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The Rising Star - Chapter 9: Ghosts

by Alexshaw 

Posted: 25 May 2006
Word Count: 2250

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Sire and Raven were sat cross-legged in a quiet dojo, paved with smooth, dark wooden boards. Before them lay an open circle with a small fire arranged between grey stones.

Aromatic smoke was emanating forth in thin trails and filling the room with a calming haze. It was a few hours after Sire had discovered The Mix and he had taken a break to absorb Raven's teachings. Now he was eager to find out more.

'Let us start with your aura,' said Raven. He waved his hand over the fire and a small shadowy figure appeared above it, formed of the undulating smoke. 'Look closely at this model of the human soul.' Sire could make out a faint white outline around the shadow. 'Though it originates inside us, it radiates forth a few millimetres from the body and allows us to feel things our regular senses may not. This is the soul of one of my students.'

Raven held up his hands and muttered a few words before pressing his finger to the forehead of the smoky figure. A glowing yellow light began to push its way forth from the inside, making the model shine brightly. 'This person has lived many lifetimes and gained much experience and power. Their soul reflects this in its intensity and colour.' He fixed his gaze on Sire. 'I do not want what I am about to show you to go to your head. Press your fingers to this model and you will see what poor Vincent must, whenever he looks directly at you' said Raven, gravely.

Sire breathed out slowly and touched the forehead of the shining figure. It immediately became so bright that Sire had to crush his eyes shut and turn his head as a wave of blue light cascaded out of the figure and surrounded them.

'How do I stop it?' Sire cried.

'Focus the energy inward, draw it back into yourself,' Raven replied.

Sire gritted his teeth and struggled desperately to make the light subside. Raven drew closer and said in a low, soothing voice, 'Be a sponge, absorb it. Keep it strong, but bring it within you.'

Sire focused on that image and the light began to slowly ebb away. He was beginning to exert some control over it. Soon he was able to open his eyes and look at the little figure. It was still glowing blue but the aura gradually contracted, until eventually Raven waved a hand over it and the smoke dissipated.

Raven let Sire compose himself and continued. 'That is what every being on the other side sees when they look at you. It attracts all kinds of attention. It also acts as a barrier to the people you meet in the physical world. That is why you cannot sleep at night, and why you are always so alone.'
Sire had not mentioned this, but as he looked into the eyes of the old man he saw recognition there. They had both grown used to those cold, lonely hours right before dawn.

'What kind of beings would be attracted to my soul?'
'Ghosts,' said Raven. 'You can usually mark their presence by a drop in temperature.'

Sire nodded in acknowledgement, recalling long repressed icy chills in the frightening darkness of his childhood nights. He thought about it rationally and found the answer waiting.

'From what you've said about the Otherworld, ghosts would need energy to cross over, right?' Raven smiled and nodded as he continued. 'And the easiest energy to make use of would be heat.'

'Exactly,' said his teacher. 'They can watch us without great effort, but to really reach out to the physical world, a ghost needs power, and they drain the most available source.
'When we are visited by what might be referred to as the dead, they are often seeking a contact point with the physical. Our very brightness tells them we may well prove to be one. Communing successfully with those from The Otherworld is a rare thing, so when a person is found to have the power to see, feel or hear them, chances are word will spread, and the individual may find themselves the focus of a great deal of attention.'

'Surely that's not a good thing,' Sire said.

'For the undeveloped or newly initiated, it is not entirely a pleasant experience, no. In my younger days, I was plagued by noisy, rude spirits who had simply turned up for a chat. They weren't the worst, however.' Here his face darkened a little. 'There are other things on that side that do not bear goodwill to the living. Wraiths, demons, gremlins and vampires can and will torment the brightest of souls, unless they possess the proper defence abilities. Even the least of these ghouls will come to you when you are asleep and vulnerable, in order to suck the energy from your soul and feed their voracious appetites. It can be a horrible experience trying to fend them off. To those who do not know what is feeding on them, deep depression can occur as they become a regular target for unseen scavengers.'

The hairs on Sire's neck prickled and he felt the room grow colder. He looked about sharply, but Raven closed his eyes and smiled. 'It's alright Sire, we have a visitor; he wants to meet you.'

'Hi,' said Sire to the air.

Raven shook his head. 'No, this will require your concentration. How are you at meditation?'

Sire's heart sank. 'Rubbish,' he admitted.

'Well, we're both calm enough now, so relax, close your eyes and...'

'-Think about nothing,' Sire cut in, smiling sadly. 'It won't work, I've tried for years.'

'Then think about what makes you happy. Don't force your focus; it's self-defeating.'

Sire shrugged and sat back a little more comfortably, closing his eyes. The room was warm and the smell of cedar wood smoke was peaceful, and unlike every other time he had tried this, for a change Sire actually was happy.

As he drifted, blue light played across his eyes, and a little smile appeared on his face. Time passed. Then Bastet walked into his head and sat down before him. Her green eyes blinked and looked at him. Something about her gaze told him it wasn't a she, but a he. This wasn't his cat; it was someone else using Bastet as a conduit.

The cat cocked its head on one side and Sire thought a single word as he attempted to communicate with it.

'Hey,' said the cat.

Its mouth did not move, but almost at the same time as Sire said 'Hello' the greeting came back. The voice was a casual drawl, friendly but vaguely sarcastic.

'Who are you, and what do you want?' thought Sire.

'A friend, and I've been watching you for a while now' said the cat, not even leaving a polite moment between question and answer. 'I figure you could use all the help you can get on this one.'

'Why did you choose my cat as your spiritual form?' Sire asked.

'You tell me,' said the cat. 'This is what you were thinking of.' Then, just as Sire was about to ask about what he really looked like, the cat momentarily transformed into a man clad entirely in black, surrounded by a cloud of white smoke and leaning casually on one hip. He put Sire in mind of a retired gunslinger. His lank, greasy hair was slicked back, and his face was adorned with spectacles and a lopsided grin. Transforming instantly back, Sire caught the tail end of a stray thought. 'Does that help?'

'I got it,' replied Sire, 'So how are you going to help me?'

'I am an all-powerful sorcerer,' said the cat, dryly. There was something about the way he said this that suggested it was, at least in part, true. 'And if you have even a fraction of the potential Raven believes, then you're going to need coaching on both sides.'

'Hang on a second,' said Sire. This was all feeling slightly familiar to him. 'Have we met?'

'I've known you before' said the cat. 'But not in this lifetime. The important thing to remember is that I taught this guy everything he knows.' He nodded towards a glowing purple shape off to the left that Sire suddenly realised was Raven. It was as if he'd always been able to see his aura unconsciously, but only now was he able to focus on it.

'Pretty cool, huh?' said the cat.

'How did I do that?' Sire asked.

'Simple, you just remembered.' The cat was not even allowing him to think these questions through before responding, as if Sire already knew the answers.

'So are you going to train me on a regular basis?'

'I'll keep an eye on you and make sure you don't get into too much trouble,' the cat yawned. 'And when everybody else runs out of answers, I'll be there.'

'Thank you. I'm honoured,' said Sire.

'Nice talking to you, kiddo,' said the cat, walking off into the distance. 'If you ever need a hand, just call me.' Sire was about to ask his name when it appeared in his head.


'Bill,' thought Sire. 'Doesn't sound much like a great sorcerer's name.'

The cat's head formed in the sky, gigantic now as Bill grinned broadly at him. 'What's in a name?' he asked, before whisking away once more as Sire came back to consciousness.
Raven was looking at him with a crooked smile on his face. 'Ignore his mannerisms, the man knows what he's talking about,' he said.

It was evening now and Sire was walking with Raven in the woods that stretched to the feet of the great mountains above the House.

'You're thinking something very specific,' said Raven. Sire had been quiet since dinnertime. 'Would you care to let me in on it?'

'It's my father,' said Sire, in a low voice. 'He died before I was born. I've always assumed he's been watching over me. Kind of like a guardian angel.' He trailed off.

'But since he hasn't appeared, you're wondering if you simply imagined it?' finished Raven. Sire nodded. Raven closed his eyes as the gathering dusk scattered long shadows around the green wood. There was silence for a time.

'Is he there' Sire asked. Raven shook his head slowly. Sire did not know what to think. 'Is anybody else from my family?' he asked eventually, his voice almost a whisper.
Raven concentrated for many moments and shook his head once more. 'Apparently they have all moved on into new lives,' he said gently. Sire thought of his mother. She might still be alive, so he actually found her absence vaguely comforting. Raven looked hard at Sire. 'I sensed an unusual amount of pain in your family's history. Will you tell me what happened?'

Sire took a deep breath and began once again to tell his lifelong secret to another. After he had finished, Raven looked deeply shaken. He leaned on a nearby tree to steady himself.

'I knew of your coming to me. The spirits have spoken of you for many years now, but I had no idea of your true identity,' he said softly. 'You understand, of course, what this will mean to Zeus and the people of Olympus.'

Sire nodded. 'Am I really safe here?' he asked.

'I have a special understanding with Zeus. They know of my school and they tolerate its existence as long as I do not violate any of their laws.'

Sire's heart sank. 'And at the moment you're harbouring two escaped criminals.'

'I have an old friend and his companion as my guests, nothing more,' Raven smiled.

Sire shook his head. 'If they find me here, they'll shut you down. I have to go,' he said, choking on the words. Here was the place he had always dreamed of. Like-minded people surrounded him, he was learning wonderful new and old theories, and his life was worth something for the first time. Yet already he was preparing to leave it behind. He simply could not allow Zeus to put a stop to something as positive and life affirming as this House.

'Nonsense,' said Raven, though Sire could see in his eyes the glimmer of a doubt.

He turned to his teacher and spoke with conviction. 'Train me for a week and then let me go. I'll be able to look after myself and maybe in a few years, if I can get the heat off me, I'll come back.

Raven regarded him wordlessly. They both knew the price if Sire was discovered here. 'What about Vincent?' Raven asked. 'I can't toss him out into the wilderness.'

'I'll look after him,' said Sire. 'Just train him to be able to look at me without dazzling himself.'

Raven took a long, deep breath and sighed. 'Very well. As I have said, the path you walk is yours to decide. We will give you a crash course in spiritual awakening and defence.'

'Good,' said Sire. As awful as it would be to leave this place, he felt wonderfully unselfish in taking the decision to do so.

'Usually my students graduate from the novice stage by undertaking a quest,' said Raven resolutely. 'Since we have limited time, I'm giving you the hardest three days of your life before your trial by fire begins.'

Sire nodded. 'And when I'm done with that, Terez and I are out of here.'

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Comments by other Members

toshi at 11:25 on 28 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex

Another good chapter. I liked the idea about the ghosts attracted to souls and the idea of demons as well. There are lots of good links and new explanations here with familiar ideas which always helps to give a story depth. I thought the direction in the story line with Syre leaving on an adventure was good as well. I hope he gets some decent training before he goes though! It can be a bit annoying when books set up a character with lots of potential but he never gets to use any of it because he never has time to get trained (Have you read the Sword of Truth - something like 9 books and still Richard has not had time to sit down and get any training!)

Here are some additional points:

There are three mentions of "forth" in the first four paras - worth checking on.

Sire and Raven were sat cross-legged in a quiet dojo
"were sitting"!

Sire focused on that image and the light began to slowly ebb away.
"to ebb slowly" split infinitive

The room was warm and the smell of cedar wood smoke was peaceful,
You don't need 2 "was" in this sentence

Re Bastet. I guess we met Bastet right at the beginning but I can't remember it, so you need to remind us it looks like his cat as soon as it appears, otherwise it is a bit confusing.

'I sensed an unusual amount of pain in your family's history.
Didn't Yoda say this to Anakin Skywalker?

Look forward to reading more!

Best wishes

Nelly at 22:03 on 28 May 2006  Report this post
Hi Alexshaw,

This seems well written and quite quirky with the cat sorcerer making an appearance. I enjoyed reading through and picked up on a few small points as I went,

'I do not want what I am about to show you to go to your head.

A bit clunky needs working on.

Raven was looking at him with a crooked smile on his face. 'Ignore his mannerisms, the man knows what he's talking about,' he said.

As the para begins with Raven, we don’t need to add ‘said Raven etc’.

'I knew of your coming to me. The spirits have spoken of you for many years now, but I had no idea of your true identity,' he said softly.

Remove ‘to me’.

Hope it helps


Patsy at 16:57 on 26 July 2006  Report this post
Hi Alex,

Sorry I'm so late getting to this as usual!

I liked this chapter, as it tells us more about how things function in Sire's world. Loved the part with the ghosts -- that was a wonderful bit of writing. Great idea!! You have set this up so well and can go so many directions with it, I'm
fascinated to see which one you take.

Loved the cat/sorcerer, and calling him Bill was a great twist, ha, ha. I couldn't remember that he had a cat though, so you might mention that she is his cat right away -- this could be due to time lag between reading chapters. "Bastet" Egyptian cat goddess -- nice touch :)

Things to consider:

Sire's heart sank. 'Rubbish,' he admitted.

For me, "Rubbish" sounds a bit too UK for this furture world you've created. It shocked me out of the story. Consider changing it?

Hope it helps,
Patsy :)

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