It is with great pleasure, that I announce the first Installment of When Destiny Comes Calling of 2015 and the tenth since our little serial “short-ish” story began.
If you feel a little refresher course is in order, or you haven’t heard of a “serial short-ish story” or you have no clue who Destiny is and why she came calling, I suggest you travel here before proceeding to read the rest of the post.
It’s been a terribly long time since I’ve sat down to discuss military strategies from the days of Corporal Sackinajaw Pickering with Alexander or bandied snobbish looks with Destiny or traded witty words with Fate, so I was terribly excited when I realized it was high time the next installment appeared.
I hope you enjoy it, my dear friends, as much as I did.
And don’t forget to leave a comment with your vote for the beginning of the next installment!
One corner of Destiny’s mouth tweaked up into that mysterious, knowing sort of smile that Alexander thought better befitted portraits and statues than living persons, and she spread her arms wide. “You summoned, Doomsday? I am here. What say you, wizard?”
The wizard stood stock-still for a moment, then flung back his arms and unleashed his stentorian voice. “Wizard Doomsday fears no man, woman, or child. Fear means nothing in the face of the terror that draws nigh. You would all do well to listen and be warned.”
A ribbon of smoke trailed from his wide sleeves and coiled about him on the ground in the shape of an enormous snake. Gasps of fear and awe rippled through the crowd, but Fate simply snorted—a most unlady-like sound—and clucked her tongue.
“Con-wizard Doomsday he means. There is a difference.”
“The end is coming!” Doomsday’s voice filled the entire room. The smoke billowed and grew until the wizard could no longer be seen. Then came a blinding flash, a bang, something remarkably like the creak of a lever, and the room erupted in screams in terror.
With a sweep of his arm, Alexander shoved Fate behind him and grasped for the hilt of his sword. But the maddening woman seized his arm and kept him from drawing.
“Unhand me, ma’am! I am trying to protect you.” He tried in vain to shake her off, but her grip only tightened.
“Settle down. There’s no need to panic.” With her free hand, she patted the back of his head, as one would a child. Or a dog. “Gracious me, you are a bit of a rabbit, aren’t you?”
“I say!” He bit back his indignation at what seemed a very unfair assessment, given the fact that he had just tried to shield her with his own body. Gradually, his vision cleared, and through the dissipating smoke, he saw that the room was empty—the audience must have run off—and Destiny stood alone on the stage.
His mouth dropped open, and his hand fell from his sword hilt. “By General Harkenbreaker’s unbreakable lance, the man really is a wizard!”
Destiny fixed him with a disapproving stare. “Foolish tricks that fool only fools. Care to take a closer look?” She stamped her foot on a knot in the stage floor, and there was another flash of smoke, a bang, and a creak, and suddenly she was gone too.
Only this time, a square opening remained in the floor.
By then, Alexander had deciphered her comment enough to realize that she had insulted him. Again. And he was pained to admit that he deserved it.
Of course it was a trapdoor. Con-artists and charlatans, that’s all these wizards ever were, if his father, Baron Midsig, were to be believed. He felt remarkably foolish … and it wasn’t a feeling he much enjoyed.
“Go ahead.” Fate nodded toward the stage. “She’s waiting for you … and she doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
Moving in a bit of a daze—honestly, had he been doing anything else since this whole senseless adventure began?—Alexander marched up on stage and lowered himself into through the opening. He landed hard, knees jammed up into his chest.
Gasping for breath, he picked himself up and found that he was in the oddest sort of underground wizard’s lair one could imagine. One corner possessed all of the usual things one might expect—bulbous cauldrons, dusty books, spider webs—honestly, why the spider webs?—and a collection of staffs of various sizes, shapes, and woods. It looked dark and deliciously dangerous.
Alexander started at the thought. Since when had he been the sort to court danger? Other than his oft imagined but far off hopes for a future in the military. But had he mentioned those were distant dreams?
The rest of the room, however, could only be described as remarkably comfortable … and homey. A cushiony couch, complete with a hoard of pillows and thick throw blankets sat invitingly before a fireplace. Destiny sat at a kitchen table clad in red checkered cloth with a vase overflowing with blue flowers in the middle. In fact, everywhere he looked, Alexander saw vases of flowers and potted plants and little gardening spades.
“Have a seat, won’t you?” Destiny flicked a graceful hand at the chair beside her.
Alexander stumbled over and plopped into the seat. Only then did he see Wizard Doomsday…
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The man was standing, peaked hat in hand, narrow face clean shaven, enormous beard and wad of tangled black hair clenched in one hand. He looked so completely different, that Alexander almost didn’t recognize him, but there was no mistaking the glum look on his voice or the doleful voice that filled the underground room.
“Have you come to end Wizard Doomsday?”
He looked so terribly sad that Alexander couldn’t help feeling sorry for him. But Destiny simply steepled her fingers and smiled sweetly over the top of her perfectly kept nails. It was the sort of smile a spider might give a fly.
“Yes, I have.”
The wizard stood with his hands clasped in front of him, brows knotted, and an expression of terrible woe upon his face. “I see, madam, that Wizard Doomsday has met his match at last. By what dark magic have you uncovered my secrets?”
Destiny smiled, and once again, Alexander was struck by the terrible coldness of that smile. “If I revealed my secrets with the same carelessness that you do yours, you might have reason to fear the ending of the world you so enjoy proclaiming.”
Alexander was still working out that little puzzle, when she swung lightly across the table and perched on the edge, swords appearing magically in her hands.
“Now”—another smile—“let us begin, who are you working for?”
The wizard bustled over to the table with a tray full of tea things. He set it down with a thump in front of Destiny and the mismatched cups all rattled in their saucers. “Do help yourselves. The cream’s gone sour and the ants have been in the sugar. But what can one expect when the world is ending?”
Destiny poured a cup and took a dainty sip. “It isn’t the world that’s in danger of ending, only our fine Empire, now that poor Emperor Caldwell V is dead and his son, as you well know, passed on earlier this year, leaving only the grandson to take the Imperial Seat.”
“A babe to take the Imperial Seat?” Doomsday looked as though he was about to launch into another fit of woe is me cries, but Destiny cut him off.
“Only, as Fate would have it, little Emperor Caldwell VI has been kidnapped.”
A cunning gleam appeared in the wizard’s eye. “I see, and you have come to petition my inestimable help in finding and recovering the poor babe.”