By Fransico Araujo da Costa
The paintings on the wall are of bad taste. The chairs are all very comfortable, but some of them have the cotton that once filled them pouring out. Not that those who seat on them are distinguished people: and old lady cozied up in the corner of the room, a fat and bald man who's been buying face jewellery and a young couple obviously too poor to afford good knick-knacks to decorate their apartment, just to point a few of the presents in the room. The auctioneer is also not the best there's ever been, either.
This is most definitely not Sotheby's. But there's an exception to this poor scenario. A redhead who stands out in a crowd is sitting quietly in one of the front seats, waiting for the right moment.
"This is lot number 32 The initial bid for these four imitation 13th century figurines you see in the screen is 100 pounds. Does anyone offer 150 pounds? Yes, the lady offers 150 pounds. Do I have 200 pounds? Going for 150 pounds, going... fair warning... Sold for 150 pounds."
The redheaded lady stands up and walks away from the room. After twenty minutes in a line, a grumpy attendant collects her 172 pounds (there is fee, there is always a fee) and she gets the four figurines in a briefcase. She murmurs "thanks for the tip, Doc" and walks away.
She's heard variations of this expression before from the mouths of other watchmen, night watchmen, guards, bodyguards, police officers and many others.
"Sorry, ma'am. But you'll have to show me your security clearance to get into this part of the library."
And her reaction's always been the same.
"Here you go."
And then she waves her hands in front of his face and like magic the guard goes to sleep. Actually, it is magic. She is Amanda Sefton, but don't call her Daytripper (that's her former code-name - what-were-they-thinking Francisco) unless you want a demonstration of what she can do.
She's at a part of the British Library not many know about: the occult section. The real occult section. It's a law that every book published in Britain has to have a copy here. This is the secret part of the secret book. She looks around and finds what she's been looking for: "The four elements", by E.C. del Diablo, translated by Sir Richard Elias of York Amanda blows away the dust and puts it on the only table of the room.
She looks some more and selects a few more works: "Iconoclasty", "Of the power over nature", "Alchemy: symbols and terms", among others. She has no need to read those books. After thumbing through the index, she finds the page she wants in every one of them, opens the book and intones a chanting. Her hands glow a dim blue glow, as do her eyes, for a brief second. She does it with every page she finds useful and a few more "just in case".
After the process, she puts the book back to their respective shelves and casts a spell of teleportation. She always remembers him when she does that.
And she vanishes. Briefly after that, a shadowy figure walks the same corridors she did. The guard is sleeping the eternal sleep as the figure walks around and touches a few books. Unlike Amanda's, the glow there is stronger, green and longer. There's no need to open the books; it's all done in a few minutes.
And the spell cast by Amanda is repeated by the stranger.
The conversation with Doctor Strange is still clear in her head. She called a lot of people in a lot of places to get in contact with Strange, even if just for a few minutes in a bad phone line.
" and now my mother has it."
"It'll be hard getting it from her."
"I know. And she's ascended so high I don't think I can get it from her without help."
"I'm sorry, child. I'm busy .However, there's an auction house in London that is selling a few artefacts you would find useful. they think they are forgeries, but they are the real thing. The address is "
"What are they?"
"With them you will have power over the element "
And that's when she was disconnected. But it was obvious what Strange was referring to: greater powers over magic involving the four basic alchemical elements: earth, water, air and fire.
But there is not much time for trips own memory lane. She must start the ritual. She closes every window and turns off every lamp. The only light inside the room must be from the 16 candles around her. The four figurines correctly placed, she mixes two potions in a small iron cauldron and repeats a phrase in Latin four times, with a small variation in each of those times.
The cauldron starts to bubble over. Twelve of the candles have their fire extinguished. The windows burst open with a sudden wind. Plenty of dust come with it.
Amanda turns her face away from the dust. When she turns it back, four monsters stand still, staring at her. Each one of them represent one of the elements. Earth, fire, air and water, all there in her living room. And they are starting to move
"Verflucht" ("damned" instantaneously-translating Francisco)
Outside, the shadowy figures from the museum looks up. The grin on her face says it all: it has began.
They are starting to move. In a synchrony worthy of Broadway, the four beings are moving And what they are doing is... kneeling? No doubt about it, the four are kneeling. Again in sync, they look at her and say:
"We await your orders, master."
"Master? How the...? Wasn't I supposed to gain control over the elements?" - that's what she is thinking when she realises it: not control over the elements, but the elementals that present in front of her was what she gained. Strange was giving her allies instead of a chance to ascend in the ranks of the sorcerers. there's only one thing to do now.
"Sit there, while I make a phone call."
She gets the cordless phone and dials an eleven digits number.
"Doctor Strange's residence."
"Hello. Is the doctor in?"
"No. Are you Jimaine Szardos?"
"Yes. But call me Amanda Sefton, will you? Now, is the doctor "
"He's currently out, Ms. Sefton. But he did leave me instructions in case you called for his assistance."
"Great. You're Wong, right?"
"Yes, Ms. Sefton."
"Ok, Wong. I have four monsters" as she says monsters the beings in the couch look at each other "inside my
apartment, waiting for my orders. What do I do?"
"First, do not call them monsters. They don't like it. Second, keep them busy. There's not much more than that."
"And how come they speak German?"
"They speak and you understand in the language you want to."
"But what if they...?"
"Master Strange says you'll be able to handle any situation they present you. Good-bye."
"Damn! He hung up on me!" then she turns around, faces the four beings and says "Err... guys. I want you to watch television until I come back. Until then, just watch the television. Ok?"
"And don't call me master. Call me..." she will not use that alias again. 'Daytripper'. What was she thinking? "call me Amanda, ok?"
Their tone didn't change. They still said all in sync and obeyed her every word. Amanda disappears, using the same trick she did at the library. And the library is where she goes. But when she gets there...
"I wish I could do this and go to a place I've never been before."
She appears suddenly in the middle of the corridor and finds a lot of people nearby. Photographers, police officers, reporters, and others of jobs related to crime. Murder, especially, since that's what happened. She's hearing it from behind the wall (you didn't think the door was there for everyone to look at, did you?).
"Now, BK, we are not sure. Only after the coroner gives his report we can say..."
"Come on, JP! The kid was 27, had no history of any disease that could lead to this and there's no violence. It's gotta be a mutant doing one of those weird mutant things."
"Could be. Still..."
That's impossible. She left the night watchmen sleeping, she's sure of that. She could have not killed him, could she? No, she couldn't. Then how? Who did it? That's something for the police. Right now, she has to study those beings.
Studying, of course, being the rather unusual way of absorbing information that Amanda has. She grabs the books she had yesterday and a few more, the newer ones related to elemental beings, something she had not studied before. Why would she had, anyway?
In a hurry, she starts to flip through pages and absorb the information inside them.
"What is it we are watching?"
"Is it supposed to do what it's doing?"
"I don't know."
"It's just standing there, gray and black."
"She's the Amanda, we must obey."
"And what is 'Amanda', anyway?"
"Must mean 'master'"
"Maybe it's a name."
"Why would the master be wanted to be called by name?"
"Let's just watch television, right?"
As Amanda materialises herself in her living room, the four elementals are still sitting on the couch, staring at the blank screen of the television. She looks at the scene, points at the TV and says:
"Why isn't it on?"
"The telly. Why isn't it on?"
"You're the Amanda."
"No, I'm 'Amanda', not 'the Amanda'. Just Amanda. It's my name."
"And why do we call you that?"
"Because it's my name."
The elementals look confused at her. Surely, their master is even more insane than he last ones. They were always treated as slaves, tools, toys. They called their masters "master" or "leader", they never called them by name.
"Forget it. here's what I want you to do. I want you to incorporate the figurines inside your bodies."
Earth and Water proceed as told, but Fire and Air don't.
"What's the matter?", asks Amanda.
"I can't do it" is Air's response, just as "I'll destroy it" is Fire's.
"No, you won't"
Air does it and the figurine disappears after his whirlwind-like body absorbs it. Fire, however, keeps hesitant. It even flies from the figurine.
"What?" Amanda is a little irritated now. Why won't he obey her?
"Fire destroyed me the least time. If fire destroys the figurine, I will... it'll..."
"You won't. trust me."
But before Fire can make a move, Earth stretches his arm, grabs the remaining figurine and throws it in Fire's direction.
"NO!", yells the fearful elemental.
But the figurine is absorbed by Fire's body just like the others were. Amanda can think of only one thing, however:
"They are children..."
Realising that, she takes a radical decision. She walks to the television, turns it on and says with a stern tone in her voice:
"Now you watch 'Teletubbies' until I tell the four of you to do something."
The stranger in the shadows feels ready now. She is ready to take away the elemental beings from Sefton.
"Jimaine, I'm coming."
leaps and flutters away. She is Margali Szardos of the Windy Ways and she will face her daughter.
"Yes, Jimaine. Me. You know what I came for. Hand them to me."
"Who is Jimaine?" asks Air.
"She is Jimaine."
Margali of the Windy Ways has stormed into the room. She looks more like what she did when Doctor Strange met her than the last time Amanda saw her: her skin and her hair are of a light green hue, her dress is greenish-yellow with a huge loincloth-like end. And the false horns she used to wear as headgear they seem to be part of her head now.
"Hand 'them'? What 'them'?"
"The figurines, Jimaine. I was at the auction when you bought them. I saw "
"The old lady."
"I saw you with them. I researched the same books you did. Now "
"The guard at the museum "
"Now give them to me, Jimaine. I have no desire to destroy you for them today."
This is gonna be difficult. Amanda knows she is incredibly outmatched by her mother. She normally is anyway, but her new looks are a sign she has become more powerful than last time. But why would she want the figurines? Elementals aren't exactly a very difficult spell to cast, especially for an experienced sorcerer such as Margali. Then why?
But before any of that is resolved, Amanda must stop her mother from getting them.
"You cannot take them from me, mother. They have free will now."
"I am not stupid, child."
"Absolutely, mother. The figurines, they absorbed them and now they have free will." and then turning to the confused elementals who have not a clue why the master excuse me, Amanda is saying that "You won't join her, right?"
"No, Amanda" they answer in sync.
"Fine, Jimaine. I am not here to destroy you. But for now, this will do it."
Margali disappears amidst a mist of brimstone and leaves both Sefton and the four elementals unharmed and well.
"Phew. She bought it."
It takes another two hours for Amanda to realise her mother stole the ring of VarnŠ from her.
To be continued...