Where Angels Dare to Tread
by Cori Falls
Chapter 8 -- Paper Treasures
James, Meowth, and Gary arrived at the cabin without incident after a swift, five-minute ride on Blaze. Once they were inside, they locked the door, and James wasted no time in going to the bedroom to check on Jessie. Weezing and Victreebel were standing guard at the window and door, and Arbok and Wobbuffet were on either side of the bed, watching over the still comatose Jessie and weeping softly.
"Hey, guys. Did anything happen while we were out?" James asked as he seated himself on the edge of the bed and took Jessie's cold hand in his own.
The four pokemon nodded.
About an hour ago, we heard a weird voice, commanding us to kill you. We knew it was that evil queen, so we resisted, Wobbuffet replied. I guess she's not strong enough to control pokemon who already have trainers yet....
James nodded, too. "We were attacked by wild pokemon on our way back from town, but Articuno wasn't affected. He fought off a flock of Murkrow. He was too exhausted to do anything when the Houndour and Ursarings came after us, but fortunately, Gary showed up and helped chase them away before anything bad happened."
Wobbuffet shuddered. A bunch of wild Ursarings and Fearow started snooping around the cabin after we heard Ayesha's voice. They looked like they were setting up some kind ambush for you, he continued. But while we were thinking of a way to get rid of them...or at least warn you about the danger, we heard this ungodly noise. It sounded like a Houndoom's Roar, only a lot louder and scarier! It creeped us out, but it also chased all of the wild pokemon away!
"Dat was Jimmy's doin'," said Meowth, who was standing in the doorway with Gary.
Arbok, Weezing, Wobbuffet, and Victreebel gave the cat a quizzical look.
Meowth grinned and seated himself next to James. He then proceeded to tell the story of how James's magical abilities had been awakened, and how James had used his newfound powers to create illusions. The pokemons' blood ran cold as they listened to the account of the wild pokemon attacking James and Meowth, Gary coming to the rescue in the nick of time, and James drawing inspiration from Houndoom's Roar to weave his spell...and everybody got a laugh out of hearing how James had gotten rid of Ash by creating an illusion of a basilisk and sending the twerp on a wild goose-chase.
When Meowth finished relating the tale, Gary stepped into the room and came to the side of the bed. "This is almost exactly like the vision I had," he muttered as he looked down at Jessie. "She was in pain...and there was nothing we could do to help her...."
James got back to his feet and placed a hand on Gary's shoulder. "Then almost is the key word because we are going to help Jessie!" he told him. "I'm going to save her, Gary...or die trying. And it'll be because you, and Meowth, and the pokemon helped me. We won't let Ayesha return to this world, and we sure as hell won't abandon Jessie to torment and death. No matter what."
Gary sniffled and brushed away the tears that were welling up in his eyes. "You're right...."
"Speaking of which, I need to start reading grand-mama's books," James continued. "The sooner I can protect us from Ayesha's magic...and the sooner I figure out what spells I need to rescue Jessie, the better."
"Of course," Gary said, bringing his backpack from beneath his rain-soaked cape and producing Rose Morgan's diary and Book of Shadows.
James took the books from Gary and smiled. A warm, comforting sensation filled him as he fingered the smooth silk and rough leather of their covers. He felt as if the spirit of Rose Morgan was there with them, and in his heart, James knew that she was. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Don't mention it," Gary replied. "I just wish I could do something more to help."
"Hey! I know somethin' you can do!" Meowth piped up. "You can whip us up some breakfast while Jimmy's studyin'!"
"Meowth! Don't be rude!" James reproached him.
"What?! I'm starvin'!" the cat said defensively.
Gary laughed. "Don't worry -- I'd be glad to make breakfast. Besides, I'm starving, too!"
"And I'll feed all the pokemon and get 'em patched up while yer cookin'," Meowth volunteered.
"Sounds like a plan to me!" said Gary.
James smiled again and handed Articuno's poke ball to Meowth. "Thanks, guys."
"No prob," Meowth replied as he took the poke ball. Then, to the other four pokemon, "Come on. Let's give James some peace and quiet and get somethin' ta eat."
Once Meowth, Gary, and the pokemon had taken their leave, James stretched himself out and removed his trenchcoat, boots, and gloves. Then, he set his safe-deposit box at the foot of the bed and picked up his grand-mama's books again. Seating himself at Jessie's side once more, James opened the Book of Shadows and began leafing through the pages.
As James skimmed through the book, he saw that Rose had arranged all of her spells by category and that she had appendices on plant lore, color symbolism for candles and stones, incense properties, and various other things.
Heh. It's like a magic cookbook! he mused.
At length, James found the chapter on protective magic. There were spells for strengthening one's psychic shield, spells for binding troublemakers, and there was even a spell for purifying and protecting a living area.
After studying the spell for a few minutes, James closed his eyes and recalled the ritual he'd seen his grand-mama perform in his dream. Once he had a clear mental image of the details, he set the book down and scanned the room. Presently, his gaze drifted to a small chest of drawers along the far wall.
A smile spread across his lips. I think I just found my altar, he said to himself.
Clearing everything off the top of the bureau, James pulled it to the middle of the room so that it would be inside the magic circle when he was ready to cast his spells. Then, he opened the safe-deposit box again and brought out all of the tools that his grand-mama had used in his initiation ceremony.
Once he'd arranged the candles, charcoal, incense, cauldron, sword, dagger, goblets, and wand the way he'd seen them in his dream, James turned his attention back to the safe-deposit box so that he could study the remainder of its contents more thoroughly. In addition to the colored stones and candles and incenses in every fragrance imaginable, there were also several vials of essential oils and jars of dried herbs. One of those herbs was powdered betony -- a key component in the protective spell he needed to cast.
While he was setting the jar of betony on the altar with the rest of his tools, James heard a soft knock at the door. Then, Meowth stepped into the room.
"Gary wanted me ta tell ya dat breakfast is almost ready. He found some Jiffy Mix in the pantry, so he's makin' pancakes. And dere's hash browns and orange juice ta go with 'em!" the cat said.
As if on cue, the aroma of pancakes and hash browns wafted into the room, making James's stomach growl. "It sounds...and smells really good!"
Meowth nodded. "I gave all the pokemon dere breakfast, too," he continued. "Now dey're takin' a nap."
"How's Articuno?" James asked.
"He and Blaze were pretty worn out, but I spritzed 'em with some healin' potion and gave 'em some extra food. Dey'll be fine once dey get some rest," Meowth replied.
James nodded approvingly and went back to taking inventory of the items in the safe-deposit box. "I'll be ready in a few minutes," he said.
"How goes the research?" Meowth queried.
"Pretty well. I found a protective spell that I can use to keep the cabin safe if and when Ayesha tries to attack us on this plane again," James told him. "But I still have to figure out what spells I'm going to need when I face her on the Astral Plane -- I'll have to read grand-mama's journal for that, no doubt."
"Yeah," Meowth agreed. "Dere's still a lotta work ta do, but it looks like it's all comin' tagedda!"
"It feels like it is, too," James remarked. "A few hours ago, I felt so helpless...lost...confused...."
"And now?" Meowth ventured.
James smiled. "Now I don't. I'm still afraid, but I feel more centered...more in control of myself. Grand-papa always used to tell me that having true courage doesn't mean never feeling fear -- it means being afraid of something and facing it anyway. I think he's right -- the thought of confronting Ayesha still scares the hell out of me, but nothing is going to stop me from doing it. And now, I feel like I actually have the power to stand up to her...and that makes all the difference."
As James continued to go through the box, he lifted the velvet cloth that was covering the items at the very bottom. He gasped when he saw what they were.
"What is it, James?" Meowth asked nervously.
Tears welled up in James's emerald eyes as he reached into the box and pulled out an old blackthorn walking-stick and two large leather-bound books. "It's...it's grand-papa's shillelagh...and his copies of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings!" he whispered. "I played with this shillelagh all the time when I was a tot! And I love these books so much -- he and grand-mama used to read them to me whenever I came to visit! I didn't think I'd ever see them again!"
Meowth gave him a quizzical look. "Whaddaya talkin' about, Jim? Ya got a set a books just like dose -- I've seen 'em!"
James hugged the books to his chest and wiped away a tear that was spilling down his cheek. "I know. The copies I have are from Jessie -- I told her about these books when we first became friends, so she bought a set just like them and gave them to me for Christmas a few years ago."
"So, now ya got two identical sets a books?"
"It's not so much the books themselves -- it's the sentimental value...even though these are some really great stories," James informed him. "I'm just glad to have grand-papa's books again...to know that they didn't get lost or destroyed when he died...."
"Dat makes sense," said Meowth.
When James ran his fingers along the red leather cover of Jim Morgan's old copy of Lord of the Rings, he felt like he was a child again, sitting on his grand-papa's lap and listening intently as the old man read to him.
If I'd only known what adventures were in store for me when I listened to these stories so long ago, James said to himself. Jessie and I always used to compare ourselves to Frodo and Sam -- two little Hobbits who stuck together no matter what...who went into the darkness of Mordor together...and emerged from it together. I suppose we do have that in common with them, yet how differently our own adventure is turning out to be from theirs....
As James opened the book, an envelope slid from between the pages and landed on the floor.
"Hey! What's dat?" Meowth asked.
James picked up the envelope and saw that it had his name written on it in Jim Morgan's neat, curving script. A smile spread across his lips when he opened the envelope and read the paper that was inside. Grand-papa, you and grand-mama never cease to amaze me! he thought.
"Well, what is it?!" Meowth cried. The cat looked like he was ready to explode from anticipation.
James smiled again and put the paper back in the envelope. Then, he put the envelope back inside the cover of Lord of the Rings. "I'll tell you later," he replied. "Right now, getting this cabin protected...and getting breakfast is more important."
"Can't argue with dat," Meowth conceded.
After putting the Tolkien books and the shillelagh back in the box, James read over the protection spell one more time. Then, he placed a cone of fern incense into the burner and lit it up. Picking the burner up by its chains, James gently swung it back and forth so that the smoke could fill the air. As he began to walk clockwise around the room, he lightly sprinkled some of the powdered betony along the perimeter and a heavier coating on the windowsills and door thresholds. Then, he began to chant:
Protect the place wherein I dwell,
From every power dark and fell.
No hurt nor harm can enter here,
My path and way are now made clear.
Once the incense had burned down, James placed a new cone into the censer and ignited it. Then, he repeated the process in all the other rooms of the cabin. By the time he was finished, the air was thick with smoke.
Meowth covered his mouth with his paws and coughed. "Are ya sure dis'll work, Jimmy?"
"Yes," James replied as he returned to the bedroom and placed all of his tools back on the makeshift altar. "In grand-mama's appendix on plant lore, it says that the smoke from ferns creates an extremely powerful wall of protection, and betony is used for warding off evil as well. As long as this spell lasts, nothing that Ayesha does will be able to harm anybody or anything in this cabin...and if any pokemon under her control does manage to get inside, her powers over it will be negated, and it won't be a threat to us anymore!"
"I'll take yer word for it, James," said Meowth. "Though I still don't see how a buncha smoke, some tea leaves, and a little poem can have dat much power."
James placed a hand on the cat's shoulder. "It's not the smoke, tea leaves, and poem in and of themselves that have the power -- it's the faith of the person who uses them," he explained. "Magical power doesn't come from the tools -- it comes from within...from really and truly believing that you can call upon the forces of the universe to make things happen."
James smiled. "Come on. Since we're safe...for the moment, let's get something to eat."
Now Meowth was smiling, too. "Yeah!"
"You're just in time," Gary said, joining in on the conversation. "Breakfast is ready."
"All right!" Meowth cheered as he ran to the kitchen and filled his plate with pancakes and hash browns.
James chuckled and joined Meowth at the table. "Thanks, Gary. This was a big help."
"No problem. We all need to eat, and you had more important things to do than cook," Gary replied as he filled his own plate with food. "Speaking of which, what are your plans for rescuing Jessie?"
"I'm not sure yet," James told him. He took a bite of his pancakes and dabbed his mouth with a napkin. "I'm going to read grand-mama's journal after breakfast. Hopefully, learning how she and your grandma thwarted Ayesha forty years ago will give me the answers I need."
Gary nodded and took a sip of orange juice. "Good idea."
Meowth paused, a forkful of hash browns en route to his mouth. "Yeah, but you ain't gonna have it as easy as dey did, Jimmy," he reminded him. "All dey had ta do was resist Ayesha's call -- you've actually gotta fight her."
"True," James conceded. "But the point is, they were able to defend themselves from her. Grand-mama said that Ayesha preys on desires and fears...and that she and Vivien protected themselves by using a psychic shield. I saw a spell for that in grand-mama's book, so I know how to defend myself. It's just a matter of figuring out how to fight her."
Once the three friends finished eating, Gary and Meowth volunteered to wash the dishes and clean up the kitchen. After washing his hands and face, James returned to the bedroom to resume his studies. He frowned as he looked out the window. The rain was driving down harder than ever, and the wind was whipping through the forest with the force of a hurricane. In the dark underbrush, he could see dozens of red eyes glowing like hot coals.
James shuddered and drew the curtains. "I knew it was only a matter of time before Ayesha sent more pokemon after us," he muttered. "I just hope grand-mama's spell is enough to keep them at bay."
As he turned on the lamp on the nightstand, James looked at the clock and frowned again. Eleven o'clock. I've only got thirteen hours left....
Banishing the unsettling thoughts from his head, James picked up Rose Morgan's diary and seated himself next to Jessie again. After thumbing through the pages for a moment, he found the entries that his grand-mama had written forty years ago at the dig in Yew and began to read....
October 21, 1961
After three days of travel, James and I have arrived at an archaeological site which is rumored to be of great historical significance. We have accompanied our good friends, Samuel and Vivien Oak, on this expedition in hopes of helping them discover what secrets this ruined city holds.
Samuel recently came across an ancient tablet while doing research on the bonds that humans and pokemon share. When he translated the glyphs on the tablet, it revealed the story of Yew -- a great city nestled in the mountains of western Johto. According to the tablet, Ayesha, the Queen of Yew, used an enchanted staff to control the minds of pokemon and bend them to her will. The queen also wore a golden mask over her face, adding to the fierceness of her countenance. The tablet went on to reveal that Ayesha had been forbidden by the gods from using her powers outside the boundaries of her city, thus ensuring that she could not abuse her powers and enslave all pokemon...and humanity as well. When Ayesha died, her staff and mask were hidden in a temple beneath her city, so that her enemies would never be able to find them. Nearly 2,000 years have passed since these events have transpired. History became legend...legend became myth. And now, the four of us are here to discover the truth.
The once proud city of Yew has not withstood the ravages of time. The wood and clay homes of the commoners have all fallen apart, and the mighty queen's stone tower has crumbled to dust. As I write this entry, the setting sun is peeking through the mountains and bathing the world with a blood-red light, making what remains of the buildings look like the skeletons of stone giants slain in battle. I am tempted to remark on how transitory the work of men and women is and that the earth always takes back what is hers in the end, yet I cannot. No flowers or trees...no plants of any sort grow here. Even though the ruins are surrounded by lush meadows and forests, the land within the boundaries of the city is barren, as if Mother Nature is afraid to take it back...and that does not bode well with me. For if the Great Mother fears something, what, then, should we mortals fear as well?
-- Rose Morgan
October 22, 1961
I believe I have discovered the reason for my unease. After I went to bed last night, I heard a strange voice calling to me...a woman's voice from somewhere within the ruins. Curiosity piqued, I looked out the flap of the tent and saw that we were no longer among the ruins -- the city of Yew had been miraculously restored to its former glory! Compelled to find out what was going on, I left the tent. When I followed the voice and traced it to its source, I found myself in an immense underground temple. A statue of Queen Ayesha loomed above me, and the voice was beckoning me to take the staff from the statue's hand and don the golden mask. Suddenly, visions of myself using the staff and mask to control pokemon and transform the barren wasteland of Yew's ruins into a verdant paradise appeared in my mind's eye, and the voice promised that this would be my reward if I helped her. I must admit I was tempted, but I kept my wits about me -- there was only one who ever used the staff and mask...and she did not share power. My suspicions were confirmed when I left the temple and saw a woman chasing after me -- a woman whose countenance matched the descriptions of Ayesha. When I reached the boundaries of the city, I awoke in a cold sweat and found myself back in my tent. Unable to go back to sleep, I looked outside and saw that it was dawn...and that the great city of Yew was nothing but ruins again.
I have spoken to James about my dream. He felt the same unease that I did when we arrived in Yew, but no nightmares have plagued his sleep. Whether the city truly is haunted by the spirit of Queen Ayesha, or my mind is only playing tricks on me is still not clear. We shall not yet speak of this to Samuel and Vivien. Not until we know more. I do not wish to jeopardize a legitimate search for knowledge if my fears are ungrounded. But by that same token, I do not wish to remain silent and put anybody in danger if my fears are merited. I shall wait...but I shall also remain on guard.
-- Rose Morgan
October 23, 1961
It is as I have feared. Last night, I had the same dream, where Ayesha's spirit beckoned me to the temple and implored me to wield her staff and don her mask. This is no groundless fear -- something evil lies beneath this city, and our presence has awakened it.
James and I have voiced our concerns to Vivien, and she has confirmed my suspicions. She, too, has been plagued by the nightmares of Ayesha calling to her. She agrees that it would be folly to explore these ruins any further. Like the Dwarves who dug too deeply and awoke the shadow and flame beneath Moria, I fear it will be no different for us if we continue on our present course.
Tonight, Vivien and I shall prepare a spell to strengthen our psychic shield and deafen us to Ayesha's call. We cannot cast our spell until tomorrow -- the night of the full moon -- but we shall remain on guard at all times. Vivien has also agreed to speak with her husband and convince him to call off the dig. I know Samuel does not believe in our ways, and it will pain him to abandon this endeavor, but I also know that he respects Vivien and will take heed of what she has to say.
I can only hope that it will be enough....
-- Rose Morgan
October 24, 1961
Last night, Vivien and I prepared our spell. We sprinkled a circle of elder blossom, marjoram, mint, and rue around my cauldron and mixed the oils of clove, frankincense, jasmine, and lavender in a vial. Now we must simply wait until the moon has risen.
Our nightmares persist, but as long as there is no passage to Ayesha's temple, we are safe. As I predicted, Samuel is loath to abandon this search, but he has agreed to stop the dig for the moment. There is still a slight chance that this phantasm is little more than the stuff of nightmares, but I am not counting on it.
I wish that we could leave now and return home, but we cannot. Vivien and I must learn all we can of this danger so that we may be in a better position to protect others from it. Ayesha yearns for life again -- she will call to others if we elude her grasp...and others may not be able to resist the call. Any victory we have over her now will be hollow if we do nothing to prevent her from claiming another victim in the future.
And so we shall remain in Yew, for at least one more night. May the Goddess be with us in this hour of darkness....
-- Rose Morgan
October 25, 1961
It is done. After taking purifying baths and robing ourselves in white, Vivien and I cast our magic circle and asked the Goddess for her protection. As we anointed ourselves with oil, suits of shimmering blue armor appeared on our bodies, and a feeling of security filled our entire beings. The Goddess had answered us! And so, with our bodies safely inside the magic circle and our minds shielded from Ayesha's call, Vivien and I let our souls venture one more time into the Astral World within the boundaries of Yew.
The journey was not a pleasant one. Ayesha knew that we were not there to answer her call, so she tried to take us by force. We did not fear for ourselves, as the sacred fires kept her at bay, but rather, we feared for any who might come after us. This is no mere ghost -- Ayesha is an entity filled with anger, pride, malice, and greed. She yearns not only for life, but for another chance to be queen and circumvent the will of the gods...and she will stop at nothing to get what she wants.
In a desperate attempt to silence her, Vivien and I cast another spell and sent back the evil which radiated from Ayesha's spirit. She has been bound and driven back into shadow for the moment, but our spell will not last forever. We must do what we can to prevent others from hearing her call, and we must remain ever vigilant.
When we awoke this morning, we spoke to James and Samuel about what we have learned. James understands all too well the reason for our fears. And although Samuel remains skeptical, he did not hesitate to call off the dig. He knows that when Vivien speaks, it is wise to listen, and he trusts both my judgement and James's. He has promised to inform his colleagues that the tale of Queen Ayesha's enchanted staff and mask is, indeed, nothing more than a myth and that nothing can be found within the ruins. Meanwhile, James and I will not fund any further endeavors to explore the ruins of Yew.
I wish that we could explain our reasons for discouraging others from coming to this place...I wish to the God and Goddess that we could! But who would believe us and not think us mad if we spoke the truth? It is cruel indeed that we live in an age where science and reason have complete dominion, and magic is considered nothing more than the stuff of fantasy. Those of us who still believe in magic are few and far between, thus few are the people who would listen to the truth...few are the people who could protect themselves from this danger. Therefore, Samuel, Vivien, James, and I shall do everything in our power to keep the evil beneath Yew from being unleashed...even if it means perpetuating a falsehood.
As I write this entry, we are breaking camp and making preparations to return home. I am glad to be leaving these ruins, yet I remain ill at ease. We are but four mortals, and this evil is ancient. In my heart, I fear that after our time on this earth has ended, Ayesha will awaken again and find a world that cannot defend itself from her. I fear that the next victim Ayesha chooses will be one who is not aware of the danger...for there will be another who hears the call.
Vivien and I may have won the battle today, but the war is far from over. I only pray that evil will not emerge victorious when it ends.
-- Rose Morgan
October 26, 1961
After leaving the ruins of Yew, Samuel, Vivien, James, and I spent the night in a nearby town called Rowandale. Before going to bed last night, I steeped rose petals in my tea and asked the Goddess to reveal that which has not yet come to pass to me -- I asked for a vision of the next time Ayesha awakens.
And now, I must admit I am more ill at ease than ever. In the dream the Goddess gave to me, I saw a young man being tormented by Ayesha. His emerald eyes were filled with anguish, as if he had just lost part of his soul...he looked as if the beatings he was receiving from Ayesha were nothing compared to the pain in his heart...and it broke my heart to behold. I know not who this man is, but he is my husband's twin in appearance. Perhaps he is one of our descendants. I know that Ayesha will not soon forget how Vivien and I have eluded her. Now I fear the Goddess is warning me that Ayesha will seek revenge on us when she awakens...and that one of my flesh and blood will be the target of her vengeance.
Whoever this man is, I pray for him. I pray that the vision will not come to pass as I have seen it. I pray that if he is, indeed, descended from me, then he will be able to protect himself as I have.
-- Rose Morgan
As James read the entry about Rose's vision, he felt a chill run up his spine. "G-grand-mama had a dream about me before I was even born! She knew all along that this was going to happen!" he whispered. He closed his eyes and thought for a moment. "I wonder if she recognized me as the person in her dream when I was born."
Suddenly, James felt compelled to skim ahead and see if there was an entry on the day of his birth. When he saw that there was, he continued to read....
January 29, 1983
What a joyous day this is! After thirteen long hours of labor, Judith has given birth to a beautiful baby boy! Quentin has spent most of his time pacing up and down the hall (though he and the butler, Hopkins, did bring a television set into the birthing room last night so that Judy could watch the new episode of "Remington Steele"), but James and I have not left our daughter's side since the contractions began. The nurses have washed, weighed, and measured the baby (7 pounds 10 ounces, and 23 inches long) and given him a thorough examination and a clean bill of health. Now, he is swaddled in a blue blanket and resting in his mother's arms. And even his father has come back into the room to admire him.
I can safely say, bias of a doting grandmother aside, that he is a special child indeed. He is surprisingly active and alert, and he is picture-perfect in appearance...which is a rarity for newborn babies. He already has a full head of hair, which is a soft blue-violet color, and his eyes are a deep shade of green, like two glittering emeralds. Judith and Quentin have named him James Eric, after their fathers. It seems appropriate that my James is the baby's namesake, since they look so much alike.
And yet, as I write this entry and watch the baby gazing adoringly at his parents and drinking his mother's milk, I feel myself overcome by a strange unease. Visions of a nightmare I had long ago have come unbidden to my mind. I had this nightmare over twenty-one years ago, after James and I accompanied our friends, Samuel and Vivien Oak, on an archaeological dig in the ruined city of Yew. During our exploration of the ruins, Vivien and I encountered a malevolent spirit, and she was none too happy when we eluded her grasp and drove her back into the darkness from whence she came. On the night we left the city, I asked the Goddess for a vision of the next time Ayesha awoke, and I received it.
I will never forget what I saw in that nightmare -- a young man who looked exactly like my husband, screaming in agony as Ayesha tortured him. And now, as I look at my newborn grandson and see the striking resemblance he bears to his grandfather, I know in my heart that he is the man I saw in that vision. It pains me to think of such a happy and beautiful child, destined for such a cruel fate, but if there is one thing the ancient ones teach, it is that the power to control our destinies is in our hands.
And so I vow to take this matter into my own hands. I do not doubt that my grandson will encounter Ayesha someday -- he will be a target if she seeks to take revenge on me. But I shall do everything within my power to ensure that the vision will not come to pass as I have seen it. I cannot force my grandson to become a follower of my religion -- he must choose it of his own accord. But I shall speak openly and frankly to him about the old ways and encourage his curiosity. I only hope that if and when his path crosses with Ayesha's, he will have the power to protect himself.
Quentin and Judith are holding hands and whispering tender words to each other, and James is now cradling the baby. He has wriggled his arms free of the swaddling and closed one of his tiny hands around the loose wisp of blue-gray hair that hangs in my husband's face. Little James giggles and coos happily as his grandfather kisses his forehead and tickles him with his brushy mustache. There is a true gentleness about the child, and as I look into his glittering green eyes, I see intelligence and curiosity...and a strength of both body and character. Yes, James Eric Woodson, born at ten fifteen in the morning on this twenty-ninth day of January, 1983 is, indeed, a special person. I have every confidence that he will have the power to triumph over any adversity fate puts in his path.
Ah! I see that James is now handing the baby to me. I shall bring this entry to a close and hold my new grandson. May the God and Goddess bless him and be with him always.
-- Rose Morgan
James felt himself overwhelmed by emotion as he read his grand-mama's account of his birth. He chuckled at the thought of his dad and Hopkins carrying a television set into the birthing room so that his mom could watch Remington Steele (he remembered how she'd always had a thing for Pierce Brosnan), and he found it touching to read about how his mom had held him during his first moments of life and his dad had admired him...yet at the same time, he couldn't help but feel a little sad.
"Mom and dad loved me! They were happy when I was born! So, what happened?" he wondered.
Brushing away the tears that were filling his eyes, James looked back at the passages Rose had written about him and his grand-papa and smiled again. "Oh, well. At least my grandparents always loved me," he said. "If mom and dad lost interest in me or stopped caring, then that's their problem, not mine. Grand-mama is right -- I'm not stupid, or a failure. I just refused to be Quentin and Judith's accessory. If that makes me a disappointment in their eyes, then so be it. I'd rather remain true to myself and be scorned than live a lie and be accepted."
Once he'd banished all of his parents' old messages of failure and rejection from his mind, James found himself more intrigued than ever by the entries in his grand-mama's diary. He knew that Rose had given her books to Vivien for safekeeping when he was a baby, so he knew that some event that took place during his infancy must have given her some indication that he was going to become a follower of the old ways...and he wanted to know what it was. So, he skimmed ahead to the final entry in the book....
July 31, 1983
It has been a most eventful...and unusual day. Yet, I know that all I have borne witness to has transpired for a reason. Now more than ever, I believe that my grandson, James, is destined to follow the ancient paths of wisdom. If what happened today is any indication, he has made his choice.
Now that James is six months of age, Judith and Quentin decided to have him Christened. Even though my husband and I are not Baptist as they are, we accompanied them to church this morning in order to attend the ceremony. Quentin's parents, Eric and Miranda Woodson, were there as well. In fact, Judith and Quentin advertized the Christening ceremony of their son as if it were one of their many social events, and all of their friends and associates had come. Practically the entire town of Lilac Falls was in attendance!
The service proceeded normally enough, with opening prayers, the preacher's sermon interspersed with the singing of hymns, and closing prayers. It was not until the Christening ceremony, which began after the regular service, that things took a strange turn. The baby had spent the entire morning sleeping peacefully in my husband's arms, but when Judith and Quentin brought little James to the front of the church, he began to cry and scream as never before. To the casual observer, such an occurance could be easily dismissed as normal behavior for a baby who finds himself in a frightening new situation. But I am no casual observer -- I know my grandson well enough to know that he is a quiet and reserved baby who is not given to fussing, even when faced with something unfamiliar or uncomfortable.
Judith and Quentin tried desperately to calm their crying baby as the preacher began his prayers, but to no avail. And as the preacher brought forth the basin of sacred water and prepared to anoint his head, James cried louder than ever and started to struggle. During the commotion, he kicked the basin from the preacher's hands and spilled the water all over the floor. Without the sacred water, the ceremony could not continue, and an extremely mortified Judith and Quentin apologized profusely to the preacher and the congregation for their son's behavior. When they returned to their seats, they handed little James to me, and his crying gave way to soft, happy cooing once again.
But strangest of all was the expression on James's face as he gazed up at me. When I looked into his green eyes, I saw a level of awareness uncharacteristic of an infant. He seemed to be telling me that he knew what he had done, and that he had done it for a reason. It was as if he were rejecting his parents' plan for him...as if he were telling them that a choice as monumental as which religion he should follow was not theirs to make.
Normal folk would doubtless think me mad for such speculation, but I know what I saw. James never acts up the way I had seen him do today -- it cannot be denied that some mysterious force is at work! Upon returning home, I spoke to Jim of this matter, and he is in agreement. He, too, found James's behavior unusual. And he, too, saw the look of deliberateness in the boy's eyes.
Already we can tell that our grandson has a fiercely independent spirit. His parents have his entire life mapped out for him -- they want him to follow the religion of their choosing, to marry the woman of their choosing, to mold him into their narrow idea of perfection...in short, to stifle his true self and prevent him from blossoming into the person he is supposed to be. But if what happened today is any indication, James will not allow them to have their way. The path that he follows in life is his and his alone to choose. This truth cannot be denied, and James seemed to be telling it to the world today, despite his tender age.
And this makes me all the more confident that he will be open-minded about the ways that Jim and I follow. We dare not force it upon him, as his parents tried to force their ways upon him today, but he is bound to ask questions someday, and we must answer him as openly and honestly as we can. I only hope that our ways can provide him with the answers and the spiritual fulfillment which he will seek.
Again, I find myself recalling the nightmare I had where James was being tormented by the spirit of Ayesha. The ancient ones can give him the power to protect himself from this evil...and perhaps even defeat it when the time comes for their meeting. In the meantime, all I can do is encourage his strength, curiosity, and independence in hopes of preparing him for the battle that lies ahead.
Yet this will not be a simple task. Judith and Quentin will see to that. I do not know what has become of the daughter that Jim and I raised. She used to be as James is now, but she changed when she fell in love. Quentin is an exceedingly conservative man, and over the years, Judith has become exactly like him. She used to follow the ancient paths, just as Jim and I (and irony of ironies, it was even a prayer for true love that she made to the Goddess that led her to meet Quentin), but now she laughs at our ways and dismisses them as little more than fantasies. And Quentin even goes so far as to denounce our ways as sinful and scornfully refers to me and Jim as "a couple of hippies" whenever we are in disagreement. There is not a doubt in my mind that they will not look kindly upon it if James takes an interest in the old ways. And the fact that Jim and I are in the twilight of our years and will not have time to answer all of James's questions once he is old enough to ask them only adds to the challenge.
Thus, I have made a decision. Whether or not James chooses to become a follower of the old ways, he needs to be able to read the passages within this diary someday. He needs to learn of Ayesha and the danger she will pose to him. And if he does choose to follow the ancient paths, he will need the wisdom contained within my Book of Shadows. I know not when my time on this earth will come to an end...or Jim's for that matter -- it could be tomorrow or ten years from now. And I do not trust Judith or Quentin to give our "sinful" Pagan things to James after we have passed on. So, tomorrow morning, I shall pay a visit to my good friend, Vivien. I do not need this journal any longer, as I have run out of pages on which to write, and I have committed everything in my Book of Shadows to memory. I shall entrust these two books to her and know that no matter what happens to me, my knowledge shall be safe on the shelves of the Oak library and ready for James to reclaim when the time is right. I still need my spellcasting tools and will keep them with me until the day I know my demise is imminent, but Jim and I will take steps to safeguard those and ensure that they will be available to James as well.
And so, I bring the final entry of this journal to a close. May the wisdom of the ancient ones bless and protect my young grandson on his life's journey, and may the path that he follows always be of his own choosing.
-- Rose Morgan
When James finished reading the last passage in his grand-mama's diary, a wry smile made its way across his lips. "So, I deliberately sabotaged my own Christening ceremony? No wonder mom and dad always thought I was such an embarrassment -- I was defying them from the get-go!" He chuckled at the thought of himself sleeping peacefully in his grand-papa's arms, then crying and fussing and kicking when his parents took him, and finally calming down again when he was handed to his grand-mama. I always did feel closer to my grandparents, like I took after them more than I did my parents...and I'm glad of it! he said to himself.
As his thoughts drifted back to his grandparents, James found himself reflecting on all he'd learned from them while they were alive...and all that he'd learned just now. He remembered the day he'd gone to visit them after church and spent the afternoon meditating with them in their garden, and how after they'd finished meditating, he'd had a million different questions to ask them...questions which they'd been overjoyed to answer. He remembered how his grand-papa had taught him about plant lore every time they'd walked in the garden, and how his grand-mama had taught him what all the different kinds of incenses were used for every time she burned them and filled their home with the scent they carried. He remembered playing with his grand-mama's collection of colored stones, her crescent moon wand, and her pentacle. At the time, it had seemed like nothing more than simple child's play, but now it all made sense. Jim and Rose Morgan hadn't just been bonding with him and giving him the attention and love he needed -- they'd been filling his mind with important knowledge and allowing him to fill Rose's tools with his energies. They'd known of the challenges that he was going to face during his life, and they'd been helping him prepare for them.
James closed the diary and held it to his chest. "Last night, I told Jessie that I could talk forever about my grandparents and still surprise her. Apparently, they can still surprise me, too!" He ran his fingers along the purple silk cover of the book and felt its smooth texture as he placed it back inside the safe-deposit box. Then, he opened the Book of Shadows once again and looked up all of the spells he was going to need. Now that he knew what he had to do, he had to make sure that he did it right.
While he was studying what the various spells involved, there was a soft knock at the door. "Come in," he said.
After a moment, Gary opened the door, and Meowth walked in, carrying a tray of food.
"I made some lunch," Gary told him. "It's not much -- just some BLTs, but it's almost two. I figured you were hungry."
James nodded and set his book down. "I am. Thank you."
"Dese sammiches are great, Jimmy!" Meowth exclaimed as he handed the tray to James. "Man, I haven't had a good BLT in ages -- dey really hit the spot!"
James picked up one of the sandwiches on his plate. "These really are great BLTs, Gary," he agreed after taking a bite and savoring the crisp bacon, fresh vegetables, and toasty bread. "Thanks again for making them."
Gary smiled and seated himself on the floor next to Meowth. "It was my pleasure."
"Yer cookin's about as good as James's!" Meowth remarked.
"I learned how to cook at a pretty early age," Gary told them. "May and I would always make stuff for grandpa when we visited him since he never learned how -- grandma used to do all the cooking for him before she passed on."
"Dat's awfully nice of you and yer sister," said Meowth.
Gary chuckled. "I remember, after May started attending college, and I left on my pokemon journey, grandpa had to hire a part-time cook. Every time I talk to him on the phone or go back to Pallet for a visit, he tells me how much he misses my cooking, though."
James took another bite of his sandwich. "I can see why."
"Yeah! Food always tastes better when somebody ya care about makes it for ya," Meowth added. "And dis ain't no exception!"
Now Gary was grinning. "Thanks. I'm just glad I can do something to help around here...."
"Hey, I said it before, and I'll say it again -- we're glad yer here, Gary!" Meowth told him. "Aside from bringin' us the books, savin' our lives, and cookin' for us, the moral support really means a lot."
"Meowth is right," said James. "You have no idea how comforting it is to have friends at a time like this."
"Actually, I do," Gary corrected him. "The way we're worried about Jessie now...I felt the same way when Clay and Allison had caught me and were threatening to hurt my family and my pokemon. I remember being so afraid, not so much for myself as for my loved ones...and I hated how I felt helpless to do anything to protect them or myself." He paused for a moment and smiled again. "But that changed when you three showed up. The help and friendship you gave me then meant everything to me. It's good to know that I can return the favor now that the situation is reversed."
James finished his first sandwich and placed a hand on Gary's shoulder. "We didn't expect any kind of reward for helping you, Gary -- we did it because it was the right thing to do...because you didn't deserve to be hurt by those bastards."
"Dat's right!" Meowth chimed in. "And I'd say we couldn't ask for a better reward den bein' friends with you!"
James nodded. "Exactly! You don't owe us anything, Gary," Then, becoming serious again, "Besides, this battle is as much yours as it is ours. While I was reading grand-mama's diary, I saw an entry where she described a dream she had after leaving the ruins of Yew -- she saw a vision of me being tortured by Ayesha. Grand-mama knew that Ayesha would have a grudge against her and Vivien because they escaped...and she knew that we'd be her targets."
Gary placed a hand to his mouth.
"I guess that's just more proof that our friendship was meant to be," James continued. "We're following in our grandparents' footsteps, and now that Ayesha is a threat again, we can stand together against her...and defeat her, just like our grandmothers did."
"Speakin' a which, didja figure out what ya gotta do ta stop Ayesha?" Meowth asked.
"I sure did," came James's reply. "After grand-mama and Vivien created their psychic shield to protect themselves, they cast a binding spell to send Ayesha back into the darkness. I'll have to do the same, but...."
"....But havin' ta save Jess makes it a little more complicated for you," Meowth said, finishing the thought for him.
"Not only that, but whereas grand-mama and Vivien only stopped her temporarily, I'll have to stop her once and for all," James told him. "If I just rescue Jessie and get out of there without doing anything to keep Ayesha from awakening again, then she's going to come back eventually...and she'll seek revenge again. And if it doesn't happen during our lifetimes, then it'll be our children, or our grandchildren who pay the price. I can't let that happen. I just can't...."
"Den whaddaya gonna do?" Meowth queried.
"I'm going to wait until Ayesha opens her gateway to the lower planes. And when I cast my binding spell, I'll try to send her through the gateway and get Jessie to safety. Once Ayesha's soul is in Hell, she'll never be able to return to life or harm anybody or anything again," James explained. "I know it's dicey, but it's the only chance we have for a true victory."
Meowth and Gary shuddered.
"I sure hope you know what yer doin', James," the cat said nervously.
"I hope so, too," James replied. "Because Jessie's life, our lives, and the lives of our posterity are counting on it."
To be Continued....
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