A Whisper of Dusk, Chapter 5, Star-Crossed
I find myself in the midst of a Sorcerer’s duel with an opponent by the name of Prester-Tim. We are dueling because he insisted upon treating my beloved Shoggoth, Takana, shabbily.
His first salvo, involved him using a “Silence” spell against me. Which I found to be creative on his part, if misplaced. For I learned a long time ago, the dangers of relying upon spells that need verbal activation.
Apparently, he mistook my forbearance against him, for weakness. Instead of my taking him out quickly, I had chosen to wear him down through attrition (letting him expel his Mana first). When he realized that I could easily outlast his Mana-expenditures, he changed tactics and utilized a spell normally used as a ‘last-resort’: Annihilation Sphere, and it was now bearing down on me rapidly.
‘This is the act of a madman! What does he hope to gain with this?’ I thought to myself as I stood my ground against it. ‘An intimidation tactic?’
‘Irrelevant! Time to act! Options, I need options.’ I thought to myself as I shifted into ‘battle-mindset’. I then narrow my focus to the immediate area of myself and the Sphere.
‘Spell Identification: Naked-Singularity created and stabilized by Magic.’ I recalled from rote memory.
‘Spell effects: A hole in Reality, any object or person who comes into contact with one, will be drawn into it and obliterated.’ I take note of the air whistling as it is sucked into the sphere. In my peripheral vision I can see fog forming, due to the barometric pressure drop.
‘Option one: Intersect this Sphere with another. Past experience, two Spheres combined to create a larger Sphere, problem magnified. Discard option one.’
‘Option two: Intersect Sphere with an Extraplanar gateway. Possible results: 50% probability of Sphere’s destruction/explosive force killing everyone on field. 35% probability- null effect, 15% Space/Time tear created- everyone on field expelled into other reality- potentially a lethal one. Discard option two.’
‘WAIT! Annihilation Spheres are normally static! They move only by force of will by the caster!’ I realize. ‘Or by the opponent!’
I summon up my Psionic abilities, and reach out with my mind. ‘THERE!’ I think to myself, as I encounter it Psychically. As I begin to push back with my own Will, I meet a strong resistance.
‘This Prester-Tim has quite the strong-Will.’ I assess, as I continue to push back. I can hear the whistling of the air increase in decibels, the closer it gets.
3 meters, and… holding.
I initiate a ‘Dissipation spell’. Result: No effect. Using my Psi-sense, I identify the type of Sphere before me, and it leaves me cold: A type 4-A Sphere, meaning that he has bonded with it.
‘This Prester-Tim is either a fool or a desperate bastard.’ Even if my opponent’s magic fails, it will not dissipate of its own accord and will continue to be a danger to all and sundry.
‘Why? Why do this? WAIT! I am dancing to his tune. THAT is my problem! Ergo, Change the rules!’
‘Takana! (A)’ I yell to my beloved Shoggoth telepathically.
‘Arawn! (T)’ she answers.
‘Takana! My Silver-Shield! (A)’ I yell back, as a plan begins to form in my mind. It will be a gamble.
‘What? ‘I…I..don’t understand? (T)’
‘My Silver-Shield! Prepare to throw it to me! (A)’
‘HURRY! I cannot keep this up much longer! (A)’
Several seconds later, I sense the presence of Xiom’s Gift/my Silver-Shield spinning, as it arcs through the air towards me. Takana has come to my aid.
Technically, this is a violation of the Rules of this Duel. But, that is something that I will deal with later. Assuming there is a later.
Shifting some of my Force-Will away from the sphere, I choose to transfer my telekinesis to intercept it.
I am successful. Though at the last, it is attracted to the Sphere’s gravitational pull. Just before it is drawn in, I manage to snatch it out of the air, and attach it to my right arm. Now my gamble can begin in earnest.
I then use it for its intended function: Shielding. I place it between the Sphere and myself, and force its convex face to the Sphere’s event horizon to brace myself against it.
Success! Neither I, nor it, is drawn in. My intuition concerning its status as an Artifact is correct. I can feel the Sphere and my Silver-Shield vibrating violently against each other; an Irresistible Force meeting an Immovable Object.
Then, suddenly, there is an ozone-like scent of a Demonic-Spell ripping apart in the air. A large purplish arc of light is emitted from around my shield, then it is drawn into the Sphere.
‘Primus! (5)’ Quintus called out then. ‘Can you hear me? (5)’
‘Affirmative! Any idea why we can communicate suddenly? (1)’
‘Some kind of interference sp…(5)’
‘Nevermind! Report later! Do you comprehend the current situation? (1)’
‘Standby! Researching options/memories…. Analyzing…. Your surmises are correct. High probability of death or destruction if you choose a Gateway/intersection. (5)’
‘Quartus! Can you maintain the sphere’s position? (1)’
‘Possibly!….. Attempting now…..Standby….Sphere stabilized! (4)’ Quartus reports, using his Will/Psyche against it. The Sphere has stopped moving.
‘Quintus, suggestions? (1)’
‘Negative. We are currently in a static hold position. I would not have expected Xiom’s shield capable of withstanding an Annihilation Sphere. This is unprecedented! (5)’
‘Stow your cheer Quintus! We have more pressing matters! (1)’
‘Apologies! Prester-Tim has increased mana-flow to his Sphere, we are starting to lose our stable hold position. (5)’
‘I have an alternative idea: Invert the Singularity. (3)’ Tertius interjects then.
‘Hypothetically possible, Tertius. But how? (5)’ He then mentally shares the rest of his idea to us.
‘That is Madness! That method of Singularity inversion has never been attempted by even the most advanced civilization we have encountered! (5)’ Quintus said, horrified.
‘I am open to alternatives, Quintus! If we do nothing, then everyone on this field will be destroyed. (1)’
‘Correction! Our opponent would not! Thus, he could blame any resultant deaths on you! All other witnesses will have been eliminated! (5)’
‘Fiendish! Therefore, we must attempt the impossible if we are to protect the nearby innocents! (1)’
Tertius’ idea is based on the notion that since I/we are technically incorruptible, ergo, ‘eternal’ it is an ability I/we can use to protect my/ourselves to invert the sphere by means of Alteration-Magic. (Assuming his surmise is correct. If it is not, then we will spend eternity as a two-dimensional sheet of subatomic particles.)
Truly, this is changing the rules.
I then do madness. I reach out with a hand to the Sphere.
Off in my (mental) distance, I hear Takana screaming an anguished negation.
‘ARAWN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! (T)’ screamed mentally at me. I choose to ignore her.
I then summon up my Buckler-Shield ability (as opposed to my Silver-Shield) and wrap it around my left arm. Once I am satisfied with its cladding, I then use Xiom’s Gift to keep the rest of me from being pulled in as I plunge my arm into the Annihilation Sphere!
The effect, is instantaneous. I find myself not-obliterated! (Though, I am in extreme pain!)
‘I still exist! (1)’ I scream mentally.
‘Decidedly a good sign, Primus! It appears that your surmise concerning the Attainder was correct Tertius! (5)’ Quintus speaks to me through my haze of agony.
‘Quintus! The singularity, is it rotating? (1)’ I scream out mentally, attempting to ignore the roaring pain that is my arm.
‘It is! Initiating Mana-induced rotational torque! Increase of speed is already starting to have an effect! (5)’
‘Standby to Invert! Tertius! Prepare a Flux Capacitance Alteration spell! (1)’ It is painful beyond imagining, yet strangely, I find myself laughing uproariously at the sudden realization of what I am doing.
‘Flux Capacitance Spell ready! (3)’
‘Singularity nearly at optimum speed for inversion!….. Standby!……NOW! (5)’ As Quintus yells, Tertius initiates the Flux Capacitor spell and the end result, is anticlimactic.
Suddenly, the wind that had been swirling around with me near its epicenter, stops, and the immediate area around me is quiet.
Where the Annihilation sphere had been floating in the air, now there is something else: A Hyperbolic Anti-sphere, which itself resembles two horns placed mouth to mouth. It is neither pulling at me, or pushing away. It is simply suspended in the air, with my arm still inside it.
I stop laughing and pull my left arm out of it with surprising ease, leaving no sign of a hole. I can feel that my arm is a mass of pins and needles now, as I transfer my Silver-Shield to hang on my back. Yet with a cursory examination- I detect that I am unharmed. Looking around, I can see that my opponent is aghast by this turn of events.
That! Is the sum total time since my opponent first cast his Annihilation Sphere spell, and my inversion of it. Seventy-six seconds to avert a catastrophe.
Looking down I detect that my clothing was not as fortunate as my arm. It hangs from me in tatters. I will have to have Takana extrude another set for me soon.
Checking my party, I take note that Gallandia has had to physically restrain Takana from running out onto the field. For that, I make eye contact with Gallandia and nod my thanks. She smiles, and nods back.
“Return Fire or forfeit!” The announcer yells out suddenly from across the field. It takes me a second to realize that he is addressing…me?
I gesture to the Anti-sphere now floating near my head, by way of explanation. He shakes his head.
“Second Warning! Return Fire or forfeit!” he calls out again.
‘So be it!’ I quickly fire off a Blast-punch to my opponent. He dodges it easily. I find myself looking forward to seeing what he will do now.
‘Quintus? (1)’ I inquire.
‘Ready when you are. (5)’ he replies smugly. I smile as I place a hand onto the surface of the Anti-sphere, it has an odd feel to it, almost as if it is not really there.
I observe Prester-Tim begin another offensive spell as he looks at me with a feral grin. This time, a large nimbus of multi-colored lights begins to form in a swirl in front of him. I gauge that he is almost ready to cast it in my direction.
‘Quintus! …Execute! (1)’ Instantly, I see Prentis-Tim raise his arms to cast, and suddenly- his swirling spell nimbus, evaporates.
He stops, looks up to his hands, and does a double-take. He then lowers his arms, and looks at his hands dumbfoundedly. I smile.
Shaking himself, he starts his spell again. As before, just as he is ready to cast, I call upon the Anti-sphere and his spell disappears once more. Finally, I tire of the sport and I have Quintus reset the Anti-sphere to a continuous drain.
Slowly at first, but with increasing vigor, I can feel my depleted mana reserves replenish, as Quintus continues to draw from the Anti-sphere. I see my opponent begin his spell yet again. But this time, there is not so much as a sparkle.
To all and sundry witnesses on the field, nothing happens. This nothing, is most noticeable to my opponent, as he is repeating that same incantation over and over with an ever increasing level of agitation!
“Return Fire or forfeit!” The announcer yells out. This time he does so at my opponent. This announcement cheers me up immensely.
“Hello.” I speak out as a test of my new-found Mana source. “Ah, this is much better.” ‘The silence spell has been dissipated.’
‘Arawn! What is happening? (T)’ Takana calls out then, I could sense the concern in her thoughts.
‘Just be patient, my love! I believe this duel is now ended. It will take but a few moments more, for all to realize it. (A)’
“Second Warning! Return Fire or forfeit!” The announcer yells out once more. I notice then that Prester-Tim seems to have gotten rather upset, as his invocations are being interlaced with a large number of obscene imprecations.
Suddenly, he stops screaming and cursing. He then looks intently at the Anti-sphere that is floating near my head.
‘I believe he has figured out the situation. (5)’ Quintus remarked dryly. I then notice that my opponent has started walking, no, running towards me.
“WHAT HAVE YOU DONE!?” Prester-Tim screams (surprisingly) loudly at me as he rushes forward. He is stopped at the mid-line by the announcer. Who then informs him that if he crosses the mid-line, the duel will be considered forfeit in my favor. I amble my way towards both, but not in any particular hurry.
“Third and final warning! Return Fire or FORFEIT! The announcer yells then at Prester-Tim loudly enough for all to hear, just as I arrive.
Looking around, I could see that everyone else on the field has chosen to join us. And they all look thoroughly vexed with my opponent. Which is understandable, if not for my intervention, they probably would have all been drawn into the Sphere by now.
I notice that Prester-Tim has fallen to his knees.
“What have you done?” Tim cries hysterically at me. “I can’t summon so much as a cantrip now!” he tries to scream, but only manages a gargled whimper.
“Prester-Tim! I hereby call this duel complete, and find in favor of Arawn! Your life is now in his hands!” The announcer says, then continues. “You BASTARD! What kind of stunt were you trying to pull with summoning an Annihilation Sphere?!” The announcer finishes, spitting at him as he lifts an arm to strike at him. Tim flinches at the sight, and tries to dodge the inevitable connection.
“Wait!” I shout, as I grab the arm of the announcer. He looks back at me furiously with a demanding look in his eyes. Looking around Prester-Tim’s group of (former) sycophants and the Dragon. I decide that I was not sure which of them were more desirous to have him immolated!
I note Takana approaching, so I hold my hand out to her. But, instead of taking it, she embraces me tightly, and starts to quiver.
‘ARAWN! Don’t you ever do that to me again! (T)’ she mentally yells at me reproachfully, all the while staring intently at me with every one of her eyes. I do not answer her at first.
“I know all of you want him dead, and everyone has good reason to, myself included.” I state grimly. Even the normally placid Aeshma looks ready to carve out a piece of him then, if that wicked looking dagger she had pulled out from somewhere be any judge. Her Incubus, Sroasha, does nothing to restrain her.
After gently prying Takana from me, I then turn to Prester-Tim, who by now was trying unsuccessfully to sink himself into the ground.
“Prester-Tim.” I smile. “I do not want you dead. In fact, it would serve me best if you lived a long and healthy life.” He looks back up at me incredulously, as if afraid to ask- ‘why’. Glancing up, I could see the outraged expressions from everyone else in the crowd around him. I speak to them all then.
“Yes, alive, and once you have heard me out, you might agree.” I notice that of the group, only Takana and Aeshma seemed to be giving me the benefit of the doubt.
“Now, to answer…ALL, of your questions.” I state, as I look at everyone in turn. Then finally, I kneel down in front of Prester-Tim.
“The reason I would like him to remain alive, is that he is now powerless. The reason for that, is this.” I indicate the Hyperbolic Anti-sphere that was floating over my head. Most of the people there, seem to notice it for the first time.
“This, is his Annihilation Sphere- inverted. Which means, that it is still being powered by Tim the Enchanter’s mana. And will be, for the rest of his life.”
“Why should THAT be reason to allow him to live?” The Dragon with the Platinum scales demanded of me acerbically. I reply directly to her as I stand up.
“I have modified the Sphere, so that I can use it as source of Mana-energy. So, every time Tim here,” I gesture derisively at him. “generates ANY Mana, my anti-sphere will drain it away from him, automatically.” I notice then that Tim’s eyes go wide.
“I’m ruined!” He half yells. “I will lose my status and position as a Cymru-Mage if I cannot do so much as a single spell!” he sobbed, with tears falling from his eyes.
I could not help but wonder then, who else he had bullied in his years as a Mage. I could only speculate on how many of them had chosen to not try and retaliate against him, because of his power. I then look around at all of the people surrounding him, and spoke loudly enough for them all to hear.
“So, I will leave it to all of you to decide his fate. Personally though, I would prefer to use him as a source of mana, as I have a number of projects that need attending to.” I turn and address Tim.
“Now as to you, Prester-Tim!” I glower down at him for the last time.
“If. IF you can live long enough, and do something positive with your existence. THEN I may consider returning your Mana to you. Look for me in seven years. But be warned.” I said as ominously as I could manage. “I will be a harsh judge.” Looking up, I speak.
“Gallandia, Aeshma, Sroasha, Takana! Who is hungry? I know I am! My Treat.” I state as I turn around and start walking back to the Hotel’s gateway. My new toy, the Anti-sphere, follows me along in the air like a love-struck puppy.
Along the way back to the restaurant, I have an intriguing conversation.
‘Quintus, any idea why we were cut off from communicating? (1)’
‘No Primus, I do not. My attention was so focused on communicating with you at the Covet Corner Hotel, that I did not notice who exactly it was that had come into Vasi’s apartment. Shortly thereafter their arrival, I noticed a large amount of Demonic Energy cast at the Shield, which is when we were cut off. I confess, that I still have no inkling who it might have been. (5)’
‘Be that as it may, Quintus. Naturally, keep an eye out for any matching tell tales. (1)’
‘Of course! (5)’
‘The big question, is why? (1)’
‘Perhaps one of the Lilim attempting to draw you back? (5)’
‘Possible, but unlikely. We will just have to keep ‘an ear to the ground’ so to speak. (1)’
Unfortunately, by the time we had returned to the restaurant. The quartet of the Sea Mamono musicians had finished their performance. (Faex!)
After we had been served our overdue meals, Aeshma and her husband, insisted on feeding each other food from their respective plates. While Takana had chosen not to order anything for herself, she insisted in stealing food from my plate.
Gallandia for her part, chose to remain largely silent over her meal, seemingly content with casting the occasional jealous glance at Aeshma or Takana.
“Arawn, what exactly is it that you did, out on the field with that, what do you call it? Anti-Sphere?” Aeshma asked me, in between bites of her poached Sanri Scorpion. All during the meal, she kept looking nervously at the Anti-sphere floating over me. (Which by now, had started somersaulting endlessly- I had no idea why.)
“What did I do?” I smile innocently. “Oh, nothing much.” Takana paused in her meal plundering, to give me a roll of her eyes.
“What he did!” Gallandia chose to pipe up then, as all heads turned to her. “Is the impossible! He turned an Annihilation Sphere- inside out!” she fumed.
“Now when have I heard you say I did something impossible before, Gallandia?” I asked rhetorically. She gave me a glare then. Aeshma giggled.
“Crudely put, but essentially accurate.” I finish.
“But how does your inverting the sphere mean that he can no longer do magic?” Aeshma asked perplexed.
“Normally, an Annhilation Sphere is static. Once it is summoned, it stays in one place. It can only be moved by the force of either the Summoner, or the one it is being used against. Since Prester-Tim chose to force it to move quickly, he was using a good portion of his Mana to make that happen.”
“Wait!” Gallandia said suddenly with a gleam in her eye. “But since the Sphere is ‘technically’ still in existence, it is still attached to him. Correct?” I nodded, which left her smiling.
“When I inverted the Sphere into its present form, it sort-of ‘locked’ onto him and his Mana feed. But, since I Altered it, it also became “mine”. You might call this Anti-sphere of mine, a “Mana-Vampire”.
“So now you have your Mana to draw upon, and his too?” Aeshma asked.
“Interesting, I heard you say that you had some projects, what exactly?”
“Well Aeshma, I take it you noticed that crease in my Silver-shield?” She nods.
“Belphegor put that there. I do not know how she could have, but she must have used an extraordinary amount of power to do so. It will take me at least an equal, if not greater amount of Mana to repair it.” I sigh.
“Which will be difficult for me to do, since I also have to contend with the seemingly endless appetite of my Shoggoth.” I add dryly, as I watch Takana snatch the last bit of food off of my plate. She smiles at me, as she swallows it without chewing.
“Arawn!” Aeshma said suddenly after a moment. I look over at her curiously.
“I have the newly altered contract ready for you to sign. They’re back at my hotel room, ready for your signature.” She finishes, hugging her husband’s arm and shoulder.
“I do have one question for you Majin Arawn.’ Sroasha asks me politely. I nod and he continues.
“Why were you laughing so hard after you had stuck your arm into the Sphere? I would’ve thought that you’d have been screaming in pain instead.” Everyone looked thoughtful as they all turned their heads to me, expecting an answer.
“It was painful, yes.” I pause as I notice that everyone else was frowning- wishing that I would get to the point. “An Annihilation Sphere has been described by some, as: ‘A Hole in the Ass-End of Reality’.”
I look around waiting for someone, anyone, to get the point. I sigh as I realize that none of them do.
“I was laughing at the absurdity of what I was doing. I was essentially,” I said as I raise my left fist and thrust it upwards. ” ‘Fisting-Reality’.” I expect laughter from them. Instead what I get is a chorus of groans.
Later, after we had all adjourned to Aeshma’s room, she presented the contract to me and I give it a thorough read. Everything in it appears to be in order: The terms of my ‘enlistment’, my assignment to Cynosure’s Fort Eequor, and my request for this Corporal Helvetia (whoever she was) as my Mentor.
My immediate supervisor and/or superior, I would not learn until I arrive there in several weeks. After I nod my satisfaction, and give verbal assent, Aeshma produces a quill and a ceremonial Athame.
I poke a finger with the pointed end of the Athame, and use my blood to sign my name. As I finish, I speak the words of completion: “So Mote It Be!”
“So, Mote It Be.” Aeshma echoes, and smiles as she put the contract into her satchel. As I get ready to leave, she calls out for me to wait. I stop and watch as she pulls out a package and hands it over to me.
“What is this?” I ask, curious as I open the box. Inside is a white crystal, of a type I was not familiar with.
“It is a Mana Crystal, Arawn. They’re rare and very expensive!” She smiles as I look at her quizzically. “It will allow you to store Mana in large quantities and ‘save it’ for a Sunny-day!” I smile as I understand her reference finally. She then adds quietly.
“The Great Maou decided that this would make for an excellent “sign-on” bonus for you to use in the future, and I quote, “There should never be a need for another sacrifice like Secundus.” End quote.”
“Please give her my thanks when you can.” I answer. I then turn to get ready to leave. But before I could go, Aeshma pipes up again.
“Arawn!” she says, stopping me once more with a hand to my arm. I look back at her with a questioning look. She then reaches into a pocket and pulls out a hairbrush and holds it up at eye level. Comprehension fills me while Takana and Gallandia look at it, and me confusedly.
Sroasha turns out to be an apt student of hairbrush-spanking; while Gallandia and Takana, look on with incredulity during the entire session.
As Takana and I leave her room. I find myself chuckling at the sounds of a hairbrush smacking bare skin, combined with Aeshma’s delighted squeals.
Takana is strangely silent as we walk back to her room. I fully expect her to glom onto me as soon as her room door closes. Instead, she extrudes a hairbrush and hands it up to me with a smile. I accept it and speak.
“First my dear, you still need to meet my hounds.” With that, I place my Silver-Shield upon a bare wall, and summon the passageway that allows them egress from our Sanctuary.
“Allow me to introduce to you, Takana. My not-brothers: Tertius, Quartus, and Quintus.” They all smile warmly at her. But not as warmly as she smiles back at all of me.
I would say, that a good time was had by all; late into that night.
Gallandia the Dark Mage, looked carefully around as she walked down one particular non-descript hallway of the Great Maou’s castle in Royal Makai. She had to be careful, as she didn’t want anyone to catch on to the business she was attending to this night.
Finally, she stopped at one particular spot in the middle of that non-descript hallway. Taking one final glance left and right, she insured that there was no one else about. She then placed a hand upon a particular brick located at shoulder height. After the brick recognized her, a door then appeared in the brick work, and with nary a hesitation, she slipped unseen into the secret passage beyond. After she had entered, the door closed automatically, leaving no sign of its existence.
Gallandia stood guiltily there for a moment in the darkness behind the closed secret door. This last task that had been assigned to her, left her feeling particularly uncomfortable. She felt ashamed at what she had done. Yet, that shame didn’t prevent her from continuing.
Licking her lips, she steeled herself in preparation to make her report. The Pact-Mistress that Gallandia served rewarded success well, yet she had a mercurial demeanor.
‘But a pact is a pact, after all.’ She reminded herself, as she resumed her journey. ‘I can see the Demonic writing on the wall. And I do not wish to remain as a Dark Mage forever, nor do I wish to become a Lich.’
Ahead in the darkened hallway, shadows danced. They were being cast by the light of several candles that were perpetually lit in this particular Demon’s sanctuary. This was the same spot she had chosen to hide herself in, since that powerful sorcerer Arawn, had arrived.
Finally, Gallandia carefully stepped into the main room of Belphegor’s sanctuary. Belphegor was standing away from the entrance, in front of a work table set to her diminutive height. For you see, Belphegor was one of those child-sized Baphomet demons.
She resembled a cross between a Lolita-like young human girl, and a goat. The most notable aspect of her caprine like appearance (from Gallandia’s current view), were the twin goat horns that arose from the crown of her platinum haired-head and curved ‘just-so’ near the ends. Which was not even taking into account that long bushy tail of hers, that jerked in annoyance just now.
This workbench that Belphegor worked at, was covered with many pieces of eldritch paraphernalia, tomes, and instruments. There was one ancient seeming scroll unrolled in front of her that she covered just then. On it, for just a second, Gallandia glimpsed a drawing that looked a lot like Arawn’s Silver-Shield. Belphegor then turned at her pact-servant’s entrance, casting her goat-like eyes to gaze upon Gallandia coldly. She spoke.
“I take it that you were successful?” Belphegor asked with a hint of menace in her voice. Gallandia hesitated for a moment and then swallowed.
“Yes, Mistress. I was able to inject the necessary blocking spell on Arawn’s shield as you ordered.” She replied nervously.
“And did the Shoggoth take ahold of it?” Belphegor demanded quietly.
“Yes, she did, she shrugged off the effect as if it were nothing.” Belphegor smiled at that bit of news.
“Good.” Belphegor spoke, with restrained patience. “Did you manage to get a sample of her?”
“Yes, Mistress.” Gallandia replied, as she reached into her cape and pulled out a small clear glass bottle etched with symbols. Inside sat what appeared to be a scrap of clothing. Gallandia handed then handed the bespelled holding-bottle over to her Mistress. Belphegor took it and examined it dispassionately.
“What is it, exactly?” Belphegor said, looking up at her servant just over the bottle.
“It is a sample of Arawn’s clothing that Takana extruded for him.” Belphegor’s gaze shifted back down to the bottle she held in her paws. Then her mouth turned into a large grin.
“Even better than I expected Gallandia! This sample will have Arawn’s aural signature on it as well. Good work. You may go.” Belphegor dismissed her pact-servant, as she turned back to her workbench.
“Mistress?” Gallandia prompted fearfully, her voice shaking. She didn’t want to disturb her Mistress any more than necessary. But she had to know. Belphegor turned back to her with barely concealed impatience.
“Mistress? When will I …?” she began. Belphegor interrupted her.
“I will have more than enough power to make you into a fellow Baphomet, Gallandia; Once I have Arawn as MY fully-corrupted Incubus!” she finished glaring back at her pact-servant in dismissal.
Belphegor said nothing further, as she watched Gallandia turn and leave. It was only after she had heard the whisper of the secret door shutting behind her, did she return to her machinations.
Arawn’s Personal Log, Day 47.
As part of my contract that I signed with the Demon-Lord, I am to start keeping a personal log in which I am to write down a night-to-night account of not only my work activities, but any personal observations I have as well. This task was suggested by Aeshma, so that she could later review my accounts for any details I may overlook in my assignments. That is, once I begin my service in earnest. She also suggested that I start now, so as to get into the habit.
Now, in the time since I have arrived at the Covet Corner Hotel, I have come to help oversee over a hundred-different variety of Mamono children in the Hotel’s ‘Day-Care’. This has turned out to be quite the challenge for me.
As I expected, it turns out that each one of them, has her own personality quirk and peccadillo beyond her species predilections. For example, there is Nalla the Gazer-child. She, is the very child that I sacrificed Secundus to protect. Her parents (Hotel residents), apparently had been visiting family when the Order attacked Makai. Her parents have informed me that I will always be welcome in their household, and that I should consider myself a member of their family. (I feel honored.) Both Nalla and her mother, have a most enchanting giggle.
Nalla, still chooses to hide behind me whenever she espies another human male coming into the facility. I have been attempting to get her to face her fears, but she is proving to be recalcitrant in that regard. Her preferred mid-day meal: Chicken-Aspic.
Then there is Perlah, the Berbalang toddler. She is prone to frequent crying fits for no discernable reason. I have found that she can be most difficult to comfort, as she is always in hiding. As per her specie I can tell that I am close to her, the farther away she sounds. Despite my best efforts, I have managed to trip over her at least a couple of times in the last week. Her preferred mid-day meal: Menudo. Special note, she has an allergy to a citrus fruit: Lime.
I find myself enjoying the life that I now have with Takana. How could I have existed without a Shoggoth at my side, prior? I do not know. All I do know, is that I love her, and every last gooey bit of her.
Apparently Prester-Tim is still alive, as I have been successful in repairing the crease that that thrice-cursed Belphegor managed to induce into it, all with his Mana. As a result, I have finally been able to access my Sanctuary physically, and my not-brothers have been granted some degree of latitude and freedom beyond a melee’s length of time. Takana, has been more than happy to accompany them one at a time throughout the hotel, or all of us together in our room.
For some unknown reason, the last few days her appetite for my own essence has dropped off dramatically, either from me or from one of my not-brothers. This has left me concerned.
But, she claims that she is doing well regardless of her increasing lassitude. Additionally, Takana steadfastly refuses to consume any of the Mana/essence that I draw from the Anti-sphere. Speaking of which, I have decided to give my Anti-sphere a name: Albedo One. Which is a nice play on words that only I seem to get.
Utilizing the ancient Annwyfyn techniques I learned when I was still mortal, I have been able to recreate another Secundus. He is currently in the final stages of his growth syncope, and I expect him to awaken sometime in the next few days. With his creation, I chose to retain much of my libido. What effect this has upon his new personality, remains to be seen. I am hopeful for someone more mature this time around.
Personal entry, (My Eyes Only).
Tonight, I am alone as Takana has volunteered to work a double shift. I find myself more tired, earlier than usual. Perhaps it is time to devote myself to garnering a bit more sleep.
I have also put out a number of ‘feelers,’ as my black-market Danuki go-between puts it, to discover more about my soon-to-be Mentor, “Helvetia”. Of whom I will be serving under at Fort Eequor. I cannot do this openly, as too many questions would be raised concerning why I had chosen her in the first place. A Dream-Sending is a personal matter, and it has served me well in the past to not reveal such information.
She, is apparently an Arachne Mamono, but unlike the more common black-spider bodied kind that I am familiar with, she is a “Jumping-Spider”, whatever that is.
All that I have gleaned thus far: Jumping Spider Mamono originate on a continent (Kumari Kandam) that is located in this world’s southern Hemisphere. Apparently, the Jumping spiders there are active hunters, unlike the more commonly known Death-Head’s trapping variety.
The only additional information I have learned about this Helvetia: She has chosen to remain unattached, despite several opportunities to remedy that situation during her service to the Great-Maou.
This makes for an interesting conundrum, but I fail to see how this ordinary Mamono could garner the attention of the Grey-Lords. At least enough so, to have them personally intervene with me. But, I guess that I will simply have to be patient to find out why.
Which will be soon enough, as I have sent word out to Aeshma that I am ready to begin my service. I have received word back from her that I, and Takana, are to report to Royal Makai in the next few days. Where I am to receive a final briefing before my deployment. End Log.
As I ready myself for bed, I feel a queerness to the air, it is almost as if there is something in the making. I pass the feeling off as just another example of my fatigue.
Sleep comes quickly, my dreaming comes quicker still.
As I dreamt, I come to see Zrihea, my Dream-Sending Satyros mentor and advisor, sitting atop a comfortable bar stool. Which itself, is located inside a bar of a deserted spaceport waiting area. Looking up through the Glassteel ceiling, I can see a ringed gas giant planet looming over us both.
As I realize the surroundings, I notice that I am sitting next to her on another one of those comfortable stools.
“Hello beautiful.” I state. “Going my way?” To which Zrihea gives me an unamused sidelong look, turning her attention away from the half-empty glass that sits in front of her.
‘Hello Arawn,’ she returns. ‘It is time.’
“Time for my dream-sending?”
‘Time for you to discover the fate of your erstwhile lover Odinne, yes.’
‘I am given to understand that you have some experience, with Dream-Walking?’
‘Be warned Arawn, Dream-Walking is comparable to Dream-Sending in as much that a swimming pool is comparable to an Ocean.’ She replies solemnly.
‘Meaning, that you do not normally have to contend with a gam of Mersharks in swimming pools. Do you understand my reference?’
“I believe I get the gist of it.” She stares at me for a long moment, skeptically. Finally, she continues.
‘You will be sent to visit Odinne this one time. You may be there with her for years, but, if you return…’
“When I return.” I interrupt. Zrihea leans close and bore her eyes into mine.
‘IF, you return,’ she insists with such emphasis that I shudder involuntarily. ‘It will seem only to have been a single night when you wake up.’ She leans back.
‘Furthermore, you will have some limited daytime interaction with those around her. You will be given one, and I must emphasize this Arawn, JUST ONE opportunity to interact with her in her dreams. Anything more than that, may result in catastrophe.’ She sighs.
‘You are delving deep into the Multiverse Arawn. The world of the Authority is a difficult one to access for a reason. If you go too far, I may not be able to retrieve you.’ She looks pained then.
‘I wish you the best of luck in this endeavor. But, remember Arawn, much is dependent upon the actions you and Helvetia do in the future.’ I see her then fade away, along with the rest of the bar. My Dream-Sending has begun in earnest.
I find myself in a swirling cacophony of mists. At first, I think they are wisps of fog, but upon closer examination, I perceive that they are instead- planes of existence. I am traveling through and around them. I am traveling- I do not know which way. Looking down, I find that I am standing upon nothing. Time, if it exists in this state, passes quickly. Uncountable realities pass me by, in my travels.
Then, for a short while I am nowhere. Yet I am still aware. I am aware of this journey. I can feel my mind extending itself into the far reaches of existence, weaving and wefting my way through the tangled web of realms and planar, that constitute what many call: The Multiverse.
For a while I am in mortal terror when I am pursued by a continent-sized entity. At first, I think it is some Ancient-Thing that somehow was overlooked by the Nodens. But it turns out that is only a bored infant. The immensity of its mother that it returns to cling, leaves my mind reeling.
Then, I sense the nearness of that world that I had been removed from by the Great Maou. The world ruled by the form of Law/Order known as The Authority. I feel my anticipation grow then. As I am eager to see Odinne Elqenna again, and to see her doing well, (hopefully).
I feel my mind shift as I transition into that reality, and after a momentary disorientation, I see my surroundings change and shift into focus. Slowly, but at an ever increasing rate, I begin to see an austere apartment form around me.
I am in the living room of that apartment. All is quiet. I have to shift my eyes around in order to allow my vision to clear. This place seems familiar.
I do not feel the need to breathe as I reach up to explore my person. I can feel myself. But, when I reach out to touch a nearby table, my hand passes through it as if I am a ghost. I understand then my condition. I can observe, but I cannot interact physically. Patiently, I wait for the transition to complete itself. Finally, everything comes into focus and I recognize the place.
It is the Elqenna family domicile. Odinne’s family had been fairly well to do, in that they could afford a ground floor apartment. Looking around the living room I take note of several things.
The first I notice is the light streaming in from the nearby kitchenette window. Walking over and gazing out, I note that the tree that sits outside has its leaves blooming. This indicates to me, that in this world it was spring time. For me, it had been nearly two months since I had been plucked from this world, and then it had been the start of winter then, much time has passed.
Time passes differently in many realms. Some fast, some slow, some in reverse. You could pass a thousand years in one realm, and return to your home to discover a single night has passed. In others, you could spend a day there and return to a world that does not remember you. In others you could return before you had left. But such, are the vagaries of the Multiverse.
I notice also then, that the place appears ill-kept. Trash lies around everywhere. I can only speculate as to why it is in such disarray. It is not like Odinne to be messy. Perhaps a squatter has broken in and taken up residence?
Walking around the rooms, I notice there is someone sitting on one end of the couch. I do not know why I had not noticed them before. Moving around I finally see who it is, and my discovery leaves me aghast!
It is Odinne, and she is in a sorry state. I kneel my ghostly presence before her and try to touch her face, but all that I achieve is to have my hand pass through her.
She is emaciated, a shell of her former self. I cannot tell if she is even alive she is so thin! Ah! She blinks. She is alive then! But only just.
But why? Why is she in this condition? I look at her more closely and I see signs. She is leaning upon the back of the couch crushing something to her bosom as she sits.
Looking at her face, I can see the marks of endless tears staining the waxy skin of her prominent cheekbones. I can tell that she has not eaten in a long while. Looking down, I see now that she has been sitting unmoving for far too long. She is just sitting there, uncaring of her condition. Why such self-neglect?
‘ODINNE!’ I scream silently at her. ‘Odinne! What has become of you!?’ I shouted in my dismay. She does not hear me. She cannot. For I am a ghost.
It was then, that I notice her gaze. She is fixated on something. Following her eyes, I take note of what she is looking at. There, upon the table that is sitting in front of the kitchenette window, there is a wooden picture frame. In it, is a picture of her during a happier time. The frame is sitting upon an envelope. I recognize them both.
They are the picture frame and letter that had sat upon my dresser, from that night I had been Summoned. I could only surmise that these two items were the only objects that could be recovered from my destroyed apartment.
Turning back to her, I notice then what she is clutching. It is a stuffed toy animal. At first, I cannot identify it. Nor can I understand why she is clutching it with such ferocity.
Then I recognize it. It is the trinket that I had ‘won’ for her. Several weeks before she confessed her love for me, we had both gone undercover to meet with an informant.
For that assignment, we had pretended to be a loving couple at a traveling amusement carnival. It was there at one particular game of chance and ‘skill’, that she noted the prize she now held in her arms. It was something that her parents had vowed to get her when she was a child, but circumstances had prevented them from keeping that promise. As a result, she had yearned for that trinket ever since.
Back then, I easily saw her desire for it. So I made it my mission to obtain it for her. It was one of the few times I indulged in the use of mine magics during my sojourn in that world. But, even with them, it proved difficult in its obtaining. At least, until I surmised that the game barker had managed to ‘alter’ the conditions of her game of ‘chance’ with magic of her own.
By using a variety of Alteration Magic, I tipped the balance in my favor. The barker was most surprised with my progress after, and gave up Odinne’s desired trinket with barely a squeak of protest.
Ah, I remember well the delight I saw cross Odinne’s face, when I handed her that prized trinket.
It pained me, to see her poor condition that she now was in. Her hair matted and uncombed, her warrior’s braid undone. I understand her condition now.
She is in Saudade. Even now, after so much time had passed since my disappearance. She is so bereaved, she has given up on life. And always she looks upon that picture frame of mine, that holds her smiling countenance from a time that seems so long ago now.
‘Get up.’ I whisper in vain, to her. ‘Get up! This is not you Odinne, Get UP! Where is my Commanding officer? GET UP ODINNE!’ I shout silently at her.
‘GET UP!’ I scream ineffectively. She, is so far gone, that she does not do so much as blink in response. I know then, that she has but hours left to her. I am to watch impotently as she dies of a broken heart and her self-imposed neglect.
‘HELP HER!’ I scream to no one, for there was none who could hear me.
‘SOMEONE! ANYONE! PLEASE! HELP HER!’ I cry in my despair, knowing that in my ineffective way that none would be forthcoming. I feel my anguish threatening to overcome me.
‘Please.’ I whisper to the uncaring void.
But then, something odd occurs. In the corner of my eye, as if in answer to my entreaties, I see the entrance door shake as if someone is pounding upon it in a fury. I stride over to the door to see who it is, but before I make it there- the door suddenly slams open! Then, a man comes through, and I recognize who it is!
It is Eskanu, my loyal lieutenant. The man who had been at my side for almost the entirety of my time in that world. Perhaps! Perhaps, he could do something for Odinne!
‘Eskanu! ESKANU!’ I shout at him then. ‘Do something! Do not just stand there staring! HELP HER!’
Then, he does something strange. He looks around searching, and whispers a word: “Arawn?” Can he hear me? He and I did seem to share much in common.
Wasting no time, I pounce upon this.
‘HELP HER ESKANU! SAVE ODINNE! DO WHAT YOU MUST!’ Eskanu, shakes himself as if from a daze. He focuses his eyes and strides towards Odinne with a purpose.
It is later. Eskanu is feeding Odinne some soup. She is eating, but only automatically. She is wearing clean clothes and I see that the filth that had covered her is gone, hair washed and combed. Her eyes are open, but she sees nothing. A drop of soup escapes her lips and leaves a shiny trail down to her chin. Before Eskanu can bring a cloth to catch it, it has fallen off.
I see Eskanu then. He has a look of frustration on his face, and he is beginning to despair. He talks to her, and touches her face, but she does not react to any of his stimulus. It is like she is a wooden doll, devoid of anything resembling sentience.
Eventually, he finishes feeding her, and then by lifting her up, he strides to her bedroom and tucks her in to bed. He walks back to the door and turns off the light. I see him turning and looking back into the darkness where Odinne lay, and I can see him despairing.
There is a tear in the corner of one of his eyes. He has given up hope, as she has done herself already. I follow him as he closes the door. I am about to whisper words of encouragement to him, but before I can, he breaks down in tears and slumps to the couch in frustrated grief. I do not know what I can do then, other than just stand there in silent witness to his sobbing. What can I do? I am nothing more than a….ghost?
It occurs to me then what I could do.
It is dangerous, yes. But then, life is a danger. I turn and walk through the wall to Odinne’s bedroom. There, despite the darkness, I see her. She is asleep now. Looking up from her, I can see her Psychopomp standing near the head of her bed. She has but hours now. She could very well die in her sleep, she is so far gone. She might yet survive, but she can only do so if she wants to. But she does not.
I make my decision then. I then bend over her sleeping form and I extend a Psi Tendril to make contact with her sleeping mind. Carefully I make contact, then she recognizes me and draws me in!
I am there.
Within her mind.
Even in her dream state she is listless. We are in a dark field, underneath a blackened sky. I see her then, across the way on the other side of a fence. As I approach her in the tall grey grass, I can hear the sound of the grass whipping around my feet. It is like it they are making a concerted effort to trip me and make me fall. It is her dream. And I, am the intruder.
If she happens to die during her dream, she will take my soul with her. But my body at home with Takana will continue on in its immortality- forever.
This is the risk I willingly chose.
Finally, I have approached to the fence that lies between me and her, and I peer through. Even though she is listless, occasionally I see her move her eyes about. Until at last, her eyes shift over to me and then they widen in surprise! I see her getting to her feet and running over to the fence that separates us. But before she can get within touching distance she stops, and I can see the hope that was on her face- vanish.
In its place there is a look of disappointment. She speaks.
‘Again.’ She whispers sadly ‘There you are again Arawn. I’m dreaming aren’t I? This is only another dream.’ She says as she starts to cry. I remain silent and unmoving.
‘What are you? A demon sent to torment me?!’ she cries out in despair, dream-tears falling from her eyes as she falls to her knees.
‘You will just stand there like a statue, looking at me, until I wake up and then you will be gone once more.’ She presses her hands to her face in agony.
‘Odinne.” I said then. With that, her head shoots up in anguished surprise with her mouth agape.
‘Arawn’? she says quietly, with a hint of hope in her voice. She climbs to her feet and approaches the fence that separates us. She clutches at the wood now, reaching through the slats in a vain attempt to touch me. I am just out of her reach.
‘Arawn, please! Where have you been? What happened to you? What happened in your apartment?” she cries out in frustrated need, panting. I see her hand straining to shrink the distance between her and me. But I cannot allow such. There is more distance between the two of us than centimeters.
I realize then what I must do, painful as it will be for us both.
‘Odinne Elqenna.’ I state quietly, as my words thunder in both of our ears. Her cries go silent as she listens attentively.
‘I must ask you a hard question’. I state. She looks at me with confusion, but as I wait, she finally gives me a nod of permission. I continue.
‘Odinne Elqenna; Would you die for me?’ at first she gives me a look of disbelief, as if I ask her a question of madness.
‘Of course I would! A thousand times I would! A thousand times more, if only you would come back to me! Please, Arawn! Tease me no more! Come to me!’ she said then, both of her arms now reaching through the fence that separates us. I do not look at them, only at her eyes.
‘Odinne Elqenna; I must ask you another, much harder, question.’ I state solemnly. I could see her jaw quivering then. She nods again in permission.
‘Odinne Elqenna; Will you Live for me?’ I whisper.
That question, hurts her all the more. She drops her arms and screams out her despair. I see her head drop and her tears falling from her cheeks to the ground in droves. She clutches the fence slats as she collapses to the ground, sobbing fiercely for several minutes, until at last, she looks up at me with a righteous anger in her eyes, pleading me to release her from my demand.
But, my resolve remains resolute, and no matter what looks she gives me I refuse to bend. She fights, herself, and she fights me. But, eventually she looks back at me and gives me a single short nod in her defeat. I feel my face soften then, and I step forward to close the gap between us. The fence that separates us melts away momentarily as I crouch down in front of her and whisper into her ear.
‘Eskanu is a good man.’ I say to her then. She is shaking in her grief, not understanding what I am referring to. I then make my last gesture to her between us.
I reach up the fingers of my right hand and kiss the tips of my middle and pointer fingers. I then reach out and touch them upon her tremulous lips for a second, all the while keeping my eyes locked with hers. I note the surprise in them when she feels the warmth of my fingers touching her lips.
‘Goodbye Odinne.’ I whisper to her for the last time. I see her face flare in shock as she reaches for me then, but it is too late. Between the time I finish speaking, to the time she reaches for me, I am whisked away from her. The distance that lay between us spreads from centimeters to kilometers.
‘ARAWN!’ I hear her screaming as I am torn away.
I am outside of her now, standing in her room. She is sitting upright in her bed, screaming my name over and over. I see the light of the living room stream into the bedroom as Eskanu opens the door.
Odinne is blinded by the light and gets up from the bed and runs to him. She is disappointed to discover that is Eskanu she finds, and not me as she had obviously hoped. He is disheveled as if he was awoken from his sleep.
I see them then. She is screaming at him in her anger and loss. I see her fists striking him time and again in her matchless need. Even as weak as she is from hunger, she is in a potent fury. He, to his credit, stands there and accepts all of her ire, until she is spent.
I see him, holding her quivering form up. She then collapses in exhaustion into his arms. He then guides her outside to sit with her upon the couch. It is good to see her out of her catatonic state. Yet still she cries.
It is much later. They are talking now, sitting side by side. He has prepared a meal for them both, and I see Odinne eating slowly. I see that Eskanu has managed to whip up some of her favorite foods in a short amount of time.
‘Good Man!’ I think then. But of course, he always was.
Eskanu is telling her a story about he and I. I had forgotten that embarrassing incident, but he had not. Damn him! At the end of his tale, I see Odinne fight it, but in the end she chuckles, then laughs, and then her tears start fall once more in earnest. Eventually, she falls asleep in his arms. I can see a bond forming between them.
I am in the same room, only much time has passed. I see Eskanu working on something in the kitchenette. He was always handy when it came to making excellent fare, even in field conditions over an open fire. Turning, I look out the window and I see the tree outside in full bloom of its flowers. It is summer now.
I notice some movement in my eye and I turn to look. It is Odinne. She looks fuller now. She is still less than she should be, but she has gained some weight. She is shuffling her way out her bedroom and yawning. I find myself smiling as she approaches Eskanu from behind. She then wraps her arms around him and leans her head on his shoulder. I follow her gaze and I see that she is staring at my picture/letter combination again. I approach her and whisper silently into her ear.
‘Let me go Odinne. It is time for you to Live.’ I see her cry once more.
I see her again. Much more time has passed. There are many tears on her ruddy face. But this time, her tears are of relief, and joy, as she pants in exhaustion.
She has gained much weight. She is nearly naked and I am curious as to the reason why. Turning my head, I see the room in which she sits, and I begin to understand.
Eskanu sits there between her legs. He is holding something up then. It is a squirming mass covered with blood and vernix. He lifts the new born child that is still attached to its mother, so that Odinne can see it crying its outrage at being born. Another set of tears fall from her face as she holds her and Eskanu’s daughter close to her bosom.
I see this couple look at each other with happiness, at this new life that they have created together.
Eskanu gives her a look of questioning. She sees it and nods. It is traditional for the Father to name the child immediately after it is born. I am curious as to find which name they have chosen.
They hold the child up, and say the name together.
“Arawna.” they state together.
‘Arawna? ARAWNA?! Oh Eskanu, Odinne! You honor me with that choice! But that is a TERRIBLE name to burden a child with! Surely, you could have picked another?!’ But it is too late, and they cannot hear me, nor my dismay. I can only shake my ghostly head in exasperation at their foolishness.
Time has passed. Decades. I see Arawna bringing her own children home to visit her parents. It is a family reunion. It seems that Arawna, being the eldest of many, is in charge of it all. I am in a strange house.
Wandering about, I see many pictures of Arawna and her siblings adorning the walls. Diplomas, Graduation certificates. Military Service. Honor Awards. But there appears to be something missing. Then it occurs to me what. I think of it then, and I find myself drawn to its hiding spot. Up and over I am carried. Until at last I see it. There they are, hidden in a dust covered box in the attic, my picture frame of Odinne and her letter. I cannot ask for anything more.
For this tells me, more than anything else, that I have become a memory, perhaps a painful one. But, nonetheless nothing more than a memory, and that Odinne has moved on with her life.
Thinking of her, I find myself standing near her in her old age. She is sitting at the head of the dining room table. Eskanu is nowhere nearby and I think I can guess why. But still, she is content.
Eskanu was able to give Odinne everything I could not. Fulfillment, children, and growing old together.
I find my eyes blurring then, as my tears of happiness well up. I find myself satisfied with this knowledge. Finally, I can say that my Sojourn on the World of the Authority is now complete.
My vision blurs as I feel my tears shift and fall then. But not down my cheeks, but out of the corners of my eyes and off into my ears. Blinking my eyes to clear, I find that I am lying upon my back, as I find myself staring at the ceiling of the bedroom Takana and I share. Takana is snuggled close to me, deep in her torpor.
My request is complete, and I am content.
“Thank You.” I whisper then, to no one at all.