Welcome back, everyone! Last time my featured automobile was a 1965 Mustang. This time I’m showcasing another Ford. In 1970 the coveted Car of the Year award from Motor Trend magazine went to the Fort Torino. I liked that the vintage advertisement above showed multiple views of the car. Wow, back then a “bench seat” really was as long as a bench. Here’s a groovy little commercial too.
Melissa at Today You Will Write has supported my blog for a long time. She’s been so many places and done so many things across the world. It’s no wonder she comes up with such wonderful writing prompts to encourage other writers. Visit her blog and be inspired.
In honor of Melissa and her blog, the “thing” I added to this episode is wrote.
About This Episode
This “road trip” is actually on the road with mancers now. Last time you saw Luci indulge in a flight of fancy as she pondered what effect the magic of the two mancers might have on their vehicles. Or was it? Some things are just better left unsaid. Leaving a small mystery for the reader to define is one of the things that I believe makes a good fantasy novel.
This episode serves to “ground” things after Luci’s whimsical thinking. Just because there’s not a basilisk to defeat doesn’t mean you can let your guard down. Pay attention and you’ll absorb things that enhance your involvement with the story later in the novel. We’ll also find out a hint of what might lay ahead for Luci. So buckle up, the vintage Cadillac is hitting the highway.
Episode 18 — 66
They took the Caddy through a series of turns and street changes with Tam still behind the wheel. The radio played Anne Murray’s big hit, Snow Bird.
“Canada,” she thought groggily. “That singer is from Canada and so was Gene MacLellan, who wrote the song. I guess they know a lot about snow,” she finished the fuzzy thought with a shiver.
Luci was half asleep, but she was aware of Tam humming along with the song. His humming made her feel comfortable. She thought it was a homey thing to have someone hum, or even sing along with the radio.
Soon the song finished and Tam turned off the music. They were looking to the west at downtown Chicago. Luci saw a road sign stating “Begin Illinois Route 66.”
“The Pacific Ocean is 2,448 miles from here. With luck we’ll make it all the way there. We need to travel the entire route to get all the mojo the Mother can give us,” Tam turned to Luci and said with a satisfied looking smile. “Route 66 begins at its eastern terminus, Lake Shore Drive, that’s also US 41, and Jackson Boulevard. To answer your question from a while back, this — Route 66 is the Mother Road,” he said with an affirming nod.
“What?” Luci asked, confused.
None of that made any sense. She blinked and sat up straighter in the Cadillac’s seat. Lychnis was sound asleep in the back seat, using her quilt for a bed.
“The Mother,” Tam said. “You wanted to know who the Mother is,” he said reminding her and she nodded, more alert. “The Mother is not a who. It’s Route 66, the Mother Road. Did you never wonder how a highway became so fabled?” he asked. “Maybe not,” he said when he saw her confused expression.
“I know it’s historically important as a highway,” she began. “But I don’t understand why it’s important for us. Is there somewhere on 66 that we need to hide, or meet somebody, or get something?”
“Ah Wee Mouse,” he said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. “You’re getting there. There is something we need to get from the Mother. People have loved to travel this route for decades. And that’s because even a non-talent can tell there is something different about Route 66. The Mother gives back to those who appreciate her.”
Luci was tired, sleepy, hungry, and rapidly losing patience. “And you talk about Bodaway being cryptic,” she muttered.
With exaggerated patience Tam continued. “If you know how, you can get a little something extra from the Mother Road. A little extra mojo. A mancer can get more than a little. Plus, all along the route there are power nodes where you can pick up still more magic. Once again that is, only if you know how.”
Luci brightened. “Does Ochi know about this?” she asked, knowing she mispronounced the villain’s name. She wasn’t sure if she did it to needle Tam or because it gave her a small amount of satisfaction to say the creep’s name the wrong way.
“Not to correct you, but it’s Orochi. Does he know?” Tam said with a smirk that made Luci think he appreciated her mispronunciation. “Doubtful. Very doubtful,” Tam said with a grin. “Route 66 is a bit of Americana. Mancers outside the USA usually haven’t heard of it. And better still, he’d probably need the help of a shaman to make the most of what the Mother has to give.”
Tam navigated the vintage red Cadillac through the Chicago streets until they reached Grant Park. The place was deserted. The gray winter sky and naked trees made it seem desolate. Luci pulled her light green parka closed, feeling a sudden chill. However, it didn’t seem to have the same effect on her companion. The sandy haired man perked up, and seemed downright energized.
“Don’t you feel anything?” he asked when she shivered and he saw the frown on her face.
“Uh yeah, I’m freezing my butt off. What happened to the heat?” she mumbled.
Tam adjusted a control knob on the dash and warmer air feathered its way to Luci. The steady stream of gray exhaust from the city traffic had fouled the air, and Tam turned off the heat. Luci figured he forgot to turn it back on again.
“You don’t feel the energy in this area?” he asked more specifically.
Pursing her lips and looking at him from the corner of her eye, Luci slowly shook her head negatively.
“Your mancer ability may be more deeply suppressed than I thought,” he murmured in a worried tone. “This, Grant Park, is home to a classical music concert series. They have it for ten weeks every year. The ground has soaked up a lot of music over the years. I thought you might be able to feel it,” he commented with a casual voice that Luci thought sounded forced.
She could tell that the fact that she couldn’t detect whatever “absorbed music” power he was talking about bothered Tam even though he tried not to show it. She bit her lip, noticing that it had gotten chapped.
Without looking at what she was doing, Luci fished in her purse until her fingers found a small tube of Chap Stick. Their slogan “Don’t take your lips anywhere without it” ran through her head. It gave her the bizarre image of putting a pair of lips into her purse and having none on her face. At another time she might have laughed at the silliness of her thought, but Tam had a worried look in his eyes, even though he wasn’t letting on.
She blamed the rough cracked skin on her lips on the weather being cold and windy when they were looking for Lychnis. Who or what was to be blamed for a magical ability being suppressed?
After the frightening encounters with the basilisk and with Yamata Orocih, Luci couldn’t blame her father from wanting to prevent her from having a magical ability. Unfortunately, she was beginning to think that the potential mancer power that put her at risk was also the only thing that might keep her alive.
As Tam drove through the curving lanes of the park she saw pigeons foraging amid the fallen leaves. Here and there a wino sat huddled on a bench. The entire scene seemed bleak to her. Tam however, started to whistle the B. J. Thomas song, “Hooked on a Feeling.” Luci found her fingers tapping the beat on the armrest of the Caddy.
Tam looked at from the corner of his eyes and smiled. “That’s as close to relaxed as I’ve seen you since the first moment I met you,” he said, turning his head toward her. “You know, when you ran into me and dropped all your resume papers at Blaylock’s.”
With a blink Luci realized that she really did feel relaxed, and for no apparent reason. It was similar yet different from the uplifted feeling she had when Bodaway Thunder play the makeshift drums of a Revere Ware pan and table knives in her kitchen.
“I didn’t run into you,” she said impishly. “You’re the one who ran into me, and you knocked all my interview stuff out of my hands, making it fall all over the floor.”
Then Tam looked past her. He leaned toward her and the passenger window as he stared, his expression suddenly cold. However, his face cleared and he smiled an instant later. “Over there,” he said inclining his head.
When Luci turned, she saw the custom painted Vista Cruiser station wagon that belonged to Bodaway Thunder. When she didn’t see the tall shaman she understood Tam’s abrupt frown. She turned back to Tam so quickly that her hair flew into his face. He drew back but she didn’t apologize. Why should he lean so close to her in the first place?
“Where is Bodaway?” she asked in concern.
Then the shrill sound of Freyja’s cry from high above split the air. Directly afterward she heard an answering whistle from beyond the station wagon.
“He’s here,” Tam said looking relieved.
The Mother Road
A gnarled tree, its branches nude of leaves, seemed to hunch in upon itself. Luci thought the tree looked like it tried to hide its nakedness. The bare limbs of the hardwood trees trembled in the cold breeze.
The spot was off the beaten path. Luci suspected that only someone who knew the park exceptionally well would be able to find it.
Dead leaves crunched as she walked to an old bench and sat down. The cold from the stone seat went right through her pants. She decided she needed to walk around and stretch.
Bodaway Thunder emerged from a narrow trail.
“Any luck?” Tam called to the shaman, who shook his head and sighed loudly.
“With what?” Luci wanted to know.
Freyja soared down and alighted on the luggage rack of the Vista Cruiser. The big hawk tilted her head as if listening to something far away. Then she gave a soft whistle and spread her wings. Immediately it looked as if the sun went behind the clouds, though Luci could still see the watery looking orb in the winter sky.
“Is someone… listening?” Luci hesitantly asked the shaman.
The shaman’s expression became vacant for a moment as he faced the hawk. “I think it’s more like someone searching,” Bodaway said softly.
After a moment Freyja lowered her wings and the sky brightened. However the spirit animal looked quite alert. Luci let out a relieved breath.
Lychnis moved over to the Vista Cruiser, pacing around the vehicle and meowing up at the hawk. The lynx cub looked like he was trying to figure out how to get on top of the station wagon with the hawk. Freyja made noises that were a combination of whistle and coo. It seemed to soothe the oversized kitten.
Luci moved back to the stone bench and sat down.
Bodaway rummaged through the back of the station wagon, and emerged with a box containing an amateur, or ham radio. He handed it to Tam. We need to hook this up to your Caddy. Car phones might not be reliable on the Mother Road, and I don’t want to risk having to depend on intuitive communication,” Bodaway said.
“Intuitive communication?” Luci pondered aloud, but was not heard, as Bodaway ducked into the back of the station wagon again.
The tall shaman came back with what looked like a green metal suitcase. When he opened it, Luci saw that it was actually a camp stove.
“I’m sure you’d like to get back on the road, but I got cold out there, trying to commune with the Mother. Besides, I need some coffee to clear my head,” Bodaway said as he lit the stove.
Luci moved closer to it to warm her hands. As Bodaway moved his arms making the coffee, she smelled something she didn’t recognize. “What’s that smell?” she asked curiously.
“Propane,” Tam said. “Haven’t you ever done any camping, Wee Mouse?”
“Will you please stop calling me that?” she retorted impatiently. “No, it’s not the propane. It’s a sweet, sort of earthy smell,” she said.
“Oh! I see what you mean,” Tam said with a joking leer. “A sweet earthy smell. I hear that peyote stuff smells that way,” he said and watched with a grin as Luci’s eyes slowly widened.
“This is not a joking matter,” Bodaway said in a stern voice that Luci had not heard him use before, but Tam looked unrepentant. “The Mother is an elusive spirit. She only makes herself known on her own terms. An offering of sweet smoke helps.”
She turned to Tam when he snorted. “Yeah, but who does it help? The spirit or the smoker,” he teased with a crooked smile.
Bodaway’s only reply was a level stare.
“Alright,” Tam began and spread his hands. “I know the ‘sweet smoke’ is a spiritual thing with you, a ritual. I know you don’t use it for recreational purposes.”
Luci and Tam both studied Bodaway’s face. Tam pursed his lips as if evaluating his friend. Luci feared the two men would argue, but the tension between them was fleeting. She gratefully took the cup of black coffee the shaman offered her.
“Well then?” Tam said after Bodaway pointedly poured himself a cup of steaming coffee without offering any to Tam. He smirked when Tam picked up the coffee pot with a wry twist to his smile.
“Well what?” Bodaway said and Luci could tell he was trying to annoy the other man.
It was clearly all in fun, and Luci smiled at the two old friends.
With a long suffering sigh Tam took a sip of the coffee. “The spirit of the Mother Road; did you manage to commune with the Mother?” he asked with exaggerated patience.
“No,” Bodaway said as if that was all the answer his friend would expect.
After a moment of Tam’s sputtering, Bodaway chuckled. Then his smile faded. “No. I couldn’t connect with her. I had a vague sense of her presence… but she wasn’t coming any closer. We’ve barely begun the route. Maybe she’ll be more cooperative when we’re farther down the Mother Road,” the shaman said.
“I don’t understand what you two are talking about, but I’ve got a feeling it’s important,” Luci expelled a frustrated breath and spoke in a sardonic tone.
Bodaway told Luci and Tam his suspicion about Luci’s suppressed mancer power. “From the beginning I was concerned that your talent was more than just suppressed,” the tall shaman explained.
“By now you’ve spent a significant amount of time in the presence of at least one mancer. That alone should bring out a latent mancer,” Tam told her in agreement with Bodaway.
“I’ve suspected from the beginning, and now I’m sure,” Bodaway said as if delivering bad news. “Luci, your talent is so deeply submerged that drastic measures will be needed to force it out.”
Luci didn’t see what all the fuss was about. So what if she never became a magical musical woman? She’d never been any kind of musician nor had she aspired to be one. However, both men seemed to be taking this emerging mancer stuff awfully seriously. She made a wry face and spread her hands, completely baffled.
The shaman’s shoulders sagged a little. Luci figured he was hoping she’d grasp the situation with the scant explanation he’d already given. However, she was not feeling enlightened at all. He took a couple more sips of coffee and murmured appreciatively. Bodaway flexed his broad shoulders and stretched his neck as if feeling more alert.
“Ordinarily I would say that we should play it safe and let the ability emerge on its own; if in fact it ever rose to the surface at all,” Bodaway said in a rather apologetic tone, though Luci couldn’t understand why he should express any regret.
“But under the circumstances Luci, you need everything you’ve got or are going to have to protect yourself,” Bodaway said in a tone so deeply serious that it sent a chill down her spine.
“That’s what they did with you, isn’t it?” Tam surprised Luci by asking the Apache. “And it wound up making you butt-kickin’ strong as a mancer too!” Tam said.
Luci thought the friendship between the two men was carefree and casual, filled with the kind of wise cracks and rough joking that she’d often seen men and boys display in their comradery with one another. However, when Tam made that comment, he did so with a combination of respect and awe that Luci had not seen him express before.
“Not exactly. My power wasn’t nearly as deeply suppressed as Luci’s. I’d call it more reluctant than suppressed,” Bodaway said. “The ritual to commune with the Mother will be similar… but what happens once she’s in there will be unique.”
“In there?” Luci exclaimed. “In where? What do you mean?”
Bodaway made an apprehensive face. When he looked at her again his brows knitted. “A shaman must guide the mancer into a ritual where the Mother is summoned. But that is the only part the shaman is allowed to play,” he explained in a regretful voice.
“The Mother might simply grant what you ask, and bless your journey on the Mother Road,” Bodaway said. “Or she may require you to meet one or more challenges, or ordeals.”
Bodaway took a deep breath before continuing. “My biggest concern is that due to the nature of our flight. And I say flight, because we’re basically running away — at least for the moment. Because Luci has already fought for her life once, against the same person she’s now running away from,” Bodaway hesitated a moment as if forming his thoughts carefully.
He looked from Tam to Luci before continuing. “I’m really afraid whatever challenges the Mother sets for you will be much harder,” he blurted out with a worried look at her. “Luci has already faced highly emotional tests. That will set the tone for the ordeal as well. I’m afraid the Mother will present much more dangerous challenges than anything I had to overcome during my ordeal,” the shaman said. “They might be violent.”
“Hold on a minute, man,” Tam exclaimed. “Didn’t you nearly lose your arse when you went through this? Didn’t you tell me about a couple of times that you nearly died?” Tam asked with his eyes bulging. “And you’re saying Luci will have to contend with worse — much worse?” he finished and the pitch of his voice went up a full octave.
“The Mother can be cruel,” Bodaway said. “Don’t be thinking all soft, warm, fuzzy motherhood. The Mother is harsh reality. I might be wrong. I hope I’m wrong, but you both need to understand that it’s possible.”
“Oh, so you’re telling us the worst case scenario first, so that the most likely way sounds easier,” Tam accused.
Bodaway shook his head in an exasperated gesture. He turned sad eyes on Luci before he continued.
“The Mother presents each ordeal. She makes it unique to the mancer every time. My big concern with this idea — and if either of you doesn’t want to go through with it, I understand, and will go by your wishes,” Bodaway said, probably to reassure Luci, but she thought Tam looked like he needed the reassurance more than she.
“It will be up to you, Luci. The Mother might not even be willing to help you,” Bodaway told her.
Luci guessed that was supposed to be reassuring, but she wondered if the shaman had lost his mind. She only had half an idea of what all that blah-blah was supposed to mean.
She took a deep breath as she struggled to form the right question. “So what you’re saying is that yes, I’m a mancer. But no, it’s buried so deep that it will probably never come out. And oh wait! There’s a way to force it out, but it’s full of all kinds of crazy spirit stuff that would probably get me killed. Am I right?” she managed to ask before losing the last strand of patience she had.
Bodaway’s mouth twisted. He was silent for several heartbeats. “Yes,” he said flatly.
“Look,” Tam began reasonably. “Regardless of whether it’s a good or bad thing to force Luci’s mancer ability to emerge, we still have to travel the Mother Road to soak up power. Otherwise we have no hope of defending ourselves. Besides, you’re right about one thing, shaman. The choice is up to Luci. There’s a lot for her to think about, and she can contemplate it while we travel.”
Lychnis gamboled over to the bench where Luci sat. Abruptly the lynx sprang away. In a flash he ran to a spot about 250 feet away, and then he sprang into the air and back down to pounce on something in a playful looking motion.
It caused Luci to feel momentarily frantic when Lychnis ran. However, he came right away when she called him.
“What was that all about?” she pondered aloud.
“A snack,” Bodaway replied. “A lynx can hear a mouse from 250 feet away.”
“Oh my God! He didn’t just— Oh that’s disgusting!” Luci moaned.
“A totem going through the rapid growth Lychnis has experienced has to have a lot of food,” the shaman explained.
Lychnis looked up at her with such soft affectionate eyes that she didn’t have the heart to scold him. She put a dish of the kibble out and he gobbled it quickly. Then he hopped up onto the bench beside her and began to purr. It was the same sound that had pushed her to sleep that other time.
“He sensed your anxiety and means to calm you,” came Bodaway’s soft voice as if from very far away.
Luci felt so peaceful and sleepy that she was only vaguely aware of hearing Tam and Bodaway talking.
“Be straight with me, shaman. You mean to force the mancer ability out of the lass and use her as a weapon?” she heard Tam ask.
“It’s a dire situation. I don’t mean to put her at risk, but I don’t see any other choice,” Bodaway replied earning an angry nonverbal sound from Tam.
“What if something happens to us?” the shaman demanded. “You realize that neither of us are likely to get out of this in one piece. Yamata Orochi is that powerful! If nothing else, Luci needs to be able to defend herself with every possible resource.”
That sounded bad, but Lychnis kept purring and somehow Luci didn’t really care.
“Yes, I have a bad feeling that the Mother might be especially harsh with Luci. I don’t know why, but that’s what I get when I meditate. So she might be at great risk. There’s the chance that she might not live through the ordeals the Mother requires. But you can be damn sure that she won’t live through another encounter with Yamata Orochi.”
End Episode 18
Well now, that ended on an ominous note… Was Luci having a bad dream? I don’t think so. I wonder if she’ll even remember that part after the soothing purr of Lychnis. I wish she’d send the lynx to me. Some really good sleep would be nice with this heat wave here. Or even some of that good to the last drop coffee!
Our characters have too much going on to worry about food. Well okay… except for Lychnis, who is always hungry. However, when Tam is stressed out, his sweet tooth takes over. He was sure to have some sour balls with him for the road trip. Candy might be kid stuff, but the recipe for this installment is strictly for kids over 21.
The Hiram Walker Sour Ball
Click over to My Mom Used to Make That for the Hiram Walker Sour Ball cocktail recipe. Cheers!
Until next time, stay groovy and mega hugs!
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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