The Sigil’s Origin

Deleted Scene from UNHOLY MAGIC

This is another one I really, really hated to lose. I liked this scene a lot better than the one I ended up using (where Elder griffin tells Chess about Fletcher and the sigil), but in the interests of proper pacing, I really had to wait for that. This originally took place at the same place as the scene in the library with Elder Griffin; I’ve left the tag end of that in here to help place it.

Anyway, I didn’t want to give away what the sigil did that early in the story. I felt it lessened the impact of what came later. And since Elder griffin was going to have to tell Chess about Fletcher’s Church education anyway, I decided to hold off.

The camera clicked back onto the table. “I’m sorry, dear. ’Tis far later than I realized. I should go.”

“Please, I just—” Fuck! “I just want to know what it’s for, I was hoping… Well, you know how pleased I am to be working with other departments, and I thought maybe if I could really expand my esoteric knowledge, maybe I could do it more often, is all. Couldn’t you please just tell me what the one you saw does? Or if you know any of the elements?”

She widened her eyes, let her mouth pucker slightly. Not enough to look like she was trying to seduce him, but enough to catch his sympathy. She hoped. Every muscle in her body tensed. Please…please…

He bowed his head, lifted it again. “I’m sorry, dear. But I really know nothing about it. But we have better sigils, as you know. Ones which protect much more consistently. Some of those we learned in my youth were not as gent—not as foolproof as what we now use. I appreciate your desire to advance yourself, but I fear moving down such a twisted path will not do you the good you seek.”

“I just want to know what it means, is all, I don’t plan to use it.”

He sighed, watched her for a minute while her already dry eyes started feeling sticky with the need to blink.

Finally he spoke. “I’m sorry, dear. I cannot, not today. Perhaps another time. Good morrow, now. Fact is truth.”

“Fact is truth,” she echoed, but she didn’t hear the words leave her mouth. Didn’t hear the tapping of his buckle shoes on the floor when he exited the Restricted Room and hit the main library.

When he was in training, he’d said. Either he’d spoken without thinking, or he’d been giving her a hint. Either way, it only took her a few minutes to find the old training manuals, in the far corner beneath the smiling golden Buddha.

The Buddha and the other outdated religious relics lining the walls were one of the reasons she enjoyed doing work in the Restricted room so much. Of course the Archive building contained even more: Christian Bibles hundreds of years old printed on paper so fine she could almost see through it, an entire room full of Nativitys, a Buddhist temple reconstructed beneath the high ceiling. Korans and prayer stones, statues of Hindu gods and goddesses with gold leaf still clinging to their stone arms like a luxurious rash.

None of it meant anything anymore, but the images still fascinated her. Once they’d given humanity solace. Now they sat in a museum, viewable only by those who applied for and were approved for a pass. How quickly importance deserted people and things, how quickly the revered became the forgotten.

She shuddered and grabbed the dusty books, flipping to the back to check the Index, then scanning the pages to see if she could find the sigil. Mustiness rose from the pages, filling her nose, making her eyes burn. She swiped at them with the back of her hand and kept looking.

Nothing in the first three books. She was just about ready to give up when she found it.

Not the sigil she was looking for, not exactly. It appeared to be missing several lines; one entire letter or rune? No way of knowing, really. It could be one, could be three, thanks to the overlapping nature of sigil lines. Still this was better than nothing, like a sketch had been done of hers before it was finished.

She’d been right. It was protective…but not for the dead.

The sigil was designed for Church employees, to hold their souls in their bodies in case of severe injury.

The Chester airport case had hinged in part on a dead man whose soul had been trapped in his body, held by magic and used to power a dark spirit. For a second Chess’s blood ran cold. Fuck, there couldn’t be another—

No. No, Daisy had been dead. The other hookers Terrible and Lex had mentioned were dead.

So why had their souls been fixed to their bodies, when their bodies had then been emptied and discarded? What were the other runes in the sigil and what did they do?

She sighed and snapped a picture of the book, zooming in to get the printing at the bottom. In the Church’s early days every employee had been required to mark this sigil somewhere on their persons before doing battle with spirits. Seemed like a pretty good idea to Chess; she wondered why that had changed and the sigil had fallen out of use, even out of teaching.

In her classes, starting at age fifteen and continuing until she graduated at twenty-one, they’d been taught hundreds of protective sigils, mainly to study and use as a basis for designing their own. Each Church employee was supposed to create and develop their own individual system, their own way of interacting with the herbs, symbols, and energies of magic. Grade points were taken off for simply copying the Church’s designs.

So it was entirely possible this sigil, which had apparently been designed sometime in the mid-twentieth century, had been used as the base for the one she’d found on Daisy…entirely possible, given Elder Griffin’s discomfort, that the variation used on Daisy had been used before. With results so disturbing they’d removed the sigil from Church training entirely.

She closed the books and checked the ornate carved-wood clock covering the entire upper half of the far wall. Its eldritch ivory face told her it was almost three o’clock. Time to go. She planned to head to the Pyle house that night and wanted to take a nap.

Besides, unless Elder Griffin changed his mind and came back to tell her everything he knew, her chances of finding out more about the sigil were nonexistent. There might be something about it in the files, but considering there were thousands of them she didn’t much want to look. Better to compare the two pictures and see if she could separate the differing elements.

Most of the employees had left already. Chess descended the wide marble staircase in the main hall in silence, the only living thing in that space of dark wood and stone.