Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Eight

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Kidder could feel the Orache Stone echoing in his mind. “Don’t distract me, Yvonne,” he hissed mentally. “We need to stay alert.” He walked steadily behind Edragor as they crossed the car park and through the small side door.

“I need to be physically touching you,” Yvonne said. “I need to have a physical connection to make the bond. Then you can take over the pack.”

“I’m not taking over the pack,” Kidder said.

“You could if you wanted,” Yvonne muttered.

Kidder inwardly rolled his eyes as he paced along the corridor but outwardly he kept his composure, keeping all thoughts on the inside. “We need to make the link so that I get all the power, then we get out of here,” he said. “And we need to take down Edragor on the way.”

“You definitely need me for that,” Yvonne said smugly. “And I’ll be glad to help,” it added with an edge of malice.

Kidder didn’t answer immediately. Edragor was a problem that he didn’t know how to solve. His acolyte or assistant or sidekick, Dan, would be easier. They guy looked on the edge of a breakdown. Kidder had been silent when Dan had edged into the cellar and left extra food and drink for him, nervously pushed up against the bars before he scuttled away but had noted the fear in Dan’s eyes. He was probably as much a prisoner as Kidder. Edragor was another matter. “What are those things walking next to Edragor?” he asked Yvonne.

“I’m not sure,” Yvonne said hesitantly. “Remember, I’ve spent most of my time in a hole in the ground.” There was a pause. “But I know that they are death.”

Kidder felt a chill spilling through his chest. “They said that there were wraiths at Claire’s memorial,” he said. He stumbled a little over the stone floor.

Edragor looked over his shoulder. “I trust that you’re not reconsidering,” he said.

“No,” Kidder said. “I’m just out of practice with walking. I’ve been stuck in a cage.”

Edragor stopped and turned to him. “You understand the deal, don’t you?” he said. “You get the power to rule. In exchange, you help me with a few issues.” He leaned closer to Kidder. “But the Orache Stone will only work with you if I channel it correctly. Mark went mad trying. So did Fang – you remember how that worked out for you? You need my protection.”

“He’s lying,” Yvonne said into Kidder’s mind. “I mean, I feel bad about the madness but that’s nothing to do with him.” It paused. “They never talked to me.”

Kidder fought down the fear as he faced Edragor. “I understand. You connect me to the Orache Stone and then I get to show a few people how to lead a pack.”

“That’s right,” Edragor said. “And in return you help me out with a little power from that Orache Stone. It can cloud your mind and confuse you. I’ll ensure that you can channel things correctly. We can have little… talks and I’ll explain it all to you.” He tilted his head and looked at Kidder thoughtfully. “Though I’m sure that you’ll pick things up quickly enough. You seem like a bright young man.”

Kidder watched Dan flinch. “I look forward to them,” he lied. “I’m sure that I’ll learn a lot.”

Edragor studied Kidder for a moment before turning and continuing a stately place along the corridor. “Down these steps,” Edragor said. “We’re nearly there.”

“Those things are dark! Those things are dark!” Yvonne was almost vibrating with nerves as images of the shadows surrounding Edragor swirled into Kidder’s mind. “I don’t know what to do!”

“Calm down,” Kidder soothed. “They can’t hurt you, can they?”

“I don’t want to be dark!” Yvonne said, panic rolling from her in waves. “I want the crumpets!” A vivid image of buttered crumpets, hot tea, a soft chair and friends around the fireplace that Yvonne had taken from Kidder’s memories flew at Kidder.

“If you can’t be calm then there’s a risk that you can’t help me,” Kidder said as he reached the top of the steps. He floundered for a moment. You couldn’t tell a magical stone to count breaths as a calming technique. “Remember the quiet time afterwards. Concentrate on that.”

“I won’t help Edragor,” Yvonne said, its voice catching. “I’ll burn him first.”

Kidder’s heart almost broke at the fear lacing through the Orache Stone. “We deal with Edragor first, then the wraiths,” he said. “Because if Edragor goes then there’s a chance that the wraiths go as well, and at least he can’t summon more if he’s dead.” Kidder hesitated.

Yvonne read the hesitation perfectly. “I don’t want to kill anyone anymore either,” it said. “But we have to. We have to kill them or there will be more that become like Fang or Mark. You shouldn’t be driven to that.” It hesitated. “I don’t want you to be like that. And then someone else will be used up after.”

Kidder did all he could to send mental reassurance through to the Orache Stone. Yvonne was obviously feeling fragile. “Do you have any ideas about how to deal with Edragor?” he asked.

“I can’t face his magic head on,” Yvonne said. “But I can disrupt it.” There was a brief hesitation as Kidder reached the bottom of the stairs. “I may not be strong enough to disrupt Edragor’s magic unless we try something different.”

“You’re nervous,” Kidder said.

“You could destroy me,” Yvonne said.

Kidder’s instinctive reaction was complete revulsion at the idea. He struggled to work out the right words. “We’ve been friends together in a dark place,” he said. “I won’t do that.”

“You see the wraiths, if that’s the word, they’re dark energy. They’re bad and scary and evil and…”

“Yvonne!” Kidder cried. He tried a gentler mental connection. “We’re in this together. Tell me what you need.” He followed Edragor along the dark corridor.

“Once we’re linked, I can suck the power from the wraiths. You’ll have to give me some direction, but between us we should manage. Then you can use that power against Edragor to disrupt his energy.” Tension rang through Yvonne’s voice. “But when I’m taking in that power, I’m fragile. You’ll need to protect me or I’ll break.” The fear in its voice was heartbreaking. “You could destroy me.”

“No,” Kidder said. “But we’ll have to be quick. We make the link – and I have no idea how that will happen – then straight away we need to drag the power from the wraiths as quickly as possible. Edragor will be trying to stop us.” Kidder glanced over his shoulder at the man shuffling behind them. “I’m not sure about Dan.”

“He’s weaker than Edragor,” Yvonne said. “Oh! We’re here.”

Kidder had been too caught up in their mental discussion to pay attention to his surroundings. Now, looking around, his heart sank. A pale body was stretched out on a table on one side of the room. The Orache Stone – Yvonne – was on a plinth on the other side. Elaborate magical circles had been chalked around each and candles and incense were placed at strategic points.

“Is that Claire?” Kidder asked.

“Mark was so insistent,” Edragor said. “After some thought, it seemed only right that I upheld my side of the bargain and brought Claire back.”

Kidder felt sick. He waited at the entrance to the room. “Can I just cross the circles?” he asked doubtfully.

“One moment,” Edragor said, checking the room and murmuring a few Latin words. A brief mist fell from the ceiling and washed through the room, leaving the wraiths scattering and pressed against the walls. Edragor nodded in satisfaction. “Good, the room is ready.” He carefully stepped through a gap in the chalked circle. “Step through here, and here only,” he said. “Stand there, next to the Orache Stone.”

Kidder followed his directions and stood, expressionless, next to the plinth. He could feel the nerves in Yvonne and he fought to keep his breathing even. He couldn’t let Edragor guess that anything was wrong, but a little tension would be normal. He was about to make a connection with a powerful magical artifact that could potentially destroy him. It was entirely reasonable that his shoulders were so racked with tension.

Kidder willed himself to stay calm. He remembered what had happened to Mark and Fang, but they hadn’t been sane to start with and at least Yvonne was talking to him. The Orache Stone had sounded brittle with nerves. Once the connection was made, though, he could direct Yvonne to pull the energy from the wraiths while he shifted and lunged at Edragor. It was risky – the dark mage was dangerous, but he didn’t have many choices. As for Dan, Kidder didn’t think that he would be a problem. From the look in his eye, he was halfway to bolting anyway.

Kidder stood obediently in the triangle Dan chalked around him and watched as the wraiths pressed back against the cellar walls. Whatever Edragor was chanting was making them unsettled. Kidder glanced over at the Orache Stone. Edragor had recast the stone and a strange glamour hung over Yvonne, giving it a mysterious, ancient look. As the chant grew higher, Kidder could feel something tugging, but he pushed it away. Edragor needed him to agree to the sorcerer’s control, he realised. While Kidder stood passively in that chalked triangle, the link was being made but his mind was still completely under control.

Edragor picked the Orache Stone up reverently, then passed it over to Kidder. A leather thong was passed repeatedly through incense smoke, this time with Dan chanting carefully, before the thong was passed to Kidder to thread through Yvonne’s new mounting. Kidder impassively slid the cord through the hoop and then hung it around his neck. Edragor lifted his hands, snapped out Latin phrases and the connection between Kidder and Yvonne clicked.

Kidder didn’t have time to shift. Instead he sprinted into Edragor, shoulder charging him to the ground.

“Watch the circle!” Dan cried.

They are so dark!” Yvonne cried as the wraiths started to twist.

Edragor snarled as he pointed a finger at Kidder. “You will burn!

Kidder kicked him hard in the ribs, rolling him over on the hard stone floor. “Bastard!”

Watch the circle!” Dan repeated, looking around anxiously. “It keeps out the wraiths!”

Edragor grimaced as he reached for Yvonne’s plinth. “There’s more than one way to break a circle.” He winced in pain as he pushed the stand over. It rocked slowly then fell across the chalked lines of the circle. “Get him!”

Dan screamed as the wraiths started advancing. He snatched up an athame from the altar and held it, trembling, in front of him.

“Too much power! Too much power!” Yvonne was practically singing as it called out, frantic.

Kidder glanced at the advancing wraiths. They were reduced, but still dark and their touch would be death. “Dump it on Edragor then pull more out of the wraiths,” he yelled, aiming another swinging kick at Edragor’s ribs.

“Hold on!” Yvonne screamed.

Dan fell to his knees and howled, holding his head as Kidder felt a wave of power breaking over the room and washing through him.

“You can’t kill me!” Edragor cried, struggling back to his feet.

The wraiths were edging closer. “Drain the power, Yvonne!” Kidder yelled.

Incredulity flashed across Edragor’s face but he held out a shaking hand and pointed at Kidder. “You will obey me!”

“His power is unstable!” Yvonne called out. “It’s going wrong.”

“Pull up the power,” Kidder snapped, struggling out of his clothes.

The wraiths flickered and writhed but they were inching closer. “Edragor’s holding power,” Dan yelled. “He stores it somehow and I can feel it splitting.”

“There’s too much death!” Yvonne sounded almost hysterical.

“Hold on!” Kidder yelled, starting to shift.

“That dark man, his power is building!” Yvonne yelled. “I’m taking power.”

As his jaw elongated to a wolfish snout, Kidder mentally cried to Yvonne. “Protect yourself.” As he flowed into his wolf form he raced towards Edragor, snarling.

The door crashed open. Edragor flinched and Kidder’s jaws missed his throat, closing instead around his shoulder. It didn’t matter. He sank his fangs in deep and shook the dark magician like a rag doll.

“Kidder!” Yvonne cried. “It’s out of balance!”

Kidder could feel it. The magic seemed to be bouncing around the room as, to Kidder’s relief, Steve, Sir Dylan and Sir Philip stormed in. Their swords that swept through the wraiths, leaving shimmering trails of magic in their wake.

Gareth followed with Tyler close beside him and Darren behind, covering the rear with sword and gun. “Kidder, you’re safe!”

“I can’t hold it!” Yvonne cried.

Steve swore wildly. “Everyone down,” he snapped. “It’s going wild.” He flung himself down next to the cowering Dan.

Most of the wraiths had been cut down and the few remnants were flickering as they backed away from the intruders. “Edragor!” Yvonne screams and a shock wave of magic runs through the room.

Kidder howled as the shock forced him back to human form, dazed and clutching at Yvonne. He could feel the hysteria running through her as even his untrained senses overloaded with fractured magic. Running at instinct, he channelled it all at Edragor.

Edragor stared at Kidder wildly. “That stone is mine!” he said. “Give it to me.”

“Don’t let him touch me!” Yvonne cried.

Kidder scrabbled back away from him and swore.

“Watch the wraiths!” Dan yelled.

Kidder couldn’t turn to watch the wraiths. Instead he was transfixed, staring at Edragor. As the man reached out towards the Orache Stone, the edges of his fingers were turning black and cracking. Under Kidder’s horrified gaze, the stain spread across Edragor’s hand and up his sleeve. Cracks followed and then the hand started to flake, tiny fragments of dust and ash at first but then larger chunks. Edragor was crumbling to dust.

“Everybody stay down!” Steve yelled.

“Too much power!” Yvonne cried, almost vibrating against Kidder’s chest.

Edragor exploded.

Kidder forced himself to his feet and looked around. Fine, dark dust covered everything. Steve was carefully dousing candles while Darren poured water over the incense. Yvonne was almost trembling in its setting. The wraiths had disappeared and only the dusty remnants of chalked sigils and the remains of Claire on the nearby table together with the puddle of dusty clothes on the floor were evidence that Edragor had ever existed. Dan was still huddled on the floor, rocking and sobbing in shock.

“It’s good to see you,” Gareth said. “We were looking everywhere for you. Are you okay?”

“I’m unhurt,” Kidder said, stroking Yvonne in an attempt to soothe it. “How did you find us? Edragor said that you were blocked.”

Gareth grinned. “I’m not an expert,” he said. “But Steve is.”

“Dan was the one who found this place,” Kidder said. “I wondered at the time. I mean, why pick the mill where all your enemies are based?” He crouched down next to Dan. “Did you pick this place on purpose? Did you want us to be found?”

Dan caught his breath and nodded. “I’m sorry.”

Gareth put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay,” he said. “We’ll have a long talk later, but thank you for making it easier for us.” He stood and turned to Kidder. “Now we need to destroy the Orache Stone.”

Kidder could feel the fear and heartbreak pouring out of Yvonne. “No,” he said.

Gareth took a wary step closer. “You know what it did to Mike and Fang,” he said. “But it’s weakened now.” He stretched out a hand. “Give it to me.”

Kidder stared into his steady gaze and took a step back, flicking his eyes around the room at the men advancing. “I will never give it up.” Summoning the extra energy from Yvonne and some instinct he didn’t know he had, a sheet of flame shot between him and Gareth. When it fell, Kidder was gone.

Gareth looked around the wrecked cellar. “That could have gone better,” he said.

You can read the story from the beginning here

2 thoughts on “Invitation Accepted Chapter Twenty Eight

    1. Do you know, I was wondering about how to round things up, but I think you’re right. This is a good full stop – but I have some cracking ideas for a sequel!

      Thank you for the encouragement

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