Chapter Thirty – The Dark Mage Rises
Two wizards, vastly different in both style and technique—Kevin had never seen one wizard battle another before. He could barely keep up. Without magic eyes, he figured, he would be unable to tell illusions apart from reality, and it was simply difficult to comprehend it all. His heart pumped nonetheless. Nothing he had seen was this exciting, and he could only imagine how the actual combatants felt.
Kevin tried to follow. Eldrian had blinked, but so had Ouray. At least, that’s what he guessed had happened. Neither were in the same place anymore. He saw a frozen spear come from Eldrian. It nearly met its target, but the martial artist was too quick. This continued for a few moments. His poor friend could barely land a spell, but at the very least, he had not been crushed into the ground again—as close as a few strikes had been. Were they taking this too seriously? Kevin thought to himself. He realised that he had no idea what a wizard battle taken seriously looked like. Was it crazier than this?
“I’ve never fought or even met with a wizard with a body as strong as yours,” said Eldrian, catching his breath.
“Neither have I.”
Eldrian let out a sharp chuckle, and he began to shift his feet around in place.
“Fair enough. Do I get a compliment?” he asked in response.
Ouray thought for a moment before replying with, “I’ve never fought or even met with a wizard that spoke as much as you.”
“Come then. See if you can keep my mouth shut.”
The only noise Kevin heard was the slide of the man’s boot against the tiled stone. Because after that, he shot forward through the air like a notched and fired crossbow bolt. As he soared, a spiritual panther enclosed his body. The stance he took was identical to that of a wild cat’s pouncing paws, and his action was the same. He meant to catch Eldrian like a fleeing deer.
“Da-jo-ji!” came a quick phrase from Ouray’s mouth.
Eldrian shot up into the air. It was a quick rise at first, but he began to drift on an angle back down towards the basement entrance, and it was still apparent he was getting a grasp on lengthy magical flights. At the very least, it dodged the attack, and he was able to land back down behind his opponent.
“Do you think me to be that oblivious?” he asked. “Do you think I didn’t see?”
Ouray turned a glare at Eldrian. Behind his foot, in the center of one of the tiles, was a chalk circle that Eldrian had discreetly drawn with his foot. It glowed a gentle cyan hue. Clearly, it was some kind of magical glyph, but Eldrian’s foe had seen right through his deception.
“I knew you were stalling to draw that,” Ouray said. “I wasn’t born yesterday. You’ll have to do better than that, if you want to grow stronger, Eldrian!”
“And you need to open your mind.”
Eldrian, with a swing of his body, resembled a mime tugging on an invisible rope. It happened so quickly that not even Ouray was able to notice what was happening. The stone tile was yanked up from the ground, and it slammed into the fighter’s back with incredible force, which in turn pressed the arcane symbol against him. His eyes widened.
The air was knocked out of his lungs, and an explosive shock covered his body with arcing currents of electricity. They coiled around his body like hissing serpents. His body froze, and his teeth clenched as the power left him trapped and vulnerable—only able to watch Eldrian dash towards him. His skin went pale and he panicked. There was nothing he could do. He lost. The wizard’s hand came right up to his face, and he awaited the magic strike that would end him.
Suddenly, the door swung upon. The tiny red devil Kribba glanced around, but stopped his search when he saw Eldrian in the center of the ring.
“Hey! Marionette’s here! Don’t leave her waiting, yeah?” he said as he jerked his thumb back.
“Oh. Thanks, Kribba,” replied Eldrian.
He lowered his hand and made his way back past Kevin to depart from the room. The spell on Ouray ceased, and he fell to a shattering of stone beneath his spine. Although not hurt, he looked to be still shocked, figuratively.
“Thanks for the practice, Ouray. Let’s do this again sometime,” Eldrian shouted as he collected his friend and departed up the stairs.
Finally the man pulled himself up. He was alone now. The room was quiet, and he was left with his thoughts, along with his throbbing back. Out of all his times sparing against anyone crazy enough to go up against him, something like that had never happened. Was he upset? He couldn’t tell himself. He felt ashamed, but strangely exhilarated.
“That was a nice way to pass the time… even if it hurt,” muttered Eldrian as they ascended the staircase.
“It was awesome to watch! Even if it was a little too crazy to follow,” Kevin replied.
“You’ll get used to it.”
“You keep saying that, but I’m not so sure.”
“Oh. And don’t be scared of Marionette. She’s really sweet, I promise.”
When the reached the top, Eldrian saw that the room was still mostly populated by the strange, alien crowd. However, a new figure was waiting near the door. She had green tinted skin and blonde locks, and hanging from her arms were a series of strings.
“That’s her,” whispered Eldrian. “She made the blue outfit I wear when things get wizard. To be honest, I also just wanted to show you this place. Get you desensitized to what we might be facing in the future.”
“Thanks, Eldrian. I think I’m starting to get there,” Kevin said.
As they approached, Marionette turned to face them. Kevin nearly soiled his trousers when he saw that she had no eyes. Rather, she had two buttons—one pink and one blue. His throat dried up and his skin turned as white as a ghost.
“Hello, dear,” she said with the voice of a kind, elderly woman. “It’s been some time, Eldrian. Who’s your friend? I’ve never seen him before. At least, I don’t think I have, but this old mind forgets sometimes.”
“H-Hi,” Kevin stuttered. “I’m Kevin O’Brien. Good to m-meet you.”
She lifted her hand, and his took hold as they shook. The strings protruding from her arm began to rise on their own, they curled around Kevin’s wrist like hungry worms. Kevin’s heart beat quickly. His face was vacant, but he was screaming internally. Thankfully, her hand and strings pulled back away a moment later.
“Yeah. Kev is my best friend,” Eldrian stated. “But he had never been here before. Or any place like it. I was also looking to get something specially made, if that’s all right with you. I still have the old one, so don’t worry. I love that outfit.”
“Yes, yes. It makes you look like a strapping wizard indeed,” she said. “Allow me to open a gateway to my home and we can speak further.”
“So does she make doors like you do?” Kevin whispered.
“Not quite. Only humans can be wizards. And when you leave this place, you always go back to where you came from. It keeps demons from easily getting to Earth. See, demons aren’t allowed on Earth, and they’d rather humans not come to the Demon World either. Thankfully, she has a way to open a gateway to her home. If this was the other way around, and we brought her to our world, we’d get in trouble with the government and Lucy. That’d be bad,” replied Eldrian. “And if you make a portal door from Hell to Earth, demons usually can’t cross through.”
Marionette pulled off her pink eye button. Slowly she stepped over to the wall, she pressed it firmly against it. The button split in half, and the two parts drifted apart while a screen-like box stretched into view between them. One moved to the top left corner and one to the bottom right, effectively forming a door-like rectangle that passed forward into a room. She beckoned them as she stepped inside.
Eldrian and Kevin followed. Once through, the portal closed, and her loose button popped free and landed at her foot. Two of her strings drifted down to entangle it and bring it back to her face.
Those strings seemed to do more than just wiggle around. As Kevin took in the room, which had soft brown walls and was rather snug, he saw that her strings straightened decorations and cleaned up messes as she passed by them. The windows were closed, but he had the same strange feeling as the last time he was in Hell.
“Marionette lives inside a giant boot,” Eldrian stated.
“So don’t bother taking off your shoes,” Marionette added with a smile.
“Ah. So, I drew up a doodle of what I was thinking. I included some notes. It’s right here. What do you think?” added Eldrian.
“Excellent. You truly are an imaginative little one, Eldrian. Like a child.”
“Like a child?”
“Let me see that. I’ll begin on it right away. See, my tools are right here, so I don’t even have to go far. You can tell me how you’ve been. Yes, yes. That sounds lovely. Oh. Where are my manners? Would you like some blood tea? Maybe some doom biscuits?”
“We’re fine. Thanks though, Marionette.”
“Fine, fine. Take a seat, please.”
She sat down at her weaving station. Then Kevin saw that her strings weren’t just for wiggling, and not just for cleaning. They flicked into action and began aiding her in her tailoring. Thanks to them, she was able to work twice as quickly. It was like she had multiple limbs, but they were tiny and precise enough to effectively help with her favourite hobby.
“So, Kevin. Are you a wizard?” she asked.
The clicking of her pedal was rapid. Kevin was impressed at how quickly she worked, and while being distracted by speech. He wondered if her strings worked independently, but he also wondered how she could see through button eyes. Everything Eldrian showed him was so confusing.
“Uh. No, ma’am.”
“No? Strange. I thought non-wizards were separated from this kind of world. But after seeing this drawing, I think I understand. Are you sure about this, dear? You’re so impulsive sometimes. I don’t want you to get hurt. Your back got pretty wounded when you saved me way back then.”
“You saved her?” Kevin asked.
“She had to pull a bullet out of my back with her strings. That felt pretty bad. She was attacked by a wizard gunslinger.”
“Why would you use guns if you had magic? That sounds lame.”
“That’s what I said!”
“Hey, Marionette,” Kevin said. “What is it like here? Like, what is the Demon World about? I always thought of Hell as fire and death. Lucy told me there were different biomes, just like on Earth, with some of it being ice and other things. But I’m still confused.”
“You’re such a curious boy,” she replied. “I think it can be said that magic isn’t meant to be thought about. Then it isn’t magic anymore. The worlds are strange places, and people are strange. Are demons stranger? Yes, most likely. We’re all different, but we’re alive. Nobody really knows for certain. We’re creatures of macabre chaos for the most part, kept in line to an extent by our Lord Satan and his children.”
“Lucy has siblings?” Kevin asked suddenly.
Eldrian nodded. “They all do different things. Lucy is just the one I actually know, so it’s the one you met. She does a lot of paperwork and dealing with escaped demons. I’m not even completely sure what the others do, or how many there are.”
“It’s done!” Marionette shouted.
Kevin jumped a little.
Eldrian made his way over and eyes the fabric with eyes of excitement. Immediately, he lifted up the pieces and began carrying them to another room in order to change. Marionette chuckled, and soon, it was just her and Kevin left in the room. He stared nervously at her buttons.
“So, what was this drawing all about? What’s going on?” Kevin asked.
“It seems that your friend wants to do something to help people like you. But wizards, to my understanding, are illegal. So he asked me to make him a disguise. Like his old outfit, but it covers his face. Quite an adorable idea, I think.”
The door then swung upon. Eldrian stepped out, garbed in a dark blue—much deeper than his normal wear. The difference, however, really shone when he lifted the hood up to pull over his head. A shadow magically cast over his face to make the area beneath the hood completely black besides two single yellow dots over his eyes. When he spoke while wearing the hood, his voice was almost unrecognizable—higher, and echoed.
“Here I am. The thing that’ll make Deena kill me if she finds out.”
“So what’s your plan?” Kevin asked. “Go be a super hero?”
“Not exactly. But if I run into people getting attacked like when it happened with you, I can worry less about being hunted. Granted, if I wear this along side you guys, people can just put two-and-two together, but if I’m by myself, it’s perfect. Right? What do you think?”
“I don’t know. It sounds a little dangerous. But it does make you look pretty badass.”
“Oh, my adorable deary. You look precious,” spoke Marionette.
Eldrian lowered his head. “Thanks.”
“Are you going to have a cool name you shout at bad guys?” Kevin asked.
“Well, I don’t want to be famous. That defeats the point.”
“But you gotta have one.”
“All right. Fine. How about the Dark Mage?”
Kevin made the OK sign with his hand. “Perfectly nerdy.”
“That doesn’t make me feel confident.”
“So what now?”
Eldrian pulled off his hood, dispersing the magic. “We head home. I’ll try this thing out soon. I promise if it goes horribly wrong, I’ll stop, but hey. We have to do interesting things with our time before something crazy happens to us again, right?”
“You say that so casually…”
The two stepped through Eldrian’s door and ended their day. The sun set over the winter landscape of Alberta’s prairies, moving the calender ever closer to Christmas, and even New Years Day. Time had been kind to them thusfar. Since the chaos in Grand Prairie, nothing had gone horribly wrong, and even if Kevin had experienced plenty of new things, none of them were negative, thankfully. Eldrian knew better than anyone that it would never last. He was passing the time, but perhaps, he was practicing for the inevitable disasters that would eventually occur.
Before Eldrian drifted off to sleep, he thought about this friends. He wondered how Daveon, Renatta, and Deena were doing. On one hand, he wanted them to be safe, but on the other, he hoped it wasn’t just him that was a danger magnet. Maybe it was all wizards.
Darkness set. The white blanket covering the city provided a gentle illumination despite the absence of the sun. Moonlight shone, and the stars looked over them. Neither of the boys saw, but one of the stars had a tail, and it was careening through the sky with an elegant beauty—as elegant as something can be that’s about to crash.
Stay tuned for Chapter Thirty-One – Trials and Tribulations!