TV personality and Tomb Raider Sarah, along with her faithful camera man Tor went off route in search of their next episode.
Things didn't go quite as planned, and these are the consequences..
“She keeps this up she’s gonna die, ya know?”
Tor offered me an apologetic shrug to try and take the sting out of that fact.
It didn't help much.
He leaned back with a deep sigh and centred himself.
This wasn't gonna be a fun story.
“We just got back from Peru, found some mighty fine treasure in that jungle hell-hole I can tell ya”
He looked at me sideways as if judging me.
“How much do you know?” he finally asked with caution.
“..About all of it. Sarah never said but I got the feeling.. This.. Isn't something she would have kept back from you..”
I gave him a coy smile.
“Oh.. You mean about the magic stuff?”
He took another deep breath and sighed it out in relief.
“Okay.. So we were doing the usual, Sarah doing her Lara croft shtick and me following behind with the camera. She broke into a tomb, no idea how she found it in the middle of the forest floor like that, but we went in. Nice little intro to the next series, ya know?”
I couldn't help but smirk.
Always nice to see Sarah using my gifts in her work.
“We got in deep, she made me get all the glyphs and stuff recorded for study later, plus the fans eat that kinda stuff up. We finally hit the main chamber and.. And it just all went to hell..”
He got a bit teary eyed so I rested my hand on his shoulder for comfort.
Took some effort, Tor is a nice guy but damn if he isn't bigger around then I am tall!
He took a big sniff and blinked at me blankly as if reliving the events.
“It was my fault, I caught my foot on something and stumbled. It happened so fast, one minute we were in this dark cave area then suddenly the whole room lit up bright and this voice..”
“This.. This voice, I never listened to Mama when she went on about that stuff but ya know.. el diablo eh?.. It was shouting in some language I dunno, but it felt dirty just hearing it, ya know?”
I processed that, several ideas already forming about what could have caused a voice to boom out, only some of them involving magic.
“She.. Sarah.. She checked me out first, ignoring it but when she knew I was okay she turned to face the voice and yelled back”
If Sarah knew the language, that narrows down the source a fair amount. She never was too good with languages, kinda ironic really.
Tor finally smiled and a chuckle slipped out.
“She told el diablo to ‘speak English, shut the hell up or I’ll make you!’.. Waved her fist at it and everything”
Well.. So much for that idea.
“The voice stopped talking for a second and then.. Then it just ROARED.. it was so loud, thought my ears were going to bust! I fell on my ass but Sarah just stood strong to it, wind whipping around her, kinda wish I got it on film eh? Would have been a great shot..”
He trailed into silence and offered me a weak smile.
I didn't hesitate in returning it. He needed it to be honest.
“Finally the roar died off and Sarah turned to me smiling. I thought it was over, we laughed ya know.. Then.. Then the light just died out and this thing.. el diablo.. It was like a tail, jet black with ridges.. It come shooting out of the darkness and whipped around Sarahs leg.”
He shuddered again.
“I reached out, managed to grab her arms and pull back. We had a good ol’ tug-a war with her.. Me against el diablo, who’da thought huh?”
I smiled at him reassuringly. Sarah was here, so he can’t have done too badly.
“It felt like ages going back and forth, I almost dropped her a few times, but in the end her leg gave out with a massive crack and the tail clawed back into th’ darkness.”
He looked over at Sarah with big sad eyes.
“We fell backwards and Sarah hit her head as we landed.”
I glanced over to Sarah myself, well that explains the head wound.
I assume she has some kind of cast on under that blanket too.
“I moved as fast as I could, left the camera and our tools behind, grabbed Sarah around the waist and ran as fast as I could out of there. Took forever to get out, could hear th..That thing breathing down my neck the whole way. I managed to hook her into her harness and get us both back out of the tombs opening. Sarah wasn't waking up so I called in for an Evac and they brought us here”
We both went silent for a while.
Dunno what he was doing but I was processing everything.
Eventually I eased out of my seat and stood before the big guy.
“You saved my sister Tor. I owe you a debt for that”
I gave him a hug, best I could with our relative sizes.
He seemed surprised, almost like he would protest before he finally gave in and hugged me back.
We pulled apart, he looked a bit embarrassed but I let him sort it out on his own.
I was too busy working stuff out.
For being related, me and Sarah had little in common.
Well.. except the obvious, twins, strange twins at that but personality wise not so much.
She has always been adventurous, and as we grew up she dragged me along into it all.
That’s probably why I ended up as cautious as I am, and since she got into treasure hunting and TV work I've been learning a whole new level of caution.
Funny thing about magic.
Once you know it exists, it tends to notice you exist too.
Sarah found her first magical cursed artefact, a minor level curse, easily fixed; involved a flute which called rats within a radius.. her landlord was not happy when we worked that out.
Anyway, she found her first magic item, and showed it to me.
Five weeks later and she had stumbled across no less then 20 magical phenomena on just two ‘adventures’.
Me?.. I wasn't so lucky.
Turns out I'm like cat nip for magic somehow.
My first day back in work my overweight boss tried to hit on me, out of the blue.. The dude was married.. And a dude.. Well.. He was till he blocked the office door and unveiled that he was actually some kind of lizard demon in disguise at least.
I may or may not have jumped out of a second story window to protect my virtue.. But that’s not important.
Anyway, you would be surprised how much magic junk is mixed in to daily life.
Being the cautious twin that I am, I had to be proactive.
So for a little over two years I set to learning magic to greater and lesser degrees of success.
Sarah’s tracking amulet, which I assume she used to find that “amazingly well hidden tomb entrance” was one of my first successes.
Then I hit my peak and.. well..
Magic is.. Complicated.
You don’t need the full breakdown here, its just complicated, and fiddly.. and very dangerous in some circumstances.
Say.. like.. the circumstance where the sister to a mage, using magical artefacts created by that mage, breaks into the ancient tomb of a being which, her man-mountain camera man, best describes as ‘el diablo’.. and then proceeds to not only piss it off but then escape and flee far away from the tomb itself.
Yeaahh.. those tend to be circumstances where magic can be very dangerous.
It also means that examining this demon, finding its weakness, and containing it safely becomes the sister’s magic wielding twin’s responsibility.
.. if you get where I'm going with this..
If my guess is right, under the cast on her leg, Sarah has a brand.
Most likely hidden in the bruising from her fractured ankle.
Longer I leave it, the longer that thing will have to build up power and seek her out.
It also means longer before Sarah is likely to wake up.
A normal human breaking into a magically warded tomb/prison to a demon, gets free and then bangs her head seconds later hard enough to be in a coma?... yeah..
Magic is complicated.. and kinda vindictive.
She isn't waking up until I get this sorted.
So like the good brother I am, I’ll have to man up and sort out my sisters mess.. again.
Speaking of manning up. Should get this show on the road.
“Tor?” I broke the silence in the room making Tor jump from his watch over my sister.
“Think you can lead me back to the general area of this tomb, or at least mark it on a map?”
He looked at me, his mouth open in surprise before settling on worry.
“Sarah didn't tell you I knew about magic for a reason Tor.. I KNOW about magic..ya get me?”
He considered that for a second before his eyes went wide in surprise.
“She ain't waking up till this is over sadly. Much as I’d like to spend our time in this hospital room watching her play sleeping beauty, I gotta make a date with ‘el diablo’ to get my sister back.. I'm gonna need a hand with that, if you think you can handle it?”
He gulped, and stared away from me at Sarah’s sleeping form for a while.
Slowly he gave a nod and turned back.
“You’re going to stop that.. thing?”
“I'm gonna do more then stop it Tor, I'm gonna make it wish it had never woke up in the first place”
He seemed to stare at me in awe for a second before finally recovering enough to smile.
“I'm in, can’t wait till this is all over and I get to tell mama I helped spank el diablo.. she's gonna be so proud.. or think I'm crazy”
I smirked at him.
“Hope for the first, plan for the second. You got Sarah’s spare kit bag from the car?”
He blinked a few times before nodding and waving over to it by the other side of her bed.
“be back in a sec” I offered at his confused face, taking the bag and moving into Sarah’s unused private hospital bathroom.
I can see why she keeps him around, he’s kinda cute when he's confused.
Fifteen minutes later I put the finishing touch on my makeup and fluffed up my hair a bit.
Amazing how no matter what I do, Sarah always manages to find a reason to get me doing this stuff.
Even if she’s currently unconscious.
I gave one more glance at myself, borrowed skirt swishing slightly as I turned to give my reflection a pouty air kiss, before opening the door and clicking my way out to Tor.
He had his head down, probably trying to catch up on his sleep from the last few days panic.
“Hey Tor, ready to move out?”
I added that little lilting kick to my voice Sarah was known for.
His head shot up and he stared at me as if I was an angel from heaven.
“Sarah?.. Your.. Y..” he glanced at the bed and locked up when he saw my sister sleeping away.
“Not so much big guy, think of me as a stunt double.”
More like bait to be honest, demons don’t like to find a branded prey without their brand, imagine how ‘el diablo’ is gonna feel when he sees Sarah kicking his ass?
There may also be a bonus factor in my odds of success due to sympathetic resonance between me and Sarah, with me looking this way…. As I said.. Magic’s complicated.
Tor gaped at me for almost a full minute, his head flipping back from me to Sarah as he tried to play spot the difference.
I knew he wouldn't find it, oh how I knew he wouldn't find it.
Mostly because, with clothes on and my hair like this, there wasn't one.
“Why?” he finally managed to get out.
“We are going into that tomb ourselves, I'm going to have to do all that crazy Lara Croft stuff Sarah loves so much, might as well dress the part. If you bring your backup camera, we can finish off her episode while we are at it.”
I smirked and gave him a flirty wink, which was more ‘Sarah the tomb raider’ then ‘Sarah the real person’ and posed heroically.
“You know the network LOVES when Sarah ‘add’s CGI’ to her episodes?”
He gaped a bit more, seemed to be the thing to do at this point.
In the end he nodded slowly.
“Well, just think of the ratings when we get a full body shot of ‘el diablo’ being taken down by Sarah’s mad magical treasure hunter skills huh?”
I smiled at him and he thoughtlessly smiled back.
It took him a second to get out of his daze enough to realise he was smiling at me and not the real Sarah I think.
His frantic head shake seemed to suggest so at least.
“Ready to go then?”
He gave one more look at Sarah.
With a weary sigh he got up and followed me out the door.
“I'm not calling you Sarah, just to be clear..” he stated like a reluctant five year old.
“Good, wouldn't want you to. When the camera’s rolling just call me Boss.. You can say it sarcastically if that’s any help?”
He rolled his eyes but didn't disagree as we made our way down to the elevator.
“What do I call you when the camera’s ain't rolling?” He finally let out as the doors opened.
“Sarah called me Hannah, you can call me anytime though big guy” I winked at him again for good measure.
Tor gave a full body shudder as the doors shut and then gave me a mild glare.
“Don’t do that”
I smirked, leaning my body back in an arch I perfected when Sarah talked me into posing for her calendar photo shoot last year.
“do what?” I asked as innocently as possible.
Tor’s eyes flitted across my reclined body automatically, he finally yanked his eyes away and fumed slightly when he caught the tail end of my smirk.
With a deep sigh he pulled himself together and shot me an annoyed glance.
“.. this is going to be a long trip”
I grinned and cuddled up to his arm just for the hell of it.
“oh honey, you have no idea..”
He grunted and turned to counting the floor numbers as we descended rather than give me more ammunition.. smart man.
“You have to be the stupidest man I've ever met!”
“HEY! No need to get so snippy with me Barbie!”
I finally snapped and took a swing at him.
He chuckled deeply and moved back from my swing, surprisingly nimble for a man of his size.
The Journey had not gone well.
It took us a day and a half just to gather up supplies, transport and other necessities (such as Tor’s ancient looking backup camera)
At first, I amused myself by needling Tor with my sexiness.
Of course he suffered to my sexiness well, I know how to wield the feminine whiles I shouldn't have like a razor blade!
Hell, this one time during her senior prom Sarah made me… you know what, never mind.
Anyway, the main point is that I was enjoying myself. Making the man mountain Tor blush several shades of flustered.
Then we split off to go to bed.
Me, sleeping in Sarah’s room (after spending a bit too much time inspecting her wardrobe for battle AND camera appropriate clothing).
Him, sleeping in his room next door. Doing who knows what!
The next morning.
Gone was the shy man mountain I’d met in the hospital room.
Now he was grumpy, and brooding, and wouldn't look at me in the eye.
..I'm tempted to think he had a naughty dream about me..
Although that’s probably me using him to vent my frustration and nerves with humour.
That’s pretty much why it started in the first place anyway.
Nerves are not good for magic, not good for magic users either.
Neither is frustration.
So I find ways to vent, not the nicest ways I will admit, but better than me bottling it up and, at the wrong moment, me having a blowout by accidentally turning him into a duck because he asked if I wanted two sugars in my coffee instead of one!
Things continued to go downhill from there.
We sniped back and forth
Him, picking on me for crossdressing so successfully.
Me, poking holes at how obvious he was about being in love with my oblivious sister.
“I swear to all that’s powerful, when this is done I'm going to turn you into a chicken and feed your giblets to Sarah so for once in your life you’ll get to see her with your balls in her mouth!”
He took a swing at me for that one, I dived to the side and ended up getting dirt all over my legs because these stupid ‘camera ready’ adventurer’s short shorts didn't cover anything but my crotch!
I will find whoever came up with making Lara Croft the basis of what the public think a female adventurer should look like and I WILL hurt him!
My emotions got the better of me and with a wash of power every plant within a meter circle of me turned violent orange.
Tor turned to see what was taking me so long getting back up and then preceded to gape, as is his apparent default expression.
How the hell did I consider that cute, even for a second?!
“Hey Sa..uh..Han..er..Boss?.. you okay?” he sounded hesitant.
Not willing to step closer to me and my circle of orange.
I gave out a giggle which sounded a bit too close to a sob.
He let out a breath and cautiously stepped into my orange domain to crouch beside me.
I didn't hesitate, just on instinct I lunged upwards, wrapped my arms around his neck and slammed my lips to his.
He held back stunned for a moment before reluctantly allowing it while he worked to pull me up to standing again.
After almost twenty seconds of kissing him, it clicked in my head what I was doing and I yanked back with a yell.
He watched me cautiously as I fumed at myself for my weakness…
… for.. my.. weakness… oh..crap.
“TOR!, get the salt out of your pack quick!”
He blinked but eventually turned and retrieve the bag of salt I bought at our last town stop.
I grabbed it from him in a rush and he opened his mouth to yell about it.
He probably would have had a good roar about it too, he had been bad enough when I bought the bloody bag in the first place.
Luckily he didn't get the chance because I threw a handful of salt in his face bringing him to a sputtering silence.
With shaking hands I tilted the bag and ran out a wide circle around us of uninterrupted salt adding a bit of excess to the thinner lines when necessary.
I straightened up and came face to chest with Tor.
“What on earth are you doing?”
Good, he’s calm, its working already.
“Hold that thought” I told him, trying to keep my frantic thoughts under control.
With a few flicks of my wrist I had salt launched over both shoulders and one face full of it for good measure.
I turned back to Tor, considering my options before finally shrugging it off and launching two handfuls of salt over his shoulders for good measure.
With that all done I settled down to the uneven jungle floor with a huff and tried to get myself back together.
“What..” Tor seemed to stop and tried to process something before continuing.
“What the hell happened to us?”
I tried to chuckle but it came out as more of a giggle.
Sympathetic magic, that’s what happened to us.
I banked on it helping me against ‘el diablo’ but didn't factor in the emotions and brand already involved.
Magic's confusing, I think I covered that already.
Basically while sympathetic magic, in theory, gives me an added edge because every spell I do against ‘el diablo’ will be multiplied by Samarian vengeance theory.
Sympathetic magic also drags in the emotional conflicts from focus to wielder.
In this case, poor Tor has been battling with himself because I've suddenly taken on position of my sister in his subconscious.
Naturally, with what his waking mind knew, that caused him to lash out.
Added to all of THAT we have the brand.
Which, while I haven’t seen it in person, I can now safely assume has some kind of ill feelings compulsion to it.
Most likely one aimed at vengeance and anger, a bit of bait to lure my sister back to his damn tomb in the name of revenge no doubt.
It just so happened to make us both resonate and cascade with the Samarian vengeance theory.. Well… it’s pretty amazing we hadn't killed each other by now!
He looked at me expectantly and I offered him a sheepish smile.
“Bad Juju?” I offered.
He huffed and seemed to weigh that against what he knew already.
“Yeah, sorry. Side effect. It’s complicated but the salt has sea essence, its temporarily blocking the effect for a while.”
He weighed this also.
Finally with a nod of acceptance he dropped down into a sitting position and waited for me to continue.
“Give me five minutes and I’ll rig us up some defences to ward it off as we move on. Can you hand me the wool?”
He shot me an ‘are you serious?’ look before reaching into his bag and getting it out.
“You’re not making anti-juju jumpers are you?”
For a moment my temper flared, remembering the snipes he made at me when I got the wool in the first place.
I took a deep breath and settled it back down into close to calm.
A few seconds later I ended up tossing another handful of salt in my face just for good measure.
This is effecting me on a much larger scale then him right now.
When I eventually opened my eyes, he seemed to have worked out what he said wrong and looked apologetic.
“I'm going to make some Midus bands for us with the wool. It’s…” I stalled
“Complicated.. I get it.” He finished for me with a cheeky smile.
I refused to blush, in the end I ducked my head and swiped the wool from him with a huff.
“They look like friendship bracelets?” he muttered uncertainly.
I sighed dramatically and slid one on each of his wrists before pulling the last over his head.
“Midus bands are… ok, wool is nature and protection, salt is pure from the water context, I'm a locus point. So mixing my blood with the salt, then pasting it on the wool and wrapping them in…. you know what never mind, just.. It will work okay?”
He was watching me with something close to fondness in his eyes as I ranted, which made me even more flustered.
Damn it! While these bands will block out most of the ill will there’s no way I can stop the sympathetic bonds effect on my emotions.
Seems my sister has some explaining to do about her and her feelings for her camera man.
I just do NOT need this right now!
“Friendship bracelets, keep away bad juju. Got it”
I shot him an annoyed glare and he offered that cheeky smile again which made my heart flutter and my brain want to stab itself to death.
Why does magic have to be so complicated?!?
“The openings a bit off that way now” Tor offered, gesturing due south.
I hummed at him in acknowledgement, busy as I was looking through what was left of their camp site.
I waved him off for a second and continued my inspection.
Finally I realised what had been bothering me.
“Ah hah!” I called in triumph, pulling up a pair of earrings from what was left of my sisters travel bag.
Tor sighed and looked at me accusingly.
“All that for some earrings.. You really are related to Sarah, ain't you?”
I offered him a smug glance and waved my hands over them.
The earrings lit up like a Christmas tree in twinkling lights.
Tor huffed loudly.
“These, my in-observant camera monkey, are not just earrings.”
He looked at me waiting for an explanation.
I ignored him, spending my time looking through the rest of the bag and eventually finding the food packaging which had obviously led the local animal life to ripping apart Sarah’s tent and bag.
Sloppy sis, no matter your cravings you shouldn't keep spam sandwiches in your kit bag.
That’s just asking for trouble.
He cracked finally and sighed.
“What are they then, if they aren't the earrings they so plainly are?”
I offered him one more smirk for good measure.
“These look like earrings, earrings our mum gave Sarah for Christmas a few years ago in fact. Funny they also appear to look like the exact earrings Sarah has currently in her ears back in the nice safe hospital”
Tor looked at me with an expression plainly screaming ‘so what?’
I sighed and resisted the urge to smack him up the head.
“They are fakes, items Sarah never leaves without but can easily over look in her kit bag.. And they are also magical”
He seemed to understand finally and took a step back from the ‘earrings’
I waved my hand over the earrings, getting the same light show again, but this time actually paying attention to it.
Tracking.. No, location based.. Compulsion but not location based.. That looks.. No.. Okay.. Maybe..
“These earrings are made to.. Encourage someone to come to this location, but more specifically to approach someone in this area… my moneys on ‘el diablo’.”
Oh, fun fun fun.
“Sarah didn't need to scrye to find this place..this whole things a setup”
Tor whipped around, looked ready to fight off an ambush.
I couldn't help the giggle that slipped out.
He turned back to me looking sour.
“Not to fear, the traps already sprung.”
He let out a sigh of relief before stiffening.
Oh yeah, he’s worked it out alright.
“el diablo.. This was never about Sarah, it wants you doesn't it?”
I nodded carefully, working to hold back my anger.
Using my sister to get to me, in such a carefully planned and obviously personal way..
Ohhh.. Whoever is behind this is going to pay.
Oh boy, are they going to PAY!
“Boss” Tor called me out of my own head “your.. um..”
I glanced at him and he gestured down to my… ah crap.
“The colour suits you?” he tried to be diplomatic.
Yup.. Anger plus magic equals accidents.
I'm now the not so proud owner of naturally bright orange fingernails.
Magic is annoying.
“This is it?” I asked, staring down into the black pit from between some overly large tree trunks.
“Yeah, there’s about a 20 foot drop to the floor. I’ll go get the..”
He stopped and gaped as I stepped out over the edge and a tree root moved out to support my foot.
“I’ll see you down there, go get your ropes and stuff”
After a moment hesitation as he watched me go over the edge into the dark he nodded and moved back toward camp.
I almost had a heart attack when a loud thump sounded out behind me.
Turned out to be a coil of rope instead of the demonic minion I had expected.
“Look out below” echoed down from above.
I eased away from battle ready as the rope whipped around and from the skylight hole above Tor’s bulk appeared, zipping his way down to me.
He took a moment to unhook himself and smiled at me.
Then he looked around properly and whistled.
I glanced around the walls where small blue flames floated listlessly, lighting up all corners of the overgrown tomb’s.. Correction, Temple’s, front entrance before nodding back.
He grinned at me, looking impressed.
I shrugged, its low level stuff.
“Found anything?” Tor asked, obviously he’s can’t take the silence as I work.
“Found a lot. None of it adds up.” I grunted out in frustration.
“Tell me, it might be clearer if you explain it out loud” He shifted his camera on his shoulder and gave me that damn smile again.
“Fine.. Okay, from the carvings on the walls.. this isn't a tomb, or even a sealing place for a demon or demi-god of any known pantheon”
He nodded encouragingly.
“Its.. Okay, that wall over there is written in Sanskrit.” I gestured to my left “It talks about a temple of connection, an equal ground of non-violence where warring tribes can meet safely to argue and come to an agreement of peace”
He nodded again, smiling at me.
“This wall” I gestured to my right “is written in Mesopotamian, it talks about a hallowed ground of love where truth is confessed before unnamed gods and they are blessed with eternal happiness”
He jostled his camera on his shoulder and raised an eyebrow at me.
“th..this wall” I waved behind me, trying to suppress my blush “its in..well.. its in English… judging from the writing conventions Americanised English at that. It goes on about some great sonnet crafted in the heavens, the two children of earths chosen people coming together and.. Well.. Making a.. The next generation of humans who are clean and magically pure.”
He grinned at me and I shot him a warning look.
Damn my sister and her lack of emotional control!
“Sounds like this whole place is some weird Romeo and Juliet prophecy”
I nodded and rubbed my nose in annoyance.
“It just doesn't make sense. The languages don’t match up, the messages of each one are different but can be connected. Each wall specifies this place as a temple to something but the layout and general design of this place screams ancient burial tomb not religious temple!”
We settled into silence for a while, Tor fiddled with his gear and I tried fruitlessly to clear the floor to see if there was more words below our feet.
In the end I gave it up and decided to move on, not like it would help much anyway.
Tor looked up from his camera and nodded his head towards the entrance deeper into the.. Temple.
I nodded back and took the lead, his flashlight was useful but I discreetly left blue flames behind us to make things easier on the way out.
After a single long but strangely blank corridor that turned right sharply about half way down we ended up at another doorway.
Tor put his hand on my shoulder and shook his head.
“This is it. You ready?”
I almost snapped at him that no I was not ready to face a being he considered el diablo!
I settled for a gulp and hesitant nod instead.
With great effort we both stepped across the threshold.
My breath stalled as I stared into the darkness before us.
I could feel it, a presence, something powerful with magic.
I shuddered, I could feel the build-up already, finally it crested and the voice boomed out at us, deep, guttural, and painfully amused.
“So you came little rabbit”
My shuddering halted for a moment, shocked into stillness, why did it call me that?
“So bright but oh so weak”
I shuddered again involuntarily.
A cold chill swept over me, I felt violated, the magic was pushing in.
Reading my fears, reading me from my very core.
“You are so far from home aren't you? Freak no one could love”
The voice sounded almost amused, as amused as a guttural demonic beast can sound at least.
“You came and did your sisters bidding, as you always have. She’s the one people want after all”
My chest hurt.
The magic was pushing and pushing, crushing down on me with despair as the voice pulled out my deepest fears and threw them in my face.
“If only you would just..” The voice stopped suddenly.
I blinked in shock for a moment as I registered what was happening, Tor was in front of me, kissing me.
I could feel him holding me close, he was so warm.
The crushing pressure disappeared, the grief and self-loathing eased as the magic just folded away from me.
I finally realised what was going on, partly at least.
I’d been caught in a glamor.
It was built to bring me to the edge, destroy me completely to stop any kind of resistance.
Tor had pulled me out of it, he could have slapped me or any other physical input, glamor’s are weak to outside interference.. But he kissed me.
I smiled slightly as he pulled away from me.
“I couldn't get through to you. Are you okay?”
“Yeah” I managed, my voice slightly tight.
I felt a tear trickle down my cheek, first indication I had been crying.
“We got in and you just locked up, then you started crying, I tried shaking you but.. Well”
I smiled at him fully this time.
“Thanks Tor, that’s twice I owe you now”
We both sat in silence, I spent my time holding onto Tor and trying to pull myself together.
That glamor had been powerful. Too powerful.
This isn't some security feature to an ancient temple.
This is fresh magic. The caster must be nearby.
I opened my mouth to warn Tor but before I could utter a word I was interrupted.
“Well.. This is inconvenient” came a cultured British accent I knew all too well.
I gasped and shot my head up.
Little rabbit.. oh it would be wouldn't it!
He smiled at me, his smile, that shark like grin of pleasure I've spent so long trying to ignore.
“Hello lover” he added, tipping his hat back with a flick to unveil his wide blue eyes.
I ducked my head quickly, only realising seconds later my mistake.
With a thud Tor fell over beside me, mild snores coming out of him already.
So much for backup.
I sat in silence, my eyes closed tight, hoping this was all a trick and the big demon I had planned for would appear instead.
“Really, that’s not very polite.”
Oh but he sounded smug.
“I go to all the trouble of bringing you home and you won’t even give me a smile?”
I shuddered again, I could feel his hand brushing the hair from my shoulder.
He rested his chin on my collar bone.
“Nothing? I'm hurt, even your sister was better than this. I never took you for the submissive type”
I snapped, with a roar of anger I reared my head back and slammed it into his nose.
He gave a pained groan as he fell back.
Quick as I could while he was distracted, I grabbed the midas band from around Tor’s neck and pulled it tight on my forehead like a circlet.
Protection firmly in place I finally opened my eyes and spun to face him.
He hadn't changed, not that I expected he would.
He lay on the floor, clutching his nose in obvious pain, but he was laughing.
He was LAUGHING!
Then I felt it.
With a gulp I turned and saw what had him so amused.
From the darkness beyond us came a long tail.
It looked metallic, like someone had made a string of triangle shaped chain mail and animated it.
I recognised it now, I hadn't even considered it before, my mind so focused on every demon it could be connected with.
I tried frantically to get up and away from it but I was too slow. Of course I was. There’s no fighting this kind of binding.
I flipped onto my back as the binding chain eased its way up my leg, higher and higher until it held me tight.
Its tip slowly moved to rest on my lower back and I felt a burn.
I tried to hold it so much but in the end I screamed.
I screamed long and hard until finally it stopped.
As the chain moved back into the darkness I sobbed.
I could feel the binding already.
Pulling on me, pulling at my very core.
“You never were one to listen to the old tales” he stated with an admonishing tone not even trying to cover his amusement.
“th.. The bindings of bad faith” I managed to choke out past my sobs.
He may have me but I won’t let that bastard insult my intelligence too!
“Good” he stepped over to me and knelt down to my level “very good, so glad time hasn't dulled your mind at least”
“Screw you” I managed and he laughed.
“Your whit on the other hand… well I guess that can be forgiven for now”
He came closer to me.
For once I met his gaze, unafraid of his hypnotic eyes.
He smirked and with a gentle grasp of my chin he kissed me with force.
I struggled for a moment but in the end it was useless.
The binding would see to that.
“We have so much to discuss. Do you prefer a summer or a winter wedding?”
He dropped my chin and stepped away, with a casual wave of his hand he dispelled the darkness around us and moved to sit at one of the ancient looking carved stone seats unveiled below.
“Do get up, we should be civil about these things”
My body cried out at me in reluctance but I couldn't resist his command.
Not with the binding in place.
With a relieved sigh I reached the carved seat opposite him, as is traditional for these meetings.
My back burned lightly in warning as I considered if I could kill him from this distance with a well-placed foot.
Message received loud and clear.
Damn it, Magic is stupid!
I broke the silence, he smiled, the jerk.
“The entrance way.. You added the second and third notes to confuse me. Using unconnected languages you knew I knew.. If I had been thinking clearly the first wall’s description of this place being a safe place for discussion would have warned me about the binding..”
He grinned, enjoying his chance to gloat as always.
“All three walls were added by me actually. I felt we should mark this wonderful occasion for future generations”
I snorted back a laugh.
“Romeo and Juliet my ass. You believe what you put up there connects to us?”
“Of course.. Our past” he gestured to the binding pattern on the wall a reminder of how he caught me.
“Our present” he smiled at me indulgently and I shuddered slightly.
“Our future” he finished, his smile getting warmer.
I held it for a full heartbeat before finally cracking.
I leant back and laughed, hard.
“Yo..You think that you.. And me” I cracked up again.
He looked annoyed. Good.
“Good luck with us birthing the next generation! Unless you haven’t realised I'm a guy!”
His annoyance disappeared back behind that smug smile.
“For now..” he oozed with a raised eyebrow.
I felt a shiver go down my spine again which had nothing to do with a glamor.
Oh.. This is not good.
I weakly tried to redirect the conversation.
“This place, it’s an old centre for negotiations. You set this whole thing up, so my sister would unknowingly threaten you and be bound. Forcing me to come here and make the same mistake?”
He smiled lazily at me.
“Brilliant isn't it? For once you can’t run from me. Until we meet an acceptable compromise you can’t dare leave and I'm coming into this with a position of power over you and your dear sister”
I flinched and he noticed.
“If I’d stayed calm and not attacked first, you wouldn't have this binding… Quite a gamble?”
“We both know you have a temper Aris-“
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!”
He smirked at me while my binding burned a second warning. Damn him!
“You have a temper, a few centuries would not change that. My little efforts to leave you stressed and primed to snap would not hurt either of course..”
“The vengeance loop?”
He grinned openly this time.
“No matter what incarnation you have, you have always believed in Sympathetic magic’s power. It’s in your nature, the rest was easy.”
“Your glamor on Tor set me up on a mind-set where I could do nothing but jump to conclusions and dance to your tune. You needed me to think you were a demon of ‘el diablo’ levels..”
“Is Tor the fat one up there?”
I glared at him but reluctantly nodded.
“Yes, worked out wonderfully that. I didn't expect him to take your sister during his nightmare glamor but considering I was going to lead him out with her anyway it didn't matter in the end.”
I shuddered. The nightmare glamor turns your mind against you, voicing your fears.
The fact that Tor even thought about my sister’s well-being during that speaks a lot about his feelings for her.
“What now then?”
He leaned back and relaxed comfortably.
“Now.. We negotiate..”
“You have nothing I-“
He cut me off with a wave of his hand.
“I have everything you want. I have your sister, I have you. The real question is what are you willing to give me in exchange?”
I stared at him in silent rage.
“What.. do you want?” I managed through clenched teeth.
He bounced out of his relaxed pose and leaned forward in excitement.
“I want what I've always wanted. I want you Arista.”
I resisted the urge to yell at him and took a deep breath.
“That won’t work, it can’t work. Ignoring all the bad blood between us and everything else, I'm Male this time”
He grinned that shark like grin again.
“And that is my biggest demand, in exchange for unleashing the binding on you and your sister. Allowing you; your freedom and her; her consciousness. I would take your masculinity.”
I sat rigid in shock. My eyes wide at the sheer audacity of him.
I know I look too much like my sister.
I've always known that from the first time an old lady complimented our mother on her darling girls to every time Sarah talked me into ‘doing her a favour’.
I later found out why.
If you delve deep enough into magic you always come across an annoying little fact.
Reincarnation, at least for magic wielders, is real.
Loads of theory’s go around, the main one I personally believe is that its magic’s way of propagating, despite its relatively low amount of users.
A single magic wielder only needs to learn a spell once, and they will remember it each time their next incarnation unlocks those past memories.
If they unlock their past memories that is.
Many low grade mages stay just that, low grade, because they are afraid of what they will unlock with those memories.
There are so many horror stories of ancient mages who were uncontrollable monsters.
No-one wants to chance waking up the sleeping dragon within.
Naturally, when it came to me, I didn't have a choice in the end.
A chain of events, starting with me going across town to try a new pizza joint and ending with me escaping naked from a ritual most closely mirroring the classic demon summoning you see in Hollywood movies, lead to my memory block being forcefully shattered as a side effect.
There she was, Arista, and all her previous incarnations.
Every one of them female.
Every one of them looking like my sister.
Every one of them subconsciously telling me that my body was now wrong.
It almost broke me.
I dropped off the map for weeks.
A 19 year old boy is not built for that kind of influx.
As I meditated, I eventually found my safe ground.
An equilibrium of sorts that balanced out to keep all the sides of ‘me’ happy.
My biggest loss in the whole thing was that I had to take my sisters thinly veiled attempts to get me in drag without argument and come to terms with the fact that I was now Bi-sexual.
That was enough to settle everything down for a while.
Then he showed up.
In this incarnation he should be called John.
Such a nice dull name, there are so many Johns in the world.
Naturally, he doesn't use it.
Oh no, the great Maxarimus would never lower himself to such a title as ‘John’
From what I have gathered, his memory block broke even earlier than mine.
The idea of a 6 year old boy having the memories of millennia dumped on him hurts so much I’d almost feel sorry for him.
If he wasn't himself.
In the old culture, Arista’s first culture, names were important.
At the time Arista was the future shaman of her tribe and then her people met another tribe.
After long sessions between their leaders, ironically held in a temple similar to this one.
With the threat of the bindings of bad faith hanging over them, they reached a solution and their peoples merged into one great nation.
Jobs were mixed, people mixed, languages mixed.
As a result Arista ended up face to face with her greatest enemy.
Having learnt of her culture, and its ideals.
Maxarimus was looking forward to meeting the girl who, by her own people’s customs, would be his soul mate.
Two children born of similar age, named by separate partys but sharing a common naming point.
It was an old custom, mostly myth passed down by word of mouth.
Max-ARI-mus met ARI-sta and fell in love at first sight.
For years the two fought a battle of whits. The boy never giving up hope of catching her.
Then.. At the grand old age of 24, Arista died.
It wasn't a fun death, trust me on that.
Apparently Maxarimus was broken by her loss.
Following her but a year afterwards.
And then they were reincarnated, and he was so happy until she left him again too soon, without returning his love.
And they were reincarnated again, and he was glad.. and she left him again, without love.
Maxarimus tried everything as time moved on.
I know he’s more powerful than me.
In several reincarnations he denied Arista her magic and therefore her memories, but he still worked.
Determined that one day he would be worthy of her attention.
Eventually determination became obsession.. and obsession became something much worse.
Finally I was born.
John, as he was then, knew me.
Fate, it seems, has a sense of humour.
We shared schools, friends, and hobbies.
Then Sarah found her little magical flute in a flea market and my world got bigger.
A year or so later, he picked up an object that fell from my school bag, and his world got bigger too.
A while after that he called me Arista aloud and I ran.
I've been running ever since, one big game of cat and mouse…
“You’re insane” I croaked out breaking the tense silence.
He leaned back and laughed.
“Probably.. It happens” he brushed it off thoughtfully.
“Can the bindings even do that? They are old magic. Powerful.. but even power has its limits”
“You would not know this Arista -“
“- our people used the temples long before yours discovered them. There were several incidents where the head of other tribes promised marriages between the clan’s heads in bad faith, believing us too stupid to notice their wording. It’s where the bindings name comes from. The punishment was often the same, the clan head would be changed so they may fulfil their side of the bargain”
“That’s where you got the idea for all of this from..”
“Of course, one thought does tend to lead to another”
I bowed my head in thought.
Finally with my eyes bright I looked to him.
“Is there another option?”
He shook his head firmly
“My sister.. If I give something else for her first as a sign of good faith will you accept it?”
He frowned but eventually nodded.
“I have one other minor offering, it’s not equal in worth to your sister’s life, but as a sign of good faith…”
I didn't hesitate.
He smile at me, looking honestly pleased.
“You may never again lie about your feelings”
It felt like he had hit me in the chest with a hammer.
That kind of binding.. from this source.
It would be unbreakable.
I would never be able to directly lie about my feelings again.
It would be hard.. It would hurt.. But.. Sarah.
“I accept your terms”
The room around us glowed softly, a tendril of black chain faded out from the glyphs around us and I could feel it reach out far away.
Moments later an equally fast tendril came out to meet me.
I eased up in my chair and allowed it to brand on my lower back, its detail presumable lost under my current binding.
There was a sound of shattered metal and the tendril faded back in among the glyphs.
I felt a weight settle down upon me and barely restrained from crying out.
“How do you feel about me?”
He didn't hesitate.
I clamped my lips together tightly.
I may not be able to lie but I can still restrain myself if needed.
He waited a full minute before giving it up with a dry chuckle.
“I expected as much.”
I blinked at him in surprise.
“You’re not mad?”
“Of course not, while I'm sure it will be useful and amusing as time goes on. My goal has been achieved. We are bound now, with a bit of training you won’t escape me again”
He grinned wide and I flinched back.
He tricked me again, it was never about him wanting my honest feelings on him.
He wanted a physical link between us, the contract keeping me from lying is tied to his core.
If he wants he can follow it like a rope tying us to each other no matter how far I go now.
“If you’re quite done sulking. Now for your freedom?”
I glared at him, my binding burned again.
I need to get out of this, that burn would drive me insane in time if nothing else.
“What is your demand?” I asked formally.
Hopefully he puts in a loophole with the wording.
“In exchange for the binding’s removal, I demand your masculinity.”
Masculinity is a nebulous point these days.
He knows that.
It’s also a solid defined factor in old magic’s.
He wants me to be female in body only.
That’s something at least.
I can accept that. If he only directs it that way then I may be able to turn back at a later date, he’s not banning me from changing back later after all just wants my current masculinity…
“I demand that any changes to my person be held off until I and my party are reunited. I must see the health of my sister directly before facing such drastic changes”
He looked thoughtful but eventually nodded.
Yet again, the room glowed. This time two binding chains came out toward us each.
My chain gently wrapped around me, settled over my binding and with a minor sting it was gone.
Deep inside my chest I could feel its power settle though.
Waiting, ready for when it could be enforced.
I watched as Maxarimus received a small brand to his wrist.
It was temporary, a sign for him for when my end of the deal was fulfilled.
Well.. I guess it could be worse.. Speaking of worse.
He stood up with grace and walked over to my side of the table.
I didn't offer resistance as he looped his arms around me and came in close.
He gently nibbled on my lip after a moment I reluctantly kissed him back.
“How do you feel about me?” he asked again. His eyes light with victory.
I waited, timing was everything here.
He eased his mouth around to nibble on my neck.
I’d be lying if I said it didn't feel good.
“I hate you from the very depth of my soul. You are everything I despise..”
His jaw tensed down painfully on my neck. Close but not enough.
“You have more chances seducing Tor then me currently, Johnny boy”
I would have continued but it was too late.
At the mention of his hated name he unconsciously clenched down on my neck so hard it drew blood.
A single drop, barely a knick, but it was enough.
With a gasp he jumped away from me, shock and betrayal written on his face.
“You’re not the only one who can play mind games John.. I know you just as well as you know me”
He staggered back, with worry he whipped his head toward the walls and watched in fear as slowly, unstoppably the chain formed up and moved toward him.
“Funny thing about old magic, it doesn't discriminate between intent.”
He staggered back further, desperately trying to move away but knowing it was too late.
“My sister unknowingly threatened you, and she was punished”
The chain made contact with his leg and slowly eased tightly upwards as he kicked out at it in panic.
“You fooled me into harming you blindly, and I was punished”
The chain finally reached its destination, looks like John was going to have an interesting new tattoo to explain on his cheek.
“..And now you wounded me within these chambers while I provided no defence, and you will be punished”
He threw his head back and cried out in pain as the binding burnt into his cheek.
“See you around Johnny boy”
I walked away from him without looking back.
Bastard deserved some retribution for once.
He’d find a way to break free eventually no doubt, he’s slippery like that but at least for now I’d be free of him.
I worked my way over to Tor, still snoring away and proceeded to sit on him.
As much as getting here was fun, I needed to get while the going was good.
With a quick glance I gathered up his cameras, no point leaving them behind.
“This is going to be fun”
With a crack of displaced air me, the sleeping Tor, two cameras, a bubble of musty dust filled air and several grams of ancient dirt appeared in the middle of Sarah’s hospital room.
I glanced at the door and sighed in relief that we hadn't come at a bad time or worse, while someone was standing where we would appear, that could get messy.
I barely had time to stand up before someone behind me screamed in surprise.
I whipped around and came face to face with Sarah.
“oh good, your up. Take care of this will ya.”
She stared at me with wide confused eyes but I didn't pay attention after that.
The heat of old magic which had settled in my chest exploded outward and I threw my head back in a silent scream before mercifully falling into unconsciousness…
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