruffier than anything else. In a flash, its razor-sharp claws were raised above its head. I raised my hands above my head and screamed loudly, closing my eyes shut.
A loud crack sounded off and the spirit squealed before me. I opened my eyes to find the monster gone, disappearing from life itself. The only thing that remained in its place was purple dust which was dissipating in the air. I turned my head to the right to see Auntie Abigail shaking, her right arm raised. Even as her body shook, she stood so confidently and without fear. There was a loud squeal nearby. Abigail whipped her other arm around, another aethereal pink whip lashed out at the spirit that Buddy clenched his teeth around. It was dispatched with the same squeal and puff of smoke as the first.
With both Spirits defeated Abigail rushed towards me, wrapping her arms around me tightly. To the point where I could feel the bones in my back cracking. She sobbed into my shoulder as Buddy sunk deep into the ground, choosing to leave me when I needed him most. In that moment I had no idea what to feel. My muscles were tense, my body sore after all the adrenaline had been pumping through them. I had more than a fair share of bruises, but nonetheless I was lucky and ecstatic to be alive.
Abigail crushed me in her warm embrace. I knew I had disobeyed both Abigail’s and my mom’s orders. Despite what I felt was a worthy cause, I had still caused Auntie to worry. I wanted to say I understood how she felt, but, I never could. Nothing I could say would ever be enough to make this situation right. After some time in silence, she tightened her embrace and I felt like my eyes were about to shoot out of their sockets.
“Auntie. Loosen. Up.” I tapped her arm.
“God dammit Connor! Do you know how worried I was?”
I stayed silent.
“I thought that I was going to lose you.” She sobbed into my shoulder. “I can’t go through that again Connor! I can’t lose someone else. You have to promise to stay close to me okay?”
I stayed silent.
“Promise me Connor!”
“Okay, I promise.” My voice was soft under the weight of emotions. How could I make her worry so much?
She continued to sob into my shoulder as we sat there in the graveyard. After what happened last night with Mom, and what happened right now I started to ask more questions. Questions regarding what happened to Mom and Auntie in the past? What happened before I was born? What happened in the past that Mom didn’t trust Auntie? Why was Auntie in so much pain? And what did all this have to do with me?
It was that night when we made our way to our room which sat at the top of the church that I remembered about Dominick and the Ghost King.
“Auntie I need to tell you something,” I looked up to her. My eyes were as stern and serious as I could make them.
She looked down at me, and I could see the fear still in her eyes. They were red, she had just sobbed, but there were still tears there. Ready to let go at any moment. The other thing I noticed is that she was biting down on her lips.
“What is it Connor?”
“When we were in the graveyard, I saw Dominick talking to… to a spirit.” The creaking of the floorboards stopped. “And it was calling itself the Ghost King. I think Dominick is colluding with spirits Auntie.”
Auntie Abigail stood deathly still with her back to me. She then raised her hand and wiped the tears from her face. She turned around, kneeling before me and taking my hands into her own. “It’s okay. We’ll find a way to deal with this.”
She smiled at me, and though her lips trembled. I merely took it for her being scared. Afterall, I had nearly died and then to be told this. This was a lot to take in. Despite that, I smiled back at her.
Abigail pulled me in and held onto me tightly before letting out a soft sigh. “I just hope you can forgive me for this.”
“What do you mean?”
Abigail pushed me away. The world around me moved in slow motion as my body connected with floor. Before I could even move a muscle, Aunt Abigail rushed out the door. A small clicking sound boomed through my ears. I got back up and slammed my body against the wood door.
“Auntie!” I pounded against the door. “Auntie you have to listen to me!”
“This is for your own good Connor. I won’t lose someone close to me. I can’t go through that again.”
“Dominick is colluding with the spirits Auntie! Listen to me!” I yelled to the door as my only audience.
There was no sound coming from the other side now.
“Auntie!” I tried to kick down the door, aiming for the doorknob. Only to miss the doorknob and smash the door with my foot. I tried again, hitting the target but it never budged. Taking a couple steps away from the door I decided the best plan was to blast through it with my shoulder. I rushed towards the door, smashing my body against it, but it didn’t budge. No matter how many times I tried to kick the door or bash through it, it never budged. After many attempts, my shoulder and my leg were bruise and sore. I was sure that I had broken something, but now all I cared about was warning Abigail.
I sat on the bed in the middle of the room. My hands gripping the covers. How was I supposed to warn Abigail? Was I even supposed to? Would it be better if I stayed inside and listened to what they told me? I laid in the bed, staring up at the ceiling of the old church. We were spending the night here, or at least I was. What I wanted to do was go out, to warn Abigail about Dominick and locate that artifact before he spoke about with the Ghost King.
I sat back up on the bed, looking out the window. I thought back to the promise I made to my mother. How I promised not to get into trouble, to stay safe. Biting down on my bottom lip I thought about what I saw back at the graveyard with Buddy. Dominick could ask for more reinforcements. I couldn’t let Auntie face that by herself, she didn’t have the information I had. She didn’t know that Dominick was in contact with the Ghost King. She didn’t know the Ghost King had a role in this. Buddy barked at me, phasing through the wooden floor of the church. If I was there with Abigail, then she wouldn’t be alone, and I’d be in the safest spot. On top of that, I’d be able to warn her and protect her. I smiled and pet Buddy making my decision.
I took the sheets off the bed and tied them together before tying it to the bed. With a wide smirk I made my way to the window and threw it open, getting ready to drop down onto the floor.