Soul Dark Chosen

By E. L. Reedy & A. M. Wade

Young adult, Paranormal, Fantasy

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111
10 mins

 

A bitter wind from the north whistled between the creaking branches of the snow-covered grove, where moonlight painted all the world in a harsh silvery glow. Lukas and Grandma Helen’s combined breaths misted in the cold air, drawn away by the breath of winter itself, a weak breeze that still had the strength to pierce even their heavy coats and gloves.

Lukas watched with darting, sharp eyes wherever he stepped, leading his grandmother, who clutched Faileas in one arm, around hidden obstacles in the snow and beneath low hanging, snow drenched branches. He still got tons of the white crystals down his back and in his boots. He did then and even now consider himself a summer person.

“Watch out for that drift there,” Grandma Helen said with a wistful sigh, indicating a small bank with her staff. “There’s an old stump buried beneath. When I married your grandfather, it was already his grandmother’s best apple tree, but now it is only a whisper of his memory of her and our much younger days.”

“How did you…” Lukas began, but after letting his abilities to lapse since his parents’ death, he knew better than to ask. He shook his head and let the question go. He never understood until years later just how much his grandmother knew—how well she understood her surroundings down to the smallest detail—she saw with far more clarity than he did and his eyes, his physical vision, was impeccable in those days.

“I’ve told you many times before,” Grandma Helen said, offering a quick smile. “I look upon the world better now than I did with my eyes. Sometimes… I see too much.”

Yes, she had told him many times, but in all those conversations, she never told him of the event, the confrontation that had stolen away her physical sight. He understood her reasoning, her wish to forget the pain and terror of that moment, but he wished she would have told him all the same. With such knowledge, he might have been better prepared for the war hovering just over the horizon. I cannot say I disagreed with his reasoning.

Lukas regarded their surroundings; snowflakes drifted to-and-fro in the icy breeze, but with his still developing inner eye, he saw sparkles and flowing strands of energy that dwarfed anything he had ever experienced over the years he’d trained with Grandma Helen, and though he was not entirely sure, he half suspected that it was all part of one vast spell woven layers within layers of energy. “Wicked,” he gasped. “I’ve never seen the grove like this. It’s wild, almost electric. A storm of pure light… And power.”

“Until this moment,” Helen said, “there was much you weren’t meant to see, to feel, to know.” She spread her arms, indicating the entire grove. “Open yourself, Lukas, stretch out your awareness. Become one with the night—to the Domain of the Goddess. Become one with Her and let Her presence reveal all. That which has always been here.”

Lukas familiar friend in those days, Anger, answered for him. “If She wanted to show me anything, she could have helped before Mom and Dad died in the fire—I’m just saying.”


“Lukas, you know better,” Helen said reprovingly, “I’ve taught you and your brother that Her ancient laws bind her actions, but She was still there.”


“But don’t you see, Grandma? That’s the problem,” he said. “I know She was there—I saw Her form, I sensed Her presence—and She didn’t do shit to help us. She just sat back and let it all happen.”

Helen shook her head. “She’s here now.” Helen said in awe. “And Lukas, please… At least try to be civil. Respectful. She is a goddess. Our Goddess.”

A white owl—Lukas suspected it was the same white owl he’d seen the night of the accident—launched from its snowy perch in a tree not far away and circled, swooping through the branches over them. A rabbit of similar color traipsed over the glittering snow fifteen feet out in front of them; it even studied the two humans daring to enter its winter-scape realm, its eyes glimmering like two oval rubies. It gave Lukas pause for reasons, much like the message that until much later he failed to comprehend.

“At the end of the Ice Age,” Helen said. “She led our clan, before all others, from the sheltering caves, and for twelve-thousand years since, we’ve followed and served Her, the Goddess.”

A white winter fox leaped for the hare from out of nowhere, but the bundle of white fur dodged the assault, almost as if it had expected the attack and raced away, leaving the hunter dumbfounded in its wake, its head tilting to-and-fro; it even shot them a questioning glance before darting away.

“When darkness falls and surrounds us on all sides,” Helen said, pausing as the owl swooped in, snatched the hare in its razor-sharp talons, and flew off, blood dripping down over its prey’s fur and the snow below. “She’s the light we bear, Lukas—the light that shines upon the whole of the world.”

Your father remains to this day unashamed to admit that the brutal act of violence, one he felt meant for his eyes alone, stunned him. Though she never said it, he also believes Grandma Helen thought as much. I believe it too.
“The message of the Goddess—it poses both a warning and a question,” Helen said, “but neither meant for me.”


For the first time in his life, it wasn’t just love, but also a sense of deep respect and a touch of fear his grandmother radiated toward Lukas—rarely did the Goddess speak to mortals, directly or indirectly, and She practically screamed out a warning to him.

“So, great message,” Lukas said, far from won over, while trying to clear his mind of the dreadful vision. “If I’m lucky enough to escape one danger, I’ll just find another waiting in the dark to take its place.”

Helen gestured toward something out in the far end of the grove, a mystery Lukas was sensing, but still hid from his eyes.

He felt the exact moment Grandma Helen unleashed her power; it rang like a clarion from her staff into his mind, but he did not expect the near-physical blow that followed. She removed a vast cloaking shield that covered most of their farmstead, the source of the wellspring of energies! He had played in the trees hundreds of times since his early childhood with his brother and neighbor kids, and he had always assumed it to be just that, a bunch of his grandmother’s trees. In a corner of the grove, however, there now rested an ancient rust-marked grain bin nestled against a bordering field, an eyesore revealed in all its glory, or rather the lack thereof.

He offered Grandma Helen his arm and led her further toward the new addition to the grove. “What is that?” It felt older to him than any other structure on the farm, or any other in the world.

“Not to worry, no one else can see it. It’s one of those secrets you asked about earlier,” she said, nonplussed. “Be careful what you seek in life—for better or ill, it usually comes to you. I’ve kept this protected from both mortal and magic eyes, as I have been so charged since I was young. Younger than your brother even.” She nodded toward log chains binding the door; they burst free and sank into the snow. “It’s an altar to a nameless ancient evil.” She gestured again. The door creaked open, and they stepped into darkness. She nodded, and four sconces ignited with a yellow flame, one in each of the cardinal directions around something covered by a vast tarp.

Lukas motioned with his fingers and with a hint of directed thought, ripped the tarp aside to fall to rest on the far side of the bin. Before it even hit the floor, he felt the unleashing of waves of hatred rolling from the altar and filling the space, an almost palpable contempt toward himself and Grandma Helen and toward all living things in the endless stream of existing worlds.

He approached the altar with many trepidations, reaching out as if to verify what his eyes and senses revealed. He never told his grandmother, or anyone else in that moment, he sensed its animosity directed toward him, as sure as he felt the biting cold.
Even as far away as I was, I felt it too. Before that moment, your father did not even know it had even existed and yet, he knew somehow that its hatred for him had arisen long before he was born, perhaps even before your druidic tribe had crept forth from the Ice Age Era Caves Grandma Helen had mentioned earlier.
“And Lukas,” Helen said in warning, “please don’t touch it. Despite our training, I’m not sure how it might react to one such as us.”
“Or how we might react to it,” he whispered, whipping his hand back and shooting her a guilty glance, suspecting that somehow, she had guessed his original intentions.
He stretched out his awareness, however, mentally testing the altar’s boundaries, but detected only a void, or an emptiness so vast he felt dwarfed by it, a leviathan of utter darkness—he was a lone waning star, struggling to shine in a pitch-black velvet sky.
“Our clan discovered this travesty well over two-hundred years ago,” Helen continued, pacing about, but never stepping closer than within five feet of the stonework mystery, “as our wagon train, one among countless, answered the call of the west. They guarded this thing—this wound in the world in those days. The last shamans of the Potawatomi Indians, a people that once inhabited this entire region of Iowa and much of the Midwest. One of the many peoples lost to the horrors of time.”

“And they gave it all up, left it to us… And just walked away?” Lukas said, stepping around the altar, matching Grandma Helen, step-by-step and eyeing it from every angle. “Not likely. What happened to them, Grandma?” Nausea shook him. He had not shared his vision from the day of the accident of medicine men and druids in the early Americas with her or anyone—not even Elliot, and now here she was, telling him almost the same story.

Helen shook her head and wiped away perspiration from above her glasses; she was most uncomfortable so near the altar. “The last guardians of their tribe formed a peace with the ancestors of our Druid clan and together they tried to destroy it,” she continued, as if she hurried to share her tale before changing her mind. “When that failed, the wisest and most powerful of our two tribes dream quested within, to the other side. They were like you, Lukas—they were bruadaraiche—those who dream.”

Lukas regarded the altar one last time, lost in thought, redoubling the mental shields between himself and the near-physical malice that exuded from the ancient religious relic. He had never felt, nor even suspected anything so evil could exist—let alone, hidden in a quiet corner of his family’s farm. Why here? Why us? He wondered. What was so special about the trees in our grove? Or was it all just by chance? The way his parents and grandparents had raised him left no room for belief in the coincidence, which left him with one final thought. What force could affect the matriarch of his family so—a woman who for as long as he could remember met every problem head on—what could leave one such as her trembling and quaking in fear?

“The greatest powers of their day and not a one survived that perilous journey,” Helen whispered, revealing an amulet she wore, covered with the same imagery and artistry as your family’s forearm tattoos. “And as darkness fell over the prairie one last time, this—all of it—became our secret to guard until the end of days or until we are no longer capable.”

Lukas regarded the glowing tattoo on his own forearm, the shimmering amulet his grandmother wielded, and the archaic, shadow painted altar. Two poured warmth, however feeble, into the bin and the last, it drank it away. He heard a buzzing sound, not in his ears, but rather in his thoughts; his life had gone without warning from melancholic to deadly. “But how can we know when—”

“There are no certainties, Lukas, there never are,” Helen interrupted brusquely, “but now understanding that such a darkness exists, it knows of you, and now you must learn to defend yourself… And those closest to you from its many forms.” She offered him her arm, signaling it was time to move on—to step away from the overbearing gloom.

Lukas hooked his arm with hers and led her back outside into the frigid night that seemed somehow much warmer than the area within the bin. He slammed the door behind them with a thought and bid the chains and locks to rattle back into place and in almost an afterthought, he extinguished the sconces. He chose not to mention that during their visit it seemed as if the shadows had moved, almost in time to his thoughts, or his thoughts in time with them. He figured no sense in having her doubt his sanity, or at least not as much as he already did.
In their absence and the sudden blackness, a red-hot glow radiated from the altar and the echo of a growl spun throughout the bin. The first visible twisted hint of life from within the altar, and in their hurry to distance themselves from its alien, cold touch, they both missed it. I saw it, as did the Other, and it was at night, when he was strongest. I cried and screamed, but he only laughed, and that frightened me more than whatever mystery dwelt within the altar.

***

With disjointed thoughts overshadowed by doubt, Lukas directed Grandma Helen through the treacherous snow back toward the house, but she bade them pause near the heart of her small forest, amongst a ring of snow-draped apple, cherry, and pear trees.

“Light makes our souls, as it does the spirits of every living creature,” she said, still trembling as she stepped clear of him. “We are each of us the grace of God and Goddess alike.”

Lukas felt another buildup of energy, like a spark growing into a raging flame, and he gulped, not only in surprise but also in a growing sense of uneasiness—just shy of new fear. This was magic beyond anything she had ever shared with him, mightier even than the sheltering cloak that hid the altar within their grove from the outside world. That was the moment in his young life when he realized that despite his countless hours and days of training in the magical arts, ignoring the last six months of learning little, that he knew next to nothing about anything.

“Our Goddess, the Sky Mother,” Helen said in a quiet voice, “has seen fit to gift our family with the use of ours.” She shimmered at first, her entire body aglow, then grew brighter and brighter, a white light of the purest sort that often blinded, even though Lukas had closed his eyes tight and even covered them with his upraised arm.

Then she went dark and leaned on her staff and into him; he caught and steadied her before she could misstep. “But Lukas, beware! Using your soul-light weakens you to your soul’s center,” she breathlessly warned. “Burn away too much, and risk losing yourself to the dark… Forever.”

He regarded her in a newfound sense of awe that bordered on outright terror. All throughout his life, Grandma Helen had never told him anything without some purpose, hidden, or otherwise. He waited with no small amount of angst for her next words.

“Things of an evil, or dark nature—the weaker ones,” Helen said, gesturing with Faileas back toward the revealed grain bin, “they can endure only a brief flash of soul-light—it is the presence of the Goddess Herself, released by us, into the living world.”

“But I didn’t feel a thing,” he lied, perhaps even trying to fool himself. “From the altar, I mean. It was just an old stone.” His attempt, with words and voice so feeble, only helped to reveal the truth behind them.

Grandma Helen was having none of it that night. “Something sleeps within, so vast I suspect that even its dreams can affect the waking world.” She said, suggesting that they again move toward the house. “You must watch over Elliot now. You’re his rock. His stability. And if the need ever arose, he’s still asleep and too young to defend himself.”

Lukas stopped and faced his grandmother. He rarely questioned her judgment, but in every person’s life, there comes a first time for everything. “Grandma? Why? Why now?” he asked. “My friends are on the way. They’ll be here any minute now. And here we are, out back, telling ghost stories in the cold, moonlit snow.”

“I had to wait for you to ask. She is always most insistent upon that—the sign of readiness,” she said, “Lukas… Your name itself is a great power. It means Light Bringer. Open yourself now to our Mother Goddess and you’ll wield a power you can’t even imagine. Far more than this tired old lady could ever muster.”

He bit back his rising anger—a pubescent force within him he found increasingly difficult to control in times of stress and some of it spilled free. “Don’t ask me that,” he shouted, kicking at a snowbank. “I’m no one’s pawn, Grandma! Yours, God’s, Goddess’s, or otherwise! You love Her so much, you wield her damned light! And please… Just make Her leave me alone!”

“Lukas. As you well know, the night your parents passed,” she said, touching her amulet, “something attacked me at the farm. This helped to protect me, and it will defend you or any who wield it in Her name.” She removed the necklace chain from which the amulet hung and held it forth in both shaking hands, offering it to him as both a gift and a curse. “Resume your training, son—take up this ancient mantle—you know I won’t last forever.”

Before the first coherent thought passed through his mind, Lukas took a step back. “I remember now. I was talking to Elliot and then the deer ran out in front of the car. There were so many. All at once. Driven by… By something in the dark.” He paused, reflecting, his face revealing the roused rage he could no longer hold back. An undirected burst of power from within him knocked snow loose from every tree and branch around them. “That was my price for serving the Goddess?” He screamed. “The lives of my parents? It was them or us—me and Elliot?” He heard branches snap and twist in the windless night and the ground shook around them. Three snow-devils raced away from him at thought speed chasing each other in a game of tag that flung snow in every direction.

***

As I mentioned earlier, for druids, or any wielders of magic it is as important to control ourselves, our rampant emotions, as it is to control our otherworldly gifts. If left to themselves, either could become catastrophic to the world and everyone within it.

***

Undeterred, Grandma Helen stood firm. “Lukas, no,” she cried. “You know better and you’re much better than this.”

“The pain I see so much in my brother,” Lukas screamed. “Did you know he cries every night?” He turned away to hide his shameful tears and to bring his powers back in check. “Tell Her to find someone else,” he complained. He wiped his eyes then took Grandma Helen’s arm, indicating silence. “Your Goddess—She asks too much.”

Though there were countless questions left unanswered between them, neither spoke as they returned to the house. The grove had become colder somehow, darker, and uninviting. Lukas did however, hear the murmur of his grandmother’s unspoken thoughts. “Dearest Lukas, acknowledge Her or not, love Her or not, She’s your goddess too.”



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