Tuesday, July 27, 2010

#TuesdaySerial: Wrenge XI

Wrenge (11) by Louise Dragon

Nietupski explained to Brad that to make proper sense of the whole affair, he'd have to begin with a little family history.
Apparently Nietupski's mother, young, pretty Joyce Ashton Nietupski, unbeknown to her husband, had been a victim of serious child abuse, for years, at the hands of her domineering father.
Sometime during her high school years, Joyce had become fascinated with historical Mythology and, to keep from having to spend time at home, she threw herself into those studies. The Wrenges and Furies, winged avengers from The Underworld who were known to punish for crimes that had escaped detection, had particularly intrigued her. Joyce became obsessed with her knowledge of these iron willed vigilantes said to travel up from the gates of hell to dispense their own brand of hideous justice.
She spent hours delving through old dusty volumes in the library and discovered that whenever enough frenzied anger spilled into the Netherworld at death, an Wrenge could be born. The Wrenge could travel up through a winged portal leaving behind her mark in the portal as a warning of her presence on earth.
Joyce figured she needed the Wrenges more than anyone. She needed them to defeat her father. To punish him for his cruelty.
Along this time, Joyce discovered black magic rituals designed to call demons up from the gates of hell to do the sorcerer's biding. She began to practice these rites, sacrificing small animals, burning black candles in tins of graveyard dirt, and chanting singsong phrases. Still her father lived on.
To escape him, Joyce married Joe Nietupski, a nice man from the east side of the city who might shield her from the monster who had raised her. Late at night, Joyce practiced her sacrificial rites in the basement of the old mission church where she and Joe lived. Her daughters, Meg and Tisi, where named after Wrenges from the myths. As they grew older, they worked with Joyce and developed their own adept skills in black magic.
Alec had been born much later -- around the time Joyce and the girls were discovering human sacrifices. Old man Ashton was still alive and well while Joyce had become thin, sickly, and old before her time. She continued to blame her father for everything that was wrong with the world.
In her eyes, once the old man was dead she would then live the life she was intended to live. Sacrificing a real human was, to her, a last chance for retribution. Her own colossal anger at having to commit this vile act would surely bring forth the Wrenges.

Many years later, Joe had explained that last day to Alec. Explained how Joyce and the girls had wanted to die. Had begged him to kill them so that they could be the portals for the Wrenges. Since he refused, they slashed their own naked bodies and drew winged portals on their flesh and the walls. Slashed open their own throats as Joe helplessly watched them die. The ultimate human sacrifices.
A few days later, Bradley Swistack, Senior, came and took Joe away. Alec never saw Joe again until he buried his father's body a few weeks ago.
Alec had blamed Joe for the death of his mother and sisters until his twenty-first birthday. On that day, he received the only letter his father ever sent to him. The letter with the truth and the key to the forbidden basement room. In the basement, Alec had found his mother's relics. His father had tacked the one empty portal above the front door before he was taken away. It was to be a gruesome reminder for Alec. Death isn't always permanent. "What do you mean by 'empty portal'?" Brad asked, confused.
"Well," Alec said. "See the red symbols inside the oval on the portal that you brought?"
"Yes," Brad replied glancing at the drawing in question.
"The portal that's tacked above my door, the one that belonged to my father. It's empty -- no symbols inside the oval.
It's those symbols that worry me. I remember what my father wrote, 'the Wrenge travels up through a winged portal leaving behind her mark as a warning of her presence on earth.' Why did you think I was so spooked?"
"Mr. Nietupski? The oval above your door is the same as this one," Brad said.
The color drained out of Nietupski's face. He rushed outside to confirm what Brad had told him, staggered back and threw himself into his chair. "I swear to you. It was a blank portal when Dad hung it there. Now it has those symbols in it.
This is worse than I feared. I'm afraid to go down and check the basement. Her stuff is still down there. Just like she left it.
I wanted to get rid of it, just couldn't bear to touch those things."
"Wait a minute, just wait a minute," Brad said. I sort of understand where you're going with this story, and everything. Not that I really believe all of this nonsense. Where does Elizabeth Michaels fit into all of it?"
"Who's Elizabeth Michaels?"

"She's the woman whose basement I found this in," Brad explained holding out the drawing.
"I don't know any Elizabeth Michaels," Nietupski said with a shrug.

"What about Turner, Elizabeth Turner?"
"Wait a minute, my sister Meg had a friend . . . Lizzy. It could have been Lizzy Turner -- blonde, attractive. Meg could have taught her about the Wrenges I suppose."
Brad didn't like it. Sure the story tied up a lot of loose ends, but it was just too friggin unbelievable! A friggin fairy tale from the friggin dark ages for Christ's sake. Still . . .
"Okay, Nietupski, say I buy your story. Are you trying to tell me there's some kind of demon out there killing guys off?"
"Well sort of. A winged demon. Female presumably.
According to what I've read, she could be a flawless beauty or a disfigured monster. Definitely winged though. Like a bat."

"Can it be killed?"
"No. I think it can be sent back though. Down there -- with my mother's things, there were pages from an old book . . .
Something about the shadow. It works through its shadow. Come on, I'll show you."
Brad followed Alec Nietupski down a narrow flight of stairs. The main part of the basement was like a neat concrete box, complete with the usual cellar things like furnace, spider webs etc. A small wooden door in a shadowy corner was locked with a padlock. This was where Nietupski headed, fishing a key out of his pocket as he scurried along. "Everything's just how she left it," Nietupski said. "Put this padlock back on myself ten years ago and haven't opened it since."
The hinges creaked loudly. The room smelled musty and old.


The light switch didn't produce any light, so Nietupski grabbed a flashlight and fresh light bulb from a shelf by the stairs and went in first. Brad decided to wait for some light on the subject.
He watched the flashlight beam as the dark room swallowed it up, heard Nietupski screw out the old bulb and screw in the new.

The blast of light stung Brad's eyes, but not enough to ever make him forget the sights in that room. All of Brad's doubts about Nietupski's credibility vanished with that first flash of light.
A large stone altar ran across one entire wall. Above the altar was a large crumbly-looking sheet, like a page from a huge volume. Hieroglyphic-like characters danced around the largest winged oval Brad had yet seen in his investigation. Eight blood-red symbols were centered inside the oval. Right between its wings. Alec Nietupski was staring at the parchment -- his face
pale. "That one was blank, too," he whispered.


"When I locked this room up, that portal was empty too. Now it has marks in it."
On top of the altar stood many twisted lumps of black wax, small dried bones, red and white vials, tin boxes of moldy sand, a large knife, and many broken old books and papers.
Brad picked up one old, yellow parchment from the top. On it was written a poem or chant of sorts:

A drop of blood, crimson red,
A pale white bone from the living or dead,
Falling tears from those mislead,
Dark earth resting across the dead.
The path of rage is up ahead.
Shadows of Wrenge are those of dread.

Brad jotted the strange words in his small notebook. They seemed important, somehow.
Most of what was written was in rhymes and riddles. Brad found another that also looked important and wrote these words down:

Oh sister Wrenge hear my cry
Ride with me across the sky
Called from the eyrie where shadows swell
Send offenders on to hell
Shadows cross where mortals walk
No more pretext, no more talk
Cast your shadow in his wake
Blood and bone from the wicked take
Tears and fears will end the ache

Nietupski continued to gaze up at the winged portal. Brad had to take his arm and physically lead the man from the depressing little room.

"Wait," Nietupski said. "There's another important passage here." The frightened man carefully moved aside some debris on the slab. "Here, here, write this down too, it must be important or they wouldn't have scratched it into the altar, 'Beware of watchers as you sleep, or to the eyrie your soul will creep.'"
Brad wrote it down with the others.

Upstairs, Brad showed Nietupski his notes.
"Mr. Nietupski can you help me decipher these riddles?"
"Officer, I think after all we've been through, you should be calling me Alec."
"All right, you can drop the Officer part too. I'm Brad. My visit was never official. Elizabeth Michaels was married to my best friend. I think he was the first victim of that Wrenge. Stabbed with one of his own bones. A real mess. No one at the station would ever believe this story. I
may need your help to stop this . . . this . . . whatever it is.

Can I count on you Alec?"
"It's falling together. It's all falling together, isn't it? Dad knew. It's why he kept drawing those empty portals.
When the symbols began to appear in his drawings he must have been petrified. All alone down there in solitary with nobody to talk to but the rats. Scared right to death!"
Tears flowed freely from Alec's bulging red eyes, reminding Brad of a curious statement that Nietupski had made earlier.
"Tears. You said something before about tears."
Alec swiped his arm across his face. "They use them – for their rituals -- my mother, sisters, probably Elizabeth Michaels.
Read back those words. There's something there about tears . . ."
Alec was right, it was all falling together. Brad, suddenly remembering the vials of liquids in Elizabeth's things, went back to the first rhyme that he'd written. "Falling tears from those mislead."
"They're tools," Alec said. "Blood, bones, tears, graveyard dirt, they're tools for calling up the Wrenges."
Brad felt cold. Slimy tentacles of fear slithered across the back of his neck.
Continued . . .

Link to Wrenge (1)



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