Madalena slammed the final crystal into place, and the DEL rubbed his hands together in glee. A high pitched whine started up as the ring crystals began to glow, casting the mirror than stood within the circle in an eerie light.
“It is done!” the DEL declared, sweeping his arms and his billowing sleeves wide. “Our transdimensional portal!”
Within the runic circle, the forsaken child, the golden goose and unicorn began to make various noises agony. Madalena turned her back to them, glad that her new headpiece covered her ears, thus making it harder to hear their cries.
“This is it, my loyal apprentice!” her Master cried gleefully. “Those months of experiments. All that mucking around in the swamp for that mandrake root (That had admittedly been one of the worst parts of their quest. Even the mere thought of it brought back the swamps rotten, fetid stench.), that search for that dratted child, we’ve finally made it, and I couldn’t have done it without you my dear.”
He took her hand, and with the other, tucked a stray lock of her hair behind her ear. Madalena smiled. “I can’t wait to see what’s behind that gate!”
Just then the door to the great hall crashed inward. “Madalena!”
She whirled around. “Gareth! And…” it was that annoying squire-cum-assistant he’d picked up from Galavant.
“It’s Sidney,” said the boy. “Sir Sidney, Knight of Sidneyland.”
“Riiiight.” She crossed her arms. “What are you doing here?”
Gareth sheathed his sword. “Madalena, what are you doing?” He looked at the child and the magical creatures writhing in the runic circle. “What is this?”
“Magic!” cried Madalena, feeling her chest grow tight. Gareth wouldn’t take this from her! He couldn’t! “The DEL and I have unlocked the secrets of the universe!”
“They’re secrets, Maddy!” he yelled over the rising pitch of the crystals’ whine. “They’re not meant to be known!”
“Uh,” said that annoying squire-knight, carefully advancing with his sword still drawn. “Maybe we should save the reunion for later and take care of him?”
He poked his sword in the direction of the DEL, who had spread his arms wide and was muttering under his breath. Madalena recognised those words. “Stop!” she screamed, and flung out her arm. The DEL flew back and slammed into the wall.
“Oh shit,” she heard the knight-squire mutter under his breath.
“Madalena,” Gareth breathed.
“Be quiet,” she snapped.
The DEL rose slowly to his feet and brushed of his robes. He’d worn his best mauve ones for the occasion, and they shimmered beautifully in the crystals’ eldritch light.
“Really, Madalena, you should know better. She raised her hands, but too late! The DEL snapped his fingers and she couldn’t move. A grunt from Gareth told her the same had happened to him.
“Well, well, well,” said the DEL, as he walked towards their frozen forms. “Look what we have here.”
Though the DEL was a rather nice, pleasant looking man at the best of times, the strange eerie light from the crystal coupled with their pitched whining and the faint cries of paint in the background, he suddenly appeared positively demonic. Now Madalena finally understood why the peasants and lesser Dark Lords always ended up running screaming every time she and the DEL turned up.
“You must be Gareth, former bodyguard of that foolish tyrant Richard.”
“What did you tell him?” Gareth hissed.
“Nothing!” Madalena hissed back. She hadn’t said a word about her past, or even where she’d come from. The DEL hadn’t asked, so she hadn’t bothered. It wasn’t any of his business anyway.
“Oh, she said nothing, did you Madalena, dear” said the DEL, and god, was it annoying when that simperingly condescending tone was used on her. “But I have my little birds all over the Seven Realms.”
Gareth looked confused. “Those chirpy feathery beasts? They don’t talk.”
“Spies, you fool!” snapped the DEL. “Spies!”
He turned to Madalena. “So are you taking him back or not? Please decide. I’m not going to waste the life of one forsaken child, a golden goose and a unicorn for your pathetic true love’s kiss or whatever. That goose bit me! It’s going to die, and it’s going to die for me.”
“Go Gareth,” Madalen pleaded. “Just go.”
He looked at her, and the love in his eyes made her feel almost physically ill. There was no way she could return any love of that degree. She could never live up to it. She loved him, but she could never love him as much as he loved her.
“Leave, Gareth,” she demanded, and found herself able to move once again. “Or I will make you.”
“Make me what?” he countered.
“I just told you,” she snapped. “I will make you leave. By any means necessary.”
“Oh come on!” yelled the DEL, turning his back on them in frustration. “This has been going on long enough. We’re on a time limit here!”
Madalena raised her hand. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed.
“Maddy,” Gareth whispered.
“D’DEW!” She brought down her hand. And all hell broke loose.
Something slammed into her back, and bolt of lightning she’d aimed the floor smashed into the door instead. Light and heat and the foul stench of heat washed over them. The door crumbled into dust.
Gareth, who could move again, gaped at her. “You were going to kill me?”
“I was aiming at the floor!”
“You could have hit me!”
“I wasn’t going to, Gar!”
“Um, hel~lo?” the assistant-knight-boy called from across the room. “I’ve just killed the DEL. A little applause would be nice.”
He stood over the body of the DEL who had a sword sticking out from the middle of his back. The DEL looked very dead. Madalena strode over and nudged the body with his foot. He was very much dead. She could actually see the tip of the sword tenting the front of his mauve, blousy shirt. But there was no blood. Not a drop. How very PG-13.
“Interesting,” she muttered.
“Seriously?” said the knig–ah, right Sidney. That was his name. “No ‘Congrats, Sir Sidney’, or ‘You’re a hero, Sir Sidney.’ Ugh.” He stalked off to the crystal ring. “If you’re not going to say anything at least help me stop this thing!”
“No!” she cried and raised a hand, and this time it was Sir Sidney of Sidneyland, DEL Slayer who hit the wall. “I need it.”
“Oh my god,” cried the knight, sounding utterly winded. “Are we just going to
ignore the forsaken child and the golden goose and the unicorn who getting their souls sucked out of them to power your weird magic thing?”
“Well, that’s what we’ve been doing so far and they ain’t dead yet,” said Gareth.
“You’re the hero now, Gareth!” screamed Sidney, struggling to his feet. “Well, the second hero after me! Do something!”
“No!” Madalena cried again, and this time she was the one to snap her fingers and hold them both in place. “The DEL is dead. Do you know what that means?”
“That you will come back now?” asked Gareth hopefully.
“No. It means that I am the DEL. The Dark Evil Lady.”
“Oh god, Gareth, please,” she rubbed her temples. “Please accept that we just aren’t going to work out.”
“I’m not asking you give up evil, Madalena. We can be terrible together!”
“Ugh,” groaned Madalena, throwing up her hands in frustration. “I am evil! I enjoy it! I love it! And what I have created here is something no one has ever made done before!”
She gestured to the mirror within the glowing ring of crystal and then to the fairy tale beings whose lives were slowly being drained to power the device. “In case you haven’t noticed, there’s a forsaken child in there. I’m killing it to open a portal into other dimensions. I can’t just–and I won’t just–stroll back to Richard or Galavant or whoever is ruling over those ridiculous Seven Realms and be all ‘oops my bad’!”
“And,” here her voice lowered and her eyes softened a little. “I know you’re terrible, Gareth, but you’re not that terrible. Don’t waste your life with me.”
“Fine,” said Gareth. “But at least stay here. Be the DEL. Lady that is not Lord. Unless you want to be a lord, nothing wrong with that. But you can be evil here too.”
Madalena sighed, turning to the mirror. It’s surface had turned black, a black so deep and dark it seemed to absorb all the light from the crystals around it.
“I can’t Gar. Not when there are other worlds out there, other places. So many new things to see and learn!”
“There’s so much to see here too, Queenie,” begged Gareth. He sounded teary, so Madalena determinedly kept her gaze turned away.
“Don’t follow me when I go through, Gareth.”
She ignored him and turned to the knight. “You! Knight!”
“The name is Sidney,” he yelled, straining against her magical hold, “and you can’t order me around! I’m not your servant anymore! I never was!”
“Oh shut up and listen” she snapped. “The kid,” she nodded over to the pale child in the rune circle, “might live. Bring her to the healer in the village. I have better things to do than to sentenced to death for the murder of some kid when I get back.”
“You’re coming back?” Gareth asked, a hopeful tilt to his voice. Madalena still refused to look at him.
“Maybe,” she chose to say instead, coyly. “Let’s see what the other worlds have to offer me.”
She strode to body of the DEL and took the two wands he had secreted in each of his sleeves. He also had a boot dagger in each boot and a ritual knife in a thigh sheath. She took them all, despite already having her own weapons and wands. It never hurt to be prepared, especially when headed off into the unknown.
There were also two packed bags against the wall, hers and the DEL’s. She took them both, and with a sprinkling of dust and a commanding “D’DEW!” shrunk them down enough so that they’d fit in her pockets. (Yes, this one dress, cut for travel, had pockets. Madalena had insisted, despite the DEL complaining that they’d ruin the line of her skirt.
All set, she turned to the gaping darkness of the mirror. Finally she turned to look at Gareth. He wasn’t crying but did look close to tears. “Madalena!”
She ignored the twinge in her chest, where her heart was. It didn’t hurt that much anyway.
“Oh my god,” yelled Sidney, “just go already so I can get that kid out of here.”
Madalena stepped forward and felt the blackness pull her in, like it was doing with all the light directed towards it. There was no going back now.
The moment she vanished Gareth and Sidney found themselves able to move again. That was important, because the crystals immediately began glow brighter and brighter until they exploded.
Sidney took cover behind some heavy velvet curtains. Gareth managed to use the DEL’s corpse as a shield.
By some miracle or some magic, the beings in the rune circle were protected from the blast, and did seem alive-ish when Sidney came out from behind his cover. He immediately went straight to the shell shocked child which, while pale and shivering didn’t look like it was about to die anytime soon.
The mirror had been destroyed in the blast. Gareth too one look at it, then strode out of the room.
Sidney sighed. “Oh that’s gonna be a fun ride back.” He looked at the child. “All right if I carry you? I’ll bring you to a healer.”
She nodded. He carefully picked her up. Either it was the magic she’d been subjected to or maybe it was power she had of her own, but when he picked her up, it felt as if a current raced across his armour. Sidney winced, but held her tight.
“You have any parents we can bring you back to?”
The child shook her head.
Oh well, Sidney thought. They’d deal with that after they took her to a healer. And maybe she’d be interested in squiring for him. After all, Sir Sidney the DEL-Slayer, Knight of Sidneyland was a hero now.