Shadow-Friends, revision 1.01
© Andre M. Pietroschek, all rights reserved
"Dark Mother, Kali-Ma, guide us!" The chant was habitual by now. Alphard Johnson intoned it with joy and conviction. The backroom was unlit. Sound-dampening padding attached to the walls, the floor, and the ceiling. A minor Refugio, a shabby sanctuary crafted for the magically awake among his flock. Alphard bathed in the darkness, drawing energy from it, much like a hungry vampire drains lifeblood from its victims.
His sacrifice was not understood by his clientele, and Alphard had long accepted that it was a burden which only a handful of brethren and disciples even knew about. It was the price he paid for the Dark Mother's supportive guidance, and he paid it willingly. Though sometimes he missed home, grew proverbially homesick.
Technically official Meta-Magic-Theory made him one more Shaman. A dangerous simplification. Alphard was a cultist, a special form of magic user and the Dark Mother was not his Totem but his Patron or Deity. There were truisms about similar principles in the comparison of relationships for Shaman to Totem and Cultist to Deity. Yet defining it via those too often resulted in mutually unwanted misunderstandings.
When Alphard had learned that beyond all the accusations and paranoid ramblings only the Dark Mother fought against Demons & Injustice, then Alphard had paid her respect. For from his perspective she deserved it, a heroic and solitary Sacred-Police Task Force against exceptionally dangerous criminals and abusers.
He had come to her after his third Shadowrun ever had culminated in utter catastrophe. His team had been send against a coven of witches and warlocks serving the Adversary. The Adversary was the true patron or deity behind creatures like Satan, Shaitan, or Wendigo plus countless other guises, and heaps of disinformation.
Since his original magic had been burned out of him Alphard believed in stuff like hellfire. His team had survived, crippled and scarred, because they were allowed to survive as a frightening example for other Shadowrunners. Seattle remembered it for several years. In the aftermath of it he had found help and healing where it was most unexpected. Still the hags' prophecy haunted him. Barely recovered, freshly accepted as a child of the Dark Mother he had encountered a messenger of the adversary. She had just come to talk that much was true. "Painstakingly will be your existence, and you will be murdered by the only family you have left!"
That was 24 years ago. It was true that his scars, received from the dark ephemera encountered on that proverbially fateful run, had never fully healed. Recurrently he had days in anguish or outright agony. His will opposing the onslaught even though his will was mortal while the hellfire was not. Twenty years ago he had to leave the sacred temple. It was his start as a Mr. Johnson and Cult-Agent. Tasks he had learned to coordinate and execute quite well. Modern computers had allowed him to fund and support the cult, send Shadowrunners against enemies of the Dark Mother frequently, and prosper along with it.
It had been a blessed time.
With 46 years of age he was a veteran mage of sorts. He had seen and experienced much in his life. He even got happily married for a complete decade. Just that all their children were born dead, and that his wife had committed suicide, when it became too much for her. The Dark Mother was there giving solace and healing what she could. Once again. But Alphard was a man of his time and he had not ignored any chance to evade or defeat the prophecy. He had failed time and time again. Even the Dark Mother had reassured him that the prophecy was verified and would inevitably come true.
Alphard slipped into his Lined Duster armored coat. He wore the holy symbol of his new Family, stuck the Remington Roomsweeper into its holster and ensured that ammunition was sufficient. Slower than in his younger years he walked through those streets of Seattle. The smell of the city, the pulsing of its energy, like lifeblood to a human body. The atmosphere he had learned to love. All those impressions which had accompanied his triumphs and routine throughout the years. It was a wonderful walk. When the alley before him deepened in darkness it was a spirit of fulfillment, and relief, which made him venture into it.
He had been reborn in darkness and everything good in his entire adult life had been supplied by that darkness. Now he had to be strong and regal, as it was the least he could do to show proper respect. The Shadow before him was so solid that any cultist gifted with dark-sight would have stared at it in awe and admiration. Its female form radiated power, divinity, and solace. Alphard looked into the eyes made of blackness like an infant who feels all nightmares banished when Momma comes to give him a good-night kiss.
"This is your wish?" The shade's voice was angelic to Alphard.
"Yes. I thank you for all of it!" Alphard barely saw the motion coming... The cultist barely felt the strike...
Before his head had fallen from his severed neck Alphard was already reunited with the one essence he had ever found comfort in. It was a good, darkling Death to choose.
"Dark Mother, I'm coming home!" his last faint echo of a chant on the Astral Plane...
End of Story 5.