Hurt & Comfort

Book 11: Creating Comfort

©2020 MultiMapper
All Rights Reserved

Chapter 25: Slice of Life

"Hey! You're getting better at that." Beau said as he noticed that they had smoothly and effortlessly transitioned from standing in the library to the nygo-husk equivalent. The effect was something like a light dimming, except that instead of ending up in darkness, they ended up in a blue-grey abstraction of their own reality.

"I guess I'm getting used to how hard I have to push to make things happen." Seth explained.

"Before we get too much into this, let me tell you what I was thinking." Lee hurried to say.

"What was that?" Beau asked curiously.

"I thought that if you were able to find your piece of nygo-husk and Seth was able to stabilize it for you, then Quaid and I could 'hell surf' you back to the gingerbread house so that you could do your hocus-pocus thing on it." Lee explained earnestly.

"I had assumed that we would need Andrew to make a portal for us to be able to make this work. But I think it will be better for us to do for ourselves as much as we can." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Is there going to be anything that I can do while you're doing all that?" Slash asked cautiously.

"I can think of two things, right off the top of my head. First, you can be the one to physically hold the nygo-husk while the rest of us are doing the things that we need to do to it." Beau said seriously.

When Beau didn't automatically continue, Slash prompted him by saying, "Second?"

"I was just thinking that it would look a lot cooler if Fallen's nygo-husk shroud was black." Beau finished with a smile.

"That would be cool, wouldn't it?" Slash said with an emerging grin.

"What about this, over here?" Lee asked as he pointed.

When Seth saw what he was referring to, he took a few steps and adjusted the light emanating from his horns to provide the best possible view for everyone.

"It looks like a nice continuous sheet of webbing." Lee said consideringly, then thought to ask, "Is it big enough?"

"Maybe. But now that I see it, I just don't know how we'll get to the top of it or how we'll cut it down." Beau said slowly as he strained to see the top of the sheet of webbing.

"How about with Steve's help and some scissors?" Quaid cautiously suggested.

"I guess if you want to do it the simple way... we can try." Beau reluctantly admitted.

"Seth, be ready to bring me back in." Lee said before disappearing with a slight ::bamf:: and a sulfuric puff of smoke.

"That's new." Seth said uncertainly.

"I think he's refining his technique, just like you are." Beau said frankly.

"Do you think scissors will work on it?" Slash asked Beau cautiously.

"I think that's going to depend on Seth." Beau answered honestly, then explained, "If he can find the perfect balance of durability for the nygo-husk so that it can be cut but won't dissolve, then we should be able to collect what we need."

//Steve and Lee are ready to be brought in.// Jesus projected into all their minds.

"Got it. Thanks." Seth said as a flash of golden light suddenly erupted, followed by a pulse of blue/white light from his horns.

When the flash faded, Lee and Steve were standing in their midst.

"Lee said that there might be something that I can do to help." Steve said uncertainly.

"Yes. If you could reach the top of that sheet of webbing while Seth stabilizes it, we were hoping that you'd be able to cut it down for us." Beau said seriously.

Lee held up a pair of scissors, then offered them to Steve.

After looking up at the webbing for a moment, Steve slowly said, "I don't know if I'll be able to reach all the way to the top of it."

"I can make a cube for you to stand on if you want." Quaid quickly offered.

"That's right. I didn't think of that." Lee said with surprise.

"Seth, do you think you can alter the webbing so that we can cut it without it dissolving?" Beau asked cautiously.

"I don't know. I haven't really tried anything that exact. It'd probably be best if I could try it on some other webbing before I mess up the big one that's the right size." Seth said seriously.

"Excellent plan." Beau said with a decisive nod.

"Steve, bring the scissors over here and let's try some things." Seth said as he started walking to another part of the cavernous space.

"How long do you think this is going to take? The others are waiting on us." Lee reminded his companions.

"It shouldn't take too long. Either it'll work or it won't." Seth said frankly, then added, "If I can't make it work, then we can go have lunch while I think about other things to try." Seth said confidently.

"Sounds good." Lee said as he watched with interest.

Seth focused his attention on the webbing as he slightly altered the light of his horns.

"Here. Try it now." He finally said as he held perfectly still.

Steve waited a moment to see if Seth were going to do anything else before cautiously moving in with the scissors.

After a tentative 'snip' that appeared to have the desired effect, Steve looked around to see what the others wanted him to do next.

"That seems to have worked. Why don't you try cutting it into a shape?" Beau asked cautiously.

"You mean, like a heart?" Steve asked uncertainly

"It doesn't matter. I just need to know if you can cut the webbing to hold a precise shape or if it will fray or unravel at the edge." Beau explained.

"Let's find out." Steve said as he carefully snipped and cut the ethereal fabric.

"It seems to be good so far." Slash said tentatively.

"Yes." Beau agreed, then asked, "Seth, do you think that you can do the same thing with the big sheet?"

"It feels like when my light hits the webbing that it kind of 'bakes' it, by that I mean it's like after you've taken something out of the oven, when it cools down, it's changed. It doesn't go back to being raw." Seth struggled to explain.

"I don't know enough about the sideway dimension to know if that's how it works or not." Beau said slowly.

"Does it matter? It worked, right?" Lee asked quickly.

"What I'm saying is, if I'm right, I'm going to need a few minutes to 'bake' the whole thing. But once I'm done with that, I won't need to keep my light on it the whole time until Beau makes it permanent." Seth said slowly.

"Are we sure that it won't dissolve when it comes to our world?" Steve asked cautiously as he looked at the webbing heart that he had cut out.

"One way to find out." Seth said as he faced Steve and his horns pulsed with dark blue light.

"Don't be mean to Steve." Quaid warned.

"I'm not. I'm just not going to treat him like 'company'. This is my way of showing him that he's 'family'. I'm treating him just like I'd treat my brother, Junior." Seth said frankly as his horns erupted a lighter shade of blue light.

"Just because my fangs have been drained doesn't mean that I don't have any poison left." Steve said with a glare at Seth.

"How's your heart?" Seth asked, pointing to the delicate fabric in Steve's hands.

Steve paused for a moment, then held the heart-shaped piece of fabric up for all to see.

"I'd call that a successful test." Lee said frankly.

"Yeah. Then I guess I'm ready to bake us some webbing. Do we need to do anything else first?" Seth asked as he looked around.

"Go ahead. Let us know when you're ready for us to start cutting." Beau said decisively.

"Quaid. Could you make me a cube to stand on. I think this would be easier if I were a little higher up." Seth asked hopefully.

"Yeah. How's this?" Quaid asked as a three-foot-tall smokey-blue cube appeared.

"Can you make it taller?" Seth asked cautiously.

"Yeah. But I can't fly you up there. Get on top and I'll grow it for you." Quaid replied.

Seth easily hopped on top of the cube and it almost immediately began to grow.

"You'll have to tell me when it's big enough." Quaid said simply.

"Stop it there. It looks to me like I'm right in the middle. I should be able to reach the whole thing, top to bottom, from here."

"Steve, is that too high for you?" Lee asked with concern.

"Quaid, can you move the cube a little closer in if I need you to?" Steve asked cautiously.

"Sure. I can make my cube do anything I want." Quaid said proudly.

"Here it goes." Seth announced, then the light of his horns changed and the glow of them was focused on the sheet of webbing before him.

"Jesus, how are things going out there?" Lee asked into the air.

//Chesser just finished his test booklet. Mad said that she can wait to evaluate it after the test-takers have had their break.// Jesus carefully explained.

"Tell her to go on to lunch and we'll catch up to you guys in a few minutes." Lee said decisively.

There was a long pause, then Jesus responded, //She says that the team needs to be together right now. I agree with her.//

"Seth? Can you bring them in?" Lee asked cautiously.

"Busy baking. Give me a second." Seth said slowly as he fought to maintain his concentration.

//There's no rush. I'll get everyone over to one side so that we won't phase in on top of you guys.// Jesus said seriously.

"That sounds like a good idea." Lee said appreciatively.

There was a long silent moment as everyone waited for Seth to complete his 'baking'.

"Before I go any further, I just want to confirm, what shape do you want this thing?" Seth asked cautiously.

After a moment to consider, Beau quietly said, "I was naturally thinking of a square, but now that you ask, it seems to stand to reason that it should be a circle, so it will drape evenly."

"The way I've been 'baking' it is mostly a circle pattern. That's just the way my light could hit it best. Look it over while I bring the others in." Seth said as he looked over his handiwork.

"It all looks the same to me. Is there a way to tell what's 'baked' and what isn't?" Lee asked cautiously.

"Oh, yeah. Here." Seth said as golden light flashed for an instant, leaving the 'baked' portion slightly luminescing.

"You're really getting better at that." Slash said in an impressed voice.

"When I do new things, I try to remember what each thing does." Seth said as he turned around on top of the cube, then released two bursts of light in rapid succession, which resulted in the crew from the library appearing in the nygo-husk quasi-dimension.

"It looks kinda like a starburst pattern." Steve said slowly as he moved closer to the webbing.

"I think that's from the natural formation of the weave. All I did was a circle." Seth said as he turned back around.

"Is that going to glow like that when you put your friend into it?" Ms. Mordigan asked cautiously.

"I don't think so. Seth was just showing us what part of the webbing that he's already changed so we can decide what still needs to be done." Beau explained.

"How tall is Peter?" Lisa asked as she stepped closer to the sheet of webbing.

"He isn't. Fallen is a spirit. No height, no width, no breadth, no mass." Beau said seriously.

Lisa rolled her eyes, then slowly asked, "How tall was he?"

There was a long silent moment, until Steve finally said, "Really big, like 6'6" or 6'8", I think."

"If we made it that big, it might drag the ground when Lisa puts it on." Beau cautioned.

"Then I'll tuck it in." Lisa responded, then explained, "This is basically going to be his new 'body'. I want to do everything I can to make it as comfortable as possible for him. It should be the size that he's used to."

"What do you say, Seth? Can you make it about a foot longer, all the way around?" Lee asked hopefully.

"Yeah. No problem, as long as Quaid can boost me up a little when I get to the top." Seth said frankly.

"I can do that. Steve, why don't we go ahead and get up on the cube so you can jump into action as soon as Seth's done?"

"Sure. Sounds good to me." Steve easily agreed.

"Going down. First floor, jewelry and perfumes. Watch your step." Quaid called out as his cube began to shrink.

"I think it's strange that you're making elevator jokes when you're someone from outer space. I'm not quite sure what's wrong with that, but it seems like something is." Brian said honestly.

"Yeah. Well, I got my dad's sense of humor... I mean, literally. I've got his entire collection of stale cringey dad jokes. There's nothing I can do about it but apologize in advance." Quaid said as he and Steve moved to stand beside Seth.

"At least you've got something from him, even if it is kinda crappy." Steve said honestly.

"Of all the things I could have gotten, it's not the worst." Quaid tentatively agreed.

"Does that mean that you got a crappy dad too?" Seth asked Steve as the cube started growing.

"Nope. I guess when I slithered out of the womb it probably wasn't looked upon as a joyous occasion. At least they let me live. I bet that wasn't an easy decision. But anyway, I grew up in a third rate orphanage, you know, where the unadoptable losers end up." Steve said as he fought to keep the despair out of his voice.

"Then how did you end up here?" Lee asked curiously, hoping to move the conversation in a slightly more cheerful direction.

"When Professor Xavier was notified about another mutant kid at the orphanage, he saw me and asked if I could be sent to his school, too. I think that since no one was paying for me, the orphanage was just as happy to have me off their books. I went with him and I've been here ever since." Steve said frankly.

"So, in a way, the professor rescued you?" Ms. Mordigan asked with concern.

"Yeah. Even though I know that he's helped a lot of kids... you know, that's what he does... I still feel something for him that I can't quite put into words. I want to prove to him that what he did was right. I want to be the person he imagined that I could be when he first saw me." Steve said introspectively.

"It looks to me like you're well on your way." Ms. Mordigan said with obvious admiration.

"Lift it up, just a foot or so." Seth said as he moved to one side of the cube.

Rather than grow, the cube began to levitate off the ground.

"Is that going to be stable enough?" Beau asked cautiously.

"Sure. I can make my cube have its own gravity, if I want to. If Seth wasn't busy right now, I could turn us upside down and we wouldn't even feel a jiggle." Quaid happily proclaimed.

"I can see that being very handy." Ms. Mordigan said honestly.

"It has been so far." Lee said with a proud smile at his newest grandson.

After a long silent moment, Seth quietly said, "A little higher."

"Up we go." Quaid said happily as his cube once again lifted.

"When they're done, are we going back to the gingerbread house?" Lisa asked curiously.

"Yes. I have everything that I'll need already prepared, so it shouldn't take too long to cast the spell on the nygo-husk webbing." Beau cautiously explained.

"It doesn't look like there's anything that we can do to help you here. If Seth can let us out, we can walk through the portal that Andrew left open for us and meet you there." Lisa said seriously.

"Seth looks like he's busy right now. But I can make a portal for you." Lee happily offered.

"Oh. Okay. Thanks." Lisa said with surprise at the offer.

With little more than a glance, Lee caused a doorway to open into radiant heat and hellfire. A moment later, a doorway opened within that doorway to reveal the calm and quiet of the library.

"We'll meet you guys there." Lisa hurried to say before stepping through the open portal.

"It shouldn't take us long." Beau called after her.

Brian, Ms. Mordigan, and Louie, with Jesus on his shoulder, followed along.

* * * * *

"You know, from the outside this looks a lot more impressive than it is." Steve said frankly.

"What's that?" Lee asked curiously.

"Being the ones actually doing things. From the outside it looks all... glorious or something. It's like you're doing a big thing because no one else can, which makes you all kinds of important and special and stuff." Steve said thoughtfully.

"Nope. Something needs done, so we do it. That's all there is to it." Lee said slowly, then explained, "And if that doesn't work, then we do something else and we keep trying things until something finally works. If we're doing anything special at all, it's that we're actually trying to make a change rather than assuming that 'someone' will fix it for us."

"Yeah. That's it. From the outside, it looks like you're so confident and powerful and... you don't have any doubt in your abilities. But inside, we're just doing a job, aren't we?" Steve asked uncertainly.

"Pretty much. Yeah." Lee confirmed.

"Maybe that's why your old team never took off. If they stood back and watched instead of stepping up and doing things, then they'd never discover what it's like to change things for themselves." Beau said speculatively.

"I always thought that the professor didn't think that we were good enough to give us anything important to do, but he didn't have anything to do with it. We thought that we weren't good enough. That's what held us back." Steve said with astonishment at the simplicity of it.

"Are you going to tell them?" Quaid asked curiously.

"I don't think it would do any good if I did. If they don't take the first step, nothing will change." Steve said thoughtfully.

//Which is exactly why I haven't told them.// Professor Xavier said into all their minds.

"Isn't there some way that you can make them understand?" Steve asked into the air.

//I have done so in the past, much to my regret. People who can't take that first step on their own aren't sufficiently prepared for the next one. A fighter who fights, a leader who leads or any of the others who seek to enact change for the good of all are more valuable than a collective of mindless automatons who will fight and die on command. Without will, they're fodder, they have no real value in the true struggle.// Professor Xavier said solemnly.

"So Steve has passed some sort of a test?" Lee asked cautiously.

//He took a step. With any luck you, as a group, will take even more.// Professor Xavier said seriously.

"Steve, I'm done here if you want to jump in." Seth cautiously interjected.

"Quaid, can you move us a little closer?" Steve asked hopefully.

"Sure thing. Just let me know when you need me to lower it." Quaid said as the cube slowly drifted closer to the webbing.

"Seth, can you flash it again so I can see what's baked and what's not?" Steve asked hopefully.

"Yeah. Sure." Seth said as he emitted a quick pulse of light.

"Do you need for me to do anything?" Slash asked as he looked up at what they were doing.

"Yeah. Could you come around to the front of the cube and be ready to catch the webbing as I cut it down? I can't be sure if when I start cutting if it's going to start tearing and fall all at once." Steve said seriously.

"Yeah." Slash said quickly, then moved into position and asked, "How's this?"

"Perfect." Steve said as he stretched himself to his full extension to reach the top-most portion of webbing that had been 'baked'.

"Do you need me to raise the cube up at all?" Quaid cautiously asked.

"No. Just hold it here for a minute. I've got this." Steve said carefully as he pinched the webbing and made his first tentative ::snip::.

"Does it feel solid enough? Do you think it will hold together?" Seth asked with concern.

"Yeah. I wouldn't make a trampoline out of it, but it doesn't feel like it's about to shred or anything." Steve said as he carefully cut the webbing, paying particular attention to making a smooth arching cut at the exact edge of where Seth had 'baked' it.

"That's looking good. Just let us know if there's anything we can do to help." Beau said as he carefully watched Steve's every move.

"You might want to come around and help Slash. I think it's going to be like trying to fold a sheet. It'll probably be a whole lot easier with two of you." Steve said honestly.

"Yeah. I hadn't thought of that. Good idea." Beau said as he moved to stand opposite Slash.

"Do you want to take the webbing through Andrew's portal or do you want to 'hell surf' there?" Lee asked seriously.

"Honestly? I'm really looking forward to the 'hell surfing'. It sounds incredible." Beau said with an emerging smile.

"Then that's what we'll do." Lee confirmed with satisfaction.

* * * * *

"Seth? Have you got it?" Steve asked as he tried to look past the multiple folds of webbing below him.

"Yeah. It didn't look like it was this much when it was hanging up there." Slash said honestly.

"It's not too heavy for you, is it?" Steve asked cautiously.

"No. It's not heavy at all, it's just really poofy." Slash confirmed.

"How close are you to being done?" Beau asked as he worked to help Slash gather the cut down webbing.

"Give me a second to finish trimming this bottom edge. I've almost got it." Steve said intently.

"Then we should get ready to go. Everyone is waiting on us." Beau said decisively.

"Do you want for me to change the color of this now or later?" Slash asked as he continued to try and gather the large sheet of webbing into a pile.

"Now would probably be best. There's no telling what effect my spell will have, it might prevent you from making changes to the webbing afterward." Beau said thoughtfully.

"Okay. If you'll hand it all to me, I'll go ahead and change it now." Slash said seriously.

It took a moment, but Beau was finally able to transfer the awkward bundle entirely into Slash's arms.

"Here it goes." Slash said as he focused his primary mutant ability on the mass of webbing.

As everyone watched, the off-white bundle began to darken, starting at his hands and draining all traces of color from the insubstantial fabric.

"I think that's got it." Slash said in concentration.

"Yeah. Looks good. Is everyone ready to go hell surfing?" Lee asked happily.

"Sure. Just tell us what we need to do." Seth said with a smile at the prospect of what they were about to do.

"Just get together so I can make a cube around us, then leave the rest to me and Grandpa Lee." Quaid said enthusiastically.

"Do you need any help, Slash?" Beau carefully asked.

"No. I've got it." Slash assured him.

* * * * *

"You guys will need to remember that nothing can happen to you while you're inside Quaid's cube. If it gets too scary, just close your eyes and it will be like standing still inside an empty room. There's no inertia or centrifugal force inside the cube. It has its own gravity." Lee carefully explained.

"We'll be fine. The others are waiting. Let's just do it." Beau urged.

"Quaid?" Lee prompted.

"Big cube!" Quaid said as he spread his arms expressively.

"Nicely done." Lee said warmly to his grandson as he looked around to verify that the newly formed cube contained their entire group. Once he was sure that everyone was ready, he said in a grand voice, "Welcome to hell."

A doorway suddenly opened right in front of the cube, just large enough for it to fit through.

Quaid caused the cube to slightly levitate, then moved it forward through the opening. As they left the nygo-husk dimension, the doorway smoothly closed behind them.

The searing heat of the expansive desert before them appeared to be hotter by virtue of the burning sky.

"That way." Lee told Quaid quietly as he pointed.

"I love to fly." Quaid said ebulliently, then suiting actions to words, launched the cube forward at high speed in the direction that Lee had indicated.

"Bear left, just a little." Lee said as his red-glowing eyes stared into the distance.

Slash let out a gasp, which might have contained a little bit of a scream, although none present could do other than sympathize with what he was feeling.

"Over there. Slow it down. Bring us in for a landing." Lee said in concentration.

Although Slash hadn't been able to keep his eyes open, the rest witnessed what Lee had told them about the cube having its own self-contained environment. The cube abruptly slowed, swiveled, and tilted in the direction that Lee had indicated, even though the group didn't feel the slightest sensation of tipping or deceleration.

"Over that way, about ten feet, then put 'er down." Lee said as he pointed.

Quaid expertly followed his directions and brought the cube to rest on an open patch of sand.

"And here we are." Lee said with accomplishment as he made a lowering motion with both hands. His movement coincided with the world of fire and heat being washed away by the quaint scenery outside the gingerbread house.

"Wow. You need to sell tickets for that ride. You'd make a fortune." Seth said with a smile that he couldn't contain.

"Slash, bring the webbing, we need to stabilize it as quickly as we can." Beau said seriously.

"What? Oh, yeah." Slash said disjointedly as he fought to contain any evidence of the adrenaline rush he was experiencing.

* * * * *

Beau carefully opened the door, then said to those following him, "Watch your step as you go in. Don't mess up the spell diagram."

"If you don't want it messed up, why did you put it right inside the door?" Slash asked as he carefully stepped over the diagram with the bundle of webbing in his arms.

"Because I need to use the door itself as a component part of the spell." Beau answered simply.

//If you want to fit anyone else in here, you're going to have to hang them from the rafters.// Jesus said with a note of anxiety under his words, supporting earlier claims of his claustrophobia.

"It looks like you were able to get the webbing down without a problem." Lisa observed.

"Yeah. Seth and Steve did a great job." Beau agreed.

"It wasn't just us. We all worked on it." Seth let it be known.

"Are you going to have enough room to work in here? Some of us can leave if you need us to." Ms. Mordigan offered with concern.

"It's fine." Beau assured her.

"Where do you want this?" Slash asked as he indicated the bundle in his arms.

"Just stand over here by me. I have everything prepared, so this won't take long." Beau said as he indicated a spot beside the work table.

Slash had to squeeze past Lisa and walk sideways around Quaid, but was finally able to settle into place.

"Emily, before we start, I need for you to take Fallen back to the mansion and stay with him there. What I'm about to do will be dangerous for both of you. Later on, when we're ready to do the embodiment ceremony, I will summon you and I want for you to bring Fallen back here with you." Beau said seriously, then thought to add, "You can go through the open portal over there if you like, it should be faster for you."

The others watched silently as Beau followed the pair's progress through the doorway with his eyes.

"If it's going to be dangerous for them what are the chances that it's going to be dangerous for us?'' Slash asked cautiously.

"I don't think there's any danger at all for you. The only one I might worry about is Jesus. Since he's unique in my experience, I don't have any way of estimating how firmly his soul is rooted to his physical body." Beau said thoughtfully.

//Should I leave?// Jesus asked cautiously.

"Yeah. Sorry bout that li'l buddy. But I think it might be for the best. I'm afraid that if things start to go wrong, I might not be able to stop in time to protect you." Beau quietly explained.

//You'll call me back for the embodiment?// Jesus asked to be sure.

"Absolutely. It's going to be a team thing. There's no way we'd do it without you." Beau promised.

//Well, I'd go and wait with Fallen and Emily except that since I can't see, hear, or even telepathically sense them, it probably wouldn't be a very fun time for any of us.// Jesus said honestly.

"Actually, since I've had my sacs drained, I've been feeling like I need to get out and blow off some steam. If you want to tag along with me, we can go back to the mansion and I can show you my room and show you around the place until they're ready for us to come back." Steve said seriously, then thought to ask, "You can hear them when they call you, can't you?"

//Possibly. But I will definitely be able to hear it if either Louie or Quaid call to me. Of course, if you can't reach me directly, any of you can contact the professor and he can relay the message.// Jesus said frankly.

"Steve, can you get through the door without messing up the diagram?" Beau asked cautiously.

"I got in, didn't I?" Steve said simply.

"Yeah, I guess so. To tell you the truth, I didn't notice how you did that." Beau reluctantly admitted.

"C'mon Jesus. If you want to go with me, hop on." Steve said as he reached over the spell diagram to open the door.

//Is on your shoulder okay?// Jesus asked to be sure.

"Actually, it might be better for you to get into the hood of my hoodie and hold on around my neck. I plan on being low to the ground so I can get up the best possible speed." Steve suggested.

//This sounds like it might be as much fun as hell surfing.// Jesus said frankly.

"Probably not, but you might still enjoy it." Steve chuckled as Jesus followed his suggestion and climbed onto his back.

As soon as he could tell that his passenger was settled into place, he carefully arched his body as he passed through the door so he wouldn't disrupt the delicate diagram.

Once he was fully outside, he turned and pulled the door closed behind him.

* * * * *

"Seth, can you cast a light to show us the sideways without actually taking us there?" Beau asked hopefully.

"I think I can. I don't think I've tried to do that yet." Seth said as his horns began to glow.

After a few stops and starts, Seth finally settled on a blueish-green light that revealed faint cobwebs all around them, looking something like a night vision camera image.

"That's perfect. Can you hold it like that for a little bit?" Beau asked hopefully.

"Yeah. I could do this all day." Seth said honestly.

"Slash, I'm about to cast a preliminary spell on the webbing. If it works the way it's supposed to, the texture will significantly change. It might get slippery or reduce its size. Just do your best to keep hold of it." Beau carefully warned.

"What happens if I drop it? Do we have to go back and start over?" Slash asked anxiously.

"No. Nothing like that. All we'll do is dust it off and keep going. I just wanted to warn you so it wouldn't catch you by surprise." Beau said frankly.

"Oh, okay. Thanks." Slash stammered.

Beau glanced at the spell diagram by the door and all the candles surrounding it immediately lit themselves. Next, he glanced toward his work area and the candles positioned there likewise burst into flame.

There was a long silent moment when everyone present felt chills, gooseflesh, and an increasing sense of dread.

"One of these times your magic is going to give me a heart attack. My heart feels like it's going to beat out of my chest right now." Lisa said breathily.

Before Beau could respond, Lee said, "If that happens, we've got a necromancer right here to help you... at least, I think he'd try to help you."

Beau flashed him an exasperated look before dipping the tips of his fingers of his right hand into a bowl, then flicking the moisture from them onto the pile of webbing.

"This closed, I now open,

this foreign, I now make native,

this complete, I now make hollow,

this void, I now make ravenous,

this empty, I now give voice,

this cursed vessel, this void of despair, this spiritual trap, I now empower.

May all Gods have mercy on one who succumbs to this temptuous snare...

...for I have none." Beau finished in a whisper as the power to fuel the spell flowed out of him like a flood.

"Holy Fuck!" Slash gasped as he fell to his knees, somehow able to keep hold of the bundle of webbing.

"That's it... I'm done with magic... I can't do this..." Lisa panted as she backed up against the nearest wall and clutched her chest and fought to catch her breath.

Beau glanced to his side in time to see both Lee and Seth's eyes roll back as they crumpled to the floor.

Before he could say or do anything to help, Ms. Mordigan and Brian knelt down to do what they could to provide comfort and aid for the unconscious members of the team.

Louie was openly crying as Quaid pulled him close to comfort him.

"WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST DO!?" Andrew bellowed as he appeared in their midst.

To Be Continued...

Editor's Notes:

And now for something completely cliff hangerly!

You do know that I'm going to have to inform the Cliffhanger police, don't you?

Well that was a tantalizing chapter, at least till that last line. I think I know how Lisa is feeling, right about now.

I certainly hope we don't have to wait too long to resolve this ending here.

In any case, thanks for another exciting chapter!

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher