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MIRROR IMAGES

BY: DANAE CONRAD

As Iffley raised the Sceptre to transport them, Adena grabbed his arm. "Where on Earth are we?"

"We aren't on Earth, Adena."

"But what are we doing here. That man looked a lot like T. G. Taft."

"Adena, it's not the right time to let you know yet."

"But, why? You've always told me things before. Why is it different now?"

Iffley looked at her eyes, pleading with him to tell her. Her face looked worried and even frightened. "Wait, you'll see soon."

Adena dropped her hand from his arm. Her head dropped in unison; her voice was downcast and heavy. "Let's get on with this."

The Sceptre was again stretched to the sky and suddenly the world around them faded out of focus. They then regained clarity a few leagues distant. A beautiful castle stood before them. The stone was rough and unpolished but the banners flew proudly above it.

"Home!" Adena practically screamed the word with delight. Iffley stopped her.

"Not exactly, Adena."

"Not exactly? That's my castle--see the standards on the turrets. It's home..."

"This isn't our earth."

"I don't understand."

"You will."

Adena and Iffley began to walk closer to the beautiful structure. Adena was obviously not convinced that this wasn't Furanose. Slowly, she stepped toward the castle with Iffley following. Quiff was whimpering with tension as they approached the splendid palace.

"The Maelstrom approaches!!" The two visitors froze as the cry resounded throughout the yards. People began to scream in frenzy and a plea was heard throughout the area. "Get the Enchantress!!"

"But I am the Enchantress!" Adena was confused and the chaos around her began to wear her patience thin. "What is going on--for the last time!!!"

"Your guess is as good as mine!" Iffley shouted above the din. Both of them stood in the courtyard, unsure of what to do next. A lightning bolt struck the ground near Adena. She jumped clear of it and tumbled to safety.

"Who is attacking the Enchantress?!" Adena yelled this challenge to the castle's occupant.

"The Enchantress!!"

Adena stood shocked for a moment. She recovered enough to respond, "Show yourself. We mean you no harm! "

"The Maelstrom! He always brings harm! "

"Who is the Maelstrom?"

"This is a trick!"

"Honestly, I know not of whom thou speaks!" Adena hoped that her switch to Old Tongue would give her credibility. No more lightning bolts fell, that was encouraging.

Suddenly, the palace doors opened and out stepped...Adena. "I am Adena, The Enchantress and you..."

"Are me." Adena finished the phrase and both stood dumbfounded. Adena stood in her silver flexxon uniform facing her double who was clad in a green silk riding outfit. On both necks, a similiar medallion hung, the Amulet for one, the Periapt for the other. "What place is this?"

"This is Ralle. From whence do thou come?"

"From Earth. Therein lies my domain, Furanose. How is it--that you are I?"

"You have crossed the mirror. You have been expected--though not in this form."

"A parallel or alternate, Iffley?"

"A little of each, Adena."

"I will not harm thee. Thou art my twin from another space and thou art welcome here."

"Thank thee. Are my companions allowed as well?"

"0f course." She winced slightly at the appearance of Quifquaf however.

Adena ran up the steps to join her second self. Turning, she saw Iffley studying both of them. "Identical." She heard him mumbling. "Exactly identical."

The three walked into the stateroom of the great palace. Adena was becoming excited with the resemblance of her twin's palace to her own home. They were seated around a large table and immediately the questions began.

"Adena," Adena began. "This won't work. We need a second name for one of US."

"Please, address me as Adel, then. It's short for..."

"Adelaide," Adena completed for her twin. Both smiled at the exactness of the copy.

"How is it that you do not know of the Maelstrom? Especially when..."

Iffley cut Adel off. "I haven't had time to explain it all to her totally."

"Then tell me now! I have waited long enough!" Adena softened her approach. "Please."

"Wait."

"I will not! This involves my life, yours, everyone's it seems. Taft appears to be alive. Do the dead walk again?"

"No, Adena. He just hasn't died in this universe."

"Why not?"

Adel sensed the tension of the situation. She excused herself to tend to other affairs. Adena immediately turned on Iffley with a barrage of questions.

"One thing at a time, little one."

She stamped her foot and then he saw the fear on her face. "Please explain this all." He reached for her arm and she came towards him. They walked to the window of the room and Iffley began to talk.

"This universe is being torn asunder by an evil being known as the Maelstrom. he is intent on destroying all who oppose him; I had been chosen to rescue the universe from his grasp. Dion's entry into Ralle upset the balance of things. It is our duty to restore it, Adena. The universes are similiar, but not totally the same."

"Well, Taft has a double and apparently I have one. Who is yours, though?"

"I'm sure we'll find out."

"Iffley, why didn't you tell before? I'm not ready for all this! This is so unreal!" She looked out the window over the fields and forests. "It's so much like home; it is so open and free." She paused momentarily. "Iffley," she began excitedly, "if Taft was alive in this universe, then my parents would be. I could see them--and apologize." her eyes shone with hope and he hated to squelch it.

"If Adel's parents were still alive, she would not be Enchantress. Besides, they wouldn't be your parents."

"Yeah, I guess you are right." Suddenly, Adena's temper flared. "What am I doing here anyway? I could be back on Earth, seeing home again. Instead, I've been drug off into another universe that I know absolutely nothing about!" She began to pace the room. "Why?" She stopped and faced Iffley. "I'm willing to help, but please, tell me everything."

"You'll discover it soon, Adena."

"Forget it then!" She stalked across the room to sit on the edge of the table.

"Forgive me for overhearing, Adena," Adel said as she entered the room. "I wish I had what you have--independence. I have fought my battles and fought them well, but I am just a ruler. You have the inborn fight of a leader."

Adena smiled with her words. "Thank you, Adel." Sometimes it gets in the way though. Like when you should trust someone who you've known for so long, but you don't." She looked ruefully at Iffley, who nodded his acceptance of her apology.

"You're lucky to have such a gift, however. It will serve you and us well." She turned to Iffley. "I have addressed my country's representatives. I will offer all the help I can give. You will also stay in the palace as my guests."

Adena was about to extend her thanks, when a large bark was heard from the window. Looking down, Adel saw a huge hound leaping at the door.

"The Maelstrom is attacking!!"

"But, Adel it is just a hound," Adena protested.

"It is controlled by the Maelstrom, though." Adel ran from the room, followed closely by Adena and Iffley. When they arrived at the door, the hound had been joined by several other wolves and dogs. They leapt at Adel, who drew quickly back. Adena however pushed to the fore and began to stare them down. Her natural empathy for animals was unknown to her twin; Adel tried to rescue her, but Iffley stopped her.

"Wait," he said, "and watch her." The hounds slowly crept back as Adena approached. She commanded them to leave and they did as she bade. She turned back to Adel and smiled.

"See, it's easy!" Adel returned her smile with thanks, but screamed as she saw a huge boar bearing down on Adena. Adena turned quickly and leapt smoothly out of its way. the creature moved to fast for her to keep that up for long though. Adel summoned the Periapt's power and a lightning bolt struck the boar, turning it into a pile of ashes.

Adena came up the steps, panting from the exertion. "Now we are even." She extended her hand and Adel shook it in friendship. "Now, who is Maelstrom?"

***************************************************************

Deep in the forests surrounding Adel's territory, a man stood watching the baying hounds begin their attack. He would have the power he craved. He laughed visciously as he heard their furied barks and growls. Suddenly, however, his wolves fell silent; he approached the castle grounds. There his gaze fell on a young woman in the center of the pack. The hounds were groveling at her feet and backing up. A single word from her turned them all around to return to the forest. She had triumphed over the Staff.

It was then he had sent the boar to run her through. She had kept away from it until his enemy, Adena, had summoned her Periapt to kill it. Curious, he thought to himself as she stroked his short-clipped auburn beard, that newcomer looks very much like Adena. But, she obviously has more power. He heard an upraised voice. Looking into the yard again, he saw the woman arguing with a man that looked just like him. He immediately recognized him as the Restorer and his enemy.

Watching the altercation, he saw her win; the man returned inside with Adena of Periapt. This might be his chance.

***************************************************************

"Iffley, go ahead! I want to look around for clues of some sort. It might be of some use to us!"

"Adel says that the Maelstrom is still nearby. It's dangerous!"

"I am going to stay!"

"Alright be stubborn then!" Iffley stalked into the castle.

Adena began to pace the grounds. She was unaware of her observer, which was just as well. For he was beginning to like what he saw, her gain and bearing showed her as a woman of power and leadership; she was also free willed and spirited. her Amulet glistened in the sun and her Ring sparkled in the same. This was a woman that a man would do well to get his hands on; in more ways than one, he thought to himself.

She drew closer to the vicinity of his concealment; she stopped abruptly and he noticed that several of the gems on her Key were glowing. "Maelstrom, I wish to speak with you! Now!" Her eyes were trying to pierce the canopy of trees. He was shocked at her naivete; she was actually ordering him around.

"I said now! You immature tyrant!" She was purposefully goading him, in the hope that he would confront her; she felt confident of a victory against him.

He felt his anger rising at her jeers. He summoned a snake to him. He laced a message around it and forced it to go to her. Adena saw a movement from the brush. The huge reptile inched towards her; its fangs, exposed through Maelstrom's magic, darted hypnotically in front of her. Suddenly, it lunged past her and left the note behind. Picking it up, she felt a chill shoot through her; she looked around quickly before reading its contents.

BE AWARE THAT I HAVE HEARD YOUR CHALLENGES. YOU ARE TO COME TO THIS YARD AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR. DO NOT FAIL THIS MEETING, ON THE STAKE OF A LIFE.

"Are you so afraid that you do not show your face?" Adena shouted to the forest before her. She glanced at the note that she clutched in her moist palm; he had thrown down the gauntlet, she wondered if she would have the courage to pick it up.


 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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