Key: FD, MD, MC, Hypno
It had been three weeks since the cruise ship had dropped off Xander and Veo in Los Angeles. Xander had been randomly driving across country in that time, stopping at various places that seemed to interest him. Today he came across a national park with wide sprawling trails that ran for miles, and a small museum dedicated to the history of the park and the people who had lived there over the centuries.
As he walked through he was drawn to the histories of the native peoples that had lived in this area for centuries before civilization plowed its way through. He was always fascinated by how simple yet sophisticated their cultures were, although what he understood of it fit in a thimble…with room to spare.
He had stopped in front of an exhibit with an authentic teepee, and a canoe from one of the local tribes. As he was bending down to examine it he heard a friendly voice behind him say “Careful, my friend. It may be a bit younger then you are, but it’s still quite old.”
Xander stood, a bit surprised, and looked up to see an old man wearing a park ranger’s uniform. He was clearly Native American with tanned skin, and long black hair kept in a ponytail that Xander could have never mastered. There was a wisdom behind his eyes that was as bright as the smile on his face. “What…what do you mean younger than I am?” he asked a bit nervously.
The old man let out a playful laugh, standing next to Xander as if they were both examining the canoe. “You’re an immortal. I’m not sure what kind, but the years in your eyes go back further than these artifacts. But the pain is recent.”
Xander just blinked at the man with a confused look. “That’s…actually kind of amazing. How did you do that?” he said, genuinely impressed.
The old man simply smiled and gave Xander a sideways look “I told you. I looked into your eyes. Weren’t you paying attention?” Xander and the man shared a laugh as Xander had to admit he had a point. The old man continued… “Coming to nature seems to be one of the ways that people of all kinds find a way to heal, a way to balance. That is why you are here I believe.”
Xander gave a nod “I’m kind of hoping so, honestly. I just got over a rough patch and I’m kind of…searching for my place in this world again. So far I haven't found it.” He said, giving a defeated sigh.
The old man gave a somber, slow nod “Hmmm, that is because in order to find your place, you must first find yourself. Once you have dusted off your spirit everything else will become clearer my boy.”
Xander gave the old man a grin “Shouldn’t I be considered like an honored elder? I mean after all I am older than you…by millenia.”
The old man gave Xander a look dead in the eye and smiled “Are you? Are you really?” he said with a look and a tone that made Xander doubt his assessment almost immediately.
“Well, umm, I think.” he said rather shyly. “Sorry, this whole process just has me off balance. I don’t know what to do to fix it. To fix… me. Do you have any suggestions?”
The old man smiled at him warmly and nodded “Of course I do, I wouldn’t be very good at my job if I didn’t.” He wrapped an arm around Xander’s shoulder and took him outside the museum into the park and pointed to the start of a trail. “This is the hardest and most rugged trail in the park. I want you to walk this trail.”
Xander nodded “Until I find myself.” he replied confidently.
“No…” the old man started with a chuckle “Till you come across the mock up Native camp site that’s down the trail. It’s run by my granddaughter.” he raised his hand and pointed down the trail. “Feisty Squirrel.”
Xander shot the man a sideways look “Your granddaughter is named Feisty Squirrel?”
“What? No! My granddaughter is named Emily. I was pointing out the feisty squirrel, in the tree!” the old man grabbed Xander’s head and angled it so that he could see a squirrel on one of the lower branches walking under the branch to avoid the hawk sitting on the branch.
“Oh…sorry” Xander replied, a little embarrassed. “I thank you for your time, Sir… and your patience” He said honestly as he bowed in respect of the elderly gentleman.
“My pleasure son, I hope you find what you never lost.”
Xander bent down to pick up his pack from the side of the museum and turned to say goodbye, only to find the man was gone. Not a trace of him. He looked around for a minute then smiled and tightened his shoulder strap as he started to walk down the trail.
Several hours later, tired and sweaty, Xander came across the campsite he was told about. There were several teepees and other transportable buildings set up, as well as a rack to dry out meats and a warm fire going. As he approached the site he didn’t see anyone at first until a woman in her early 20’s popped out of the center teepee. She was wearing a pair of ankle boots and skimpy shorts. A long sleeved shirt was tied up around her midriff and her sleeves were rolled up past her elbows. When she turned to him she had a wonderfully playful smile that instantly reminded Xander of the old man. She also had the same black hair, but hers was done in two long braids, one on each side of her head. “You must be Xander” she with a confident voice as she approached him “Grandfather said you’d be coming.”
Xander looked around, confused for a second “How did he tell you that? I’ve been walking for hours, there’s no way he beat me here!”
The young woman raised an eyebrow and held up her cell phone “It’s 20XX, word travels pretty fast, incubus.” She let the last part slip out with a smile like she had just caught him with his fly open.
Xander looked at her a bit surprised. “How…how did you know I was an incubus? Your grandfather knew I was immortal but he didn’t figure out what I was!”
The young woman looked at him with an embarrassed grin and looked down “Your little friend is sticking out.”
Xander immediately and obviously looked straight at his groin to check if his fly was, in fact, open. But it wasn’t. As he looked back up at Emily she smiled and pointed to his right leg. When he looked down sticking out of his right pant leg was the arrowhead tip of his concealed demon tail. The head appeared to be looking Emily up and down even though the tail had no eyes. “Hey!” Xander shouted which caused the tail’s tip to shoot straight up and ‘look’ at his face. “You’re supposed to be hiding!” He shouted again. The tail hung it’s head in shame then quickly shot back into his pants hard enough to make Xander jerk and grunt in pain before covering it up as quickly as he could, looking at Emily with a smile.
Emily giggled like a schoolgirl “Subtle. I bet my grandfather wouldn’t have been so eager to send you up here if he knew you were a sex demon.” She said with a wink.
It was Xander’s turn to look a little embarrassed. “Yeah, probably not, I’m… I’m sorry. I hope that won’t be a problem?” he asked genuinely.
The question stopped Emily in her tracks. She didn’t say a word at first, only took a few steps closer to Xander and looked him in the eyes. But it was a weird look, not like she was looking at his eyes… but into them. Like a person looks through a telescope…not just at the lense. “Oh…I see. That’s why he sent you to me.” Her playful expression turned to a consoling smile. “You’re hurt, aren’t you?”
Xander looked himself over rather quickly “Not…not really? I mean my feet are a little sore, but they’ll be fine in a few more minutes.”
Emily smiled and placed a hand on Xander’s heart “You’re hurt here…” then moved her finger gently to the side of his head “and here. Aren’t you?” she asked, already knowing the answer.
Xander unintentionally let out the start of a cry before pulling himself together as quickly as possible. “A little” he said, a single tear escaping his eyes. “But I’m getting better! I think.”
Emily smiled and took his hand. “Come with me” she said turning and pulling him gently toward the main teepee. As he ducked into the entrance he was surprised by just how big it was inside. You could probably easily have enough room for a dozen or more people to sleep here. And in the center was a small fire that kept the inside warm. Flaps in the top and the bottom kept the air circulating constantly which gave the whole place a very cozy, relaxing feel.
“Wow!” was all he could say as he looked around, taking everything in.
Emily gave him a grin and motioned to a small rug like area “drop your gear and take off your shoes. Then come and sit by the fire.” She pointed to a place across from where she was sitting. He did as he was asked and sat down. She offered him some water then asked gently “Tell me your story, no matter how long.”
He talked for nearly an hour, explaining the pains he had suffered over the last ten years. The friends who seemed to just drift away, and the scars that he gained inside of his soul. All the while Emily simply listened. She never said a word, she only listened. Xander kept his composure for the most part, only a few tears snuck out. When he was done he took a deep breath and wiped away the last of them. “That… that’s it. I’m sorry that took so long.”
Emily, for the first time in over an hour, smiled “It’s ok. You had a lot to get out, and a long story to tell. It takes a long time to tell a long story. That is how these things work.” Her smile made Xander smile in a time when he definitely needed too. Then she looked him over and spoke up a bit more confidently. “Open your hand… Show me your palm. Now…make me an orb.”
Xander complied until she told him to make an orb. Then he froze. “I...I haven't been able to make one…for a very long time.”
Emily nodded “You have always…and will always be ‘able’ to make one. The problem is that you are blocked. An orb is simply energy, coalesced into existence by concentration and will. But when your head and your heart are blocked by negative energy, and emotions, the system can get clogged. Clear your mind for a second. And then…make me… an orb.”
Xander closed his eyes, then took a breath and relaxed. Then focused. The strain was evident on his face, he was struggling and pushing with everything that he had. When he opened his eyes he had an orb. It was barely visible, and no larger than a marble. But it was there.
Emily smiled “See…you can still do it.”
Xander sighed a bit and closed his hand, letting the orb fade away “That's pathetic. It’s tiny and pointless. What could I do with that?”
Emily nodded “it was a first step. Get comfortable incubus, I’m going to help you, your way.” Xander raised an eyebrow and got comfortable. “Good, now. Look at the fire. Watch the flames as they rise up from the wood. See how they dance slowly and gently along its bark. How the wood crackles and pops as it glows from the fire. See how the smoke rises from the flames. Swirling and spiraling up into the air and back out into the forest. In the forest the air is purified, cleansed. And then pulled back into the fire, to keep it alive and help it grow.”
Xander was focused on the fire, it was a weird feeling in his head. A tingling sensation. He hadn’t felt that one in…a very long time.
Emily continued. “The energy in your heart and mind are like the fire. They fuel you in life, and fuel your powers. Take a moment to focus on that energy, you can see the things in your life that are good, the things that make you feel good and power you. And then you can see the negative things, the things that drain you and block you. I know it’s painful. But I want you to focus on those negative things. I want you to see them and I want you send them into the fire.”
Xander was more focused now but seemed to have another tear sliding down his cheek as he nodded.
“That's good. You're doing so well now.” Emily encouraged him as she continued “Let all of those images go into the fire. Let them fuel it. Watch as the reaction turns them to flame, to heat, to energy. Feel that heat and energy on your skin, feel how it converts itself into something more positive. Something good. Just let all of your emotions flow into the fire. Let them burn away. And when all they are good for is used up. See the ashes of those thoughts, those feelings, gently drift away in the smoke. Out into the forest. Out into the trees. Where the trees do what they do best. They pull in the dirty air, filled with burned pain and sorrow, and purify it. Cleanse it. The forest is full of purified air and energy. And you can see that energy moving back into you. With each and every breath. Growing the positive energy inside of you. Growing your emotions. You can feel that way now… can’t you?”
Xander nodded as he stared into the fire. He genuinely felt lighter, more relaxed, like a weight had been lifted from his soul. A faint smile crossed his lips.
From the other side of the fire, Emily smiled. “Now close your eyes Xander… and focus on your hand, focus on the orb that you are going to form. Feel the energy from your heart, cleansed and purified, flowing into your arm. Into your hand. And sliding out your palm. Feel it balling together, feel it coalescing into an orb. And when you feel it…open your eyes.”
Xander focused on his hand and relaxed. He could feel as if the energy in his body was moving more easily. He hadn’t been aware that he had so much still in him. So much that was available. It was like the dust had been washed away and his system was working again. Maybe not perfectly but it was…working. He opened his eyes and saw before him a golf ball sized orb of energy, swirling with ever changing colors that blend and fold into one another. “I did it!” he shouted happily. “Emily look I …Oh…” as he looked up at his young guide he noticed that she had in fact been aware that he did it. Her face was slack and she was staring deeply into the orb across the way. Completely hypnotized.
It was then that something happened, a confidence rose up inside of him, a devious, playful confidence that he had been missing. It was smaller then it was before, but it was growing, as was something else. He looked at the young woman and was about to speak when he heard voices outside of the teepee. People were coming. “Blast!” he said under his breath before looking at Emily with a smile. “Emily… I want you to listen to me…very…very carefully….
To be continued…
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this! If you have any comments I would love to hear them! You can also find bonus content on my Patreon page!
Players: Xander, Ranger Ravenclaw, Emily Ravenclaw