Lighting Candles in the Dark Part VI: Reignition
"So it turns out that Ariel's boyfriend is this demon necromancer from... elsewhere, and that he defeated this sorcerer who's a servant of Christ last week. Bravo for him. And now that sorcerer is going to kill Miles, and we're going to stop him? Where do I get off?"
"Selina, I don't think that he's a servant of the Creator. I just think that he duped Father Rothwell into thinking that for his own purposes. Then he brainwashed Sandy and I into forgetting the whole incident. He's not as pure as he wants Rothwell to believe. I think that he knew we knew Miles indirectly, and didn't want to alert him or Ariel by our absence."
"Oh yeah, I forgot the part about meeting the CEO of Starbright in his own office."
"Don't be so skeptical. You believed the part about my father coming back from the dead to speak to me."
"Ah, Melissa, but I know that can happen. It's been happening for a long time."
"Read that in the 'Midnight Star,' did you?"
"No, I don't read the tabloids. Documented sightings go back two hundred years, although I admit there is no scientific proof."
"Like my father said, that's when the necromancer- Miles- showed up."
Selina sighed. "Yes, you said that Miles was a several-hundred-year-old necromancer from another world. He certainly doesn't look a day over 30 to me."
"If you were that powerful, couldn't you change your appearance?"
"Looks like Ariel is going to be very disappointed when she finds out he's a wizened old geezer."
"Shh. Here's St. Angus," whispered Melissa.
"Are you sure there aren't traps laid for our kind? A heretic and a 'competitive believer?'"
"So which are you?"
"I'm not the heretic."
"Thanks, but I just stopped going to church after my parents died. I didn't do anything more dangerous than that."
The muffled sound of a helicopter broke into the silence of the night, and they could barely see it rise from behind the church. "Drat! They already have him. They must be heading for Miles and Ariel."
"Well, it's heading out of town. I don't know where he lives," said Selina.
"Neither do I. Blast. Sandy's apartment isn't too far back to campus. We need to talk to her, and see if we can find Miles."
"How about the phone database?"
"That works for me."
"So that's where he lives?" asked Tobias Rothwell, pointing out the side of the helicopter. The house, mansion really, was dimly lit in the moonlight. Few lights were on inside. It was spooky, very appropriate for this night of Halloween.
"Yes, that's the objective, father. Don't know who it is that lives there, though," said Stevenson.
"From the message I gave you? What the heck is a 'necromancer?'"
"Someone who consorts with the dead," said the priest wistfully.
"Isn't that a necrophiliac?"
"No, a necromancer brings them back to life."
"Whew, that's heavy stuff. Here, take this. Mr. Wilcox said you might need it." The marine handed Tobias one of the stubby guns that his squad carried. "I don't know why, though. We'll be able to handle anything that comes along."
"Not this one," muttered Tobias as the helicopter settled on the ground.
"Aren't you going?" asked Wilcox.
"It has already started. One can do magic from afar. Greymantle is losing even as we speak."
Wilcox shuddered. "Then you will give me this magic?"
"Yes, soon. When I have Greymantle trussed at my feet."
"What? What're you guys doing here at this time of night?" asked Sandy sleepily. "I just went to bed."
"Look, Selina was right. There was a battle last week, and we did forget something. Something important."
"We didn't go out drinking and find some cute guys?"
"No, we were put under a spell."
"Oh, I like it when guys put me under a spell..."
"Be serious once. Selina removed it from me, and I hope she can do the same for you. Miles and Ariel are in danger. And probably Tobias, too. We have to help them."
"Tobias? Is he that cute guy from Spain we met a couple weeks ago?"
"No, you'll remember him when the spell's gone. Selina?"
"Oh, all right. Find that address."
Melissa went to Sandy's terminal and pulled up the phone database. Fortunately, there were only two "Miles Thurmonds" listed, and a call to the first proved it was not the right one. The other did not answer, not even with an answering machine. The address was a bit to the south of Providence, in one of the suburbs.
"Whoa, that's heavy. I was in the Starbright Tower? Wait until I tell all my friends!"
"Wait on that, Sandy. Since you remember the same thing, I'm guessing that Melissa may be right." Selina sighed. "I hope that Miles will teach us something, if we save him. Curious that Ariel never mentioned anything."
"Okay, we have an address, and I found it on the map, out in Southfield. Let's go."
"What? Drive out there? I'm not sure my car will make it that far."
"Sandy, let's hope it does."
Ariel crouched with Miles behind a display case in the Fullbright Museum, near where Tobias had met Sandy the week before. It exploded into a shower of sparks, and the swordsman they chased into the museum laughed maniacally.
"Miles? Are you all right?" asked Ariel, but he was already in the midst of another summoning.
"The poor fool doesn't understand what's going on. He's never tried this style of duelling before," gloated the sorcerer Tandalus Zivo, seated comfortably in one of Starbright Tower's many offices. "What's this? A spectre? It cannot strike what it cannot find. You will be defeated, poor Greymantle. Now for the scorpions. He'll never cast another spell."
Wilcox listened to the sorcerer's soliloquy over his surveillance system, even though the words now sounded like the gibberish he had heard on the earlier tapes. He was becoming very uneasy. He pulled open a desk drawer and took out a small control box. For later, he thought.
"Well, where is he?" asked Tobias.
"This necro-guy? We were told to wait and be vigilant as long as necessary. Any time."
Tobias paced around, gingerly holding the submachine gun that Stevenson had showed him how to use. While the marines' bullets would probably not stop the necromancer, his own would be propelled by his faith. They could not fail.
The car screeched to the side and ran into a tree. Ariel, sitting in the back with Miles, was pitched forward against the front seat. "Dammit, babe, let's get out of here," said Joshua Solace. "There's a bunch of robots in the road, and they don't look friendly." He looked over at the man in the front passenger seat. "Just great, Lateran expired, again. I'm glad I won't be getting old." He leapt out, and laid one of the mechanical bug-men low with a mighty punch. "Move! Get Greymantle back to Sablemorn!"
Ariel slid around the other side of the car and pulled Miles out. He woke as she did so. "Quick! We need to get away! Joshua is holding off the mechanical bugs while we get away!" Miles began to move with Ariel's aid off to the side of the road.
"Well, where are we? You're the one navigating," said Selina from the back seat.
"We're just fine. Sandy, can't this rattletrap move any faster?"
"Hey, don't make it feel bad. It'll make it." Sandy suddenly hit the brakes and swerved. "Oh, gods!"
"What? Robots?" exclaimed Melissa. Illuminated in the headlights were a few bug-like robots that stood upright like humans. They disappeared into the woods on the right side of the road, seemingly taking no notice of the car. She opened the door and stepped out. "Something's up. They have to from that sorcerer?"
"Why? Robots aren't magical!" said Selina.
"They had swords, and it didn't look like they had guns. Anyone with a robot in this day wouldn't bother with swords. Besides, they had auras. Look! There're some taillights up ahead!" She began jogging toward them.
Sandy straightened out her car and followed. She and Selina found Melissa kicking the side of the crashed car. "Damn! There's a dead man in the passenger seat, dressed like nothing I've seen. This has to be Miles' car! Damn, Dad! What about this? What the hell am I supposed to do now? Ariel's going to die out there with those robots! Damn Starbright! Damn magic!" she railed at the skies.
"Calm down," said Selina. "Maybe if this sorcerer can call legions of robots, maybe Miles can do the same."
"Then, dammit, why hasn't he? Do you see any legions of dead or whatever it is he might call as a necromancer? Or maybe he can't, this magic we don't know anything about."
Selina's reply was cut off by a flash of lightning out of the clear sky that struck a bit off the road to the right. "Magic," breathed Selina.
"Ariel?" said Melissa, and started to take off in that direction. Sandy grabbed her.
"Stop, please, Melissa," said Sandy, as Melissa struggled to get free. "It's not safe to run off into the woods."
"I can't lose both my father again and my cousin in the same day! She's my only relative left in this damn city!"
"Control yourself!" yelled Selina, holding Melissa's head in her hands. "None of us want to lose her, but marching into a bunch of robots with swords is not going to save them! We need to get to his house to see if there's anyone there who can help us!" There was a swooping sound above, and dark winged forms occluded some of the stars. "Look! You want to join your parents?"
"Wait! Look over there!" Melissa struggled and pointed off to the west.
"What? I can't see anything!" wailed Sandy.
"There's... something else up there. Something dead. Ye gods." said Selina.
"And I can barely make out Ariel's aura!"
"Are you sure? Headed south?"
"Yes, but the winged things are closing in."
"OK, Sandy, get the car moving. We need to make it to that house. And break in if necessary. Come on, Melissa!" Melissa broke out of her reverie and jumped back into Sandy's car. It took off into the night.
"Ha. just as I like it. Greymantle is almost finished. Time for the good priest to take a hand." The sorcerer worked yet another summoning.
Solace, energized by killing what his master had called Yotian Soldiers, managed to pick up both Ariel and Miles, and evaded a group of dragons hunting them. But he had lost his grip on Ariel and she fell into the forest.
Ariel picked herself up, glad that she had only sustained some bruises from her fall. One of the Moxes that Miles had given her had fallen out of her pocket, and was lying on the ground, glittering with its internal energy. She snatched it back up and replaced it in her pocket. "Forest spells, forest spells, my kingdom for a forest spell..." she muttered. A noise from behind her made her scramble up a tree, and she was glad that she did, for a large number of goblins slinked through the forest below her. "Miles..." she called out mentally. "Thurmananthalas..."
Wilcox stepped out from around some trees into sight of Tobias and the marines. They lowered the guns that they had so recently brought into firing position. "Report," he said.
"Sir," said Sergeant Koenig, "we were not expecting you to be out here."
"So? I wished to see this first hand."
"As you wish, sir, but it is dangerous."
"No activity yet."
"Good. I understand that other units have reported the objective heading this way."
"That would be correct, sir."
"Good. Carry on." Wilcox strolled past the marines, inspecting them.
The sergeant cocked his head, as if listening to his helmet radio, and said in a low voice that only nearby Tobias could hear, "Sir, I am looking right at you, so there is no way you could be you, begging your pardon, sir."
Tobias fixed an eye on the sergeant, difficult to see in the darkness, then swivelled to follow Wilcox. His suspicions raised, he forced his newly gained perceptions forward at the executive. While he could not really read auras as Melissa claimed to do, he had some new power over people that he did not fully understand. He brushed that across Wilcox, and found something... horrible staring back at him.
Things seemed to start moving in slow motion. Sensing something was wrong, it opened its mouth, starting an order to the sergeant, but Tobias opened up with his submachine gun. The marines looked at him, aghast, and moved to point their own weapons at him. But the gunfire had wounded the creature. It roared in pain, and, still in slow motion, began to change form. Tobias frantically pointed at the creature, trying to validate his actions. The priest and marines stood aghast at the nauseating shape change as it assumed the form of a large man in leather, with glowing red eyes. "Rothwell!" it screamed, and leapt at him.
Time seemed to slip back into its normal speed as Tobias stumbled backward, falling down, firing the whole time. Several of the marines also opened fire. The figure fell heavily next to Tobias, who scrambled away. The form again went through a gut-wrenching transformation, this time into a pool of jelly.
"May the Creator protect us," said one of the marines. Tobias could only agree.
"Of course I'm here! What?" There were sounds of gunfire over the radio link to the marines. When they subsided, Sergeant Koenig reported, "Sir, there was this jelly-thing who was impersonating you. It's been terminated."
"What? I don't look anything like jelly!"
"Neither did it, sir. It does now."
Wilcox composed himself with an effort, and closed the connection. He stared over at the vid screen showing the sorcerer, who looked somewhat pained just now, and then at the control box on his desk. "This has gone too far, Zivo. Now it's my show. I'll get the answers out of that necromancer." He pushed one of the buttons on the box.
The sorcerer reeled from the death of his doppelganger, sent to infiltrate the marines and make sure that Greymantle was killed. That the doppelganger had chosen such a poor disguise, and that Wilcox had chosen that moment to check in, was highly unfortunate. Oh well, Wilcox was expendable, anyway. He had what he wanted.
Than a pain ripped through his skull. It was so intense that he felt his threads slipping away. By the time the last goblin flickered back to its home plane, he had traced the pain back to its source. A small mechanical device was embedded in the base of his skull. He cursed Wilcox. He had not thought to check for any of these infernal devices after awaking. He bashed his fist on the desk in front of him.
A viewscreen flickered to life in front of him, showing Wilcox's smirking face. "Don't you dare cross me, mage. I have the upper hand, control of your brain. I do not appreciate my troops being compromised from within."
"You are dead, Matthew Wilcox. You are dead."
"That was the plan all along, wasn't it, Zivo? Too bad you're dead now. It's been nice knowing you. The doctors will have fun picking apart your DNA."
The sorcerer only snarled back at Wilcox, then closed his eyes in concentration. Wilcox darted his gaze to the readouts on his control box, which indicated that the implant was starting to malfunction. "Wilcox...." Zivo said through gritted teeth. Wilcox frantically boosted the power, and saw that Zivo was still resisting it. Wilcox ordered the Tower AI, Aster, to flood that office with nerve gas. The vents opened, and the gas began to flood in. Wilcox waved to Zivo through the vid link, then sat back and watched.
Zivo managed to push the implant's pain to one side enough to link with the power of some of his mountains. He launched some of the power directly into the device, finally destroying it. He lurched from the suddenly different pain of metal shards slicing through his flesh, then sucked more of the mountain mana into himself. He let it out with a fiery bang. The outside wall of the office shattered, sending flames jetting out over the city. Zivo felt the full blast wash over him, having no way to blunt its damage to himself. But it was better than dying from some piece of machinery in his head. The blast had thrown him out of the window, but in the seconds before he touched the ground, he found a link to one of his islands back home, and used the familiar mana to bear him up. He tore out toward the location of the other planewalker's stronghold.
Wilcox stood at his window, seeing the sorcerer fly away. Damn his eyes! Hoping Aster would handle the fire without his supervision, he called the marines. "Koenig, you have a problem."
To be continued...
The term "Yotian Soldiers" is property of Wizards of the Coast.. The rest of "Lighting Candles in the Dark Part VI: Reignition" is Copyright 1996 by Timothy Bailey. All rights reserved. This story may not be distributed for profit, with the exception of the normal charges for online time.