chapter 21: DEATH

this card, 13th of the Major Arcana, here signifies Danger, Transformation, an Ending

Dark clouds had gathered over Castle Darkstone all that day, 
shadowing the glistening mud flats into blacker and blacker 
hues.  And then the sun set.

Otius closed the covers of the great metal book.  He was ready: 
the diagrams were painted upon the stone floor of his den, the
potions were prepared, the words were memorized.

"Demons, come here!"

With a double squeak both demons were immediately at his side,
waiting for his orders.

"Dismay, bring the girl.  Fear, bring the fool."

"Aha hee, yess, Masster!"  They were gone.

Otius did an exercise, opening and closing his creaky old
fingers.  Then he laughed his harsh laugh, "How foolish of me: I
don't need to keep this old carcass limping along anymore."

He heard Clown's shriek of fright, as always when Fear touched 
him.  In another moment all were gathered in the den, standing 
before the tall sorcerer in his black robe.

Otius hefted his Powerstaff.  It hummed alive, pulsating with a
blue glow.  "The time has come," he announced, "to do the Great

"Am I finally to be told what it is?" Wand asked him.

"For certain.  But first I must insure that there is no
interference from your Hero.  Clown: stand on that platform."

"That's the cage." Wand warned.

"Crown no want to be in cage!"

"I supposed not.  Demons, put him there."

Fear and Dismay moved toward Clown like blue and green bolts of
lightning.  Crown tried to dodge them with a backward roll, but
they were too fast even for him.  He screamed and sobbed when
they grabbed and threw him upon the platform, then Dismay cranked 
the ponderous iron cage down around him so that he was imprisoned.

Wand tried to stop the demons, but her rings seemed to have no
power in the presence of the sorcerer's blue-lit Powerstaff. 
She turned as if to run, but Fear stood before her with a
malevolent leer that would have caused madness in anyone but a

She turned again to run the other way, but Otius stood there and
he caught her arm in his inhumanly powerful hand.  With the other 
hand he ripped her gown away, stripping her naked for his ceremony.  
"Come," he said, pulling her toward the apparatus designed for the 
Great Work.

Two wooden crosses stood in the middle of the room, each in the
center of a circle, connected one to the other by intersecting
pentagrams.  There were straps on the crosses, and Wand was
fastened to one of them.  Struggling to resist did not keep it
from happening.

"Now I shall explain," Otius said.  "I am going to steal your
body and make it my own.  I would rather steal the Clown's body,
for I would prefer to remain a man, but the rules of this game
are that one can only Transmigrate into the opposite sex.  Too
bad for the both of us, eh girl?

"But perhaps I complain too much.  Your body is excellent, healthy
and lovely.  It will undoubtedly win me great prizes when I
return it to Tarro and continue your life in your stead.

"Your mother will not know who I am until I am destroying her
and become Master--excuse me: Mistress--of the Tower of Tarro, 
as well as all of Theland.  I shall do well, thanks to you, girl."

Wand turned her face away.  A tear was seen.

"Ah.  Your fortitude begins to weaken at last.  I have observed
you these weeks so that I may act out your part with some
verisimilitude.  So now I know that you CAN cry: very good."

Wand shook her head and was Luminata again.  She spoke calmly. 
"And what of Clown?  He can do you no harm, he's so stupid he
won't even remember to tell anyone.  Will you let him go?"

Otius grinned.  "Stupid, you say?  I don't believe he is as
simple as he lets on, but that matters not now, for he is
captive.  As soon as I take your body for mine I shall absorb 
his vitality into it.  That will help offset the weakness of 
being a mere girl.  I shall exploit his energy and agility."

Otius was stripping the rings from Wand's hands as he spoke.  He
laid them aside on a stand, as well as his own rings.  He reached 
up to remove the pendant that the Empress of Tarro had given Wand, 
but it was gone.

"Where is the talisman?"

"Clown was playing with it and lost it."

"Crown solly," he said from his cage, looking so pathetic.

Otius shrugged.  "No matter, as long as there is no metal anywhere 
on you."  He ran his fingers through her hair and over all of her 
bare skin for even the tiniest shard of metal, apparently enjoying 
the search.  Then he delved between her legs to ascertain that her 
hymen was intact. He dwelled there a while, as if he’d found 
something interesting.

“Girl, if you only knew what discipline it has craved for me not 
to come visiting your oh-so nubile flesh,” he admitted, now 
breathing heavily. “Had I not required that you be VIRGIN I would 
have violated you a hundred times.”
"Am I supposed to respond sympathetically to that, you evil 
pervert?”  Wand was trying to sound brave but some fear leaked 

He chuckled.  “Even now I am sorely tempted to simply have you, to 
keep you as my toy, find some other virgin for the Transmigration.”  
The old man finally removed his finger from her crotch. “But I must 
be mature about this.  Besides, I shall enjoy sex with your flesh 
even more when it is my own.  A shame for you that you obviously 
never got the chance to, evidenced by a hymen as healthy and solid 
as yours.”  He sniffed his finger and licked it. 

Wand's head was cinched fast with a leather strap so that she could
not move it, then a glob of jellylike clay was stuck to her brow
with a hollow tube leading over to another glob which Otius
affixed to his own forehead.  Wires of thin copper were also
stuck into the clay and connected to his Powerstaff, which was
set into a stand at the apex of the intersecting pentagrams
between the two crosses.  

Otius then moved to the other cross and ordered the demons to strap
him down as Wand was.  Even he shuddered when the demons touched

"What will happen to my soul?" Wand asked.  "Will I be in your

"No, girl.  You are a sacrifice.  Your soul will go to the
Dimension of Demons to be their slave for Eternity. Someone has
to pay for all this magic, you know."

"Aha hee, hee, yess yess!"  Fear rubbed his horned hands. 
Dismay just nodded. "Your soul will be ours, missy!"

"Now, silence!" Otius commanded.  "It begins."

The wizard began to chant in a lost language which Wand knew only 
slightly.  It was an appeal to the Demon King and there were 
promises made of future payments in the stock of innocent lives--
the Demon King valued 'innocence' above all else.

Then a blackness seemed to fill the already darkened room.  The
one candle whiffed out, and only the Powerstaff glowed a dim
violet.  Otius chanted on about the gift of a virgin's soul to
the Demon King, then was silent.

A dark wind howled through the chamber.

Otius began to choke and writhe in his straps.  He yelled 
incoherencies, cries of animal pain, louder, screaming.  His 
struggles were so violent and his strength so great that his heavy 
wooden cross snapped in half, freeing him to fall to the stone 
floor, as if dead.  The dim glow from the Powerstaff faded away, 
leaving the room in darkness complete.

Even as Otius cried, so had Wand-- one piercing note of music.

Silence for a dark moment, then Wand's voice speaking harshly, 
"Demons!  Light a candle!" 

"Aha hee, Masster?"  "Is everything all right?"

"Perfect.  I have Transmigrated into her body.  Now, light a 
candle and unstrap me." 

Dismay lit a candle and put it up close to the girl's face.  "It
didn't seem quite right.  Are you really Masster?" 

"I am Otius," she said, her voice lower than the demons had heard 
it before.  "Unstrap me!"

Fear sprang up upon the cross and released her head strap, then a 
hand.  But before he slipped her other hand shackle he slid a finger 
along the girl's arm.  "You have a very pretty new body now, Mass..."  
He became silent, then without releasing the strap he leaped away
and down, crying, "She not Masster!  She not Masster!"

Wand looked down at the little monster in the dim light.  "Fear,
how dare you say I am not your Master Otius?"

But Fear was chattering to Dismay in demonspeak: "She does not
quiver when I touch her!  Only missy can do that, not Masster!"

Dismay turned to the body of Otius.  "Masster?"

Otius groaned, not quite conscious yet.  He could barely mumble, 

Fear turned to grab the magic device but his hand was pushed aside 
by another hand out of the dark.  "Excuse me, but I'll take that," 
said Clown in demonspeak.  He was no longer in his cage and had 
already slipped the sorcerer's rings onto his own fingers.  

With all the proper connections made, the powerstaff in his hand
now clicked and hummed awake again, this time glowing with a white 
light that illuminated the room as if by sunlight.

Otius struggled to lift his head up to see.  "Get it away from
him!  Get it or he will destroy us all!"

Fear grabbed Clown's leg, confident that the fool would scream
and lose control as he had always done before.  "Oh, get away,"
Clown said, calmly kicking the demon aside.  Dismay leaped with
demonspeed at Clown's face, but was swept up in the white glow 
of the Powerstaff and dashed hard against the ceiling, then 
collapsed to the stone floor. Another plasma-blast from the wand 
sent Fear sprawling as well.  

Wand finished escaping from the remaining straps and stepped 
away from the cross with dignity.  She scooped up her own rings 
and replaced them on her fingers.

Otius watched his entire plan crumbling, not understanding how or
why.  Life was fading from his ruined body and he could barely
speak.  He pointed a trembling finger at Clown.  "How..?" was 
all he could utter.

"How did I get free?  I prepared weeks ago, sculpting a cup out of
darkstone to contain some moat-acid, which I used to hollow out 
several bars of your iron cage.  So I could easily break and remove 
them and step out." 

"Who...ARE you?"

"I am the seventh son of a man you cursed with idiocy centuries
ago, Otius, and the one who was destined to exact retribution. 
One who, thanks to the karma of that curse, has been allowed an
intelligence to the magnitude of seven, with which to defeat 
you, Old and Evil One."

"'re just...a...clown!"

"Clown no more."  He showed Otius the Powerstaff.  "Now I am
Crown, Sorcerer of Darkstone!"

"" Otius turned his head toward Wand.  "But...but...
the Transmigration...she..?"

"A virgin was required."

Wand did a proud wiggle.

“But...I probed…thoroughly...she is intact.”

“Healing ring,” Wand mentioned, "just in case you checked."

Otius groaned.  "Oh no."  He shook his head feebly, then argued 
further, "But the chastity belt...the couldn't..."

"You cast your spells as I was watching and listening--and 
memorizing--once I learned the contents of the Lost Volume of 
Powertext I simply undid the spells."

"That's impossible!  No one could undo my spells without 
my Powerstaff, my rings...!"

"Alternate system: direct contact with the Powershaft itself, if 
you'd read the footnotes hidden within the text."  

"Footnotes...?" Otius groaned.

“You’ll be glad to know that my steel chastity belt was a challenge,” 
Crown admitted, “even with all spells cancelled it was so well-
fitted that I couldn’t squirm out of it.  I couldn’t cut it without 
your Powerstaff and was reluctant to dissolve it with moat-acid, 
for obvious reasons.  Lucky for me, Wand knew what to do.”

“Well, I really wanted Crown to deflower me,” she said, “and those 
three power-rings of mine had originally been crafted by a Master 

“But...those rings were...insignificant!” Otius croaked, now 
a confused old man.

“…except that any dedicated Alchemist just had to sneak in a secret 
alchemical function: so that if you use all three rings together at 
once, they turn metal into gold.”

“Which is soft enough to bend,” Crown explained.

“And as proof to the Demon King that I was no longer virgin, even 
with a healed hymen,” Wand gladly informed her foe, “we hid the pendant 
of Tarro up inside me—which, being metal, also double-protected 
me from your spell of Transmigration.”

"Oh no no no..." Otius wailed.

"Therefore," Crown told the dying old sorcerer, "your 'gift' offended 
the Demon King and you must now pay the consequences--which is, I 
believe, to spend eternity in the Dimension of Demons as a slave."

With a cry of vast rage and surge of final energy the damaged old 
man rolled over and came to his feet.  Wand jumped back but he 
went past her, after the man who had destroyed and replaced him, 
shackles and broken cross clattering behind him.

But Crown did not retreat, instead, with a deft step forward he 
placed the butt of the Powerstaff to the old sorcerer's brow. 
There was a crackle of orange light and it was Otius who fell 
backwards with a rattling gasp, crashing to the stone floor 

"For Prince Elro," Crown explained to the doomed sorcerer, "I took 
the vital energy you stole from him, soon to be returned."

The demons were looking down at Otius in disbelief, wheezing his
last few breaths.  "Masster?  Masster?"

"He is your slave now," Crown told them, "enjoy eternity together 
when you get to Hell."

A weird wind passed through the room, the candles flickered.  
Otius and the demons looked to the altar and seemed to see 
something there that neither Crown nor Wand could see, something
that frightened them absolutely.

"The Demon King is here!" they cried out all three.

Otius expired.  When he did the demons also dissolved into
nothingness.  Only Wand and the new sorcerer, Crown, remained.

end of chapter 21

Chapter 22: THE ANGEL <BR> <BR> <BR> <a href="chaps.htm">List of Chapters</a>