In a small clearing of trees not far from the Route 85 Rest Stop #14, three men and a woman stood staring at each other. Rocky Lopes and Verity Fields stood on one side. Ozzie Gomez and Perseus Onri on the other. Between them was a hastily assembled shrine, a heavy leather book with the Sioux Falls Library sticker still on the spine, and more than a fair bit of animosity. At every motorcycle growl or roar of a truck that managed to cut through the trees to find them, Rocky and Verity cut nervous glances back toward the rest stop and the road. If their superiors knew they were here, they would be, at best, fired. More likely killed. Ozzie and Perseus were considerably more relaxed. If Rocky and Verity didn’t succeed at killing them at the end of this (they both knew the attempt would come), the two of them planned to tell everyone they had ever met.
Verity cleared her throat and tossed her braid back over her shoulder.
“All that’s left is the spell, right?”
“It’s not a spell, it’s-”
But Ozzie cut off as Perseus put a hand on his arm. They had lost count of how many times they had been over this with the two hunters, and it was near impossible to tell if they were only pretending not to get it just to piss them off, or if they really were this dense. Ozzie took a short, controlled breath while Perseus nodded.
“Yes, all that’s left is the invocation,” Perseus said. He began to reach for the book. “These have been a specialty of mine, so-”
Verity and Rocky had their guns out and trained on the heatherheart’s hands before Perseus could even get close to the book. He took a step back, hands up, knowing Ozzie had his own gun out without even looking behind him. Perseus didn’t carry a gun for the simple reason that he thought they were stupid.
“No way no how we are letting one of you read from that book,” Rocky said.
“What? Why on earth not?” Perseus asked, hands still up. Just because he thought guns were stupid didn’t mean he didn’t recognize their lethality.
“There’s other spells in that spell book,” Verity said.
“You could summon something else,” Rocky said. “Or turn us into toads.”
Perseus snorted. “Kind of redundant, don’t you think?”
Their grips around their precious guns tightened. Ozzie took two cautious steps forward, getting between his friend and these two incomprehensible hunters.
“Okay, okay. Let’s all stop putting coal on the fire,” he said, cutting his eyes between everyone one at a time. “We’re all here for the same thing, right? So let’s get this done and never have to see each other again. Perseus, if they want to read from the book, let them.”
Perseus opened his mouth to argue and only stopped when he saw Ozzie wink at him. It only took a couple of seconds for Perseus to know exactly what Ozzie was thinking and realize he was right.
“Fine,” Perseus said. “Your show, your script. We’ll just…stand here, then.”
The guns went away in quick, twitchy motions, Verity and Rocky doing a damn fine job of showing just how quick they would be to pull again in the future. The two nodded at each other, and then Verity stepped into the middle of the clearing, pulled her braid so it was back over her shoulder, and picked up the book. Upon opening to where the bookmark with the cartoon owl was, she frowned.
“This is in English,” she said, looking up at Ozzie and Perseus like they had laid a trap. Never mind the hunters were the one to find the book.
“And?” Ozzie asked.
“And spells aren’t in English,” Verity said. “You picked the wrong one. Or something.”
“All of the magic in that book is in English,” Ozzie said. “You’ve been watching too many movies. It has to be in your language, so you know what you’re asking for. Do you speak Latin?”
Verity and Rocky exchanged a glance. They didn’t believe Ozzie. Didn’t trust him. And that was fine. Ozzie didn’t trust them, either. But, of the four people there, two had practical experience with magic while the other two were basing everything they knew off the movies and television they had watched. Rocky shrugged. Verity rolled her eyes and went back to the book. She cleared her throat, and began a slow, flat incantation.
“Frigga. Goddess of foresight and wisdom. Goddess of love and motherhood. We honor you, and ask of you to join us. Bring unto us your beauty and your talent. Be among us and receive praise, and answer the questions we have of the universe. Come to us, oh goddess, and bring us joy.”
Verity looked up from the book. She frowned. She and Rocky began looking around the little clearing, waiting for any sort of sign of the goddess. Nothing had changed. From the highway, a blaring horn made the two jump. But the blaring horn was not the goddess. The two finally looked to Ozzie and Perseus, both wearing looks that managed to be bemused and unsurprised at the same time.
“See, Oz,” Perseus said. “This is what abstinence-only education gets you.”
“That should have worked,” Verity said. “Why didn’t it work?”
Both Verity and Rocky reached for their guns and Ozzie and Perseus rolled their eyes.
“Why is it always guns with you?” Ozzie asked. “Put those damned things away, I’m not reaching for mine.”
“You don’t know what you’re doing and you did it wrong,” Perseus said. He put his hand out for the book. Verity only stared at him.
“We built the shrine and we read the words of the spell. She has to come!”
Perseus sighed loudly enough that a squirrel crossing the edge of the clearing stopped to watch.
“She is a goddess. She has to do nothing. And for the last ridiculous time, this is not a spell. This is an invocation. And invitation! You have to spice it up, baby, make it seem worth their while. And get their attention. I doubt Frigga even heard you with that hum drum delivery. Now, give me that, and let me get it done. Like I said, this shit is my specialty.”
Verity and Rocky looked to Ozzie, who nodded.
“Why do you think I brought him?”
She shoved the book into Perseus hands, practically bending them back. With a glare, Perseus turned the book around and looked over the words. He read them to himself three times, the last time whispering them and toying around with his enunciation. Then, he shut the book and handed it to Ozzie. Verity and Rocky looked at him in confusion. Ozzie only held up a finger. Wait for it.
“Frigga!” Perseus shouted, making the others jump back and reach for their guns. He read out something close to the same words Verity had, only with far greater enthusiasm, his tongue rolling over the words, shouting them to the heavens, his hands and arms moving wildly yet gracefully.
“GODDESS of foresight and wisdom. Goddess of LOVE and motherhood. We honor you, and ask of you to come on down, baby girl. Bring unto us your shining beauty and your engaging talent. Have a drink with us and let us tell you just how much we love you in great detail. And if you’ve got an extra minute, answer the questions we have of the universe. We’re bored, sugar, and need you to liven things up for us.”
Verity and Rocky didn’t even get a chance to be skeptical. He was only halfway through his reading when the wind started to pick up, and began to spin around the little clearing. Lightning flashed in a blue sky, and then Perseus finished and everything was quiet.
“Perseus Onri,” said the new woman. “You tease.”
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