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Archive for May, 2015

Gaia Unbound

Gaia Unbound

Forty years had passed since that fateful night when the magic of the world was un-locked. Mimsy and her coven kept track but not much of note happened, except the world became less heavy and the burden of those who lived upon its surface eased bit by bit. The world had become filled with a sleepy, watery magic that suffused everything with its joy. Humans took note and were already half way down the road to solving all their problems.

Then, one day, the coven felt the Oneverse wobble and suddenly the little magics began to go astray. Once more, they drew their pentagram and Mimsy gargled the Star Spangled Banner. Her demon familiar popped into the circle.

“What has happened?” Mimsy asked.

The imp shrugged. “I told you she would remember. I had not thought it would be like this, though. This is a new bend in an old saga. The other dimensions have taken note and now watch.”

“Like what? How has she remembered who she is?”

“Ah, well she took a female lover and they formed a coven. The lover was shit-all at magic but hers went true. Every time. Every damned time.” The imp shook his head and scratched his ass, his face scrunched up in thought.

“That’s great, isn’t it?” Winny asked. “She is a witch, like us.”

“Yes, but if you are only half awake, as she was, the magic can have unintended consequences. She spent too much time standing in the Self Help section of the book store and then she went home and cast a spell upon herself. The spell worked, of course, but…..” The imp shuddered. “It is too awful to speak of.”

“You must tell us,” Mimsy commanded. “By power of the circle and the magic of the One Mother, tell me what you know.”

The imp glared at her and snarled. “If she did not want her secrets known, not even your magic could wrest the truth from my lips, witch.”

“Tell me,” Mimsy insisted.

“It was a simple spell. A remembering spell. But she was not specific about what, exactly, she was supposed to remember. I do not think she knew herself. She has been content, all this time, to let life happen to her. But her children grew up and her husband traded her in on a less complicated model and except for her high-maintenance lover, she was alone. Her own magic forewarned her that it would not be pleasant but she has a stubborn bent to her personality and something of a kamikaze nature. It makes her dive in head first into things when wiser people would hesitate.”

“So? She is a head strong bitch. We are well familiar with the type,” Elidora said, impatient. “Get on with it. She remembered. You said she would eventually. The power of the magic of her Throne ordained this.”

“She remembered Everything,” the imp said and shuddered again.

“What? I don’t understand,” Winny protested. “Was that not as it was intended?”

“Everything?” Mimsy asked, breathing out in horror.

“Ah, of course you would understand, you who dabble in such dark magics. Yes. A door opened and the memories of the whole Oneverse, from the beginning of time to its end, walked through and took up residence inside her mind. It was horrible. We nearly lost her. She tried to leap out into the Void but the greater demons stood guard at all the portals and turned her back. There will come a time when not even their magic will save us. She grows in power minute by minute, now.”

“But she is going to be OK, right?” Winny asked, a worried look on her face.

The imp pressed his lips together and refused to answer.

“She is not OK, is she?” Elidora said softly.

“Your existence hangs by a thread, witch,” the imp whispered. “The magic must do its work, but it must be soon and it must be quick, for I fear for her sanity and a mad god is the worst sort of god. I will say no more.”

“Fine,” Mimsy said. “I don’t need your words. I just need your magic. Ladies, we need to cast a spell to help her.”

“Let me go, fools,” hissed the imp. “You have no idea what you are messing with.”

“No, but the magic does. You said it yourself,” Mimsy said. “We just need to invite the magic in so that it can heal her.”

“What is the plan?” Elidora asked.

“Keep it simple and clean. A binding. A wish to tie her to this place. To this planet and everyone and everything in it.”

“You mean to ground her madness in the patterning of the Oneverse?” the imp asked.

“No. We mean to remind her that there are things still worth living for, here. She is the Mother to all things small and fragile. We will remind her of that,” Elidora said and she began to chant the beginnings of a Making spell. Winny joined in, even though her eyes were wide with fear. Mimsy spoke the imp’s name, invoking it and winding its magic into a chant that supported the other two witches.

The imp screamed at them, but the sound was lost inside the circle of containment. The chant came to its end and in the absolute silence that followed, the three witches stood listening, expectant. It was almost imperceptible, what happened next. Mimsy was the first to notice. She looked down at her feet.

“What?” Elidora asked. Then she too felt it.

A bubble of unparalleled power swelled under them. It seemed to be coming from the core of the planet. The imp knew what was coming. He danced about inside his circle like a bead of water on a hot skillet in an attempt to escape it. The bubble touched the pentagram. Something exploded out from it, blasting everything in the room, tossing witch and candle and familiar against the four walls of Mimsy’s living room. Winny ended up behind the couch. A large house plant broke Elidora’s fall. Mimsy caught the demon as he sailed past and they both ended up in a crumpled heap against the front door.

Elidora pulled her head out of the foliage and looked around. There was not a window or a piece of glass that had not shattered. Luckily the force of the blast had blown out all the candles, otherwise they would have all been on fire. Mimsy groaned and straightened her limbs. Winny poked her head out from behind the couch.

“What was that?” she asked.

Mimsy looked down at the imp. “That was not our magic. We are not that powerful.”

Sobbing, the imp crawled on all fours to the center of the pentagram and knocked on the floor, as if wishing to be granted entrance.

“Demon,” Elidora begged. “The circle no longer compels you but answer the question anyway, for pity’s sake.”

The imp wiped a hand across his face and the back of his hand came away smeared with his dark blood. “I do not know. What ….? Oh, this is … bad. Oh, dear. What were they thinking. What were they thinking?”

“Who, imp?” Mimsy asked gently. “What has happened?”

“She cannot ascend the throne without the Male Principle. I do not understand what she did. How she did it.”

“What did she do? Explain what you do know.” Mimsy insisted.

“The Throne of the Male and Female Principle lies in the heart of the capitol city in the center of the Oneverse. The Male Principle resides there, an impotent puppet of the Lord of Chaos. It is this place, this point, around which all of the magic and matter revolves. I do not understand how she changed that but she has.”

“What has she changed?” Elidora asked.

“The center of the Oneverse now lies here. Under our feet. In the heart of this planet. It is ….”

“Impossible,” Mimsy said.

“Yes.” The imp seemed bewildered.

“Did we do this?” Winny asked.

“She was drowning in memories. You threw her a lifeline,” he said. “She took it and followed it to its natural end. The devas and demi-gods of this place recognized her power and ceded all their power to her. This is her place now. Forever. Her throne. Until the end of time. Whatever demi-gods you once had here are gone. Willingly or not, she consumed them. She is the one and only god in this place and she will brook no usurpers.”

“That’s good, right?” Winny asked, climbing over the back of the couch.

“That is bad on so many levels,” the imp said, plopping himself down in the center of the pentagram and sighing in exhaustion. “You have thousands of religions all of whom pray to their own gods. Those gods are gone. All those prayers will go unheard and unanswered. She will not show herself. She cannot for fear of revealing herself to the greater Oneverse. Directionless, the humans will become restless, their petty magics and pleas will go unanswered, then they will grow angry. I told you things would get bad at the end. Your days of grace are over. Prepare yourself for a human war as you have never seen it waged. It will be her and her followers against the rest of creation.”

“What should we expect?” Mimsy asked.

“I don’t know. How could I know? Nothing like this has happened in the history of the Oneverse. But I can tell you one thing for certain. The Lord of Chaos is on his way here. The little fool just hung a great neon sign over this planet with an arrow pointing at the place where she now stands saying ‘Here I am. Come get me’. He will take this place apart one brick at a time until he finds her. He bet all his money on the wrong Polarity, so to speak, and he will try to correct that mistake. If we are lucky, the little fool will let him catch her. But she has not lost a game of hide and seek in a very long time and if she has learned nothing in this time as a human, she knows how to be invisible.”

“She is not invisible. We know her,” Mimsy said.

“Yes?” scoffed the demon. “What does she look like? What race? What nationality? There are six billion humans on this planet. Point to a place and tell me she lives there. You can’t, can you?”

“Why not just drop an asteroid on us like he did the first time?” Winny asked.

Elidora and Mimsy glared at her.

“What? I mean, if I were the Lord of Chaos, that is what I would do.”

The imp sniffed the air and grimace. “Because, my dear Winny, she has gone from something he fears to something he desires. This will be a courtship dance of an epic nature.”

“Ah, that is sweet,” sneered Elidora sarcastically. “What does this mean for us?”

“Prepare yourself. The Lord of Chaos will come calling. His nature is as his title implies. He will use her human children against her. Things will start to go wrong. She will protect the things she cares about, but no more. She is a contrary bitch and cares for little of the human world. Gird your loins, witches. You are in for a bumpy ride.”

The imp stamped his foot and disappeared.

“How does one gird one’s loins?”” mused Mimsy.

“What does that even mean?” Winny asked petulantly, pulling a stay knitting needle and a couple of sticks of incense out of the mass of curls on her head.

“It means we need to prepare for war,” Elidora said.

“What, like go into hiding? Become a survivalist nut job?” Winny asked as she began to gather up the candles that had rolled everywhere.

“No,” Mimsy said, rising with a groan to lean against her front door. The leaded glass pane was gone and a nice breeze wafted through the house. “The prayers to the lesser gods will go unanswered but ours won’t. We have an ‘in’. Our magic has just become the most potent thing on the planet. While everyone else is trying to figure out what has happened, we will have time to lay the groundwork for the coming conflict. But the imp was right. It will be a war unlike any the Oneverse has ever seen before. She has made sure of that. Humans, ultimately, were always her means to an end. Tools. To be used.”

“Well, one thing is certain,” Elidora said as she grabbed her witch’s broom and began to sweep up the debris. “Our little baby girl has grown up to be one stone cold hard bitch.”

Mimsy grinned. “Yes, yes she has.”

Winny laughed and the other two witches joined in.

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The Female Polarity

The Female Polarity

 

Elidora woke, choking on the scream that wanted to crawl up out of her throat. She sat up and tried to catch her breath. Surely it was just a nightmare caused by the Szechuan pork she had for dinner. Surely. If it were a Truedream, then they were all well and truly fucked. No. No. If it were true, it would too horrible to contemplate.

She threw the covers off and got up, wandering into the kitchen to get a drink of water. She spied the bottle on the back of the counter and rethought her choice of beverage. Grabbing a juice glass off the drain rack, she poured herself a double finger width of scotch. The dream did not fade like ordinary dreams but hung in the back of her mind, making her shudder. Finally she gave up and picked up the phone.

Mimsy picked up on the second ring.

“You’re up,” Elidora said, surprised.

“I am. Just got a call from Winifred. Why are you up?”

“Did you feel it?” Elidora asked.

“Hmm,” Mimsy said. “We need to talk. Come over. Bring Winny.”

Elidora threw the last of the scotch down her throat and went back into her bedroom to dress.

Winifred was standing on the curb in front of her apartment complex when Elidora drove up. She opened the back door and threw her magic bags in the back seat before climbing in beside Elidora.

“This is so amazingly fucked up,” Winny said.

“Save it. Mimsy needs to hear this too,” growled Elidora crossly.

Winny began to cry.

“Oh ferchristsake,” sighed Elidora.

“I can’t help it. I am frightened and happy and excited and …” Winny sighed. “and very confused. What does it mean?”

“It means we fucked up and Momma has come back home to clean up the mess.”

“That is good, right?” Winny asked hopefully.

“That is bad. Momma is not above killing the lot of us and starting all over from scratch.”

“Oh.” Winny said softly. “But she didn’t feel mad. It was the strangest thing. She just appeared, like a tiny star of pure white light, simple and innocent and so full of … transcendent joy. She was inside a black hole and I thought surely it would quench her brightness, but it did not.”

“Jesus Christ, Winny!” shouted Elidora angrily, pounding on the steering wheel. “She walked into the world using a portal created by the dead body of a baby girl raped to death by her perverted father. What kind of first impression do you think that introduction will leave upon her mind?”

“Well….She will know how much we need her, won’t she?” Winny suggested. “That the evil and the darkness have become emboldened by by their recent successes and if we ever needed her help, it is now.”

“Emboldened? The shadows have won. The magic grows weaker and weaker with each passing day. Tell me the last time one of your spells has actually worked and not gone off the rails half way to completion?”

“I could feel it shift right after she woke. Did you not? I lit a candle with my breath and it stayed lit. I have not been able to do even that simple of magic since the end of the last great war.”

Elidora grunted, scowling at the road to Mimsy’s house. Winny allowed her her silence. As they pulled into the driveway of the white clapboard cottage, Elidora spoke.

“If we noticed, then surely the shadows have as well. They will not sit still while the Light eats away at their magic. She is doomed without our help to keep her safe.”

“We need her too badly to have it end before it even begins,” Winny said opening her car door “I have to believe she is strong. Strong enough to take on the sickness that has infected this world. We should not interfere with her magic.”

Elidora turned off the engine. “No. I think she needs our help. We need to do a circle. Tonight. And every night from this day forward until she rises to take the throne.”

“Wait. Does she not already control the throne? By her very presence?”

“I ….” Elidora shook her head. “I somehow got the sense that she had not made that choice yet. Until she does, our fates are in limbo.”

Elidora got her magic bag and followed Winny down the path through the lush garden that was Mimsy’s front lawn. The smell of jasmine drifted on the dew heavy air. Mimsy did not wait for them to knock. She threw open the door to her living room. Elidora blinked. Just for a moment, she thought Mimsy’s house was on fire. Then she realized that Mimsy had lit every candle she owned and arrayed them around the edges of the room.

“Get in,” Mimsy hissed, “before anything notices.”

Elidora ran up the stoop steps, Winny scampering after. Mimsy slammed the door behind them and made the sign of warding on the leaded crystal pane set in the door. Elidora looked around. Though the night was cool, the room was hot and smoky and thick with perfumed oils. The pentagram on the floor had been freshly painted recently. As usual, Mimsy was way ahead of them.

“Hurry, hurry. I have already cast the circle and called in the four corners,” Mimsy said, grabbing their bags and tossing them onto the couch, which had been shoved against the far wall. “She is fey and wispy, slipping in and out of this world with every breath. We need to bind her body to the land before that bastard of a father tries to finish the job and kill the baby once and for all.”

“Should we not call in the lesser covens?” Elidora asked.

“We have no time. Did I not say it? The body is human and mortal. It is an abomination that she must reside in something so base. I cannot imagine why she has chosen this vessel to manifest in.”

Winny kissed Mimsy on the cheek and crossed to her usual place at a point of the pentagram. Elidora hugged her best friend and found her spot half way around the circle. She looked down at the pentagram and blinked in surprise. Mimsy had added an inner circle. The canny witch was going to call in a familiar out of the demon world.

Elidora caught Winny’s eye. “What ever Mimsy does, do not break the circle, no matter what.”

Winny’s eyes widened in alarm as her eyes followed the direction of Elidora’s glance.

“Oh shit,” breathed Winny who hated the alien creatures who tried to claw their way out of the doorways created by this particular type of circle magic.

Mimsy unlocked a wooden cask covered in runes and lifted the cloth covered object inside with great care. Walking to the center of the pentagram, she placed the object on the floor and flicked back the corners of the black silk. Something dark and oily gleamed in the candlelight. Mimsy returned to her place and began the spell that would call the demon who belonged to this talisman. Elidora and Winny added their voice to the parts they knew and let Mimsy say the last part. The coven leader finished the chant and then said a name three times, each time louder and with more force.

Something fell out of the air and landed with a wet thud on the medallion. An imp got to its feet and began wiping slime out of his eyes with a long suffering sigh.

“What is it now, Mother Mimsy? Lost your cat again? Oh, no. I see her lurking under the sideboard.”

“You are corporeal,” Winny said in surprise.

Elidora snorted. Winny, ever the one for stating the obvious, had it right. The demons had never been more than shadow and sound before now.

The imp looked down at its ugly little body. “Oh, shit. This sucks. You better be up on your spells for casting me out, because I don’t relish the idea of living out my days in this hell reality.

“Worse case, we can just cut your throat, demon,” Elidora growled.

The imp looked at her. “Ah, Elidora. Ever the fountain of pleasantries. What do you want, ye cursed women.”

“What was lost had returned. What can you tell me of her,” Mimsy commanded.

“Her?” the imp looked confused for a moment as he lifted his snout to the air and took a big sniff. He coughed and clapped his hands over his nose, his eyes going wide, his pupils expanding. “No.” he said, shaking his head “No, no, no. Surely it is not that time again? Where has time gone? Well, this was always fun, but I have to go. Don’t call me again. I will not come.” The demon made a dash for the door but slammed into the edge of the inner circle with enough force to send him flying. He landed on his back, groaning.

“Stay. I command you, by your True Name,” Mimsy said, repeating the odd set of sounds that was his name, much like someone gargling while singing the Star Spangled Banner.

The imp hissed at her and settled on its haunches, putting its arms over it’s head. It began to make an odd snuffling noise. It took Elidora a moment to realize the imp was crying like a baby. Crying so hard it could hardly catch a breath.

“Why are you blubbering so?” Mimsy asked in disgust. “I have not even started the inquisition.”

“He will know she is here. Even now, he will be gathering his magic to start the hunt,” the demon wailed. “He will hunt and she will run and when he finds her, she will die a terrible, ugly death and the Oneverse will become a little bit darker.”

“Who, fool demon. Who is he? Who is she?” Mimsy asked, annoyed by his cryptic comments.

The demon lifted his head and glared at them. “It would serve you right, if I told you. That would be a trip, wouldn’t it? A trip far greater than any of those hallucinogens you dabble in. It would be test of your witchiness, that is for sure. Look into the Eye of the Infinite, I dare you.”

“Answer the goddamned questions,” Elidora yelled, suddenly out of patience with him.

“Fine,” snarled the demon, rising to his full height, a paltry eighteen inches at most. “Listen. I shall tell you a version of the truth. There has been a war, a struggle for power and domination, that has been raging across the known universe since the beginning of time. The fortunes of both sides have swung between defeat and victory more times than anyone can count. No matter what the fortunes of war brought, there was always one ruler. Twin gods. One male. One female. In the last great battle for control, the royal family was murdered down to the last being. But the power of the throne is a magic of unspeakable breath. It kept two alive. Was it luck that one was male and the other female?  No. I do not believe in luck but I believe in magic. It saved them. Hid them. Then the power of the throne settled upon their souls.”

“But the war was not done. The Lord of Chaos was not so easily defeated. The Male polarity was kidnapped and taken to one of the dark underworld dimensions where his soul was tortured until all that was good in him was erased. Because the magic of his office kept him alive, he did not die, though I am sure he wished too, many, many times before they were done with him.”

The imp shuddered and grit his teeth, emotion washing through his small body. He shook his head as he regained control of himself. “What they did to the Female Polarity was far worse. She was taken to a little ball of mud on the edge of the nowhere, where they bound her to that place with deep, hard magic, and left her there, alone and abandoned.”

“At least she was alive,” Winny suggested.

“No. It was a living death. She was the Female Polarity. The magic of the throne depends on both Polarities being within close proximity to each other. Without him, she became a shadow. A wraith. Unconscious, her grief settled upon this place, seeped into every crack and hole, changing it, taking the simple lifeforms and altering them, turning the little ball of mud into a place of teeth and claws. It took her billions of years to work that shit out of her system before the pain of her grief turned to numbness and she allowed something softer to grow here.”

“Here?” Elidora asked. “You are talking about Earth?”

“Earth. She created creatures of every shape, thinking to ease her loneliness and to perhaps use their collective powers to break the magic that bound her here, but all she succeeded in doing was creating a planet full of prisoners, bound just as she was bound. Then the magic of the Throne kicked in and the spells of un-making and creation began to seep out into the wider world. The Lord of Chaos caught wind of it, returned, threw a great stone out of the heavens, and turned the planet into a cinder once more before recasting the spells of binding. Then he left.”

“Oh, shit,” breathed Mimsy.

“Shit,” nodded the demon. “Exactly. The magic of the Throne cannot be un-made but it can be bound for a time. Each time she woke she had to remember who she was and what she need to do and why she was so desperately and terribly lonely. During one of those brief spans of awareness, she finally created something that bore a vague resemblance to the Male Polarity. Humans. The Lord of Chaos returned, cast her down again, and stole her children from her. It was not a partnership that lasted long. They were an unruly and intractable lot, those humans. You were meant to be her polar opposite and without her presence to give you balance you were just as lost and as alone as she. The Lord of Chaos abandoned you to your cinderball but set up sentinels. Whenever she woke, they would send out a warning and the Lord would return, hunt her down, and bind her into darkness once more. Soon he no longer needed to do it in person. He had a planet full of vicious killers at his beck and call and he, why he had all the appearances of being a god, so you all did his bidding and did what you do best. You hunted out all that was fragile and pure and innocent and powerful and you put it to the torch. He taught the wizards and the priests just enough magic to bind the magic in the earth in place and keep the doors of prison locked.”

“I don’t believe you,” Elidora breathed. “This planet is not nearly so grim as you make it out to be.”

“Oh, her magic never goes away. It is here, underneath everything, like a song being sung just on the edge of hearing. But when she wakes …” The imp got a soft look on his face as he closed his eyes. “Ah, when she wakes deserts bloom and ice fields melt and wondrously magical things happen to the wee things in the world. She gave you writing. She gave you farming. She twisted the wild animals just a little off center and gave you cows and chickens and horses.”

“Dog and cats,” nodded Winny.

The imp snorted. “Cats. Cats are an alien species and none of her doing. They hunt her just as the Lord of Chaos hunts her but it is for their own purpose and they should not be trusted. Dogs are the handiwork of the Lord of Chaos, though she has twisted that bit of magic to make them more tractable. They are not above betraying her to their original master. But I digress. You know she is awake by the music and the art that seems to take a sudden turn into wondrous and strange. Mark my words. Watch. The next century will be a renaissance of brilliant thinking and creativity.”

“A century?” Mimsy asked.

The imp shrugged. “I cannot tell you how much time you have to take advantage of this new surge of magic. Once he found her within days. Once she lived to be 600 years old. Both are statistical anomalies. You have twenty or thirty years, maybe. It depends on how long it takes for her to remember who she is and how long she can keep hidden. If she is clever and subtle, maybe she will live to see fifty. The problem is not so much her nature but the nature of the magic of her office. The Throne magic wants to be free. Demands to be free. It requires balance and will burst through any wall she erects to see to its purpose.”

“What do you mean, we have to take advantage? What is going to happen?” Elidora asked.

The imp looked at her sadly. “I am sorry. It will not be pleasant. The end, I mean. When they rebind her inside their prisons. She is the Female Polarity. The magic will suffuse that part of the population that is most susceptible to the power of the inward spiral. The upsurge of awareness in women will trigger their need to be set free. Unfortunately, this will be met with an equal and opposite attempt by the male population to put you back into your place. When that does not work, they will begin to systematically kill everything that stinks of her magic, in hopes that somewhere in the roundup they will catch her avatar and destroy it. What did you think those 400 years of witch burnings was about?”

“Oh, shit,” breathed Mimsy.

“Exactly,” the demon said.

“Fuck you, demon,” Elidora spat. “Why did you tell us this? What was the point if we are going to lose in the end?”

The demon sat on its haunches and wiped away the tears that sprang anew on his cheeks. “This will be the last awakening. She will not go back into the prison. I can taste it in her, even now, wee bit that she is. She is done fighting the Lord of Chaos. She means to find the Male Polarity and barring that, she means to end it.”

“End it? End what?”

“If she cannot have her way, she un-make the magic of the Throne.”

“What? Is that so bad?” Mimsy asked.

“The magic is a force embedded in the fabric of the Oneverse. In order to break it she will fold the Oneverse into the Void and start over. I do not want to go into the void” he said and he began to weep again.

“What? We have to stop her.” Winny cried.

The imp stood up. “You do not listen!” he screamed. “You humans. You will fuck this up because that is what you do. I am done here!“ He stamped his foot in his fury and much to everyone’s surprise, even his own, he disappeared in a puff of smoke.

Elidora looked over a Mimsy. “What do we do now?”

Mimsy shrugged. “You heard him. We have to do everything in our power to keep the Lord of Chaos from winning.”

“How?”

“I don’t have a clue. But the magic does.” Mimsy said.

“What?” Winny asked. “The magic does what??”

“It knows where it wants to go. We need to encourage that. Help it along. Enlist as many covens in the process as possible.”

Elidora nodded. “And be as secretive about it as possible because when they start rounding up the witches in fifty years, I don’t want to be the first name on that list.”

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Ber

Ber

A thought lingered in her head as she died. “How can you fight on, when your own father kills you?”

In the next moment she was back home, on the other side of the veil.

“Tau?”Ber said, looking up in surprise. “You should not be here. It is not your time.”

“He killed me, Ber” Tau said in despair. “He killed me, sure.”

Ber caught his little sister up in his arms. She was almost translucent, her energy was so low. This was all wrong. “Who killed you, Tau?”

“Father.”

“No,” Ber breathed out in disbelief. “What happened?”

“We miscalculated the depths of his appetites and how far he would pursue them,” Tau whimpered. “I think he recognized what I was and he could not control himself, drinking too deep.”

“Fucking bastard. You need to go back and kill him.”

“No,” Tau said, shaking her head, her eyelids drooping low. “I will not go back there, to that place. You cannot make me.”

Ber hugged her close and tried to give her his own energy.

“It was not your time,” Ber repeated. “We need a presence in that timeline. We need the weight of a 12th level or better to shift that reality and bring it into alignment with all the others.”

“You go. A 12th will not be enough.” Tau repeated.

“I am a 3rd, Tau. It will be like killing flies with a shotgun.”

“I have just come from there,” Tau said, looking up into his eyes. He could feel her desperation rolling off her in waves. Ber began to hate the thing that had done this to her. “Trust me when I say that a 12th will not be enough. No, nor even a 6th. You go. Avenge me.”

“What? Avenge …?” Ber asked confused, but in the next moment Tau faded. The walls of the world rippled and Tau fled through them, gone home to the next level, a place Ber could not follow, not now, at any rate.

“Tau!” Ber groaned, as he bent over, his grief coming close to consuming him. He shuddered and snarled in fury at his own weakness. There were better places to put all this emotion. Ber threw out a hand and sank his claws into the fabric of the world, ripping open a hole through which he climbed down into, crawling into the still, cooling body of the child. The room was dark. The blankets in the crib in disarray. Ber forced the lungs to breath. He wrapped his fist around the tiny heart and set it pumping again. He pushed the blood through rigid veins, turning blue lips back to pink.

It was the wrong gender but this did not matter. It would serve his purposes, this body. It would be the meat with which he would bait his trap. Ber opened the eyes of the child and smiled. He wanted to laugh but could only manage a soft coo. This was going to be fun.

****

The birds in the cherry tree woke Chuck at dawn. He rolled out of bed, careful not to wake Mabel. She was only now getting the sleep she had been missing since the baby had been born. Another fucking girl. The woman’s womb was cursed against him. He needed sons to help him with the ranch but all she gave him were girls. Chuck got dressed and eased out of the bedroom door. The house was silent. He turned his head and looked towards the baby’s room. He did not want to be here when Mabel found what was in that crib. He used the bathroom and then headed down the hall towards the kitchen.

A sound stopped him in his tracks. Chuck turned his head, thinking it came from the room that held his daughters. Peaking in on the four sleeping children, he checked to see if one was awake. The sound came again, from behind him. Chuck turned, slowly. The noise was definitely coming from the baby’s room.

Chuck eased into the dim room, his heart pounding. Something moved in that crib. Something impossible. He eased over to its side and looked down.

The baby, Beatrice, looked up at him with her clear blue eyes and smiled. She lifted her arms towards him and cooed. Chuck choked in horror and fled.

****

Ber shoved his tiny fist into his toothless mouth and sucked contentedly. As an opening salvo in a long war, that could not have gone better.

He followed Chuck with his mind as the man got in his pickup and started the engine. Ber healed a crack in the axle and a clog in the human’s heart. It would not do if the game ended too soon. Chuck would die, but it would be a long time from now, after a lifetime of agony.

Even then, it would not be enough. Tau was still cut off from him. Ber swallowed his rage and let his mind wander over the land. The beings in this reality were far, far too complacent.

It was time to make things more interesting.

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