315: Aural Intercourse

on November 14, 2008 in Book 11

In Which An Eye-Opening Experience Occurs

“Why does she have to get back in the circle?” Amaranth asked, sounding suspicious and hurt. “I don’t understand.”

“I am going to call forth your aura for a direct viewing,” Dee said. “I am sure you can well understand how exposure to such energies would be unhealthy for Mackenzie.”

“But… she’ll still be able to see it,” Amaranth said. “How is that safe?”

“Yes,” Dee said. “But she will remain unaffected by it. It is not the sight per se which is injurious.”

“But…” Amaranth said.

“Your concern for your amikan… your beloved… speaks well of you,” Dee said. “But there is very little reason for it. A simple test will demonstrate whether or not my warding web is enough to hold back your energies or not. If it is not, then I will not conduct the examination in her presence.”

“Is there some reason I need to be here for it?” I asked, thinking that Dee was making this unnecessarily complicated, considering that I could just pop out into the hall and we could get this over with.

I didn’t suspect Dee of subterfuge any longer… there would be no point in putting me in the circle, rendering me helpless with pain, releasing me, and then talking me back inside the circle to do something worse. But at the same time, I wasn’t in any hurry to make myself helpless again.

“Not as such, no,” she said. “But I thought you might enjoy the opportunity this affords you.”

“Opportunity?” I asked.

“To view a portion of your lover’s soul,” Dee said.

“Oh!” Amaranth and I said at the same time. We both blushed this time.

“How do we know it’s safe, though?” Amaranth asked. “How do we make sure? I don’t want… I don’t think I could live with myself, if the last thing Mack saw…”

“I do not believe the peril would be mortal, and in any event, I have an arcane healing device on my person,” Dee said. “But the test is simplicity itself. Mackenzie, if you will step back within the enclosure?”

“Do I need to lay down?” I asked.

“No,” Dee said. “That was only for your relative comfort during my examination of you.”

I stepped into the circle and Dee carefully erased the smudge marks with the finger of her glove and then rejoined the break so exactly that it was impossible to tell it had ever been there. I felt the cage snapping back into place, though it felt slightly weaker.

“Now, Amaranth… if you would please slowly try to cross the threshold,” Dee said.

Amaranth looked at her, and then at me, and then she licked her lips and stepped up to the side of the circle. She raised her foot and brought it forward, then stopped right at the edge of the line. The flesh at the front of her big toe looked slightly squished, like she was pressing it up against a glass window. She put her foot down and tried to reach out with her hands, but they were likewise stopped.

“Push against it as hard as you can,” Dee said. “Forcefully but not violently.”

Amaranth leaned forward and strained against the invisible wall, her face scrunched up with determination. It remained solid and impassable.

“That is enough… the barrier is sufficient,” Dee declared. “There is no sense straining yourself any further.”

“But just because I can’t muscle through doesn’t mean my divine aura can’t,” Amaranth said. “I hope my aura’s stronger than my body is.”

“Your body is not what is encountering resistance,” Dee said.

“Yeah, it’s got nothing to do with how strong you are, physically,” I said. “I could push against it the same way you did and I wouldn’t get through, either.”

“Oh… okay,” Amaranth said doubtfully.

I understood her skepticism… it was easy enough to understand a mystic barrier that couldn’t be stepped across, but when she and I could look across it and see each other unimpeded, it was a bit harder to grasp that

“Could you try healing?” I asked. “Normally when you heal it’s too bright for me to look at.” I looked at Dee. “That should be the same deal, right?”

She nodded.

“Ordinarily, I would counsel against expending a divine gift for no purpose, but if it helps you to put your mind at rest, then I think you must do so,” Dee said.

“Okay,” Amaranth said. She sighed and raised her hand. “You might want to get ready to look away, baby.”

“I’ll turn away to begin with, and then slowly look, okay?” I said.

“Okay,” Amaranth said. She took a deep breath. I averted my gaze as she lifted her hand.

“Let me know when you’re doing it,” I told her when nothing happened.

“I am,” she said, and I was so startled that I looked right at her without thinking.

Her hand was glowing, but in the well-lit room it was hard to tell… the skin on her hand just looked brighter than it should have, especially between the fingers where shadows might otherwise have been. Looking more closely at the gaps, I could see tiny sparkles dancing within them.

“I believe that is a sufficient demonstration,” Dee said.

Amaranth was looking from her hand to me.

“Would that… if she were to come face-to-face with a divine presence, would it…?” Amaranth asked.

“I do not flatter myself to believe that my simple tracings could hold that sort of power and majesty at bay,” Dee said.

“Oh,” Amaranth said. “Okay. I guess we should begin, then?”

“If you are ready,” Dee said.

“Wait,” I said. “Can we put out the lights?”

“If you are comfortable with that, Amaranth, I believe that would actually be helpful,” Dee said.

“Okay,” Amaranth said.

Dee darkened the room, leaving us only with the light from the small window in the doorway and the faintest of afterglows from Amaranth’s hand. Dee stood before Amaranth and raised her hands.

“I do not believe you will feel anything unpleasant,” she said. She closed her eyes and started to hum.

A change came over Amaranth. At first it seemed like she was being illuminated by a light which struck only her… she stood out from the surroundings in a way that was hard to articulate. Dee chanted and her skin became brighter, and then it happened… it was like watching an illusionary balloon blow up around Amaranth. Her aura sprang outwards into view, a glowing halo of orangish-tinged light, running with rivers of gold and smaller, narrower lines of red. It extended about a foot from her skin in every direction, then terminated with a definite boundary, though the light it shed filled up the room.

My breath caught in my throat. The only comparable sight I could think of was a dim memory of a Khersentide angel in a lace gown decked with faerie lights that I’d seen at some point during my young life. Not that the sight of a decoration was anything close to this… but the feeling it had kindled in me, stumbling into a dark living room after everybody else had gone to bed and all the other lights had been turned off… it wasn’t a great comparison, but I wasn’t likely to come up with a closer one.

I was reminded in some bizarre way of a butterfly. The visual resemblance was tenuous… the aura was a blob in the vague shape of a body… but the feeling I had was “this is the real Amaranth, what I’ve been staring at all this time is only a cocoon”.

“There,” Dee said, exhaling forcefully with the word. She wiped her forehead, which had a few tiny beads of sweat. “The effect should sustain itself for a short time.”

“I can’t see anything,” Amaranth said, holding her hand up in front of her face.

“You would not,” Dee said. “But I can see it. Mackenzie?”

I nodded mutely.

“What’s it look like, baby?” Amaranth asked.

“Beautiful,” was the only word I could find for it.

She laughed.

“That’s what you always say,” she said.

“Well, your primary corona is a healthy, vividly dark purple,” Dee said. “Far darker than that of most mortal creatures or elves.”

“You see it as dark?” I asked.

“Yes,” Dee said. “A deep, dark purple, as I said. How do you see it?”

“A warm orange-white,” I said. “With streaks of gold and red.”

“Red?” Amaranth asked, frowning. “What’s that mean? I don’t think I should have a red aura. Is that the possession?”

“It looks…” I started to say, then stopped, blushing. I didn’t know anything about reading people’s auras.

“Please, continue,” Dee said. “How does it look to you?”

“It looks like part of you, Amaranth,” I said. “They’re all… integrated. Like it’s part of the pattern.”

“What’s that mean?” Amaranth asked Dee, near to panic.

“Nothing dire,” she said. “No person is all one thing or another. It should not be surprising that you have more than one color presenting itself in your aura.” She traced a hand between Amaranth and me, in front of one of the scarlet rivulets and said, “I perceive a sharply-defined area in here where the color is flatter and less, for lack of a better term, shiny. Does this correspond in any way to the red that you see?”

I nodded.

“But what does it mean?” Amaranth asked insistently.

“Unfortunately, I am not an aura reader by training,” Dee said.

“Well, then maybe you’re doing something wrong!” Amaranth said, and her whole aura pulsed pink.

“I see,” Dee said.

“What do you see?” Amaranth asked, going back to worried.

“If you are still interested in learning the meaning of those patches when we are finished, and you are inclined to hear my opinion, then I will share it,” Dee said. “But only if you are certain you wish to hear it.”

“You can’t tell me now?” Amaranth asked.

“We have other business to conduct,” Dee said.

“I… I don’t see anything that doesn’t look like Amaranth,” I said.

“Her own aura is the dominant influence at the moment,” Dee said. “It is strong enough to mask other lingering influences. We will have to call them forth.” She held out her hands, joined at the thumbs and with the fingers curled around like she was trying to catch a ball and began to intone. Amaranth jerked her arm away from Dee as a dark patch appeared on the aura, swirling green and black. It was drawn towards Dee’s hands, where it stabilized into a sphere. She turned and held it out towards me. It looked like a piece of dark jade… smooth and green but with black veins. A faint red haze surrounded it.

There was something disconcertingly familiar about the whole thing.

“What is that?” I asked. I thought it must be residue from the possession, but if so, then the odd lightness I felt when looking at it was worrying.

“Baby, I think that’s you,” Amaranth said.

Dee nodded.

“This is the result of your close association,” she said. “In its natural state, I expect your aura is a bit more agitated… how agitated I could not say, as I’m certain my ministrations did not have a calming effect upon it.” She wiggled her fingers around and the solid-looking sphere began to slosh around, the shiny black and dark green swirling without mixing. “This would be a more accurate representation, absent any stabilizing influence.”

“It’s pretty,” Amaranth said.

“It is an interesting mixture,” Dee said. She let it settle down and then turned and released it to hover in the air before turning back to Amaranth. “Now, to dig a level deeper. I apologize, but this may become slightly invasive.”

“Whatever you have to do,” Amaranth said. She bit her lip.

Dee put her hands inside the glowing nimbus and began to chant. She closed her eyes and her voice rose in volume and pitch. Tendrils of light burst forth from the surface of Amaranth’s aura and wrapped themselves around Dee’s hands, whipping around and around and enveloping her up to her wrists, and then her elbow. Inside the swaddling light, her fingers twitched and then closed as if they were tightening around something and she began to pull backwards. There was evidently some resistance… Amaranth was almost pulled over, and then she braced her legs as Dee continued to pull.

Amaranth grunted and then yelped as Dee pulled free. The halo around Amaranth disappeared, but it didn’t matter: Dee had succeeded. Her hands were closed around a writhing length of red ectoplasm, flecked with motes of black.

It was small… much smaller than the globe of green and black she’d pulled out before, but much more lively. Its edges were jagged, like a drawing of a bolt of lightning, and it pulsed and jumped in her hands like it was alive.

That was it. Proof we’d been possessed, or that Amaranth had. I wasn’t an aura reader, but it practically screamed “infernal energy”.

Dee staggered backwards. She regained her balance and tried to fold the worm-like mass into a more compact form, perhaps to contain it as she had the sample of my energy, but it fought her, seeming to grow in size. It wrapped around her wrists and pulled them together, then began to climb up her arms.

It wasn’t just moving… it was growing, expanding to cover more and more of her.

“Help her!” I yelled to Amaranth, as I was trapped on the wrong side of the barrier and didn’t have any way of combating the infernal energy.

“I don’t know how!” Amaranth yelled. “Oh, Mother! Help me!”

The alien energy suffused Dee’s entire body. She was shouting now, but her words didn’t sound like any form of Elvish. I pounded my fists futilely against the protective barrier and willed Dee to fight off the influence. Finally, she threw back her head and her arms in one spasmodic motion, and the red glow disappeared.

I let out a sigh of relief. She’d thrown it off, bested it… hopefully she’d learned something from contact with it, but even if she hadn’t, we at least knew it had been there, and anyway, the important thing was that she’d beaten it.

That was what I thought right up until the moment she opened her eyes.

They were glowing red.

Oh, shit.

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4 Responses to “315: Aural Intercourse”

  1. pedestrian says:

    The Curie’s thought they were in control of their experiments into radioactive materials. A horrible way to die.

    I was outlining a historical plotline, that tangentially touched upon alchemy. While researching the subject it became clear that many, probably most alchemists wound up slowly poisoning themselves with their concoctions. Or worst, for instance if they mixed sodium and water or some of the other violently lethal combinations.

    Current score: 0
  2. MackSffrs says:

    I’m curious as to the author’s choice to make Amaranth a completely ineffectual, even bumbling, character this (and the last) chapter.
    She may be concerned for Mack’s ‘health,’ I see that.
    Honestly though, I am shocked that compared to whenever Amaranth sees someone injured she instantly starts healing but in this case she stands there clueless while Dee is being attacked by something that Amaranth can light up easily and literally! Seriously!

    Current score: 0
    • Anthony says:

      Because if Amaranth could blow it away, we would miss out on the upcoming awesomeness of the fight between it aand Dee! 😉

      Current score: 0
    • MentalBlank says:

      Bear in mind that Amaranth can only heal physical injuries. She can do nothing about mental injuries, magical drain etc. And there is no solid proof that this energy is in fact infernal in nature, and even if it is, Amy’s power might hurt it, but there’s no guarantee she’d destroy it outright.
      Besides, have you ever seen a feral tomcat attacking someone then get injured? It’s NOT pretty. Same principle could apply here.

      Current score: 1