It was lighter than it should have been. I held it as far away from me as I could, while still being able to read it. No moon shined to allow me to, but the words glowed with their own innate luz, light. The title of the black tome was written in a language I hoped I would never have to learn.
The old fools in the city cared not for the secrets inked in la sangre de demonios, the blood of demons. They thought them too dangerous and unpredictable, but I was doing it for her.
Alicia’s face popped into my head, her black hair and soft, caring, brown eyes. She had been trying to summon a particularly dangerous demonio when la magia, the magic, spiraled out of her control. Her death destroyed me.
Stealing the tome had been easy. None of los brujos, the witches, paid any attention to me. “Deja que el dolor se le pase,” Wait for the pain to fade, they said.
Now I stood facing the grave where they buried her. I would bring her back to the land of the living. I opened the tome to see the letters constantly changing and reforming. I closed my eyes and focused, forcing the language to become Spanish, and the right spell, to appear on the page.
The title read Regresando la vida a los muertos, Returning the Life to the Dead. Alicia would be mine once again. The words of the spell erupted from my mouth. All traces of nervousness disappeared. From very deep in my throat laughter bubbled. I could feel the dead awakening.
The first part of the sell called her alma, soul, back from el infierno, hell. I prepared myself for the second part when I noticed one of los muertos standing before me. It must have risen with only the first part of the spell. No meat clung to its body, and in the moonlight its white bones reflected the light. It opened and closed its mouth in an attempt to speak. I cast a spell that allowed him to do just that.
“Necesitas ayuda, Carlos?” Do you need help, Carlos, it said in a man’s voice.
I stepped away from him. Dealing with los muertos was dangerous. El muerto moved closer to me, peering at the tome in my hands. “I asked you something, Carlos,” he said with a skeletal grin.
I searched for any strength with in the creature, but I only found a little, barely half the power that I myself contained. Controlling him would be easy. With his help I could strengthen la magia of the spell and surely succeed in my endeavor. “I accept your help,” I said.
El muerto smiled and moved to stand right beside me. He took long, confident strides. I resumed the spell and found myself finishing the spell quicker with the added magia. Alicia struggled to rise from her grave. I could hear the cheap wood of her coffin splintering deep within the ground. When the spell finished she dug herself out of the ground and now stood before me. Carlos, she mouthed in happiness. Her eyes widened in fear when she saw el muerto.He laughed from beside me and took the black tome from my arms, pushing me to the ground. I cried out. With another maniacal laugh he called forth los muertos, who were already half awake. Slowly they rose to the surface of the earth, breaking their dark, mahogany coffins or their cheap, pine coffins.
Alicia ran towards me, and I realized that she was not fully alive. El muerto had stolen power from the spell. “His name is Sagaz,” Alicia said when she reached me. “Once he was human, but he is now un demonio.”
Without warning a wave of hopelessness hit me. Sagaz now led los muertos in the direction of the city. Alicia knelt beside the only muerta that Sagaz didn’t control. I recoiled when the cold flesh of her fingers touched me. The spell had returned her body to a perfect condition, but no warm blood pumped through her veins, and no life sparkled in her eyes.
“You need to help, Carlos,” Alicia pleaded with a hurt look on her face. In my despair I almost shouted at her. This creature was not Alicia, but I did have a duty to the city, a duty to right my wrong. Slowly I rose from the ground. Sagaz had to be stopped.
Alicia searched my face for more signs of disgust or fear; she found none. “He is an old one, Carlos,” she said softly. “We must be very careful.”
“Can you still use la magia?” I asked her.
She shook her head and turned away from me.
The trail that los muertos had made was easy to follow. At the end of the trail we found ourselves at the outskirts of la ciudad. A few meters away from us a bridge stood over a small river. It led the way to a small island where the fair was held every summer. The screams that came from the island told us where los muertos were.
We ran to bridge to find a scene of carnage before us. Los muertos ripped the fairgoers to shreds right before us. I saw Sagaz biting into the neck of a screaming young woman, draining her life. He carried the black tome with his left hand. I panicked. How could I defeat un demonio?
The killing ended, as fairgoers either lay dead or ran away, and Sagaz took a seat in the middle of the fair. With a grin at the destruction around him, he commanded the recently dead to arise. His spell sent a tremor through my body. Sagaz was using my magia to cast all his spells.
Alicia laid her frigid hand on my shoulder. “One of los brujos would help us,” she said. She peered out into the clearing darkness. “I think Don Miguel comes here now.”
I followed her line of sight and saw that Don Miguel was walking towards Sagaz with a determined gait. He carried a cane topped with the silver head of a hissing cat. He stopped in front of el demonio. Sagaz laughed at him. “The old brujos come to face me?” he asked.
“I command you to return to el infierno, demonio,” Don Miguel sent a wave of pure power against el demonio. Sagaz lifted his hand and deflected the attack, causing me to crumple to the ground. The pain enveloped my whole body. I wished I would die, and then maybe Don Miguel would have a chance.
“You have to get up, Carlos,” Alicia said next to me. “Don Miguel is in trouble.”
With great difficulty Alicia helped me up to my feet. Don Miguel was now swamped by los muertos. He still cast a few spells that either turned los muertos to dust or completely immobilized them, but he was weakening.
I rushed to his side. When he saw me his face darkened as he glared at me. One of los muertos took advantage of the distraction and pulled Don Miguel down. The rest tore into him as well. In that moment I let out a primal cry from the depths of my being. Los muertos left the remains of Don Miguel’s body alone. I marveled at the strange burst of strength. Then I realized that I was draining Sagaz of his power. The bond created by the joining of our magias worked both ways.
Sagaz stood before his seat. I could see that every move pained him. “You are stronger than I thought,” he said to me. “Let me make you a deal, Carlos.”
“No,” I said, “no deals.” With a flick of my finger I summoned the black tome to me. I opened it and carefully read the counter spell to the spell I had cast before. I felt Sagaz attempt to cast his own spell, but by using his power to cast my spell I weakened him.
I was almost done with spell, when I saw Alicia watching me. Her skin was already returning to its decaying form. A sad smile lay on her lips, and I knew that she accepted my choice. When the spell was done I sat on the bloodstained grass, surrounded by los muertos. Soon los brujos from la ciudad would arrive to help me clean up the mess.