Deep in the giant, looming black castle that was The Master's stronghold, a woman stared intently into a mirror while leaning against one massive column of a giant four-poster bed. She was incredibly beautiful, a collection of graceful curves in exactly the right places, long, fine flaxen hair, and eyes so clear and deep that men would surely jump into them and fall to their deaths, were such a thing possible. The dress she wore, a soft, simple piece made of dyed gray wool, was such a stark contrast to her hair that she resembled a dandelion that had grown out from a weed. She shifted against the bedpost into a more comfortable position.
Framed there in the glassy image on the wall was a great, billowing shadow, vaguely human in shape and dark as midnight. Clustered around the figure was a ragtag group of adventurers who looked like they were ready for a fight. Or at least as ready as they *could* look after already having been on the bad end of several large attacks.
She had to chuckle at this.
Woman: (*to self*) The methods he uses are always so... direct.
True, they had planned it all out together beforehand, and this was indeed part of their scheming. It still amused her though, how he didn't seem capable of coming up with anything more subtle than a physical confrontation for his role. Be it through lackeys or going out and doing it himself, Her Master just loved to fight.
And The Psychic, Warteen, seemed to be doing a good job of making Her Master mad, too. In the mirror she saw him wave his hand to send the human flying, and she felt the pull of the spell as it formed around her finger and arced through the mirror to his. So direc--oh drat. Too direct, in fact.
Woman: "You'd think that," she muttered, "with someone who's so keyed in on action, he'd have a better concept of REaction too."
*** The Psychic was now back inside the Fantasium shard that held The Warrior. And Warteen's abilities made him quite *dangerous* to the stability of a Fantasium shard. That's why we left him outside in the first place, not just to tempt him directly.
It was nearly impossible to hold him inside of one for long, as his innate senses would pick up on the deception. And even if the idea never got as far as his conscious mind, that vague notion of unreality would still exert a dangerously destabilizing force on the spell. That's how he was able to get the others out so easily.
But then, they had wanted all of the others to be freed. Now that he was inside the shard of The Warrior... this confused the plan somewhat. She would have to take matters into--a flash of warning in the mirror tore her attention away from her hurried planning and focused it completely on the battle between Her Master and his guests.
Things had just become worse.
A potent defense spell stirred instinctually in her heart, flowed out through her hands and arced into the mirror in a brief flash of lightning.
She saw what had set off the mirror's alarm only briefly, and it chilled her heart.
Then, abruptly, the glass held another face. It was a girl, young and tender, twenty-five at the most. This new image, confused, reached a hand up to touch at it's cheek. She realized that she had done the same thing, and quickly jerked her hand away.
It was a pretty face, she reflected, but in a very peculiar way. You'd never expect to see a face like that modeling in anything more upscale than the weekly supermarket flyer.
But that was an analogy for another time entirely, and those were hardly her concerns right now. She scowled and waved a hand at the mirror, willing away the Reality it reflected and bringing the Fantasy it was supposed to hold back into focus. Her thoughts of this time and place returned along with the proper image.
The Psychic was inside The Warrior's shard again, and with that ring The Assassin was completely lost to them as well. She would have to move fast if their plan was to be in the least bit salvageable. At least Her Master was in no great danger yet. One ring could do precious little to either of them, except maybe interfere with their spells a little. And it had already done that.
Next the woman in front of the mirror did something that was probably quite peculiar, though no resident of Wonderland would have thought so. She tapped the glass and it rippled outward as though a pebble had been dropped into a sideways pond. The scene shifted yet again, to an infinity of rolling, ethereal clouds bathed in a thin red light. And she stepped through.
----- generic scene change -----
This was always her favorite part. She tumbled madly, head over heels through the mists, and yet barely aware of the nauseating motion. Because at the same time her mind was expanding, becoming more powerful. Her senses tuned and an abrupt sharpness seized her perception. She could feel the other mind as she moved through The Shard, the mind of The Warrior.
What she couldn't feel, however, was the mind of The Psychic. Or at the very least, his mind was somehow very weak at the moment, repressed. It was only a matter of time now, she grinned to herself.
----- generic scene change -----
And suddenly she was inside a great golden hall. The height of the columns was rivaled only by the height of the great bookcases that ran like ivy up every one, stuffed full of every piece of literature imaginable (of course they were mostly comic books and DVDs, with a few pulp novels thrown in for good measure. But this was TGC's fantasy, and that was all the literature that could be imagined in such a place).
The main gathering of people seemed to be at the far end of the hall, where there was a massive stack of pillows surrounded by a bustle of bodies. That entire end had been turned into a sort of jungle, with literal acres of carefully placed foliage. The farthest wall was three-quarters covered by an ever-shifting image. Right now the picture seemed to be of several women in impossible armor made of impossible materials, battling against dark and foreboding men wearing equally bizarre equipment.
Mirror-traveling Woman: (*thinking idly*) Heh. Space suits cut like that would cause instant decompression.
Even at this end of the hall, though, girls in various states of creative un-dress milled about, casually going to and fro on Business of The Court. The King must have his Filet Mignon. The King's shirt was now four hours old. The King's fuzzy slippers were pilling and felt all nasty on his feet. The King was ready for his dessert flan. All were important matters of state that these women had been sent to take care of.
At first the mirror-traveling woman wondered why the women were not all rushing madly to do their masters bidding, instead walking leisurely along. Then she realized that each woman must be anticipating what their King needed of her well in advance, and in plenty of time to fulfill the request on time. This Great Chad was a genius then, the mirror-traveling woman had to admit, because it really did enhance the relaxed atmosphere of the giant room.
Mirror-traveling Woman: (*still thinking idly*) And of course, relaxation is paramount to our Great Emperor.
She had to stifle the urge to laugh out loud. It was all so deliciously ludicrous, the newcomer thought. This man, The Warrior, The Great Chad... He must have a very strong fantasy if he was able to maintain this world, even when under the direct influence of a Psychic like Warteen.
An odd little part of her heart had to admire that.
As she took in her surroundings and turned them over in her mind, she casually made her way down to the other end, trying as best as she could to look like she belonged there. Drawing undue attention so soon wouldn't be conducive to her plan.
Fortunately, none of the elegantly half-naked peacock-women took any special notice of her, despite the long, plain gray dress she still wore. They were, of course, too caught up in their thoughts of Their King and his every desire.
The attention she had so far avoided suddenly found her as she reached the foot of The Great Chad's raised dais, however, as an Egyptian woman with white hair and pupil less eyes stopped rubbing the King's neck and stepped to the front of the platform.
Egyptian Woman: (*angrily*) Who are you, stranger, and what is your business here?
There was intense jealously in the woman's voice, and lightning crackled from her eyes and formed a halo around her long ivory mane. The static somehow actually managed to smooth her already carefully arranged hair.
The mirror-traveling woman was indeed something to be envied, by both the Egyptian and the Amazon who stood on the other side of the Emperor. The giant library was already thick with the promise of the openly visible. And if something wasn't plainly in view, then it was very bluntly suggested.
The dull gray dress this new woman wore offered nothing more than the meagerest hints of what Must be there, as deduced from her face and general silhouette. And this new promise was oddly and incredibly distracting to The Great Chad. He found himself adopting an overly Royal attitude in order to make a good impression, even though it was his fantasy, and by all rights he should have Good Luck with this woman irregardless of how he acted.
TGC: *aside* Calm yourself, Storm. *now reaching out with his right hand in a regal gesture, straining to hold his voice in the aforementioned Royal tone* Please, tell me who you are, fair woman.
Woman: No-one in particular, your majesty. I am simply Your Lady.
TGC: Come, you can tell Us your name. (*thinking silently*) He he! This sounds just like an episode of Slayers!
Woman: Since you insist, your majesty, my name is Eleanor Cooper. But if you must call me anything beside simply "Milady", I'd ask that it be "Lenore". I despise my full Given Name.
Storm: (*almost a snarl*) And what is your business here?
TGC: (*with a hard-edged laugh*) I said be silent, fair Storm! But what *is* your business here, Milady?
Milady had a sudden inspiration. The Psychic was here. So was she. She could weaken the hold of the Fantasium on The Warrior's brain enough for Warteen to disrupt it. And when The Great Chad's world DID break, she'd be right there to pick up the pieces. Who was this fool going to listen to, anyway, his friend, or a beautiful woman he'd known for only a minute or two? The answer should be obvious, she thought.
Milady: (*bowing*) I am but your humble servant, oh Great Chad. I see you only have four attendants to rub your left foot. Perhaps I could do something about that, Your Grace?
Chad blinked in mild disbelief at the strangely beautiful woman's offer. Even though it WAS his fantasy, for some reason he hadn't expected her to say something like that. He stood.
TGC: Surely, I, The Great Chad... (*here he paused for dramatic effect, as though he was overcome by the offer or some other BS like that*) DO SO RICHLY DESERVE SUCH A TREASURE!!!
Inwardly, she had to smile again. The Great Chad was such an amusing little person. And he had already proved his usefulness in battle. She moved up onto the dias on which Chad sat, much to the dismay of Storm, and took her place rubbing his feet. He turned his attention back to the giant moving picture on the wall. Soon, she thought, she would have herself a bodyguard.