Ingress Prologue

Ingress, An Iconoclast Thriller (Book 2)
By Mary Ann Poll
America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers

The Legend of the Forgotten Place

Young James Clarke sprinted through the summerwoods of Southcentral Alaska. The day was hot so he had no need for long sleeves or the heavy squirrel parka his mother forced him to wear in winter. He reveled in the sweet smell of the birch and alder and the songs of the summer birds as he glided effortlessly through the forest.

His only goal on this rare summer day was to remain the village’s hide-and-seek champion. When Smith Jonas almost caught him, James made a decision to run farther into the woods than he dared venture in his young life.

James slowed to a walk then crept forward when the birch and willow gave way to an open field. He tiptoed beside the riverbank, the gurgling and rushing water covering the occasional snap of a twig that could reveal his hiding place. He peeked through the low underbrush to the right of the stream.

“The Forgotten Place.” His eyes took in the back of an old, two-story house. Five spires jutted skyward from the roof. They reminded him of bony, wooden arms straining to touch the
heavens. He could almost hear the creaks and groans as they toiled to be free of the bondage of the roof.

It was forbidden to come here or speak of this place. An excited shiver coursed through his young frame. He tiptoed from the safety of the bushes; eyes focused on the five spires on the
mansion’s roof.

“Today, I will be a man. Men aren’t cowards,” he whispered. He scampered to a narrow footpath between the old house and a decaying leanto. The air turned midwinter cold. His breath came out in short bursts of fog. He shivered. I’ll never argue with momma about wearing that heavy squirrel parka again.

He wheeled around when a deafening bang made the earth vibrate beneath him. A dust cloud framed a rotted board in the pathway behind him.

He squared his shoulders and turned back around. Today I am a man. He forced his driftwood-heavy feet to step onto a hard-packed dirt trail that had been taken over by alders and
tall grass.

The summer birds did not sing here. The hair on the back of his neck came to attention right before an ear-piercing clap broke the deathlike calm. James jogged to the center of the bushes, tripped and landed on his backside, legs sprawled in front of him, hands behind. Between his left and right feet was a human skull. He screamed and pushed backward with both feet. Something stopped him from retreating. He turned and came face to face with the bleached-white bones of a rib cage.

He felt his dazed inner being fly out of his body. It hovered above the alders like a curious bystander at one of the town’s blanket tosses.

“Welcome.” A voice full of gravel growled from his right.

James flew back to his body. His heart pounded and his mind screamed run. He willed his body to hold still.

“Your name.” The voice demanded.

“J-j-james. Clark.” He croaked.

“You are intruding, J-j-james Clark.” The voice mocked his stutter.

Fear rose in his gut. His legs tensed, ready to run again.

“You are not yet a man, James Clark.”

“Tomorrow I will be thirteen.” The pride of being an adult made him forget the terror that had clouded his mind.

“You are not yet a man.” The disappointed voice, which had been on his right, now had moved directly in front of him.

“Leave here. Now.” The command issued from an inky specter that drifted up and out of the tall grass that blocked James’ escape. James followed the entity’s growth with saucer-size eyes while it drifted skyward until it blocked the sunlight. He dropped to the ground and covered his head when he saw the empty eye sockets and oozing hole of a mouth.

“Leave. Because you are not a man, I will let you go but you must go now. Or, the one I serve will take you and you will be damned with me in this place forever.”
James nodded up and down in a frantic motion.

James jumped and ran for the clearing. He located the spires of the old house and ran for the safety of the woods. He no longer cared who might see him or that he remained the village’s hide-and-seek champion. He didn’t stop running until he reached his home. He slammed the door and dove onto his bed.

Elder Clark, James’ grandfather, walked to the side of James’ bed. “Tell me.”

“James turned tear-filled eyes to his grandfather. He shook his head.
“Tell me.” Shaman Clark lowered himself to the edge of James’ bed.

Terror paralyzed the young James Clark’s tongue.

“Did you go where you were told not to go?”

James nodded.

Grandpa Clark looked long and hard at James. “Did you see something?”

James nodded again.

“You will never be young again. You have seen what no human should see. There are things hidden from us for our good. That, James, is why I told you never to go there. That is why no
one in our village can ever go there.”

The older man’s shoulders slumped under the heavy weight of sadness. “What’s done is done. You have been noticed and that will never change. For your life, you must be vigilant. When you
put the ways of a child behind you, that being will work to lure you back for his master. For this reason, I will tell you about the Forgotten Place. You must remember. Do you understand?”

James nodded, eyes wide, curiosity calming his terror.

“So be it.”

“Our people do not wander. We have been blessed by abundant food here.” Grandpa spread his arms wide.

“But one winter, the snow came early and it covered the willow and late-autumn grass. The moose went inland in search of food. So did we. We returned to the camp at the Tikat River
when the warm summer winds began to blow and the late snows of winter melted into the earth. The shaman, a good man who cared deeply for our people, blessed the river and it was bountiful. The summer harvest was good and our people were happy.

“While some of our men were scouting the territory that surrounded our village, they discovered a beautiful child, very ill and close to death. She was brought to the village elders. The child had no memory of her people.

“The good shaman told his wife about the young girl. She begged him to take her into their home. She had never been blessed with children and longed to be a mother.

Seeing his wife’s unhappiness, he agreed.

The young girl grew into a young woman. She had no interest in the chores bestowed on the village women. She wanted to learn the ways of the shaman.

“As you know, only the men of our clan are trained in the ways of the shamans. The old shaman had grown to love this girl as his own child and could deny her nothing. So he allowed her to
help him and showed her the healing and protection rituals. She was not content. The spoiled young woman craved the respect and awe the good shaman commanded from the people. So, she
practiced the rituals in private. And, in secret, she used her gift and cured many.

“The good shaman found out. His heart broke because he had to go the clan’s elders. He knew the girl would be banned from the village. His wife begged him to overlook the girl’s treachery. But, in the end, the good shaman’s loyalty to the village came above his loyalty to his family.

“The wife took her case to the village, to those that had been cured by the girl. The village was divided—some for the old way of life and some for the girl.

“During that same season, a group of white settlers came upon the village. They were in search of gold. The clan’s warriors took them captive until the elders decided if they would
live or die.

“The young woman, always curious and rebellious, went to their jail and was bewitched by one of the settlers. He was a tall, strong man. He mesmerized her with his stories about books with spells and ways to get anything you want in life. She fell in love with the man and his beliefs. She went to her mother and confessed her love for the tall stranger. She told her mother that
she wanted to wed this man. The wife convinced the shaman to come to the young girl’s defense.

“The elders listened to the shaman and saw a way to appease the whole village and be rid of the girl, too. They agreed to spare her love but not the others. The woman only cared for that man and his beliefs so she was content with the edict.”

Grandpa Clark looked at James. “You see, that was the beginning of a curse. The white settlers had done nothing to harm our clan, but the fear that those strangers could bring further division to the clan overcame their need to do what is just.”

“So, the innocent men were sacrificed and buried. And, the girl married the white stranger. Afterward a wolf with yellow eyes came to the good shaman and spoke to him.

“Your clan is cursed, good shaman. The woman married the one man the elders would have been wise to destroy. They are two halves that, once together, form a powerful evil bond. Together
they will destroy your home and it will be abandoned for all time.’

“The shaman went to the council with his vision. They laughed at him.

“You see, the white man had already begun to trap our clan. He taught them to build wood houses that kept out the cold. They taught him to fish and hunt. He accepted the rituals of
our clan. He prospered when he sold dried fish to the inland villages. And, as he received payment, he gave half of it to the clan. So it prospered because of him. The elders rebuked the
good shaman and did not heed the white wolf ’s words.

“Our people felt indebted to the white man for teaching them his way and sharing the bounty he received from other clans. They agreed to build a special home. That is the five-pointed house you saw there. In return he promised to teach them how to talk to the spirits so they could forever prosper.

“The village believed him and turned away from the good shaman. The white man became the spiritual leader and counsel to the elders. So, when he demanded the villagers allow white men
to come in safety to the village, the elders agreed. He told them to build a structure to make the fish ready for those settlers. He convinced them to build a store and hotel, too. They built each structure as directed. The next summer, our people sold and bartered with all who came into the town. The clan became rich.

“Over that same year, the man taught his new wife to practice the evil arts of his religion. She mastered the rituals with ease.

“When he and the woman joined together to cast the spells, his power over the village increased. He shared his religious book with her. It was called The Book of Fallen Angels and instructed
them on how to bring demons to our world. The buildings he had our people build were to be homes. Not human homes, but spirit homes. He and his mate went from house to house, one per day, to prepare them. Each house was a door that, once opened, let the evil ones come into our world.

“The good shaman discovered what they were doing, but too late. He was lured by his daughter to the big house, for a truce dinner. There he was taken as the final sacrifice. The demons were released and the town was theirs. On that day, they murdered all who were in the village. Some of our men had been hunting for moose and returned to find all of their loved ones dead—decaying and stinking. They ran for their lives.”

“Grandpa, why can’t you get rid of those demons? Aren’t you the strongest shaman in our clan?”

“I am. I am no match for those demons. The Great and Good Spirit is the only one who can destroy them and He did not come to do that—not yet. I do not know why. Until He does, we must not step foot in that cursed place. It is theirs.”

James Clark guarded the story of the Forgotten Place in his heart. He followed his grandfather and became a strong and respected shaman of the clan.

One summer day he left the village in search of the healing plants. It is said that on that day he
ventured too far into the woods and lost his way. And that the Forgotten Place called to him and he answered. The clan knew that if they uttered his name it would call him out of the Forgotten
Place to take the man or woman to her doom. No one spoke of him again.

Mary Ann Poll, America’s Lady of Supernatural Thrillers, is the award-winning author of the Iconoclast series. Mary Ann draws from her real-life experiences, as well as her imagination, to create supernatural thrillers