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A Tangle in the Mirror's Web

                                   Jonathon Pierce

The world burst in an array of spectacular colors, coalescing into dingy blackness. Iffley winced in pain as Adel removed the medicinal compress from the wound on the back of his head. "You're lucky that you don't have a concussion." She said, while pressing the cloth further into his injury. Adel smashed the cloth into his head again, increasing the efficacy of the medicine's special healing properties.

In a short time, Iffley's pain subsided. He thanked Adel for her help, and told her that he must leave again.

"Wait, Iffley, there is something that I must tell you," She cast her eyes downward, evading his gaze. "While you were gone...I...Perhaps it would be best if I just blurted it out: The mirror is gone."

"What?" Iffley's voice rose to a loud roar.

"The Maelstrom's Witch stole it. She cast a freeze spell on me. That Book of hers is really powerful. I was frozen in place, before I knew what had hit me. Then she just--"

"What Book?" Iffley interrupted.

"The Book of Incantations, of course."

"I wasn't aware that the Book had any such spell in it." Iffley's brow furrowed with concern. If the Book had this new freeze spell, what other surprises did Dion have in store for him? "So, Dion has joined sides with the Maelstrom. Adel, I will need your help to defeat them. Get Taft and Quiffquaff, we leave for the Maelstrom's castle immediately!"

*  *  The Spider's Parlor  *  *

The Maelstrom stared as Adena awoke. "Well, my dear, I'm glad to see that you are feeling better." The Maelstrom flashed his pearly whites at her.

"Don't patronize me," Adena glared back at him.

"My, my. You're a fiesty one. But that's what I like about you, Enchantress. You are almost too fiesty, perhaps--don't make me use this on you." He patted the Staff at his side. Adena stared at him in horror. Anything he touched with the Staff became totally under his control, unable to do anything but his bidding.

"I don't think that will be neccessary."

"I should hope not, the results could be most unfortunate." He leaned over to kiss her, but was abruptly slapped by Adena's quick hand. He returned her gesture, "I suggest that you never do that again!" He raised the Staff near her face, "One touch, and your mine forever. Imagine that, Adena. Imagine that you cannot control your own actions or thoughts. Imagine my icy grip on your very soul, preventing you from ever escaping. I can even make you love me, as you once did your husband."

"You could use that, if you wanted to, but you won't. You like me the way I am. Even if you did use it, you might control me, but you will never make me love you."

"Shall we find out, my dear?"

The Witch, Dion, quickly entered the room. "Excuse the interruption, Sire, but Iffley is in the courtyard, awaiting a final duel."

"Thank you, Witch. Wait for my return. You, Enchantress, shall come and watch the destruction of your friend." He pulled her by the hands, reopening her lacerations. The pain streamed through her arms and across her mind. Ironically, she remembered all of Tennyson's poem:

Out flew the web and floated wide;

The mirror crack'd from side to side;

"The curse is come upon me," cried

The Lady of Shalott.

Was it an omen? Had the curse finally decided to descend upon them all? Adena could feel the web tighten around her, she hoped that they all could escape from the Maelstrom's evil grasp.

*  *  Spider's Prey  *  *

The Maelstrom stepped lightly into the courtyard. His firm grip on Adena's arm prevented her from doing anything rash. "So, Restorer, we meet again. Who are your friends? I believe I recognize Taft and Adena of Ralle." His cool exterior did not show his internal panic: they had four Keys against his three. His thoughts turned toward the Amulet. If he had to control Adena, then he could not give his attackers his full attention.

"Enchantress, you shall have to fight against your friends."

"In a pig's eye." Adena retorted.

"Then, you shall fight them against your own will." He raised the Staff and struck her with it. The energy probed her body, and nestled within her conscience. She screamed in agony and collasped to the floor.

"Adena!" Iffley yelled across the courtyard. "What have you done to her?"

Adena shakily stood up. "You see, Restorer, she is not harmed." The Maelstrom whispered to Adena, "Kill the Restorer."

Adena fought the suggestion. Her mind twisted with inner pain, forcing her to yeild. His command resounded throughout her brain, and finally, she carried out the command. The strongest-powered laser that she could produce lept from the Amulet and flew toward Iffley.

Iffley, however, was too stunned to move: Adena was trying to kill him! Quiffy jumped from his shoulder and transformed into a lopsided wall. The bolt of energy slammed into the structure, melted through its several inches, and continued its flight toward its prey. Quiffy, mortally wounded, fell to the ground. The laser's diminished force struck Iffley squarely on the chest, knocking him into the back wall.

"No!" Adel screamed, as she summoned a large tornado. It swirled through the castle wall, revealing the moat. Some of the acid in the moat, sucked up by the vortex, splashed onto the ground by Adena's feet. She did not even flinch, for her master had not commanded it. The spinning wind approached the Maelstrom, who pointed the Talisman at the menace. Seconds later, the torando's energy was gone, causing it to dissipate. The Maelstrom laughed uproariously.

"Wait," Taft said, "if we attack him together, then he can't absorb all of our power. I'll turn invisible and attack him from behind."

"But that will make me a sitting duck!" Adel protested.

"I know." Taft said, and he vanished.

Iffley moaned, and rejoined the battle. A severe laceration bled profusely on his chest. He pointed the Sceptre at the Maelstrom, hoping to break the spell he had on Adena. The ground around the Maelstrom shifted into molten lava. The Talisman, however, cancelled the threat before his shoes were burned.

The Sabre transformed into a long bow. A swift arrow arced in the air, narrowly missing its target. Adel retaliated with a very hot bolt of lightning. The Talisman, again, absorbed the energy, but the thunder, resulting from the lightning, shook the very ground.

Adena's Amulet suddenly began to glow very brightly. The Maelstrom, out of the corner of his eye, noticed this, "What is wrong?"

"Someone is behind us," Adena replied nonchalantly.

"Defend yourself!"

Adena turned and created an advanced hologram of the Gibbenhide. Taft panicked, sending the life-removing force onto the hologram. The dark shadow settled onto Gibbenhide, causing the hologram to dissapate. The shadow, finding nothing to drain, returned to the Diadem. Adena followed the shadow, and sent a bombardment of lasers at the location of the shadow's disappearance. Her attack caused no damage, however, for Taft was phased into ghost-form.

Iffley, during the interim, transformed the ground into a giant mudslide leading through the hole in the wall to the moat. Before the Maelstrom could counteract the transformation, Adel summoned a strong windstorm, sending both Adena and the Maelstrom sliding toward the moat. The Maelstrom grabbed a section of the wall, but Adena's momentum sent him sprawling to the moat. Adena struck the wall with a severe blow and drifted into unconsciousness. The Maelstrom flew over the edge of the moat and, like before, saved his life by grabbing the rim.

Adel abated the windstorm, and she and Iffley ran to Adena. Iffley removed the Ring and placed it on Adena's finger, disrupting the Staff's hold on her. She awoke with a start, "Iffley...I didn't want to hurt you, but I..."

"Yes, Adena, I understand," Iffley held her in his arms, and her shaking stopped. From the edge of the moat, the Maelstrom was begging for help. "I must go, Adena. He needs my help."

"But he tried to kill you!"

"If I didn't try to help him, then I would be just as evil."

Adena nodded, "I understand."

Iffley ran over to the moat, and saw his evil twin hanging on the brink of destruction. The Maelstrom, still holding his Keys, clawed desperately at the ground. "Drop your Keys!"

"Never." The Maelstrom said with finality.

"What good will they do you if you are dead?"

"If I can't have them, then no one will." With some effort, he tossed his three Keys into the boiling acid. The Keys bobbed in the acid, then dissolved into nothingness. Their power escaped into the mystic winds.

"Now," Iffley coached, "give me your hand and I will pull you up."

"I don't trust you." The Maelstrom said coldly. Even this close to death, his innate hatred of mankind prevented him from the simple act of trust.

"Either you trust me, or you die; take your pick." The Maelstrom reached with an outstretched hand. Iffley grabbed the muddy hand, his fingers grew white in the grip. The Maelstrom grabbed Iffley's wrist with the other hand, and started to slip. "No!" Iffley screamed, "Hold tighter!" But it was too late, the Maelstrom slipped completely out of his grip and onto the boiling acid. His scream echoed across the four corners of Ralle. Iffley turned away from his decaying corpse, shocked. Then he saw a crying figure, dressed in gray-black. Dion had apparently loved the Maelstrom as much as she did Richard. The battle was not yet over.

*  *  Black Widow  *  *

Dion advanced on Iffley. "Murderer!" She screamed.

"Dion, I tried my best to save him." Iffley did not want to hurt Dion, even after all the things she had done against him.

"Fool. The Book of Incantations is even stronger here. It was originated in Ralle. With one spell, I could kill you...or worse." She opened the Book and quickly read a spell. The ground shook and a fissure opened up between the two figures. "I could have just as easily have caused the fissure to open under you."

Iffley realized that she was right, she was very powerful here in Ralle. Iffley teleported across the fissure and started walking toward her.

"Stay back. I don't want to hurt you." She conjured a large spider to finish him off. Iffley pointed the Sceptre and teleported it into the moat. He was now almost upon her.

"Don't make me hurt you!" Dion screamed, and summoned a giant fireball. Iffley transformed the water vapor into a surging wall of water, eliminating the threat. He reached over and took the Book from her trembling hands.

"I knew you wouldn't hurt me, Dion. Now, lets go and join the others."

Taft and Adel were busy comforting Adena and Quiffy. Quiffy was not far from death, and Adena's injury was not much better. Iffley quickly perused the contents of the Book and found the appropriate spell. He healed their wounds and his own. He immediately felt better: it was a very powerful spell.

"Now our only problem is returning to our own universe."

"Perhaps not." Iffley whirled around to see Fred, who was holding a mirror.

"I thought that you were not able to interfere."

"I am not supposed to. Because of my actions, however, I cannot return, for I have no reflection." He held the mirror up to his face, which did not cast his image. "I came for two reasons. The first is to return with a mirror for you. The second, is that the City of Remembrance is being attacked. Since your mission is not over, Restorer, Adena will need to protect it."

"But I don't want to go."

"You are the only available person; you must go."

"Alright, if I must."

"Enter the mirror, then go to the Portal of Remembrance." Fred instructed.

Adena followed the instructions to the letter. She reappeared in the Hall of Mirrors, and stepped through the Portal. On the other side, the City of Remembrance stretched out before her. Suddenly, the attacker appeared. He walked up to the Portal of Remembrance and shattered the Mirror. Adena stared in horror: Iffley, once he escaped from Ralle, would be trapped in the Hall of Mirrors.

The attacker turned and faced her. It was Sterling. "What have you done with my parents?"

 © 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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