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The Curse of the Mirror

                                 Jonathon Pierce

Iffley stared at the Ring on his finger, knowing what Adena had tried to accomplish. He was not quite sure why she had left to challenge him alone, but was certain that she had not achieved her goal. Adel was unconcerned at Adena's absence. No, unconcerned was not the right word; she was more relieved than unconcerned.

Quiffquaff seemed to enjoy Adel's company more than Adena's. Adel created a small dustdevil and aimed it at Quiffy. It changed into a small eraser--it tried very hard, anyway--to attack the tiny tornado. The dustdevil picked it up, spinning Quiffy several times, and threw it into the open arms of Adel. Quiffy let out a tiny squeal, which Iffley took as laughter, and snuggled against Adel. Well, Iffley thought, at least someone was enjoying Ralle.

Suddenly, a large stone at Iffley's feet simply rose in the air. The enchanted stone flipped three times and fell dead to the floor. Iffley didn't believe in ghosts, but this was proof. Then, someone laughed. "Taft!" Iffley shouted.

"Fooled you, didn't I." Taft took the Diadem from his head and reappeared.

"Not really," Iffley replied. Taft's countenance changed to that of a sad puppy. Iffley quickly added, "But you would have scared me, if I hadn't known it was you." That seemed to perk up Taft.

"So when are we going to attack the Maelstrom?"

"There has been a change of plans. Adena must have gotten herself into a little scrape, or else she would have been back by now. So, as usual, I have to go and rescue her."

"Is she always so impatient?"

"Yes, she often thinks more with her emotions than with her brain. Anyway, the plan is..." Iffley stopped and stared as a rather crude spear soared through the air and landed at his feet. The spear was made of some local wood, but the point was made of sharpened steel. An intricate design traveled the length of the spear, ending at a blood-red 'M'.

"It's the Wanderers. Quickly, protect yourselves." Adel calmly overturned the table and crouched behind it for protection. Iffley followed suit, while Taft simply phazed out.

The attackers, the Wanderers, came into view. There were scores of them, scattered throughout the area. They were human, but grossly disfigured. One had only black stumps were his nose and ears should be; another's eyes hung grotesquely out of his sockets; several others were missing limbs. They all had severe scars on various parts of their bodies. The rags they wore were tattered and dirty. The spears and clubs, in their grimy hands, were adorned with the red 'M' design. The closer they approached, the stronger the smell of death seemed.

One hefted his spear with a cry of victory. It embeded into the wooden table with a thunk. Taft aimed his slime at the diseased individual. It completely covered him. The Wanderer screamed, allowing the viscous substance to enter his windpipe. He choked, turned blue, and died. Score one victory for the heroes.

The Wanderers were massing for the attack. More hurled their spears with no accuracy. The lead Wanderer produced a sword, its blade shone in the light, and ordered the others to charge. Adel concentrated and stroked the Periapt, creating a sudden hailstorm. Undaunted by the hail, the Wanderers advanced. Adel increased the storm's intensity, proportionally, the size of the hail increased, too.

A football-sized hailstone crashed onto an unsuspecting Wanderer. He collasped into unconsciousness. The Wanderer behind him threw his spear, then picked up the club from the lifeless fingers of his predecessor. The hail was very effective against the creatures.

Several Wanderers, however, had already gotten past the storm, and were approaching the trio. Iffley transformed the Wanderer at his right into a flowerpot, and concentrated on the next advancing figure. His rear flank was unprotected, and an audacious Wanderer snuck behind him. He raised his club to finish his foe, when he suddenly tripped. Quiffy unwrapped itself from the Wanderer's feet and escaped to Iffley. Taft turned his efforts to the downed Wanderer. A black shadow floated quickly to the Wanderer. It entered his body, depriving him of his life. It then returned to the Diadem.

"Force them into a group in the center!" Iffley instructed. Adel concentrated again, a strong wind blew into the valley, creating a small calm channel in the center. The Wanderers, unable to withstand the gale, flocked to the center. Iffley raised his Sceptre, causing the dirt to form a fence around their captives.

"Is everyone okay?" Iffley gathered Quiffy in his arms and soothed it. "Now, what are these creatures, the Wanderers?"

It was Adel who answered: "The Wanderers are the direct descendants from the Pestilence. The Wizards, in all their wisdom, stopped the Pestilence, but did not revert the damage that had been done. Most of the people that had contracted the Pestilence died, some unlucky ones, however, lived on. They are mindless souls that wandered the globe for their Prize, that single item that will end their suffering, and the suffering of their children. But I don't understand, they usually don't bother...normal...people."

"It's the work of the Maelstrom, I tell you! He knows that we are out to get him, and he is afraid! If you get too close to his Staff, then he can control your mind. I guess that's what happened to them." Taft smile evilishly, "Too bad my wife couldn't see me in action; she would have been proud. But, she had a headache, and said that she would join us later."

"Well, I guess that I had better take care of these people." He leveled the Sceptre at the Wanderers, and teleported them several miles away. "Adena is in trouble, and I must try to rescue her. If I fail, your best plan would be to attack the Maelstrom together. Take care my friends."

"No, it is you who should be careful, the Maelstrom is very powerful." Adel smiled weakly.

"I know," Iffley gave Quiffy and the mirror to Adel to keep until his return (if he returned) and quickly departed.

*  *  Conflicting Reflections  *  *

The maroon fog danced briefly in the sunbeam. The Maelstrom stalked over to the window and drew the blinds. "Well, Adena, now that you are fully conscious, shall we get on with it?" He untied his black-red cape and let it fall to the floor. "Now, don't use your Amulet, you know that it has no effect on me. Just be a good girl, Adena, and you won't get hurt." Someone knocked on the door. The Maelstrom cursed at the interruption, "What is it?"

A small figure pushed open the door. "It is me Sire, I have researched your question." Her voice cracked with age, but Adena could not see her face, for it was shrouded in her dark gray hood and cloak.

"Well, Hag, I'm waiting."

"My title is Witch," She slapped the Maelstrom, "and don't you forget it. The Amulet that she wears cannot be used by a male." She pointed her bony hand at Adena, and the glint of a silver bracelet caught her eye. "A woman, however, can use it, but unless she teaches the woman correctly, the Amulet's true power will never be revealed."

"How do you know so much about me?"

"I know everything about you, my dear. I know about your parents, your dead family, and about your present love. I even know what you had for breakfast yesterday. Speaking of your love, where is he right now? I am sure he will come. I am also sure that the cream--that is the correct name for him isn't is--shall get whipped. Good-bye, little one." The Witch abruptly left the room, closing the door behind her.

"She seems very powerful." Adena said, trying to stray from their previous discussion.

"Yes, there isn't much that sneaks past her keen eyes. That's why I keep her around. But, alas, my dear, the mood is spoiled. We can wait a little while longer, now, can't we?" He stroked the side of her face, then firmly grasped her chin. He savagely kissed her, and she knew that she could no longer resist his power. Satisfied for the moment, he locked her in his bedroom, and started down the hallway.

The side of the wall suddenly disappeared, as Iffley transformed it into dust. Iffley stepped into the hallway and confronted the Maelstrom. The pair squared each other off, each not wanting to make the first move.

"What have you done with Adena?"

"She is quite safe, I assure you, which is more than I can say for you." The Maelstrom was cool and confident; his antithesis was angry and insecure.

Against his better judgement, Iffley attacked first. He transformed the water vapor into a surge of electricity and directed it at the Maelstrom. The Maelstrom smiled as the Talisman absorbed the threat. "I believe that it is my turn." The Sabre turned into a crossbow. He fired.

Iffley tried to create a shield, but was not fast enough. The arrow whizzed by his right ear. The Maelstrom was toying with him, that shot could have been fatal! Iffley finished his shield, then transformed the rug, under the Maestrom's feet, into a pit. The Maelstrom, not suspecting this, fell into the hole. He grabbed the edges of the pit and tried to stop his momentum.

Iffley stared over the edge of the pit. All he had to do was step on his fingers, and he would fall to his death. Iffley, thinking his battle was over, let down his guard. A rather short, pudgy man entered through the hallway's new door and coshed Iffley on the head. Iffley slumped to the floor, unconscious.

The pudgy man sauntered to the pit and hauled his master onto solid ground. "Thank you, Jonathon, you shall be rewarded." The Maelstrom really did not have to reward Jonathon's heroic actions, for it was he that summoned him with the Staff. He turned to the moaning figure on the floor. "And now, to squash you in my grasp!" He raised the Sabre and it changed into an axe.

Adena entered the hallway, "No!"

The Maelstrom stopped the execution, "How did you get out, my dear?"

"You wouldn't understand."

"Well, my dear, it's time that you chose sides. You can either stay with me and live or you can join your friend and die." The Maelstrom stared at her with his cold eyes.

Adena suddenly realized that she was taking the wrong approach, "Please, spare his life. I'll do whatever you ask."

Iffley stirred onto the outer reaches of consciousness. Adena's remark brought him completely back to reality. "No, Adena, you can't, won't let you."

"My, how touching," the Maelstrom replied. "If you will stay, then I shall let him leave."

"Then I...I will stay." Her lower lip began to tremble, but she bit it to stop its motion.

Iffley staggered to his feet, "I will come back for you, Adena."

"And I will be here to defeat you, brave knight."

Iffley teleported without fanfare, leaving Adena to face the Maelstrom alone. A poem from Tennyson floated through her mind. She could not remember the first part of it, but the last part was "'The curse has come upon me,' cried the Lady of Shalott." The curse had indeed fallen upon Adena, for the pair reentered the bedroom.

 © 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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