“Denial is commonly found among persons with dissociative disorders. My favourite quotation from such a client is, ‘We are not multiple, we made it all up.’ I have heard this from several different clients. When I hear it, I politely inquire, ‘And who is we?’”
- The Journey to the Afterlife
The battle between my father and the stranger intensifies and I start considering my options. We could call for a quick retreat and do our best to be somewhere else if worse comes to worst. If they decide to go all out, they might bring down the whole pyramid around them.
Or we could try to break up the battle. Maybe we can separate them somehow, although that sounds unlikely. It's hard to interfere in a magical duel. All sorts of things could go wrong when two parties throw magic at each other.
I watch in awe as the both of them casually fling deadly spells at each other while simultaneously parrying their opponent with counterspells. Shade summons a thin ray of energy from his fingertip and slices the remains of the throne in half. Hadn't the stranger turned into some form of mist, he would have shared the same fate. When a shower of icicles shoots forth from the cloud of mist, Shade raises a barrier, stopping the attack. He answers with a gust of wind, forcing his enemy back to a more substantial form.
Another spell goes astray and smashes one of the soldiers against the wall, driving him through it like a bullet through a sheet of paper. The men around us cry out. Everyone who is too weak to protect himself hurries for the door, hoping that a little more distance between them and the combatants provides more protection.
More like it makes it less likely to be hit by a stray spell.
My whirling thoughts come to an abrupt halt when the two opponents suddenly forfeit finesse and decide to battle it out with raw power. They meet each other in the centre of the room, their auras scraping against each other. The resulting energy causes the metal to glow under their feet while sizzling sparks fly everywhere. They didn't bother to take down their protections, so now their auras are scraping against each other like two bricks of steel.
I hurry to pull Marcus with me, leading him around my father and towards Beth who is with my mother. “We have to split them up before either of them flips completely!”
Mom pulls a face and spreads her hands in a helpless gesture. “It looks like we are a little late for that. I tried to persuade Shade to pursue another objective, but he didn't want to listen. How should we get them apart now? Trying to get between them would be like jumping between two freight trains. I am not too keen to get caught up in this.” She points at the two idiots who are trying to use their magic like wrestlers.
I scowl. “Do something! Use your witchy powers or whatever! Aren't you his soulpartner? You should know how to restrain him. I warned you because I feared that exactly something like this would happen.”
“Butterfly, if I've learned one thing about your father, then it's not to interfere in his battles. I've prepared a little trick for the worst case scenario. Let's hope it doesn't come to that.” Out of nowhere, she fabricates a big syringe with a sickly green liquid inside. “I really don't want to use it, but if everything else fails...” She lets the rest unspoken.
Shade and the strange figure send each other flying with a last push of power, landing in opposite walls. When Dad gets back to his feet he freezes, the figure's cloak in his hand.
Opposite from him, a beauty with raven black hair gets to her feet. Her features are new to me, yet strangely familiar. If I didn't know better, I would say that she is Dad's sister. Well, she probably would be a beauty if it wasn't for the insane rage edged into her face.
Shade points at her, his hand shaking. “This can't be... Who are you!?”
The beauty coughs and throws her ruffled hair behind her shoulders. “How insulting! Did you really forget about me? Are you really that content in your current life that you forgot everything, Master? I searched and searched, yet you don't even recognize me?”
“You really forgot!” The beauty screeches and grabs a part of the wall, ripping it out with ease. She throws the heavy, metal plate at Dad who dodges by stepping to the side. “But I suppose there never was that much to me. As long as I serve you, it's fine. Isn't it? Nice, little servant without a body! How I loathed not being able to take part in a real life!”
“You aren't me! Our auras are the same, yet you aren't me. How can this be!?” Shade calls out, his face distorting in rage.
“Of course we aren't the same! Stupid. Why would you think that?”
“The colliding multiverses! Our auras. Aren't you me from another multiverse? It doesn't matter, soon I'll get to the bottom of this.” Shade bends down to the metal plate and conjures a chain with shackles from it.
The beauty frowns. “You thought... oh, that's brilliant and yet stupid of you master! Of course it will never work like that; even with two separate multiverses, there can only be one soul. Two identical souls cannot exist within the same space and time. Even being near each other would cause them to resonate and destroy each other. I think you are the only being in existence who has two souls. Or rather, a split one.” She reaches for the wall and rips out a pipe. “Soon to be one soul! I'll see to that.”
They meet each other in the centre of the room, Shade flailing with his chains and the beauty swinging her pipe.
“I don't get it!” Mom mutters.
Beth claps her hands and laughs. “This is brilliant! Don't you remember? It's Warden! Somehow she got a body of her own this time. One of Shade's stupid experiments came back to bite him in the ass! Though I don't really get why she is so angry with him. I rather liked her.”
“Warden?” The artificial intelligence which was born when Dad split off a part of his soul? “She got independent? I thought that her soul-shard would reintegrate with the rest of Shade's soul once they both die. It works like that, doesn't it?”
Mom purses her lips. “Unless the soul utterly, totally rejects that part of itself. In Shade's case, his femininity... which Warden represents. I suppose it must have been horrible for Warden to be ejected like that and then treated as a convenient tool.” The syringe wavers, pointing first at one brawling idiot, and then at the other. “I am honestly unsure of who to put down. This anaesthetic is rather strong with unpleasant side effects.”
Shade throws his chain around Warden's ankle and pulls her feet out from under her. She slams with her back onto the ground, wincing. But not without using her pipe to get a good hit at Dad's knee, followed by several weaker blows at his upper body which came into reach since he fell too.
He ignores them to the best of his ability and wraps the chain around Warden's throat, strangling her while she knees his guts with fanatic zeal. It almost looks like Warden's win when she gets free and uses the pipe like a wood-chopper with Dad under her. He bucks and throws her off, whipping her with the chain.
“This is getting ridiculous! Give me that. I'll put an end to this.” I take the syringe from Mom and launch myself into the battle, using their distraction to inject both of them. First Dad who has his back to me, then Warden who is to my luck a little hindered by the magical chain around her feet. Mom's witchy power takes effect rather quickly, resulting in both opponents slowing down. Their movements turn sluggish until they finally drop to the ground.
“Betrayal! What did you do Seria!?” Dad accuses me.
“I'll never give up! I'll have my revenge! Especially after he simply forgot about me just like that,” Warden yells.
I inspect the syringe while the two of them are yelling like a pair of scorned lovers. “Did it work? They are down, but they are still yelling.”
“The correct term is 'paralysed', Butterfly. Their magic is also gone. I need Shade aware and awake to face his inner demon. He can't do that if he is sleeping.” Mom approaches and pulls Shade into an upright position. “And now we are going to have a long, nice conversation between adults. We have to learn why Warden created this mess. And how to solve our disputes without fighting or laying waste to the multiverse.”
I clear my throat. “I don't want to destroy the mood, but there is still a huge rift outside this pyramid, allowing the spirits into our multiverse.” Scowling, I turn to face Warden who is being tended to by Beth.
Warden doesn’t answer and instead stares defiantly at me.
Okay, maybe a little encouragement is needed. “So whatever happened, I can hardly believe that it’s irreversible. We can always try to fuse them back together.”
Everyone answers in unison. “No!”
“Peace-talks it is then...”