This week, Terribleminds charged us with writing using a motif. The d10 told me to go for Swords, in the genre of Paranormal Romance with the setting of Route 66.
“This is insane, even for you. You need your rest.”
Simon Cooper ignored the suggestion. Part of him hoped that the traffic would have drowned him out, but Route 66 was quiet at this time of night. It had to be night, of course. He thanked the powers that things had happened so close to a full moon. He would need every advantage he could get.
“Tell me, Xavier, what would resting accomplish that not resting will not?”
“You’d be able to look at the situation with clear eyes. You’d get some cobwebs and trauma out of your head. And, I hate to say it, you’d see that…”
“You could just say ‘nothing’ and leave it at that.” Cooper was also ignoring the pain in his leg. The blade had gone clean through his thigh.
“Xavier, you insisted on coming along. Don’t ruin things by trying to convince me to quit. It’d be a waste of gas and, more importantly, time. Time that Esther doesn’t have. Now, listen. There’s a ley line under that diner, and I need everybody out to tap it. Run interference for me.”
Xavier put a hand on Cooper’s shoulder. “Just stop, for a second. Think.”
With a sigh of exasperation, Cooper stopped and turned. “What?”
Xavier took a deep breath. “The Legionnaire came for me. She gave her life to save me. I can’t bear the thought of not being there when they turn off the machines.”
“You will be there when they turn them off, because she’s going to come back.”
“Dammit, Simon. The sword went through her neck. It’s a miracle she survived long enough to get on life support in the first place.”
“The Legionnaire carried an epee. It was meant to pierce her defenses, not hack off her head or limbs. And it was enchanted with a spell to part souls from bodies, not nerves from organs.”
Xavier ran a hand through his hair. “If you’re wrong…”
“I’m not. Come and see.”
It was a slow time in the diner. Only two patrons and four staff members in total. Cooper used a pyromantic cantrip to start a fire in the kitchen, and Xavier helped people get out. Simon’s follow-up spells were a wide-area disruption of electronics and putting the fire out while Xavier locked the doors.
“Now, we can begin. The salt, if you would.”
Xavier handed Cooper the container of sea salt. The other man whispered to himself as he turned, pouring the crystals out in a circle around him. He handed the container back.
Carefully, Xavier removed the small leather pouch from Cooper’s pack. Once he had it, Cooper pulled the strings and gently freed the deck from it. He closed his eyes as he shuffled. He dealt one card to the north, shuffled as he turned, dealt to the east, and repeated the process for the south and the west, shuffling once more and turning over the top card before laying the deck at his feet.
Xavier never really understood the whys and wherefores of Cooper’s methods, as he was practically from a different world. But for all the years he’d known the warlock, no spell that had been worked in his presence resulted in evil or even much collateral damage, save for an incident in New Jersey that neither man talked about.
“Eight of Swords to the north. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. So I can’t hesitate. You can stop thinking I need to quit now, Xavier.”
“Hush. Three of Swords to the east, practically at your feet. A truth, hidden, that will be revealed, and change everything.” He opened his eyes to look at Xavier. “Do your superiors know?”
Xavier bit his lip. “What would they say, Simon? How would they react to a priest being in love with a witch?”
Smiling, Cooper held up a finger. “I won’t tell if you won’t. Just as long as you know that I know.” He closed his eyes again. “Nine of Swords to the south, behind me, meaning that I’ve left behind sleep and other mortal comforts for this. Good. I’m on the right path. And… Ace of Swords to my left. My left hand, the one I’d use to hold a scabbard, draw a sword from, sharp and ready… excellent, excellent. I can do this.”
“What about the one at your feet?”
Cooper looked down. “The Queen of Swords herself. Oh, this is good. Xavier, I was right. Esther isn’t dying because her body is shutting down, she’s dying because her soul was stolen. Some deity or denizen has been keen to her magic and wants her for some purpose.”
Xavier frowned. Then, without a word, he moved to the fuse box and shut down the diner’s power. He removed seven candles from Cooper’s pack, laid them out around the circle, and lit them.
“What else do you need, Simon?”
“My totem belt.”
It was a heavy grade piece of military surplus wear, to which Cooper had affixed several pouches, with everything from herbs to small relics to holy water Xavier himself had blessed. He strapped it on.
“Simon Johnathan Tesla Cooper.”
The warlock turned to the priest. Xavier didn’t often say his full name.
“Bring her back to me. Bring her back to both of us.”
“What did you think I was going to do, Father Xavier, watch as her body slowly gives up waiting for her to come back? She’s my sister.”
“I know you don’t believe in God…”
“Nonsense, of course I do. I just don’t believe yours is the only one. I’ve met too many.”
“… but may He bless and keep you.”
Simon Cooper managed a smile. “Thanks.”
He turned away, eyes shut, and spoke words in ancient tongues as he flicked various pouch contents into the candle flames. At the last, there was a flash, and he was gone.
Xavier sat on a diner stool, folded his hands, closed his eyes, and began to pray.