"So, anyway, that's pretty much the whole story," said Mari. "Magic runs in my family. None of us know where it came from or why it tends to tap only one or two of us per generation."
"And your whole family knows about this?" Brooklyn asked.
"Oh, no." Mari shook her head. "Usually only the witches of the family know about it. Most of the Wyveries are completely unaware of that part of our heritage. My mother and siblings know I'm different but they're not really sure why."
Brooklyn looked puzzled. "Well then, how did you learn how to use your powers?"
The girl smiled. "My Aunt Caroline. She kept an eye on her nieces and nephews and realized what I was right away. She taught me to control what I could do and told me to keep an eye out for the next magic-user in our line."
Goliath nodded. "So, she was also a...Wiccan?"
"No. She was a Catholic. I'm the only Wiccan in my family...that I know of, anyway."
"I am not sure that I understand. Witches and Wiccans are not the same thing?"
Mari laughed slightly. "I'll try to explain. It is a bit complicated. Wicca is an actual religion, founded by Gerald Gardener about fifty years ago, but based in ancient Paleolithic Goddess-worshiping beliefs."
"Paleo-" Goliath began, looking confused.
"Paleolithic. That's what archeologists call the civilizations that existed nearly ten thousand years ago."
"Oh," said Brooklyn, brightly. "Cave-people."
Mari gave him a quelling glance. "Most of those civilizations were highly complex and sophisticated. They were not cave-dwelling primitives," she answered, a hint of iciness in her voice.
Brooklyn blinked, a bit startled by the transformation. "Uh...sorry." He cringed away from her glare. "I-I didn't know."
Her expression softened. "It's all right." She gave him a small smile. "Anyway," she turned back to Goliath, who had been watching the little exchange with the faintest trace of amusement crossing his features, "witchcraft is just viewed as the practice of casting spells and using magic. It's possible to be a witch and a Wiccan at the same time, but there are plenty of Wiccans that don't consider themselves witches and vice versa."
Goliath nodded. "I see. And what exactly does this Wicca entail?"
Mari laughed. "Well, that all depends on whom you ask. Generally, we believe in trying to live in harmony with Nature and not causing harm to anyone. After that?" She shrugged, "It gets kind of complicated." She gestured towards one of her bookshelves, "There's been a lot written about the subject. Feel free to raid my collection. I'd suggest anything by Starhawk, Z. Budapest, or Scott Cunningham to start with."
There was a knock at the door.
Mari turned towards it. "Gee...you don't think that's Autumn again, do you?"
Wyvern gave a feline grin, Mari's got a fan club...Mari's got a fan club, she chanted, her eyes dancing mischievously.
"Real cute, Wyv." The young witch rolled her eyes and got up to check through the peephole. She let out a short exclamation and pulled open the door. "Elisa!"
"Sorry about the late hour, but I needed to talk to your guests. Can I come in?" Elisa held up a manila envelope. "I need to show them this."
"Oh, certainly. Please." Mari moved aside. Elisa walked inside and took a seat on the couch.
"What is it, Elisa?" Goliath got up and moved over to her.
Elisa opened the envelope, pulling out a bunch of photographs and handing them to the gargoyle. "I was called over to a homicide earlier this evening. It was...an unusual case."
"Unusual as in..?" asked Brooklyn.
"As in, the department can't explain how the victim was killed or who possibly could have done it," Elisa answered. She glanced thoughtfully over at Mari. "Just how much arcane lore do you know?"
The girl looked startled, "Uh, some...why?"
"Maybe you can help. How good are you at keeping secrets?"
Mari let out a small laugh. "Oh, I've had some practice with that." She sat beside the detective. Goliath handed her the pictures, which she accepted with murmured thanks. She turned over the first one, got a good look, and blanched. She dropped the pile of photographs and stared straight ahead, her fists clenched and her eyes looking at nothing the rest of them could see.
"Mari?" Brooklyn asked, alarmed. He reached over and grabbed her by the shoulders. "Mari, talk to me. Snap out of it!" He shook her slightly, breaking whatever spell held her.
She looked up at him, her eyes terrified. "Fire," she whispered, "he saw fire and it scared him so much that he..."
"You saw it?" Brooklyn asked quietly.
She shook her head. "I felt it. The aura is-was very strong." She swallowed, then forced the words out, "Someone got into his head and made him afraid. It wanted to feed off that fear."
"What is it?" Elisa asked, grabbing hold of one of Mari's hands.
"I don't know," Mari answered, extremely confused, "I've never encountered something like this before...nor would I want to!"
Neither have I, added Wyvern.
Elisa sat back with a sigh, "Well, it was a thought," she commented to no one in particular.
"I wish I could help more, but-" Mari began, apologetically.
"You've already helped quite a bit," Elisa interrupted, "We do have more information then we had a few moments ago, and at least I know this isn't a mundane murder case anymore." She sighed and muttered, "Yippee."
"You are all right, Mari?" Goliath asked.
"Oh, uh, yeah. I'm fine. A little shaken, that's all."
"I'm sorry. I forgot about the psychometry," Elisa said.
Mari shrugged, "Don't worry about it. You couldn't have known I'd get such a strong reaction. I didn't."
"You really didn't?" queried Goliath.
"No," Mari looked a bit embarrassed. "It kind of comes and goes. It's the most nebulous ability I have, so I don't tend to rely on it much."
"So, you aren't infallible, then," he commented.
She replied with a somewhat self-deprecatory laugh, "As much as I might wish otherwise, you're absolutely right. I do make mistakes and my magic can't solve everything."
He gave her the first true smile she'd seen from him that evening. It made him look a lot less forbidding and gave Mari a sudden insight into why Elisa loved this gargoyle. "That is good to know."
She grinned back at him.
Rei pulled her senses back and stood outside the apartment building, cursing quietly. The little bitch would have to have a shielding spell up, wouldn't she?
The woman irritably raked her fingers through her hair and mulled over her options. She could break the spell, but that would take more energy than she cared to expand in the capture of one human witch. That meant she needed to examine the spell again to see if it had any weaknesses to exploit. No spell was foolproof. There had to be at least one loophole and, knowing mortals as she did, it would most likely prove to be something ridiculously simple.
So...a challenge, then. Rei smiled in anticipation and began to study the shield. She liked challenges.
Do you plan on getting up anytime soon?
Mari slowly swam her way back to consciousness in response to Wyvern's irritable comment. She rolled over and reached out to tweak the curtain aside, groaning as blinding sunlight flooded the room. "Gods...what time is it?" she moaned, clutching her head.
Past noon, and I'm ready to eat whenever you are.
The girl buried her head beneath her pillow. "Wyv...I didn't get to bed until close to six this morning," she complained, her voice muffled, "are you completely heartless?"
I got to bed at about the same time you did, Wyvern replied, and I'm alert enough.
Mari pulled herself into a sitting position and glared at the cat. "You sleep at least twenty hours a day." She crawled out of her bed and began fumbling her way towards the bathroom. She stepped inside, shed her pajamas and turned on the shower.
After about five minutes of standing under the hot water, she began to feel vaguely human again. She stepped out, dried off, pulled on her bathrobe, and headed for the kitchen to complete the transformation with a cup of coffee.
Ten minutes later, she'd finished her first cup, began on her second, and had started to get her sense of humor back. Wyvern gobbled down a belated breakfast, thus ensuring that all of their earlier surliness was forgiven.
"Want to take a walk in the park? The muggers wouldn't be out yet."
Wyvern looked up and rolled her eyes, Yes, but the yuppie women with their insufferable terriers will be.
Mari giggled. "True. Those poor dogs have suffered enough. No need to inflict you on them."
Wyvern stretched and yawned in satisfaction, showing a mouth full of pointed, needle-sharp teeth. Exactly.
Rei's head jerked up as she felt the witch leave her apartment. She looked over to see the girl walking towards the subway. Rei discreetly followed her. They got onto the train and headed for Central Park.
Rei studied the girl's mind and had to suppress her triumphant laugh. Really, these mortals were like children! The witch used all that power to put an elaborate shielding spell on her home and completely neglected to do the same for herself!
It was so simple. All Rei had to do was get inside the child's mind, and then it didn't matter where the witch went. Rei would be able to follow her anywhere.
Tell me what you fear, she thought in delight. As soon as I have your fears, I have you!
The girl frowned and looked up at Rei. She looked away and got off at the next stop, suspicion clear on her open, innocent face. The woman snickered internally.
Go where you will, girl. I have you now!
The apartment was dark. Mari fumbled for the light switch, and flipped it up, instantly illuminating the place. She saw two dark splotches scuttle across the floor and sighed disgustedly.
"I hate cockroaches," she muttered and pulled off one of her shoes. "Nothing personal, guys, but it's time to die."
"Don't do that."
The voice had come from behind her. Mari turned and gasped, finding that a seven-foot tall cockroach had somehow entered the kitchen without her noticing and had seated itself at the table. "Wha..?"
"Don't do that," it repeated.
Mari raised the shoe and moved into a defensive posture. The cockroach shook what passed for its head.
"Don't like the way I look, huh? You're not that much better, human."
"How did you get in here?" Mari demanded. "What do you think you're doing? Get out of my apartment!"
The cockroach gave a contemptuous snort. "You think I have to do what you tell me? I was here millions of years before you and your disgusting little species, girl." It stood up, towering over her. Mari's throat suddenly went dry. "You think you run the planet. You think you control everything."
Mari backed up against the wall. The roach reached for her. She opened her mouth to scream...
And sat up, drenched in sweat and gasping harshly. Wyvern leapt up onto the couch beside her, her emerald eyes wide.
Are you all right?
Mari nodded, trying to get her breathing back under control. "Fine...I'm fine. It was just a bad dream."
Wyvern raised an eyebrow. Some dream. Are you sure you're okay?
"I'm fine, Wyv! Really!" The phone beside her gave a sudden shrill ring. "Gyah!"
A bit jumpy are we? Wyvern asked, tilting her head to one side.
Mari sneered elegantly at the cat and reached over to pick up the receiver. "Hello?" A pause. "Oh, Elisa, hey! What's up?" She listened for a bit longer. "That sounds good. Where should we meet you?" She nodded. "Right. One hour at the Eyrie Building. See you there. Bye!" She hung up.
And of course you're going to tell me what Elisa called us about, right?
"Elisa suggested that, as this is her night off, it might be an excellent opportunity for us to meet the rest of the clan. Do you want to?"
I suppose, since you already said that both of us are going to be there.
Mari rolled her eyes. "Picky, picky, picky!"