The Sorceress

Excerpt from ReadersRead.com
by Michael Scott
Random House, 2009

thesorceress

I think I see them.”

The young man in the green parka standing directly beneath the huge circular clock in St. Pancras station took the phone away from his ear and checked a blurred image on the screen. The English Magician had sent the image: the picture was grainy, the colors washed and faded, and it looked liked it had been taken from an overhead security camera. It showed an older man with short gray hair, accompanied by two blond-haired teens, climbing onto a train.

Rising up on his toes, the young man swiveled his head, looking for the trio he’d glimpsed. For a moment, he thought he’d lost them in the milling crowd, but even if he had, they wouldn’t get far: one of his sisters was downstairs; another was in the street outside, watching the entrance.

Now, where had the old man and the teenagers gone?

Narrow, pinched nostrils opened wide as the young man sorted through the countless scents in the station. He identified and dismissed the mixed stink of too many humani, the myriad perfumes and deodorants, the gels and pastes, the greasy odor of fried food from the station’s restaurants, the richer aroma of coffee and the metallic oily tang of the train engines and carriages. He closed his eyes and tilted his head back.

The odors he was seeking were older, wilder, unnatural. . . .

There!

Mint: just the merest suggestion.

Orange: no more than the vaguest hint.

Vanilla: little more than a trace.

Hidden behind small rectangular sunglasses, blue-black eyes opened wide and his head swiveled, following the gossamer threads of scent through the vast train station. He had them now!

The gray-haired older man, wearing black jeans and a scuffed leather jacket, was striding down the station concourse directly toward him. There was a small overnight case in his left hand. He was followed by the two teenagers, alike enough to be brother and sister. The boy was taller than the girl, and they were both wearing backpacks.

The young man snapped a quick picture with his cell phone camera and sent it to Dr. John Dee. Although he had nothing but contempt for the English Magician, there was no point in making an enemy of him. Dee was the agent of the most dangerous of all the Elders.

Pulling the hood of his parka over his head, he turned away as the trio drew level with him, and dialed his sister, who was waiting downstairs. “It’s definitely Flamel and the twins,” he murmured into the phone, speaking the ancient language that had eventually become Gaelic. “They’re heading in your direction. We’ll take them when they get onto the Euston Road.”

The young man in the hooded parka set off after the Alchemyst and the American twins. He moved easily through the early-afternoon crowd, looking like just another teenager, anonymous and unnoticed in his sloppy jeans, scuffed sneakers and overlarge coat, his head and face concealed by the hood, his eyes invisible behind the sunglasses.

Despite his form, the young man had never been remotely human. He and his sisters had first come to this land when it was still joined to the European continent, and for generations they had been worshipped as gods. He bitterly resented being ordered about by Dee–who was, after all, nothing more than a humani. But the English Magician had promised the hooded boy a delectable prize: Nicholas Flamel, the legendary Alchemyst. Dee’s instructions were clear; he and his sisters could have Flamel, but the twins must not be touched. The boy’s thin lips twisted. His sisters would take the boy and girl, while he would have the honor of killing Flamel. A coal-black tongue licked cracked dry lips. He and his sisters would feast for weeks. And, of course, they would keep the tastiest morsels for Mother.

Nicholas Flamel slowed, allowing Sophie and Josh to catch up with him. Forcing a smile, he pointed to the thirtyfoot- tall bronze statue of a couple embracing beneath the clock. “It’s called The Meeting Place,” he said loudly, and then added in a whisper, “We’re being followed.” Flamel grasped Josh’s arm with iron-hard fingers. “Don’t even think about turning around.”

“Who?” Sophie asked.

“What?” Josh said tightly. He was feeling nauseated; his newly Awakened senses were overwhelmed by the scents and sounds of the train station. The light was so sharp he wished he had a pair of sunglasses to shield his eyes.

“ ‘What?’ is the better question,” Nicholas said grimly. He raised a finger to point up to the clock, as if he were talking about it. “I’m not sure what it is,” he admitted. “Something ancient. I felt it the moment we stepped off the train.”

“Felt it?” Josh asked.

“A tingle, like an itch. My aura reacted to the aura of whoever–whatever–is here. When you have a little more control of your own auras, you’ll be able to do the same.” Tilting her head back, as if she were admiring the latticework of the metal-and-glass ceiling, Sophie slowly turned.

Crowds swirled around them. Most seemed to be locals, though there were plenty of tourists, many stopping to have their photographs taken in front of The Meeting Place or the huge clock. No one seemed to be paying them any particular attention.

“What can we do?” Josh asked. “I can boost Sophie’s powers. . . .”

“No,” Flamel snapped. “You can only use your powers as an absolute last resort. As soon as you activate your aura, it will alert every Elder, Next Generation and immortal within a ten-mile radius, and here, just about every immortal you encounter is allied to the Dark Elders. Also, in this land, it could awaken others, creatures best left sleeping.”

“But you said we’re being followed,” Sophie protested.

“That means Dee knows we’re here.”

Flamel urged the twins to the left, away from the statue, hurrying them toward the exit. “I would imagine there are watchers in every airport, seaport and railway station across Europe. Although Dee might have suspected that we were heading to London, the instant either of you activates your aura, he’ll know for certain.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

PENYIHIR

“Kurasa aku melihatnya.”

Pemuda dalam jaket parka hijau berdiri tepat di bawah jam raksasa berbentuk bundar di Stasiun St. Pancras. Dia menarik ponsel dari sisi telinganya, memeriksa sebuah gambar samar di layar. Seorang Penyihir Inggris mengirim sebuah foto : foto berbintik-bintik kasar, warnanya sudah luntur dan pudar seperti foto yang diambil dari sudut atas kamera pengawas. Tergambar seorang pria tua berambut pendek beruban diikuti dua remaja berambut pirang naik kereta api.

Berjingkat, pemuda itu memandang sekitar mencari tiga orang yang sekilas tadi dilihatnya. Sejenak dia pikir sudah kehilangan mereka dalam gulungan kerumunan. Akan tetapi kalaupun benar, mereka tidak akan pergi jauh. Adik perempuan satunya ada di lantai bawah dan satunya lagi di luar, mengawasi pintu masuk stasiun.

Sekarang, kemana perginya pria tua dan remaja-remaja itu?

Lubang hidung kecil sempit terbuka lebar saat pemuda itu memilah-milah begitu banyak aroma di stasiun. Dikenali dan dipisahkannya campuran bau-bau manusia itu, ribuan parfum dan deodoran, gel dan pasta, bau lemak makanan gorengan dari restoran-restoran stasiun, penambah aroma kopi dan pelumas logam mesin-mesin kereta api dan kereta kuda. Ditutup kedua matanya lalu agak ditundukkan kepalanya.

Bau-bauan yang dia cari semakin usang, semerawut, dan tidak asli…..

Disana!

Mint : hanya petunjuk

Jeruk : tidak lebih dari petunjuk samar

Vanilla : agak lebih dari petunjuk

Mata biru tua yang tersembunyi di balik kacamata persegi terbuka lebar. Kepalanya ditengokkan mengikuti untaian benang-benang aroma yang tersebar di seluruh stasiun kereta api nan luas. Nah! Mereka sudah ketemu…

Pria tua beruban mengenakan jeans hitam dan jaket kulit lecet langsung menuruni ruang terbuka stasiun menuju ke arahnya. Sebuah koper kecil di tangan kirinya. Dia diikuti dua remaja yang cukup mirip sebagai kakak beradik : yang lelaki lebih tinggi dari perempuan dan keduanya menggendong tas ransel.

Si pemuda cepat-cepat mengambil foto dengan kamera ponsel lalu mengirimnya pada Dr. John Dee. Meskipun Penyihir Inggris itu dipandangnya rendah, tidak ada gunanya menjadikan dia musuh. Dee adalah penyihir paling berbahaya diantara para sesepuh.

Ditariknya tudung parka ke atas kepala, kemudian beranjak saat ketiga orang itu datang. Dia memanggil sang adik yang masih menunggu di bawah. “Pasti itu Flamel dan Si Kembar”, gumamnya di telepon menggunakan bahasa kuno sampai-sampai kedengaran seperti orang-orang Gael. “Mereka menuju ke arahmu, kita akan tangkap mereka saat memasuki Euston Road.”

Pemuda dalam tudung parka membuntuti Sang Ahli Kimia dan Si kembar Amerika, dengan mudahnya dia menggeliat diantara kerumunan siang itu. Tidak dikenali dan tanpa disadari keberadaannya. Dia kelihatan seperti remaja lain dalam balutan celana jeans longgar, sneaker lecet disana sini dan jaket kedodorannya. Kepala dan wajah tersembunyi tudung, dibalik kacamata hitam matanya tidak terlihat.

Meski dengan penampilannya pemuda itu tidak pernah sedikitpun lebih manusiawi. Dia dan adik-adik perempuannya pertama kali datang kemari saat tempat ini masih di tergabung dalam benua Eropa, demi generasi yang mereka sembah sebagai dewa. Ditentangnya dengan sengit perintah Dee, toh pria itu tidak pernah lebih manusiawi. Akan tetapi Penyihir Inggris menjanjikan Si Pemuda sebuah hadiah terindah : Nicholas Flamel, Ahli Kimia legendaris. Perintah Dee sudah jelas, dia dan adik-adiknya boleh ambil Flamel, tetapi Si Kembar tidak boleh disentuh. Bibir tipis pemuda itu terpelintir menggeliat. Adik-adikknya akan urus Si Kembar sementara dia mendapat kehormatan membunuh Flamel. Lidah sehitam arang menjilati bibir keringnya yang pecah-pecah. Selama seminggu dia dan adik-adiknya akan berpesta, dan tentu saja akan menyisakan potongan kecil paling lezat untuk ibu mereka.

Nicholas Flamel pelankan langkah membiarkan Sophie dan Josh menyusul dirinya. Seraya memaksakan senyum, ditunjuknya patung perunggu setinggi sepuluh meter : patung sepasang insan sedang berpelukan di bawah sebuah jam. “Tempat ini disebut Tempat Pertemuan,” katanya lantang, yang kemudian berbisik, “Kita sedang diikuti”. Flamel menggenggam tangan Josh dengan jari-jari tangan sekeras baja. “Jangan pernah berbalik ke belakang”.

“Siapa?” tanya Sophie.

“Apa?” desak Josh. Dia merasa mabuk, inderanya yang baru terbangun kewalahan dengan aroma-aroma dan bunyi-bunyian di stasiun kereta. Cahaya sangat terik, dia berharap  ada kacamata hitam melindungi kedua matanya.

“Apa adalah pertanyaan yang lebih baik,” kata Nicholas muram. Telunjuknya diangkat menunjuk pada jam seolah dia sedang membicarakannya. “Aku tidak yakin apa itu,” akunya. “Sesuatu yang kuno, aku sudah merasakannya sejak kita turun dari kereta.”

“Merasakan apa?” tanya Josh.

“Sesuatu yang menggelitik seperti gatal. Auraku bereaksi dengan entah aura apa atau siapa di tempat ini. Kalau kau bisa sedikit kendalikan auramu, kau akan bisa merasakan hal yang sama.” Sophie beranjak perlahan sambil mengangkat kembali kepalanya seolah sedang mengagumi langit-langit berjalinkan logam dan kaca.

Kerumunan di sekeliling mereka berputar-putar. Sebagian besar adalah orang-orang pribumi, banyak juga diantaranya turis-turis yang berhenti untuk mengambil foto di depan Tempat Pertemuan atau jam raksasa itu. Kelihatannya tidak seorangpun memperhatikan mereka secara khusus.

“Apa yang akan kita lakukan? Tanya Josh. “Aku bisa menggandakan kekuatan Sophie…..”

“Jangan,” sambar Flanel. “Kau Cuma boleh gunakan kekuatan saat benar-benar terdesak.” Secepat kau hidupkan auramu, maka akan memberi sinyal ke setiap sesepuh, keturunan, dan makhluk abadi dalam radius enam belas kilometer. Hampir semua makhluk abadi yang kau temui di tempat ini bersekutu dengan sesepuh kegelapan. Di tempat ini juga auramu bisa membangunkan makhluk-makhluk lain. Makhluk yang lebih baik kalau dibiarkan tertidur.

“Tapi kau bilang kita diikuti,” bantah Sophie.

“Maksudku Dee tahu kita disini.”

Flamel mendesak Si Kembar meninggalkan patung dan menyuruh mereka bergegas menuju pintu keluar. “Bisa kubayangkan banyak mata-mata di setiap bandara, pelabuhan dan stasiun kereta di seluruh Eropa. Walaupun mungkin Dee sudah menduga kita sedang menuju London, kalau salah satu dari kalian membangkitkan aura, dia pasti akan tahu.”

CMIIW (Correct Me If I’m Wrong).. thank you🙂

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