Archive for the ‘Mirrorworld’ Category
June 16th, 2011 Posted 1:59 am
The time had come. Daniel had finally found nothing more of interest in the school library.
Normally, he didn’t really care what he read, as long as it was lengthy enough to last a while, but he drew the line at chick books. The last thing he needed was gossiping, bratty girls in his books as well as his normal life. The idea was to escape.
He scavenged in the last of the nonfiction section. Heck, he’d even have read the dictionaries if he could have checked them out. Just as long as he could drown out his surroundings amid words like myriad and zymurgy.
There was nothing. Nothing Daniel wanted, anyway. Who in the school actually wanted a baby book on giraffes, anyway? Still, he picked it up, amused. There was graffiti on the inside—Daniel found himself looking at a picture of a giraffe with a Hitler mustache.
“Desperate?” the librarian, Ms. Kellen, asked, spotting him sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“There are other ways of fixing your problem, you know.” Ms. Kellen took a book from the stack in her hand and found its place, sliding it in.
“Don’t want ‘em.”
The librarian sighed. “I can understand that, I guess. But wouldn’t it just be easier to talk to people? You’ll find they tend to see sense better when they’re around someone sensible.”
Daniel didn’t say anything for a moment. He stalled, walking his fingers over titles to find the spot where he’d gotten the giraffe book, putting it back in.
The librarian gave him a pointed look, and Daniel saw no way out of the question. “I’m… just…”
“Oddly separated from the wackos around you? No kidding. Bright kids in middle school? Quite a quandary.”
Daniel’s mouth twitched. He started looking over the animal books again, diverting his eyes to a picture of a fennec fox on the cover of a nature magazine. “It’s not just that,” he said, noting Ms. Kellen’s repeated use of her stare.
He decided to change the subject as she waited for an explanation. Daniel had never been good at explaining this kind of thing. “Is there anything new here?”
“You asked me that two days ago. And no, there’s nothing new. But I think there are a few books on psychology that you haven’t checked out,” Ms. Kellen said.
“Daniel, I just don’t have anything else for you…” she stopped.
“Are you sure?” he queried.
“No.” Her blue eyes stared into his hazel. She seemed to be actually looking at him today, instead of only taking in his words like she usually did. Daniel had typically been grateful for this characteristic—he was skinny and not particularly tall, and his mom wasn’t very good at cutting his brown hair. He preferred to be judged by his words.
“I think I do have something for you. Can we make this work?” Ms. Kellen asked the universe. She didn’t wait for an answer, but hurried behind her computer and dug around under her desk. She resurfaced quickly, ponytail flying, and asked, “Do you have a book you typically read at home?”
When Daniel nodded, she said, “Replace it with this one. I don’t want you opening it in school, but it’s… worth the… read.”
Daniel, puzzled by the spacing in her sentences, took the book. It was a blue hardback in surprisingly good condition, considering that it had been stashed somewhere under Ms. Kellen’s desk. He noticed the lack of a sticker. “Is this a library book?”
“Nope. I was going to give it to you at the end of the year as a present, but you could probably make use of it sooner. It’ll take you a while, and I think you need as much reading material as possible during the year.”
“Thanks,” said Daniel, even more confused. He’d assumed that some kid had written swear words or love letters inside the book, and that was why Ms. Kellen didn’t want him to open it in school—some of the teachers confiscated books if they had writing in them, in case it was the current reader who was writing whatever was inside. But if it wasn’t a library book…
“Oh, don’t, Daniel,” Ms. Kellen said. “I can see you’re dissecting my every word in order to decode my warning. Don’t explode your brain. You’ll see later.” She glanced at the doors around the library.
“You’re looking at the ceiling, not at the walls. Are you trying to see if we could be spotted by a video camera, or are you just watching for roof leaks?”
“You’re too sharp for your own good,” Ms. Kellen shot back. “Stay out of trouble. I’m not going to say anything else.”
Scowling, Daniel walked out of the library, slinging his backpack over his shoulder. He passed hordes of sixth-graders, eleven-year-olds bouncing up and down. He was altogether too glad that he wasn’t one of them, even if they did have a social life instead of a book obsession.
Daniel looked at the book again. The cover was greener now. Daniel decided that it was the lighting. He put his backpack on the ground and managed to fit the book inside, with difficulty. It was definitely bigger than the one on baby giraffes.
The day dragged on. Daniel still didn’t have anything to read during school, so in the spare moments when everyone else was texting in their pockets or passing notes, Daniel began to read the textbooks, which were, for the most part, immensely boring–even to him.
Finally, the last bell shrieked the students’ freedom, and Daniel found himself outside the door, papers in his hand. He shoved a few into his backpack, leaving his hands free. Daniel walked silently on the outskirts of the courtyard, not wanting attention from any random acquaintances who might slow him down. Then, once he was out of sight and earshot of anyone who might be paying attention, he bolted.
His pack slapped hard against his back, spurring him on. It seemed so long since he had run like this—not because he was late, but because he wanted to be home as fast as he could.
Daniel ran into a maze of houses. Getting to his own house meant a path with a lot of turns, which he whipped around with gleeful speed.
“Daniel!” came a voice from across the street. Daniel stopped in his tracks, nearly falling over, euphoria turning to panic as he wondered if he’d be questioned.
“What?” he called back, panting. Raking the streets, he finally located and recognized one of his classmates.
“You left your notebook in Ms. Ellan’s class,” Marcella said. “Do you need paper?”
“Thanks, and no,” Daniel said. “I have plenty of notebooks.”
“Well, I need to get home,” said Marcella. “My mom will kill me if I don’t get there fast, and I took a little bit of a detour.”
“Bye,” Daniel said, not knowing what else to say. His mind was on the book in his pack, not on a paper crisis.
He walked normally until she was out of sight as well. He didn’t want to have to explain why he wanted to get home so badly.
Finally, he stopped at the last house on an older street. There weren’t any cars, any bikes, or any people, and the trees blocked much of the sunlight from reaching the pavement. To the far side of the last house was a maple tree. Daniel dropped his bag at its trunk, deciding to ignore his math homework for the moment. Out of the bag, he took the book, which seemed almost gold in the sunlight, but faded into a deep blue when cast into shadow. Daniel ignored it.
Checking to make absolutely sure that nobody else was around, Daniel climbed the tree. Maple twigs brushed his jeans and his bare arms, but Daniel kept the book under his arm and found a favorite spot, with two branches arranged just right for him to lie back and not have to balance.
He opened the book to the first page. It was empty.
Was this Ms. Kellen’s idea of a joke? What was the purpose of giving him a blank book? Was she giving him some cheesy symbolic message? Was this her way of telling him that it was about time that he wrote his own? Was she communicating that he needed to find his books elsewhere?
He was staring over the top of the book, absently flipping through it. Ink caught his eye, and he flipped the pages back and forth, trying to find it, but the voice sounded first.
“You know, you’re supposed to be cursing and muttering to yourself by now,” it said. Daniel found the inked page, and his confusion struck up again when he saw a drawn face staring at him. He stared back. The face stuck its tongue out at him.
Daniel realized everything at once. All of a sudden, it clicked—he was sitting in a silent street, in a heavily-leafed maple, with a talking book that told him he should curse at it.
“Uh… why?” Daniel asked.
“That’s what everyone does,” the face said, shrugging.
“Why should I?”
“It’s traditional,” said the book.
“Who are you?” Daniel asked.
“I would have asked, What are you? But I’m not you, I guess. Anyway, my name’s right here.” Hands rose from the bottom edge of the picture and pointed to a caption saying “Linus Fletching.”
“Call me Linus. As for the question you haven’t asked, I am, in fact, human. Somewhere else. You, on the other hand, have a job.”
“I’m twelve,” Daniel said.
“Congratulations!” Linus cried out, rolling his eyes. “I don’t mean a nine-to-five. I mean a real job. Did Ms. Kellen tell you?”
“I’m guessing not.”
There was a pause, then Daniel said, “Well, if she didn’t tell me, did that strike you dumb?”
“That’s more like it,” the book said approvingly. The ink of Linus’s eyes looked fresh, and Daniel realized that the book’s eyes were twinkling mischievously.
“Well?” Daniel demanded, beginning to lose patience. He had no idea how long he would remain alone. He had beaten the rush of other students returning by running home, and he didn’t know when it would come. When it did, though, he had no desire to be caught with a talking book.
“Oh…” Linus said, apparently lost in thought, though nothing Daniel had said was particularly thought-provoking.
He’s lost in my thought! Daniel realized. This book is telepathic!
“Ah, yes, well… I….” Linus started in.
“Never mind that,” Daniel said quickly, trying to see out the tiny gaps in the leaves. How much time could he afford? How much cover did he really have in the maple’s foliage? Would the voices of other people mask his own? How well?
“Oh, okay,” Linus said, and Daniel gave him a patronizing look. “Well, you’re definitely the type,” he added. “What you have to do, in the little time I have to explain, is… er… restore the balance of magic throughout the parallel dimensions of the universe.” This last part was spoken extremely fast.
“I told you it was a job.”
“Is this an elaborate joke?”
“I thought you weren’t going the traditional route.”
“You’re not serious.”
“I’m serious. This is a serious face.” Linus struggled to maintain what vaguely looked like a blankly pained expression. He was enjoying himself.
“You’re not real.”
“I’m real. Ergo, cogito sum or something like that.”
“You’re not thinking.”
“You’re not thinking. Magic and dimensions? The possibility for catastrophe, warfare, anything…”
“Exactly why I’m talking to you.”
“Why haven’t we heard about it? Normal people, I mean.”
“We clean up after ourselves,” Linus said in fake indignance, cracking a smile involuntarily. “And you ain’t normal.”
“We?” asked Daniel, ignoring the crack.
“The Agency, of course.”
“Oh, okay. So you’re magicians and spies?”
“Just mages. But if we call our organization ‘the Agency,’ everyone seems to assume it’s all top-secret and nobody asks any questions!” The grin widened.
“Clever,” Daniel murmured. “So… what’s wrong with the… balance of magic in the dimensions?”
“Unbalanced,” Linus said matter-of-factly. “If a dimension doesn’t have any magic, it basically collapses. Humans need magic to survive, as does everything else. This dimension in particular is about to pop its balloon, and if you’d like to keep living here, as opposed to being dead in its magical absence or interrogated in another dimension, I’d advise that you stepped up to the plate in saving its butt!”
“Couldn’t we all just evacuate and move to another dimension?”
“We could,” the book said. “What would happen then is that we’d have to give out an apocalyptic prophecy, which not many people would believe in the first place. Then we’d be making an effort, probably at midnight for believability effect, to divide our magical task force to travel the entire world, reach every human being on the planet, and convince them to all hold hands while an Agency member teleported out to another dimension. Most of Earth’s humans would die. They simply would not come with us.
“Then we’d be in another dimension. There would be hysteria, and people would probably catch word that Earth hadn’t quite collapsed yet. They’d complain that they didn’t catch the finale of their soap box opera or whatever, and then, pretty soon, the Agency has on its hands maybe a billion grumbling people—if we’re lucky—who don’t have jobs, don’t have food, don’t have land and don’t have homes. There isn’t room for them, and there isn’t technology to support them. Their technical talents are practically useless in the differing tech of other species and environments. In fact, most of the Agency members who are capable of teleport aren’t capable of doing it well, and there’s a serious shot that the random dimension they land in isn’t even up to Terran norms.
“We also have to cope with the fact that it’s obvious that magic exists. People will be shocked, some even angry with us for hiding it from them. Then they’ll realize that we pose a threat, even if the Agency has just saved their lives. After that, war between mages and non-magical people is practically unavoidable, and with their numbers, it’s no clear shot whether any mages will survive to protect the trans-dimensional magical balance. This isn’t the first time it’s happened, and it wouldn’t be the last.”
“O-kay,” Daniel said, leaning back against the tree’s trunk.
“Quite the speech, wasn’t it?” said a smooth, sly female voice, breaking Daniel from his reverie.
Daniel opened his mouth, trying to invent a story to mask that whole spiel, obviously coming from the book.
“Left my iPod on speaker,” he said. “Audiobooks, you know?”
“I know,” said the girl. “Everyone knows what audiobooks are. I just want to know why you have a second book open in your lap.”
“Oh, this is my drawing book,” Daniel said quickly. “Walmart has ‘em pretty cheap. Just normal paper, no lines—great for drawing.”
“Let me see,” the girl said, pulling herself up through the branches with precise efficiency. She examined the book, attempting to flip her dark shoulder-length hair out of her face but failing—her hands were busy. “Well! You’re a pretty good artist. Can you make me one?”
Daniel examined her expression. “I don’t have a pencil,” he said without thinking.
“Oh. How’d you make that?”
“It’s one I did yesterday,” he came up with.
“Do you typically draw in pencil?”
“It is a little easier,” Daniel said.
“How come that one’s in pen?” the girl asked, steadying herself on her branch.
“Oh, I traced it over the pencil lines. It makes it last longer.”
There was a silence.
“You’re a really good liar, you know that?” she said.
“Obviously not good enough,” Daniel said with a sigh.
“No, it’s really believable,” the dark-haired girl said, wrapping her legs tighter around the branch and opening her jacket, “to someone who doesn’t have one herself.” Out of the jacket, she pulled out a book with almost the same dimensions as Linus’s—although it was a little slimmer. “I’m Sophie—Sophie Inez… and this is Taryn Fletcher.”
“Oh, you keep drawings too,” Daniel said with a fading grin in a halfhearted attempt both to disguise his book and his reluctance to admit that Linus’s story might be real. It seemed much easier to “go the traditional route” and tell himself that goofy pranks like this were bound to happen to him, of all people, and after all, the librarian was a little wacky.
But Daniel knew this story wouldn’t work. The librarian was perfectly sane and incredibly astute—and after all, she had no real reason to be mean to Daniel. Anyway, the look Sophie was giving him mirrored the one Daniel had given Linus minutes before—patronizing, as if looking at a particularly dense child.
“Look, give it up, okay? I got almost the same ridiculous spiel, and I don’t think anyone would try and send us to our deaths by attempting this. If anyone wanted to cause notice, they would have done it to someone popular with a bunch of social contacts, not to smart, quiet people who’d keep their mouth shut.”
Daniel was still doing so. Sophie continued, rolling her eyes.
“They’ve put together a team,” she said, as if it were obvious. “I bet there are more people around here”—
“No, there aren’t,” muttered a muffled voice. Sophie opened Taryn’s book. Taryn looked around, surprised.
“We’re up a tree? And I thought your hideout in the basement was creative. Are you sure you aren’t being heard?”
“No,” Sophie said. “Let me drop down and counter-spy a little.” She handed Taryn to Daniel, who now had to balance two books—and himself—on a tree branch.
Counter-spy? Daniel thought with amusement. Sophie was acting like the CIA was after a couple of kids, talking books or not.
Apparently Linus thought so, too, because his face split into a “that’s the clever part” grin and he nodded in agreement. Daniel felt uneasy from the movement, even though the book shifted no weight. He felt like a breeze could send him flying.
Daniel risked shifting his head to look down at Sophie. At that moment, she descended the last few branches carefully. She’d found a way to climb down the other side of the tree and was dropping down neatly behind it, hidden from the street. She walked normally across the street, pretending to watch the fall leaves drop, then walked back to the tree as if she’d only left her dog there so it could take a whiz.
She climbed straight back up, found her place, and took Taryn from Daniel, who now felt much more stable. “Nobody’s there. That means I can show you Gavin, too.”
A second book? Daniel thought, but when Sophie reached back inside her coat, she only withdrew a lanyard with a sole plastic whistle on it. She blew, and a thump could be heard behind Daniel’s house. And Taryn said—there aren’t any more people? Why just Daniel and Sophie, then?
“You might want to check out what’s in your back yard,” said Sophie with a widening grin.
Putting Linus’s book back under his arm and going back down the tree, Daniel grew more and more suspicious—but he had no clue what his suspicions were, except that he was coming to realize that whatever Sophie couldn’t show him around other people must be something ludicrously linked with magic. He was growing sick of the theme.
“Isn’t he gorgeous?” said Sophie, smiling at the gryphon that had landed in Daniel’s back yard. Part eagle and part lion, the gryphon proceeded to annihilate several of the rabbits in Daniel’s mother’s garden.
“Gorgeous,” Daniel said.
“Wanna go for a ride?” Sophie asked.
“I have… math homework,” Daniel said.
Sophie stared at him, apparently trying hard to determine whether this was another of Daniel’s clever lies. Eventually, she seemed to decide that since he had no reason whatsoever to lie when he could have had a gryphon ride, he must be telling the truth.
“Some other time,” Daniel amended, more to fill the silence than because he thought Sophie was hurt by his refusal.
She shrugged. “Ah, well, if you ever need a ride home… I know an inconspicuous route. It let me listen in on your entire conversation. You couldn’t imagine the speeds Gavin can reach.”
I’m not going to ask, Daniel decided, as Sophie hoisted herself onto the gryphon and declared that she lived a few houses down, if Daniel wanted to see her. He wouldn’t ask how a twelve-year-old girl ended up with a pet gryphon. He wouldn’t ask where she was planning to keep it. And he didn’t want to ask what Gavin ate, apart from rabbits.
The next morning was… quite interesting. Daniel’s alarm clock had, for some reason, been set to 5:30 instead of 7:30. Tired as he was, Daniel hated getting out of bed and had no inclination to repeat the activity, so he went to his closet to get dressed.
His first impression, half-awake, was that there was a giant spider in his closet.
His second impression, coming to his senses, was that the spider had woven a rope of web, and from the string hung what looked like an understated Halloween costume—cloak, black robe, staff.
Daniel decided that maybe he should go back to bed, after all.
He crossed the room again and flopped down on his bed. The spider followed him, and sat on his chest as he lay there. It wasn’t trying to attack, but like so many humans that week, it seemed to be staring at him.
“Fine,” Daniel muttered. The spider scuttled away and rapped on the window. Daniel opened it, letting the arachnid free. The spider, on the other hand, simply sat on his windowsill, watching him, slightly bigger than a DVD.
Daniel took the hanger and the costume-ish garments off the web, separated the thread at the ceiling of his closet, and handed it to the spider before finding some normal clothes.
The spider shifted a little, as if not sure whether its job was duly complete.
“Okay!” Daniel said. “Fine!”
He threw the clothes into his backpack and glared at the spider. “Satisfied?”
Apparently the spider was, because after watching for a few seconds to make sure that Daniel didn’t take the clothes—including the four-foot-long wooden staff that miraculously fit into his two-foot backpack—back out, it disappeared down the side of Daniel’s house.
Daniel decided against dressing until the spider had time to get out of the neighborhood. His stomach seemed oddly hollow, and he felt like he was getting a headache. Low blood sugar, he reasoned. Daniel went downstairs to eat something.
He rifled through the cabinets to find some cereal, pushing past boxes of bran flakes and oatmeal to the back, where he and his siblings had inconspicuously stuck the super-sugary cereal that their mother bought, away from the eyes of their father, who was all for the oatmeal option. In return, nobody spoke a word about the midnight instances of a giant bowl of Trix, decaf coffee, and muted TV pulled off by their mother.
Daniel chose an unboxed bag of what looked like super-sugary corn cereal balls soaked in food coloring. Daniel ended up scraping the crystallized green milk off the sides of the bowl before setting it in the dishwasher. He felt like the day needed the sugar spike, but wasn’t past wondering if he could get by with going back to bed.
“Oh… you’re up,” his mother said, stumbling into the kitchen. “You’d better put that bag away before your father finds it,” she said pointedly. Daniel picked it up and hid it in the back of the cupboard.
“I hope you’re not going to school in that.”
Daniel looked down at his pajamas, and realized why he was still wearing them. “I have the feeling that it’s going to be a really weird day.”
“As long as you don’t get arrested or mortally wounded, I don’t care how you deal with it. Just get dressed, okay?”
Over the next six weeks, it seemed as though the library had gone broke. There were no new books whatsoever. Daniel suggested that the school could have an “as-is” book sale on all the wimpy kids’ books that hadn’t been checked out since 1987, but the librarian vetoed this, saying they belonged to the city’s school system, and anyway, most of those books were either profane or illegible by now.
“But wouldn’t they make good material for… for…” Daniel groped for something: “…collages?”
“Only if you want to make a collage about cursing elephant Nazis,” the librarian said.
Instead, Daniel made sure he always had a book on hand in school, whether a textbook or one of his own collection, and read normally there. At home, he’d given up on trying to find something new to read—he was preoccupied trying to wheedle information out of Linus, who seemed oddly apprehensive. He had taken Sophie up on her offer a few times and rode Gavin home, but unlike Sophie, who seemed in sync with the gryphon’s every movement, he felt extremely dizzy afterward, so he’d made it pretty clear that, while it was kind of fun, he preferred to walk.
If Daniel tried to unpack the mage’s robes and staff from his backpack, he looked up to see a DVD-sized black shape, bungee-jumping from a tree across the street. He eventually gave up.
Daniel still seemed unable to gather much information about the reason that the two of them—Daniel and Sophie, specifically—had gotten the books, and nothing else. Finally, though, Linus let something slip.
“Okay,” he’d said wearily. “It’s because you two have the right personalities to handle the magic that you’re going to end up with.”
“What. The. Heck.”
Linus sighed. “Do I really have to explain? Of course you’re going to need magic at your disposal! You’re going to need whatever you can get. That means I’m eventually going to have to teach you how to use it.”
Daniel groaned. And he’d thought spiders and gryphons and alarm clocks set to unholy hours meant trouble—not to mention his schoolwork, which, now, even to himself, sounded to Daniel like a petty complaint next to magic.
Nine weeks passed, in which Linus, from wherever he was operating, managed to teach Daniel magic through what Daniel was now mentally referring to as “Wizards’ Skype,” in case Linus heard him thinking. Daniel was using all sorts of code words now. Even if Linus wouldn’t have cared, he used code words in case someone else was trying a similar project.
What’s next? Daniel grumbled to himself, not touching the book. He’d found that unless he was in direct contact with the book, Linus had no access to his thoughts, which was somewhat useful. A little magic allowed him to converse with a few other books, but they were often tired after so much use (Daniel usually bought used books, and then reread them) and not up to conversation. This is too much. And then Ostrich—that doesn’t seem real.
His thoughts had repeated this for the past month. Operation Save The Realm of Insane yet Creative Habitants (shortened to “Ostrich”—it had taken Daniel a while to come up with that one)? Not real. Couldn’t be. He couldn’t wrap his mind around travelling to a whole different dimension, let alone trying to rescue Earth from certain death by lack of magic.
Magic itself had always seemed like an abstract force—not physical. If it was physical, what was its elemental compound? And how did the spells make the user capable of summoning it in a certain form? Daniel was becoming increasingly aware that the force he had admired so often in books revolved around—and relied on—confusion in the real world. He reasoned that it actually was a good thing that he couldn’t “science it out”—if he could, then other people surely could, and that would be too dangerous. Someone would get power-hungry, and there would be a theft, and—
At this point, Daniel broke himself out of his reverie and decided that he’d been reading way too many fantasy novels.
But Linus is real! What if—
What if. What if the rest of his books contained some hint as to the way the real universe—er, multidimensional universe—worked? What if there were different rules for magic in different dimensions?
Inquiring to Linus about this one day, Daniel received a cryptic response, which was a technique Linus was starting to adopt. Usually, in books, this meant the giver wanted the receiver to think about his or her circumstances… but Daniel hadn’t been in the mood to think about things for days.
“Gravity works the same in other dimensions, but the terrain is always different. And, of course, there are a few dimensions in which there is no gravity because there’s nothing there.”
Daniel’s mental response: facepalm. And this time, he was touching the book.
Linus sighed. “Daniel, you need to take this seriously.”
Daniel’s mind summoned pictures of that same face fifteen weeks before, in the maple, looking a lot younger and jauntier, saying “This is a serious face.” Daniel half-expected the same mischievous attitude to drift through here again—half-expected Linus to stare at him intently, then pipe up, “The fate of the world rests in your hands!”—but Linus was silent, his head slightly bowed, as if trying to figure out what to say and not inviting eye contact beforehand, as if he could pause the conversation that way. Like in an email argument.
Whatever Linus did or didn’t come up with didn’t matter, because the doorbell rang. Daniel knew it was Sophie, because Sophie always rang doorbells twice in a row. He ran down to answer it.
Sure enough, Sophie stood there, dark brown hair whipping in front of her face by the wind. “Yo.” Then, with a gesture to the book, said, “Don’t you think we should keep Dungeons and Dragons supplies all in one place?”
Daniel realized that he was still carrying Linus. Usually, he avoided bringing the book downstairs in case one of his parents or siblings saw it. “Uh… yeah.”
“Well, in any case, I need you to come across the street, if you can.” She lowered her voice. “Gavin twisted his ankle, and Taryn’s not sure which healing spell to use. She says Linus was always the one who was ‘creature-crazy,’ as she called it.” Lowering her voice still more, she asked, “Does this mean they know each other?”
“Or did at one point,” said Daniel, in an equally low voice. “Mages would have to keep in touch with each other, wouldn’t they? Certain spells seem like they need more than one person.”
“Is that why they grouped us together with books? To…” She trailed off, not wanting to be overheard by Daniel’s parents.
Daniel nodded. “To Ostrich.” At Sophie’s quizzical look, which had a “are you deranged?” suggestion, Daniel said, “Operation Save The Realm of Insane yet Creative Habitants.”
“Works,” Sophie said. “Accurately. So can you come or not?”
Daniel glanced back into the house. “Probably. Make sure my parents can’t see your face from the kitchen when I call them—they’ll think you want to be my girlfriend.” Calling louder, he said, “Mom! I’m leaving for a few to a friend’s!”
He turned to Sophie. “That should do it. Come on, we need to tend to your gryphon.”
Gavin was tied to a tree under the cover of the patchy wooded area behind Daniel and Sophie’s houses. The gryphon had grown somewhat, but it did not whatsoever look as though it had twisted its ankle. It looked more like it was simply having a good time hunting rabbits. The local gardens had never looked better.
“Which ankle did he twist?” Daniel asked, confused.
“He didn’t twist his ankle, goof! I said that to bring you here.”
“Why didn’t you just say you needed to talk?”
“You’d think I wanted to be your girlfriend,” she said.
“Why would I think that?”
“Never mind,” Sophie said, slightly annoyed. “I just want to know… what’s the plan?”
She gave him an exasperated look. “We’re saving the world, remember? We’re Ostrich-ing. Remember?”
“Well, yeah,” Daniel said. “My memory’s not that bad.”
“Well? We need to know when to go. We need to know what we’re going to do once we go. Drop the book.”
“What?” Daniel said, losing track of the conversation.
“Drop the book! Break your telepathic connection.”
Daniel set Linus on the ground. Linus’s picture frowned, as if knowing what Sophie was about to do, and not liking it.
Daniel did so.
“Now,” Sophie said, “I’m going to draw a Sound Circle around us so that nobody can eavesdrop. Not even Gavin.”
Sophie pulled a notebook out of her jacket pocket, along with a stubby pencil. She scribbled down some numbers, then handed the pencil and paper to Daniel and told him to copy them.
“It’s because your handwriting is always changing, in the magical sense,” Sophie explained. “It kind of captures the moment. Anyway, I’ve done the calculations, and there’s no reason for you to repeat the task. And make sure you copy those correctly,” she added, a hint of caution on her voice.
“Isn’t there an easier way to do this?”
“Yeah, but it takes longer. Involves a stick, the mud, and a bunch of frippy symbols. It’s a safety precaution, just to make sure the spell doesn’t accidentally find a much bigger, natural circle in the dirt, and people actually hear stuff they’re not supposed to.”
Daniel finished. Sophie took the paper and located a Swiss Army knife in her coat pocket. She dug up about a square inch of grass and soil, poked the center of the paper into the hole, and set it on fire.
“Duck!” she yelled, just as shots of orange came from the paper’s sticking-up ends. She and Daniel ducked, at just the right time, because the orange cover that erupted from the paper’s edges shot straight out before rising like a Jumpin’ Jimmy’s Inflatable Bounce House.
“There,” Sophie said breathlessly, standing up, like someone who had just set up a tent. “Now nobody can hear us.”
She sat down on the grass, watching Gavin sniff the barrier. Daniel, who hadn’t stood in the first place, lowered himself to the ground.
“It seems to me like these books aren’t giving us the full story,” she said, tracing her finger around a blade of yellow-green grass. She looked up at him, Oriental eyes reflecting the orange sound shield, waiting for an opinion.
“No duh,” Daniel said. He shifted. It was spring now, but the ground was still cold with frost. He wondered how Gavin had hunted during the winter.
“Then we need to find a way to figure out what we’re actually doing. We’ve been told only that we’re restoring the balance of magic, right?”
Daniel was obviously supposed to speak. “And that it’ll require magic on our part.”
“Right. Which… we’ve learned.” There was something disbelieving in her tone, yet Sophie gazed up at her bright orange shield, flicking its edge thoughtfully and testing its solidity. Daniel could almost see the inner turmoil: she was probably thinking, as he had, about the physical existence of magic. Atomic structure and composition? Nonexistent.
You can’t look at “magic particles” under a microscope, yet there we sit, Linus’s book looking inexplicably contemptuous even when closed, Daniel thought. Sophie had even thought to make sure he couldn’t read their lips. He guessed that Taryn was still in the house.
“Well?” Sophie demanded. “How do we get the information we need?”
“I don’t know,” Daniel admitted, lying on his back, on the cold ground, and watching the clouds drift past. For some reason, Sophie’s urgency had made him feel all the more serene, as if a piece of the world had somehow clicked into place. Magic was at work, but for once, it wasn’t against him.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:27 pm
I didn’t say anything about what happened until Sophie and Molly pried the information out of me.
“That’s brilliant,” Sophie said.
“I guess.” I shrugged. “But it’s only one cushion. Unless all of the dimensions look like this, it could change if we did run out of magic and then the Void Dimension did as well. It would change.”
“Daniel,” Molly said. “Don’t worry. The agency would intervene before then. You killed the weird lady and all the Gateguards, so the thousand wielders allowed out wouldn’t get killed. The universe is usually much easier to save than this. You just have to grab a bunch of books and get your butt outta there. The only reason that the books were scattered like that was that the wielders sent out got killed in various places. You can chill now.”
Molly grinned. “And… guys… it’s totally obvious that you’re nuts about each other… don’t lie.”
It didn’t help that Sophie and I gave Molly the very same glare at the very same time, because all she did was crack up.
“And anyway,” Molly said, “all the other dimensions are suitable for life. You survived in the Mirrorworld, didn’t you? The cats’ dimension is the next mirror after the Void Dimension, and heaven knows they’re not going to hurt us. Your job is more than done, Daniel. Let your guard down, do whatever you want, go out with Sophie…” This time I let Sophie glare, and Molly backed off. “You still have the same magic, whether you need it or not. You’re welcome anywhere, especially at the agency. I’ve already filed for the head agent to come here and build another agency under a cookie-shop cover. It’s about time.
“But I’m staying here to teach. I have to help with the new agency anyway. Hannah’s going to be the school nurse, and Angel will help her.”
Figured, I thought.
“But Alex is going to teach swordplay, and Ryder is going to teach fighting on a horse.”
“I think he enjoyed that,” I said. “But I didn’t destroy the Gateguards. I just stripped them of magic and sent them to the Void Dimension. But I made sure that they ended up underground when I put everything else in.”
Molly’s face lit up. “Great! We can use them for practice, since they’re something we won’t feel guilty about killing.”
I shrugged. “Whatever.” I really didn’t care what happened to them as long as they weren’t free and killing people.
“We really need teachers,” Molly said. “I –”
“I’ll think about it.” I dismissed the entire concept. This was Molly’s thing, not mine, and I knew it. She knew it.
I went to class. The bell had rung a long time ago, but I didn’t care. I could handle being late.
“Where were you for so long?” Ms. Dalio asked. I was watching Sophie. She wrote something on a piece of paper and held it up.
It said: TELL THE TRUTH
“I was saving the universe from imminent destruction,” I said with a straight face.
“Welcome back,” Ms. Dalio said cheerfully. A few students giggled. I sat down.
“Nice,” said the kid next to him. “You even came in costume. Some people would almost buy that.”
I just grinned.
“We’re watching a video today. Somebody turn off the lights.”
I grinned again. The lights were off, and nobody had gotten up.
“Well, that’s convenient,” Ms. Dalio said.
During that period, I fixed the TV, controlled a fight between two kids, refilled Ms. Dalio’s water bottle, and got all the normal work done (manually). She pulled me aside after class.
“I’ve never seen magic done so discreetly, Daniel. I would like to hear your story later.”
I frowned. “You believe me?”
“Yes, Daniel. Oh!” she said. “I thought Liana told you about me. Well, you confided in me. You know the rumors about me. They’re true. I am a faerie. Liana isn’t, though. She’s a mermaid. Even if I didn’t believe you, I would still be wondering who was doing magic. Usually Liana blocks hers so that crazy geek Mythology teacher doesn’t start after her as well. I wouldn’t hide this if that Mythology teacher wasn’t after me and kids wouldn’t start asking me to hypnotize their parents, but you can choose what you want to do. Just remember that these kids can’t hurt you unless you let them.”
“Good. I wish I was.”
I raised an eyebrow, grinned, and walked out. She got the message.
Mrs. Eerdo found that she had shoulder pads on her desk, the kind from really old suits that you find at Goodwill. That day, the rumor proved correct that, in fact, she did eat them.
This guy called Dick, probably one of the Group, tried handing me a paper and saying, “Yours,” but I stopped him and handed it back.
“I told you that was yours. Do it.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Look,” Dick said, getting mad, “we give you stuff to do, you do it and give it back. That’s it. Got it? If you don’t, I’ll beat you up.”
“No,” I said. “Bring everyone you want. That is, if you’re not afraid of getting embarrassed when I kick your butt.”
He looked me up and down, saw how I was pale and skinny, apparently not much of a fight. “Heh. Everyone in this school will see it when you get jumped. Face it, dude. I’m not going to be beaten by some wimp with no tan, no muscle and no girlfriend. It’s no wonder…”
“I’m his girlfriend,” Sophie said, stepping in. “And if you don’t show your greasy face behind the grocery store after school today, I’ll take you down myself, and I promise you, that won’t be pretty.” Sophie pulled up the sleeve of her black cloak and revealed substantial muscle. She smiled cheerfully and walked away.
“See you there,” I said calmly, and walked away as well. Dick growled after me. I couldn’t help snickering. Then I realized that in the middle of that argument, a bunch of kids had crowded around us to see what was happening and had heard the entire thing. Good, I thought. Let’s get this over with.
I got through the rest of the school day, though I was watched closely through all of it. I didn’t want to be seen walking behind the grocery store, so I snuck into a bathroom and teleported there. Everyone was already there, but they were talking so erratically that they didn’t see me. I was feeling pretty satisfied to see that Sophie was already there, grinning, still in her full enchantress clothes: black cloak and purple dress (with jeans underneath, of course), and she was successfully creeping Dick out. So he didn’t see me when I came up quietly and flicked the back of his neck, hard. It would have popped a hole in a drink straw.
“The fight’s here, everyone!” I didn’t know who’d said that, but Dick was already curling his hands into fists.
“No weapons,” he said. Sophie took my staff.
“Give it what you have,” I said. He started trying to punch me, but got sort of surprised when I didn’t double over. I started doing flashy magic, stupid hat tricks that would make him freak out. Green-fire-grade stuff. Everyone started shrieking, but Dick wasn’t really hurt. Then I just used a pause spell and socked him in the nose, which bled. I removed the spell – might as well level the odds a bit or people would still call me a wimp – and I set his stupid-looking, baggy pants on fire. I put it out and went for his hand, grabbing it, twisting his arm, and breaking his wrist. I applied a fist to his temple, which was enough to make him go down, and I snapped out a quick kick to his side, not breaking anything but making it hurt enough. I backhanded his jaw, making it pop awkwardly.
“Do you want more?” I asked. He hadn’t landed a blow on me, especially with the protection spell still in place.
Dick just groaned, the hand hanging limply.
“If you want, I can heal you using the same magic I used to beat you up. But consider this a major warning.”
Dick didn’t respond. I turned to the crowd. “What do you think? Should I heal him?”
A few yes, a few no. Sophie stepped in and said, “Just his hand. Let him suffer if he can’t admit he wants help.”
I took the advice. I think Sophie might have gone in as well to do some damage of her own, but Dick’s underwear was already showing from the burn spots and I think she decided he’d had enough.
“That goes for everyone. If I say no, that’s the final word. Sophie will do the same thing, and both of us will defend anyone else you try that on. Do your own stupid work.”
The crowd muttered something and gradually dissolved.
“That’s that,” I said. “I should have socked one of those thugs a long time ago.”
“I don’t think you’ll have to do it again,” Sophie said.
But some people were gone, and here again the next day. When they tried the same, they found out the real meaning of the words “sudden wedgie.” I wasn’t going to put up with that.
Ms. Dalio pulled me aside in the hallway. “Daniel,” she said, “I saw the fight. And I’m pretty sure that you handed your staff to Sophie before you began. Are you actually… oh.” Ms. Dalio raised both eyebrows. “Daniel, somehow this doesn’t surprise me as much as I think it should.”
“Let’s just say that there’s not much I can’t do. I’ll tell you after school.”
She turned on her heel and walked away, in an “okay, do your thing,” gesture.
A nerd kid called Felix found me sometime later and asked if I would teach him magic.
“I won’t,” I said, “but I know someone who will. Meet me in the library.”
* * *
That was just the start.
I directed a few kids to Liana, but when they got good I had to intervene and ship them off to Molly and her school, which was in the neighborhood. I also promised to cover their exit from normal school if they did so, which more than sealed the deal. I ended up teaching at the agency anyway, but only after school. A ton of kids showed up, and Ms. Dalio and Mr. Monito as well. He was a Shapee, one of the good shapeshifters. Sheesh. I was wondering exactly how much magic had been stuck away in secret in my town.
There were wielders from other dimensions, even, and now that the borders were unguarded, tons of wielders came to see magic demonstrations and things that I or someone at the agency could teach them. Oh, and the fact that the most powerful wielders were there teaching was also a big selling point.
Hannah and Angel both ended up as nurses for the agency there. They seem to be enjoying that. Ryder has about fifteen horses around here, most of them from the trip. Students oohed and ahhed over the fact that they were used to save the universe. Really, all we need now are T-shirts.
Cat has now put her unique fighting style in writing, with illustrations, in a book called Catfight. She’s figured out how to influence when she turns catlike, but she’s still pretty random. She teaches fighting, and now hand-manufactures her own weapon, a leather glove that has metal claws on the end of each finger, which are designed not unlike her claws.
Sophie teaches with me, in the same class. It’s helpful because she always seems to know what’s going on and our class is big enough to split between five teachers. It seems Mage has found a way to talk more clearly so he’s understood better, and more and more spy mages show up around here. I can still work with nothing in my hand, though. Mage says that it’s because I’m just so far out of the normal range that I’ll probably be the best the rest of my life, and I’ll have all the responsibility. But it’s a heck of a lot more exciting than school, and if I end up doing something major again, I’m going to take a bunch of my best students with me. And I will have an unstoppable army – who cares if they’re all teenagers?
For the record, Sophie is my girlfriend now. At least Molly stopped bugging me. Khorabelle detached herself from me, and the only other boy in the room when she’d heard the news was Alex TNV (the nerd vampire), who is her new crush now. He’s trying to avoid her night and day. It must be a harpy-girl thing, because last I checked, she hated him and his greasy everything. Either that or she’s got a serious case of something. I slipped the Psychiatrist book into her room, but I don’t think it’s helped outside of driving her nuts. It is now the school counselor, and it doesn’t matter if you’re French because the book tells you your problem in twenty different languages with at least six different connotations for each. Isn’t that something.
Don’t tell anyone, but I really wish that there was something I needed to do. It feels out of place otherwise. I wait in hope that one of my students will grow violent or something and try to usurp power so that I can stop them. Or that something will happen. In the meantime, I’m catching up with Molly on weapons use and fighting styles. Then I’m going to spend a bunch of time around the Psychiatrist book, in hopes of learning Spanish. And probably a bunch of other languages with it.
But as adventures go, that was bloody, violent, dangerous, foolish, and completely and totally awesome. And none of us even got killed.
I have learned one thing from reading every book in a library, and that is that a story ends when there is nothing left to tell until later. And right now you’ve heard all of our adventure, and I can’t keep small talk going much longer, so I guess this is…
PS: A quick ad…
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June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:20 pm
I saw Molly in the hall and asked her how she’d made her dimension, how she’d put land in it and stuff.
“I just used magic to make a dimension, and that’s something I can’t explain. It started out sort of like the Void Dimension, but I just copied the land from a forest clearing. Scientifically, I sort of made every cell in the clearing go through sort of mitosis and I put the cell copies in the new dimension in the same configuration.”
“You’re a geek,” I said, “but I think you just saved the universe times infinity.”
Molly looked ignorantly happy, and really, really confused. “What the heck?”
I shook my head as I left quickly down the hall and disappeared quickly. I needed to stand back, so I went to the Mirrorworld. I was wondering if even my magic would be strong enough for this, but even though it was dangerous, I had to try it.
I could have gotten killed doing this, and I hesitated. I hesitated just as I had before killing Viper, and I remembered that I’d killed it, and I was going to kill danger once again, one more time, right here. Forget risk to myself.
I stood at the unguarded gate between the Mirrorworld and the dimension of Earth and its surrounding planets. I copied the entire dimension and put it all into the Void Dimension. If that became the lead mirror, nothing would change. At all.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:13 pm
In short, we ended up taking all of the books back to Earth. Liana the mermaid librarian received both the books and the story of what we’d done. I delivered both to her myself, seeing as I’d been around the longest and done most of it.
I still didn’t entirely know what I was going to do. As far as I’d planned, I was going to stick around here for a while. But something was nagging at me, like I’d left a loose end flapping around, as if I’d skipped a certain part of reading a book and didn’t get all the story, or left a side quest unfinished in a video game.
“Well,” Sophie said, “at least you can’t get picked on. I mean, I don’t think you’re going to be doing any homework anytime soon other than your own.”
“It’ll be nice to do something once,” I said in agreement. I just felt like I wasn’t going to make much productive use of my magic, not here. But I didn’t want to be worshiped as a magic teacher, writing didn’t make real use of my magic, and neither did teaching English. Maybe I’d join the army for a while, win a couple of wars…? I don’t know. I mean, Sophie could easily be a magic teacher, and Hannah could be a doctor, and Ryder could teach horseback riding. Angel is Hannah’s best friend, and would end up as her assistant nurse or something. Molly would probably set up an agency here or join the FBI or the CIA. It would almost make sure that nobody would have to go and save the…
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:12 pm
I was content sifting through the books to find some to take with us, but I wasn’t sure where I would go next. Who has any use for a magical herbalist? I’m considered wimpy in the Mirrorworld or the spy agency, and Earth has much better technology than herbs. I like cats, but I don’t really want them as the only people who can carry on a conversation. Really, I wasn’t sure where I was going.
I heard Daniel say to Keith that he was going back to his world. I wouldn’t. If I were him, I’d join the agency. I mean, he’s got the serious magic, and people would probably love to learn things from him. He’d make a great teacher; he never got angry, and he was smart and kept people in line easily enough. The only major argument I’d seen him in was the one with Sophie in the forest.
But anyway, I heard Daniel explain to Keith what school was, and as I pushed another book into my pack, I decided that I would try it. It sounded like rather useless information being taught, but it was somewhere to go and I wanted to go there.
“Anyone is welcome to come with me. I’m going back. I haven’t planned beyond that, but we’ve been gone a long time and our parents are probably worried sick.”
“And this is a problem how?” Sophie pointed out.
Daniel shook his head. “We just need to get back where we belong.”
“But do you belong there?” Sophie asked. “Do we belong there, all of us? This group shouldn’t be separated.”
“Well,” Daniel said, “if we’re not going to be separate, then we can always move to where we want. Trial and error. But we should try that dimension first.”
“What are you going to do after school if we stay there?” I asked.
“Well…” Daniel said. “I had plans to be an English teacher, but considering what’s happened here… I really have no clue, none at all.”
“Be a writer,” I said, surprising myself. “You have plenty of material.”
“Maybe,” Daniel said. “It just seems too… quiet, sort of.”
“You’d be a shoo-in for a teaching position at the agency,” Molly said. “They obviously don’t care how old you are.”
“I don’t know,” Daniel said.
“I know what I’m doing, right now,” Sophie said. “I’m shoving books in the pack so we can get the heck outta here.”
Everyone snapped out of the periodic mesmerization and went back to the bookshelves. It seemed like I was not the only one who couldn’t decide what to do. My problem was that I wasn’t really needed anywhere, but Daniel’s was that he was needed everywhere.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:10 pm
I am Molly. He is Daniel. She is Sophie.
I knew who Daniel was, and I knew who Sophie was, but I wasn’t clear now who I was anymore. I didn’t have world-saving stress on my shoulders. All we needed to do was raid the bookstore, and they wouldn’t put up any fight. Far as they were concerned, we were just good business.
I don’t have any crush on Keith. My innate sense in psychology told me that I was using him as a distraction from stress, simply because there wasn’t really another reason to like him. He wasn’t especially cute, smart, funny, or strong. In fact, I quickly realized that he was a goofy idiot when he wasn’t fighting. It was so stupid that I started giggling whenever I saw him, which didn’t help since he seemed to have caught on that I’d liked him.
I ditched the makeup and went back to messy ponytails and normal clothes. Mage said I looked more like myself. I felt more like myself. In fact, the longer I stayed like that, the more I was sure what myself was.
“Man,” I said to Sophie as we raided the bookstore.
“He’s a mass murderer.” Sophie and I were having fun. The store owner decided to listen in on our conversation, and we’d described Daniel’s battle in gory detail. I was secretly watching the clerk turn pale.
“Hey, you wanna get the heck out of here?” I heard Ryder whisper to a book. I smiled. I felt so much better. Bookstores were one of my favorite places.
“Really,” I said back to Sophie. “You wouldn’t want to cross him in a battle. He’d kill you… or worse.”
“Did you see when he scalped her?”
I watched the clerk turn from pale to green. It really was an unpleasant color.
“Yes!” I said. “It was more disgusting than when I was standing in horse dung.”
The clerk disappeared into the back room and didn’t come out.
“That apple won’t keep the doctor away,” Sophie said with a grin.
“Ohhh…. bad!” I took a breath as if I were to say something else, and heard the floorboard creak as a telltale sign that the store owner was leaning closer. I whirled around. “Hello!” I said in an excessively chirpy voice. “Do you have a book that you’d like to recommend?”
Pale, green, blushing… was this guy a chameleon?
“Price is no object,” I babbled on sweetly. Considering that I’d just been talking about an all-out bloody war in mucho adjectives, the happy thing was really messing him up.
“That one,” he said, pointing vaguely to an area of shelf and quickly walking away.
I smiled nicely. “Thank you!” I turned to Sophie. “You know, it’s really not nice to walk away before someone can say thank you to you.”
“He didn’t even say ‘you’re welcome’ back to you!” Sophie replied. Then we both lost it giggling.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:09 pm
“Nice biology lesson,” Sophie said faintly. “Let’s get the heck out of here.”
I heaved a sigh. I could see normally now. “Not yet.” I cleaned the sword, calmly put it back in the scabbard, and found the book Viper had killed. It had blood on the cover. I found a tissue in my pack and cleaned it up.
“Hannah, come over here… I’m going to need you around.”
She came. I put a hand steadily on the book. “It needs something,” I murmured, then said louder, “Someone bring me some hair or something from it.” If you’ve noticed by now that I’ve been calling Viper an it, you’re very observant. I wonder how close that was.
I took a single strand of the hair and put it inside the cover. Then I did something, some kind of magic that was almost instinctive, like I’d done it a million times without knowing it. Maybe I had.
The book came to life. I was wondering what I’d done, if it had ever been dead. Then I remembered that yes, it had. Hannah healed it. She carried it in a sling, as she’d done for Ryder’s arm numerous times when he’d fallen off his horse.
“I’m going to take it,” she said. “Liana will help me, she has a stronger healing magic than mine.”
“No,” I said, “yours is stronger. And the book won’t last that long.”
“Go lay down, Daniel,” Sophie told me. “Camp isn’t that far away.”
“Yes, it is,” I said.
“No, it’s not,” Sophie said, grinning.
I didn’t even bother walking.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:06 pm
I heaved the sword with strength I didn’t know I had, and I knocked Viper off its feet. Magic seemed as common as air, and it was everywhere around me, blinding me to anything but the fact that I’d actually wanted to kill something. More than kill. I wanted it to suffer. I was so furious with the most righteous anger that I became the most violent thing on the face of the earth. Pardon the violent description here, but this is what happened. My jaw clenched.
I cut its nose first. It had no hope; it was on the ground now, and at my mercy. I drove slits, long sword slashes, into each arm, and each leg.
“You won’t even leave a pretty corpse,” I spat. I slit the neck, but just barely. I cut off all of the orange hair I could manage, scalping it in places. It – Viper – writhed on the ground in pain, its beauty gone and vanity suffering. I wasn’t going to poke the eyes out until I killed her. She could suffer seeing herself.
I cut across the forehead. She was almost dead.
“I have a feeling,” I muttered, “that you’re alive by magic. Now that magic will kill you, and cold steel. And you deserve all that I will do.”
I couldn’t see anyone else, but I knew that they were shocked as I started rattling off almost every curse word I knew, in one long run-on sentence in which very few words were clean. And I’d picked up quite a few unusual words. That must have been an awkward vocabulary lesson for everyone.
I magically… um… separated her legs from the knee down, then from the thigh down, then the waist. I stood back and left her for a few minutes before coming up for the final move.
Then I didn’t.
And I killed it.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:05 pm
Daniel stepped out of the tree. I was waiting for him to attack. He was on air again. I stood, a hand on my sword, a hand on my amethyst staff. Sophie stood near me, also watching Daniel. You couldn’t not watch Daniel.
I’d known Daniel as the most patient wielder, and the most patient person, I had met. I hadn’t seen him lash out. I hadn’t seen him yell, curse, or become furious enough that anger overpowered him. But he was pretty freaking mad now, and I heard him muttering a blue streak. Now I knew why he was the most powerful wielder alive. He couldn’t bear to see anything die.
He’d kill to save things. Only. But death, murder of something or someone innocent… it wouldn’t happen. Not if he could prevent it. I saw it now. I might have been out for blood, but Daniel fought to rescue.
I stopped trying to fight the human soldiers and went to back Daniel up. Sophie came with me. I saw Angel high above, ready to dive, saw Alex grinning over his sword. Khorabelle was nearby, seducing soldiers, and Cat was climbing to the top of a tree in preparation for a flying leap. Hannah used magic to direct all her arrows only to the enemy. Ryder and Keith charged, fighting their path like some hyperactive lawnmower. Everything was happening at once and I wasn’t sure where I stood.
Well, I was sure that I stood in horse dung, but that’s another story.
It didn’t matter where I stood, as it turned out, as long as I could see that Daniel had used the weight of the sword to his advantage and swatted the woman so hard that he knocked her off her feet. And that I also saw what happened next.
June 18th, 2010 Posted 2:04 pm
I was still whipping the sword around and landing blows with ease when Daniel got rid of all the Gateguards. The human soldiers were far harder to kill, even for my dangerous karate-using, sword-wielding, enchantress self. But I got through them, and I eventually decided that my sword ought to go through their armor… which it did, making everything a lot easier. The spell wore off after a while, and while I replaced it I launched a high back kick into the chest of the soldier behind me, turning it into a roundhouse kick in the other direction. Efficient. And my boots are heavy.
Compared to spelling, the sword was a lot more fun to use. And it was bloodier. But still, when you imagine the expressions of these macho-thinking dudes when they find themselves suddenly on a deserted island somewhere where crabs eat men… well, that’s fun too.
I looked over and saw that Molly needed no help at all, so I continued thrashing, kicking, swinging the sword, getting away, casting naughty spells (the soldiers don’t have undies now, just FYI)… you get the drift. I was totally enjoying this. I fought my way (literally) over to Molly. She was fighting with all she had. I’d never seen that expression of concentrated satisfaction on her. Now I didn’t care at all about the fact that Daniel had dragged himself over to hide, energy drained; we could fight these off.
I was seriously driving my sword into a human neck when that orange eyed woman called out, “STOP!”
Something about it made everyone and everything stop. I stood, sword frozen in the neck of the evil soldier. I had to keep from giggling… I mean, I’m thirteen and a half, and these soldiers are thirty years old or so. It would help them if they’d had magic, but since these guys were against both the wielders and the books that taught them, that was impossible. Brute force didn’t work on us.
Molly was panting, but even she looked up when the woman held up the book we wanted. She laid it on the ground. “It’s right here,” she said in that tone that dared you to advance. I drove the sword out of the soldier’s neck, and he slumped to the ground. I cleaned the sword on the ground and stared at the woman. She gave me the “come and get it” expression.
Nothing was said. Nobody advanced, nobody attacked.
“Perhaps you don’t want it.”
“Come and claim the book.”
We all drew in a breath. She was unapproachable alone except by Daniel, and he was asleep in the tree.
“Then I will claim it!” The woman took up her sword and drove it straight into the center of the book, which laid still.
“I WILL KILL YOU.”
I knew the voice was Daniel’s.