The October sky was as black as the heart of a thief, the Moon’s face hidden from sight as if in fear of what was to come. Unfortunately, my own senses weren’t honed well enough to perceive the imminent danger.

The autumn rains washed away all remnants of an early snowfall, and the deep freeze of winter had yet to arrive, leaving the landscape a soggy mass of vegetative decay. The cover of night couldn’t disguise the odor, it was similar to manure and marsh gas, yet was neither. Windows and doors were locked tight to keep the foulness out but glass and wood were no protection against what was to come.

I was working, writing. My communion with my Muse consumed me; words flowed from my mind to my fingertips with an alacrity I seldom experienced. Due to this spiritual connection with a denizen of the Otherworld I missed the warning signs. The sky thickened liked tar, the flag flapped thunderously despite the lack of wind and the stench of death permeated the room, all without disturbing my concentration.

In the space between heartbeats I found myself standing outside my body, looking at my physical being sitting at the desk, fingers still on the computer keyboard. A wave of nausea swamped my spirit. This was not a good place to be without preparation. Astral projection was dangerous in the best of situations and this was far from ideal.

Before I could reassemble myself I felt a tugging at my soul. A dark force tried to drag me from the Astral plane. I fought with all the Power stored within me and it wasn’t enough. I felt myself drifting away from my physical body, my life torn asunder by the magnetic pull of the hunter intent on stealing my soul for itself. It was irresistible; I would resist.

I called upon my protectors, my spirit animals, surprised they weren’t already with me, but then a soul hunter was a tricky beast and set its traps for the unwary very well.

This wasn’t my first encounter with such a creature of the shadows; I’d crossed paths with one of its ilk before. I wasn’t caught off guard then and was able to warn every sensitive, psychic, mystic and magic practitioner I knew to lock themselves behind closed curtains and spiritual protection. I didn’t lose anyone that day but there were rumors of others lost, their Powers stripped and souls ravaged until they were an empty husk. They still walked and talked and went about their lives but something vital was missing from within them, that little piece which made them more than merely mortal; the spark of magic was gone.

I was determined not to be a victim of this devourer of souls. I knew my strengths and they lay not just within me but with the beings who freely followed me on my path.

My spirit companions came at my cry for help, the great dragon at my back and the fierce leopardess at my side. The three of us had created harmony, healed the soul-sick and fought darkness side by side for years. We were a force to be reckoned with and the hunter couldn’t stand against us and the Power we wielded together.

The leopardess tore at the energy connecting me to the dark entity with teeth and claws, shredding it with her Light. The dragon latched onto my shoulders and extended his mighty wings, pulling my spirit back toward my body. With no other means to aid them I asked the hapless Muse for her services once more; with her divine inspiration I called upon the greatest of Powers:

In this place and at this hour
I call upon the ancient Power.
Silver Lady, Shining Lord,
And the bright spirit horde,
Protect my soul with your light
Let nothing harm me by day or night.
Keep me safe and keep me free
With harm to none, so mote it be!

Within seconds after my incantation I was back in my physical body. As I settled into where I belonged, I felt the dragon drape his wings around me like a cloak. He rested his head on my shoulder, giving me comfort like a lover or a friend. The leopardess paced around my feet, ever watchful, soothing my shattered nerves in her own way.

There was a shriek in the night as the soul hunter wailed over its defeat and a shiver ran through me. I knew this wouldn’t be the end of it. I had escaped its clutches but it had tasted me, my Power, and it’ll come back for me someday and I, we, will be ready for it.

Photo Credit: V. R. Roadifer