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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

There comes a time for all good things to end. Jonathon Pierce once wrote, "With the end of the Story War, I [will] lose all aspects of creative outlet in my life." This isn't the first time the Story War has ended, but it will most certainly be the last. Creative outlets come and go, but the memories of this one will last forever...

AND he wept. And wept. All alone on the desert plain. All alone... All alone. Iffley had felt alone before; he had felt it after the Marriage; he had felt it after Dion had chosen Richard; he had felt it when he watched his mother die.

There was a tap on his right shoulder. He knew who it was. "Brother," the Wizard said reluctantly.

Taft sat in the warm sand, motioning at the Wizard to join him. Iffley did so obligingly. They sat still, staring out into the desert for some time when Enad the Great came to join them. Neither of the brothers said a word, but motioned at the ICSMMP leader to sit near. Here they were, the last of the leaders from Terna. Here they were, doomed to fade away. Taft broke the silence. "Fred said we should meet with him in about an hour." He glanced at his watch. "I think he wants to talk about... THE END." He stressed the last two syllables, but neither of Ephryre's sons said a word.

***T. G. Taft***

The Corridor of Suspension glared in the early morning Ralle'an sun. Huge stain glass windows marked the ends of the hall, and the glass prisons reflected colors in a huge bouquet of rainbow hues. The first chamber on the left, bathed in a blue-green, held the Ledics in their many shapes and sizes. The next chamber on the left, a shiny pink, housed Eve Eden, her face contorted with an expression of immediate horror. The chamber of maroon that followed was empty, as were the last two on the left side of the hall, a deep black one and a bright orange one. On the first chamber to the right, however, Adel, Adena's Ralle'an twin, was held within bright green walls; her long black hair twisted around her face as if she had been caught in the middle of a wind storm. The chamber to Adel's side was empty; it was surrounded by a shaded glass that made the case appear superfluous. In the next deep, sanguine-red chamber, however, a miniature marble statue, complete with a contorted mouth, grasped a small white sign that read "The Maelstrom." The chamber to its side was decked in an odd combination of black and pink; inside lay a small, dead body, that looked precisely like Enad the Encephalon. It had a spear sticking out of its chest, the weapon obviously a prop used by Bronson to give the chamber a surreal atmosphere. Above Enad was the Ralle'an Eve Eden, who had been promised to this Enad, a knife sliced through her heart; the knife's handle grasped conspicuously in her own right hand. These were two of the many lovers thrown askew by the merciless work of the Maelstrom. The Ralle'an Enad the Great, in fact, would have been the son of this couple, if the Maelstrom hadn't destroyed Enad the Encephalon for the Sabre and thus prompted Eve to take her own life.

In the last chamber on the right was nothing; it glowed in a bright orange similar to the cabinet it faced. All of the rulers of the time were suspended here, save the Ternan Enad, Iffley, and Taft that sat in the desert sand, the Ternan Bronson, held by the Historians, and the Ralle'an Taft, destined to arrive soon.

Suddenly the room reverberated with noise. From the top of a huge golden staircase at the end of the hall came eight figures, three of which were twins. Two Phumoses came in first, followed by a Wisdym; behind them two Ranets and two Exchos were chatting with an Ozino. They joined hands upon reaching the Corridor and formed a small circle. From the other end of the hall, down a long platinum staircase, strolled Fred, the Caretaker of Remembrance, and Clifford, the Caretaker of Reminiscence; behind them the Ralle'an Taft, Sceptre in hand, carefully followed at a distance. They too joined the circle, and in a matter of seconds Iffley, Taft, and Enad shimmered in, Surry holding a mirror high above his head. They walked to the center of the circle and nodded. The Wizards broke their grasp and formed a line facing the four mortals. Clifford and Fred joined Taft and the Ternans. The Ozino, from Ralle, spoke first.

"The scales are once again unbalanced. If they are not repaired within three days the siphoning effect will begin again. This one will be greater than the preceding; There may not be enough energy uninvolved to set things straight."

The Ternan Phumos agreed. "Something must be done. Even as we speak, all the Keys are in this hall, in this Universe."

Taft squeezed the Tiara he had picked up off the desert sand. "What of the Staff?"

The Wizards looked towards the roof; Madison floated down, Staff in hand. He landed with a plop to the right of the Ternan Taft. "Just a little Mary Poppins Spell there," he giggled to himself.

Iffley spoke up. "I think I know what we must do. I felt it out on the desert. The Iffley lineage has come to an end, hasn't it?"

The Ternan Excho coughed and answered him. "The scales are unbalanced, Suralio, but not in the way that most people think. We had not planned that Bronson would come to Ralle and create the empire that he did. Right now the scales are turned too far towards Ralle; but if we move all the Keys into Terna then that universe will have too much power. Yet if we leave the Force here and return the Power to Terna, there will not be enough change to sway the death of the Power's Ozino and Wisdym.

Enad, slightly perplexed but briefed somewhat by Taft before arriving, asked the obvious. "Then what will cause equilibrium?"

All was quiet. Iffley bowed his head. "I believe what we need is two more Wizards," he said quietly.

The Ralle'an Ranet nodded. "Not just two. But ten. We"--he motioned to the other Wizards--"are ready to give up our interminable vigil." He sat motionless for second. "You are ready, then?" He looked at Iffley, who was obviously contemplating the length of hundreds of years.

"Love and forgive always," he said quietly. He looked up at Adena. "Well, are you happy now?"

The Wizards motioned to the Ternan Taft, who turned off the time stasis created by Bronson in the Corridor. They gathered Adena, Blue, and Eve from Terna and Adel from Ralle; then they retrieved Bronson himself, also in a time stasis, from a hidden chamber and handed him, motionless, to Madison. They looked at the group, and nodded. Iffley quietly examined his Sceptre, received from his brother Taft after T. G. had traded the Diadem for it with the Ralle'an Taft. He quietly raised it, and the humans vanished.

***T. G. Taft***

The group of ten appeared deep within an ancient mountain in Taft's Domain on Earth. Symbols covered ancient metal walls; the word WOPR could be made out on an integrated circuit. Slowly the Ralle'an Taft took off his Diadem and set it next to a sign reading "Tic tac toe." He faded slowly away, as his image was absorbed into the thin, mountain air. A tear floated onto two small glass plates held in his sweaty palms....

Iffley transported them, with the help of a mirror, to a small cove on the west bank of Dragon Isle in Ralle. He nodded to Blue and Adena as they took off towards the ocean.

"Wait!" Shouted Enad the Great. "Before you go, Adena, please tell me the name of my other child."

Adena raised an eyebrow characteristically. "Why, Bob the LXIV," she said with a wink, and turned towards her husband. She handed Blue the Talisman Adel had given her. "At last you have your own Key, dear," she said, brushing her hair with a familiar reflex. They waded into the ocean, and embraced for the last time, holding each other in a way that only Wisdym and Ozino could have rivaled. Blue was now one form, glued together by the Wizards, and was preparing his final, perhaps, mortal death. Blue let out a small squeak and a dolphin appeared at his ankles. He opened its mouth and placed the Talisman inside. "Now don't swallow this, understand?" The dolphin turned towards the sea, and Archimedes "Blue" Ledic faded away with him.

Adena, unable to watch, took the Amulet that Iffley had returned to her, and, with its lasers, dug a hole in the stone surrounding the cove. There she placed her Key, deep within the hidden rock, and Adena Adelaide Ludit Ledic joined it without another word. Iffley raised his Sceptre in silence.

They reappeared on a radioactive plain somewhere in Ternan Alarius. Surrounded by a bubble that Iffley's Sceptre had made of gamma rays, Adel looked through at the shiny red sunlight. She walked towards Iffley and pecked him on the cheek. He looked down into her eyes, trying to find hope; But it was not there. She raced toward the bubble wall and walked out into the deadly radiation. Knowing she had little time remaining for her mortal life, she tried to find a place to hide her Periapt. In a last dying motion she threw it into the dust storm before her, and felt the strength drain away....

Iffley once more raised his Sceptre, but Madison stopped him. "I could use a Spell of Restoration and Regeneration on the Earth, you know."

Iffley shook his head. "This is the way Ozino left the planet to us; we'll leave it irrevocably scarred too. There is still life in the City of Remembrance, as well as in some small villages around the earth. Time will return what we have taken away..." and they disappeared once more.

The remaining six appeared in the dungeons of what had once been the Maelstrom's castle. Madison nodded politely, knowing that it was his turn to go. He released Bronson, whom he had been carrying in a time stasis, and handed him to Taft. He also gave T. G. a spell. "This is a Sanity Spell," he said, "It is only temporary, but it will allow my friend to become a Wizard. And, Iffley, here." He handed the Wizard a small test tube. "It is the cure for Asiel. My best wishes to the new parents..." With that Madison took the Ring, which Iffley had traded him for the Staff, and slipped it around a nail hanging from the Maelstom's dungeon. With it, Bronson's mentor was seen no more....

Iffley examined the medicine Madison had handed him. In bright yellow-on-gold instructions were printed on the tube in italics: "Take one before every meal for two weeks, and leave spy-ridden T'mir immediately." Suralio grinned at the sage-like advice, passed his Key over the container, and sent it Sceptre-delivery to Jonathon Pierce. He nodded happily, and looked up. "Who's next," he asked nonchalantly.

The Wizard of Bandoc transported the group to a sleezy bar deep within downtown Peej. Taft used the Tiara and Madison's spell to release Bronson, and Enad's cousin became his old self again. Looking around the entourage and spying Eve, he raised a finger and shouted at the barlady, "20 beers over here!" But when Iffley handed him the Staff, he knew something was wrong. "Is the game over?" He asked. Their expressions answered his question. Quietly he reached under the table and yanked out one of its legs. He replaced the leg with the Staff, and Bronson Colt Randolf faded into nothingness. Iffley again transported the group away.

Now only four strong, Taft, Enad, Eve, and Iffley landed in the middle of a Ralle'an forest near Adel's castle. Eve was crying. "You know," she sniffled, "I never did, well...." She looked around. Enad returned her glance with an obvious half-smile. Her hesitation ended and she quickly scaled up the nearest tree. Tying the Belt around one of the uppermost limbs, she looked down at them, her mouth open, and faded away. Iffley transported his brothers back to the City of Remembrance.

***T. G. Taft***

The triumvirate was met by Shine, the Historian. "You have done well, Restorers," she said convincingly. "But now you too must go."

"Where are all the other Wizards?" asked Enad anxiously.

"They have been replaced by your friends." She said quietly. "They have finally found--peace."

Iffley interrupted. "What if the Keys are found again--"

Shine nodded. "They can be. If they are, then the Power and Force will be released again. You see, what has happened is that the Power and Force have moved in and out of some of the Keys. The Power now resides in--or will reside in after you are gone--the Tiara of Taft, the Sceptre of Iffley, the Sabre of Wespeak, the Periapt of Ludit, and the Diadem of Taft: These Keys absorbed their Wizards in Terna. The Force is in the Amulet of Ludit, the Talisman of Ledic, the Belt of Eden, the Staff of Randolf and the Ring of Madison."

"How," asked Taft, "since we are not Wizards?"

"You may not have obtained your powers the same way we did," smiled Shine, who transformed suddenly into Phumos, "but you are indeed Wizards. And you will reside in the Hall after you have dissolved, taking our place."

"The Hall--you mean the Hall of Mirrors? I thought it was broken." Interjected Iffley curiously.

"New Halls have been constructed--only this time the Ternan Wizards will be in the Hall of Fortenmiks while the Ralle'an Wizards will live in the Hall of Mirrors. We have hoped that this will make it harder for the balance to be thrown off again."

Iffley nodded, raised his Sceptre, and transported him and his brothers to the rim of where the Pool of Remembrance had once been. The radiation had been reduced here, mostly because of the furious attempts by the people of the City of Remembrance, and foliage was starting to grow again. The sun was slowly sinking in the western sky; Iffley took a deep breath and looked at Taft. "I'll have to be last; otherwise you two won't be able to transport."

He turned away from his brothers. "At least Ozino had Wisdym to say goodbye to," he whispered silently.

Taft had been watching him, waiting for a chance to speak up. "We're not exactly beef jerky, you know," he began. "I mean, we're not you're wife, but we are your kin."

Iffley nodded, brushing his hand through his hair in reflex, "I never found, love...." The words were hard for him to say.

Taft lowered his voice, "We love you, you know. But--I agree--not like how you mean."

Enad interrupted. "Love is hard to come by--anytime. You were looking for something too solid in a world that was shifting too fast," Iffley and Taft looked at Enad, amazed at the intelligent statement. Iffley began again.

"But what did I accomplish in this life? Enad--you accomplished what you set out to accomplish: Fun. You traveled the galaxy more than I ever did or even could. You even had a son--two in fact! And you, Taft, you built the Domain--at least you had Amanda for a little while..."

Taft blushed. "You mean my brother did."

Iffley matched Taft's glow. "You see, even my memory is fading," He began to grumble. "Subject one. Camille. Result. Death by a tree. Subject two. Adena. Result. Blue Ledic gains a fiancee'. Subject three. Dion. Result. Subject two gets target practice. I just don't understand--I must be a jinx..."

Taft imitated Iffley's grumble. "Subject one. Pool of Remembrance. Result. The Earth saved from, er..., someone's rule. Subject two. Opgirg. Result, Feldi and Fewo rescued. Subject three. The Maelstrom. Result. Ralle saved from your counterpart's menace. Any more?" He looked at his sad brother.

Enad interrupted. "Perhaps the problem, bubba, is not that you've never experienced love, but that, for you, love has been too one-sided. You have truly 'Loved and forgiven always.' No one could give as much love as you did, and so it appears, to you, that you've never experienced the emotion."

Taft and Iffley again looked at their black-robed brother. He was getting better.

Taft made one final try. "Suralio, as you look back on it, would you change anything, anything at all, if you could?

Iffley looked at something far away, far, far away. A half-smile curled up on his lips. "No, never. You're right guys. Come here." The three embraced in a long, brotherly hug, and Iffley raised the Sceptre to depart. The Iffley clan was once again united: But it had little time left.

***T. G. Taft***

The three appeared in the basement of what had been the site of Taft Towers, Inc. Taft walked towards the west wall and tapped about three inches from the top edge, near the right. The wall split into thirds; the middle section fell outwards onto the floor. Taft walked over the fallen cement, back about three feet, and faced a solid brick wall. He chose a brick near the center of the wall, pulled it, and a section of five or six blocks near the area came out. Slowly he placed the Tiara inside the opening, and, with a glance over his shoulder, Theodoric Gabriel Taft faded away. Iffley quietly reset Taft's security system, and, with an obvious shake, muttered, "very business like. Just like him." Turning around, he asked, "Where for, you, Enad?"

"I'll gain my own transportation--you go first." Iffley wondered if his brother were a coward, but, after thinking of Enad's adventures at Jupiter, in the white hole, and on Phire Island, decided that he wasn't. "All right," he said with a shrug.

Iffley lifted his Sceptre and transported the duo to the ruins of a great building in what had been Aldery: Enad noticed it as the courthouse he had seen on Able through Kwamkut. Silently they walked up the steps of the building, and Iffley took a seat next to where the prosecuter's stand probably had been. A radiation bubble protected the two kinsmen.

Iffley began. "It is rumored that Blue Ledic once had a dream about this courthouse. In it I was dead, but 'Love and forgive always.' 'Love and forgive always.' Enad, you better get your transportation if you're going after me, because after I'm gone, your bubble will disappear."

"Right. Enad to Cantible. Enad to Cantible. Beam me up, Kwamkut." And then with a look at Iffley, "See ya' later, bubba." He disappeared with a shimmer.

Quietly Suralio Frith Iffley walked up to the judges bench: Judge Jamesno's bench if he remembered correctly. He sat in the remains of a once great leather seat, and stared at the defendant's bench. "Adena Adelaide Ludit, you are accused of murdering one Suralio Frith Iffley, Wizard of Bandoc. After hearing the testimony," he glanced toward the jury bench, and sighed deeply, "I proclaim you..." He brought up the Sceptre behind his shoulder as if it were a gavel; his mouth began to form a "G" but he suppressed it. "Innocent!" He screamed, and bashed the Sceptre against the wooden judges bench. The Key shattered in every direction, and he faded quietly away.

The last remaining Wespeak orbited silently around the blue and green planet called Earth. Enad worked steadily at Kwamkut, transforming him, piece by piece, into something unlike the Cantible. Finally he looked up. "Well?" he asked impatiently.

"I am now seaworthy." Said a voice behind a hidden panel.

"Good. Let me buckle in, then I want you to aim straight for the South Sea of Discord. Ready?" A distinctive click was heard. "Go!"

The craft plunged toward earth, soaking up the heat encountered and transmitting it to the fourth dimension. "They'll have a hot time in the old Fimglor tonight," thought Enad. Finally the ship met water; it plunged under the South Sea of Discord and bobbed upward. Enad reached for the upper hatch and opened it, prepared for the radiation that he thought would rush in and cause his hair to fall quickly out. Instead, to his surprise, the air was fresh and new. He stuck his head out, sniffed, and climbed onto the rim of what had been his space-faring friend. The sun was shining high overhead, where it should not have been, and there was a rainstorm to the southwest. "Funny. My instruments didn't pick up any storms," he mumbled to the ocean waters, "and it should be night. What the heck...." And then he understood what had happened to the radiation, the sun, and the rain. Off to the south, just to the left of the rainstorm, a huge, geometrically perfect arc filled the sky with every color of the spectrum. It had to have been the biggest rainbow Enad had ever seen. He huffed, and grabbed the Sabre that Taft had given him. He reached behind his head as if he was going to cast a fishing rod and threw the Key far, far away into the shimmering blue waters. He took one last look at the giant rainbow. "It sure was fun while it lasted," Enad the Great said, and his mortal body faded silently away.

THE END


 © 1986, 

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

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