“THE CYCLE RENEWS, FALLS THE GREAT TREE.”
It’s one thing to see it, and know that it’s there. It’s a whole ‘nother ball game to see it coming right at you. The tsunami of change, of raw potential, pure random, writhing entropy, barreling down from beyond the sky like the implacable uncaring tidal wave of power that it was. It was beautiful, and terrible. As it crashed into the soft flesh of our world, a flicker shot across space, making the night sky taking over for justit look like nighttime for half-second. And in that half-second, I saw other worlds as if they were plane ride away, teeming with life and scenes that Hollywood couldn’t match in their wildest dreams.
“LIMITS UNBOUND, POTENTIAL REALIZED.”
I had felt it before, lived through its effects, and survived its toll, but I had never actually seen the Ripple in all its reality-altering glory. Watching it casually flick through our dimension without a care in the world was awe inspiring, and demeaning at the same time. I never really knew, or inherently grasped how infinitesimally small I really was until that moment. I was an ant, edging towards the biting lip of a cliff, trying to see a pod of whales in the distance, uncaring in their size, relaxed in their power, yet, so much bigger than me that they would never even know about me. I, was, small.
“THE GATES RETURN, THE BALANCE IS FREE.”
Cracks opened up in space, some cleanly cut across the sky and others jaggedly broke up the earth. Through several gates in the sky, islands floated out, chunks of land with their own ecosystems gently coasting on the wind, adrift to their new rhythm. Through other gates, sleek shapes glided through on lazy wings, roaring and chirping and screeching a welcome to their new home.
“EVERY END IS TRANSIENT, . . . FOR ME.”
A sharp, cracking sound reverberated through all of Earth’s existence at the end of the last wave, the remnants of the seal keeping this planet away from the rest of the Cosmos falling off like a snake shedding its scales. Bright silvery shapes made themselves known on the horizon, flying around at angles and speeds that simply weren’t organic, quickly disappearing from sight.
Back on my little section of earth, my surprise almost rendered my impromptu experiment impotent. Holding Gungnir to my chest with my left arm, my right arm was stretched out halfway with one finger carefully transmitting one multi-sided thought to my blood jar, my life/soul/consciousness/me. The act of focusing my thoughts was difficult, but I pictured one of those old Chinese acupuncture/pressure points and meridian diagrams. That one idea itself, encapsulated with the entire concept of what makes up the core of a person, traveled down my arm, given power through desire, and resonated with the crimson part of me in that jar. Removing my finger in the nick of time, the crash of was more seen than felt as the ritual circle did its job better than I expected, with Gungnir was greedily gobbling whatever leaked through.
The Northern rune glowed a solid pearl white, and green incandescent runoff traveled down the siphoning circuits to the East and West runes where they turned a pulsing blue. The rune under the blood jar glowed a deep, royal red, which was slowly overtaken by a softer yellow mixed with white. “IT’S ALIVE!” Gungnir cackled, the orb bouncing in my arm as if it had the body to actually laugh. “MWAHAHAHAHA!”
Turning to look at where Reeanth’s circle was, a soft boom shuddered through the air. “Uh, you uh, might wanna, turn around. Slowly.” Following the advice of Gungnir’s suddenly quiet voice, I carefully turned while gently expanding my magical senses.
“Secure the jar!” and “Take him out!” rang out simultaneously right before a booted foot crashed into my face, knocking me clear out of my earthen circle and into a downed tree ten feet away. Not taking a second to catalogue my injuries, I trusted my flesh sorcery to instantly start the regeneration process as I activated Svalinn’s defensive measures. Both gauntlets expanded and shielded my prone form with a secondary layer of stone covering that unfortunately blocked my vision as well.
“I said slowly!” Gungnir angrily whispered. “That wasn’t slow!”
“It was fucking slow, like impress the mom of a sloth you wanna date kinda slow!” I growled back, struggling through a fucked up lip while shaking the cobwebs out of my head. “You know what? Fuck this.” I’m no pansy, and I’m done rolling over and “being kind”. Pulling stored power from Svalinn, I stood up fully using earth sorcery to make the stone shield explode outward like a fragmentation grenade, my gauntlet shields suddenly long blades as my magical armor engaged now that the surprise was over. Except that it wasn’t, what I hadn’t gotten a visual of was what had treated my face like a kick-in training door for the Army’s recruits.
Twenty dark silver futuristic guns pointed at me, each held by a hulking human form dressed in almost skin tight metallic glowing armor way too tall to be a normal human, easily over seven feet. Bladed weapons attached to their backs showed over their overly muscled shoulders, face masks obscured their features except for the biggest dude in the back. Various runes glowed a menacing red and sharp green as they softly crackled in the background of my thumping pulse. Mr. Big and Tall was standing on a ramp that extended down from his cigar shaped, from what I’m guessing, spacecraft. “You two,” he said, his deep voice cutting through my shock as he pointed at two of his soldiers, “Check the captain, make sure she’s all right, and secure her container as well.”
Initial greetings aside, I decided that I didn’t like these people. Reaching out with my mind, I strengthened my link to Gungnir so that we wouldn’t have to talk to be on the same page. The orb rose and hovered two feet above my head and quickly projected a thick magical shield over myself as I reached out with earth sorcery and sunk my entire ritual circle and my blood jar twenty feet down into the earth, neatly packaging it safely away from the coming conflict. With that out of the way, I did the same to Reeanth and her jar, taking a moment to leave her a nice sized air bubble down there.
Feeling my pain recede as my flesh sorcery did its work did not in any way curb the earthquake of rage tremoring through me. A cold shiver of rationality worked its way up my spine, reminding me that these people probably don’t have too much intel on what’s going on right now, and they or their main group also probably have my family. Taking a half second to pulse my magical senses around me, I saw that the one who booted my face was closer to me than the rest of his group, which meant he would be the perfect example. Gungnir turned into a spear and fell into my outstretched hand, which I angrily slammed its base with a pulse of power into the ground causing a minor earthquake, knocking everyone to the ground. Gathering more power, I grabbed the earth underneath the face-booter and turned it to mud that reached up with earthen hands and pulled him down into the mire until only his head was showing. As he sank down, I used water sorcery to make the mud as slippery and nasty as it could be, then pulled the temperature down so that it was just above freezing.
As the Centauri soldiers attempting to regain their feet, I walked forward and put Gungnir’s three sided speartip to the mud-sunk idiot’s eye. “Move and he loses an eye,” I said softly, rage sharpening my tone, “Attack me and I’ll sink him and use him for experiments. Threaten me, and I’ll dissect every last one of you while keeping you alive, and then feed you to my pet alligator, who trust me, is a messy eater.” As I spoke, I used my power to conjure water near my feet, which began snaking out and shackling the downed men with ice restraints. Holding the silence for ten breaths after that made it clear who the top dog was. Nobody moved, they barely breathed. Looking down at the blue-lipped captive at my feet, I squatted down, tipping his head up with the speartip. “Do you want to live,” I asked, suddenly all lackadaisical, as if I had not a care in the world, “Or do you want to die, suffocating in freezing cold mud a hundred yards down?” The forced tone change pushed my agenda, that maybe I had a few screws loose and wouldn’t mind following through on some of my promises.
The world’s softest explosion went off behind me, all sound and literally no pressure wave. My armor’s shields were still active and didn’t register any kind of assault, so I took my time standing up and turning around, but only part of the way so that I could keep my prisoners in sight.
“Bonjour mon ami!” The most unassuming wrinkled old man wearing grey robes and holding one gnarled, but polished old cane in one hand and a small book in another. Putting the tattered book in his pocket, he took off his small, pointed hat and executed a very formal bow. Standing up with a big smile, he took a deep breath to talk and I quickly cut him off.
“English dude. English. No France’!” I said, punctuating the French accent.
“Oh! My sincerest apologies my good man!” he tittered, the happiness never leaving his demeanour. “You must be terribly confused,” he continued, suddenly adopting a thick Cockney accent. “Blimey! I know I am. But, all of us God’s children look alike but Babel in different tongues.”
Understanding him took me a second as his accent was overly thick. “I don’t mean to be disrespectful . . .”
“Then don’t be!” he cut in happily.
“Right, well, fuck that, but, who the hell are you?” I said, my patience running short. “That’s the best Merlin costume I’ve ever seen, and since magic is real, might you be him?”
“The nerve! Merlin?! You mistake me, Monsieur Flamel, for that half rate trickster who bandied tricks to peasants?” The change from almost drugged up happiness to barely sane anger threw me for a loop. Engaging his evidenced bipolarity, the old man flourished his hat, waving it at himself, “I am Monsieur Flamel, philosopher king, maker of wonders, the Twister of Time, at your service.” At which point he bowed again. My puzzled look threatened to tip the fragile scale of his personality as he realized that I had no clue what he was talking about.
Since it felt like the combat part of my day had truly left, my mental connection with Gungnir relaxed just a little, so normal communication resumed. “I don’t sense any kind of magic or power on this guy,” Gungnir said quietly, “Which is kinda scary. Even Rath, who was way above us in terms of power, we could sense.”
“Yeah, first time I couldn’t sense anything about someone was a while ago,” I answered, “And I’m pretty sure that was a god.”
“I assure you, I am not a deity, merely a humble naturalist in pursuit of the greatest mortal goal,” Flamel cut in.
“Which is . . . “
“Have we lost so much already?” he said, shameful wonder undergirding his voice. Looking past me, he scanned the small platoon behind me, still on their backs and one in the ground. “But, how then?” he continued on, I was pretty sure that he was talking to himself at that point. “Clearly some skill or lore remains. Knowledge my boy, knowledge!” At this point, it was clear his five-year old attention span was back on me. “With knowledge we can turn back time, bring down the gods, create anew and even turn the heavens to the devices of men!”
[Uhm, I’ve seen that look before,] I sent to Gungnir, [That’s crazy, pure fuckin crazy right there. You see a chick with eyes like that, you run, and run fast.]
Turning my attention to Flamel, I said in my most soothing customer service, “Then let my apologize for my rudeness. I truly didn’t know who you were or what you were. Earth has only recently regained magic and I have had it for about two months now. Whatever knowledge I have surely pales in comparison to yours.”
[Got it, got it!] Gungnir mentally whispered, [Flamel, Nicholas Flamel, better known as the dude who turned lead to gold. Took me a minute to sort through your memories, damn they’re unorganized, but he was mentioned in the freaking Harry Potter series as the guy who made the Philosopher’s Stone. Then you spent a day looking him up. According to whatever accounts you read, he really wasn’t much, just some guy ahead of his time in search of an impossible goal.]
[Clearly humanity got some things wrong man.] I sent back, mentally whispering as if I had gotten caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
“Fiction! You know me from fiction!” The old man’s eyes were bulging, threatening to explode out of his head and cause some serious damage. “With my potions I have escaped the ravages of time! With my tinctures I have removed ailments from the masses. With my solutions I have brought down an empire and raised another!”
[How the fuck did he . . . ] I thought.
“And with my knowledge I expanded my mind! Your tittering words don’t go unheeded by me, even if you don’t speak them aloud. Pitiful, simply pitiful.”
Following my gut instinct that combat was in fact, not over for the day, I mentally synced up with Gungnir again and took a step back, preparing for the worst while trying not to escalate this situation any further.
“Better, that’s a bit better,” Flamel said, his demeanour bouncing back from erupting indignation to thoughtful examination. I got the feeling that this man was literally looking through me as his sharp eyes took in every detail. “Also, no genetic enhancement for the young sorcerer? Smart, smart. Recombinator treatments stripped the Centauri of the chaos in their strands, removing their sorceries and displacing them from the halls of power. Anyways,streams of consciousness are much harder to discern than individualized thought fragments, and combining the two of yours creates a variable of indefinite chaos of sensations. Brilliant! Oh, I must study this!” Dropping his study session of my thoughts, he reached into the folds of his coat and pulled out an amorphous blue blob and tossed it in the middle of the downed Centauri. The gelatinous blob popped on contact with the ground and billowed out like a pressurized cloud that was set free. The soldiers’ wide eyes and sudden frantic efforts to escape my bindings told me that this was probably not good.
Leaving them to their fate, whatever that might be, I fell backwards, using my earth sorcery to swallow me up and push me to where I had stored my blood jar. Taking another moment to sense and orient towards Reeanth, I traveled through the dirt as if it were water. Hopping into her bigger bubble, I grabbed her blood jar and her ankle and prepared to use earth sorcery to get us the hell outta there. A quick kick from her knocked me into the dirt wall. “It’s me dumbass, stop kicking.”
“My lord! I’m sorry, I couldn’t see.” Her fumbling around with her hands was a little awkward, as I had just a little light from Gungnir to show my face.
“Forget it. Some guy named Nicholas Flamel showed up, and . . “
“And you escaped?!”
Turning to her, I willed Gungnir to be a bit brighter. “Yeah, but he didn’t really . . “
“We need to go my lord, NOW!”
I began making our makeshift magical bubble in the earth go down, till we were sitting a hundred meters down. “Ok, we’re pretty far down here now,” I reassured her, “So, who the fuck is he? I mean, delusions of grandeur got nothin’ on him.”
“Nicholas Flamel is certifiably insane my lord. He is a wanted criminal in every known system, but no one will take him down, and those that are powerful enough to do so will not as he is the only one sometimes who can help them with problems on their scale. For us mortals, he is an uncaring psychopath who deals out blessings and curses at a whim,” Reeanth’s voice broke as she continued. “He once saved a planet of Fae from a horrible plague, and his cure made them stronger. Centuries after that, we found out that he was the genesis of that plague! And if he has his eyes set on you for any reason, then we are not long for this earth!”