Princess Holy Aura – Chapter 30
Silvertail felt the fur rising on his back even before his more conscious senses recognized the surge in power from within the building that the girls had run into. Oh, no, Lemuria’s Memory, no…
It was the merest flicker of motion, a motion only eyes like his own could have seen, but he knew instantly that the worst scenario was now upon them. A Mirrortaint was now free, and in a crowd . . . a crowd whose emotions and lifeforce would not only feed it, but mask it.
If only I had been able to follow them, perhaps I would at least be able to recognize the creature, know the form it has taken. But that hadn’t been possible; as Trayne Owen he had dropped the girls off, and been watching from beneath the bleachers as Silvertail. A white rat could not in any way keep up with sprinting humans, even if it didn’t care whether it was seen.
How could it have escaped into the world so soon? It must have been active in the school longer than they had thought. Either Cordelia was making use of its powers much longer, or she brought it to the mirror I saw much earlier, perhaps near the beginning of the school year.
But analyzing the past would have to wait. The tyrpiglynt was already here, among the people. The creatures were intelligent, and capable of subtlety; this thing would not be found so easily as a shoggoth or the stalker-monster. It would wander through this crowd, sensing desires, offering in veiled words to grant those desires that struck its fancy as either corrupt or likely to lead to chaos, looking perhaps for a partner as well as tool. Silvertail scuttled along under the bleachers, sniffing, listening, trying to sense anything that indicated the creature’s presence.
Attuned as he was to the particular magical signature, he sensed the Apocalypse Maidens’ transformation. If only I could establish my telepathic link with them! The link would work at considerable distances after it was established, but to make the link to begin with required that he be either very nearby, or within direct sight of the Maiden. At the moment, Silvertail remained on his own.
He scuttled around the bleachers, listening, sniffing, sensing. It will not have left. There are so many opportunities. It will be looking for the best chance to sow chaos, to encourage dark fantasies, to trigger dangerous events, perhaps to find a person more fit to be an ally than Cordelia. It was slightly less noisy now, with the cheerleaders performing their halftime routines; there were more conversations but less of the coordinated roars of the crowd during the actual game. Still, he was surrounded by hundreds of people talking loudly on a hundred different subjects. If he didn’t get lucky . . .
“. . . a wish?”
No human could possibly have heard the words, or distinguished them from the babel of background noises; but rat senses enhanced and filtered by both magic and thousands of years of experience helped. Silvertail froze, then turned his head, letting the highly directional ears focus the sound more clearly.
“Within reason, yes.” The voice was unfamiliar, but Silvertail knew by the undertones that this had to be the tyrpiglynt. “I — ”
The laugh was deep — this was an adult man. A father or possibly one of the teachers, then. “What a bunch of crap.” The overtones of the man’s voice were amused, yet there was a faint touch of . . . hope? Desire? The words of a Mirrortaint are very hard to ignore. It speaks with magic that works on the level of your subconscious; hypnotic, suggestive. “If you’re so bright, then I wish . . . you’d grant me what I want right now.”
Silvertail couldn’t see the two yet, but he could easily imagine the smile. “Based on what I see I can guess what you want. Do you give me permission to grant that wish?”
“Sure, magic-boy, go for it, then after it doesn’t work, go bother someone else.”
Now Silvertail felt the magic, activated not ten feet from him. There! Yes, right there, whoever’s seated in the —
A roar from the crowd, but not like a cheer. Some of it was gasps, others appreciative whistles, others shouts of “Oh my God!” In the distance he thought he heard a commotion on the field, girls Holly’s age angered or distressed.
“Holy shit,” the unknown man’s voice said. “What a show. You did that?”
A smug tone. “I did. Was that not what you wished?”
“Sure as hell was.”
The noises on the field and from the announcement finally told Silvertail — indirectly — what had happened, made even clearer as several girls were hustled off the field wrapped in coats. That salacious monster. But that was a Mirrortaint’s specialty, working with suppressed or hidden desires, and in this society such desires were terribly dangerous. And rightly so.
The tyrpiglynt was focused on its prey — or possible partner — now. Silvertail set his tiny jaw. I will at least minimize what damage you have done.
He visualized the entire field, the people, the geometry, and then touched on the hidden geometry of symbols he had been carefully burying about the school for weeks. One set of symbols created a pentagram around the stadium, focusing his power. He laid out the spell’s parameters precisely, then cast it outward, speaking the ancient phrases as quietly as he could.
Immediately he heard a momentary catch in the creature’s conversation, but he was certain the thing did not know what direction the magic it sensed came from; as it resonated and was amplified by the pentacle the real power would seem to come from all directions.
As for the effect . . .
“Damn. My camera must’ve glitched. None of these pics are in focus!”
He allowed himself an instant’s satisfied grin. He had been honing his ability to interfere with electronic devices for decades, and specifically to locate and edit particular images from any imaging systems. This was of course mainly to prevent pictures of either himself or the Apocalypse Maidens from being recorded, but it applied to anything he chose to modify. Your memories I cannot touch, but those girls’ privacy will not be violated repeatedly, nor transmitted to the world.
But now he had to act swiftly. The tyrpiglynt would undoubtedly guess what had happened, and more importantly had found someone very open and amenable to its peculiar talents. It would not be long before it was granting even more dangerous and vile requests . . . and hunting down the source of interference.
With the unexpected events on the field, the halftime had been cut short, and the teams were now returning to the field. This is no better. With the emotions such a contest engenders, the Mirrortaint will be able to turn a simple sports contest into something more closely resembling the worst gladiatorial arena.
Princesses Holy Aura and Radiance Blaze had not yet emerged from the school. Complications must have happened if they have not yet pursued the monster outside. I must go, be ready to advise them.
As he bounded toward the school, his ears caught another voice, a man’s, ahead of him. “Where is she? Why wasn’t she on the field?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Ingemar,” a girl’s voice answered. “She was really upset about something, not even into our routines. Last I saw she ran into the school, but that was a while ago.”
Silvertail could feel the man’s worry, the concern over his daughter, and it echoed, resonated within him as he recalled his terror over what his own Aureline was to face.
And the combination of the Mirrortaint’s sudden release with a father’s worry suddenly clicked, and Silvertail knew what had happened, and — just possibly — how he could fix it.
He transformed to Trayne Owen as he emerged from the shadow of the bleachers, caught up with Mr. Ingemar as he was heading for the school. “Mr. Ingemar, I know where your daughter is . . .”