Even though she’d been expecting it, the knock on the door still startled her. It must be time. The entire clan was depending on her.
The door cracked open. “Rebecca?” Marie stuck her head in the room. “Are you ready?”
Not trusting her voice, Rebecca just nodded.
Marie entered the room fully and closed the door behind her. “Are you okay?” She was only a few months younger than Rebecca, but her smaller frame and carefree disposition always made her seem like a little sister. Marie’s presence usually was a comfort, but today Rebecca’s anxiety was greater than any friendly presence could master.
“Rebecca? You’re making me nervous.”
“I’m sorry, Marie. I’m just feeling a lot of pressure.”
“You’ll do fine. You’re the most talented medium we have.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is so. You work harder than anyone. Besides we’re your family. No one is going to judge you.”
“Phillip and Peter will.”
“Who cares? Those two are the reason you’re in this mess. They have no right to complain about anything.”
“I suppose so.”
“I’m right, and you know it. Now go out there and show those boys who you are.”
“Okay, okay. Let’s go get this over with.”
The two left the room, walked down the stairs, and went out the front door. In the courtyard, the whole clan was gathered around the cairn in the center. Marie left her side to join the audience. Rebecca walked slowly to the center of the group.
She tried to block out all the people standing around and focused her mind on the image of the Elder that she had studied. She spoke the words of the spells out loud and reached out to him. At first, when there was no response, she began to worry that the spell had failed. Eventually, however, another presence approached her.
“Daughter. You have called me?” His image was faint, but he looked like the picture she had. At least she hadn’t failed.
“Yes, Elder. We seek your wisdom, your guidance, one last time.”
“My time has past. Surely I did not leave you all helpless, unable to fend for yourselves.”
“No, Elder, you did not. Yet there is the question of your successor.”
“Oh. Both Phillip and Peter claim leadership. Because they cannot settle the matter themselves, they involved you.”
None of his words sounded like a question, so Rebecca remained silent.
“I suppose we have an audience? The entire clan is watching you?”
She never expected to hear a ghost sigh.
“Very well. Permit me to speak through you.”
“Of course, Elder.”
There was always a possibility it would come to this, but it didn’t make it any easier. The spirit entered her body, and it felt as though something was crawling under her skin. Almost instantly, she knew she no longer had control of her own body. The whole experience was nauseating. When her mouth open a voice that wasn’t hers came out.
“My children. I am told uncertainty has gripped you. Phillip. Peter. Come here.”
Rebecca’s vision was hazy; it felt like her eyes were far away. Still, she could make out the two men approach her – or rather their deceased father. Each towered over her, though they seemed cowed by their father’s voice and presence.
“You two cannot decide between you who should lead?”
“No. Father, you . . .” Phillip, the older of the two, spoke until he was cut off.
“So you make this girl bring me here to continue to make up for your failures.”
Every moment the Elder possessed her body increased the terror she felt. She wanted to scream, but even that release was denied her. Without consciously choosing to do so, she was constantly rebelling against the invader. The Elder proceeded as if she didn’t exist.
“The uncertainty was causing . . .” Peter tried, but he, too, was interrupted.
“You have demonstrated your lack of leadership skills, both of you. You have demonstrated to the entire clan that each of you is incompetent. You could not command respect and obedience now, even if I were to declare one of you. Very well. I will return and lead you once more.”
“But, father . . .” Phillip objected.
“Silence! You had your chance, and you squandered it. You asked for my guidance, and now I will give it. Not for your sake, but for our family’s sake. I can see they need better than you. In ten days, the new moon will rise.” Rebecca felt her body turn to face the gathering as a whole. “Make preparations. In ten days, I will return to you. This girl has shown more composure than either of my sons. When I return, I will join her to lead you out of this darkness you have fallen into. Rejoice! And prepare for my return!”
Rebecca wanted to say something, but she was overwhelmed by the physical sense of relief that washed through her body when the Elder left it. The world went black as she sank to the ground.