The Longest Battle – Ch 10 – Beyond the Pale Moonlight

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    There are some foes that it is foolish to fight. Battles that are lost even before they’re begun. Minnie wasn’t one of her world’s great strategists, but she when she saw an uncountable number of clown faced monsters crawling out of the corners and shadows around her, she knew the odds against her were pitched too high to be worth struggling against.

    So she ran.

    Down corridors, around corners, up stairways and and through windows and walls. The Lunatic Moon played by no rules, which meant a hallway was as likely to connect to a forest path as it was to suddenly become a rollercoaster track or a lava flow. Minnie singed her fur a little on the lava flow but she didn’t stop. Left, right, left; she took turns and twists with the kind of mad abandon that came naturally to the residents of the Moon. Her course couldn’t even be predicted by the shape or length of the passages she ran through. If she chose to turn and a wall was in the way, the wall would swiftly gain a minotaur scale hole in it as she continued on.

    The Quicksilvers that were chasing her were delighted by this. They giggled and cackled and rejoiced to have found one of their own come home at last. That their rejoicing sounded like the wailing of schoolgirls being torments with razor wire was both intentional and in some senses true to their feelings. Even in their madness, some part of the Quicksilvers knew how horrible joining their number was for a mortal.

    Like so many of Minnie’s foes though, the Quicksilvers didn’t understand what her true powers were. They saw the great, hulking body, the horns and the immense strength and assumed, as much as they thought about anything, that she was another weak-minded, strong bodied oaf they could toy with until they grew tired of her or she broke.

    Minnie’s minotaur body was, if anything, her weakest ability though. Within her mind, lay an endless shifting maze. She had grown the maze as a defense against the assaults of the fey while she was a prisoner in a briar cage. The minotaur body had been an adaptation provided by her power when she learned to manifest the maze that had been within herself upon on the world around her.

    What the Quicksilvers didn’t notice as she ran was that her choices weren’t random. They followed the pattern that lay within her. With each turn taken, Minnie wove another part of the Lunatic Moon into a reflection of her own labyrinth.

    By the time she stopped running there were no more Quicksilvers following her. They’d been caught in the shifting paths of the labyrinth and they couldn’t reach its heart unless she allowed them to.

    “That could have gone better.” she said to herself and put her hands on her head to massage her temples. Nothing about the trip had changed her belief that traveling into Faerie realms was miserable.

    “Let’s see how the other two are doing.” she said as she sat down by the fountain she had placed in the heart of the labyrinth. Scrying spells weren’t her speciality but the normal rules were a bit more fluid in places like the Lunatic Moon. Unfortunately that didn’t mean that useful results were any easier to get. Underneath her hands, Minnie watched as dozens of Adellas and Clarices appeared in the scrying pool. No two of them were in the same place but they all looked like they were in dire straits.

    “Stupid enchantments. This whole place needs to drown in iron.” Minnie grumbled.

    She could have let them all into the heart of the labyrinth but she knew that the fake Adellas and Clarices would have reinforcements nearby. Even letting them in one at a time left a very high chance that she’d get overwhelmed before she found the real ones.

    “What I really need is…” Minnie started to say, thinking about an unguent that she’d used once which bestowed the effect of true seeing on the user. Her thoughts paused when she hit a memory though.

    “The sunglasses!” she exclaimed, remembering the enchanted spectacles that Adella had given them before they left. She transformed back to her human form and found the sunglasses perched happily on her nose. Looking through them was disorienting though. The world bifurcated and the images swam over each other like oil and water being stirred by a rainbow straw.

    Guessing at the nature of the enchantment, Minnie put a hand over her left eye and the world around her returned to the mad appearance of the Lunatic Moon. All of the Adellas and Clarices in the scrying pool looked just as they had. When Minnie transferred her hand to her right eye though, that all changed.

     One Adella and one Clarice became alien and distorted looking, their movements jerky and solid in a manner that looked painful. The rest of them grew lovelier and more graceful.

    “One for how they want us to see them, the other for how they see things themselves.” Minnie said, switching her open eyes back and forth to confirm that the visions each was seeing remained consistent.

    Once she was sure of the differences, she extended the labyrinth out to cover the two “alien” women.

    “Come find me at the center.” Minnie said, and cast a breeze with her words out to both Adella and Clarice.

    Adella was the first to arrive, barely two minutes later.

    “My apologies. I’d intended us to land together, but the Moon had other plans it seems.” she said as she joined Minnie at the labyrinth’s heart.

    “Any luck finding the missing pieces of Clarice’s Quicksilver?” Minnie asked.

    “I confess I was not looking for them. They’ll find her on their own. I was looking for the ruler of this realm. I suspect we shall have to negotiate in order to leave without further harassment.” Adella said.

    “You are both free to leave now.” Clarice said as she joined them. Minnie whirled at the liquid reverberation in the girl’s voice. Her suspicions were confirmed the moment she laid eyes on Clarice. The girl’s skin was shot through with traces of silver that lead to eyes which reflected light like they were made of chrome.

    Minnie sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.

    “You made a deal with them didn’t you?” she asked the girl-who-had-been-Clarice.

    “Yes. I am theirs, and you are free. They will leave you safe passage from their realm on the condition that you never return.” Clarice said.

    “And on the condition that we leave you with them?” Minnie asked.

    “I am theirs. We have made a pact, please do not let my sacrifice be in vain.” Clarice said, trying and failing to hold back tears.

    “You did not make a deal or a pact.” Adella said. “You were given no true choice and they are giving you nothing.”

    “I don’t understand?” Clarice said.

    “I’ll make it simple. Whoever said we wanted to leave peacefully?” Minnie asked.

    The reinforcements that had snuck into the labyrinth’s heart chose that moment to erupt from Clarice’s shadow. Both Minnie and Adella were more than ready for them though. With spellfire and steel, fists and will, the two women shattered the charge of the Quicksilvers. The stricken spirits tried to flee as the battle turned against them, but in doing so they learned a horrible lesson; there was no escape for them from the labyrinth.

    “There are sacrifices that we must make in life. Times when we must give up even the most precious of things for some greater good.” Adella said as she put a hand on Clarice’s trembling shoulder.

    “That said, you have to really careful when it’s someone else asking you to make that sacrifice. Especially when you’re feeling weak and powerless.” Minnie said, placing her hand on Clarice’s other shoulder.

    “What…what do I do then?” Clarice asked.

    “What do you wish to do?” Adella asked.

    “I want to go home.” Clarice said, silver tears rolling down her cheeks.

    “Let’s see if we can arrange that then.” Minnie said.

    “What are you going to do?” Clarice asked.

    “What I’m doing already. I’m turning the Lunatic Moon into an asylum. I’ve already converted part of it, when I’m done my labyrinth is going to cover every square inch of this place. Every corner, every nook. It’s all going to be nice and orderly, just the way I like it.” Minnie said.

    “That’s not possible.” a new voice said from Clarice’s mouth.

    “And you would be the Quicksilver she is bonded to?” Adella asked.

    “Yes. You cannot fix the Moon in place though, it is ever changing.” the Quicksilver said.

    “Oh, my labyrinth will change too. Slowly and in the same ways over and over, just like the real Moon does.” Minnie said.

    “But what will happen to us?” the Quicksilver asked.

    “I guess you’ll wander the labyrinth. Alone. Forever.” Minnie said.

    “You can’t do that!” the Quicksilver objected.

    “How long is forever to you? A minute? Ten minutes? Do you really want to challenge me to make good on that for an hour?” Minnie asked.

     “What do you want?” the Quicksilver asked.

    “So, so many things.” Minnie answered.

    “What can we give you so that you will go?” the Quicksilver asked.

    “We want Clarice back, fully functional and safe from any further interactions with the Lunatic Moon or its denizens.” Adella said.

    “I can’t do that! We are one. I can never leave her.” the Quicksilver said.

    “Then I guess I get to pave over the Moon and setup shop here forever!” Minnie said, cracking her knuckles.

    “What about this…” pleaded the Quicksilver, “…she will have free passage between the Moon and the Earth, whenever she pleases.”

    “You will still be there to torment her and drive her to the embrace of lunacy. No deal.” Adella said.

    “Wait! She will be free. I will be with her, I cannot change that, but I will not influence her.” the Quicksilver said.

    “I can bind you to those words. Are you sure you wish to make that covenant?” Adella asked.

    “Yes.” the Quicksilver said without hesitation. “I know her. I can live her life with her and be content. Her delight will be my delight and her sorrows my sorrows.”

    “And when she dies?” Adella asked.

    “Bind me to follow her into the unknown that comes afterward.” the Quicksilver said.

    “You’re not afraid of dying too?” Minnie asked.

    “I am a changing spirit, what greater change can there be for something immortal as I am?” the Quicksilver said.

    “And Clarice, is this agreeable to you?” Adella asked, even though the answer was shining in the girl’s eyes.

***

    “She’s going to need supervision and training.” Adella said, as she poured a glass of iced tea for her friend.

    “Supervision, yes, but I don’t know if she’s going to be interested in joining up with people like us.” Minnie said. They were sitting on the balcony of Adella’s house that overlooked the river, enjoying one of the rare quiet moments that come in the wake of major events.

    “I think she has it in her to be a hero.” Adella said.

    “She was pretty adamant about wanting to get back to her ‘normal’ life.” Minnie observed.

    “For now. I suspect that will change in time though.” Adella said with a secret smile.

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