Posts Tagged ‘Ishim’

Shield of the Ishim Pt. 8

June 11, 2016

Ishim Shield

The three of them walked into the cave slowly and carefully. China Gray was first, Maya came second and then Ivy took up the rear. Ivy had her guitar at the ready, down off of her shoulder. As much as Maya was curious to see the guitar’s magic, she did not want any trouble in the cave. Maya pulled a ball of dirt and hay out of her bag. She held it in her palm and blew on it. It floated into the air and ignited and started to float above them as they walked.

“That’s a neat trick, Maya,” Ivy said. She plucked one string on her guitar and an impossibly deep note sounded into the darkness ahead. Ivy paused and listened but eventually started walking behind China and Maya.

“It’s the first trick I ever learned. You need fire out there in the wild if you’re going to survive.” Maya said. It was simple to hold the burning flame high above their heads. Maya could do it almost without a thought which was good because she was nervous about keeping her footing.

“Fire is your specialty, huh?” China asked. She was walking almost at the front edge of the pool of light they were in.

“Fire makes me feel alive. Flame and light have always been easier for me to control. So yes, I guess I would call it my specialty.” Maya said with a smile. The stone beneath their feet was so smooth. It was as if millions of people had walked the path they were walking over years and years. However, it was so dark that Maya felt that most people would turn back almost immediately. Still, the three of them plodded onward for what felt like an hour.

“Are we ever going to get there, do you think?” China asked.

“This is unknown territory, Sis. Your guess is as good as mine.” Ivy said.

“Well, what did your guitar say?” China asked.

“Your guitar?” Maya asked. “Does your guitar talk now?” She looked over her shoulder at Ivy for half a moment.

“Magical sonar,” Ivy said. It was obviously a quick explanation but it felt sufficient to Maya. “My guitar didn’t say much which means it could be miles and miles.”

“How far do you think we’ve gone already?” China asked, almost groaning the words out in her impatience.

“About two miles already,” Maya said. She had gotten good at estimating distances out in the wild since Coyote had sent her here and there on errands. “So, just the beginning of our little hike.” Maya smiled but she could almost feel China frown ahead of her.

“I just wish they would stop jerking us around. Ow!” They all stopped, surprised at China’s startled and pained cry. Ivy grabbed her sister and quickly made sure she was alright as China try to push her away, promising she was alright. Maya pushed the flame forward and illuminated a set of polished silver doors. As the light touched the doors, they opened and a strong wind extinguished Maya’s little flame. That was alright because light poured out from the doorway, lighting the three astonished young women.

Beyond the doors was a stylish lobby all done up in black marble with silver accents everywhere. They walked into the lobby and the doors shut firmly behind them. All three were completely out of their element. The council was always shrouded in so much mystery. Maya supposed she had always thought they would preside over something a bit more mysterious. Perhaps it would have some torches and rough-hewn stone.

“Wait, what’s going on? Is this it?” China asked.

“I don’t know. It’s not what I expected.” Maya said.

“Frankly, the feeling is mutual,” Ivy said.

A marble wall opened, revealing a woman standing behind a marble counter. She was wearing a vaguely Italian-style masquerade mask and her green hair was pulled back severely.

“Welcome, my name is Enigma. The Council is waiting for you in chambers.” The woman said with a polite, professional smile.

“Well, I guess that answers that,” Ivy said. “Thank you, Miss Enigma. Just point us in the right direction and we are at your service.” She continued, shouldering her guitar again so it was safely behind her back. China and Maya nodded in the affirmative.

“Please follow the path. There is a bathroom along the way to refresh yourself. I suggest you drink some water. The Council can get long-winded and they encourage you to join in.” Enigma said.

“Wait, what path?” China asked.

Enigma thrust her palm dramatically at the wall to their left and it slowly opened to reveal a hallway. “Good luck,” Enigma said and this time, the smile was a little more genuine.

“Thank you,” Maya said and bowed her head slightly.

“Yes, Thank you,” Ivy said. “Come along, ladies. We’re expected and there isn’t time to dawdle.”

The three of them down the hallway. The entrance slid closed behind them with an eerily soft but ominous thud. They were in the headquarters of their order. It was home to some of the most cunning and powerful beings on Earth. Intimidating did not even begin to cover it.

Maya definitely had to go to the bathroom. Between all of the travel and her nerves being on edge, she really had to go. As she sat on the toilet, she went over the story in her head. She knew she could not leave all of the talking to the Council and China. She had to do Coyote proud. She had worked hard to join the Ishim and she would never back down now that she was part of it all. She splashed some water on her face and stepped back into the hall to meet her new friends. It was time to get down to business.

Shield of the Ishim 7

April 11, 2016

Ishim Shield

Maya woke up on her unsteady feet and suddenly rubbing her eyes. She had no idea where they were but the sisters were standing there too. Luckily their bags had also arrived. Maya leaned down and picked up her messenger bag and hugged it tight before slinging the strap over her shoulder. The weight was about right but she would have to check it when they were not out in the open.

Everybody was shivering a little and Maya still had no idea where they were. She realized they were on the side of a dirt road bordered on both sides by forest in what looked like the middle of nowhere. There was an old truck rattling down the road maybe a mile away. Maybe that was the vehicle that dropped them off. It was hard to tell how long they had been standing there. It was hard to tell how they had been standing there while they were unconscious.

“Where are we?” China asked.

“Council headquarters, I suppose,” Ivy said. She bent down to pick up her own bag and her guitar. Straps went over shoulders and she was good to go.

“Yeah but where is that?” China asked. She waved her hand above her bag and it levitated up into her arms. She pulled out a cell phone before she got a sour look from Ivy. “What?” She asked of her sister.

“I think that she thinks you are going to check a GPS program,” Maya said with a smile. Ivy tapped her nose and pointed at Maya and also smiled brightly.

“That’s not what I was going to do,” China said. She looked indignantly at her sister.

“It wouldn’t work anyway. There’s probably an anti-technology field around this whole area. I imagine they’re covering all of their bases because they are the Council. Additionally, we might still be under a whammy from the ticket. Also, it’s rude.” Ivy said, her voice was a little raised in full-on teacher mode. China quietly slipped her phone back into her bag.

“Most of us don’t carry cell phones or stuff like that, at least not in my experience,” Maya said. She was looking at China in particular. There were so many magical means of communication that cell phones were far too limited in comparison. Also, magic and technology did not always play nice and devices often ended up overloaded or broken.

“I don’t know. It’s come in handy a few times,” China said. “Like looking up arcane symbols or remembering what monsters look like.”

“She uses it to check our Twitter feed,” Ivy said casually.

“What do you have a Twitter feed for?” Robin asked. She had reconnected with the Internet after Coyote had graduated her. So she knew the basics which meant that she knew what Twitter was.

“It’s how people contact us with missions in between the missions we get from the Ishim,” China said.

“What do you mean? Other missions?” Maya asked.

“We get bored between calls to fight monsters. It can be a long time in between Ishim orders sometimes. We use that time to save people or just help people out,” Ivy said with a smile.

“Oh,” Maya said.

“Why? What do you do with that time?” China asked.

“I help people too actually but I do it by patrolling. By letting the universe guide me. I’ve never received missions from anyone but the Ishim,” Maya said.

“Our method is way easier,” China said. “When this is over, I’ll help set you up.”

“Thanks,” Maya said.

A tall man stepped out of the woods in front of them. All three of them reached for implements of defense or offense.

“Hold. I am here to lead you to Ishim Hall,” the man said and held up the Ishim sigil. All three of them relaxed. Ishim was still a pretty secret word among the public and using it was as good as a membership card. Besides, Maya was beginning to trust the sisters and if they trusted this man, she supposed she could too. “Please follow me.” Then he started to walk back through the woods he had come out of. They started to follow the man through the woods as quickly as they could. Ivy made sure the younger girls went first so Maya ended up in front.

They walked for miles through the woods. There were no paths that could be seen anywhere. Still, the man’s steps did not falter and he confidently walked in one direction. Obviously, he knew where he was going so the navigation waypoints he was using were probably so well hidden. It was either that or he innately knew their destination. Eventually, they walked along a stream and after a while, Maya realized that there were no wildlife sounds. The stream led into the gaping mouth of a cave and the man stopped and stood aside.

“You three are to go on from here.” The man said.

“What’s your name?” Ivy asked.

“I do not have one,” The man said.

“Then what do we call you if we need your help again?” Maya asked.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” The man said. “I’m not even real.” Before they could question that he started to fade away like milk mixing into coffee. After a quick moment, he was gone as if he had never been there at all.

“Um. That was strange,” Maya said.

“I don’t know, I like a flair for the dramatic.,” China said.

“So do I but I don’t like standing around and talking about it. Let’s go into the cave,” Ivy said.

Shield of the Ishim 6

March 5, 2016

Ishim Shield

The ticket was absolutely and totally gone. Maya looked wildly, desperately at the sisters with big frightened eyes. Any second she could be hurtling into train tracks, an embankment or whatever when she missed the changeover. Why had they not warned her before they got on the train? Now she was doomed and there was not a single thing she could do about it. She felt like falling to her knees and just giving up.

“Relax, Maya. China was just messing with you. The tickets disappear after they’re activated.” Ivy said, showing her empty hands. “We’re perfectly safe.”

Maya took a deep breath and then scowled at China. “You’re a real piece of crap, China.” Maya said but she only mostly meant it. She kept scowling at China until China shifted uncomfortably. It almost felt like a victory so she found herself smiling just a little.

“Sorry. That was the last one. I promise.” China said. She was telling the truth or at least she thought she was. Maya softened her expression a little more.

“Don’t you believe it,” Ivy said. “She’ll do it again. But we’re all friends, right? Partners?”

“Yeah. Partners.” China said.

“Partners,” Maya said. “Should we sit down?”

“Gross! It looked like a full train. Wouldn’t it be like sitting in someone’s lap?” China asked.

“More like sitting through somebody’s lap,” Maya said with a smile.

“Exactly. Just like the ticket taker. I know it’s weird but we might as well get comfortable. Besides, you’re both still injured.” Ivy said. China had been it so well but she had to have also been injured in the fall.

“I’m fine,” China said flatly.

“I’m also feeling a lot better. Maya said. She focused on her crutches and watched them collapse slowly. In a second the crutches had collapsed to six-inch wooden rods. She slipped those into her messenger bag. She smiled at Ivy and she was sure she caught a look of approval from China out of the corner of her eye. She fought off a blush.

“Very impressive, tough girls. Why don’t we sit down anyway?” Ivy asked and sat down right in the middle of a frumpy old lady. Thankfully, as she did, the lady faded to transparency so she could still be seen.

“Whoa!” China cried out.

“And that doesn’t hurt them? They went all clear.” Maya asked.

“It’s complicated magic but they should be fine,” Ivy said.

“Should be fine?” Maya asked.

“Nothing is a hundred percent in life, kiddo. Not even magic.” Ivy said with a wise-looking smile.

Maya and China each sat next to each other and everybody relaxed. Maya tried to process what had happened so far. It was a lot to take in. Threats, monsters, injury, the council and now the Spirit Train. Ivy seemed to be taking it all in stride but she was older and more experienced. Of course, she could be covering and putting on a front like China. China put on a tough face but Maya was beginning to realize she was not any better off than Maya.

Maya had received her training out in the county. Her training had been informal and more touchy feely. It was more campfires and feeling things out and becoming one with the universe. It looked like the sisters had received a stricter and more formal education in the city. Maya had only worked with Coyote and eventually their relationship had become more democratic. She wasn’t used to being the good soldier even if she had no objections to being one. The Ishim obviously had a chain of command but it was rarely enforced other than handing out assignments. That was usually very brief communication too.

As she thought about all this, the scenery passed by the train window. Phantom people walked up and down the aisles, stood up and sat in seats. Eventually, it became easier to ignore the people. Just when Maya had gotten used to things, they changed again. The world swirled around her and she felt weightless. She briefly flashed back to the fight in the basement. Everything went gray and then black and then the three of them were suddenly sitting in a bus.

“Wow. Kind of fun, huh?” Ivy asked.

“It’s pretty crazy but I guess it’s really useful magic,” Maya said. She slowly checked to make sure everything was still attached to her. She tried not to make a show of it since she was still sitting next to China. Though it looked like China was doing the same. That was comforting.

“Which way do you think we’re headed now?” China asked.

“No idea,” Maya said, looking out the window. “There are spells to find that out.”

“Not a good idea,” Ivy said. “They want us to not know. Besides, there are probably protections in place against compass or locator spells.”

“Then what are we supposed to do?” China asked.

“Not much to do. I’ll tell you that I’m taking a nap.” Ivy said.

“Me too,” Maya said, curling up against the window.

“Ok. Sleep tight I guess.” China said with a grumble just before Maya fell asleep.

Shield of the Ishim 5

February 7, 2016

Ishim Shield

A very average train pulled up next to the platform at Penn Station. The breaks squealed and hissed like a real train. The horn sounded just like a real train. The muddy sounds from the overhead speakers warned people to step back like a real train. Maya was confused. She was completely and utterly confused. Maya and the sisters were holding magical tickets to the Spirit Train which was not a cheerleading term. A Spirit Train ticket was an extra rare magical artifact. Maya kind of expected a secret train platform or at least a secret door or something. Instead here was the same ol Penn Station. Not that there was anything wrong with that. It was just a little disappointing.

“Don’t just stand there. All aboard, Maya!” China called out and reached down from the train and pulled Maya in by her armpit. Ivy was already standing nearby and smiling but China moved so she was blocking the view. “Earth to Maya! Are you with us?” China said.

“I am. Yeah. I thought we were riding the Spirit Train.” Maya mumbled, steadying her self against China and stepping back.

“Aww! Were you expecting a big, colorful magic choo choo?” China asked with a playful flip of her hair and a wicked grin. China was so punchable sometimes. Maya narrowed her eyes and let out an exasperated sigh.

“Take it easy, sis.” Ivy said. “Just because you knew what’s going on doesn’t mean you get to tease her.” She pushed past her sister to give Maya a friendly hug. Ivy had been nice the whole time and Maya really appreciated that. She hugged her back.

“But I don’t know what’s going on. That’s very true. Does somebody want to fill me in?” Maya asked. These sisters obviously had a different magical education and those differences could be annoying. Magic was a wide and varied field of study that was mostly exclusive to people with the natural talent to perform spells. Now that magic was public some without the talent were gaining knowlege but they were miles behind. The fact that the sisters knew how the Spirit Train works put them in strange and important company. Maya wondered about that but more immediate was her need to know how the train worked.

“There’s no time. Here comes the ticket taker already!” China said urgently in a stage whisper. She promptly vanished into thin air. Invisibility was a real neat trick among the adept but Maya knew it often created a rippling and crackling feeling when those spells were activated. There was nothing like that this time.

“Listen, Maya, just focus your will into the ticket. That’s all you have to do. It’s simple.” Ivy said, pressing a ticket into Maya’s palm which Maya nearly dropped but she mangaged to awkwardly grasp it.

“Wait but I usually don’t do that. I was taught never to do that.” Maya tried to mutter.

“Just do it!” Ivy spat and then she vanished into thin air too.

Maya hesitated, looking at the grayish silver ticket and then she looked up at the rapidly approaching, smartly dressed ticket taker. She shut her eyes and focused with everything she had in her and, if she thought about it, she would realize that came from panic. She felt the mental and emotional feeling of her magic flow down her arm and into the ticket. It flowed like a river after a rainstorm and smashed into the ticket.

“Um, you can open your eyes.” China said softly. There was something like concern in her voice.

Maya slowly opened her eyes and was shocked to watch the ticket woman walk through her body. She felt panic spasm her body before she realized what was happening and she started to breathe evenly again. The life of an Ishim was strange and full of surprises. She brushed herself off even though there was nothing to brush off but the tension.

“I’m sorry I snapped at you. You have to learn to trust us, Maya. If we’re working together for now then it’s absolutely necessary.” Ivy said.

“I know it’s just that when Coyote trained me he said to never just channel my magic into an object without knowing how it works. That’s how he lost most of his arm.” Maya said.

“I’m sorry I didn’t explain the ticket, Maya.” Ivy said. “We’re sorry, right?” She looked at her sister.

“Sure.” China said and Maya believed her even though it looked like China was trying to act like it was no big deal. Maya nodded back at them and waved it off.

“It takes a month to weave all of the spells in the ticket. They eventually set in the materials like ink drying and they’re examined for any flaws. The ticket phases the user into another plane of existence very close to our own. It allows us to hitch a ride without paying. That’s important because we don’t actually know where we’re going. At any moment we could disappear from this train and appear in a bus or really anything. We’ll keep switching vehicles until we’re dumped at our destination.” Ivy explained.

“Wow, um, thanks for the explanation.” Maya was grateful to know what exactly was happening but it didn’t make the knowledge less intimidating. That was one hell of a spell.

“Speaking of the ticket. Make sure you don’t drop it. If you do, you might be flung out of a moving vehicle and I bet that’s not pretty.” Ivy said.

Maya reached for the ticket and her fingers were so sure and then she panicked. The ticket was gone. She looked up at the sisters who both looked at her and then at each other.

Shield of the Ishim Pt 3

August 8, 2015

Ishim Shield

Maya woke up suddenly and started to cough, her ribs and back ached horribly but she couldn’t stop. As the coughing slowed, she started to look around and realized she had no idea where she was. There was a plush but worn couch below her and a musty basement that was definitely not below the collapsed floor she had just left. She also realized that her mask was off, her hair was undone and her right arm was in a sling. She spotted her mask and realized her boots were off too when her bare feet hit the carpet. Her vision blurred and she lost balance as she tried to stand up to retrieve her mask. She fell back onto the sofa with pain that had her left hand reaching for her ribs. She heard footsteps and creaking from the stairs and she poured power into her runes of defense.

“Stay back! I can deal with you without my gear!” Maya cried out, raising her hand like a shield in front of her. The runes on her rings and bracelets lit up enough to shine through her shirt sleeve. The strain was painful, it felt like sharp knives everywhere and she heard herself groaning against her will.

A young woman walked down the stairs with her hands up, fingers splayed to show she meant no harm. She had long red hair and matching red-tinted round sunglasses. She had a little Mona Lisa smile on her lips. “I come in peace. Sit down before you hurt yourself. Seraphim, already.” She said with a laugh.

She had said the latest Ishim code word so Maya relaxed and slumped onto the couch. “Who are you? What’s going on?”

“My name is Ivy. I’m Kerry’s older sister. Here, take some tea.” She held out a steaming cup to Maya. Maya watched it for a moment before taking the cup. She sniffed it cautiously and then took a slow sip.

“Who’s Kerry?”

“She’s my little sister, usually goes by China Gray. It’s kind of a dumb name but what are you going to do?”

“Wait, China? What happened to her!? Is she alright?”

Ivy’s smile faded a little. “You both took a bad fall. When the floor collapsed, you landed on the dragon which cushioned your fall a bit. You dislocated your shoulder, cracked your wrist and broke several ribs. Not to mention all the bad bruises. You’ll be ok though, Grand Maeve looked you over while you were out. Kerry had worse luck.”

“Is she going to be alright?” Maya asked, sitting up again.

There were footsteps on the stairs and a petite girl walked into view. She had a gray cast on one arm and several bad bruises and bandages all over. She even had a pearl white patch over one eye. There was a familiar gray jacket carefully draped over her shoulders.

“Stop leaving her in suspense, dear sister. We don’t really have the time, do we?” The girl said, she had a reserved smile but a twinkle in her eye.

“China? You’re my age? Wait, are you OK?” Maya stood and found herself carefully hugging China and then carefully touching her cast.

“We were very lucky. My sister caught the Grand Maeve just before she left to meet up with the council. She healed us the best she could and then left.” China stepped back and put some distance between herself and Maya. It was a practiced and professional gesture and Maya was barely offended.

“The Grand Maeve? Wow. But that can’t be a coincidence, right? ‘The Ishim Will Die’, right? Do you think something big is happening?” She ran a hand through her hair, trying to collect herself. She was still trying to impress this girl who was the same age. She put on her best serious face even though she was still feeling a little dizzy.

“I would think that’s right. Regardless of what we think, we have been summoned to the council to discuss the matter as material witnesses.” China said with more than a hint of pride in her voice even if she successfully kept it off of her face.

“How are we getting there?” Maya asked. Looking around for the rest of her gear but finding none of it close at hand. She was anxious to tell everything to the council and get back to normal, boring monster hunting.

Ivy stepped back into the room and held up three slips of card stock that were heavily scribed with magical runes and symbols. She had a big smile on her face. “We’re taking the Spirit Train. Three tickets courtesy of the council. Fancy, huh? Come on, let’s pack your bags so we can get going. You can rest some more on the way.”

Shield of the Ishim Pt. 2

July 6, 2015

Ishim Shield

“Do you hear that skittering sound again?” Maya asked, tugging lightly on the goggles resting on her brown leather mask. She still kept close to China so she wasn’t crushed by the gravity spell surrounding them. It had been an hour since they had started searching for a nasty intruder at the old Belvedere Hotel but there was nothing but skittering noises so far. This was not the usual hunt an Ishim faced these days. Normally the supernatural creatures leapt out and attacked pretty quickly so it was strange to have to try and follow their prey through the hotel like they had so far.

“The ballroom this time.” China whispered from behind that perfect porcelain mask. “At least there’s open ground there. Less chance of it getting away this time. Let’s go.”

China turned with a flip of her long gray hair and walked confidently but carefully toward the ballroom which forced Maya to stick close once again. They were surrounded by a chorus of creaking floor boards which was completely unnerving. Maya looked to her right and watched a spindly dining room chair get crushed under the weight of the spell. She felt confident that the gravity spell China was conjuring would protect them from physical attack by slowing or smooshing their attacker. At least, that was the theory.

If the spell covered physical threats, Maya carried various totems and charms that protected her from magical attacks. She had no idea what the great China Gray was relying on but the woman seemed confident so it was hard to be too concerned for her. Maya was still having a hard time figuring out China’s age with all of the contradictory evidence. Gray possesed confidence and wisdom like an elder and she was taller. However, she also lacked patience and moved far too easily for an elder. After all, most elders were too heavily injured to move like they used to.

They rounded the corner and pulled open the big double doors under the plaque that said this was the ballroom. They pushed open a second set of double doors just a few feet inside. The ballroom must have been really spectacular in its day. There was plenty of intricately carved woodwork still on the walls and empty bronze rods where drapes must have hung. A lot of the tarnished brass light fixtures were still there but a lot of them were dangling off the walls by thick wires.

Maya swung her torch around and focused the beam of light with a force of will. There were a few ruined chairs that were quickly flattened around them along with some partially collapsed tables. She thought she saw something twinkle on the floor so she focused the light there next to investigate. She gasped and clutched her torch tighter and she could almost feel China tense up next to her even though the other woman was silent.

There on the floor, draped over a shattered chandelier, there was a dragon the size of a Clydesdale. It was dead and there could be no doubt. There was a cut the length of Maya’s forearm in its neck and two clean puncture wounds in its torso. It had definitely breathed its last breath ass it was statue still with one wine-colored eye open and unfocused. pointing vaguely torward the ceiling.

“Did somebody complete the job for us?” Maya asked, the thought of an elder not taking them seriously brought on a hot flush of anger that she knew turned her skin reddish pink. Thankfully, her face was covered by the mask.

“It looks that way, doesn’t it?” China responded bitterly. Her voice was filled with annoyance once again but this time Maya felt she wasn’t the cause. For once, she felt more kinship with this stiff, by-the-book woman. She also guessed that she was not an elder because this absolutely did not happen to elders.

Suddenly, a blood red symbol flared to life on the wall where somebody had carved it through the wallpaper and into the wood beyond. Maya didn’t recognize the symbol but while they were staring, blood red words ignited above it.

‘The Ishim Will Die’ They said.

Maya and China looked at each other. “What does that-” Maya started but did not finish her sentence. Dozens of brown, shiny beetles the size of small puppies exploded from every vent in the room. They surrounded by nasty little insects that let out horrible shrieking noises like crickets from Hell. Maya raised her torch and once again she was interrupted as China already had something in mind.

It was one of those series of moments that slows down so that you can see every detail. The beetles leapt at them as one, brandishing pincers as sharp as daggers. China yelled out what sounded like “Unleash!” and a bright flash of light spread from the epicenter of the gravity spell they were standing in. In an instant Maya felt forces push her and China up off the ground. Around them it was if a giant mallet slammed down into the floor, wooden floor planks and beetles and everything went flying. Then China went limp and Maya reached out for her as they started to tumble into the darkness of the basement.

Shield of the Ishim

May 30, 2015

Ishim Shield

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.

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