Aiden walks back into shadow from his jaunt to see the serpent into his newblood holdings. His crew is there, hanging out. One of them mentions that there is someone there waiting for him, and she’s in his meditation chamber. Upon entering, he sees a woman with Ferrari red hair and wearing a simple gown. She smiles when he meets her gaze and it’s a familiar smile.
“I was wondering how long it’d take you to find me” says Aiden.
She began to walk over and said with a wry smile “it took some effort”.
“Why are you here?”
“Our last encounter left me so unsatisfied and I couldn’t let it go. My part in Mandore’s plots is over so I came here to see how I might fit into your plots. Aiden dear, I’ve missed you. Is that so hard to believe? Absence makes the heart fonder.”
“Absence doesn’t make anything.”
“We tiega only enjoy existing, and I’m surprised that I’m filled with this feeling. It’s not pleasant and it feels like time slows down and drags. I’d be willing to do anything to make this torture pass.”
“Oh, is that it is called?”
“My plans have become my own now.”
“All the more reason for me to aid in them.”
“Have you felt the presence of the creature wandering through shadow?”
“Why yes. I’ve seen, heard, felt and danced among her shadows.”
“There are a bunch of my relatives interested in how to stop it.” My sister Crystal is considering going to the Overshadow.”
“Interesting; under, over, or regular shadow, it’s all the same to me. What do you plan to do, my dear?”
“The only thing I can think to do, let it happen.”
“What ever you wish.”
“It is not a wish.”
“As you plan, so shall I follow.”
“You are a strange creature.”
“You would know among all others, with the Abyss and all of shadow and I’m still bored. So we still do nothing.”
“No. We seek it out, and I’ll discuss its plans. If I agree, then shadow must end.”
Marek and Oberon have a staring contest; Marek in a wheelchair in a hospital gown and pants and Oberon having crossed the threshold. Everything else fell silent. Circe broke the ice by skipping over and hopping into Marek’s lap, causing him a great amount of discomfort.
Wincing, Marek asks; “what’s going on?”
“We need a plan, it’s time for you to plainly disclose what it is that you’ve been working at” said Reese, walking to the front of the group.
“Why not, everyone is here, and I don’t know how much time I’ve got left. A long time ago when I decided to not follow what you and Dworkin had in mind,” he said pointing to Oberon, Dworkin handed me a trump of doom and said that I would need it someday. That day came in Kashva. After I survived the well of Kashva, dad decided to destroy the shadow I was in. I let off my blood curse because it seemed a fitting way to go. I undid Dworkin’s curse which ended the line of Oberon. After that, I had remembered the Trump of Doom and with nothing left to do, I activated it. This found me in overshadow. Time and distance don’t mean the same there. You’ve all heard the riddle: ‘all is but light and shadow’. I used to thing that was referring to the Pattern, but it’s not. Imagine looking at a cave wall all your life and then looking to the side for the first time and see out into the real world. That’s like discovering overshadow. Dworkin was there; the real Old Man, the Crazy Wizard. He was trying to explain it all to
me at the same time he was torturing me. Rosaline was there at some point, and she helped him torture me. He was trying to tell me something and Alice was there too. What is now, what was then going to be. When I saw her, I saw everything thing that I thought she could be: all of destiny into one creature, one thing. She’s self made trump. Everybody with me so far?”
“Not quite” says Crystal. “He left the Trumps of Doom to be used. How do those factor in?”
Before Marek can continue, the clinic lights flicker and the auxiliary power comes on line. Alarms sound frantically and Reese and Tomo hit the floor seemingly crippled. Anyone in the room who has walked a patter knows what is going on: both Patterns have stopped working all together. Panic and chaos ensue. Oberon is the next to go down, only he is bleeding profusely from his chest and abdomen. Reese withdraws the Jewel of Judgment and begins to summon its sign. Octavius casually casts a teleport spell to the Grove of the Unicorn and Caius, Tomo, and Reese accompanies him.
[Healing on the Logrus]
After Rhys, Ciaus, Tomo, and Octavius teleport out, Crystal runs to attend to her father on the floor in an ever-growing pool of blood. Oberon has been nearly eviscerated. The wound is fresh. Crystal nearly panics and puts him on a gurney and hits the medical emergency alarm.
Marek notices before Circe does that she is bleeding out almost as badly as Oberon. Marek applies a tourniquet to her thigh but it only slows down the blood loss. Now the full pain of the wound has entered Circe’s mind and screams out.
“Circe, you don’t die before me.” Says Marek as tries to bring her back into the moment. “You are going to make it through this, do you understand me?”
Marek removes the prosthetic leg and examines the wound. What he sees does not reassure him. “Enonia, if we cut her leg off and throw her on the Logrus, will it fix her or kill her?” Asks Marek in a fit of desperation.
“It might, she’ll likely survive” says Enonia with a flicker of academic interest. “Circe is this what you want?”
“FIXIT! FIXIT! FIXIT!”
Marek draws a sword and looks longingly into her pain swelled eyes. “Circe, I love you.” And without hesitation, he brings down the sword onto her leg and buries it into the linoleum-tiled floor. Blood flows freely from the wound. He then cauterizes it with magic.
Enonia takes her across shadow on a Logrus express taxi to the edge of something massive. She says something in the back of Circe’s mind through all of the pain: “move”. Just as with the Pattern, Circe is thrown on another source of power with no instruction and she starts to crawl on to the web of the Logrus.
Then there are all six of them on the web. Bethany draws Karadoc and cuts Ynahteb in half, giggles and then charges Margritte. Circe goes to attack Bethany. Blades clash and Bethany leans in and says, I’m going to kill all of you.
The web of the Logrus finds Circe abhorrent, weak, and broken. Only one is going to live to see tomorrow.
[Eulogy for Tomo]
They arrived at the Grove of the Unicorn, Caius and Octavius, Rhys and Tomo. Sunlight cascaded down through the holes in the canopy in brilliant rays with otherwise invisible insects and pollen wafting through them from some gentle idyllic breeze. In almost all respects, this day is like all days at the grove: serene; all except for the death of the Unicorn. She lay broken and mortally wounded in the center of her grove, waiting for death. The macabre scene was further punctuated by the absolute silence in the area. Her blood-soaked murderer to-be, Alice, stood over her with a child’s ignorant curiosity at what she had done. With the arrival of the Unicorn’s grandchildren and great-grand-children, Alice gave them a look of renewed curiosity as she discarded the memory of the Unicorn like a broken toy.
Caius led a lone charge toward the girl. He appeared closest, and there was no doubt in his mind now that she had to die. In an instant he blade was drawn and he had closed the gap between himself and her. His blade was leveled to drive straight through her heart. Unfettered, she turned toward him and smiled wryly and then spoke.
“Bad men like you go to the Cornfield.”
And as if initiated by the slightest contact of his blade to her chest, Caius was gone in an instant.
Meanwhile, Octavius had made a frantic attempt to heal the Unicorn in a desperate attempt to save her life. His best efforts at spellcasting where met with failure. Rhys, had begun back on Earth to try and summon up the Sign of the Pattern from the Jewel of Judgment, and restore normalcy of Pattern to Tomo and Octavius while vetoing Trump in the shadow. Rhys cursed himself for not being fast enough to save his brother, and was going to make sure to prevent the same thing from befalling Tomo or Octavius. Tomo stands perfectly still. Her father is too occupied to determine what she’s doing. Seeing his father disappear and feeling some of the Sign of the Pattern rekindle in his sword, Octavius leaps to a charge at Alice.
“You’re another bad man” says Alice. This time, however, there is a glimmer of disappointment before she barely dodges a vicious attack. This bad man is not going to any cornfield.
Frowning, Alice snaps at Octavius; “have it your way then” and she delivers several swift and brutally strikes with pure trump akin to swinging a pillowcase stuffed with a cinderblock. Octavius takes a beating and quickly succumbs to unconsciousness. She stares at him for a moment as she towers over him with the swagger of a playground bully and then turns to survey the rest of the grove.
“Bored now” she says to no one in particular and skips out of the grove past Rhys and Tomo without so much as noticing them.
After the moment passes and they both feel her presence leave the shadow, Rhys and Tomo near simultaneously breathe a deep sigh of relief. They both rushed toward the fallen, Tomo pausing to look to Octavius and Rhys advancing to kneel at the Unicorns head awash in a sea of blood. Rhys put all of his effort and focus into using the Pattern to stabilize the Unicorn and he feels the gesture rebuffed as if the Unicorn wants to let itself die.
“Octavius is going to out for at least a month, but I think that he ought to avoid any permanent damage. How’s the Unicorn, Dad?”
Rhys spoke with a deliberate pause “I don’t know, but I think it wants to die.”
“I know” spoke Tomo with a soft reverence.
Rhys turned to look up at his daughter as she slowly walked over. “How do you know that?” he asked.
“Next you’ll touch her face and look into her eyes, and then you’ll understand. It always happens this way.”
“This is, and always has been the dream that’s haunted you, hasn’t it.”
Tomo just shook her head in a slight yes with a look on the borderline of tears.
As the Unicorn was in apparent agony, he decided to play his part. It was impressive and cruel that she hadn’t died yet. He stroked the Unicorn’s cheek and looked into her bottomless starry eyes and even he was mesmerized momentarily. Rhys was then overwhelmed by the psychic contact. He was flooded with a barrage of emotions, assurance, and gratitude. The last thing he saw before breaking the contact was a singular, crystal clear mental image. The Unicorn wants Tomo to be her successor and giving her the Jewel of Judgment will formalize that wish.
Rhys’ heart broke. His life changed for ever when Tomo was born. Everything he had built, he built with the intention of leaving to her; his little girl, his greatest pupil and his chosen successor. He loved his daughter beyond measure and this is not the future that he wanted for her. Now he was consumed with an irreprehensible rage at his own pride. Rhys clenched the Jewel in his hand with every intention of destroying it. Why? His mind was furious for reason. Why her and not him? This shouldn’t be her burden. His thoughts and rage where interrupted as Tomo knelt beside him and put her hand on her father’s shoulder.
“It’s okay, dad. It’s my destiny and I’m at peace with it. I understand now, Dad. You taught me. Everything is important. Nothing is meaningless.” Tomo’s voice was steady and calm, but Rhys could sense that tears where running freely from her eyes. “This has to happen, for everyone’s sake, or everything will be lost.”
Rhys knew she was right, but he wanted so much to spare her this even if it meant his own death. Nothing he could do with his vast knowledge would help. Once again he resigned himself to his role in this sad opera. He let out a sigh and faced Tomo. The sight of tears left him feel a stab in his heart. He wanted to cry, but didn’t; he tried to smile, but couldn’t. He did manage to take her hands into his and after an immense pause, he gave her the jewel.
“I’m not doing this very willingly. I always wanted you to take over for me. All of it was for you’re sake. I’m crushed that you never know some of the simple pleasures of life that you taught me.”
“Don’t be like that dad. I’m not going to die. You were the best father that I could have hoped for. Lily, Adam, and Mom still need you.” She paused for several moments. ”Are there any final lessons?”
“You’re not going to be my daughter much longer either. There aren’t any more lessons. I think you’ll be the one teaching me from now on.” Rhys then leaned forward, letting the Jewel fall into her hands. He gave his daughter one last hug. “Never forget that your mother and I love you now and forever.”
Tomo took the jewel in her hands and broke it free of its setting. She then took it and replaced her prosthetic eye with the jewel. Rhys watched his daughter become brilliant with light. She stood up calmly and looked down to her father.
“Everything is going to be alright, father. Please don’t worry.”
She looked over at Octavius and his trauma disappeared. She then knelt down and kissed Rhys on the cheek.
“We’ll see each other again.” Where her last words before she was gone.
When Octavius woke up, his head felt like the floor of a stadium men’s room at halftime. He wasn’t sure what he was looking at, but the Unicorn was gone, and Tomo was transforming into a crow right in front of Rhys before flying away. By the time he could move again, the Grove was again the placid place he remembered it as always being. The songs of birds and the breeze through the tree branches could be heard again. The only other noise that Octavius heard was a single sob from his uncle who was kneeling in the center of the grove clutching Tomo’s spear in his right hand and head with his left hand. Octavius didn’t move for fear of disturbing his uncle. He sat a thought about the Unicorn’s passing and his father’s fate. Perhaps he would find Jonathon.
“Octavius.” Rhys finally spoke; his tone sounding slightly off as he stood up. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I should be alright.” Octavius took this as an opportunity to stand and walk over. He wanted to say something about Tomo, but nothing sounded right in his mind.
“I have to get back to Earth and talk to Nyoko. You can return, if you’d like. There’s probably more to discuss, but if you want to return to your family, I’ll understand.”
“What’s going on with the Patterns?”
“I’ll need to fix them, right now, only I can access their potential.”
“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll go with you back to Earth. Are you going to be okay?”
Rhys paused at that. His smart phone took the opportunity inform him of several alerts. He winced at the reflex to call Tomo. Pulling it up, he sees that Crystal is trying keep Oberon and Marek apart.
“No, I’m not. I just lost Tomo and I might have to go and put down Marek right now.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say. Let’s go, if you’re ready.”
[Marek’s Last Hand]
While Crystal tries to put Oberon together, Marek sees a golden opportunity and walks over to them with his sword in hand and a smile on his face. Crystal hears the malice in his foot steps and quickly moves to put herself between Marek and Oberon.
“Don’t you dare” she threatens.
“Oh no, you hated him just like me. This is going to happen.”
“No brother, I don’t anymore. I did, but I understand him now.”
“You understand!? Let me make you understand something: centuries of planning and centuries more of pain. You can’t know what he’s done to me.”
Crystal tries to make a psychic contact with him with a gaze.
“No crystal, I won’t let you show me. I don’t care about your pain or your reasons. I’M DYING CRYSTAL!”
“Then cheat some more, you’re not doing this, not while he’s defenseless.”
“I can only cheat so much. The deck is running out of cards. But you, you’re free. I’m about out of time and destiny.”
“Killing him might do something for you, but what is it going to do for the rest of us? Why are we even arguing?”
“We’re arguing because you’re standing between me and my sword and dad. So, do you have what it takes?”
“Fine, let’s find out, you arrogant bastard.”
Marek gets three devastating slashes out at Crystal before security and orderlies burst into the room. Crystal managed to dodge all of them, but a floor lamp and IV stand where not so nimble. Seeing the blood, practically every where and Marek with a bloodied sword attacking a seemingly unarmed VIP, the order him to the floor guns drawn. Perhaps he thought that Reese’s employees would dare fire on him, or perhaps he wasn’t worried. Marek cheated the bullets a sure hit with more magic. He’s more adept than he used to be at combat. He ignores Crystal and Oberon for the moment and makes moves against the security forces. The gunfire gives Crystal a chance to assist the orderlies in evacuating Oberon. Once he is out of the room, Marek teleports out of the room. And the gunfire comes to a halt. Room 202 is destroyed in a carnival of red delights.
One of the guards shouts into his radio, “Security breach, code orange; initiate full lockdown, send backup to OR 3, stat!”
“Rodger that, over” comes the calm reply over the radio.
Crystal is out the door on foot in pursuit of her father and the orderlies. The uninjured security personal joins the pursuit.
Elsewhere in the compound, one of the three supercomputers at the heart of the facility takes notice of the security order and decided to review the footage from the area and the rest of the base all together. It quickly identifies Marek and runs a facial recognition algorithm in near real time on all of the bases security camera footage. He is spotted in 0.032178 seconds in a hallway and the passage way is segregated as per protocol trapping him within. After determining that subject has not complied to the audio instructions supplied over the hallway PA system, the computer decides to attempt to subdue him, as per protocol with an gaseous incapacitating agent. Using a metal implement, the subject has managed to overcome one of the barriers and has proceeded to a new hallway bloc. Protocol dictates that encapsulation foam is the next prudent option to be used. The supercomputer sends the signal to inject fast-curing urethane film into the current hallway section.
Marek knows that he is one set of blast doors from the block where Oberon was being taken. He only needs to get in and make one clean hit. Then he will except the reprisal. As he rushed the last door, he summoned the last of his fortitude to rend the doors. He’d never reach it. before then he is swept off of his feet by a torrent of yellow fluff every direction. Before the foam suffocates him, Marek teleports into the next section with what would have to be the last of his sorcery.
On the other side of his spell Marek finds himself a mere three or four meters away from Oberon, Crystal, and a host of doctors and nurses. There was unfortunately a foot-thick transparent wall standing between him and his target. Also, he didn’t account for the position and was sprawled out on the ground. The compression form the foam had burst a lot of blood vessels and he was now pleading from his eyes, ears, and nose.
“Don’t Move!” shouts one of the security guards as over ten men descend onto both of his flanks, all with automatic rifles pointed at him.
Marek was considering how he was going to pull the guards apart and get into the operating room when Crystal exited it. Things weren’t looking good at all. Disregarding the guys with machine guns, he leaned up and regarded Crystal.
“I had to try.”
“I knew you would, but I couldn’t let you kill him when he was defenseless.”
“I made my choices Crystal. I fought for this, for free will, so we wouldn’t have to live his dream.”
Crystal hesitates to speak having been the first to notice the appearance of Reese’s silhouette in the doorway behind Marek. His footsteps are slow and deliberate and anyone sensitive to the Pattern is made aware of its presence in Rhys. Canny observers would notice that the Sign was summoned into the bullet currently chambered in Reese’s pistol. The security guards parted as Reese entered the fold. Marek searched Reese’s face but only saw his own reflection in his brothers glasses.
“What did you think you were doing?” Asked Reese in a quiet and stern tone.
Marek hesitated to speak, and Crystal took the initiative; “he tried to kill Dad with…”
“I don’t remember asking you a [expletive]-[expletive] thing!” shouted Reese looking over to Crystal.
Marek began to speak and Reese looked back to him. “I’m sorry I made such a mess of your place, Rhys. I had to take a shot when I saw the opportunity. You shouldn’t all be shackled down to living to the Old Man’s plans. I had everyone’s best intentions in mind when i…”
Reese discharged his pistol putting a hole in Marek’s shirt directly in front of the Trumps of Doom in his pocket. Marek was knocked back against the ground and fell silent.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Did I break your concentration? I didn’t mean to do that. Please, continue” said Reese with renewed calm in his voice. Now, he held Marek at gunpoint. “You were saying something about ‘best intentions’”.
Marek had never seen his brother this unhinged, and never seen a threat like this from him. He thought of the confrontation in Avalon between Rhys and Cranmore, and re-imagined it.
“What’s the matter? Oh, you were finished? Well then, allow me to retort. What gives you the right as a guest in my house to attack my employees, my sister, and my father!? You’ve gone too far this time and your bull-[expletive] ends right here and right now!”
“What are you going to, Rhys, kill me?”
“WHAT GIVES YOU THE RIGHT?!”
“Nothing, NOTHING already! Pull the trigger already!”
“Not unless you make me. Submit the Trumps of Doom to me and don’t resist arrest. I’ll make you comfortable until your trial or your death, which ever comes first.”
“What? You’re going to arrest me? You’re kidding, right?”
“Say ‘what’ to me one more time!”
“Fine, here are the trumps.” Marek slowly pulled the cards out of a pocket with his right hand and flopped them down on the ground. “Here’s how they work” and before anyone could react, he slapped his hand down on the top card and disappeared.
“I didn’t think the stubborn bastard was going to leave” Said Reese in a more normal tone.
“What do you mean?” Asked Crystal.
“The only way to save him was to force him back to Overshadow, and that’s not something he would do willingly.”
“You weren’t going to kill him or arrest him where you?”
“That was up to him. The Pattern’s are deactivated and Caius and Tomo are gone. I have to speak to Nyoko. Handle this for me.”
Rhys puts away his gun and leaves the room.
After a fashion, Aiden is greeted by another visitor to his chamber.
“Hello uncle, I heard that you were looking for me.”