8 Days to the New Moon.
I woke up the next morning, half-expecting to be in my own bed, waking from some messed up fever dream, but the scent of calamus filled my nose again. I looked over at the altar with the statue of Amali, the root bits charring and smoking in the small black cauldron in front of it. Were the sisters coming into my room and lighting it at some point? I considered myself a moderately light sleeper, so they must have been extra stealthy to accomplish that.
I slowly got out of bed and stretched, and nodded to the statue.
“Good morning to you, too,” I whispered.
I walked over to the window. The town center was almost empty, but there was a small group of people leaving flowers and baskets at the foot of the large statue of Amali. I wondered if they were aware of the whole Conduit situation.
I grabbed the clothes Hannah gave me yesterday – a shapeless linen ankle length tan dress and a purple hooded shawl – and took a shower in the adjacent bathroom. Thankfully, they had it stocked with soaps, shampoo and even a detangling brush. I shouldn’t have been surprised; if they were used to dealing with my family’s lineage, then they probably knew a thing or two about kinky hair.
I took extra long in the shower, willing the last four days down the drain. My body hadn’t stopped tingling since last night’s eerie experience, and I kept running Lillian’s words through my head. Maybe she thought she was helping by contacting me, but I only had more questions. What happened when she tried to help my great grandmother? What did she know about the other women who didn’t survive the Channeling? And how well did she know Kaleb and the Order of Might?
And who the hell broke into my house?
I scrubbed my scalp in frustration. It seemed like things were just becoming more complicated as time passed.
I walked out of the bathroom pulling my hair into a high bun. Liam was sitting on the bed, frowning while texting on his phone. When he saw me, he quickly put it away and pasted on a smile.
“The Vessel is Cleansed!” he said, then stood up and curtsied. I gave him the finger.
“So what’s the plan for today?” he asked, walking into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
“I guess…training for me. Hannah will be by soon to take me there. So I assume you’ll get to wander around a bit. Do some reconnaissance. Find a library, and maybe get a better idea of where the hell we even are.”
“Sir, yes sir!” he said through a mouthful of toothpaste.
Hannah retrieved me and led me back downstairs past Farrah’s office, giving me a tour of each building on the property. For a monastery devoted to a lesser-known goddess like Amali, it was quite large; we were only in the East wing. To get to each wing we had to walk through the town center, where the large statue of Amali stood surrounded by gifts.
“That’s a lot of offerings,” I said as we passed by it to get to the the North wing. She nodded.
“It is. There is a small group who leave offerings every day, but the Full Moons are especially plentiful.”
“Do they know? About…”
“They do. And they entrust us to inform them when the time is right. But that’s a conversation for another day.” She opened the door to the North Wing and ushered me through.
“Today, we help you control your abilities.”
We walked down another hallway, and Hannah knocked on a heavy wooden door. I could hear multiple locks clicking before the door finally slid open. On the other side were two more sisters, who smiled as soon as they saw me.
“Sisters Julia and Emily, Sister Krystal is here for her training,” Hannah said, bowing lightly. One of the sisters, the taller of the two, immediately grabbed my hand and pulled me into the room with a hearty laugh.
“Oh my, you’re so little! All of that goddess energy must be so compressed!” she said, moving me to the center of the room. I noticed that all of the walls were padded. Against the wall to my right was a table with an assortment of items, ranging in size from pencils to large vases. The wall in front of me had 3 large targets hanging up. Telekinesis practice?
“I’m Sister Emily, by the way,” she said, holding her hand out for me to shake. I took it and smiled.
“You’re not like the other sisters I’ve met,” I said.
“That’s because she’s a Rebel,” the other one said, her voice silky smooth. She held out her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you both,” I said, looking around the room.
“I’ll leave you to it, then,” Sister Hannah said, bowing with her head and walking away.
“Now, don’t get too excited, Krystal. You won’t be moving things with your mind just yet,” Sister Emily began. “We first need to assess the levels of your power—”
“—which can’t actually be measured on any scale—” Sister Julia cut in.
“—and teach you how to regain control of your senses. Well…your extra senses.”
“Okay,” I nodded. “What do I have to do?”
“Just stand there and look adorable. We’ll handle the rest. But if you do feel or sense anything, please let us know.”
I took a deep breath and stood up straight. Julia closed and locked the door, and then she and Emily walked to their positions to my left and right. They began by making slow arm movements in unison, opening their arms out wide, then bringing them together over their heads. They lowered them with their palms facing me. I felt a slight bit of pressure on my right side, where Sister Julia was standing, and began to feel the same on my left, where Sister Emily was. They then began to walk clockwise in a circle around me.
It was a strange sensation, as if they were holding long paintbrushes and grazing me with them as they walked around.
“Um…I can… feel you scanning me, or whatever you’re doing?” I said quietly, trying not to move my mouth too much as I spoke.
“Impressive…” Julia whispered. They continued to circle around me, changing in height; they would alternately crouch to focus on my legs, then slowly stand to make their way up my body. As they both began to focus on my head, I felt a terrible force of pressure at the base of my skull.
“Um, I think someone’s scanning too hard? My head is starting to hurt,” I said.
The pressure began to increase, spreading. It was like I had a headband on that was too tight. I dropped to one knee, holding my head. The throbbing was overwhelming, and I began to hear the voices whisper again. Was this going to be a repeat of my first blackout?
“Oh no, no, shut up…” I said, trying to hold back a surprising surge of tears, but they began streaming down my face. Why was I crying? I felt arms around my shoulders.
“Krystal, you’re fighting it. Just breathe. Just breathe. Let the energy flow through,” Julia’s voice cut through the whispers that had been increasing in volume. She placed a hand on my forehead, and guided me through a few deep breaths.
Fuck yes, I was fighting it. I didn’t even want this. But I wanted the pain to go away more than anything.
I tried to calm myself, tried to imagine that whatever was blocking the energy from flowing was moving out of the way. Slowly, but surely, the pressure started to lift, and the sensation of pain was replaced with a weight. I felt the weight slide down from my head, into my shoulders and arms. It reminded me of whiskey, the way it coated my chest in warmth as it moved down, tickling my legs as it continued into my feet.
Emily decided I deserved a break and served herbal tea while we sat in a circle on cushions in the center of the room.
“Divine power enters through the crown chakra and passes through the pineal gland in the center of the brain,” she said, tapping the top of her head. “Because of your resistance, the energy flow was halted, creating a buildup in that gland. Sure, a little of the energy was going to seep through, but there was a major imbalance. Most people don’t just receive a…a “download” of powers like this, and would likely have reacted in the same way. The next time you receive a surge like that, remember to let it flow. ”
I nodded, sipping my tea. I could still feel the new energy sitting within me, perched in my lower abdomen, as if it were sleeping. At what point would it be too late for me to reverse what had been done? If the headaches were any indication of this energy trying to force its way inside, I couldn’t imagine the pain I’d be in if it didn’t want to leave.
“If you’re feeling okay, I’d like for us to scan you again when you finish your tea. We still need to assess how much power we’re dealing with and work on your control,” Julia said, studying me. There was something in Julia’s eyes that made my stomach flutter—no, the energy sitting in my stomach was reacting to her.
“You know something.” I said. She looked up at me with raised eyebrows, then laughed.
“Perhaps we don’t need to scan you. You’re already in tune with your empathic and clairsentient abilities.”
“Well…?” I asked.
“I wouldn’t say that I know anything, but your current energy levels remind me of another story I’ve heard about a previous Channeling. Before your great grandmother. At least two hundred years ago…it was a very different time.”
“The records were rather thin at that point, but there are stories of Amali as more than—”
“Julia, another story for another time. We need to continue with Krystal’s lesson.” Emily interrupted Julia with a stern tone and even sterner look. I looked between the two of them, watching Julia’s brows furrow, then relax as she nodded in agreement.
“Another time, sweetheart,” she said, patting my knee.
I made a mental note to find Julia later, in private.