DarknessFalls

Storybook | Game

Amy

I had been sponsored by ---------, who had been sponsored by ----------, who had been sponsored by the Grand Master himself so it was with more than a little pride that I stood before the door to the Middle Chamber.

I had joined the Order some years earlier, in 1901 as I recall, after a brief dalliance with the occult organisations popular in the city back then, all ultimately disappointing. At one meeting I had finally lost patience and questioned the speaker closely upon some finer point of the Q'bla upon which she had been lecturing and about which she knew nothing. I had become aware that I was being quietly observed by a military looking gentleman who afterwards engaged me in polite but probing conversation and then invited me to take tea with him at a private address. Upon arriving I had been interviewed there is no other word for it - by four distinguished gentlemen who had, finally, revealed themselves to be members of an occult order unknown to me and invited me to join.

It was a homecoming! Everything I had searched for, looked for, longed for in the other places I found within the Order. I devoured their library--what small part of it a mere acolyte was allowed--and practised assiduously, took every opportunity to participate in their ritual and practice. And I was noticed, so much so that within two short years I was invited, yet again, to take tea. There is a way practitioners of the Occult have of speaking to each other. I shall not use it here, but it is unmistakeable and I was quizzed closely in it by men whom I had not met before but were clearly adept. Finally they thanked me kindly for attending and the porter showed me out. I was later informed that they had shown great excitement at my promise and evident talent and that my acceptance to the Middle Circle had been almost instant and unanimous.

Now I stood, before the red leather door as the ritual phrases were exchanged and I was passed across the threshold into the gloom beyond. I have no wish to betray the secrets of those I once considered the closest of friends so I shall say nothing of the rituals that took place but by the end I stood an Adeptus, admittedly an Adeptus Minimus, but still a brother to these masters of the Occult. Over a brandy and a very fine cigar I accepted the congratulations of my peers and surveyed my surroundings.

And that's where I first saw her.

The painting was... not masterful but deeply heartfelt, it captured the girl perfectly, her beauty, her passion, her strength. But the creature... By now I had read the bestiaries of Hell, the grimoires of sorcerers and warlocks, the Goetia of Solomon the King himself so I recognised vaguely the type of demon it was, but in size and strength I had never seen its like and I was sorely glad for it. The demons I had encountered had taken long work and careful containment to control, and they had been scarce bigger than my hand but this! It towered over the girl, radiating power, a soul wrenching nightmare of a thing, and the artist had spared the viewer nothing of the detail. I felt myself cold and trembling, but the girl... the girl could not have survived the encounter the painting showed her already burning, skin blackening and peeling, lacerated by the beast but standing her ground, hand raised clearly in the midst of a banishing, sacrificing herself to send this outrage against Heaven and Nature back to the Hell it had escaped from. Such courage! Such strength! And such utter, heart-aching beauty. I stood transfixed at the spectacle. P------, one of the masters of the middle circle, stood next to me. 'Ah yes,' he said 'Lest we forget eh? Amy. Terrible, terrible business. We lost some of our finest on that one. Had to bring in... well never mind who we had to bring in. Nearly the finish of us.'

I stood staring at the painting, unable to tear my eyes from her. 'Who is she?' I asked. He lowered his voice to a conspiratorial whisper. 'She was' - and he emphasised just enough to make the point - 'the Master's daughter.' He glanced about the room. 'And I would refrain from asking too many questions if I were you, it wasn't that long ago, the old boy's still suffering. Blames himself for indulging her. Blames himself for letting a woman in.'

I barely heard him. 'She's beautiful.' I said. He had the grace to smile indulgently at the crassness of my comment. 'Oh she was that.' He said. 'And fierce, and intelligent, and courageous and very, very talented. Quite the best of us really. Which is the problem of course; they push too far, dig too deep. The talented ones. Never know what they'll find. Or be offered.' And with that he gave me a most curious look and excused himself.

The rest of the evening was pleasant, the company gracious and informed, the gentle buzz of the brandy warmed my bones and I felt home. And I could not tear my eyes from her. Every moment, every lull my eyes found her. Amy. Amy the angel. Not the fey, limp, nightgown-wearing angels of the prints and paintings popular at the time, but the fiery, sword wielding angels of the blood and thunder Old Testament. The angels who laid low cities at the Lord's command, stood at the head of angelic armies and struck terror into the hearts of kings. I wanted to laugh, loud and fierce and fancied I heard her laughter in my heart. Amy! Amy the angel! My angel.

I became aware that the Master was speaking to me. 'You are taken with the painting.' He said. I remembered P------'s words to me and sought to spare the Master's feelings. 'It is a magnificent work,' I lied, 'the execution is remarkable and the passion of it - ' The old man coughed, a little embarrassed. 'I'm glad you like it.' He said. 'I'll make sure someone explains the significance of it to you, it serves as a warning and a reminder to us and we will not have it happen to us again. We lost....' and here he took a moment to recover himself and I felt a fragment of the pain he carried, the most terrible of griefs; a parent's grief for their dead child. 'We lost good people.' He said. 'And we'll lose no more. By damn we'll lose no more.' The passion of his outburst had been noticed by others, and we restricted ourselves to pleasantries for the rest of our conversation.

That night I dreamt of Amy. Her dark tumbling hair, her dazzling eyes, her spirit, her passion, her laughter ringing along the musty old corridors of the Order. The sheer injustice of her death, of death itself, rose as a rage within me. I had missed her by a handful of years, had her robbed from me by an accident of timing. While I had sat there listening to pompous fools blathering she had faced danger alone and died a heroine's death and I had sat there useless, done nothing to save her. It was so unfair, so unjust! What was the point of all our great work, all our striving if it could be snatched from us, if we could be snatched from life, by a mere caprice of timing? I began to work, feverishly, compulsively. I read everything I was allowed by the Order to see, and then went in search of what I was not. I attended meetings of Spiritualists, eyed with approval, and I have to say romantic hope, by pinched spinsters in exuberant hats as we received vague platitudes from the dead. There was nothing there.

I threw myself into my work upon the Astral Plane, leaving my body so frequently and for such lengths of time that my peers questioned the wisdom of it. I summoned the Bornless One so often the poor devil scarce bothered to be unsummoned and followed me about like a dog at his master's heel. Ordinary people started to shun me; the shopgirl in my local tobacconist would make excuses and leave the shop rather than serve me. I was elated, I felt the power surge through me and they felt it also. I was alive with power and I called into the void with all my strength Amy, Amy. My love, my dream, my angel. My Amy. And sometimes, just sometimes, I heard the faintest of calls back.

I was endangering my position in the Order. The Masters of Occult Orders are a paradoxically dull lot. Like the captains of great battleships they must be steady enough to take responsibility for dreadful power, yet have steel enough to unleash it when necessary. A 'safe pair of hands' indeed. And I was becoming far from that. Eventually I had a quiet meeting with older members where they murmured applause at my diligence and my commitment but informed me that I would be barred from working, barred from the Order, unless I availed myself of adequate rest and nourishment. A master who had shown me kindness in the past now approached me. 'Come here.' He said, and led me, bizarrely, to a hatstand. But there was a mirror next to it and he stood so that I might see my reflection. I stared at the hollow cheeked creature that confronted me in the glass. Its dark sunken eyes widened with my own and its gaunt frame staggered when I did. 'My dear fellow you look an inch from the grave,' said my sponsor, gently and with genuine concern. 'Go home. Rest. Eat. Properly. You're no use to anyone dead.'

I turned to face him at those words and I saw him flinch. They must not think me mad or I would be barred for life and shields placed on the Astral to contain me and that I could not allow. But I saw then as clearly as I saw him the future of the Order, saw the line of grey, sensible men taking their turns as Master, as the Order grew steadily older, greyer, dustier. Until the last of them grew too feeble to practise and all that had been achieved was lost. But she if she was here, if her laughter filled these corridors and rooms with light, if her passion was here to set the place afire...

I knew what I had to do. Save the Order, liberate it from its inevitable demise. Restore to it its birthright. Its destiny. Give it back its fire, its soul.

Her.

Find her. Raise her. Bring her back from the shade that had stolen her. Heal a dying Order. Heal a father's broken heart. Heal me.

But it is a thing far far easier said than done. Where are the dead? Where are they? It's one thing to walk the astral path of the sephiroth, but to follow the shadow paths into the realm of death itself? There are no maps, no guides, the shadow paths themselves permit no return. It is a journey only a handful have made more than once. And they, sadly, did not share their secrets with me.

I staggered home and lay upon my narrow bed. Sleep consisted of staring at the ceiling until dawn stained the windows. But I think I fitfully dozed. I think I did. And dreamed. And in dreaming saw her. And in the combination of dream, and thought, and the wandering of my mind a solution came to me so bright that I laughed loud and long and marvelled that it had not occurred to me sooner. The sun was only just touching the windows and I knew that I would need the Order and I knew I would have to wait until night. I lay examining my plan in my head. It felt childishly simple but I could find no flaw in it. It would work. As I thought, for the first time in what seemed weeks, sleep finally crept over me.

By the time I awoke it was already dark. I lit the oil lamp by my bed and shaved as carefully as I could in cold water I had to look presentable, no trace of illness or distraction could be allowed to show. I changed my shirt for a fresh one, waited until just before midnight then set out into the winter air.

It was bitterly cold. The light of the gas lamps were being swallowed by a fog. It took me a fair walk to find a cab, its little pony shivering. The coachman was heavily muffled and barely seemed to hear my instruction. But he touched his whip to the horse and we set off in the right direction.

As I'd hoped the building was closed for the night, only the night porter's light visible. A fine built fellow he was, veteran of the Spanish Wars, but not the brightest. He accepted my gabbled tale of a forgotten journal more I think from his sense of deference than any plausibility of mine. We climbed the stairs to the chambers of the Middle Circle when I confessed myself faint and asked him for water, knowing full well that by now the nearest would be the kitchen three floors down and several locked doors away. Superb fellow that he was he didn't flinch but set off on my behalf. I felt a twinge of guilt at my betrayal of his trust, but all resolution must carry an element of steel. I moved swiftly to a couch, relaxed my body and sent my etheric form out onto the Astral. He was easy to find; a clear, strong flame. He was protected by talismans, we all were, but they hadn't been updated in years and I knew them well. I managed to contrive upon the poor man a piercing headache of the migraine variety, easily enough to fell a bull. As the pain overwhelmed him it was a simple matter to shift his consciousness, and the poor man fainted dead away.

I returned to my body and entered the Ritual chamber of the Middle Circle. I rattled off the invoking pentagrams almost without noticing, empowered the defences, called to myself the angelic and astral guardians of the Order and sent myself out onto the Astral for the second time that evening.

I raced through realm after realm until I stood at the black and swirling edge of Da'ath. The secret realm. The abyss. Where all realms become One. Where all is One. Where all Is.

The heart of Yin is Yang.

Where all is, there must nothing be. Where all light is, there must all shadow be.

The heart of Yang is Yin.

Where all life is... there must She be. I called into the void 'AMY! AMY!'

And there, in the Swirling All of the abyss, my love answered me, called my own true name. I was lost, overcome by a savage joy so overwhelming to my senses that careless of my own survival I let myself fall, fall into the screaming vortex of Da'ath.

Oh my love, I am coming.

*

I was woken by the stench of smelling salts and a hand roughly slapping me about the face. 'He's coming to.' I heard a voice say and then felt myself dragged to my feet. 'You bloody fool!' The Master's voice was tight with rage and I believe he let me go before he struck me. Either way I was caught by other hands. 'What in Hell's name were you trying to do?'

I babbled. I was barely conscious, let alone articulate. 'I wanted her -' I stammered. The Master turned on me. 'What?' He roared. 'Who?'

Even in my befuddled state I knew better than to answer that one directly. 'For you,' I said 'and the Order, I did it for you and the Order -' The Master took a step toward me and I genuinely thought he would strike me. 'Did what?' He shouted. 'What have you done.' I looked at him, still struggling to focus. 'Your daughter.' I said. 'For you, for the Order. I wanted her -'

He had walked away. Rather than strike a poor madman he had walked to the other side of the room. 'Get him out of here.' He said, quietly, his back to me, shoulders tense. 'See to it he does not return. Remove from his possession all books, all items of power. At the earliest opportunity see to it that an Astral cage is erected about him and he remains confined within his body until true death takes him. And see to it, please God, as far as you are humanly able, that I never, ever see him again.' He turned to me. 'And if you wish to commit suicide then at least have the decency to open your veins with a common razor and not drag those who have given you their trust to Hell with you.'

There were men in the room I had never seen before. Upper Circle, High Adepts, pale and strange, the elite of the Order. I had hoped to be one myself one day but now... now the full enormity of what the Master had said was dawning on me and I began to feel desperate. 'The house is clear sir,' one of them said, 'he brought nothing through into the house. But with the static he generated it may be impossible to work here for decades. This lodge is lost to us, we're going to have to move.' The Master fixed me with a stare. 'A fresh start. And he will not know where we are. Right now that thought gives me inexpressible pleasure.' He said. 'Get him out.'

The hands on me were not unkind but they were guiding me to banishment. 'But I did it for you.' I babbled, 'for her! Amy!' There was uproar and I was bundled from the room at speed. I heard P---------'s voice, quiet in my ear, decent to the last. 'In pity's name boy stop talking.' I was being guided carefully but rapidly down the stairs. 'You've said enough. More than enough. No more, for pity's sake.'

I was bundled into my overcoat and handed my hat. 'But I don't understand.' I said, I must have sounded close to tears. 'Amy.'

My friend roared 'DO NOT SAY THAT NAME AGAIN!' Then he leant in, showing me one last shred of compassion I suppose. 'Her name was Elizabeth,' he said, 'and we all loved her very much. Amy was the demon's name.'

*

I stood on the doorstep as the door clicked solidly shut behind me. I felt bereft, lost. Without the Order what was I? I had risked all and failed all and now I had lost the opportunity to recover. It was an icy winter's night, I guessed around three in the morning. I was in no mood for a cab and there was precious little chance of finding one anyway. I bundled myself into my overcoat and began the long walk home.

I was half way across the park when the stench hit me. Like I imagined rotting corpses, plague pits, everything putrid and vile. I fell to my knees retching, and in between my retches heard the slithering.

'LOVE ME!' screamed Amy, in a thousand sucking voices.

And I do.

 

 

 

 

 

AMY, or AVNAS.--The Fifty-eighth Spirit is Amy, or Avnas. He is a Great President, and appeareth at first in the Form of a Flaming Fire; but after a while he putteth on the Shape of a Man. His office is to make one Wonderful Knowing 2 in Astrology and all the Liberal Sciences. He giveth Good Familiars, and can bewray Treasure that is kept by Spirits. He governeth 36 Legions of Spirits, and his Seal is this, etc. 

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