Maxwell turned around to face whoever might be in his backseat. What kind of dark and evil thing wanted to mess with him now?
To his surprise, there wasn’t any monster in his backseat. Instead, he saw an elderly woman, leaning back casually. Her legs and arms were crossed, and she was giving a Maxwell a somewhat cocky half smile. She was wearing a faded purple business suit. Hanging from her neck was a pendant. It was a strange symbol that Maxwell had never seen before. The entire pendant seemed to be carved from ruby.
“Hello Maxwell,” The woman said casually. She took a quick glance at each of Maxwell’s arms. “I see Crispin has formally introduced himself.”
“Crispin?” Maxwell said, slightly overwhelmed. “That thing has a name? And who the hell are you and how do you know it’s name?”
“Everything has a name, Maxwell.”
“So who are you? What’s your name?”
“My name is Samantha. And as for who I am, let’s just say, I’m a old family friend.”
“Old friend? I’ve never seen you before. Or heard of you for that matter?”
“You’ll find that out soon enough, besides, aren’t you concerned about that book of yours?”
Maxwell, being sidetracked by the surrealism of the conversation, had completely forgotten that the book wasn’t where he had left it. “Where is it? You took it, didn’t you?”
“I grabbed it, yes. But I’m only holding on to it so that you will listen to what it is I need to tell you. Will you listen, Maxwell?”
Maxwell paused a moment, wondering if this day could get any stranger. “Do I really have a choice?”
“You do.” Samantha paused for effect. “You listen, I give the book back. If you choose not to listen, I will take the book with me and you can come find me when you are ready to listen.”
Maxwell was growing mildly frustrated, but hid it. “Sure. If all I have to do is listen, what could be the harm?”
“Then let’s go somewhere else. Are you hungry?”
Maxwell thought about it. “Yeah. I guess I am.”
“Then choose a nice place where we may sit down and talk. I’ll buy.”
“Alright. Do you want to sit up here?”
“I’m fine back here, thank you.”
Weird. Maxwell thought. He started up the car and drove off.
Who is this woman? Maxwell thought, as he drove. There has never been a Samantha close to the family. Maxwell looked into his rearview. Samantha was staring out the driver’s side window. What’s her deal?
As soon as Maxwell finished that though, Samantha snapped her eyes to meet Maxwell’s in the rearview mirror. “My deal, Maxwell, is that I’m trying to help you save your sister.”
How the hell? Maxwell thought, shocked.
“How the hell, indeed.”
Maxwell was getting nervous around Samantha. She came out of nowhere. She knew that thing’s name and now, as Maxwell had just found out, she could apparently read minds. Maxwell wasn’t sure if she could be trusted. He decided not to say or think about anything until he reached the restaurant. He wondered if it was even possible to do both.
After ten minutes of driving, they had arrived at the restaurant. Maxwell got out of the car, and opened the backseat car door for Samantha.
Samantha got out of the car. “Aren’t you polite?” she remarked, somewhat sarcastically.
“It’s the least I could do.” Maxwell remarked. “You did offer to buy me dinner.”
They both entered the building, and were promptly greeted by one of the waitresses. “Good evening. Is it just the two of you?”
“Just us,” Samantha responded. She looked around the restaurant, and found a rather secluded booth. “Could we have that booth in the corner over there?”
The waitress looked at the booth. “Absolutely!”
The waitress took them over to the booth, and put two menus on the table. “Is there anything I can get you to drink?”
“I’ll take some iced tea, dear,” Samantha replied. “Maxwell?”
“Coffee,” Maxwell said. “Lots of cream and sugar, please.”
The waitress went off to retrieve the drinks. Maxwell picked up his menu and began to look over it. Samantha just pushed hers aside.
“Aren’t you hungry?” Maxwell asked.
“I never said that I was hungry, Maxwell,” Samantha replied. “I simply said I would buy you dinner.”
“So when are you going to tell me who you are and whatever it is you think I need to hear?”
“After you order your food.”
The waitress came back with the drinks. “Are you ready to order?”
“I guess,” Maxwell said. “I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger, with the seasoned fries.”
“Okay. Anything for you ma’am?”
“Nothing for me, thanks,” Samantha replied.
The waitress took the menus and went to the kitchen area. Maxwell started to add the cream and sugar to his coffee.
“Why so much sugar?” Samantha asked.
“I hate the taste of coffee,” Maxwell replied. “And before you ask me why I drink it, it’s because I love caffeine.”
“Well if you love caffeine, then why not drink Mountain Dew?”
“Too much sugar,” Maxwell obviously didn’t see the irony. “So, what is it you have to tell me?”
Samantha thought about where she would start. She figured a brief family history would be a good place.
“Maxwell,” She began. “Your family has a very dark past. A long time ago, one of your ancestors made a huge mistake. A mistake that has forever doomed anyone in your bloodline.
“His name was Orion. He was quite the adventurer. He was the first person in your family to travel far beyond the limits of his village. He didn’t leave to see the world, really. After all, if you’ve seen one village, you’ve seen them all. Orion had a drive to discover the worlds secrets.
“One day, Orion was travelling through a dark forest. The name and location of this forest has long since been forgotten. While in this forest, he ran across an elderly merchant. Orion wasn’t quite sure what this man was doing in such a dark forest so far from civilization. He didn’t look much like an adventurer, but that didn’t stop Orion from looking at what the man had for sale.
“The man had many different trinkets and potions from around the world. Orion wasn’t interested in such things. During his travels, he had seen more than enough potions, and collected countless trinkets. Orion thanked the man, but told him he was not interested. He began to walk away.
“The man was rather upset at this. It had been a long time since anyone even so much as looked at his collection. He watched Orion walk away down the forest path. The man tried to think of what he had to sell Orion. The man remember the Finder. The man forgot that it was in a secret compartment in his traveling cart.”
“The Finder?” Maxwell interrupted, “What exactly is a Finder?”
“I’m getting to that,” Samantha continued. “The man called out to Orion. Orion turned as the man ran down the path towards him. The man retrieved the Finder, and showed it to Orion. It really was nothing special. To the naked eye, it looked like a simple arrowhead necklace.
“Orion told the man, once again, that he wasn’t interested. The man insisted that Orion buy it. The man told Orion that it was a Finder. He explained that it had the power to help it’s wearer find hidden secrets of the world.
“Orion didn’t believe him. The last thing he wanted was another mystical necklace that didn’t work, and he was quite frankly sick of scams. But, being the man he is, Orion told the old man to prove the objects power. The man told Orion about the forest holding many secrets, and that he would be happy to give a demonstration. The man had Orion wear the necklace.
“The moment the necklace was placed around Orion’s neck, the arrowhead began to glow. The arrowhead began to lift itself away from Orion’s chest. It began to pull Orion left towards a fairly large tree, somewhat off the forest path. Once at the tree, the necklace stopped glowing. It fell, hanging loosely around Orion’s neck.
“Orion, was amused. He told the man that it was a nice trick, but a tree wasn’t exactly a hidden secret. The man told Orion that it was no trick, that the tree held a secret. Orion pulled out a knife and began to cut away at the tree, thinking that this was a waste of time.
“Several minutes had passed, and Orion’s arms were getting weak. He was about to stop digging, but something in the tree caught his eye. There seemed to be something shining inside. Orion, charged with newly found curiosity cut away at the tree until, finally, the shiny object revealed itself. It was a small figurine, made from quartz.
“Orion was amazed. He bought the necklace immediately. The man thanked Orion, and assured him he would not regret it, but the man was wrong.”
Samantha was interrupted by the waitress. She had returned with Maxwell’s burger, and refilled their drinks.
“Let me guess,” Maxwell said. “Either the figurine or necklace was cursed. Not exactly original.”
“Actually,” Samantha corrected. “No. The object found in the tree turned out to be some sort of healing stone. And the necklace wasn’t cursed. However, the necklace is what did indeed lead Orion to the object that would curse your family.
“For many years, Orion would use the Finder to track down many long lost treasures, and uncover hidden secrets long forgotten. He made a living doing this, selling most of what he had found. He was becoming a famous merchant of rare antiquities. Few actually knew how he was acquiring his items, and virtually nobody cared to know his secrets.
“One day, Orion came to a village at the base of some hills. The leader of this village received word of Orion’s arrival. He called for his presence. He needed Orion’s assistance in finding a long lost treasure.
“Orion went to go see the village leader. The leader explained that in the hills, there was a treasure. A treasure that could grant amazing powers to whoever came in contact with it. He told Orion that he would receive top dollar for the location of the treasure, and the village would provide any food or supplies he needed. However, he was given specific instructions not to touch the treasure himself.
“Orion agreed, enthused with the idea. He began a quest into the hills. He searched for days, in every nook and cranny he saw, but in all his searching the arrowhead never lit up. Whenever he ran out of supplies, he would return to the village to get more. After about a month of searching, the arrowhead finally lit up. Naturally, Orion followed it.
“Strangely, the Finder did not lead Orion to a treasure. Instead, it led Orion to a wolf. Upon spotting the wolf, the Finder stopped glowing.”
“So a wolf was the treasure?” Maxwell asked. “No wonder no one could find it.”
“Actually no. Orion thought the same thing, though.
“So Orion approached the wolf, trying not to scare it. In order for him to give a location to this treasure, he was going to have to tie the wolf down. Oddly, the wolf never got spooked. He simply stared at Orion.
“The wolf turned and began to walk away. It stopped suddenly, turned its head towards Orion, as if telling him to follow. With curiosity getting the better of him, Orion did.
“For the next several hours the wolf led Orion through the hills. It was nightfall by the time the two had reached their destination. It was a rock wall buried within the hills. After Orion realized that this was what he was looking for, the wolf then ran away. Shortly after the wolf was out of sight, the Finder began to glow. It thrust itself towards the wall, throwing Orion off balance. The Finder had never reacted like that before, in such a violent way.
“Orion grabbed a boulder and started to smash through the wall. After several hits, the wall began to crumble. When there was a big enough hole, Orion squeezed through the opening. The Finder stopped glowing. On the other side was a stone pedestal. On top of the pedestal was an ordinary looking rock.
“Orion approached the rock, it began to glow brightly. A voice had filled the cave. It told Orion that great powers would come to anyone who touched the rock, but that those powers came with a price.
“Orion thought nothing of it. He now had the location. He, being an honest adventurer, had no intention of touching the rock. He began to leave he cave. As he approached the hole, the Finder started glowing wildly again. It thrust itself back towards the rock, spinning Orion around. He fell to the ground. The arrowhead was still pushing itself towards the rock. Orion stood up, trying to fight the arrowhead’s strength. The Finder pulled Orion right next to the rock.
“Orion was leaning over the rock now, still fighting. He didn’t want to touch the rock. The arrowhead suddenly stopped glowing and pulling. Orion fell off balance, falling to the ground. He started standing back up, and accidentally bumped the pedestal. The rock fell, and Orion inadvertently caught it.
“At that point the rock began to glow in Orion’s hands. The voice had returned, telling Orion that he and his bloodline would forever be granted great powers. It then warned him that there are dark beings that feed off of that power. And those creatures would stalk the bloodline, feeding from them. The voice also declared that the creatures would kill the unfortunate few who attained the highest levels of the newly found power.”
“That explains the dark beings,” Maxwell remarked. “But what about these powers? I’ve never had any as far as I could tell.”
Samantha let out a sigh. “If you let me finish, you will understand better.
“Orion returned to the village leader. He told him that he found the treasure’s location, but that someone had already gotten a hold of it. The village leader was slightly upset, but he figured that would be the case. After all these centuries, someone would’ve found it by now. The village leader thanked Orion and sent him on his way.
“Orion returned home, to tell his family what had happened. He got home to find his parents and sister dead. Above their bodies was a dark creature, with bright green eyes. The creature grabbed Orion, telling him that he was the curse he was warned of. He told Orion that as the initial members of the newly imbued bloodline, his family contained a high concentration of the power, and they had to be harvested.
“He also told Orion his kind would not appear to the bloodline for at least a century. Orion’s family had contained enough power to keep his kind going for a long time. And that Orion was allowed to live to continue the bloodline.”
“He should have killed himself,” Maxwell remarked. “Save us the pain.”
“Unfortunately, Orion had hope. He figured someone, somewhere down the line would find a way to stop them.”
“So how was that a mistake? The Finder did it to him. He didn’t bring this on us himself.”
“That wasn’t his mistake, Maxwell. His mistake was never telling anyone in the family of the creatures. So whenever they did return, no one in your family was expecting it.”
Maxwell sat in the booth and pondered all he had just heard. His family had great powers, that he couldn’t use. And the creatures fed off the power. Julie must have had a high concentration of it.
“As always,” Maxwell finally said. “One generation’s mistake, is another generations burden.”
“That is so very true,” Samantha agreed.
“So that brings us to one last thing. Who are you? And how do you know more of my family history than me?”
“Remember the old man? The Finder was a family heirloom. The Finder was said to have been carved from a stone similar to the one that cursed your family. It came with great power, and it too had a curse.”
“What was the curse?”
“The arrowhead was never to be handed off to another bloodline, as the arrowhead could lead anyone to a hidden object carrying a curse.”
“And if it did?”
“The original bloodline would share the burden of the new bloodline’s curse.”
Maxwell listened. He could guess what was coming up.
“Remember the old merchant? He began receiving visions the night Orion touched the stone. Visions of Orion’s family being murdered by the dark creatures. He realized his mistake. He set out for Orion’s home village. He got there too late.”
“When he arrived, he told Orion about the visions, and the curse of the arrowhead. I imagine there was a lot of anger and screaming. Eventually, the men concluded that these visions would only stop if he could stop the curse put on Orion’s family. They decided to destroy the arrowhead to prevent anything like that from happening again.
“So did the visions follow the man’s bloodline?”
“Yes, they did. Unlike Orion, however, the merchant told his bloodline. And each member of the bloodline told each generation of their responsibility to the family. And every time the creatures would return, the old man’s bloodline would attempt to stop the creatures. Thus far, they have failed.”
Maxwell knew what was coming next.
“So,” He asked. “Who are you exactly?”
“Maxwell. I’m a direct descendent of that old man. I’m here to help you stop the curse.”
The strange object hanging around Samantha’s neck began to glow.