Kyle felt the magic he’d been holding discharge into the spell. His first thought was, “Well, we’re not dead. I guess that worked.” Charles hadn’t been able to tell him exactly what the killing spell would do. While the Archmagi had worked the spell correctly many times over the eons that had elapsed since Hecate was seriously worshiped, they hadn’t done it wrong for obvious reasons. Still, Kyle imagined the boobytrap spell would do something a little more decisive than give the caster a case of early stage cancer.
Then, as nothing seemed to happen for a long moment, he began to doubt that logic. If the deadly spell killed slowly it might be more effective. Let whoever tried to rip off the cult live until the next morning, get back to town, suffer and die in front of all of their friends. That would send a strong message. Kyle felt a buzzing in the back of his head, and he realized he was breathing really rapidly.
A salt scented wind blew over the courtyard and made the candles flicker. The light from those candles wasn’t strong, but it was enough to cast a few shadows off of their bases into the center of the Wheel of Hecate. The shadows moved and bunched with the sifting flames. Then the ocean breeze dropped off again, and the shadows continued to twist and move. After a moment, the shadows broke free of their respective candles and slithered across the flagstones of the courtyard to the center of the circle coalescing into a pool of darkness there.
That darkness deepened until it seemed like there was a hole right through the paving stones to some other place. A greenish light appeared at the bottom of the hole. It was faint and sickly, but it was getting closer. Kyle decided that was almost certainly the “spirit” they’d summoned, and that he was going to live. He let out a sigh.
The cat, meanwhile, had finished maybe two cans worth of food and begun to feel full. That was something neither of the men had counted on. As long as they’d had it, the scrawny once stray animal had taken to any food like it was starving bolting everything down with a single-minded determination that shut out all other outside stimuli. Now, however, it decided to stop in the middle of its meal, sit back, lick a paw, and notice the green glow sneaking up on it from a black pit that hadn’t been there when it started eating.
The cat let out a startled rowaal, jumped three feet straight up, landed, and then streaked away out of the wheel and under a bit of patio furniture right as the spirit made itself fully manifest. Kyle thought that proved the animal had started out at least decently clever. When the spirit appeared Kyle immediately saw what Charles had meant about taking the original interpretation of the spell seriously and he removed the mental quotation marks he’d been using around “spirit” when thinking about it.
The spirit was perhaps five feet tall. It was only vaguely man shaped, and it completely lacked distinct features, even things as gross as arms and legs. Despite that, it had stunningly clear body language. It was clearly hunched over, and the hunch seemed to convey both discomfort and exhaustion. It was annoyed to be above ground. It wanted to get its job done quickly and then get back to the Meadows of Asphodel.
It was also confused. It rotated around slowly looking for something. The cat, Kyle assumed, until Charles spoke up, “Oh crap! Where did the cat go?”
“It ran off that way,” Kyle pointed into the shadows. “Won’t the spirit be able to find it?”
“The spirit isn’t going to try! It just goes to whatever mammal sized brain is closest.”
“I’m pretty sure we didn’t talk about that.”
Charles might have had a response to that, but at that point the wraith seemed to find a mammal brain that suited it – Kyle’s. It floated a couple of inches the ground and then came toward him in a sudden burst of speed. Kyle watched it approach rather dumbly thinking he was safe outside the Wheel for no better reason than in fiction summoning circles contained the thing summoned into them.
The moment before that would have been proven to be a very bad assumption Charles, who had been hurrying toward him, barked out something in a foreign language, and then what felt like a giant hand scooped Kyle up, moved him ten feet through the air, and set him back on his feet. He was somewhat staggered, but he was out of the path of the spirit.
Unfortunately, now Charles was closer to the spirit. It hesitated, then turned slightly and took off after him. Charles was faster on his feet than Kyle had been and rapidly back pedaled away from the advancing thing. Now that Kyle wasn’t directly in its path he could see it wasn’t really that fast. It was only moving at the rate of a quick walk. However, its smooth glide made its speed look more impressive.
“I’m going to get the door, so the stupid cat can’t get away. After I do that, I’ll be boxed in. Get close and distract this thing.”
Kyle now saw they had left the door into the main house open. That had been stupid, and he sort of thought it was his fault. He’d forgotten their candles on a table in there and run back to get them not long before lunar apogee. With his hands full he must have forgotten the door. “On it, he called, jogging towards Charles and the wraith across the courtyard.
Just as Charles shut the door, Kyle got close enough to the wraith to make it stop, turn, and start after him. He began to back up, “Just how dangerous is this thing anyway?” He figured it couldn’t be that bad.
“Don’t let it touch you. The spell would probably drive you mad before it fades.”
“What! It’s safe for the cat!”
“The physical changes induced by the spell are safe. However, the cat becomes as smart as a dolphin or a monkey or something. A human becomes way way smarter than anything on the planet. Whatever they see when they’re up there apparently isn’t good for their sanity.”
“What? I’m really really sure we didn’t talk about that!” Kyle increased the speed at which he was backing up.