Part 12

The infernal door was the only thing standing between Up, a montaur-turned-astronaut, and his captor, a sorcerer with shapeshifting ablities.

Up pounded...

...and pounded...

...and pounded on the simple wooden door.

It just wouldn't budge.

A magic spell. It had to be.

He heard a female voice on the other side of the door, a voice her recognized as his best friend Vera, a Faerie elf/human hybrid who was also a space explorer.

Up decided that injuring his knuckles was getting him nowhere, so he backed up as far as he could in the small cold dank room, and charged the door like any civilized man-bull would.

An instant before Up was scheduled to crash through the door, it opened, causing the hapless minotaur to crash onto the bed, missing Vera by scant inches.

"UP!!!", Vera bellowed, not expecting her best friend to nearly trample her.

"Sorry, V," Up apologized while removing mattress-stuffing and shredded blankets from his one remaining good horn.

"Up...wh-what happened to your left horn?" Vera asked, gingerly touching Up's left horn where it broke off.

"Solid ground happened," the minotaur replied. "The levitational force I was trapped in faded, and I failed to land on anything soft. The bright side is that I managed to find our ship, sent a distress signal to the Star Council...for whatever good that'll do...and gathered some supplies to come looking for you.

"My landing must have injured me far worse than I'd realized, because ten steps later I passed out and woke up a few minutes ago in another room." He stopped and looked at Vera's attire. Her apprentice's gown was much too tacky for his tastes. "What happened to your uniform?"

"Uh...well...I guess we have him to thank for that," she replied, pointing a thumb at the amused sorcerer in the corner of the room. "Up, meet Chance."

"Pleased to meet you," Up said to Chance in a tone that indicated he wasn't pleased in the least. "I believe we have you to thank for much that has happened to us this day."

"You mean like saving your life? You're welcome. At any rate, we have more important concerns than grattitude." Chance then informed Up of the cosmic beings whose plans to reshape reality threatened to unravel the tenuous fabric of time and space.

Up didn't think much of the scenario. "And how do we know you're telling us the truth?"

"You have my word."

"Ah, yes," Up replied, towering over Chance. "The word of a sorcerer who has caused us both phsical and mental discomfort, and who now holds us in this castle against our will."

"Not against your will," Chance corrected. he wiggled a finger and caused a doorway to open up a wall. "You're free to leave whenever you wish. Be my guest."

"Thank you. Coming, Vera?"

"Gladly," she replied, getting up. " soon as I find my stuff..."

"You misunderstand," Chance explained. "The minotaur is perfectly free to go. However, Vera, I'm afraid you must stay here and help me deal with this meance to reality."

"WHAT?!" both astronauts exclaimed in unison.

"I need the help of a fellow sorcerer -or at least someone with the training- to back up my spells."

"Don't I get a say in this?" Vera asked.

"Well, no, as a matter of fact your consent is not required. In fact, your consent was never required during our apprenticeship."

"That much was made real clear to me by the mage," she replied, her voice laced with scorn. "You KNOW what he did to me...what he REPEATEDLY did to me, and you let him do it."

"We were slaves, Vera. He owned us. He could do what he wished. You know that. I know that."


Up winced at her words. What was she talking about? Did he really want to find out? He put a hand on her shoulder. She shrugged it off.

Chance and Vera shared a tense silence in which many words were exchanged but not spoken.

Finally Vera turned to the door. "We're leaving, Chance, and don't try to stop us. You're on your own." She pulled Up by the elbow and marched outside into the cold night air.

Chance watched them go, sighed, wiggled his finger to close the doorway, and sat in near darkness. For an eternity of seconds he brooded in silence. 'Well that went well,' he thought. 'Guess I'm only left with one option, and it's a hum-dinger.'

Finally, he rose from his chair, took a deep breath, called out, "Jax!" and whistled. A large falcon flew in through a window from its perch atop a castle battlement. The raptor alighted on Chance's glove and stared at its master expectantly. "I have a mission for you, old friend," Chance continued. The Jax listened as Chance gave it a message to deliver to another sorcerer. Its eyes glowed in acknowledgement.


"Vera? Vera will you please wait up? Talk to me! What happened with you, Chance and the mage? Vera?"

Vera kept trudging along, uttering not a sound save for angered breathing.

Finally, Up grabbed her arm and stopped. "Answer me, Vera! What happened so long ago that was so terrible? Not knowing is driving me nuts, and it seems to be too important to keep bottled! What...IS it?"

Vera glared at him with eyes of pure kill. "If you care about me at all," she warned, "you won't ask me that question."

Up growled. "The reason I'm asking is because I DO care!! Now what did the mage do to you?"

"LEAVE ME ALONE!!!" Vera wailed, punching Up on the muzzle, which caused him to reel in surprise and release his grip on Vera.

She ran off into the wilderness, cold air and branches tearing at her gown.

She was gone before Up could give chase. He stared after her and cursed in his native language. Things weren't supposed to go like this. This was supposed to be a routine planetary recon. It had devolved into a complete disaster.

Up rubbed his muzzle, still feeling the sting of her knuckles against his jaw. He sank to his knees.

His communicator beeped. "WHAT!" he answered it, his mood having improved not a bit.

"Commander Up, where is Commander Eldro?" the voice on the other end asked, referring to Vera. "You two need to get out of there NOW!"

"Why, what's happening?"

"Readings of this sector indicate this system's star is about to go nova!"



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