Dungeon Crackers, Chapter 9: Just Who Is Madelyn?

When I woke up, I was on my back and looking at Madelyn. Suddenly I remembered that I was struck from behind, and the only person who was behind me was Madelyn. I quickly backed away like crab on my hands and feet, and bumped into a wall.

I looked around to see that I was on the outside of the vault room where I was before. Bitane was in a chair at his desk, and he had a red rag pressed to his face. Actually, I was not certain what color the rag was, but it was soaked in blood.

Madelyn also had a rag in her hand, and it had my blood on it. In fact, my head was still bleeding. It hurt like it has never hurt before.

“I know what you are thinking, but it wasn’t me.”

“What? Then who could it…” It then made quite a bit of sense. “Phoebe.”

“Yes, when we invaded the school, she came up to me. Since I thought she was you, I followed her, and then she struck me on the head with a shovel.” Madelyn picked up the shovel and showed it too me, and I saw that there was blood on it, and it matched the blood in her hair. It didn’t look like she had needed stitches.

“Then she took me place and pretended to be me until you could get a hold of the talisman.”

The headmaster spoke in a muffled voice. “Madelyn tells me that you have been working with a glamour, and apparently she looks like Madelyn to you.”

“You told him?”

“I thought you were dying. The talisman and Phoebe are long gone. People needed to know.”

“Oh man, what does Phoebe want to do with the…wait. You couldn’t have been Phoebe…then. Bitane saw you when he looked at her and he didn’t…

Bitane had a guilty expression on his face.

“Oh, you sick old man.”

Madelyn stepped in between us.

“Don’t do it, Tiran.”

“Why shouldn’t I? You’re the reason why the Magic Wars were won, right?”

Neither Madelyn nor Bitane said a word.

“The Porovo Talisman did it. It sucked all the magic out of the competition. Grayon told me about that day, how dragons couldn’t breathe fire, and none of the wizards magic items seemed to work. You turned them all normal, and then you killed them before they could say what happened. You used magic to defeat magic!”

“The talisman is the source of all magic. All I was doing was returning it to the source. Isn’t that what you have been doing, Tiran? Returning magic items to who had them to begin with?”

“Wait a minute. You built some of the dungeons that I broke into. Why didn’t you just suck all the magic out of those items that I recovered there?”

“We knew that if word got out that the talisman could make more magic, then the magic items would flood the kingdom. We chose to keep a few of the less powerful, less harmful ones, to distract from the fact that we had the most powerful ones.”

“So you had a hundred stronghold made for magic items, when the most powerful one was right here, barely under any security.”

“It was put here in case it was ever needed again. In case we needed to stop a powerful magic foe. It was and is the orders of the king! He entrusted me to keep all the magic of the kingdom safe. And now your glamour friend has it. You need to tell me what she intends to do with it.”

“Well, she can’t use it.”

“I know that, she needs a human wizard to manipulate it. Does she know any more humans than you?”

“She knows countless. She was always the one who dealt with people. She could be working with anyone.”

“Young man, you need to tell us everything you can about her. If she finds a wizard who can use the talisman, then she can easily re-start the magic wars.”

“You know, maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.”

“Oh, you think you know so much. Do you even know what started them in the first place? People kept using magic to do evil things that would endanger ordinary humans like us. You can’t live in a world where you don’t know if the person that you most trust could be someone else…”

I had heard this propaganda speech before, but before Bitane could finish it, he stopped suddenly and looked at Madelyn. It first I thought he was leering, but he went to his desk and opened a drawer. He took out a crossbow and pointed it at Madelyn.

“What the hell are you doing, Bitane?”

“I just realized that I’m not certain who she is. Just like I don’t know who you are.”

“First of all, my name is Tiran, and you expelled me from the school nine years ago. That is Madelyn, the assistant to this school.”

“Is she? I believe that we have already established that both of us see Madelyn when we look at Phoebe.”

I hated to admit it, but my headmaster was right. I wanted him to be wrong. I looked at Madelyn, and she had the look that her world was turned upside down and inside.

“That makes no sense. She hits me on the head, only to be here when I wake up? Phoebe would have simply taken the talisman and made a clean getaway, like she did.”

“This is absurd,” said Madelyn, “just ask me a question that only I would know.”

I tried to think of what information that I never told Phoebe about Madelyn, nothing came to mind. “I’m sorry Madelyn, but Phoebe knows me better than you, and would be able to answer all my questions. Yeah, I don’t like it either. Bitane, you’ve worked with her for nine years, and I think you can probably give her a question.”

“Tiran, I can’t believe that you’re buying into this.”

“Listen, Madelyn, if you are…let’s just assume you are now, but I have found that trust is something that you always triple-check.”

“No wonder why you could never love me.”

I didn’t expect her to say that.

“All right…let’s see…much of what happens in the school is public record. Phoebe would have to research it if she wanted to play the role of Madelyn…I need to think of something only Madelyn and I know.

“Could you hurry it up? I need to get after Phoebe, the real one.”

“You are not going anywhere. You tried to rob me. Do you think I’m going to let you go?”

“Fine, but you have to let her go. Madelyn, if you please, say something convincing to this old man?”

Madelyn grinned. “Headmaster, you have been keeping your affections for me a secret for years.”

“Okay,” I said, “even I knew that, and Phoebe would have known that too. Did you tell Phoebe that when you first met her?”

“Yes.”

“What else did you tell her?”

Before Madelyn could answer, Rolf flew in, and landed on the desk. “Where have you been?”

Bitane pointed the crossbow at him. Madelyn, assuming she was her, could have taken advantage of the distraction, but didn’t.

“What is this,” said Butane.

“It’s my companion, Rolf. If you fire that crossbow at him, I will kill you. Also, if you fire it at Made…her…I will also kill you.”

“We gotta get out of here, Tiran.”

“I know, Rolf. Just answer me one thing. Who is that?”

“It’s Madelyn, of course.”

“Well I guess that settles that. Bitane, you can put away the crossbow now.”

“Wait,” said the Headmaster, “who do you normally see when you look at Phoebe? Rolf, is it?”

“Who the hell are you?”

Suddenly I realized Bitane’s logic, and I didn’t like it at all.

“Oh no. Rolf, do you like Madelyn?”

“Sure, she’s all right.”

“That’s not the question I asked. Who do normally see when you look at Phoebe.”

“Oh, so now you are interested. You know I tried to tell you so many times before, but you never wanted to hear it…”

“Rolf, we need to know the answer to this question. You see this massive head-wound? Phoebe gave it to me.”

“She did?”

“Yes, Rolf. She’s turned on us, taken the talisman, and she could be in this room.”

“Oh, I’ll kill that…”

“That’s why we need your help, Rolf. She looks like Madelyn to me and the headmaster here.”

“Really,” Rolf turned to the headmaster, “you’re sick.”

“I know,” said Bitane, seemed to alternate his crossbow aim from Rolf to Phoebe.

Rolf took a deep breath and shared something that I didn’t know. “Phoebe changes all the time to me. I’m a fairy, and I can’t control my attraction! Maybe she’s looking like Madelyn now, but I didn’t see her until after I saw Phoebe…so I don’t even know what Phoebe would look like.”

“All right, there is only one way to settle this. Rolf, do you know where Grayon is?”

“At the rendezvous point, just like the plan.”

“Great. We need to go to him.”

“Forget it. Just let me get a group of my students. I’m sure they’ll see that she’s really not Phoebe.”

“I don’t want them involved. I know who Grayon says when he looks at Phoebe, and it wouldn’t be Madelyn. He’s going to be the test stone here.”

“Fine, but I’m coming with you,” said the headmaster.

“The hell you’re not,” said Rolf.

“The hell he is,” I said, “provided he lets Madelyn go after we have proven that she is who she says she is.”

“If she is not,” said Bitane, “then you give her to me. If she’s your glamour friend, then she knows where the talisman is. The king’s finest soldiers should be able to get the location from her.”

“That’s fair to me.”

It was an awkward walk back to the rendezvous point. Madelyn, and I wanted to believe that it was Madelyn, didn’t say a word to me. I could see why. I led the way while Bitane kept his crossbow unflinchingly on Madelyn’s spine.

Eventually, we arrived, and I could hear Grayon call out.

“Rolf, is that you?”

“It’s me too, Grayon. Can you stay where you are for a minute?”

“Certainly, Tiran.”

“That is your friend? The troll?” said Bitane, who was peering through the trees.

“He is a truer friend than you will know. Bitane, here is how this is going to work. I am going to send out Madelyn, and then you will see how Grayon reacts to her.”

“Who will Grayon see if it is Phoebe?”

“He will see his wife, which means he would greet her like Phoebe.”

“All right, but I can’t trust him.”

“Just watch. Madelyn, go out.”

“You called me Madelyn.”

“I did. It’s because I know you are the one that I love and I just know that you will pass this test.”

Madelyn smiled and stepped into the camp. Grayon saw her and waved.

“Hello, Madelyn, is Tiran with you?”

I then followed up.

“Grayon, you see Madelyn?”

“Of course. Who else would I see?”

“Phoebe.”

“Is she here?”

“Was here. She took the talisman, my friend. The deal went sour, but it wasn’t the client. We have to go after her now.”

“Not so fast,” said Bitane, “all of you are coming with me. We are going to report this to the king, and he will scour the kingdom for that glamour. We will require the assistance of all of you.”

I winked at Rolf and turned to Bitane. “Yeah, that won’t happen.”

Rolf swooped in and took the crossbow from Bitane. He seemed shocked, and looked nervous.

“Okay, there are three of us, and one of you.”

“Four of us, Tiran! I took the stinkin’ crossbow!”

“Right, four of us. Just go back to the school headmaster, they will need you maintain order.”

“I will report this.”

“Bitane, I’ve had a lot of time to hate you in the past nine years. If you make it difficult for me, then I’m going to really release that anger.”

Bitane took off running.

Okay, it looks like we settled that whole Madelyn issue. Now, where is Phoebe? You will find out in the next chapter here.

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