Read the previous chapter, Chapter 9, here first.
Chapter 10 of Delirium, London Psychic #1. Click here for buy links to the full book.
As Blake laid his hands on the Galdrabók, a rush of waters overlaid with the howling of wind filled his brain, yet he could see nothing but mist. He grasped for a tendril of emotional resonance in the haze and found only terror. Apprehensive, he followed the feeling with his mind and suddenly he was in a forest clearing at night. Stars were bright overhead and a full moon shone down on a group of men, chanting with arms raised to the skies, their backs marked by the same tattoo he had seen on his father. There was a sense of expectation in the air, a latent violence that compelled Blake to draw more closely to the group. He became aware of the stench of blood and stink of voided bowels, overlaid by the cool night air and forest scent.
Movement caught his eye from the trees behind the leader of the circle, a twitch in the shadow. Three bodies hung in the ash grove, and as he focused, Blake saw that their abdomens had been cut open. A rush of nausea gripped him; the men had been hanged with their own entrails and then wound again with rough ropes to hold their weight. One of the victims still jerked in place, his body refusing to give up the last spark of life.
“Great Odin, we call on you tonight. We relive the myth of Ymir and the creation of the world for your glory.”
The leader's voice was rough yet powerful, rolling through the clearing so that every man could hear him clearly. Blake understood the words as his father had heard them all those years ago, for it was Magnus' terror he could feel, Magnus' eyes he saw through. He must have had the book with him at this occult ceremony performed on the edge of civilization years ago.
A man lay tied in the middle of the ring of followers, blood from his wounds dripping onto the grass. His eyes were closed but his chest rose and fell rapidly at the words intoned around him. The leader began a new chant, the words a repetitive phrase that rumbled from his chest. He stamped his feet slowly and the other men in the circle joined the incantation. The stamping grew faster and the repetition of the words spun through Blake's head like another voice taking over his brain. The thump of their feet resonated through the ground and his heart began to thud in time. The men drew hand axes from their belts as the chant reached a crescendo, and then they fell silent, staring at the victim in their midst.
Stepping forward, the leader grabbed the hair of the prone man.
“For you, Odin,” he called to the sky, lifting his axe. Blake could almost feel the panicked state of the victim as he struggled and moaned. The leader brought down the weapon into the meaty part of the man's neck, pushing him to the floor as he hacked at the bony spine, blood spattering a dark wetness over his clothes. It took several blows to sever the head, then the leader lifted it to the sky with a primal roar as the men around him began to chant again.
Blake felt horror morph into shame, and then it struck him. His father had known the leader. This was his family; the leader was Magnus' own father. How many more sacrifices had he been involved in before he had fled this life for that of a preacher in London?
The leader gestured to two of the men, and they stepped forward with axes raised as the others continued to chant. Together the men began to butcher the body, blood soaking the earth. One of them smashed the skull so the brains ran out and made sure to separate the teeth from the jaw. It only took ten minutes to reduce a living man to body parts and gore. Blake retched, stomach heaving as he fell to his knees, unable to tear his gaze from the terrible sight. The eyes of the chanting men fell upon him as he coughed and spat, and then he saw the leader walking towards him with a determined stride, eyes wild with anger. Panicking, Blake pulled himself back out of the trance, dropping the book.
Retching and coughing, he found himself back in the bedroom, sweat dripping from his brow. He knelt on the floor, trying to anchor himself to this dimension, to this physical place. The visions had always been passive before, the very definition of remote viewing, but he had felt the eyes of the leader upon him and he had seen the intent to harm. Did that mean he could be physically hurt or even killed during a vision? Blake's mind reeled with the implications, even as the doubts about his own sanity flooded in, as they always did after a vision. Was it just some kind of hallucination, something he made up, even some kind of brain damage?
As he returned consciously to the bedroom, Blake could hear his mother praying in the room below, a singsong invocation to the God she had always trusted. In Magnus she had found a prophet, but even the great preacher must eventually stand before his God, and now it seemed, Precious had found her own voice. Blake couldn't fathom how she believed as she did, but hadn't he also seen things that proved there was more than a physical realm?
Still lightheaded, Blake reached for his smartphone and googled Odin. During the attack of the Neo-Vikings on the British Museum a while back, he had learned a few things about the Norse god, but most of his knowledge came from Hollywood, rather than the original myths. Pages of articles came up, but one in particular caught his eye. The Norse peoples had believed that the universe originally emerged from an ancient being called Ymir. When Odin and the other deities had decided to create Earth, they murdered Ymir and made the world from his body, the sky from his skull and formed the clouds from his brains. His blood ran out to form the sea and his bones and teeth were seeds for the mountains. The men in the woods had been enacting this ancient myth in order to call on the power inherent in this primeval being. Odin was the god of frenzy and violent death, and bestowed wisdom and divine inspiration on his worshippers.
Reading on, Blake found that Odin had hung from an ash tree for nine days and nights to gain knowledge of the runes that could command great power. Human sacrifices to Odin were killed in a similar fashion to honor the god and also to represent Yggdrasil, the great ash tree that spanned the heavens, Earth and the underworld. This had been his father's past, some kind of cult that still worshipped the ancient gods in a modern world.
Blake flicked open the Galdrabók, trying to understand why Magnus had kept the book all these years. Why not burn it, or leave it behind when he started this new life? He turned the pages, noting drops of wax on some and marks like blood on others. The edge of one page was heavily marked with charcoal, a substance that lifted off onto Blake's fingertips. The page contained a series of runes and Icelandic spells for charisma, for the inner power to draw people in and make them follow. A wave of anger washed over Blake, and then a deep disappointment in the man he had both feared and worshipped.
He stood and walked downstairs, the book of runes in his hand. Precious knelt by the bed praying, and his father's eyes were locked on the space above the fireplace, where the demon had sat.
“I know what you were part of,” Blake said, his voice strident, accusing. His father's eyes were flint hard.