317: Dee Dispossessed

on November 18, 2008 in Book 11

In Which Amaranth Makes Wood Grow

When the real Dee briefly broke through and told me to run, I didn’t stop to think, I just grabbed Amaranth and got the hell out of the workroom. I tried not to think of it as abandoning a friend… if anybody had the wherewithal to fight off a possession, it would be a priestess who was also a subtle artist. I wouldn’t know where to begin trying to help her directly.

We hauled ass up the stairs until we got to the fifth floor and shut ourselves up in my room. I did a quick enhancement of the strength in the door and its metal fastenings, and then enhanced the slight tendency of the lock to stick into a severe one… just in case the thing possessing Dee remembered that they worked on a simple push-in-and-twist principle. It had been pretty fucking obvious that it knew her powers.

When I’d been possessed, I’d evidently known about my classes and the date with Steff. She’d only been able to infer that I wasn’t in control because of what I’d done with that knowledge. It hadn’t been terribly clear if the thing looking out through Dee’s eyes had recognized us… it had looked right through me as if I wasn’t there a couple times before giving me a look of utter contempt right at the end … but it had obviously had it in for Amaranth for some reason, and there was every reason to believe it would know where to find us.

All of which made it pretty stupid, in retrospect, to have run right up to my room instead of going for Steff and Viktor’s or heading out into the open.

“What… what do we do now, baby?” Amaranth asked. She’d collapsed to the floor and was sitting sideways, clutching her stomach in pain.

“Heal yourself,” I said, backing into the corner and turning my face away. There was a bright glow and she did. “And then bless the door.”

“What?” Amaranth asked.

“Mother Khaele doesn’t have some rule against removing blessings, does she?” I asked. The Khersians in the healing center hadn’t wanted to because of their dogma, but Amaranth wasn’t part of a hierarchal organization. She shook her head. “You can take it down later. Meanwhile, if we have to leave in a hurry, it will be because she’s at the door, and then we’ll go out the window.”

It was five stories straight down, but as long as Amaranth didn’t land on her head, I was pretty sure her body would survive it.

Amaranth approached the door. She raised her hands up, lowered her face, and said, “Oh, hi, it’s me. Could you please bless this door and ward it against intrusion? It’s kind of important. Thanks! I mean, amen.”

“That works?” I asked, though from the prickling on my skin I knew it had.

“Uh huh. Oh, hey, this is wood,” she said. She laid her hands on the door. “Turn your head again, baby.”

I looked away, and there was a kind of stretching sound. When I looked back, the door had thickened and expanded to fit snugly in the frame. I hoped she could undo it, but even if she couldn’t… well, if the door got broken down anyway, it would hardly matter.

“Good thinking,” I said.

“Thanks,” Amaranth said. She sighed. “I feel like we should be helping her, though.”

“She was throwing you around like a rag doll,” I said. “What we need to do is get her help, from somebody qualified.”

I considered. Dark-skinned elves weren’t that far removed from demons in the popular consciousness. If she was going around ranting in her own language and flinging people around with her mind, she’d be met with deadly force. Even if we alerted the authorities to the nature of the problem, there was still a chance they’d send in a tactical battlemage squad instead of an exorcist.

“We’ll start by alerting the embassy,” I said. “If they contact authorities and say that one of their people is possessed, I think it’s a lot more likely they’ll get her exorcised instead of taking her down hard. Do you remember where the news said it was?”

She shook her head.

I pulled out my mirror and called up the ethernet.

“I guess I’ll just look for the nearest one… it probably doesn’t even matter which one,” I said. After a few moments of gazing, I learned that that the subterranean elves only had five embassies in the Imperium. The only one that wasn’t back east was in Ceilos. “Ceilos… that was it.”

Before I could start a reflection, though, I felt something pass through me. From the way she tensed up, Amaranth felt it, too. It was the same feeling I’d had when Dee had wanted our attention at the dinner table the night before, a kind of mental throat-clearing.

The sensation was followed by a knock on the door, which sounded weirdly muffled through the thickened and hardened wood.

“I’m sorry, I don’t mean to alarm you,” Dee’s voice said, carrying perfectly through the augmented door. “I am once again myself.”

I looked at Amaranth.

“We should look through the peephole,” I said, then immediately had an image of something sharp and hard being thrust through it and winced.

I should,” Amaranth whispered back. “The door’s blessed, remember? Oh, hey… she was able to touch it!”

“Or touch it with something,” I said.

“I have my hands on the door,” Dee said from outside. “If you look through the peephole, I will touch my forehead to it.”

I looked at Amaranth. I hated the fact that it was her, the squishier and more vulnerable of us, who would have to be the one to go and look. But then, there was always the chance that Dee had something on her which could injure me, and Amaranth was the one of us who could self-heal and who would survive something fatal happening.

“Okay,” Amaranth announced, raising her voice unnecessarily. “Here I come.”

She crept up towards the door, standing to the side of it until she got right up close to it and then peering out through it.

“She looks… normal,” she reported. “Okay, Dee, go… oh, she’s doing it. It’s her!”

She touched a finger to the door and it deflated, then went to open it.

“Ooh, the knob’s stuck,” she said. “I hope I didn’t mess it up…”

“Oh, I did that,” I said. “Did you unbless it?”

“Yeah,” Amaranth said.

I came forward and undid the sticky enhancement on the knob and we got the door unlocked and opened. Dee was standing there, her hood back and her face looking as contrite and abashed as I’d ever seen her. Wearing that expression, her slender head and neck looked so frail and small.

“I am sorry,” she said. “In retrospect, my plan was not well-considered.”

“Oh, Dee!” Amaranth said, throwing her arms around the elf. “I’m just so glad you’re okay.”

“Yes, well… perhaps we should step inside,” Dee said, from within Amaranth’s cushiony embrace. “While things did not proceed according to plan, I have learned a few things.”

“Oh, of course,” Amaranth said. She stepped back inside, Dee following right behind. I closed and locked the door.

“Forgive me, but may I borrow your chair?” Dee asked. “Somebody has been less than frugal with my energy reserves.”

“Oh, yeah, of course,” I said, pulling my desk chair out and turning it around for her. “Go ahead.”

“Thank you,” Dee said, taking the seat. She arranged her robes and then cleared her throat. “To begin with, I think it is now clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are dealing with a possessing force of a demonic nature.”

“But you were able to expel it?” I asked.

“I was able to goad the invader into invoking my goddess, which was its utter undoing,” Dee said.

“So… that’s it, then?” Amaranth asked hopefully. “It’s gone?”

“I am afraid the entity is still out there,” Dee said. “There was simply a remnant of its aura within yours, as I expected. What I did not expect was that its hunger for true existence would be powerful enough to make even such a trace dangerous.”

“How is that even possible?” I asked. “How can a tiny part of a soul be enough to possess you?”

“I did not believe it would be,” Dee said. “In retrospect, that was a dangerous mistake. Given access to an aura less inimical to its existence than yours, Amaranth, it was able to gather strength and grow quite rapidly to its initial size.”

“Yeah, so I saw,” I said.

“Even so, it lacked any sort of true consciousness, except that which it could borrow. In most forms of possession, one soul overlays another to some degree, giving the entity some knowledge of its host’s mind and life,” Dee continued. “In this case, the entity acted as a sort of template overlaying my mind. It believed itself to be me, though I was able to keep a portion of my own consciousness isolated from it and lock it out of most of my memories. It lashed out at you because of a latent hostility it retained, though it did not know why… it was forced to invent a reason using what parts of my personality it had.”

“That sounds a bit like what happened with me,” I said. “I… I mean, it… showed up for class and knew who Steff and Callahan were, but it didn’t act like me.”

“But… you weren’t possessed by a piece of aura,” Amaranth said. “You got the real thing.”

“Which brings me to my next piece of insight about the entity,” Dee said. “These traits it possessed, if you’ll pardon the term… the hunger for a true life and the ability to overlay and extrapolate, they did not spring into existence from nowhere. They existed fully-formed within the dormant aura fragment. The impression I gleaned is that is not complete, even in itself… at some point in its history, it was permanently diminished or rent asunder.”

“So… somewhere out there is somebody who’s possessed by part of a demon, and they… it… doesn’t even know that it’s possessing them?”

“Not at a conscious level,” Dee said. “If that is indeed the case. There are some problems with this scenario. All we really know about the entity’s whereabouts is that it was in Amaranth’s hands and now it is not.”

“You’re sure it’s the pitchfork?” Amaranth asked.

“Things which appear in the space of dreams are often subject to multiple interpretations, but there was a fairly strong indication, yes,” Dee said.

“Wait, what problems are there with that scenario?” I asked. “I’m guessing you mean beyond the problem of somebody wandering around possessed and not knowing it.”

“Quite,” Dee said. “I do not believe Amaranth was ever in a true state of possession to begin with.”

Amaranth and I looked at each other, then stared at Dee in incredulous confusion.

“What?” Amaranth said.

“But wasn’t the whole point to see if she was?” I said. “And you found the trace of the aura, which means…”

“Which means that the full entity occupied her soul at one point,” Dee said. “But after examining it up close, I do not believe it could have survived a prolonged immersion. Something in Amaranth’s nature is not conducive to its well-being. Obviously, the intimate nature of her connection to the divine is the most likely culprit.”

“Okay, that seems obvious enough,” I said. “Except… she doesn’t remember what happened to it. What did it do, hold on just long enough to hand itself off to somebody else?”

“That presupposes a level of self-awareness and long-term planning that I do not believe the entity possesses, even when in its more complete form,” Dee said.

“Are you sure about that?” Amaranth asked. “You were fighting a tiny little piece of the whole, weren’t you?”

“Yes, but in the sense that a drop of water is a tiny little piece of a lake,” Dee said. “Not in the sense that a toenail is a tiny little piece of a person. Had it not been so, it would never have been able to overwhelm me.”

“But we’re still left with the problem of what happened to Amaranth, if she wasn’t possessed,” I said.

“That I do not know,” Dee said. “Much of this is supposition, and while I trust the evidence of my senses, I am forced to interpret the meaning of their input for myself. This brings me to my final insight.”

“What’s that?” Amaranth asked.

“That it was wrong of me to attempt to undertake this on my own.” She bent at the waist, going into a seated bow. “I am sorry, my overwhelming arrogance has caused you both pain, and endangered us all.” She straightened up, and a change had come over… she seemed less tired, and looked resolute. “As far as I am concerned, there is only one way to rectify this error.”

“What’s that?” I asked, a little nervously. I didn’t know what I was nervous about, exactly… just a vague feeling that I wasn’t going to like what she had to say next.

“It’s time we consulted professionals,” Dee said.

There it was. “Professionals” either meant exorcists or diabolists. The only way it could get any worse was…

“We need to contact your grandmother,” she concluded. “Now.”

Yeah, that.

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2 Responses to “317: Dee Dispossessed”

  1. pedestrian says:

    “Oh mother I’ve been shot!”
    “Then lie down on the floor and die like a man! Like your brother.”
    Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

    Welcome to my clan.

    Current score: 4
  2. LogicSwitch says:

    “Oh, hi, it’s me. Could you please bless this door and ward it against intrusion? It’s kind of important. Thanks! I mean, amen.”

    Best invocation ever.

    Current score: 18