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Book 7: Unsung

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Chapter 5

"How about you? Are you ready for this?" Zanner asked Reaper cautiously.

"I believe that I am as ready as one could be when preparing for an Assembly of the Magi." Reaper said frankly.

"I get that it's a big deal, but I'm probably better off not knowing just how big it really is." Zanner said frankly.

"Perhaps. Although I would recommend that you investigate the significance of the ceremony at a later date. I believe that knowing the scale of what you accomplished will be helpful in establishing your confidence in your future endeavors... assuming that we survive, of course." Reaper hesitantly finished.

"Yeah. I won't bother investigating it if we don't." Zanner said with a grin.

"How can you joke at a time like this?" Dex asked with exasperation.

"It's what I do." Zanner said simply, then thought to add, "If you ever see me not joking around, you should probably worry about me."

"We should begin. The others might have already started." Reaper said seriously.

"No. They haven't. If Paul were using elemental magic, I'd be able to feel it." Dex said with certainty.

"Didn't Paul say something about being able to sense you too?" Zanner asked cautiously.

"Yes. We never really talked about it too much, but he mentioned that he could feel it when I joined with the earth." Dex quietly confirmed.

"Then maybe you could send him a message and let him know when you're ready." Zanner hesitantly suggested.

"Maybe. I can't do it right now though. Paul won't be able to sense me until he joins with the water. But just as soon as I sense him there, I can send him a pulse to let him know that I'm ready. I can't promise that he'll understand what it means, but this is Paul we're talking about. I'm not too worried about it."

"Am I to understand that you will know when Paul begins his casting of the spell?" Reaper asked cautiously.

"I'll know when he's joined with the water and is actively using magic. I won't have any way of knowing what he's using the magic for." Dex said carefully.

"What about Milo? Will you be able to sense when he joins with the air?"

"Maybe... I really can't be sure. Since Paul and I can sense each other, it's possible that we might be able to sense Milo too." Dex said slowly.

"What about when G accesses the air? Can you sense that?" Zanner asked curiously.

"I can sense when someone is active somewhere, but the only person I can identify is Paul." Dex carefully explained, doing his best to keep the explanation simple and brief.

"Then I guess we're just going to have to make the most out of that." Zanner muttered thoughtfully.

"Don't forget that everyone else isn't just sitting around waiting for us to fix everything. They're going to be doing stuff too. If we can figure out what they might do, there might be stuff that we can do to help them." Dex carefully reasoned.

"We also need to keep in mind that the Cherubim might somehow be able to help us." Zanner added.

"I can't see how." Dex said honestly.

"Are you ready to go?" Mr. Hansen asked with Mr. Couleigh at his side.

"Go where?" Zanner reluctantly asked.

"We have to hike to the edge of the barrier to go outside so that I can unfold space." Mr. Hansen said simply.

"Do you really have to be outside to do that?" Zanner asked reluctantly.

"While I suppose that it might be possible to set up or collapse a tent from the inside, I wouldn't advise it... and this is a lot more complex than a tent." Mr. Hansen said frankly.

"The knowledge tells me that the oriad, the earth mage and I will need to remain. Go and perform your duties outside, then return. Linnaeus can request the aid of others to help transport you to the edge of the barrier most quickly." Reaper said seriously.

"Do I need to stay here or go?" Den asked uncertainly.

Before anyone else could answer, Linnaeus spoke out in his incomprehensible language.

"While there isn't a need for you to go, Linnaeus is needed and I get the sense that he would appreciate your company." Archdruid Highley interjected.

"Yes. It is important that you develop your teamwork and sense of unity." Reaper agreed.

"Let's head out. We can gather helpers and gain speed along the way." Mr. Hansen said decisively.

"How sure are you that you need for me to go along?" Mr. Couleigh cautiously asked.

"While building our rapport would be a worthy enough reason to include you, the fact of the matter is that I may need some assistance to safely unfold this pocket of space that we're in."

"You'll have it." Mr. Couleigh promised.

* * * * *

"What do we need to be doing while they're gone?" Zanner asked cautiously.

"The knowledge tells me that it might benefit us if we were to practice the release spell. In the past, those that have put forth the extra effort have been rewarded with more stable and powerful assemblies." Reaper carefully explained.

"Then let's do it! Dex and I just have to draw up the elemental earth magic. That's a normal day at work for us." Zanner said with a grin.

"Then please proceed so that I may put your skills to good use." Reaper said frankly.

"Ready?" Zanner asked Dex to be sure.

Dex nodded once with confidence and determination.

Accepting Dex at his word, Zanner began to cast the spell to draw up the elemental energy of the earth.

Reaper watched and listened. It reassured him to see how confidently Zanner and Dex worked together and commanded the earth element, which tended to be somewhat temperamental in less competent and confident hands.

At the sensation of rising elemental magic, Reaper began casting.

As the powers and magics began to build on each other, Reaper came to the realization that as difficult and advanced as the current spell was, when the Magi combined their power and skill, it would result in something on an entirely different level.

"Hey! Isn't that one of the shadows that Milo took through the vinculum?" Zanner asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Do you think it got away from him?" Dex asked as he carefully divided his attention.

"It is more likely a way for Milo to convey the message that he is alive and well." Reaper said reasonably.

"It's kind of hard to know what it means when it can't talk to us." Zanner said frankly.

"Perhaps not." Reaper said thoughtfully, then continued, "But think about what we did with the Cherubim. I asked that they check on the conditions of the others and report their status back to us."

"So it would make sense if Milo was doing the same thing." Dex slowly reasoned.

"If we're wrong, I don't see it being a problem. But if we're right, we can use this shadow to relay a message to Milo."

"Reaper, back off your spell so that I can interrupt my link to the earth." Zanner said seriously.

"Yes. Of course." Reaper immediately responded.

After a moment to get his magical linkages worked out, Zanner finally asked, "So how do we send a message with this thing?"

"I know little of shadowmancy, mostly general concepts. But as I understand it, since the shadow was once human, it knows human concepts and human words. However, unlike ghosts, the existence of a shadow is like a perpetual dream. It has little in the way of waking consciousness."

"So does that mean that we can get it to carry a message for us or not?" Zanner slowly asked.

"Yes. But the longer the message, the more likely it will be to be forgotten or misremembered."

"Okay. We can do that." Zanner said thoughtfully.

"I know what message we should send." Dex said with a smile.

* * * * *

"Essence of air, hear me. I summon your might. Lend me your power!" G clearly intoned as he hefted his spear.

"In service of nature. Earth into water. Water into air. Air into earth. I summon the magic stored within to right that which has gone wrong." Milo said slowly and reverently.

"Are you certain about that spell? It sounds like something that's going to be impossible for you to balance." Professor Everstone asked slowly.

"No. I don't know very much about magic formation and utilization in groups. I'm just going on what Reaper and Paul told me. From what they said, the three of us will achieve the balance together, each of us taking on as much as we can of our specialties and then as much as we can endure of the others." Milo carefully explained.

"Does this mean that the other two spellcasters are performing their spells right now?" Dr. Williams asked curiously.

"No. If they were, I wouldn't be able to talk to you. I'd be caught up in achieving that balance, then maintaining the flow." Milo explained.

"Then what are you doing?" Filipe asked curiously.

"This is the only way I have to find out if Paul and Reaper are ready."

"Isn't there something more that we can be doing?" Dr. Williams asked uncomfortably.

"I think the best thing that we could do right now is to prepare for when Milo is able to access the full power of his spell."

A movement drew their attention.

"Rhuru-wra came back with me. Obby's going with Ud-wra and Rur-wra to explain things to a few more people before they come back here." Agent Fastbeck said as he walked into the stone structure from the humid forest.

"Does anyone know of anything more that we can do to prepare ourselves for what's about to happen?" Dr. Williams asked firmly.

"We can review the spells that we will be using, if you like. Otherwise, remaining aware and alert seems to be our most prudent course of action." Professor Everstone said frankly.

"When Mr. Darroch called and asked the school for help, I was volunteered due to my wealth of 'real world' experience. I get the feeling, looking at what we're doing, that it might have been better for him to have focused a little more on the power levels and casting skills of those he would be recruiting." Dr. Williams said thoughtfully.

"I'm afraid that's partly my fault. You see, when I called Mr. Darroch, it was on a party line and I had to be very careful about what I said. One can only obfuscate the meaning so much before it is lost. I did my best to let him know of our needs without revealing too much of who we are and what we're doing to anyone who might have been listening."

"Well then, I suppose that does explain a few things. If that's how it happened, it appears that you managed to convey enough of your message, because you seem to have gotten the necessary people to get the job done."

"We could have done with one more spellcaster based in the earth element, but I suppose what we have will have to suffice."

"If you think about it, most spelling endeavours end up falling short on the earth element. There aren't a lot of practitioners and they usually end up having to do more than their share of the work."

"You know, now that you mention it, they do seem to have been underrepresented in the mass spelling efforts that I've participated in."

"Yes. They tend to be underpaid and under appreciated for the important work that they do."

"But those who choose to take up the profession despite that tend to be the most powerful and dedicated. They do it for a love of the craft, and their passion shows through."

"I believe that Mr. Hansen demonstrates those qualities and whether he's conscious of it or not, he seems to have been instillIng them in Zanner."

"I'm quite impressed with how the children seem to be rising to the occasion. Although I see children at school every day, I seldom see them at their best. Such is the nature of my profession, I suppose." Dr. Williams said quietly.

"I believe that seeing them en masse might also contribute to that impression. The more brilliant students are hidden from view by the sheer number of average students." Professor Everstone added.

"And the... significantly less than brilliant students not only draw more attention, but usually require it." Dr. Williams said thoughtfully.

"Are we still going to use the spell that Paul and I came up with?" Filipe asked into the silence that followed.

"Yes. For the most part. Certain tasks will need to be divided to be done by separate people, since not all of us can cast multiple spells simultaneously."

"I've never drawn magic from anyone but Paul. Is there anything I need to know before I try?" Filipe asked curiously.

"Yes. You may need to move a bit more slowly than you're used to and be more aware of the individual steps since we'll have to perform the spells in their proper sequence." Professor Everstone told him carefully.

"Yeah. I thought about that. Working with Paul, everything just flows so smoothly and naturally. It's almost like not doing a spell at all. Once you know what he's trying to do and the steps he's taking to get there, you kind of just climb aboard and go along for the ride."

"One person can't make a cooperative spell work, but one person can certainly spoil the spell. What I'm trying to say is that you shouldn't put Paul on too high a pedestal. While his ability to cast multiple spells simultaneously is quite impressive, his cooperative spelling couldn't succeed without someone who could perform at his level. We're going to be counting on you to give your best performance in the upcoming spelling." Professor Everstone said somberly.

"I don't know if you know this, but Paul and I have another thing in common. Neither one of us knew anything about magic before last year. Because of that, both of us have had to learn a lot of stuff really fast. Not only that, but we also haven't learned all of what we can't do. So because of that, please don't tell me how hard it is, just tell me what I have to do and I'll do it."

Before Professor Everstone or Dr. Williams could respond, a fluttering movement drew all their attention.

"What is that? Kill it! Kill it!" Filipe screamed as he scampered behind Dr. Williams to hide.

G took up his spear and held it at the ready, waiting for a reason to attack. An icy cold wind began to swell as G focused on his target.

"This is a visitor from another realm. It is unlikely that it means us any harm." Dr. Williams calmly stated.

"What is it?" Filipe asked as he peeked at their strange visitor, still mostly hidden behind Dr. Williams.

Before anyone could answer, a fluttering movement from their other side drew everyone's attention.

"Mah Zah?" G asked with surprise.

The yaggoral demon flew directly to G and landed on his shoulder, as though it were her rightful place and always had been.

A moment later another, nearly identical demon proudly took its place on his other shoulder.

Mah Zah loosed a short growl, but was interrupted by G's shushing motion with his free hand.

"Child of Sword sends greeting and salutations. I am Jael. Here to inquire of well-being." The strange bird/child/thing before them said with difficulty in a poor facsimile of a child's voice.

"We're fine. We've just been deciding what we need to do next." Professor Everstone answered carefully.

"Child of Sword proceeds toward common goal. Will you respond likewise?"

"Yes. That's what I was talking about. We're continuing on just like before we were separated."

"Is good. I will relay to Child of Sword."

Without further adieu, the strange six-winged child/bird monster flung itself out the nearest doorway and took flight with a loud fluttering of wings.

There was a long moment of silence as everyone stared after where Jael had gone.

"Mah Zah says that was a lesser Cherub, a celestial being." G finally announced into the silence.

"What's Mah Zah and Ginh Zah doing here?" Filipe asked curiously.

"Probably the same thing as the angel. I mean, Paul..."

G was interrupted by Mah Zah's growls and hisses.

After a moment of listening, G relayed, "Paul sent Mah Zah and Ginh Zah to check on us and Ginh Zah is going to report back and tell him how we're doing."

"Am I to understand that this demon of yours can carry a message back to Paul for us?" Professor Everstone asked cautiously.

"Mah Zah and Ginh Zah can do a whole lot more than that. They're not just demons, they're demonic wizards." G said firmly.

"No disrespect intended." Professor Everstone immediately defended.

"That's okay. I just didn't want you to think that we were dealing with 'pets'. They're people just like us, just of a different species." G said frankly.

"Understood." Dr. Williams said quietly, indirectly indicating that his initial opinion of the yaggoral had been somewhat less than flattering.

Ginh Zah growled and hissed something, then waited for Mah Zah to relay the message to G.

"She wants to know if she should give Paul the same message that we sent with the cherub." G announced.

"So what's she going to tell Paul? That we're proceeding as planned? Is there anything else that he needs to know?" Filipe asked anxiously.

"I'm going to keep trying to unleash the stored magic. Paul and Reaper can join me when they're ready. I'm realizing that this is what it means to be the Magi of Volition. It's not just me wanting it to be, but also my willingness to make it be." Milo said determinedly.

One of the winged reptiles suddenly screeched, then flew away. The other remained on G's shoulder.

"Ginh Zah is going to report back to Paul now. Mah Zah is going to stay here to help us, but she can carry a message to Paul from us, if we need her to." G explained.

"It sounds like we're all on the same page. I guess it's time to get this started."

"Essence of air, hear me. I summon your might. Lend me your power!" G clearly intoned as he hefted his spear.

"In service of nature. Earth into water. Water into air. Air into earth. I summon the magic stored within to right that which has gone wrong." Milo said slowly and reverently.

* * * * *

"The water within calls the water without. Like summons like and will calls to will." Mr. Bentley Brown formally pronounced.

Paul waited a beat before calling out, "Essence of water, leave excess behind and join with air. Essence of air, renew and restore and purify through the earth. Essence of earth, release the precious water. I beseech."

"Where do you need us?" A man's voice loudly interrupted from outside.

At the sound, Ares immediately motioned for Dark to go outside with him.

Paul was obviously jarred out of his contemplative state. He blinked a few times, then looked around uncertainly.

"Are you okay?" D quietly asked his son.

"Yeah. I wasn't in too deep. It's okay. Milo and Reaper aren't casting yet so..." Paul was saying when he suddenly stopped and looked anxiously toward the archway.

The barrel-chested demon, Xaphan, moved directly in front of Paul and seemed to ignite. Flames were licking and leaping from his fingertips and the tips of his horns.

Frederick stood in a crouched posture, as was normal for him. He stood beside Paul's left hoof with his fangs and claws bared. The low growls emanating from the demon imp left little doubt that he was primed and ready for battle.

The scent of ozone suddenly filled the air as blue electrical sparks arced and sizzled around Nomia. Anyone with the ability to sense magic at all was immediately aware of the dangerous level of magic the tiny demon sprite was emmassing.

There was a long silent moment before an insane cacophony of snarling and barking erupted directly outside the Brynnhollow version of the vinculum chamber.

Paul, flanked by his demons and his father, hurried to the archway while Miss Oaken, Corabeth and Agent Roberts approached more cautiously.

Mr. Bentley Brown remained in place, not betraying if he had even noticed the din.

* * * * *

"What the hell is that?" Paul asked when he saw the multi-winged creature that was being cornered by a bevy of fierce animals, all of them straining against their last vestiges of self-control to keep from tearing the intruder apart.

"Heaven, actually." D said to his son, then called more loudly, "Please don't hurt him! He's an angel! He's probably carrying a message to us from Reaper."

"Okay everyone! You heard the man! Back off!" Agent Roberts called in a clear commanding voice.

One by one, the animals backed away and some of them began to transform into more humanoid forms.

"Please understand, we weren't expecting anyone. You surprised us. You're not hurt are you?" D asked cautiously.

"No harm. I am Zarall, sent by Child of Sword to ask after you and let you know of intention to continue on as planned." The winged creature said in something vaguely resembling a child's voice.

"Don't believe a thing it says! It lies! It's a monster!" Paul ground out past clenched teeth.

"I wonder if anyone's ever said that about you." D said to his son with an icy glare askance at him.

"That's different..." Paul fought to say.

"Is it? You should know better than anyone that you shouldn't judge a person by their species." D told his son in a firm clear voice.

"Usually I'd agree with you about that, but right this minute I can hear the blood in my veins screaming and crying out for the destruction of the celestials. Their existence is an insult to reality." Paul fought to explain.

"Do you feel that way toward Reaper?" D asked in a much softer tone.

"No. It's not the same. Being a celestial isn't what Reaper is, it's what was done to him." Paul explained as he began to calm.

"Like what was done to you?" D hesitantly asked.

"Yeah... I don't know... Maybe. Can we not talk about this right now?" Paul asked frustratedly.

"It's important to me to know that you won't allow yourself to fall victim to your emotions." D carefully explained.

"I can't turn my feelings on and off like that. I'm not built that way." Paul fought to explain.

"Regardless of your feelings, it's important that you be able to maintain a certain level of civility and decorum. I need to know how far I'll be able to trust you when we're approaching a given situation." D said frankly.

Paul looked at his father with exasperation for a moment, then turned to face Zarall and slowly said, "Hail and well met, Zarall of the Cherubim. I am Paul Darroch. Be welcome and assured that you are safe here amongst us."

Paul looked around the gathering as he continued, "Be it known to all that any move made against this being is a move against me and mine."

Silence fell over those gathered as everyone waited for what was going to happen next.

"I accept this courtesy, and will not abuse. Firstly, Child of Sword has asked me to assess him of your condition." Zarall said seriously.

"We are all well. Thank you for asking." Paul carefully responded.

"Secondly, Child of Sword expressed intention to continue with plan to complete common goal and inquired if it is your intention to do same."

"It is." Paul said simply.

"Then I take leave. Relay message." Zarall said while slowly backing away.

"Have a safe and pleasant journey, Zarall." Paul said with icy formality.

In a flurry of activity, the six-winged creature leapt into flight, nearly from a standstill.

After a moment for the angel to be well away from their group, Paul turned to his father and said, "See? I can do it if I have to."

D couldn't help but smile proudly at his son's accomplishment.

"Sorry. We didn't know it was a friend of yours. It just showed up out of nowhere and... we thought we were helping." A man said timidly.

"Thank you for protecting our backs. We appreciate you looking out for us." D said gratefully, then cautiously asked, "By the way, who are you?"

"This is Jazz and his companion Olive... I think you already know everyone else." Agent Roberts said uncertainly.

"Well, thank you again for thinking of us. We weren't expecting anyone, but it's good to know that if someone were going to try to attack us, that they wouldn't be able to do so unanswered." D said diplomatically.

"As far as I know, all any of us are going to have to do is hang around out here and wait for what's going to happen next. There's no reason that we can't stand guard while we're doing that." Ares said frankly.

"I wouldn't ask you to, but if you have nothing better to do, I can't see how it would hurt anything." D said honestly.

"Wait... What's that?" Dark asked as he pointed.

All in attendance turned their attention to where Dark indicated.

"What?..." Cain began to ask, but then saw the dark figure becoming more substantial in front of them.

"That's one of the shadows that Milo called up, isn't it?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.

"Yes. And while there's a chance that this one is just misplaced due to the separation of the vinculum, I think it's more likely that Milo's using these shadow beings in much the same way that Reaper is using the Cherubim." D said speculatively.

"And like we've used Paul's demons." Corabeth quietly added.

"Well, if that's the case, then it means that all three groups are at basically the same point and are just waiting for everyone to pull it all together." Paul said thoughtfully.

"So what do we have to do next?" Miss Oaken prompted.

"It looks to me like you guys had better get all your stuff taken care of and get comfortable, because what we're about to get into could take a really long time." Paul said seriously.

"Are you ready to begin?" D asked to confirm.

"Yeah." Paul said decisively, then turn to the shadow creature and simply said, "We're ready."

The shadow creature bowed reverently, then seemed to be swept away by a nonexistent breeze.

"Is there anything you need for us to do?" Agent Roberts asked cautiously.

"Even though you do a lot of things for us, the thing that you do that no one else can is control the door. So I think that no matter what else you do, you probably need to stay really close to the archway." Paul said frankly.

D slowly and silently nodded his agreement to his son's reasoning.

"Come on, guys." Paul said as he herded his demons back into the vinculum chamber, which in Brynnhollow, looked like a mausoleum.

* * * * *

"The water within calls the water without. Like summons like and will calls to will." Mr. Bentley Brown formally called out as the others around the room carefully and quietly found their places.

Paul waited a beat before calling out, "Essence of water, leave excess behind and join with air. Essence of air, renew and restore and purify through the earth. Essence of earth, release the precious water. I beseech."

D, Miss Oaken and Corabeth were seated in a row and were braced for the onslaught of magic that could assault them at any moment.

In his low demonic voice, in nearly a whisper, Paul calmly began to say, "That which is closed, I now open..."

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

I don't think I have ever heard paul sound to totally angry or hateful. I am glad he got his emotions under control and was able to hold calm civil conversation with his seemingly arch enemy.

It seems to me that all of our young friends and older ones as well are performing their jobs very well.

It also seems as if things are getting closer to the actual spells being put into the right place and time.

Let's hope all comes together as is best for everyone.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher