“You keep saying we. Who is ‘we’?”
“My coven, and before you ask, yes I mean light bearer as in Lucifer.” he replied with the belligerence only a true Scotsman could muster. “You have any whiskey? I’m dying for a drink.”
“It’s eight o’clock in the morning!”
“Is that a no? Don’t be a wank; I’m jet lagged and its past noon in Scotland.
“Jet lagged? So you didn’t…”
“Fly here on a broom?” Macarthur interrupted
“Don’t be ridiculous, besides the common myth of male witches is that they fly on pitch forks. If you’re going to be prejudice, at least have the decency to do it properly. You’re not being very hospitable to the man who just gave you sight and is trying to catch the fiend that murdered your family.”
As those words were uttered, I nearly fell over. I wondered what he knew about my sweet wife and children. He could see me struggling against gravity and darted to help me back to the sofa again. Macarthur began pacing, then wandering in and out of different rooms on my first floor, all the while continuing his tale.
“Sorry, mate. It just kind of slipped out. That wasn’t really the way I planned it. But, as you can tell I never had as you Americans say ‘the gift of gab’. I would have had to tell you eventually…. How about that whiskey? I do believe you could use a drink as well.”
His movements became more frantic as he paced about opening doors and cupboards. The shock of this man’s knowledge of my gruesome secret rendered me speechless. The empty feeling returned. I could once again notice the absence of the pieces of my soul that died with them that day. The pain and memories flooded my mind. The deluge was almost too much to bear. Macarthur’s scouring became more a ransacking. His mood was starting to turn ugly as he slammed drawers. I was frozen with grief, trauma and pain.
“Alright, I didn’t want to have to do it this way but you leave me no choice” he said as he discontinued his search and re-entered my family room. He just stood there and stared at me.
Suddenly, I was plagued by a throbbing ache in my temples. I found myself no longer mourning my loss, but instead thinking of the location of the only alcohol left in the house. I thought of the empty bottles strewn haphazardly about my bed room. I had finished the last of the Southern Comfort last night and then got plowed on boxed wine. It was pathetic. The only thing left was in the bathroom. Just as quickly as it came, the pain left.
“Rubbing alcohol!?” shrieked Macarthur “That IS pathetic, and undrinkable. They put a nauseant in that stuff so kids don’t get loaded off of it.”
“What just happened? How could you possibly know that I was about to tell you all I had was rubbing alcohol?” I was utterly confused, and still in a bit of shock.
“Ok, I know you’ve had a rough morning, but I need a little help here mate. We haven’t much time. If you recall I’m a sorcerer. I read your thoughts. Smarts doesn’t it? Frankly, I’m rather surprised you didn’t ask me to prove it yet. Usually that’s the first thing that flies back at me. But, two bird’s one stone I guess. Hand me my satchel would you? And pray to your god that there is something left in my flask. I haven’t the energy or supplies to conjure anything up.”
I had not even noticed the ancient looking leather bag on the floor. As I picked it up, I had this strange feeling. It was as though I had seen this carrier before. An odd almost déjà vu like sensation came over me. I was too freaked out to pay much attention to it. So I handed Macarthur his strange luggage and tried my best to contribute to this life altering conversation in which I was engaged.
“That’s right, you’re a warlock…” I was rapidly interrupted with an iron fisted voice.
“You bite your bastard tongue! Because you are ignorant I will let it slide this time. Here me and here me well Mr. Wallace. Never and I mean NEVER utter that word in reference to me again. There will be a world of agony awaiting you. Do you understand? Say it! Say you comprehend!”
This reaction seemed a tad unwarranted. This man seemed rather unstable, and I was beginning to become leery of him. I, however, felt this inexplicable urge to press the issue in the most delicate fashion I could devise in that split second. I just had to know why.
“I’m sorry. I had no idea that was a derogatory term of some kind. I meant no offense.” I said in an attempt to assuage him. His mood swings were beginning to concern me.
“It’s all right", he said with a modicum of humility."You didn’t know. But for future reference, never call a sorcerer a warlock. Warlocks are evil creatures, the scum of creation. Your ‘preacher’ friend is a warlock. The word in my world means deceiver or oath breaker. To be labeled a warlock, you must have committed some atrocity and banished from your coven, banished into the outside world of narrow minded fools who fear what they do not understand. Val, your warlock, is also a ‘caller of spirits’. My coven does not delve much into the spirit world. We are not what you think of as your typical witches and sorcerers. Ours is a practice of the power of the mind and collective unconscious. Yes there are a few potions and powders, but only because they are practical and useful. The spirit world is a dangerous place. Too many unpredictable elements can screw you worse than anything imaginable. We stay away from those things for our safety and that of others. But, Val, he was attracted to spirits, particularly demons. That is not the worst of it however. He is a lower grade soul eater who is becoming more powerful by the day. Please don‘t ask what a soul eater is, it is exactly what it sounds like and I hate stupid questions.”
All these terms incited the same emotions and familiarity of the leather satchel. Terms I have never in my life heard seemed to immediately make sense. At this point I was seriously considering the possibility that I was having a nervous break down. During all this back and forth, Macarthur was rummaging through his satchel, a grimace of desperation on his face. It was almost as if his life depended on finding his flask. This whole occurrence was becoming exceedingly strange. I do not even know if there is a word that can fully encompass the bizarre events that were unfolding.
As Macarthur looked as though he was about to keel over, he found his flask. He could not get it to his lips fast enough. As he drank, the color returned to his face and he straightened up, looking less peaked. I then began to wonder about this “oath breaker” business. What sort of oaths to witches take? I knew very little of the folk lore associated with all of this. I had no choice but to ask.
Macarthur explained that his coven was the only one of its kind, called “The Fifth Rose”. It had no basis in spirits or dark arts, in the traditional understanding. It was founded in 245 A.D. by an Egyptian born Greek alchemist named Zosimus and was based in forms of science, hence the potions. Macarthur claimed that Zosimus created the myth of the Philosopher’s Stone, which would supposedly combine mercury and sulfur to make gold, later popularized by an Arabian known to Europeans as Gerber. He apparently did this as a diversion from the real work he was doing. His discoveries were passed down through the Fifth Rose for centuries. It was even adopted by Hassan I Sabbah, who forever changed the world in which Macarthur lived with a simple statement that sparked a revolution in the Fifth Rose, “nothing is true, everything is permitted”. According to this drunken, belligerent Scot, that is the point when the Fifth Rose began to focus on what he said was most simply described with the cliché “mind over matter”. The Fifth Rose had strict rules regarding certain things. The most critical was to remain under the radar. Their goals were not to become as powerful as possible because those kinds of actions tend to get one noticed by governments who would feel threatened.
Another important edict was the banning of spiritualized rituals of any kind. There were many reasons for this decision according to Macarthur. Each person in the coven took to their own rationale. Macarthur’s was simply that meddling in the realm of spirits, ghosts and demons often results in a debt to an entity that is much more powerful than you. This was something he could not even bear to think about. He said the achievement of almost any goal is not worth owing a demon anything. In addition, specters and apparitions often call for some sort of ritualistic offering. True demons almost always demand human sacrifice, generally the blood of the innocent.“As I said before, Val is a caller of spirits and now a soul eater. That’s against the bloody rules, of which we have very few. We do not make exceptions. As soon as he was suspected of illicit activity, he was put under surveillance. Because of his instant hypnosis technique, it took us way too long to discover his actions. No one even knew that practice existed. It is literally the ‘Jedi Mind Trick’. It’s like he saw those damn sci-fi movies and figured out a way to develop his own methodology. He slipped under the bleedin’ radar alright, both societies’ and ours. No one has invented anything that powerful or useful in centuries. He is a clever one, not to be underestimated.”
“How did you become suspicious of him if he has the instant hypnosis technique?”
“Quite by accident actually...he had been taking frequent “pilgrimages” to allegedly visit the land of Zosimus. This was of course encouraged by the coven. We are strong believers in knowing the roots of our way of life. At any rate, while he was on one of these so called “pilgrimages”, he unexpectedly ran into my brother Aiden and me at the airport in Cairo. He seemed rather nervous while speaking with us. We offered company and a split on travel expenses, since all our pilgrimages have the same place of interest. He became rather aloof, and said something about visiting a friend before he made his way to the ‘Beginning’, which is what we called our destination. Both Aiden and I thought this peculiar, so we decided for some reason to follow him. Bloody good thing we did. We followed the bastard to Nigeria. He had somehow allied himself with a maita, an African soul eater and a member of a very small ancient Egyptian cult. Come to think of it, I’m not sure Egyptologists even know of it ever existing. They were an off shoot hidden with in the cult of Osiris. They place most of their praise and attention, however, on the crocodile headed demon Ammit, who ate the hearts of those who fail the test of truth before Osiris in the afterlife. We haven’t time for much more of an explanation. We need to gather some supplies.”
With that, Macarthur reached in the refrigerator and pulled out the milk. It was sour and curdled, just as he predicted. I could smell that foul odor from feet away. It was absolutely putrid. Vomit began to rise in the back of my throat. I again began to feel weak. The kitchen began to spin like a tilt-a-whirl as my knees gave way for the third time in less than two hours.