The Magician Child – Chapter 1: Hubris

A portal materialised, prying the air open as though material, as though felt. An old wiry giant, manifold the size of a man, walked stooping through and fell to the inspection of the ground at the base of the open gateway. A young woman, elaborately dressed in clutters and overlays of trinkets and garments, followed it lithely through the opening. She sliced a lock of her hair with the indifference of habit and tied it around the edge of the portal. Blueish-white in hue, the portal sparked and crackled like the edge of a welder’s torch. Her tether of hair had the curious result of preventing the interdimensional gateway from collapsing as the two travellers studied their new reality.

It’s here, she whispered, her mannerisms enwisened by the hunt so as to be, at times, completely unrecognisable. The giant studied her a moment, the phenomenon of her transformation, to its depthless discerning eye, was of the utmost mysterious relevance. For if one could embody both zero and one, there could be nothing more of interest in the world. The giant gave her a solemn nod, and if there was any uncertainty in its expression, she was beyond the capacity of observing it.

In a swift motion, both equanimous and tense, she turned to conceal a widening grin. It’s here, she thought, electric with anticipation. She loosened the lock tethering the portal. The scorched strands of hair stained the air with thin wisps of acrid smoke as she threaded them through her fingers. The gate, as though making up for lost time, wound down in brisk ever-diminishing gyrations. With a last screeching crackle of protest, its circumference collapsed onto itself and the portal vanished altogether. She inhaled the admixture of ozone and burnt hair, keratin and sighed. Quietly, she bade farewell to a past she could never revisit. It was an empty gesture, perhaps, especially considering how insatiably she consumed worlds and dimensions. She never wondered what she was running from, nor what she ran towards. And so, she obeyed both impulses, indifferent to the excessive combined momentum.

No, she decided, it was not quite an empty gesture. Abandoning the known for the unknown, time and again, was not without its toll upon the psyche, even to a weathered pilgrim such as herself, and portals bestowed a ceremonial closure upon that incessant forward rush. Milestones, of sorts. And their symbolism soothed her. Such private rituals, even if of mere sentimental nature, provided firm footing from which she could launch herself into the new, ever-forming present.

The shadow of a grin still loitered about her mouth when the giant reached a grotesquely gargantuan hand towards her. Her senses, acute with pent up anticipation for the impending hunt, reacted with lightning agility. From a standing position, she launched herself into a neat Arabian flip, landed onto his outstretched arm, and ran until she reached the crest of his lowered shoulder. The giant rose to its full height, unfazed by the formidable display of acrobatics. With an equilibrium wrought of familiarity, she held fast her perch on his trapezius. The grace of a giant is a sedate languorous one, and she responded to it as a ship to a rolling wave. She inhaled the breeze that bristled her voluminous hair.

Yes, she concluded, it’s here. Forward beast!

The giant slung a glance her way that would rival that of a mountain in a storm. She squeaked inaudibly and pretended to steady her gaze on the far horizon. Her face lost its playfulness at the drop of a needle, and again the giant marvelled at the woman, wise beyond her years, that now stood august upon it. There was a need there. Within. A voracious necessity to stopper a void. The giant dragged a bare calloused foot upon the thirty-six furrows marking the ground where the portal had been.

One hundred and forty-four, it voiced in a low drawn-out mumble. The sequence unwound itself rhythmically within its mind. Two and seventy-two, where they had arrived. Three and forty-eight. Four and thirty-six, where they presently travelled. Six and twenty-four. Eight and eighteen. Nine and sixteen. Twelve and twelve. Seven dimensional portals, it thought, no insignificant number. How did she establish their prey’s whereabouts with such implacable certainty, across that many dimensions? The girl might not possess the analytical mind of an Interpreter, the giant thought, but her intuition develops in momentous bounds.

Eyes outwards, giant! The huntress’ words rang with command, if not quite with scolding. One may catch a Shaman off-guard but once.

The giant regained awareness of its surroundings by degrees. With gentle prods and tugs, the significance of which was past second-nature to the pair, the woman had guided them into a shallow body of water, the far shore of which was just revealing itself on the near horizon. The giant’s redoubtable gait did not even register the meagre resistance as it ploughed forth, shin-deep in viscous sediment-rich water. The world’s radiance vanished unexpectedly then, as though stolen. A faint glow emanating from the lake itself illuminated them from below, casting fearsome shadows onto their faces. The pair did not so much as flinch at the transition, they had spent many weeks in this world, if not in this very same dimension.

The giant kept an ever watchful eye on the curious and unaccountable phenomenon it had long theorised existed. To the giant’s keen mind, there seemed a correlation linking the distance between the multiples, and the observable manifestation of inter-dimensional variations. Take their present dimension—four and thirty-six— as an example. Four and thirty-six holds an inter-multiple gap of 32 which is non-negligible, especially in comparison with portals which held an inter-multiple gap of zero such as twelve and twelve—a category of portals which was purported to contain the least amount of variation, if any.

According to portal lore, of which the giant was a disciple, a world is akin to a theme, whereas dimensions are potential expressions of the theme. These potential expressions are born when a major event befalls the world, whereupon a rift is created in the world’s continuum. And thus, by observing a phenomenon across different dimensions, such as in this present case the short and unpredictable light-cycles, it becomes possible to theorise that the phenomenon is a major defining factor of this world as a whole.

There is much whimsy to portals and as such the study of them is tentative and evades thorough documentation. The main obstacle to the giant’s study of inter-dimensional variations remained the complex task of disassociating the phenomenon from the warping of reality exerted by the presence of a Shaman in a certain realm.

Giant?, a concern-laden voice spoke to its ear.

Hmm, it grunted in reply, returning from its inner-calculations. In a moment, it recognised the source of concern: the land appeared to waver in the dim expanse ahead.

Optical illusion, she posited, but even as the words left her mouth, she could no longer cling to their hopeful promise. Solid ground could not be lit from below. One or multiple organisms?, she whispered just loud enough for the giant to hear. The giant carried onward, knowing that to cease motion would mean giving them away as surely as an abrupt motion. One or multiple organisms, she repeated, one or multiple organisms? One. Above or below? Above or… Below! 

Ahead the horizon vanished behind a luminescent tidal wave, rising as it sluggishly gathered momentum, occulting the monster from view. The giant reacted first by altering its gait to powerful leaping bounds.

Be discreet, she spoke to its ear, just whatever you do, louder now as her words were carried away by the rushing wind of their speed. Please, she added for good measure. The giant reached a hand for her, and this time she let herself be taken. The massive blundering hands began rough-handling her into the shape of a ball and before she could protest, she was airborne, hurtling through the air at blistering speeds. As she reached terminal velocity, she managed to unfurl mid-flight just in time to clear the crest of the towering wave. For a naive moment, she thought herself out of harm’s way. Then, she was met with a thick cloud of glimmering spray. Outraged and soaked to the marrow, she rummaged through her innumerable layers. 

Where is it, I swear I…, she mumbled to herself. Ah-ha, and she came away holding a thimble-sized wool parcel. Behind the tidal wave lay, ensconced in the now-exposed rock bed, a monstrous tentacled flower. With the sight, the severity bled away from her features.

A plant!, she scoffed, laughing out loud. This was no redoubtable Shaman.

Still careening through the sky, if slowed somewhat by the cloud of spray, she began rubbing the wool lump between her numb hands. The wool had absorbed too much water and was reticent to warm with the friction of her touch. From between her feet, she observed a dark shadow forming at the centre of the distancing wave. The shadow grew until long bony outstretched fingers broke the surface tension. The giant was dwarfed by many orders of magnitude by the wave, and still the sight of it filled her with awe. Her attention jolted back to a searing pain in her fingers. The blazing relic had scorched most of the wool and was now exposed to her bare skin on many of its facets. The waves of heat emanating from the stone blew her dry in an instant.

That’s better, she exclaimed, much better. Then she aimed her wrath towards the monster below. The monstrous flower was in the act of raising a leaden writhing tentacle to swathe her out of the air, when the relic acted of its own accord. The resulting detonation shot her sideways towards the shore. The earth shook with the impact, but her unconscious body did not register it.

 

Head throbbing, she rose to find herself in a forest. The humidity was stifling. Scattered patches of light from slits in the dense foliage revealed that it was day anew, however long that may last. A thin plume of smoke arose from a hole next to her head where the fiery relic had landed. Careful to pull her sleeve over her skin, she plunged her hand after it, deep into the moss-carpeted forest floor. Cheek pressed against moss, she noticed a few scandalised birds taking flight. The limp tip of a tar-black tentacle materialised behind her then, landing with a ground-shaking thud beside her. Before the sound had even registered in her ear, she had pushed herself into the air, landing in a crouch a few paces away, ready to pounce.

Oh it’s you. She stood brushing her clothes and tried in vain to rearrange her hair away from her face. Lazily, she walked back over to the hole in the ground. You didn’t fare so well I see, she said slyly, pointing at the thin water-logged rags the giant was wearing. It stared inexpressibly back at her, and she shied away from its glare. She plunged her hand deep into the narrow, singed opening again, wrestling with tangled roots and sharp rocks until she finally laid hands on the relic.

You’re mine, she whispered viciously, gazing intently at the recovered stone. No trace of the fiery ember it had been still remained. For the briefest instant, a shadow travelled the breadth of her slender face as she contemplated the relic. Sitting at the base of a nearby tree, the giant took note. Nothing escaped its sharp depthless eyes. Then the shadow was gone. She wrapped the relic in a thick envelope of waxed cloth and returned it to one of the many folds and openings in her mix-matched garb. One could never fathom what all it concealed. Not even she.

No sooner had the thought taken shape in her mind, than she regretted thinking it. Such thoughts were slippery. In moments of utmost weakness, they could slither through the cracks. They could make one wonder whether one had lost control. Relics knew a weakness when they sensed it. How many relics did she have? She shivered. Then, catching the giant’s perceptive eye from the corner of her vision, she swiftly composed herself, dismissing the folly that came over her to the violent impact of her improvised landing in these woods.

The use of that particular relic always left her feeling ravenous. She sidled over to the pilfered slice of tentacle the giant had brought. There was little in this world she did not first put in the category of food pending further examination. She poked at the charred skin, doubting its edibility, until her growling stomach completed the assessment for her. A serrated knife appeared into her hand from thin air and she eyed her prospective meal with dispassionate resignation. As was to be expected, the meat was unyielding. As rubbery as a Glout, she thought dismissively, and would probably taste much the same. Despite her show of indignation, she nevertheless carved an ambitious chunk for herself. She tugged fiercely at it and fell backwards as it grudgingly tore free from the rest of the limb. She began eating exactly where she had landed, cross-legged and chewing ravenously. Well into another light cycle, she ate. Until, at last, she fell asleep from the sheer exertion.

When she awoke, she was imbued with a curious sensation. Eyes still cast upon her inner-world, she wilfully maintained the heavy breathing pattern of sleep. Then, careful to dull the ardent blaze of consciousness, she waded there in the creamy out-of-focus dream state. Softly suggesting a feeling, a vague sensation, that her unconscious body often registered while she slept. She narrowed her way there, edging in ever-constricting circles. There, she thought. Deeply enmeshed in the mossy forest floor, she wrapped her arms around herself in a delicate embrace. Her eyes opened. There was something missing amidst her embrace. Something that seemed to visit her in sleep and evade her in waking. She released her self-embrace with affected dismay.

It was not the first time she had sought to interpret the feeling. And over time, she had come to visualise many things to fill that emptiness. As always, she stubbornly refused to relinquish the missing piece to the embrace to the image most often projected by her mind: that of her own self, as a helpless child. The comfort brought about by this image of motherly affection towards her child-self, instilled a profound reflexive revulsion within her. She clambered to her feet clumsily. During sleep, she had gradually compressed the moss beneath her, so that now only her head protruded from the girl-shaped cavity. A foggy penumbra veiled the forest, there was no telling which stage of the light cycle it currently was. She clambered up the soft walls of her place of rest yawning emphatically. The giant was nowhere in sight. She walked over to the tentacle and noticed that the forest had already begun its cannibalising claim upon it. The sides of her mouth lowered in disgust.

No thanks, she uttered to no one, trying in vain to think of something other than her own ongoing digestion of the charred tentacle. With some effort, she pried her eyes from the mesmerising play of wriggling maggotry upon flesh, and wandered off towards the area of flattened carpet where the giant had sat. The moss did not exude warmth, but the giant never seemed to produce much to begin with. She settled herself cross-legged onto the spot and set her mind onto the task of finding her companion. Moments passed before she acquired the necessary frame of mind. A mostly imperceptible sequence of postulations ensued, minute gestures and aura alterations. Then, stillness returned. She was through with her mimicry of the giant’s spirit. The shadowplay could begin. The ground shook as she rose to her feet and a rustle high above let loose a shower of leaves. With the giant’s idiosyncratic slow grace, she set forth into the forest, letting her senses guide her in an uncanny dance of exact replication. The motions she embodied increased in stealth as she progressed blindly through the darkness. Almost as suddenly as the shadowplay had begun, she had wished herself back into her own body, to sense her surroundings with her own, more sophisticated mesh of instincts, intuitions and perceptions. It was a wonder the giant could navigate as well as it did with such a blind and blundering sensory apparatus. All its inner-sensation seemed to pool at its thorax, and what little outer senses it possessed were crude, unsophisticated and numb to anything that was not basic sound, sight and touch inputs. How could one operate with such limited feedback?, she wondered, appalled.

A clearing revealed itself ahead. A feeble luminescence emanated from it, only distinguishable as a counterpoint to the oppressive gloom. Two orbs reflected its faint glow back at her from some nearby trees.

Oh, thank worlds, she whispered and with a sigh, she dispelled the spiritual possession. A spell of weakness fell upon her as she began the convoluted process of repossessing her own body, however, and she stumbled clumsily as though intoxicated. All her senses came rushing back in a searing flash and she nearly lost consciousness at the savage turbulence of the transference. In an instant, the giant had bridged the gap between them to gather her body as it crumbled onto itself. It lowered her gently onto the ground at its side. In an acute cataclysmic moment, she re-entered the cosmic entanglement of her own self. The yokes of life and death broke from their respective realms and merged at the centre of her being, in a raw interplay of pain and pleasure, suffering and joy, of attachment and abandon. Life was raw, searing, terrifying, and she swam away from its infernal whirlpool with every ounce of her resolve. With vicious yearning born in the very marrow of her soul, she wished herself far away into the peaceful realm of death. Alas, the choice was not hers to make and she was thrust back into the chaos of hurt named life. Air rushed into her lungs, and the darkness split furiously into its component colours in a nauseating swirl of hues, to form awareness anew. She doubled over in her mind’s eye and retched drily, then she did so again, only this time in the world without. The giant eyed her with a harrowing expression of horror. The emotion, novel as it was to its features, sprawled itself inelegantly across its face. 

Woooh, she exclaimed to herself in disbelief. She doubled over and retched again, her stomach turning itself inside-out like an empty pocket. Certainly never felt that before, she said, and managed a brief rebellious chuckle before another retching spell fell upon her. Then she fell backwards onto the thin wiry leg of the giant. Oh, to experience the sensory dullness of a giant again, she thought cynically. She spat unsuccessfully, a thick filament tracing the trajectory of her saliva onto the earth. She met the giant’s eye and jerked back at the expression of horror they contained.

Worlds, she exclaimed, you look as though it happened to you!

The giant blinked.

I don’t know what that was all about, she muttered, almost defensively, as though the happenings had nothing to do with her. Then, as an after-thought she added, I’m never trying that again!

Trying?, the giants grumbled in disbelief. Could it be?, it thought, dumbstruck. The woman tracked me down by intuiting some way to possess my past self? The giant could not even fathom how such a thing could work. And she had improvised it… on a whim?

Can we change the subject? A semblance of equilibrium was burgeoning within her, gradually countering the influx of stimuli with a blissful dose of numbness. It was too soon for her to envision revisiting the trauma. The expression of her being was a delicate counterbalance, not easily re-established. A part of her mind whispered to her of a profound lesson to be learned from the experience. One she had been avoiding for far too long. One that only an out-of-body perspective could teach. And still, she disregarded the insight. Like a pig in a bog, she settled into the sores and vices of her existence. Avoidance it is then, she thought with barbed contempt. And the thought felt deviously comfortable, like a black oozing poison sliding velvet and warm down her throat.

For the breadth of her introspective hiatus, the giant’s eyes did not stray away from her. However, the expression it bore was now one of concern. She met the giant’s gaze with one of feral acrimony displaying the extent of her misdirected inner ire. Her upper-lip curled to reveal teeth. Careful who you pity beast, she thought with such venom that she might as well have spoken. The standstill of their wills endured even as an inexplicable iridescence came to life in the deep woods, shifting across their faces in sundered bouts. The giant, despite all its indomitability, was the first to look away.

She snarled with irritation. To win a contest of stubbornness, she thought bitterly, is invariably to lose. Her conflicted sate of mind, however infuriating, was utterly abated when her sight joined that of the giant. A nebulaic cloud glided there amongst the petrified trees, dispelling darkness along its path, casting shadows long and black that shifted like ravens in flight. The insubstantial cloud assumed varied forms as it drifted towards the clearing, sporadic webs of static crackling along its edges.

The giant watched on entranced. At his side, had disappeared again, and in her stead stood a woman, sharp and calculating. A slight draft tugged her hair and clothes towards the wandering nebula. Nothing in her surrounding, not the giant nor the branches, was subject to the same attraction. She stood her ground firmly, in full possession of her senses, and it was a terrifying sight to behold.

Do not intervene, she commanded the giant, before vanishing into the night.

The Shaman took shape as it crossed into the starlit clearing. It paused as though surprised at its sudden transformation, and looked up at the sky. Its misshapen face disorganised itself into a scowl and it squinted and growled at the intrusion of light. Setting forth again, hunched, it mumbled to itself in a gravelly voice that never left its throat. The woman spared no glance for the unravelling phenomenon. From the sanctum of her intricate garments, she had withdrawn a flexible bone wand and was now spinning it with blurring dexterity between her fingers. The two glowing half-relics encrusted at each end formed an uninterrupted circle of violet in the gloom. She lowered her hand to the ground and set off, swallowing ground with such voracious swiftness that she became completely indistinguishable amongst the trees.

Hya-hya-hya, cackled the Shaman, which, by its very nature, was prey to none. If the hunt awakened in her another state, one of pure instinct and wisdom; to be hunted awakened nothing at all in a Shaman but distilled derision.

The ominous being did not alter its step, even as it glimpsed the spinning violet circle flying amongst the trees on the clearing’s edge. It carried on as though gapping the clearing were its only worldly concern, perhaps even deliberate in its lack of haste. As she reached the three-quarter mark of her arch around the clearing, she spared a searching glance for the giant concealed somewhere along the rim. She found only darkness.

Do not intervene, she grunted aloud, emboldened now that her stealth had been betrayed. She did not break stride, confident that she may still seal the perimeter in time. She studied the evil creature, searching for any hint that may facilitate its capture. Shamans were nefarious beings of lost or corrupted humanity. And it is precisely the nature of their corruption, the heart of their particular evil, that offered a key to their undermining. Through the trees she studied its unique manifestations in an attempt at gleaning what lay beyond, what weakness throbbed so shallow beneath the surface as to warrant excessive compensation. She struggled to get a clear view at the being for there seemed to be tiny creatures fluttering about its person. These sprites or fairies appeared fastened by a length of string to the Shaman. Though fainter than a whisper, she could hear their disheartening wails and whines perturbing the peace of the glade. The expression of their collective despair seemed to lend an edge to the master of string’s step, a certain superciliousness to its sinister sneer. It walked on hunched, unperturbed by the girl’s machinations, inching ever closer to the edge of the clearing. The supreme confidence it exuded created an odd perceptual distortion that almost successfully belied its grotesque malformations and apparent dementia. Look upon me and tremble, its countenance seemed to suggest, while its skeletal frailty betrayed the thinly veiled affectation. Her mind was made hazy by the prolonged strenuous physical effort, and her mind grasped blindly and without success at the secret of its corruption. She focused all her being on covering the ground left, and prayed that it would prove sufficient.

She glanced at the spot where her circumnavigation had began, and in that moment, it dawned on her that she would never make it in time. The Shaman was, by now, but a few strides from regaining the cover of forest. How reckless to have thought a Shaman so easily captured. She had fallen prey to the excitement of the hunt and had thus jeopardised their only ticket out of this world. She knew there would be no other chance. How she repented her admonishment of the giant.

For a moment, she thought to call out for its help, but her desperate speed had left her lungs screaming for air. Would she make it? The end of the circle was almost in sight. The sudden decision surprised even herself. She tumbled to a stop on the forest floor, and within a few desperate breaths, she accumulated enough air to yell.

Giant!

The ground shook twice and the giant leaped into view within the confines of the clearing.

Face me, the giant challenged in a low drawling bellow.

The Shaman stopped. Partway through its transformation back into its nebulaic form, it just stood there motionless, trapped by the summons.

Of course, whispered the woman, finding the long-lost word. Hubris.

The Shaman turned, materialising fully as it did so, and faced the giant. Even out-sized two to one, the Shaman maintained its self-assured poise and self-same sinister sneer. It stepped forth, unhurried, mumbling obscure conjurations under its breath. The air between them darkened, as though fouled, and the Shaman barked and cackled in mockery and contempt. The giant brought its fist calmly up to its mouth and took an interminable inhalation.

Now, the giant suddenly roared. The gargantuan fist unfurled, palm upwards, revealing a plethora of amassed pebbles, like so much sand in perspective. The giant blew, and the air whistled with tiny projectiles. On her knees still, and panting, she gazed after them as they whizzed. Through unfocused eyes, she saw that none seemed to have hit their mark.

Hya-hya-hya, the Shaman cackled maniacally into the calm forest night. The giant took a step back in a feint of dismay or fright, thus clearing the outer perimeter, and returning to the shadows of the forest. The woman awoke with a start to the giant’s ruse and vaulted to her feet. As the Shaman basked in its unquestionable invincibility, she spun the wand and drew from an unknown reserve of might to complete her perimeter of the clearing. The laughter morphed to a despairing shriek as she sealed the last few yards. She smiled in satisfaction and glanced sideways at the despairing Shaman only to realise that she was not, in fact, the source of the outcry. The Giant’s had never meant to hit the Shaman with its projectiles. She understood this now as she saw the untethered sprites scurrying off in every which direction away from the master of strings. Then, the circle was sealed.

With a deft flourish of her wand, the clearing was uprooted from the earth. It tore free with a deafening wrenching roar and floated mid-air, weightless and as ethereal as a mere bubble of soap. She sighed with overflowing relief and fell to her knees. Her work was done. As she watched, the bubble dwindled in size. Not exactly peacefully, with the sound like warping steel, it compressed itself to immeasurable inner pressures. Finally, with an unceremonious plop, it imploded. A handful of steaming dirt fell to the bare earth where now wriggled many uncovered insects and worms. She crawled over to it on her hands and knees and, rummaging through the loose dirt, extracted a queer-looking stone. Holding the relic to the starlight, she collapsed onto her back utterly depleted. The stone was a jade-coloured agate. A semi-precious stone. And as she confined it to the many secret recesses of her inner garments, she savoured the sweet irony.

Later, she found the giant sulking at the foot of a nearby tree along the outer-edge of the now razed clearing. She sat next to him as solemnly as she could manage, humbling herself in respect of the giant’s heavy, slow-moving moods. She gazed ahead at the aftermath and devastation.

I guess, technically, it’s still a clearing, she ventured, contemplating the disturbed land, while probing the giant’s disposition. She received her response in the form of a grunt which, all things put in perspective, was an overwhelmingly positive response. So, she launched directly into her apology. I was self-sure and let the hunt get the better of me. It’s just, Shamans are delicate work and you, well you…

The giant growled at this, so she deftly circumnavigated her way back to the main message.

Well, today I couldn’t have done it without you. So… So, I’m sorry I dismissed you alright? Are you happy now? This last addition was accidentally imbued with a little too much spite, and as the giant veered its great lumbering head in her direction, she let out a yelp and thereafter held her tongue. It studied her a while and realised that it had not quite caught the moment of her transformation. The experience and wisdom of unknown provenance that possessed her during the hunt had left her now, and she was a girl anew, and somehow this brought the giant much solace.

As it watched, she began wriggling about and fumbling through her many layers as though hunting an elusive itch. Then, she sat still, smiling a self-satisfied smile.

I got you something. Call it… a token of my… appreciation. Practically bursting with gleeful triumph, she held out her balled up hands. Reluctantly, the giant reached out and she deposited a repugnant tousled sprite into its hand. The giant lifted the outraged little demon to its eye and grunted appreciatively even as the vermin hurled a slur of obscenities its way. The giant grinned then ingested the indignant plankton whole.

Now, what do you say we get out of this place?

If the giant heard her, it made no sign of it, content as it was with its present. With much aching protest from her body, she rose to a kneeling position and withdrew the agate, which, despite having just been pocketed, did not readily manifest itself to her hand. It seemed to her unwise to open a world portal at this hour and in the condition she was in. And yet, as the agate finally tumbled into her grasp, touching her bare skin, she could not imagine why, in all the worlds and dimensions, she shouldn’t. She became aware, in that instant, of the incommensurate power concealed in the various plies and alcoves of her clothes. A power she alone could wield. Nothing in this or any other world, but she.

As she fell to the complex ritual of portal summoning, she held tight her newfound relic and gradually, almost imperceptibly, as the portal began to materialise, the corners of her mouth twisted in a subtly sinister sneer.

© 2020 Etienne Robert. All rights reserved.

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