Moments exist that are often regretted; things that cannot be changed. Sometimes it is the change we make within these moments that causes us such distress. Alec had been an accidental creation of Alex’s. Returning to a memory through the Pharaoh’s Eye, a rather shabby and haggard block of wood that had been forged into the head of a long dead pharaoh, Alex had managed to cross directly through himself. Though details were not fact, a rip in time split their threads apart. Alec was born of memory, fortunate only for Meg.
With the accidental creation of Alec, Meg had found a vicious companion where she had been lacking one. Alec had Alex’s face, body, and even snippets of his genius. He was a far sight better to look at than her two servants. Their rotting flesh, looking as though it were ready to part from their bodies; hair that was nothing more than small tuffs of lanky black; and those soulless eyes. All traits quite common in Ritifs, though it was rare to find these creatures outside the bowels of the hell realms. Meg, a creature of darkness herself, had a soft spot for the eyes of Ritifs. After what had become a lifetime of murderous endeavors, it was a relief to look upon something that didn’t truly look back.
Meg stared almost longingly at Alec with her distant brown eyes, recounting their first encounter. Meg vanished from Alex’s sight, reappearing in the shadows of the trees. Moonlight weaving it’s way through the heavy branches above, defined Alex’s silhouette. Alex picked up an unconscious Jen, carrying her away from what he knew to be lurking beyond his sight. Alex’s pace was much slower exiting the forest than it had been upon entering. He did his best not to rattle Jen too much; aware that she could wake at any moment, but unaware what damage had been done to her.
Meg orbed herself out of the forest, waiting for Alex to appear. The minutes of waiting felt like hours of anxious anticipation. Meg was relieved to see a figure breaking through the black of the thick trees. Much to her surprise Alex was no longer carrying Jen. A light flashed in the distance, forcing Meg to turn. What must have been the opening of a door allowed light to flood from Alex’s house and into the forest like someone signaling for help. The light relinquished, but Meg was left standing before an empty handed Alex.
“Alex?” Meg asked. The attitude was there, but something wasn’t right. It was as if looking at Alex through the back end of a mirror, he just seemed… different.
“Yes,” replied Alex, sounding very much like himself.
“Where’s the witch?” Though Meg had come from humble beginnings, she loved to remind anyone when she got the chance, that she was a god, not just another witch in the crowd.
“Alex carried her to the house.”
Meg’s growing frustration was apparent even in the fading moonlight. Her flesh was a pale blue in the night air, but it was clear that her eyes were pointing like daggers at this possible impostor. Before Meg had the chance to ask another question the ground beneath her began to shift. Her feet were sinking into the dirt, the entire landscape turning on its side. Like a page being turned over in a storybook, the trees were bending towards the ground; the sky was falling, the moon coming drastically close. The tall grass at their feet bent as if a wind had kicked up.
Falling into Alex, he embraced Meg as the world continued to turn over. Meg pressed her face into his chest, feeling a slow rhythmic heart beat against her cheek, the air was screaming like paper being shredded furiously; rapidly the two of them sank into the damp ground. With a jolt they dropped through the floor of the Earth, landing in a pile in the same spot they had just left. Meg jumped to her feet, adjusting her dress,
“What the hell realm was that?” she shrieked, sunlight beaming on her pale flesh.
“We’ve moved into the present.” Alex was speaking as if this were a perfectly natural act, like Meg should know what had happened.
“What are you talking about?”
Alex smiled, his white teeth appearing in a villainous fashion.
“Alex went back in time. Unintentionally… I ran into myself.”
“So… you’re not Alex?” Meg felt like her head had been put in a vise. This made no sense.
“I’m the Alex you fought in the forest… but I’m not the Alex that carried Jen out. I’m the past brought into the present by a ripple,” Alex explained.
“We’re going to have to change your name if I’m going to pretend to understand any of what you just said.”
“What would you call me?”
Meg stared at the non-Alex for a moment, the wheels in her head cranking away. His characteristics were all those that she had become familiar with: The short messy brown hair, the dark eyes. They were trademarks of a backfired jinx Meg had once used on Alex, hiding his dirty blonde hair and pale blue eyes. Never had she regretted the accident; transforming Alex, even in the slightest sense, gave her the ability to distance herself from him.
“It’s nearly the same name.” Alec wasn’t pleased. Though he was a duplicate of Alex, he felt the strangest loathing for him. Sharing even a partial name seemed a cruel punishment, especially coming from Meg.
“Exactly. You’re almost the same wizard,” grinned Meg.
“Why are you staring at me?”
“Wha- what?” stuttered Meg, coming from her daze.
“What are you staring at me for?” asked Alec, once again.
“Don’t question me.” Meg felt starting a fight was her best defense. It was either that or admit she had been thinking about someone other than herself, even if the memory involved her.
“Whatever… let’s get this over with.”
It was good fortune for Meg that she had met Alec. He was the only wizard outside of Alex and the Sisters of the Black Circle that knew of the Anomaly. There were currently two things working in Meg’s favor: Alec had retained most of Alex’s memories, even if only in fragmented form; Alex was quickly losing memories having been stripped of his own powers by Meg’s extraction orb.
This was perhaps Meg’s greatest triumph to date. She would never forget standing in front of Alex, plunging the dazzling orb of white into his chest and watching him collapse. For a single moment, a twinge of something appeared in Meg’s chest. Something that told her she regretted what she was doing. However, not interested in falling victim to conscious, she suppressed the feeling, extracting the orb.
The story was somewhat of an embarrassment to Meg, considering Alex had managed to escape her enchantment, meant to hold him until death arrived. Alex had never told anyone about the incident outside of Jen and Melissa. Alec knew only because he assisted Meg in creating the enchantment through his memories of Alex’s home; no one else had a clue as to where Alex had gone for the eight mortal-month period. Alex had never been able to reach out to the Council, forcing them to assume he was dead, then sidestepping questions after his abrupt return. Meg assumed Alex had informed Anna, knowing how much wasted trust he placed in her.
The Primary, a powerful energy created from bits of each realm, was hidden not so much inside Melissa; as Melissa was more a shell created to hide it. Meg had taken Alex hostage in hopes of discovering the whereabouts of her desperately desired Primary. When she finally discovered in what form it now existed, the window of opportunity had closed. The amount of time and power it would take to transform Melissa out of her current form would take more power than Meg had access to. Time was running out for Meg to open the barrier between she and the hell realm that was home. The Anomaly however was still in its pure form, hidden within Alex’s chamber of the Council Hall.
Without invitation from a Council member it was impossible for Meg to visit the Council Hall, but with Alec’s help there was nothing to stop her. Though she had separated them by a single letter, the realms still felt Alex and Alec to be the same wizard, having come from the same thread. There were very few recorded cases of wizards having their threads accidentally split in two. Many of those that had done so on purpose managed to disfigure themselves horribly; some even managing death by mistake. No, Alex and Alec were a very rare case. Meg assumed it must have only been possible to divide them in two due entirely to the incredible amount of power that resided within Alex. Though it was clear Alec had not taken the better portion of these powers.
Alec drew a circle in the air with his finger several times, a spark of blue finally igniting on the tip of his index finger. The buzzing spark followed Alec’s lead until a circle was formed, withdrawing his hand, the portal grew to an appropriate size, Meg pushing her way through, Alec following close behind. The corridor leading to the Council Hall was empty. It was no secret that Alex was to face trial by the First Council today. His arrival was imminent, meaning that Alec had to get Meg into Alex’s personal chamber before anyone arrived.
Their shoes pounded against the black and white tiles of the floor, the sound bouncing furiously off the white doors that lined the corridor from end to end. Meg had been here a thousand times before. Previously she had needed no invitation to enter, but her decision to take residence within the confines of a hell realm changed that. Demons of any sort were not permitted into the Council Corridor, or any of its many doors, without written permission of the Council Head.
Reaching the enormous wooden doors that concealed the Council Chamber, Alec pressed a hand lightly to one of the carved doors. Meg had forgotten how impressive they were, her eyes catching on the story that had been carefully crafted upon the wood. The story of Trejun, whom she felt much sorrow for; tales of Terra and Accadia, the wizarding cities; battles of wizards that were long forgotten, and even a small mention of the hell realms near the bottom of the doors. The dark wood slowly retreated, allowing the duo into the quiet black ahead of them, the closing doors swallowing the light of the corridor.
“I can’t see anything,” grunted Meg, as if this weren’t obvious, Alec reaching through the dark for her hand.
Alec led her through the dense blanket of black. Passing between the six wooden pews that Meg was unable to see, and around the massive stand where Alex and his Head Council members perched. All of Alec’s steps were memorized and precise even in the darkness. He didn’t have to search for the handle to Alex’s personal chamber; he knew just where to reach within the darkness. With a push their eyes were attacked with a vibrant light that pressed desperately at the darkness behind them. Meg allowed herself ahead of Alec into the room.
“So… this is where he spends his time,” muttered Meg, her eyes examining the white room.
The large wooden desk, another mortal-crafted trinket of Alex’s, was cluttered with books and piles of paper; many spilling onto the surrounding floor. The bookshelves that lined the walls were cluttered with books of every sort; an assortment of dark colors making up the leather bindings. The only comfort in the room was Alex’s winged chair behind his desk. It looked old, the black suede wearing in many places. There were no chairs for visitors, not that anyone would ever be allowed in long enough to sit.
“It’s in there… I think,” said Alec, bringing Meg’s attention to the tall double door cabinet; like Alex’s chair, looking as if imported from the Mortal Realm.
“Shouldn’t you know where he put it?” hissed Meg, her patience tested.
“Anything he’s done after we split isn’t in my memory. For all I know, he moved the thing.”
Meg ran her slender fingers over the smooth silver finish of the cabinet.
“Just a door between myself… and everything I’ve been fighting for.”
“What are you fighting for?” asked Alec.
Meg rolled her pouting brown eyes, wishing that Alec wasn’t beside her.
“I know that… but what’s the point? Why not just find a new realm?”
“That’s the point! I clawed my way to the top. I built an empire and then Alex and his Council stole it away from me.”
Meg placed a hand around Alec’s neck, her pointed red claws digging into his flesh. The fury she was feeling for Alex bit at the back of her throat; perhaps sacrificing Alec would be enough to trick her mind into ease.
“How would you like if I threw you back into the time loop and you lost the independence you’ve gained from Alex? How would you like if I stole the life that was yours?”
Alec whisked Meg’s hand from his neck, the mark of her hand remaining as a vivid pink outline. “I think you have forgotten that I’m on your side,” he growled, thrusting her hand away from his own.
“You’re still Alex somewhere in there. If there is anything I learned from him… from you… everything is a lie,” Meg’s words biting at Alec.
“Just open the cabinet, drama god.”
Meg scowled, wrapping her fingers over the dull silver knob of the cabinet door. Applying some force, the door opened with a terrible screech. Meg’s reaction was instantaneous, a vicious grin ripped across her face.
“Finally,” she uttered, relieved.
Alec checked over his shoulder. He swore he heard someone step up to the door. A moment’s silence allowed him to shrug off the suspicions, turning back to Meg. Alec, not nearly as clever as Alex, failed to realize that Jen was fading in and out of a vision with Philip beyond the cracked door. It was her wheezing breaths that he had thought to be imagined. Jen peeked through the crack of space between the door and its frame; her vision more blurred than she would later remember. Something purple was pulled from the cabinet, a small corkscrew; Jen’s attention faded momentarily as she refocused on her attacker.
Meg held the castduv in her hand. It was the key to unlocking the power of the Anomaly.
“You never told me he had this… I thought Philip…”
Meg examined the castduv in her hand,
“Where’d Philip find it? I’ve searched like mad?”
“Trejun hid it in the depths of the Forest. He assumed no one would desire it enough to search.”
“I’ve been to the Terran Forest a thousand times. Where was it?” Meg was annoyed at her own ineptitude.
“One of the caves… who knows what he did to get it. You know how Philip can be.”
Alec reached into the cabinet, extracting a large gray orb, the purpose of their visit. Meg’s trademark grin flashed once more. Gently taking the Anomaly from Alec’s hands, Meg held the thing in front of her. The storm of gray spun slowly inside like thick puffs of smoke.
“Let’s go,” instructed Meg, unable to control her smile.
Alec closed the doors of the cabinet, in no rush to draw attention to the now stolen objects. They hurried out of Alex’s chamber and into the darkness of the Council Hall.
“Wait.” Meg stopped, pulling from her pocket a small orb of metallic. It seemed to capture a trace of light that wasn’t there.
“A little gift for Alex,” replied Meg, holding the silver orb in the palm of her hand, she pressed her lips together. A gentle wisp and it was gone. Alec waited… the room remained dark.
Meg didn’t respond, her lips turning up in a grin darker than that of the Council Hall.
Melissa, who had not been in the corridor on Meg’s entrance; sat in the wobbly wooden chair that had been provided for her; strumming her fingers along the bottom of her seat, rocking in bored anticipation. Melissa waited for the massive wooden doors to open and for Jen to step out. She anticipated Anna taking her inside the Council Chamber for the first time.
Melissa was rocked from her daze, as the doors were forced open.
“Finally,” she snapped, jumping to her feet.
A woman came from within the Council Chamber.
“What the hell-“ Melissa didn’t have time to finish, Meg slamming her against the wall.
Melissa fell to the floor in a heap, her head-lulling forward; face hidden beneath a mop of tussled brown.
“Let’s get out of here,” cried Alec, pulling at Meg’s free arm; terrified Alex would discover them and instruct the Council to eliminate him.
Meg shot Melissa a hate filled smile, giving in to Alec’s pleas. They hurried down the still empty corridor, an explosion of red opening and consuming them. Exiting the portal, Meg couldn’t have been more pleased with herself, showing no gratitude towards Alec for his efforts. There was a burning in Alec’s chest, a feeling Alex had often experienced when he thought of Meg.
“What?” snapped Meg, noticing the pathetic look on Alec’s pale face. “Shall I reward you? Perhaps… free time to play with the servants.”
Shaking his head, Alec left Meg with her new objects of affection; doing his best to ignore her cruel insults.
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