|Thaumaturjekyll: Book One chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7||Overview||Book Two chapter 8 9 10 11|
Thaumaturjekyll: Book Two
Endings and Beginnings
by Jeffrey M. Mahr
©2000 Jeffrey M. Mahr -- all rights reserved
A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognized, and robed as destinies.
-- Philip Larkin
While the others were still clearly uncomfortable with the plan the group had quickly cobbled together, Sonja was at peace. Surprising herself, Hastie realized that she was too. It was not that she was looking forward to the upcoming battle, Hastie knew she wasn't. Nor was it a death wish either because she was stuck in her current gender or because she had been dumped by Tim. The rules might be different for males and females, but there were still rules and Hastie knew she was a quick study. Similarly, Tim's actions were of surprisingly little import, as every glance at her gorgeous, red-headed twin only reinforced her opinion that he was a fool, and she had not made it to starting quarterback by letting other people rattle her. It was... acceptance. Hastie had finally admitted to herself that she was comfortable with who she was; Hastie Lanyon, best friends with Sonja Utterson, child of Herbert and Emily Lanyon, competent and capable young adult. Tearing herself away from her mullings, she quickly grasped the essentials of the plan that was unfolding.
It was a simple plan. Emily, Herbert and Akcuanrut slowly walked through the huge carved oak doors of the main entrance and down the center aisle, but not before everyone else had spread out and surreptitiously positioned themselves by the other entrances. Phil crawled down the left aisle while George, silently berating himself for not being in better shape, crawled down the right aisle while trying not to let his ragged breathing become loud enough to echo in the otherwise empty chapel. Sonja and Hastie were wraiths, sneaking in the side fire exits and hovering at either edge of the pulpit, hidden by the richly brocaded curtains that framed it. Only Lucille was not present. She had another task to complete.
No-Nac was a glowing, pulsating blob partially hidden behind the alter and chanting. He didn't respond as Akcuanrut and the two centaurs noisily strode down the aisle, the sound of echoing hooves hopefully masking any sounds the others might make.
"No-Nac," Akcuanrut called out as the trio stopped by the first row of seats.
A second mouth, or more accurately a caricature of a mouth, formed while the first continued to chant. "Ah, Akcuanrut -- and I see you've brought the others, how convenient. Will you approach so that I may consume you or shall we again go through the sport of battle?" A serpentine tongue slithered from the depths of its mouth to lick the misshapen the lips in anticipation. A chitinous arm formed briefly, only to be sucked back in and replaced by a tail reminiscent of a huge rat's, before it too was sucked back into the blob.
Akcuanrut had been shocked by the raw power within the building. From outside he had recognized the building as a site of magical power, but some quirk of the structure's design had hidden most of it. Squaring his shoulders he stopped several feet from the pulpit. "Control problems, you seem to be having, No-Nac. Let me help you, why don't you?"
"I think not little man. Soon I will have all the power I need. I will consume you all and recover the Heart. Then, I will return home in triumph."
"And do what, to the fighting pit where the Gods imprisoned you, return? A friend once you were. No chance of rekindling that friendship, there is?"
"FOOL! Do you think I would permit that? With this power, I can be safe from their manipulations and yours old man. Now approach and be eaten."
"I think not, gelatin-for-brains." Sonja stepped out from behind the drapery that had hidden her. Sword drawn, Hastie also stepped into view.
"I wondered how long you two would cower in the shadows. Why don't the other two of you show yourselves and we can end this game?" Phil and George hesitantly rose from behind the pews that had hidden them. Each held a dagger, albeit inexpertly, borrowed from one of the barbarian women.
Ackuanrut began to chant. At the first words, a ripple passed over No-Nac, as if he were chilled, but the only other response was the formation of a third mouth that began chanting a counterpoint to the wizard's words, somehow drowning them out. From each side, the barbarian women stalked toward No-Nac, swords at the ready and grim smiles on their faces.
"Yes. Come to me my pretty ones. Let us finish this at last," the tongue from the first mouth seemed to be making an obscene gesture as the lips curled into an ugly sneer.
"Mouthy bastard, isn't he?" Hastie laughed.
"All talk, I'll bet," Sonja quipped back.
With a roar, pseudopods shot out directly towards the two swordswomen, each with a sharply pointed, barbed tip. Phil gasped at the incredible speed of the projectiles while George wailed out "No!" in fear for his ex-son's life. But with equal speed swords flashed and a truncated piece of No-Nac dropped to the floor.
Before they could slither back to the main body, twin swords skewered them and flung them into the corner near Phil. As soon as they touched each other, they combined into a single blob and again began slithering towards No-Nac.
Phil cleared his throat and hesitantly began the chant Akcuanrut had taught him. Even seeing two centaurs and the weird talking blob on the pulpit had not fully convinced Phil of the existence of real magic. Yet, at the first words of the chant, the small blob shuddered and stopped it's movement toward No-Nac. It was as if there was an invisible wall that it could not pass beyond. Over. Under. Around. The small blob tried them all -- and failed. It slowly retreated as the unseen wall pushed it back towards the corner of the church by Phil.
Surprised, Phil stopped, only to see the blob rapidly scurry back towards No-Nac again. Fearful that it would return to the main body, Phil quickly began chanting again; this time louder than before. It was as if the blob had hit a brick wall. With more confidence now, Phil began to chant even louder and watched the blob slowly move back until it was pressed against the wall near him.
Howling in rage, No-Nac threw out more chitinous pseudopods, this time at Akcuanrut and the two centaurs. Emily screamed in fear and Herbert screamed in rage. They both grabbed hands and reared up on their hind legs, lashing out furiously with their forelegs. Akcuanrut merely chanted louder, apparently unconcerned, but both centaurs were sure they were about to be absorbed.
Hooves struck chitin and there was a blinding flash of light. Two more lumps of No-Nac went flying into the other corner of the church by George. As with the first segments, they merged on landing.
"Way to go Mom, Dad." Hastie glanced away from his furious sword work just long enough to insure that they were safe, and then to praise his parents.
"Good work Emily, Herbert," George Utterson called out from the other side of chapel. "It looks like centaur hooves really are almost as powerful magically as unicorn horns." Turning back to the blob in the corner, he looked at his dagger and wondered how he could possibly keep the lump before him from scurrying back to No-Nac. Seeking frantically for something better to use, he grabbed a hymnal and threw it at the small blob -- and was surprised when it shied away from it.
Throwing another hymnal, the blob shied away again. George thought he heard a faint scream of fear. Quickly, George ran down the aisle, grabbing as many hymnals as he could from the racks on the backs of the pews and throwing them at the blob. Each time, it backed away and sought another route back to No-Nac, one that avoided touching the book or even the space above it.
One book struck it and there was a puff of smoke and a loud hiss, followed by a high-pitched screech of pain. Where the hymnal had struck it was a burn mark, and the blob seemed smaller, as if the book had burned some of it away. George yelled his discover to the others and began tossing more books, this time directly at the blob he was guarding.
From this point things settled into a pattern. Hastie and Sonja sparred with No-Nac. Every now and then they managed to chop off pieces of blob and toss them into the corners where Phil and George used the hymnals to contain them and burn a good portion away. Akcuanrut chanted away, beads of sweat forming from his efforts, while Herbert and Emily protected him with flashing hooves. With sufficient time, they would win, but time was against them. Everyone could feel the concentration of magical power as a palpable weight in the air. No-Nac had to be nearing the conclusion of the incantation he was chanting.
"Yoohoo. Hello everyone. I found it. I've brought the stone." Lucille Utterson blew into the church with the same fanfare and pinache that she entered her Garden Club. "Emily? When's the last time you cleaned that closet dear. I had to wade through..."
Before she was half way down the center aisle to hand the stone to Emily, a long thin pseudopod shot up towards the ceiling. It passed over the heads and reaches of the two barbarian women. Still on the rise, it passed over the heads of the centaurs even as they reared up to protect Akcuanrut. After it cleared the centaurs, it dived down, directly at Lucille where it plucked the Heart of Virtue from a shocked, and for once speechless, Lucille. Maintaining the high arc over everyone's heads it quickly pulled back into the main blob and disappeared into the center of the writhing mass.
Even before the stone reached the pulpit, and without missing a beat in its chant, No-Nac began to gloat. "I told you I was invincible. I told you that you could not defeat me. Drop your weapons and bow before me now and I may let you live to serve me, else die like the fleas you are."
"Big talk blob boy," Sonja spit out and batted a chitinous pseudopod far enough aside to lop it off with her next stroke. No-Nac bellowed in pain, and angrily concentrated two pseudopods on Sonja, to the exception of the others.
Free of the blob's attention for a moment, Hastie charged onto the pulpit and overturned the lectern onto No-Nac. There was a tremendous cloud of smoke and a hiss that almost drowned out the sound of No-Nac bellowing from all three mouths.
No-Nac's chant had finally been interrupted, but before anyone could cheer, the chanting began again. A gentle breeze started and quickly grew in strength. Within seconds it was gusting about, blowing the hymnals into the air -- and still gaining strength.
"Oh hell," Hastie got out before the roar of the wind drowned out all conversation. "I have a bad feeling about this." He grabbed for a pew and hoped everyone else had done the same, but the flying debris was so thick he couldn't see anyone else.
A thin tinkling sound could be heard momentarily above the wind as the stained glass clerestory windows imploded inward. A second later Hastie had a dozen small scratches over her body.
Something large and vaguely humanoid flew by her head and without thinking she released one hand from it's death grip on the now rocking and shuddering pew. Her free hand lunged out to grab the shape -- a shape that looked very much like Lucille Utterson -- and just missed. The shape flew past, leaving nothing but a small piece of fabric in Hastie's hand. Then something very large crashed into Hastie's head and everything went black.
"She's coming around." A warm body lunged on top of her and before Hastie could reach for her dagger -- the dagger she had foolishly given to Phil -- the shape began hugging and kissing her.
"Ouch. Stop that. My head hurts. What the hell happened?" She struggled to push the still slightly blurred shape of her red-headed twin away and sit up.
"Hastie, you watch your language, young man -- er, young woman." It was a deep voice from behind her and turning she realized it was her mother standing there with his arms crossed and a frown on his face. Next to him was Hastie's father pacing nervously back and forth, Akcuanrut muttering and making strange gestures by a nearby tree, and Phil, shifting nervously from foot to foot beside the wizard.
"Sorry Mom. What happened?"
"No-Nac created a portal."
"No-Nac. Where the he -- where is he?"
"Gone dear, at least most of him. And he has the Heart of Virtue."
Hastie groaned and held her head to reduce the pain. "Are we..?"
"Yes Hastie," a female voice intruded. "We're back on Akcuanrut's world. Maybe I'd better recap a bit." Herbert Lanyon took Hastie's groan as assent.
"No-Nac managed to create a portal back to his world. He went through it along with Sonja, Phil, Akcuanrut, you mother and me."
"What about Mr. and Mrs. Utterson? I don't see them. They must have been sucked in too." Hastie saw the pained look on Sonja's face and was immediately sorry she asked.
"They were. No-Nac absorbed them," was her grim reply.
Hastie felt tears stinging at her eyes and quickly changed the subject. "Did I hear you say No-Nac was gone 'mostly'?"
Herbert pointed. Under the tree, now only partially obscured by Phil and Akcuanrut and surrounded by hymnals, was a pulsating blob. As she watched, it transformed into a midget D'lon-ra.
"What's with mini-No-Nac?"
"It claims to be D'lon-ra," Sonja replied, dagger in hand, eyes never leaving the miniature "Emperor's Hero."
"I am D'lon-ra!" It tried for a bellow, but it sounded more like an angry Blue Jay.
"Supposedly, the hymnals burned out the evil portions of the various souls No-Nac had absorbed," the female centaur pontificated, "and 'D'lon-ra' here is the strongest of the 'good' personalities left. The interesting feature is that it, or he, claims there is still a small link between No-Nac and himself. He claims he can tell us where that evil bastard is. Which is more than Akcuanrut can do at the moment."
"What's the Wiz's problem?"
"Something akin to a magical sprain. Apparently he over-extended himself fighting No-Nac and needs time to recover."
"So, in other words, he can't send us home and he can't fight No-Nac, let alone the Dark Gods. We're stuck here on a world about to be overrun by evil."
"Yes dear. That's a rather succinct, if grim, summary," Herbert acknowledged.
With a final groan, Hastie forced herself to stand and recovered her weapons. Sheathing her sword, she stalked over to the tree and kicked the hymnals aside to let the midget D'lon-ra out before anyone could object. "Okay Lassie. Show us the way."
"Who is this Lassie? I am D'lon-ra," it grumbled but pointed. "The Evil One is that way."
"Hastie, what's the meaning of this? Where are you going?"
"Well, hopefully we're all going," she glanced from face to face judging their willingness to join her quest. "As to where we're going, that should be obvious. We're going to find and destroy old blob-boy, recover the Heart of Virtue, bring it to the capital, whatever Akcie over there calls it, and save a world from the powers of Darkness."
Herbert Lanyon's only response was, "Oh."
Hastie watched the reincarnated D'lon-ra trot off down a dirt path amongst the trees. Akcuanrut followed immediately behind, still muttering and Phil trailed behind the old wizard, listening intently. Emily and Herbert looked from spouse to kids and back. Herbert held out a hand to her wife and hand in hand they slowly paced off after the others.
"Let's go. We've got a job to do." Hastie waited for Sonja, a bit surprised that she would be the last.
A lopsided smile spread over the red-headed barbarian woman's face. Striding over to Hastie, she put an arm over the blond's shoulder and dragged her after the others. Within five paces, they were skipping along, singing a tune from The Wizard of Oz.
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