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"How is everyone doing?" G asked as he looked around the dreamscape.
"Did you call us, Mr. Bentley Brown? Can we just call you by your first name? If there was an emergency, everything would be all exploded before we were finished calling your name."
"My first name is Charles."
"Charles... Charlie? Brown?" Zanner slowly puzzled.
"Bentley Brown, if you don't mind too terribly."
"Your parents must have been real sadists to do that to a kid." Zanner said frankly.
"To the contrary, my parents were quite joyful and thought the whole thing was tremendous fun." Mr. Bentley Brown said with the ultimate flat affectation in his voice.
"Well, I guess as long as you're not bitter about it..." G said hesitantly.
"If we may continue." Mr. Bentley Brown said firmly.
Zanner glanced at G, obviously fighting the urge to say something inappropriate.
G couldn't help but smile in response, then dutifully returned his attention to Mr. Bentley Brown.
"Why did you bring us here? What do we need to do next?" Dex asked seriously.
"I did not call this meeting. The chalice did that of its own accord." Mr. Bentley Brown patiently explained.
"So, what are we doing here?" G asked cautiously.
"The way you explained it before, I thought this place is where we can compare notes and make plans. Maybe we're here to do that." Dex reluctantly suggested.
"As far as I know, we're all doing fine... aren't we?" Zanner asked as he looked from one person to the next.
"It would seem so. As far as I know, we are all proceeding without issue. I am not aware of anything that we need to discuss." Mr. Bentley Brown cautiously stated.
"So this is where you guys are hiding." Paul's voice said, heralding his arrival.
"Paul? How did you get in here?" G asked hesitantly as Paul materialized before them.
"What? Aren't you happy to see me?" Paul asked in a mock-wounded tone.
"Yeah. Happy. Love you always." G rattled off casually, then urgently asked, "What are you doing here?"
"I didn't choose to be here. I was kinda brought." Paul said simply.
"Mr. Bentley Brown? Do you have any idea why Paul is here?" Zanner asked hopefully.
"I can't be sure, but it is possible that since Paul previously held the chalice, that he is seen as a worthy holder of it. If the chalice can sense his physical presence and still sees him as being worthy, it might have reached out to include him in the meeting." Mr. Bentley Brown said speculatively.
"Is this a dreamspace?" Paul asked curiously as he looked around.
"Yes. And we're also outside of time... well, mostly. We can be in here for hours and it's a few seconds outside." G explained.
"Does sorcery not work here?" Paul asked cautiously.
"I don't know, I haven't tried. Why?"
"No reason. I just thought that a dreamspace would be a playground for a sorcerer like you." Paul said frankly.
"We've been more focused on accessing the power for the Magi." G said frankly.
"We're giving everything we've got and I'm not sure it's going to be enough." Zanner admitted.
"Don't worry. As one of the Magi, I can promise you that no matter what happens, we won't take more than you have to give."
"From the way things have been... unfolding so far, I can't help but think that there's got to be a reason you were brought here..." G fought to explain.
"Plenty of things happen without a reason, but for right now, let's look at what we've got to work with and decide what we're going to do with it." Paul said confidently.
"Isn't it obvious?" Zanner asked the group impatiently.
After a moment, G finally said, "Apparently not, because you seem to be the only one to figure whatever it is out."
"You and Paul combine your magic. That's the obvious thing about him being here. There must be something that you can accomplish together that no one else can do on their own." Zanner said frankly.
"Cooperative spells take a lot of hard work and preparation..." G began to explain.
"Except for with me. Since I can do multiple spells at once, it gives me a special talent for weaving spells together." Paul said thoughtfully.
"So what cooperative spells do you guys have that could help us out?" Zanner asked curiously.
"The pillar and the ice house are about all that we've got." G reluctantly admitted.
"Yeah. When we're alone together, we usually have other things on our minds." Paul said with a suggestive grin at G.
"Right. Um, then what does that leave us with?" Dex asked cautiously.
"Not much." G admitted frankly.
"What if..." Paul began to say, but drifted off in thought.
"What if what?" G cautiously asked.
"Give me a second to work this out... I think I've got something but it may be too big for me to do by myself." Paul muttered distantly.
"Which could be why the chalice brought you here." Zanner said frankly.
"What have you got? Maybe we can help you reason it out." G quietly offered.
"I don't know if we can find a way to do it, but what if we weave the spells of all three barriers together somehow? The woven spells could exponentially increase their strength and durability. Not only would you have triple layered spells, but then you'd have the stress dispersion dynamic from the weave." Paul said slowly.
"That sounds great except that there's no way to do it. Getting all the spellcasters to coordinate that many spells would be straight up impossible." G said honestly.
"That's true, but look at who we've got here. It's none of the regular spellcasters. What if that means that there's something that we can do." Paul patiently explained.
"We're the people summoning magic and directing it to do what we need it to." Zanner said frankly.
"So, what if the direction that we choose is some kind of a 'weave'?" Dex cautiously suggested, then looked around nervously to see if anyone were going to call him stupid.
"So are you saying that instead of erecting one barrier at each colony, we'd be erecting three?" Zanner asked slowly.
"In a way, but it's more like we'd be interlacing the temporal/spatial loci of the three barriers... it's actually kinda multidimensional..." Paul muttered thoughtfully.
"The Vinculum!" Dex interrupted.
"What about it?" Paul asked cautiously.
"It's a multidimensional space that exists at the center of all three colonies. If we were to anchor our spelling to the Vinculum and project it outward from there, then we could place and 'weave' the spells one time and have it done for everyone." Dex said speculatively, appearing to be fairly certain of his deduction.
"What about Waxell? Isn't doing it that way going to draw it into the spell?" Zanner asked anxiously.
"It could." Mr. Bentley Brown said simply, then added, "A balancing force needs to be generated to negate the barrier generation at the Tennyson property."
"But wouldn't the 'balancing force' have to be huge to stand against all the other spellcasters at once?"
"No..." Mr. Bentley Brown began to say just as Paul said, "Not really. Much like water, magic will follow the path of least resistance. If the three of you can clear the way for the other elements, my father can protect the human realm."
"Your father?" Zanner asked suspiciously.
"Yeah. He's got the fire element and he's powerful enough to manage it on his own." Paul said simply.
"How likely is it that this is some sort of plan dreamed up by your father to cause you to set him loose in the earthly realm?" Mr. Bentley Brown asked seriously.
G and Zanner both bristled at the suggestion, but Paul immediately said, "That's a fair question."
After a moment to allow that to sink in, Paul continued, "But if we're going to use the triple barriers, we're going to need his help. There's no debate on that point, we don't have anyone with fire abilities who could even come close to being strong enough. We need to decide if that's a deal-breaker before we can do much of anything else."
"I think how you feel about it is going to matter a whole lot more than whatever the rest of us think." G quietly admitted.
"Don't worry about me. I'll deal. Just do what's right. Help the most people you can." Paul said frankly.
"Is it worth the risk?" Dex cautiously asked.
"I think the better question might be 'can we really think about passing this up?'" Zanner asked assertively.
"What do you mean?" Paul asked curiously.
"We're being given access to epic amounts of magic to help three colonies of defenseless people with a shielding spell that's so big and powerful that not only has it never been cast before, but will probably never be cast again. If we fail, we're really no worse off than if we'd done nothing. But if we succeed..." Zanner trailed off expectantly.
"But what if it's a trap?" G asked simply.
"If we make a mess, we'll clean it up." Paul responded in kind.
"Does anyone have a problem with this arrangement? We need to be clear on this before we commit to an action." Mr. Bentley Brown asked seriously.
"I think we're all fine." Zanner quickly assured him, then quickly asked, "What about you?"
"Disregarding any feelings on the matter, I think this is a logical way to proceed." Mr. Bentley Brown said very precisely.
"What if you didn't disregard feelings?" G pressed.
"My illogical flawed feelings tell me to trust V. I get the sense that if your father believes that our goals are worthy, that he will fight passionately... even righteously, to achieve them."
"I know that's supposed to be good... Why does it sound like it's a bad thing?" Paul cautiously asked.
"Perhaps because the greatest atrocities in history started out with someone like your father." Mr. Bentley Brown said soberly.
"What do you think we should do?" Paul hesitantly asked.
"Make a choice and commit to it. We don't have time to waffle on the issue."
"Actually, we do. You know, dreamspace... outside of time... remember that?" Zanner asked impishly.
"Yes. I remember." Mr. Bentley Brown assured him, then explained, "But I doubt that a month of discussion will allay all of our concerns. We need to decide what we, as a group, believe is right or wrong, then make our decisions accordingly."
"Does anyone want to give up this chance because Paul's father is a demon?" Dex asked as he looked around their small gathering.
"There's a lot more to it than that..." Paul began to say.
"No. I really don't think that there is." Mr. Bentley Brown interrupted. "If anyone here believes that including V and doing the 'weave' are too dangerous or in any way the wrong thing to do, then you need to make it known right now. This will only work if we're all committed to the project."
"I think it goes without saying that I'm on board." Paul said simply.
"Would you hate me if I didn't trust your father enough to go through with this?" G asked cautiously.
"I won't hate you, I'll be proud of you for speaking up. I only ever want for you to do what you believe is right." Paul reassured him.
"Okay. Then I have no objection to trusting V." G said simply.
"Oh... Good... Um, how does that work?" Paul asked cautiously.
"I think that if this were some kind of plot, then you'd be trying to convince me to go along with you. Since you're encouraging me to make up my own mind, I think you're right. We've got one chance to do something amazing. Let's take it."
"Does anyone else have anything?" Paul asked cautiously.
"I have no idea of what we're actually going to do, but I'm with you in wanting to do it." Zanner said frankly.
"We're just going to redirect the spells that everyone was already going to cast." Paul said dismissively.
"Just as simple as that? Huh?" G asked with a smile.
"Easy peasey." Paul said with a grin.
G couldn't restrain a laugh.
"Once you work the new destination into your base spell, it will allow the barriers to be redirected and woven together." Paul continued.
"Who's going to be doing the weaving?" Zanner asked cautiously.
"The Magi. It's like each group of spellcasters is creating their own unique 'strand'. The Magi are going to weave those strands together."
"Then why aren't the Magi here, figuring this out?" Zanner asked curiously.
"Probably because the hard part of this is deciding what to do. Once that part is settled, then all that's left is to go ahead and do it."
"Okay. I'll take your word for that. But now that we've decided, what is there for us to do?" G asked carefully.
"Oh, I thought you already figured that part out. The relic holders are going to be fueling all of the weaving while the magic users are using the stored magic to create the barriers. Having the uniquely sourced magics is part of what's going to make all of this possible."
"I don't know about anyone else, but I'm already putting out one hundred percent. I don't think it's possible for me to do more." Zanner said frankly.
"All we're going to need is a path to follow, just the slightest thread. Once we've got that, we can manipulate the flow so that you won't have to worry about us overwhelming you or taking too much."
"But you're going to be using the magic from the relics to do the weaving?"
"Yes. That's what's going to allow us to do our own unique spellings while the spellcasters are still doing theirs. Otherwise our spells might become muddled." Paul said confidently.
"Okay. So what do we still need to do before we go back to normal space/time?" Zanner asked cautiously.
"Just back me up when the time comes. I'm not sure that Reaper and Milo are going to be too enthusiastic about switching tactics at this point in the project." Paul said frankly.
"You can count on us." G warmly assured him.
"Thanks. I appreciate that." Paul said with a smile, then looked around uncertainly.
"Are we supposed to do something to make it stop?" Dex quietly asked.
"So far as I know, the chalice should release us once everything has been resolved." Mr. Bentley Brown said honestly.
"Maybe it's still evaluating what we just did and needs a minute to catch up." Zanner suggested helpfully.
Paul nodded, then smiled as he looked to G and said, "It was really cool the way Dad reacted to Lex."
"Yeah. I know that I don't do as many amazing things as you do, but I think it makes it that much more awesome when Dad notices something that I did." G said with a wistful smile.
"I think it also helps that Dad doesn't go around praising us for every little thing. When he says that he's impressed by something, you know that he means it." Paul said frankly.
"Everyone, I just felt a magical pulse from the chalice which I believe is the signal that we will be returning to the physical plane any moment. Brace yourselves and don't be jarred by the sensation of rushing power. Your bodies have been channeling the elemental magic the whole time we've been here." Mr. Bentley Brown explained.
"I love you." Paul said with a quick smile.
"I love you too." G responded before the world went white.
* * * * *
"Reaper. Milo. I need you for a second." Paul said as the world seemed to reform from the white nothingness.
"Everything is in readiness. We cannot delay." Reaper said in a warning tone.
"Look over here." Paul said simply as he pointed to the floor in the center of the gazebo.
As soon as he said the words, a large stone pillar began to form and rise up.
When the pillar reached the level of a table, it stopped growing and the surface began to glow with an intricate spell diagram.
"What are you doing?" Milo asked as he cautiously approached.
"Like Reaper said, we cannot delay." Paul said as the last of the details of the diagram filled themselves in.
"This... You propose casting a spell using active spells, as they are being cast, as components?" Reaper asked in astonishment.
"Sounds kinda ballsy when you put it that way." Paul said frankly, then continued, "But if you guys are up to it, the three of us can weave the barrier spells together. The spellcasters won't have to do anything but give the Magi control of the locus."
"What about Waxell?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.
"Oh yeah. If my father is up to it, he could use his fire as an opposing force to keep a barrier from forming there." Paul said as he glanced at V hopefully.
"Of course I'll be glad to help however I can." V immediately stated.
"If you'll just hang out with Otis and Kirwin over by the Waxell door, you shouldn't have to do much more than repel the flow of magic in your direction..." Paul was saying when a strange look crossed his expression.
He paused for a moment, then turned half around and cautiously asked, "Ares?"
"Yes?" Ares immediately responded.
"Do you know if Deimos and Jim are nearby?"
"Yes. As far as I know, they're in the clearing just about thirty feet from here." Ares cautiously answered.
"Would you ask them to come here?" Paul asked absently, as he seemed to be working through about a hundred different scenarios at once.
"This isn't going to be dangerous, is it?" Ares cautiously asked.
"They shouldn't be in any more danger in here than out there." Paul said frankly.
"That doesn't make me feel much better." Ares said with a slight grimace.
"I get the feeling that making you feel better is his job." Paul said with a grin in Dark's direction.
Dark laughed and nodded at the statement.
"I'll just go... get them." Ares said as he shyly ducked out of the room.
Paul smiled, then turned to his right and said, "Xaphan, I'd like for you to stand with my father and lend him aid with your fire. Will you do that?"
Xaphan growled once in response, then walked immediately to V's side.
"What did you need us for?" Deimos, in his half-dragon form, asked as he hurried into the Vinculum chamber, preceding the centaur, Jim, by only a step.
"I was hoping that you guys could help us out with a spell that we're doing." Paul explained.
"We don't know how to do anything but fireballs." Deimos explained.
"I'm not expecting you to do anything more than that. The important thing is that there are fire users present to resist the formation of a barrier around Waxell." Paul said seriously.
"I understand what he's saying. I'll help you." V offered.
The half-dragon and centaur stared up at the literal demon with surprise.
"This is my father, we call him V." Paul finished with a smile up at his father.
"We're going to get to work with a real demon?" Deimos asked excitedly.
Jim was dancing with his front hooves slightly with excitement at the prospect.
"I get the feeling that they're not going to have a problem with it." V said with an amused smile at his son.
"Bad." Jael said disapprovingly.
"Is bad." Zarall agreed.
"The celestial is countered by the infernal, such is the natural order." Reaper said mostly patiently.
"So you want for us to follow this spell diagram while reforming the barriers?" Milo asked thoughtfully, apparently oblivious to all that was going on around him.
"Yeah. If the spellcasters will yield the locus to the Magi, that should be the only difference on their parts. As far as our part, just follow the pattern that I've made here." Paul said seriously.
"This design... is it Celtic in origin?" Milo asked uncertainly.
"I don't know. I guess so." Paul said haltingly, then broke into a smile and added, "I'm part Scottish, on D's side of the family."
"You do realize that we're still channeling the elements, don't you?" Mr. Bentley Brown quietly interjected.
"Sorry Charlie... erm, Mr. Bentley Brown." G finished with a smile.
"We'll get on with it right now." Paul gently added, then said more loudly, "Magic users, in case you weren't able to keep track, there's been a slight change in plans. When it comes time to define the locus of your spell, call upon your Magi to state it. That's the only change you'll have to take into account."
"Do you need me over here?" V asked his son cautiously as he indicated the Waxell door.
"Yes. Just resist the formation of a barrier around your vinculum point. That should be all you'll have to do." Paul assured him.
"Maybe you could show us some fire tricks... I mean, if you have time." Deimos cautiously suggested.
"Are you saying that you have natural born fire magic and you don't know any spells?" V asked curiously.
"Paul taught us fireballs, but that's all the fire we know." Deimos answered.
"Come over here and I'll see if I can't find a few more spells for you." V said warmly, then glanced back at Xaphan and said, "You too. Maybe you know of a spell that the boys haven't learned yet."
* * * * *
"Do you want for me to upgrade the illusion?" Lex asked cautiously.
Corabeth and Miss Oaken looked from Lex toward G, trying to understand who was talking to them.
"With the magic that we have access to, it would be possible to upgrade the Brynnhollow illusion a little." Lex elaborated.
"Like how?" Corabeth cautiously asked.
"I can just adapt the existing spell to have an outer layer showing the person what they expect to see. That way, someone could enter the Brynnhollow woodlands and not even realize that they were ever near a magical barrier. They would have to push past the misdirection before running into the disorienting creepy part of the spell." Lex explained.
"Can you really do that? I mean... you're not a real person..." Miss Oaken uneasily reminded him.
"I'm an illusion cast by a sorcerer who has tapped directly into one of the primary elements. I probably have more magic available to me than the average witch." Lex said frankly.
"Are you G or are you someone else?" Corabeth asked uncertainly.
"I'm me... G calls me Lex." He answered.
"Will you still exist when this spell is over?" Miss Oaken gently asked.
"I hope so." Lex answered simply, then timidly smiled at Corabeth as he continued, "There are some people that I'd really like to get to know better."
Corabeth blushed and timidly smiled at the statement.
"But right now G is depending on me to do what he isn't able to. Would you like for me to upgrade the sorcery on the Brynnhollow barrier?"
"How is that going to affect the other barriers, I mean, with the way they're talking about weaving them together?"
"Unless I'm missing something, all the changes should be for the better. It will take what's already there and give it a fresh veneer of 'nothing to see here, move along'." Lex said seriously.
"Do you need for us to do anything?" Miss Oaken asked uncertainly.
"Just kinda hang back for a minute while I do my stuff." Lex said simply.
"You're not real. How can you cast a spell?" Miss Oaken asked suspiciously.
"A puppet master like you should know better than anyone. Remote possession, casting by proxy... the only difference is that instead of using a doll or a possessed person, G is using an illusion of himself." Lex carefully explained.
"What do you know about me?" Miss Oaken asked uneasily.
"Just what G knows. It's nothing bad. The students are all interested in what abilities the teachers have. He heard about your remote possession ability from Paul when you took Carla to the office that time." Lex said frankly.
"I've learned not to tell people about my ability. Not many understand what it actually is and some are afraid that I might somehow control them." Miss Oaken said quietly.
"You don't have to worry about that with G. His dad has a similar ability, so he's been around that kind of magic all his life." Lex finished with a smile.
"If D is 'his dad', what is he to you?" Corabeth asked with concern.
"I don't know. He's sort of like my dad too, but in another way he's not, since he doesn't see me as his son. I guess I'll have to think about that... if I continue to exist, that is." Lex finished uneasily.
"Okay. If you're going to modify the illusion spell, now is the time to do it." Miss Oaken reluctantly interrupted.
"This won't take too long." Lex assured her, then turned to Corabeth and quietly said, "If I continue to exist after this, maybe we could go out and... do something. I mean, if you want to."
Corabeth was obviously stunned by the suggestion, but finally answered, "Yeah. I think I'd like that."
Lex broke into a grand smile, then happily went to work on crafting his illusion.
* * * * *
"Does anyone need any help?" Jhaartael asked as he walked from group to group.
"Celestial beings capable. Not need help." Zarall snapped irritably.
"I would advise you to never visit the faerie realms, I believe that you would not do well there." Jhaartael responded.
"No desire to commune with vermin." Jael said simply.
"Charming." Jhaartael said with a look askance, then added under his breath, "Whatever you do, don't ever fall asleep in my presence. You have been warned."
* * * * *
"Dad! Look at this!" Deimos called toward his father.
"What is it?" Ares asked curiously as he approached.
V looked curiously from the half-dragon to the Karasu Tengu and couldn't help but smile at the unlikely and wondrous world that he found himself in.
"Look at what V taught us to do." Deimos said before beginning to work through an awkward series of hand gestures.
"Thanks for teaching them. They don't get many opportunities to learn." Ares told V quietly.
"I don't get many opportunities to teach, so that works out well." V responded as he watched Deimos' moves carefully.
Ares watched and waited a moment longer, then noticed that a transparent film of flame seemed to envelope Deimos.
"See? I don't have to transform when I flame up now. And not only will it burn someone if they try to hurt me, but it also makes it so that I can walk through fire. I don't even have to do my clothes changing spell." Deimos excitedly explained.
"Well, if we have any bonfire malfunctions, I'll know who I can call upon to fix them." Ares said with a grin.
"While it may not have much application in day-to-day life, it's still a handy thing to have in one's repertoire." V said simply.
"I suppose so." Ares easily agreed, then added, "Since I don't have access to my own powers, I'm glad when the boys are able to learn any magic."
"Why is that?" V asked curiously.
"The descendents of the Brynn bloodline are all cursed with unwanted animal transformations and prevented from using the rest of our magic." Ares said as he kept the majority of his attention on his son.
"That must be a potent curse to follow a bloodline for generations." V said thoughtfully.
"Although I've heard the history, I don't know much about the magical side of things. Since my people haven't had access to their magic since anyone can remember, the knowledge of how to use magic hasn't been passed down." Ares said distantly.
"Your sons don't seem to be having any trouble accessing their magic right now." V said honestly.
"Jim isn't my son, although he's the next best thing. My other son is named Cain. He's still discovering what he can do with his magic. So far he's only been able to conjure up some stinky smoke." Ares said simply.
"What does it smell like?" V asked curiously.
"Like something died, then spoiled... in a sweaty sock." Ares said thoughtfully.
"It sounds like your son may have a quasi-elemental talent. If that's the case, it can be an incredibly useful talent to have." V said seriously.
"His brother has been teasing him, saying that his ability is to summon farts. So far we haven't thought of a circumstance when his ability would be useful." Ares said honestly.
"Well, the foul smelling smoke may not be that useful, but the talent for smoke exists between the talents for fire and air. Once the conjuration of smoke has been mastered, both air and fire may become accessible to him." V said sagely.
"That's good to know. Maybe when this is all over, I could get with D and find out if they have anyone who could teach him." Ares said thoughtfully.
"Yes. That sounds like a very good idea. I would offer to help except that I will have to return home when this adventure of ours is concluded." V said regretfully.
"Things have a way of going around and coming around. It wouldn't surprise me if our paths were to cross again." Ares said frankly.
"You know, I've noticed the same thing. It wouldn't bother me a bit if it turned out to be so." V said with a smile.
"Well, as long as you're not here possessing someone that I love. In that case, I probably wouldn't be as happy to see you here." Ares thought to add.
V laughed with delight, then admitted, "There are many different types of devils and demons. I don't have that ability, so I couldn't possess a person, even if I wanted to. That's not to say that I couldn't cause someone to be possessed by calling upon a demon who does have that ability. But there is absolutely no way that I could possess them myself." V explained.
"That's not quite as comforting as I might have liked." Ares slowly admitted.
"I don't have that ability either, that being, telling you what you want to hear." V said with a slight grin.
"Okay. That made me feel better." Ares said with a smile.
"Ares? Things are starting to wobble. I think you need to focus on the magical flow." Dark called from the Brynnhollow doorway.
"I've got to get back to work. You guys are doing great. Be sure to show me all the new things that you've learned when we finish." Ares said before hurrying away.
"What else can you teach us?" Deimos asked hopefully.
"Xaphan? Do you have any special fire tricks that you'd like to teach the boys?" V asked curiously.
The Yan-gant-y-tan demon raised one of his oversized hands as his fingertips burst into flame.
To Be Continued...
Wow! It seems that things are actually starting to develop into something tangible. I do hope that someone can do something to give magic use at least back to the youngsters. I almost wonder if the belief that they can't use their magic could be a factor in their inability to use it.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher