Maya pulled up to the Belvedere Hotel and put her station wagon into park. The instructions had said to don masks before entering and Maya always followed the rules. Well, maybe it was only that she sometimes followed the rules. She sighed and pulled the rough leather hood over her head and shoved her inky black hair down the back of her jacket. She adjusted the mask until the eye holes were in their proper places and jammed her shoulder into the car door so that it opened with a scraping noise. She always meant to get that fixed but there was always something more important to do. Instead, she had grown to love the sound.
She started to prepare her bag of tricks. She kept all of her spell components in a leather messenger bag which made for easy access at the drop of a hat. Life was certainly interesting as an Ishim. Ishim was just a name, taken from Judaism to refer to an order of people dedicated to defending humanity with magic. The order itself was scattered and its members and initiates came from all sorts of different backgrounds. There were rumors that some members were not even human. Now that their order had been granted rights to practice by the federal government, there were also rumors of regulations and organization. The old guard would never accept that.
Maya strode confidently toward the entrance of the abandoned hotel. It had recently been revealed to the public that supernatural creatures are real and that the Ishim used magic to combat them. The public was slowly becoming aware of what that meant about the past, present and future. Paranormal rights activists were starting to crawl out of the woodwork but most of the public seemed to support the Ishim. However, most of them did not want to socialize with a witch so that was one of the reasons for the masks. The door was unlocked so her contact must have already arrived.
“Hello?” She called out, the sound muffled slightly by the leather covering her mouth.
“Enter and stay silent. We’re not sure what we’re dealing with yet.” It was a distinctly female whisper.
Maya closed the door behind her and walked toward the cloaked figure in the middle of the room. The woman wore what looked like a dark gray power suit from the nineties under an old gray cloak. Her face was completely covered by a porcelain mask. Even through the mask, Maya could feel the woman staring daggers at her but shrugged it off and walked forward as naturally as possible.
“Greetings, my name is — ” Maya started to say.
“Are you new or something?” The woman hissed. “We use code names only.”
“I know. I was just about to give mine.” Maya responded with a frown, trying her best to keep her voice soft. There was no set rules that the Ishim followed but there were suggested guidelines that kept them safe and made their job and lives easier. One of those guidelines was to keep their identity a secret when close to a supernatural threats. More powerful creatures who knew your true name or had seen your true face could magically use that against you. Most of the nastier bits of magic required such intimate knowledge.
“They call me China Gray.” The woman said, looking around the large entrance hall.
“They call me Rabbit.” Maya responded patiently. She gripped her bag tighter. These creepy abandoned building situations were never fun.
“What the hell are you wearing?” China asked. She was turning out to be kind of critical and Maya didn’t like it.
“My gear. I went with a steam punk kind of thing. Can we get started?”
“So disrespectful but I suppose you’re right.” How old was this woman? She sort of talked like an elder but definitely didn’t move like one so she couldn’t be that old. “We’re going into this situation blind, I’m afraid. We’ll have to be extra cautious and be prepared for anything.” She showed some bangles she wore on her wrists, one was silver and the other was copper. “I have lightning and ice covered. Yourself?”
“Wow, ok.” Maya said, stalling for a moment. The abrupt way China spoke to her threw her off her game a little bit. She pulled what looked like a small hand broom out of her bag. “I’ve got fire and light covered. I have a ton of holy water too.” She waved her hand over the blackened bristles of the sawed off broom and the end of it caught fire but the bristles did not burn up. She smiled a little at how well she had mastered that trick.
“I think that will work. Now, stay close to me.”
“I’ve done this before.” Maya responded with a frown. She was six months into being an official member of the order not an initiate at her mentor’s knee still.
“Noted. I meant that I’ll be casting an area of high gravity around us that I don’t want you to be caught in it. The spell cuts down on creatures who cling to ceilings. I don’t like it when I’m surrounded.”
“Wow, I’ve never seen that before. Go for it.” Maya said with a smile. She loved learning new spells even if this one sounded difficult and very capable of mass destruction. This is probably why Horse never taught that spell to her.
China nodded slowly, took a deep breath through her mask and then a wide area around them suddenly became a sea of creaking floorboards. Maya shuddered slightly and moved closer to China. She couldn’t even tell where the gravity began or ended. She was at the mercy of China Gray. The two of them started to walk into the hotel to see what they were up against.