Wiccan Apotropaic: Book 2 of the Crystal Raven Series

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Chapter 12

Chapter 12

The fog broke up during the night, and the day dawned sunny and bright – a perfect day for sightseeing if you were not a vampyre. Angel set out with Jaime and Drake to study 10 Downing Street and its environs. He thought the enterprise was foolhardy and dangerous, and the Brit’s explanation left out more than it told. That Jaime was lying, he knew as only an angel could, but was it a lie of omission, or something more sinister?

In Westminster, they found a quiet place to park well away from their target and its security. The British Isles were one of the most monitored societies – a legacy of the IRA terror campaigns, and now nine/eleven – and had more Closed Circuit cameras per capita than anywhere else the Brotherhood operated. Acting like typical tourists, something not too hard for Drake, who had never been outside the continental United States, they approached 10 Downing Street from St. James Park. At least a hundred cameras were recording their every move, hours of footage documenting every moment of their day should anyone ever feel the need to compile it.

Two cast-iron gates with guardhouses blocked both ends of Downing Street near the famous residence, built after a mortar attack by the Provisional IRA. Worse, a new bomb-proof door had been added, a door that only opened from the inside. This they had to learn from the internet as that section of the street was no longer accessible to the public. Jaime and Drake fell into a competition over who could spot the most cameras. Whatever the number, it was too many for Angel’s liking.

Since the heavier security had been added, several breaches had taken place. A man had once scaled the back fence, and a young couple had wandered in from Whitehall when members of the staff were leaving. They all had one thing in common – they had all been caught. Angel doubted they could find an accommodating security guard to buzz them in, nor did he relish the idea of explaining to the chaps from MI5 that they were merely passing through on their way to fight demons living under your Prime Minister’s residence. Cheerio and all that.

If a ground floor approach was out of the question, they began to consider an aerial assault – going in through the roof. The problem there, with only Angel capable of flight, was the need to use mechanical means to get the others onto the building. A helicopter would be out of the question – too noisy. Hang gliders might work – black material to blend into the night sky, a flat section of the roof to land on. And a nice hole in the slate roof, where the hang-gliders smashed through them. Not in keeping with the Brotherhood credo of leaving no trace of their existence, of remaining in the shadows until the end of time.

“You came in off Whitehall,” Angel said quietly. “I don’t think they will fall for that three times.”

“Got down to the kitchen before the blighters caught me,” Jaime replied, not able to keep from bragging. The other couple had only reached the Cobra emergency room.

“Yes,” Drake retorted. “And got nailed by one of the cooks.”

“Leave off Drake,” Angel scolded. “The roof is out too – that means we’ll have to find another way into the tunnels.”

“Bloody terrorists!” Drake muttered darkly.

“You said it mate.”

Satisfied, or at least bored of looking at unapproachable buildings, they returned to the cottage, where Alvaro and Brendan were awaiting their report. They gathered in the living room, discussing their options while those who partook ate a quick lunch.

“I can’t see going in through 10 Downing Street,” Angel was explaining. “Too many cameras and too much security.”

“Number 10 is a tough nut,” Jaime agreed.

“We’ll need the maps from the Brotherhood Archives,” Alvaro commented dryly.

Since Ol’ King Henry and his problems with his wives, the English arm of the Brotherhood had been a standoffish lot. Their archives, or the portion the Americans were interested in, were housed in the Tower of London. ῾Where else?᾿ Angel sighed bitterly. Unfortunately, when the crown jewels were moved into the Waterloo Barracks, the main display case was built over top of the only entrance into the archives. No-one had accessed the archives in forty years – although a rumour was being nosed about certain circles that a wily Jean-Claude had visited them three years ago.

Rumours were no good to them, and they could not ask the gentleman in question to confirm the truth of the matter. Alvaro added a sigh of his own.

“I will try.”

“No,” Brendan cut in, “it should be me. I am smaller than you and have more experience with tight spaces.”

Brendan was right. A Nosferatu’s innate ability to dislocate any of their bones - if his head would fit, his body would follow – made Brendan the ideal candidate to make an attempt.

With their minds on anything but the volleyball tournament, Miss Sweider was pleasantly surprised when her girls took both sets today. She even relented and gave up their court time, cancelling their practice to allow them to attend the dinner that was being held by their hosts. Besides, putting up with twelve whiny teenagers would only add to her headache. If only she could con Cantara into chaperoning the girls at the dinner, she could spend a quiet evening enjoying a hot bath and a good book – something mushy and romantic to carry her away from all this suspense and excitement.

Cantara rolled her eyes and shrugged at Miss Sweider’s request. A dozen hordes of excited teenage girls descended on the house’s only bathroom – it wouldn’t do to let strange girls see you at anything but your best. Teenage girls could be so catty. And so the showers – for many their second in less than an hour – a parade of emergency wardrobe consultations, borrowing and outright thefts, and enough makeup to cover up a small building. Had Cantara ever been that young?

Aiko wanted to spend the evening meditating and practicing her katas. She had felt a growing despondency since Shadow’s death, a sense that she no longer belonged anywhere in this world. Solitude is what she craved; Gwen is what she found. The girl latched onto her like a demon-possessed leech, dragging her into their room to shove bits of clothing at her. At moments like this, she could see April in her daughter – that implacable stubbornness that would not back down from God or the devil. It was a scary trait for food to display.

Gwen held up a red silk blouse she thought went well with Aiko’s black hair. “Well, it’s a little sheer. If you wear it with your black camisole and those embroidered jeans – the ones with the dragons. What do you think, Crystal?

“I think you should put on a pair of pants before we leave,” Crystal teased.

“Don’t be silly,” Gwen scolded, turning to see Morgana reach for a pair of jeans from her bed. “Hey! I’m wearing that tonight.”

“My bum looks so much hotter in them than yours,” Morgana shot back.

“Why, I never!” Gwen scoffed. “Helen of Troy’s face may have launched a thousand ships, but in those jeans, this ass has broken a thousand hearts. Now give them here.”

And as if by magic, a gaggle of noisy, squabbling girls became a group of sophisticated young ladies, far too sophisticated for giggles. Cantara shared a secret smile with herself. ῾I was definitely never that young.᾿ She thought as she herded them into the van.

The dinner was being held at an upscale inn near the University – Windermere Manor. Large enough to seat the hundred-odd teenage girls who had come for the tournament, it was serving a buffet-style meal. Each collection of tables on its upper floor sat two teams, each facing the other to encourage socialization. The Ghost Sisterhood was seated with the host team – the Forest City Falcons. A waitress came and took their drink orders, and the girls went down in twos or threes, still divided by team colours.

Aiko knew coming here was a mistake. Standing in line between Crystal and Gwen, the only thing on the menu that appealed to her was her fellow diners. She let Gwen place items on her plate, unappealing globs of vegetable and animal matter that looked pre-digested to her jaundice eye. Now that tall waiter – he would make a satisfying snack.

Back at the table, one of the Falcons noticed the diamond ring on the leather thong Gwen wore around her neck, the same lace that bore her Wiccan crystal.

“Ooooh,” the girl aahed, “is that ring real?”

Gwen took it up and held it in her hand, “we think so.”

“It’s beautiful,” the other girl replied.

“Ugh!” Gwen replied with a frown, “for a haunted ring, I guess so.”

“Oh, are you Wiccan?” The other girl asked, noticing the crystal for the first time.

“Yes,” Gwen responded, making an arcane sign above her crystal.

“Oh, my mother does the same thing whenever she meets a new Wicca,” the girl cried, pulling out her own crystal and trying to mimic Gwen. “I’m Becky, by the way. This is Glenda and Brittany.”

Aiko glowered down at her plate, stabbing a pea with her fork and sending its guts flying. She took it back. She would not eat any of these girls – they were too noisy.

“You’re a Wiccan too?” Crystal asked, curiously. While they had seen many girls wearing crystals, Becky was the first actual local Wiccan they had met.

“Well,” Becky gave an exaggerated sigh, “I try. But with school and volleyball and boys – well, you know how it is?”

“Becky’s mom is the head of our coven,” Glenda interjected quietly. “Not many of us keep to the old ways.”

“Oh,” Crystal replied, disappointed.

“We were looking for someone who might know the Apotropaic,” Gwen explained, “or anything about the Black Donnellys.”

The three local girls exchanged looks. “Not many Wiccans live in the city – mostly in small towns and the country.” Brittany supplied.

“We wouldn’t know much about Wiccan oral tradition,” Becky replied, off-hand, “but everyone knows about the Black Donnellys.”

Glenda and Brittany rolled their eyes. Their friend could be pompous whenever she held forth on any subject.

“Let Glenda tell it,” Brittany urged. “She tells it better.”

Glenda shot her a dirty look and took a long swallow of water before beginning.

“In the mid-eighteen hundreds, many of the new immigrants brought cholera off the ships with them. In the Wiccan community, there was fear that the cholera epidemic would disrupt our oral traditions, and there were secrets in the area it was felt needed to be preserved.

Some of the Wiccan covens wanted to write this knowledge down – the traditionalists objected to it. It caused the Great Schism. The traditionalists were led by a native wise woman with Irish blood, a red-headed firebrand known to stir up the covens.

A book was written despite their opposition, a single black leather-bound volume. Unsure of who to trust in the divisive atmosphere, the Conspirators gave it to James Donnelly, whose wife was a Wiccan who chose to support neither side.

Johannah Donnelly, they say, had a foretelling that the book would bring evil to the family and urged him to get rid of it.

Father John Connolly, the parish priest at that time, became active in the Biddulph Peace Society. Are you familiar with the problems with the Irish Protestants and Catholics? All that Orange Men, Whiteboys and Blackfeet stuff?”

“No,” Crystal started, and then concluded. “You mean, like all that IRA thing?”

“Sort of,” Glenda replied, taking up the story again. “The original feud started back in Ireland. Here in Canada, it began with a land dispute and escalated into fighting over stagecoaches. Stages were either smashed or burnt, horses were killed, and stables burnt to the ground. Although the Donnellys were blamed for all of it, the Biddulph Peace Society was responsible for much of the arson and physical violence.

There was the Code – an intolerance towards fraternization with other religions. Some say it was the stagecoach feud, some say it was because the Donnellys flaunted this code – donating to the Anglican church and dealing with Wiccans. No-one really knows what happened, or why.

On the evening of February 3rd, Constable Carroll and a mob came to the Donnelly homestead. The family was beaten and murdered. After that night, the Wiccan book of secrets was never seen again.”

“He was possessed, of course,” Becky added.

“Who was?” Gwen asked.

“Father John Connolly, or Constable Carroll,” Becky replied brightly. “Oh well, same difference.”

“It was after the massacre, though,” Brittany concluded, “that the Church betrayed the Donnellys. They held a secret meeting, the bishop and the prosecutor – Orlo Miller.”

“At the bishop’s residence not far from here. The men met supposedly to prevent the trial of the mob.” Glenda supplied. “Although I wouldn’t take things at face value. There’s always stuff nobody tells you, and other stuff that is common knowledge and nobody thinks it’s important enough to write down.”

Google was the flavour of the evening when the girls returned to the house. With their laptops and cell phones, they sat around the living room in their pyjamas and loungewear, munching on caramel popcorn and researching the Black Donnellys. Aiko found the article in the London Free Press, the one detailing the history of the Bishop’s Residence due to be torn down soon. For a vampyre, she was surprisingly capable on the computer, rattling away on the keyboard at speeds the others could only envy.

“Gods,” Morgana breathed, “the girl could do all are reports in under five minutes.”

“That would be cheating,” Aiko replied primly.

“Dude,” Morgana teased, “that would be rad.”

“Do you think the Wiccan book of Secrets might have ended up at the Bishop’s residence?” Crystal asked suddenly.

“It’s possible,” Cantara opined. “The Brotherhood often hid documents on sacred ground, and that story the girl told at dinner had Brotherhood written all over it. Stands to reason that in 1880 the Bishop’s residence would be one of the few permanent buildings they had access to.”

“We should check it out,” Crystal suggested, “and soon.”

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