Let’s start the week with another context-free excerpt from my Work-in-Progress, Stone Cold. I’ll tell you this much: The scene here takes place in Dublin, Ireland. We find ourselves in the study of Donal Hain, Samantha’s father and Arch Magus for the Hermetic Order of the Astrum Argentum.
A few moments later, Alistair opened the study door, and Ute Weishaupt entered. She stood at average height, even with the sensible one-inch heeled ankle boots she wore. Her half-blonde and half-black hair was tied in a bun whose severity matched that of her face. She had a striking, middle-aged face; her blue eyes remained narrow, determined, and focused, and she pursed her red lips. Her black, high-collared, ankle-length black dress had puffy shoulders and fitted sleeves with four-button cuffs.
Donal rose and walked around the desk. She stopped short and extended her right hand; he shook it. Her grip was strong. She nodded, and her lip curled slightly. Ute Weishaupt sat in the chair in front of Donal’s desk and turned her nose up at the smell of his tobacco. Donal returned to his chair and sipped the bourbon.
“It’s good to see you, Ute,” Donal said. “To what pleasure do I owe this unexpected visit?”
Ute’s eyes scanned his desk. “It is good to see you as well, Herr Hain. I come with good news regarding the Great Working.”
A heavy Bavarian accent colored her English. Donal nodded and puffed on his pipe. Knowing Ute’s preferences, he turned his head to the side as he exhaled. “Very good to hear. Would you care for a drink? I know you don’t smoke.”
She shook her head. “Thank you, but no.” She pointed to the pages on his desk. “Enochian? What do the angels have to do with this?”
Donal shook his head and drained his glass. He reached down and grabbed the bottle from his desk drawer. As he refilled his glass, he said, “From what I have translated, nothing. The text is not even in Enochian. Whoever transcribed the ritual to resurrect a vampire who has faced the Final Death decided to transcribe the Latin text in the Enochian script. Curious. It appears someone did not want this rite learned.”
Donal set the bourbon bottle on his desk. Ute Weishaupt scanned the bottle and shook her head. “Bourbon? I have never known you to drink anything other than beer, Scottish whisky, or Irish whiskey.”
“I simply chose a different spirit this time.” He rushed the glass to his lips, spilling some of the bourbon onto his beard.
Ute eyed his display. Her face remained emotionless. Her pale and slender fingers took hold of the silver-framed photograph on his desk. She studied young Samantha’s facial features. She raised her right eyebrow. “Curious. I have a distinct memory of someone—perhaps it was Magister Magus Fingal—mentioning bourbon as the preferred libation of one Samantha Hain.”
Donal Hain clenched his jaw. He tensed briefly, clenching and relaxing his fists. “Yes, Ute. My daughter does prefer bourbon to other spirits. Is this problematic?”
Ute Weishaupt smiled a knowing and scheming smile. She paused, and then she adjusted the smile to display warmth. “Oh, Herr Hain, no one faults a father for harboring love for his wayward daughter. If you cannot bring her into enlightenment, our sole concern is that your love will impair your judgment. And, of course, that is not the case, hm?”
Donal sipped the bourbon, clutching the glass tightly. She was not the first to make such an inquiry in recent weeks. Were all around him so unenlightened as to permit familial bonds from clouding their reason during workings? He turned to his pipe; the warm and earthy aroma from the tobacco filled his nostrils as the smoke curls danced upon leaving his mouth. Yes. That had to be the answer.
“My judgment is as clear as it ever was, Ute. It…” He paused. “It saddens me that my daughter’s headstrong nature has aligned with her sexual proclivities to place her in a position that suggests to our allies that she will become both a threat and a liability. I know my daughter better than they do, and I can say with absolute metaphysical certitude that her stubbornness of demeanor and shortness of temper will bring an end to her relationship with the Countess Karnstein, thus ending her involvement in our Great Working. Give her time and space, and she implode upon herself. My daughter is a knight who behaves as if she is a pawn. Now, you stated previously you had news about our Great Working. What is it?”
Ute Weishaupt nodded. “As you know, Herr Hain, the entity known as Zozo has demanded a sacrifice in exchange for compliance with our directions, since we are unable to obtain the last contract he signed with a mortal. And, per the spirit’s usual terms, he demands that sacrifice be a human of great value to his summoner. While I applaud your attempt to circumvent that through the offering of that probationer, you and I both know it would not have been accepted.”
“He represents the future, which is important to me. I knew it would be a longshot, but I did think it might work.”
The lower-ranking magician waved her hand. “Be that as it may, Herr Hain, it gladdens me that your dangerous gambit has failed, but not caused the entity to turn upon us. I have put much thought into who or what would be a sacrifice worthy of Zozo’s abilities, and after hours of astral searching and consulting multiple divinatory methods, I have found the perfect offering.”
An excited smile brightened her face as she spoke. It disappeared when silence returned. Donal studied her face; Ute Weishaupt was as challenging to read now as when she was an apprentice. He closed his eyes and reached into the astral, but she shielded her aura from him. He scratched his chin behind his beard. Donal Hain nodded.
“And this offering. Does it have a name?”
“I am certain he does,” she said. “I have not uncovered his name, but I have felt his presence and located him through the astral plane. This person fits the criteria Zozo set forward for a sacrificial offering without resorting to semantics or legalistic technicalities. No rhetorical games will be required to gain acceptance. And the best part, my mentor, is that if I bring this sacrifice to the place of meeting, your daughter cannot stop me, for she has no knowledge of myself and of the person to be offered.”
Donal Hain leaned back in his chair and drained his glass. Human sacrifice. When did things change? When did he become the medieval Church’s fear-mongering depiction of a magician? This was not why he joined the Astrum Argentum. War, violence, civil unrest, the Troubles, a lack of direction amidst the chaos. The same reasons he began the practice of law. He sought enlightenment and the power to affect change—positive change—in the world around him. And now, here he sat on the precipice of war, a war he in part was to cause, offering human sacrifices to ancient entities. He lowered his head and closed his eyes. There was no other way.
“You were always my most talented apprentice, Ute. Can you have the offering secured before the appointed time? This will be our last chance, I sense.”
She nodded and smiled. Her smile grew lean and hungry; her eyes blazed. “Yes, Herr Hain. I can guarantee the sacrifice will be in place in time for us to dance around the maypole as the commoners do.”
“Then go and carry out this action. May the universe grant you success in your working. I will inform our allies that all will proceed according to plan.”
Ute Weishaupt nodded. She and Donal Hain rose and shook hands. Donal walked her to the door. She bowed slightly as she departed. With a heavy sigh, he returned to his desk, looked at his notes and the assorted esoterica, and brushed everything over to a far corner. His eyes met those of his daughter in the photograph. Donal lowered his gaze, and for the first time, turned the photograph away from him.
My debut novel, Liam’s Doom, is on sale at all major and minor retail outlets from Amazon to Barnes & Noble to Bookshop.org. I request that you support Bookshop.org, as their site supports local and independent bookstores. The eBook is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and through my webstore. For this week only, the eBook is Free to own on Kindle!
Carmilla’s Ghost is now on sale. The paperback version is available all major online retailers, including Amazon, Bookshop.org and at Barnes & Noble. Currently, eBook pre-orders are only available at Amazon and through my webstore.
And my prequel novel, Blood/Lust is also available as an Amazon exclusive. This week, Blood/Lust is a $0.99 eBook!