It was cheesy, but between the wine and the atmosphere, I had to admit that I felt a twinge of fear as we recited a chant at the instruction of Victoria. I can’t remember the chant exactly, something like, “Spirit of wisdom grant us access to your dark secrets.” After we did this for awhile, the room seemed to change somehow. A chill came over me as the lights around us seemed to dim and the candles burned brighter. Victoria’s eyes rolled back in her head and she began to speak in a raspy whisper that would have seemed silly and over-the-top to me normally, but in that moment felt oddly convincing.
“The spirit is among us,” she rasped, and tapped on the deck of tarot cards, “Ask it what you will.”
I was silent. I really didn’t know enough about this mystery we were supposed to be solving to feel confident saying anything, and besides that, my voice seemed to be caught in my throat. I waiting for someone to say something, and finally a guy who’s name I didn’t know spoke up:
“Who are the true leaders of Wolf Paw?” he asked.
This question didn’t really make sense to me, but I figured this faction must have something to do with finding the aforementioned Whisper Stone. Victoria tapped her finger on the the deck of tarot cards, and the question asking guy seemed to remember this was how the event worked and lifted the top card.
It was the three of cups. This was no more meaningful to me than the question itself, but several players nodded thoughtfully as if this was a striking revelation. The whole thing began to feel a bit silly to me and I only feigned interest as more questions were asked and more (seemingly meaningless) answers provided by the tarot deck.
I had been idly daydreaming for several minutes when suddenly a girl I vaguely recognized from Algebra II whose name was Clare flipped the death card in response to some question I had missed.
Victoria shrieked and pointed a wavering finger at Clare.
“The spirit is coming for you!” Victoria rasped, eyes still rolling back into her head. Seeming to know how to play her part, Clare fell to the floor coughing as if choking.
“The spirit says it wishes to dine on the blood of a vampire tonight!” Victoria cried out, almost shrieking now as Clare rolled around on the carpet. Everyone watched transfixed. I had to admit, this part was pretty convincing and the chill I had felt earlier ran up my spine again. There were more rasps and shrieks from Victoria and more convulsions on the floor of the den from Clare. Clare seemed to actually be choking now, and some of the color had drained from her face.
“Someone do something!” the question guy from earlier said. I looked around at the group but no one seemed sure of how to handle this situation. Finally, Adelaide turned to me and spoke.
“Hey Daniel,” she said, “Doesn’t your character have the banishing ability?”
I thought back. She was right, I recalled, I had taken banishing as one of my abilities when Garrett had helped me make my character. All eyes were on me now, and even though I didn’t know exactly what to do I arose and pointed at Clare, still writhing, and shouted in a forceful voice that surprised even me:
“Dark spirit, go back from whence ye came, you have no power here in the house of Owl Eye!”
It was as if some spell that had been cast on all of us broke. Clare stopped writhing and several of the other players rushed to her side. Victoria’s eyes went back to their normal position and she quit rasping and shrieking. Although I couldn’t be sure of it, it seemed as though the room had become somewhat lighter.
Soon the wine was flowing again as people were chatting about the results of the event, comparing notes about the answers given by the “spirit” and speculating about the Whisper Stone. The way in which everyone was acting so casual kind of put me off. Had I been the only one who had legitimately felt fearful during that whole scene? I tried to shrug it off by reminding myself that we were all just playing a game but there was a bad taste in my mouth I couldn’t seem to get out.
Several of the other players came over to tell me what a great job I had done thwarting the dark spirit. Victoria even awarded me a Power card which I had to admit, even in my slightly freaked-out state, made me feel good. Clare didn’t speak to me directly, but she caught my eye several times and gave me a look I couldn’t read.
As the afternoon turned to evening the assembled players began to spill out around the house and things began to shift from event to party, though still with most of the talk concerning various aspects of the game. I was a bit tipsy from the wine and by this point was urgently in need of the bathroom, so I had Victoria point me the way there. The hallway had a strange, foul odor in it, something I realized I’d been smelling the whole time but now the smell was stronger. This did nothing to relieve my feelings of unease. Upon finishing my business in the bathroom I was confronted in the hallway by Clare who walked up to me with a sly look in her eye.
“You know,” she said as she sashayed towards me, “I think your performance earlier puts me in debt to you. Perhaps I can do you a favor?”
She came close to me and I could smell wine on her breath.
“Perhaps you’d like to drink my blood?” she asked, sweeping back her long blonde hair and offering me her neck. The gesture gave me a strange mixed feeling of arousal and disgust. I said nothing. Eventually she returned her head to a normal angle and looked me in the eyes before moving even closer to me and placing her hands on me, one on my chest and one on my thigh.
“Maybe there’s a different favor you want?” she said, now in a husky whisper as she ran her hand up and down my thigh. I muttered an excuse, something about taking that favor another time and decided now was the time to make my exit.
Although it was somewhat foolish to drive in my state I knew my house was only about four blocks away so I said quick goodbyes to everyone and then dashed out of that house as fast as I could. Once home, I managed to make it to my room without my parents taking much notice of me or my intoxicated state (thank god) and finally breathed a sigh of relief. Clare’s come on, and especially it being given in the context of the game, had shook me as much as anything that had happened that evening and my head was spinning.
I began to think that maybe the Blood Game wasn’t for me, and that I should write Garrett a text asking him to please remove me from the game. As soon as I picked up my phone, however, I was blown away by the startling number of messages I’d received, having not checked them since before the start of the event. The messages were varied but all followed the same thread. They were about me. Texts were flying back and forth about how Owl Eye had a powerful new ally and that the tables were turning against the enemies of the newly bolstered faction. My banishing of the dark spirit was all anyone seemed to be able to talk about, and there were hints too about what Owl Eye had learned (what, I still didn’t know) from the spirit’s visit. Rumors abounded about preparations made by Wolf Paw for a coming raid.
My most recent message was from Victoria, it read:
“sry about clare she’s rly drunk and passd out now but she told me first about her little run in with you in th hall. she’s a total doof, I hope thats not why u left! everyone agrees youre a great addition to the game and a MAJOR asset to owl eye!!”
Although I was still a little freaked from the evening’s events, this message calmed me significantly. Whatever Clare had been up to had nothing to do with the game, just a drunk and horny girl at a party making a fool of herself. I actually laughed at my own foolishness. To think I had let a simple game scare me so much, it now started to seem very silly. I even had to admit that the event had been kind of fun. Certainly it had been thrilling.
The next couple of weeks saw me attending more events, including one with an astonishing sixty or so players, without anything particularly weird going on. My focus was still mostly on Adelaide at these events, especially when it was an Owl Eye faction only event and Sarah wasn’t around. Sarah seemed more and more off somehow when I saw her during the game (and I rarely saw her at school anymore it seemed), but mostly I just tried to avoid her.