A Rock and a Hard Place Chapter 14
I kept my eyes closed because I knew if I opened them I would get distracted by the vortex and lose focus. If I didn’t stay focused on where I wanted to end up, I could end up practically anywhere at all in either world. That was a scary and extremely unpleasant thought.
So I concentrated. I thought of home.
Then, very suddenly, I felt the water pulling away from me and my head broke the surface. I opened my eyes and realized I was in my own bathroom, coming out of a full tub of water.
I stood up, wiping the water out of my eyes and attempting to shake some of it off of myself. Eyes clear, I saw Hewney standing by the door in open mouthed shock, eyes wide. He gaped at me like a fish for a moment, but I didn’t have time. If he remembered, he could ask me about it after everything was over.
“Hew, get me a towel and some dry clothes,” I ordered.
He starred at me.
That galvanized him into action and he dashed out of the room, reappearing a moment later with a towel and a dry robe. I took them and shooed him out of the room with a few instructions.
“Get the Black Room and the White Room ready for me. I’ve got some big magics I have to prepare.”
“Yes Mistress!” he called as he scurried out.
I could tell he wanted to ask. He wanted to know where Lolani was and how I had come out of the tub like that and what was so wrong that I needed two rooms prepared at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to answer his questions and wouldn’t for a while.
Silently apologizing to him, I toweled off and changed quickly before heading down to the library. Itzel followed closely in my wake.
“What are you planning, Etti?”
I sighed as I began moving between the aisles of books.
“And what’s that?”
I paused to look more closely at a couple titles and then moved on. I pulled a book from a shelf in the next aisle and kept moving, grabbing a second without looking too closely at the title.
Grabbing a third book, I held them up for Itzel as I continued to scan the shelves.
“White Room, please.”
She didn’t take them and I could feel her stare boring into my back. With a grumbling sigh, she swallowed the books, transporting them, and I moved down the aisle once more.
“Etti,” she said again, this time a bit more sternly.
Picking a book, I turned a corner, skipped a couple rows, and went down yet another aisle. Suddenly, she zipped in front of me, scowling darkly, and I pulled up short, stopping in my tracks.
“Etti, what are you planning?”
“I don’t know!” I said, throwing my hands up in the air. “I just don’t know! I don’t know anything! What am I supposed to do? I’ve never done anything like this and I’m all alone to boot. I was never trained for anything like this. I have no clue what I’m looking for or what I’m going to prepare. I don’t know if I should go in guns blazing or sneak in like a thief and steal them away. I don’t know how to resolve this situation, Itzel. I’m lost. I’m so lost.”
A sob escaped me and I realized I’d stared crying. I didn’t look away from Itzel’s rainbow eyes though. I wasn’t going to back down and I knew she had no idea what to say for once.
“Mistress?” said a quiet voice behind me.
I turned to see Hewney standing behind me. I sniffed and wiped my tears away quickly.
“What is it?”
He held out a steaming mug for me, face sad and worried.
“I don’t think it’s as good as what Lolani would make, but it might help you think at least a little bit. I hope. I don’t really know if it’ll be any good, but I tried my best for you.”
I chuckled, a few more tears coming as I stepped toward him and took the mug from the faithful Salamander.
“Thank you, Hew,” I whispered.
“Anything for you, Mistress,” he said with a small smile. “And you know, you’re not alone. Itzel and I are here, too.”
I nodded and gave him a weak smile.
“I know, Hew. I just feel so lost right now. I don’t know what to do.”
I sipped on the coffee distractedly, not really tasting it.
“Mistress,” said Hewney quietly.
I looked over at the Salamander’s thoughtful face and paused. He had my full attention now. It wasn’t often that Hewney got that look on his face. Not to say that he wasn’t very intelligent, because he was, but it wasn’t often that he put his mind to solving my problems. I usually sorted them out eventually myself, but when Hewney made suggestions they were ones that should be heeded.
“What about summoning one of my cousins?”
I blinked and then a huge grin split my face. Of course! I felt completely stupid for not seeing the obvious answer from the start. I set the mug down and swept the little Salamander up into a hug.
“Hew, you’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of that?”
He laughed lightly as I set him down.
“It’s because you were so worried about the others that you weren’t thinking straight.”
Then he grinned proudly up at me.
“But that’s what you have Lolani and me for.”
“Yes, yes that’s exactly right,” I replied, matching his grin. “Now, can you go get the Black Room ready and then prepare yourself?”
“Right away, Mistress!” he said, his own grin widening as he scurried off.
“One of his cousins, huh?” muttered Itzel to herself. “Not a bad idea at all.”
I moved off, knowing there was just one book I needed now. Quickly locating it, I handed it off to Itzel to transport. Then, grabbing the mug I had left on a shelf, I made my way upstairs feeling calmer now that I had coffee and a plan.
I couldn’t take on two armies at once so I would have to cut the head off the snake as they say. I would need a big sealing magic to stop the armies while I used Hewney’s cousin in a show of force against the pigheaded leaders.
But, a backup plan was always a good idea.
I sat down at the low table in the White Room, piling the white cushions around myself and then leaning back into them as I debated my options. After a few moments of contemplative coffee sipping, I set my mug down to the side and reached for the books sitting beside the table. Looking more carefully at their titles this time, I selected the third one down and paged through it quickly until I found the spell I was looking for.
Propping the book up on the table, I reached for a permanent marker, popped off the cap, and rolled up my left sleeve. Offensive magics weren’t my forte, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t do them just as effectively with enough time. Slowly and carefully, pausing after each mark I made to double check that it was right, I wrote the spiraling symbols down from my elbow to cover my hand.
I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding as I made the last mark. Then, just to be thorough, I double checked each of the symbols to be sure.
“Itzel, how does it look?” I asked, holding up my arm for her to inspect.
She floated down close, slowly circling around my arm with the symbols as she read them. Then she bobbed a bit up and down.
“Looks right to me.”
I blew on the marker so that it wouldn’t smudge and then closed my eyes for a moment to concentrate and gather my magic. Focusing the flow into my right index finger, I opened my eyes and began tracing the permanent marker symbols, starting at my elbow and working my way down, connecting the magic with each symbol as I went. As I finished with each symbol it would begin to pulse and glow faintly to show that the connection had been made. It was a slow process because I didn’t want to make any mistakes.
Connecting the last symbol, I breathed a sigh of relief and laid back, holding my arm above my head as I watched the glowing pulse covering my arm. I let the arm fall to my side and stayed where I was for a moment, temporarily drained by the slow, concentrated process.
With a sigh, I pushed myself upright and moved to the Black Room where Hewney had set up what I would need for the Sealing. It would be a big magic, to hold back so many beings, and so I had to get it right. Fortunately, since my forte was defensive magics, primarily Sealing Magics, this would be much easier than the Metal Magics that now covered my left arm.
I picked up the one book that Itzel had transported to this room for me and quickly flipped through it to the spell I would need. I knew this book by heart because it had been the main book I had studied from during my training, but it always paid to be smart about magic so I always double checked every spell, no matter how well I thought knew it.
Reading over it twice, I nodded and sat down cross legged on a cushion, setting the book aside. This needed to be a quickly activated seal or I would never hope to contain both armies. I looked over the materials I had on the table and frowned. The spell wasn’t a problem. How to active a seal that big was.
Drumming my fingers on the table distractedly I thought hard. How could I spread a seal over that wide a range quickly?
I glanced down at my fingers and then it hit me. Of course! Metal! Every soldier would have something somewhere on him that was metal. I already had the Metal magic covering my arm. All I had to do was tweak it a bit so that I could activate a seal on anyone with something metal on them.
With a grin at my own cleverness, I carefully studied the symbols on my arm once more, debating the best way to go about making changes. Magic focused into my index finger once more, I began drawing the required symbols and circles to specify what I would need it to do.
After studying my changes for several minutes to make sure everything was in order, I nodded in satisfaction and stood up as I rolled my sleeve back down.
“Alright. I think it’s time we called Hewney’s cousin,” I said to Itzel.
The Aether Spirit grinned in her own way and followed me as I made my way quickly downstairs and outside to where the Salamander was waiting.
“Mistress,” he greeted in a subdued tone.
The little Salamander was standing in the middle of a Summoning Circle that he had drawn on the ground. His face was serious and his eyes half closed as he concentrated.
“Are you ready?” he asked quietly.
“Whenever you are, Hewney.”
He nodded and before I could think to ask which of his cousins he was summoning for me, he began to chant in a tongue I had only ever heard once before. It made his voice deep and rumbling. The Circle began glowing a bright blue-white and then I didn’t need to ask who he was summoning because the light alone made that clear. I sucked in a deep breath and he finished the chant as I turned my eyes to the sky.
A great light shot up from the Circle, enveloping Hewney in it’s center, and my eyes went wide as his cousin came hurdling down at us from the greatest heights of the blue expanse.
Just short of the ground, his great wings shot out, nearly stopping him mid-air, and he landed, shaking the ground around him. From nose to tail he was the deepest of blues and then faded out to white at the end of his tail and wings. His large blue eyes took in the scene just below his nose as he powerful claws scrapped at the earth beneath them.
Though I knew the Salamanders were the cousins of the Dragons, I had never actually met a live Dragon before. It was more terrifying and exhilarating than I could have ever guessed.
I swallowed hard as one great blue eye was turned on me and I realized my hands were shaking, either from fear or excitement I couldn’t have said. Drawing myself up, I bowed low and greeted him as was proper.
“I welcome you, Noble Akata-Zan, Son of the Lightning, Last born of the Sky. Your presence is an honor.”
A/N: As promised, the holidays are over and I am writing again. Yeah for no more overtime! Lol. So yes, this story will get finished and I hope you guys will like the second half as much as the first!