JUXTAPOSED — CHAPTER THREE — Derek Barton

JX CH 3

CHAPTER THREE — THE DELANN-VAIK:

“It is fine, really. Only eight switches,” Romunn explained.

Alexendar said, “You were limping when you came in.”

He shrugged. “Well, the last switch caught me high on the back of my thigh, that is all.”

Gregge shook his head. “Maybe we should wait for another night. I copied the ritual down so none of the Fremons will miss the book or even know it was gone. I was careful. We do not have to—”

“–No. Come on, he is fine,” Charlse interrupted. “There is a storm brewing in the west, this will cover any noises we make leaving. Romunn, you are up for it, no?”

“Sure. Of course.”

Alexendar blurted, “He should not have hit you so many times. I am going to ta—”

“—NO” all the boys shouted in response.

Romunn said, “I appreciate all of your concern, but this is not needed and certainly speaking to him is not going to help me or you. It is done. Can we get going or what?”

The boys quieted and waited for Alexendar to make the decision. He did not say anything but faced Gregge. “You have your backpack prepped? The Sessnine? The scrollwork?”

Gregge bobbed his head yes. “Thomess mixed up the Sessnine with me today in our room.”

“We need to grab some candles and torches from the Pantry on the way,” Willeum put in. He had been put to that particular task and, of course, this was his way of getting things done.

Frowning but turning away from Willeum, Gregge continued, “I even swiped a few of the Sanctuary Blessing Markers. This is as good as done.” The Markers were white stones purified in holy water by the Fremons and set beside graves of the cemetery grounds.

“Then we will meet in the South Hall entrance a half-bell after Bed Call, agreed?” Alexendar scanned the group. Everyone was eager to do the ritual. Eager to make student history.

The DeLann-Vaik was not an overly complex ritual, but it was shrouded in mystery and taboo. Roughly translated, the ritual’s title was “Link to the Dead” or some said it was “Gate to the Crossover”. They did not care. To the group, this was adventure – speaking to the spirits became an obsessive compulsion. Ever since Gregge came across the obscure passages about the ritual two seasons before, their pursuit to make it happen filled every spare moment between Reciting, Prayer and Dominion Vespers.

“We will be forever whispered about by dozens, no generations of classes after us!” Gregge claimed one night. “No one else has ever done this.”

Romunn agreed and convinced Alexendar. He spoke in a hushed tone but with almost frenzied words. “We have all heard of the Vaik, but only we have found the How to do it. Think about that, Alex! We would be permanently linked to DeLann-Vaik!”

***

As they have planned, the boys all slipped one by one into the dusty corridor a half-bell after they were ordered to bed. Without much said, they followed Alexendar down the passage, descended a set of stairs at the back of the Workshop, and out into the misty night. He made a straight march around a massive stone building, Pavanac’s Canteen, where they ate their meals to a window Thomess left slightly open for them.

Moonlight flickered like a candlewick in wind through the massive cloud cover, making silvery spotlights in the grass. Wind sputtered and raged, but only threatened rain as of yet.

They climbed in and gathered again in the gloom of the shadows.

Alexendar turned and waved them together. They wrapped arms around their shoulders forming a huddle. He whispered, “Willeum, go get the candled and torches now, but make it fast as Old Girdy may be doing a lap or two in here.” Girdy was a fat, aging bulldog owned by the Head Cook. It tended to roam and hunt for spare crumbs on the luncheon floor at night.

“Romunn and Charlse, stay as lookouts and catch up to us. The rest of us will go through the basement and out the Orchard door, alright? Then we will gather the stashes and wait for you there.”

***

In spite of the yellow aura from the fire and the amber-orange light surrounding the bottles of Sessnine, the forest grove was intensely dark around the gang of boys. The slight wind above them ruffled the treetop canopies, but otherwise, the night was as if it was holding its breath.

Gregge worked on setting the last of the white Marker stones in a complex pattern in the dirt surrounding the fire pit. He swiveled to look behind him and counted to himself, crouching next to a circle made of powdered chalk. “Fifteen over and down, thirteen to the east, and four to the west.” He took two more from his leather knapsack and lined them with the last stone, placing them in a diagonal formation.

“There. That is complete.” He stood back up and walked over to Willeum. “You are over here.” He took the boy by the elbow and guided him to a spot inside the chalk ring.

Alexendar smiled, laughing internally. Gregge is not taking any chances with that kid.

“Where do I go?” Thomess asked impatiently.

“Hush.”

“I am here, correct?” Alexendar stated with confidence. He had peeked over Gregge’s shoulder while the boy drew the Vaik’s pattern and copied the ritual words in the Library Hall three days prior.

Gregge ignored him as well and strode over to Charlse. He guided him to a spot opposite Alexender and next to the last of the Marker lines.

“Now the rest of us will form up around the outside ring. Thomess, hand everyone a Sessnine,” Gregge ordered. “Listen! It is important while we recite the Trills, each of you extend your arms out at your sides like this with your fingers pointing to the persons on either side of you.” He lifted his arms out and splayed out his fingers as he wanted them to do.

“Alex, when we hit the highest Trills, step into the triangle at the center, close your eyes and listen. You should only hear the spirits by then, not us if we have done it all correct. Anyone got questions?” He looked around, but all met his gaze with bright-eyed anticipation.

He then nodded satisfied his directions were heard, smiled and uncorked his bottle of Sessnine, starting the DeLann-Vaik. Each of the boys down the line popped the potion bottles and imbued the liquid contents.

Alexendar was the last and his potion contained a combination of the Sessnine and a fine powder of Sage, Rue and Angelica herbs. Gregge and Thomess prepared the combination powder to give Alexendar a “level of extra protection from dark spirits and jinn”. They were, after all, invading the land of the dead and crossed-over.

Alexendar scrunched his face as the bitter and sour concoction hit him. He had never tasted Sessnine. It was a horrid experience. The potion was needed as it magnified their magical energy, draining it from the surrounding wilds around them.

“Ay Bas Chor Doram Escaba,” Charlse sang out, trilling the notes of the last ritual words. The other boys followed suit and filled the grove with impassioned chanting.

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba  …open to your mind…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat …open to your message…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav …this is not the end of your tale…

Ay Bas Chor Do ram Esca ba Fre dat Gea tav Moa Morti …speak with the freedom of death…

Electricity prickled the hairs on their necks and arms. Heat boiled in their stomachs from the Sessnine, and the wild birds within the forests chirped and squawked in alarmed response to the magical incantations. Deeper in the woods, a large pack of Wild Tarrabo Dogs howled and broke out in staccato barking.

Sensing the highest Trills, Alexendar stepped into the triangle of stones per Gregge’s instruction and squeezed his eyes shut. This was the craziest stunt he had ever done. The darkest ritual he had ever participated in and by far the most dangerous. They all knew they were going into unexplored territory.

But forget all that now, boyo. You have come this far. Focus and listen, remember? Do not let them down!

He tried to blank out all distracting thoughts and sent out a simple question.

Are you there?

Nothing.

Are you there?

He heard the other boys switch over to the Crossover Ritual Prayer.

Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.
Dae j’da Vos Liad Damnos.

A dizzying shift alerted him and made him sick to his stomach. He was now projecting away from his body.

Nothi—

“Who’s there?”

The faint words came to Alexendar. It was not a sensation — he was not hearing the words, but rather he felt them. They bloomed inside his mind, without warning and from no direction. The voice was internal and intimate, not external.

He thought, Spirit tell me your name.

It’s Thomass… Who in the Viles are you?

And the voice actually replied.

My name is Alexendar.

“WHO?”  Thomass exclaimed.

“Pipe down, Thomass! Ya don’t want my company in there, trust it, rat-punk!” A voice shouted somewhere beyond and out of his sight. The harshness and violence implied in the threat startled Alexendar. This new voice was gruff and older. He opened his eyes to a brilliant blue light. Blinking and startled by the piercing illumination, Alexendar asked, What? Where am I?

The air about him was stale and cold. Not a damp chill but rather like the air inside a crypt. He blinked rapidly trying to get his eyes adjusted as he now stood alone in the center of a lit tubelike room. Strips of magical blue light ran from floor to ceiling. There was no more than an arm’s length from wall to wall. A small patch of glass was a handspan over his head. His eyes could only make out more faint sources of bluish light which hung from the ceiling of a narrow hall.

Where are the others?

“Back in their cells probably,” the same fuzzy voice mumbled as if almost asleep.

A patter of boots clunk hard upon a metallic floor. The set of heavy footfalls approached fast to where he stood.

“Who is that?” Alexendar shouted and banged his right fist upon the glass. “Let me out of here!”

“Damn! Thomass, you’re really up to pressing your luck with me, tonight? Gettin’ thrown in the Shaft wasn’t enough?” This was the other voice, Alexendar realized. This was the source that threatened him with harm before.

“Please! Where are the others?” he begged.

A black helmet with a semi-transparent visor appeared in the glass. A gloved hand came up and raised the visor. A face beneath the glass visor was all angry eyes and a matching hateful frown. The man snarled, “You asked for this!”

The lights blinked off in the cylindrical room, followed by loud hissing and popping noises. Volts of electricity shot up Alexendar’s legs and snapped the muscles in his calves and lower back. He could only shriek as he collapsed and writhed upon the small floorboard. The sensation had been short but incredibly intense.

“You still feel like havin’ a chat, Thomass?” the man taunted.

Alexendar was incapacitated but was smart enough to not dare a response even if he had the ability. Tears flowed freely along his cheeks.

Why did he do that? I didn’t do shit! The other voice asked in shock. This time the words were sharp, loud, and focused.

Who are you? Alexendar demanded, scared witless.

Silence.

Are you there?

Am I somehow still dreaming? The voice answered Alexendar this time.

I do not know. I did not think you would dream in the Crossover.

What’s the Crossover? I thought I was in the Shaft.

When were you taken? Maybe we call it something different in our time.

What do you mean? What’s going on? The voice inside grew more terse, anxious.

Calm, spirit. I mean you no harm. My name is Acam Alexendar. I am a Bhik-sunii at the Temple of Kove. What is your name?

This is insane. A gasp escaped his lips. Or is this some trick of the Overseer to get information? Screw off!

Who? Overseer?

Why are you speaking in my head, asshole? Stop messing with my brain!

Alexendar grew very frightened himself. This was not what he thought the Vaik would do. The spirit was confused, not the all-wise as he always assumed. When you die, did you not learn the follies of your life, the answers to what you always sought and never found? This spirit seemed more confused than anything.

Spirit, can you tell me your name?

You want to play this game? Fine! I am Thomass Roan-Vi. Cell 99854-22. Sentenced for treason, incarcerated indefinitely at your fine Enddawn Encampment for the Insurgents here on Kav’zera. What else would you like to know? Shirt and pant sizes? That’s all I have left and all you’re going to get out of me.

Uh…encampment? Treason? Was that why you died?

What? I’m not dead!

Alexendar’s legs straightened and he rose without control. He had not wanted to raise up from the floor. Did the spirit possess his body?

What has happened? Why have you taken over my body, Spirit? I mean, Thomass Roa… Uh… I am sorry. This is too much! I will leave you to your eternal slumber and go back now. Please release me!

Alexendar’s hands rose up on their own accord and felt the features of his face then pressed along his chest and arms.

“Stupid dream! I’m not dead,” a baritone voice cursed aloud in the tube cell. The words this time did not blossom inside Alexendar’s mind but resonated in his ears.

Thomass, are you really a spirit in the Crossover? Alexendar repeated his earlier inquiry. He was starting to believe that Gregge had made a serious mistake and the ritual did not link one with the spirit world.

But if not the dead then who?

You’re trying to speak with the dead? Thomass’ voice bloomed inside once more, obviously hearing Alexendar’s own thoughts.

I thought…well, we thought…that is Gregge, another Acam here at the temple thought he translated a ritual to link us to the other side. Who are you then? Where are you?

There was no further response. Alexendar waited then impatiently started again when Thomass cut him off.

LOOK!

Alexendar then spotted the angry face peering in again through the glass.

Remain completely still and do not lift your head up. He’s waiting for any excuse to shock us again. And it will be even worse and longer. Understand?

Thomass, what hell are you trapped in?

This isn’t hell, it’s prison.

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