Lincoln Continental ad 1960
Welcome back everyone! This time I thought I might engage in some shameless self-promotion and compare this story to one of my others. I’m glad that I can say I’ve written a number of different novel-length stories (if you include my serials here). They have different settings, concepts, and characters. It’s my opinion that this one, The Guitar Mancer is especially unique. Well, my intro idea fell flat — because The Guitar Mancer actually is singular. I can’t think of a relevant way (for Episode 14) to compare this story to any of my others. In a strange way that pleases me. So I’ll just move along.
I’m absolutely honored that people consistently “get in the car” by re-blogging these installments of my novel. I sincerely appreciate all of you. So I’ve decided that, for a while, I’ll switch this segment from “Featured Blogger” to Featured Re-Blogger!
Breaking news from The Story Reading Ape — New Book!
Chris Graham (aka The Story Reading Ape) has long been one of the most loyal supporters of my blog and my novel, Atonement, Tennessee. Not only does Chris support a multitude of other writers, he uses his blog as a platform for resources, book promos, and more. Chris also does book covers and trailers. Be sure to check out his blog.
Back when I asked everyone to leave comments with “things” to add to these installments, Chris/Ape mentioned his Naughty Chimps “washed the plates with their tongues.” Believe it or not, this segment had the perfect place for me to add that as a thing. The luxury automobile featured at the top of the page is also mentioned.
About This Episode
You already know The Guitar Mancer was originally an unfinished fantasy novel that I started in the 1990s. Last time in a comment I mentioned that the sequence about the private club is one of the few untouched parts from that original. When I wrote the original chapter (episodes 13 and 14) I had the old Cole Porter song, Begin the Beguine in my mind. A beguine is actually a dance.
In this video Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire do a tap dance to Begin the Beguine. It’s a good deal different from the swaying rhythm of the Artie Shaw orchestra version I featured last time. However, it is fitting for the “dance” Tam is about to do (so to speak). Our hero is dancing as fast as he can too, as he tries to break the spell of drug enhanced mancer-magic Yamata Orochi cast on Luci.
This is another longer installment, but I hope you won’t even notice. The vintage Cadillac is revved up now! So just get in the car! It’s ready to pick up this road trip where we left off with Episode 13. Freyja provided aerial guidance as Tam (with Lychnis in the seat next to him) drove the vintage red Cadillac in search of Luci.
Episode 14 — Beguine
The golden light of evening reluctantly gave way to twilight. Tammarand Ben Taliesin flexed his hands. They had been clinched in a death grip around the steering wheel.
What was it people said — cold hands mean a warm heart? The thought flashed across Tam’s mind. He had known his hands were like ice before it occurred to him to turn on the heater in his pristine 1959 Cadillac. Splashing through a mud puddle would ordinarily have made him curse, but he drove through three of them without noticing. Such was his determination.
The windows were rolled up, to discourage the kit from jumping out of the car, but the top was down. Tam needed to be able to see the sky. However, there were enough evergreens lining the narrow road that it wasn’t always possible.
Cold wind blew through his sandy hair. His breath froze as he exhaled. The Caddy’s heater blasted out warm air, but it was January and with the convertible top down, it was bound to be cold.
With occasional glimpses of Freyja, the big red tailed hawk flying above and that totem enhanced intuition, his route took them through wooded lanes up to Old Hickory Lake. Tam had a hunch that the dirt and gravel roads were leading them by a back way to a little-known, exclusive area on the shores of the lake.
A shrill cry caused him to look up again. That was why he had the top down — so he might see the hawk. Rounding a bend, he saw a tiki torch that marked a dirt road. It had been years since he’d been with that crowd, but he remembered the torch marking the turn.
Domhnall Gleeson as Tam
After a time the only sounds were the hum of the Caddy’s engine and a soft growl the lynx totem had started to utter under his breath. Tam glanced at Lychnis curiously and somewhat expectantly, but the kitten made no other move.
Once again Tam looked skyward but in the dimming light it was hard to spot Freyja. A few stars winked to life as the sky shifted to a darker blue.
Lychnis looked up at the full moon and gave a guttural sound. A lynx didn’t roar like a lion, but the sound was a far cry from the mew of a kitten. It caused Tammarand to jump half out of his skin.
“Why your voice is changing, kit!” he told the totem with a grin.
Lychnis did in fact seem rather pleased with himself. Though, he looked a bit puzzled by the change in his meow.
Tam couldn’t see Freyja, but the big hawk gave a loud piercing cry. He slammed on the breaks, causing the Cadillac to fishtail on the dirt and gravel road. In the rearview mirror Tam saw the driveway he had just missed.
“I can’t tell if that’s the turn or not,” he muttered to Lychnis. “It should’ve been marked with one of those party torches if it’s the place I expected. People are always saying I jump to conclusions… Maybe Freyja is taking us to a place I don’t know about.”
The anxious feeling of being woefully insufficient for the task at hand flooded back to Tam’s mind. He dug in his jacket pocket and found a piece of hard candy, which he popped into his mouth. He took a deep breath to steady himself. As he looked around to get his bearings, he spotted the tiki torch. It had been knocked almost to the ground, and the flame had gone out. Tam smiled and turned onto the long driveway.
After traveling half the length of the driveway, he turned off the Cadillac’s engine. In the silence Tam could hear the water lap against the shores of Old Hickory Lake. Then he heard faint strains of music.
Listening closely, Tam felt traces of spells hidden in the music that drifted out to the road. It was mancer magic. He pulled the Caddy behind some concealing cedar trees. With the rowan staff in hand, he headed up the driveway on foot. Lychnis padded quietly alongside.
Moonlight reflected patterns on the lake. Tam looked from the lake to the expensive cars that lined the parking area. A long and luxurious Lincoln Mark IV sat beside a Mercedes-Benz 280SE, a Corvette, and those were just the first statements of wealth he saw parked outside the private club.
Some limousines also waited, the bored drivers passing the time in idle conversation. One voice had the accent of a very far away land. It wasn’t from any part of the USA or even Europe.
Admission to the club was by invitation only. Tam had been there once. After a moment spent looking around and remembering the layout of the place, he crept toward the kitchen.
Abruptly Tam realized that Lychnis had vanished. He muttered a curse that would have had any grandmother scrubbing out his mouth with soap. He took a deep breath. He’d have to rely on Freyja to keep a hawk’s eye on her fellow spirit animal.
Tam whistled a few notes, casting a spell of disinterest around himself. It had been useful for exiting concert venues to escape groupies when he had toured with bands. He figured it would work as well in his current situation.
The kitchen door was ajar. The expected sounds of pots and dishes met Tam’s ears. He gently opened the door a little wider and the mingled aromas of different dishes being prepared tickled his nose. He patted and shushed his stomach when it growled.
Acting as if he belonged, Tam stepped into the kitchen. The room bustled with busy cooks and various other workers. He walked purposefully across the kitchen.
No one had noticed him as he reached the hallway. He could hear the sounds of someone gargling from the men’s room. At the doorway to the ballroom, he passed a busboy without incident.
An orchestra played big band style music. Tam could easily feel a mancer’s support being leant to the musicians, making slight alterations to their music unbeknownst to them.
Glen Miller Orchestra
He looked at the ballroom from the concealment of the doorway. First he looked among the tables and then he shifted his gaze to the dance floor. Finally he spotted Luci, though he hardly recognized her.
Tam liked Luci the moment he collided with her at Blaylock’s studio. That was why he teased her by calling her Wee Mouse. He thought her shyness charming. After getting to know her, he felt a genuine friendship for Luci.
For a surprised moment Tam stood just looking at her. Luci wore a sophisticated gown of beading and satin. She’d put her hair up in an intricate style. Suddenly his adorably shy little mouse had become beautiful and dazzling woman.
Jean Shrimpton as Luci
“Wee Mouse,” he whispered to himself in astonishment. “I didn’t know you could be so glamorous.”
She truly was beautiful. Beautiful and fragile, he thought. Luci’s face was deathly pale.
The man Luci danced with wore a tuxedo so his arms were covered. It didn’t matter. Even without seeing the tattoos, Tam knew him for Yamata Orochi.
What Tam didn’t expect was the sudden ball of fear that dropped into his stomach. Luci seemed very breakable as she danced in the arms of the evil sociopath.
Tam smirked when he realized that if Luci could hear his thought about her looking so fragile that she would either throw something at him or punch him in the arm. He could tell that Luci didn’t think of herself as some delicate little flower.
Then he noticed the unfocused glaze of her eyes. She stumbled. Tam muttered a curse. He was certain she had been drugged. That was unexpected. A mancer as powerful and egotistical as Orochi using drugs as a crutch for his magic?
Even so, it gave Tam a sense of hope. Whatever had caused Yamata Orochi to rely on drugs, rather than on his mancer power alone might be helpful to Tam. Just as the drug made it easier for Orochi’s magic to control Luci, she might also be freed from the renegade mancer’s spells with less difficulty in her intoxicated state.
Davis, de Havilland
Tentatively he reached with his mind to feel the spell around Luci. It wasn’t that strong. Tam was sure he could break it. However, if he broke Orochi’s spell, he would be detected immediately. They’d both be slaughtered before they could even get out of the club.
Tam eased back to the doorway. He wanted to understand his opponent’s reasoning for using the combination of drugs and spells, when he commanded so much power. Tam sorted his frantic thoughts into different mental boxes.
Was Orochi overconfident and lazy? Were his powers not yet fully restored? Or had he laid a trap with the weak spell as a lure for other mancers, and Luci as the bait to draw them.
How likely was it that Orochi knew there were other mancers in the area? Tam wondered. Would his powers of divination show him? Maybe he had spies, like a whole network of humans doing his bidding, Tam thought. That was how Yamata Orochi had operated long ago.
What was the psycho really doing? Tam could only guess. Look at yourself, boyo. You’re trying so hard not to “jump to conclusions” that you’re over-thinking everything! Tam told himself.
Then he saw the self-satisfied expression on the rogue mancer’s face. Judging by what Tam knew of the maniac’s ego and modis operandi, Orochi was probably toying with Luci. Everything was a game to a nut job like him. Contempt filled Tam’s heart. Orochi would enjoy Luci’s fight to break free of his hold.
Johnny Depp as Yamata Orochi
“Playing with his food before he eats it,” Tam hissed under his breath.
That made him think of Lychnis. Luci would have his hide if anything happened to the kit. He wondered what kind of trouble the immature totem might find for himself. It caused Tam no small amount of concern. However, the clear and present danger was to Luci.
“There’s naught I can do about the kit right now. Hopefully he’ll act with common sense,” he muttered.
Backing up a step, Tam collided with a musician who was leaving the restroom. He was sure it was the man he’d heard gargling earlier. Tam also noted that the man was dressed like the musicians on stage.
“Pardon me,” Tam apologized for bumping into the man.
There was no way the disinterest spell Tam put on himself would hide him when he had literally ran into someone. The man glanced at the torn front of Tam’s leather jacket. His presence would certainly be questioned if his now shabby coat was noticed.
When the musician returned the apology in a very scratchy voice an idea came to Tam. The mancer raised his eyebrows and whistled a string of notes.
“Not feeling so well, are you lad?” Tam asked the musician. “Why don’t I take over for you so you can go home and take care of that throat? I don’t mind covering for you this once,” Tam told him.
For a moment the man looked puzzled. Tam whistled a few more notes and saw the faint aura of mancer power attached to the sound drift toward the musician. Then the man’s expression changed to one of relief and gratitude.
“I’ll be needing to borrow your instrument,” Tam added as an afterthought. “What is it you play anyhow?” the mancer asked though it didn’t really matter — Tam could play almost any musical instrument.
Tam went onto the stage with the musicians, wearing a borrowed jacket and carrying a clarinet, with the rowan staff tucked inconspicuously at his side. Tam hummed a little tune as he seated himself. No one mistook him for the musician he replaced. However, with a bit of Tam’s power influencing them, they simply didn’t care.
He didn’t dare use more than a scant trace of the power in Orochi’s presence for fear that the rogue mancer would detect it. Hopefully Orochi was preoccupied with the deadly game he played with Luci.
Putting the clarinet to his lips, Tam played a few bars of the melody the band performed. He focused his thoughts and intent on Luci. She didn’t look as bad as she had earlier. Tam hoped the drug was beginning to wear off.
Emboldened by her improvement, Tam gradually eased what he played into a complementing countermelody. He played so quietly that his notes could barely be heard. However the soft notes drifted to Luci, easing around the edges of the spell cast by Yamata Orochi.
From the corner of his eye, Tam kept a careful watch on Orochi, fearing detection. Orochi did not appear to notice the presence of the small amount of power Tam used.
His hands shook a little as he nervously added more power to the thread of mancer magic. Tam continually twisted the spell, making it become an irritant to Luci. He hoped it would prick at her until she was so generally annoyed that it caused her to shake off the dissipating effects of the drug.
If she could recover from the effects of the drug, Luci was more than strong enough to break the light spell Orochi put on her. Tam was sure of it.
As the musicians played the big band tune, Tam continued to play the countermelody. He saw Luci begin to shift uncomfortably in Yamata Orochi’s arms while they danced. She stumbled over her own feet and dropped the rose she carried. Orochi let go of her to retrieve the rose and Luci’s eyes immediately cleared.
Tam filled himself with power. He was ready. Luci took a wobbling step back from Orochi. So Tam ceased the opportunity and cast a magical wall, a shield between Luci and Orochi.
Tam’s wall sizzled and disintegrated at Yamata Orochi’s touch. Yet the shield held long enough for Luci to finish freeing herself of the renegade’s influence. However, Luci moved awkwardly, as if some of the drug was still in her system.
Orochi stepped toward Luci, ignoring the sound of a waiter’s tray crashing somewhere behind him. He grabbed for Luci’s wrist. She eluded his grasp, but Tam thought she looked woozy.
Vintage caviar ad
Luci stumbled and fell backward, pulling the tablecloth and all the dishes to the floor with her. A dish of caviar landed inches away from her. Remarkably most of the expensive contents stayed in the silver plate.
Tam’s attention was locked on Luci as she gazed blankly at the plate of caviar. He wondered if Luci’s fall and the distraction of the contents of the table tumbling to the floor was enough. Would it be enough to divert Orochi if Tam used just a wee bit of power?
“You’re a voice mancer,” Tam reminded himself. “A mancer whisper should be enough.” With his intent completely focused on Luci he directed a thread of power. “Snakes,” he whispered the single word.
As Luci beheld the caviar she gasped and drew back. “It looks like tiny eyes… eyes watching me,” she said thickly. “Why do I feel like I should remember snakes?” she murmured in a voice Tam could barely hear.
Luci shook her head as if lucidity struggled to come back to her mind. Unfortunately, Yamata Orochi spoke her name. At the sound of his voice, her expression dulled. Tam could imagine the fog of Orochi’s spell rolled back into Luci’s mind just as she was about to break free.
The carving chef screamed when something large and furry grabbed the slice of roast he had just cut. Orochi turned in the direction of the scream. Suddenly the villain was rammed in the chest by the full force of Lychnis making a running pounce.
It was evident that the kitten had grown again in the short time that Tam was separated from him. At a glance, Tam thought the lynx weighed about forty pounds. The impact of that furry bullet slamming straight into Orochi’s chest knocked him backward so hard that he landed with an “Oof.”
The totem was too young to have developed his defensive instinct to the point of killing an attacker. He only followed his bonded need to be near and his mancer. After knocking down Yamata Orochi, the lynx stopped to stand directly over Luci where she had fallen.
“Kitten-ness?” she choked out in astonishment at the ever growing lynx cub.
The oversized kit leaned toward the dish of caviar without budging from his protective stance over his mancer. Lychnis washed the plate clean with his tongue, as Luci continued to gape at him.
People milled around the ballroom in uncertainty and fear. Tam played notes on the clarinet that enhanced the agitated response of the crowd. The people became completely unsure of what they should be doing.
His eyes locked with the pale heartless gaze of Yamata Orochi. Tam didn’t have to feel the power Orochi gathered in that instant. It was so strong he could see the mancer magic. The power built with sickening green light all around Orochi.
Tam hoped that Orochi was not foolish enough to waste that kind of energy by accidentally hitting the wrong target. So Tam used all the people moving around, to make sure there was no clear path between himself and the renegade mancer.
With a glance at Luci, Yamata Orochi moved his focus away from Tam. To Tammarand’s surprised, Orochi used part of the power he had leashed to drive a shield between Luci and Lychnis.
Tam ran, blowing the clarinet as he went. His music encouraged a woman to grab the arm of a busboy, causing him to spill a tray that held an untouched bowl of soup. The soup splashed across the floor at Orochi’s feet and he slipped, just as he hurled a bolt of energy at Tam. The wild shot shattered a chandelier, which rained bits of glass onto the already frightened crowd.
Lychnis let loose a piteous wail, having been separated from Luci by the magical shield. He had developed a powerful voice and that sent the fear level of the people to full-on panic.
As Yamata Orochi struggled to his feet on the soup slickened marble floor, a portly man and woman who hastily made for the door slid in the same soup and fell over Orochi. The three of them were a tangle of arms and legs. Tam didn’t need to understand the language to know Yamata Orochi was cursing fluently in some foreign tongue.
When the couple fell on him, Orochi lost his hold on the shield he had cast between Luci and her lynx totem. Given the change in the kit’s appearance Tam was surprised Luci recognized him. However, a mancer-totem bond was strong, even one as new as the binding between those two. Luci’s arms were around the overgrown kitten.
Tam bullied his way across the confusion created by his music. He still played the clarinet. Sometimes he used the rowan staff to encourage people to get out of his way.
He helped Luci to her feet. Seeing that she was still unsteady from the drug he handed her the rowan staff. Even so, they had to hurry. He pulled her along with him as they ran out the front door of the elegant club.
“Wait!” Luci cried. “Where’s Lychnis?”
Bogart, Bacall, Sinatra
Tam looked over his shoulder and saw the totem attempting to drag the huge roast with him. The carving chef had abandoned it. Tam blew a note on the clarinet and the feline looked up from his booty. A large chunk of torn beef hung from his teeth as Lychnis bounded across the room to catch up with them.
They rounded the corner of the building where the red Caddy was parked. Suddenly Yamata Orochi was between them and the car. Lychnis snarled, bearing long fangs. Apparently the totem had realized his own capabilities, and Lychnis lunged for his enemy.
Orochi gave a negligent wave of his hand and the lynx froze in mid-air. Then the totem fell to the ground paralyzed.
“My, my,” the renegade sneered. “You’re of a size to make a nice vest. Maybe I’ll trade my leather one for fur.” Then looking at Luci he continued. “And I’ll see you, my dear, begging me for the privilege of wearing that lynx fur vest,” he finished with a leer.
A glance at Luci showed that she was fuming. In other circumstances Tam might have found her anger sexy. Before he had any idea what was coming, Luci gathered power into herself and used the rowan staff to direct it.
Face painted with fury, Luci swung the tip of the staff at a level with Orochi. White light ran down her arm and down the length of the rune carved staff. The symbols glowed with white fire. Then power blasted into Orochi.
Even in the thick of the confrontation Tam was puzzled. Since Luci’s mancer talent had yet to emerge, she should not have been able to produce any sort of power at all.
Compared to a truly expert, seasoned mancer, Luci had not produced an extraordinary amount of power. However, it was completely unexpected, particularly not by Yamata Orochi.
White light blasted the villain into the air and back several feet, where he slammed into the broad trunk of an oak tree. There was an audible thunk when his head banged against the tree. Orochi was dazed by the blow and his head lolled.
Tam muttered as he stepped closer to the fallen lynx, and moved to lift the feline.
Unexpectedly, Orochi’s driver ran from the back of the club toward them. Hardly looking at the man, Tam stood and held out the clarinet in a contemptuous motion. He clotheslined the chauffeur as he ran to his master.
The driver fell with a rasping breath, a hand to his collarbone. When he tried to rise, Tam blew a series of notes on the clarinet and the man sagged insensible.
Tam looked at him and grunted. “Ouch. That’s going to be quite a bruise on his clavicle,” the sandy haired man said.
Lychnis twitched and then rose unsteadily. When Luci blasted Orochi, Lychnis was freed from the spell. The kit was unharmed, if momentarily unsteady.
Bright strobe lights ran across the sky and flashed down on random areas of the property. Tam looked around nervously.
“I should have known a commotion this big would have consequences,” Tam muttered.
The howling of nearby dogs heralded the wail of sirens. Tam wracked his brain for what to do about the super powerful sociopath the three of them had managed to incapacitate. He knew Orochi wouldn’t be out for long.
His car phone was ringing to beat the band. It suddenly registered with Tam that it had been ringing for a while. Of course it would be Bodaway Thunder. Tam picked up the phone. The shaman’s voice went from frantic yelling to self-enforced calm.
“I’ve got to do something about this hateful git?” Tam told his friend. “It won’t be enough to hogtie and gag him, though I’d like to see him trussed up like that.”
“Just leave him!” Bodaway exclaimed, rankling Tam. “Even together we aren’t strong enough to deal with him. And it would be days before enough help reached us to keep him subdued,” his friend insisted, and Tam knew it was true.
“Hurry up! This crap is all over the police band on the ham radio,” Bodaway urged. “I’m on my way to Luci’s. That’s the best place to regroup. I think she’s shored up bits of power at her home, like a mancer would to a favorite instrument. I’ll meet you there.”
The spirit animal moved to Luci’s side. Protectively leaning against her shins, the lynx tried to prevent her from walking toward Orochi. It made Luci stumble when she moved away from her totem and walked to where the renegade was slumped against the tree.
Then to Tam’s astonishment, she whacked the dazed Orochi over the head with the rowan staff for good measure. With a grunt he tilted over to the ground, completely unconscious. Tam looked at the “Wee Mouse” and couldn’t stop grinning.
“Don’t ever mess with my cat!” Luci spat the words at Orochi.
End Episode 14
Recipe: Black Caviar and Cucumbers
The “food-thing”mentioned in this installment was caviar. I’m not sure whether Luci or even Yamata Orochi got to eat any, but Lychnis did! From Black Caviar USA, this link includes two tempting appetizer recipes. Bon Appetite!
Bonus — Since there’s been so much dancing…
Just for the fun of it…
Johnny Depp Dancing – Alice In Wonderland
Copyright © 2014 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene
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