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Zoey and Krumpet

The woman is an old mage. She has seen more changes over her years then most people can even imagine. She has also seen the same recurring themes so many times that being alive occasionally feels like... what word do they use for the moving pictures... replay? Rerun? Doesn't matter. She's walking up to one of those recurring themes now.

Its been raining for the past several hours and based the girl's drenched clothes and how her red hair is plastered to her face in a single clean sheet, she's simply sat here the full time not moving. Her but is on the edge of a curb and her arms are holding her knees to her chest. Clearly freshly awakened, but only has one spell working at the moment. Death. They way her eyes are bugged out without seeing anything leads the sage to conclude it's only a sight and not armor.

The sage "tisks" lightly and sends Krumpet, her little mischievous lizard familiar, to lightly harass the wet dear. The bright green frill lizard starts by skittering over her hand but elicits no response. He tries this tactic a few more times becoming more bold and crossing over more of her body with each pass. Frustrated, it finally perches on her knees and licks her noise. This startles the girl out of her trance so badly that she throws up her arms and looses her balance trying to stand. She ends up sprawled on her ass in the street with a snickering lizard on her lap.

"Time to get going, dear" the old woman says ignoring the wave of questions and demands that rush up at her. She turns and walks away from the girl. She commands Krumpet to lick her noise once more as a taunt and scurry away keeping about half distance between them. It works and the girl is following rant going at full steam.

It's not far. The old woman's motel was just down the block. It takes talk of phenomena and exaggerating hypothermia to get her out of the water logged clothes and wrapped up in some clean bed coverings instead. Once the clothes are spinning along in the communal driers, some vending machine food is shared and the two women get down to talking.

Well, kind of talking. The girl seems physically incapable of being comfortable with conversation. Through the jumble, the sage is able to determine that her awakening was about a week ago and starts imparting as much wisdom as she can. Names are sacred. Sight and armor up at all times. If you push the universe too hard, it will push back. The girl has no problem with listening and visibly calms as more information is imparted to her. The old mage finishes off with a general break down of the Archana.

The seminar complete, she simply sits and stares at the girl. It takes her longer then anyone before to notice and respond to the awkward silence. "What, what is it?"

"There's this thing that I can do; that I like to do for young that I help like I've helped you." The girl tries to retreat into the blankets for the umpteen millionth time that night, "Oh?"

"I'm quite skilled with fate and time." She began modestly, trying not to smile and the girl reflexively mouthed the names of the archana in response to hearing them referenced. "Everybody has cross roads in their lives and everybody wonders what was down the other path. I can show you how your destinies would have unraveled if the pendulum had swung the other way."

She burst forward out of the blankets so fast, the sage fell backwards in surprise, "Would you please!" Then she regained herself and reburied her modesty in the folds of cloth. Her deep red blush the only evidence remaining of the outburst.

The old woman was chuckling as she righted herself. "Of course dear. Come, take my hand." It came out cautiously but her grip was firm and after a few breaths as though she was getting ready to jump into the deep end for the first time, she nodded.

It was strange to watch. At first it seemed like Magie had simply let go of the woman's hand and retreated awkwardly, but the bed covers came back up without her touching them. Then it went much faster. She watching her life in reverse! Once her and the old woman were outside again it was moving to fast to keep track of details, but she recognized a bit of the scenes. Into the ally way and all the ally ways she's been wondering. Back to the funeral. Back into the jumbled nightmare. Back yet into the hospital and here it stopped and began the seemingly slow crawl forward. "No. They're still dead. I need farther." Magie felt a sigh and the scene reversed a few hours more. Back into the school house. She's sitting with the handsome teacher and they're talking about her niece Zoey who's going to start his preschool class soon. The scene shudders a few times, then rewinds one more hour.

She is just arriving at the school. She's early to the orientation and heads in anyway to see if she can be any help. The teacher is grateful for the assistance. She helps him hang some of the more cumbersome decorations while they chat away the extra time. Magie is a bit awkward at times but he doesn't mind and is quite patient with her while he happily waits to let her regain her composure as needed.

His alarm signals the beginning of the orientation and they settle down to wait for Zoey and her parents. Five minutes pass, ten. She picks up the cell phone and calls. Rachael, Zoey's mom answers. Trouble gathering up all the stuff to get out the door on time and to top it off, a terrible car crash on the highway. Hope no one's hurt.

The scene fast forwards and Magie gets to watch as Zoey is moving up in the grades and growing into a marvelous young woman. Her once preschool teacher becomes her uncle and the image degrades as the years speed by.

"What happened!" Magie is gripping the old woman's hand trying to squeeze the vision back out of it. The sage is happy the girl is not stronger or it might actually hurt. As it was she was winded from the impromptu change in the spell. "That fork in the path was not yours." She puffed out. "It was Zoey's. Originally she and her family left on time..."

"I know all of that! What happened to the vision? Why did it break down? Why did it have to stop?"

"Calm down child!" She commanded with more force then she intended but less then she really wanted to use. "Magic works off of the strength connections. Normally in these visions I can only change your events. Because of how close you were to the girl and how badly you needed to see it, I was able to make an exception. Besides it's the future. I can only go a few years forward."

She meeked out an "Okay" even though it was obvious she didn't really understand. The silence stretched on for a while longer but she kept hold on the old woman's hand. She couldn't really blame the child. Twenty some years are hardly enough to learn to deal with all of life and the wounds from the death of her brother's family had yet to even scab over. She was surprised to hear her speak again, "you, uhm, you had wanted to show me something at the hospital?"

The sage smiled at the child. So she hadn't missed it completely. There might be hope for her yet. "Your fork in your path is there. Ready?" The nod came without hesitation.

It began slowly again, but didn't take as long to get back to the hospital. She was headed out of the emergency room past her mourning parents. The twist in the world began as she stepped into the threshold. In front of her the cycle of life and death played out. Magie stepped out into it while she simultaneously turned back around to join her parents in mourning.

"I know its disorienting, but they happen together." Magie did her best to balance her attention between the two lives. One walked a nightmare vision while the other lived the nightmare of preparing a funeral. Then at some point the nightmare shifted and doubled and now there were three of her total. One sat at a funeral with a false mask of calm. Two walked up to very different towers and placed their names upon it's ramparts only to appear at the same funeral. She who signed the bone tower fled and she who signed the growing tower took her place next to her mother and cried with them.

It became increasingly difficult to focus as the three lives unfolded. The Magie who never awakened was always clear enough and always the same. Muddling through her life with no spark or drive other then to get from one moment to the next.

The other two seemed to be traveling the same path but in different ways. The necromancer took on Zoey's name while the shaman took on Rachael's. She caught a glimpse of the old woman with her spirit in there lives at the same time. When they parted the little spirit stayed behind but he was different to match the differences in the women.

They traveled to the opposite corner of the country and joined a community of mages in Washington state. Zoey retreated into herself and devoted herself to only her studies and survival. She did everything she could to protect herself from forming connections and leaving behind traces other mages could use against her. Rachael was by no means a social butterfly, but she was willing to live and make friends and she learned to laugh at herself.

At times the mages' lives would suddenly fracture into dozens of different events at once then settle back into a single happening. "Awakened destinies crossing paths creating uncertainty." Sometimes the mages would be doing very different things. Zoey lived hopping from one abandoned building to the next living off of what little money she could scrounge up recycling various bits. Rachael lived in a modest apartment doing odd jobs to keep the rent paid.

Other times events would synchronize and be hard to tell them apart. Like asking a fellow class mate if she could visit his garden that he mentioned. Then they would brake apart again. Zoey and him share pleasantries once a week in class because she refuses to brake her vow of paranoia while Rachael turns weekly dinner at his place into a culinary competition not for the weak of stomach.

The vision breaks into several dozen a few more times before it settles down again several months later. The man is being seen through the eyes of the familiar and he's lost in the shadow. Zoey's standing defeated outside a private hanger while Rachael is in his kitchen trying desperately to open a doorway.

The vision suddenly collapses and the motel returns to the forefront. The old mage and the girl are both exhausted and sore. Hours have passed with them not moving a muscle. The girl is about to say something when she is cut off, "Time to sleep now," and she simply does.

The sage gathers the clothes from the drier down the hall and leaves them folded on the room's chair. "Damned if you do and damned if you don't deary," she mutter's while looking her over. She cradles the girls head in her lap as Krumpet is loosening a wall plug so it looks like its in, but the lamp is not actually powered. "I know I could have kept it going," she said as if the spirit cared, "but she can't un-see this. Best I can do is have her dismiss it as a dream. Her watching herself watch him die in both lives... Don't look at me like that!" And Krumpet certainly wasn't. He was done with the lamp plug and had moved onto hiding the bathroom soaps. "If she knows she could try to do better, but if she knows now, she's likely to break."

She was done with her manipulation and moved over to the spirit. She picked it up and set it next to the girl and stared. Mischief was not right for this one. Even asleep she was radiating sadness like a furnace. She took some of that sorrow and forced it into Krumpet replacing its talent for trouble making into sadness. She also adjusted his form. The bright green twisted into an almost putrid yellow and it gained dark red accents.

Krumpet looked up at her with his sad eyes. He didn't like it at all. It made him sad and that made her sad. She was so sad to be leaving him. So sad... "Oh knock that off," and she waved at it and now he slept next to the girl too.

She awoke sometime the next day. Confusion over how she got into a motel room mixed with the strange half dream from the night before. Had she been drinking? Had someone drugged her? "Come on," she corrected herself. It was going to be hard changing her internal monologue, "Come on Zoey, get it together."

She pushed off the bed. Naked! She stubbed her toe on a chair and as she caught herself felt the pile of clothes. They felt freshly cleaned so she left then there. She managed to navigate to the bathroom but she couldn't find any soap in the darkness. She flicked a switch. Nothing happened.

Not being able to do something as simple as chase away the darkness with light made it all come rushing back to her. Her family dead. Her life gone. The horrible dream and its message of her only chance for happiness dying with Zo... her niece. She collapsed on the itchy carpet sobbing uncontrollably with a strange little lizard curled up against her legs.