Wednesday; November 18, 1987
I was clad all in white, riding a white horse atop a rocky crag. The Black Pawns were assaulting my position. The White Pawns fought to hold them back. Beyond the fighting, the Black King stood waiting. The White Queen and a White Bishop and Rook stood by me. Far off in the distance, the Black Queen was locked in fierce combat with the White King. A storm raged overhead.
I looked about at the battle wondering why this all looked strangely familiar. Why wasn't I helping, even though all about me people were dying? The Black Queen struck a mortal blow to the White King who turned to me and cried, "Help me, my pupil. Forget the others and help me!" The White King changed and fell over. Anger rose inside of me and the lightning made traceries across the sky. Thunder boomed all around me...
Thunder boomed all around me. I awoke in a cold sweat. Outside the wind was blowing and another flash of lightning illuminated my window. Calm! Control! The power is yours, control it! I reached for the storm brewing overhead and quelled it. When the storm was calm, I took a deep breath and tried to relax.
What was that dream? The figures in it seemed real and known to me, yet I cannot see who they are. I probed deep inside of my mind but could not find any trace of the dream except blurry images.
I pushed my concern aside, wishing Deb was there, and went back to sleep.
I stepped out of the shower, toweled off and went into the bed room to dress. I pulled on some blue jeans and reached for an oxford shirt.
White King changing as it fell (growing darker?). White Pawns dying at my feet. Black King raising his power against mine. Black Knight aiding me against the Black King. The storm exploding in a torrent of energy.
I reached for a better grip on the images but they faded quicker than thought. I returned to surface consciousness and found I was shaking. I sat down on the bed and took a deep breath. As I let it out, I drew into my center and let my energies calm my body.
What does all this mean? Holding to the chess motif that the visions have adopted, I am the White Knight. The White King called me "pupil", so that would make him Katar. The other white pieces must be the rest of the Clan. What does this all mean? I've had strange dreams before but this seemed somehow different, more real.
I laid down on the bed, reached underneath it and drew out a black satchel. I opened it and made sure that all of its contents were secure before closing it again. I carried it into the living room and put it on the couch next to my brief case.
I finished dressing, slung the satchel over my shoulder, and picked up the brief case. Should I call Deb? She might have some idea what's going on. I shrugged the idea away and left my apartment. I locked the door and sealed the rooms. I walked out to my truck, got in, stowed the satchel behind the seat, tossed the case in the seat next to me and started for work.
Images from the dream came to me again. The White King calling to me for help, then changing, falling (dying?). Black Pawns killing White Pawns. Who is going to attack the Clan? Who is it fighting Master? Is it Master? Who is the Black Queen? Why? A brisk wind picked up out of the west. I calmed it with a thought and looked out across the snowy woods at the mountains in the distance. God, I love the Sierras this time of year. The late autumn breezes coming down out of the mountains are always so pure and fresh.
I pulled into the parking lot at Computec, grabbed my brief case and headed for the lobby. I passed a couple of people I knew on the way in and greeted them. I got my messages from Jan and started across the lobby.
"Jeff! Wait up!"
I looked around and saw Greg walking up to me. I must be pretty messed up, I didn't notice his presence before now. "Good morning, Greg. How's it going?"
"Fine. Yourself? You look a little pale."
"Okay. I had a strange dream last night and it messed me up pretty bad."
"That's too bad. Listen, do you want..."
I didn't hear him after that. Every alarm in my head had just hit a new height of panic. I spun on the balls of my feet and saw a strange man standing just inside the doorway of the lobby. The instant I saw him, I knew what he was and what he was doing here. I was struggling for a defensive stance when his attack landed. Scarlet flame encircled me and played around my body as it constricted on my mind. I grew a golden sphere out of my center and shielded myself with it. It won't hold long, but then it won't have to. A figure came leaping through the golden wall and caught me in the stomach with a side kick, then in the head with a sweeping round kick. My personal defenses took the brunt of the attack, but the blow sent me backwards into the wall, which I felt give behind me.
I was slightly disoriented by the suddenness and intensity of the attack, feigning a much greater amount of confusion than I actually felt in order to draw him in. He didn't disappoint me. He closed with me. I hit him with a leaping punch to the face. I threw all of my power into the blow and when it hit, lightning sounded outside.
I felt a storm begin to rise.
My blow threw him back about fifteen feet. As he regained his feet, I gathered myself for the real battle. Dimly, I heard Greg tell the others to stand back, but my focus was on the problem at hand.
Outside, a strong wind had picked up and thick clouds were beginning to gather. Occasional bolts of lightning leapt from cloud to cloud.
A scarlet form grew out of the man's body. It spread great bat-like wings and raised its serpentine head towards me. Its eyes were an evil yellow. Its tongue shot snake-like in and out of its mouth. The dragon-form ponderously approached me.
A shower of golden light-needles fell on the dragon. As they struck, the needles turned into darts deeply piercing the beast's hide. It reared its head in pain and the darts continued to stab at it. Wings flapping frantically, the dragon fell onto one side and dissolved into a red mist which quickly dissolved.
The man extended his hands, which now held globes of scarlet fire. He tossed them to the ground mid-way between us. When they landed, the balls of fire grew into fifteen foot long scarlet cobras. They raised their heads, necks flat, ready to strike. They hissed at me menacingly.
A golden cylinder came out of a hallway leading into the lobby and ran over the two cobras, smashing them into scarlet mist. They began to reform slowly. The cylinder stopped, reversed direction, and ran the half-formed snakes over before disappearing back up the hallway. The mist dissipated.
The storm intensified and gathered in strength.
My attacker changed his tactics and sent a scarlet beam sheathed in light red fire towards me. I caught it, controlled it, and hurled it back as a ball of energy. He batted it aside. It hit the ground and dispersed.
The storm reached its peak.
I began to draw upon the storm.
My opponent's next attack caught me somewhat by surprise. It pierced my primary defenses and slammed against my psychic shields. The blow threw me back into the wall. I struggled to maintain my shields and keep him away from my mind and aura. I knew he had the upper hand. Without help I was in serious trouble. I called to the storm over-head. There was a loud crash and a strong wind rushed into the lobby, distracting my opponent and enabling me to throw some energy back into my primary defenses. I quickly regained my mental balance and threw up another sphere to repulse his attack.
I again drew upon the storm to rejuvenate myself and turned to the offensive. Tendrils of golden flame leapt from me and sought to encircle my attacker. He countered with a scarlet sphere that was an obvious mimic of mine. Fool! You should know your tools before you use them. The structure of your defense is obvious and unguarded. I threw my will against his sphere and altered the equation he had used to create it. A small circular opening appeared in it. He saw it instantly and tried to counter, but I was already through. I slammed the full might of the storm against his psychic defenses. They held for a moment before they gave and shattered. I reached deep into his mind, found what I was looking for, and sent a psychic surge into the energy pathways he used for mystical operations, shorting them out. There was a brilliant flash of pain and the world returned to normal.
My opponent fell to the floor. I dropped to my knees and caught my breath before I went up to find out how badly he was hurt. Despite the fact that he had just tried to kill me, I wasn't really hot to the idea of returning the favor. I knew that I wouldn't deal with it any better than Debra had so many months ago. I was pleased to find that he would recover, mostly. I stood up and looked around me. The front door and the windows surrounding it were blown inwards. My co-workers were looking at me with with mixed concern, confusion, and, in a few cases, fear. I knew that, with a few exceptions, they had been oblivious to most of the battle that had just happened. Greg was helping a secretary who had apparently fainted. I went to the receptionist's desk, picked up the phone and quickly dialed a number.
"This is Storm King. I have a Code Red situation at Computec. I request a priority strike team scramble, this location, stat."
"Request denied, Storm King."
"What?" I said with stunned disbelieve. Denied? What the hell is going on here?
Another voice came on the line. "Storm King, this is Hardcastle."
"Great. Hardcastle, I got a Code Red here. A black operative just tried to take me out at work and there may be more. Replace that imbecile on the phone and get me a strike team here, yesterday."
"Can't do that. We have a Clan wide, Code Black emergency."
That rocked me. White Pawns besieged by Black Pawns. "Where's Master?"
"He's in L.A., we think. We can't contact any of our people there."
White King being attacked by Black Queen. "How bad is the hit? Do you know if Deb is OK?"
"She was ten minutes ago, but everyone's being attacked. We have four confirmed kills on our side. Seventeen more are missing. The other organization has at least four Hazards and a handful of Majors."
"Who is in charge now that Master isn't around?"
"The Clan Leader is also missing. That leaves you."
That rocked me. I'm in charge? Shouldn't it be Debra? White Knight standing above the battle commanding the storm. Black King standing ready to attack. No time to argue. "Okay. I'm assuming authority. Put out word that I want everyone to drop out of sight. Disappear. We'll rendezvous tomorrow night at 6:00. I don't want anyone there before 5:30. We want the other side to have as little time as possible."
"Where's the site?"
"6:00 at Lookout Point. I'll spread the word. One more thing, Jeff."
"You be careful."
"I will. You take care of yourself also. Get as many of our people there as you can." I hung up.
Greg came up to me. "You look horrible. Is everything okay now?"
I looked at him. "Far from it. This was only the beginning. Do you remember that envelope I gave you?"
He looked skeptical. "The one you said never to open unless you were dead or something? Yeah, I remember."
"I'm leaving. Open the envelope and do what it says. After that, cease to be for a couple of days; things are going to get a lot worse."
"This is serious, isn't it?"
"We have four people dead so far. They seem to know who we are, where we live, where we work, everything. I don't have any idea who is behind this, but I do know it's pretty big. Look, I have to go, there might be some of his friends around and I'm in no condition to take them on."
His eyes got larger as I spoke. Numbly, he said, "Good luck."
I left the building and headed for my truck. The storm was still brewing overhead. I sent it east towards the desert. I climbed into my truck and headed south.
I leaned back from the fire and rested for a moment. I had driven to a camp site I used on occasion that was located about twenty miles south of Lookout Point and near the Carson River. I had felt the storm of the morning evaporate as it hit the desert and, hopefully, so had anyone who was after me.
I reflected upon my present situation. It seemed so surrealistic. I had known when I joined the Clan three years ago that I was joining a covert occult organization, just as I had known there were other organizations opposed to us. It had simply never occurred to me that a rival organization would implement an all out assault against us in a blatant attempt to wipe us out. I was especially surprised that they made their hits in public and with witnesses. Did they mean to kill everyone who was present or didn't they care if their operatives were seen?
Even if I had been prepared for that, I wasn't ready for this. Somehow, the Master was unavailable and the other Clan Leaders were apparently missing or dead, leaving me in charge. A responsibility I didn't want and wasn't sure I was up to.
What am I going to do once I got the Clan to the Point? If they hit us in force there, we'll have no choice but to fight back. If they try to kill us, we will have to return with lethal force. That means that I will be responsible for killing; that I may indeed kill to protect the Clan. Will I be able to do this? Will I fail and let others die? What do I do?
I heard a noise in the woods and felt a brush against my shields. I reached into the satchel at my side and drew forth my wand. I scanned the woods, but there was nothing there. Great, now I'm jumping at ghosts. The wand in my hands grew warm. I looked at it. It was made of copper with a three inch, egg shaped, clear crystal set at its end. Several lesser crystals and semiprecious stones were set about it and they glittered in the fire light. The big crystal glowed with its own light.
Three months before, my development had hit a plateau, a barrier that limited my power levels. Mike had told me that it was a psychological block, that I wouldn't allow myself to access the powers that lay beyond. He had given me the wand as an instrument to help overcome the barrier.
The wand was an object of power; I knew that it was old, but not how old. Although I knew it was technically only a tool to focus my energies with greater precision, the only reason that I could imagine needing it was because I was being attacked, so I saw it as a weapon. I hated it, and feared it, because if I feared that if I ever used it, I would be lost.
I set the wand aside and reached out with my senses for some sign of Debbie. I didn't turn up anything, but I suppose that was for the best—if I could find her, so could others.
I slid into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.
The Pawns were locked in valiant combat with each other. The White Queen, Bishop and Rook stood with me. The Black King stood against me. The Black Queen and the White King fighting to the death in the distance. The White King falls and turns black and the Black Queen withdraws. The Black King's power raised against me and battle turned against us. The Black Queen's companion, the Black Knight, sent me his strength to repel the force of the Black King. The storm raged and the pressure against my shields intensified...
The pressure against my shields quickly faded as I grabbed for the wand. The damn dream! Haunting me! I tried to calm myself but my focus was off. With agonizing slowness, I turned my attention into my body.
The energy was in chaos. I swam in it for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, I found the source. The energy node of my throat chakra had been strained, damaged by the battle that morning. I hadn't noticed it afterwards, but then again, I didn't bother to check. I moved in and filled the chakra with white light, cleansing and rebalancing it. I drew energy from the earth and allowed the pulsing energy of nature to balance the energy of my body. I drifted back to sleep.
It was 5:15 when I rolled up to the clearing that served as a parking lot at the base of the Point. There were a great number of other cars there before me. I saw Debbie's amongst them and a weight lifted off my heart. Most of the Clan must already be on their way up. I grabbed the satchel out of the seat next to me and headed up the path. Forty minutes later, I reached the rocky peak where about seventy people milled around. A red-haired woman turned and met my gazed across the distance. Beloved. I felt her touch upon me, but she didn't leave what she was doing. A blond haired man broke free of the group and came down to meet me; it was Hardcastle.
"Jeff. You okay?"
"For now. What's the status around here?"
"We have a total of five deaths that we're sure of. We cannot locate about twenty more. They have six Hazard or near Hazard classed magicians and over twenty Majors. All said, they got about a hundred people. One more thing, their leader has been spotted. The man's an Adept at least, and probably one of the Old Ones. He killed the Clan Leader and another Hazard in a dual combat. Our clairvoyants have tracked the dark forces. They should be here in about a half hour.
"That soon. Damn. Who've we got of Hazard or above?"
"You, me, Tom and Debra. You have a plan?"
I nodded. Tom was the High Priest and Debra the Water Mistress. It was all falling into place; White Queen, Bishop and Rook supporting me, the White Knight. But would it be enough? The Black King was out there and closing in. The Black Queen...
"Any news from the Master?"
"No. We can't get any communication out of L.A. There seems to be some fighting out there also, but we can't pin it down."
"Okay, station the others in a defensive perimeter around the power nexus on the crest. Tell them that they are not to attack unless so ordered. Their job is to keep us alive long enough for us four to deal with our opponents. Gather the other two and meet me up top." He walked off to relay my orders and I made my way up to the crest. The energy there was as vibrant and strong as it had been during the Convergence, just a few months before.
I unslung my satchel and opened it. Out of it I drew four large crystals. The first, a naturally shaped piece of clear quartz, I placed at the east side of the circle, right near the edge of the cliff. A large, water polished amethyst, I placed at the west side of the circle. To the north, I placed an egg shaped piece of malachite, and lastly, to the south I placed a chunk of tiger eye that I had found near a dead volcano. I reached into my satchel and brought out a four inch square, clear quartz pyramid that I had carved myself and placed it in the center of the circle.
Clouds began to approach from the west and a strong wind picked up.
The other three arrived shortly thereafter, and I could see the rest of the Clan taking up defensive positions down below. We knew our enemy would have to come from that direction.
I took the luxury of hugging Debra fiercly before beginning. "Mike, take the north, Tom, the south, and Debra, take the west. I'll take the east. Just like last time. Feel the energy of your direction and the energy of the nexus. Draw on it. Become one with it. Nothing fancy this time, just raise it up and close the circle." Energy sprang up about us as the energies of the four elements represented by the corners of the circle combined to form a warding which would serve both to keep unwanted energies out and uncontrolled energies in. "Hold the circle and rest. We wait until they arrive."
We did not have to wait long. Their attack preceded them and slammed into the defenses erected by the rest of the Clan. I reached again into my satchel and drew forth the wand. It glimmered in the light of the setting sun and glowed with the energy of the circle.
"Time to go to work. Raise your energy and feed it through the pyramid to me. I'll direct the attack." We all centered and energy began to flood into me.
The clouds pressed up against the mountains and gathered in density. As they pressed together, lightning began to arc from cloud to cloud and the wind intensified.
The energy flowed through me, filling my being. I held it in and felt the tension begin to mount towards release. I hit the Barrier and pressed up against it again. I held the wand before me like a knife and channeled the energy through it, focusing everything I had against my own inhibition.
For a long moment, every particle of my being was caught up in fighting the Barrier, and then I was through. My spirit rose up and became one with the storm above. I moved with the lightning from cloud to cloud. I became the wind that blew the trees. I became a towering ethereal giant. I lost myself in being god. Then a blast of pain caught my attention. Far down below me, a defender of the light had died. I marvelled at that—death, these mortals are so fragile and fleeting. Then I remembered my reason for existing. I gathered the storm together and readied it.
Then I noticed something, far off to the west and south. There, out by the ocean, two suns were pressed together in climatic combat. A smaller sun was near-by but it vanished even as I watched. I looked closer and saw that one of the suns was Katar! The energy of the other I recognized as being the Black Queen from my dream. As I watched, the sun that was my Master flickered and became unstable. I came into its notice and I heard a distant voice.
Come to me, my apprentice. Aid me against the evilness of Raven. Leave the others and save me from death so that we may carry on the fight together. Come...come...come...
I recoiled in terror before his words. Have I been blind? Is my Master truly a dark magician? Is he evil? I would never know for as I moved closer again, his light passed from this world and I heard another voice for the one he had called Raven.
They are yours now Storm King, guide them well.
His light faded from my sight, but I knew he was not dead.
Anger filled me at what I had seen. I had been betrayed and innocents had died because of it.
"The forces of light will suffer no more. I will end this...now!"
I turned my attention back to the storm and sent all of my energy into it. It gathered and exploded in a torrent of rain and lightning. It washed across the forces besieging the Clan. Defenses were hastily erected only to be crushed before the power of the storm. Below me, my enemies began to die. Out of the black forces, an ethereal figure rose. It towered above the landscape, even as I did. Scaly black demon-wings spread as it raised its thin, horned head. Its three fingered hands were tipped by long talons that dripped incandescent flame. We locked eyes. It was the Black King raising his power against me.
You cannot stand against me. You have just come into your power while I have had mine for a thousand years. Surrender now, and I may let you live.
Your power is the power of experience, Evil One. Mine is the power of youth and righteousness. Darkness can never win out against the light but must ever flee from it. I will not surrender and neither will you. This battle is to the death. In the end, there can be only one.
I leapt forward and grappled with the demon. Its claws bit into me, but I ignored the pain, instead lifting it from the ground and throwing it. It spread its wings to break its fall and it landed awkwardly. Golden lightning flew from my hands only to be deflected by a brush of the demon's wing.
The storm continued its relentless bombardment of the black forces.
The demon spread its wings wide and threw back its head with a shriek that made the ground shake. Green flame gushed forth from its mouth and descended upon me. A golden disk sprang up between us, blocking the flame. My energies began to falter and the barrier began to give way. I drew upon the nexus of the Point and my defenses stabilized. I raised a wind behind me and blew the fire back at the demon. It slammed its wings closed in front of it, defecting the fire around its form.
The demon again spread its wings and took to the air. It hovered above me for a few moments before folding its wings and diving at me. I created a spirit form of my wand and hurled a beam of golden fire from it. The bolt struck the demon's chest, deflecting it so that it slammed into the ground. I felt the Black King begin to falter as the demon began to draw more heavily upon him for support. I was beginning to tax the limits of the nexus and the three supporting me, but I pressed my advantage.
The demon rose slowly to its feet. I hit it in the head with the wand, knocking it to the ground once more. I threw all of my energy into another onslaught of golden lighting. The demon tried to close its wings to protect itself, but it was growing weary. The lightning constricted on the demons body and it shrieked in pain and rage.
The form shattered and fell back to the field below. I peered down and saw my opponent being physically supported by two others. The storm flashed and they were gone.
Suddenly the world broke and fell away. I was falling...falling...falling...
I fell from my horse but quickly regained my feet. Before me, the black figures had been swept from the field leaving only a Black Knight. We stood and faced each as equals across the distance. He smiled, turned, and walked away.
The White Queen came up from behind me and set a crown upon my head. She then took her place at my side as befitting my queen. Suddenly, I was falling...
I landed in a soft world which slowly stopped spinning. Something gripped my hand and drew me back to reality. I opened my eyes and saw Mike sitting next to the bed I was laying in. Debra was standing behind him
Mike smiled. "Finally back amongst the land of the living, eh. You gave us quite a worry."
I blinked to focus. "How long..." I asked weakly.
Debra leaned forward, weariness etched on her face. "About two days. How're you feeling?"
"I'm not sure." I closed my eyes and opened them again. Fear suddenly griped me. I grabbed Mike's arm. "Mike, I can't See! I'm Blind!"
"Calm down. We already foresaw that possibility. You almost burned yourself out with that fireworks display. You're really going to have to learn to control yourself when you manifest the Storm King. Anyway, we had a healer, Fiona, look you over. She made some preliminary repairs and cleaned out your system, but it will take a while before you're up to par again. We figure about two days before you get your Sight back."
"I'll tell you about it all over some food. Are you hungry?"
"Famished." I tried to sit up but Mike had to help me. We slowly walked out of the room and into his kitchen. He sat me in a chair, made me something to eat, and set it before me. Debra pulled up a chair and held my hand. Mike sat down and looked at me. I looked back. "Well?"
"The storm broke shortly after you collapsed, leaving about a hundred charred bodies. We bugged out before the mundane authorities arrived. All told, we only lost fourteen people. Jeff, you should know—"
"Katar is dead."
Both he and Debra looked stunned for a moment. "Someday, you'll have to tell me how you knew that."
"Someday. What happened?"
"The mundanes said he was stabbed. Our agents in the area say there was an arcane duel there. All of his guards had been shot and the power relays to the house had all been turned off. We don't know who did it."
"Who's in charge of the Clan now that the Master is dead?"
"Of what's left of it, you mean." He paused and looked at Debra before continuing. "Ah, you are. The two Clan Leaders are amongst the casualties. The other one was found shot. As the only Adept left in the Clan, and after leading the battle at the Point, the rest of the Clan will pull behind you easily."
I looked at him, startled. "Adept? Me?"
Debra nodded. "That's right. That was a Godform you manifested. As the ability to directly affect the physical world makes you a Hazard, manifesting a Godform makes you an Adept."
"But I did it with your help. I couldn't do it again, alone."
Mike cut in. "Not yet. But like we told you when you hit that barrier three months ago, that's just a temporary situation until your psyche evolves enough to handle the energy. Give it time, and you'll master even a Godform." He paused. "There's something else you should know, we found some records indicating that at least one of the Leaders was a spy for another organization."
I looked away. No. He was a spy for Katar. Master was a black. We were being led on. I didn't say this to them and I shielded my thoughts as best I could. I don't know who you are Raven, but when I find you...I don't know. Katar may have been evil, but he was good to me. Like the father I never had. I have to believe there was good in him.
"The mundanes are explaining the deaths as some sort of freak storm that destroyed an outing of campers or some such. The media is buying it because no one has a better idea. It's really difficult to explain finding a hundred bodies all having been electrocuted by lightning. Jeff, are you all right?"
I shook my head. "Not really. I'd like to go back and lay down a while. Alone."
He looked at Debra, who said, "Jeff, you shouldn't be alone right now. Let me stay with you."
I nodded. She helped me back into the bed room and sat down with me on the bed. I leaned my head back and ran a hand through my hair. She held my other hand. A hundred dead. I killed a hundred people, smothered the lights of a hundred souls. Oh, God, what have I become?
Debra squeezed my hand. "I know, it hurts."
I grabbed her and laid my head on her shoulder. "Oh, Debra. What have I done? A hundred people. What do I do?"
She stroked my hair and held me. "You saved us. Like I did you a year ago. You go on. Learn from what you did and live your life. I won't tell you that the hurt ever stops, but it does become less. Just hope that you never have to do it again and continue."
I held her close and cried.