They met at Mattie’s Diner in Bantry where Ensos kept watch over the vortex. The tall, skeletal Babadook, embodiment of grief, wearing an ancient black suit, removed his centuries old black top hat, setting it carefully down on the booth’s red leather seat. Mattie came by with a smile for the familiar human presence Ensos projected and filled a coffee cup for him.
“Waiting for your friends?” she asked, accustomed to seeing Ensos here with other spirits who once lived in Bantry as well.
“Yes, three.” Ensos inclined his head as thanks for the coffee, and Mattie walked back to the counter humming cheerfully. Ensos wrapped his twelve inch bony fingers around his coffee cup and opened them again. He did not eat or drink, but he maintained the appearance by ordering at the diner.
Ritassa appeared at the booth across from him. A Kelpie with green amphibian skin and large eyes dominating her face, she also projected a human form known in Bantry, and the perception that Ensos was her boyfriend was both common and comical.
Mattie filled a cup of coffee for her with a smile and a glance between them.
“Here,” Lenonirie, the Unseelie Dullahan, materialized in the booth beside her.
“How do you always do that?” Ritassa spewed droplets of water, as she did in times of stress or emotion.
The Dullahan shrugged her headless shoulders and placed her head on the table so she could see both the Babadook and the Kelpie. “Hello, Ensos.”
Always formal and serious, he bowed his eyeless skull in the direction of her head. “Hello, Lenonirie.”
“Who are we meeting here today, Ensos?” Lenonirie asked.
“Why is it so urgent?” Ritassa sprayed water on the decapitated Dullahan’s head. “Sorry.” She grabbed a napkin from the silver dispenser and dabbed at the head.
Lenonirie chuckled. “It’s fine, Ritassa, I do wash my hair. It’s not like water will hurt me.”
Ensos sat patiently for silence. “A High Priestess of Hekate.”
“Hekate is involved? Why?” Ritassa demanded.
“What is it we can do that Hekate cannot?” Lenonirie asked. “How do you know the Priestess?”
They felt the air ripple, the static charge build, and then a figure stood at the booth.
Her natural features were more humanoid than the others. Her face was gracefully slanted toward the center, placing all of her features into an arcing V. Eloquent dark eyebrows bordered large, tilted, black oval eyes, which radiated a neon blue glow in sharp lines above her head and down to her waist. Her black hair wavered like a cloud around her head. The majority of her body was shrouded and partially obscured by light and cloud swirls.
“Hello, Ensos,” Her quiet voice was gentle, serene—and not as Ritassa and Lenonirie expected from a High Priestess of the strident, harshly powerful Goddess.
Ensos collected his hat, stood, and greeted her with a small deferential bow. “Hello, Yulliyain.” He motioned to his side of the booth. She slid across the seat as if she did not touch it. Ensos joined her.
“Hello, Lenonirie, Ritassa. I am Yulliyain, High Priestess of the Goddess Hekate. She sends her thanks for meeting on such short notice. It is much appreciated.”
The human form she projected was very similar to her true form, and Mattie grinned at Ensos as she poured coffee. “I think three’s a harem, honey. Lucky man.” She moved on to tend to other customers.
Lenonirie spoke first. “A pleasure--- and a surprise—to meet you, Yulliyain. Why has Hekate sent a High Priestess into the human realm? This is not a customary practice for her.”
The Priestess shook her head, cloud of hair undulating gently. “Not lightly done, no. This is urgent and sensitive. We must keep this between the four of us and Hekate’s High Priestesses.”
“Why the secrecy?” Ritassa flicked water, annoyed.
“The Veil is weakening at an alarming rate. By the Samhain, when the Veil is the thinnest, it may be gone entirely. We must strengthen the wall from this side while Hekate strengthens it from Her side.”
They sat in stunned silence. This was cataclysmic, apocryphal.
Ensos spoke first. “You now see the need for immediate assistance.”
Hovering invisible and silent, the four watched the Veil between the World of the Living and the World of the Dead flicker, waver, and spark.
The High Priestess had cast Hekate’s spells to repel humans from the area, but their hold would be temporary.
“Why can’t Hekate put spells on the Veil to fix it? She has High Priestesses like you for assistance. It’s Hekate’s job, isn’t it?” Ritassa did not care for the newest member of their group, much the way she had disliked Tadzio. She preferred working with Ensos and Lenonirie, finding ease with just the three of them.
“Hekate’s ‘job’ is to monitor the Veil from the Other Side. She did not create it and is not fated to destroy it. Stabilizing it is another matter. We noticed its weakening and have worked to stabilize it for years. Now it is in such an erratic state that the thinning will destroy it.”
“How can we assist you, Yulliyain?” Ensos asked quietly, top hat perched on his skull.
“Spirits who have walked the earth among mortals must add their energy to protect the mortal ones from the realm of the dead. We need elements of earth—Ensos, water—Ritassa, air—Lenonirie, and my fire to balance our side of the Veil.”
“How long will this take? Will the humans come back before we complete the balancing?”
“It will take as long as it takes, Ritassa.” Lenonirie’s head fixed the Kelpie with the kind of stare that Dullahans use to frighten humans to death when they choose.
“First the Vortex in Bantry, then the Portals in Castine—and I haven’t even told you about the family of nixies who invaded my clan’s water. We can’t be the only spirits on this side of the Veil.”
“The three of you are the ones who are the strongest and the most steadfastly protective of these humans. Others we know of are neither. You have worked together before, as you mentioned. We need powerful bonding to complete this dangerous work. I’m certain you understand how crucial this is, Ritassa. We need you to bring us the element of water you wielded against the nixies—yes, Hekate saw.”
“Instruct us, Yulliyain, that we may assist.”
“Thank you, Ensos.”
“The barrier to the humans is weakening.” Yulliyain, eyes closed in concentration, shook with the effort of fighting to stabilize the Veil. “I cannot hold it any longer.” The turquoise light from the eyes of the High Priestess expanded into a twelve feet circle on the invisible Veil.
The others continued to chant, pressing all their energy against the Veil.
“With the infinite element of Water, I seal you, making whole the Veil Between Worlds.” Ritassa’s Kelpie form glowed emerald under the sluicing of water off her body.
“With the earthly and unearthly eternal element of Air, I seal you, making whole the Veil Between Worlds.” Lenonirie’s hand were splayed on the veil, her head sitting at her feet incanting.
Skeletal hands reached higher and spread their full twelve inches as Ensos added his element. “With the power of eternal elemental Earth, I seal you, making whole the Veil Between Worlds.” The Babadook’s bones clattered with power.
“With the Goddess Hekate’s mastery of fiercest Fire and the joining of the four Elements made whole, transformed to unbreakable Spirit, we seal you in the name of Omnipotent Hekate, making whole the Veil Between Worlds.” Her hands blazed and sizzled.
“Is it working?” grunted Ritassa.
“Shut up, Ritassa. Focus!” Lenonirie’s eyes held their focus on the veil.
“The barrier—” Yulliyain began.
A human scream made clear the rest of her sentence.
A woman holding the hand of a small boy stood at the site of the collapsed barrier, staring fixedly on the four spirits in their true form. The boys shrieked and climbed into his mother’s arms.
Lenonirie, hands still on the Veil, quickly used her feet to turn her head toward them, the Dullahan stare killing them instantly.
“No!” Ensos loosed a wail of Babadook grief.
Ritassa, closest to the humans, took her hands off the Veil and dragged their bodies to Yulliyain’s feet. “We need more energy. Use theirs while their blood still pulses.” Using the sharp claws protruding from webbed hands, she slashed each body from neck to groin is one swipe. She returned to hands to the Veil and resumed her chant.
Yulliyain swiftly cast their spurting bodies against the Veil, their blood running down the invisible boundary. She slammed her hands in the cascade of blood, harnessing the combined energy.
The Veil hummed, rising into thunderous, overwhelming reverberations. The four struggled to keep their hands in place, raising their chanting voices in the din.
An orange fireball struck Yulliyain, enveloping her and heaving her backwards twenty feet from the barrier. Her body, aflame in sulfur, lay still.
Ritassa, her hands dropping to her side, was engulfed in viridian hellfire. The Kelpie fell soundlessly.
Ensos and Lenonirie felt the Veil still, solidify, and there was silence. Their hands met a dense rocklike wall.
The Veil was sealed.
Lenonirie scooped up her head and scrambled to Yulliyain’s body. The fire extinguished itself. Nothing remained of the High Priestess of Hekate.
Ensos knelt beside Ritassa’s lifeless body, collapsed in a sodden plashet. Her green antennas flopped motionless, her oval ebon eyes began to cloud. Water ceased to drip from her body.
Lenonirie joined Ensos and took her friend’s partially charred away hand. Ensos cradled her singed head in his skeletal arms. They were silent.
A single tear dropped from the empty sockets of the Babadook and splashed into Ritassa’s hazy eye.
Her eyes hollowed, her crisped green skin melted away. Kelpie shape stretched and narrowed as it dried to bone. Webbed hands and feet turned to long bones. Once her body was transformed to skeleton, a long black dress covered her form.
“Ritassa,” Ensos whispered.
Eyeless face turned to Ensos.
If you enjoyed this story, you can find other stories with these characters on my page:
The Unseen Four at Mattie's Diner
There's Always a Cassandra (just Ensos)
Portals through the Fabric of Castine