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Once upon a Looking Glass

                                   Jonathon Pierce

Iffley listened to Fred's monotone voice as he introduced himself to Adena. His mind wandered over the previous events. He wondered what Dion was up to, and he certainly did not trust Richard; a truce is simply a bleached blood-stained rag. Jonathon had been shocked; his dreams had shattered once again.

The day's disasters did not end there, however. Iffley had called a board meeting for the renovation of the Fleet. 'A New Fleet for a Better Tomorrow' was the topic of the meeting. The Xanadu was the first ship to have its hangers widened. In a few hours of work, three satellite ships replaced the shuttles.

"Why are we replacing the shuttles with bigger shuttles?" Adena had asked.

"Adena, I have told you a hundred times, these are not shuttles, they are satellite ships, each independent from the mother ship. Think of them as very large fighters." They were designed for better firepower, and were very effective in that area. The Maltese Falcon and the African Queen were the first ships of their kind, and they increased the combat value of the mother ship by fifty percent.

Iffley had ordered production on the New Fleet to be increased twofold; he was not about to leave T'mir undefended for long, especially when Richard was in the area.

Mr. Thorpe, using the experimental transporters, teleported aboard the Enchantress to report on the Xanadu's progress. The transporter, instead of depositing him next to Iffley and Adena, beamed him into the deck. He screamed, convulsed, and died. Adena gasped and turned away from his contorted face. Within an hour, every transporter in, on, and around T'mir was dismantled; Iffley owed Andrew Thorpe at least that much.

Quiffquaff, Quiffy for short, nuzzled against his beard, and returned him to the present. The cubical egg had hatched recently, but it was empty; the eggshell, itself, had been Quiffy. Iffley had laughed when the shell jumped into his arms. It was only a baby, and had not yet learned the art of transforming--although it tried very hard. Suddenly, it changed into a rather flat ball, and fell onto the floor. It let out a muffled squeak and sprang back into Iffley's arms. Iffley stroked its gelatinous body, soothing it. It began to coo softly.

"Can we get on with this?" A rather impatient Dion inquired. "I mean, like, I really have better things to do than just stand here, you know."

Iffley quickly remembered how difficult it had been to get Dion to come. He looked at the Caretaker, who said, "The time is not right, you do not have the Item." As usual, he was rather vague. Item? Iffley could not possible think of anything that he had forgotten to bring. The Waterfall dissapated, revealing the huge Mirror. He scanned the Mirror's frame. He could see himself, Adena, Dion, Quiffy, and something else.

"He wants another mirror, you know, the one in Adena's castle." Dion was unusually sharp this morning. Iffley nodded, raised the Sceptre, and vanished.

"Well, Adena, since Richard and I are engaged, I guess you can have Iffley all to yourself."

"I am surprised at you, Dion," she retorted. "You are giving up the cream of the crop for Richard? I thought that you were smarter than that!"

"Sour milk!" Dion yelled.

"Sour grapes," Adena corrected.

Iffley reappeared, delicately holding the mirror. He sensed that something was wrong, but uncharacteristically kept his mouth shut.

"The time is now right," Fred said as he stepped into the Mirror. Instead of shattering, the Mirror simply clouded, allowing the old man to enter. Iff1ey now understood how this mirror could be called the Portal of Remembrance. Dion followed Fred's lead. Iffley and Adena simultaneously entered the Mirror. The Mirror cleared, erasing any evidence of the Portal. The Waterfall roared over the Mirror, hiding it from seeking eyes forever.

* * Reflected Images * *

The group emerged into a long, brilliant hallway. A score of mirrors lined the hallway: two large mirrors at either end with the remainder facing each other across the hall. Above the mirrors, words were etched into their frames. On the left, the etchings were sigma, alpha, beta, epsilon, theta, iota, lambda, pi, mu. The large mirror opposite them was not labeled. On the right wall, these words were etched: sadhe, aleph, beth, he, taw, yod, lamed, pe, mem. The room was lighted from some unseen source, reflecting off of the mirrors.

Several of the mirrors were illuminated in a bright light. Iota was the brightest on the left side--alpha, epsilon, and theta were also lit--and aleph far outshone yod, beth, and sadhe. Four of the mirrors, sigma, taw, lamed, and mem, were also cracked. The large, unlabeled mirror had completely shattered.

The mirrors, however, were not behaving like mirrors. They depicted scenes of people. Adena noticed that the mirror labeled aleph was reflecting her image, but when Iffley stared into it, it still reflected Adena's image. Yod was behaving similarly for Iffley.

The Caretaker explained, "The mirrors keep track of the present locations of the Keys. The mirrors on the right keep watch over your universe; the ones on the left guard Ralle, a parallel universe. The large mirror led to the House of Wizards, but is no longer functional. The cracked mirrors represent people that have died."

"The lights show the present locations of the Keys. Aleph, must watch over Adena, and her two Keys. Yod is my mirror." Iffley said.

"Correct." He glanced at each member of the group in turn, "Before you embark on your pilgrimage, Restorer, I must supply you with vital information. Ralle is a parallel universe, but its parallels may vary quite sharply. Do not be alarmed at anything that you may find there.

"The background is as complicated as in your universe. Several centuries ago, scientists experimented with genetics. They created a horrible disease, known as the Pestilence. The Wizards created their Keys and abolished the Pestilence, in much the same manner as they did the Plague. Their Keys are, however, somewhat different. The Staff of Excho controls animals. It has a disasterous effect when used on humans. It transforms them into mindless slaves. This is a very powerful Key. The Diadem of Phumos is also powerful. It transforms the bearer into a ghost, allowing invisibility, flight, and non-substance, among other things. The Periapt of Wisdym controls the weather. The Sabre of Ozino can transform into any weapon desired, and also gives the bearer the strength to use the weapon. Perhaps the most powerful Key of all is the Talisman of Ranet. It absorbs the power from the other Keys, making its bearer almost invincible."

A sharp crack from the mirror labeled epsilon stopped Fred's oration. The group turned to the mirror and watched the drama unfold:

Enad the Encephalon (or at least someone who looks very much like him) raised the Staff of Excho at some unseen target. A bluish-white energy flew from the Staff. Enad frowned, his tactic apparently had failed.

A spear flew straight at him, but he could not escape it. It struck him in the chest, narrowly missing his heart. He staggered back and fell. A large hand removed the spear from his chest. It transformed into the Sabre. The figure, robed in carbunkle, snatched the Staff from his victim. He spit into Enad's face.

Enad had lost his first, and last, battle. He gasped and slipped into Death's icy grip.

Epsilon completely cracked. Its light shifted to dark. Iota, however, seemed even more bright. Iffley turned his gaze to iota. The figure, dressed in a carbunkle robe, turned to face the mirror. He was washing his hands in Enad's blood. Iffley stared at the figure in recognition. He was the figure, his alternate had murdered Enad's alternate! He turned to the Caretaker in disbelief.

"In Ralle, your alternate self is known as the Maelstrom. He is purely evil, and must be destroyed. His death, however, is not your only task.

"Long ago, a father and his daughter entered the Portal. They sneaked into Ralle and stole something. Their intentions were innocent, but they have caused a tremendous energy drain between the universes. Thrae, a distant planet, seems to be the only benefacator from the episode; the theft brought magic to the planet by draining life from her sister planet. Once the Object has been returned to the rightful owner and the Maelstrom has been slayed, the two universes will be restored. Only after the theft did the Historians think it necessary to guard both of the Hall of Mirrors."

"What is this Object? Who stole it?" Iffley asked.

"The Object is the Book of Incantations, and its bearer is the thief."

Dion looked at Iffley hastily, "What else was I supposed to do? Kirk was trying to kill me, so my father decided to help me. You know him as Avalon. You also know him as Madison. I entered Ralle, and he was there, except this time, Kirk was nice and not evil. My father and I killed him and took the Book. I thought he would die here, too, but I was wrong. Iffley, darling, I leave this message with you: Retu P'moc." She then dived into the nearest mirror, iota, and was gone.

Iffley pondered her words. Retu P'moc was another klitik move. It was a strategy of the Necromancer. The words meant a changing, or conversion. The Necromancer, when occupying a Platform could change an opponent's piece of lesser value into his own color. It was like a traitor in the ranks. No wonder he had lost the war, Dion had been on Richard's side the entire time. But he had no proof, it was only circumstantial evidence.

"The key for your return is the mirror. Do not lose it. There are no mirrors in Ralle. Do not try to attack the Maelstrom yet. Find allies in Ralle. Try the mirror marked theta. Good luck, Restorer." Iffley thanked him for his help and entered the mirror. Adena nodded to the Caretaker and followed Iffley.

"Be careful," the Caretaker whispered into the air. He sighed and stared at the mirror labeled yod: Their adventure in Ralle was just about to begin.

 © 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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