Trust is hard to come by sometimes… If the Queen of the Sucubi asks for trust, can you do that? That answer, as they say, can vary…
Temptations XXXIX – The Grotto – Part VII
By TeraS and Thamior, Cyprusmage, and Darkwalker’s Shadow
Darkness shifted to the familiar human form as he moved toward Tera, taking her in his arms and holding her gently. His eyes glowed intensely as he examined Pamela’s still form.
He kissed Tera on the forehead gently and said sadly, “I’m sorry, my Darkness, but I must do this…”
Eyes glowing still, he gestured toward the unmoving woman and dark mists began to wrap and coalesce around her, solidifying her once more, as a black stone material, perfect in detail, but stone again, nonetheless…
He turned to John slightly, still holding Tera – “You have great talent, young mage, you have undone a great evil… but it hid an even greater evil beneath… her soul is indeed still there, left deliberately so we would keep trying – and perhaps weaken Tera as it would have if you had not the skill you do… But Pamela’s mind is not there – it is held captive by the one who changed her. If the object containing her essence can be found she may be restored. But until it is, if she were to remain re-animated, she might become a tool – an agent, if you will, for the very forces that seek to destroy us…”
It was unusual, to hear that a soul and a mind could be two separate things. To him, they had always been intertwined to the point of being inseperable. But he knew just how powerful Tera and Darkness were. He still wondered why he, a mortal mage, ended up doing more work than the dragon, but as far as he could tell it was some sort of…non-interference thing. This was why he tried to avoid dealing with Incarna…
“I’ll take your word for it,” said John, gently rubbing his hands, “But if I’m gonna be any help I’m gonna need two things; first, I’m gonna need a Node, because without enough juice my bigger spells are only gonna backfire, and I’m gonna need information. Tell me everything.”
Tera sighed a bit at John’s question before saying, “You know my curse John.. I cannot offer answers to vague questions…. It’s like when you are in the library… You must know what you need to know to find what you need…”
She considered for a moment and then said, “A Node isn’t possible here… It would not be allowed to leave the Grotto because of the wards and restraints around it…. We could go to the special collections and see if we have a Node in the collection….”
She nuzzled against Darkness for a moment and then said, “Darkness knows that part of the library better than I do…”
John realised there had been a misunderstanding; a Node wasn’t so much a thing as a place. It was possible that she had a different terminology for it. Perhaps, to her, a Node was something else entirely.
“Uh…I meant,” he began, and tried to explain his definition of a Node as best he could, “Like…an intersection of ley-lines, where qui-” he stopped, realising that the words and phrases he’d learned as a mage were not universally known, “magical energy seeps into the world. I just need some sort of power source to recharge. I can use magic without it, but not the bigger stuff.”
He began to ponder what questions to ask next. It had to be concise, and it had to be accurate. Wait a minute. They were in a library…
“OK, Tera,” he said, “here’s a better question; do you have any books containing information on the person, entity or phenomena responsible for…for what happened to your friend?”
Tera was silent for a time and then said, “To be honest John…. I am not sure…” She slipped from the gasp of Darkness after kissing him on the cheek. Then she paced back and forth on the path for a few moments.
Then she turned to John, “There is no specific book that would fit into what happened to Pamela… I suppose that if we checked the volumes on the eighth floor, that we might have an answer there…”
She explained further, “The eighth floor contains all of the books on transmutations and transformations of one substance to another… Such as taking lead to gold and back again… But a specific tomb?”
She shook her head, “I cannot think of one… A general book of knowledge and then perhaps we can dig deeper into it? That’s my thoughts….”
Then Tera turned to look at Pamela again and sighed, “We need knowledge… And I don’t have it…”
John listened carefully, eyes closed in contemplation. Tera was honest, he knew that. And now, he realised that while Tera might be extremely powerful, even she had her limitations. She was faced with something she didn’t fully understand, and like mortals, it worried her.
For him, solving mysteries was always a case of asking questions. Asking the right people, be they friends or enemies. Outside the library, he knew people, ones who were…very well-informed. But here, within this secret place, he did not have the luxury of his regular contacts. And since Tera didn’t know what they were up against either, his choice of informants was severely limited.
Pamela was the only person who actually saw anything, and while her spirit was safe within her body, without her mind it was little more than a blank slate. Or was it….?
“I might have an idea,” he said, glancing over to Pamela, “Sometimes a ghost isn’t a spirit, but an echo of a powerful, emotional event. If I cross over into the Umbra-” he stopped, realising again he was speaking out of the mage lexicon again “-I mean, the spirit world, there might be something there, an imprint of Pamela’s emotions at the time she was….changed. Which means we might see who did this…Tera, is there anything about the barrier between worlds here that is different to outside your realm? I need to know about any…complications that might arise.”
Tera shook her head, “Not really…. There is a lot of overlap as the library itself has to be in all realities… But that portion of the worlds should be easy to get into….”
She looked at Pamela and then said, “I do think that you had better be extremely careful… There are traps within traps to keep the secrets we seek away from us… I would think that they would have considered this attempt as well…”
Tera looked at John with concern in her eyes, “Be careful John… I do not want to see a second statue here…”
John took a deep breath, briefly contemplating the fate that befell Pamela. Petrification did not appeal.
“Without more information, I’m out of ideas,” he said, and reached up to pull a small medalion out from inside his shirt. It was a small, iron trinket, shaped like some bizarre mathematical symbol. He rubbed the medalion between his thumb and forefinger, as if it were some sort of nervous habit.
“This might take me a minute. Without extra juice I can’t afford to rush this. Travelling to the spirit world is…not very easy. Just trying to get there can leave me stinging for hours…”
John closed his eyes, and with one hand still holding the medalion, the other began tracing a strange pattern in the air. It was, in truth, a sort of concentration ritual; something to help his mind focus on the task at hand.
The process of travelling between the physical and spirit worlds was known as “stepping sideways” amongst his collegues. It was named so because for John, the process involved, well, stepping sideways, in both a literal and metaphysical sense. Both hands were held out now, muscles taught as if grasping reality itself in his hands. He drew his hands back, and then rather forcefully took a heavy step to his left. To everyone else watching, John would seem to fade from view, as if stepping into an invisible room. From his perspective, the world twisted, shifted before his eyes as he passed into the spirit realm.
The process did not go swimmingly, however. As John had said, crossing over was particularly hazardous for mages. Certain beings, especially those with closer ties to the spirit world, had it easy. And overall, the name for the barrier between worlds was called the Gauntlet. For some, like the Fae, it is like walking through water. For mages, it is also like walking through water…filled with broken glass.
John emerged into the spirit world, wincing at a sharp pain in his side. Not a perfect step, but it could have been worse. Taking a moment to collect himself, John looked towards where he had first seen Pamela, so that he might glimpse into the past…
Next time… The past arrives…