“Have ya considered the possibility that he might be makin’ it up as he goes along?” Regan asked Lilliana, after many minutes spent fruitlessly scrutinizing the hallucinatory terrain and trying to divine a motive out of it. “I mean, assumin’ it is The Bastard as set us up in the first place, he would’ve been expectin’ us to be space dust, wouldn’t he?”
“You don’t put together a full-sensory illusionary recreation of a planet on the spur of the moment, Bard,” Lilliana said. “Even if he didn’t expect us to survive the caper, he would have had long-standing plans for what to do if we showed up again.”
“An’ that would be why we spent so long steerin’ clear, then,” Regan said. “Not that I’m opposed to suicidal-type odds in principle, mind, but I’m used to facin’ ’em with a sword the size o’ a small planet on me back.”
“Level with me, Bard… did you bring any weapons?” Lilliana asked.
“I did not,” Regan said.
“Are you sure?”
“Just me brain and me fists.”
“That’s two weapons, anyway.”
“I’ve two fists,” Regan said.
“Yes,” Lilliana said. She sighed and shook her head. “I can’t believe you’re completely unarmed.”
“Ya were pretty specific on that point, ya know,” Regan said.
“I’m pretty specific on most points,” Lilliana said. “Why’d you have to listen this time?”
“Wasn’t after gettin’ kicked out afore I had a chance to get me boots,” Regan said.
“Is there some way you could… come up with something?” Lilliana asked, gesturing vaguely around them.
“What d’ya mean, exactly?”
“You took a bunch of alien liquors and made a time bomb,” Lilliana said. “There’s got to be something you can work up here.”
“In a pinch, I could probably rig some o’ the dirt to explode… o’ course, the fact that it’s illusionary dirt would probably help, what with the shameless flouting o’ the laws o’ physics involved an’ all. But it would be hard to regulate, like, what with the whole place bein’ made o’ the stuff,” Regan said. “Odds are dead even it’d create a chain reaction that’d blow up the whole planet, if not the entire world.”
“What we need to figure out is a way to break the illusion,” Lilliana said. She held up a hand as if she were feeling the wind.
“Oh, in that case, blowin’ up the whole planet is probably indicated,” Regan said. “Bein’ as the whole planet is the illusion. Right?”
“Shh,” Lilliana said. She was staring straight ahead and muttering… chanting under her breath. She poked her fingers forward and dragged them down, tearing a small hole in the air in front of her. For a moment, she could glimpse the neon wasteland of the deserted Meadows, but then she felt a surge of power pushing against her and the rip sealed itself up around her fingers, trapping them.
“Ow!” she said, tugging them free. She waved her hand around and then sucked on the injured fingers. “Someone’s channeling some serious power at us.”
“I told ya it was an army o’ warlocks,” Regan said, rolling her eye.
“I can work with this,” Lilliana said. “I just need some way to focus, or to block… Regan. Patch.”
“Please, The Gypsy, if ya’re gonna start in on the cute nickname gig, gimme somethin’ more creative than ‘Patch’,” Regan said.
“Your patch,” Lilliana said, holding her hand. “Give it to me.”
“I need a mystic focus,” Lilliana said. “I keep a pair of old-fashioned spectacles in my kit for vision spells, but that’s all back on the ship. I don’t have anything suitable for enhancing senses, so we’ll have to take it in another direction.”
“I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the prospect o’ someone else wearin’ me headhole stopper,” Regan said.
“I’m not going to wear it,” Lilliana said. “I’ve got two eyes and we only have one patch.”
“So yer big witchy spell comes down to me coverin’ up me good eye so I can’t see the illusion?”
“The best magic is often the subtlest,” Lilliana said. “I’m not going to be able to overpower the spells being thrown at us, but if we keep it simple enough it won’t matter.”
“I have an eyelid, ya know.”
“Patch. Now,” Lilliana said.
With visible reluctance, Regan pushed her thumb into the center of the pentagonal patch under her right eyebrow. It popped off, revealing a fat pellet, like a flattened ping pong ball.
“Regan, you said you didn’t have any weapons,” Lilliana said, accusingly.
“What weapon? If this little thing went off, it’d barely take the top off me skull,” Regan said. She handed over the patch and moved the small explosive to a belt pouch.
Lilliana took the patch and studied it intently for a few moments, then muttered an incantation over it, turning it over in her fingers. The black plastic glowed a bright red, which shifted to a purple and then faded to a soft blue. She held it back out to Regan, who looked at it like she thought it was going to bite her. When Lilliana thrust it towards her, she took it and then… slowly, haltingly… lifted it towards her face. She squeezed her left eye shut as her fingers came near it with the glowing patch.
“Eye open,” Lilliana said. “Or else you won’t be able to see.”
“I’d just like to go on record as statin’ that it’s really, really uncomfortable-like, stickin’ somethin’ near the only eye I’ve left to me name,” Regan said. “Specially somethin’ glowin’ all ominously.”
“It’s not ominous,” Lilliana said. “It’s a simple spell. I adjusted the patch to only block the illusion, letting reality show through… but it won’t last long, so you need to stick it in place and then find the boundary of this effect fast.”
“I just stick it over me eye an’ look around, then?” Regan said doubtfully.
“Yes,” Lilliana said.
“Just like this?” Regan asked, holding it up in front of her eye.
“Yes, that would be good,” Lilliana said.
“An’ then I look around, all normal-like?”
“Oh, quit stalling!” Lilliana said. “To hear your stories, you encounter more hazardous situations every time you go to the bathroom.”
“If ya don’t believe that, ya’ve clearly never gone into the head after me,” Regan said.
“Fine, fine, have it yer own way, then,” Regan said, and heaving a great sigh, she forced her eye open wide and slapped the patch over it before she could think better of it. “I don’t think it worked, The Gypsy.”
“Your hand’s still over it,” Lilliana said.
“Oh. So it is,” Regan said, and she lowered her hand. Through the dim blue tinged light, she could see the familiar iconic faux street of The Meadows… and row after row of armored soldiers with weapons pointed at them. “Ah, The Gypsy?”
“Look for the exit,” Lilliana said, grabbing hold of Regan’s cape. “And run. I’ll close my eyes and keep up.”
“It’s a good plan, it is, only there are somethin’ like forty or fifty tiny problems with it,” Regan said.
“Stop messing around… without a proper ritual, the spell’s not going to be very stable,” Lilliana said. “It could wear off any second.”
“Ah, an’ there it goes,” Regan said as the blue glow faded away, covering the image of the foot soldiers in darkness.
“Bard!” Lilliana said.
“Probably better,” Regan said. She dipped her fingers into her open pouch. “Probably wouldn’t like doin’ this if I could see what I was facin’,” she said. “Best be holdin’ onto that cape,” she added, and lobbed her tiny explosive forward.
58: The Family Man 60: Shared Hallucination » »
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