PART TWO: BALANCE
Call to Adventure
Call to Adventure
Gaea, 2008 C.E. An abandoned tenement in San Francisco.
Caked with dust and cockroach excrement, cobwebs mocking the tapestries from the Moirae’s loom and strewn over old furniture, water-stained paintings, and forsaken baby toys, a basement room—inhabited by darkness for far too long—sat empty, keeping company with rodents and spiders, Echidna’s clutch in miniature. Mildew, pungent perfume of neglect and desertion, saturated the air. A window near the ceiling, opaque with dust and spider webs consented to allow pale moonlight in, a desiccated shell of a spider hanging from a thread in the glow, an austere reminder of Arachne’s fate. Against the far wall, a wooden staircase ran, a few of the rotted treads having disintegrated.
Light cascaded down the stairs like a rushing cataract over a cliff when the upper door opened to the alley, a dozen cloaked individuals descending into this diminutive Tartaros, barely disturbing the dust. The first one carried two torches, and the second one cradled a leathern book. December winds brought a Borean chill, diluting the heady scent of decay, and from beneath the hoods, frosty, serpentine breaths escaped. Wraith-like, they hovered across the soiled cement floor to a large wooden table, warped from age and moisture, and draped with a black cloth. Like the Siren song heard by Odysseus, the frigid air whistled as it squeezed through cracks in the window casing.
The thick leather-bound tome was placed on the table, and it opened to a specific page by itself. From the folds of the cloaks, each removed a black candle and placed it on the table. The book bearer’s voice, as deep as the underworld, took control of the silence.
“The time has come.”
Twelve shrouded ones joined hands. The leader touched the book and then pointed to the center of the table. Each candle ignited, invading the darkness. As they joined hands, he recited the words on the page before him.
“O Hekate Klêidouchos, Key Bearer, hear our plea. Show us that you are among us.”
Cold, piercing wind splintered the windows, but the flames only shivered.
“According to the ancient text, we have assembled—twelve in the service of the goddess of death—to bring forth that which will save us,” continued the speaker, his voice raised over the whistling bluster. “We swear our fealty to you. We are yours to command.”
Moonlight filled the room and, beneath the cowls of the cloaks, the eyes of the assembled smoldered like fire. As they allowed the spirit of Hekate to fill them, the leader began his chant in ancient Greek. According to the ritual, he repeated it twelve times and the others repeated it with him until their voices became one.
“By Tartaros, dark Erebos, and Thanatos, we, the chosen of Hekate, summon the power of the Netherworld. Set the Sacred Twelve free!”
As the incantation grew louder, darkness festered like algae in bloom until all that could be seen was an eerie glow from the book. Even the candles and torchlight were absorbed by the all-consuming obscurity. By the twelfth invocation, their voices were in perfect unison and the earth began to tremble. The citizens of San Francisco would think it was one of the many earthquakes that struck their state, unaware of its preternatural source. Seconds later, the quaking stopped. All returned to normal and the ebony entity dissipated. The magister, or leader of the coven, released his hands, closed the book, and the other eleven suddenly began to convulse, some spitting up blood and bile, falling to the floor, dead. The sole remaining supplicant, the magister seethed at the apparent assassination of his cohorts. Without the complete circle, the spell lost some of its potency. Eleven deceased bodies shriveled, turned to dust, and vanished within the earthen floor. The remaining man smirked.
“You may have taken my coven, Zeus Kolastes, but the spell is cast. I will rebuild, bringing with me the sons and daughters of Gaea and Ouranos who will claim the sacred mountain as their own.”
A desperate, last burst of energy reaching from a distant shrouded mountaintop surged through the cloaked man who started to shake uncontrollably and heave blood through his nose and mouth. Falling to the floor a quivering mass of bodily fluids and skin, Gaea claimed the body, leaving the black cloth behind. Millennia ago, Hermes would have escorted the soul to the underworld, but the necromancer had none—the price he paid for his devotion to Hekate. Despite Zeus’ revenge, however, the deed was complete, and the Protogenoi would need to have mercy on all Mankind.