marketplace for supplies
Before James could meet up with Matt he had an unscheduled stop to make. He had to purchase items! He knew some of the ritual myths he read them as a young man and they were seared into memory! Maybe subconsciously he had been preparing for this, James thought. He headed to the marketplace for supplies. James entered the herbal/ library marketplace on the outskirts of the walled Lucem Dei estate. Thrust back in time, back to the Middle Ages even down to the period piece cowbell that alerted the store owners of his presence. The inside of the marketplace was drastically different from the prefab modern structure outside. The hard wood floor, probably stripped from a 17th century church slated to be torn down, creaked. Dust flew through the air in a torrent of particles that made his throat burn as he inhaled it.
Surrounding him on either side spanning from floor to ceiling were bookshelves. The Lucem Dei library boasted the largest collection of occult, metaphysical, and theology based books in the United States. The first bookshelves contained hardbound ancient manuscripts. Some old manuscripts looked new from the care and gentle hands of some previous owner but some manuscripts were falling apart, duct tape running the edge of the spines. The second bookshelf held newer books, but still old from book standards, 1900s to present day manuscripts with the shiny lamination and crisp pages.
He searched the bookshelves obsessively until he found what he was looking for. Between the study of psychic phenomenon, vampyres and ghosts was a study of shape shifters. He found a new book called Understanding Lycanthropy and Its Disease by anonymous, two books from his youth that he had read called Of Wolf and Man, and The Encyclopedia of Werewolves. He picked them up dusted then them off when the shopkeeper finally arrived.
James was taken aback when he turned around and saw the black robes and habit. She was an old nun with thick rimmed, wire framed glasses with a beaded chain across her neck so she wouldn’t lose them.
She had pleasant hazel eyes and red rosy cheeks and an unassuming smile. James noticed her lip stick stained dentures when she talked.
She clasped her hands when she spoke, “I’m sorry to keep you waiting,” she said, “Can I help you my dear child?”
“Thank you sister,” He whispered as he set the books down on a table. The nun reminded him of the library in Holy Family Elementary School and the evil nuns who smacked his hands with the ruler whenever he was talking in an octave too loud for the nuns to stomach. “I am a research assistant, assisting Dr. Byron Atkins, I would like to check these books out and then get help selecting and identifying herbs.”
“Very good my dear, I will just need you to sign the books out over here and then I’ll help you with the rest.”
James struggled to limp over to the counter. His heart skipped a beat as he remembered the sign-in process. The walls of the Lucem Dei functioned as a self-sustaining village apart from the world. If you are in the walls of the Lucem Dei you didn’t need any money but you had to sign everything. All you required was covered by private benefactors (some with military ties and deep pockets) going as far back as the late 17th century. It was a shadowy program backed by the Vatican, though if brought public the Vatican would disavow any knowledge of its existence.
He sloppily signed a signature, signing Sebastian Bach one of his idols a great composer that came to mind in a pinch. Too worried he was going to get caught he scratched anything that came to mind, however, she did not give him another look, too complacent from the relative safety of the secure walls, as she closed the sign in book and put it back under the counter. James could breathe again as he looked into her trusting, unassuming eyes.
If the Lucem Dei were governed by the states, the DEA would be knocking down the door for the illicit items under the counter, but the Lucem Dei was a safe haven, not governed by the states and he was safe and secure behind the walls of the Lucem Dei. People would get their milk and bread together with their opium and a host of illegal drugs with a smile and “God bless you” from a saintly nun, all necessary legal sacraments under the rites of God’s Light.
The secure walls around him did not give him any solace, however, as his voice cracked worried about being arrested when he suggested under his breath, “I need, uh, um, two dozen copper nails, ergot fungus, wormwood, fennel, anise and um, um, a pint of grain alcohol and perhaps some other things.”
“And oh yes, I need uh, lycanthropous flowers...” James said following the nun.
The small fragile nun had no trouble retrieving the flowers imported and cultivated by the church. She turned and proceeded to select the things on James’ list. The wormwood and fennel she collected was beside the carrots and potatoes which made James immediately laugh to his self. The ergot fungus was in a glass container by the parsley and oregano. The opium was locked in a safe under the counter amongst the many illicit materials James had selected. The nun, as if realizing James’s ultimate plans, frowned making James’ heart sink. Dammit, he was too close to realizing his ultimate destiny to have it all yanked away at the last second. He felt sweat beading under his shirt.
“Excuse me for saying this, far be it from me to understand the projects here, but you already tried this experiment eleven times and every time the experiment failed. Tell me in advance next time because I’m running out of wormwood and I have to make a new batch of ergot fungus from Rye seeds before you experiment anymore.” James looked into her eyes. Her eyes were full of compassion and concern. She thinks I’m one of the doctors, he thought.
“Seems to me the Holy Ghost and our Heavenly God doesn’t want such blasphemy under His roof.” She knew she had crossed the line somewhere in the sand and she was worried about retribution. And if it had been anybody else she should have been disciplined but it was James so there would be no punishment today.
“Sister, forgive me, but all failed?” the fear in her eyes made him bolder to question such a thing.
“Well yes my dear.” Not questioning that a doctor should have known this already.
“I thought the ritual was an utter failure. The basement is full of volunteers that got bitten. Those comatose demonic things,” She was lost in thought for a moment and wrung her hands nervously muttering under her breath “but I see you are trying the procedure one last time.”
“What?” He had completely forgotten his fear of getting caught, now too wrapped up in Lucem Dei and its clandestine operations.
“Why, the volunteers got bitten or volunteered for the ritual to get infected so they could study the beginnings of the disease, of course.” He didn’t say another word, gathering up his supplies including a copper pot and a dozen copper nails and hurriedly left the store as quickly as he could, hobbling on his cane like a man on a mission.
James’ head was reeling with the discovery of the clandestine experiments perpetuated by the Lucem Dei. Somewhere in the church turned dungeon of the Lucem Dei there were lycanthropes being held captive other than So-seti. Where were they? How many were there? He shook off his uneasy thoughts and finished up procuring his items. Then, he made his way toward Matt to finish their nightly chess game in the garden by the church.
“Hey James,” Matt cheered, “I almost thought you ditched me!”
“Um, um, um now why would I do such a thing?” James set down and pushed the procurements under the bench.
“So I am dying to know, in your conversations with So-seti did you learn anything pertinent to our bets?” Matt questioned while he sat up the last figures of the chessboard, “for instance, the myth of an Alpha in wolves set to a family hierarchy system.”
Once Matt set up the board and the white and black figures he looked at James, “Okay, I’ll make the first move, Pawn to B-4. So did I win the bet? Is the alpha-wolf just hokum, a myth?”
“Um, uh, Pawn to B-6,” James countered, “I don’t know um, um I don’t know about a natural born family wolves, but did you observe a feral Mongol rogue pack? They could be made up from a mixture uh, of various breeds of dogs, For example…”
Matt nodded and picked up the white figure, “Pawn to G-4… yeah, go on.”
James countered, “Pawn to D-7, No family um, at all, just a mismatch of different breeds of a variety of different sizes from a small Chihuahua to a large Greyhound. Large to tiny dogs follow a medium-sized mutt, um, um, secreting hormones because he’s a strong, confident leader. But then the mutt gets injured and lame and a stranger amongst the pack takes control.”
“Bishop to A-3,” Matt countered, smiling because of his friend’s more fluid conversation.
James continued, “So-seti told me lycanthropes are partially human and as such they crave structure, like a military structure. The alpha is like the Grandfather and the pack his children. She used to have strong pheromones so the weak willed would do her bidding but she became weak and the secretions ebbed, Pawn to A-5.”
Matt quickly made an L on the board, “knight B to C-3, so what you are telling me is you won our bet.”
James smiled, “I don’t know about him and natural wolves but for all intents and purposes lycanthropes have pheromones and the leader of the pack is considered alpha wolf, Pawn E-5.”
“Knight F-3,” Matt chuckled, “well, I don’t have my wallet with me. How about some time I take you to dinner, get you a couple of drinks, and we call it even?”
James scoffed and shook his head, “okay.”
James slid the Bishop across the board. They played chess throughout the night. They laughed and joked but he couldn’t help but think of poor So-seti down in the dungeon. James won four games before Matt finally won one.
After losing a record amount of matches Matt got up and stretched his legs, “well it’s been fun losing to you, but I have to be turning in for the night James.”
“Um, um, um, okay, then,” James smiled and awkwardly stood up to shake Matt hand, “good night to you.”
James made sure Matt had disappeared into the night before bringing out the illicit supplies for the upcoming full Moon.