A Virga Mystery: BALANCING ACT
ACT 5e: OF ZOMBIES AND ZEALOTS
Melissa tensed, watching the possessed witch as her hand extended closer. She felt her throat go dry, knowing the timing would be critical. It was as Melody’s hand came within a centimetre of younger witch’s wrist that Melissa uncurled the fingers of her opposing hand, and snapped her fingers.
The tracking spell, which had been laying dormant in the orb room behind them, was sparked into action one last time. It immediately ballooned out, the little glowing sphere’s radius increasing exponentially fast as it passed right through the walls, through the floor, ever expanding until it made contact with Melissa herself. Then, having located it’s mistress, it enveloped her and collapsed back down, taking her along with it.
Fortunately, only physical forms could be pulled right through the wall, not the Zombi spirit presence. The distance was also only good for a radius of about ten metres, which was why Melissa hadn’t tried that from the start.
Melissa could practically hear Mortum’s roar of rage through the stone. But she wasn’t done yet.
Reaching again into her bag, she pressed another scroll against where the door seemed to be on this side, the twin of the one she had put up earlier. Ensuring that the mechanism would not function either way. Which would give her, she judged, between three and five minutes.
She then extended her hand, palm up, and made a small spark arc between her pinkie and thumb, looking towards the other occupant of the room. “Do you need a zapping?”
“No,” Melody said slowly, rubbing her palm against her temples. “No, I think I’m finally clear of it. How did you know that ripping me away with that spell as the zombi spirit tried to jump, would clear it from both of us?”
“I didn’t,” Melissa said frankly. “I wasn’t even sure you’d be caught in the field. But I was on a tight timeline and had made the tracker spell generic to witchcraft, as opposed to my unique witch scent, so there was a chance. Figured I might as well try. Seeing as even you didn’t deserve that fate.”
“Lovely. Was it also a guess that you’d be able to talk and perhaps subdue me once you got out of that room?”
Melissa shook her head. “That, no. I knew your area spells were confined to the throne room. I tested it early on by clearing my throat just the other side of the entranceway.”
“I know.” Melissa lowered her hand. “Though I’m glad I don’t have to zap you. Invoking that emergency measure has severely depleted my casting ability. I’m not ashamed to admit that you nearly had me… I don’t remember the last time I felt that vulnerable.” She moved to start poking around the chests in the room to find the orb.
Melody pursed her lips. “For spells, I can back you up temporarily.”
“I’d hoped. Going to escape with me too?”
Melody sighed. “No. Thing is, I’m here voluntarily.”
Melissa blanched, turning back. “Are you INSANE?”
“Possibly,” Melody said with a half smile. “But oddly enough, I did this because of you.”
At first, the explosion only expanded out as far as the scrolls on the gazebo posts, scorching the interior. But then, with nowhere else to go, the force was directed upwards, to the roof. Where I had placed no scrolls. So kind of a big mistake.
“No, no, nooooooo,” Trixie/Melissa said. And while there was a tinge of panic to her voice, I interpreted the cry as more of a command than a scared shriek. She seemed to be spinning one hand in the air.
Moments after the top of the gazebo popped up, before any flames could burst out, it spun back down. Once again containing the burning fireball. The fire continued to blaze brightly for two or three more seconds, before fizzling out, I presume due to a lack of oxygen.
Trixie/Melissa lowered her hands. The pieces of paper ceased their glowing. The roof of the structure completely collapsed, leaving everything as a smoking ruin.
There was a moment of silence.
“I DID it,” Trixie/Melissa said, fist pumping into the air. “Variable sided containment. First try. Take THAT, Missy! Ha ha ha!” She began to dance around on one foot.
“Missy?” Zamboni questioned, looking towards the witch.
Trixie/Melissa froze, then looked at me, I shrugged, and she made a few canceling gestures to restore her actual appearance. Zamboni was caught off guard, and fell silent. Or possibly it was the look of Trixie’s original clothing as she jutted out her hip that silenced him, I don’t know.
“Fac ut gaudeam?” I asked of the redhead. It hadn’t been the phrase I’d used to cue her.
“Yeah, we can tag whatever we like onto that particular spell,” Trixie explained. “And roof aside, I’ll admit, that was a good plan. Lucky that I’d sometimes listen when Missy droned on about you, and so I realized what you were talking about, hm?”
“No,” the priest said, having fallen to his knees. “No, this is not possible. I checked all the variables. For whatever reason, the Chosen One was at her most vulnerable right now! I knew we could take her power through marriage, we had merely to…” He jabbed his finger out at Trixie. “How are you not Melissa?! I verified her presence, I went so far as to determine her unique magick scent, and I sense it here with us, even now!”
Trixie looked towards the priest. “You do, huh? Well, you know how anyone who gets real close to a witch, and doesn’t have a magick odor of their own, ends up giving off a stronger version of that same scent?”
“Yes, but it takes years for someone to…” His voice trailed off. And he looked at me.
Trixie also turned. “Actually, priest here raises a good point, James. If you’ve been having sex with Missy to the point where you can apparently fool the church with her odour, maybe you SHOULD propose already.”
I became flustered. I didn’t feel like raising my sex life was very fair in front of an audience.
“H-Hey!” I objected. “It’s spell proximity that does it, not sex. At least, Melissa said it can be transmitted without sex, and I can’t even pick up on this scent thing, and Melissa merely gets all enigmatic about it when I ask. Can we not do this here? I mean, this guy isn’t even a real priest.”
“Ahem, I really am,” the priest said in annoyance. “The marriage needed to be valid.”
“Yeah, he’s a wizard priest who guaranteed me either a magick wedding or a spectacular suicide that would put me in the history books,” Zamboni put in, finally finding his voice. He began undoing his bow tie. “You said there was no way they’d identify the bomb, dude. What happened to your mystic cloaking whatever?”
“Obviously it’s working, the factions were baffled,” the priest shot back.
“Oh, I never sensed anything mystically,” I felt compelled to add. “You told me where the explosives were yourself, Zamboni. When you gestured at your priest friend earlier, telling me to reveal my game? You almost made him drop the book. Once it registered with me why he’d looked so panicked, the rest fell into place.”
“Son of a–”
“Zam,” the priest cut in warningly. “Not now.”
“Fine, fine.” Zamboni put his hands on his hips, then leaned in towards Trixie. “Hey, nice work with the gazebo. You’re sexy too, would you be game for a marriage? We’ve got the priest right here. You could really put one over on ‘Missy’ that way.”
“Gah,” Trixie said, leaning back and crossing her palms over her chest. I realized then that her learning in towards him had not been intentional. “NO. I am not as desperate as you, and may I never reach that level. Just marry the priest yourself if you want into the covens so bad.”
Zamboni sputtered at that, but it seemed he didn’t have anything coherent to say.
“So,” I said to the priest. “Before we go, want to reveal how many others here were in on the scheme?”
He shot me a look. “Pardon?”
“The factions here,” I elaborated. “Some must have the same information as you. About the turning point. So they let you two try in order to see whether worship, arguments or crazy vendettas had the stronger case for getting her.” I gestured, only to notice that our audience had thinned considerably in the time since the gazebo had more or less imploded. “The answer being none of them.”
He grimaced. “As if I would tell you if I had anyone working on the inside.”
“We don’t need you to tell us anyway,” Trixie scoffed, before bellowing, “HEY!” That immediately got the attention of everyone still around. The redhead looked out at the scattered groups of people in the park, before pointing at me.
“Check it out,” she continued. “He’s not even Melissa and he took these marriage guys down. Look at him! No plan, no backup, no weapons worth a damn, oh, and something else, now he doesn’t have anything to lose. So, if you’ve got any silly little plans about going after Melissa again… do the smart thing.” She put her hands on her hips. “Let somebody else try first.”
She began to march out of the park. I decided that was a good enough exit, and hurried to catch up. “Nice little speech,” I muttered to her as we headed out. “Didn’t recognize the material, Douglas Adams or something?”
She whipped her head in my direction so fast a twintail nearly hit her in the face. “You didn’t recognize Doctor–” Off my expression, she smacked her palm hard against her face. “Oh GOD, it’s like I’m living with a couple of luddites.”
I didn’t follow up. Frankly, I was more worried about whether Melissa had truly reached some sort of vulnerable turning point, not here, but in Mortum’s castle.
“Hear me out,” Melody added, as Melissa’s jaw clenched. Obviously she did not like the implication that she had somehow driven another witch to become a zombi.
“Listening,” Melissa said, though she turned her attention back to finding the orb.
“Almost fifty years of witchcraft,” Melody said. “Fifty years. And you were the first to ever make me pull out my last resort ‘Ultima’ spell. The first witch to force my hand to the extent I felt I should vanish, giving up everything I’d made for myself to that point, and you were barely twenty years old.”
“I’m crying for you,” Melissa deadpanned back.
“That made me angry, but more than that, it made me curious. So I looked into you, Melissa Virga. Turns out you’re on the path to be one of the Chosen Ones.”
“Been there, doing that,” Melissa said, spotting an orb. She reached for it, only to discover it was a decorative snow globe. Albeit one you could trap people inside. She tossed it aside, allowing it to smash on the ground. “Or have a plan for the decision, at least.”
“We’re within the window?” Melody said in surprise. “I suppose more time has passed than I realized. But no matter. Discovering that fact helped me to come to terms with the knowledge that, while my habit of bleeding essence away from the recently departed did not violate the letter of supernatural balance, it did violate the spirit, as it were. You, a Chosen One, had judged me, and found me wanting.”
Melissa paused in her searching. “Please don’t talk about me like I’m some sort of God. I never went around intentionally judging anyone.”
Melody shrugged. “Religious upbringing, it’s how I speak.”
“Get to the point,” Melissa suggested.
“Very well. I decided I should atone, and become more of a force for good. Meaning I tracked down the person on the planet who was the worst form of necromancer, namely Mortum, and signed up to be one of his underlings.”
Melissa rested back on her haunches, staring at the blonde witch. “Which brings us back to the INSANITY. How are you a force for good by willingly allowing an undead spirit to possess your body?”
Melody smiled again, this time darkly. “With my background, Mortum accepted me. And since it was a willing zombi partnership, the spirit would occasionally extend itself away, secure that it could return. Allowing me breathing room, with the chance to study it, to understand it. Not act, I grant. Not then. But I knew that the time had to come when someone would free me, giving me the chance to turn the tables. To do something about this, something that would put to practice all I had learned about the way an individual’s will is suppressed by a zombi spell.”
A shiver ran up Melissa’s spine. “Then you know how to free them,” she deduced. “You know how to free them all.”
Melody’s smile became a bit unhinged. “Mmm hmmm. I have a NEW Ultima spell.”
Melissa’s eyes again flickered around the room, the witch suddenly not sure whether to congratulate Melody, or run screaming from the room. “Do I want to know?”
“Let’s just say that if you were forced to do something for a long time – a very long, long time – you’d want a break. And if you didn’t get it, you might very well lash out at the one who’s been forcing your situation upon you. Assuming you have your will restored.”
“O-kay,” Melissa said slowly.
Melissa turned back to the latest chest, and after another moment of inspection, pressed a jewel in the front. A secret compartment opened, and Alicia’s orb popped out. The brunette witch grabbed it, and placed it into her bag, even as a thought struck her. “Alicia’s person on the inside… that’s you, isn’t it.”
Melody nodded. “As I say, I had occasional breathing room. I was never sure when or where it would happen, but sometimes, the spirit would extend itself away, and I could get out a brief message to the rightful owner of that orb.”
Melissa licked her lips, trying to figure out what she should say here. Being casually dismissive felt wrong. So she considered what I might say, in her place.
“Look, Melody, you’ve obviously sacrificed a lot here. Maybe more than you realize, more than you should have. Promise me you’ll get checked out by a doctor or something, after depleting yourself with your last resort spell?”
“Of course,” Melody said, her light tone not exactly a guarantee.
“Melody, look at me.” The older witch managed to focus back on Melissa. “Doctor.”
“Of course,” she repeated, though this time seeming surer of herself. “And thank you for shaking me out of my complacency years ago.”
Melissa frowned. “For the record, I was more in the wrong than you were, that day,” she admitted. “I let things get too personal, and allowed my emotions to run away with me. I am sorry. Especially if things came to this, because of that.”
Melody shook her head. “I was too clinical back then, too detached. We witches, we cannot allow ourselves to operate in either mode for too long. Can we?”
Melissa again thought of me. “Yeah. Learning that.”
“You will make the right decision, in the end. For all of us.”
Melissa almost answered ‘I hope so’, only to have it hit her why her parents’ plans would ultimately fail. It was a turning point. She knew then that she would need to know more about her destined role, and she was running out of time to do some proper research.
And at this point, you’ve probably divined that it was Melissa who gave me this account after the fact, not someone else. But while she was about to escape, our problems were only going to get more difficult.
END ACT 5