Through a Looking Glass
A Talking Animal
As Sam, Jose Sara and Rayn arrived at the campgrounds they found the source of Jamie's consternation. On the ground, leaning up against a tree sleeping was Martin.
“You have got to be god damn kidding me!” Sam exclaimed “You said you saw him vanish”
“Yeah, I did, I mean, I think I did, I turned around and he was gone, there was no way he could...” Jose was trying to reason through events that defied reason.
“Are you sure?” Jamie was caught between not wanting to accept the obvious and not wanting to believe what seemed impossible.
“I mean, it's Martin - he's slippery, but not that slippery” Jose was still looking for reason.
“It makes sense now...” Sam was sitting at a table looking out into the woods.
“What does?” Jamie asked.
“Oh he already made up his mind, didn't you Sam?” Jose was less asking and more accusing.
“Come on, what's anybody supposed to think?! You were worked up and wanted Martin to go see a counselor, so he and Sara cooked up a plan to prank us all.”
“So, you're bringing me into this!” Sara was beside herself.
“You're the one who said we should come here.” Rayn had never missed a chance to go against her sister in an argument yet, and this one seemed too easy.
“Can we all calm down!” Jamie could just see herself trying to break up two sets of siblings who were trying to kill each other.
“Oh I would, but Martin and his bratty bitch of a sister have us out in the middle of the woods at sundown... and... Jose... is taking there...” Sam's anger was still no less writhing but Sara had sat down at a picnic table and begun to cry. “Oh to hell with both of you.”
As Jose tried to console Sara while Jamie tried to calm Sam, Rayn walked away, not ready to stoke such a fire that might end in an all out brawl. Rayn didn't mind starting shit with her sister but this was bigger than that, and she secretly hoped Sara was right; she wasn't sure she was ready to think Martin could pull a prank as insensitive as what Sam described.
“Such chaos as the world creates . . . in our minds much more . . .” a voice spoke, and Rayn looked around to see an animal vaguely the size and shape of a small bobcat.
“Um, guys . . .” Rayn called out in a carefully suppressed tone as to get the attention of her compatriots, but as not to startle whatever she was looking at. The others however did not hear as the argument was still their focus. Simultaneously, Rayn was telling herself she had imagined the voice . . . just stress she thought.
“Don't fret, I am a friend.” said the creature. As it vanished, an electrical surge cracked the air, a thin bolt of electricity traced the ground between where the thing was, and it appeared at her feet. “I'm Jose's Sphinx”
“JOSE!” this time Sara got everyone's attention.
“What the he . . .” Though annoyed at first, Jose quickly changed his tune. “I thought I dreamt you”
“You've seen this before?” Jamie, Sara, Rayn and Sam had come over, but it was Jamie who was taken aback by more than just the creature. In her world, Jamie and her friends shared everything.
“Yeah, Sam too, he's been caring for the little guy. I just met him this morning . . . thought I was dreaming”
“Actually, I am female.” said the creature - she was trying not to sound upset.
“Oh, I'm sorry... That was dumb of me.” Jose, given his own identity, felt so stupid he had to pause as this made the already stunning revelation that his majikal companion had spoken taxing in a whole other respect.
“You been holding out on everyone?” Jamie's ire had shifted from Jose to Sam. The former had given a more than satisfactory explanation as to his silence in regard to the thing, and while his blunder made rolling an eye his way quite tempting, the possible transgression of the later was a far greater priority to Jamie, as she had slipped into a rare moment of passionate outrage. So much of what was going on had thrown her so very far off balance.
“Would you really have believed me?” While Sam hadn't failed to spot the opportunity to shift the negative attention to his brother, he had too much integrity to seize it. This was despite knowing full well he was in for it, and was groping for another way out.
“Maybe not, but given all that's been going on we're all a little nuts, I wouldn't have judged you, besides you could have shown us.” Jamie wasn't going to let him off so easily.
“I didn't want word getting out. Can you imagine what people might think - the blame that might get thrown around when something weird shows up?” Sam went on trying to explain himself.
Rayn and Sara remained silently stunned at either side of the picnic area, both still holding on to their anger and hurt from the prior argument.
“Would you all just get over yourselves!” The creature spoke - she again appeared on the table at the center of the group in a flash of light. In truth, she was more than glad to let them have it out until such time as someone else could do some explaining.
“Your world is in chaos, a talking animal has appeared before you, and still, all you can do is argue over petty differences. It's no wonder they chose to contact the sleeping one first!”
“Wait, what?” It still hadn't fully dawned on Rayn she was wrong.
“Oh, just ask your friend when he wakes up, I'm annoyed with all of you . . .” the thing spat as she transported to Jose's side. “Well, almost all.” said the Sphinx as it cuddled into Jose lap.
An Apocalypse Party
Luna had spent the afternoon preparing dinner, not so much for the meal but for her guests. At first, the lot of them had scoffed at the idea of having dinner. So much had happened as the wizard had promised, and the whole lot had accepted their invitations upon her saying that - whatever crisis her invitees were dealing with was the very reason they should come. Without fail, everyone had begged her to elaborate, but she had been advised not to say anything more, and she did not. What Luna understood from lore and what little she had been told is that if indeed the picture was as bleak as it looked, anything she said out of turn could tip off forces beyond her imagination as to future plans.
She had told the group to arrive at 6. This usually resulted in the first guests arriving at half past but under current stresses the first attendees arrived at a quarter past 5.
“So what is this about Luna, why an apocalypse party?” Asked Mary Ramirez as she entered Luna's home, though her tone was more demand than request. She mindlessly shoved the bottle of wine she and Christian brought as gift to their host.
“I think it's better for everyone to be here before we begin.” Luna said softly, in full knowledge that her friends were already near a breaking point and what she had to tell them that night risked tipping towards just such an end.
Given the urgency Luna displayed in her invitations, it was not long before everyone arrived. Bella and Karl Drake, Frank Lane and Sean and Laura Wise who lived up the block from Luna and had become confidant of sorts to their host joined the group.
“So I suppose the best thing to do is cut right to the chase. I have had many theories about what is happening to our world, but up until a few days ago they were just theories.” Luna started.
“What are you saying?” Mary was gripping her glass of wine so tightly Luna thought it might break.
“I have learned why everyone has been vanishing...” Luna was interrupted as Karl's glass fell to the floor and shattered.
“I'm so sorry... Let me...” Karl motioned as if to get a cloth to whip up his spill.
“Never mind that, it's not important.” With Luna's words, anyone who might have questioned the deadly seriousness of the meeting - which was none of them - would now have no room for doubt. Luna had always been obsessive about keeping her floors nice.
“It is majik at work, that is why all those people are gone.”
“Luna,” Bella started “I know you have done some impressive spells but I'd hardly think you could do all this.”
“. . . and if you are in some way at fault . . .” Frank started in frantically.
On one side Luna had a friend doubting her sanity and on another she had a trusted ally seeking to place blame... Just how she had worried they'd react.
“No... Not her fault... Ours” Said a voice from the next room as a hooded and cloaked figure who had to slouch to fit the height of the room entered it.
~ Mass Escape at Alterra Prison ~
Fresh Faced Young Ignoramuses
Cranic, a servant of Merlin, stood watch at the edge of his master's fortress near the North Pole.
“Anything . . .?” Crodyn, a 3000 year old wizard - a young adult by majikal standards - knew nothing outside fighting the more sinister majikal agents vying to shape the fate of the Earth.
“Nothing . . . I'm not sure why the master thinks we need this guy. I'm sure the two of us could take care of this.” For a human, 800 years old is an insane age. For wizards however, Cranic had only recently passed adolescence. Cranic had been used to chasing down his master's lesser enemies, remnants of evil wizard clans on Earth - tying loose ends, so to speak.
“You are young yet and don't understand these things.”
“I don't understand these things the way the master does, but you and I, with the experience we have, would be turned into paste by his protection spells alone.” Crodyn had been in Merlyn's service for nearly his entire life and while, with his master's help he'd felled several experienced wizards, he knew how dangerous the far more seasoned wizards, they were about to face, could be: Cranic's naivete annoyed him.
“The Master said he's not sure Sin can achieve what we are asking. What if this is a waste of time?” Cranic argued. Not used to playing the long gam - tagging along, he didn't need to do much strategizing, and he annoyed Crodyn about as much as Crodyn anoyed him. Being on earth where Majik users were few and weak left the very green Cranic with an inflated idea of his own abilities - even more so those of his comrades.
“Just because Sin might fail doesn't mean we'd have a chance. His skill in both majik and combat is second to none, but it's Vurlid Sin's intellect and charisma that make him famous.” Crodyn explained
“I thought he was just a majikal mercenary.” Cranic said dumbly.
“No, Sin is a genius in charms, along with several other majik types; he is a master of persuasion - it is near impossible not to like him.”
“I'm sure we'll be okay though.” Cranic hoped aloud
“I'm not sure you comprehend Vurlid Sin's ability. The charms he'd cast would have even most well seasoned majik users taking him easily at his word, even as a complete stranger.” Times being recent enough that Croyden was the newb, he reveled in stirring Cranic's fears.
“But the Master is the one who he's here to see...”
“Well, yeah, but only because he has no choice. Sin hates Merlin. He's only doing this 'cause the Master has something he needs and can't get anywhere else.” Crodyn gossiped.
“But he probably won't take an interest in us.” Cranic was trying to bargain with fate.
“I don't know, if it were me and I needed to make a point to an unreliable ally I might just kill some underlings to make things clear.” Crodyn was reeling in his rube.
“Well, I'm ready to fight if I have to.” Cranic swallowed, betraying his confidence as a front.
“Oh yeah, I hear Sin's majik is so powerful that more than a few he's had been paid to kill apologized because they had blundered enough to be on his hit list. He makes you fall in love with him and then he kills you.” Crodyn had Cranic in full panic mode and was loving it “I'll go let the master know Sin is still not...”
“That's okay, I'll go, it'll be good to stretch my legs.” Cranic acted exactly as Crodyn expected.
As Cranic began down the path towards the interior of the fortress and the safety of his masters side, he was taken by surprise as other events began.
“I CAME TO SEE MERLYN, NOT SOME LACKIES... NOW DIE!” A booming voice came down from the spot where his compatriot had stood. When Cranic turned he saw the figure standing on the edge of his master's fortress turned to fine ash, which wafted in the air and blew slowly away with the wind.
As Cranic looked on in horror he tripped over his own feet and fell to the ground.
“NOW A SECOND WELP - HOW MANY MUST I KILL BEFORE I FACE MERLYN!” The voice boomed, as a figure burst through the ashes and stood forward, it's face obscured by a hood. Cranic braced himself for the death blow, cursing himself for being so arrogant.
“HA... ha ha ha!” The figure laughed “You who can handle anything . . .” Cranic was still confused until Crodyn lifted the hood to his cloak.
“Very funny” Cranic complained. “How childish . . .”
“How childish? Your ego needed to lose its bloat . . . which would get you killed should you face a wizard that actually wanted you dead”
“Merlyn's guard - a couple of fresh faced young ignoramuses? Between what I knew of your master and the other stories I have heard since I returned to this realm, I am disappointed at it - not surprised, but disappointed.” While Sin was a charmer, before all he was brutally honest, knowing that the most important and little known secret of a charm is that a charm is most charming when it is honest.
“How old are you then, chief guard?” Vurlid addressed Croyden directly.
“You honor me sir!” The young wizard was beside himself instantly, as the dashing figure of Verlid Sin stood before him and the two agents of Merlyn were enthralled by whatever spells Verlid had running. “I am just over 3000”
“Ah, you're still green,” Verlid put an arm over the shoulder of his counterpart “I'd have thought an agent of Merlyn would be better trained.”
“I've faced the worst of what Earth offers”
“Is that so?” Vurlid's tone made clear his doubts. “And I see that you're an errand boy - how old are you?”
“in... in my 9th cen... century sir.” Carnic stuttered.
“. . . and so green your friend had you at his mercy for a joke? The once great Merlyn has fallen low. Still he has what I need and I will hear what he asks, show me on.” Verlid put his other arm around Cranic as he rose.
“You two should find a better master.” Verlid began, as the three set out to see the legendary Merlyn.