Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 28

Chapter 28.

“A . . . tyrpiglynt?” Holly repeated. The word sounded somehow creepy in and of itself. “What is that, exactly?”

“A Reflecter of Desire,” Silvertail said wearily. “Also called a Mirrortaint. A being from far Outside, so far that it has a difficult time manifesting in our ordinary world and can do so — to begin with, at least — only as a projection that echoes an existing projection in this one. A reflection, in short, which is a projection of the features of the world on some surface.” He began stuffing chunks of leftover pizza into his mouth, obviously famished.

“There’s an awful lot of mirrors in the world,” Seika pointed out, looking worried. “Why aren’t these Reflecters all over the place?”

Silvertail tried to answer, but talking around a mouthful of cheese and sauce produced only incomprehensible mutters. He gave a heroic swallow and spoke again. “Because it is not that simple for them. Leaving aside the fact that they can only reach our world at all when the connection between Earth and the . . . well, underpinnings of reality — magic if you will — strengthens, that is to say, during times such as this . . . they still cannot randomly find their way from mirror to mirror. They must be summoned, called to a mirror or other reflective surface, and that mirror becomes their home, their only contact with the world. Only if they make a connection with a native — a human, in general — can they expand their range to include any other mirror into which their connection looks and calls upon them.”

He took a few more bites. “Of course, given the fact that the tyrpiglynt generally operates by playing on the secret desires of their victims, said victims often are very careful not to try to summon them unless in privacy.”

“What do they want? Or what is it they do? Could this tyrpiglynt have actually killed Glynnis?”

Could it? Certainly, if it were strong enough — if it had gained enough power from its connection or connections to begin to affect the world beyond the reflection. Causing accidents is an energy-efficient way of accomplishing such goals; rather than having to actually put forth the effort necessary to snap a neck itself, the tyrpiglynt simply tugs or trips the victim at the top of the stairs or something of that nature.” Silvertail paused in his eating and studied them grimly. “As for what it does . . . it seeks out targets with uncertainty, often those with a veneer of confidence that is itself important to them, the vain (for who else will look in the mirrors frequently) and offers them favors. What the victim does not know, of course, is that accepting a bargain with the Mirrortaint is in effect giving it permission to use their soul, their spirit, as part of the power needed to accomplish their wish.”

Holly frowned. Her Steve-memories were ringing bells. “I think I’ve read some stories like that.”

“No doubt. Tyrpiglynts are one of the primary sources of the legends of magic mirrors, genies, and such — especially the tales where things eventually begin going very wrong for the wisher.”

Seika toyed with one of her tight ringlets of hair. “You said ‘connection or connections.’ These things can make bargains with more than one person at a time?”

“They can, but of course they will be cautious. Unless and until they become strong enough to physically enter the world, their connection can still be broken, and one way to do that is to shatter every mirror they are connected to. This does not kill them, you understand, but does cause a painful backlash and leave them once more Outside until summoned.”

Holly thought that over. “When you say summoned, is that just as easy as, oh, the Bloody Mary legend? I could go to the bathroom mirror and say ‘Tyrpiglynt, tyrpiglynt, tyrpiglynt,’ and it’d be summoned?”

Silvertail laughed for the first time since he had staggered in the front door and collapsed back to his default form. “Fortunately it is not nearly that easy. The initial summons must be by someone who understands not just how to perform the ritual, but exactly what they summon and for what purpose.”

“And that means that people like Cordy are victims, right? She couldn’t have summoned it herself?”

“Absolutely not, no. It would require someone on our opposing side. Possibly Lady Nyarla has chosen some operatives of her own and sent them into the school, or has them posing as the sort of people who can enter buildings fairly easily without questions — repair workers, survey takers, salespeople, and so on. Or she performed most of the ritual and allowed the key remaining parts to be known by her target.”

“Do they only feed on someone when they, well, make a wish?”

“Say rather they can only do so once their victim or victims have made at least one, but they feed on more than merely the fragment of spirit used to make the wish. After all, they can at the beginning only take very small pieces of someone’s spirit and such pieces would ordinarily be mostly or completely expended in granting the desire of the victim. However, the focus of the wish is also connected to the tyrpiglynt, and it can take an at least equal amount from the target if it is a living being. Moreover, once it is connected to a mirror, it can feed on the overall destructive impulses of those within its range — hatred, fear, vanity, self-loathing, and so on.”

“Oh, fuck.”

The clearly-enunciated curse made Holly snap around and stare at Seika.

The other girl’s eyes were wide and her brown skin had a somehow pale undertone. “We’ve got to get on the job fast, Silvertail.”

“I agree, but you seem to have a particular urgency in mind. What –”

“Cordy’s brought the thing into our school. And if there’s any group of people filled with unstable emotions, self-loathing, uncertainty, vanity, envy, fear — that’s teenagers.”

Silvertail froze, then closed his eyes, giving vent to what must be a Lemurian obscenity. “You are absolutely correct. It is a public place. It won’t need to make more bargains, just feed off the connection to that location, to all the people who enter that room. It will also of course try to protect that mirror, so it likely will not be so simple as walking into the bathroom between classes and smashing it with a hammer.”

“Even then, it’s still going to have whatever mirror Cordy first, well, met it through, right?”

“Yes.” Silvertail looked pensive. “And, possibly, another mirror that our enemies summoned it to; although it is quite likely they used their own peculiar connections to the Outside to attract the creature’s attention and prepare it for Cordy’s summons. We must discover what mirror that is. Unless it is destroyed, the tyrpiglynt will continue to grow.”

“What happens if it keeps getting stronger?” Holly asked. “Other than the obvious ‘it’ll be harder to fight,’ that is. And for that matter, how do you fight something like that, other than by just breaking a lot of mirrors?”

Rodent or not, it wasn’t hard to recognize that Silvertail’s face was grim. “If it becomes sufficiently strong, it will be able to manifest fully — in other words, it will be able to emerge from the mirror and take on full existence in this plane of reality. At that point it will be a terrifying enemy indeed, with the ability to affect both matter and minds, difficult to harm even with the powers of the Maidens, and ultimately far, far harder to defeat.

“Even if it does not quite reach that level, it will be difficult to attack. It is, as I said, not fully here in any ordinary sense, so any assault will have to take place partially in this world, and partially in that of the mirror.”

“Why did I guess a Through the Looking-Glass trick was going to come up here? You can’t just break all the mirrors?”

“Not nearly so simple, no. That would indeed weaken it, but it would still have an anchor — the person or persons who summoned it. The anchor would allow the tyrpiglynt to stay near, in cosmic terms, this reality, and be summoned to other mirrors with no need of special preparations, simply the intent to summon.”

“Crap and double-crap. How do we break that anchor, then?”

“The person or persons would have to be cleansed, which amounts to them fully rejecting the Mirrortaint and reclaiming their spirit from the creature . . . or . . .” Silvertail hesitated.

“Or what?”

“Or, if they are unable or unwilling to attempt this, forcibly cleansed, by the powers of the Maidens. But that could be . . . well, fatal.”

Holly saw that Seika’s face was as horrified as she felt. “You mean we might have to kill Cordy — or someone else who’s bargained with this thing?”

Silvertail raised his eyes and met their gazes steadily. “Yes. We will do everything we can to avoid that eventuality, of course, but it is possible that even the effort to cleanse them will kill, for it will depend on their strength of spirit — a spirit which will have been slowly eroded by the tyrpiglynt.” At their silent regard, he drew himself up, somehow intimidating despite his diminutive size. “Why do you think I wanted at least one of you to be an adult to begin with? These are not decisions to leave in the hands of children.”

Holly blinked, and suddenly felt Steve’s viewpoint wash to the fore. “Hell no, Silvertail. I did not sign on to this to kill children.”

“Steve,” Silvertail said, iron regret in his voice, “I know this. And know that I will do everything in my power to ensure that it does not come to that. But understand: We cannot afford to lose this battle, or any of those that are to come. A tyrpiglynt fully unleashed upon the world? Think of your legends, imagine what a being capable of granting twisted, vicious wishes could do once fully manifest, no longer restricted by the barrier of the dimensions? It is intelligent, Steve, Holly, Seika. Intelligent and malevolent, but also more than capable of practicality. If it encounters someone who makes wishes that help its purpose, the Mirrortaint is more than capable of choosing not to twist the wish . . . and then they can gain a victim who is also a willing partner and protector, one who can even be a conduit for the thing’s power, and thus serve as a primary combatant and, in honesty, disposable shield.”

Fuck,” Seika karkatted. “So you’re saying if we don’t get a move on we will have a super-powered soul-draining jerkass genie out of his mirrored bottle, with some sidekicks he can send the superpowers he got from the souls he siphoned off of everyone else.”

Silvertail blinked, then nodded. “In a nutshell . . . yes. And if that happens, it will be almost impossible to stop it, especially if there is a large source of the sort of spiritual power it can live on nearby.”

“Almost impossible?” Holly heard the seriousness in Silvertail’s voice. “Are you saying that if this thing gets loose, we may have lost the war?”

Silvertail hesitated. “Perhaps not entirely lost, but if we cannot somehow contrive to defeat it, the tyrpiglynt will wreak havoc until Azathoth of the Nine Arms is confronted and banished — and it will certainly intervene in that battle if it can.”

“Jesus. Then we need to find a way to talk to Cordy and get a hold of the mirror she used. Fast.” Holly wrinkled her brow. Now that she thought about it, she didn’t know anything about Cordy, really. “Seika, you know anything about her? What she likes? Maybe we could connect with her . . .” She trailed off, seeing Seika’s cynical grin — an expression that definitely didn’t belong on that usually cheerful face. “What?”

“The only thing I know about her,” Seika said, “is that she’s one of the best cheerleaders we’ve got.”

Holly felt her stomach drop. Even as Steve I never interacted with the sports-guys much, let alone the cheerleaders.

But I never had this motivation, either. She forced herself to smile. “Well, in that case, we’d better get our team spirit on!”