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Caught in the Maelstrom's Wake

                                   Jonathon Pierce

Iffley appeared once again in Adena's castle. This time, however, he was out to kill, not kidnap. He now had the Ring, and would soon tryout the Tiara with the Ring's added power. He held the Ring tight in his clenched fist, he would not use it unless he absolutely could not complete his task without it. But the Ring was here anyway, and its security made Iffley feel assured of success.

He crossed the carpeted hall, passing several paintings by Wyeth and Homer. He paused at one painting entitled Adena's World by Charlatan. This painting showed Adena, as a young girl, sitting in a field, staring at the castle in the distance. Iffley sneered at the painting--there was no field around the castle, it was forest.

He passed an open doorway, waking the sleeping guard on duty. 'Halt,' the guard screamed, recognizing Iffley as an enemy of the state. Triffling, Iffley thought as he trapped the guard with wall-transformed water vapor.

Three corridors down and one winding staircase up, Iffley approached his prey. Both Eve and Toltec were in the same room, how convenient. Iffley sprang into the room, and immediately changed the floor tiles beneath their feet into large, hairy hands, which grabbed their ankles.

Eve realized the seriousness of the situation: Iffley had three Keys against her one. She concentrated, activating the Belt. She concentrated, and Iffley screamed in pain. She probed his thoughts even deeper, sending ripples of abstract pain throughout his body. In desperation, Iffley transformed the hands into columns of fire. Eve and Toltec, now freed, levitated away from the fire's influence.

Iffley mentally kicked himself, he was not thinking properly. The Belt was far more powerful than he had imagined, he just might need the help of the Ring. He grinned and changed Eve's pink jumpsuit into a python. The snake squirmed around her body, and then began to squeeze.

Eve contacted the creature, assuring it that she meant no harm. The snake understood her, and obeyed her wishes. It covered her body with its own--she had her reputation to think of--and now protected her as well.

Another dumb mistake, Iffley moaned to himself. The Belt was an equal match for the Sceptre, and the Tiara was virtually useless in open combat situations. He slowly slipped on the Ring of Ranet, he now realized that he needed its extra power. The Ring, as it had done in the past, broke the Staff's spell. Iffley stood dazed, wondering what he was doing in Adena's castle. Then, he noticed Eve's condition; what was she doing with that snake?

Eve, unaware of Iffley's changed state, decided to play the offensive. With all the power the Belt could muster, she sent Iffley hurtling through the stained glass window, and into the small fish pond, one story down. Then she and Toltec levitated next to him. Toltec raised his sword at the fallen wizard, "And now, to finish this criminal." He said, as the sword sliced through the air; its target lay unconcious, in the pond.

*  *  Troubled Waters  *  *

Adena slapped the Maelstrom's face. Even before his own cheek reddened, he returned the gesture. The Maelstrom gave Adena an appreciative eye. She was untamed, and he liked that in a woman, but enough was enough.

"That, Adena, will be the last time you ever strike me again." He grabbed her by the feet, and dragged her off the throne. She hit her head on the floor as she struggled to get free. The lesson was a painful one, but she realized that she would never regain her freedom, no matter how hard she struggled.

He drug her into his game room, which, as in all similar situations, was down a flight of stairs. He then chained her to a steel post. The bruises already began to show on her bare back.

The Maelstrom walked in front of her, "You see, my dear, if you are to be my wife, then you must learn discipline. I will find your breaking point, precious, and when I do, you can be sure that you will be happy to become my spouse." He held the Sabre in front of her, its blade gleeming in the light. The wicked weapon transformed into a cat-o'-nine-tails. The ends of the cords were studded with bits of broken glass to make its bite efficacious.

The Maelstrom walked behind her. He grinned evilly. "I love you," he said, each word being emphasized with a stroke of the whip. The skin from Adena's back began to flay, as streams of blood ran swiftly to the ground. "Do you love me, Adena?"

Defiantly, she said, "No!"

"I"--whip--"love"--whip--"you," he repeated. Now, several lacerations bled profusely across her back. "Do you love me?" He asked again.

"No," Adena said somewhat less defiantly through her pain.

"I really do love you," he said, as the wicked whip stung her again thrice.

*  *  Whirlpool  *  *

"Not yet," Eve said, stopping Toltec's savage execution, "he could have completely destroyed us, but didn't. I want to find out why."

Toltec bent down, and picked up the wizard's three Keys, "I want these out of the way when he wakes up." He then pulled Iffley out of the pond, and shook him violently. Iffley coughed as the air rushed into his water-logged lungs.

Eve concentrated, sending her conscience into Iffley's own. Their thoughts coalesced in a mass of hysteria. Eve scanned his memories and retreated.

"Well," Toltec began impatiently.

Eve glared at him, "Iffley has no recollection of the past events. The last occurence he remembers totally deals with Ralle."

Iffley tried to sit upright. He moaned, and laid back down, "How did you get into Ralle?"

"This isn't Ralle. Iffley what do you remember about Ralle?"

"Adena, Taft, and I were battling the Maelstrom in his courtyard. We managed to throw him over the moat. I tried to save him, but he fell into the acid. Then we helped the Wanderers and I...I can't seem to remember."

"Don't worry about it, Iffley. Now tell me where you took Adena."

"Adena? I don't know where she is."

"I was afraid of that," Eve said. She returned the Sceptre and the Tiara to Iffley. He marvelled at the Tiara, wondering how he had gotten it. As Eve had suspected, Iffley couldn't remember what Keys he had had in his possession. She slowly slipped on the Ring, hoping that he wouldn't notice it.

Instead, she created more of a distraction than she had wanted: she screamed. The Ring never had been joined before with the Belt. The thoughts of everyone around her, including several from miles away, suddenly impacted into Eve's brain. As if her brain had exploded, her own thoughts almost disappeared in the mass of the others. Just as suddenly, she sorted through the brain activity and controlled their impact.

"What happened, Eve?"

"The thoughts exploded on my mind, but I'm alright now."

"Thought? What thoughts?"

"The thoughts of you and Toltec and the guards and people."

"Concentrate, can you read Adena's thoughts?"

"Yes...She is in great pain. Iffley, you are beating her to death with a whip. But you're here. I don't understand."

"It's the Maelstrom, we must save her. Where is she?"

"I don't know, but I think that I can triangulate by her thought patterns."

"Wait a minute," Toltec sneered, "You are not going anywhere without me."

"Of course not," Iffley said, and he transported them to Solium. The snow-covered scenery was only given a cursory glance. "What direction?" Eve pointed, and the group transported to the northwest.

*  *  Ebb Tide  *  *

Eventually, after several stops, they found themselves at Ozino's castle. Eve oriented upon the basement, so the basement is where the group went. They spied the Maelstrom, practicing his evil upon Adena. "Do you love me?"

"No," Adena replied weakly.

"I," he said, as the whip rushed through the air, onto Adena's tender back. "Love," he said, repeating the action. This time, however, the whip struck a glass wall, that had surreptitiously been created moments earlier.

"Your games are now over, Maelstrom." Iffley replied grimly.

"So you are no longer under my power. No matter, I will just have to kill you now, instead of later." The whip changed into a laser rifle. Iffley dodged behind a support column as the Maelstrom targeted on him.

Eve and Toltec slowly entered the room, unnoticed by the Maelstrom. Iffley was baiting the Maelstrom, so that Eve could rescue her. "You'll never escape alive," he screamed, while blasting chunks of the support away.

Eve approached Adena. She could feel her pain, even without the Belt. She slipped the Ring of Ranet on Adena's slender finger. Almost immediately Adena revived, the Ring's power joining that of the Amulet. She destroyed the chains with a simple blast from the laser. She now was free.

More rock showered upon Iffley's head, any minute, this section of the ceiling would collapse. "Give up. Let me kill you quickly and painfully." The Maelstrom shouted at him. The rifle fired again, shattering the support completely. Iffley barely teleported away in time.

He reappeared with the other Key holders. The Maelstrom turned to face them, a look of sheer terror on his face. The Keys joined, and the Power came forth. They directed the Power at the Maelstrom. He put his hands over his face and screamed. Suddenly, he became a miniature marble statue, exact in every detail, down to his contorted mouth.

The Power was then instructed to destroy the Rallean Keys. It descended upon them, but they would not disintegrate.

The Power spoke to Iffley, "The Keys canst be destroyed here. Thou must travel to Ralle to destroy them. Only then will thou be rid of their evil influence."

Iffley appeared shaken, he wasn't aware that the Power could speak. The Key holders directed the Power to create a portal to Ralle. Then, the entire group entered the portal, along with everything associated with Ralle, including the danaes and the height-measuring device.

Once in Ralle, the Power destroyed the Sabre, Staff, Diadem, and Talisman. Columns of colored smoke arose from the Keys, as their power drifted into the mystic winds. The power then destroyed all of the height-measuring devices, preventing any Rallen from leaving their universe.

Iffley patted Chevron on the nose. He didn't remember this beautiful animal, but somehow he felt close to it. The four danaes then flew off into the clouds. Adena murmured something about being glad that she wasn't departing from her danaes.

The Power, having completed its job in Ralle, created a time-mirror. Iffley suddenly remembered a friend that had sacrificed his freedom for them. The Power sought out Fred, and brought him back to the others. They stepped into the time-mirror, returning them to their proper universe.

Finally equilibrium had been achieved. Everything remained in its place. Ralle was secure, and so was its parallel universe. Nothing, that belonged in one universe, remained to jeopardize the other; the Power had seen to that. Suddenly, the people of Thrae found themselves helpless.

The group returned to Ozino's castle, and dissolved the Power. Adena was in severe pain, and could hardly stand. Toltec held her gently, in a comforting manner. Iffley tried to sort out his thoughts, but knew that his attempt was in vain. Eve, despite the excitement of their adventure, was determined to have the last word, "You, Suralio Frith Iffley are under arrest. The charge deals with treason and other crimes." She turned to Adena, who nodded weakly. They both knew that Iffley must die.

 © 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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