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The Bargain

Written by TwiceOnThursdays :: [Sunday, 30 October 2016 01:40] Last updated by :: [Sunday, 13 November 2016 17:05]

The Bargain

Author's Note: Geekseven gave this a proofread and made several great suggestions. Any remaining problems are all mine as I made new mistakes trying to fix the old ones.  His help made this flow better. Many Thanks!

The Autumn wind blew leaves around in giant swirls, making pretty patterns as they shifted through the pools of light from the street lamps. Though branches swayed back and forth in the wind, the scarlet-clad man was anchored in the air about 200 meters above ground, gently illuminated by the light leaking from a nearby building. He stood, eyes wide open, staring at the full moon. A faint smile ghosted his face. He loved quiet moments where he could enjoy his powers. He needed to be ready in case something weird happened, Halloween always produced weirdness in the city. Last year he stopped a rampaging horde of clowns.

Suddenly he closed his eyes and tilted his head to the side. He turned his head back and forth a few times, then held it steady. His eyes snapped open, glowing with an eerie white light. With a short clap of thunder, he disappeared in a red streak.

With another crack, he stopped above a ramshackle house on the edge of the city. It was large and old, surrounded by a wrought iron gate. Giant trees covered the grounds, with a massive stone walkway that led up to the house. Smoke curled out from under the doors.

His eyes squinted a bit, as he looked down at the house and scanned back and forth. He took off in a burst, shattered his way through the door, and zoomed through the house. He rounded a corner and saw a young oriental woman frantically pulling at iron bands around a door. She muttered some incomprehensible words, her words interrupted by coughing while she pried at the bands. He could smell burning flesh as she gripped the iron bands. Sigils were etched into the bands. Though scored into the metal, they seemed to have been smeared away by her efforts.

He grabbed the young woman and moved her outside.

She could barely stand so he rested his hand on her bare shoulder to steady her. "Relax, Miss. I'm Visitor. You are safe now. No one else is in the building."

“TAKE ME BACK.”, she growled, her voice harsh and raspy. “I have to get into that room! I must stop him!”

His eyes widened a bit as he gave her a once over, examining her inside for damage. Her hands were red, curled up into claws. She winced anytime she tried to move them. The smoke had damaged her lungs. Her hair was charred and burned.

His eyes returned to normal and he looked at her again. She was a young Asian woman in her mid-twenties. Her entire ensemble was a dark midnight black. His eyes rose from the ground up, taking in her dark black boots. They were solid work boots, without any heels. Black fishnets covered her legs. She wore a tight skirt that ended mid-thigh. He couldn't help it; his eyes strayed briefly on her chest. She wasn't huge, but her bustier top displayed her breasts quite alluringly. Sleeves covered her arms but ended just past her elbows. A black choker was around her neck. Long black hair framed her face.

Her voice shook as she growled out words. ‘Visitor! He’ll kill all those children unless I get in there to stop him!”

He looked at her; his head turned slightly to the side. He looked at her quizzically. "You were the only person in the house. I scanned the entire structure." He glanced back at the house and squinted. His head jerked back and his eyes widened. “Wait? There are children in the basement? Never fear, Miss, I can handle anything. I’ll take care of it.”

She reached out to grab him to no avail, her warning swallowed by a racking cough.

He disappeared into the building. He stopped in front of the ironbound door, gripped a band in each hand, and tossed them aside. With a slight yank, the door ripped off its hinges.

As the door opened, a giant fireball roared into the hallway. The walls were quickly blackened, and the temperature rose to few thousand degrees. He stood calmly in the maelstrom and strode down the steps into the basement.

The room was a raging inferno, which stopped at a ring of candles. The area inside the ring was calm and free of smoke. Inside the area was covered by a pentagram with glowing mystic symbols written around it. Stone altars occupied each cardinal location. Each of them had a child chained to them.

In the center, there was an enormous being. Red fur covered its ape-like body. It had a goat-like face and giant glowing horns. Its eyes glowed a bright orange. As it moved its hands slowly in sync with its words, each giant red claw left an orange energy trail that hung in the air for a few moments and faded from view.

Visitor scanned the room for a moment, jerking in surprise when he saw the giant creature. He recovered quickly from his shock and rocketed towards it. As he tried to pass the candles, he bounced off an invisible barrier, was thrown back, and slammed into the wall. He lay stunned for a few moments, then slowly shook his head and blinked for a few seconds. He swayed a bit and rose unsteadily to his feet.

He walked over to the candles. As he moved, he noticed a faint orange shimmering field surrounding the area. He reached out to touch it and a giant arc of orange lightning shocked him across the room.

He laid face down on the floor for a minute before he groaned. He pushed himself off the floor and slowly stood. He braced his hand on the wall to steady himself.

He followed the shimmering orange field, finding it to be a globe that covered the entire area.

He made eye contact with the giant in the center of the ring. The giant continued intoning his strange, harsh words as an evil smile crawled across his face.

Brilliant beams of light lanced out of Visitor's eyes. When they hit the barrier, they slid around it and scored the wall on the other side.

With some focus, Visitor flew from the room, though instead of his usual blur of movement he moved only slightly faster than a sprint.

He landed unsteadily next to the woman. She rummaged through the saddlebags on a dark black motorcycle. She still winced when she grabbed things, but her hands were no longer bright red or curled into a painful ball.

“Ah, you’re back. Maybe you’ll listen this time. We don’t have much time. He’ll finish the ritual when the conjunction starts. That’s only a few minutes away.”

“If we don’t stop him, he’ll fully manifest on this plane ripping open a portal to the lower realms. The result will be Hell on Earth.”

Visitor's brow creased, and the edge of mouth raised a fraction.

“There’s no such thing as magic. It is merely an inter-dimensional portal. I am from an alternative dimension myself. I’m an expert…”

“STOP. You know shit.” She kept ranting at him as she placed items from her saddlebags on her motorcycle. “I don’t care what you know or don’t know, or if you call it magic or 'harnessing dimensional energies.' The fact is you are vulnerable to it, for all your vaunted powers, you are more susceptible than anyone else on this plane. Beings on their home plane have a natural affinity for shrugging off magic from another plane. You have no such protection. It rips right through your powers. The field would have only resisted a human; you probably got smacked so hard you blacked out. Worse, you're wide open and unprotected. It would be easy to use your energy against you.”

He tried to interrupt, only to be hushed again.

“Look, you might get through that barrier somehow. Even if you did get through it, you’d not be able to withstand Bael. That area is joined temporarily to the lower planes. I don’t know for certain, but I doubt that your powers would function the same way there. You simply don’t have the right kind of training. You have a vast well of dimensional energy that you only use for base physical feats. One of his direct attacks is twenty times more harmful than the rudimentary damage from that shield. I can tell you barely survived the shield. A real attack would vaporize you, using your energy against you.”

“I could remove the barrier safely, but I have to be in the room to dispel it. Once it is gone, it's a simple matter to kick Bael back to the lower planes. He's not supposed to be here, and it takes an enormous amount of energy to remain.”

He interrupted her tirade. “You couldn’t stand in that room for 15 seconds. The heat would fry your lungs and char your flesh.”

He glanced around for a few moments. He spotted an empty dump truck at a construction site a few miles away.

“Hold on a moment, I’ll fill a dump truck with water, and I’ll put that fire out.” He rocketed into the air, zooming towards the truck. In a matter of moments he picked up the truck, flew to the river, and filled it up, and returned to the house.

He was about to dump the water into the house when she shrieked, “STOP!”.

He paused a dozen feet in the air. “We don’t have much time!”

“LISTEN. That won’t work. Or rather it WILL, but you’ll kill those kids. I WON’T let children DIE!”

“If you flood that room, it’ll put out the fire. Enough water will leak through the barrier and it’ll put out those candles. Right now that area is both Earth and the lower planes. Incorrectly breaking the barrier from this side will snap it the lower planes with everything inside it. Including the children.”

"Bael will kill those kids seconds after that happens, angry that you foiled his plan.”

He slowly floated down from the sky and landed next to her, setting the dump truck off to the side.

“We need to bring that barrier down correctly, or those children die. If we don’t do it in the next five minutes, it might be too late for the rest of the planet.”

She captured his gaze with her deep almond eyes. “What can you do to get rid of that fire without disturbing those candles?”

He paused for a second, plans rushing through his mind one after another.

“I could dismantle the house at super speed. That gets us closer to the basement.”

Her lips raised up in a grin, exposing some of her white teeth. “Now THAT might work. If I can get close enough, I can take the field down and send him back. But I have to get pretty close. How long would that take? Making sure to not disrupt the room too much?”

“A minute maybe?”

“Go. Do that. I’ll keep thinking”.

The house is obscured by a red blur as it disappeared. In a short time, there was a giant pile of lumber in the road, exposing the basement to the crisp night air. In response to the ready supply of oxygen, the fire roared brighter, the light washing over their faces.

The woman ran towards the basement. She struggled to get up to the edge, as got close, she fell to the ground.

In a flash, he pulled her back. She coughed for a few moments and then shook her head.

She gasped out, “I can’t get close enough.” Her words sputtered out into a racking cough. Finally, she composed herself a bit. “Worse, that fire might be able to put out the candles...”

He looked at her. “Teach me what to do. I can easily survive down there!”

“You not only do not have the talent for witchcraft, but you would need years of training. If only I could borrow your powers for a few minutes ... “ Her voice drifted off as she stared off into space. She muttered, “I can’t do someone harm, or steal their energy … but energy can be transferred willingly … “.

She mumbled for a bit, and then locked her gaze on him again. For some reason, he couldn't break away from her fervent gaze.

“A witch can NOT use magic to harm someone. If I try, I am subject to three times the harm I cause.”

“But, you can choose to make a trade. In those cases where it’s voluntary, I can use older, arcane spells. If you let me, I could take your powers temporarily. I could then save those children and banish Bael.”

He looked at her a bit unsteadily. His voice shook. “What would this 'power transfer' spell entail?”

“We would have to make a formal magical bargain. My powers are incapable of doing anything like this otherwise. There can be no untruths in a magical bargain. I would start the bargain, and make the terms. And you would accept. Then I could temporarily take your powers.”

She glanced at her wrist. “We only have three minutes. We are running out of time.”

“How do I know you are telling the truth?”

“All statements in a magical bargain CAN NOT be untrue. Both parties in the bargain know if a statement is false.”

He pondered for a moment. “I have no choice. Ok. Let’s do this.”

She pulled a dagger from her saddlebags. “This is magic, poke yourself with, then give it to me.”

He stared at the dagger doubtfully, but stabbed his hand, and winced as it plunged deeply into his flesh. Blood welled up from the wound. He gingerly handed it back to her, and she quickly sliced her hand.

“Grab my hand!”

He reached out, and they clasped hands. As his hand hit hers, the witch uttered an incomprehensible word. He felt a giant thrumming throughout his entire body.

As she spoke, her words rang out in the air and echoed and vibrated off his bones. “I can take your powers temporarily. If you give me your powers, I will rescue those children. Will you agree to this bargain? I take your powers, and in return, I save those children and banish Bael.”

As she spoke, he KNEW her words were TRUE. She was not lying. She WILL save those children.

“I agree. Take my powers and in return save those children and banish Bael.”

A pulse ripped through the area. Visitor slumped to the ground. He seemed to take up less space than before, and his uniform no longer looked painted onto his body. On the other hand, the woman became vibrant. She didn't get taller, or much larger, but she seemed to inhabit her surroundings with more authority. Her damaged hair was now full and shiny, practically glowing in the moonlight. Her shoulders widened slightly, with a nice round cap of muscle on each shoulder. Her legs swelled with a bit of added muscle, the fishnets caressing her firm calves. Her arms firmed up with lithe muscle. She paused for a moment, and flexed her right arm, a small bulge rose from it. She reached over and gave her biceps a squeeze and whistled.

Her face scrunched up in concentration. She wobbled on the ground for a few moments and then floated unsteadily into the air.

She gestured and Visitor rose off the ground. They zoomed over towards the inferno. The heat started to sear his lungs. Just as it got unbearable, the fire disappeared.

She chuckled. “I could never do a spell like that before!”

She waved her hand, spoke a word, and the orange field melted away.

The giant demon roared. Already claw-like fingernails glowed a deeper orange and grew a few more inches. It swung his arm up in a giant arc and started to bring it down on a poor young girl chained to one of the altars. Her scream made the demon smile.

Right before his hand hit the child, the witch made a small hand gesture. Each child became encased in a bright yellow glow. The demon froze in mid swing. Its muscles bunched but it remained motionless.

“What are you doing? Why do you betray me! We had an agre...” The creature's words are choked off.

“Enough out of you, foul demon. BEGONE!”

A dark spot appeared on his stomach. The area around it bent and warped. His flesh crawled slowly towards the blackness. He screamed. Over the course of a minute, his body inched into the black dot. His shrieks haunted the night as spot pulled him in. With a slight pop, the dot disappeared and cut off the screams.

In a flash of black, the chains vanish, and the children stood around Visitor. They still glowed bright yellow.

“Bargain completed. I banished Bael. These children are safe from all harm while this protection spell is active.”

She glanced over at the dump trunk. She squinted her eyes, opened them, and then squinted them again dramatically as she moved her head forward a bit. She did this a few times, each time her mouth scrunched into unusual shapes. Finally, a bright beam erupted from her eyes and struck the water in the dump trunk. In a moment, the water vaporized into a cloud of steam. The bed of the truck glowed molten red. The ruddy red glow glinted off her bright white teeth.

The bright yellow glow around one of the young girls sputtered and died out. A few moments later, the aura around a young boy with sandy blond hair winked out.

She picked up the dump trunk with one hand; the metal shrieked as it crumpled around her hand. She raised her other hand and started to knead the trunk into a ball. She grinned, and let out giant peals of laughter. In a short while, the truck became a metal ball a yard wide. With a quick flip of her wrist, the giant ball rose twenty feet into the air and slammed back down on her hand with a monstrous crunch of metal. Her hand remained rock steady despite the titanic force. Even though she stood upon soft ground, her feet did not sink into the ground.

She laughed gleefully and looked back towards Visitor as the last two protective auras sputtered out.

Visitor strode towards her. “You aren’t protecting the children anymore?”

She casually tossed the ball of metal into the air and watched as it zipped off into the night. A few moments later there was a giant arc of burning light in the sky.

With a gleeful laugh, she looked back toward Visitor. “They aren’t children anymore, and thus the protection is no longer needed.”

“According to the ancient rules, once someone turns 13, they are no longer a child. All of them were born very close to one another 13 years ago. A witch knows these things.”

She strolled over to the old steps. The cornerstone was a giant hunk of granite. She bent down and put one hand under the slab, and casually hoisted it above her head.

He looked at her puzzled. “Can I have my powers back now?”

She smiled and lowered the slab a bit and pulverized the granite between her hands. It shattered into pieces of gravel. "I don't think that will ever get old." She ran her hands down her sides and shimmied her hips a bit. Her hands ended up resting on her hips cocked at a jaunty angle.

“What are you talking about? The Bargain is complete. You gave me your powers to save these children and banish Bael. The children were saved and protected from all harm until they were no longer children.”

She snapped her fingers and her motorcycle and her equipment vanished. She made a small flicking gesture with her hand, and the children disappeared. "I even sent them all home."

“But you promised to take my powers temporarily! You said you couldn’t lie!”

She looked at him sternly. I didn’t say anything that wasn’t true. I said I COULD take your powers temporarily. I could have. But that wasn’t the Bargain. ‘I take your powers, and in return, I save those children and banish Bael.’”

Her words rang in his head. He could feel the words of the Bargain.

She pursed her lips and blew. Gale force winds roared from her mouth, forcing Visitor back. He slammed into the pile of lumber, cutting his arm on a nail. Blood dripped down his arm.

He glanced down at the wetness that seeped from the tear in his uniform. His hands trembled, but his voice was steady. “I thought you said you couldn’t hurt anyone with magic?”

She bent her head back and opened up her arms to the sky. Once again, her laughter rang through the night. After few moments, she lowered her arms and lowered her head until her eyes caught his. He tried to turn away from her stare but could not. She seemed to look right through him. She gave a small nod, and somehow he could look away. He couldn't bring himself to look into her eyes again.

“First, that wasn’t magic. Second, that wasn’t in the Bargain. I lied. I can use magic to harm someone if the mood strikes me. Your powers were just too strong for me to take without your permission. Thank you for your generous gift. Unlike you, I know how to use dimensional energy for more than mere physical feats.” At that, she smiled broadly again. "Not that physical feats aren't SO MUCH FUN! I plan to have a LOT of fun now."

“Trick.” She smiled again. “Or Treat.”

At her words, she faded, until only the bright white of her smile was left. It shimmered for a brief moment and was gone. The Autumn wind blew through, and Visitor shivered.

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