Some days, I really question my calling.
As I skidded on my back across the warehouse floor and smacked headfirst into the wall, this was one of them. Shaking off the stars in front of my eyes, I scrambled to my feet, grabbed the old Celtic Cross hanging from my neck, and recalled the words from Ephesians 6 to ready a defensive spell against the terrifyingly beautiful creature that had just tossed me across the room.
Oh, wait, you’re probably confused. Cross, Bible verse… spell? Creature?
Like I said, some days, I question my calling.
My name is Matthew Consprite. I’m an ordained minister – mostly Lutheran, but I don’t have a church to call home. I work for an inner city outreach ministry in downtown Dallas, trying to bring the light of God to the urban neighborhoods overrun by corruption and violence. And that’s the easy part of my job.
I’m also a member of the supernatural community – a spellcaster that some would call a “minor talent.” I’m not a wizard, per se – they have more versatility in the elements at their disposal. I manipulate the “element” that many folks forget about – spirit (or “heart,” if you want to get all Planeteer about it). I guess you could call me a “faithomancer” – it fits as well as any other moniker. But I digress…
Earlier this evening I was enjoying a rare night out – having a drink and listening to some live music at a local pub – Molly MacGuire’s. (What? Yes, I can drink! I’m not Baptist…) Anyway…
The talent this evening was an Irish guy. Not the most outstanding musician I’d ever heard, but good – and he could perform. Every note he played and sang, he sold to the crowd. The occasional missed note or lyric just didn’t matter. It was a great show. During one of his breaks, I heard some commotion outside. Little brawls are unfortunately common at that time of night around bars, so I didn’t pay much attention to it – until the screaming started. Not people yelling about the fight. The kind of screams that speak of abject terror.
I raced outside, not sure what I’d find. I sure did not expect to see giant fire ants picking up people and carrying them away. The few people too drunk to know better threw a punch or bottle at them, to no effect, and I didn’t need the familiar shiver down my spine to tell me I was dealing with the supernatural at this point. I pulled a shank of rebar out of my pack and headed toward the nearest ant-creature. It was ignoring everyone around but the young woman struggling in its grip – at least until I clobbered it with the rebar.
I heard and felt more than saw its carapace crack under my blow – is was the sizzle that caught my attention. The creature dropped its prey and scuttled back, now taking notice of me. That’s when the musician dropped it – with a single punch. We nodded respectfully at each other over the corpse of the ant creature, and ran off together after the others. Quick introductions let me know his name was Conor, but that was about all we had time for as we left a trail of ant carcasses and released kidnapees in our wake.
We arrived at an abandoned warehouse a few blocks away, and there the trail of the ants just vanished. Conor looked around a bit, and then… well, for lack of a better term, he “ripped” open a hole in midair that looked on somewhere that definitely was not a warehouse. I heard him mumble something about “never, never” as he stepped in, and I quickly moved to follow. That’s when he hit me across the room.
“Are ye daft, man?” he growled. I looked over his form carefully now. Gone was the amiable Irish scrapper. In his place was an obviously supernatural creature, with glowing skin and blue knotwork tattoos crisscrossing it. His long black hair whipped in a non-existent wind, framing and sometime obscuring his pointed ears and glowing blue eyes. I even caught a hint of fangs in his mouth as he spoke. “Ye cannae bring faebane intae the Ne’erne’er!”
My head cleared enough that some things started to click. Cold iron (such as my shank of rebar) is quite effective against fae creatures – faeries, as most know them, but that’s a gross stereotype and… well, it established that the ant creatures were of fae origin, as well as my companion. The Nevernever is … well… hard to explain. An alternate dimension that lies just under and out of sight of our world, and Conor was able to connect the two worlds. I hadn’t even considered that the Nevernever itself might react badly to cold iron. I’m still learning. But don’t accuse me of not being a quick study.
I dropped the piece of rebar and slowly let go of my cross. “Hold on hold on… I’m still somewhat new at this.” I took a breath and winced at the knot forming on my head. “I’ve never actually been to the Nevernever, so how would I know about that? I just know that iron,” motioning to my dropped rebar, “was working really well against those ant-things-“
Glancing up, I saw him looking at me curiously, so I stood back up. “Sorry – that sounded like a focus word.”
Conor finally seemed to settle a bit. He stepped out of the tear and allowed it to close, and his appearance returned to normal – he even smiled. “No, no – the ‘ant-things’ – are called Invictae.”
“Oh.” I grimaced. So much I still don’t know. “Um, anyway, the rebar worked really well against the … Invictae… so I was going to keep it with me while chasing them. I take it that’s not such a good idea?”
“No worse an idea than bringing a spent nuclear fuel rod over to your neighbor’s house.”
“Oh.” I looked down at the rebar again. “So, what do we use against them? I don’t have the strength that you’ve showing, and most of what I know is more defensive in nature.”
Conor sat down on an old crate. “Wish I could think of something. No time to call up Jamie if we’re going to rescue those folks.” He sighed as he stood up. “Bring it along, but keep it in your pack unless we really need it. Using the nuclear option isn’t the way to make friends in the Nevernever.”
“There are friendlies in the Nevernever?” I said, only half-joking. I knew the reputation of the place, but little more.
Conor glared at me, and then realized I wasn’t completely joking. “Not so much. But it will make negotiations with those that are amenable to it go smoother if you don’t have that out.”
I nodded, picked up my rebar shank, and settled it back in my pack. As Conor re-opened the path to the Nevernever, I started asking more questions. How else am I going to learn?