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ACT 2:

Through a Looking Glass

Chapter Eleven

The Butterflies' Effect

The Gathering of Forces

 

Merlyn waited in the ruined halls of one of his many abandoned fortresses; this was one he preferred forget - this was Camaylot. Of all the numerous failings which Merlyn had overseen, over none did he feel more guilt, looking out over what was once a majikal version of heaven, now a forgotten wasteland. He saw a twisted and gnarled landscape, the land ripped open like a festering wound, bluish liquid pouring like blood from open chasms. Taking it in, the withered but solid Merlyn shed rare tears.

 

As if to spite him upon that day, fate had Merlyn about to bargain for the services of the being he would least like to encounter in that horrible place.

 

“Vurlid Sin is here for you, Master Merlyn.” announced Cranic, Merlyn cringed at the very name.

 

“Show him in.” Merlyn said in something of a drawl, as he was forcing words he very much did not want to be speaking.

 

“Hello, dear Merlyn” said Vurlid Sin; Merlyn turned and pretended to examine a broken artifact that lay on the floor behind him so he could avoid looking directly at Sin.

 

“Your charms make me ill, Sin, as does most everything else about you . . .” Merlyn paused as if speaking these words were like drinking a foul potion, only tolerable in sips “. . . however, for the sake of one of us not killing you let us be civil.”

 

“Oh don't be so high on yourself! You may not fall for my charms, but being what they are, I have been able to keep most of my other skills from being known; are you informed on the Sin clan's skills at numbers?”

 

“I've heard some things.”

 

“While I see most of my clan's compulsive dogmas as weakness, the principles of mathematics applied to battle is the only way to fly . . . For instance, I could kill you 406 different ways from where the two of us now stand - in 1.8 seconds.”

 

“That few?”

 

“Well that is whilst knowing I have to strike you from the front . . . simple Majik, Merlyn, understandable - but I am not a moron.”

 

“Let us leave such judgments to history shall we?” Merlyn finally had begun to wrestle his disgust to a bearable throbbing in his right temple.

 

“Fine, I know what you asked me here for cousin.” Verlid Sin was in no way fazed by Merlyn's insults. He knew how Merlyn saw him - as a whore who would do anything for enough coin; being his specialty as a charmer, Sin was often one part assassin two parts gigolo.

 

“Do you?”

 

“Of course, who else would the great Merlyn fear to fight? Familial bonds are that meaningless to you?” Merlyn was now faced with the third of the trifecta of cruel twists the day had in store: in addition to being in the place he least wanted to be with the being he least wanted to be near, Merlyn now had to commit the act he had least ever wanted to commit.

 

“On the contrary, it is only that the victory of peace means more than anything.”

 

“I hold no interest in your politics, I am past such worries. Not that it is surprised . . . Instead perhaps disappointed . . . I have never believed a being could walk, talk and do any version of thinking if it didn't have a soul, but upon meeting you I wonder.” Verlid Sin was as a-political as they came; if he had a job to do, it was business. He had seen it all too many times before. The Gathering of Forces. To Sin, it just meant loss on his every side, no matter warlock or mage - no matter the etches sects - a lot of people Sin was very fond of were about to die, along with several billion innocents whom he didn't see any reason for anyone to have to involved, and there was nothing he could see to be done about that. The fact that Merlyn could offend him was no minor feat.

 

“Nevertheless, I am officially asking.” Merlyn turned and handed Sin a folded over piece of parchment. “He is your blood too after all.”

 

“Yeah, but he's my uncle!” Sin snatched the paper from Merlyn's hand both of them recoiling in a flash as if the two were repulsed by the exchange.

 

A few hours later, as Vurlid Sin left Merlyn's fortress on a mission he did not want to take, he spat on the ground and heaped a curse on the name, Merlyn.

Just Out Eating Leaves

 

“Fucking nightmares, am I right?” said Rayn.

 

Martin opened his eyes to see his sister sitting backwards at a picnic table near the campsite where he found himself deposited after his initial trip 'elsewhere'. The exact nature of the location he was not sure - some other dimension, or some potential future hellscape were Martin's best guesses.

 

“So, where you been?” Rayn asked in that sort of sing song 'you're in for it' tone that implies the impossibility of a satisfactory response.

 

As Martin looked around and saw his three best friends and two remaining siblings, it was apparent everyone had constructed their own version of where Martin had been. Rayn right in his face was about what he might've expected.

 

“Um, just out eating leaves . . .” Martin said sheepishly, in a vain attempt at easing the mood. Looking over the faces of those assembled it was clear he'd done so in error.

 

“Seriously, your gonna joke!? Everyone thought you'd been vanished. You don't joke about shit like this!” Sam was seething.

 

Martin's knowledge of his loved ones and the looks being provided, painted him a pretty clear picture of who was feeling how, but for one. Sam had clearly gotten irked by the same chip that Rayn seemed burdened with.

 

“I'm sorry Marty but while I'd love to think he's being obtuse, I'm pretty sure Sam really is thick enough to think you and Sara are playing some sort of prank.” Jose retorted.

 

“What are we supposed to think?” Sam blurted.

 

“Maybe we should let him explain before we berate the man.” Jamie was fighting mad but cared about Sam too much to smack him. “With all that's been going on - and now there's talking electric cats...”

 

“I'm a Sphinx, actually.” said the creature who had somehow disappeared from everyone's perception apart from Jose, Martin and one other.

 

“So . . . so, why are you here . . . and are you why people are vanishing?”

 

“Me? Don't be absurd, no, I am only doing an errand for a friend.” said the Sphinx.

 

“And you said we were hallucinating him! - they told us in school that in times of crisis, mass delusions can . . .” - “Seriously, you should know better then believe anything you hear at school” Sam and Rayn went back and forth in whispers as the creature continued without pause.

 

“I am to ensure that you all ended up here, and prepare you for your trip. It helps if you are calm. The task to this point was made much easier by one of you.”

 

“Wait, trip . . . where?” chimed Sam, Rayn, Jose and Jamie almost at once “Wait . . . one of us?” This time the chorus was joined by Martin too, all looking expectantly back at their new ally.

 

Looking away, disgusted with herself, the creature swallowed once, knowing she had spoken out of turn. The notion of exposing as majikal even an as yet known member of the group was already a deep shame, let alone the fact of that one as a seer. Seers are revered among most branches of sentient majik holders, and a Sphinx is no exception. It did not save her any pain that the empathic creature was affected by the individual's own eagerness to reveal who they were.

 

“It's not for me to out a member of your group as anything!” exclaimed the creature bluntly, as it's eyes stared daggers back at them for the very thought. It was as if the Sphinx' very mood charged the air with static.

 

Everyone wanted so badly to say words: words to Jose's new friend, words to each and every other standing beside them. It was the worst sort of silence - the kind of silence that makes the hair stand on end. Though it only lasted a few seconds, the entire assemblage felt they would explode if someone didn't speak soon, including she that did.

 

“Yeah, okay... it's me...” Sara was trying to make out like it was no big deal, but virtually everyone present was looking at her as if they were seeing her for the first time.

 

“I've been having dreams about this day for awhile. At first I was just . . . I didn't expect my dreams to actually happen, but as they did. I I knew we needed to come here. I was afraid to say, but what with all the insanity, I didn't want you to think I was off my nut. As far as where we're going, I don't know. I kept waking up before we got there.” Sara had gone from dying to speak to dying to stop in personal record speed.

 

“I actually do know some stuff.” Martin spoke up, if only to break the prolonged silence and save his sister any more anguish. “. . . and I have seen some wild ass shit.” Martin proceeded to explain in every detail he could imagine, the previous 24 hours, omitting only what Tzetridge mentioned about one of them being evil. It wasn't that he didn't want to say, it was far more an issue with finding the words.

~ Mass Escape at Alterra Prison ~

Dusk's Dim

 

For the average human, even after the impossible things that had already transpired, the idea that the fate of their world might come down to the integrity of four 17 and two 14 year old kids from the suburbs would have been hard to believe. For the 6 youths who newly faced that reality, it was the mental equivalent of being broadsided by a truck.

 

As they sat around the picnic area, so far past sundown that Jose, Sam, Jamie, Rayn, Sara and Martin were amazed that they had not tired - that the sun had not come up, and that what should have been a temperature near freezing was instead quite comfortable. Given, however, the extent of strange answers already received to their original question regarding where Jake had gone, no one was ready to inquire further why something odd was odd.

 

“I'm so sorry.” said Sam.

 

“You're telling him sorry!” Before Marin could ask what Sam was sorry for, Sara had made a b-line for Sam. Having stopped crying, Sara now had a murderous look, and Sam, despite being twice her size was rightly frightened. “You accused me of helping him prank you cause I brought us here, then when I told you I didn't, you called me a liar.”

 

“I'm sorry.” Sam slunk down onto one of the park benches looking ashamed.

 

“. . . . and you . . .” Sara said, continuing on, but now looking at her sister. “YOU! How could you agree with him?”

 

As Sara drew closer to Rayn, her look went from murderous to downright insane. Most anyone, no matter how tough, would have been frightened and those assembled were no exception - - apart from Rayn, that is.

 

“What the fuck was I supposed to think?” Rayn had seen her sister this mad many times. Not only was she not scared, she took a lot more pleasure in seeing Sara in this state than she should, not that Sara was any less guilty in reverse.

 

“Maybe we should all stop arguing and actually consider what has happened here.” Jamie was the only one with enough sense to bring things back to sanity. “If Martin was taken and he was sent back to get us, this is big!”

 

“I'm not sure they wanted you. I think it was more that you were welcome to come along.” Martin hoped against all he knew of this group that no one would come, and Tzetridge's prophecy would be proven wrong right from the word go.

 

“That is all well and good - I think between finding River and Jake, not wanting to leave you, and perhaps reality being at stake, all of us are going. Something is different though; people don't vanish in groups. I wonder what changed.” Jamie was smart, and could tell something was being omitted. She assumed it was Tzetridge hiding something.

 

“I think you're overthinking it,” Rayn interrupted, as she gave Martin a hug. “I'm sorry I thought you were prankin us - and thank you for finding River.”

 

“I understand, and I'm not sure I deserve much credit and it seems like we're being drawn into a very old fight” Martin reasoned “and I'm not sure if we really have much say about it.”

 

“Don't sell yourself short, they picked you, not us. We're just tagging alongs - you're fated for something - I've always known somehow, but now we start to see it.” Rayn continued, as she sat next to her brother.

 

“I think it's early to read too deeply into anything just yet. I'm pretty sure we're looking through a keyhole right now.”

 

“I'll never understand you, everyone but you can see your potential. I mean, take a complement!” Rayn choose that moment to walk off, knowing the conversation was not going well - settling down alone at a log a few meters into the woodland.

 

“Not sure Martin will ever . . .”

 

“So, we're just supposed to wait here . . .” Sam was not good at waiting.

 

An awkward silence followed for some time, as tends to happen after so many feet found their way so far into so many mouths as had just been achieved.

 

For Lack of Good Options.

 

It had not been long before a harsh wind blew through the area forcing the group to turn their faces. Every eye now looked dead upon something shimmering a distance into the woods. Far enough away that it would have been hard to spot if not for obviously manipulated wind gust. As the group approached they saw the Sphinx standing on two legs.

 

“So, it would seem you are ready” The creature was so glad to be nearly done with what she felt was a very annoying “Or as ready as a bunch of bunch of over emotional child...” The creature murmured under it's breath.

 

As she wove the spell the creature moved it's paws with such speed that it was just a blur, but as the spell was cast no wand or staff would emerge, instead she clapped her paws together hard but instead or any sound one might have heard from the impact there was an electrical crackling sound and a defining bang from a few meters behind her. A pool of what looked like iridescent liquid turned in mid air, blue like water but only visible from one side.

 

“It's a portal” Rayn said in a somewhat excited voice, her best friend and to be honest love interest was also missing.

 

“Maybe we should...” but before Jose could begin let alone finish his thought Rayn dove into the thing and had vanished.

 

“Well what the hell” not to be outdone Sara was in seconds later.

 

“Are we sure it's safe?” Sam said sticking a finger in “Ahhh!” Sam had found he was unable to take his finger back. “Help”

 

“You sure you want my help?” Jose asked slyly.

 

“Hell yes!” Sam answered without considering who he was talking to. Before anything else could be said Jose had shoved Sam in and followed.'

 

“Wait” as Jamie readied herself for her turn Martin delayed her.

 

“What is it” Jamie asked.

 

“There is something I left out.. and I... I just cant keep it from you,” Martin continued, explaining Tzetridge's warning.

 

“Look Marty, we can wonder all day but in the end all any of us can do is our best. Besides, I'm with you, he's wrong.” and at that she kissed him.

 

It was a kiss Martin had been longing for since he stupidly put their relationship on hold and it had all the passion you'd expect from two teens who had been holding back their passions for 8 weeks. Things might have gotten steamier if not for the need to get going. Jamie broke from the embrace and headed for the shimmering midair pool.

 

Just as she entered however, she turned back to take a final look at her boyfriend but as she entered the pool something happened. As if originating far lower that previously possible the air cracked a bolt of lightning split through the dusk's dim. Jamie however was into the vortex. It was as if her ever atom had been condensed into it's most compact size for a slit second and than expanded a moment later in darkness.

 

“It's a portal” Rayn said in a somewhat excited voice, her best friend and to be honest love interest was also missing.

 

“Maybe we should...” but before Jose could begin let alone finish his thought Rayn dove into the thing and had vanished.

 

“Well what the hell” not to be outdone Sara was in seconds later.

 

“Are we sure it's safe?” Sam said sticking a finger in “Ahhh!” Sam had found he was unable to take his finger back. “Help”

 

“You sure you want my help?” Jose asked slyly.

 

“Hell yes!” Sam answered without considering who he was talking to. Before anything else could be said Jose had shoved Sam in and followed.'

 

“Wait” as Jamie readied herself for her turn Martin delayed her.

 

“What is it” Jamie asked.

 

“There is something I left out.. and I... I just cant keep it from you,” Martin continued, explaining Tzetridge's warning.

 

“Look Marty, we can wonder all day but in the end all any of us can do is our best. Besides, I'm with you, he's wrong.” and at that she kissed him.

 

It was a kiss Martin had been longing for since he stupidly put their relationship on hold and it had all the passion you'd expect from two teens who had been holding back their passions for 8 weeks. Things might have gotten steamier if not for the need to get going. Jamie broke from the embrace and headed for the shimmering midair pool.

 

Just as she entered however, she turned back to take a final look at her boyfriend but as she did so something happened. As if originating far lower that previously possible the air cracked and a bolt of lightning split through dusk's dim. Jamie however was into the vortex. It was as if her ever atom had been condensed into it's most compact size for a split second and than expanded and spat back out a moment later.