Rivers of the Dead: Book Two

3-4 The Warlock

Orpheus. Ethan had skirted around the issue from the beginning, but Jake's words had opened a door in his mind. He tackled Greek mythology with a vengeance, learning everything he could about the one Liz had called upon to bring him back to life in exchange for Caleb.

As he studied, his resolve firmed up more than ever. He could do this, could do one better than Liz. He didn't even need the body, not if Caleb already possessed his body in the afterlife. All he needed was to exert his will, powered by his pure emotion.

It took him another month of meditation to prepare himself mentally for the trip up to the mountains. He drove there in silence, watching every turn of the road with deadly focus. It was late December, and the higher canyon roads were closed due to high snowfalls, but he didn't care. He came to the gate which blocked the upper reaches during winter and stopped only for a moment.

He stepped out of the car and walked up to the gate to see the chain which held it shut then lashed out with his telekinesis to break it. He'd quickly surpassed Liz's ability with the skill, a fact exemplified when he pushed the heavy metal gate open with his mind. He then climbed back into the car and drove forward.

When he reached the snowy areas, he used his mind as a plow, his focus serving to clear the road ahead of him. He never slowed the car, just kept driving, trusting with perfect faith that he could clear the path before he reached it.

He repeated the process until he reached the Cherry Creek Cave trailhead. He parked in the snowbank and stepped out of the vehicle. The mountain air was cold, well below freezing, but Ethan hardly noticed. Focusing agents had mostly lost meaning to him, but he reached up and touched the small pendant he now wore. Clutching the crystal, he imagined a crystalline shell of energy around him, protecting his body from the elements. As he willed, so did it become, and the wind bent around him.

With enough layers to keep him warm even if the spell failed, he started out onto the trail. He glanced at the first marker only briefly, but then ignored the rest of them. He could sense the trail beneath his feet, the residual energy of all those human feet which had traveled this way before. He knew where to go; getting there would be no problem at all.

The hike didn't take long. He remembered one of Liz's first lessons, that magic required energy, but he had learned months ago that he could feed off the energy of nature itself to fuel both his body and his spells. The trees fed him as he walked past, losing some of their color and health, but not enough to kill them. They would rebound, gaining their energy back with the sun. He hadn't yet learned to feed from the sun itself, but he would in time. He knew it could be done. All things could be done.

When he reached the cave, he found it spoke to him, telling him of all that had come before its cavernous mouth. He reached into the stone, seeking to understand. He went back six months, then a few more days, then a few more hours, until he found the moment in question. He could see two people, Caleb and Liz, sitting down and preparing to cast a spell to bring Ethan back to life.

With a flick of his wrist, Ethan ripped branches from the nearby trees with his mind. They floated toward him as if on water, guided by the current of Ethan's will until he arranged them in the exact spot Caleb had built the fire six months before.

His eyes flashed, channeling the pure fire of his soul, and the wet wood dried instantly, then flamed to life. A roaring blaze reached toward the high ceiling of the cave's mouth. Ethan walked toward the front of the cave, so he could peer through the flames toward the back of the cavern.

With a voice full of power, he spoke, his words resounding and fearsome.

"Orpheus, Lord of Music, child of Muse and man, I beseech you," Ethan called. He held his arms out wide as Liz had done, showing his openness as he beckoned to the beyond.

"I call on you as one who has died, one whose soul was guided." Ethan continued, surging with the emotion of his devotion to Caleb. He could feel Caleb's presence there, the last place on Earth where Caleb had been alive. He drew on the strength from that presence, let it fill him with the conviction he needed.

"You will answer my call, Orpheus, as it was answered on my behalf. You will grant me the soul of my love. You will grant me the resurrection of Caleb Nield!" Ethan roared, his words bouncing off the walls and making them shake. The whole Earth seemed to respond to the power of Ethan's decree.

The fire went out as quickly as it had started, and where it had burned, a man in a black suit and tie stood in its place. He wore a guitar on his back and sported long, chestnut-brown hair. "You called?" Orpheus asked, his eyes flashing with annoyance.

Ethan reached deep within himself, pulling on every ounce of binding magic he knew, and the rock exploded beneath Orpheus' feet. As the dust cleared, it revealed a perfect circle carved into the stone, a circle built of ancient Sumerian runes. A binding circle more ancient than Orpheus himself.

Ethan smirked and opened his mouth to begin listing his demands, but Orpheus waved him away with the back of his hand. The air picked Ethan up and carried him hard into a tree, where he landed in a heap. "Pesky warlock," Orpheus growled, "I'm in the middle of something, and I won't have you messing it up."


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