Updated: Jul 12, 2022
Once we begin to meddle, it can be really hard to stop just as when a disaster is in process, it can be very difficult to look away.
As we move deeper into the Fallen Angels of New Orleans Oracle Deck, Lilith finds herself enjoying her new project even more than she'd expected.
I'm very much pushing my boundaries and my abilities with this new deck. I am trying out skills and more creative actions than I ever have before. Of course, I was only voted the second-best visual artist in the 225 for 2022 so I clearly need to up my game :)
The Summoning of Assalbi: Sylvie's Bones
Sylvie Landry sat on the wobbly bar stool in her favorite hole-in-the-wall bar on lower Decatur. Bad country music throbbed through the bar and reverberated in her head. She moved the straw around listlessly in her strawberry daiquiri. Rarely did Sylvie drink. She refused to dance with the demons that tormented her own mother, Eloise Landry.
Sylvie had felt low-key depressed for far too long, ever since she'd come back from her mother's death bed. Sylvie wasn't grieving her mother though. She'd made peace long ago with the shade of the woman who abandoned her in toddlerhood. Sylvie couldn't have wished for better parents than hers even if they were technically her aunt and uncle.
Most of the time, Sylvie considered it a blessing that she couldn't remember her earliest childhood days. She knew that she's been in and out of her mother's custody for the first three years of her life. Sylvie had lived mostly with her maternal grandmother who had been finally granted full legal custody of the small child.
Although she couldn't remember any of it, Sylvie that her mother kidnapped her at that time and disappeared with toddler Sylvie. Three years later, Sylvie was found abandoned, wandering a rest area along the highway. Young Sylvie was quickly identified and reunited with her grandmother, although Sylvie appeared very thin and undersized for six. Eloise wasn't from again until just a few months ago.
Sylvie resisted visiting her mother in hospice. She knew that Eloise was dying but why did Sylvie owe her anything? Eventually, Sylvie's adopted mother, her aunt Julia (and some gentle pressure from her therapist), convinced Sylvie that it might give Sylvie closure to say good bye to the mother that she didn't remember.
It had been a quiet and tense, three hour car ride to arrive at the hospice in Jackson, Mississippi. The smells in the hospice had been somehow sterile and musty. The woman in the bed, dying by inches of stage four lung cancer, looked nothing like the pictures of the pretty woman that Sylvie had of her mother. The dying woman seemed ancient, at least twenty years older than she was. Eloise's eyes wandered sluggishly around the room before coming to rest on Sylvie.
Julia moved to her sister's bedside. She took her sister's clammy hand in her cool ones. She jerked her head at Sylvie, motioning for her to approach.
“Eloise,” Julia greeted her as her sister slowly focused her attention on the face before her. “I've brought Sylvie to see you.”
Eloise frowned, gazing in confusion at Sylvie as the young woman approached her bedside.
“I killed Sylvie,” Eloise responded. Her lips began to quiver. “I didn't mean it.”
Julia exchanged concerned looks with Sylvie. “No, Eloise. Sylvie is fine. She's right here.”
Tears began to roll out of Eloise's eyes and her gaze slid to the far wall. “She wouldn't be quiet. So, I made her be quiet. I must have hit her too hard.” Eloise shook her head. “She wouldn't move anymore.”
Sylvie swallowed thickly, staring in disbelief at the woman crying in the bed.
Julia insisted, “Sylvie is fine, Eloise. She's standing right here. She wanted to see you and talk to you.”
“I don't remember where we buried her,” Eloise continued, still quietly crying. “It was Mason. Or maybe Sean. We just pulled over off the highway and left her body in a ditch. She was nothing but bones, so light and tiny.”
“Eloise,” Julia began and then stopped, not sure how to break through to her sister.
“We just left her there,” Eloise said. “We just left my baby there.”
She pulled her hand away from Julia. She rolled over on her side, facing away from Sylvie and Julia. Her shoulders shook as she continued to cry.
Sylvie turned and walked out of the room, followed more slowly by Julia.
“I've never seen her like that before,” Julia explained. “She's always been very clear. She's known who I was.”
“Did she ever ask for me?” Sylvie asked, wondering why she hadn't thought to ask before. “Had she even asked if I was ok?”
“No,” Julia admitted reluctantly. “We haven't seen or heard from her in decades, but I could understand, what with how she just abandoned you at that rest stop. Look. Why don't we come back in a few days? Maybe she'll be more clear.”
Sylvie shook her head, regretting her decision to have come at all.
"You're her only child," Julia said gently. "At times like this, family is all we have."
"She thinks I'm dead," Sylvie responded, trying to make sense of the words her mother had spoken. "Did I have any injuries when I was found? Maybe they left me for dead?"
Julia shook her head. "You were fine. Underfed, and dirty, but the doctors never mentioned any injuries. I mean, you were very small for your age, but we Landrys tend to be a little short," Julia offered with a smile. "We'll come back over the weekend. We'll figure this out. We're family."
Sylvie sighed. Her aunt Julia had been the mother she needed. "I'll think about it," she offered, but there was no more time. Eloise Landry died during the night. Sylvie did not attend the funeral. She couldn't. After all, hadn't her mother told her that she was dead?
Instead, here she sat on a bar stool six months later, unable to get that final scene with her mother out of her head.
A dark-haired woman slid onto the bar stool next to her. Sylvie nodded her a neutral greeting.
“She was telling you the truth, you know,” the dark-haired woman told her matter of factly.
“I'm sorry?” Sylvie asked, confused.
“Your mother,” the dark-haired woman clarified.
“What do you know about my mother?” Sylvie demanded, really taking a close look at the stranger beside her. “Who are you?”
The dark-haired woman was beautiful, with dark skin and voluptuous curves. Her full mouth curved in a smile that seemed almost amused. “I know enough,” the woman assured her. “I'm Lilith. It's nice to meet you, Woman who calls herself Sylvie.”
“Ok, Lilith, what do you want?” Sylvie said, trying for bravado.
“I have a gift for you,” Lilith answered, pushing a rolled-up scroll of paper towards her along the bar. “It will provide all the answers you've been seeking.”
Sylvie stared at the pale parchment, her mind feeling blank.
Lilith slid off the bar stool, smoothing down her long gown.
“I'm sure I'll be hearing about you real soon,” Lilith said sweetly. “Woman who calls herself Sylvie.”
Lilith turned and disappeared quickly into the shadowy interior of the bar. Sylvie reached for the parchment, her mind confused. How had the strange woman known about what her mother had said? Had Julia started telling people that story? The two had agreed to keep it between themselves.
Why did the name Lilith sound so familiar?
Her eyes darted around nervously. Sylvie Landry couldn't believe that she'd actually hid out in the cemetery after they locked the gates for the night. What was she even doing, following the instructions on that scroll? Demons weren't real. Magical rituals weren't real. Maybe drugs weren't what drove her mother crazy. Maybe it was a genetic thing, and she, Sylvie Landry, was rapidly coming undone.
Sylvie took a deep steadying breath. Everything was in place. She'd spent a week fasting. She'd saged and cleansed and purified everything that could be cleansed and purified.
She'd drawn the circles and the Sigil in chalk on the pavement around the tomb. Doorways, apparently, made very strong portals for spirits to leave and enter our world. Assalbi was a spirit of the Earth so the bones of the dead made a strong grounding force for a successful summoning.
Sylvie ran shaking hands over the plain linen shift that she'd worn for the summoning ritual. She made three long circuits around the tomb, eyes, and ears open for any patrols in that area of the cemetery.
She began to chant, quietly as she wanted to complete this ritual without being discovered.
O Assalbi, Magnus et Potens Minister Altissimi Inferni Regis Albunalich; o Assalbi, terreni rectoris, qui cuncta regat terram; o Assalbi, magne domine, qui scit quod praeteriit, et quod futurum est; o Magne Assalbi, obsecro te ut ad tempus et ad hunc locum venias.
Oh, Magnus Assalbi, Potens et Magnificus Minister Terrae, exaudi me obsecro et vocati responde. O potentissime Domine Assalbi, qui omnia secreta illius qui in terra jacet sepulta possidet, huc nunc ad tempus et locum veni, honorande, et ad auxilium meum exaudi.
[In English] “Oh, Assalbi, Great and Powerful Minister of the Highest Infernal King Albunalich; oh, Assalbi, Ruler over of the element of the earth who controls all things belong ground; oh, Assalbi, Great Lord who knows that which has passed and that which is to come; oh Great Assalbi, I beseech thee to come to this time and this place.
Oh, Great Assalbi, Powerful and Magnificent Minister of the Earth, please hear me and answer my call. Oh, mighty Lord Assalbi who possesses all the secrets of that which lies buried in the earth, please come here now to this time and place, to be honored and to answer my plea for help.”
She finished the final circuit and stopped at last in front of the tomb. She took a few more deep breaths, glancing around nervously. She really didn't want to start a police record here and now.
She stared at the tomb, eyes straining a little in the darkness of the cemetery. She narrowed her eyes, was it getting darker inside the shadows of the tomb? Strange snake-like tendrils began to reach out from the darkness.
Wide-eyed, Sylvie stumbled a few feet back. Was it actually working? Was this magic a real thing? Had she really summoned a spirit from another world?
More tendrils began reaching out as the shadows seemed to intensify in darkness. Sylvie couldn't look away as the darkness seemed to grow somehow denser and denser until the tendrils exploded outward, vanishing into nothingness as a dark figure emerged from within the tomb.
Sylvie stared at the horned man that emerged from the darkness. His clothing was sharp if dated. His violet suit appeared crisp and tailored. He swung a cane with diffident elegance. His skin was an inhuman blue and his eyes seemed bottomless pits of darkness.
“Well, hello,” he said, taking a few steps toward Sylvie. “I'm assuming that it was you who summoned me here?”
Sylvie fell to her knees, her mind blank. What had she read about talking to the dark spirits after summoning them? What had they said about binding and making deals?
“Greetings, oh Great and Powerful Assalbi, I summoned you to this place so that I might ask for your help; for help from your great knowledge of all times and places.”
Assalbi cocked his head with a twist of his mouth in apparent annoyance. He spun a bowler hat in his hand that he seemed to have conjured out of nowhere.
“Of course, you want my help,” he sighed. “All of you humans always do. What is it? You want me to tell you the places in the earth where you can find gold and silver? Rubies and diamonds?”
“No,” Sylvie shook her head, wishing that she had remained standing. How could she bargain from such a lowered possession? Cautiously, she climbed back to her feet. “I don't want those things. I don't want riches.”
Assalbi gazed at her with increased interest. “Who are you?” he asked, looking around the dark cemetery. “And what depressing time and place is this?”
“'I want to find my bones,” Sylvie managed, adding, ”We're in a part of the old cemetery in New Orleans, 21st century. The rest of the city doesn't look like this.”
“Find your bones?” he asked, sounding almost intrigued.
I buried her Eloise's words floated back through her mind. “I want to find the bones, Sylvie's bones.”
“I think Sylvie Landry is dead,” she explained. “Everyone has always called me Sylvie. They did the DNA test and I matched with my mother's family but no one ever knew who Sylvie's father was. I don't think I am Sylvie Landry. ”
“I want to find her bones and bring her to rest.” she continued. “I need to know who I really am.”
Assalbi looked her at with something that seemed to be approval. “And so you summoned me, Prince of the Earth who knows all that has been and will be. Clever girl. “
“Actually,” she admitted. “Lilith gave me your summoning ritual.”
“Lilith is behind this?” he echoed, his black gaze staring into nothing for a moment. “Curiouser and curiouser said Alice.”
“Wait here, girl,” he ordered, disappearing before her eyes.
She stared dumbly at the spot for just a moment before he reappeared with a dark bundle.
With a look of disdain, he dropped the bundle to the ground. “Nasty things,” he said. “Bones that have been left to rot for twenty years.”
She inched a little closer gazing down at what looked to be a rotting blanket with something white protruding from the edge.
Assalbi wiped fastidiously at his pants. “And such an unpleasant smell too.”
“Sylvie?” she asked although she already knew the answer.
He nodded. “Yes, Sylvie, your half-sister,” he responded. “Legally, you don't even exist although I believe your mother once called you Lucie. I imagine that in her drug addled brain, Eloise Landry figured it would be easier to keep the government from taking you from her if they never knew that you existed at all.”
“Lucie,” she tried the name on her tongue. Did it sound in the least familiar? Had she ever met Sylvie? Had they been sisters together, trying to survive in their mother's unstable world? And, she, Lucie, had been abandoned while Sylvie, the sister she didn't remember, had been killed?
“We're done here,” Assalbi announced. “I almost enjoyed our little meeting, but I have no intention of spending any more time in such squalor than I must. Good luck, young Lucie.”
Before she could formulate a proper thank you, Assalbi had turned away and walked toward the doorway of the tomb. Darkness gathered more quickly than before, snakelike tendrils dancing around him and the portal.
As she called out words of gratitude, the darkness intensified and imploded in a quiet burst of shadows. The cemetery returned to its previous state of stillness.
Lucie stared at the marks of chalk and on the ground around her, automatically reminding herself that she needed to wipe it all up, and of course, to gather the dying remnants of the incense in the four corners of the ritual circle, but then her eyes returned to the dark bundle on the ground.
Sylvie's bones. Sylvie Rene Landry, her older sister; a sister she didn't remember. Were there memories of her somewhere, buried in the depths of her mind?
Lucie Landry sighed heavily as tears trickled down. Poor tragic little girl.
In the near distance, Lucie suddenly heard the rumble of an engine. The cemetery patrol sounded like it was heading her way. Again, Lucie stared down at the bundle of bones at her feet, feeling a sudden wave of panic.
How could she possibly explain any of this? How could she possibly account for her sudden possession of her sister's bones? The truth would not go over particularly well.