Polychrome – Chapter 08
He gazed tensely at the smoke and dust before him. The detonation had been even greater than he had expected, a blast that had cracked the nearest columns and left a choking cloud obscuring the area of impact entirely. Have I ended it even as it began? Orâ€¦
A figure was becoming visible. The smoke suddenly cleared, and his gaze was caught and held by ice-blue eyes, filled with anger and shock, staring furiously from a salt-white face. The glare from those eyes was of startling intensity, and Iris Mirabilis found himself momentarily seized by an impulse to step back, even as a great tide of relief washed through him. He remembered how he had brought down the lightnings; fear had galvanized the smaller figure, but instead of fleeing, this Erik Medon had merely thrown up one hand to protect his face, the rest of his body poised in stubborn, unyielding resistance. “Before destruction he will stand unbowedâ€¦”
“Well done,” he said as the last of the smoke dissipated. “Faced by danger, you do not turn your back upon it, showing that for you fear is weakness. You stand, you face that which would destroy you.”
The mortal was breathing hard, but the glare â€“ while slightly lessened â€“ was not withdrawn. “You hit me with a goddamned lightning ball just to find out if I run or not? This was just some stupid special-effect test?” The man’s voice, raised in anger, was surprisingly powerful; no match for the Rainbow Lord’s own, but nonetheless sending resonant echoes of outrage chasing themselves around the throne room.
Iris shook his head. “Vastly more than that, mortal man, and vastly more important, important enough that I had no choice but to risk ending our hope in the moment it arrived. Look you down.”
Now the anger in the face changed, yielding to astonishment and shock as the blond man realized that he stood on a narrow pinnacle of marble, barely wider than his own body, in the center of a still-smoldering crater sixty feet wide and reaching nearly ten feet in depth. “Wâ€¦ what the hell?”
The Rainbow Lord gestured; iridescent light coalesced in the hole, solidified to marble, leaving no trace of the devastation save the smell of scorched stone and the scarred columns on either side. “Come, Erik Medon. Sit with me, and I will explain. And in that explanation, I hope, you will come to understand that my actions were necessary.”
He caused a chair to appear near the throne, and seated himself on the throne as his guest â€“ still clearly shaky from the sudden attack â€“ lowered himself into the newly-formed seat.
“Okay,” Erik said finally, “Explain.”
“I have no doubt my daughter explained to you that it was our expectation that the hero she sought must be a mortal. But there is mortal, and then there is mortal.”
The blond head, with its somewhat receding hair, nodded. “Yes. She mentioned that most of the so-called mortals in Oz had at least some small amount of fairy blood, which was why they could end up finding their way here.”
Iris nodded. “Precisely. Moreover, those which appear mortal here in the realms of Faerie are themselves descended of such mixed blood. They are perhaps not possessed, for the most part, of any of the powers of the more pure of blood, but the key part is that the existence of that blood makes it possible for them to connect with the realms of faerieâ€¦ and for the power of faerie to connect to them.”
The mortal’s understanding was swift; he saw the blue eyes flick back to the place where the crater had been, the brows draw close, then raise. “But one of truly pure mortal bloodâ€¦” he began, slowly.
“I see you have the essence of it. Your mortal blood denies you any chance to have found Oz through the random events that brought others here. But it also denies faerie power any chance to affect you without your direct and willing cooperation.” Iris gazed outward as he continued. “Mortals live in the world of the physical, of the solid. The essence of your soul is there purely as the structure of life, the necessary spark that differentiates you from the base materials of which you are made. Contrariwise, the Faerie are beings of energy, of spirit, with a far slighter connection to the world of mundane matter.”
“So what you’re saying is that you faerie types can’t hurt me.”
He laughed. “Do not make that mistake, my would-be hero. We cannot hurt you with magic â€“ we cannot impress the pure will of our souls and powers on you. But I assure you, a hard-driven blade wielded by my hand, or that of any warrior of Oz or other faerie realm, will kill you as surely as if it were wielded by mortal hands. You are not invulnerable, merely protected from certain forces in a way that no faerie can be.”
Erik Medon nodded. “I understand. Still, that’s a pretty big advantage.”
“A necessary one, in fact.”
The Rainbow Lord leaned forward. “Understand me well, Erik Medon. You have passed the tests of prophecy, and now we step beyond the point where another might be chosen. If you cannot do what must be doneâ€¦ we shall fail, or at least be forced into a long and bitter war whose effects shall recoil upon the mortal world as well.
“Yet the prophecies of the Bear give neither you, nor I, certain paths to victory. Today I will tell you what I may â€“ and what I must. But it will be still up to you to make the right choices. Some actions are clear. Some are not.” He sighed, and for a moment he could not keep the worry from his face. “And the best of paths will still not be easy.”
He looked down, to see the blue eyes meeting his with a surprising understanding. The mortal’s mouth quirked upwards in a sad smile, and he spoke.
“I’m going to die, aren’t I?”