The Other Side of Magik

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Chapter 5

OUTER THULE

Under the Artic lands, the dragon-scribe re-entered the chamber that held the basalt mirror. It held the arm of another and this one was old and frail. It was bent at the waist and walked with the aid of a cane. Its colouring was faded and its muzzle grey. Ancient eyes saw the pattern on the mirror…

Interesting, it said. Very interesting. Dragons have no voice box; they communicate their words with their minds. They are not telepathic; they just sort of speak their minds, as it were. History repeats, youngster. Lessons of old forgotten, it appears.

What does it mean, elder?

Mean? The old dragon shook his head. Since when do men seek meaning? Someone dabbles with things beyond them. Hmmm. Yes. Beyond them, I fear. Where is the disruption centred?

The scribe consulted the compass. The Angle Isles, elder.

The old one nodded to itself. Keep watch. Send to the trading station for a communications mage; I would know the cause of this.

ENGLAND

Garreth Aldredge had a splitting headache. And to make matters worse, there were words in his head; strange words. Words that almost made sense. And there were memories there too; lots and lots of memories… and they weren’t his!

Luckily for Garreth, the small amount of the Talent he possessed was able to sort through this sudden input into his mind. Receptor nodes did the job they had been trained for and this second memory was placed where it should be… at the back of his mind, ready to call on.

The voices were something else. They weren’t actually in his mind, he realized; they came from outside and seemed to filter through this new memory before registering with his brain. A kind of mental time delay.

Carefully, Garreth opened his eyes. There was a soft fabric under him and his face was buried in what appeared to be a pillow. He groaned at the headache and rolled over. He was lying on a bed and around the bed three people stood in disbelief. Three people he had never seen before… yet… new memory tugged… yet he knew them! Panic caused his heart to race and his mouth made open and closing movements as he searched for the right words. Finally…

‘Ah… ah… er.’ He gave up. He couldn’t think! The new things in his mind weren’t quite settled down… they flickered and shoved… all trying to get out at once. Then one did.

‘Daniel!’ he blurted. Yes, the word felt right. The name was right. Only it wasn’t his name… it was the name of the other memory. ‘Daniel…’ he said again, slowly, as the three others watched his mouth. Then another. ‘Emily!’ He looked at the girl, who seemed to cower from his gaze. He pointed to her. ‘Emily… Yes… Yes.’ He shifted his eyes to the two adults, and the words of this Daniel started clicking together in his mind.

‘Arthur… Gloria…’ His eyes continued their travel around the strange room. Odd-looking equipment stood in one corner, all switches and dials. A box with a dark screen sat on a table at the end of the bed; and a piercing bright light shone down from the ceiling and hurt his eyes. Then there was the mirror… and everything came crashing back.

The one he knew as Arthur bent down and looked into his eyes. Slowly, as if he knew there was a barrier to speech, he asked. ‘Who are you? What happened to Daniel?’

Garreth put his hand on his chest. ‘Garreth. Me… I… am… Garreth.’ He pointed to the mirror. ‘Daniel… there.’

‘What do you mean? Where is he?’ There was panic in Gloria’s voice, panic that was very close to the surface. Arthur placed his arm around her.

Emily stirred. ‘I saw a face.’ She pointed. ‘There. In the mirror. It was a girl.’ Emily had been staring at Garreth not in fear or fright, but in amazement. Apart from the red hair and slightly heavier build, they could be brothers! ‘She was there when… when… Daniel… you know. I saw her.’

‘Jemma,’ Garreth said. ‘Daniel is… at my home. There is Jemma. My… friend.’ He blew a sigh of relief. Jemma would help Daniel; he knew that. Her parents would find some way of getting help.

Gloria was struggling to take it all in; it was all too fantastic for words. Her whole life had been order and tidiness and such a story flew in the face of everything she knew and believed in. ‘We have to tell someone. Arthur! We have to tell someone! The police! The…’

Emily saw the folly of that immediately, before Arthur could react. ‘You can’t.’ She grabbed Gloria’s arm. ‘You would never be believed. You saw Garreth come out of the mirror, but how do you think that would sound to someone else?’

‘What’s going on?’ There was a look of fear in Gloria’s eyes. ‘Arthur! Do something! Call some-one!’ Arthur put his arm around his wife and hugged her close to him.

‘Ssssh. I will. Just… I don’t know.’ Arthur was completely at a loss as to what to say or do, which was very unusual for Arthur Royce. ‘Garreth. Listen. Is there any way that you know of to do something?’

Garreth was struggling with his own feelings, and the sight of these two distraught people was making him feel terrible. But it isn’t my fault! he wanted to say. He could only shake his head.

A sob escaped Gloria’s lips as she sat down abruptly on the end of the bed. As she did so, she disturbed something lying there, something that hit the floor with a dull thud.

‘That’s it!’ Emily shouted, as she picked up the little hard book with the silver binder. ‘This is what caused the whole thing!’ She held it out to Arthur as proof, but Garreth sprang up from the bed and reached for it instead. His fingers pried open the book at random…

…and runes met his eye. His heart hammered. This was old! He’d studied elementary rune-script in school and guild and knew some of the basics. He flipped back to the title page… it seemed stuck with another… if he could just make out the faded runes…

The paper wasn’t paper; it was parchment, brown and fragile with age. The runes, once black, were now faded to grey. His fingers traced the outlines and his lips moved in slow, silent pronunciation. The Book of Null, he read.

‘Who’s Null?’ he asked aloud, but got no answer. Everyone was looking at him, their eyes bored into him. They wanted answers; they wanted hope.

Carefully, Garreth turned the page. The first two pages revealed… more runes. He flipped through the entire book; there were only about twenty pages, but each one was covered in runes. Deciphering the book, he knew, would be hard work; and all the time the three strangers were watching him. He knew they wanted him to make some sort of sense out of things. Then the book surprised him again. He separated the title page from the one it was stuck to… and there was a script there he could read. This was Olde Anglic, and he’d studied that! His eyes scanned the words, and as the meaning of the old words formed in his mind, the hairs on the back of his neck started to rise.

“I, Oderic of York,” he read, slowly pronouncing each word, “sage and magician to Eorl Wulfrum Black Axe, Warden of the Northern Marches, do in this year of grace 1132 issue warning of the dire and fell incantations contained within this most ancient and dread work.

The orderly monuments of this world are as naught before the heresy contained within and the powers of Law and Magik can prevail not.

This ancient book, cursed in all time, is a doorway to another realm, one in which the soul of man is duplicate and familiar, but one where the deeds of man are different and strange.

Around this world lies but another world. Unseen. Unfelt. It is without and it is within.

Here the boundaries of what we know alter. It is a place familiar and kindred. It is as far away as a breath; as close as a star. It is within all of us, waiting to be reached.

Waiting to be entered.

The road is difficult, with only myths and legends to guide the traveller. There are no books or auguries to it, save one, because they are forbidden. This place is dangerous; dangerous because it is so familiar, so easy to recognise. So much the same.

It is close, as the other side of this page is close, as the image in a mirror is close.

But beware!

Dreams and phantasies can take us to this other place, tales and lore can bring it to us. But it is not just in the mind that we can find it, it is too close and real for that. It actually does exist and you can cross over.

If you know how.

If desperation drives you.

The mirror is the key, where the world is opposite to this one, where things we take for granted do not work and those things of wonder and legend do.

This book is the door and the spell.

Beware!”

Everyone was silent for a moment. Then Arthur said, ‘Magic. It mentioned magic doorways. And spells. That’s stuff that doesn’t exist.’ He looked at the mirror and four people looked back at him; one of them was a stranger. ‘No. No. It’s too ridiculous to believe.’

Garreth recognized the book. Not for what it contained, but for what it was. This was an artifact of his world. The druid-metal rings; the runes. It even felt right. A slight prickling of the Talent, a sureness of what he thought.

‘This came from my world,’ he told them, as a weight lifted from his chest. ‘Maybe some-one…’ Could it be a… trick? Had someone set him up for a prank? ‘It could be a trick,’ he told them. ‘Some-one back…’ he nodded to the mirror, ‘there… home… did this. It has to be a trick.’ Thankfully the language was getting easier to speak and think in.

Relief flooded through Arthur and Gloria; tricks they could understand. Tricks could be undone!

‘I think,’ Garreth continued as he turned the book in his hands, ‘it’s a formula of power… but I’ve never heard of it. The Book of Null.’ He thought for a moment. ‘No. I’ve never heard of it. It’s definitely not on the study lists. Well… not the ones I’ve seen.’

‘Dani… Garreth,’ Emily stuttered, ‘what study lists? What’s it all about?’

‘Magik, of course.’ He saw their blank faces. ‘You know; magik. As in constructed paradigms…’ Daniel’s memory nudged its way forward, and the truth hit him. ‘You don’t have magik at all, do you?’

Arthur felt tightness around his temples. ‘Right,’ he said, ‘enough of this. My mind aches from it. Let’s go downstairs, get a cup of tea and… well… try and see what’s to be done.’

It took two pots of tea and a packet of biscuits before the whole story was laid bare.

Afternoon was sliding towards evening when Arthur finally accepted what was happening. He didn’t like it one bit and having to trust that someone in Garreth’s world would be able to unravel the mystery and bring Danny back was seriously pushing the boundaries of belief. But Emily was right; if he told anyone their son had disappeared and another lad from a parallel world had taken his place he’d be locked up in the funny farm and the garden would be dug over in search of a body. So, what could he do? What could anyone do? Well, they could get organized for one thing; as little as it would be, they had to try.

‘Garreth,’ he asked, ‘how long to you think it would take someone to help?’

Garreth had been mulling over that problem also. ‘I don’t know. Days, maybe.’ He gave a wan smile and Emily was again reminded of how much he resembled Danny. ‘Our system of law doesn’t take too kindly with interference in magik. Or using it for things like this. I’m certain some serious wizard-power will be employed in solving it.’

‘Days,’ Arthur repeated. ‘We can’t tell anyone. Gloria,’ he saw the worry and anguish in her eyes, ‘we have to keep this quiet.’

‘If,’ Emily offered, in a quiet voice, ‘I dyed Garreth’s hair black he would look just like Danny.’

‘A few days off school could be arranged,’ Gloria said, hesitantly agreeing. Her own mind was numb and she had no idea how she could go to work on Monday and still be normal.

Garreth turned the Book of Null over in his hands. ‘I’d like to study this. There may be clues. There may be a way to use it.’ He looked worried. ‘But… I’m not sensing any real vibrations here. Nothing fits the patterns.’

‘What are you talking about?’ Emily asked.

‘Magik. Look,’ he spread his hands on the table. ‘Everyone with the Talent senses the fields of natural energy that comes from the earth. That’s what magik is, a way of controlling and using that power. Wizards are supposed to be able to see those fields. They call them the Skeins of Magik.

‘But I don’t sense them here. I need to test a few things.’ He sighed. ‘I need time.’

Emily saw with amazing clarity that she would have to help him. On his own there was no way he could sort out this new world where everything was so different to what he was used to.

‘I’m going to help,’ she announced.

ANGLAND

On the following morning Jemma Mayhorn rose early and got dressed. The modern, casual clothes of yesterday were inappropriate for a Sunday, so she chose a modest skirt that was modern enough to show her calves, and a voluminous blouse that showed nothing at all. She had made up her mind to help Danny.

She found him sitting under a tree in Garreth’s back garden. Mr. Toast was lying on his lap like a fat, furry sack, purring his head off. Danny’s eyes lit up when he saw her and she saw relief in them.

‘Hello,’ she said.

‘Hi.’

‘High?’ She looked up.

‘No. Hi as in…’ Danny made a circular motion with his palm, ‘…hi. Hello.’

‘Hi,’ she grinned. ‘I thought we... that is, you might like to walk down to the shop and take the bus into Chester. With me.’

‘Perfect,’ he replied, casting an eye towards the house. ‘I’ll just tell Garreth’s folks.’ Carefully he lifted Mr. Toast from his lap and placed him on the grass. The purring never missed a beat.

The sun was beginning to impart some warmth to the morning when they arrived at the mill pond. The foils of the mill were turning in a leisurely fashion and the little red bus was waiting before the shop,

‘We’re early,’ Jemma said. ‘They give a little toot two minutes before the bus leaves.’ There was a tree that shaded the horse trough outside the post office, a very large tree with a white circular seat around it. Danny walked towards it and sat on the bench. Jemma stood on the path, eyeing the tree warily.

‘Come on, sit down,’ Danny cajoled, patting the seat. Almost reluctantly Jemma sat down.

‘What’s wrong,’ Danny asked. He’d noticed Jemma’s hesitation.

‘Nothing.’

HUMMMPHHHUMMMPHH

Danny leapt to his feet; the sound had come from all around and above. ‘What the hell was that?’

‘It’s the tree.’ She saw his eyes go blank, and knew he was accessing Garreth’s memory.

‘Semi-sapient sycamore. The Sniggering Tree.’ He smiled. ‘I’d love one these back home.’ Most plants modified by magik rarely breed true, but the sycamore did. It reacted to a psychic energy condition that people exhibit when they ready their minds to prevaricate and it does this by twisting and expanding its core wood. Sap pressure differentials make the noise.

‘Would you really?’ Mischief rose up in Jemma’s mind; she was not exactly unfamiliar with the games that were played under the tree.

‘Oh, yeah. These would be sooo cool.’

‘Do you miss your home?’

‘Of course.’

SSNNKKK SSNNKKK That was a smaller one, Jemma noted.

‘Are you worried about Garreth?’ Jemma smiled sweetly at him.

Danny felt he was starting to tread on shifting sand; maybe it was time to be a bit clever. ‘Maybe I am,’ he said.

SNNG SNNG

‘No! I am!’ he protested.

SNNORKKSNNORKKSNNORKK

‘Do you worry that Emily will like him?’ Jemma had a killer instinct and knew just when to use it. Danny’s eyes were watching the tree in alarm. Panic gripped him and the earth seemed to open up beneath his feet. Masterfully he tried to avoid the inevitable. ‘That,’ he said deliberately, ‘is her business.’

THHNNGGTHHNNGGTHHNNGG HONNKKHONNKK

‘Aaargh!’ Danny groaned.

‘Answer the question.’ Jemma’s face was all sweetness and light. Butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.

‘I did!’

HUMMPHHUMMPH

‘Answer the question.’

Danny Royce knew when he was beaten. All he could do was surrender with dignity. ‘Yes. I think she will.’ The tree stayed quiet.

‘Does that bother you?’ Danny asked, in a blinding bit of insight.

‘A little,’ Jemma replied in a small voice.

SNNG SNNG

‘Ah ha!’ Danny shouted with glee. ‘I was right!’

SNORTSNORTSNORT the tree chortled, SNORRRT SNORRRT

The bus ride was sunny, bumpy and slow. And silent. There was no noise at all from the steam engine, just a faint hiss and pop of valves and the gentle smell of hot coke wafting over them.

The route wound into the market square of Lower Thatching, where they picked up a dozen or more passengers, then headed down a narrow leafy lane in the direction of Chester as indicated by a small wooden signpost. The lane dipped and twisted; it crossed canals over narrow stone bridges and burrowed through brick-lined tunnels under the railway line. Small, hedged-bordered fields filled the landscape wherever he looked. There were no telegraph poles, no electricity pylons, no wide paved highways and no other traffic.

Danny thought it was a little bit… eerie. Quiet and eerie. The bus was frustratingly slow and Garreth’s memory told him that this was the way it was; but being told something, or remembering someone else’s memory of it wasn’t the same as experiencing it. Until he saw things for himself, Garreth’s memories were just so much unconfirmed data; like déjà vu.

Chester was much more interesting. What Jemma called the Old Town was a kaleidoscope of noise and colour and was rich in the aromas of its trade and there was a hustle and vibrancy that was palpable.

The busiest appeared to be the couriers who delivered the recharged crystal globes for the PV sets and the para-phones and the advertising spells. Scurrying through the crowds with their short shoulder poles, a big round crystal dangling from each end in a heavy rope net, they each one wore a bright jerkin that carried his… or her… employer’s name or business on the back; usually an emporium of magikal accessories where they made and recharged the globes. Black was charged… clear was spent.

Then came the ice-men and their horse-drawn insulated vans; their gelid blocks they carried with great two-handed pincers slung over their oilskin-clad shoulders. There was always an insatiable demand to keep the ice chests stocked.

And noise too, from the throng of people; shopkeepers in their aprons, suits and dresses; ice-cream sellers with their flat straw hats and musical entreatments; customers with their parasols, perambulators and partners.

Colours came from the bunting and flags festooning the barrows and shops that wanted the customer’s attention, and from the striped awnings of those same barrows and shops that competed for space over the pavements, and they came from the windows themselves. In fact, most of the colour came from the windows, because most of them carried a magikal field that showed whatever advertisement the owners had cared to provide.

As they walked through the streets, Jemma played tourist guide and pointed out things to him. Like the wall the legions had built when the place was once an outpost of an empire now long-dead. Scrupulously maintained over the centuries, its top parapet was a walkway where people could take the air and the sun. The old houses inside the Latin Wall, she told him, were protected by law from development, so each one was kept in its original splendour. Wooden buttresses, carved eaves, shingled roofs, pebble-glass windows, pottery chimneys, plastered walls, brick walls, stained glass and exposed beams; all kept exactly as they were when first built. Stone pavements lined both sides of the narrow streets and the roads between them were of hard, granite cobbles. Cabs, black and private, horse-drawn vehicles of varied styles, bicycles, pedestrians, shoppers and hawkers, all crowded those streets.

Danny’s eyes drank it all in; he was determined to remember everything.

Danny and Jemma joined the throng. They ate crusty bread rolls and ice-creams that Jemma paid for and just mingled in. But every time they passed a shop window that had an advertising sign, Jemma would make sure he didn’t get too close to it because when he did the signs started to flicker. Eventually they found a bench under a tree and sat down in its shade. Danny cast a wary eye at the tree.

‘Is this one of those…?’

‘No.’ Jemma was enjoying herself. Danny was good company, even if he had an odd way of looking at people as they walked by. Well, she admitted, not odd, exactly, more critical. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Everybody is dressed so old-fashioned. I mean; the sun’s out, but everyone’s wearing suits.’ Most of the men, he’d noted, wore suits and waistcoats; while the women were dressed in flowing skirts that showed little above the ankle and blouses that billowed. Danny was no fashion expert, but he was certain he had seen this sort of fashion in old photographs; black and white photographs.

‘The women aren’t.’

‘You know what I mean.’

Jemma sighed. ‘It’s Sunday best. Everybody dresses up when they take a stroll in town.’

‘I’m struggling with this,’ Danny admitted. He raked the hair back from his face and his green eyes locked with hers. ‘What was wrong with the stuff you had on yesterday. Very modern. You looked terrific.’

Jemma blushed slightly. ‘Shhh. Not so loud. There are clothes for public, and there are clothes for… well… not for public. If you know what I mean.’

‘Amazing.’ Danny’s eyes were back watching the crowd. ‘So what do you wear when you… say… go swimming? Sacks?’

‘Swimming costumes of course. What do you wear?’

‘Same.’ He turned back to face her, a wide grin on his face. ‘I’m getting a sense of fashion direction here, and I almost hate to ask this… what do your costumes look like?’

‘Well, they’re usually a single piece body suit that covers from here…’ she indicated her mid-thigh with the edge of her hand, ‘…to here.’ Her hand moved to mid upper arm.

‘Loose or tight?’

‘Loose of course!’ Again the blush invaded her cheeks.

There was an ill-suppressed smirk on Danny’s lips. ‘What about the men. What do they swim in?’

‘The same. They…’ She got no further because Danny burst out in laughter. He held his sides and rocked forwards on the bench. People cast eyes their way and Jemma felt terribly exposed. Eventually the laughter diminished to giggles, then, mercifully for Jemma, stopped.

‘That,’ said Danny as he wiped his eyes with his shirt sleeve, ‘is the best laugh I’ve had for ages.’

‘If it’s so funny,’ there was an angry hiss to Jemma’s voice, ‘what do you wear?’

‘Guys swim in briefs.’ He traced the outline of his swimmers. ‘What’s up?’ Jemma had gone bright red and turned her head away. ‘Hey! Jemma. What’s up?’

‘That’s disgusting!’ she hissed.

‘Rubbish! Everybody wears them.’ He thought about that statement. ‘Well. Not everybody. Women don’t.’

‘I’m going to hate myself for asking this, Danny Royce,’ Jemma took a deep breath, ‘but what do women swim in?’

‘Ok. There are two costumes. Right? On is a tight one-piece. It usually just covers the… er,’ he was suddenly on that shifting sand again, ‘…er… middle bits.’ His two hands indicated the two parameters of a one piece costume… and he thought Jemma would die! Her face was positively flaming! Recklessly he plunged on.

‘A two piece is called a bikini. One piece covers…here,’ he indicated, ‘the other… there.’ Then he stopped. Jemma had gone white and her eyes were staring at him as if he was…

‘That’s awful! she gasped. Then she stood up and stamped away.

Danny groaned, and stood up and followed her. ‘Jemma! Wait!’ But Jemma didn’t stop. Walking quickly she disappeared down a small pedestrian alleyway between two rows of shops.

‘Bugger!’ Danny ran after her. He didn’t know why, but he felt he had to apologise. Quickly he dodged around the corner of the alley, bumping into a man carrying a pole across his shoulder.

‘Sorry mate!’ Danny shouted as he steadied himself. Then he saw what the man was carrying and turned and ran. Fast. Reaching a startled Jemma he grabbed her hand and pulled. ‘Come on! Run!’

‘What for?’

The courier staggered from the alley, pirouetting from the collision. He became aware that his spinning couldn’t stop; in fact… it was getting faster

…noiseless lights burst over his head

…fragmented noises echoed from the walls around him

…a cascade of sparkling power poured out of each crystal globe that he carried

…pouring into the air in two intertwined columns

…as he spun faster and faster

‘That!’ Danny shouted, pointing over his shoulder.

Jemma took one quick look at the sparkling columns of light that shot up in the air above the rooftops…

…then she sprinted after the rapidly diminishing figure of Danny.

Theolonia Crabbe had made her plans and preparations with meticulous detail. A case containing the equipment she would need and a few clothes were sent by the mail train to Chester to be collected later. She would make a more circuitous journey by the passenger train in the unlikely event that she was recognised by another wizard. She wore a mild aversion ward that would make her all but unseen by the common folk unless she addressed them directly, but not powerful enough that a mage would be fooled. Absolute secrecy was a rare thing amongst the practitioners of the Art Arcana.

She knew where the lad was. All that was needed now was to lure him into her trap.

The pride of the Great Western Railway’s fleet, the express locomotive Star of Dundee, thundered through the night with the arrogance of one that owned it. A dragon’s breath of sparks and soot streamed from the funnel and a train of ten coaches fanned out behind. Light from the glowing windows fell on the dark countryside bringing square snapshots of bright surprise to field and lane and river and town.

Salamander Ord settled back with a foaming ale in one hand and a salmon and lettuce sandwich in the other, enjoying his favourite mode of travel. Airships might be quicker, but there was a certain absence of solidity beneath them that Salamander preferred not to dwell on. Height can affect wizards as much as the common man. Besides, the carriages of the express service were good places to relax, he mused. Deep green leather seats, polished wooden walls with the lustre of years upon them, gleaming brass fittings and sparkling crystal lamps. The aromas of leather, polish and coal smoke combined in that satisfying way of all things railway.

The bellow of steel on steel rang out from its passing and Chester lay ahead, somewhere in the darkness, connected to him by twin ribbons of steel. Salamander Ord let the sway lull him as he ate and supped.

ENGLAND

The last of the Sunday afternoon light was rapidly disappearing over the rooftops when Garreth finally put down the Book of Null.

He was wearing a plastic bag over his hair and little beads of black hair dye had dried on his neck. Emily sat opposite him across his bed, a bed that had become more or less a work bench, surrounded by sheets of paper. The sheets contained what Garreth hoped were translations of the runes from the book. They had been working for hours and it had been very, very hard work. Garreth’s satchel was also on the table and his guild books were strewn about. Two of them, a grimoire, or book of power schematics, and a runic reader were opened.

To Emily one looked like a book of geometry with lots of pentagrams and such, and the other was definitely a book of chicken scratchings!

Perplexed, Garreth reviewed his work. The book didn’t make sense. It talked about seeking a compatible soul. It mentioned left and right-hand helixes. It even described how the transfer was made. But no spell. Maybe, he thought, I’ve missed something in the translation. Better read it again, he decided.

‘The mirror,’ he said to Emily, ‘that’s the doorway. Right?’ He shuffled the pages of translation about. ‘Through it the spell seeks the mate to the one here. OK. I’ve got that. When the spell has found the one, the calling begins. That’s the scrying formula. Now. Ah… when the two are attracted and opposite the field is expanded and changes the helix. What helix?’ He threw a helpless look at Emily, who returned it with a shrug.

‘Never mind, we’ll keep going. The mirror of one becomes the mirror of both, passage is affected when the helixes realign.’ Garreth rubbed his eyes. ‘Think! Think! Helix. Mirror. Mirror. Helix. What…’ Understanding broke like dawn… slowly. ‘Mirror images! Opposite helixes! The spell unwinds! Yes!’ He read on.

‘Values the same remain. That of the corpus and the soul of dissimilar mien are retained and returned. Memory suffices both sides of the helix. Wow!’ He thought hard, and it was as if his mind soared to grasp the implications. ‘You retain your own memory as well as that of the other! You keep your physical aspect apart. The same applies to the other you.’ Garreth sat back with a slump, the enormity of it totally swamping him.

‘That’s why I remember Danny.’ He tapped his head. ‘That’s why he’s here!’

Emily thought for a moment. Now that they had put everything together, piece by piece, she was beginning to get a feel for things. ‘Now that we have the spell…’ she didn’t even feel stupid saying words like “spell” anymore, ‘...what can we actually do with it?’

Garreth didn’t know. That was the hard part; he didn’t know. A wizard would know. A senior thaumaturgist would know. A half-baked journeyman mage would probably have half a idea. But he didn’t. He caught sight of himself in the mirror; plastic bag, black dribbles and all. He turned away in exasperation…

…something caught his eye. There! On the periphery of vision. Something in the mirror. Slowly, Garreth turned his head one way then the other, looking at the mirror out of the corner of his eye.

‘What are you doing?’ Emily followed his eyes.

Now he blinked rapidly; now he squinted. Always looking at the mirror from an angle.

‘Is there something in the mirror?’ Emily asked, moving closer to look.

‘Not in the mirror, no.’ He squinted some more. ‘In the glass.’

‘What? What’s there?’

Garreth held his breath. ‘Runes.’

‘From the spell? Is that what you think?’ Emily was really getting the hang of magic now.

‘Yes. They’re still there. Residual pathways that haven’t completely faded.’ He looked back to the mirror. ‘Yet.’

‘The trail will be cold, surely? You can hardly see the runes and I can’t see them at all!’

Garreth leapt up and grabbed Emily in a bear hug. ‘That’s it!’ he shouted in her ear. ‘Cold!’ He held her back at arms length and stared into her eyes. ‘You’re a genius. Cold! That’s what we’ll do.’

‘What?’

‘We’ll warm it up!’ He frantically looked about the room. ‘Here!’ He grabbed some of the sheets of paper and his book of schematics and thrust them into Emily’s hands. Next, he grabbed the edge of his bed and turned it up on its side, clearing the floor underneath. There was carpet there. Plain, beige carpet. Without patterns.

He took the book back and started flipping through the pages. ‘I need to draw on the floor.’

Emily did a quick mental assessment of the carpet versus the predicament they were in and the carpet lost. ‘Marker pen,’ Emily said, producing one from Danny’s drawer in the cupboard. ‘What can I do?’

Garreth found what he was looking for. ‘Here. Overlapping pyramids… six points… circle in the middle.’ He reached into his satchel and withdrew a fine cord with tiny knots evenly spaced along it, and a compass. Counting the knots against the book’s data he held it between his outstretched arms.

‘Radius,’ he said. He placed one end on the carpet and Emily followed his other with the marker as he scribed a circle. In minutes they had copied the schematic, lining it up with the compass direction Garreth had set out. A pentacle now adorned his bedroom carpet. He took the marker, squatted down over the inner circle, and began to draw.

Emily peered over his shoulder. ‘What’s that?’ It looked to her like a small maze.

‘That’s my own mandala.’ He noted her quizzical expression. ‘All those with the Talent have a … inner signature, if you like. That’s mine.’ He stood in the centre and took a deep breath. This was the tricky bit. Because he couldn’t access the natural power of this world, he needed something else. The mandala boosted his own natural power; he would use his own energy to warm the spell. But in every causal paradigm there’s a price to pay; as in “what goes up must come down”, or “for each action there’s an equal and opposite reaction”

When Garreth awoke it was to three concerned faces peering over him. Peering down at him. Gently they lifted him to his feet.

‘How long was I out?’ he asked faintly. He felt weak and disoriented.

‘Half an hour,’ Arthur told him. ‘Emily called us the second you hit the floor; you didn’t want to wake up, that’s for sure!’

‘Take a look,’ said Emily. And there…

…on the mirror

…in pale grey runes

…was the spell.

‘What do we do now?’ Arthur asked, and Garreth noticed the “we”. He grinned wearily.

‘I’ll show you. Have you got any copper pipe?’

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