Excerpt for The Sci-magickal Adventures of Jeremy Cross by , available in its entirety at Smashwords


The
Sci-magickal
Adventures
of
Jeremy Cross



Teel James Glenn


Published by BooksForABuck.com at Smashwords


Copyright 2017 by Teel James Glenn

Smashwords Edition, License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com or your favorite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.


This is a work of fiction. All characters, events, and locations are fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or people is coincidental.


Dedication:

To Denise and Charlotte
who helped me be a Gypsy…

Acknowledgements:

My Giulie who is magick in my life
and makes it possible to keep fighting
and Eric—again—because…


Doctor Mabon’s rules of
Modern Sci-Magick

1: Ancient knowledge once called magic is science when sufficiently understood.


2: A Sci-magician must always quest for knowledge for the betterment of the human race.


3: We will never know all there is to know but pursuit of knowledge is enough.


4: Do harm to none and serve the good of all


5: All actions have a three-fold consequence for either good or ill, act accordingly; as you do so shall be done to you.


6: Beware power, it is a heady elixir!


Prologue:
Blows the Horn of Herne!

The town of Clifden, Connemara, Ireland could only be entered over two bridges, between which was a magnificent waterfall and narrow gorge running to the sea. The larger three-arched bridge led to Dooneen and the bogs beyond. The King’s Shoe Pub was just north of the town and I was there for what might be my last time, with my friends celebrating a bittersweet occasion.

We were drinking to my appointment to the Mabon School for the Magickal Arts in Bad Godesberg, Germany. That meant I would not see my friends and classmates from the Academy Dar’c for at least a year. I was both excited by the appointment to the German school and sad that I was leaving my three friends behind. We four had spent many a night in that pub after long days of classes.

I was toasting the last three years of my university life, holding a beer stein in my hand. “My friends,” I proclaimed, “Louis Blériot has crossed the English Channel by air, the largest ship in the world, RMS Olympic, has been surpassed by even greater airships, Dr. Mabon has brought us the Sci-magickal arts but I have brought you the greatest achievement of good King Edward’s reign: Oktober Red!”

I held up the bronze statue of a charging buck that was the trophy for a spell competition I had won. “This graced the Mabon School for New Magick in the rathskeller in Bad Godesberg for many years,” I said, “but now I have brought this prize for all!”

“Just in time to decamp to the ‘enemy’, Master Jeremy Cross,” Larry Baker said with a glowering expression from behind his round glasses. “I’m not sure it is a fair trade.”

“Fair enough,” Dan Ferret said. “One ‘young buck’ for another!”

“I’ll drink to that,” Penny Bright said. “In fact, I’ll drink to almost anything!”

We all knew that, the flaxen haired and blue-eyed vixen had a reputation for imbibing that was Herculean; many a student had tried to drink Penny under the table to ‘have his way with her’ only to find himself flat on his face and still a virgin while the button nosed and pale skinned girl had moved on to drink with another lad.

“You, my lad,” Dan Ferret said, “as the only British student at the Mabon School for New Magicks, are charged to uphold the honor of the Academy Dar’c.” The red haired alchemist held his own beer tankard up to click with Penny’s.

The trophy of the buck would sit in a glass case in the King’s Shoe Pub until the next competition two years hence; I only hoped I was not competing for the German school by then, it would feel like a betrayal of my old chums.

Since the opening up of the European conference of Magicks and Science had normalized such studies—even over the objections of the Papacy—The Academy Dar’c had won the award five out of ten times.

The Academy was a very special school, funded privately, to recruit students from Ireland, Scotland and England. We came from poor working families, orphanages and workhouses around the Empire. I had won a partial scholarship to the Academy and then, by virtue of my hard work in three years, a full scholarship to the German school. My mother was a second generation émigré from Germany so I spoke the language fluently and that would make my time there easier.

I would be gone by the next day and I felt I had a bit of drinking store up on, though truth be told I was sure I’d never keep up with “pub Penny” Bright!

“Wait, wait, wait!” Larry piped up. He was a broad fellow, built like a beer keg with a short neck, rough features and long, club-like arms. His voice, however was high pitched and he had a twinkle in his eye that was Irish in the extreme.

“I propose that we rename the Oktober Red the ‘Jeremy award’!” He was not serious, of course, but the others cheered and cries of “Jeremy! Jeremy!” sounded off the rafters.

I colored with pride as they chanted and knew the moment would stay with me for many years afterward. What I would not remember was much of the evening of drinking and camaraderie that we celebrated afterward, right up to my departure for the school in Bad Godesburg.

It seemed an innocent time, both for us and for the world.

After the Germans had won the Great War in little more than a year, they had proved to be noble victors, signing a brother nation accord with England and ushering in a new age of reason and Sci-magick.

Our good King Edward VII was a broadminded, fun-loving man and he mixed, with some freedom, with men and women of all classes. A privileged few gained access to his personal circle of friends known as the ‘Marlborough Set’. Wealth rather than birth was a passport to the society he dominated.

He followed his mother, Victoria, however, in devotion to the Sci-magickal arts and was friends with the academy’s headmaster, Dr. Arturoius. The two had been friends since the King had been the Prince of Wales.

It was Arturoius who had rushed to the King’s side in ’10 when the heathen lifestyle of the Royal had almost killed Edward. No one knew for sure what of the Sci-magickal arts the imperious, silver haired man had called upon, but there was talk of a clockwork heart and spells of vitality.

In any case, the corpulent and fun loving monarch was still strong and had led the Sceptred Isle through the short Great War, negotiating a peace after a horrible year of fighting the strange Mannkopf Mounts and other new weaponry of the German Empire.

The King’s strong leadership saved the dignity of the British Empire and helped restore stability to the world, continuing the romantic golden age of long summer afternoons and garden parties that was to have his name.

Edward the VII had done his level best to continue the stability of his mother’s long reign while leading the Empire into a new century of wonders. The strong ties with the victorious German Empire had ensured that the sciences and arts still flourished across the land.

Now, I was to embark for the school in Germany and, as much as an outsider I had been when I first came to Academy Dar’c, I would be more so in Bad Godesberg. Yet, I had promised my family and, even more so at this point, Doctor Arturoius, that I would try my best and so I would.

I was glad for the dulling effect of the beer when I tottered up the ramp to the dirigible that would take me east to my new school and a new phase of my life! Little did I know that the Sci-magickal rule of three would come into my life with a force and in ways I could never have predicted, no matter how good a magician I ever hope to be!

Part I:

Chapter One:
Breaking into a Donjon is Just Wrong!

I must say that in all honestly that had alcohol not been involved in the incident at the rathskeller perhaps things might have been different: perhaps not better, but certainly, different.

The circumstance of it all came about because we were sitting in the rathskeller in Bad Godesberg after classes and I was taking the usual ribbing.

I was the only English student at the Mabon School for New Magicks but that was not the reason they hazed me. They would have tormented me were I full blood Prussian or French or what have you because I was still the ‘new’ student.

I had only been at the school for eight months, after my transfer on scholarship from the Academy Dar’c in Ireland. My parents and my instructors had decided that the continent was where the best in alchemical arts could be studied and it was now a respected profession.

I had been interested in both Sci-magick and theatre since, as a child, I had seen a minor conjurer at a fair back in Wycombe change a rabbit into a hawk. It was back just before Germany won the World War using those principles when it was still frowned upon. It had been hard at first at the new school, but I threw myself into my studies and amateur theatricals to combat the loneliness. The work, some theatricals and letters from Larry in Ireland and my mother in Wycombe were my only ‘social life’ for the first few months.

“Stop wool gathering, Englander,” Gert Von Handler said. “You have to throw the dart.” He stroked along the "smite" scar on his left cheek from his mensur dueling. He was very proud of his schmiss.

I was standing in the underground, smoke-filled pub and had already had several tankards of good German beer. I had gained a reputation as the ‘dart man’ in the underclass during the months I had been there and was straining to up hold it against my archrival, Gert. He was popular in the school and when he joined my circle of friends my stock quickly rose.

“I’m just waiting for the spirit to move me,” I said with a smug smile. “One can not rush perfection.”

This made Oswald, a rotund fellow who had become my fast friend and Elke the beautiful blonde classmate who seemed to always hang around with our group, break into gales of laughter. Oswald had been the first to befriend me at the school, then Elke then Gert seemed to gravitate toward me. Soon we four were boon companions and I felt, at last, that I belonged.

“Oh shoot, Jeremy,” Oswald sneered. “I am growing old while you wait for ghosts to move you.” I shot him a dirty look and went back to sighting my dart.

“Take your time,” Elke said with that pout that drove us all crazy. “He just doesn’t want to pay for another round of drinks.”

Gert made a disgusted sound and I knew her barb had struck home. I squinted at the board and launched my own missile. It struck true to the center of the board.

Bullseye!

“Have you ever paid for a round of drinks?’ Elke asked me when the steam-bot bar ‘maid’ clanked over with our new drinks.

“Many,” I said. “But not for some time.” My mind went back to dozens of such evenings with Larry, Penny and Dan at the Academy and I had a momentary stab at the thought that such nights with them would not happen again. Larry’s last letter had said Penny and Dan had been dismissed from the school for cheating on an exam. I was not surprised, but still I was saddened. I shook my head to chase away the grey thought. I smiled at Elke and said, “I acquired my skill at the cost of a wasted youth in many pubs.”

Gert snorted at that. He was the poster image of the New Germany: a blond tall, well-muscled demi-god with piercing blue eyes and a dueling scar on his left cheek that proclaimed him as a child of the Junkers. He was the apple of his military family’s eye and had shocked many of the traditionalists when he chose to study the magickal arts but as he put it, “We won the war, in part because of the Sci-magickal advances that great men like Mabon and Miller brought to bear so it is only logical that I learn all there is to know about it.” I remember he had smiled a predator’s smile when he added, “I will not beat my sword into a ploughshare I will simply add a wand to my arsenal.”

I had no such lofty or nationalistic goals. My parents were modest merchants who ran a hostelry outside of High Wycombe and had hopes for me to simply make it through university and find a profession. They were shocked when I took the entrance exam for the Academy Dar’c and more so when the inquisitor said I had true magickal talent.

Two years in Ireland however left me feeling that I was not getting the instruction I could be. And when representatives of the Mabon School had visited and presented a seminar on transformational energy I knew that I had to study there. I had been able to talk to the professor, one Herr Magus Shikel to allow me into an exchange student program.

My parents, especially my mother, were not happy with me being among the Irish and now the thought of being in the midst of our former enemies was almost too much for them. But it was a scholarship and they relented.

So now I was the new boy on the block, ‘the Englander,’ to all in the school and often the butt of jokes.

I took it all in stride for it meant I was learning things in the way I wanted. The instructors were the finest in the world and the students—even the self possessed Gert—were some of the most talented in the arts. They and, I hoped, I would be the true future of the world.

“I overheard Magus Maurius shouting at old Adolph today,” Elke said. She was a lovely girl, almost as tall as I, with a girlish figure blossoming to womanhood in the most pleasing way. Her eyes sparkled all the time and I think half the underclassmen had a crush on her. I know I did.

“What were they on about?” Oswald asked as he stuffed yet another piece of strudel into his maw.

We all leaned in to hear the details; the two professors seemed to always be at odds over issues magickal. Their arguments were almost legendary.

“Maurius was going on about the Halbesel formulae that Adolph uses and saying it was nonsense.”

‘No!” Gert said, “He actually said that?”

“Yes,” Elke insisted, “he said ‘nonsense’! Then Adolph started that sputtering speech of his about great past of Germany and Heimat historians using the spell. He asked “how could someone like Maurius who was not part of the Volk community?”

“No!” Oswald gasped then he giggled. “I wish I could have seen Maurius’s face.”

“I didn’t dare peek around the edge of the doorway to look,” Elke said as she cleaned her third plate of the evening—she ate more than Oswald and I together and never gained a pound. “But Maurius went on about how it was ‘pure speculation’ that the pre-Christians used the Halbesel spells that Shikel was so up on.”

“And Adolph let that sit?” I said. My ‘sponsor’ was known for his powerful speeches and arguments.

“Oh he shot back with ‘the Heimat inhabitants used many mountain peaks to call to the god Wotan the god of war, death and the hunt, and with such symbols as warrior girdles were able to effect changes like even to the bear shirts or Berserkers.”

Oswald laughed. “He gave that same speech last week when we asked him about the Gotensberg references in the old spell book.”

Elke laughed as well. I noticed that the tip of her nose moved like a bunny’s when she laughed, a little thing, but a delightful one.

“Yes,” Gert said, his angular features taking on a stern cast. “I remember he talked about his theory about a secret vault from the late 14th century, somewhere up in the old fortress from when it had become the repository of the Elector's valuables and archives.”

“Do you think it could be real?” Elke said, “I mean, if it was wouldn’t they have found it by now?”

“Not necessarily,” I said. “I remember when I first got here I read in the guide book that the old castle was under the district’s historical agency and we weren’t supposed to go near it because of jurisdictional concerns.”

“I have heard something of that,” Gert said, “The Bonn city council claims it and Bad Godesberg claims it and the state historical council wants to restore it, so it is to be is settled in court. And they have been fighting over it for years.”

“That’s what I love about your German courts,” I said, for once enjoying being the outsider. “If a thing can be drawn out for a day it can be drawn out for a decade!”

“Do you think there really is a secret vault in the castle donjon like Adolph says?” Elke asked.

“I trust what he says,” I said. “The fort itself was established on an ancient cult site or so he said.”

“No matter how silly his mustache is?” Elke said with a grin.

“Yes,” I said sticking my tongue out at her. “I think if he says it’s there it’s probably in there.”

“We ought to just sneak in and see,” Oswald said casually as he slurped up another ale.

There was sudden silence at the table and the other three of us looked at each other with the same startled expressions.

“What are you all looking at,” Oswald said when he realized we had stopped our usual banter.

“You are a genius, Oswald, my round friend,” I said. I knew by their look that the other two had indeed come to the same conclusion.

“What do you mean?” he said.

“We can get into the old castle and look for the vault of spells!” Gert said. “It would be a great coup and the information we could find is rightfully the fatherland’s!” He looked at me when he said it and I knew he was already thinking of someway to exclude me from the expedition.

I was having none of that.

“Come on then,” I said rising from the table a bit unsteadily from the tankards I had consumed. “Let’s go!”

Chapter Two:
Fun Storming the Castle

The castle Godesburg was constructed as a fortress early in the 8th century. Legend had it that it was built on an old cult site and its name derived from the old Germanic Wotansberg.

The fortress foundation stones were laid by a vicar upon the order of Dietrich I, the Archbishop of Cologne.

It was located on the road between the southernmost portions of the Bad Godesberg and the Bonn Rivers. The four of us staggered with purpose from the rathskeller and up the midnight road toward the ruins as a bloated moon lit our way.

The lone tower of the old fort loomed ominously above the valley, 400 feet above the Rhine, on the peak of a steep hill that had made effective artillery fire against it difficult. Now the height exhausted us four would-be-magicians as we trudged up the road that led to the ruins.

It had successfully resisted a five-week siege by Count William of Cleves a long time ago and successive archbishops had continued to improve the fortifications with stronger walls and expanded moats, adding levels to the central Bergfried, which was cylindrical, not square like many other medieval donjons.

As we got closer the dilapidated state of the fortification made it clear that it needed a good deal of work before it could be restored.

“Isn’t there a groundskeeper?” Elke asked as we approached the stone curtain wall.

Oswald, who was lagging behind the group, put a finger to his lips and ‘shsshed’ her.

“Of course there is,” he said. “If it wasn’t valuable everybody would not be fighting over it.”

“Like someone would sneak in at night and repair this old relic?” I said. Elke elbowed me. I couldn’t see her face it the darkness, but I’m sure that she had raised her right eyebrow and twisted her perfect bow of a mouth into a frown.

“We must take precautions,” Gert said. His steely persona had not cracked though every once in a while his upright walk wobbled into a little stagger before he pulled himself together. His voice, however was its usual sharp edged rasp. “I will scout ahead; you remain here and be quiet.”

I was going to object—I hated his high-handed attitude—but it was not the time to squabble, so I said nothing.

Gert was a more than competent sorcerer-to-be and after muttering the appropriate spell he all but blinked out before our eyes. He did not disappear, for one of the truths of magick as outlined by the greats like Crowley, Mabon and Drosselmeyer were that true invisibility did not exist on the mortal plane, but there were several ways to simulate it or achieve the same effect.

Gert had mastered the Spell of Aversion whereby any eye looking toward him was compelled to look away so that he could only be seen of the corners of the eyes. Many of you have had that disturbing sensation, no doubt, of almost seeing someone but turning and the room was empty. Always suspect a sorcerer!

He moved toward the dark bulk of the outer ruins making a point of letting us know he was near the main gate by rolling a pebble down the path toward us.

“Has to show off,” Oswald said with a hiss.

I tried to remember the descriptions of the fortress interior from the literature I had read before coming to the school; successive regimes had expanded the cruder inner works of the first keep to include a small residence, dungeons, and chapel, had increased the thickness of the fortified walls, added a curtain wall, and improved the roads.

Though its cordons of thick, rounded walls and massive iron-studded gates had made it a formidable adversary it still fell in the dispute that was known as The Cologne War.

The tower was still mostly intact, its great bulk looming like some prehistoric beast in the darkness, the moon lining one side with a ghostly blue light.

We three waited tensely for some minutes not daring to speak. I was getting a little sleepy from the beer, and, as my father used to say ‘feeling no pain.’ And to add to my enjoyment, I must say being so close to Elke and listening to her even breaths and smelling her sweet perfume while we waited was not so bad either. Oswald’s wheezing was considerably less comforting.

After what seemed like an eternity Gert stepped from a shadow before us so suddenly that our rotund friend made a startled sound and fell over on his rump.

Elke had to slap her hands over her mouth to keep from laughing loudly so that a sort of strangled snort came from behind her hands.

Gert just made a disgusted ‘tsk!’ sound.

“Come,” he said curtly, “the old caretaker is dozing on the other side of the tower. The way to the donjon is clear.”

We helped Oswald up and the four of us moved as swiftly as silence would allow into the ruins. It was eerie and my mind went to the ghost stories so popular before the existence of the other side had been confirmed by Sci-magickal means. Such places would have thought to have been haunted though now we knew that much of the phenomena were inter-dimensional portal points. We were all shielded from such energy so it was just a dark maze to me, but still I felt the hairs on the back of my neck prickle. We were, after all, trespassing and breaking the law.

I was not so drunk I did not realize we would all be in a great deal of trouble if we were caught.

Gert led us down a long corridor that soon became so dark we had to pause.

“We’re going to break our necks in here,” Oswald said. As if to demonstrate his point he tripped into a low obstruction, grunting in pain.

“Wait,” Elke said. “I can make a Lumina spell.” She muttered an incantation in Old High German and her hands glowed a soft green light.

“Won’t we be seen?” Oswald asked.

“I’m using the astral spectrum,” she said. “Only initiates can see it.” She blew on her hands and the green glow seemed to flow off her as if it were a fine mist and illuminate the pathway ahead of us. It showed, as if in green twilight, the open portals of several doors that looked so much like a skull’s empty sockets.

We were able to walk at a normal pace now and looked down each side corridor or room with Elke throwing a flare of light into it until we found the steps to the cellars.

“Do you think the steps are safe?” Oswald leaned in to look at the old stone of the steps and patted his stomach. He looked like he had swallowed a sour apple.

“Didn’t you learn a levitation spell yet?” Gert asked facetiously. None of the undergraduates had learned anything as complex as nullifying the laws of gravity and inertia and he knew it.

Elke shot him an annoyed look and sent a plume of light down to glow the entire stairway and cellar below. It looked solid enough and she pushed past Gert and me to head down it with a brave stride.

Gert followed and then I.

Oswald had little choice but to join us.

Soon we all stood on the floor of the lower vaulted space and saw the enclosures all around the large main room that had at one time been cells but had been converted to storage areas for the treasures of the Electors of the Holy Roman Empire in the past.

Some of the low ceilinged side spaces still had bars in place, though most had rusted away long ago. Others had been bricked up so that only a small door was set in the space and those metal doors had all been removed at some point in antiquity as well. In fact, it looked like anything of any value was very long gone.

Once more Oswald put all our thoughts into succinct form. “This is a whole lot of risk for nothing!” he said. “Let’s go home.”

Nein!” Gert said. “We are here and here is where there is great treasure. We must just find it.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Oswald asked. He was looking around now as if the Holy Elector’s crown would be sitting on a rock nearby.

“I think we can find it,” I said, “if we use a Spell of Emergence.”

The others turned to me with startled expressions. “But—but that is a second form spell,” Elke said, “None of us are qualified to perform it.”

“Not by ourselves,” I said. “But we’ve all done it in class with Herr Shikel or Professor Morgaine supervising.”

“Yes,” Gert said his angular features lighting with understanding. “If we act as ground and you or Elke actually do the spell—”

“Exactly,” I said. “You are a very strong ground, Gert, and Oswald is almost as good; it’s just up to Elke if she thinks we can link to do the spell; if she adds Lumina to my reveal incantation…”

“Yes!” the bubbly blonde girl said. “It is a brilliant idea!”

“It is a good one, yes,” Gert reluctantly agreed.

The four of us took up the four quarters of the room with me on the north and Elke on the south.

We all said the calming chant and then I began to summon the spirits that would ripple the stream of time and allow for the revelation of any hidden recesses in the cellar. It was a complex spell. One that, according to Herr Shikel, was like making all time translucent so that one could see the space one was in at all times at once.

I began the inner journey that would allow me to call on the powers that connected me to the Akashic skein and thus to the forces of the universe. The Old Norse believed that the threads of life were made by the Norns, the three sister gods who wove, measured and cut that skein to determine one’s lifespan.

The Aryans of old believed that as well, if by a different name and now, we of Sci-magickal training knew it to be an energy trail that went through the multiverse and would allow me to draw power from a literal beyond.

Elke would add a glimmer of light to any hidden recess so we could locate it more quickly.

The danger, to me, was that I might be drawn up the skein by the energies that I was taping, much as a whirlpool might suck a sailor under a mad sea or a tornado raise one into a storm sky.

Gert and Oswald would act as anchors to Elke and me.

As much as I thought him an insufferable bore at times, Gert was an excellent student of the arts and I knew he would save me if there were trouble.

And there was.

Almost at once the room spun around me and, as if in a motion picture made with super imposition or an X ray machine I was able to see the fortress in all its stages, from a simple rock altar on the top of the mountain to its current dilapidated state. I saw nothing of the people who had moved through the space/time of the structure, but the materials of the building registered clearly. I saw splendor and squalor in equal proportion. And I saw treasure: the gold and jewels that had been stored there.

More importantly, because Elke had attached a sort of magickal trace of red light to any artifacts that were of an occult nature, I saw a large red glow in the corner of one of the cells. That glow persisted when all the other objects faded and the room itself swirled around me.

I saw shapes across the glowing space now, things that were not inanimate objects but had the aspect of things alive though I could not say what they were. They had a shambling gait and might have been a distorted image of an equine being with only two legs yet they seemed to come from where the darkest of the red glow originated. And they seemed to be coming at me.

I felt myself losing control, felt my mind begin to wander as if to another place and I called on all my discipline to pull myself back to the here-and-now of the cellar.

The shapes held their ground at a distance they were calling to me in some dim ancestral part of my brain. Yet how could they see me? They were… things such as I could never have imagined and hoped never to see again. Inhabitants of another time and place. Whether they were long dead or never living, I could not say.

But they had consciousness and they were aware of me. This last fact chilled me to my marrow and I felt myself slipping into hysteria and confusion. My whole being felt as if it were being stretched like living taffy out of all proportion to reality.

It was as if a powerful riptide was drawing me into a maelstrom and I could not hold on to any point of land. I was aware of Elke fighting the tide as well: a feeling of helplessness came over me and I cursed myself for bringing her into the spell for fear of what might happen to her.

I had heard of magicians driven mad for what they had seen in such spells, or killed outright for dealing with cosmic forces they had no ability or even right to control.

I was still seeing that red glow when an oblivion of blackness swept over me and I pitched forward, unconscious.

Chapter Three:
Charged

I woke to the sting of Gert’s slapping hand on my right cheek and his angular features sneering down at me. “He’s alive,” he said with a disappointed tone in his voice. “But it may take a while to determine if his brains are addled.”

“Oh let me see!” Elke leaned into my line of sight next and her clear blue eyes were darkened with concern. “Are you alright, Jeremy?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure, but I wanted to see her smile again so I said, “Yes, just let me catch my breath.” This had the desired effect and her eyes lit.

I made two attempts to sit up before I was successful. My head was throbbing.

“We thought you were gone,” Oswald said with gravity. “Pulled straight through to the other side.”

“It felt it,” I said. I turned to look at Gert. “Thank you for pulling me back.”

He gave a curt nod and did that little Junker thing of tapping his heels together. “Are you ready to open the hidden vault?” he asked.

I had almost forgotten the reason for our adventure. I looked around me and realized I was exactly where I had been when we had affected the spell. The room looked strange to me now in its uni-dimensionality; terribly ordinary, even dull. It made me wonder what great mages saw and how they could put up with the ‘normal’ of our human world after such trips to the beyond.

“So where is the vault?” Elke said eagerly. She had not been in the spell of emergence’ center so could not have seen the red glow she had channeled to me to cast.

I pointed. “In that room, under the flooring.”

“I hope we don’t need tools to get at it,” Oswald said, “I’d hate to make this trip again.”

He was right. If it were more than some hidden spring—and it might well be since none had found it before us—then we could not retrieve it in a single night. And the noise of any digging would surely bring the grounds-keeper.

We were fortunate.

The hidden vault proved to be little more than a coffin sized space beneath the floor in the back of one of the ancient cells. Gert was able to find its edge and pry it up with a piece of discarded iron strapping from a long gone door.

“You should be the first to see the contents,” the Aryan student graciously said to me, “You determined how to find it.”

“Yes,” Elke said, clapping her hands like a little girl. “You should.”

Oswald made it unanimous with a nod of his head. I smiled and knelt to pull the trap door open.

It was all a very anti-climactic moment.

The contents of the space were a dusty collection of papers, a pile of folders and an odd looking old style wide belt that is referred to in the manuscripts as a ‘war girdle.”

We all looked at them in the dim green glow of Elke’s Lumina spell and were silent for a long slice of time.

Finally Oswald spoke.

“We had better get the stuff and go,” he pointed out. “Our luck can’t last all night.”

He was right, though I considered my near banishment to the great outer dark to not have been the’ best of luck’. I reached into the cavity and grasped the girdle intent to pull it out.

That was when the real strangeness happened and our luck ran out simultaneously.

As I touched the girdle to bring it out of the hole a surge of energy coursed through me, right up my arms as if from an electrical shock. My breath went out of my body. The ethereal power of the ancient artifact—and it most certainly was of very old origin—was massive.

I was jolted backward by the sensations I experienced and the visions that came to me of creatures like the Satyrites that had become the servant class for so many—hoofed things out of legend with limited intellect, almost a sub division of mankind or an offshoot. Those goat legged creatures made it seem as if the gods had tinkered with different designs before settling on the fully human form. Creatures like them and Mankopf Mounts—human faced horses—and other legendary beings had been discovered by Doctor Mabon less than thirty years before on a lost island in the North Atlantic and changed the whole world with their re-introduction into our society.

The strange ‘almost shapes’ I had seen in the spell trance came to mind and I wondered if they or their residual energy were what I was seeing now. Were they ‘haunting’ the girdle and, if so, what was it to them; a talisman, a worship token or something else?

The sensations lasted only a moment though they seemed longer but as I was coming back to myself, a howling sound like a soul tormented in hell came from the top of the stairs.

“Damnation,” Gert cursed. “The watchman has a dog I didn’t spot.”

It was true: the grounds keeper’s brindle-backed deerhound crouched at the top of the stairs alternately barking and howling into the darkness of the cellar. Lower animals could not only smell, and hear better than man but they could sense better. Often, ethereal energy that made no impact on us humans was clear and present to such beasts. The dog must have seen Elke’s Lumina glow and followed it, picking up our scent as well.

“What are we going to do?” Oswald hissed. “If we get caught we’ll be charged and—and we could get expelled from the school!”

“Quiet,” Gert snapped. “I have to think.”

But quiet was not forthcoming. The dog intensified his barks and howls. Distantly we heard a shouted “Quiet, Shotzy!” in an old male voice.

“He’s coming to investigate,” Elke said.

“Whatever we do,” Gert said with finality, “we must not forget our prizes.” He took off his jacket and laid it on the ground next to the vault space. He proceeded to pick up all the papers therein and place them gently onto the coat. When he touched the embossed leather girdle, nothing unusual happened to him at all.

I handed him my own belt, which he used to fashion the coat and its contents into a bundle for easy carrying. “There,” he said with satisfaction. “We can move swiftly now without damaging any of this.”

“But swiftly to where?” Oswald said. “The aversion spell won’t work on the dog.”

True; the beast relied least on its sense of sight: it would smell or hear us and be at us in a moment’s action. In fact, it seemed it might race down the stairs at any second.

“I’m not sure,” Gert admitted, “but we have to do something.”

Suddenly it struck me what to do.

“Quickly,” I called to the others, “use that door to the vault, pick it up and hide behind it in that cell.” I pointed to the last of the cell-vaults that were in echelon along the wall.

I ran to the second-to-last space that had a fairly small opening and checked inside it. It was just a low vaulted room three or four meters square with only the one doorway. There was a center column in the room that would work to my purpose.

“We have the door,” Elke came in the room to tell me. “What else can we do?”

Even in the dim glow of the Lumina spell I saw the fear in her eyes, but also a personal concern for me. I felt myself blush and hoped she didn’t notice.

“Hide in the last room behind the door and then be ready with it.” I said. I told them the rest of my plan, which made her and Oswald try to argue me out of it. All the time the beast at the top of the stairs was howling away.

Gert cut in finally, “It is a good plan and no greater risk than us all being caught. Come!” He herded the others into the last cell and pulled the door behind them. I saw a last look of concern on Elke’s face and it gave me courage for what I must do.

As soon as they were hidden I picked up a rock and hurled it at the dog with all my might. I struck the animal on the snout so that he yelped and then growled.

“Come on you mangy cur!” I yelled.

He did not really need that encouragement as he raced down the stairs at me in a full gallop. I waited until he was almost at the bottom and then ran for the second-to-last cell. He followed with no equivocation.

I ran into the room and to the back wall. He loped in after me and came straight at me with slathering jaws. I rounded the column with him following and then ran for the entrance yelling, “Now!”

As I darted out of the portal Gert and Oswald slid the door over the opening and the animal slammed against it with a howl of frustration.

I turned to help the others pile debris against the door till it held it in place.

“Let’s go,” I said. “It’ll work its way out in a bit but by then we’ll be long gone!”

The others agreed and we all stumbled up the stairs as fast as we could. The four of us bolted down the corridor toward the exit from the ruins faster than was wise. We almost didn’t make it for a figure suddenly stepped into the opened doorway at the end of the corridor.

“What’s going on here?” he said. It was the groundskeeper. He had a shotgun clutched in one hand and a lantern in the other.

“Behind me,” Gert cried and threw the bundle of booty to me. He stood in front of us and quickly muttered the Spell of Aversion formulae again. This time he cast a curtain of near-invisibility on all of us. I knew it couldn’t last long and would only work in the narrow corridor as long as we stayed close together—after all, there were few places to avert ones eyes in the confined hallway.

The old man could obviously not see us in the dark space and he shone the light in and called out again, “Who’s there?”

If he didn’t move there would be no way to get past him even if we were not visible to him.

I had a sudden inspiration again.

“Everyone cover your eyes. Elke,” I whispered, “Glimmer his lantern by as much as you can!”

She made a happy sound and I knew she understood.

The lamp in the man’s hand abruptly flared into almost incandescent brightness and the old fellow dropped it with a scream as he was suddenly blinded by the almost daytime bright of what he thought was an exploding lamp.

In fact, Elke had just magnified the light from the lamp by changing the refractive qualities of the dust motes in the air around it by many hundreds of percent.

In any case, while the groundskeeper cursed and groped around with his temporary blindness, we four treasure raiders ran off into the night.

By the time we had made it half a kilometer down the road we all—even the usually stiff and formal Gert—were laughing and giggling like grade school children.

It would have been a perfect triumph but for the nagging feeling, when I hugged the package with the war girdle against my chest, that we had somehow unleashed forces we might not be able to control.

I wish I had not been right.

Chapter Four:
School Fool

You four are all in a great deal of trouble,” Herr Shikel said the next morning. We clustered around the table in the spell practorium lab before the first class of the day was to begin. Only we four conspirators and my mentor and friend, Adolph Shikel, were present.

We had told him of the events of the night before and, when he began to rage at us for being insane, we had laid the contents of the hidden vault out on the table before him. It had stunned him to silence for a time.

“When the district hears of the theft of these items—” he began.

“—But there was no theft,” Gert said smoothly. Sometimes I thought he was more lawyer than sorcerer for his way with words. “The groundskeeper did not see us; no one knows there were any items in that vault for sure and we have witnesses that we never left the dormitories last night.” He smiled as if at Sunday choir practice.

We did our best to mirror his innocence and this made the little dark-haired and mustachioed teacher grin with mischief.

“Well then,” he said, “I suppose we shall have to investigate these strange items that showed up here unannounced this morning, eh?”

It was indeed a treasure trove of items. There were half a dozen scrolls, rolled and bound with ribbon, two folders that held some loose papers, prints and the war girdle.

The girdle was contrastingly plainly designed and intricately worked: embossed leather that might once have been dyed red but was now a dark brown. Its surface was covered with intricate writing in both Brahmi and ancient Runes. The writing was so extensive that it at first appeared to be the texture of the leather like crocodile skin.

There were also images on it of two legged creatures that looked very much like the red hued beings I had seen in the visions the night before. I found myself disturbed by them.

We only unbound two of the scrolls, choosing them at random and studied the fine brushwork on them with awe. They were not paper but lambskin that had been preserved by both chemical and mystical means.

“That is how you were able to locate this at all,” Herr Shikel muttered when Oswald asked about the skins. “The enchantments are still with all these objects: a residual like that Radium that the French girl discovered.”

It was exciting and all of us, even the reserved Gert, had a hard time containing our enthusiasm. Elke was particularly cute and bubbly and I tried not to stare at her more than I did at the artifacts.

It all made my skin tingle: at least I thought it was the excitement.

I know my ears had been itching me the whole of the night after our adventure and my legs were sore. Unusually sore as if I had run a great distance. I chalked the pain up to both the physical exertion and somewhat the mental stress of my contact with the etheric energy from the night’s conjuring.

During the night I had been visited by several nightmares about the strange figures I had seen in my casting but, as all youth, felt fairly invulnerable. I was sure that they were just a result of my nerves and nothing more.

What concerned me more was that I noticed that Gert was taking an interest in Elke’s joy. I was more than a little bothered by that. Of late I had felt myself looking forward to her company with a particular excitement.

I tried to concentrate on the finds before us and not keep glancing up at him and her. I am sure he noticed.

Adolph exclaimed, “Wunderbar!” with glee frequently as he looked through the papers and then clapped his hands. “We must put these before the rest of the instructors,” he said after a half hour of study. “There is too much here and it is of such importance that this must be shared.”

“But we found them,” Gert said. “We should get the credit for it.” He cast a sidelong glance at us to see if we supported him.

Oswald nodded, Elke shrugged and I said, “As much as is safe to acknowledge.”

“Well said, Jeremy,” the teacher said. “I will certainly make sure you are involved in all translations and studies; perhaps we shall create a special study section for this work.” He smiled and looked like a fifty-year old imp. “I know I want to read every line in these—I am sure already that it proves my theory of an Aryan root race with mystical powers. Sci-magick is older than anyone but I and a very few others suspected!”

The regular class bell rang then and we four were forced to take our seats as the other students flowed in and Herr Shikel’s class began.

His lesson for the day was in manipulating perceptions and he, an already powerful speaker we all knew, showed us some of the magickal techniques he incorporated in those lectures.

“I began these techniques unconsciously,” he said in the course of his lecture, “before I was fully aware that aural magick was possible; now I know that certain tones can be included within any sound that will influence people and how they perceive any message.”

He demonstrated by reciting doggerel poetry, first with no magick’s included and then with a small spell included in it.

The effect was amazing; with the second reading the otherwise dismissible material seemed to touch my heart. I could see it had the same effect on the others, with Elke and some of the other women actually crying from the emotional content.

When he tried to show a second example of the aural technique, explaining as he did it the spells involved, strange things started to happen to me. My ears began to burn and then to hurt.

I grabbed for them as sharp stabs of agony made me cry out.

“Jeremy?” Oswald asked, “Are you alright?”

I tried to answer him and say I was fine, not willing to be humiliated in front of Gert and the class, but I could find no words.

“Jeremy?” the teacher called. He stepped from the front of the room and came to my side. I tried to take my hands away from my head but the pain was so intense that I fell to my knees.

“Get Professor Morgaine,” Adolph called to one of the students, ‘Now!”

He grabbed for my hands and when he pulled them aside to look at my ears he and everyone else gasped.

“Your ears,” Elke said with horror, “What has happened to your ears!!”

I barely heard her words of distress for my agony was becoming acute. My ears now only tingled and when I put my hands to them they were distorted and felt ‘wrong’ but now it was my legs that were in pain.

From my thighs down it felt as if the skin were ripping from inside out, like I was bursting from growth and change.

“Hold him so he does not hurt himself, thrashing,” the teacher said. Several students grasped my shoulders and legs but their touch seemed to burn my lower limbs.

Soon my legs pressed against my trousers as my body reshaped itself to some phantom sculptor’s hand.

My feet cramped horribly and my shoes fell off as my lower extremities changed shape.

“He’s changing into a Satyrite!” one of the students exclaimed.

The Satyrites with human like upper torsos had goat legs with cloven hooves. The Doctor said in his announcement of their discovery that they were most likely the source of many legends and myths of the ancient times.

The beasts were as intelligent as a smart dog and had been trained to perform many tasks, such as cleaning, bar tending and much of the manual labor of farming, mining and other things freeing much of European mankind to aspire to higher pursuits.

“No he’s not,” Elke said with annoyance layered beneath the fear in her voice, “His… his feet are not goat hooves, they are like horses hooves!”

I looked down and they were! My toes had receded into the foot with the toenails transforming into the horny surface of what looked like an equine hoof.

My thighs had burst through the upper trousers legs and I saw that my lower leg looked much like a fetlock now.

I was speechless save for moans of humiliation and horror that I could not stop from spilling from my quivering lips.

Professor Morgaine entered the room then and shooed the others away from me. “Adolph,” she called. “Bring me the item that he touched to draw this curse.” She had surmised on a glance what had occurred with me.

She was the image of a cartoon witch of old with a long chin and sharp cheekbones, all topped with a shock of wiry black hair. It was all thrown off kilter by her wide and easy smile and normally jolly manner. Now, however her face was a mask of concern.

“I can see the trace of the energy,” she said seriously. “It is very old.”

Herr Shikel brought her the war girdle and she passed her hands over it while muttering incantations. He stepped to near my head and otherworldly energy flowed from his hands.

I knew, in the still rational part of my mind, that he was charging me with healing and calming forces while the Professor did her best to stem the enchantment that was stealing up my body.

Hopelessness crept through my mind as surely as the physical change was sweeping up my body; the image of the creatures I had seen swirled in my head. Elke’s blue eyes went wide with terror and perhaps a little disgust and I wished then and there that death would come as a mercy to me.

Chapter Five:
The Halls of Infamy

I have seen some old texts on this sort of girdle,” Professor Morgaine said. “Brecht Maurius postulated they existed to the far east, but never did he or I realize they were this far west.”

“I was right, it is Aryan Magick,” Adolph said under his breath.

“We have to put the girdle on him,” Morgaine continued. “The belt was meant to be worn before going into battle to call their deity upon them to give them power.”

“They assumed the form of their… their gods?” Oswald asked. He stood to the side, his eyes bugging out at the spectacle of my changing body.

“A warrior chief would ‘take the god’ onto himself with the aid of an enchanted object,” the female professor said. “A helmet or piece of armor or, in this case a war belt. He would be a living symbol of the powers supporting the clan.”

“But I thought they were wolf gods or bears—like the bear shirts that gave us the word Berserker.” Elke said. “Why would they take on… on a form of a horse?”

“They were warriors but they were nomads as well,” Adolph said. “Their fortunes rested on the backs of their mounts, much as the Mannkopf Mount changed the fortunes of the Fatherland in the Great War.” His voice tone changed as it always did when he ventured onto his favorite subject, the glorious past of the Nordic race.

“So they would revere a leader who embodied both?” Gert asked.

“Yes,” Herr Shikel said.

“Enough history,” Morgaine hissed. “I must concentrate.” She studied the marks on the belt mouthed the words in the ancient tongue.

“He must don this,” she said. “It will stop the curse, at least arrest the progression of it.”

“I must disagree,” Magus Maurius said entering the room. He was dramatic as usual, his long scholar’s robes flowing like a swirl of blue clouds. “The spell from such an artifact can not be mitigated by proximity; we must perform a Spell of Abatement after careful study.”

“There is not time,” Adolph said. “Let Morgaine continue.”

“Absurd,” Maurius said.

“As absurd as my theory of Volk and the Aryan warriors with this kind of magicks?” Adolph spoke with a note of triumph in his voice.

While this debate went on above me, my body continued to change from my feet upward. My legs had torn through my trousers completely and I was effectively naked from the belt line down and feeling humiliated.

My feet were all hooves now, and my legs to my waist were fully those of a donkey. Even my skin had become a gray donkey-like texture as my body hair became more like fine horse hair.

Tears streamed down my cheeks. I wanted to die, but not as some animal.

“Stop arguing,” I cried. “Help me!”

“Hold him up,” Morgaine ordered some of the students.

They obeyed and she slipped the wide belt around my middle.

“Do not fear, Jeremy,” she said with reassurance written on her haggish face, “We will not let this take you.”

Maurius made a move to stop her but Adolph shot him a look.

“Yes,” the mustachioed teacher said. “We will help you, Englander.”

She secured the belt around my waist and almost immediately a tingle came from everywhere it contacted my flesh. A warmth coursed through me and abruptly the cramps and pain stopped.

“It’s working,” Adolph said.

“It seems to be,” Morgaine said softly. “But let us wait and see; if it arrests the spell we must do as Maurius suggests and study these papers and forms in detail to reverse the spell.”

Placing the girdle on me did seem to stem the transformation. The spasms in my legs stopped immediately save for a few twitches. My ears, when Herr Shikel removed his hands from them, I could feel were outrageously long.

“Can you sit up, son?” Herr Shikel asked.


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