The Stab of Betrayal
The Brass Automaton Saga Part XVI
Mark Gardner started the Brass Automaton Saga over at Article 94 and then invited me to play along. His Project Page has links to all of the stories and background on the story itself, which is a mashup between Terminator and Snow White. If you’re new to our endeavor, it is the best place to get caught up.
|| John recoiled from the figure’s words. Fury surged through him for even considering this could be his Reese, his long dead tutor, compatriot; friend. He scrambled back from the figure grabbing his sword again as a glint of moonlight showed where he had dropped it.
“Foul creature! I shall have your blood!”
“I am Reese, John. You loved me. I am here through that Love. Remember?”
“I will see you for what you are yet!” John exclaimed, holding the sword out and pulling a large, intricately cut Crystal on a thin, black cord from his shirt. It was like the crystals issued to the Castle for dispelling simple Magicks, only it was far, far more powerful. “We will see who you are, or what you are, soon enough.”
Yanking on the cord to snap it free, he held the Crystal aloft, its facets reflecting dots of moonlight around the dark clearing. He began slowly circling it above his head, waiting for the vapors of Magick to clear and see Reality. As he waiting for the Crystal to dispel the Magick he found himself again indebted to the counsel of Jarvis for urging him to always wear the Crystal. The Crystal’s pendulum turn smoothed, its rhythmic thrumming the only sound in the clearing. “Reese” merely stood there, hands folded and head cocked, looking at John with the patient disappointment he so well remembered from his most embarrassing of failures.
“How much longer are you going to need to see that I am Reese, John?”
“This can only be Magick! Even if what you say is true, only Magick can bring you here.”
“No, John, Love brought me here. The love you shared with Reese was strong enough that the Third Power, Love, summoned me.”
“Magick and Time are the only Powers,” he replied, remembering his lessons.”
“Magick and Time are the only Powers humanity can control. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a third that is uncontrollable. Time is incessant with clear rules but without form. Magick can be shaped, but it waxes and wanes and is governed by capricious rules. Love though, Love is more powerful than either, but cannot be controlled by conscious thought or action. Since Love does what Love will, and can never be used otherwise, humanity overlooks it.”
“How do you know this then?” asked John, allowing the Crystal to stop it perambulations.
“Because I am here. Because I am not the Reese you knew but another that is yet her, and my heart can still feel her love for you. And, because my head knows the betrayal of your Queen. Only so great of a betrayal by one you so fully love could have brought me here. Only the other you loved, and lost, could Love beckon.”
“Then speak,” John said, raising himself to his full height and lowering his sword, “Speak of this betrayal you know.”
“It gives me no pleasure,” Reese said, tearing up, “only I can know the depths of your love, and that you have given yet more to Snow White. It is because-”
“Hold, Reese, hold. I beg you, hold. I need hear of love any longer. Please just tell me of Snow’s plans this coming fortnight.”
Reese, again on the verge of tears, shook her head in acknowledgement of John’s request. “You have become a better man than I could have ever hoped,” she said, before continuing on to describe Snow’s plans. John became sicker with ever word.
“The Sun will not tolerate me to stay, John,” Reese said, having finished her long elocution.
John’s sword remained in the trunk, stabbed into it during the strongest wave of anger he had felt. Now, with that moment gone, and the full horror finally spoken, the two sat on the trunk with the sword between them. John let the words linger a bit longer before he spoke, “I’m sorry, Reese, I should have known you couldn’t stay forever. I was just…”
“Caught up in other things, yes. I understand. I really do. Please, just do me the favor of leaving me now. I know I must surrender to the dawn, but would have our parting be of our choice this time.”
“Of course. It is the least I can do,” he said standing, “And thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” she said, standing up well.
He briefly tried removing his sword before giving up upon seeing how deep he had buried its blade. “It’s just as well,” he said, letting go of its handle.
“Fare thee well, John.”
“Farewell Reese,” he replied, turning quickly to avoid her seeing the tears that had so quickly started streaming down his cheeks.
He walked away disappearing into the Orchard without another glance to Reese’s relief. She looked to her right at the the Sunlight light just on the jagged peaks of the Broken Mountains. The timing had been closer than she had anticipated. If he hadn’t finally noticed her walking by the kitchen door for the seventh time…
She slumped again on the trunk as the first of the Sun’s rays lit her face, instantly washing away the Magick and revealing its reality.. He looked at his reflection in the sword’s polished surface and chuckled as he imagined John’s reaction to his beloved “Reese” instantly growing a beard and morphing into his “most trusted” advisor, Jarvis. He then downright laughed remembering the Crystal. “Oh John!” he said to a brightly ripened apple at his feet,”when will you ever remember Crystal’s can never dispel the Magick of their creator!”